What I Meant to Say

Wendy Babiak's Visions and Revisions

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The Problem With Single-Motive Thinking And The Zero-Sum Game

So unless you live under a complete media-free rock (in which case I don’t think you’ll be reading this), you’ve heard about the killings in Isla Vista last weekend, and probably also about the media shit-storm(s) that followed. Because that’s what media does…it feeds the violence-for-display beast, and then gasps loud and long about what might have caused each instance of violence-for-display, pitting single-motive thinkers against each other in click-producing battles that fill the media moguls’ coffers but do little to bring the general public to a greater understanding of the cultural forces that are making life in America (and around the world) feel more and more like the world intimated by one of my favorite bumper stickers: “Where are we going, and what are we doing in this hand-basket?”

So you’ve got gun-rights activists fearing that this is some kind of false flag to justify someone coming for their guns, mental-health-care advocates imagining that this is simply a case of failed psychiatry, gun-rights opponents imagining that if they just got rid of the guns everything would be okay, and feminists pointing out the deep misogyny displayed in the killer’s manifesto and YouTube videos, some insisting that to talk about mental health is a mistake. While the truth is, as always, complex and involuted and known probably only by God and the young man who killed himself after taking out the innocent victims of his twisted thinking. (And there’s an aspect that too few are discussing, which is the overculture’s obsession with sex, as if it’s some magic key to happiness. I’m quite sex positive, but y’all, it’s not all that. When you’re done basking in the afterglow, the laundry still needs doing.)

For the past few days I’ve spent a fair bit of time (which sometimes felt like an important investment, and sometimes like a waste I had to ask forgiveness for during my evening prayers) on Twitter, reading and participating in the #YesAllWomen and #YesALLWhiteWomen hashtags. And several things are pretty clear to me. There are a fair number of men who get their panties in a bunch at any implication that women have it pretty hard at the hands of men, who seem unable to grok that when we try to bring attention to rape culture (which, yes, is a thing that affects all women, whether they’ve actually been raped or not, because violence exists on a spectrum and being subject to it triggers fear, and the possibility of the extreme end of it exists even at the lesser end) we are not trying to say that all men are rapists, but that a minority of repeat offenders make it miserable for all women to one degree or another. And guess what? Rape culture makes things miserable for many men and boys, too. If you need to hear such a thing from a man to believe it, watch this excellent TED Talk about how violence IS a men’s issue. This guy’s really smart, and gets intersectionality, something I’ll talk about later.


Also, that some women are just as unable as too many men to grasp the point of the hashtag, and feel the need to pipe up with “this is sexist, I’m not a feminist because I don’t hate men” (ladies, your misogynistic conditioning is showing). And at least as frustrating as the women who won’t consider themselves feminists because they’ve bought into the backlash idea that feminism=man-hating (guess what? I’m a feminist and I love my husband, and more than that, my husband is a feminist, too, and only a fool would accuse him of having a vag…he’s got a power rack in the basement that he uses on a regular basis), are the white women who refuse to examine and check their own privilege and insist that women of color bringing up the fact that, for example, Native American women are three times as likely as white women to be raped, are trying to derail rather than deepen the conversation. Thus was born the #YesALLWhiteWomen hashtag, and if you’re a white feminist, you really ought to be quiet and scroll through it, practice some empathy (just like we’re asking of men at the other) and try to understand someone else’s experience and how things you do or say may be contributing to someone else’s suffering. To admit that there’s a Venn Diagram of oppression and that some people exist in the intersections doesn’t diminish the fact of your own suffering, and when we can do this and do our best not to be oppressors, it gets better for everyone.


Just as the Marxist who comes in and bashes an indigenous woman for being a capitalist overlord because she likes vintage Chanel ads because it’s all about CLASS and not gender or race, white women who can’t share the spotlight with women of color suffer from simplistic, zero-sum thinking. There is enough attention to have all the conversations that need to happen, and when we go ahead and let them happen, without defensiveness, without fear that in the attention economy we’re going to get the short end of the stick, we might actually end up discovering that, <gasp> we are all human beings, that we all suffer in one way or another, and that when we humble ourselves enough to admit that we sometimes contribute to the suffering of others, we can start to change our ways and do what Christ calls us to do. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, y’all. We just need to participate in it, by loving each other. The zero-sum game is a construct, not reality. There’s enough food, enough attention, enough love to go around, especially since all three are things that we can cultivate. One key value that indigenous cultures on this continent share and the settler culture suffers from the lack of is the value of cooperation. When we cooperate instead of compete, we can actually increase the available resources. Empathy can also be cultivated (reading other people’s stories helps), and if we had more of that, events like the recent killings would become a thing of the past. We might find ourselves living in a world that seems more like Heaven than the Hell we’re speeding toward in this whacked basket. Let’s make it so.

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Open Letter to President Obama

Mr President:

I write not because I think you will listen, but because I can’t live with myself if I don’t give voice to my objection to your position on using force in Syria. I am sickened that we find ourselves, as Americans, in this position again, watching our government try to make a case for military action in a country that is not threatening us.

I’m not going to detail here how our foreign policy for decades has benefited an economic elite and caused the very unrest our military actions are allegedly intended to quell. Such knowledge is out there for anyone to discover, who cares to look.

I am going to appeal to your humanity, because, despite your actions that illustrate the contrary, I feel you must still have some, somewhere. You seem to love your wife and daughters, at least. So remember, when you order another batch of bombs or drone strikes, that many of the men you’re striking at have wives and children, too. Like the children you killed at that birthday party in Pakistan.

I have sometimes wondered if you’re not a hostage in that big house, unable to do anything but the bidding of the warlords who run this country, the industry heads who profit from our endless wars, the munitions manufacturers and dealers and Big Oil representatives. That if you don’t do what you’re told, you’ll end up like Kennedy. It must suck not to be a free man, whatever the perks.

But then I think that maybe you do have a choice, but have simply been blinded by the glitter of Washington, by having your ego stroked, by having so much smoke blown up your rear end. The leader of the free world, and all that. Pffft.

Let me tell you, Barack Hussein: your soul is in peril. Wake up. No one knows when we go to meet our maker. I suggest you put your own house in order. Do not keep murdering innocent people. There is nothing you can say from that Oval Office that will convince me that what the people of Syria need is more violence.

I’ll pray for you at the table tonight, that you see the light. That you might strive to deserve the prize the Nobel committee awarded you.

very best wishes for a more peaceful tomorrow,

Wendy Babiak

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A Gift To The World: A Moon-The-NSA Emoticon

This is the problem I have with the NSA invasion of privacy.

Soon I’ll be making a more involved post, giving the world a new poetic form I’ve been experimenting with for the past several years, a hybrid of the crown of sonnets and the sestina which I’ve dubbed Poetic Resonance Imaging. But for now, a minor gift: an emoticon for mooning the NSA. Here you go:


In case it’s not clear, that’s a lowercase “l” and a 3. And you can tell them I said so. Voyeuristic death-eating earth-haters.

PS — Feel free to elaborate on the basic frame here, and post it in the comments.


Open Letter to Lt. John Pike

I was going to send the following to Lt. Pike privately, but I’m informed that his email box has been shut down, flooded with messages, no doubt, from other outraged citizens, after this photograph, along with his personal information, circulated on the internet. Since I can’t send it, I’ll post it below the photo.

Does this guy look like he's being threatened? Click on the photo to sign the petition to have the Chancellor resign.

Re: Your recent violence

Lt. Pike:
I’m writing to express my disgust at your recent violence toward peaceful protesters. I’m sure you’re aware that it’s now public knowledge, thanks to a photograph circulating on the internet of you walking along a row of seated, peaceful  young people, pepper spraying them directly in the face at close range. This violates your guidelines, not to mention human decency.
My father spent his life in law enforcement, ultimately running the police academy in Daytona Beach. He stressed to his cadets the importance of following procedures to ensure that justice was done. What you did was not just, and undermines the valid efforts of law enforcement everywhere. You should turn in your gun and badge and submit to psychiatric care, because you are clearly a sadist who is not deserving of the public trust.
I’m sure your superior officers will be hearing from plenty of citizens, as well, but you might save them the trouble of firing you and go ahead and resign. You are not suited to wear the uniform.
Wendy Babiak
ADDENDUM: In addition to signing the petition to ask that the Chancellor resign (which  you can access by clicking on the photo above), you might want to go here and sign the petition asking President Obama to call off the dogs.

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Open Letter to the US Government

Greetings from Ithaca! Lovely weather we’re having in this American Autumn. Well, right here, right now, at least. Around the world of late, not so much. I’ll address that later.

First: Please don’t crush me. I know you could. You’re really, really huge, and really powerful, and apparently completely without scruples, and I’m just a housewife and a scribbler who’s barely published. You could probably frame my husband for it and make my two kids have to go live with their grandparents and make everyone involved really sad. So please don’t do that. Because I’m just a messenger, and to kill the messenger is, as you’ve probably heard, very bad form.

So, about that weather. It’s bad, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better, even if we get on the clean-energy train right now. You would know and freely admit this if you weren’t beholden to the money coming to you from the fossil fuel industry. Please get your head out of whatever dark, rank hole you’re hiding it in. We (meaning the whole world!) need you to do this, because the longer you wait the harder it’s going to be to correct the problem. Already this summer crops have been poor in more places than not. Rain isn’t coming when it needs to, and comes in buckets when it shouldn’t. And people are hungry. Have you ever been hungry? Have you ever had to send your kids to bed hungry? On top of the weather influencing the price and availability of food, we’ve got speculators creating price hikes. Do you think that’s okay? I’m thinking it’s not, and it seems like you could do something about that. In fact, it sort of seems like that’s your job, as part of a social structure that makes the pursuit of happiness possible.

Another thing: all those people in the street, the folks some want to call a mob? You can’t ignore them, and you can’t vilify them, no matter how the corporate media tries. It’s not sticking, and that’s because more and more the crowds are a cross-section of our society, including, even, some of the 1% with integrity who want no part in your plutocratic cruelty. People are waking up to the inherent unfairness of our system, and they’re hurting badly enough to risk police violence and looking foolish. Unless you wanna go all Tiananmen Square on us (you don’t really wanna go all Tiananmen Square on us, do you?), this isn’t going to stop. So, please inform the various police departments involved that they’d better start serving and protecting the citizenry, and not the corporations who have been giving them money. Our taxpayer dollars are the only source of income any of them should have. And those who have been guilty of violence in an attempt to incite the peaceful citizens to riot must be prosecuted and relieved of duty.

Finally, enough with the corporatism. It has reached its toxic tentacles into every aspect of your operations. It must be rooted out for the good of all. Whether it’s our broken for-profit health-care system (which would be better labeled a disease-management system), our broken monopolistic faux-food industry, the for-profit prison industry and attendant wars on drugs and immigration and dark-skinned people, or our broken banking system, godawful injustice abounds. Do you really want to keep this going? Every single one of you inherited this system. None of you are to blame. But you are all complicit as long as you perpetuate it, as long as you turn a blind eye to the consequences of your disastrous decisions. And the kingpin of this beast of a machine is the military-industrial complex, led by the fossil fuel industry. Enough. Human persons must become again the beneficiary of your power, not corporations and their soul-dead leaders.

Anyway, I do hope you consider what I’m saying here. We’re at a tipping point and a turning point. This could be something beautiful, democracy in action. Or it could be the beginning of an even darker age. It’s pretty much up to you.

Wendy Babiak

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The Pathology of Greed and Power

That’s the title of a book that needs to be written. Any psychologists out there looking for a non-fiction project? Because dang.

So I’m reading a book of non-fiction (I usually have one or two going, as well as a book or two of poems and a novel). It’s called A Mind Apart: Travels in a Neurodiverse World, by Suzanne Antonetta, and it’s a resonant meditation on mental illness reflected through her experiences as a manic-depressive. And reading it, and reflecting on my own experiences with depression and the stories I hear from my psychiatrist husband, I come to the conclusion that like so many arbitrary binaries (like male/female, for example, or the left/right political spectrum) the binary of neurotypical/neuroatypical is a false one, and that what we really have is a spectrum. And I think it’s foolish to imagine that ANYONE short of a Buddha sports a spotless mental health.

Given that, I think it makes sense to ensure that society maintains checks and balances against any individual exercising too much power. The wreckage that is the global economy manifests what happens when greed is elevated to a virtue and allowed full reign. Surely excessive greed is a pathology that ought to be studied and prevented from doing harm. And same goes for power. Is there any doubt in your mind, dear reader, that Ghadafi is a lunatic? His fashion choices alone show that. Never mind the dead.

Speaking of the dead, and the real impetus behind this blog post, I heard this morning on Democracy Now! that President Obama has succeeded in having assassinated an American citizen, the Muslim cleric Anwar Al Awlaki, without due process. That’s whacked. Literally! I think it’s safe to say that’s way worse than wire-tapping. Or water-boarding. That’s dead.

And no man should have that kind of power. I’m not saying Pres. Obama is a lunatic, but you can’t convince me that anyone, as I said, is completely sane. And you’d have to be kind of crazy to WANT to run this mess of a country. So what do we do?

I don’t know. I’ll leave that to the lawyers, just as I’ll leave writing a book with the above title to an academic (and I sincerely hope both lawyers and academics do the job well!). But I think for the rest of us, hitting the streets in a massive protest is starting to sound like a pretty sane thing to do.