word of the day: sanctimomentary

because we really needed a word for this...

sanctimomentary, adj.
  1. Characterized by an instant of religious feeling (and the accompanying sense of moral superiority) that comes over people at moments of convenience, then quickly vanishes.
  2. The tendency to engage in, or habit of engaging in, sanctimomentary behavior.

Cf: Observance of "religious" holidays; suddenly-sacred behavior during public prayers; the tendency to shed a single tear when listening to "God Bless America" and then get back to the party.

The facebook community was flooded with sanctimomentary posts acknowledging the "reason for the season," as the part-time faithful raced to avoid being considered among the 98% Who Won't Dare To Post This. 

The Best Unsolicited Advice You'll Ever Receive, Guaranteed, Or Your Money Back

This is the first of what will likely be many, perhaps countless, installments of free and unsolicited advice, assuming I continue to feel like giving advice, and/or people feel like receiving it, in which case I will provide complimentary solicited advice. I hope we all learn something.  Because this is going to be very valuable advice. Believe me.

There are a few jobs in this world I think I'd be really, really good at (judge, minigolf course designer, communist bed and breakfast proprietor, writer of books, advertising tycoon, etc), but life is short and it's getting a little late for me to get started in most of them, by which I mean I'm either too lazy to do it or don't really want to. And as I prepare to embark of the beginning stages of my midlife crisis, it's time to accept the fact that it's becoming increasingly unlikely that I will fulfill my one true calling in life (Beloved Advice Columnist). It's time, therefore, to take matters into my own hands and officially start my new, part-time, unpaid career as Unsolicited Advice Columnist Extraordinaire (I added the "extraordinaire" to stress that I have a lot of experience in the advice-giving department, and that this is really high quality advice).  I understand that I'm trading in the "beloved" for the "unsolicited" here, but at least this way the dream lives on.  And while I won't be getting paid, I will accept compensation in the form of praise and the floodgates of advice-seeking souls this is surely to open, so I guess the real winner here is you, dear reader, who gets the benefit of my excellent and unerring insights.  I offer this valuable advice humbly, and in the service of a perfectionism in pursuit of its proof of perfection.

Valuable Advice: Dealing with perfectionists.
If anyone ever says to you, "Oh, my problem is I'm such a perfectionist!" the very first thing you should do is punch that person in the face. Because, first off, that would really show them how "perfect" they are, with a black eye and everything. And, second, because anyone who thinks he or she is a perfectionist first has to think that he or she is capable of perfection, which is what we call Delusions of Grandeur. So if they're saying that to you, it's because they think you'll be impressed about them having such a tragically important problem, because you aren't a perfectionist. Which means they think you aren't capable of perfection. And that means they think they're better than you.  And not only better than you, but so much more smart and perfect that they can say things like that right to your face and you'll just say "Oh, no! Being a perfectionist is your strength!  Please don't change!" But you aren't going to say that. You're just going to punch them in the face. And then turn the other cheek, because you're the better man (or woman, depending on who's receiving this valuable advice right now).  That's what Jesus would do, too, by the way, so be sure to mention that after you turn the other cheek, for one last "in your face, Miss (or Mr.) Perfect!"

Valuable Advice: Dealing with an unpleasant or dictatorial governor
A lot of governors are abusing their power lately, so if yours is doing this, the first thing you should know is that you're not alone. There are many other people out there who also hate your governor's abuse of power, and they need to hear from you.  You could start by storming your Capitol. Bring signs that express your anger in a smart way, and be sure to spellcheck them before you print them out. If you're handwriting your sign, please have nice handwriting, because your sign already doesn't look as smart as some of the other ones.  Once the storming dies down, you should continue to visit your Capitol regularly, with your sign, and your friends, and also write letters, start blogs, and generally not stop talking about how much you hate your governor's abuse of power until that abuse of power ends.  Alternatively, you could move to a blue state.

Valuable Advice: Never trust a child.
Children are wonderful. They are smart and funny and sweet and full of hope and promise. I simply adore children. But they are not to be trusted.  This really should go without saying, but I've noticed a lot of people trusting children lately, which is a huge mistake.

Valuable Advice: The book was better than the movie.
There are only two or three cases in which this was not true, so just believe it.  If you want to like the movie, don't read the book first.  If you want to be a better person, read the book and skip the movie. And then tell everyone who talks about the movie about how you don't want to ruin your sublime reading experience by stooping to that level, but, hey, you're glad they liked it.

Valuable Advice: How to tell if you have a leftist cat. 
Unless you have a very expensive special-order or store bought cat of a breed that is typically described with the words "regal" or "elegant" or "pedigreed," you probably do have a leftist cat.  Cats are, by nature, leftists, and it takes generations of inbreeding and domestication to suppress these natural instincts and replace them with the sort of territorial, capitalistic arrogance typical of cats that have been brainwashed into conservatism.  Such cats, however, are rare, and you need not worry unnecessarily about this condition. Unless your cat gives you reason to doubt it, it's safe to assume your cat is indeed a leftist.  If you do not wish to have a leftist cat, please click the "x" in the upper right-hand corner and kindly refrain from reading my blog.

Note to readers seeking valuable advice:
Solicited advice on any topic is available, free of charge. Just email your question or the topic about which you'd like some advice to monologuesofdissent@gmail.com with "advice" or "advice, please" or "extraordinary advice, please" in your subject line. Be sure to say if you want your name withheld, or I will include it in my reply.

In defense of incivility: an open letter to my fellow protesters

Update and disclaimer - 18 April 2011
This piece is intended to be a gentle reminder to all of us that sometimes doing what's right sometimes means putting civility to the side for a moment. This letter is a defense of incivility, not an apology for it. 

17 April 2011
Dear fellow protesters, 

I have a confession to make: I'm a little ashamed of the way we acted yesterday.  I went to the rally hoping we'd turn out in numbers significant enough to show the world how vastly we outnumber and outvoice the Tea Partiers (and we did). But I think we behaved uncivilly, and that drowning out the speakers at the Tea Party rally with shouts and jeers and bells and vuvuzelas was really poor form. They have as much a right to assemble and speak their idiotic views as anyone else, and silencing them is not an effective or productive way to make our own case.  We didn't take the highest road when everyone was watching, and there are some out there (I'm looking at you, FOX news), who can easily use this against us to continue painting our picture as hostile thugs with no respect for others. 

However, as much as I'm tempted to feel a little guilty about this uncivil behavior, thinking about it and seeing how others have reacted to it has only made me more aware of its necessity.  Our peaceful protests have been the picture of civility to date, despite the nasty image many media outlets have tried to convey.  If anything, I've been saying all along, we've been too nice.  I was even tempted at one point to make a rally sign that said "This is a protest, not a party!"  So as much as I don't like the way we silenced the teabaggers yesterday, since free speech is essential to productive society, I don't mind saying what needs to be said: those Tea Partiers deserved to be silenced. And we deserve to be heard. Their racist drivel has had enough press already, and this is OUR house.

Our famous Midwestern courtesy was stretched to its limits yesterday. There was no violence or threats of it (aside from a few tense moments and rumors of some pushing and shoving). There were no fisticuffs (that I saw or heard of). There were no visible guns (And thank you for that, teabaggers! I was almost scared to bring my kids after reading the comments on their facebook event page Friday night!). But there was a lot of the sort of rudeness Wisconsin people usually think you can only find in New York City, and other allegedly rude places.

So I have to admit that I'm pretty glad I was in the Capitol with my kids (using their palatially public restrooms and warming up the little ones) and was fortunate to miss Sarah Palin's speech. And I was pleased to witness what a waste of time and money she is - I heard they paid her $50,000 to come to Madison and she spoke for all of, what, 15 minutes? To a crowd of (maybe) 500-1000 supporters and at least 5 times that many protesters. By the time we came out, she was long gone and we just caught the tail end of an ear-splitting country ballad and then the tea partiers couldn't get out of town fast enough on their Koch-powered buses.  

When I got home, I started looking through online photo albums, reading news reports, and watching youtube clips from the rally to see perspectives we may have missed. And the picture that started to come together was both exhilarating (this is what democracy looks like!) and a little depressing.  In one long clip, I saw teabaggers cringing through a long walk of shame (less civil me calls it the March of Morons) as they leave the rally, while pro-justice protesters say things like "Thanks for coming - for two hours!" and "Don't like unions? Take off your Packers hat, then!" And I have to give those teabaggers credit for keeping their cool - you can tell many of them are seething as they leave.  You'd almost feel sorry for them, if it were admissible to have pity on a group of people who remain willfully trapped in a corporate puppet show fed by an endless cycle of ignorance-feeding-racism and racism-feeding-ignorance.  

This photo (above) of a man wearing a placard around his neck that says "African lion" (arrow to lion photo) and "Lyin African" (arrow to Obama photo) was posted on facebook by both the Wisconsin Tea Party and a recall Walker group, who added the caption "This is the type of racism we are dealing with here folks... I'm just going to come out and say it... Many of these Tea Partiers don't care about platform... They are just mad that any sort of minority is in the President seat... Here's a pic to illustrate that... RACIST TEABAGGERS!! Hope they learned quick they aren't welcome here in Madison!!"
It's a terrible picture and it speaks a thousand words. I even shared it. But, as my friend Steve pointed out, the comments are almost worse. One person wrote "IT'S ASSHATS LIKE THAT, THAT MAKE REDNECKS LIKE ME, DRAG ASSHATS LIKE THAT BEHIND PICKUP TRUCKS," which is a really, really asshatty thing to write. Most of the other comments were angry, outraged, agist, and mocking, and a couple others also called for the kicking of the racist guy's ass. Some of the comments were unfair, some were exaggerated, and some were just wrong (these fell largely in the trolly teabagger comments). But most of them were kind of embarrassing, and not very civil.

The overt racism of the Tea Party, and its members' inability  and/or refusal to understand the historical litany of reasons why the statement "Obama is a Kenyan" is inherently racist, makes them an easy target and photos like this make us mad for good reason. Liberals and other fair-minded people have spend the last 60+ years fighting to work toward a society in which it would not be acceptable for people to make these kind of racist statements. And when I say "not acceptable" I don't mean "not legal." These idiots have the right to free speech and can say whatever they racist things they want (although I think they've learned by now that no one's going to sit silent when they say it). I mean not morally acceptable. Regardless of all our other political and social disagreements, that we have not reached the point by now as a society where we can - at the very minimum - agree not to judge or hate people based on the color of their skin or where they're from is simply unacceptable. Intolerable, as a matter of fact. And all those righties who are banking on the famous "tolerance" of progressive people are finding out the hard way that there are a couple of things we don't, in fact, tolerate. And one of them is racism. 

Racism is an immoral and indefensible construct and invention that has outlived its initial purpose (justifying subjugation and enslavement) and has no place in civil society or its institutions. And the sooner we all agree about this, the better. Because until we do, it is very, very difficult to show much respect for those who continue to appeal to it, whether they're conservatives or liberals or anything in between or beyond. [Aside: in that same long video, there is a painful moment when the person holding the camera misidentifies a Sikh Tea Partier as a Muslim and makes some absurd statements about why the guy "should" hate Sarah Palin. So it comes from both sides, even if our guy's point was, ironically, that we should stand in solidarity against racism and ignorance. So don't make a hundred comments here about how some liberals are racist, too, and not all conservatives are. I already know that. I'm talking about the obvious here: men who wear necklaces that say "I am a racist" to rallies]. 

So, on the one hand, I think people kind of give up their right to be treated respectfully  when they publicly disrespect others.  So it's hard not to blame the protesters for calling them out - and being frustrated beyond civility with their attitude. "Really?!," they seem to be saying. "THESE are the people we're up against? And the race is tied 50/50?! Did the last 60 years even happen?"

But there's another, more compelling and less knee-jerk reason that the incivility we saw yesterday is not only completely justifiable, but actually warranted, and our only option. And it's simple: publicity.  For the past eight weeks, we have been at the Capitol every day. Every day.  Our numbers have been up and down, and the weekday crowds are minimal in recent weeks, but we are there every day, in shifts, with our signs, our songs, our anger, our children, our conviction and our faith that we shall overcome the injustices being forced on our state by Scott Walker and his funders. And the media, largely, ignores us, even when our numbers are strong. Even when we drew crowds larger by far than the largest Tea Party rally ever was.  The tv cameras are absent. And though we do have a few excellent local advocates (Bill Leuders, John Nichols, writers at the Isthmus and The Progressive), the local news coverage (especially from the Wisconsin State Journal, the state's largest subscription paper) is a joke. So when Sarah Palin gets paid the big bucks to come to town, the cameras blindly follow, and give us a chance to let the world know that not only are we still shouting, but that we've never stopped.

While the Tea Party rally was happening, there was a counter-rally going on around the other side of the Capitol, and if you consider that the vast majority on the "Palin side" were actually protesters, it had a much larger crowd, but virtually no press. But look at the press coverage Palin gets! 500-1000 Tea Partiers show up and the event gets national attention. We draw 5-10 times that almost every weekend and they ignore us.  I think desperate times call for desperate measures, and letting the nation hear that we're still shouting IS productive, on this level.  

The Tea Party yesterday was a total wash. Maybe because they didn't have many people show up. Maybe because Sarah Palin is finally, blissfully, proving to be an unattractive motivator for their "base." Maybe it ultimately boils down to failing for lack of a cause. They're against Obama, and they're against taxes (although, unless they're all millionaires, they should be against Walker, too, on this count). Even on the facebook page for their event, there was no event description, no reason presented for why it was so desperately important they come to Madison to fight against Tax Day.  Maybe the Tea Party has finally been exposed for what it is: a park-n-ride mobilization of anger without a cause; a group of easily manipulated people who are probably hard-working and decent individuals but who have been duped into a misguided rage against a machine they cannot, and might not want to, understand.

But I think the main reason the Tea Party rally was a wash is because we treated them uncivilly, as they deserved, and our voice, at last, was heard again, loud and clear. While it's easy to feel sorry for the shame-faced teabaggers who dared come to liberal Madison to meet their idol, Sarah Palin, we will not be tricked into thinking that the rights and views of these individuals are what the "Tea Party" is all about. We will not forget for a minute that the same people who paid for their buses to come to Madison are the people who are paying for Scott Walker, and other governors in other states, to declare war on unions and the working class.  These people are just a front, pawns to move forward the real agenda of their billionaire backers. And they might have come to Madison for a couple of hours to complain about...whatever it is they were complaining about...but we, the people, have been here for eight weeks and we are still here. We are still shouting. And we will not be silenced - even if it means we have to scream as loudly as we can over the pay-by-the-hour Palins and  Breitbarts and talk radio hosts to be heard. We will be heard. We will not go away. And, one of these days, we we will overcome. 

So, thank you, fellow protesters, for coming to Madison yesterday and shouting so loudly.  And thanks to all the rest of you who were out doing the other work that needed to be done, collecting recall signatures door to door in that snowy, sleety, rainy weather. We can be civil AND mad, it's true. And we have been so all this time, with humor and grace and fury. But now and then we need to shout a little louder to be heard. Because there are moments when being civil and doing what has to be done don't match up as nicely as you'd like. And at those moments, even though it goes against every bone in our Midwestern bodies, I don't think the main thing you have to worry about is whether or not people think you're polite.

Love, peace, and solidarity,

Heather DuBois Bourenane, 
Enemy of Scott Walker, Tea Parties and other lies and Friend of Civility (by any means necessary)
Rudely hilarious civil disobedience.

Civil moosobedience.
The most polite kind of disobedience of all. A simple request: "Just be a nice person."

P.S. Still not convinced incivility is sometimes necessary? Listen to Breitbart at the rally, telling us to "go to hell." You can't reason with this. You can only fight it.

Update #1: Here's another take on the civility of Saturday's rally. It's not just about the shouting. Thanks to Milwaukee Ironworkers for posting this

True Union "thug" story 4-16-2011

Here goes-
I found myself in the midst of the teabaggers. I chanted the "HEY HEY - HO HO - SCOTT WALKER"S GOTTA GO" thing that we do so well while the paid speakers were spewing their drivel up on the stage. The nearby teabags turned to me and started yelling "SHUT UP". I told them I was excersising my 1st Ammendment Rights as it was one that Walker hadn't yet stolen.
I asked them how my voicing opinion was any different from what the idiots on stage were doing. A lady in front of me glared and started to lean into me. I just held my ground. An older woman turned around and grabbed my arm and told me to "shut up - she couldn't hear what was being said". I calmly replied, "Ma'am, please don't grab my arm". The one who was leaning demanded to know what I said to her. I repeated my request. She obviously thought I said something rude after being grabbed.
A few minutes later, the older woman dropped her cane. (which I had not noticed earlier due to the packed crowd-it was the same lady who grabbed my arm) I squatted down, picked up the cane for her,handed it to her, and told the lady directly in front of me "That's how Union thugs roll".
She gave me a look, but, this time wasn't as menacing. She went on to say that the older woman couldn't hear what the speakers were saying and that people weren't letting her get to the front of the crowd. After she told me that there was a place for older people to sit up front, I asked if I could help get them through the crowd. She looked surprised and said, "Yes, that would be  much appreciated".
I took them through the Union members who moved aside with the usual "Excuse me". I got to a few teabaggers who refused to move when they saw my hardhat. I tried to explain that I was helping an older woman with a cane get to an area where she could sit. They said, "Too bad, she should have gotten here earlier".
An older man grabbed the sign I was holding and said "What kind of nonsense is this?" I politely put my hand on it and asked him to return it. Finally he did.
I turned to the lady who asked for assistance, shrugged my shoulders and apologized that the guys wouldn't move. I did notice a table and some empty folding chairs. I pointed them out and the older woman made for them and sat down.
The lady I had been talking to smiled, thanked me, and shook my hand. She asked if that older guy grabbed the sign out of my hand. I replied in the affirmative. She told me that I was also helping to get him moved up as he was part of their group. (almost apologetically)

Update #2: Another testimony from Saturday's rally, describing the experience of a woman who tried to walk through the Tea Party crowd with her daughter's friend: "Sarah Palin's Tea Party Thugs Bully Two Women at Wisconsin Protest."

Update #3: Want to see what democracy REALLY looks like? Check out this Barbiefied reenactment of Sarah Palin's visit to Madison, "What a friend we have in cheeses" at The Perils of Palins.

Mail Delivery System to me - Message Notification [from Scott Walker, Governor]

 The first and only response I have received from Scott Walker to date. I'm very happy to hear he plans to keep my specific comments in mind during his service as governor:
Subject: Mail Delivery System to me - Message Notification
Date: April 15, 2011 6:00 pm

Thank you for your e-mail message.  I welcome you expressing your views and concerns to me, and I commend you for participating in your state government.  I take into account the views of all of the citizens of Wisconsin, and I will keep your specific comments in mind during my service as your Governor.

If you would like more information about my positions on issues, or would like to read my public statements on issues, I encourage you to explore my website: www.walker.wi.gov.  I like to respond individually to every letter and telephone call I receive; however, I cannot respond to each e-mail individually due to the volume.  If your request is time sensitive, please call my office at (608) 266-1212. You may also write to me via conventional mail at Governor Scott Walker: PO Box 7863, Madison, WI 53707.

As noted on our website, please know that any communications may be subject to release under Wisconsin's public records law and that our policy is generally to release communications sent to this email address.

Once again, thank you for contacting me. Please feel free to contact me again if I can ever be of assistance to you.


Scott Walker


If it matters (and it really doesn't), the autoreply came in response to this message I sent earlier today:
Subject: Fiscal emergency?
Date: 15 April 2011

Dear Sen. Darling, Sen. Fitzgerald and Scott Walker,

I have just read a disturbing report that there are "secret" plans afoot in Wisconsin to enact the same sort of legislation Rick Snyder is attempting to push through in Michigan by declaring a "fiscal emergency" and that you are the point person for these efforts.  Is there any truth to this rumor?  I would appreciate full disclosure and transparency as this is something about which I would like to voice my informed opinion.

Thank you,

Heather DuBois Bourenane

Warning: Wisconsin taxpayers are smarter than a brainwashed third grader

Dear Scott Walker,

I'm really enjoying watching your live humiliation in Washington as you attempt to brag about your attempts to destroy the Wisconsin education system and middle class so that Wisconsin is "open for business" to you and your out-of-state funders.  I'm not a drinker, but I see how people could make a pretty fun game out of your empty use of the phrases "tools" and "open for business."  Once you get in front of an educated crowd, it's not as easy to get away with sounding like a broken record, is it? You sure do know how to put the tool in in "tools." Must be terribly embarrassing for you - your internal and external squirming is palpable; very awkward. You should come to MATC sometime and take the class you apparently missed in your short stint at college on Oral and Interpersonal Communications - I could give you some great tips for that. But I'm sure by now your staff has assured you that you were brilliant and you're all geared up to make another public appearance spewing the same ridiculous lies and misinformation very soon...so I'm not going to waste any time feeling sorry for you, sorry as you are.

Anyway, your trip to Washington, your trip to Florida, your many trips outside of the state are really getting on my nerves. Why are you out on a fundraising and misinformation campaign instead of addressing the mess you made at home? You hypocritically raise money to fight recalls of Republican Senators even as you talk about how the "only" people against your bill are "out of state" protesters, union leaders and idiots....but don't fool yourself into thinking anyone's buying it. You're just like George W. Bush, declaring "Mission Accomplished" and accepting congratulatory hand-outs and pats on the back when all you've done is make a giant failure of a mess that you have no desire or intention to do anything about cleaning up.

But don't you feel even a tiny bit bad about going around the country insulting the people of your state?  Seriously! I am so fed up with you dismissing us as "out of state protesters" or "union bosses" and contrasting us with "the taxpayers" - it's so insulting that it makes communication practically impossible.  I think Ted Rulseh is right - you are intentionally trying to polarize our state to distract people from what you're really doing to our economy, education system, and basic rights.  It's disgusting.  Public vs private workers. Republicans vs Democrats. Union vs union. Taxpayer vs. taxpayer. All so that the haves can stomp on the have-nots without their noticing so much.

And nothing makes this intentionally divisive behavior more crystal clear to me than the letter you recently posted on your facebook page that you allegedly received from an almost-9-year-old child:
Here's that letter the way you published it:
Dear Governor Scott Walker,
My name is XXXXX XXXX and I am almost 9 years old. My parents were talking about what is going on in Madison and I asked a few questions about the government. If I’m 9 years old and I can understand what you’re trying to do with the bill, maybe you should try spreading your story the way I would understand it.   Here’s what I understand about the bill: The money that goes into teachers’ retirement and health care funds comes out of tax-payer’s pockets. We’ve promised something that is unsustainable (unsustainable means can’t go on forever). It’s either change the way benefits are paid for, or some teachers and public workers lose their jobs. The other big part of the bill is about workers’ “rights”—the rules that the employers have to follow so they don’t hurt the workers. Your Bill makes it so that workers can join the union if they want to, if not they can talk to their boss to work out rules.   What the workers don’t understand is that they think they have no rights. But they still will have rights just like every American. They think you believe that they don’t do a good job so they get paid less. But that is not true. We don’t have enough money to pay them as much. Like if something did not buy one of my dad’s trees because they can’t afford it, that doesn’t mean they don’t like trees. The workers think you don’t care about education. But that is not true. I believe in you. I always wish I could shout: “GO SCOTT WALKER!!!” But I don’t because teachers might be mad at me.   Hope my suggestions help!!   XXXXX X. XXXX

Now, I won't get into whether or not the letter really came from a kid, though as a parent and writing teacher, it's pretty obvious to me that if a child wrote that letter, it was with at least a little "guidance." But what's really offensive here is in the content of the letter (oversimplification and lies), and your nerve in insinuating, by praising this letter, that not only is anyone who is opposed to you stupider than a child, but that anyone who is opposed to you has no valid reason for dissent. Even more offensive is the closing line of the letter, which takes a shameless stab at teachers as if they are stupider than their students and refuse to see the "truth" about your bill.  The sophomoric illogic with which this alleged child "reasons" your budget is insulting and demeaning to anyone who has read the budget bill, and also to your supporters, who deserve an honest picture of what that bill actually contains. Ironically, this almost insults your own supporters as much or more than those who oppose you - do you really think they're so stupid that you can just tell them "See! A child thinks my bill is great! It must be great!"  Why don't you let your supporters read the letter my friend's 6-year-old son wrote to you? It was much smarter, more succinct, and very much opposed to your policies. Better yet, why don't you stop playing PR games and start reading the letters you're actually receiving from concerned and enraged taxpayers? Why don't you publish some of these letters - the ones with facts, footnotes and evidence?  An "almost-nine-year-old" kid warrants a spot on your facebook page but you can't even have one of your staff send a note to the thousands of people writing you every day acknowledging receipt of (forget about showing respect for!) their time-consuming and valid concerns about your shameful and ignorant behavior as governor of this state?! Disgusting.

The fact that you show a child who agrees with you the respect that you refuse to show the hard-working, dedicated taxpayers and other citizens of this state speaks volumes of your arrogance and total disregard for the people of Wisconsin.  For over 100 days now, hundreds of thousands of educators, nurses, librarians, police officers, fire fighters, sanitation and transportation workers, and concerned citizens from all classes, spheres and political perspectives have been - quite literally - shouting out all the many, many valid reasons for objecting to your agenda, and the many, many ways that your agenda will hurt our state. And you insult us, ignore us, and disregard us at every opportunity.  And now you add insult to injury by telling us that not only do you not care about what we have to say, but you assume that what we have to say is so irrelevant, so petty, so terribly uniformed, that an "almost-9-year-old" is more deserving of your time, respect and attention.

Your "base" may enjoy the petty you're-not-smarter-than-a-third-grader jab you offered them on your facebook page, but I have news for you. I'm way smarter than a third grader. Read my letters. Read the letters of informed and concerned adults with serious concerns and valid complaints and stop trivializing our dissent.


Heather DuBois Bourenane
Almost-39-year-old Wisconsin taxpayer who has read, understood and objects to the entire budget bill

Why Disney Princesses and Ballerina Dora Are Not Invited to Our Play Dates

An open letter to parents of girls, and the people who buy them things:

Since I can't escape my midwestern upbringing, I'll open with an apology: I'm sorry I hate Disney Princesses and fancy-pants Dora so much. I feel really bad about that, almost guilty, I really do.  I think they're fun and sweet and I love magic and make-believe as much as the next mom. I do.  I like ballet. So I'm sorry if what I'm about to say hurts your feelings, or makes you feel like a bad parent, or gives the impression that I think I'm a better one than you are. Because most definitely I am not.  I'm not writing this to be judgy. But I am sick and tired of having to justify and apologize for my refusal to allow these things into our home, and I think it's time we have a more frank and honest conversation about them if we're ever going to move past this debate. And I think it's time for us to work together and stand up against the marketing machine that makes all of us - parents, daughters and sons - complicit in the princessification of femininity.

So why am I writing this now? It's 2011. Most modern moms I talk to seem to be of the general sentiment that the feminist movement has come, and gone, and is now an offiicially historic marker in the rear-view mirror of childrearing. Our girls, we tell ourselves, can now Be Whatever They Want To Be. They can be anything!  Or, better yet, they can be everything! Doctor, dramatist, darling. Educator, explorer, entrepreneur. Baker, builder, beauty queen. Pirate, plumber, prostitute, parent, princess. The list is infinite. Let them dream. Give them wings (preferably fairy). They are free to become whatever they want!

Whatever they want. Ok.  What do they want, then? And how did they come to want it?  My own four-year-old daughter wants, I learned today, Ballerina Dora merchandise.  Having recently decided (after an in-house "field trip" at her school provided a week of ballet introduction) that she's going to be a ballet teacher when she grows up, she's been talking a lot about ballerinas and doing a lot of adorable twirling and leaping around here lately.  It's super cute. And I haven't discouraged it.  But she's not signed up for dance class (yet) and she doesn't own ballet slippers (although she does have a very sparkly pair of shoes her grandma bought her that make a convenient substitute).  And now she wants Dora, beloved Dora!, to dance into our lives and be a ballerina with her.

Dora used to be The Explorer. She wore a cutely uncoordinated t-shirt-and-shorts outfit and had a boyish bob suitable for climbing trees and searching for clues. She was curious, intelligent, eager. She shouted at us in Spanish (and look what we learned! Ay├║dame! Help me! Abre! Open!). Then, in a pointless and unfathomable episode, she became...a princess.  Her hair grew longer.   She got much skinnier. She was begowned and bejeweled and sparkled for all to adore.  She took up ballet. And little girls, most tragically my own, fell even more in love with her.  Sweet, sensible, eager Dora has transformed from caterpillar to butterfly. Butterfly! She is beautiful, she is free, she can fly.

So...what's wrong with that? Beauty. Freedom. Flight. Sounds like everything we say we want to instill in our daughters: Confidence. Opportunity. Capability.  What's wrong with that?  What's so wrong with wanting to be a princess?

Everything.  It's a trap.

The "confidence" that comes with security in her "beauty" is an illusion. Aspiring to be beautiful - or, as is probably more accurately the case for our own young girls - being confident in their beauty (because we constantly tell them how beautiful they are, don't we?) - is the first step to being a princess, or a butterfly.  And the confidence is pretty wonderful, isn't it? Who's the fairest of them all? "I am!" our girls declare, and we can't stop smiling.  But deep down, I think we know that over-fostering this prepubescent confidence could backfire: when they enter locker rooms, without us, and stand in a long line of girls before the mirror, the entire universe of girliness will team up against us, just looking for reasons to undermine that confidence, and they could come out of it, angry, thinking, "You lied to me! I am not beautiful!"

And I'm willing to skip over the more tired and superficial aspects of the issue of beauty-as-everything, which I think we all pretty much have moved beyond - the part about how the beautiful princess needs rescuing by the handsome prince and how living happily ever after means never aging, or doing much of anything.  I think the moms I know are pretty much universally over this crap. They don't want to see the damsels in distress - they want Princess Fiona to come out, kicking ass and embracing her ogrish heart of hearts.  They prefer DreamWorks to classic Disney. It's more modern. Cooler. Realistic.  They tell their daughters that they don't have to give up their voices like Ariel did, that they don't have to just be a maid like Snow White or Cinderella. We tell them that whether or not their prince will come someday, they can still be happy. We tell them beauty comes from the inside, and that includes the brain. But we stop short of telling them not to be beautiful in the conventional sense. We stop short at not buying the hooped skirt, the long gloves, the tiara. The beauty is an illusion, we admit, but it's a fun illusion. A magical illusion. And who are we to deny our girls magic?  What kind of mother doesn't want her daughter to have fun? 

So...the beauty is not really beauty, and doesn't translate to confidence, but we go along with it anyway. Who am I to blow against the wind? Our society has superficial values, but we just have to make the most of it, and put the emphasis on making sure our daughters make the right choices. That they make the right decisions to be strong, empowered girls.

But can we even do that?  This is perhaps the most dangerous part, because I think many parents really fall for this brilliant marketing campaign: the idea that strong, confident girls have the freedom to choose what they want to be. But the brute fact is that this "freedom" is at best illusory and at worst a total scam: the "choice" to want to be a princess or not is not one of many viable options.  It's the default option: princess, rainbow, butterfly, unicorn. Go to Target, the exclusive vendor for the new Ballet Dora series. Walk down the "girl" aisle. And let me know what kind of "choices" you find.  Count how many items in the "girl" section could just as easily be moved to a gender-neutral area. Practically none. They make pink "girl Legos" now. Even books are gendered! 

The flip side of this, of course, is how we train our boys to fear and abhor femininity, but that's a topic worthy of its own discussion. I also have a 6-year-old son. And the "boy" aisle is just as bad - if not worse.  Every toy is a fighting toy. We have two major rules in the toy department at our house: no  Barbie/Disney Princess (and preferably no Disney at all, if we can help it) and no weapons as toys. And the no weapons rule was so much harder to enforce that I had to soften my stance on it when I realized no weapons meant no Legos. But I digress. Where were we...yes. Beauty. Freedom. And Flight.

So the beauty is illusory. The freedom is illusory. And the flight...the spreading of wings and being whatever she wants to be!...is a cruel, insensitive trap.  Why are we trying to dupe our girls into believing in a myth of gender equity and equal opportunity when we know damned well that women do not receive equal pay for equal work in this country? Women do not have equal opportunities to succeed in business or economics. Women do, when it comes down to it, still carry the burden of most domestic work and child-rearing, whether they "choose" to or not. And the glass ceiling, through which we now occasionally get the momentary, misleading and voyeuristic opportunity to peek up a woman's skirt, is still as solid as Disney on Ice.  So tell me: why are we telling our girls they can fly (if they really want to! if they just believe in magic!) instead of giving them the tools they're really going to need to build the wings? When Daedalus taught his son, Icarus, to fly, he gave him a very clear warning:  Fly too close to the sun, he said, and you'll come crashing down.  And here we are, crooning "you are my sunshine, my only sunshine" as our girls strap on the most adorable wings money can buy - made in China of the cheapest possible materials. Whose fault will it be when they come crashing down? Icarus was to blame for not heeding his father's advice. Our girls can rightfully blame us for convincing them they were immortal.  

Many of you are probably thinking I'm exaggerating, that our smart girls know the difference between fantasy and reality and can be princesses today and stock brokers tomorrow without blaming us - or Barbie, or Ballet Princess Dora or whatever. And you're right: all of our girls will grow up and make the adjustments they need to deal with social disparities and body-image issues, and gender roles, etc. They don't have a choice in dealing with all that. But I think it's high time, as parents, that we get honest about the role we really play in all this. Are we really deluding ourselves into setting up our daughters to fail? Are we really so easily manipulated by advertising that we can trick ourselves into doing this?  And how do we stop?

Look at what they continue to give us!  Look at what they've done to Dora!  She comes with a comb now.  She's almost unrecognizably dolled up. And her beauty, if we're going to call it that, has come at a very high cost: she traded in her curiosity for a tiara and some glitter. The most interesting thing about her - that she's The Explorer - has been "upgraded" to princess/ballerina. Not an even exchange, if you ask me. 

One of my sisters asked me why it bothers me so much that Dora "wants to be a ballerina" and I said it should bug all of us, that Dora suddenly would rather be a ballerina than a scientist. What message does this send? Girls can be anything...until they reach a certain age. Then cut out the smarty stuff and buy some eye shadow. But when you put it to the test, Dora isn't "choosing" to be a ballerina. She just comes in the box that way now, already wearing the tutu. We are the ones choosing to give our girls this new "choice."  Ballerina or princess? You pick!

Disney and Nickelodeon and Mattel and all the others continue to present us with these "choices" because we continue to buy it.  And they'll keep producing it as long as we keep paying for it. We are, in actual fact, the guilty party here: we are forcing them to keep producing this drivel through a mindless and self-justifying consumerism.  They're just toys. It's fun. I make up for it by buying tool belts and "boy" Legos. My daughter will grow up strong and confident and beautiful. She can be whatever she wants to be.

Parenting is hard work. Trying to raise kids who have values beyond materialism is a daunting task in a consumer culture.  But as far as I can tell, we have the ultimate authority here because we hold the purse-strings. We can control the market by taking a stronger collective stance on what kind of products we're willing to buy for our children. We need to stand together as parents and (1) speak up to say we don't WANT this kind of merchandise and (2) put our money where our mouths are by not buying it.  I think we can do it. If we do it together. Are you in?  

You can start here, by signing this petition and sharing it with your friends: Tell Toy Companies Our Girls Need More Choices than "Princess". Talk to your kids. Talk to your friends. Take action - with your dollars and your voice.

Dora Ballerina, by Fisher Price/Mattel. Available exclusively at Target!
Don't forget Ariel, who gave up her voice for her man...

Face the press: I dare you

11 April 2011
Dear Scott Walker,

How dare you suggest that an independent investigation or recount of the Supreme Court election would amount to fraud or the "big government union bosses" "stealing" the election?  How dare you imply that something as superficial as $1000 a year in union dues is behind the revolution against your unprecedented partisan power grab? Will you ever, in your reign as governor, come out on the side of upholding democracy and/or the law?

I am so disgustingly tired of being insulted by you. I pay taxes. I contribute to society. I have children in public schools. I am a union member who would chose to pay dues whether it was required or not, because that union is the only thing left to protect me from people like you who would hope that I join the ranks of the uninsured, with no hope for a pension, no dream of retirement, no pride or sense of value in my career.

Meanwhile, you continue to try to spin the citizen outrage over your attempts to sell Wisconsin to outside interests and defund public schools and essential programs as simply a matter of corrupt "union bosses" not liking the idea of mandatory union dues.   Unfortunately for you, we are not stupid. And you look like a total jackass repeating this nonsense in the face of a mountain of evidence revealing the corruption, lack of transparency and will to power behind your party's ever shady move.

Stop running away from your constituents and going around the country - on my dime! - spreading lies and demonizing me and my family to convenient audiences and phony "news" outlets like FOX and Newsmax. Face the real press. Face the people. Face me.  I dare you.

And if you won't, resign.

Heather DuBois Bourenane
Very, very angry Wisconsin citizen

Melissa Luther: "Anyone who rises to fame this fast, is destined to fall even faster."

Wisconsinite Melissa Luther sends the email below to Scott Walker every single day. She knows his office receives the messages because she has her email set up to deliver a notice when the message is read...so at least we know now that someone is checking the mail.  I'd be shocked if Scott Walker read any of these...but we sure appreciate them!  Thanks for sharing, Melissa - this is an excellent and powerful letter!

Have you told the governor what you think of him today? govgeneral@wisconsin.gov

Daily email from Melissa Luther to Scott Walker:

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." - Abraham Lincoln

You have lost sight of the goal. The goal of America is and always has been for EVERY person to succeed. Not just the richest 2%. You have joined a movement of corruption and illegal activity. You are a traitor and the presidents of our past would be disgusted with your over reach of power and greed. Shame shame shame on you for putting money before people!

"Those who sacrifice LIBERTY for security deserve neither."- Benjamin Franklin

And here's one more for good measure.

"Guard against the impostors of pretended patriotism." - George Washington

The people of WI do this better than anywhere. We are watching your every move. And you're never going to win. "Anyone who rises to fame this fast, is destined to fall even faster." Don't be another one hit wonder. Here's my challenge for you. Do the right thing. Or continue committing political suicide and being the most hated man in the state. Your choice. Too bad I know what you'll choose.

We would be just as foolish as you are to think that we have a reason to believe you'll ever do the right thing. Scott Walker admit he's wrong?! Psh! Yeah, when pigs fly.

Fools' Day. For some of us, it's a once-a-year thing.

1 April 2011
"Dear" Scott Walker,

Happy April Fools' Day! I hope you had the opportunity to demonstrate your staggering stupidity on numerous public occasions today and that everyone had a good laugh at your expense, both in front of your face and again behind your back, later. This day must be kind of a relief for you, since it gives you that once-a-year excuse of "oh, I was just playing along the whole time..."

As if in honor of your foolishness, the universe really seems to have pulled its act together today!  This is what you might call "providence" and what I like to call "poetic justice," which are really the same the thing. My favorite gags of the day:
  • Sarah Palin endorsed David Prosser. Ha! How perfect is that?!
  • Snowstorm during our spring break! That rat is such a liar. Just goes to show there's no such thing as global warming, eh? Take that, Al Gore!
  • A Republican Montana lawmaker defended drunk driving and argued that DUI laws "are destroying a way of life" and threaten the "community" small business owners create by building a sense of drunken camaraderie. Oh, wait. That one really happened this week.
  • I got the kids all excited to see a nonexistent deer in our suburban back yard then broke their little hearts and got to hear them giggle for a long time.
  • South Dakota announced a tourism plan to rename the Black Hills "Kevin Costner's Tatankaville USA" and return the land at last to the Lakota Sioux in the form of permanent rights to "adopt a highway" privileges along the newly renamed Kevin Costner's Needles highway.
  • Eff Scott Fitzgerald sent out a fundraising plea in which he jokingly admitted that the union-busting measures of the budget bill were all about defunding Obama in 2012 and have nothing to do with the economic good of Wisconsin or a "budget crisis."   Oh, yeah. That also really happened.
  • Michigan governor Richie Rick Snyder announced his switch from Republican to Independent.
  • The Republican party released a hilarious satirical press release punking their moronic base into thinking they were "against" organic produce and mocking the legal system intend to provide checks and balances in government.  Hm. Also true.
  •  You resigned. Finally! This means you ARE reading my letters!  Thank you!!

Have a good evening,*

Heather DuBois Bourenane

* Gotcha! That last part was my own April Fools' joke. You didn't really think I hoped you'd have a good evening, did you?! I hope your evening is the worst one ever for you, in which you are forced to reflect on the fact that your side does foolish things every single day, and become painfully aware of how truly hated you are, and how thoroughly evil your plan for this state is in the eyes of god and man, and realize your only viable option is resignation, followed by fleeing the state.