Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Flag Burning......

This past summer in Cleveland, Donald J. Tramp and I stood in the square entertaining. As spokespuppet for STAT (Stand Together Against Trump), he told jokes to the crowd as I was decked out in my cutoff shirt and braved the heat. All because I felt the need to express my dismay at a Trump candidacy.

For the most part, the square was nonviolent. The cops relegated people to two sides: Pro-Trump and Anti-Trump. It was like a music festival more than anything; Lollapalooza with a political feel. The Trump people had their guns attached to their hip, doing the inbred thing with pride. Some took photos with Donny. Actually, a lot were just soaking up the day. It was history for all of us. I had a lot of respect for those who I disagreed with, because we were all in the heat speaking our minds because The Constitution gave us that right.

Since our job was to give our water to anyone protesting, many a Trumpkin drank STAT water. And many of us drank Jesus Water aka Trumpkin water. It’s an unwritten rule that even though we disagreed, we respected the guts we all had. Because once you get vocal about your politics, you have people in every direction turning their back on you. Welcome to free speech. Welcome to America.
There was one group, Rev Com, or Revolutionary Communists. While the Trumpkins had their guns strapped to them, Rev Com were the kind of protesters who showed up just to get arrested. During the march, when they joined, several members of STAT exchanged worried glances and someone whispered, “Oh no. Here comes Rev Com. They can get violent.”

Yes, these disorganized, idiotic, super paranoid, nutcases who probably had the bones of Karl Marx in their basements crashed the march that STAT had gotten permits for. Even when Westboro Baptist showed up to the bridge to protest STAT (your protest always has a protest) we never yelled back let alone responded. Now Rev Com was here. It was like it was our birthday, they were too broke to have their own, so they added their name to our cake. However, we had to roll with it.

Getting my puppeteer protest on

Days before, a girl who was with Rev Com had attempted to light a flag on fire. In her quest to express her anger over Trump, she was going to make a statement. Well instead she lit herself on fire. The cop, who was witnessing this screamed, “You idiot, you’re on fire!”

Promptly putting out the fire on her sleeve he apprehended the flag and ordered, “Go home, you’re done for the day.”

Up to that point I had been politically active. I canvassed for an out lesbian politician the day DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) was struck down. There was dancing in the street in the West Village where I was. I wrote about domestic violence for The Huffington Post, giving my input as a woman who survived a partner who was physically violent. I even marched in Pride supporting my LGBTQ friends. However, I had never been at an event where a flag was burned. My rage and passion let alone that of anyone around me had ever gotten to that level.

The day of the march, Trump accepted the nomination. We were on the green when we were approached by a Black Lives Matter activist. A young man about 22, he informed me that someone had been arrested for burning a flag. He told me there was a march to the jail as they were going to break this would be revolutionary out, and he was inviting me to come.

What could possibly go wrong?

I was indignant that he was arrested for expressing himself. Maybe tyranny was taking over. Yet I knew the march to the jail could only end badly of course. The members of STAT around me looked into my eyes, begging me to refuse the invite. I did.

As he left, the people around me looked relieved. We had a laugh. Yes, we were peaceful. The whole day had been peaceful and wonderful. However, the laugh was short lived when I saw out of the corner of my eye the young man who had approached us was being coached by Rev Com.
An older hippie informed him, “My first protest, ha! My first arrest, never!”

Seconds later, the older hippies began approaching people informing us the man in the jail was arrested for burning the flag. My mentor, who is an ex cop, was with me. He told me flag burning is legal. However, he was sure there was more to the story. Googling, he found the arrestee had tried to light a flag on fire but failed. However, he had decided the next prudent action was to assault a cop. Needless to say that got him arrested.

I became sickened by the pot stirring, intentional misleading of this group. They had used the young man from BLM. And they got their message out by any destructive means possible. It made me ashamed to share the green with them. STAT had been so peaceful and purposeful with the protest, and we were positive. We believed in what we did, and we know that we were heard.

Rev Com was just there to cause trouble. It made me ill that a cop had to tend, while someone elsewhere in real need was probably terrified or bleeding to death because their hands were being tied by these whackos.

I thought of heroes like Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Bobby Sands, and Ghani who protested peacefully. Their message not only resonated, but therein could bring about the conversation of change. After the conversation came the change itself.

I will not stop anyone from burning a flag. It is their right. I will also not tell them how to feel, their rage is also their right. Their pain is their own and I will not dare to condescend to tone police. Yet I will say that the louder you scream the less likely you are to be heard. And the more you scream the less you have to say. And the less you say the more you inhibit the needed conversation.

So can you burn the flag? Yes. Should you burn the flag? Up to you. Do you need to burn the flag? In my opinion there are better ways to be heard. Just saying. It’s all up to you. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Week After: Post Election Let Down

This past year I found myself really involved with politics. Donald J. Tramp, my political puppet, was my nexus that lured me into this latest adventure. The concept came from the fact that Donald Trump is the ventriloquist puppet of the Republican Party, saying all the hateful rhetoric the career politicians wish they could say but wouldn’t because it would cost them elections. And a tramp in old times was a fool or a fop. I invented him when it became clear that he wasn’t going away.

Donald J. Tramp brought me to the RNC. He became the spokespuppet for STAT (Stand Together Against Trump). Along with the brave doctors, nurses (STAT is a medical term meaning right away) and other brave young activists we protested Trump’s candidacy. For days Mr. Tramp and I entertained in the square. Each day, we watched the trainwreck that was the Convention from Scott Baio to the stolen speech. And then we marched. I think I might have been the first ventriloquist on a protest. I dunno.

My protest puppet, Donald J. Tramp, and I in the Cleveland Dispatch

Either way, I met a lot of wonderful young people from all ideologies expressing their First Amendment Right. We were all peaceful. Several young Trumpkins clad in American flags wanted to rub Donald J. Tramp’s head for luck. It was fun. I let them. At the end of the day we are all people and this is America.

A still shot of us in between performances. We literally talked to 200 press people each day, and thousands of pedestrians.

My partner and I then found ourselves outside of Hofstra. Sans STAT, we were simply a ventriloquist and her dummy doing a good old fashioned street performance in the free speech zone. We were true agit prop theatre. Another man showed up with a giant Trump head, and an anti-Hillary supporter even sported a wig and a full body costume nominating HRC for prison.

I also got to see a dark side of the protest circuit. In Cleveland, and even at Hofstra the ones that scared me were never the Trump supporters. If anything, the ones I met in Cleveland were overweight, out of shape, and had their guns irresponsibly strapped to their backs. Or they were young white men who might have been supporting the Donald on a lark.
One of my faves of Donald and I from the march

Marching with STAT

However, the super liberal, third party people were the ones that scared me. In Cleveland, one tried to light a flag on fire. She failed and instead lit herself on fire. The policeman, trying not to break out laughing, screamed, “You idiot, you’re on fire!” Then after he put the fire out told her that she was done for the day and had to head home. Apparently someone in her crew assaulted a cop, and this same group of radicals tried to get a young man from Black Lives Matter to organize a march to the jail to free the prisoner. Needless to say, the constituent of STAT was sensible enough to refuse the invite.
The same held true at Hofstra. Jill Stein and her disciples came and many didn’t have a conversation, only yelled. They also made it clear that they showed up solely to get arrested. Their dreams came true, 26 of them did.

Free speech zone outside of Hofstra, it was colder that day. Oh and it was also my birthday. 

The climax of my adventures was Donald J. Tramp and I, both acting as correspondents, for the Clyde Fitch Report. My puppet partner and I both had official badges, mic flags, and hats. We saw Anderson Cooper napping on the back of a golf cart, and Wolf Blitzer trying to escape attention in a van. I was in the room when Donald Trump uttered the phrases “bad hombres” and “nasty woman.”
I was a part of history as it unfolded. In between Donald and I were on stage nightly in NYC, and also hit a few venues in Las Vegas. We met a lot of Trump people who dug the act. It’s good. A country that laughs together stays together.
On location, Las Vegas

I wish with all my heart the election turned out differently. The night the results came in, I got a ghastly stomach cramp. As HRC gave her concession speech I cried buckets, because the glass ceiling had not been broken. And just as she lost I felt I lost. Not just as an American, but as a woman who has experienced sexism. As a woman who is a domestic violence survivor. As a woman who knows what it’s like when a man torments you and no one believes you.
I was also saddened as I saw Trump supporters gloat, and frightened as my friends who were black, Latino, gay and trans feared losing their rights.
I then became angry at my own party. Angry at the disaffected Bernie people for either voting Stein, writing Bernie in, or not voting at all. Angry that they gave the election to Trump. Angry at my own candidate for her flaws, and angry at her for not understanding technology. Angry at my own candidate for not reaching across the aisle to the Bernie people. Angry at my own candidate for not making Bernie her VP. Angry at my own party for it’s apparent division and not realizing this until it was too late.
I became angry at the Trump people, even flaming out at several. But as I went outside and caught some air, I came to the realization we are all people. I am not angry at the Trump people for voting for Trump. They didn’t do what I wanted them to, but when it came time to vote they voted for who they thought suited their interests. And Trump somehow was able to get the disaffected Cruz people behind him, which is more than I can say for the Democrats. So again, they get an A on the assignment.

Tramp and his campaign manager May Wilson

I even spoke to several Trump people, none by the way who I felt were racist in the least bit. They felt HRC wasn’t trustworthy, and were tired of being screwed over by the government. Many were 2nd Amendment people who live in an area where a gun is required because cops live far away. Others saw their jobs disappear as a result of Bill Clinton’s legislation. Many, like my ex, were banged up Iraq War Vets who were angry that Obama had undid the work they did in the Middle East, and felt the government was too busy helping illegals and forgot about the vets.
Either way, Republicans in my experience always seek to pretend to help the common man only to get him to vote against their own best interests. Harry Truman said as much. This is no exception. So on November 9 we all lost.
On the other hand, it takes many opinions to make the world go round. Pence got booed at Hamilton and got challenged from the stage by the lead actor. Was it the time or place? Depends on who you ask. But I felt the plea was peaceful and kind. It was also a response to a man who’s positions and party are built on bigotry. The president elect had a meltdown, but Pence took it in stride explaining, “I told my daughters that is what freedom sounds like.”
Better than the president elect, screaming about defeating Isis but unable to defeat the theatre geeks.
As Donald Trump suggests a whole flock of cringeworthy, Southern Poverty Law Watch List alumns as his cabinet picks, like the rest of America, I pray and wait.
But life goes on. There is existence off of twitter and facebook. Thanksgiving is coming up. My sister and brother in law are frying a turkey. My dad also has a birthday tomorrow. He is going to be 64. There will be other elections. There will be other debates. I won’t have my dad forever.

My coverage of the election has brought us closer, and maybe we will discuss it on turkey day. While I have 4 more years worth of material, I need a week off. Actually, I think I would rather discuss football and Heisman picks, two things that have always made America great. 
Just me and my dad

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Clyde Fitch and Other Things

Last year my life was a lot different. I was at the mercy of a psychotic landlord who wanted nothing more than to destroy me. My living situation exploded in utter chaos, and he was keeping me a prisoner. Knowing much of my property had been destroyed as a result of the bed bugs and mold he refused to treat, he would not reimburse me for my losses. When I attempted to hold rent in order to fix my situation, he began to threaten me. Even when the city worker encouraged me to bring him to court and I paid him what I owed him, he began to torture me with court papers. Knowing I had no where to go and couldn't afford to move, he knew he could force me out and hold me hostage at the same time.

I had been there for 10 years without a problem.......until he saw that if he could get me out he could triple the rent and made it his mission to do so.

The situation came to a frightening crescendo when I went to my last court appearance. His lawyer initially told me to ignore the hold over suit they filed, but then I was told I had to go to court. They did this intentionally knowing I would not have enough time to notify my lawyer. To add insult to injury, they also demanded I paid them $3000 that I did not owe, extorting me, adding to my pain.

Their lawyer, an over dramatic idiot, believed himself to be Daniel Webster. Except Daniel Webster faced off against Satan and actually was able to hold his own in a courtroom against someone not willing to speak to the judge. I didn't speak because I was scared. For weeks, my landlord had been following me around the neighborhood. He had also shut off my water. I was afraid this man was going to kill me.

The day before, he had called to threaten me and said, "I won't stop until I see you homeless."

When I got home from court, my apartment was filled with smoke. My landlord had also been going through my things, and had been taking photos. I found out from one of the workmen later, but he said to leave him out of it, he had a family he had to support. I called the police who encouraged me to get out ASAP. My stove was red tagged by Con Ed, the thing my landlord had left leaking in order to cause me harm. Yes, he knew I wouldn't be home, and new this could and would kill me. I was scared for my life and had to move in a hurry.

One year later my address is completely different. I work with a mentor who is nothing short of a Godsend. My act is also completely different. I have been on a new level of comedy and the edge of history as Donald J. Tramp was the spokespuppet for Stand Together Against Trump (STAT), and we were ever present at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. There was not one press outlet that my dear Donny and I weren't in it seems.

To add a little sugar to the suffle, I recently got to go as credentialed press to the 3rd Presidential Debate. I went on behalf of the Clyde Fitch Report, a Pulitzer Prize nominated publication. I was there with Donald J. Tramp to cover the event, and watched groundbreaking news unfold. It was a tremendous gift and incredible fun to be there with other young storytellers who were recording events for the generations to come. These press people were from all reaches of the globe, too. We all took note as the first ever female nominee, and the first ever part pumpkin debated on the important issues.

My life has changed, but for the better. God is good all the time. I know if things had not unfolded the way they did, I would not be doing the things I am now. What a difference a year makes.