June 9, 2014

Sex and the City Saves Elephants

Actress Kristin Davis, co-star of the show Sex and the City, traveled to Kenya a few years ago for a safari. A ranger approached her vehicle and asked if they'd seen a baby elephant, so the whole truck stayed with the rangers for two days helping look for the baby. They finally found her among lava rocks, scared and angry, and had to cover her eyes and practically tackle her to get her safe. They gave her water, moistened her skin and transported her back to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, where she'd be cared for.


The rangers who approached Kristin's truck did so not because they thought approaching a celebrity would help, but because they simply needed more eyes. In fact, they didn't know she was a celebrity. It took DSWT a few weeks to realize who she was. Kristin Davis adopted the baby elephant she helped find, who was named for the area they found her, for $50, getting her email updates as to the elephant's health.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust takes in orphaned elephants, most of whom are orphans because their mothers were slaughtered for their ivory tusks, and raises them to be released back into the wild. Some of the adult elephants actually come back to the reserve on occasion for a visit.

Oh, and Kristin Davis is also an advocate of women's rights. While her character in the TV series would get into the gritty details of her sex life, the actress laments that there are so few shows on TV that star women that each one still gets compared to Sex and the City, which ended 8 years ago. She does Broadway now, has adopted a baby girl, and has become the public face of the Wildlife Trust. She feels strongly about women's health issues and women's rights; she wants to raise her daughter to grow up in a world where there are not only elephants but complete freedom for women. Surely having played such a liberal, confident woman for so many years has helped shape her own beliefs and ideals (or did her beliefs and ideals shape the character?), but to have a show that starred and focused almost entirely on women be as popular as it was encouraged the teens and young women watching it to pursue their dreams.

Kristin Davis has done a lot to educate herself on the plight of elephants over the last few years and has compared buying ivory to buying blood diamonds, bringing something people widely regard as into the spotlight, using terms they recognize and understand. She's trying to bring attention to the severity of the problem (elephants could be gone in less than 10 years), describing the scenes she herself has witnessed (an elephant's head hacked off after it had been chained to a tree and left to die, with another not a half mile away).

"You want gritty details?" She asks, fully prepared to give journalists the shock they're looking for.

Oh yeah, and she's also passionate about women's issues and laments that there aren't enough shows about women. I don't think I could like a celebrity any more.

June 4, 2014

Humanity

Not feeling particularly confident about the state of humanity lately. 

San Diego's fire season started in May. We were supposed to be unhappily stuck in May Gray, but there wasn't been a cloud in the sky for days. Santa Ana winds - pretty uncommon this early in the year - removes what remaining moisture we had in the air. San Diego battled 9 separate fires. Again, in May. We've had bigger fires before, and worse fire conditions for sure, but I don't know that there's ever been this many fires burning at once. And the scarier part is all of these fires are in highly populated areas. These aren't out in the boonies fires, burning acres of brush and threatening a handful of homes and structures on the edges of civilization - these are threatening thousands of homes and dozens of communities. Schools are closed. People aren't driving.

Oh, and we don't have any water to fight all these fires because we're in an unprecedented, historical drought. So that's awesome.

Meanwhile, Colorado and other states still had snow. IN MAY. Hurricane season is practically lasting all year, tornadoes are getting more destructive, and we're seeing record breaking weather every single season in all parts of the world. Coastal communities are already having to deal with rising waters, scooting their structures back. New Jersey already has regulations in place for new construction due to the rising waters and frequent storms.

But somehow, SOMEHOW, there's still doubt as to whether climate change is real, whether our activities are having an effect on the world's climate. It's not just that the ice caps in the arctic circle are melting thousands of miles away, affecting some sorry polar bear and human populations we don't really care about. This is what climate change looks like. We're living it right now, yet we're sticking our heads in the sand, going "weeeeeelllll I don't know."

We're still mining the earth for coal (awful) and stones (stupid), and then are shocked at safety violations when mines collapse and kill dozens or hundreds. We're still bringing new oil pipelines across our lands after SO MANY of them have burst and destroyed the environments they inhabit, not to mention the people that live there. We're watching elephants disappear before our very eyes so we can sell their teeth and use the money to fund terrorist groups that kidnap thousands of school kids, selling them to slavery, turning them into prostitutes, or forcing them to become soldiers. We're auctioning off the opportunity for some rich fuck to kill an endangered rhino to "save the species" (how?) for not even much money - $300,000, not even half a million - and we have no idea that money will ever see a conservation group. 

Women around the world, including right here in the United States, fear for their lives every single day. Around the world, women get raped all the time and authority figures do nothing. That happens sometimes here, too - and women learn to stay quiet about assault and abuse because it only makes it worse to say anything. And the rest of us wonder if today will be the day some spurned boy decides to bring a gun into public because he's lonely. Or whether we're wearing anything too revealing (because that's asking for it), or if we'll be safe in a group  or safe walking home.

We're also putting kids in jail for having some weed, or for shoplifting (usually something minor), and then acting amazed when those kids get out and turn into adults who end right back up in jail. And kid jail isn't a rehabilitation facility - it's intense adult prison where the same rapes and same solitary confinement happens. To kids. Kids who may have been abused by their parents and acted out, or kids raised in deplorable conditions, or maybe even just kids who were shit heads. But kids who said goodbye to life before their teenage years were over.

Instead or actively working on solving any of these very important issues, we're talking about how some high profile newsroom editor (a woman, because this discussion doesn't exist for male editors) is "not very approachable." We're oggling celebrities who decide to not put on makeup to go to Starbucks. We're getting offended when a football rookie celebrates success with a kiss. We're listening to high profile bigots bitch about black people to black people (but we're not doing anything about it). We're closing abortion clinics because abortion is icky (except when we need one). We're arguing about whether marriage should be allowed for certain people. 

Seems like there are way more important things to worry about than the things we pay attention to. But we don't seem to care.

January 29, 2014

Fitting In


Sometimes we don't fit in. Movies and TV shows go out of their way trying to relate to audiences who didn't fit in during middle school or high school, and everyone has at least one period or instance of not quite fitting in somewhere or with some group. I was lucky to be pretty enough (and unassuming) to not get teased or picked on, at least not to my face (and if there was teasing going on behind my back I never got wise to it) and I was also lucky enough to find a very tight knit group of people that accepted me completely. High school was actually very pleasant for me. 

But sometimes we don't fit in with that one group of people we should always feel like we belong with - our families. That's when it gets rough.

Sometimes our families make us feel weird, unusual, or wrong for no reason. And not in horrible awful ways, but subtle ways. A little remark that lets you know you're the only one who believes in something, or that your clothes aren't quite right, or that you're into the wrong kinds of activities. And when we don't feel like we belong with our families we seek out anyone else who will accept us, or at least who will make us feel like we aren't the complete weirdos our families make us think we are.

I got lucky, again, that I found someone who doesn't make me feel like a complete weirdo. Actually, that's not exactly true… I found someone who really likes my weirdness, and participates in it with me. Someone who doesn't believe in the little things I sometimes hear from my family, who even likes the things my family doesn't seem to like about me. Having someone with the same values as I have makes me feel like I'm not totally alone, and it makes dealing with those snide little remarks a little bit easier. Knowing that I can create my own family how I want and that I'm far enough away from those related to me that I don't have to see them and hear their comments about my lifestyle, my beliefs, or my interests very often. 

January 20, 2014

In Which I'm Glad To Have Been Born When And Where I Was

I've been talking about race a lot lately. A lot more than normal, anyway.

Today The Boyfriend and I had the opportunity to see a morning movie (the best kind of movie - they're half price, usually not packed, and tend to have a less annoying crowd) and since 12 Years a Slave was still playing, likely thanks to its Oscar nomination, we figured that was the most appropriate choice for Martin Luther King, Jr Day. 12 Years a Slave is not an easy movie to sit through. They make it clear at the beginning and end that the movie is based on a true story - based off the first hand account as told in the book by the same name, written by the main character. 

[Spoilers] The main character, a black freeman named Solomon, a New York musician who appears to be well respected in his community, is kidnapped and sold into slavery with a name change and a very bruised spirit. Though he has two… colleagues, of sorts… with him, who together decide that keeping their heads down and not letting on that they're educated or - heaven forbid - are freemen, Solomon is soon alone to fend for himself. For years he's shuffled along from one slaver to another, some relatively decent (for slave owners) and some so horrible it was hard to keep looking at the screen at times, always looking for the opportunity to find his way back to his real life. He eventually finds it, in a sympathetic Canadian who takes a risk by contacting Solomon's former associates to send his free papers, and the end of the movie brought the whole theater to tears. Not even kidding, there was sniffling all around us. I had brought a few tissues because I'm still dealing with the after effects of the flu, but The Boyfriend and I ended up using them to dry our eyes before heading back out into daylight. It was rough. 

Martin Luther King Jr feels extra prevalent as an icon now than when I was a kid, and having the day off in remembrance of him makes me even more aware of this. Today MLK stands for more than just racial equality, he stands for all that is and should be right with humanity. He stands for racial equality, sexual equality, respect for animals, and respect for the earth. His words - spoken at a certain time and for a certain cause - are being attributed today to a whole slew of causes that are just as important as the one he campaigned and died for. 

I feel particularly lucky to have had the opportunity to be so reminded of what MLK stood for because I have a boss who, I imagine, feels particularly connected to the man's cause. Martin Luther King Jr Day is an important day for LGBT campaigns, and for a gay man (who gives his employees the day off, with pay) it seems appropriate that he wants us to recognize it. And I'm glad that today we saw 12 Years a Slave, and not The Wolf of Wall Street. 

A little over a week ago I was driving with my boss to a client meeting and we got on the subject of race and sexuality in San Diego. I told a story of how The Boyfriend and I were approached in Home Depot by one of their marketing team and asked if we were planning on a major renovation in the next few years (kitchen or bath remodel). The implication I got was that Home Depot was looking for a way to get some publicity; The Boyfriend was having none of it, thinking that it was a scam at worst or a ploy to get him to do more work on his condo than he wanted at best. I had thought the marketing guy was looking for a couple they'd be able to promote about the cool things we did with Home Depot supplies/labor, and finding an interracial couple was a relative gold mine for publicity. My boss agreed, adding that we're such a good looking couple (awww) that they'd probably have promoted any work we did with Home Depot like crazy, adding further that we could probably easily exploit our relationship if we wanted to. (He also added that if we had kids we'd be pretty much exactly the perfect "family of today," but I didn't mention that kids aren't part of the plan.) 

My boss brought up the fact that I probably don't see my boyfriend as someone different than me because there's a different in our skin color. Which is true. I might have grown up in a predominantly white town, but while I noticed differences in appearance it was like I was noticing hair color - some people just have different hair color than I do, and some people just have different skin color than I do. That never made a difference in a person's personality or abilities, and I never got the impression that others felt any differently (though as part of the racial majority I'm not exactly one to speak with any authority on that, and I was occasionally guilty of saying things that were taken in a totally different context than I meant them or would have even understood at the time). Having since moved to San Diego, where there's far greater racial diversity, and living in the time I am, it's almost unfathomable that race is that big a deal to some people. Which is why watching things like 12 Years a Slave is so difficult. The characters in the movie believed in slavery. They used the bible to not only justify keeping other human beings in slavery, but blamed the slaves for their own circumstances using the same bible verses. They didn't want to hear that their slaves were potentially freemen in other states. They didn't want to hear that they might have had other names, that there might have been wives and children and humanity somewhere else. Slaves were property, no different from horses or dogs, to do with as they pleased because god gave them to the slavers. They had not only the right to own these people, but the duty to judge and punish and kill them for the slightest disobedience, real or imagined.

Our conversation turned to my boss's experiences as a gay man, living with his husband in San Diego and other parts of the country. My boss was born and raised in a very, very small town in Louisiana that I still can't pronounce or spell properly. He eventually moved to New York, where he met his husband, and they moved to San Diego together, living in Colorado and one or two other states in between. He talked about their experiences walking down the sidewalk holding hands, how it's still not normal enough to not get odd looks (whereas The Boyfriend and I are almost entirely ignored because our relationship isn't unusual here), and how they are introduced to so many hairdressers because straight people only seem to have that one connection to gays (but bless them for trying!). There's still a disconnect between the LGBT community and everyone else, just like there was between whites and everyone else just 50 years ago.

I wonder how Martin Luther King Jr would have felt having lines from his speeches being borrowed for other causes. I have to believe he would be proud, because a man can't repeatedly preach about equality for all, talk about respect for women, gays, animals, and the environment and not imagine that his words would be used for something even greater than he meant at the time. And I'm glad that I was able to think so much about his legacy today. There will always be differences between men and women - women can't help that men can't have kids, and that will probably always contribute to our lower pay and limit our career choices. But there aren't differences between whites and any other race, or straights and gays, and I'd like to think that one day, hopefully while The Boyfriend and I are still alive, we'll be able to see these perceived differences disappear completely and whites and non-whites and straights and LGBTs are 100% equal in every way.

September 24, 2013

Being Marshall

For a very long time I knew there was more good in humanity than bad. Bad things didn't happen to those I knew, bad things happened to people far away from me, or at least far enough away from me. Plus, they were sporadic, random, and not normal. But for the last few years it's been a struggle to continue believing that. Lately, especially.

I want to believe (need to believe?) that it's not just possible for two people to make a relationship last, but for two people to want to be with just each other for the majority of their lives. That they aren't just staying for the sake of commitment, or for the kids, or because their religion forbids divorce, or because the woman is financially trapped. But because they're in love enough, or attracted to each other enough, or respect each other enough, or just like each other enough to want to stay together.

I've felt like Marshall from How I Met Your Mother, the only character who has always believes in true love and the goodness of others, and his beliefs often prevail at the end of the episode. I haven't always believed in true love, but I have always believed in the goodness of others. But I'm a lot more quiet about it, and I'm starting to think it's because I'm so frequently disappointed.

There comes a point where I need to be OK trusting myself. I need to be OK with knowing what it is I want, what I need to do to get it, what kind of person I am and what my priorities are. And I am. Those values get challenged, a lot, but I always arrive at the same place. 

It still sucks when people you know break up, though. A while back I wrote about being surprised that my generation was divorcing, as if we were smart enough to learn from other's mistakes. I've spent most of my life with the understanding that people stay together in unhappy marriages or divorce and end up bitter and angry (for at least a little while). But we also know that certain relationships won't end - until they do. Family members, friends, and acquaintances have believed with every inch of their skin that they were in relationships that would last forever. I never felt that. I was told, and then I assumed, and once I kind of hoped because it would be cute, but I never believed. 

It's terrifying to believe.

After watching relationship after relationship fall apart how can I believe I can be different? I can hope and wish all I want but the happy, wonderful marriages I know are distant acquaintances - I have no idea how their real lives are; they could break up tomorrow and I would only be able to say how happy they seemed on Instagram (except for one - but I don't see them that often). 

Believing your relationship is secure enough to last is a risk - it's dumb to think otherwise. But at the end of the day you just have to trust yourself and hope your partner is in the same boat. 

I think this is a little bit harder to do as a woman. If we say we're going to marry the person we're dating it gets assumed all we really want is to get married, not that this person is that special; we sound less certain than men saying the same words because he's not romantic or marriage-hungry or whatever it is women are.

I made myself a promise after watching my parents divorce that I wouldn't marry if I wasn't absolutely positive beyond a doubt that I would never go through what they did. But the best I can do is believe that I'm making the best decision I can make and be OK enough to take a risk. I've worried for a long time about being naive in thinking marriage is still a good idea when so many end up broken or unhappy, but the belief that it's possible is valuable to me. I would rather take a risk and believe that I know what I'm doing than be afraid I'm just being naive and not pursue something that has the potential to make me happy.