Rage Is Good is taking a vacation.

We are heading south, to the desert, and yes we know it's summer, but we have a dear friend who's in need of a little rage right now. And also we are packing plenty of sunscreen.

We'll be back next week, although we may be a little distracted by the book that will be waiting for us when we return, and finding out whether Harry will, in fact, die. (She wouldn't do that, she wouldn't, she couldn't...)

In the meantime, check out the Top 20 Protest Songs that Mattered, over at Spinner.com. (You can listen to them for free, which is groovy.)

p.s. Michael Moore announced this morning that Sicko hits 500 new theaters this weekend, so if you haven't seen it yet, go! (SM, it's even coming to Waco. Now I know there must be a god.)

The Post I'm Not Going to Write

I can't even talk about the Michael Vick thing. I can't talk about dog fighting. I can't even make myself go to the CNN website and link to the story. So you'll have to Google it, if you don't know about it already.

I got this email from J yesterday:

"C, I love you. And because I love you, I need to ask a favor--"

(at this point I'm thinking, what?! did I leave wet towels on the floor? But very quickly, my defensiveness gave way to devoted relief.)

"--You probably don't know about this news story yet, but it has the legs to catapult from the Sports page to the Front page. The particulars concern one of the best pro football players in the game today, Michael Vick, and charges brought against him for dog fighting. You may be tempted to know the details. Please don't read anything about it. I love you."

This is the nicest thing anyone has done for me all month.

I avoided every news website for the rest of the day and was very thankful that we don't have a television that works. And so, because I didn't actually read any of the coverage, I can't tell you exactly what I think about this story, except that I think Vick is less than human.

Because hurting a person at least involves emotion (rage, anger, passion, whatever), which suggests that the person doing the hurting at least retains some resemblance to an actual human being.

But this -- using all of one's spare time to set up a company that specializes in training dogs to tear each other apart, and then charging people to watch them kill each other in the name of entertainment -- isn't fueled by emotion. It's not like Vick hates dogs. He's not angry at them. He simply doesn't care.

Maybe I am a wimp. Maybe I am old-fashioned. Maybe I am a prude. I don't think violence is entertaining. I don't think watching animals pull each other's limbs off in a big concrete pit is fun.

This isn't surprising, though. We live in a world where rape is legal in many countries, and only marginally illegal in our own. We live in a country that started a war in which hundreds of thousands of civilians have died, and yet our president still doesn't seem to care. We know global warming will be one of the biggest crises in the next 50 years, yet we still buy SUVs.

We are taught from the highest levels that we don't need to care about the consequences of our actions. So we can't be surprised that some depraved football player didn't realize why it was wrong to torture a few hundred animals. It's not like he hurt anyone, after all.



I want to be in Alabama right now.

I want to be in Birmingham, to be exact. I woke up this morning with a knot in my stomach, the kind that means regret and unease and anxiety, and it's there because I should be in Alabama right now, but instead I'm hundreds of miles away.

Because Operation Save America has descended upon Alabama this week, in an attempt to shut down one of the last abortion clinics in the state -- "storming the gates," in their words, to "push what is left of the abortion industry into a deep grave."

I want to be with my Alabama sisters and brothers, as they fight back.

I live in a state now with a pro-choice governor and a pro-choice state senate, and my member of congress is openly gay. I live in a town where the "Christian Coalition" is considered quaint and anachronistic. I live in a town where most women my age wouldn't understand why they'd need an escort to help them get from the clinic parking lot to the front door.

The greatest gift from living in Alabama is that I no longer take any of this for granted. The stakes are clear now. The battle (and it is a battle) is no longer theoretical. People die because of this.

The anti-abortion crowd tries to distance itself from the doctor-killers, but their "mainstream" smokescreen doesn't fool us. They are willing to murder doctors, nurses, women and anyone else who gets in their way, to prove their point that abortion is murder. Somehow, in their twisted sense of logic, this makes sense.

Last year, Operation Save America tried to shut down Mississippi's last remaining abortion clinic. Yes, just one, in the entire state. But they failed. When more pro-choice supporters showed up for a counter-protest, anti-choicers responded with a bomb threat.

Obviously, they are very selective about which lives they want to save.

In 1998, a man named Eric Robert Rudolph detonated a bomb made of dynamite and nails in the doorway of the same Birmingham abortion clinic targeted this week by OSA. Rudolph's bomb killed a police officer and maimed a nurse. The OSA siege in Birmingham this week happens to coincide with the anniversary of Rudolph's court sentencing. This is not an accident.

Chances are, pro-choice demonstrators will outnumber OSA's "army" in Birmingham, just like they did last summer in Mississippi. But I don't want to be there because I think the movement needs me.

I want to be in Alabama right now, standing silent, arms linked, forming a human-chain safe zone around the clinic to keep it open during the so-called "siege", because that's the only sane response to OSA's insanity.

(87% of all US counties do not have an abortion provider. If you have the resources to do so, please consider helping to make sure Birmingham/Jefferson County isn't one of them.)


Oh. My. God. Your single-payer health care is HOT.

So, I'm sitting at this community forum about the movie "Sicko" the other night -- in the cramped and kind of hot backroom of a hippie coffee shop down the street -- and I'm listening to a bunch of people go on and on and on about the horrible problems with our health care system (yes, it's horrible!), and how medical bills account for half of all bankruptcies and are the #1 cause of homelessness (yes - outrageous!), and how the whole industry is set up solely to deny care and make tons of money (ditto, and ditto!).

And the whole time I'm sitting there, I'm thinking, "Yes, yes, and yes. But how can we make health care reform sexy?"

Because that, to me, is the real question.

Because real Americans vote when something gets them excited enough to turn off American Idol and get down to the polls. And real Americans like sex appeal.

Because we would totally have affordable, accessible health care by now if, say, Paris Hilton or Brad Pitt refused to take their clothes off on camera until congress passed it. The U.S., it seems, is tired of hearing the same ol' shtick -- it's like one big, collective, "Yes! We know already! Some people have to choose between buying food and buying medicine -- we get it!" (And the silent second half of that response: "And we don't really care!")

Because if we did care, god (or goddess) knows, we'd've taken notice of all the poor people and homeless people and skyrocketing medical bills crippling the middle class.

But we didn't.

Instead, Larry King dumped Michael Moore for Paris Hilton, because Larry knows that more people wanted to listen to her attempt to speak in complete sentences than be forced to listen to something depressing and boring like the problems with health insurance companies (even though the movie was riotously funny in parts, but maybe didn't Larry have time to watch).

But what Larry didn't know is that health care reform can totally be sexy. We can have national slogans like, "Nobody comes between me and my low-cost prescriptions," or, "Is that a national insurance card in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?" or, "Single-payer health care is for lovers."

I think this could work.

Somebody call Paris. I have a proposition to make.



TK: "we worked on our auras today. i feel like a million bucks."

me: "great! i mean, not that i think your aura needed a face lift. i thought it was perfectly attractive as-is."

TK: "heh."

me: "out of curiosity, how exactly does one 'work on' one's aura?"

TK: "i'm not telling. it's a secret for the yoga sisterhood. you have to join the club first."

me: "alack! now i need to know."

TK: "no really, i'm not telling."


never mind that

i'm deleting the poll question. it's a waste of time. (if you're burning to know what the poll was about, ya'll can read the comments below, at the end of this very long post -- sorry for the length, btw. it's really hard to write about a moral dilemma in 50 words or less. )

so, here's what happened the other day. j and i, and two of our friends, were leaving our house saturday night to head to the bar around the corner. our friend TK was the first to walk down our front steps, and when she did, she met a woman on the sidewalk. the woman was crying.

i came down to see what the problem was. the woman told us she was trying to get home and asked if we had 50 cents. she was crying and looking afraid. it was well after dark, on a residential street, and she was wandering the streets crying.

"are you okay?" i asked.

"yeah," she said, "i'm just a little shaken up after what happened."

she was young, maybe in her early-to-mid 20s, tall and somewhat overweight, and spoke in a breathy, high-pitched, baby-doll voice.

"what happened?" TK said.

"well," she said, "i was in a car with this man, and he had sex with me, and then he pushed me out."

i asked if we should call the police. i asked if we could call a friend. she said no, that all she wanted was money to get home.

"how much does it cost to get home?" i asked. if she was asking for only 50 cents, she must mean the bus, i thought.

she paused for a second.

"thirteen dollars and 74 cents," she said.

and that's when i knew we were being scammed. because it seems to me, it just feels to me, what with me being a woman and all, and having known quite a few, that if a woman had just been sexually assaulted, she wouldn't necessarily come right out and offer this information (what with it being sensitive, alarming, and still stigmatized), but she probably would be a little more direct in her needs.

she probably would have said something like, "something really bad just happened. i need to get home. it costs 14 bucks. can you help me?"

but she didn't. she asked for 50 cents.

i am a sucker, and i also don't find it inherently wrong to be asked for money on the street, so i gave her two dollars. i also was fighting the voice in my head that said this woman was lying.

i don't want to think any woman with a story of being raped is lying. i want to help her. i want to bring her in and wrap her in a blanket and give her some tea, then i want to track the bastard down and hurt him.

TK asked the woman for her name. after a very, very long pause, the woman said, "Misty?". she said it with a question mark at the end. then TK introduced herself, and our other friend did the same.

by now we were all walking in the direction of the bar, with the woman walking along with us, and j and i were walking a little ahead. i didn't want her to know my name and my address and the fact that i was sucker. the address and the sucker parts were bad enough. and i still wasn't sure she wasn't lying.

so we parted ways with her at the corner and wished her good luck, and then we went inside and sat down, and the first thing TK said was, "that was a total scam."

"really? are you sure??" i said.

they all looked at me for the sweet, naive thing that i am.

"i can't believe you gave her money," j said.

"anyone walking around at 10:30 at night asking for 50 cents probably needs it," i said back.

we left the bar two or three hours later.

and there, across the street, was the same woman, standing under an awning, chatting away on a cell phone.

i think it's perfectly fine to ask strangers for money. there are programs for homeless people, but they are stretched thin and don't always work, and there are so many cracks for people to fall through. so i don't mind. i live a very comfortable life. giving two bucks to the lady who lives outside the coffee shop is the very, very, very least thing i can do, if it means she gets to eat that day. i have never known what it means to survive solely on the mercy of strangers.

but, to lie about why you're asking for the money -- and to lie about something that no woman should lie about, because it calls all the legitimate claims into question -- just seems unnecessary. once, a guy j knows was walking down the street when a homeless man approached him. the man said to j's friend, "hey, buddy, i'll be honest. i really want a beer. can you spare a couple of bucks?" and j's friend handed over the money. everyone should be able to enjoy a good beer every now and then, he figured.

a couple of nights after our encounter with the woman, j and i were running to the store down the street. it was early evening, and the sun was beginning to wane. and we saw the woman again.

i really, really wanted to talk to her. i was waiting outside the store for j to come out, because i had the dog with me. i saw her coming from down the block. she looked up and seemed to pause, and i thought for a second that she recognized me. but she wasn't looking at me, she was looking at something on her hand. and i thought, oh great, the money i gave her went to a manicure.

she looked away and began walking towards me, and as she passed me, she looked up and we locked eyes.

"it was a lightening bug!" she said in a joyous, though slightly muffled voice.

"what?" i said.

"i said it was a lightening bug!" she said. no manicure, just a lightening bug that had landed on her hand.

she smiled like a child and kept walking down the street.


an open letter

dear friends, family and strangers,

j and i saw michael moore's new movie, "sicko," last night, and i have a request.

Please See This Movie. (it's enough to make me write in capital letters.)

There are few things in this country that can unite us as much as this film's topic: the abysmal, unreliable quality of our nation's health care system.

this is issue is personal for me.

when i was sick with cancer, i had to muster the energy i didn't have -- not to get better, but to fight to get enough specialist referrals from the health insurance company to cover my care. a couple of years ago, a friend of mine declared bankruptcy because of out-of-pocket medical expenses, even though he had health insurance. and, when a close relative died earlier this year, his wife received a bill for thousands of dollars -- because, while the hospital was covered by their health insurance company (and, in fact, was the only hospital in town that was), the team of doctors inside that hospital who treated him were not.

this issue is is personal for all of us.

in "sicko," a handful of americans with major health problems who were denied care in the states travel with moore to cuba. there, they are treated for free. many of them cry afterwards from relief, but also disbelief -- how can something that is so difficult to obtain in the united states be so easy in cuba?

nothing against cuba, but it's a question worth asking.

we cling to the notion in our country that because This Is The Way It Is, it's also The Way It Should Be. we've collectively bought into the idea that universal health care is somehow asking for too much, being too greedy, inviting too much risk -- that we don't have the right to enjoy a health care system that is both humane and patient-centered, instead of what we have today -- a system controlled by companies that employ people whose sole job is to figure out how to pay you, the patient, as little as possible.

so i'm asking this: in case you haven't seen the movie, please do.

the action step afterwards is easy. just think. thinking is the easiest action step of all. it requires no special talent or ability. it's something each of us was born already equipped to do.

so please, just think.

think about what it would feel like to live in a country where the basic health of its people is considered a national priority. think about what it would be like to live in a country where no child is denied a life-saving operation because someone in an office in another city in another state decided it wasn't "medically necessary."

what kind of country allows so many of its citizens to die of curable disease? what kind of people are we? what kind of person are you?


farming is hard

i could never be a farmer.

i learned this last week, when i spent a few days in beautiful north dakota, with my lovely friend BJ and her very wonderful husband, NK.

farming is hard. you don't get to sleep a lot or watch law and order marathons (much to my alarm) or futz around online for hours at a stretch, because there are animals to feed and water to tote and fields to clear and crops to harvest and barns to sweep and books to balance and food to make from scratch ("oh, it's 10 p.m.? sure, i think i'll just bake some bread and knit a scarf before turning in.")

this is not in the cards for me, because i am lazy.

on one hand, it makes me feel guilty and a little bad about myself, because i think, "well, hey! i should be willing to make bread at 10 p.m. and know how to saddle a horse and be able to work a solid 15-hour day!"

and on the other hand, following BJ and NK around on their land (which isn't even a real farm, but a pasture and several horses and a gigantic garden and a few acres of land), i felt very, deeply alarmed for the future of our country. because most of us have no idea what it takes to produce any of the things we eat, use, watch, touch, or otherwise consume in the daily course of living.

and this is a problem.

because it means we're all lazy.

so, at least i'm in some kind of company, if not entirely good, educated company.

they say there are more buffalo in north dakota than people. cows have the right of way there. ("if you hit one," BJ warned me during my drive up, "it's automatically your fault. so be careful.") the biggest cities would be small towns in a lot of states. and it's also eyeball-freezing cold for half of the year, and the people are rather reserved and suspicious of outsiders.

i drove around with BJ for a work function, and everywhere we turned, she seemed to meet another person who knew her parents, who lived on the other side of the state. "the state of north dakota is like a really spread-out town," she told me. and it's true. it's not seven degrees of separation -- it's two.

so now, back in my urban flat, surrounded by cars and concrete, i'm wondering how i can maybe try to replicate a teensy bit of north dakota in my landscape here. because knowing every third person in the state is kind of cool. it means you'll always be able to borrow a cup of flour.

but more importantly, i would like to be a little more connected to the process of growing things. with the news trickling in of poisonous toothpaste and irradiated spinach and puss in cow's milk, i think being a tad more connected to the people who actually process the stuff i choose to put in my mouth could only be a good thing.

so last weekend, j and i and our upstairs neighbor LS started a flower garden in our backyard. it's a small step, but i have brown thumbs. we will master the daisies, then move on to something more wholesome and life-giving, like maybe the tomato.

and then maybe i'll think about that 10 p.m. loaf of bread.


actreevism, interrupted

okay, so it didn't happen. TK had this thing. and j and i had both just come home from respective out-of-town trips. so we didn't decorate the park with peace signs in time for the city's huge fourth of july festival.

next time.

(our fab friend V comes for a visit in a mere FOUR days, so surely something appropriately subversive will happen with her company.)

but, j and i DID go over to TK's last night for the fireworks. she lives across the street from the park where the fireworks were happening, so we waited until 10 minutes to showtime, then downed shots of tequila and snuck across to the park, in the dark, where we found some tree stumps just on the other side of a line of trees from the crowds of people.

so it was just us, and the grass, and the tree stumps, and the few bats circling in the air, and the almost-full moon, watching the explosives in the sky, erupting into showers of light.

every time they set off a firework, the sound of it ricocheted off the roofs nearby and the pavement, and it sounded like the sound of bombs. it sounded a little too much like the sound of bombs, and like gunfire. i wondered if anyone was wondering the same thing, that here we were, celebrating our country's independence by shooting colorful explosives into the air that sounded like bombs, while on the other side of the world, our military was busy bombing another country.

the fireworks were pretty.

they've gotten fancy since i was a kid, with giant smiley faces and hearts exploding in the sky.

but it felt fake and hollow, celebrating our independence by setting off things that sound like bombs. i've never been bothered by this before, and i've seen fireworks almost every year since before i can recall.

earlier, before the fireworks started, j and TK and i were sitting in TK's front yard, watching as the families poured down the sidewalks toward the park. we were talking about a dinner party TK had attended the night before. one of her hosts was a liberal history professor at the local college. and he talked at dinner about the need for the US to hunt down the terrorists and kill them. that the US wasn't a bad place to live, so we needed to put the terrorists in there place and go back to being safe again.

TK couldn't believe this was a liberal history professor she was talking to. she tried the line about how the US has engendered ill will, that to fight "terrorism" perhaps we should reconsider some of our foreign policies, that we can't expect to convince people to stop blowing themselves up by blowing up their countries. the man didn't budge. and neither did TK. and the whole thing left her feeling a little unsettled.

so she recounted all of this last night, in her yard, before the fireworks started that sounded like bombs.

j and i nodded in sympathy. yes, it's impossible to change each other's minds, we agreed. yes, we said, it is more complicated that just killing "those" people and bombing "them" back to where they came from. yes, we nodded, the US's declining reputation around the world has happened for good reason.

"so," TK asked us, "why do you think this way?"

we didn't have great answers -- why do we think anything we think? where did we learn to feel what we feel? these questions require some degree of reflection. but right then, the fireworks started, so we ditched our conversation and ran across the street and found the tree stumps and watched the fireworks that shook the ground.

fireworks always last a little too long for me, and my mind wanders. last night, it wandered back to TK's question. and i think the answer is empathy. as a child, i was taught, always, to move through the world with empathy. to value other human beings feelings and perspectives at least as much as my own. to be willing to sacrifice for someone else's benefit. to see the interconnectedness of all human life -- that if one of us suffers, so do we all.

and i think, if you aren't taught this from an early age, you grow up to become an adult who says the answer to terrorism is to bomb them all back to the stone age. or someone who makes $50,000 a year and still shops at wal-mart even after attending a lecture on sweatshops. or someone who can walk by a homeless person on the sidewalk and make a snide comment about urban blight.

i suppose if you aren't taught empathy as a child, you become someone content with being selfish, someone whose sense of what is right revolves around what is right for you, someone whose heart and mind are hardened by complacency, someone who cannot imagine why "they" hate us, who can watch fox news and nod along at the fountain of self-righteousness.

this morning, after we got our new coffee pot to work and were gulping the first cups, j turned to me and said, "you know, i had this funny thought last night. and i wondered if anyone else thought it. i thought how crazy it was that we were setting off fireworks that sounded like bombs. in other countries, they hear that sound all the time, but it isn't entertainment."

"no," i said to him, "i don't think that's crazy at all."