GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!

It’s the most wonderful time of the…every four years (except for the Women’s World Cup which is even better). The FIFA World Cup is going on right now in Russia, and what that means is I get a month of football on tv almost every day, and for the first two weeks, it’s on 2-3 times a day!

Yeah, take a moment to feel sorry for my husband. He’s not as into it as I am, even when his own country is playing. My country’s men’s national team didn’t make it into the tournament at all, but I’m still hooked. I’m sure there are those that would criticize my choice to watch football instead of BECOMING VERY LOUDLY INVOLVED IN EVERYTHING THAT IS GOING ON IN THE WORLD AND THE UNITED STATES RIGHT NOW, but – and this is tremendous personal growth on my part that I can say this out loud on my blog – I don’t care.

There is nothing wrong with getting lost for a good two hours at a time in a football match. It brings a lot of things into perspective and teaches lessons that I think are incredibly important in the current political climate. It’s also good for my author brain to tune out of rhetoric for awhile and focus on fast-paced strategy. Trust me, you’ll thank me when you read the battles in my fantasy novels.

But back to the topic at hand – how football can inform politics. There are the obvious things like the fact that nations that cannot stand each other somehow can set that aside for 90 minutes on a football pitch. That said, there are disputes that come out during these matches between these nations that teach me more about the wider world beyond our current president’s playpen – sorry, country. For example, during the group stage match between Switzerland and Serbia, there was controversy over a motion made by two Swiss players of Kosovoan descent followed by a complaint about the referees for that match being nationals of countries that do not have the best relationship with Serbia. None of that made sense to me at first, but it prompted me to look further into the double-headed eagle sign that the players threw up after the goal, and by that to learn more about Balkan Politics. Now I pay more attention to the nationality of the referees at all the matches.

The differences in play style remind us that there are differences in cultures, in climate, and in the people themselves – but that when it comes to the offside rule, we are all the same. The introduction of VAR in this World Cup allows for the objective (hopefully) assessment of penalties and fouls on the field – but it is still up to the referee to make the call at the moment on the field, and regardless of how fair or unfair the call feels, it is what it is and they move on. They move on to play smarter and harder and to avoid stupid mistakes fueled only by emotions.

I’m trying to use the lessons in my own life. Resist and call out tyranny and discrimination and hate without resorting to penalties and red cards that do nothing but make the rage louder and more fury filled. Find another way – a more civil way, to use an oddly vilified term right now – to make my point and stand up for those who cannot. Does interpreting for rallies rather than screaming in the street and waving a sign mean that I am not truly committed? Hardly. It means I am doing what I can to bring the message to even more people that hopefully will join the resistance. Offering food and shelter to those in need for whatever reason is JUST AS IMPORTANT as confronting the evils of the world that left them in need in the first place.

I was watching the Mexico v Sweden match the other day, being called by Jorge Perez-Navarro who is well known for his passion and excitement as well as his seemingly never-ending “Gooooooaaal!” He had called the previous match for Mexico and was very excited for everything that the Mexican team did. Makes sense. But in the match with Sweden when Mexico did almost nothing that warranted any excitement or passion, when Sweden scored he let loose with his famous “Goooooaaal!” anyway – because that’s what you do. I am certain that it wasn’t the result he wanted (even though Mexico and Sweden both went through to the next stage THANK YOU VERY MUCH AND HOLY MOLY HOW DID THAT HAPPEN South Korea?!?!?) but it would do no good in his position to be surly (even though it is VERY clear which team a lot of the commentators are following – glory chasers. Anyway. Where was I?). That is civility, ¿verdad?

This is who I am, who my parents taught me to be, and – once more for those in the back – this does not mean that I am resting in my privilege or supporting fascists. This means that I know myself and I am true to myself, and that is ALL that it means. I use the Gandhi quote quite often: “An eye for an eye will only leave the whole world blind.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Argentina have just equalized against France and I have got some cheering to do for the second half. Allez Les Bleus! Vaincre l’Argentine!

(and with editing…Argentina have pulled ahead and I clearly need to leave this and get back to cheering on France!)

Second verse, same as the… Nevermind.

Sometimes I am overwhelmingly glad that hubs and I did not have human children.
Students leave the building, Parkland High School.
Image courtesy of USA Today

Yesterday was one of those days. I cannot even imagine what the parents of the surviving students had to talk about last night when they got home – or the silence in the homes of the victims. My thoughts and prayers go out to the idiots who think that it is all right for a country with so many problems – often touted as the true causes of this kind of mass violence – to give access to weapons that can fire that many rounds that fast to anyone that passes a background check. I passed my astronomy tests in college but I am no astronomer nor do I have even a rudimentary understanding of physics. Keep your handguns if you must, this is the Wild Wild West after all. Keep your hunting rifles if you have to and you don’t have the skill to hunt with a bow. But for the LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY can we NOT just say, finally, that having a weapon capable of this kind of carnage is NOT OKAY?

Or, is it okay with you that these sorts of things occur? Don’t get me wrong, it is not an either or by any stretch, but I have to wonder. Dunblane happened in 1996. Firearm restriction legislation happened. Go and google how many mass shootings have happened in the UK since. I will wait.
And you, over there, waving your hand madly to add that once they took away the guns there were deaths by stabbing and that people are being run over by cars…of course, these things are happening. Our world is populated with horrible people and with very sick people who do horrendous things. That falls under that other category of issues that need fixing. Those types of events can be tied, I think, to violence being so prevalent in our culture. Those types of people are the ones being failed by mental health care in this country. But the numbers don’t prove that a knife or a car can take out as many people as quickly as an AR-15 – believed to be the type of firearm used in Florida yesterday. 
Y’all, I’m so left leaning that I’ve almost fallen over. I’m basically a socialist. This is not news to anyone that knows me well. I spend as much time being sad for the state of our world (yep, the whole world and not just the United States) as I do being afraid for the world. What happened yesterday is not okay, and there is international evidence to support the idea that if we could just stand up to the NRA and the other lobbies and restrict the KINDS of weapons available, we would be safer. Why is that such a hard thing to do?
30 mass shootings this year – 18 of those at schools – and we aren’t even two months in yet. How much is too much?

Well, it was good while it lasted…

Annoyed face, Louvre, Summer 2012

I was really trying to avoid being political on the Lettuce, but some things are just more important, it seems. Or more obvious. Or…well, I just have to talk about some things, and not into the confirmation bias that is my Facebook feed (for the most part) or my family or close friends.

This is also not an attempt to distract from anything that the Cheeto-In-Chief is doing or not doing to wreck our world via Twitter or his “speeches” or any of that. I was asked a question this morning at work, and I’m going to answer it here because I think it is important enough to answer twice.
I was asked the following question:
“What do you think about the kneeling thing?”
Been under a rock or so laser-focused on 45’s latest tweet-storm implosion that you don’t know what I mean? I was asked about the latest wave of non-violent protests happening mostly in the world of pro-sports: athletes taking a knee during the national anthem at sporting events rather than standing and singing or covering their heart with their hand as is customary in this country.
Quick disclaimer: it is CUSTOMARY but not a legal requirement of any kind. Therefore it is up to the individual. Clear? Good, now we can continue.
My answer, as I was hurrying to class, was two pronged: While I completely understand the reasoning behind the decision to kneel and share in the belief that our country does not represent or protect all of its citizens equally, I also think that the hype over a person’s choice is overblown and probably meant to distract us from what is actually going on in the White House.
You may now don your tin foil caps if you like.
Let’s address “the kneeling thing” in parts, shall we? Firstly, it is because the Department of Defense gives LOADS of money to sporting groups that we have the national anthem performed at the beginning of American football games, basketball games, baseball games, etc. It is not, as some would have you believe, something that the NFL and others do out of a profound and genuine sense of patriotism or national pride. That may be a factor as well, but I’m sure that the money doesn’t hurt.
Secondly, for all those that are touting the mandate to stand and the requirement by law to honor the flag…well…one of the few things that are NOT legally required is to stand or salute/hand on heart if you are not active duty military (or maybe any category of military service). Interesting.
Third, for those loud voices in the back calling this an affront to the sacrifices of our military veterans and those currently serving…they did not do what they have done and continue to do so that you are forced to behave a certain way in a certain situation. Freedom does not have subtext here. They fought so that the people who call themselves Americans can think for themselves and make their own decisions so that they can follow their own beliefs and support or not support things based on those beliefs. So to say that anyone that chooses to protest in this manner is insulting those that fought for our freedom is just plain wrong. Sorry. My father served in the Army, my uncles served in the Army and Air Force, and one of them was a POW and I can almost promise you that none of them thought they were serving in order to make sure we would all be told when to stand, kneel, or salute. I am proud of all of them and thankful for their service, but I’m not going to use their service as an excuse here. Not. Happening.
Finally, my thoughts on the actual thing that they are protesting? I wholeheartedly agree with their message. 110%. Y’all, why would you honor and support and defend a country that doesn’t do the same for you? Why would a Deaf person be bound to stand for the national anthem when no one cares enough to make sure the interpreter is visible during that song? Why would you stand up for a country when you see faces that look like yours being shot by those in authority everyday with little to no repercussion?
This is not a protest directly against 45, but it is certainly fueled by him being in office. His campaign rhetoric and continued pandering to a certain ugly side of our country have emboldened those to come out of their shadows, unfurl their flags, and put on their hoods. They don’t have to worry about immigrants because there will be a wall. They don’t need to sort out interpreters because if you speak English, you don’t need one. Healthcare is a privilege just like a quality education, and if the majority of his base would just work harder then they can afford both. No job you say? No problem… Once we get all the foreigners out of here and look after America First, everyone will have a job and be prosperous.
Also, welcome back to the 1950’s.
It will be very difficult for me to interpret the national anthem when I am required to do so at events on campus, and I feel lucky to have a team interpreter that may be willing to do that for me because I’m not sure I can anymore. I think back to when I was living in the UK and got teary eyed every time I heard the Star Spangled Banner…I still do now, but the sentiment is very different.

On regime change and the politics of long work weeks.

Tourists.
Tourists.

Regime change or administration change can be tricky at best. There are those mourning the change, those hungry for change, and those to whom the change will make little to no difference in daily function.  I’m not really sure which one best represents me, but I will tell you that a bit of change has made a huge difference in my motivation.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Remember the thinly veiled posts about not being valued at work, or being told that my professional development was not important, etc.? There were lots of them.  I had days where I had to blog or I’d lose my mind and, even worse, my temper.
Not anymore. Even though I am still working insane hours (some weeks in this semester, for instance, contained multiple days where I worked upwards of 10 hours…in the past that would have still equalled 37.5 but no longer), I have gained the power/kahones/whatever to say to whomever needs telling that I have worked more than my fair share and will be taking some time off, or that if the students aren’t here I really don’t have a need to be here.
Gone are the days of hearing second and third hand that I am lazy and need to be given work to keep me busy.  Adios to the insinuations that because my desk is clean, I must not be working.  And it isn’t just the replacement of one person that has led to this over all office climate change…there are only two of us still here that were here when I started working in this office.  
The culture has shifted, and I believe for the better.  Though the Canadian tourists above are often the first and last thing I see in a day AND are often in the dark due to early starts and late arrivals back at my car, I really am enjoying my work and that has been a long time coming.

On Feeling the Bern and other political nonsense.

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My hair was feeling the bern from the color, still.

So you may or may not have noticed, if you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or just down the street, that we have an election coming up this fall here in the good old USA.  While I am utterly heartbroken at the prospect of losing our current Commander in Chief and his warm, friendly, witty, and definitely egalitarian ways, I’m looking forward to November this summer’s Democratic Convention with hope, yet again, just like I did right before fleeing to the UK for two years.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

You’ve probably ascertained if you know me from the above social media OR you read the title of this blog post that my preferred candidate for the Democratic nomination and the White House is Senator Bernie Sanders, currently of Vermont. There are many reasons why I’m supporting Bernie, not the least of which is his socialist leanings which I share.
Okay, take a breath, I did NOT say I AM a socialist.  Further, I didn’t say he was, because he isn’t.  Democratic Socialism is a different breed from pure, unadulterated German/Chinese/Russian Socialism of years past (and, in some cases, present). 
We okay now? Well, if not, you might not want to continue, because I’m going to tell you why I don’t care for the other candidates in the race.  
First, the other strong Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.  I’m not going to support her just because she is a woman, or because she made it through a nasty patch of cheating by her (I am sorry but he is just still adorable, reprehensible or not!) husband, or because she has already lived in the White House once and most likely had a hand in what I consider to be a fairly successful administration.  I’ve looked at her issues and policies but more importantly I’ve listened to her when she has told us what she will do for us as President…and I’m not sure I trust her.  I can’t put my finger on it any more succinctly than that, really.  Nowt to do with any of the myriad of scandals that she is presently or has been involved with/in, at all. (Don’t bring up Benghazi to me or I will either walk away from the conversation or explode, I’m not sure which.)
That said, if she wins the Democratic nomination (and the world ends) (just kidding) (kinda), I will vote for her come November.  Sound like I’m wishy-washy and fickle? Just let me tell you about what’s happening on the other side of the aisle from where most of my beliefs find their home, and stay tuned because there IS a Republican that I would have voted for had I no other choice…and not just because of his hair.
By this point there are only three candidates really competing for the Republican nomination (now that someone told Ben Carson he actually WASN’T winning and Rubio picked up his toys and went home to Florida…or Washington, not sure which): Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich.
Yeah, THAT Donald Trump.  Star of the small screen boardroom, misogynistic tyrant, and (it has become apparent in his stumping) under the radar racist.  You have to know if you know me at all that this man speaks NONE of what I see as my truth.  Walls between us and Mexico? Halting Muslims that want to come to the United States? Bulking up the military to be even more of a bully in the world than we already are?  If that’s “Making America Great Again,” I will take the Slightly Less Great but Still Not Racist and Evil America that we have now, thanks.
Then there’s Ted Cruz. There was actually a study done to find out why Ted Cruz’s face causes people not to trust him: turns out his smiles don’t go all the way to his eyes and that indicates shenanigans afoot.  Never mind his promise to “carpet bomb” our enemies.  Carpet bomb, y’all! There was one debate where he used the word murder so many times that I not only lost count I no longer WANTED to count…and not just about THEM murdering US, but US doing the murdering.  I find him terrifying and not at all the wholesome Christian he pretends to be.
Finally, still hanging on in the race with a slightly better chance than a snowball in the Midlands is Kasich.  I will admit that I don’t know much about him…who really expected him to be around this long?  He was passed over in debates and resorted to joking along with Ben Carson about not having any air time.  He went from someone I thought was NOTSOBAD while campaigning in Idaho to SUDDENLYVERYRELIGIOUS when it came to the Southern primaries.  But he doesn’t scare me like the other two do, not really.
The one that I would have voted for if I had to and he hadn’t dropped out was Rand Paul, and that’s because he just didn’t sound all that conservative to me.  I promise, it was nothing to do with his hair or the eye-rolling he did whenever Trump spoke in the first debates.  Nothing at all.
My other mini rant has to do with the media coverage of the side of the aisle that I am supporting.  How much coverage does Bernie get for doing anything well or leading in any polls?  Zero to notenoughtonotice.  Hillary sneezes and someone is telling “the Democratic frontrunner and likely candidate” bless you.  Even NPR, my beloved NPR, is leaning toward Hillary and to me that isn’t right.  She’s got enough help, thank you very much, she doesn’t need any more.
Don’t even get me STARTED on superdelegates.  Super my foot. 
So yay! The Lettuce is back!  Don’t worry, it won’t be long before I’ve forgotten this blog yet again…

In which I rant…about money…or the lack thereof…

Right, so last week, as everyone knows, the Southern United States was blanketed with the horror known as Winter Weather. I think at our house we had between 5-6 inches of snow plus a healthy dose of ice on top of that. Everything came to a screeching halt, as it should have done, because down here we get that kind of weather so infrequently it doesn’t make financial sense for cities and towns to have the equipment to deal with it.

I will say that again, so that those of you sniggering at us for our panic over what you consider to be a daily event can digest it and move on and stop with the ridiculous comments.  It does not make financial sense for us to have the equipment to deal with snow because we get a large amount so very infrequently.  It has nothing to do with how well or poorly we can drive.  We good? Right.

Well, on those two days as might have been expected, the University where I work was closed. The roads were awful and I was thankful that my employer thought that my life was more important than forcing me to drive the 65 miles round trip to get to work because the buses weren’t running.

I was thankful until we got word that the governor is not going to grant us leave with pay for those two days. Oh, sorry, that doesn’t make sense, does it? In this state, if state offices are closed it is up to the governor to decide if we are given the time off with pay or if we have to use our accrued leave time (of which I have none, I’m not that sort of employee sadly) OR make up the time by the next pay period.

The last week of January saw the first of the Winter Weather and Clemson was closed for a full day (plus two hours the day prior). The governor “forgave” that time so that we didn’t have to make it up or use our leave time. Really I could have made it into work that day, but other parts of the state were not so lucky and so it was a good call on her part to close the state offices and a nice thing that she didn’t make us make up that time.

Last week it was IMPOSSIBLE for a great many of us to get into work and it was another good call to not only close state offices but declare a state of emergency. But not forgive the time? Really?

The third option is to take leave without pay. Now I’m sure that the governor and many state employees, even those that work in my office, could miss two days of pay out of one check and not even miss it. Me? Notsomuch. Two days means late bills and cutting out groceries and such. We are not destitute but we are not rich either.

I went to the governor’s website to see if there was any statement about the leave time or even a place to lodge a complaint. What I found was a proud statement hailing her as the most fiscally conservative governor that South Carolina has had for a long time.

Nice. It’s easy to be fiscally conservative when you have money. But does that also make it easy to send the message that you don’t care overmuch about your citizen’s lives during weather events…that you don’t feel that it is important to reward them for doing the smart thing and staying home by giving them the days off?

Whatever. Here’s hoping the next predicted polar vortex won’t close the University because those of us down here at the bottom can’t afford another day away from work.

My Post-Election 2012 Stump Speech

(Disclaimer: This should not shock anyone that really knows me well.)

I’m here today to post as a very happy American.  I’ve made no secret of the fact that I voted, again, for President Obama and that I’m pleased and relieved and all that sort of thing that he was re-elected on Tuesday.  
Let’s do a little factual posting first.  Mr. Obama was elected not only by a landslide in the Electoral College vote, but by a reasonable margin in the popular vote as well.  I’m pointing this out in order to remind those that think that it was some sort of vote counting conspiracy or nefarious business within the Electoral College that won him re-election, that it wasn’t.  It was simply that more people cast their vote for him than for his opponent.  Pure and simple.  Your candidate may not have been elected, but mine was elected fairly and according to the election process in our country.
Now then, here’s the part that may get me unfriended on Facebook, unfollowed on Twitter and possibly even disparagingly commented about here at the Lettuce.  Friends (and those that unfriend/unfollow), I can take it.  Do what you have to do, that’s what I’m doing here, and by hiding posts/people in my Facebook feed until after all of this rancor dies away a bit.
You may not realize it, but there are people out there in the world that have opinions that differ from yours.  There are people out there that worship a different Diety/Higher Power than you do.  There are people who eat meat, people who hate greyhound racing, and even people who believe with a strong conviction that if you think differently than they do you are, to quote my Facebook feed, morally inferior and/or corrupt.  The truth is, though, that there is NOTHING wrong with those people, they are just different.
I just wanted to post here to let everyone that reads the Lettuce (yeah, I know it’s like five of you, but still) know where I stand so that you can make an informed decision about how you and I proceed from this point rather than jumping to the conclusion that because I support President Obama that means I am made of Satan.  Because, to be fair, I’m really not.
I am a Democrat.  I am a Liberal Democrat.  I am in support of equal work and equal pay regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, and anything else that might differentiate one person from another.  I am firmly in support of the notion that we are here on this earth (not this country, mind you, but the whole earth) to take care of each other and support each other.  I believe that support includes helping others any time that you can.  I believe that support includes sharing what you have with those that don’t.  I believe that if you work hard and live a good and fair life, you will not only succeed but have the means to help others succeed.
I think that health care is a basic right just like food and shelter.  While I am not so sure I agree that you should be taxed if you choose to go without health insurance, I’m very sure that sometimes the end justifies the means and that everyone should be able to go to their doctor when they need to go, and not just when they can afford to go.  I believe in Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security.
Need to take a break to hit unfriend?  Because this is only going to get more personal and probably make some people more disgusted with me as a human being (again, another FB quote).
I believe that my religious beliefs are none of anyone’s business but my own.  I believe that whether or not I go to church is no one’s business but my own.  I do not believe that Go Make Of All Disciples means Get Every Pew In The Church Filled.  I believe that everyone is on the path to their own understanding of the Divine.  I believe that the Divine is one entity that has many faces.  I believe that it is not my place to judge because I don’t want anyone judging me.  I believe that in my religious tradition there are mandates such as “Do Unto Others” and “As you have done to the least of these, you have done to me” that are not just suggestions.  
Still there?
I believe that people are born gay/straight/lesbian/bi/whatever, and that is between them and the people with whom they share their lives.  Further, if someone finds another human being that they want to spend their life loving and supporting and being with, then they should have just as much legal right to do that as anyone else does.

I believe that this body my brain is sitting in right now is MINE, and that no one has the right to tell me what I can or can’t do with any working part of it.  Further, I believe that every other woman in the world has the same right to make decisions about her own body as I do.  Those decisions include the use of contraception and the ability to make decisions about pregnancy, especially in cases of incest, rape, and other trauma.

I believe that exclusion is a smoke screen for nefarious purpose, and that inclusion is the only way to be a true member of our global community.  And while we’re on the topic of the world community, I wanted to just point out that there is a HUGE difference between the “Israel” of Jewish tradition, mentioned in the Bible and other scripture and the Israel that exists as a country today.  One is a body of people, beloved of their God.  The other is a country that is just as guilty of terrorism as any of its neighbors in the middle east.  I believe that the US should seriously re-think its devotion to Israel.
I don’t think the US is the best nation on the planet.  We have all kinds of problems.  People are starving.  People are homeless.  Animals are abused.  Schools don’t have the money to educate students, let alone produce future leaders.  I think that if the US would stop trying to prove its imaginary superiority and would focus on its own people at home for a change, we might be healthier and happier.
I don’t think Republicans are evil.  I think that they are people with a differing opinion than mine.  I don’t think the Tea Party should have chosen that name because I believe that in doing so they are denigrating the original act of rebellion that took place in Boston.  Their issue isn’t lack of representation, it’s changing your mind after you elect representation and then crying that no one represents you.
I believe that President Obama was born a citizen of the United States just like I was.  I also believe that a great lot of the outcry against him is a smoke screen…I think it all boils down to the fact that our country was not ready for an African -American president. 
I have always been proud to be an American citizen and I still am.  My time living abroad gave me a new perspective on what that means and what it should mean, and that’s what I’m working to emulate.  The world is not laughing at all of us, Mr. Trump.  If the world is laughing, it’s at cartoonish buffoons who declare the end is nigh/gather your guns/prepare for the apocalypse because of the election of one man to power.
Huh, that just gave me a thought.  It reminded me of all the people that were threatened by another man who came to the table talking about love, inclusion, supporting each other, and sharing what we have with each other.  Interesting that some of the loudest voices claim allegiance to that man yet clearly have no understanding of his message.
Yeah, so that’s what it’s like inside my head these days.  Take this information and do with it as you will.