We Are Not Ironic Comeuppance

There are two comments that are rarely far off when self-proclaimed allies encounter anti-queer politicians.

“I bet he’s secretly queer.”

“I hope he ends up with a queer kid.”

Naïve, ironic, and insensitive in the trademark way of ignorant would-be allies, these comments rankle deeply. Much has been written about how the first of the two effectively assigns all responsibility for society-wide anti-queerness on queer people and absolves from same the straight people who invented and perpetrate it, so today’s topic is the other one.

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We Are Not Ironic Comeuppance
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Treize Khushrenada You Beautiful Asshole: Gundam Wing in the Age of Fascism

[CN for PTSD and associated traumas, attempted suicide. Abundant spoilers for an anime from 1995.]

Rewatching old favorites is always a fraught endeavor. Often, what one enjoyed in one’s youth is riddled with bigotry one didn’t yet have the tools or sensibilities to recognize, and rewatching replaces the nostalgic glow of the past with foul reality. This is what I braced for when rewatching Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, one of the shows that first introduced me to Japanese animation. Instead, I received a curiously philosophical examination of war, peace, extremism, and what all of these things can do to young people trapped in the middle.

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Treize Khushrenada You Beautiful Asshole: Gundam Wing in the Age of Fascism

They're Taking Your Money and Giving it to Your Boss's Boss

The marketing campaign that made everyone fear deficits was a brilliant one. Politicians have been using that fear to fake economic policies ever since then, to the detriment of everyone. One of the favorite comparisons out there regarding the budget of any country is the one to the household budget. Different candidates wax poetic about the importance of living within one’s means and how the same rules must apply to a country and so forth and so on.

The idea of living within one’s means is one that often gets trotted out to “teach” poor people not to be poor, under the mistaken belief that the poverty is the fault of the people living within it.

Like any person actually living in poverty will tell you, it’s not really about not spending money you don’t have, but making sure that such expenses pay dividends. No one lives within their means, except for the very poor. For everyone else, there are credit cards, mortgages, financing, and so forth. All of which are examples of spending more than you make.

It’s the very poor, who don’t qualify for those loans, people on disability, on welfare, homeless people, who live entirely within their means because they don’t have the privilege of not doing that. Where the problem arises is that “within their means” does not equate to “while having the basic necessities needed for survival”.

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They're Taking Your Money and Giving it to Your Boss's Boss

So Yesterday was National Coming Out Day

So it’s National Coming Out Day.

I’m not gay. I occasionally contemplate sexual encounters that, if I’m honest about them, pull me a little back from the far end of the Kinsey scale, but not far enough that I’m comfortable calling myself bisexual. Finding out that someone I’m attracted to is trans* would not change my attraction to them, so I suppose I could also call myself pansexual to a degree. That’s nothing compared to the statements so many of my friends have made today. Hopefully it’s small enough that the family members I have who have tried to encourage my gay relatives into reparative therapy think better of starting that fight with me.

But if it’s permissible here to extend the “coming out” concept to my own experiences, then I’ve spent a lot of my life coming out.

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So Yesterday was National Coming Out Day

Rude Sustenance

Every family’s path is a story.  One does not have to reach far into the generations to find that their history and the world’s are deeply intertwined.  We are all children of history.

And my ancestors are the Cold War.

My father’s Cuba was less than a century removed from the pivot point where it decided not to become part of the United States.  The freshly independent colony styled its flag after the American flag and built undreamed-of wealth through its rich, mountainous soil and glorious climate.  It did so with a permissive business environment that let a whole new upper class grow itself out of the island’s natural resources while subjecting yet larger numbers of people to the kind of privation that only laissez-faire, libertarian economics can create.  My father’s family ascended through the social ranks in this developing society, as they tell it, through business acumen, quintessentially Cuban inventiveness, and a sprinkling of luck, beginning a story that could not have been more American if José Martí had failed to convince Cubans of their island’s distinctiveness.

My father was born in 1957, 59 years after Cuba’s independence from Spain was realized and with Fidel Castro’s revolutionary warpath through the island already beginning.  By the time he escaped the island eleven years later, the Gonzalez family’s holdings had been expropriated, Cuba was a Soviet satellite, and my grandfather had already been imprisoned for taking out that insult on the Communists during the 1961 American attack.

Dad got his American start as a child refugee fleeing a Communist government that stole everything his family had built.  He spoke no English, was accompanied only by his ailing mother, and would not see his father again until years later, in a story I do not yet fully understand.  He landed in New Jersey, long one of the United States’s receiving grounds for those who could no longer live in their original homelands and one of the country’s most vibrantly multicultural regions.

I will never fault him for the irrepressible, fiery drive that propelled him through school, taught him English, kept him working multiple jobs to help support his sick family, and got him into college-preparatory programs without a great deal of the aid that a modern student in similar straits would have received.  I will never fault him for the well-honed social intuition and work ethic that helped him rise, against his own desires, through the ranks of grocery-store management when his mother’s medical needs prevented him from continuing with school.  I will never fault him for the financial genius that got him into flipping houses in the 1970s and 1980s.  I will never fault him for the sheer willpower that kept him working full-time and renovating houses for sale the rest of the time, while Mom was doing the same, for over 15 years.  I will never fault him for the accumulated, experiential wisdom that enabled him to sell most of his investment properties and enter a loan-sharking semi-retirement at age 50 while putting three kids through university with no student loan debt.

I would not be an American if I did any less than beam with pride at my parent’s story.  It’s something that Horatio Alger might have written—the classic American tale of starting with nothing and ending with everything.

But it’s also the kind of story that affects how people see the world.  Poverty and struggle shape one’s mind and leave scars that no lifetime of riches to follow can ever dispel.

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Rude Sustenance

In Praise of Optimus Primal

I like cartoons.

I’ve spent more time than I care to admit watching shows like ReBoot, Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, Justice League, Gundam Wing, and Yu Yu Hakusho.  Epic battles, powerful attacks, cunning strategy—it all thrills me to no end.  I derive great joy from absurdist yet political comedies like Rocko’s Modern Life and light, cheerful fare like Toradora!, but there’s a special place in my heart for shows about heroic struggle, deadly peril, and defeating enemies in violent and explosive ways.

But I have a problem with a lot of those very same shows (animated and otherwise), a problem that’s separate (but intertwined with) their often rampant sexism and erasure of just about every minority.

They’re not shows about heroes winning.  They’re shows about villains losing.

Think about it.

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In Praise of Optimus Primal