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Do I Love My Country?

Today is the Fourth of July, Independence Day, when people are supposed to celebrate their love of the United States of America.

I can tell you, I definitely love Boston. I love Massachusetts. But do I love the US as a whole?

…Eh. It’s okay.

It’s kind of like that old, cranky, racist relative whose presence you don’t enjoy but whom you can’t bring yourself to disinvite from Thanksgiving. Or the apartment that has bad water pressure and a terrible landlord and no air conditioning and heat that barely works, but that you don’t move out of because it’s cheap and convenient.

Speaking of moving, if you’re thinking that if I don’t love it, I should leave, chill. I didn’t say I hate it. But love is a strong word, and while I tolerate America enough that I’m not actively trying to leave, I wouldn’t say I love it.

And if you’re indignantly thinking that people have fought and died for the right for me to say that I don’t love this country, I agree that freedom of speech is a wonderful thing. In fact, so do several other countries. It obviously doesn’t exist anywhere, but it does exist in just about every other developed country. Same for freedom of the press and freedom of religion. It’s great that we’re not, say, North Korea or Syria, but why are we comparing ourselves down instead of up? Why not compare ourselves to Canada or New Zealand, which have all those great freedoms but also have universal health care, guaranteed maternity leave, and less gun violence?

It’s hard to love a country that’s so full of stupid people—or, if I’m being generous, willfully ignorant people. In any case, no one who voted for Trump is smart. I do think that’s a pretty fair statement. Take a look at this Facebook group, which I sometimes read when I want to see how the other side thinks. Or, rather, doesn’t think. Seeing the things that Trump voters believe written out in their own words make it impossible for me to have even the slightest bit of empathy for them.

We are a country that finds value in ignorance and inexperience—hence, the election of Trump, the denigration of educated people as “out of touch” when they’re the ones with more information, the clinging to beliefs in things that are easily disproven—“alternative facts,” if you will.

We are a country that disregards an overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is man-made and that our county is the biggest perpetrator of the pollution that causes it, all because people don’t want to make sacrifices and work for the well-being of the world.

We are a country that clings to the Second Amendment—which refers to a “well-regulated militia” rather than the individual right to bear arms, and which was written when it was impossible to perpetuate mass shootings with the types of weapons that existed then—despite overwhelming evidence that there is less gun violence in countries with stricter gun laws, all because people are too selfish and fearful to pass any laws that would make it even slightly harder to possess a weapon that’s much more likely to hurt you or a family member than to be used in any sort of self-defense.

We are a country that regards life-saving health care as a privilege rather than a right, a country where many people would consign their fellow citizens to medical bankruptcy or death because they’re afraid that they might have to pay a bit more in taxes to prevent that from happening.

We are one of only three countries TOTAL that does not guarantee paid maternity leave to new mothers.

We are a country where cops are constantly getting away with unjustified shootings of innocent black people.

We are a country with an alarming tendency to disregard inconvenient history in the name of patriotism. It’s true that every country has shameful things in its past, but we have people who take pride in having ancestors who fought for the Confederacy—ancestors who were traitors to their country out of a desire to preserve slavery and white supremacy—and defend public Confederate monuments. We have people who whitewash the horrors of slavery, people who defend horrific things in our history like Japanese internment, people descended from immigrants who were discriminated against who nevertheless would reject refugees fighting for their lives because they’re not from the right country or don’t follow the right religion.

It’s funny how things have changed in the seventy-odd years since World War II, when we fought against a genocidal German regime. Now Germany, which has sheltered many of the refugees we’ve been rejecting, is a moral leader for the world.

And us?

We’re the bad guys now.

So I’m very grateful to live where I do, a place that’s less ignorant than most places in the US. But until the attitudes of much of the rest of the country change, until we acknowledge and reject the worst parts of our history while embracing the best parts, like our welcoming of immigrants from all over the world looking for a better life, I can’t say I love this country as a whole.

A Hard Time

I am having a hard time right now thinking of anything to write about.

To blog about, first of all. I think about things in my life I can blog about and then remember that I already have. I could blog about my trip to New York over Memorial Day weekend and how I saw Come From Away, Waitress, and Anastasia, plus ate some great food, but would that post really be much different from this post, or this one, or this one? I guess I can always do my Song of the Moment and Playlist of the Moment posts and pick up I Read Books again. I suppose there will always be movies and TV shows to write about. I could keep doing the Links of the Week, and I’m sure at some point I will, but those will inevitably include current events, which are just depressing me right now.

It’s a too-familiar feeling, this type of depression. What’s happened, you ask? Well, nothing. Nothing is happening. I still don’t have the three things I want the most. I still fear things staying the same. I still wonder if I really deserve love. I’m still not a very nice person. I’m still lonely. I’m still searching for someone to tell my stories to.

It’s all been done.

I’m having a hard time thinking of anything to write about outside of this blog. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point I became a writer who doesn’t write. I’ve lost confidence in the ideas I have, lost faith in the idea that I could ever really write something that other people would enjoy.

I am having a hard time making myself do the things I know I should do: write, cook, exercise, go to bed early, socialize. I am having a hard time accomplishing any of the goals I’ve set for myself. I am having a hard time looking at myself in the mirror, or at happy couples I see in public. I am having a hard time being happy for anyone who finds love or has a baby. I am having a hard time taming the negative thoughts raging inside me.

I am having a hard time right now.

Song of the Moment: Trolley Wood

I recently rediscovered this song: “Trolley Wood” by Eisley. It’s insanely catchy, and I’ve recently found myself humming it to myself.

I’ve also puzzled over the lyrics. Is it a metaphor for an experience that’s impossible to replicate? Is there some kind of significance to the surreal concept of a wood with trolleys rolling around the hills, or is it just a cute but nonsensical term that rhymes with Hollywood? In any case, have a listen.

A Thought

One thing I’ve heard multiple people in relationships say is that when you’re in a good, happy relationship, you’re the best version of yourself. That it’s ideal to find a significant other who brings out the best in you, makes you want to be your best self.

What I’ve never heard anyone say is this epiphany I recently had: the opposite is also true. When you feel chronically unloved, it turns you into the worst version of yourself.

Links of the Week

Ready for another week of links?

The suffering of children in Syria is so terrible, they need a new term for it. Also in Syria, an article about a Jesuit doing some good work there.

I have been saying from the beginning that Trump voters are not worthwhile human beings- I’m actually not sure we should even consider them human beings at all. You absolutely should not keep Trump-supporting friends and family members in your life. On that note, this.

When everything is so crazy, it’s hard to figure out how to measure the crazy. This is a good guide for that.

I’ve had a really hard time trying to figure out why so many Trump voters refuse to believe real, verifiable facts. This is the first thing I’ve read that actually clicked for me and helped me understand why some of them are that way.

I AM NEVER LEAVING MASSACHUSETTS.

Wednesday was International Women’s Day. While feminism on the Internet often infuriates me, some feminists do say things that really click with me, and one of them is the great writer Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie.  Also, here’s how so many unqualified men end up in positions of power.

I’d never heard of Charley Parkhurst, a stagecoach driver in the 1800s who was born Charlotte and eventually ended up living as a man, but his story is fascinating. I looked it up this week after a friend told me it had come up in a reading she did with her fourth-grade class.

Okay, this is pretty funny.

I am SO excited to see Come From Away in May! Even more so now that I’ve heard the whole cast recording.

Tom Hanks is the man.

I love cursive, and I almost always write in cursive rather than printing (I mean, it’s faster! You don’t have to lift the pen!) so this is welcome news.

This is beautiful and romantic and touching.

This, though? This actually really disturbed me. I mean, if it makes that woman happy, great, but the idea of being in a similar situation is horrifying to me.

Dating is hard and awful, but it sounds like it might be even worse in the cities this writer visited.

I will have to try this.

A couple of links more personal to me- my old high school had a lot of cool murals done by students over the years, and turns out there are pictures of most of them online. Also, here’s a nice article about Stacy DeBroff, whom I interned for in college. (I walked, though, so I wasn’t one of the ones clogging up the driveway!)

Some food for thought:

Yep. Hate is the coat we wear to avoid the cold.

A post shared by Glennon Doyle (@glennondoyle) on

 

And let’s end with this- a cool, bizarre, surreal animated short that was nominated for an Oscar a few years ago:

 

 

 

 

Playlist of the Moment: 1997

I’ve been hearing a lot on social media this week about how it’s the 20th anniversary of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer show. I never watched Buffy (vampires aren’t my thing), but it occurred to me that the 20th anniversaries of a lot of other things I loved as a teenager will be coming up.

How was 1997 twenty years ago?

This Buzzfeed article is all about the music that came out that year, and I just cannot believe it’s been that long. While I muse about how old I am, I will post this playlist of the songs mentioned in the article, which Buzzfeed somehow neglected to provide.

Links of the Week

The Oscars are tonight! I’m super excited- I’ve seen seven out of the nine Best Picture nominees. I’m not all that invested in who wins, but it was interesting to read the Boston Globe’s annual “Will Win/Should Win/Was Robbed/Shouldn’t Be Here” list.

I laughed so hard at this and I don’t know why. Maybe because my friend who teaches fifth grade is a Lego robotics coach.

In other foreign head-of-state-related news, it’s like Canada is taunting us with Justin Trudeau.

It makes me so angry to hear about the awful way some women are treated at work.

This is a really sweet essay about a nontraditional family.

I recently read Big Little Lies and loved it and started watching the new miniseries next week. I was surprised to hear that the author of the book, Liane Moriarty, is more popular in the US than in her home country, Australia.

This is a fun interview with Hamilton‘s conductor and orchestrator, Alex Lacamoire. I had no idea he used to perform on the Spirit of Boston, the boat where we used to have our office holiday party!

 

I don’t ever want to become desensitized to the plight of migrants. This is horrible. And for the Christians among us, this is a good reminder. (I freaking love Jim Martin.)

This map of Massachusetts stereotypes is pretty funny, and as a lifelong Masshole, I agree with it.

This headline made me do a double-take.

No one can accuse John Green (who’s actually been in Boston this weekend for NerdCon!) of refusing to answer hard questions.

 

 

I can’t believe I’d never heard about this.

Not funny.

The week in Trump: there’s this, from a Muslim White House staffer who quit. Gabby Giffords is braver than all the Republicans in Congress put together. And I agree with this– Trump voters are worthless and reaching out to them is a waste of time.

And while it was kind of nice to have unseasonably warm weather this week, I’m feeling this– I could use a little more snow before winter ends!

Links of the Week

Happy (I hope) long weekend to you!

Here’s another week’s worth of links for you.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is a jewel of a human being. I don’t know what I love more- the Galentine’s Day playlist he made or the fact that his Spotify username is his dog’s name plus a Les Mis reference.

Speaking of LMM, here are two original Hamilton cast members singing a cut song from Moana.

And for more on musical theater, I was already excited for Come From Away, an upcoming musical about the town in Newfoundland that welcomed all the people who were on the diverted planes on September 11th, and this gorgeous song has made me even more so.

In awful Trump administration news: this story about undocumented domestic abuse victims being targeted is horrible. And this one about migrants choosing to be arrested in Canada rather than staying in the US. And these horrifying photos of detention centers.

In resistance news: I see no value in maintaining relationships of any kind with Trump supporters, and although I’m past my roommate days, I’d be just like these people if I still had roommates. This is advice I need to remember. This guy has way more patience than me- I’d never be able to handle that kind of environment. Katherine Fritz provides Valentine’s Day cards to send to your senators.

I used to like the “Frog and Toad” books as a kid, but I never knew much about the author, Arnold Lobel.

Little racist comments add up.

On love for humans and love for dogs.

I hate it when people tell me I shouldn’t love the things I love. Someone agrees with me.

Now for some good news! Bill Gates has a lot of it- despite how things may look, in many ways, the state of the world is improving. Melinda Gates also wrote a letter about the importance of contraceptives in improving living conditions. This is a sweet story- I love hearing about nice things people do for others in private. And two awesome people eating together.

 

 

 

TV Shows I’ve Seen

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It’s been a long time since I wrote about what I’ve been watching, so I need to add the disclaimer, so that you don’t think I do nothing except lie on my couch watching TV, that these were all watched over a long period of time. Here we go:

Broadchurch

My thoughts on this would probably be a lot different if I hadn’t watched Gracepoint, the short-lived US show based on this British one, first. Gracepoint really didn’t change very much, except for adding a few plot twists to make it three episodes longer, so I knew every single thing that was going to happen. I only saw the first season, though, so maybe at some point I’ll watch the rest.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Love this show. When the new episodes came out, I watched them all in one night. Everyone is fantastic on it- Ellie Kemper, Tituss Burgess, Jane Krakowski, and freaking Jon Hamm (I laughed so hard when he showed up). I could never get into 30 Rock despite my love for Tina Fey, but I think this show takes her humor and makes it more…sweet? Optimistic? In any case, this is one of my new favorites.

Bloodline

I was so disappointed in this show, not because it’s awful but because I feel like it should have been so much better. It’s by the creators of Damages and is also full of flashbacks and flash-forwards,  so I was expecting more from the show and its end-of-season revelations than what we got. It’s got a fantastic cast- Kyle Chandler, Linda Cardellini, Sissy Spacek- but the best performance is by Ben Mendelssohn, whom I’d never heard of before I saw this. And the route they decide to go with his character is…disappointing, to say the least. I didn’t bother with Season 2.

Garfunkel and Oates

I’ve posted before about how much I love Garfunkel and Oates, so I’m sad that their show only lasted one season. It’s cute and funny, although the way they insert the music videos for their songs into the episodes can be a bit awkward.

Freaks and Geeks

This was as good as I’d heard. It’s sweet and funny, and although it takes place before I was even born, the characters feel like real people and are super-relatable. Also, the parents are awesome- as the Snark Ladies would say, they definitely score high on the Sandy Cohen Eyebrow Scale of Non-Negligent Parenting.

The Neighbors

Heh. This is on Hulu and is created by Tommy Wiseau of The Room fame, so…that should give you an indicator of its quality. And it’s mildly amusing at first- people fighting over a live chicken, a princess who is moving into an apartment building for some reason- but it gets old fast.

Fargo

I’ve seen both seasons of this show, and contrary to popular opinion, I liked the first one better. It’s rare for a show to take the tone and setting of a movie and recreate it so well with original characters. The acting is great as well- I was particularly impressed with Allison Tolman in Season 1.

Friday Night Lights

I liked this, although it’s not the favorite that it seems to be for so many other people. Eric and Tami Taylor are both awesome, as is their marriage. How did their daughter turn out so awful? I also don’t get what the big deal is about Tim Riggins- he’s fine, but he doesn’t do it for me. I prefer sweet Matt Saracen, although for the life of me I can’t figure out what he sees in Julie Taylor.

Making a Murderer

Everyone was talking about this a year ago. I remain unconvinced of Steven Avery’s innocence, although I think there was enough reasonable doubt that he shouldn’t have been convicted. And I definitely think Brendan Dassey’s conviction was based on a series of misunderstandings.

Master of None

I love Aziz Ansari- I was a big Parks and Recreation fan and I enjoy his standup- so I was really excited for this show. The first episode is actually the weakest one, but the second episode is the Emmy-winning “Parents,” co-starring Aziz’s real parents, which is excellent and way more indicative of the show’s overall quality. There are also some really poignant episodes about dating that really resonated with me. I wasn’t crazy about how the season ended, but I’ll definitely be watching when it comes back for Season 2.

The People vs. OJ Simpson

This was EXCELLENT. I’m kind of shocked at how good it was. The OJ Simpson trial was going on when I was 10-11, and while I remember it, I wasn’t following it closely. So there was a lot I didn’t know- i.e., I didn’t realize that Robert Kardashian was OJ’s close friend before the trial, or that there was someone else in the Ford Bronco during the chase. Or that his nickname was Juice (this cut of David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian saying “Juice” over and over is hilarious, especially since he’s usually saying it at a really serious moment). But the pacing is just right, the casting is excellent, and wow, Sarah Paulson made me feel terrible for Marcia Clark. I just wanted to tell her, “At least you’ll still be alive in ten years! Cochran and Kardashian won’t!”

Fuller House

I wasn’t expecting quality, just nostalgia, and that’s exactly what I got.

The Path

I started watching this because I love Aaron Paul. It’s about a family in a Scientology-like cult, and it’s a decent show that always seems like it’s on the verge of being great but hasn’t quite gotten there yet. Season 2 just started and so far I’m a bit underwhelmed, but I’m sticking around to see where this season goes.

Stranger Things

Another show I liked but didn’t love. I’m not usually a big sci-fi person, but this, with its 80s setting and kid protagonists, was fun. One of the kids is played by Gaten Materrazzo, whom I know from when he played Gavroche in Les Mis on Broadway.

Outlander

I haven’t read the books, but I’m liking the show so far, although there were definitely some episodes that didn’t hold my interest. Caitriona Balfe is fantastic, and I’m completely unspoiled as to the books, so I’m interested to see where this goes- there are so many possibilities when it comes to time-travel plots.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

I caught up with this before the most recent season started and it’s great- funny and sweet. It reminds me a bit of The Office without the mockumentary component in that it’s about a bunch of goofy coworkers who pull pranks on each other and has a cute romance between the two most normal characters. And Andre Braugher is hysterical as the chief.

No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

The safari in Botswana motivated me to try this, especially since our safari vehicle was called “No. 1 Ladies’ Safari.” This is based on the book series and ran for just one season on HBO. I think it was a good show on the wrong network- HBO is all sex, violence, and antiheroes, while this is just a sweet dramedy about two women running a detective agency in Botswana. I love the characters at the center of it, played by Jill Scott and Anika Noni Rose, and it’s really nice to see something that showcases Botswana, one of the most stable countries in Africa, in a positive light.

Catastrophe

I did not expect to enjoy this Amazon sitcom as much as I did. It’s a funny and kind of unexpectedly romantic show. The premise is that after a man and a woman have a fling while he’s in London from Boston on business, she gets pregnant, and he decides to move to London to be with her and try to make things work. But this isn’t Knocked Up– they’re adults with their lives together, and they genuinely enjoy each other’s company. And I enjoy them, too- the male lead is actually one of my favorite characters in any of the shows I’ve seen lately.

One Mississippi

This is one of those comedies-that’s-not-really-a-comedy that SNL made fun of recently. I mean, the premise has the main character returning to her hometown after her mother’s unexpected death and confronting her past, which included childhood sexual abuse. But while it’s not that funny, despite starring Tig Notaro, it is very well-done. I like that it doesn’t fall into too many cliches- it would have been really easy to go the culture-clash route, with the liberal lesbian in a small Southern town, but it stays away from that and keeps characters well-rounded.

Mr. Robot

The first episode got my attention right away, but by the end of the first season I’d lost interest. It may partly have been because I was spoiled, but I also ended up finding it kind of tedious- the whole “F Society” thing gets old fast. Rami Malek’s jawline, though.

The Crown

This is great- engaging and extremely well-acted. Claire Foy is fantastic, and I would never have cast John Lithgow as Winston Churchill myself,  but he knocks it out of the park. I found myself Googling things to see what happened (I’d never heard about Princess Margaret’s engagement that wasn’t, so that was sad to watch)

A Series of Unfortunate Events

This is based on a book series, which I have not read. There was also a movie that came out in 2003 that was based on the first three books, but they never made sequels. So I enjoyed seeing this, which is more detailed and apparently closer to the books. Neil Patrick Harris is great as Count Olaf- more sinister and less goofy than Jim Carrey was in the movie, and everyone else is well-cast. Including Patrick Warbutton- freaking Puddy from Seinfeld!- as Lemony Snicket.

The Good Place

Whoa. I don’t want to give too much away, so let’s just say that there is WAY more going on in this show than meets the eye. When it premiered, I was hesitant because I thought the premise- a woman who was a terrible person in life dies and is mistakenly sent to “the good place” in the afterlife- sounded kind of dumb. But it’s from the creators of Parks and Recreation, which I love, and stars Kristen Bell, whom I also love. So I gave it a chance, and it turned out to be anything but dumb. It’s actually really twisty and deep- but it is a sitcom, so it’s also very funny. Seriously, the first season just ended and it was only 13 episodes, so you have plenty of time to catch up on it before next season.