From American to Luxembourger: How I Changed My Citizenship

There was another school shooting yesterday. Kids died. And it happened, on a big-picture scale, because America is one giant gun culture. Weapons fetishists. As a nation, we’re obsessed with the notion of masculinity, strength, and superiority. Guns are just one way that the obsession manifests itself.

I’m really starting to hate this country. My country. The great global eighteenth century experiment that went wrong in the end. Our Founding Fathers meant well, but they put too much faith in “the people”, that we could make rational, thoughtful decisions. We can’t. Or we won’t. They also failed to envision innovation of any sort. I suppose they entrusted that future stewards would attend to growth and change, but they didn’t.

They had at least a marginal amount of faith that we could choose leaders that would actually protect the general welfare. Even with an electoral college as a backstop, we still managed to fuck that up, from our President to our Congress to our state Governors. As a nation we’re sick, our children are hungry, our wages are low, and we have fat pigs dining at gilded tables piled with kickbacks and dividends.

Maybe worst of all though, we have turned our back on science and truth. Instead building a golden age of research, art, and general enlightenment, we now have a national credo that “learning isn’t for everyone” and that education is only political indoctrination. Science is a myth, history is subjective, and patriotism is all you need.

Oh yes, patriotism. The bread and butter of the military industrial complex that has ballooned despite Eisenhower’s Kreskin-esque warning. We have a fetish for our military personnel. “Thank you for your service” is nearly a compulsory phrase, like saying “bless you” when someone sneezes, or “U-S-A!” whenever a politician speaks. Call me crazy, but I’d rather just pay more taxes and make sure they are cared for with good pay, health care, and help wherever it is needed.

It’s all fixable of course. But the laundry piled is high, and as Americans, we don’t want to fix it. We like it just how it is. In fact, we want it more, faster, bigger!

That used to terrify me. So I would rant and rail. I wrote letters and made phone calls and voted in every damn election. I contributed to worthy political campaigns and volunteered in my community. That was my twenties. Those optimistic, kickass years where a body thinks that anything can be changed and moved with a little grit, spit, and the right attitude.

And then I had a “eureka” moment some years back. I was spinning my wheels to make change where none was wanted. Why? Women of my generation have preached to their daughters and sisters that you “can’t change a man”. Well, I can’t change a nation that loves its gun culture and its anti-intellectual “every man” attitude, is frightened of every shadow, and has a feverish love of everything red, white, blue, and bible.

I am the outsider who thinks more guns equal more shootings, that it’s okay for us not to be the greatest nation in the world as long as we’re honest about it, and that we really need more space exploration, art, and education. Our churches should be gardens and our schools should be palaces. And our core philosophy as the nation with the biggest megaphone and pile of phonebooks under our feet should be “help each other”.

I am a stranger in a strange land.

When you accept that premise, your whole world becomes a little darker and pretty damn sad. There is no true utopia on earth. I get that. There is no place to hide where everyone holds hands and skips, and passes out lollipops and gumdrops. There is no chocolate waterfall or talking woodland animal to be my sidekick.

But there has to be better. Or at least less damn scary and backward. My bar isn’t that high. I swear.

Poutine Versus Trains and Cheese

There is a very poetically sad element to my thinking and wishing for better for myself, for my husband, for our daughter, and for all of the generations after her. This plucky despondency combined with grandiose hope cannot be far from how my ancestors felt when they packed up and moved to the United States–many of them barely over one hundred years ago. The sacrifices and risks they took to settle in the United States must have been unimaginable. They defied tradition and familiarity, tearing at their own roots just to replant themselves in America.

I hope they had good lives and loved their new country. But a few generations later, I wish they had stayed where they were. I want to travel back to 1917 and grab on to my great grandfather’s overcoat and dig my heels into the earth to stop him from crossing the border from Ontario to Michigan. Or at least tear the pen from his hands while he was filling out his “Permit to Leave Canada”. No! It may be cold and strange up there, but they have healthcare and gun laws. And a competent (and adorable) Prime Minister. I could eat poutine the rest of my life (until my arteries clogged solidly), and salute the maple leaf every Canada Day.

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But my grandfather was born in America. And that puts Canadian citizenship out of my reach.

That’s okay, Canada. I appreciate that Americans are a little scary, and you don’t want a mass invasion. And no offense, but your winters are just as awful as Michigan’s, and I just can’t spend  40% of the rest of my life in cold, snowy darkness. So dark. So bleak.

So where is a stranger to go? For a long time, the real prize, the dream escape, has been somewhere in western Europe. The culture, the pace, the food, the politics, the mass transit. It all suits me so well. It’s no utopia, but it feels like home calling to me, especially while I sit on my couch staring out at the gray sky sprinkling snow on the roadways and treetops. I dream of sipping coffee or wine in cafes, walking a few blocks to get fresh baguettes and vegetables from local stands, and popping into museums on the weekend. Or I could take an easy train ride to a new country I’ve never seen before. I can ride the underground to work or a shopping destination, without fighting traffic, bumping around on massive potholes, and going to a warehouse grocery store to get vegetables that have been in transit and storage for at least several weeks. No more flat tires, oil changes, ludicrously high insurance, or even the monthly lease payments. It’s all train tracks, a good book, and my glowing phone. And castles, cheese, and museums. And fresh flowers, warmth, and bicycling. It’s such a pretty picture in my head. So pretty, that early on, I became determined to make that the retirement plan. Sell off everything I own–which isn’t a fortune–and rent a flat in Paris.

But I’m still in my thirties, and that means I have a lot of slushy winters to survive before then. A lot of school shooting coverage to watch. A lot of misspelled “God Bles Trump” and “Vetrans For Trump” road signs to drive past, while I bump over potholes and squirt my windshield free of road salt spittle.

So I crafted a new, more aggressive plan: Get a job! Of course. We can make the move right now, if only there is a wage waiting for us. And a work visa. That’s the catch, though. An employer has to want you so badly that they’ll sponsor a very expensive visa in your name. I could keep rolling the dice all day long, every day, and the right job is probably never going to pop up to pluck us all out of Michigan. My husband and I are great at our professional jobs, but so are a lot of other people. And visas are expensive.

The futility of it seemed bleak. Watching-hillbilly-asscracks-at-Wal-Mart kind of bleak.

And then, one Sunday a few years back, chance changed this stranger’s life.


Get to Know Andrew Jackson

“His wife died. They destroyed his wife and she died. He was a swashbuckler, but when his wife died you know he visited her grave everyday? I visited her grave actually because I was in Tennessee…And it was amazing. The people of Tennessee are amazing people. They love Andrew Jackson. They love Andrew Jackson in Tennessee…I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said ‘There’s no reason for this.'”

Donald Trump really idolizes Andrew Jackson. His portrait hangs in the Oval Office, and the POTUS has verbal diarrhea, apparently, just at the mention of our seventh president. So maybe we should get to know him and understand what Donald Trump really sees in the “people’s president”.

Solider Boy

Jackson grew up dirt-poor and poorly educated in the Carolinas, and was a tween during the American Revolution. Inspired by his older brother’s grizzly death, his mother made him join the local militia at the age of 13. He was almost immediately captured, and was held as a prisoner of war. Though his military incarceration was quite brief, he nearly died of small pox. Shortly afterward, he lost his remaining brother and mother to disease, for which he always blamed the British. This Anglo grudge led him to a life of military service and a deep, festering sense of vengeance.

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Donald Trump Comparison!:
A young, wealthy, athletic Trump graduated college and avoided compulsory military service in the Vietnam War because of a dubious diagnosis of having “bone spurs”. Consequently, he has never served in the military. And he once had this to say: “I like people who weren’t captured.”

Lawyer, Slave Owner, Cotton Mogul, and Stain on the Soul of Humanity

As an orphan, Jackson was still really poorly educated until he fled his hometown to study law informally in modern-day Tennessee. And it turns out Tennessee, as-was, had a boatload of hookers and gambling opportunities. So that was great for him.

He passed the bar and had friends pull a few strings to get him a gig as a government prosecutor. At age 21 he bought his first slave, which was probably his way of feeling really awesome about himself. By age 39 he was even wealthy enough to buy his own cotton plantation, the Hermitage, with nine slaves working the fields. Of course, this number went up quite a bit under Jackson’s management. Eventually, hundreds of slaves would be incarcerated at the Hermitage. Some historians think he was a relatively “kind” slave owner because he “let” the slaves bear babies and only whipped them when they really deserved it. But hell naw, the man ran a cotton plantation his entire life.

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Ronald Reagan Was Awful: A Comic

Over 35 years ago, the young Republican up-and-comers in Washington were called up to serve the new president, Ronald Reagan. Saint Reagan reached down from his “shining hill on the city”, pulled them up from the pits of Carter hell, anointed them, and in turn they pledged their undying fealty. “Forever, Master Reagan.”

Today these same people men are in their 50s and 60s, with a lot more visible nose hair and bad comb-overs, and are now the “swamp things” who  squawk on talk radio, write political speeches, and blather on 24-hour news channels. And it is these vassals whom we can thank for our country’s strange and undue esteem for Saint Reagan as the epitome of successful presidents and brilliant political thinkers. He wasn’t.

You know what? I’ll just let President Reagan explain it himself. I’ve pulled the old resurrect-a-tron out of the closet, dusted it off, and prepared it to bring Reagan back just for this explanation. I just needed to load it with some gold cufflinks, Chesterfield cigarettes, an American flag, and some cowboy boots, and it was fired up and ready to go.

So, President Reagan, what do you have to say to your disciples?

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That’s It! I’m Starting a New Political Party: The Women’s Party of America

I am traditionally an American Democrat. I voted for Barack Obama. I voted for Al Gore. I even voted for John Kerry. Sigh. And yes, I voted for Hillary Clinton. But after this last election, I am disgusted by the Democratic party here in the United States. Shy of pure acrimony only for Wasserman-Schultz and the DNC, I actually have a major beef with Democratic voters.

I’m looking at you, tree huggers. Liberals. College students. Bernie Bros. Various racial and religious groups. Union workers. Parents. You all blew it. You didn’t show up to vote. Or you cast a “protest vote” for someone other than Hillary. Your Jill Stein vote or attempt to thumb your nose at “the system” by writing in Bernie’s name just meant that you successfully disconnected yourself from reality and responsibility. Good job. You and your principles left the rest of us holding the bag and a cold reality where we only had two choices this election. And you couldn’t pick one. Not even to save the Supreme Court. Not even to save your health care or the planet. Not to save your drinking water or prevent military escalation. Not to save Big Bird or Meals on Wheels. You and your principles took a vacation from reality and now we are all paying the price. Now we have the racist pussy-grabbing lunatic calling the shots and charting the course for all of our futures. Screw you guys.

The media and Democratic leadership sits around and tries to explain away the horrible loss by saying that us Democrats didn’t speak to “average Americans”. Screw you guys again. That isn’t what happened. We have always fought for the “average Americans”, to feed them, to make sure they have health care, to protect their drinking water, to make sure their kids get an education. To make sure they’re safe at work and they can retire comfortably after a long, hard career.

But the other party put out a loud message of FEAR. If you hurt, if you don’t have as much money as you want, if you don’t feel as safe as you want to, then there’s someone to blame–usually a brown someone and/or a Democratic someone. A lot of old, white Americans who are afraid of losing their identity and their privilege (the privilege they swear they don’t have in the first place) gobbled it up. Yes, someone to blame! And someone to stop the machine and turn back the clock. Screw hope! Why build when this demagogue is calling for destruction!

And what did we do in the face of this populism and fire and chaos? We brought a very moderate, plain platform to America through an extremely (intelligent and qualified) uncharismatic candidate who had been handing us the same message for the last 25 years or so. We showed up to a knife fight with a wet noodle.

Now, of course, our precious naive youth are trying (TOO LATE) to affect some sort of radical change of their own. Shame they didn’t show up six months ago, eh? I watch these well-meaning activists march and shake their poster boards, some of them sobbing with righteousness and desperation.  Most of them in silly costumes. And…I have no fucking idea what they’re fighting for. They’re still swinging wet noodles around, chanting mixed messages, and bringing forward no leaders.

Step One: Protest
Step Two: ??
Step Three: Bitch on Facebook
Step Four: Protest vote on election day

I’m done, Democrats. I’m out.

I’m forming my own party. The Women’s Party of America.

Everyone is welcome everywhere on the gender spectrum, but we’re going to do things the WOMAN way from now on. After all, we’re 51% of the population. Why the hell aren’t we in charge? We’re mothers, managers, executives, and laborers. We do it for less and we have to fight harder to do it.

Here is the platform:

Objective #1: Health Care

Health care for all. We demand a single-payer system that guarantees medical coverage to every single US citizen. This will be paid for through higher taxes (a little scary word for a chunk of money you were already paying as “premiums”–we’re just giving it a new label).  We are going to take care of everybody–including women’s services for reproductive care and cancer screenings.

Objective #2: Mental Health Care

People with mental health concerns aren’t going to slip through the cracks anymore. We, as a society, are going to pay for their treatment and their medicines, including state-of-the-art facilities, and better access to therapies and medications. This will reduce illegal drug consumption, crime, domestic violence, and even domestic terrorism. Mental health is paramount for a safe, healthy, civilized society. And right now, we have nothing. No priority. No help. This will change with women in charge.

Objective #3: Daycare Discounts and Maternity Leave

Children matter to all of us. Even if you aren’t a parent or a grandparent, children matter. You don’t want them growing up to be unemployable, ignorant, or psychotic. So let’s make sure they’re fed and taken care of. Part of doing this means significant subsidies for daycare, and encouraging more employers to set up in-house day care facilities.

And then there’s maternity leave. We demand 16 weeks of paid maternity leave required by law for all full-time employers. We also demand the same amount as unpaid leave, with job security, for part-time employees.

Objective #4: Education

We are going to put a significant emphasis on improving our schools to be globally competitive, through both increasing spending, and improving efficiency for every dollar spent on pupils. Because a college degree is now required to get most jobs that pay a living wage, public universities will now be tuition-free.

Objective #5: Infrastructure

In an effort to become more environmentally responsible and reduce our oil dependency, we will aggressively pursue mass transit systems throughout the United States where they do not already exist. This will support better access to employment, health care, child care, education, and culture.

Objective #6: Investment in Innovation

The only significant tax cuts that businesses will receive (aside from in-house daycare credits) will be related to research and innovation fields. We recognize that we cannot compete globally for manufacturing jobs in a sustainable way, so we will push for the best thinkers, innovators, and research jobs and projects to come to the United States. We will invest in training programs specifically designed to retrain workers without requiring a four-year college degree. In doing so we do not try to cling to the past of dangerous polluting industries and energies, but instead embrace the future and lead the way for the rest of the world.

It is Time.

These are our priorities. Not building up an even bigger military. Good news, we’re ladies. We have nothing to prove about penis size. And we are not interested in cutting help and protection for Americans. Us women, we are nurturers, innovators, thinkers, and fighters. We refuse to play by the penis rulebook anymore. Women unite!

Welcome to the Women’s Party of America!

Tax Squirrel Explains: The Difference Between a Tax CREDIT and a DEDUCTION

It has come to my attention lately that most taxpayers don’t really understand the difference between a tax credit and a tax deduction. That’s perfectly okay; it’s confusing…and boring. I mean, not to me. But I think taxes are fun, so I’m clearly insane.

But you need to learn this because IT MATTERS. There are some politicians out there, including President Trump, who want to sell you on the merits of various deductions or credits. But a lot of the time, you’re secretly being screwed with your pants on!

Don’t get screwed with your pants on. Learn the difference. And then be the person who makes an educated choice at the polls, and shows off at dinner parties.

To help with this teaching moment, and because this is such a boring topic (I guess), I’m going to bring in the furriest little tax professor ever, my good friend, Tax Squirrel and his little squirrel friends.



The West Wing Gives Me All the Toby Feels

There are many occasions when this GIF has been so appropriate, not the least of which was the finale of the 2016 presidential election. But even for your every day moments when you just need to remember that someone out there gets it, here’s Toby Ziegler sending you all his West Wing love from his cold, cold heart.