There are things Twin Oaks does reliably well and funerals are one of them.
I dislike most funeral formats. Too much religious singing or scripture, often reflecting the wishes of the minister rather than the person who passed. Too much waiting around for people who are not skilled at public speaking struggle to prove they really cared in oft too long and pained presentations.
Ex-member Kate facilitated the funeral in a Quaker style where people shared what they were moved to say. Almost everyone was funny in an appropriate way because we knew it would take powerful joy to cut the tragic sadness of losing this person with incredible potential. Very few prepared remarks (though Carly penned this amazing piece), lots of short heartfelt memories.
As an event organizer, I evaluate this from two perspectives: First is “What would Gwen think?” And I think she would have been very pleased at all these people from her life saying these comic and amazing things about her. She would have felt seen and celebrated.
But the other perspective is what it must be like to be one of Gwen’s girlfriends in attendance. What would it be like to be among so many people whose principal connection with my partner is that they raised her? Would they be like that relative who does not see how embarrassing it is to show these old photos?
No, we are better than that. There were some endearing stories of young Gwen, like the one Tigger, her father, told of Gwen at 4 years crying:
Tigger: Gwen, no one gets their way by whining and crying
Gwen: Dad you don’t know anything about whining and crying.
But this is a story of Gwen in control and defiant and it reveals perhaps the most important not-quite-secret ingredient in what makes commune collective child raising so great. We teach defiance.
We teach kids how to hide from their parents when that is appropriate. We teach kids how to know when to break any rule. But more importantly, we teach how to be a conscientious rule breaker. How to know when you’re breaking rules and which rules are silly and should simply be ignored and to know what rules matter and why.
Gwen was the closest thing Willow (my daughter) had to a sister. But in some ways commune life made them much closer than most siblings would be. For almost a decade they were in every class, preschool or play activity together. They ate most meals together, hung out together at most parties and celebrations. And they shared approximately 2 bazillion hours of various video game chats together. Most siblings a year apart in age spend much less time together.
Gwen’s coffin surrounded by family and clan
Understandably Willow is pretty broken up about it. She was crying often during the funeral. I don’t consider myself a particularly great parent. But one thing I feel our family did well with Willow was encourage her to cry things out. No shame in tears, they are expressing needed emotional release. Let them flow.
But I am not worried about Willow though she is clearly hurting. Because emotional resiliency is another not-so-secret ingredient.
Editor’s Note: Though it is a bit old fashioned, i try pretty hard to run blog posts past people who are featured and named in them, to make sure they are comfortable being represented this way. Willow gave her blessing and happily thought i was actually a fine parent. Kate who facilitates sacred ceremonies, was happy to be called out. And Gwen’s dad Tigger approved this text before it was published. Carly shared her letter and amazing pictures. Thanks to Summer for more pictures and Kelpie for edits and tech support. Thanks to all of them for quick turn around on this recent event
Gwen, it is incomprehensible that your spirit has flown so soon.
I have known for a few days but all of me is still crying out NO. It cannot be. There must be some mistake. You knew that road, you have things to do, the world needs you. You are too loved to be gone. But it doesn’t work like that.
Eighteen years. I am reeling, we are all reeling, that that is all you got. Sweet, fierce, wise Gwendolyn.
Going through my photos, through the heartbreak and tears, my overwhelming sense was of how loved you are, and what an incredible life you lived.
Like Hawina wrote, ‘All the mountains that Gwen would have moved will now be dismantled at a slower pace…’
Gwen at the Women’s march – Mountain moving will be delayed
I wish I could be with all those who loved you over the coming days. Many, like me, remember when you were born (sheesh your mama was ready to have you in her arms!). I remember your new baby smell. I remember holding your hands as you began walking, the youngest at that year’s Twin Oaks Women’s Gathering. I remember a wicked glint in your eye and hearing stories of you through the years, over the seas, and thinking, yes, this one will move mountains.
I will be there in spirit as beloveds carry your physical self to rest in the Twin Oaks cemetery, not far from where you were born. A circle complete far too soon.
All my love to your mama, dad Tom, Jonah, Robert and Madge, Willow, Hawina, Pax, Sky, Kristen, Keenan, and all the other mamas and papas, primaries and the many in your community, Twin Oaks and beyond. You gave so much in your short life. A little piece of all our hearts go with you.
Fly high beautiful.
Words by Anissa, pictures by Instagram
I have 10 minutes today to present on how communes can help us move away from money centric economies. I love this topic and have quite a bit to say about it. So much to say, that it does not all fit into the time i have.
I think recruiters have an obligation to talk about the shadow sides of the things they are promoting. Here is the slide i did not have time for on the disadvantages of commune life in general.
- Press your buttons
- Sharing work, home, and money with a large group can be intense
- Less autonomy (health care, kid care, snap long distance trips)
- Less Privacy
- Romantic breakups can be harder
- Insular – reduced access to urban culture
- Small social circle
- Dramatically reduced chance of getting rich
- Maybe shunned by family and old friends
- No 401k (although there is phased community retirement)
Most of these points are self expanitory but i want to elaborare on the first one. Joining a commune is going to push your buttons. If you know what your buttons are, then you are signing up for a personal growth class by joining. You will be confronted with this and have to grow, or suffer. But the second possibility is that you do not actually know what your buttons are, and then coming to the commune can be a difficult and disorienting wake up call. You could find out that you are crazy jealous and the partner of your dreams is polyamorous. You could find out that you need much more alone time than you thought (because it had not been much of an issue before, because it happened “naturally”) and you need to adjust your schedule accordingly. Maybe you like to make your own choices about which brand of shampoo or kind of desert you want, this could require some adjusting.
There are lots of advantages to living in a commune, but contrary to other peoples reporting, we have no illusions that this is utopia.
I often find people comparing Hitler to Trump and i find it quite problematic. It displays an ignorance of history that US Americans are famous for and it elevates Trump’s impact in a way which feels problematically inaccurate. So let’s just dive in:
Genocide: Hitler is responsible for killing millions of Jews, Romani, disabled folks, and other ethnic and religious minorities. Beyond those murders, millions were tortured, enslaved, and raped. Trump banned people from Muslim-majority countries from entering the US, tried (with varying levels of success) to build a souther border wall, and called Mexicans rapists. Trump sent unmarked Federal Troops after BLM and antifa activists there were a handful of fatalities.
Press: Hitler’s Ministry of Propaganda closed 3/4s of the nations newspapers and all we under strict editorial control, Nazi controlled press dominated almost all media. Trump referred to the mainstream media as “fake news” but was unable to bar reporters he did not like from the White House press corps. He can take credit for the birth of terrible news sources like Newsmax and One America Network, it is unclear if these will survive the lawsuits which have been brought against them by voting machine companies.
Military expansion: Hitler drove the growth military to over 30% of the total population (over 22 million people), as well as indoctrinating children through the paramilitary organization known as Hitler youth. Trump’s military growth was flat compared to GDP and never reached Obama’s highest spending levels. Trump created the Space Force division of the military, which will likely just get folded back into the Air Force where it mostly came from. The US active military is less than 1% of the population (about 2 million people).
Homophobia: Hitler’s Nazis put 100,000 LGBT folks into concentration camps, destroyed scholarly work on sexuality and banned gay organizations and burned progressive sexual institutions. Trump banned new transgender soldiers joining the military, and appointed anti marriage equality supreme court justices. Biden reversed the transgender ban on his first day as president. Trump’s supreme court is his most lasting legacy.
Dictatorship: Hilter’s party took complete control of the government, all other political parties were disbanded and outlawed. The Nazi’s ruthlessly killed hundreds of political opposition within Germany. Trump lost the House, the Senate and the White House and was unable to get a single one of his appointed judges to rule in his favor. Trump’s supporters’ assault on the Capitol was uncoordinated, fanciful, ill conceived, and destined to failure. Hitler burned their Capitol and pinned it on the communists and used that to seize power. Trump got crowds to chant “lock her up”, Hitler did it.
Fascism: Hitler seized control of the entire industrial infrastructure of Germany, this is what fascism used to mean. Trump claimed to be a businessman and capitalist. He moved resources away from the government and towards corporations and established wealth. Hitler built a ruthless, dedicated and effective secret police network. Trump diminished the power of his intelligence services by regularly replacing their heads and firing generals he did not like.
Military Action: Hitler invaded 20 countries. Trump bombed Syria and assassinated an Iranian General. Trump withdrew the US from support of the Kurds in Syria and started the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Trump supported proxy wars in Yemen and Palestine.
Death: Google sez: “Some 75 million people died in World War II, including about 20 million military personnel and 40 million civilians, many of whom died because of deliberate genocide, massacres, mass-bombings, disease, and starvation.” Without Hitler as the charismatic leader of the Nazi party, that probably would not have happened. Trump can take significant responsibility for spikes in mass shootings and racist police killings and assaults, the murders and suicides associated with Jan 6th failed insurrection, unnecessary starvation and abuse on the southern border..
As terrible as Trump was, Hitler was a whole different class of monster.
Minimizing the impact of Hitler by comparing it to Trump’s antics is something someone from the US is more likely to do than someone from Europe or Asia.
What is important and similar in these men is that they both succeeded in driving a significant fraction of their population into doing destructive, damaging things, which are not in their best interests. He held rallies which, visually and content-wise, bear some similarities to rallies in Nazi Germany. QAnon has not gone away, the Proud Boys are seeing a spike in recruitment. Nor is the 2020 election defeat of Trump anything like the 1945 demise of Hitler, this threat is active and must be addressed.
Like Hitler til the end, Trump has not significantly been held responsible for his failures and crimes. Recent raids on Giuliani will put tremendous pressure on him to flip on the former president. Trump may yet face the music.
Edit help from Angie Tupelo
“If the vaccine is effective, there is no reason for people who have received the vaccine to wear masks or avoid physical contact. So maybe it does not work and they are just not telling you that.”
Tucker Carlson on Fox News April 13, 2021
And with this Tucker Carlson announced he is running for president. Trump proved you need no experience nor governance talent to hold the highest office in this land. But more importantly,Trump proved that a good angry story is far more important than the truth, especially when you have the Fox News amplifying the grievance behind the message.
Do i know for sure this is Carlson’s intention, certainly not. I am speculating wildly. But this speculation might be useful, if it encourages us to focus on how the raging culture wars are affecting us. And even if he is not running for president, Carlson’s pronouncement says several other important things. It says Fox News is committed to profits over public health. It says that Fox News is not afraid of lawsuits like the two cases brought by voting machine companies for Fox’s promotion of the Big Lie. [ Each of these cases is suing for amounts which exceed Fox News 2020 annual income of $1.5 billion.] It says we are entering a new realm in which press freedoms and first amendment rights are used to actively disinform people while the government appears unable to stop them.
“But is this really different from Fox harping on Hydroxychloroquine as a covid cure?” you might well ask. I think so. While Trump was in power, Fox could make great ratings by covering him and amplifying the points which made him successful. Without Trump’s lead, Fox is making their own news, and more importantly enabling destructive white suppremisist tendencies of the population by fueling their endless set of grievances. The Murdock network is choosing the build on the alt-facts model after the Trump champion is dethroned.
Trump’s retirement does not mean we get to relax.
I learned a lot of things from Coyote, one of the first things i learned from him was about death. In 2001, a few years after i had moved to Twin Oaks, a long time member Kana died. Coyote said an insightful thing about him. “When someone like Kana dies, you have to become stronger – because they leave the kind of hole in you that you can only fill with yourself.” Today i find that i have to be stronger for Coyote is irreplaceable to me.
But were he consulted, he would choose a different story to be remembered by, one i heard him tell with relish a number of times.
In the summer of 1982, a handful of armed FBI agents arrived at a cabin door in Indiana.
“Are you John Steven Fawley?”
“Would it make any fucking difference if i said ‘No’, officer?” asked Coyote in a most respectful tone.
“Absolutely none, Mr. Fawley”
“Then please come in officers, mi casa su casa” Coyote offered with a wave of his arm in greeting.
Inside they found 1254 marijuana plants growing.
Coyote would admit his role in the crime of growing these plants, he would take full responsibility and tell the judge that he was changing careers and the money would have allowed him to transition from teaching to what would ultimately be taking care of special needs kids.
In his contemporaneously delivered speech to the judge he would promise that “i am not a troublesome individual” the judge believed him, Coyote did no time in jail.
Coyote’s birthday was the day after Christmas which is also Chairman Mao’s birthday. And while he had myriad critiques of how the Chinese tried to implement communism, Coyote did have a deep respect for the vision of this revolutionary Chinese figure. Perhaps 50 years ago, and perhaps under the influence, Coyote and friends called the Chinese embassy and wished Mao a happy birthday and commented on the coincidence. The embassy staff person said “Chairman Mao and all the people of China wish Mr. Coyote a very happy birthday as well”.
He wanted to be nimble in his thinking, he did not want to be stuck in habits over substance or ethics. Coyote taught me everything i knew about baseball, about the shortstop being the soul of the team and what kinds of things to say in the club car of a train to sound like you know what you are talking about with respect to baseball. Coyote was a big Yankees fan, had been for decades, had cheered them on as they won numerous world series. We even donned nicknames for a hot minute, with him being Yankees owner Steinbrenner and me being the couch Joe Torre. The idea was he was increasingly stepping away from managing the communes affairs and i was stepping in to replace him.
But then in the summer of 2004, Dick Cheney was invited to Yankee Stadium just before the Yankees beat the Boston Red Socks. He was photographed with Joe Torre and sat in Steinbrenner’s box seats. That was it, Coyote retired as a yankees fan, threw out the baseball hats and other memorabilia and never went back, he dropped baseball as well, and since then i stayed away from club cars conversations about baseball.
But it is another parable of Coyote’s life that taught me the most, a parable i failed to tell him, tho i am sure he would deny it.
Coyote was a smart, literate and articulate guy. But as he grew older he seemed to drift towards being a curmudgeon, people annoyed him, the commune bureaucracy did not function as smoothly as he would have preferred. Having been a high functioning person for his whole life, it bothered him when others seemed to show up with weak effort. Those of us on his informal “care team” spoke about his growing resentments and if there were ways we should try to push him away from them, as he was needing increasing care from the community and all caregivers are volunteering.
And then over some weeks he seemed to chill out and become more grateful and less curmudgeonly. Oh he still had complaints, but they were toned down and less personal. He found his place in the collective which encouraged him to have a different voice.
Unlike most people, Coyote decided he would not become a curmudgeon and instead would be mostly grateful for his circumstance (“i’ve painted myself into a perfect corner” he used to say) and not let his furstrations poison his interaction with others who he was becoming increasingly dependant on.
Coyote was an avid reader and writes to his favorite authors. He wrote to the poet and revolutionary Wendell Berry who sent him back the powerful poem HOW TO BE A POET (to remind myself). Which includes the lovely lines:
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
And desecrated places.
Coyote’s funeral is this Saturday at 1:30. His final resting place will be sacred for us. It is possible for non-members to attend, but you need to follow the strict rules about social distancing and processioning. Hawina is coordinating outside guests coming to this event. You must contact her (at firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are not a current inside the Twin Oaks quarantine bubble and are interested in attending.
What i really want for my birthday is an antidote to disinformation movements.
Angie and i have been exploring counter measures to QAnon. It is intellectually some of the most interesting and challenging work that i have done. There are different angles of approach: is it a cult or is it an addiction? Are there clever counter games which can be designed? Would inoculation and/or pre-bunking of emerging conspiracy theories be a useful tactic?
Your support will help us in our research and development including: paying for academic articles and books, fees to expert consultants, prizes to game designers, panel honorarium, and more. There will be a public release of our initial findings and resources of our preliminary research phase, most likely in early April.
Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. If you have a Facebook account you can donate through this fundraising link. Alternatively, you can also donate with any credit card thru PayPal using the singularly unexciting button just below.
Beyond money, we are still looking especially for inventive game designers and experts in disinformation movements to help us decode and develop.
You will be able to find our stuff at QRemedy.org
You know the Hollywood formula, a group of charismatic and daring heroes take on a critical but impossible task, and backing them up is the somewhat geeky character who is controlling things remotely with their super hacker computer. They open doors, removing critical barriers just at the last minute, enabling the heroes to bust in triumphant.
Today you can be that hero, not the one in the line of fire, but that computer savvy ally who rescues the heroes on the ground. You could be part of the Georgia runoff air team. If you do social media, we need your help (especially tiktok), if you can do research, translations, messaging, graphics, or fundraising and you need minimal hand holding to be effective, our heroes have a place for you.
Right now voter turnout is running over 90% of the general election, which is very good. The polls show this is going to be a very close election. Biden won Georgia by only 12K votes and Republicans turned out more than Democrats for the general Senate election. Which means everything anyone can contribute matters and might just make the difference and specifically you can be the feather that tilts the balance.
And we have a second request; if you know who would most likely respond yes to this request that you please forward this on to them.
Here is some of what our heroes on the ground are doing and some of our early canvas work and street art installations. We have exciting translation projects, tamale give aways, lawn signs with lyft and uber free codes and much more. We have not even broken out the onesies yet.
This is where you can sign up to be part of Georgia air team. We can certainly use the help!
And we are also always happy to take donations.
[A shorter version of this blog post first appeared on the Flip 2020 website]
The administration, which continues to assert that Mexico will pay for the border wall, may be finding the limitations of madness as a political strategy.
Trump spoke to a good-sized crowd at a tiny airport in Georgia near the Florida border. The purpose of the rally was to support the two Republican senators running to save their seats in the January 5th run-off election.
Valdosta, GA airport with an estimated 10K person crowd
Trump spent much of his speech complaining about how the election had been stolen from him and how Gov Kemp had refused to overturn the election in Georgia for him. He played OANN tapes of detailed “vote stealing” activities in various states including Georgia. He notably did not condemn the Republican operatives who were encouraging people not to vote in the runoff, calling them “his friends.”
Trump spoke for almost 2 hours. He let the candidate speak for 2 minutes, while they were on the stage together, during which the crowd shouted “Fight for Trump” in the same cadence as their previous favorite “Lock her up.” The fans message is clear, take Georgia’s electoral votes for Trump, or suffer the consequences.
“You know, you’re angry because so many votes were stolen. It was taken away. And you say, ‘Well, we’re not going to do it.’ We can’t do that. We have to actually do just the opposite,” Trump said.
The Oxford Dictionary defines Orwells term Doublethink as “the acceptance of or mental capacity to accept contrary opinions or beliefs at the same time, especially as a result of political indoctrination.”
If you attended this rally, you left with two messages. The senators are not doing enough for Trump. These senators deserve your vote.
Some Trump followers who believe these claims of massive voter fraud are advocating for boycotting the Georgia Senate runoffs. Because this race is within just a couple of points – without Trump actively unifying his base, even a tiny boycott could sink the GOPs chances to hold either seat.
This is a photo of the Sidney Powell and Lin Wood “Stop the Steal” rally in Georgia where Republican participants were encouraged to boycott the upcoming runoff elections, unless they overturn the states electoral votes going to Biden. Here the message from Trump’s friends is unequivocal “Don’t vote” and from the size of the crowd, if I were a GOP operative working in Georgia I would be worried. And in case you have not seen the clips you should know this was an enthusiastic crowd.
This rally creates an impossible situation for Loeffler and Perdue. If they demand the election results be overturned they spark a civil war inside the party where “conventional” Republicans like the Secretary of State Raphenperger and Gabriel Sterling (who famously demanded Trump to control the threats of his supporters) are disenfranchised. Or they stop short of these demands and the enraged Trump supporters follow the advice of Wood and Powell and boycott the election because they have not earned their vote. Either way, because of the razor tight margins the way incumbents are likely to lose. Trump held this rally not to support these candidates, but to threaten them to do more for him or risk losing his full support. For in the end this narcissist in chief cares only about his own king making capacity and not about who controls the Senate or anything else.
The Flip Georgia project is the legitimate daughter of the Flip 2020 project which operated in Maine through the general election. Out of state activists, organizers and street performers are working with locals groups to register voters, canvass door to door and raise voter awareness of the critical runoff election on Jan 5th.
We still need financial assistance to do this timely work. Please support us as you can.
Jerod and I are at the unassuming parking lot of a root canal dentistry service. There are half a dozen canvassers on a glorious Atlanta morning- every one of us has done some canvassing before. Nick, who works for the Jon Ossoff campaign and is our canvass lead, gives us our scripts. Like any good canvass director he tells us to not feel bound by it and do what feels natural at the door. He stresses the dates for early voting and registration of new voters, but because the crew is experienced he doesn’t worry too much about our training.
Ideally the Flip Georgia Project (the new name for the Flip 2020 Project, now that our work in Maine is done) would do very little canvassing, not because we don’t think it’s effective — quite the contrary. We continue to believe that the reason so many polls were wrong in the general election, and that the Republicans were able to hold most of their vulnerable Senate seats, is the Democrats mostly did not canvass while the Republicans claim to have done a million doors per week.
But the reason we want to do little canvassing is we believe we can do things in Georgia that are more effective, as illustrated by the work we did later in the day.
I already had the MiniVan app on my phone from canvassing in Maine. I dropped in the new codes and was off to nearby houses within half an hour of meeting Nick. The houses were large, the neighborhoods affluent, and most of the people I spoke with were well aware of the elections; several had already voted. Still, I had a couple of good conversations, dropped off the informative literature at houses where there was no response to my knocking, and was quick enough that I got Nick to give me a second territory and completed that as well.
While my morning of canvassing was fairly bland, Jerod got some disturbing information at one door. A family who had just arrived home mentioned they thought he was Republican because they’d already talked to multiple Republican canvassers. This was rattling because the MiniVan system does not send you to every door — that would be a waste of your time — it sends you only to doors of people who either are registered Democrats or who might vote for your candidates (Independents, Green party folks, people who have made contributions to the campaign). What is disturbing is that the general election that triggered these critical Georgia runoffs was less than a month ago. It means the Republicans have large canvass crews and are already doubling back and hitting the same houses twice, while the Democrats are just getting started.
Which brings me to the latter part of the day, where I feel the Flip Georgia effort out-performed both conventional canvassing and the big Democratic groups operating in the state.
After canvassing, I went to meet up with Jacqueline and her tribe of artists. Most days Jacqueline works as a non-profit Director of Digital Strategist, but this was not most days. Jacqueline is working with local artists and activists on the VoteTree project in Atlanta, which fuses public art with non-partisan political content to raise awareness about these critical runoff elections.
I have to admit I was skeptical when Jacqueline first proposed a “fabric bridge”: strips of red, white, and blue fabric hung from a long ribbon suspended a few feet above the ground along the side of the Beltline park, which circles Atlanta. I imagined it might be ignored, or that the police would force its removal. But Jacqueline was determined and I knew enough to stay out of her way. And she was completely right. Passersby loved the installation, our most minimal invitation got people, especially families, engaged and putting up ribbons. These flag like ribbons were popular with passers by who were happy to help build this patriotic art project encouraging and enabling people to vote.
And as is sort of the Flip Georgia approach, while some people were doing the activity other people were working the crowd to get them to register or apply for an absentee ballot. Jacqueline’s team had created these handy business cards with QR codes on them that made it dead easy to get your ballot mailed to you. You can scan it on your phone, which takes you to the Secretary of State’s website, and there you can immediately register and/or request a mail-in ballot.
On the other side of the busy Beltline park, Allison took pictures of people with her sign that had election information on it. She would simply ask people who were walking down the Beltline if they would be willing to hold her sign so she could take their picture and post it on social media. Almost everyone said yes (who can resist a selfie that shows off your civic duty?). Right after she took their picture she would ask, “May I take a picture with your phone so you can put it up on social media?” Almost everyone said yes!
By comparison one of the prominent Georgia political groups was tabling at the Beltline just a couple hundred meters from us. Their instructions were to not be intrusive. If someone had a question or wanted information they were of course there to help. But they were not to “bark” at passersby to attempt to get them to engage. We were “barking softly” if you will — you could get your picture taken, you could tie on a ribbon with your kids if you wanted to… and take one of our business cards.
I asked the folks at this table how many people had spoken with the major group’s paid tablers in the course of their three-hour shift. The number was three. I checked with Jacqueline how many people had used the QR coded cards we had given out — there were over fifty during that same afternoon. We had talked with and engaged dozens of people and given out many cards.
It seems to be the right time for barking.