If I were black in America right now, I’d feel hopeful that white people and the society they’ve built sees me. Finally sees me. Tragically, another man had to die for white America to wake up, to set aside their digital devices and take to the streets with black and brown people and fight for a country that doesn’t stand by while police officers slaughter black men and women. To fight for a country that doesn’t stand by while law enforcement officers invade homes and murder blacks. To fight for a country that doesn’t stand by while black mothers and fathers have to tell their children how to behave if they want to live.

If I were black in America right now, I’d be nervous that the current mood is a trendy here-today-gone-tomorrow moment. Nervous that protesters will go back to their everyday lives and the pressure on the criminal justice system and law enforcement will subside.

And white people will forget.

They’ll forget how enraged and horrified they felt watching a police officer snuff out yet another black man’s life. They’ll forget the arrogant expression Derek Michael Chauvin wore as he suffocated George Floyd. They’ll forget that this isn’t just about one man. It’s about hundreds of men and women who’ve gone before George Floyd and the hundreds who may come after, if we don’t make dramatic changes to the police forces who have embraced killology and murderous predatory behavior sanctioned by “the law.” They’ll forget what they learned about living while black—that black people aren’t truly free in America. They’ll forget that they have liberties blacks can’t even dream of, like going out at night, without triggering suspicion.

I’d be nervous that white people, because they’ve never known black oppression, will go back to their lives of privilege while blacks are systematically denied the same privileges. The same ones they’ve been denied for hundreds of years. I’d be nervous that white people will not do the work within each of them to fight racism and, instead, buy the lies fed to them by a country and system that has benefited from keeping black folks down. I’d be nervous that white people won’t easily surrender because it makes them feel big to make blacks feel small.

If I were black in America, I wouldn’t let white people forget that black lives matter. That freedom matters. And opportunity. That social and economic justice matters. And change. Changing the systems originally set up by nervous white people to keep blacks down.

Of course, slave owners were nervous. Deep down, they knew that enslaving people was a horrible injustice. They were nervous that if slaves discovered their power, they’d rise up and demand to be free, demand to be paid, demand to be valued, and demand to be seen.

If I were black in America, I’d want whites to be uncomfortable so that when they look in the mirror, they’re haunted by the ghosts of the past. But I wouldn’t want their discomfort to stop there. I’d want them to open their eyes and see us, really see us. And never forget that until they take their knee off our neck, we won’t be able to breathe.

I wake up every morning ready for battle against an invisible enemy. I slip my mask around my neck and either wear it as an uncomfortable choker or a dorky beanie on top of my skunk-striped hair, ready to defend against incoming viral loads. If I’ve managed to score a pair of free latex gloves by hoarding them in the bulk section of the grocery store, I slip those on, prepared to handle potentially contaminated Starbucks cups.

I ask, Is my cup of Starbucks worth dying for?

I drive under a sign on the highway that flashes, Stay Home. Save a Life. Essential Travel Only! Is going to Starbucks essential travel? I’m one of the few cars on a normally heavily trafficked road, which only adds to my non-essential travel guilt. If I were to get pulled over and questioned, what is my alibi? Costco?

I order at the Starbucks drive-through, slip on my mask, and pull up to the window. Kayley, Ashley, or Haley, the perky window girl’s mask covers her mouth but not her nose, so basically, she’s a potential disease vector through her nasal passages. And she’s probably one of those dreaded asymptomatic spreaders—the ones who will get my Social Security when I kick the bucket too early to ever collect. I think, we’re not really six feet apart, so, according to an Austrian study I saw online, she’s protected but I’m not. I pray she doesn’t cough, sneeze, or laugh. I’m on droplet alert.

I ask myself again, Is my cup of Starbucks worth dying for?

I want to inquire, Has anyone at this store been tested for coronavirus, but I know the answer. Because no Americans, except Tom Hanks and Donald Trump, can get their hands on a test.

The girl says, “What are you up to today?” which seems extra cruel because it only serves to underscore what I’ve lost.

Well, normally, I would go to dance class, meet a friend for lunch, and then go to choir. I laugh and say, “Nothing, really. Quarantining.” Is that an activity?

“Oh, this is your big outing for the day,” she says like I’ve just broken out of a senior living facility.

I laugh again. Isn’t it everyone’s who drives through here? I mean, technically, we’re not even supposed to be out here, traveling non-essentially. So, in that way, it feels like I’m doing something extra naughty by going to a Starbucks drive-through.

She says, “That’s $7.05.” I hand her my card, thinking, even though she’s wearing gloves, does she change them between every customer? The last non-essential traveler could have had a contaminated card and now the little evil viruses stuck to her glove are on my card. And what if the barista who’s handing her coffee cups is infected? If she doesn’t change them after every order, how are gloves any better than hands?

When she returns my card, I think, now the little fuckers are on my gloves, which will soon contaminate the coffee cups, which will, in turn contaminate the cup holder. After the COVID cups are in the cup holders, I quickly strip off gloves the way they do it in surgery rooms—the way Sanjay Gupta on CNN demonstrated—and toss them on the car floor. Lots of potentially contaminated items I fear have accumulated there—mail, packages, gloves, and masks. I can’t remember how many days different materials stay contaminated, so I just leave them there for an eternity. Surely after an eternity, they will be coronavirus-free.

I grab the steering wheel with my uncontaminated hands and drive off, telling myself I have to wait until I get home to drink my coffee because the cup is now covered in coronavirus and if I take a sip, the little buggers will somehow get on my face, slide into my nose and eyes, and infect me.

I arrive home and cart my coffee inside, realizing I’ve just cross-contaminated my keys, my garage door opener, my garage doorknob and my house doorknob, which I’ll have to wipe with the Lysol disinfectant wipes that I finally scored after six weeks of empty shelves. It had seriously felt like I just won the lottery. The life lottery anyway—like now I might not die.

I grab a glass from my cupboard, but, oh shit, now the glass is contaminated. I wash my hands singing happy frigging birthday, twice, but it’s neither happy nor my birthday, which makes the whole thing extra creepy, like a horror movie where the monster is right outside the door while you’re singing. Or maybe it’s like a hostage situation where the captor has a gun to your head and you’re singing happy birthday before you die. Either way, it’s a sinister tune sung while trying to kill coronaviruses by manically scrubbing your hands until the flesh becomes bone.

After having watched a number of hand-washing videos on YouTube, I realize that I never washed my hands right in the first place and it’s amazing I’m still alive. I’ve grown to hate my hands with all their nooks and crannies. And my thumbs. Who knew the 360-thumb scrub was a thing before we became Covidians? And my fingernails? Who has the patience to scrub under each fingernail, where the coronavirus is certain to lurk?

I grab the Starbucks cup, pour it into the sterile cup, but the plastic touches the lip of the glass and I think, Fuck! I never disinfected the cup. Can I still drink it? The little buggers die in your stomach—right? I take a sip of my hard-earned coffee and realize I just re-contaminated my hand that I had just cleaned by singing happy birthday under soap and water for the 1000th time since my life was hijacked by COVID-19.

I ask myself again, Is my cup of Starbucks worth dying for?

Although they say America is divided, everyone agrees on one thing: politics are messed up in America. Congress is at a stalemate with Mitch’s desk acting a graveyard for bills. He’s the resident ghoul watching over the decay with his zombie eyes and twisted corpse smile. Meanwhile, his wife is worth a gazillion dollars, so he’s not feeling any pain wrought by the failure of the American system. The crazy clown show in the White House has sent cable TV ratings soaring and launched the careers of comedians but is getting evermore dangerous by the minute. Lying about things like inauguration crowd size (kind of like lying about penis size) doesn’t really hurt anyone. But lying about a pandemic, like the coronavirus, which by some accounts is predicted to strike 1/3 of humans, is very risky, and in potentially millions of cases, fatal.

We have yet to see the full havoc that COVID-19 will wreak on the planet, but it is spreading as fast as a California wildfire when Santa Ana winds are howling. We’re all hunkered down with our hoards of toilet paper. (BTW, why do people hoard TP during a crisis?) There’s a run on anti-bacterial hand gel and masks that don’t work. Welcome to your new OCD lifestyle. Our hands are raw from washing. Our faces itch all the time now that we’re not allowed to touch them. If we do go out, we can’t shake hands, hug, kiss, or even do the fist bump. All we have left is the Ebola elbow, to which I say: why bother? If someone’s coughing or sneezing, we give them a how-dare-you-be-out-in-public glare and then move away or leave the premises. We wonder if we should become shut-ins and have everything delivered. But what guarantee do we have that the delivery folks aren’t delivering our packages covered in COVID-19?

The media is sounding the alarm, reporting quarantined cruises with passengers unable to disembark, the entire country of Italy is on lock down, colleges are canceling in-person courses, corporations are cancelling conferences and nonessential travel. We’re advised not to travel, attend concerts, or sporting events. They might even cancel the Olympics. Pretty much all the stuff that makes life worth living. It’s good news for introverts, who are always looking for excuses to cancel social events but terrible news for extroverts. We all have to suffer because of that fucking creepy pangolin. Who among us doesn’t have pangolin anger?

But as awful as the coronavirus is, the pandemic is doing something our political system hasn’t been able to do. It is shining a spotlight on our systemic failures and inadequacies. Of course, some pundits, politicians, and activists have been trying to do this for a very long time, but because we’re so partisan and suspicious of the other side, and, frankly brainwashed, we have stopped listening and trusting. We’ve stopped believing change is possible.

A pandemic doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t just strike poor people, white people, or Democrats. No, like the Terminator, it relentlessly seeks its next host—no matter race, ethnicity, social class, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. It even strikes furries! The coronavirus is illustrating in stark ways that accessible healthcare for every human is essential if we want to stay healthy and alive. For example, if testing is unaffordable, people without the means will not get tested. Unless they become symptomatic, they won’t know they’re contagious and could transmit the virus to all the people they come into contact with. Which could be you, me, your kid, my kid. Wouldn’t we all sleep a little easier if we knew that our fellow Americans were being proactive about preventing, diagnosing, and quarantining? But if testing and/or quarantining puts people in the hole for several thousand dollars and they don’t have the money, they’ll sit this one out. And Operation Community Spread continues.

What about paid sick leave? Many Americans don’t have it, which means they will go to work sick, not because they’re douchebags, but because they won’t be able to pay rent if they miss work. So, when they come to work sick, they will infect their coworkers, who, will in turn infect you or me. Are you starting to see that the I-have-mine culture of the United States backfires in the face of a pandemic? Even for selfish pricks who only care about themselves, the I-have-mine-and-I-want-you-to-have-yours makes sense. It keeps selfish pricks healthy.

We protect ourselves by gathering and acting on science-based information. The CDC was established to keep us safe, not to boost presidential polling numbers. Well, our once-trusted CDC issued an advisory, telling seniors not to travel.The CDC advised seniors and immune-compromised people to avoid enclosed spaces with people. That sounds like the description of a plane to me. The only problem is none of us got the memo because the White House blocked this advisory. So, let’s say your 83-year-old mom thinks it’s fine for her to get on a plane to Toledo to go visit her sister. Well, thanks to the CDC leaker, your mom’s not going to die. By censoring, the President could have put your mom’s life at risk, all because he doesn’t want facts affecting his poll numbers. Oh, and did I mention that he barred coronavirus cruisers from disembarking in San Francisco because doing so would skew his virus stats? So, the cruisers can just rot in hell while the Pres is golfing in Mar-a-Lago, protecting his polling numbers.

And if disease and death weren’t enough reasons to argue for common-sense policies like Medicare for All, paid sick leave, and a President who doesn’t censor life-saving information, the stock market just committed suicide over the coronavirus and the President of the United States’ botched coronavirus response.

The coronavirus may just defeat the menace in the White House more handily than any political party or human opponent could. I guess it takes a scourge to defeat a scourge.

It’s less than a year until the 2020 election and yet it seems that it has been going on for a year, maybe two, maybe forever. It’s bad when you have election fatigue and the year has yet to start. The dozens of Democratic candidates clamoring for a chance to topple Trump, the ones elbowing their way to the debate stage, the ones spending tens of millions of their own money, all seem like they would be far superior to the crime boss occupying the White House. We’ve got Rhode Scholars, Harvard grads, self-made billionaires, seasoned senators, mayors, and so on. We’ve got passionate, measured, anger-tinged, boyish and brilliant, prosecutorial, and quirky tech candidates.

Why, then, does it feel like, as far as the Democratic ticket goes, all roads lead to Joe? Is it a failure of imagination? Is it fear and trembling that four more years of Trump will bring on the apocalypse? Or is it something else entirely?

Pollsters tell us that Joe has synched the African American vote, Rust Belt voters, some independents, and swing voters. He might even have some portion of GOPers who’ve defected from the Grand Old Party who think that an old white moderate won’t lead this country into a woke, sexual identity politics-driven, socialistic direction. Read: naked ranting hippies on weed wanting free stuff or swarms of refugees from south of the border also wanting free stuff. But mostly there’s a common belief parroted by hard-core establishment Dems and even some progressives that Joe is the only candidate guaranteed to beat Trump, the only one who can win the much-sought-after Midwestern swing voters and centrists.

But is it even true?

The reason I ask is that Hillary was supposed to appeal to Midwestern moderates and African Americans and even though she won the popular vote, she lost in the electoral college to an unqualified, sexist, racist, cheating scoundrel. Forty percent of eligible voters saw the choice and sat out the 2016 election. That’s almost half of American voters who were overcome with apathy by Hillary versus the buffoon.

Here’s the thing: I don’t know one person for whom Joe is their first choice for POTUS. So, who are these people being polled boosting Joe’s poll numbers? Sure, most of my friends say they’d vote for him if he were the candidate. But will the apathetic voters of 2016 sit this one out too if Joe is the candidate?

Every time I watch the debates, and I know I’m not alone, it feels like I’m watching gymnasts compete in the Olympics. You know how you brace yourself, anticipating falls on the beam and uneven bars, crashes on the horse and mat? Similarly, I sit in a pre-cringe, hoping Joe doesn’t say something that reveals he’s dealing with early phases of dementia. Take his record player comment. He said to parents, “Make sure you have the record player on at night.” Vinyl is hip among hipsters, but I’ll bet Joe doesn’t know that. He was tapping into his 1970s record playing years. And, heck, I don’t blame him. Those years were my favorite too, but the world has moved on.

So far it seems Joe is offering this to the American people: I’m Obama’s guy and I’m better than Trump. I don’t have socialistic leanings like Bernie and Warren. But who is Joe Biden, really? If we vote for him, will we get Obama 2.0 or just the anti-Trump agenda? Granted, both would be better than what we have now, but just because things are careening toward the abyss, does that mean we have to play it safe in the voting booth?

History tells us that playing it safe isn’t really safe. Case in point: Gore, Romney, Kerry. So, what if we remind ourselves that Uncle Joe actually isn’t safe and that a candidate with a bolder vision for America and the fire power to make it happen is? Once the crowded Democratic field winnows, we’ll be less distracted. Then we’ll be able to rally behind the bold choice the Democrats will offer American voters in 2020.

The world has gone mad. Hillary Clinton is accusing Tulsi Gabbard, a pacifist surfing congresswoman of being a Russian asset and a friend of Assad. Thinking about how her aloha spirit aligns with genocide and authoritarianism is enough to make your head explode. Hillary’s claim is either a crazy conspiracy theory or evidence she has her hands on some hot intel the rest of us aren’t privy to. And if it’s intel, shouldn’t she just tell us that? Rabid, self-righteous Still and Forever Hillary types are saying of course Tulsi is a Russian asset. Duh. And they are attacking everyone on social media, left, right, and center. Three years out, they still hold a grudge against Bernie, Jill Stein, Jim Comey, Putin, Russia, polling stations, and progressives for denying HRC of the crown she deserved. It was her time after all! They won’t admit that if an incompetent, narcissistic, corrupt, racist buffoon could beat her, she was a weak candidate. Yes, I said it. Their social media trolling smacks of Russian-backed attempts to drive a wedge between moderate Dems and progressives, thus dividing the party and giving Trump a second term. (God forbid. In fact, if there were a god, she would forbid it.)

We have a so-called President who has committed so many impeachable offenses, those on the left have lost count and those on the right don’t care. That President, in his latest foreign policy disaster, claims everyone is happy even though we’ve pulled the plug on the Kurds, our long-time ally in fighting ISIS, to which his daughter-in-law said, “No one knows who the Kurds are, so whatevs.” Her stunningly heartless and ignorant response sums up how many Americans feel about groups of people they’ve never heard of or can’t locate on a map—which is almost everyone except for themselves. They certainly don’t have time to delve into the issues, because they have Netflix series to binge-watch and things to buy on Amazon Prime to keep the capitalist machine humming. They’re so busy binge-watching and buying stuff they don’t notice the continuing slow-motion heist by the billionaires at the top who don’t yet have enough. Really? How much do they need? They’re apparently not going to stop until they have all the riches. Hoarders are psychologically disturbed unless they’re hoarding lots and lots of money and then they’re gods.

The gods must be crazy. And so are the men.

We’ve got Bernie Sanders, an octogenarian who just suffered a heart attack on the campaign trail as the frontrunner for the Democratic Presidential nominee buoyed by younger voters. In other words, they don’t care that he’s as old as their grandpa. The we-should-vote-for-him-cuz-he’s-the-only-person-who-can-beat-Trump candidate, Joe Biden, seems to be tragically suffering from the early phases of dementia, disqualifying him for the highest office in the land. But, in the bizarro land we’re living in, deranged thinking doesn’t disqualify the person who currently holds the office. And that person is playing Santa Claus to our former enemy—Putin—granting him everything on his wish list. Apparently “naughty or nice” doesn’t apply to him. So far, the theories on Trump’s motivation to be traitorous are a combo of Russian hookers with dirt, golden showers, debts to Russian oligarchs, and authoritarian envy.

It’s raining plastic, the Amazon is burning, the rising oceans are the Earth’s waste bins, air is unbreathable, glaciers are melting way faster than predicted, bees are croaking in record numbers, millions of species are going extinct, and some believe that banning plastic straws will save the planet.

Meanwhile, in Hollywood, a former Desperate Housewife is serving prison time for a college admissions scandal over her partying daughter who couldn’t of her own merit get into an Ivy League school, a storyline so bizarre even the writers of the once-popular series couldn’t have come up with it. Of course, her prison time is quaint in that it’s a two-week slap on the wrist when men and women who’ve committed far less crimes are serving time for decades. But she’s rich, white, and a celebrity.

What the hell is going on? Is this what happens in late-stage capitalism? According to Wikipedia Late-stage capitalism, is a term first used in print by German economist Werner Sombart. Since 2016, the term has been used to refer to perceived absurdities, crises, injustices, and inequality created by modern business development. Annie Lowrey in the Atlantic writes, “Late capitalism, in its current usage, is a catchall phrase for the indignities and absurdities of our contemporary economy, with its yawning inequality and super-powered corporations and shrinking middle class.”

Here’s the thing: we need to stop. We need to unplug. We need to resist predatory capitalism. We need to stop producing and buying more stuff. We need to stop consuming crazy-ass news that drives ratings that makes ad-buyers happy. We need to stop perpetuating conspiracy theories. We need to learn who the Kurds are and why they matter. We need to stop attacking each other. We need to find common ground. We need to let go of Hillary and her ilk—so-called safe candidates who lose—and embrace a bold, new vision for America—one in which people don’t have a price tag. We need to remember who we were before everyone was for sale.

I grew up with the Jackson 5. In fact, they were home-state heroes. Hailing from Gary, Indiana—just minutes away from my dad’s hometown in Hammond—they almost felt like neighbors. I spent my school years in Indianapolis belting out “ABC” and “I’ll Be There” with the radio in my dad’s convertible Mustang. It was impossible to sit still when a Jackson 5 tune was playing.

Then when Michael launched his solo career, I fell more deeply in love with the man and the music. His tunes inspired my dance and copying his dance moves—minus the crotch grab—made me ecstatic. I was caught up in the MJ hysteria for decades. Then Thriller was released and although it was masterfully spooky and met with wide acclaim, I started to see the darkness of Michael creep in. And the anger. If you contrast his joyous boyhood performances with his later ones—especially in the 1990s, you see him twitching with rage. The pure delight he once conveyed on stage was supplanted with a palpable darkness.

There have been whisperings that he was abused by his father—possibly even sexually. But according to research, the absolute risk that any given victim of sexual abuse will go on to become a sexual offender is very low.

At the apex of superstardom, rumors surfaced about his penchant for boys. We heard accounts of sleepovers and slumber parties with pre-pubescent boys. Jesus juice. Porn. Masturbation. The backdrop of a theme-park-styled ranch designed to attract and delight children. A predator’s web artfully created to lure his prey. Then there were accusations of child molestation. And the trial. But he was acquitted—flying doves and all.

All the while, I kept my blinders on and remained in the camp of people who believed the parents of the boys were fortune-seekers. For me, MJ moonwalked on water. I never wavered because I wanted to believe that my guy, Michael, the creative genius and sensitive soul, wasn’t capable of such monstrous acts. And, to be honest, I didn’t want thoughts of these unconscionable acts to interfere with my enjoyment of Michael’s music.

After watching Leaving Neverland, which was painful to sit through, I have little doubt that Michael was a plotting, manipulative pedophile, grooming boys and their families. If the accusations and accounts are true, he sexually assaulted little boys believing or convincing himself that he was expressing his deep love. But he allegedly didn’t sexually violate his own children, so, if true, a part of him knew what he was doing was wrong. He victimized other people’s kids but protected his own. That shows consciousness of guilt.

I’ve spent days after watching Leaving Neverland filled with grief and anger—but mostly rage. I’m enraged that no one intervened. Based on interviews with his sister, LaToya, in the 1990s it seems the family knew about his pedophilia but did nothing, or, if they did, it didn’t stop Michael’s behavior. Was it because he was the family’s gravy train? Was it because they didn’t want to be extracted from the Michael Jackson payroll?

When someone is as rich and famous as Michael Jackson, people in the orbit of such a superstar never say no, and if the person is sick, that allows the warped behavior to continue unabated. The mothers of Wade Robson and James Safechuck appeared to be star struck, benefiting from the perks, possibly paid off, and loving the limelight, so much so that they failed to do the one thing parents are charged with doing—protect their children. Take away Jackson’s star power, money, and make-believe ranch and the equation was this: thirtysomething man wants to sleep with a 7-year-old boy. Alone. To not see that this is warped is to want to believe that the privileges Jackson was doling out didn’t come with a price. In essence, the mothers made a deal with the devil; the price was the lives of their vulnerable, trusting children.

Abused children can seem fine until decades later when, as adults, their lives unravel. That’s because children are resilient and in survival mode during childhood, which, let’s face it, can be brutal. Adults who withstood trauma as children are vulnerable, fragile, and broken. They’re lucky if they ever heal enough to be whole. I ache for all Michael Jackson’s victims—for all the Robsons and Safechucks that we’ll never know.

As much as I would like to continue to delight in the tunes that have brought me joy for so many decades, I can no longer separate the man from the music.

President Trump isn’t without his accomplishments. He has just set a record for the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. The country is at a standstill while lives are disrupted, parks are unmanaged and overflowing with heaps of garbage, federal employees are being told to hold bake sales and garage sales to pay their mortgages. Meanwhile, Congress and the President are still being paid to dig in their designer heels. And in the case of the President, throw twitter-tantrums.

Now, if Trump is indeed an agent of a foreign government as the FBI suspects (aka: Putin’s bitch), then Putin and his minions are toasting and throwing back shots of high-end vodka in their mafia-funded villas. What could be better than Russia’s greatest rival in shutdown, out-of-commission mode?

And the reason for the shut-down? A fabricated crisis at our southern border. Funding for a wall or steel slats that few Americans want, save the white supremacists who fear a river of tan, brown, and black flowing into the US, further diluting the pristine whiteness they hold so dear, and alarmed Fox watchers who envision pitch-forked devil worshippers crossing over to rape and pillage their children and grandchildren. The MAGA-ites, if they were to be brutally honest, are really in favor of MAWA—making American white again.

The irony here is that national security, which is the main reason cited for building Trump’s wall is being threatened by fed up unpaid TSA workers charged with keeping the skies friendly and unpaid and unsupported FBI personnel charged with safeguarding our country. So, the path to so-called national security with a wall is by way of threatening national security? It’s enough to make head-scratchers bald.

The real crisis is not at the border but in the White House. It’s a crisis of conscience. A crisis of competence. A crisis of cognitive functioning. And a crisis of command and control. In other words, the man who would be king is stark raving mad and inept to boot. His inside circle is the real caravan we should fear—mobsters and crooks loyal to the madman. Wondering if I’m overstating the case about the mad king? The President used his first prime-time televised address from the Oval Office to make the case for a symbolic wall that Mexico was never going to pay for and will never be funded or built but whips up his excitable base in a frenzied furor, priming them for his upcoming 2020 Presidential campaign. Ultimately, though, the king’s insatiable need for stroking is what’s fueling his stubborn wall stance. Without constant stroking, he’s nothing but a deflated orange balloon.

The wall fight is Trump’s way of feeding his addiction to adulation, adoration, and glorification. The wall fight is really a fight for his fix. If he surrenders to the Dems, he loses his source. And, like the Wizard of Oz, we see that he is nothing but a small man behind a curtain undeserving of the highest office in the land.

The most strategic placement for the wall is around the President of the United States, for if he is indeed a foreign agent, the greatest threat to national security is Trump himself. Let’s wall him off and watch him sputter and fall.

I wonder if there’s a phenomenon that occurs when a sexual assault survivor shares her story–that it triggers stored trauma in others. Since listening to Dr. Ford’s testimony, I find myself cycling through grief, anger, depression, disgust, resignation, and deep sadness. Is it that I’ve kept secret since a child that a janitor in my grandmother’s condo building exposed himself to my sister and me when we were in grade school? Or is it that the first time I saw a boy’s penis at age 15, he forced my head down onto it, told me to open my mouth and nearly choked me with it until he was finished? Or was it the guys who called me Timmy Tease and Play because being nice and not delivering the sexual goods denied them of their right to my body? Or is it that I lost my virginity to a guy who forced himself on me? Or perhaps it was my boss who lunged at me with his tongue in a walk-in freezer at his restaurant? Or maybe it was my married-with-children colleague who walked me out on my final day of work only to grab my hand and put it on his cock because he thought I’d like to feel how big he was. All the while, I somehow felt that their penis was my responsibility, their blue balls my fault. Their pleasure was my duty. I started the job by just being present. I needed to finish it.

I didn’t realize until much later that sexuality was for me, too. That my pleasure mattered as much if not more than my male partner’s. Sexuality wasn’t just penises coming at me from all angles, targeting orifices. I had to pretend I thought they were sexy when I mostly thought of them as tools of aggression, weapons even.

I learned early that if I just stayed pretty and silent, the world would oblige. And if I did speak, I should be nice and accommodating, definitely never aggressive or angry. Those would be turn-offs. I should let men interrupt, take up more space, tell me what to do, and take a piece of me if they so desired.

What I’m waking up to is that it’s not all their fault. I’ve been participating in their patriarchy. Sure, I’ve known that sexism exists—things like few women in upper level management, Congress, and women earning consistently less than men. But what I’ve been blind to is how sexism permeates everything and the extent to which I’ve been a willing participant in my own oppression.

Every time a man launches into mansplaining and I don’t call him on it, I’m participating. Every time a man interrupts me and I let him, I’m participating. Each time I let a man take up more space in the room, on the train or the plane, I’m participating. Every time a man condescends and I go along with it, I’m participating. Each time I let a man pleasure himself with my body when I don’t want him to, I’m participating.

I don’t care anymore. I don’t care if being powerful and speaking my truth is a turn-off. Turning men on that I didn’t want as lovers or partners was never what I wanted anyway. It was what I was told to want. And then when it happened and I didn’t deliver, I was shamed. I was shamed for owning my body. Shamed for speaking up.

It’s time to take back our bodies, our voices, our space, our lives. And stop participating in a system that neglects, abuses, assaults, undervalues, marginalizes, uses and demeans us. If we stop, their patriarchy will crumble. And while they will throw entitled temper tantrums–like Brett Kavanaugh did during the Senate Judicial Committee hearing–as their while male privilege slips away, it will be better for our society. Women will rise up and do what we do best—create a world with liberty and justice for all.

We’re in a world of trouble. Or to put it more bluntly—America is in deep shit. The empaths among us feel an overwhelming sense of doom and break down on a daily basis. The left-leaning folks are deeply depressed, drinking and toking to make it go away. The centrists and moderate Republicans among us are shocked, offended, and wondering how to get out of this deep hole we’re in. Our international allies have tried playing to Trump’s narcissism with no success because Trump’s heart belongs to Putin. To Russia with love. Our allies are now distancing themselves from the Trump regime and moving ahead with the business of the First World, leaving America behind.

The only people pleased with the reign of terror are the right-leaning one percenters who are above the fray and profiting mightily from these times and the duped underclass who buy the propaganda machine and blame everything on the people poorer and browner than them. Oh, and Russian oligarchs who now have a solid American foothold. And dirt on Trump which may have something to do with golden showers, golden towers, collusion, and money laundering. Our country is definitely compromised due to Trump’s history of bad loans, bad deals, and bailouts involving shady characters and countries.

The Founding Fathers planned for so many things but they never planned for a President who was as morally bereft and unqualified for the job. They apparently didn’t anticipate the sway reality TV would have on the American people and its ability to trump proper vetting of candidates for the highest office in the land.

How do we—the ones who aren’t the one percent or the duped—continue on without being overcome by despair as our republic implodes from the inside out? How do we continue with a President who plays dirty, wears down his opponents, and wins at all costs? How do we hold onto our morality and sensibility when faced with bold-face lies and fascism trial balloons—such as tearing apart asylum-seeking families, putting children in cages, and making toddlers appear in court without their families? How do we not crumble into ball—permanently frozen in a fetal position?

Here’s how. Although it is distressing to live in such times, we must pace ourselves. We must stay strong, stay sane, stay the course, and never ever normalize crazy, evil, or brutal behavior. It is never okay—not even when the people on whom such behavior is inflicted are called “illegals,” “animals,” “beasts,” “subhuman,” “criminals.” We must never believe the lies no matter how many times they are repeated. Brainwashing works and we must stay alert and awake. Remember: Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. People still believe this lie. The lie that triggered an 8-year war and trillions of dollars of taxpayer money wasted in the desert. The current brainwashing memes are: the Russia investigation is a witch hunt. There was no collusion. Russia didn’t interfere in the 2016 election. All lies. No matter how many times they’re repeated.

Keep perspective. In many ways America has lost its way. We have major overreach in the executive branch with a man who would be king and the other two branches of government are compromised by forces of corruption. Dark money is funneling to people in positions of power charged with protecting the republic, but in most cases those people are more interested in protecting their pocketbooks. Our government is being tested like never before and it’s not clear that it will withstand the blows being dealt to it. But here’s where I turn to optimism in the long run.

In the short run to live through this when you’re a reasonable, rational, compassionate person is trying and excruciatingly painful at times. It helps to take the long view. In 50 years, students will study this dark period of American history where corruption engulfed our government at every level, and where profits were valued over people. Every time. But history is a pendulum and this swing to the right will be followed by a swing to the left. Or, if you prefer, this retraction is the archer pulling the bow back as far as she can to propel the arrow forward. This regression into greed, gluttony, uncivilized behavior, brutality, cult of personality, individualism, and corruption will be followed by an American Spring characterized by compassion, sacrifice, integrity, and goodness. Why? Because we will have seen the viciousness of the descent into evil with money as our God and we will fight to show ourselves and the world that this is not who we are. This. Is. Not. Who. We. Are.

You cannot retreat from these times. Do not become apathetic, distracted, or jaded beyond repair. You must carve out your corner of the world and make a difference. Vote, organize, protest, volunteer, canvass, and campaign. Every action that says: this is not who we are makes a difference. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you don’t matter. This is our country, not theirs. We must seize it from the clutches of the corrupt who are in it for their private gain. Our country is just a pawn to them. Once they have amassed enough riches and power, they will live out their years in their golden palatial mansions on their private islands with their planes and yachts while the rest of us live on raided social safety nets.

You matter. We matter. Please don’t surrender to despair. That’s what they want you to do. If you do, Trump will continue his reign of terror with his military parades, media outlets as propaganda units, racist and sexist policies of cruelty, and personally profiting from public office.

Our future is in your hands. What will you do with it?

I marched in the March for Our lives on Saturday. It was quite moving, but as I was marching I was thinking there’s nothing controversial about not wanting mass shootings in schools, theaters, workplaces, and shopping malls. It’s tragic and absurd that we have to march against America as a war zone. It’s like taking a stand against terrorist attacks. Who’s for terrorist attacks? So, why do we have to march to oppose this shit? Because of our dysfunctional political system. We have let runaway greed ruin our country. And until we value lives over money, we will not heal.

The Columbine High School shootings were 19 years ago. Mass shootings should’ve stopped after Columbine. But instead the horror has spread, proliferated, and continues unabated. According to the Washington Post, 187,000 students have experienced a school shooting on campus. That’s nearly 200,000 people whose lives will never be the same. Thousands of schools across the country conduct active-shooter drills in which children hide in closets and bathrooms from imaginary shooters. They’re supposed to be focused on learning–not life and death.

How did we become a society that accepts that children need to be prepared for mass shooting incidents? The NRA has a stranglehold on our politicians who were elected to serve and protect. But instead, they’re protecting killing machines. Let me say that again: they’re safeguarding weapons of mass destruction instead of us. Is it because the NRA is a terrorist organization with the not-so-thinly-veiled threat that if you cross them, you’ll end up in their cross hairs? Or is it because our representatives prioritize profits over principles? Or both.

We’ve become accustomed to hearing newsflashes about mass shootings, the ensuing media frenzy, the why-did-he do-it-aftermath, the don’t-say-his-name attempts that never fly, images of the fallen, and hopes and prayers from the men who are hoping and praying that we don’t find out they are bought by the NRA.

But it doesn’t have to be like this.

We don’t have to live in a world in which we are held hostage by guns–a machine that exists to kill living things–to stop a heartbeat. Imagine giving any other killing machine such freedom to terrorize.

The students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in their grief, outrage, courage, and determination, clearly see the sickness in our society and are not going to tolerate it anymore. The silence heard around the world when Emma Gonzalez stopped talking forced us to look at ourselves. There were no words to distract as she stared at us through her pain, her eyes saying: you have failed us. When we don’t protect our children, that is when we know we’ve failed as a society. Young people are seizing control of the world we’ve made a mess of.

Some say if nothing changed after Sandy Hook, things will never change. But this time is different. Thank you, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students for being the change we need. The change we’ve needed for a long, long time.