My Letter to the Electoral College

I wrote to the electoral college, as many have done this week, without any expectations. I know the outcome of the election won’t change. But raising our voices is not about invalidating the election — it’s about reminding the world and our fellow Americans that not everyone has given up. I’m not going to sit back, secure in my white privilege, to “wait and see” if Trump is really “all that bad”. I’m not going to throw anyone else under the bus in hopes that I get one or two things out of this Presidency that I wanted.

I can be polite. I can be diplomatic. I will not be silent.

My letter is pasted below.

Dear Elector,

I understand that you hold an honorable position as a member of the electoral college, and are in a state which allows you to vote, if necessary, against your individual state’s Presidential choice in order to secure the right President for our nation. I am writing today to ask you to do just that.

I have voted in 24 years worth of elections. Sometimes, the candidate I thought best won, and sometimes, they didn’t. Sometimes, I’ve been thrilled with the election results, and other times, I’ve been surprised at my countrymen’s choices. Never before, though, have I felt the need contact members of the electoral college and ask them to reconsider their votes.

Donald Trump as an individual, and the collected entourage and appointees that come with him, are a direct and immediate threat to our American way of life. Already, only a week after the elections, where Hillary Clinton has overwhelmingly won the popular vote, Mr. Trump has acted against the interests of the people by refusing to divest himself of his companies before making political appointments and decisions. He has acted against our citizens by putting his bank account ahead of the Presidency, both in vocally supporting business in which he has a stake, and in the very presence of his children in transition meetings, since they are going to be running the Trump empire. Mr. Trump’s appointees are grossly racist, including Steve Bannon, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and Jeff Sessions. They are grossly homophobic, including Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Ken Blackwell. These men have long histories of advocating hate and fear, and are actively working to rescind the civil rights we have only recently made significant progress in applying to all people, equally. Given legitimacy by the election, Mr. Trump has already promised to do much more, and much worse.

Add to that the clear and admitted interference in our election by Russian agents, and Mr. Trump’s clear and admitted ties to Russia (a foreign government)… These are just the things we know about, can prove, and are admitted to by Mr. Trump and his team. This doesn’t include the vast number of things merely threatened by Mr. Trump and his team which may not be acted on for another 6 months or so, once it’s too late to stop him.

I don’t expect enough of you to change your vote that Mrs. Clinton would be elected President instead. It is my hope that enough of you stand up, now, in the face of overwhelming proof of the danger Mr. Trump would bring to our country, and say “no”. Even a few, even as a protest, your dissent would show that we will not give blanket acceptance to Mr. Trump’s regime. We will not normalize hate. We will not allow a con man to prey on our fears for his own profit.

Alexander Hamilton said that you and the other members of the electoral college are “most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.” I believe that, too. I appreciate and respect the role you serve in our electoral process. I am only asking for you to do exactly what your position was designed to do — defend our country against a demagogue who would make himself a tyrant and a king.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Carrie Cuinn

Current novel in progress: Caudal Ballad

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shark-tail

Caudal Fin

I’ve settled on the novel project that most needs me right now, or at the least the one which won’t let me go. It’s Caudal Ballad, a title that might change later, but works for me at the moment.

I described the elevator pitch for it as “Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, if it was about ghosts and women, and was written by the Illuminati,” on Twitter and Facebook, and got several responses of, basically, “Take my money!” so I’m feeling pretty good about that.

Of course, an elevator pitch doesn’t tell much more than how marketing might sell it, so here’s the expanded version:

It’s the story of several people who find themselves in the same small NY college town when weird and bad things happen.

The story is told mostly chronologically, but not quite.

Interspersed with the tale are quotes and information about printing and typesetting in early America. These bits are relevant to the story. Eventually.

It’s about ghosts.

It’s about physics.

It’s about the astronomical theory of the multiverse.

It’s about what it’s like to be a woman trying to survive alone, at the margins of society, with no family or money or support.

It’s about the way we move through the world when we’re suffering from mental illness, or an excess of dead people, or both.

It’s about the relationship between townies who are stuck in place, and well-funded grad students who are in town to attend an Ivy, and aren’t limited by anything at all.

Some of the extra bits between chapters are architectural drawings, notes from town meetings a hundred years ago, or scribbles on the backs of postcards. Those bits are mostly relevant, too.

It’s about the invisible city on the other side of your town that, if you can get to, you’ll never come back from.

It’s about memories and self-destructive behavior and how “self-defense” doesn’t always look that way from the outside.

It’s about the monster under the bed.

It’s about sex and money and other kinds of power.

But mostly it’s about ghosts.

I’m going to post excerpts to my Patreon over the next few months as I finish up my current draft, and share thoughts about the process. If you want to follow along, and throw a few dollars my way so I can keep writing, please consider joining me there.

The Worst Sentence I Ever Tried To Write

A few years back, I discovered the Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest — a search for the fake opening line of the worst of all possible novels. Sponsored by the English Department at San Jose State University, the contest is an homage to the opening line from Paul Clifford (1830), which you probably know best from this:

snoopy

I wrote (and submitted) my own version of the worst opening line in the world, never heard anything about it, and forgot it, until I found it yesterday while searching for a different file entirely.

I present it here, for you…

I stood for hours under that street light waiting for him to get off work, wondering all the while if his lateness in achieving an exit from his wretched place of business was in fact because of stray, lingering customers, or if in his position as manager of a “gentleman’s club” he had finally succumbed to the lurid pleasures of the flesh his harlot employees offered to other less scrupulous men who (one would hope) did not have the kind of quality wife waiting for them that he did, a wife who would stand outside in the pouring rain even when he’d asked me to stay home on numerous occasions, on account of him being so concerned for the state of my health, though something could be said for the fact that a woman standing under a streetlight in the pouring rain in only her pink fuzzy bathrobe and bunny slippers might not be so good for business.

I didn’t win the Bulwer-Lytton the year I sent it in, which is to say that I failed at writing a sentence awkward enough to be truly terrible.

At least now, when I’m feeling low about my writing, thinking that it’s awful and shouldn’t see the light of day, I know: whatever I write could always be worse.

And that cheers me up.

Updates and News (August 2016 edition), or, Damn, That Was the Hardest Month

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In August:

I fell apart a bit.

I’ve said it before but this year has proven to me that the last 3 weeks of August (and the first week of September) are the hardest “month” of the year. That’s partly because of having my son home 24 hours a day without any respite, or break, or money to go out and do anything. His school year starts later than most; his first day back wasn’t until September 8, and by then, we were both ready for him to go.

We had to sit in our too-warm apartment all month — our landlord won’t let us put in an A/C unit — because it was too hot to be outside and at least we have some fans indoors. I still had to work as much as possible, and my hyperactive teen quickly became bored bored bored. With his special needs, I can’t send him out to play alone at the park, or go ride a bike, or any of the things I used to do to fill my summer days, all by myself as a kid. He’s an independent guy for the most part, wanting to play his video games or watch his favorite movies over and over for hours at a time. But even he gets tired of that much faster than I need if I’m going to put in a day’s work the way I can when he’s in school or camp.

The heat at the end of summer here is something I’m still getting used to. Growing up in California, we had heat. Hotter days. Lying out on the roof or in the grass that was dry and gone yellow, baking under the sun — my dog days of summer was late August dry heat, 100 degrees or more with no moisture in the air, and the utter joy of a sudden breeze. Here… it’s 90 degrees that feels like 95 because of 75% humidity and scattered rain every few afternoons that does nothing to cut the heat. I live in New York, but it feels like the summer I spent in Georgia, and like the bible school my aunt enrolled me in while I was there, I haven’t gotten used to it yet.

The best kid ever gets fidgety and then grumpy and then outright rebellious, given enough time trapped in a hot apartment with his mom who’s too busy and too poor to do much with him.

We did have one good adventure when I splurged on the gas on drove out to a Wal-Mart the next county over to do his back-to-school clothes shopping. Driving over the hills, the farms all green and growing, under a bright blue sky, the two of us played a game where we gave each other colors and picked out passing cars that matched. He got new clothes (not enough, but at least he wasn’t a shambles on his first day back), and a new haircut at the Wal-Mart salon (I didn’t even know they had those, did you?), and five whole dollars to spend in the arcade (I didn’t know Wal-Mart had those, either).

He was driving the Nascar game (of course) when a little girl sat at the Fast and Furious game next to him. She and her grandma couldn’t figure out how to get started, so Logan — silently — reached over and set it up so she could race the car she wanted, then went back to his game. Kid can barely speak, but he’s so smart and sweet and he didn’t just figure out what they were struggling with, but he wanted to help.

As hard as raising him is, and it is, a lot, my son always reminds me that he’s worth everything I do for him. Continue reading

10 Seemingly Polite (But Actually Racist As F*ck) Things You Need To Stop Saying To People You’ve Just Met

  1. Where are you from? Unless you’re prepared to respond to “I’m from Cleveland” with “You must be happy the Cavs got LeBron back”, do not ask this question of people you’ve just met. Why not? Because in America, the people who get asked that question are almost always people of color, and answering with the name of a US city usually gets “Ok, but where were you born?” as a response. The implication is that if you’re not white, you’re automatically not from here, you must be from somewhere else. The one exception to this is black people, who are usually assumed to be African-American (even if they’re not) because of course we know where they came from, right?
  2. Do you have an American name? If the person you are talking to was born in America or later became a citizen of the United States, their name is their American name. They are American. Even if they’re not, no one is issued an “American name” when they get their passport stamped at the airport on their way into the country. What you’re really saying here is “Do you have a more white-sounding name because I’m not going to bother to learn how to pronounce yours.”
  3. What ethnicity are you? Unless you’re taking a census poll, you do not need to know this when you meet someone. (As a white person, I have never, not once, in my life, been asked what my ethnicity is, even though pale-skinned people are not from the same hegemonious group somewhere in Europe.) If it’s relevant to the conversation, they’ll probably volunteer it. If they don’t, it’s either not relevant, or they may not want you to know.
  4. [greeting them in a foreign language] Unless you know for a fact the person’s ethnicity, place of birth, country they grew up in, and that they speak the language you’re attempting to use on them, AND THEY’VE TOLD YOU THEY ARE FINE WITH YOU SPEAKING TO THEM IN THIS WAY, do not do this. You’re most likely going to be wrong about either the language their ancestors spoke or that person’s ability to speak it, so you’re going to look like an idiot; worse, you’re starting off the conversation with proof you’ve both racially profiled and stereotyped that person, all at once.
  5. Who’s baby is this? when the infant in question is not the exact same skin tone as the adult you’re asking. Really want to be a jackass? Follow up them telling you, “Oh, she’s mine” with “Aww, is she adopted?”
  6. Your jacket/jewelry/outfit is so interesting/pretty/cool, is that from your home country? You know who rarely gets asked something they’re wearing is from their “home country”? White people. But, white people wear “ethnic looking” stuff all of the time. Mexican embroidery on peasant tops, Native American imagery on jewelry, Asiatic dragons on practically everything, and yet, few people ask about it with the idea that it’s somehow representing something specific to that white person. People of color get asked because they’re the other, they’re different, they’re foreign… even when they’re not. (Or do you just not ask white people about the origin of their clothes because you already know it’s appropriation?)
  7. Your hair is so complex/interesting/unusual — it must take a long time to do. Translation: you don’t have white people hair, your life must be hard. I’m so glad I have easy hair.
  8. Your hair is really pretty like that (when the person has a Western/American hairstyle that they don’t always wear). Translation: you made your hair look like white people hair, good job! You’re more acceptable to me now.
  9. What do your parents think of you being/working/living here? If you’re at a strip club, perhaps asking a dancer that question is reasonable — there’s a common misconception that erotic dancers are doing something immoral, and so, maybe their parents wouldn’t like their job. But it’s probably still the wrong thing to ask. When you’re asking it of a person of color, you’re signaling to them that you think it’s weird they’re there. You’re saying that you wouldn’t expect someone like them to have that job, or be in that place, and by phrasing it as a question about their parents, you’re trying to put a polite veneer on excluding them from what you think is “normal” for that place.
  10. Oh, do you know Bob Chu? He’s my neighbor/coworker/employee of a place that I go to. Pro tip: people of the same ethnicity do not automatically all know each other. Even people of the same ethnicity who are all in the same town, or all attending the same convention, do not know each other. By asking this, you’re letting the person know you aren’t going to remember anything about them except their ethnicity, and to you, all of those people are interchangeable and connected. Good job, jackass!