Fortune cookies are seldom fortune cookies anymore . . .

If you thought I was going to break my streak
take some naps, sip some tea (did those) just because
it’s the Sunday after the most brutal election we’ve ever
seen in our lifetime and — like we are probably as traumatized, collectively, as Americans
as Londoner’s were after The Blitz — just because my neck is so fucked up from
craning it between election results on television and my Zoom classrooms. If
you thought any of these things would keep me from writing each day (because I can),
then you were mistaken.

Sorry? Am I though? No.
What the fuck do I have to be
sorry about? (Not counting the abundant,
absolutely necessary, apologies that have issued forth
from my mouth over time, and that the future may
also necessitate, as it should — if we do something “wrong”
we SHOULD fucking apologize AND mean the apology.)
I have nothing to be sorry about.

Neither, probably, do you, reader. (Unless you went out
and did/said some real fucked up shit this weekend. Go back,
apologize; if no one has died or lost their home as a result
of your mistake(s?), a heartfelt apology will likely do. Maybe
give them some cake or a slice of pizza or a whole fucking
pizza — that’s for you to decide. I don’t know what you did.)

Speaking of food, as the latter parenthetical did, I got some
egg flower soup today which, no, is not vegan but right now
I just need to put a few pounds on myself so I have
a little “reserve.” Anyway. Typical Chinese takeout. Nothing
special, but a comfort food. And I got this fortune cookie
and maybe I am TOTALLY FUCKING MISREMEMBERING
(I can sometimes do that; I’m a writer; the lines get blurry)
but I feel like when I was a kid and you went to an (American) Chinese
establishment, your FORTUNE COOKIE was an ACTUAL FORTUNE.

Like, hand to the gods, I remember being ON VACATION with my parents
WHEN I WAS NINE and getting a fortune cookie that said, “Hope for the best,
but prepare for the worst.” I WAS NINE. I had clinical depression and anxiety
issues and trouble “fitting in” with my peers, I bit my nails until they bled and my stomach hurt all time, and then some fucking Fortune Cookie
in a dimly-lit restaurant in Florida, circa 1985, is going to lay that shit on me?

“Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst” — didn’t they have like a bowl
where they kept KID FORTUNE COOKIES separate from ADULT FORTUNE COOKIES? I mean, even as an adult, who wants to read that shit after a meal, “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst” — that’s ominous in so many ways, especially if you’ve just eaten at a dark restaurant in the Florida panhandle, and no matter how you take it, whether it’s true or not, that fortune cookie WAS NOT “just tellin’ it like it is” — it was being a straight up ASSHOLE and, worse yet, an asshole TO A KID.

Anyway, my fortune cookie tonight was not scary/ominous, nor was it a fortune. It said something almost pithy about laughter that I basically agreed with, but that didn’t really move me and it certainly didn’t make any attempt, whatsoever, to tell me something about my future. Totally failed the assignment. It’s a FORTUNE COOKIE. If we’ve swung away from “fortunes” (and really, maybe we should leave fortunes to the old, burning world because that doozy really fucked me up as a kid) let’s at least have the decency to call them SAYING COOKIE or PHRASE COOKIE or COOKIES WITH WORDS ON THE INSIDE (on a slip of paper at a time in human history when our only planet is literally fucking dying and part of that is we’re cutting down trees to make paper for shit that could be digital or could be made from another, sustainable source, or fortune cookies — like we’re killing trees — in very small part, I’m sure — to ensure the continued existence of fortune cookies which no longer even serve the purpose of traumatizing children with scary FORTUNES).

Oh, fortune. Fortuna. Basically just “good luck.” Basically a superstition that sometimes comes true thus reinforcing our belief that it was the “wish for” good that brought about good and not the blood, sweat, and tears we gave to fight for good that brought about the good. I’m talking now about the election: that wasn’t luck, that was mere fortune, that was work, and suffering, and such powerful struggle, and THAT was Americans showing up for their country, for an idea they believe in.

Seriously though, what kind of psycho doesn’t love Bob Ross?

America, the US, whatever you call it, is not a land mass, but a Theory of how things could — and probably should — be in order for humans to have decent, mostly happy, mostly healthy, sometimes fulfilling and meaningful, lives. (Obviously, the theory has some shit that needs to be IRONED THE FUCK OUT like RIGHT NOW.) What I mean, is that if we participated in our democracy this time around, we didn’t necessarily vote for a guy,, but we voted for a Theory that we believe in. We voted that the people currently in the White House are antithetical to the Theory we love.

America is my only country. My only home. And, for the most part, I really like the IDEA of it. I dig the THEORY behind it (again, for the most part — but it’s that “for the most part” that us lefties take suck grief for from the hard right. Like a conversation — such as we’re sort of having, reader, albeit tragically one sided, currently, with a Trump supporter and me might go a little something like this:

Trump Supporter: YoU CAn’t CRitiCize AmEriCA — you unpatriotic commie libtard . . . Constitution says you can’t!
Me: No, it doesn’t, but it says some cool, very broad things. And some fucked up things that might have been acceptable at the time it was written but
that don’t really fit inside the modern world . . .
Trump Supporter: But tradition!
Me: This (Constitution) is a fairly strong basic outline, and tradition is often very good, but there are things in this world like hitting kids and child marriage and voting Republican, happening in our own country right now, that some people might argue
are “tradition.” (Seriously, head on over to Colorado City — actually don’t, just leave them alone — and take a gander at what tradition looks like there for little girls and boys and their mothers. Google it. That’s tradition. Doesn’t make it good or healthy or right or what’s best forever and ever.) Christmas ham? Good tradition. OH and ALSO
JUST BECAUSE
SOMETHING IS OLD

(be it a person or text)
DOES NOT MEAN
IT IS SACROSANCT
OR SACRED.

There’s a joke in Illinois (where I’m from) that all our governors end up making our license plates. It’s funny because it’s kind of true. I think in my lifetime I saw three Governors — two democrat, one republican — go to prison for gross, horrible, amoral shit they did while on the job for the good people of Illinois. (As I’ve said repeatedly — making obscene amounts of money for yourself is your aim, your joy, your safe place: stay far, far away from education, healthcare, and politics.) Anyway.

One of our governors, George Ryan, went to prison over what was called the “license for bribes scandal.” Sounds really boring, right? It is! BUT even mundane evil shit — like selling people unqualified to drive a truck driving licenses in exchange for campaign contributions, even a corruption that boring can have disastrous consequences — particularly when the corruption is happening in [wait for it, say it with me now] education, healthcare, and politics. As a result of selling truck driving licenses for bribes, an entire family (mom, dad, kids) were killed on the highway by a truck driver who possessed one of the licenses George Ryan was selling for monetary kickbacks.

A whole family died. The kids were little, if I remember. I would Google the story for precision, but it’s way too fucking upsetting.

And when the judge sentenced the disgraced former governor, he was an old man. Old. Fat. Looked tired. Looked like somebody’s grandpa (indeed, he was). And Ryan got a heavy sentence (but because he’s old and white and rich didn’t serve out the whole thing), as he should have. Oh, and people came out of the woodwork, even people who didn’t necessarily like the guy, to say “BUT HE’S AN OLD MAN! You can’t send him to JAIL. He will DIE IN JAIL!” — Like we were supposed to have mercy on this greedy, pig of a man whose action caused the death of an entire family and endless grief for everyone who loved that family. I have mercy on this person because he is old? Old or young, he is a broken and unmended/badly mended person.

This is really just a long way of saying that maybe we need to challenge the narrative that just because something is “old” that it’s “special” or “beyond reproach.” Call out your racist grandma at Zoom Thanksgiving. Do it. If she doesn’t have dementia, she can learn something new still. Same goes for homophobic Uncle Bob (I don’t care if he “just turned seventy) and for Conspiracy Theory Aunt Debbie (her bullshit is NOT harmless — it’s spreading and it’s scary as fuck and a direct threat to our democracy). On some matters, no one gets a pass.

Like, we’re going to have to figure out a way to live alongside each other without ruining each other. It starts by adhering to the truth and by REFUSING to accept any lip service (or gods forbid, action) that does not align with values that make this Theory of America (mostly) good. If we want change, it’s going to have to start at the table. If you’re white (as I am), you might have relatives who voted for Trump — not once, but twice. If you’re still talking to those people/if they’re still a part of your life (anyone who voted twice for Trump is, as far as my personal life is concerned, locked out forever), but if the Trump voters are still in your life because you love these people (and I get it — I had to cut off some people I really loved, but who showed they didn’t really love me back by voting TWICE for Trump), confront them. Confront them as an act of love. Keep it civil. No yelling or throwing or shooting. Don’t have these conversations after you’ve been drinking or have smoked some meth. But have them.

Now if grandma opines, “I will just never understand why Billy married that Brenda,” maybe just let it go. They have kids, you want a relationship with your nieces. Brenda is kind of an asshole, so grandma is speaking some truth, but let’s not go there on Thanksgiving, okay, grandma?

(I had wonderful grandmas who never pulled bullshit on the holidays — I know not everyone is so lucky.)

Like have you ever watched “Antiques Roadshow”? Some of that old shit isn’t worth a dime. Old does NOT automatically mean “morally good” or “frail of character” or “above the law/beyond consequence.”

I’ve watched some of these Trump Pundits get on the news and try to tell the American people, with a straight face, that Trump hasn’t conceded yet because he’s in his feelings and he feels hurt and betrayed and “it’s so hard for him to admit defeat.” Guess what? Feeling hurt and betrayed and struggling with failure is called BEING HUMAN. Confronting those matters with grace and dignity is called BEING A DECENT HUMAN.

Donald Trump is not a decent human. We have always known this.
His refusal to concede, to instead pout, golf, and file frivolous, baseless lawsuits
is a profound insult to this country and to every person in it.

When I was first teaching, way back in Olden Times (like really olden — almost fifteen/twenty years ago!) I had this anxiety about “not knowing an answer” in front of my students. I was barely thirty, and an Adjunct at schools where the students (erroneously) called me Professor and Dr. (and I seldom corrected them). And here’s the thing — what I didn’t know is no matter how hard I prepared every night before class, the time WOULD come — as certain as death and taxes — when I’d have to pay up to the god of “Wrong in Front of Students.”

The first time I was “wrong in front of students” it was over geography (story for another time, or you can buy my first book — You’re Not Edith — and read all about it yourself). I made a joke. I was embarrassed. I sighed. I said, “My geography is abysmal.” And they laughed. Some confessed their geography struggles with me. Some just shook their heads in that, “How can you not find Columbia on a map, you poorly educated American woman” way.

Anyway. I’ve been at this teaching thing for about seventeen/eighteen years. I’ve been wrong in front of students LOTS of times. I don’t fear it. In fact, I’ve learned that “being wrong in front of students” can be a good teaching tool (if for no other reason than there are few things teens derive pleasure from quite like being able to correct an adult with a CORRECT answer they found on the internet or in their textbook). Also, it doesn’t hurt any college kid’s ego to realize they know something the prof doesn’t. Just admit when you’re wrong, when you’ve failed, when maybe you need help and usually, no on gets hurt. Really. This is true.

Speaking of hurt: my neck hurts. I’ve been wearing a heating pad like a neck brace for most of the day and trying not to let Anxious Brain tell me it’s anything more than a pulled muscle from bad posture and stress (and that’s all it is). Goodnight reader/s. Goodnight, America.

Thank you for doing the right thing.

Educator, essayist, feminist, human.