Geez I Wish I Could Laugh At This --




For those of you who are curious -- yes, I have continued to send emails to my representatives about investigating torture. One of them actually responded directly, one of them invited me to a fundraiser.

There has been progress, though, with Holder's move toward inquiry. I'll keep writing.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 8:40 PM 3 comments Links to this post  

Daily Bits of Writing

From time to time over the years, my Beloved and I have engaged in what we call our "Daily Creative Bits" -- where we do just a daily snippet of writing or art every day and email it to one another.

It's an exercise that isn't about making perfect creations, but rather, about getting the creative juice flowing.

In recent weeks, we've been delighted to be joined in this daily venture by our dear friend (and now, land-mate). I've really been enjoying the exponential energy of it, as I receive their daily creative bits, and produce my own.

Here's my bit from yesterday -- a miracle of brevity for long-winded me.

Is the world full
of delight or trouble?
Depends on who you ask.
Ask me.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 10:16 AM 0 comments Links to this post  

Because It Is Important to Keep Laughing

In the past couple of months, I've been rediscovering the importance of laughter in my life -- and that process has been greatly helped along by a dear friend who loves to laugh as much as I do.

We've been watching this youtube video over and over, because it makes us laugh -- every single time.

(note: if you're not familiar with the character of Stuart and his mom Doreen from Mad TV, this may not seem as funny to you as it does to us -- I don't know why, but watching Mo Collins crack up is way funnier to me than the actual sketches where she doesn't):

Stuart Bloopers:

Posted byPortlyDyke at 12:05 AM 3 comments Links to this post  

In Which Portly Attempts to Determine The Wisest Course

So, I haven't blogged at all for nearly two months.

Yes, I have been busy in "real life" -- building someone a website, making a couple of new videos for people, painting the exterior of the house, working on a novel, putting up a new online class, adjusting to new community members, and spending more time in the Summer air.

But none of those things are really the reason why I haven't been blogging.

The simple truth is, I've been trying to figure out whether I want to keep blogging at all.

A couple of months ago, I was involved in one of those inter-blog incidents that arise now and then. I found myself the focus of an online discussion at a blog that I had never read before -- a blog that I might never have read, had I not become a subject of discussion there, and had someone not "kindly" informed me of this by dropping a link to the thread in a discussion at a blog I actually do read.

Being the curious type, I went over and had a look.

All I can say is -- good thing I'm not a cat.

The statements that I was a whack-job and a scam-artist didn't really bug me that much, especially since they (mostly) came from people I don't know even remotely -- in my line of work, I've heard this stuff before, and after a lifetime of being called "unnatural", "pervert", "sinner", "damned", and worse -- whack-job and scam-artist just don't nearly pack the punch you might imagine.

The participation of people in the thread who I did know, but who didn't seem willing to confront some of the nastier stuff said about me -- some of whom I'd had personal contact with, and a couple of whom I'd actually provided with some pretty involved support in the past -- did bother me a little.

Still, I did what I usually do -- I tried to assume the best and figured that the people who I had thought liked/trusted me, but who seemed fine with standing by as I took a hiding might be either a) just getting caught up in the sturm-und-drang of it all, or b) be scared that if they did speak up, they would become a target of the same type of vitriol that was hurtling in my direction (which seems a rational concern in the circumstances). Once again, my experience as a queer stood me in good stead -- I'm kind of used to people not standing up for me -- even people who say they know and love me.

I opted to just observe my own responses, take care of myself, and generally didn't get my knickers in a twist -- I figured there would be about of week of shit flying in my direction, and then something else shiny would draw the attention of folks who like a good internet rumble.

Since I worked my masochism out a long time ago, I chose to simply stop reading the thread, as I couldn't imagine what possible good it might do me to allow it to occupy more space in my brain.

But then, it followed me "home".

Home to my website (you know -- the one that is associated with my livelihood?). I started getting all these weird, off-topic comments at my other blog and the forums that I maintain, and a raft of bogus registrations from people with handles like "SoYouThinkYourPsychic" and "stoptehscamming".

*sigh*

I did what all good web managers do -- I went into the logs to find out where this stuff was coming from so that I could block IPs if I needed to (my website generally nets about 900 unique visitors each month -- 90% of which are generated from the email list that folks have joined after participating with me in person -- so I was wondering where an extra 400 unique visitors had come from in a week).

Turns out, someone had linked my personal bio at my site in the "conversation" at the blog-i-might-never-have-known-about-but-for-a-"kindly"-link.

My bio -- where I get all exposed and vulnerable and shit about my personal history, and the weird-ass job that I do, and where I come from, and who I am, and who I am trying to become.

My bio at my home website -- where my phone number and address are intentionally accessible, so that people who are interested in knowing more about what I do could find me if they wanted to.

So -- you may think that this is a post about this terrible thing that happened to me when people tried to harass and bully me on the internet.

But it's not.

This is a post about about the basic inequity that can arise between people who are willing to be visible, authentic, and vulnerable -- online and off -- and people who aren't.

I was surprised that I didn't freak out when all this bizarre traffic hit my home site, from people who seemed to have only a couple of things in mind -- 1) to attempt to freak me out and 2) to "make" me feel vulnerable. There was a time in my life when it would have scared the shit out of me, and led to sleepless nights wondering if any of those people were vindictive or insane enough to take their seeming enmity towards me into the meat-world.

I think it didn't freak me out precisely because I'd already been moving in the direction of becoming more intentionally vulnerable and revealed.

I knew, last year, that abandoning my cloak of psuedonymity as Teh Portly Dyke and identifying myself as a real-life person with a real-life profession might result in rejection from some, derision from others, and outright hostility from a few -- but that was a risk that seemed miniscule when balanced against what it would cost me to continue to live my life as a disjointed, dis-integrated being.

So, I opted to come out -- again.

It was heartening to me that when I did this, there was nothing in my blog history as Teh Portly Dyke that I found I wanted to hide or take back as Carol Steinel. It was also heartening (and unanticipated) that my revelations seemed to give others the courage to be more forthright about beliefs and philosophies that they held, but rarely revealed, because they worried that people would brand them as "crazy".

In the months that have followed the conversation-about-me-that-I-wasn't-a-part-of, though -- as the bogus registrations and non-sequiter comments gathered into a big stinky cloud of inconvenient web-management and then slowly subsided -- I gained a deeper understanding of my original motivations in taking on the psuedonym of which I've now become fond.

I realized that, when someone criticizes your anonymous online persona, you think that you can pretend they aren't really criticizing you -- you think you have created something that they can throw stones at, and that you will be able to stand aside from that target and chuckle as you watch the card-board cut-out fall over backwards.

Except that you can't, really.

You still feel it somehow -- at least that was my experience -- and at least partly why I chose to come out as myself, finally -- because the stones that landed on the noggin of Teh Portly Dyke (even before I vulnerabalized myself) actually did give Carol Steinel a headache from time to time.

Conversely, I found that when people praised Teh Portly Dyke, Carol Steinel didn't really feel the appropriate glow -- because there was always that little voice piping up -- "Well, if they knew who you really were, and what you really did, they wouldn't praise you".

The worst of both worlds, really.

But I digress.

Here are some of my current problems with what I call the internet's "Twilight Tendencies":

If I'm using the internet as a tool for revelation, connection, and evolution, and you're using the internet as a tool for entertainment, distraction, and simple maintenance of the status quo, it's likely that our interactions on the internet will reflect the natural tension that can exist between those goals.

My intention is probably going to lead me to an increasing desire to make myself vulnerable and identifiable, and to seek to know more about you (how else can I truly connect?), whereas your intention is more likely to lead you to remain anonymous (because, after all, the beauty of passive entertainment is that you aren't really "in" the game -- your avatar is), and perhaps, one of the ways you might entertain yourself is by poking at the tender spots I've exposed.

I actually don't even have a judgment about that -- a person who chooses to remain anonymous on the web usually does so because they take what is, to them, a "realistic" and cautious view of the online world. From their perspective, my choice to risk being identified may be foolish at best and "asking for it" at worst.

I can understand that because I've been there. The rationalizations I made to myself for remaining anonymous at TPD originally didn't run along the lines that people who opted to be identified were stupid or deserving of harassment, but there was at least a dash of a desire to remain above the fray -- to speak without a certain level of personal accountability, and to experiment with the invention of an online presence in terms of how closely I wanted it to reflect my real-world self.

As time went on, though -- as online friendships transformed from in-jokes at the Virtual Pub to private chats of the LOL-OMFG-variety to private chats of the "What would feel supportive to you right now? How can I help?"-variety to face-to-face conversations on Skype or landline phone calls -- I re-affirmed to myself that the dynamics of internet relationships are influenced and defined by a couple of the same rules that real-life relationships are:

1) There can be no real intimacy without revelation of the self, and

2) Variances in vulnerability-levels in relationship can leave an open door to abuse of power.

One of the things that always bugged me about traditional therapist/client relationships is that #2 up there -- the therapist gets to know the deepest darkest secrets of the client (they have to, in order to be effective, really), but the client, by design and intent, knows virtually nothing about the therapist's inner life.

When used benignly and ethically, this can be a great format for the client -- they don't have to worry about the therapist's sensitivities, thoughts, or feelings -- in fact, therapists are trained to go to great lengths to prevent the client from knowing them -- so that the client can focus on themselves and their own process. They can fucking scream at the therapist and the therapist is not supposed to take it personally.

Of course, if you've ever been in the therapist's role, you'll know, of course, that there is actually a human being in there -- a human being who does respond and react to the client. Sit through a debriefing with a therapist and their supervisor or support team, and it's evident that the well-trained exterior that most show in their office demeanor is very different from what's going on inside.

I've always had questions about the value of a system which requires the de-humanization of one person in order to facilitate the re-humanization of another.

And this lopsided vulnerability is fraught with danger if the therapist is not ethical -- they can manipulate the client very easily if they choose to, knowing precisely what cues might trigger them into unconscious response, and what desires and fears might be used as levers on them.

Differing levels of vulnerability are problematic in less formal, role-based relationships, too -- think of a couple where one person is frank and forthcoming, while the other person is closed and contained. (For some reason, these two people always seem to end up together, too -- at least for a while.)

The forthcoming member of the couple usually sees the other's containment as a sign of distrust, or as something withheld from them. They often attempt to ferret it out of their more closed companion.

The contained member usually sees the other's attempt to "get in" as a violation of their sovereignty, and often retreats further.

I'm the forthcoming type. Which you probably already know.

In a sense, my choice to blog at all was an expression of that outward-going nature -- I wanted to bring more of myself to the world -- but that's become problematic for me in the Half-In/Half-Out world of the internet.

I do want to share myself with the world. I have thoughts that want more room than the kiddie-pool of my brain.

However, I have no desire to swim with sharks.

Sometimes I wish that there were two internets -- one reserved for the Tron-ists, and one for the Space Paranoids

Adherants of Tronism could use their internet as an ocean of potential connectivity beyond their geographical locale -- a place for them to walk in a virtual body that is a direct extension of their physical form, and that is more than just an amusing game. They would realize that metaphorically crashing your light-cycle online could be every bit as painful or deadly as it would be in meat-world, and that bits and bytes arranged into words could actually reach through the screen and have effect on the User behind it.

And the Space Paranoids could continue to "play" their version of the internet. They could remain safely dissociated from their avatars, and could act out all sorts of scenarios and behaviors that they would never, ever consider in real life. They could snark away and scream words that they would never speak to another person face-to-face, and leave bags of burning dog-shit on each other's virtual porches, secure in the knowledge that every IP connection was an anonymous proxy, and no finger-print or DNA sample could identify them.

The problem for me at this moment is that the Tronists and the Space Paranoids are all shook up in the same bag.

As a result, there are places on the internet to which I do not ever venture -- comment threads at YouTube are about the strongest online toxic that I'm willing to expose my psyche to (and that, only in very measured doses).

I'm sure that there probably are people in the real world who spend the majority of their lifetime-word-allotment screaming obscenities at others in person -- but I've created a life where I choose not interact with them, so why would I intentionally wade into the online equivalent of their living room?

And I guess this brings me to my basic dillema about blogging as myself in an environment where others who choose to remain hidden can drop bags of virtual dog-shit at my door:

Why would I invite those people into my living room? Or even tell them where I live, much less invite them to view the contents of my fucking head?

I have no control over the actions and choices of others. This I know.

I know this, too: The vast majority of people who read my blog have treated me honorably, respectfully, and connectively in comments and emails -- and, as far as I know, the way they've treated with me "to my face" matches the way they've treated me "behind my back".

I kind of hate to admit it, but . . . . those burning bags of dog-shit?

While they didn't "scare" me -- they definitely brought up a desire in me to just duck my head and get out of the line of fire for a while -- to shut up and stop being the target of some anonymous person's/people's inexplicable desire to let me know how much they disapproved of me.

I feel sad as I type that, because I think that this is often why people stop speaking up and stop showing up -- it's not necessarily that they're scared -- maybe they're just tired.

I know that's how I felt during the whole thing -- tired -- as if everything I'd ever blogged that had been helpful or insightful or forward-moving -- had suddenly been vaporized -- so fuck it -- why keep blogging?

Which pisses me right off, now that I tune into it.

Am I going to let a bunch of Space Paranoids wear me down?

Hell, no.

I'm going to recommit to what I believe in: This technology -- the internet -- has massive potential as an instrument of revelation, connection, and evolution.

I'm going to recommit to what I believe in: Truth -- not "the" truth -- but revelation of personal truth -- is a profoundly curative energy.

I'm going to recommit to what I believe in: If I don't bring my voice -- if I don't bring my self -- to the world -- I have willfully forfeited my right to be an agent of transformation in the world.


So . . . I guess I'll keep blogging.

Glad we cleared that up.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:30 PM 7 comments Links to this post  

I'm Getting Ready to Be Older

I'm kind of known for having wacky-ass parties on my birthday -- like my naked birthday when I turned 50, and my head-shaving nude beach party when I turned 40.

This year, everyone gets to keep their clothes on (if they want to).

This coming
Sunday, June 21st, 2009, I turn 53 — and I’m having a party — a musical party — and I thought I'd put my invite out there, so that you can celebrate with me in spirit, if not in the flesh.

The text of my birthday invite is below.

This year, when pondering what to “do” for my birthday, I was advised to do something I’d never done before — so here’s my plan:

I’ve been wanting to have more live music in my life. There was a time when live music (both playing and listening/dance to) was a huge part of my life, and I miss it.

I’m having a live music party on Sunday. A very intentional live music party — and I’m going to do what I can to help the attendees align with my intention, so that I can have the best chance of getting what I want out of it.

Here’s the roster for festivities:

11 am – Guidance Wander My Beloved will lead a “guidance wander” for anyone who wants to come along, from 11 - 11:30 AM. A Guided Wander is a walk where you let the Universe lead you on the path — you start without a destination and allow the signs and sygils take you from point to point on the way. It’s a ton of fun, and I think it will be a good start for a party where the whole idea is to be in the moment and let the music lead you. If you want to go on the guidance wander with us, please arrive no later than 11:00 am — cause we’ll be taking off then and God knows where we’ll be!
12 pm - 3 pmMusic Party The front two rooms of our house will be set up as a live music hall. There will be some spare instruments (we have several guitars, drums, a synthesizer, piano, tambourine, shakers, etc.) — but bring your own if you have them.

Here are the “rules” for the party:
  • Don’t worry if you don’t have an instrument. There will be an area where there are instruments that are available for anyone to play — if you bring your personal instruments and don’t want to share them (which I completely understand), don’t place them in this area (which will be marked).
    • Any instrument that is not in this area should be considered someone’s personal instrument — please don’t pick it up, play it, or even touch it without their specific permission.
  • The front two rooms of our house will be dedicated to music. If you want to have a conversation with someone else at the party, please take this out to the yard or into the kitchen, rather than carrying it on in the hall while music is being made. In the music hall, incidental verbal interactions such as “an-a-one-and-a-two”, “let’s try that in the key of G”, and “Here’s a good one” will be welcome.
  • Leave your ego and your judgments at the door (especially judgments you may have about yourself “I have a crappy voice”, or “I suck at playing guitar”). Refrain from “taking stage” and performing a personal concert — the point of this gathering is to have people make live music together — not for any individual to give a house concert. Expect that any song/music you start may end up being a group effort, and don’t get in a snit if someone else fires up a harmonica in the middle of your classical piece.
  • Join in. Yeah, you may not think of yourself as a musician, but that could end on Solstice, 2009, you know? Sing, shake a tambourine or maraca, pound on the drum kit in the synth, dance, listen — stretch your edges.
  • You may be recorded. I’m going to have the four track deck recording during the party, but it’ll be unobtrusive, and purely for my own enjoyment.
  • I reserve the right to throw everybody out at 3 pm, although I may not — just depends on how I feel — it’s my birthday, after all.
  • There will be tip jar out — proceeds will go to me — it’s my birthday, after all.
  • There will be potluck snack table up — it’s potluck — if you’re going to snack, please also bring a snack to share.
  • This party is strictly bring your own beverage. Alcohol is welcome, but mindless drunkeness is not (mindful and intentional intoxication to spur you on to heights of musical genius is welcome). If you want something to drink, bring it. I say this nearly every time I have a party, but people inevitably show up and ask: “Can I have one of your beers?” This year, I will be saying “No” in the nicest way, and pointing them down the street to Aldrichs, where there is a wide selection of excellent brewsky.
  • Come absolutely, positively fragrance free – if you don’t, I’ll probably ask you to leave, even if that feels embarrassing and awkward for either or both of us.
  • If you bring a friend that I don’t know, show them these rules before you bring them, and ask them to come only if they want to join in this intention:
    • The intention of the party is to celebrate and kick-off my 54th year on the planet by making music together that is dedicated to creative, enjoyable connection — and having fun while doing it.
Them’s the rules — if I sound like an old cranky codger, well, I’ve discovered that if I get the boundaries out of the way first, I tend to weed out the people who don’t want to play nice — heh, heh.

Seriously, it’s been my experience that clearly defining the container usually gives us a better shot at cooking up something lovely inside it.

If you want to join in long-distance — play or sing or dance on June 21st — and think of me.

(Oh, and a note: In the past five years, I’ve usually been all “I want your presence, not your presents” — but fuck it — this year, I want some presents. If you want to get me something, drop a tip in the tip jar at the party — or leave something via the donation button up at the top of the page, or check out my Amazon wish-list.)

Happy Birthday to me!

Posted byPortlyDyke at 3:24 PM 6 comments Links to this post  

If It's Wednesday, It Must Be Time to Investigate Torture

Here's my weekly letter to congress-critters and President Obama -- feel free to cut and paste at will in sending your thoughts to your own reps.

Dear [Name]:

I am writing you again to request that you do everything within your power to investigate and bring to justice those who have violated US law and UN Conventions co-signed by the United States by perpetrating torture.

This week, the ACLU obtained newly released detainee statements which provide more evidence of torture programs -- and more evidence that they were as ineffective as they were inhumane.

As this evidence unfolds, the last pitiful refuge of excuse for this horrifying activity (performed in my name as a US citizen) -- that this was done for our protection in some kind of "ticking time bomb" situation -- falls apart completely.

It is not a surprise that these techniques are not effective -- the Pentagon was warned of this as early as 2002, and a host of experts in the field of interrogation techniques have clearly stated that the use of torture and inhumane/abusive techniques result in "false and misleading information".

In other words, the use of these techniques not only did not keep us safe -- it is most likely and logical that they have actually heightened the danger to our nation.

In order for us to be a nation governed by the rule of law, those who have broken the law must be brought to justice -- even if there are other pressing things to attend to such as health care, or the economy -- because the rule of law is the anchor of this nation.

What will it profit us if we get our economy fixed, or health care secured for our citizens, if we know that we live in a country where torture was performed, and is now condoned by our silence? What will it profit us if we move forward into some shining new day for our nation, if those who have broken the law and gotten away with it are in our midst?

I urge you, again, to investigate and seek prosecution for those who have broken the laws of this country and violated the UN Convention Against Torture to which this country is a signatory. I urge you to this action as a citizen, but most importantly, as a human being.

Thank you for your time in reading this. I welcome and await your response.

[PortlyDyke]

Posted byPortlyDyke at 12:12 PM 2 comments Links to this post  

Long-Winded Answer

So, today, I noticed in Google Reader that there was a new comment on a very old thread of mine at Shakesville -- the post in which I "came out" as myself.

I started to answer over there, but you know how I can go on -- when my response started squishing out the edges of the comment box, I thought it better to address it here at home (you may want to click through to read the question for full context, because it's pretty long, too). My summary of the question, though (and I may not have got it right -- be sure to tell me if that's so, swedishfisherman!) is this: What do I think and how do I feel about the use of the word "psychic", my choice to self-identify as such, and the way that some people use it as dismissive or pejorative.

Here's my response:

I don't generally find an honest question offensive, and I don't find anything about your question offensive at all. In fact, I find it a very engaging question and it's stimulated a lot of thought for me.

RE: The term "psychic". I don't particularly like that term, but it is a handy shorthand to communicate to people a general sense of what to expect when working with me or attending one of my events. It doesn't fully encompass for me everything that I think I'm doing, but explaining that would take several pages -- plus it keeps evolving.

One reason I don't like the phrase "I am a psychic" all that much is that I believe that everyone is "psychic", in the sense that I think that they have the ability to receive information that is clearly not being transmitted in physical 3-d -- whether they use that ability consciously or not. I train people (who want that kind of training) to develop those abilities, and I've never met a person in the course of that training who "couldn't" access others levels of perception, once they started exercising them.

Another reason I'm not fond of the phrase is because of the associations and assumptions which exist for some people, but I recognize that those are outside any realm of my control. (I think that's true of anything that exists in someone else's head, btw.)

My experience has been that most of those who eye-roll over the term psychic probably do so because of a broader set of beliefs and understandings that they hold which doesn't include belief in anything "supernatural" (another term I dislike, but will use here as a short-hand, as that's usually how people who hold these views express it when they talk to me about it). I respect each person's right to their particular personal beliefs and word-views, though, so this doesn't bother me at all.

I think that other people may actually believe that some things exist outside the purely physical perception of reality, but they may have had experiences with professional psychic practitioners that were damaging to them or made fraudulent claims (and I know full well that those kinds of practitioners exist). While I think that's unfortunate, and that some practitioners give the term"psychic" a bad name, I also think that people should listen to their own guidance over anyone else's, so if the very mention of the word gives them the heeby-geebies and they have the impulse to back away or disconnect, I encourage them to do so, rather than to override their own knowing -- so this doesn't bother me either.

In terms of using this word to refer to msyelf, I think of the intuitive abilities that I use in my work not as a "gift", but rather a developed skill-set. Someone may really like woodworking, and even excel at it, but not call themselves "a carpenter". I refer to myself as "a psychic" because I do this work in the world, not just for my own enjoyment (and there was a long time when exercising my intuitive abilities was more of a hobby for me).

My experience has been that most people who are drawn to the kind of work I do don't have usually have a particularly negative connection with the term "psychic" (even some who have had bad experiences with particular practitioners) -- in fact, they seem to be drawn to it -- so I rarely run into blanket dismissal or pejorative use of the word in my work-life. It is usually only when I interface with others outside my work-life and people ask "what do you do?" that I encounter these types of responses.

When that happens (and I tell them), some people simply say: "I don't believe in any of that stuff, but you seem a nice person. Let's talk about gardening." Others may decide on the spot that everything I have said up to that point and everything I might say in the future is now placed in doubt, because my belief in something beyond the purely physical means that I am certifiably crazy.

If I found anything offensive in the comment you mentioned (the one that led you to my coming out post), it is not that this person identified me as a psychic (I identify myself that way -- why would that be offensive to me?) -- but that s/he did so in a way that used my vulnerability in revealing that self-identification as a soft spot in which to poke me, in a context that had nothing to do with my profession. It was clearly a jab (that's not my interpretation alone -- the commenter emailed me after the event to apologize personally to me, and specifically characterized it as "a jab" and "mean-spirited").

My perception is that, when people use this term in a dismissive way (especially in a context outside a discussion of me or my work), it is usually in an attempt (conscious or unconscious) to discredit the other things I might be saying, or even an entire group I might be associated with. ("Well, what can you expect? They hang out with PortlyDyke, and she thinks she's psychic. *eyeroll*)

That second part is a concern for me -- I "came out" in that post with full understanding that some people would dismiss me because of it. That was a risk I was willing to take, but it is a concern to me that others might be similarly dismissed simply because they choose to be associated with me.

Because of this concern, when I decided to come out at Shakesville in the post where your question appeared, I discussed it with Melissa first and told her that I would understand completely if she didn't want me to post it there, or even if she didn't want me to continue as a contributor if I posted it here at my home blog (because a lot of Shakers read me here as well). She, in her usual embracing manner said I was welcome at Shakesville as the person I really am.

In fact, when Melissa McEwan initially invited me to become a contributor (I had only had contact with her as a frequent, but psuedonymous commenter up to that time), I told her what I did for a living before I accepted, and told her: "I wanted to come clean with you about all of this before we continued in confirming your invitation. I won't be at all offended or disturbed if this information is a "deal-killer" for you in terms of the invitation." I felt that it was only fair for me to let her know what she might end up dealing with, precisely because I understand how the judgment about who I am and what I do might be applied to Shakesville by association. Melissa responded that she was not the slightest bit dissuaded by my revelations.

I chose the term "coming out" in that post quite intentionally, because my process of "coming out" as a psychic has been exactly like my process of coming out as a Queer, and I think that this did contribute to a reclamation of the term "psychic" for me.

For one thing, "being psychic" was something that has always been true about me, and something that I do not perceive that I chose -- just something I chose to be out about or not (as with being queer). It was something that I really did not talk about with anyone for a long time (lest people think me "crazy"). I would sometimes flirt around the edges of this stuff in conversation, but would veer away from it at the first sign of any scoffing or disapproval.

Then, I started coming out, usually very cautiously and tentatively, to a few other people who I either knew or suspected also identified in this way -- people who had dropped hints in conversation, or whose bookshelf in their bedroom held tomes that indicated they might be into "woo-woo" stuff (and yes, I kept my early metaphysical books in my bedroom or private space in my younger years, just as I "straightened up" my apartment before my parents visited at that time).

Then, I began to understand that if I were going to become close to someone, I was probably going to need to share this information about myself in order to do so -- or they were going to find out anyway (if they got close enough to me).

Then, I got a little bolder and put it out there in the world in a tentative way, but tried to limit who might access this information by generally only putting the information out to people who I thought would be open to it (I had two business cards for example -- one that mentioned my psychic work and one that did not, a website that only the people who attended my events knew about, and which was visible only to registered members, etc.).

Then, I made the decision to come out to my family of origin.

Then I got to the place where I started telling those who might be affected by the judgements of others by virtue of being associated with me (potential employers, people who blogged with me, etc.) before I accepted the associative position.

Then, I got to the place where I just said: Fuck it. I'm going to be out everywhere, and people are going to think what they think.

Then, I came to the stance of celebrating it as a huge gift in my life.

Finally, I came to where I am now -- this is something that is so much a part of who I am that I don't usually think about it until I run into someone's judgment, and I'm often kind of surprised when I do.

That is exactly -- same steps, in the same order -- the process I went through in coming out as a lesbian.

And the responses I received from others to my coming out were also the same in both cases (and in about the same proportions) -- listed below in no particular order:

Some people said: "So what? You're great."

Some people dismissed me out of hand. (Very few)

Some people felt betrayed that I hadn't told them sooner because if they had known, they wouldn't have chosen to associate with me, or they were hurt that I hadn't trusted them.

Some people told me they didn't understand or that they didn't agree with my world-view, but they didn't see this being an obstacle to our continued relating.

Some people told me they didn't understand, but they wanted to know more.

Some people said "Me too! And your coming out has given me encouragement to come out."

Some people said "Of course I don't care, but I think you're exposing yourself in a way that isn't safe."

Some people said that knowing me and then having me come out to them had motivated them to re-examine the judgments they had held previously, because they had liked and respected me before they knew, when they had believed that people like me were innately crazy or wrong and they would never be able to like or respect "someone like that". (This being one of the really good reasons to come out about anything which is attached to a societal stigma.)

There are parallels, too, in how "being psychic" and "being queer" have affected my life in terms of where I choose to live geographically, the impact on my relationships with certain members of my family (my fundamentalist sibling now believes that not only am I going to hell for being queer, but I am also possessed by the devil -- but she still talks to me at family gatherings), and choosing to spend the majority of my life within circles of people who have a certain basic level of acceptance of these realities about me.

As to how I feel about the dismissive/pejorative use of the word -- I take a "sticks and stones" attitude for the most part. I believe that the comment referenced above really says something more about the commenter than something about me.

As I found with being out as a queer, the more I claim the word and identity, the less effective it is as a tool intended to harm or silence me, even when people would like to try to use it to dismiss or discredit me -- and I understand that it's possible that some people may try to do that, and some people have.

For me, at this point, it's kind of like having someone yell "Lesbo!" at me derisively -- I can feel a bit of pain at first if it's someone I have previously known, respected, and thought liked me (this pain is usually followed by a period of reassessment on my part about whether that person is someone I want to know) -- but if it just pops up randomly from someone I don't know or don't know well, it's pretty easy for me to simply go: "Oh. OK. They have a judgment about me. Good to know."

I think that when people attempt to use this term to dismiss me, they are relying on what they assume is a shared, status-quo judgment, just as someone who yells "Lesbo" is hoping that others around them will share the opinion that that's a bad thing to be -- and hoping that I will buy into that opinion as well, which would be the only way that the word itself could hurt me.

Just as with being out as a queer, it's possible that some people will attempt to use my vulnerability in being out against me, I suppose -- and just as with being queer, I had to move through my own internalization of the social stigmas about psychic stuff that might give efficacy to those attempts.

If people want to discuss the validity of my world-view with me, I'm totally open to that. If they want to judge and dismiss me, that's their sovereign right, but it's unlikely I'll engage them in conversation about it -- because if they hold those attitudes, I imagine that they probably wouldn't want to talk to "someone like me" anyway.

In my own life, I've experienced things that defy any other explanation but that there is "something more" going on besides what I can perceive with my five physical senses -- and I've experienced enough of those things that I'm clear within myself that those things are "real" -- my need for proof is satisfied, and I accept completely that this may not be true for others.

I had to come to a place where I was satisfied that being queer was completely true, normal, and positive for me. I've also come to that place in terms of acceptance of my psychic skills as something that is true, normal, and positive for me. This comfort in my own skin has allowed me to let go of attempts to manage what others think of me, and that's a huge energy-saver.

I sometimes entertain fear when simple words start to turn to actions (as it recently did when someone dropped my profile into a comment thread elsewhere and my website suddenly sprouted derisive and demeaning comments on my other blog), but I try to remember that these, too, are only words -- unfortunately, words that require energy on my part to delete, but words nonetheless.

When that fear crops up, I remember that if I had lived my life making a real attempt to people's criticism or judgment, I would, right now, probably be married to some poor man who knew I didn't really love him, going to a church that I didn't really believe in, and doing a job that I hated. Which I believe would be a misery for all involved and make the world a crappier place.

So, yes, I'm a psychic -- a lesbian psychic at that, and proud of it.

I hope that answers your question.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 2:00 PM 3 comments Links to this post  

Show Me Who You Are

Once I was in a relationship with someone who essentially started out our relationship by lying to me and someone else.

She had "good reasons" for lying (or so she convinced me), and the original lie was fairly harmless (or so I convinced myself) -- partly a lie of omission, and partly a "white lie", ostensibly created to "protect" the other person. I justified it in my mind with "that other person is fragile", and I was not, so my girlfriend would never need to lie to me in the same way.

Which I think was stupid of me, really, and not a little arrogant, as well -- because I watched her telling lies (small and large) to other people over the course of three years, and thought that somehow, I was the Special One who she would not lie to. Oh, the Specialness of me!

When our relationship fell apart amidst a whirlwind of dishonesties and betrayal, someone who I think is very wise said two things to me which I have attempted to keep in mind ever since:

  1. If you watch someone do something to someone else, or to many someone elses -- it is a virtual certainty that they will, one day, do the same thing to you, given the right circumstances.
  2. When what people say and what people do don't match -- trust what they do, not what they say. People can tell you all sorts of stories about themselves, prop up personal mythologies with words -- but their actions will show you who they are.
I realized that this particular person had started showing me who she was from the beginning, with that "little", "benign" lie. She was a person who would lie to someone she said she cared about, if it got her what she wanted.

In truth, I believe that every day I did not confront her about that first lie (and all the others), I ratified by behavior an agreement that I would participate with her in falsehood.

That relationship taught me a lot, even though the lesson was hard-won.

Today, I witnessed a conversation in which several of participants admitted directly that they knew that what they were doing was probably "wrong", even in their own estimation -- but they kept on doing it.

I've run into this a lot in my tiny little town, where gossip is something of a municipal sport -- it usually starts with something like: "OK -- now, I know this is gossip, but . . . ". (This usually comes from someone who says that they hate gossip, by the way -- at least, they hate to be gossiped about.) There's something extra-special fucked-up about starting an activity with a statement that indicates that you already know that what you're about to do is fucked-up -- as if saying it somehow will absolve you from what you know is an intentional fuck-up.

I've been steadily weaning myself off of gossip in recent years. The first step was recognizing when I was engaging in it, which actually wasn't that hard. Note: I believe that there is a difference between talking about someone I know from a place of concern and care when they are not present, and gossiping about them.

The "Warning! You Are About to Gossip!" signs are pretty clear for me.

If I'm about to engage in gossip, I'll notice that I tend to lean in in a conspiratorial manner and lower my voice ever so slightly, even though the subject of my gossip is nowhere in the vicinity. One of the key checks I give myself in order to stop gossiping is to ask myself the question: "Would I say this if the person I'm about to talk about in this way were in the room?"

If the answer to that question is "No", I do my very best to rein myself in.

Lately, I've been getting very clear mirrors in the external world that reveal stuff about my own internal processes.

Today I got to see why I don't want to gossip -- because it breaks trust.

I got to witness a conversation where someone I once thought of as an ally said things about someone else who I have heard them say they claim is an ally -- things that I know they had not, and probably would never, say to that person directly -- at least, certainly, not in the way they were saying it in their absence. This wasn't just that sort of "I'm bored and here's something to fill my time" kind of gossip, either -- it was that awful "gloating over someone else's trouble" kind of gossip.

A little while later, I witnessed that person's interaction with the "someone else" in question, which seemed completely different in tone and word from the conversation I'd witnessed earlier, and I noticed that there was this little *click* that went off in my gut -- a queasiness that I couldn't quite define, yet which was unmistakably present.

I sat down to think about that, and I realized: I no longer trust that person.

This realization didn't feel at all personal or even judgmental -- just factual and real.

They were showing me who they are, and, unless I cling to some kind of illusion that I'm the Special One to whom they would never do such a thing, I have to assume that, given the right circumstance, they would do it to me in the future.

I felt sad, because I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that maybe they're just having a bad day when they do stuff like this -- but I can't deny that *click*, nor do I think it would be wise for me to ignore it.

For the past ten years, I've been working hard on a personal principle -- pledging not to say things about people behind their backs that I wouldn't say to their faces. It's a tough nut to crack sometimes, but it has vastly improved the quality of my internal environment and my external relationships.

I'm a pretty flexible person. I've worked out a lot of shit with friends and loved ones over the years, but one of the consistent deal-breakers for me in relationship has been what some people refer to as being two-faced. I have found it incredibly erosive to relationship (not to mention ineffective), both when I did it or when the other person did it.

I think that's what that *click* was -- a clear indicator that this person had shown me something that I absolutely do not want to be connected to. I want to be open, and trusting, and give people the benefit of the doubt, but I also want to be sensible about my expectations, and not ignore something that's right in front of me.

That click was some opening in me snapping shut, I suspect. I feel a bit sad about that, and a bit disappointed -- but I recognize that any expectation I had of the other person was my own -- they never agreed with me that they wouldn't do this, and obviously, they haven't agreed with themselves not to do it, either (which is probably the more important agreement in the end).

The good news is that I don't hammer myself anymore about having trusted them in the first place, which used to be my default. I wasn't stupid to give them the benefit of the doubt, or to risk disappointment -- and I'm glad that my internal self-care reflexes seem to be operating better than they used to be. I think that's a sign of health.

Obviously, I haven't kept up with my blog commitment (so, believe what I do, not what I say, right?) -- partly that has had to do with the stuff I talked about in my last post -- I've been dealing with a shitload of internal process. My blog may have been silent, but my mind and my life certainly hasn't been. Add a new roommate (which is a huge relief, as we've been carrying a large rent for nearly a year now with just the two of us), major events at a blog community that is near and dear to my heart, my upcoming birthday, taking on a new website-build, creating a short film for a non-profit I volunteer for (Yay, empowering kids!), and generally managing the accelerating energy of Summer -- and it's kind of a miracle that I'm finally posting at all.

That said, I suspect that the experience that I had today is somehow important to my next abuse-onion-peeling -- there's something about the whole "two-faced" thing that really pushes my buttons, and I suspect that it is tied up with the duplicity in the life of my perpetrator. I watched him present one way to the community we both lived in, and quite another way to me.

It's a miracle I trust anyone at all, really, when I think of that -- or that I can hope for a better world, and end this day, feeling my sadness and disappointed, but not feeling shattered by it.

I will celebrate that miracle.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 4:49 PM 1 comments Links to this post  

Here We Go Again

Recently, I've been revisiting a topic that I have spent, literally, thousands of hours and thousands of dollars dealing with -- my history of abuse.

I spent the better part of a decade dealing with nothing else. Over the course of the last 18 years, I somehow managed to transform myself from a blithering mess to a fairly functional being -- and there is nothing I would love more than to swish my palms together in that famous "dusting off" gesture and say: "Well, that's done!"

But it doesn't seem to work that way -- so far, at least.

For me, at least.

In the past few months, external circumstances and internal cues have signaled to me that it's time to take another look -- at ghosts I thought I'd vanquished, and scars I thought I'd healed.

When I started really working on my abuse shit, way back when, my greatest fear was that I was utterly and irrevocably "broken" -- that I would never and could never recover.

I didn't want to be the woman with the awful, dramatic history -- the terrible tale to tell. I didn't want to be a victim.

And I'm not.

I'm a survivor.

Still, each time I discover that there is another layer of this onion to peel, I go through some large or small ritual of resistance. Most recently, this arose when I, my Beloved, and a dear friend chose to do personal work together. We each chose an area of our lives that we knew we wanted to work on, and we did weekly check-ins and intention setting.

I chose the state of my relationship with my FOO (Family of Origin) -- especially with my parents. They are now in their mid-80's, and I in my mid-50's, and I know that they will not be around forever. I love them, and I know that they love me, but there are places in my relating with them that I know are not as deep as I would like them to be.

That's where the resistance came in. As my two compatriots checked in with verve and gusto on their chosen areas of focus, I found myself dragging my feet, making excuses, and bringing my energy to the assignments I'd given myself in a half-hearted, half-assed way.

That's when I began to suspect that that pesky onion was stinking up my psyche again.

Seriously, I've peeled more skins off that fucker than you can believe.

It's kinda funny though -- the closer I get to the core, the less traumatic each peeling seems to me. That's a hopeful thing.

And I think that's a big part of what's kept me from blogging. Part of what marks me as the "New Improved Portly Dyke -- Now More Functional!!" (in my mind, at least), is that my abuse history is no longer the central issue of my life every single day -- and I think that when peeling time comes around again, I get scared that it will subsume my life as it did 18 years ago.

But truth is, this is a huge part of what I've been thinking and feeling about internally.

I've been carrying on with my routine and doing what I do. From outside, you probably wouldn't notice much difference, but inside, I'm having tectonic plate shifts and long talks with myself, and it all feels intensely personal and important -- but there's also a lot of self-talk that says that no. one. on. earth. would. be. interested. in. hearing. about. this.

And I talk back to that voice and hint that maybe, just maybe, it might be very important to communicate my experience to the world. For me. For someone else.

So, when I said that I was going to just let you in on what's been going on in Cranium-Portly, this is what I'll be letting you in on.

I have no idea whether it will be worth reading. I have great hope that, at the very least, it will be worth writing.

It all kind of came to a head a couple of weeks ago, when I was talking to my Beloved about how much the whole torture thing was bothering me.

Regular readers here will know that I don't blog that much purely political stuff -- the reasons for this are complex and more than I want to go into in this post -- suffice it to say that I was really surprised at how politically-activated I felt when I regarded the torture issue.

I talked about this with my Beloved, because I have strong feelings about being pro-active and working towards things rather than against things, and I wanted to find a way to take action without going into "fighting against" mode. I wanted her advice about approaches and actions, and I wanted to understand why I was so activated about it.

She said: "Well, I'm not surprised that it would be intense for you, given your history."

And I was stunned. Stunned because I had not even considered that angle. It felt a little scary to me that I hadn't seen it, and at the same time, it seemed a mark of healing.

I am a survivor of abuse that would be described -- with no hyperbole involved -- as torture.

It seems impossible that I could fail to see how that connected for me with the issue of state-sponsored torture authorized and perpetrated by my government, but I did fail to see it until she said it out loud.

Therein lies the onion-skin I'm peeling now.

Is it a sign of dissociation that I didn't see it, or is it a sign of healthy objectivity that I didn't see it?

It doesn't matter what the answer is -- I only know that I am compelled to get to that answer.

I have to peel this onion.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:21 PM 9 comments Links to this post  

In Good News Today -- Mr. Deity Shall Return!

Some of you may know my love of Mr. Deity. You can imagine my relief at this announcement:

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:49 PM 3 comments Links to this post  

52 Years, 344 Days

My birthday's coming up. On June 21st, I'll be 53.

This seems ridiculous to me, in some ways -- but only when I hold up whatever enculturated idea I have about what it means to be "53" against my internal and external experience.

I'm doing some stuff to mark the next 21 days for myself -- making some changes in my work and play that have been nagging at me for some time. I don't have a clear answer to the question -- "Why now?" -- I only know that now seems to be the time.

I've really struggled with blogging over the past couple of months (or more) -- I either seem to have too much to say, or too little. I've tried a number of strategies to get myself kick-started back into more frequent blogging, but obviously, they haven't worked.

I think that I've fallen into that dreadful pit of self-editing, and that some of the things that have been in the forefront of my consciousness have just seemed so intensely personal that I've hesitated to put them out into the blogosphere.

I'm going to use the excuse of just three more weeks left before my birthday to get the fuck over that.

So, my pledge to myself is to blog at least once a day between now and June 21st -- the first day of Summer -- the longest day of the year -- my natal anniversary.

I'm writing this down here, not because it is earth-shattering news, but just so I will do it -- funny how putting the words to paper can motivate me, and how powerfully that "outside witness" (you, the reader) can affect me.

In the past few months, I've been experiencing a personal transformation which has challenged every facility of language that I possess. There is no way that I can call it subtle -- my internal experience is of a gigantic, tectonic motion -- and although it does seem to connect to some of my external experiences, these seem mere metaphors of what is happening within me.

So, I'm going to summon my guts and glory and attempt to write honestly about my internal reality.

It isn't simple. It isn't always comfortable -- but I think that I haven't been blogging because I haven't been willing to share the complexity of that internal process -- and if I'm not willing to share that, why blog at all?

Strap yourselves in. You're going to get (at least) 21 days of "What's Going On Inside Portly Dyke's Head".

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:59 PM 4 comments Links to this post  

If You Want to Sit Cross-legged

and drink a bunch of beer in the sun on Saturday afternoon --- ?

You might want to remember that your ancestors were Scandinavian.

Jus' sayin'

Posted byPortlyDyke at 2:53 PM 8 comments Links to this post  

A Letter For Those Who are Triggered

Today, I was participating in a thread about the photos from Abu Ghraib that show graphic images of rape and sexual assault. Several commenters said that they simply felt too triggered by the issue to write a letter about it. I understand this completely, and I volunteered to write a generic draft letter that they could use.

Here it is:

Dear [Name]:

I am writing to ask you to do whatever is in your power to bring about impartial, thorough investigation into torture and abuse of prisoners by the US government. As a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture, our government has agreed to such investigations whenever there is reasonable suspicion that torture has been perpetrated by, or at the command of, any official of our government.

In specific, these are the areas that I believe must be investigated:

  1. Any and all connections between White House level policies regarding so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" (torture) and the part that such policies played in abuses that were carried out by soldiers and contractors at such places as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.
  2. Why did the Bush administration proceed with authorizing and carrying out acts that, according to their own legal advisors (documented in the footnotes of a memo dated 5/10/05 - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/16/bush-memo-footnotes-defin_n_188008.html) were torture?
  3. Why were contractors carrying out such torture allowed to exceed even the administration's own questionable guidelines for these techniques, without being investigated and brought up on charges of torture? Did the Bush administration neglect their duty and/or commit obstruction of justice in this matter?
  4. Were contractors who were authorized by Bush administration memos to carry out torture involved in training soldiers, interrogators, and contractors at Abu Ghraib?
  5. Have victims of torture (some of whom, in Abu Ghraib, were raped and sexually assualted) been allowed the opportunity to seek redress as agreed in Article 14 of the Convention Against Torture? Has a legal system to assure fair and adequate compensation to these victims been established by the US in accordance with the Convention?
  6. Have all those who have broken the laws of these United States, and international agreements, been brought to justice?
At this time, I believe that the United States government is in violation of its own laws and international agreements, by virture of neglecting/refusing to thoroughly and impartially investigate these matters.

I request that you uphold your oath to protect and defend our Constitution by doing all in your power to bring investigation into abuses and torture authorized and carried out by officials and agents of the United States.

Sincerely,
=======================
PS -- If you want to "sign on" to this, leave your real name and address in comments (or email it to me, stating clearly that you are authorizing me to add your name/address to the letter) and I will include your name on my hard-copy to President Obama.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 9:35 AM 3 comments Links to this post  

My Weekly Torture Letter

As promised last week, I will be posting my weekly letters to my Congressfolk, President Obama, and the United Nations. Here are this week's letters (feel free to copy and paste in your own missives, and strap yourselves in -- I will be posting every week until something gives).

To my Senators and House Reps (you can find all your congressfolk's information HERE):
====================
Sent to Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, and Norm Dicks.

Dear [name]:

I have voted for you in every election since I moved to Washington State in 2000.

I am writing to ask you – to plead with you – to do everything you can to push for investigation of the torture of human beings authorized by, and implemented under, the Bush/Cheney administration.

I am 52 years old. I’ve lived through assassinations and wars, Watergate and Iran Contra, recessions and bubbles burst, and if you had told me there would come a day when my federal government would authorize torture in violation of its own laws and international treaty, and then neglect to investigate it, I would not have believed you.

I find it incredibly disheartening that this letter even needs to be written, but write it, I shall.

I have heard the rhetoric about wanting to move forward rather than look back, but it rings hollow to me – the mandate that the people of these United States sent in electing President Obama and a Democratic Party majority in the Congress was a clear cry for change. Even Republican officials have distanced themselves from the disastrous policies implemented by the Bush/Cheney administration – policies that have left our nation physically, financially, and morally bankrupt.

When you’ve been through a horrible battle and it’s clear that one of the principal players in your contingent has been dreadfully wounded, you do not just march on. You stop, examine their wounds, and tend to them.

In my opinion, the other wounds to our Constitution (wire-tapping, undeclared wars instigated on the basis of faulty intelligence, etc.) -- themselves no small injuries -- pale in comparison to the authorization of State-sponsored torture.

If we can stand by while people are tortured by our government, if we can know that such a thing occurred, and refuse to even investigate it, I believe that we are not a nation which has established Justice, or secured the Blessings of Liberty -- and with every report released about how the actions of the previous administration has served as a recruitment tool for those who wish to commit violence against the US and its citizens, it becomes clearer and clearer that, far from insuring domestic Tranquility and providing for the common defence, the use of torture has put both our physical safety and international standing at risk.

I will not stand by silently as my government violates law, treaty, the principles of its own Constitution, and basic human rights.

I will be writing to your office every week until investigations into torture are initiated by our federal government – even if this takes years or decades. I will speak to others and encourage them to do the same. I will blog about it and email about it. I will send letters to the United Nations asking them to enforce the Convention Against Torture, to which my country is a signatory, and in which, we have agreed to investigate these matters.

I believe that you know, deep in your heart, that we must investigate these matters, if we are to be who we say we are – a nation committed to justice, democracy, and freedom. I will speak to you, again and again, as an echo of that knowing, and I will support you, and call for others to support you, when you take action on that knowing.

I implore you, as a constituent and a fellow US citizen, to do everything you can to initiate immediate investigations of torture perpetrated by the United States government during the Bush/Cheney administration.

Sincerely,
[PortlyDyke]

===================
Same to President Obama, with a few changes (highlighted in blue):
Dear President Obama:

I voted for you, primarily because I recognized that my country was in need of transformation, and I believed that you were earnest in your promise to protect and defend our Constitution.

I am writing to ask you . . . . .
. . . . ., but write it, I shall.

I have heard in your speeches that you have a desire move forward rather than look back, but it rings hollow to me . . . . (all remaining the same).

=================
Finally, to the United Nations:
His Excellency Ban Ki-Moon
Secretary-General of the United Nations
New York, New York 10017

Dear Secretary-General,

I am a United States citizen, appealing to you to enforce the articles of the UN Convention Against Torture in the matter of torture perpetrated under the presidential administration of George W. Bush.

I had hoped that, with a new president leading our nation, my country would at last be brought back into compliance with the Convention, but as of this date, no investigative action has been initiated by my government, even though the Convention clearly states that States who agree to the Convention are required to begin prompt and impartial investigation whenever there is a reasonable suspicion that torture has been performed.

It is clear now that such suspicion not only exists, but that a majority of United States citizens believe that torture has been performed on prisoners interrogated by our government. Even if these citizens believe that this torture was somehow justified, as officials of the Bush administration have claimed, the articles of the Convention are clear – war, threat of war, political instability or any emergency is not a justification for torture.

I believe that the UN must take action, since it seems apparent at this point that the President and Congress are not hastening toward the prompt and impartial investigations which they have agreed to perform.

I believe that my government is in violation of both its own laws and its international agreements.

I implore you to make good on the Articles of the Convention Against Torture.
Here's hoping it does some good.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 10:09 AM 4 comments Links to this post  

Blotter Blogger -- May 22, 2009

By request, I'm back with more from my local police/sheriff's blotter.

I'm sensing some patterns this week, and I've been wondering if the blotter has been thematic -- perhaps even prognosticatory -- all along.

Diving right in, then -- Perusing the top story this week (with exciting! photo), I'm concerned that my idyllic-paradise of a town may be sliding into a Cautionary Tale Vortex:

House destroyed in fire set by children playing with matches.
Digging deeper into blotter, I found further signs of CTV slippage:
Two women drove to a health club on Washington on May 16 and left a 1998 GMC pickup truck unlocked with the keys in the center console. Someone drove the truck to an uptown location and stole a duffel bag containing medications and other items.

A person reported leaving a wallet in a bathroom at a park-and-ride lot May 6, and the wallet was stolen.
Moving on from my ponderings about whether a wallet can be stolen if you leave it in a public bathroom, I was somewhat mollified by the burglary reports, which seemed to indicate that the status quo was being maintained:
Candy was taken May 2 from a Port Townsend home that was burglarized.

Police believe that an intoxicated person tried to enter an occupied room at a motel in the 1800 block of Water on May 10. An investigation found that someone broke into another room and apparently made a cup of coffee and left.
Casual-use burglary is a proud tradition in my little town. A couple of years ago, we had the Sandwich Burglar, who would break into people's houses, fix themselves a sandwich, and leave. These burglaries might have been nominated as "Perfect Crime" material, had the perpetrator's mother only taught them to rinse the mayo knife and crumb the counter. If you come to visit, lock up your bologna -- the Sandwich Burglar remains at large.

Just as I was relaxing a bit, thinking the CTV alert was a false-alarm, I noticed that the County Sheriff's office had apparently been issued an overabundance of "scare quotes", and had opted to discharge some of the surplus in this week's blotter:
A deputy contacted a marina manager to advise him that it was legal to shoot off a small cannon in the marina, which is within a "no shooting" zone, provided the cannon didn't fire a "projectile."

A deputy was asked to check on an "unruly, intoxicated female" who had been "ejected from an aid car" near Port Townsend on May 4. Port Townsend police officers apparently took her to Jefferson Healthcare Hospital so she could be with her husband.
(As an aside: You can't imagine how satisfying it is to place the words "scare quotes" inside "scare quotes". Really. You can't.)

I searched for more evidence to support my CTV hypothesis, but alas, the blotter revealed no more clues to unlock the code. Yet, as it returned to it's usual "An off-duty officer found a belt with geological tools near Blue Heron Middle School on May 13. The owner can claim the tools at the police department" and "A bobcat was chased from the Chimacum High School property May 2", I couldn't help feeling that perhaps I'd stumbled upon hint of some esoteric truth -- and I'll be watching my blotter more closely in the future. The lottery numbers are probably in there somewhere.

Blotter Blogger Parts One and Two at my home blog

Posted byPortlyDyke at 9:17 AM 0 comments Links to this post  

Why We Must Investigate Torture

Part of the reason that I haven’t been blogging is that I’ve felt a bit soul-sick lately.

I know that this is almost certainly not the first time that my government has actually tortured people. It is, however, the first time that my government has done so publicly, accompanied it with brazen justifications – and not a damn thing has been done about it.

I’ve been kind of stunned since it began (seven fucking years ago!), to be perfectly honest. I’ve felt helpless and hopeless at points. It has triggered a lot of things in me (as a survivor of torture), and I’ve wrestled with how to take action in a manner that is not “fighting” anything (I’m a firm believer that “Fighting for Peace is like Fucking for Virginity”).

Oh sure -- I sent letters to my congress-critters way back when -- I had hopes that the new administration would actually do something -- but I’ve come to a point now where I simply cannot refrain from moving into determined and sustained action on this issue. I must know that I have done all that I can to help create the world I want to live in.

So, this post is my first step. It presents the reasons I believe that we absolutely must investigate, and an invitation -- because I want you to join me (action item at the bottom of the post).

As a citizen of the United States, I consider myself a “cell” in the body of this nation – a nation that I believe is very ill at this point. If I am to help my nation heal, I have to become an active agent in its healing. So, here are (some of) the reasons I believe that we must investigate Torture:

Reason #1 – Because There is a Festering Wound in My Nation’s Heart

The argument that we should just “move on” and “look forward”, ignoring the human rights violations of the Bush administration, would be fine and dandy – if it had ever actually worked.

Think about your own life. Have you ever really been able to just "move on" from an act of intentional harm that you perpetrated -- an act that you knew was wrong, either when you did it or after?

These are the acts poison the soul and haunt the psyche, until they are faced and investigated and understood – they are the acts that recovering alcoholics reveal in their Fourth Step, so that they can unshackle themselves from their past – they are the acts that people bring to the confessional and the psychiatrist and the terrifying moment coming clean with the beloved, hoping that love and connection will not be annihilated by the revelation.

They are the acts we are doomed to repeat, if we do not come to understanding of them. They form the dysfunctional patterns that swirl our lives into chaos and drama, if left unexamined -- no matter how much we’d like to pretend that we’ve “moved on”.

Think about the act of physical healing – the tiniest splinter, left untended, either poisons you or festers out, and no disease can be truly resolved until the underlying cause is addressed. You go to the physician, and together, you investigate your symptoms – nothing is treatable until it’s diagnosed, and in order to arrive at a diagnosis and any hope of treatment, you have to tell the doctor the truth, and the doctor has to tell you the truth.

And this is much more than an illicit affair, or a drunken disaster. This is much more than a splinter.

If any individual you knew told you that they had performed the same acts that the Bush administration sanctioned – would you shrug your shoulders and say: “Well, that’s in the past -- let’s just move on”?

I know that my country harbors many forms of "disease" in parts of its body – racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, classism, religious intolerance, greed – the symptoms of which have been sometimes chronic and sometimes acute -- but we have pretty much always at least claimed to be seeking a cure.

Even as a person facing a number of these oppressions, I've held on to the hope that that claim was genuine. Through assassinations and wars of invasion, through Watergate and Iran-Contra, I have stubbornly believed that the United States could one day fully manifest as the healthy body implied in the purity of this embryonic phrase: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . . . ".

The national identity that most US citizens have clung to – the myth of our role as defenders of freedom and paragons of democracy – has been steadily eroding for years now, as leaders of our nation tiptoed up to, and then stepped over, the slippery slope of these oppressions. Descending into State-sponsored, State-justified torture means, to me, that we are approaching the awful bottom of that slippery slope.

Go ahead -- say it, out loud, that way -- State-Sponsored Torture.

I think we need to say this out loud to ourselves, and to hear it broadcast from our televisions, and blared from the floor of Congress, so that we can face reality -- the diagnosis is in, and we're sicker than we thought.

There is a festering wound in the heart of my country -- and that’s a dangerous place for deep infection – very dangerous indeed.

Reason #2 – Because There Is an Enormous Log In My Nation’s Eye

When you criticize your neighbor for doing despicable things, and then invade their home under the pretense of getting them to stop doing said despicable things, and in the process, do similarly despicable things – you look like an arrogant, hypocritical, disingenuous asshole.

Depending on your despicable acts, you may also look like a criminal arrogant, hypocritical, disingenuous asshole.

Even if you get away with it and no one turns you in, everyone in your neighborhood who heard you bitching earlier is going to know, and they are going to see right through your claims of moral superiority and righteous intention and ending tyranny and blah, blah, blah.

Until the United States cleans its own house, the entire world will rightfully suspect us of being exactly what we are being: Arrogant, hypocritical, lying assholes. A nation that doesn’t believe in its own Constitution or laws. A nation that is, at once, meddling busy-body and bossy, obnoxious teenager, throwing its weight around and refusing to take responsibility for its actions -- with a penchant for torture.

Finally, and perhaps most pragmatically, there is this reason to investigate:

Reason #3: Because We Said We Would, and then We Said We Would Again

The UN Convention Against Torture was signed by President Reagan in 1988, and ratified again in 1994. The United States has not withdrawn from the Convention, and is still bound by it. The Convention says, among other things, that:

"“torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”
But . . . But, Waterboarding isn’t torture!!!

Doesn’t matter. The arguments that waterboarding is not torture, specious as they are, make no difference, because the Convention goes on to say:
“Each State Party shall undertake to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture as defined in article I, when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. In particular, the obligations contained in articles 10, 11, 12 and 13 shall apply with the substitution for references to torture of references to other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
But . . . But . . . Ticking TimeBomb!!!!

Doesn’t matter.
No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."
But . . . But . . . . I was ordered to do it!!!!

Doesn’t matter.
“An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.”
We just want to move on.

Well, poor us -- too bad. If we are to honor our agreements as a nation, we must investigate – because we say we will.
"Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction."
I won’t even go into the clauses that state that we will give victims of torture the right to redress and adequate compensation.

Suffice it to say that it is completely clear, even if an investigation was made and the acts committed under the Bush administration were found, by the entire world, not to be torture (and pigs could fly)– the United States – my country – WE – have an obligation to investigate -- promptly and impartially.

I believe that my government is currently in violation of its own laws and international treaties.

====================

So, here is my invitation to action.

Beginning this week, and continuing every week until an investigation is underway, I will write a letter to my congressional representatives, President Obama’s office, and the United Nations.

I will request from my reps that they push for investigations with every ounce of their strength. I will tell them that, if they do not, I will not vote for them again.

I will request from President Obama that he order investigations. I will tell him that, if he does not, I will not vote for him again.

I will request from the United Nations that they hold my nation accountable to the UN Convention. I will request this as a citizen of a country which I believe is currently in violation of both its own laws and its international treaties.

I will invite everyone I know to do the same.

If you'd like to join me, I'm glad to share my letters with you. I'll be publishing them at Teh Portly Dyke, as well.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 1:49 PM 5 comments Links to this post  

Comedy TONIGHT!

OK -- Scroll down to the next post to view the broadcast -- I'll be starting the broadcast at about 6:50 -- you may have to refresh the page to get the password box to come up. Password is: TehFunny

See you soon! (Gad my palms are sweaty!)

Posted byPortlyDyke at 6:14 PM 1 comments Links to this post  

Check Out "Sit Down Comedy" on Sunday, May 10th

Hey everybody! Woo-Hoo! Ever since I started releasing those old standup routines of mine on youtube, I've been thinking about exercising my comedy muscles again -- so . . . . . . .

I'm doing my first-ever "Sit Down Comedy" broadcast on ustream this Sunday (tomorrow - 5/10/09) at 7 pm. You can watch it RIGHT HERE at my blog (scroll down)! Just visit Teh Portly Dyke at 7 pm Pacific time (8 pm Mountain, 9 pm Central, 10 pm Eastern) on Sunday, 5/10/09 -- I'll be broadcasting live via Ustream fer shits and giggles. (Show up a little early -- I'll be warming up the crowd.)

If you want to be able to heckle me (via chat) while I'm being Teh Funny, you'll need to tune in at my home website or at my ustream channel page, where a chat widget is available (yes, it's a funky chat widget, but hey, it's free).

No matter where you view my sit-down comedy, you'll need this password to see the broadcast: TehFunny (case sensitive). (You won't need this password until I actually start broadcasting tomorrow night, when a password box will pop up on the screen below)

I hope that you'll join me -- and may I repeat: WooHooo!!!!

Free TV : UstreamYes! ^^^^ Right up there^^^^ I WILL be TehFunny! (7 pm PST 5/10/09)

If the ads bug you, just click their close box -- I have no control over the ads, because the service is free and that's how Ustream makes its money. I will attempt to mock them appropriately where appropriate.

Like Teh Funny? Tip me!

Posted byPortlyDyke at 6:05 PM 1 comments Links to this post