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Something that I think a lot of people don't know about me is *why* I'm so deeply committed to civil rights and why I will always believe that institutional racism and prejudice is a thing (despite privileged white people insisting it's not).

It's because I have *been* profiled. I have been pulled over numerous times for no better reason than the stickers on my car, or what I was wearing, or where I was going. I have seen people thrown to the ground, kicked, and beaten by police officers wearing no identification. I have been personally threatened by those officers when I demanded their identification. I have been searched and had my car searched based on an officer "smelling something funny" when I never carried pot on my person or in my vehicle in my entire life.

I will not pretend that my experiences as a hippie/Deadhead even come close to what Black and Hispanic Americans experience every day. I always had the option of removing the stickers from my car, changing my clothes, or not going to Dead or Phish shows. They don't have that option.

But to sit on your high horse and claim that these things don't happen? Or that when they do happen they're deserved because they were provoked? Or to claim that the people being harassed must have been breaking the law in the first place? Or that the media is blowing it out of proportion when they're actually not covering the truth at all? Yeah, you can fuck right off.

It. Happens. All. The. Time.

It's a fact of life for millions of Americans. Black, Hispanic, hippies, potheads, the homeless, the mentally ill, punks, goths, skaters, or anyone else who lives outside the mainstream. And I am sick and tired of people claiming that it doesn't. Or that there are "two sides." Or that I should somehow remain complacent and unbothered when journalists are being arrested and peaceful protesters are not allowed to congregate. (People whine all the time about the First Amendment, but when the chips are down and brown people are involved it's crickets...)

I'm angry about this. Flaming, red-hot angry. Angry enough that rationality has temporarily fled and I can't talk about it with friends for fear of pissing someone off to the point of no return. This is my lived experience, and the experience of millions. If it's not your lived experience you have NO RIGHT to deny that it happened, or that it is happening. None.

It's all about me...except when it's not

I've been thinking a lot about the nature of friendship lately. I realized during the run of KCRF that I know a *lot* of people and a lot of people know me. But for all that, I've got just a handful of people I really call friends. I started thinking about it and realized that it doesn't really have to do with how much time we spend together. True friendship is a nearly inexpressible bond but there are a few things that stand out that define it in my mind.

First is reciprocity. My closest friends are as in tune with my life as I am with theirs. They know (and care) what's going on with me and are willing to share what's going on with them. Granted, there are times when one or the other needs to be selfish and focus on themselves and their issues exclusively for a time. Generally speaking, it all evens out in the end. But I've noticed lately that with certain people, my turn never comes. There's a disconnect that involves me being there for them 100% and them not being present for me. That's not friendship; that's a crutch.

Second is being tuned-in. There are certain people I know who collect friends (and so-called family) like baseball cards. Problem is, they never read the player stats on the back. They're so self-absorbed that their friendships tend to be "out of sight out of mind" type things. That might work for them, but it doesn't work for me. If I call someone a friend, I think about them. Not constantly, but from time to time and with curiosity and interest. Social networking and smartphones have made it so easy to reach out that it's pretty obvious when you've got this kind of friendship with someone because they never do it. My friends know me and I know them. I know their favorite colors, their ice cream preferences, their favorite movies, their hopes, dreams and fears. And they know mine.

If you have the first two things, the third comes more easily and that's tolerance. I know for sure that I'm much less accepting of people I don't have that bond with. I find it harder to justify or excuse "bad behavior." Which is not to say that I wouldn't call a friend on crappy behavior because I would. But I'd also be far more likely to listen and try to work things out than I would with someone who I felt no connection with.

I'm getting rambly. I guess the long and the short of it is that I'm getting pretty ruthless over who I will call "friend" and who I will allow to be more than a peripheral part of my life. And, unlike a lot of people who move in the same circles I do, I *never* confer familial labels on my friends. I might say someone is "like a sister" but I'm unlikely to say someone *is* my sister. My friends are unique and deserve the unique distinction of a label that sets them apart from those to whom I am bound by blood and obligation. Not to mention the fact that I've simply seen too many people confer "family" labels on people, then act towards them in ways that I would never accept from a family member.

None of this is discounting the fun and joy that can be had in light friendly acquaintanceships. Those relationships also have their place. I'm just in a place right now where I'm starting to sort out all the various people I know and place them in a sort of hierarchy according to the criteria above. I wish I didn't have to. I wish I had enough time and energy for everyone I care about, but I don't. As they say in poly circles, love may be infinite, but time and resources are not. I guess developing healthy boundaries is all part of growing up...*sigh*

A General Restatement of Philosophy

There have been several instances lately where people in my life have encountered problems with friends or family of theirs that have unfortunately blown up into large-scale conflicts resulting in serious damage to their relationships. It's sad to watch and unfortunately, tends to affect everyone on a broad band, making people on the sidelines feel helpless. I've noticed a common denominator in most of the situations. The internet. Whether it's Facebook, Livejournal or email...

I'm going to get on my soapbox and reiterate a philosophy of mine. One that I learned the hard way. The internet is *no place* to solve interpersonal problems. If you call someone a friend, a brother or a sister, a mother or a father, and you have a problem with them that's serious enough for a discussion, then you owe it to that person to have that discussion *in person*. If you can't make the time to sit down over a cup of coffee and talk things out, then maybe the problem isn't serious enough to discuss in the first place. (I suppose a phone call could work in a pinch, but I still don't think it's a decent substitute for a sit-down conversation.)

Having studied human-computer interactions for many years, I know there are concrete reasons for this. The social cues that we are all trained to interpret since birth are completely missing from online communications. Body language, tone of voice, eye contact, facial expression, etc. All these things are critical to successful communication. Simply put, the internet takes the person and makes it impersonal. Instead of a treasured friend, you're suddenly communicating with a faceless "other" on the receiving end of some 1's and 0's. You wind up saying things that you'd never say to a person's face and you misinterpret things that are said to you because you lack those critical social cues.

The other thing that happens when you take a conflict digital is that it's easier to involve other people, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Of course people have the right to express themselves in their digital spaces like LJ and Facebook. But when you do that, you have to be prepared for the initial conflict to escalate because all of a sudden there are dozens, if not hundreds of people adding their opinions and thoughts to an already complicated situation.

This is why I no longer discuss interpersonal problems in my digital spaces or use filters to expose my thoughts to some people but not others. I learned last year that, even with tight filters and anonymizing identities, deliberately exposing my problems with another individual to the digital world at large only leads to more conflict. There may be a momentary benefit in receiving comments telling you "you're right" or "I'm on your side" but that's largely outweighed by the fact that holding an online pity party only shields you from having to face up to your responsibility in the conflict. Because that's the definition of conflict, folks. Two sides to every story.

I'm making this post public because I think it's a worthwhile message. And as always, it's my two cents. I'd be interested to hear competing viewpoints. Are there situations where communicating via email is preferable? If so, why? *peace out*

A wee edit

Just cleaned up my f'list a bit more. 99% of those removed never post or comment and seem to have abandoned LJ. A couple of people, I'd friended but never friended me back. That feels weird to me in a way I can't really verbalize. If you feel I removed you in error and you want to be added back, just send me a message. Thanks.


Just touched down in KC. Glad to be home.
celtic, music, fiddle
Enter the Haggis brought its unique blend of Celtic rock fusion to Fitzgerald's in Berwyn, IL on Saturday night. The Canadian quintet is currently touring in support of their new album, "Gutter Anthems," and songs from the new CD were prominently featured throughout the night.

Fitzgerald's is a quality venue with a comfortable ambiance and a good selection of imported and domestic beer on tap. By the time the show started (delayed to 9:30 so that the club could observe Earth Hour by dimming the lights) there was a full house of long-time fans, newcomers and club regulars unfamiliar with Enter the Haggis' particular mixture of rock, pop, funk, jazz overlain by a strong Celtic influence.

The band opened with the high-energy The Litter and the Leaves, an Irish punk-sounding call-to-arms against the status quo. The sound quality was excellent, with guitarist Trevor Lewington and piper Craig Downie blending perfectly. Brian Buchanan, normally on keyboard or fiddle, looked perfectly comfortable wielding a beer bottle instead as he riled up the crowd with strong vocals.

Enter the Haggis followed up their rousing opener with Lancaster Gate, an instrumental from their third studio album, "Soapbox Heroes." Bassist Mark Abraham really shone with his melodic style of playing. Smoking hot versions of Another Round and the new pop-rock tune DNA followed, inspiring some enthusiastic dancing.

Buchanan picked up his fiddle for "Fiddle Set," a lively compilation of several traditional Canadian tunes. A competent keyboard player, Buchanan really shines on the fiddle with his high level of technical talent combined with true musical artistry. Downie's antics during this tune drew the crowd further into the groove.

The rest of the set was a mixture of older tunes interspersed with new songs from "Gutter Anthems." The only slight hitch occurred at the end of the set when Buchanan's battery died during "Down with the Ship" forcing him to forgo the soaring fiddle solo that usually closes out the tune. However, drummer James Campbell more than made up the difference with his heart-shaking drumming.

The second set opened with a new instrumental from "Gutter Anthems," Murphy's Ashes. Downie proved on this and several other tunes that he's far more than a traditional Highland piper, pushing the boundaries of his instrument to its limit and beyond. Enter the Haggis followed that up with the haunting, country-influenced Ghosts of Calico and then a mix of new tunes and crowd-pleasing favorites.

The most powerful moments of the night came from two of the band's older tracks, One Last Drink and Congress which showed two distinct sides of the band. One Last Drink allowed the band to show off their vocal prowess with perfectly blended harmonies. The instrumental Congress showed off the high level of technical ability that each member of Enter the Haggis brings to the table along with pure, joyful showmanship.

Always friendly and accessible to their fans, the band stayed after the show to mingle and sign CDs. Enter the Haggis continues the tour next weekend with shows in Ohio and West Virginia, followed by a string of East Coast dates. Tour information can be found at along with audio streams of the band's last four CDs.

-Leah Backus (


This review may be distributed in its entirety as long as my name and email remain attached. I would appreciate an email letting me know where it has been re-posted.


Haggis trip report

celtic, music, fiddle
We're back! I have my typical Haggis hangover. My feet hurt from dancing, I'm hoarse from singing and cheering, and I'm *so* tired. Totally, totally worth it. This is the first of two posts about the show. This one will be an informal trip report. The next will be a more formal review of the actual show that I'm going to set to public in hopes that it will get picked up by Google and give the guys a little PR boost.

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