Open Letter to the Department of Justice – Civil Rights Division

Vanita Gupta
Assistant Attorney General
Principal Deputy of Civil Rights Division
Department of Justice

Assistant Attorney General Gupta,

Following the death of Alton Sterling, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced there would be a full investigation by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. I write to implore you to recognize that the killing—the execution—of Alton Sterling by the Baton Rouge police officers was unconscionable, unethical, and unconstitutional.

The mission of the Baton Rouge Police Department is

to serve with the Baton Rouge community to prevent crime and to promote the safety and well-being of all.

These two civic missions—preventing crime and promoting safety—were both woefully ignored by the officers who shot Mr. Sterling at point blank range. What of his safety and well-being? What of their crime committed? But, I realize that this, the upholding of the BRPD mission, is not your jurisdiction or responsibility.

This is yours. The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice works

to uphold the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans, particularly some of the most vulnerable members of our society. The Division enforces federal statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, disability, religion, familial status and national origin.

If we could, for one brief moment, put aside the profound tragedy of this man’s unwarranted death, Alton Sterling’s constitutional rights were taken from him through illegal execution. He was a citizen of the United States with all the rights and responsibilities of that citizenry, including due process. As you well know, the many writers of the constitution have held this notion of due process so sacred they included it twice.

The fifth amendment:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

And the fourteenth:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

This country and the state of Louisiana failed Alton Sterling.

Baton Rouge Police officers, who should be well-trained in conflict mediation, deescalation tactics, non-lethal disarming, and community enrichment, acted unconstitutionally and illegally. They chose not to detain him. They chose to kill him.

But Alton Sterling is not the only man whose life has been taken unconstitutionally without due process by civil servants.

So, I encourage you to fight for his due process and fight for this life that was taken. This fight is not just for his justice. It is the fight for the lives of other men and women of color who are afraid of walking down their own street.

Please fight for them. Fight with whatever legal footholds you can.

Georgia Maull

What a Piece of Work is Man


I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth,
forgone all custom of exercises;
and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition
that this goodly frame, the earth,
seems to me a sterile promontory;
this most excellent canopy, the air, look you,
this brave o’erhanging firmament,
this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire,
why, it appears no other thing to me
than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.
What a piece of work is a man.
How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty.
In form and moving, how express and admirable.
In action, how like an angel.
In apprehension, how like a god.
The beauty of the world,
the paragon of animals.
And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?
Man delights not me…

Act II, Scene 2

Shakespeare used prose very strategically in his plays. Without cadence, prose produces poignancy, and draws the ear to tell you that someone is saying something important, whether that something is funny, or crazy, or heartbreaking.

I have tried to find words of my own the last few days about the horrifying tragedy at Pulse Orlando.

But I can’t.

There is only sadness, and disappointment, and this speech. This speech has not left my thoughts.

I find myself nihilistic, and losing faith in humanity. I used to take this speech as the sardonic ravings of a madman.

But now, I see Hamlet as truly bereft. And I understand his words. Though I wish I didn’t.

To my friends in the LGBTQ+ community: I love you.
To the LGBTQ+ community everywhere: I love you.

The Great Rejectioning, Part 2: When a door closes…

Rejection comes from the Latin re-, meaning back, and iacare, meaning throw. One of the things I forget about rejection is that it is instigated by action. Rejection is, at least most of the time, a reaction. It does not exist alone. What I think I forget more is that it is not final. I mean it is. If you don’t get into, oh I don’t know, a doctoral program, the admissions officers don’t usually renege on that if you refuse to take no for an answer, but—but, that does not mean there is nothing else to be done.

How you react to rejection is important. You can let what has been throw back at you fall to the ground. Or you can decide to catch it, and do something else with it.


In December, my good friend Megan—who is a wonderful and extremely talented editor, blogger, writer, and the only reason this blog exists—took on a new mantle in my life: writing coach. She was able to do the one thing I really needed: give me a kick in the butt. She, much in the same way my dog got me running, got me writing regularly.

Every week we’d check in and I’d set aside hours on my calendar to write. For the first time in my life, I started thinking about writing as a job. Those feelings of guilt about the laundry list of items to do instead of indulging in this hobby were gone. Because it wasn’t a hobby anymore. It was on my google calendar, and you can’t ignore things when they are on your google calendar.

Megan didn’t just help me schedule writing time. She helped me organize and develop projects, and wanted to help me grow as a writer.

“I want to work on writing fiction,” I said. She asked if I had any ideas for fiction pieces, and I said, “no, because I’m not good at it—I don’t have a very big imagination.”

So each week, Megan sent me a prompt, and I gave myself 15 minutes to write a story. I had to write as quickly as I could and jump into whatever I thought of first without deleting anything. And just by doing it, I felt better and more confident.

Over six months, I published more blog posts for you beautiful people to read, and then also worked on submissions for online magazine writing contests.

Most of the submissions were flash fiction stories. I was excited to be working towards something again—working on projects with deadlines, but there was a serious downside. When I got my first “thank you but no thank you,” I realized I had put way too much hope into my submission, into all of them. For each story I wrote, I sent off the dream of becoming a writer with it. A real writer. A published writer. That is a lot of emotional stuff to put into a flash fiction submission sent to  Once again, the disappointment from high expectations were going to be my downfall.

None of the flash fiction expectations came close to what I put into the one nonfiction piece I wrote for a press doing an anthology of essays about siblings. Megan and I spent a couple months working on it. So high were my expectations that I emailed my sisters and asked them to read it first before I sent it. I wanted their blessing if it was going to potentially published.

Today, that press thanks but no thanks’d me, very nicely tossing it back to me. And instead of wallowing and letting it just sit there, I’m going to do something else with it.

I’m just going publish it here. And then I’m going to publish all of them here.


I’m going to open a window.

Your Health and You, Part 2: The Weight of It All

I keep a list of resolutions in my journal that I don’t usually share with anyone. They are resolutions that I consider shallow and petty. They are handwritten secrets of material desires that I hide away. For the longest time, two goals on my secret list of baser resolutions were:

Weigh less than 170 lbs.
Wear single-digit sized jeans.

I have weighed somewhere between 170-180 lbs since I was 15. And for those almost 15 years, I have also worn size 10 jeans (sometimes 12’s, but mostly 10’s).

These goals weren’t really goals. They were, through my own stagnation and lack of follow-through, pipe dreams. It’s like I knew when writing them that nothing was going to change. Because I had not motivation. I had fantasies about shedding those lbs around the middle and showing off a sweet summer body that would wow everyone, but those were day dreams, like winning the lottery.

But every year, I’d write them down.

So every year, they’d remained unfulfilled.

In college, I started coping with the weight.

I would joke…

that I was like one of those voluptuous women in Renaissance paintings, like a Botticelli.

that if I had been alive in the 16th century, I would have been worth so many goats when my father married me off.

that I had a belly because I was predisposed through evolution to maintain a semi-furnished baby apartment. 

Even when my doctor told me point blank a couple years ago that I needed to get off the couch and really get my body moving, I couldn’t maintain the motivation to keep going. I’d start, and then lose momentum, and then just stop. Whether it was eating better, or doing the 21 Day Fix, I just couldn’t keep it up.

I just couldn’t do it alone.

And then, in October, my life changed. Because Bear and I found Lewis at the Oregon Humane Society.


Lewis and I started to go on walks. And then, in January, we started to go on jogs. Once we started going on jogs, going on walks was a thing of the past. I had found my motivation.

I wasn’t jogging for just me anymore.

Shelter dogs, even at the best shelters, lose weight. Without dedicated owners to walk them well, they just can’t get the exercise they need, and they lose muscle.

In the first six months we had Lewis, he gained 10 lbs of muscle. Pitbull bodies kind of look like furry tiny bodybuilders, and Lewis filled out.

Really quickly into our runs, his, and my, stamina increased, too. We gradually ran more often in the week, and now it’s every day. It’s part of my morning routine.

Lewis makes sure of that.

But it’s not much. Jogging a mile is 15 minutes of your day. It’s enough to get you off the couch and out the door, though. And it was enough to get me out of size 10 jeans.

I wear a 6 now.

I still have a semi-furnished baby apartment, and I still teeter at the 170 lb line, but I’ve found my steady motivation. He lets me know when it’s time to go. And sometimes, he likes to stop and pee on things, or roll around in the grass.


But then we keep going. We’ll keep going until 1 mile gets too easy for us. Then, we’ll do 2.

The Flames

It’s time to stop feeding the flames of ideological violence.

The boon of humanity is the variety of our species.
We are a little like Darwin’s finches, changed by circumstance and environment—different and the same all at once.

Our task is to is educate ourselves and our children.

So, feed minds. Feed them with knowledge of our people’s diversity.
And then fill hearts. Fill them with compassion, generosity, and love.

Let go of the pessimism and cynicism.
Release the fear and hate.
Resolve yourself.

Maybe if we refuse to feed the flames, then the fire will—but it won’t be easy.
The flames are so high.

So try harder.

The Seductions of Cynicism and Pessimism

Last month, I started to read my friend Kyle’s blog from the very beginning and I finished catching up today. Kyle’s reflections on his struggles with weight and self-esteem are very close to my heart, as are his reflections on their destructive offspring: negativity. Or as I see it, those dreaded twins: pessimism and cynicism.

Pessimism I have defamed before. It is literally the worst.

Cynicism is—actually, I just looked up the etymology of the word and now I have no idea what I was going to say. The word cynic comes from the name of a certain philosophical school of thought in classical Athens.

Antisthenes, that founder of the cynics, had a lot to say about virtue. He didn’t like hedone, which hurts my heart a little, but the guy knew something about virtue. But the modern notion of cynicism is a 19th century corruption leaving us with this horrible word grounded only in distrust and disingenuity. So thanks to some philosophical assholes 200 years ago, cynicism is this emotional monster that corrupts everything it touches—even its own history—and leaves nothing good in its wake. And these negatively twins are enticing, and easy. I’ll say what we are all thinking: pessimism and cynicism are sluts.

Pessimism and cynicism let us release all of that anger and frustration we feel on our worst days. And there are people that live on it, rely on it even. They are the people that expect to be disappointed in absolutely everything, and just want another reason to be. There is satisfaction in it. I get that. But it’s not wholesome. The release is fleeting, and you are left feeling empty. So you crave more.

The hook is that it boils down to passivity. Pessimism and cynicism are all about what others are doing or not doing. You can be the victim. You can be the wronged individual. These feelings, and this mind frame once you’re in it, aren’t easy to shake.

The alternative is to be active. You have to try. You have to do something. Positivity and activity are the alternatives, as are their wholesome progeny: optimism and idealism.

Maintaining those is hard.

You have to find ways of feeding your hope and faith in humanity, and yourself, and goodness. And, you have to do that while under the constant barrage of human inadequacy. People, if nothing else, are great at disappointing themselves and others. It’s that whole fallibility thing.

And sometimes people are just fucking assholes.

Last year, I started to feel my positivity waning. After working in a coffee shop for a couple of years, tiny balls of fiery rage would grow with every inconsiderate or just plain mean-spirited customer. That ball of rage was part of my cue to look for a new job. I was starting to feel like a mean person And as time went on, and the job search continued, my senses of idealism and optimism continued to diminish. I was keenly aware that I needed to take a leap and try something new. I needed to get out of the vocational and emotional rut I was in and try to get closer to my happy job.

But, the only real way out is by trying, and then, by trying harder.

Last August, I was hired part-time to work at a tutoring firm. I went down to less than 2 shifts a week at the coffee shop, and I started to find my positivity. I was just so much happier doing something new, something else. But, when I was at the coffee shop, it didn’t take much for the ball of rage to ignite. Last month, the tutoring firm asked me if I’d like to work closer to full time. I sent my bosses at the coffee shop my month’s notice the next day.

Wednesday is my last day at the coffee shop, or any coffee shop for the foreseeable future.

After 3 and a half years, I am leaving the place that gave me my first job in Portland and introduced me to some of my best friends. I am going to take with me all of the life lessons I have learned there. The most important of which is that you choose to let pessimism and cynicism overtake you. It is the easy way out, and it is your choice.

If you don’t like how you’re feeling, if you aren’t happy, if you have lost your idealism and optimism, do something to change it. And then, when you get it back, do everything you can to maintain it. Because it’s about you. Find those people, places and things that sustain your positivity. It will be hard.

So try harder.

One Year’s Time

Yesterday was my 29th birthday. At 2:22pm, I had successfully survived 29 years on this planet, and began my 30th year. But, decades don’t begin with 0’s and end with 9’s, so I won’t be officially out of my 20s until my next birthday. This year—completing my 20s and beginning my 30s simultaneously—is in that no man’s land of betwixt and between. And I find myself once again standing on a threshold.

Next year when I turn 30, there will be five years that separate me and that younger, lost version of myself that was so afraid of never figuring out who she was and what she wanted to do in this world. It feels like many more years than four have passed. Next year it will feel like many more than that.

I have grown so much since I began my crisis of constitution and I am proud of myself. But, when I think about my goals, I realize how much I was leaving to fate by “just plain surviving your twenties.” That mentality was coming from a place of crisis, and couldn’t perceive clearly. 

I don’t want to end my twenties feeling like I survived. That’s not good enough. That’s no where near good enough. 

A few months ago, a word began circling in my head. And now, it pulses like a drum beat.


Sometimes, it intensifies.

Try Harder.

These are the mantras for my 29th year.

To more than just survive, I need motivation and persistence, which are not always easy to sustain. If you want something, you have to try. If you really want it, you have to try harder.

I’m going to see what I can accomplish when I try. It’s going to be a motivational marathon. 

Why just survive when you can flourish?

A Good Man, A Great Actor

When you spend a significant portion of your life watching movies—because your parents didn’t have the money or inclination to buy you video games—there is a blurring in your mind. These people you do not know come into your home through your screen and you get to know them. By nature of the location, it is private and intimate.

For some people, like mentally disturbed people, this can lead to violent and horrible consequences: obsession, stalking, murder.

For the rest of us, it’s much milder. It leads to comfort and, sometimes, solace. These people you have never spoken to feel like friends.

It’s weird. I type the words and I feel weird. But I know it’s true. Because when the ones that had brought me the most comfort pass away, I feel a loss. I cannot say it is the same as losing genuine friends and family. It is not. Those losses were deep, and profoundly heartbreaking. They were rupturing.

But, I do feel a loss.


I didn’t watch Die Hard until college. My mother loves action-adventure movies and period dramas in almost equal measure, but Die Hard fell through the video collection cracks. As such, my introduction to Alan Rickman was not as Hans Gruber or even the Sheriff of Nottingham in Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, but as Colonel Brandon in Ang Lee’s adaption of Sense and Sensibility, which was released almost exactly 20 years ago.

This is his introduction in the film.

The significance of this scene has changed over time for me. When I was a teenager, I looked at Colonel Brandon and saw him experience love at first sight. In the most simple of explications and analyses, he was awestruck by Kate Winslet’s Marianne Dashwood, and in a single moment, he had fallen in love with her.

As I continued to re-watch the movie, Colonel Brandon would become the paragon for a good man. He was kind, and thoughtful, loving and strong. He, as my friend remarked today, was for me and others “the standard to which all men are held.”

Today I replayed this scene I love so much for who-knows-how-many-th time. It was the first thing I thought of watching when I found out that Alan Rickman had died.

I watched it and felt like I was watching the scene for the first time. All of those meanings I had found for this scene were still relevant and present, but they were aspects of a far greater whole. I wasn’t just watching a good man fall in love.

I was watching him be overwhelmed. Had he seen Marianne across a crowded room, it would be something as simple as love at first sight. But he doesn’t react first to her face. In fact, he doesn’t see it until he rounds the corner. It is her voice and music that slows his pace and catches him.

And when Colonel Brandon does see Marianne, though she is in the midst of a profound emotional loss, she is doing something that she is both good at, and loves doing. I couldn’t call her her happiest self, but she is, unbeknownst to her, presenting her best possible self all things considered. And it is all of this that Brandon sees, and this is what overcomes him with love. It is not her face. It is her. And once he sees her, he cannot look away.

And then I realized something more.

I wasn’t watching a man fall in love. I was watching a classically-trained, award-winning actor portray the complexities of love in such an authentic and genuine way, that his performance was one I’d seek out and to watch it over and over again.

It felt real.

So, thank you, sir. I loved your work.

Release and Resolve, Part 3: Lightening Up

These last few years have felt monumental. I spent a lot of time thinking. There’s a lot of internal philosophizing you have to do when you are trying to figure out who you are and what you want to do with your life. You go to some deep, (sometimes) dark places.

It’s not light work, introspection; it’s heavy.

And in the last few years, by virtue of that philosophizing, I’ve finished 2015 feeling the emotional weight of it, and it’s aftermath. I’ve spent so much time trying to ground myself, that I feel a little too grounded.

I feel—matronly. Stodgy. Staid.

This year I want to emotionally ease the load. I’ve found the deep hedone. Now I need to find the sillier and lighter variety.

So, when I asked myself How can I make myself happiest next year?, here’s what I got:

Nail a Passable Scottish Accent

Bear says that whatever is coming out of my mouth when I try right now is bad—really bad. In my own defense, I don’t think he is the best judge for it. His Irish accent is a horrible caricature and he likes to think it’s better than it is. I plan on watching a lot of BBC and laughing. A lot. And then, when I’ve knocked this out of the park, I will rub it in his face.

Play the Ukulele

My dad bought me a ukulele for Christmas five or six years ago. For a long time, it was just something I had to pack with the rest of my stuff whenever I moved, remaining unused and dusty. But, after picking it up for the first time a few months ago, I know three chords. Three chords! Now I just need to learn some more of them.

Get My Next Tattoo

I’ve been planning tattoos three and four for some time now. This year was going to be the year of putting money aside to pay for them. But I don’t need to after all; Bear gifted me tattoo number 3 for me for Christmas.


I have a pair of hiking boots, and a dog. I just need to pack a lunch, maybe a beer, maybe a friend, and then head out. The Pacific Northwest is just waiting to be explored. And considering how long I’ve lived here, it’s exploration overdue.

Read What I Want

Every year, I come up with some rhyme or reason to dictate the books I read. Sometimes, it’s for motivation, and sometimes it’s just to help me traverse a particularly long shelf of To-Reads. I’m going to let fancy take me where it will this year.

Go Out!

I live a 10-minute walk away from a single screen movie theater that has $5 matinees. I live within walking distance of restaurants and bars. I have access to public transportation. Portland is a big city, and there’s plenty to do. (I feel compelled to admit there is some irony of writing this while I am sitting in my pajamas in my bed at 1 pm, but it just snowed, and I don’t wanna go outside, which brings me to my last resolution…)

Don’t Feel Guilty If You Don’t

It’s my life. And a good life needs balance. Sometimes balance is a day in pajamas. Sometimes it’s going out. I don’t always need to be productive. I’m going to go with my gut, and work on ignoring the guilt my head convinces me I should be feeling when I’ve chosen to do something else. My head can just shut the fuck up.

Happy New Year, Everyone.

Release and Resolve, Part 2: The Perennial Release

If this life of ours
Be a good glad thing, why should we make us merry
Because a year of it is gone? but Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come
Whispering ‘It will be happier;”

The Foresters,
Act 1, Scene 3
Alfred Lord Tennyson


A few days ago, I found the place in my journal where I wrote down the resolutions I had hoped to keep in 2015.

Give a fuck about your friends
Give a shit about your body
Express yourself
Make time for yourself
Stop sweating the small stuff
Be a bad-ass

There have been years where I’ve felt let down looking back at my resolutions, unfulfilled and disappointed. But not this year.

I looked at these goals I set for myself 12 months ago, and I felt proud. I didn’t knock them all out of the park, but for every one of them, I thought of moments in my year that I encompassed them.

I’m going to say something pretty offensive right now, but I’ll to say it anyway:

I think Yoda was wrong.

There is try. Not for Luke. Luke was definitely a whiny bitch that needed a kick in the ass. But for the rest of us, there is most definitely try. Because we are not Jedi. We are regular humans. We are imperfect, and we need to be okay with imperfection. We are not being asked to levitate a X-wing and save the universe. We are just trying to live our lives and be good people. This post has really taken a weird turn because I can’t stop thinking about Star Wars.

Imperfect. (I’m back on track.) We are imperfect. This is a really hard thing for me to grasp. I am an idealist and a dreamer and I construct these elaborate, grandiose plans and then when they fall short, I am utterly destroyed. My disappointment is harsh and deep.

But this year, embedded and implicit to all of the resolutions I made was a new mantra, that I didn’t even know I had pulsing quietly but steadily in my brain, getting louder and louder, until I realized what it was:

It doesn’t have to be perfect.

This was the resolution. This is the one that is hardest to accomplish. But it is the one that I will keep trying to fulfill. It was and is my perennial release. My constant unbinding.

With this, I can let go of so much and accomplish so much more. Instead of being hard on myself, and mean, and unkind, I can be compassionate, forgiving and loving. Instead of letting disappointment ruin my day, I can be flexible and optimistic.

I can look back and think, genuinely, that this year: I was resolved.

Or, better yet, resolved enough.

I wasn’t perfect, but I tried.


Tonight, I am putting my mantra to the test for my final release of the year. This night that is the most underwhelming night; it is comically anticlimactic. Or as John Oliver says, it is “the worst.”

My hair is in curlers, which I hope will retain its shape longer than 45 minutes tonight. I am going to put on a dress and heels. I am going to have dinner at a nice restaurant. And then I am going to go to a fancy bar’s New Year’s Eve party that I have won tickets to. I am going to drink fancy, free drinks. I am going to kiss the man I love at midnight. And some or all of it might be just like I have been building it up to be.

But probably not. Because life and everyone in it is imperfect. And it doesn’t it have to be perfect.

But, there is always hope that we can be happier.