when the status quo frustrates.

Restavec

Monday, February 1st, 2010


An interpretation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, represented as a pyramid with the more basic needs at the bottom.

A restavec (or restavek; from the French reste avec, “one who stays with”) is a child in Haiti who is sent by their parents to work for a host household as a domestic servant because the parents lack the resources required to support the child. (wikipedia)

I came across this article today, about a 9-year-old restavec named Sende Sencil.

Beaming, and in clean clothes for the first time since the earthquake, Sende, who was thought to be an orphan, returned to the hospital’s tents with the doctors.

As they walked, a man approached them on the street and reached out to grab Sende.

“I’m looking for her. She’s my family,” the doctors remember the man saying in broken English. “I’m taking her home.”

Pediatricians Tina Rezaiyan and Liz Hines, had been looking forward to the day when Sende’s parents might come to claim her, but this was not what they’d anticipated.

“She was trembling and hiding behind us. She was so scared of him,” said Hines, a second-year pediatric resident at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

Flashback to 1982: Walking home from school with my best friend, Sheila.* We’d been best friends since the first grade; we walked home from school every day together, hand in hand–though not that day, because one of her arms was in a cast and she needed the other one to carry her books. My eight-year-old self didn’t even notice the cast; it had been there for a few weeks, it was part of the scenery. Only my thirty-six-year-old self stares at it, remembering how Sheila got it.

“So can you spend the night tonight?” Sheila asked me.

I could, and I did, though even my eight-year-old self dreaded it a little. Not a lot, because Sheila was there and she was my best friend and we always had such fun–putting her mom’s 45s on the plastic record player upstairs and setting it on “78″–who needed an actual Alvin & The Chipmunks record when you had a stack of 45s and a record player with a “78″ setting? And eight-year-olds think that what they see and live is the way it is for everybody–they don’t resist the system because they aren’t even aware that there is one. But the night Sheila’s stepdad broke her arm was still fairly fresh in my memory, and I had no cozy feeling that I was entirely safe from him either–he’d hurt me before too, though nowhere near to the degree he hurt Sheila.

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Depression and Weird Moments

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

A friend of mine, the other day, told me, “You know, except for a few weird moments, I’d never know you were depressed.”

Of course, those “weird moments” are probably the one in which they catch me looking longingly at the point of a knife or a phone call in the middle of the night where I sob out all of my existential angst.

But, if anything, that about sums up what depression is for everyone around me- a few weird moments. I still go out, I still go to work, I still smile and laugh and joke. When other people see me, I make sure that I do all of the hygiene that’s appropriate for a human being. I’m still logical (or as much as any one human being is). I still care about the world around me, even as it continues to baffle me. Depression doesn’t make you less intelligent. Or, for that matter, more intelligent. The “tortured genius” stereotype is wrong on so many levels.

I only have a mild case of depression. What this means is when I went to visit my shrinks, they didn’t put me under surveillance when I told them that I was suicidal. When I got frustrated with having to talk to them, it meant that I could say some pretty little lies about finding the value of living and I could stop seeing them without any trouble from the university* or the hospital.

But, what it means to me is inside my head I have a torture device. I have a brain that likes to say, on an endless loop, about how much better everyone would be if I were dead. It likes to say about how stupid I am, how arrogant I am, how cruel, ugly, clumsy, useless, talentless, and disgusting I am. And as evidence it brings up every memory for every embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me, from the tiny to the huge. Then it tells me I’m selfish and weak for wanting to die. This loop is powered by my energy and desire, so every time it goes around in my head, I have a little less of each to go about and do the day-to-day life.
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Ooh The Hypocrisy, It Burns!

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Jon strikes again. :D (via)

(Jon does also take on ACORN, pretty hilariously, here.)

Because racism’s dead. You knew that, right?

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Interracial couple denied marriage license in La.

NEW ORLEANS – A Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have. Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, says it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long.

“There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage,” Bardwell said. “I think those children suffer and I won’t help put them through it.”

Yep, children from those marriages, even the ones that don’t last, I mean it’s not like they could e-v-e-r grow up to become President of the United Sta—

“I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way,” Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. “I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else.”

Mostly I think of “piles and piles” as describing my laundry. And did he seriously just brag about letting black people use his bathroom..?

I sure love living in “post-racial” America!

It’s Banned Books Week!

Monday, September 28th, 2009

I love Banned Books Week! Some of my favorite books of all time are banned books…I mean, check out this list of classics! Admittedly, a lot of the banning action took place decades ago, but lest anyone think we’ve relaxed our deathgrip on the minds of our children in this new millenium, here are a nice collection of more recent incidents to sneer at:

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Sallinger: Removed by a Dorchester District 2 school board member in Summerville, SC (2001) because it “is a filthy, filthy book.”

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck*: Banned from the George County, Miss. schools (2002) because of profanity.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley: Challenged in Foley, Alabama (2000) because of the depictions of “orgies, self-flogging, suicide” and characters who show “contempt for religion, marriage, and the family.” The book was removed from the library, pending review.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: Burned in Alamagordo, N. Mex. (2001) outside Christ Community Church along with other Tolkien novels as satanic.

If you’re interested in the most up-to-date reporting on the 2008 open season on communication of unapproved ideas, the American Library Association puts out a yearly list of the books that are challenged, restricted, removed or banned–see if your favorites are on there too!

Leaving you with the bittersweet taste of irony, from January of this year. Enjoy!

*I might sympathize with an attempt to ban it from required reading lists–yes, it was on mine in high school–based on the fact that it sucks ass and there are at least one hundred more interesting and compelling novels that could immediately and happily replace it…but no, I have to defend John Steinbeck’s biggest load of crap evar based on principle. A shame, but there you have it.

ZOMG

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Lady Lydia has sent me a “Friends!” request on Facebook.

You know, Lady Lydia…yep, it’s THAT Lady Lydia…

I really can’t decide what to do with it. :D Anybody else got any opinions?

How I Grew Up Without Health Insurance, or Emergency Rooms Don’t Do Chemotherapy

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

“Wow,” said the doctor.

That’s not what I expect a doctor to say while peering into my ear, of all places. “What?” I asked.

“You have really heavy scarring in there,” she said cheerily. “You must have had a ton of untreated ear infections as a child!”

Had I? I remembered being sick a lot, and there had been times of excruciating ear pain—“Oh?”

“Oh yeah,” she said. “I’m surprised you don’t have any hearing loss, or balance or vertigo issues. The scarring’s so bad, the cilia in your inner ear, you know—probably not too many of those left.”

Goodness, that explained a lot…I left the doctor’s office feeling kind of dazed. All my life I’ve suffered awful, debilitating motion sickness—even as an adult, after most other people I knew outgrew getting carsick in the back seat on the way to Grandma’s house, I never did. Over the years I’d become the master of what little I could do to mitigate it and also of hiding it from others (to a point—my face turning greenish-white wasn’t something I could ever manage to hide, but luckily that degree of nausea takes hours of continuous motion to achieve and I avoid hours of it whenever possible). My first husband was remarkably unkind about it, insisting it was all in my head and cutting me no slack whatsoever over it in the apparent belief that if it wasn’t coddled, I’d snap out of it.

(Needless to say, that never did work…all it did was make me feel unloved and violently nauseated, as opposed to just violently nauseated. Oh, well.)

When I started junior high, we had a gymnastics section in PE class. How it worked out for the boys I don’t know, but it was a real class divider for the girls. See, girls from nice families got gymnastics classes and gymnastics camps as a matter of course, usually for several years in earlier childhood—us poor girls? Not so much. And there it was, laid out for all to see. And for me, it’d always been even worse—your average poor girl had usually figured out on her own how to do a simple cartwheel as part of the normal childhood process. Sadly, not I—I could never manage one; not because I lacked athleticism, I was always a fast runner and a good catcher, for instance—but because I lacked balance. The very worst, most humiliating part of the gymnastics section, of course, was the balance beam. I couldn’t even get up on the goddamn thing. I mean it—as part of even the simplest routine, we had to do a running mount of some description. I could jump up to it, but I couldn’t catch my balance once up there. I fell off. Immediately and inevitably, every single time. I wasn’t normally a laughingstock—at that time I was generally considered a nice, quiet, smart girl in the semi-official peer rankings—but even the kindest of the other girls couldn’t help letting a few giggles escape whenever it was my turn to give it a try.

Years later, during my first Army physical, the medic informed me that I had significant high-frequency hearing loss. I remember staring at him in surprise and saying, Huh? I hadn’t noticed—“Well, you’re probably used to it,” he said. “You’ve probably had it for years. But it does prevent you from being qualified for some military jobs, so I gotta make a note of it in your records—sorry!”

Well, at least I finally knew why…

…and, about four years ago, one of my best friend’s sisters died from a brain tumor. She died because, among other things, she couldn’t afford chemotherapy to the tune of $5000 a month, and neither could the rest of her extended family, though everyone chipped in for as long as they could. She died because the tumor made it impossible for her to work (it first made itself known by giving her a seizure in her boss’s office), so she lost her job and the health insurance that came with it, and was unable to get any other health insurance because her tumor was a “pre-existing condition.” She wasn’t able to get Medicaid because her husband was employed. But if he quit his job so she could get it, then he and she and their three children wouldn’t have been able to live at all—no money, no home, no food, no clothing—

So she died, literally in my friend’s arms, weighing about 70 pounds, suffering from senile dementia at the age of 39, incontinent and in agony. She left two daughters and a son, ages 18, 16 and 13, behind, and a husband who became a widower at 45.

So these reasons, among others, are why I think it’s really hysterical when people start shrieking about how the government is trying to take away your health care choices! and shouldn’t it be between your doctor and you..!? This is not to pooh-pooh all their concerns; some of them are legitimate—it’s impossible not to be continually horrified at the ever-increasing monster that is the federal budget deficit, for instance. But there seems to be an amazing ignorance of the fact that many of their fellow Americans currently have only the choice of permanent physical disability or death, and the only decision their doctor is willing to make is to refuse them treatment of any description. Or perhaps it’s only indifference—which doesn’t incline me towards extending any sympathy in return, eh? I do wonder which one it is, at times. I hope it’s not the latter.

This does not really bother me.

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

Saudi Arabia’s judicial practices are often abhorrent to me–sentencing a gang rape victim to hundreds of lashes, for instance, or refusing to allow an eight-year-old to divorce the 47-year-old man her father sold her to, or even beating and jailing a 75 year old woman for being alone in a house with two young men (both of whom were also beaten and jailed).

However, I’m mostly fine with beheading this guy for kidnapping and murdering an 11-year-old boy and then doing the same to the boy’s father. I’m also confused as to the additional upset about the fact that they displayed the guy’s (re-headed) body afterwards–so?

Sex 2.0! Part One: Let’s Talk About Objectification

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

What is Sex 2.0, you may ask? (If you already know, feel free to skip over this next part.) From the website:

Sex 2.0 will focus on the intersection of social media, feminism, and sexuality. How is social media enabling people to learn, grow, and connect sexually? How is sexual expression tied to social activism? Does the concept of transparency online offer new opportunities or present new roadblocks — or both? These questions, and many more, will be addressed within a safe, welcoming, sex-positive space.

Now, the above isn’t a completely accurate description of what Sex 2.0 turned out to be–at least, not the three lectures I attended. Feminism barely came up at all, though all the attendees around me save for two, when asked by one of the lecturers, indicated that they self-identified as feminists. You notice the phrase “sex work” is entirely absent from the official description–I don’t know if that was on purpose or not, but sex work was the theme in two of the three sessions I attended, and many of the attendees were associated with or involved in sex work in some fashion.

I enjoyed it–it was different in many ways even from the few non-mainstream-type events I’ve attended in the past, and I do really like that. I was inspired to blog on a few of the observations I made and the thoughts that arose from those observations, both during the conference and later on in the evening when I discussed them with the spouse (who attended with me). Observation #1 below the fold!

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Paid Killers

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Hugo has a post up about pacifism, which apparently is not a concept I’ve understood very well all these years. I thought pacifism was defined as the philosophical opposition to war or perhaps to the idea of initiating violence–after all, there are religious pacifists who have served in the armed forces–but in any case, I clearly missed the point. This is the paragraph that Hugo quotes to define what he means when he refers to himself as a pacifist:

I mentioned in my post on Monday that I hoped that if it came to it, I would be willing to take a bullet for “my kids.” But I would not be willing to fire a bullet, even to protect the lives of my students or youth groupers.*

I would be willing to fire that bullet; I’m not a pacifist, though I do despise nations going to war for any reason other than self-defense or after being entreated by another nation that was attacked to aid that nation in its self-defense. But it did get me thinking about the actual act of killing another human being.

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Got any good ones..? Post ‘em!

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Oh, those workplace departure e-mails. (Thank you, Slate, for finally giving me something to actually call the things.) They’re so fun to write! and sometimes, they are really fun to read.

I’ve quit three jobs in which a “workplace departure e-mail” seemed called for. I didn’t feel the need to generate one for any of my babysitting jobs growing up, nor did I whip one up for McDonald’s (dudes, not only did I not have an e-mail address, I didn’t even have a computer, and hardly anybody else who worked there at the time did either), and a field-based Army unit in Europe doesn’t really require an electronic notification when you’re outprocessing. However, once I graduated college, engineering degree clutched in my hot little hand, my subsequent corporate adventures did, indeed, sort of require some kind of generalized e-notification of various coworkers and bosses, both mine and other people’s, upon my leaving those jobs for greener pastures. So I had to start cobbling them together.

I’ve never really had too much trouble knowing what to say. Platitudes apparently come as naturally to me as breathing. It’s been a great experience working with all of you! I can chirp cheerily on command. I wish you all well in your future endeavors! I generally consider myself a very honest person, but apparently, there are some circumstances under which I can lie like a rug with no qualms whatsoever. Quitting a job that I may or may not have come to hate to the point where each new day brings a new outbreak of hives is one of them.

The part of the workplace departure e-mail ritual that always threw me for a loop was who, exactly, to send the missive to. Every place I’ve worked has strongly discouraged e-mailing the entire freakin’ company, a policy with which I heartily agree, sometimes to the point where the ability to put in the companywide e-mail address is locked out from most of the employees. (Now, if only they will start removing the ability of said employees to “reply ALL” to those emails sent out to the entire company by the original, authorized personnel. No, Cathy in the London office, I don’t care that you’ve lost your password to the document management server nor, Bob from Sacramento, do I care that you and your family will be unable to attend the local company community service awards ceremony.)

But who do I send it to..? Can I get away with not sending it to the people I can’t stand…? No, not really, because even if those people can’t stand me in return, they’re usually just the type to make a big stink about being excluded from my workplace departure e-mail. Well, in that case, can I not include my new e-mail address..? No, because I do want some people to have it, both in terms of personal warmth and business referrals, and if I send some people an edited version that does not include my new e-mail address, again, they’ll probably get offended even if they can’t stand me. And how about people I worked with but who are either several levels above me or in only distantly-related departments..? Is it presumptuous of me to e-mail the first and peculiar of me to e-mail the second? But if I don’t, again again, will somebody Get Offended..?

And so on and so forth. But to the best of my knowledge, nothing bad has ever come of any of my workplace departure e-mails, so I must have muddled through the whole situation well enough each time…however, I can’t say that’s been the case for every workplace departure e-mail I’ve ever seen. Heh. Actually, some of ‘em have been a scream–for me, the sadistic observer; probably less of a scream for the author and some of the recipients, but given the e-mails themselves, clearly there was a Situation there that long preceeded the email. A few of my favorites from over the years–each sent to either the entire company, or a large subsection thereof:

“I just want you all to remember, what comes around goes around, and you know who I’m talking to.”

“I’ve had it with this situation. If I don’t get a response to this e-mail in ten minutes, I’m sending it out to everybody in the company so they can all see what idiots you are.” (I don’t know if this was supposed to be a workplace departure e-mail, but it sure turned into one; the author was fired the next day.)

“I haven’t always enjoyed working here, but it has been a learning experience.”

“Please don’t ask me why I’m leaving, I can’t talk about it, but you’re welcome to e-mail me privately to get the whole story.”

As the title of this post says–if you know or have any good ones of your own, share! :)

Hailing From the Planet “Hydrocodone,” Maybe?

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

That’s my best guess as to why what’s coming out of Rush Limbaugh’s mouth bears absolutely no relationship to the reality that the rest of us citizens of the United States are currently living.

Jumping into the Wayback Machine–picture it: 1994. Yours Truly is a 21-year-old married mother of an eighteen-month-old, just about to start her first semester of college. She has no computer and only watches TV when forced to do so by either her equally young husband or small son (some things sure haven’t changed)–she gets all her information on what’s going on in the wide world outside her small apartment from, get this, newspapers and magazines! (Wow, does that seem Neolithic, though.) Anyway, one day she picks up one or the other of the latter, and sees a large, smirking, suited Conservadroid adorning the front with headlines screaming beneath–“Oh, That Rush Sensation!”

Mildly curious, she flips through the pages til she gets to the relevant article–”The new face of fear for liberals everywhere!” it breathlessly proclaims (or something like that–this was fifteen years ago, people). While she did not, at that time, particularly consider herself a “liberal,” she was interested to discover more about this man who supposedly had them all quaking in their boots–! Further perusal revealed that this Rush Limbaugh person had a radio talk show, so she resolved upon giving it a shot–she herself thought there were some real issues with the standard set of “liberal” beliefs as she knew them, and she wanted to hear somebody really tackle them in a populist fashion.

Heh. Well, she listened to him. And he was…well, stupid. As in, unintelligent. Clearly unintelligent. Objectionable too, yeah, sure–but she didn’t really care about that–she cared that he was D-U-M-B. This was the terror of the libs..? but he wasn’t even BRIGHT! Hadn’t stupid people opposed to liberal ideals already abounded for generations..? What was so special about THIS one..?

Jumping forward in time to the present day, no, I still haven’t figured out his peculiar draw. Much like with Ann Coulter, I admit I don’t and have not, since way back when, spent any real time trying to figure them out–lack of interest. It’s hard to respect an opponent, even one who clearly has a great deal of power and influence, who says things that really underscore the fact that the possessor, if not actually in the barely-100′s IQ range, is of an intellectual laziness that ends up producing the same result as if he or she were.

Mostly when I think of Rush Limbaugh (which as I said, is seldom), I remember something I saw him say on TV sometime during the nineties. He was looking at the camera–directly at it–and smiling; and he said, “I’m just a harmless, lovable little fuzzball!” (Now that I think of it, it might have been some kind of infomercial for a book or TV show or even his radio talk show. But I’m really can’t recall anymore.) I remember, though, listening to him say that, and watching his eyes as he said it–he had the smallest, deadest eyes–I’d seen plenty of eyes like that, growing up, on the most vicious of the wife-and-son-beating, daughter-raping backcountry crowd–the ones with fingernails black deep under the quick, years-old stench emanating from every possible bodily orifice, and always ready with a joke to underscore their hatred of women, minorities, gays, and God forbid, fuurreigners. I remember wondering if his devoted listeners actually felt that he WAS harmless and/or lovable, or if they got the joke–he was about as harmless and lovable as the men I described in the previous sentence, but also just as fuckin’ scary–the kind of man nobody messed with if they could avoid it.

But no matter how much I ignore him, Rush Limbaugh does not go away. Here he is again, happy to demonstrate as always that his perception of what’s really happening in the US is the same whether he is actually tripping on something at that particular moment or not.

Rush Limbaugh calls on conservatives to take back nation

Scary. They’ve had it for eight years, and we can all see what they’ve done with it. I mean, this is not me making some kind of brilliant and insightful point. This is common knowledge. This is a lot like the president of NAMBLA demanding that the cops give him back all the little boys they removed from his home.

Rush:

“We conservatives have not done a good enough job of just laying out basically who we are, because we make the mistake of assuming that people know. What they know is largely incorrect, based on the way we’re portrayed in pop culture, in the drive-by media, by the Democrat party,” the conservative talk show host told a mostly young crowd of energized supporters.

Again…what we know of who they are we have learned in the past eight years of watching our civil liberties gutted, our nation go to war and our economy collapse.

And another thing about that “mostly young” crowd. Was it, by any chance…a mostly male young crowd? The article doesn’t say, but I wonder.

Limbaugh’s impassioned keynote speech, punctuated by chest-thumping, fist-pumping and chants of “USA” from the crowd, capped off three days of talk at CPAC focusing on rebuilding the Republican Party.

“He played to his crowd here,” CNN political editor Mark Preston said. “And this crowd is now energized, something we haven’t seen from Republicans, certainly not conservatives, since the November election.”

Mmm…”Sarah Palin.” And we all saw how well that worked out for the Republican party, didn’t it? What is it about the Republican party that attracts these, well, televangelical showman types..?

Limbaugh used his self-described “first national address,” which ran more than an hour longer than his allotted 20 minutes,

These really massive and flamboyant egos…

to accuse President Obama of inspiring fear in Americans in order to push a liberal agenda of “big government.”

“He wants people in fear, angst and crisis, fearing the worst each and every day, because that clears the decks for President Obama and his pals to come in with the answers, which are abject failures, historically shown and demonstrated.

For the third time…the abject failure, historically–recent history, the past eight years!–shown and demonstrated, was the answers provided to us and implemented by the socially conservative, internationally Neocon, utterly unregulated “free market” government that I believe Rush Limbaugh has been masturbating to, loudly and on air, for the past eight years.

Well…if Rush Limbaugh really is the “new” face and leadership of the twenty-first century Republican party…one of two things will happen. His stupidity and insanity will come to its natural limits of a quarter or less of the population that are similarly stupid and/or insane enough to drink his up like Jonestown Kool-Aid, and that’ll be that–he’ll become yet another one of America’s quirky political sideshows that give the rest of the world so much fodder for their comedians. OR…he’ll galvanize a sufficient majority of the nation, the one that wholeheartedly embraced the “Patriot Act” and the war in Iraq, that we’ll find ourselves, in four years or so, tumbling back in the morass that was created by the Bush administration. If that occurs, certainly, the majority will get what they deserve. It will be rather hard on the minority that didn’t, but that’s one of the built-in flaws of a democracy.

As distasteful as it is, I suppose I had better keep an eye out…just so I’m not entirely taken by surprise however it turns out.