when the status quo frustrates.

What We Teach Our Kids

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

I have an adorable little nephew. Kid sister has spawned with her husband, and the random result was a little boy that has my sister’s nose and chin, and my brother-in-law’s everything else, only in miniature form. He’s cute, even though he also cements my desire to never have children*. Since it’s not my rugrat, no pictures will be forthcoming (sorry guys).

This kid has been interesting to watch, though. Not that he’s done anything especially newsworthy to anyone who isn’t his family (ah, look how he smiles, and gurgles and coos!), but how people react and change because of him. Kid sister has always been a little flighty- she never really was capable of focusing for more than ten minutes, she was bubbly and she had a sort of laissez-fare attitude towards safety**. Now, she seems to have become extremely cautious. She wouldn’t leave her kid with our mom for an evening out, she’s apparently memorized a whole host of books on child development, and she runs and worries over every little bump and fuss. I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, especially the research and effort she put in the kid, just weird. I never believed that “Having children makes you more mature” – I’ve seen too many really immature parents- but apparently there is an anecdata point in my little sister.

Also, I find it interesting how at three months the kid has already been exposed to demonstrating that he is a “boy”. They dress him up in tough little clothes, and I hear how “strong” he is, even though he’s actually adorable more than strong. His parents don’t know what to make of me, I coo to him “Who’s going to grow up to be a radical feminist- you are, you are. Yes, you’ll respect women and I’ll let you cry” and they start freaking out (despite the fact that what the kid most likely hears is “abada da da da auntie’s playing with me *giggle*). I keep telling them I’m going to send him a pink onesie, though they know it’s a false threat (I hate pink- it’s more likely going to be purple).

Finally, the parents are not raising him any particular faith (yet- my guess is they’ll probably cave and end up taking them to church when he’s older) but my mom’s already singing him Bible songs. So far, he’s one of the random babies that hates being song to***, but my kept trying to with songs like “Jesus Loves You”. After listening to this song again, I wonder why we teach this song to anyone.

For those not familiar, this song reads as follows:

Jesus loves me! this I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
they are weak but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

There are more lyrics, but like most songs, it’s the first verse and chorus everyone remembers. Simple lyrics, simple melody, a staple of most churches to brainwash little children. Kids, believe this because we repeat it four times! What’s that you say? Generally when someone loves you they demonstrate it by being there for you and not being imaginary? Yeah, but, look- repetition! And, a book says it! What’s that? You have a book that also says that trains can talk and that sky is falling? Those books are just fiction. My book is right (despite having no evidence backing that one up) and also, remember, you’re really weak so you better cozy up to the strong guy. Seriously, this is actually a pretty twisted thing to teach young children. My only hope is, hey, my sisters and I all heard and sang the song and we came out okay- probably the little rugrat will too.

*Eww, eww, fluids. Yuck. Also, it was a hard pregnancy on Kid Sister and I like my sleep too much. Oh, and money.
** For example, jumping out of the barn on to the trampoline, lighting tons of stuff on fire, cutting everything she could get mother’s scissors around, you get the idea.
*** Though for whatever reason, seemed to enjoy my unique song “Eating Various Baby Body Parts”. The lyrics were pretty much as follows: “Look at little baby toes. Yummy, yummy baby toes. I’m going to gobble them up!” This was accompanied by me grabbing onto the body part in question, and then during the “gobble them up” part fake-eating them. Repeat for other parts like fingers, belly, knees and ears. The kid thought it was hilarious, judging by the way he giggled and moved around. So I guess my songs are only actively more disturbing.

Maybe bunnies wouldn’t be such a metaphorical cliche if they just had easier access to contraception

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

First, read Lisa’s little story.

Then listen to the bunnies.

Tell the FDA to Act on Emergency Contraception from Center for Reproductive Rights on Vimeo.

Created by “Once Was A Punkass” Marc Faletti.

Just a little story

Friday, March 26th, 2010

I recently purchased emergency contraception for someone else–fear not, she’s seventeen! So I didn’t contribute to the delinquency of a minor or anything. I bought it for her for three reasons: (1) she lives in a very small town with only one pharmacy, where everyone knows everyone else, and word would probably have gotten back to her parents that she’d bought it, (2) she doesn’t have a car to get to the nearest city to buy it in relative anonymity and (3) she didn’t at the moment have the $40 it costs–she would have in a week, but a week would have been too late.

It wasn’t as easy to actually buy it as I hoped, though–the pharmacy in our small town didn’t have it in stock, and neither did the first three pharmacies that I called in the nearest city. (They did have very disapproving pharmacists, though.) I struck gold in the fourth pharmacy I called, where the phone was answered by a young, cheerful-sounding female voice who informed me that yes indeed, they did have emergency contraception in stock and don’t forget your ID with your date of birth on it when you come to the store to pick it up! I made sure I didn’t forget my ID; I don’t quite look my age, but I don’t look seventeen either! but I wasn’t about to give anyone any excuse to deny me the ability to purchase the stuff after I drove all the way there to get it–time was of the essence in this case.

That was over a month ago, and I am happy to report that she isn’t pregnant. (Not as happy as she is, I can assure you, but still, I’m happy.) I would think that everyone would agree with me that it’s for the best that a seventeen-year-old high school senior shouldn’t get pregnant…but what I find interesting is, apparently there are a lot of people out there who, if she had been a sixteen-year-old high school junior, would have forcefully disagreed and insisted that she should get pregnant. Or a fifteen-year-old high school sophomore. Or a fourteen-year-old high school freshman. This is bizarre and inexplicable to me, given that I think that the more the age of the prospective mother drops, the less and less suited to motherhood both physically and psychologically (and economically, while we’re at it) she is. Apparently others disagree.

Oh well.

Apparently they give PhDs to just about anybody with the cash to buy the college courses

Friday, February 19th, 2010

So I saw this article today while surfing the ‘net:

Dreaded diseases dwindle with gene testing
Wider screening curbs inherited disorders such as cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs

Some of mankind’s most devastating inherited diseases appear to be declining, and a few have nearly disappeared, because more people are using genetic testing to decide whether to have children.

Births of babies with cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs and other less familiar disorders have dropped since testing came into wider use, The Associated Press found from a review of studies and interviews with numerous geneticists and other experts.

Uh-oh, I thought to myself. Because, you know, the screening itself doesn’t have any directly curative or preventative effect at all on inherited genetic disorders…what it does is allow people carrying genetic disorders to either decide not to reproduce or, more commonly, decide to abort any pregnancy with an embryo or fetus that carries the defective genes. Now, I personally have no problem with this; I am pro-choice through and through. However, I figured that there’d be a sizable contingent of folks out there who would have a b-i-g problem with the idea that giving out access to information that might influence someone to abort could ever, under any circumstances, be regarded as a good thing.

Yep, all I had to do was nip over to the “Comments” section after the article, and what was the very first comment..?

Very ironic and sad that a method touted as a “life-saving effort” is what gives an excuse to kill a baby.

Because of course, you know we are all on the lookout for excuses to kill babies. It’s a lot like being on the lookout for excuses to eat chocolate or go shopping!…sigh.

I can always console myself with the possibility that the hordes of people who are making remarks like that are just ignorant. Or stupid. Or both. But then, linked to the article, is another article written by some dude who presumably is not ignorant or stupid, given that he describes himself as Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.:

Disability-free world may not be a better place
Screening means fewer Down babies, but are we missing out?

A fascinating probe by the Associated Press suggests the reason. Genetic testing is leading to birth of fewer and fewer children with Down syndrome and other genetic disease in the United States.

The “fascinating probe” he refers to is, indeed, the article that originally caught my eye. And you can tell by the way he goes on in the article that he did actually read some of it, because he spends a little time talking about Tay-Sachs disease and Cystic Fibrosis. But his main point, the one he keeps returning to over and over again (after a few sops thrown out acknowledging that children born with Tay-Sachs, for instance, die by age 4) is

As some families with a Down syndrome child have noted, fewer kids with Down may mean fewer public programs, fewer resources in schools and for housing and less political clout.

On a trip to Ireland a few years ago, I was struck by a number of faces among the crowds. They were children with the tell-tale look of Down syndrome. What struck me was the realization that I hardly ever see these young faces out on the street in the United States.

Down Syndrome, which can’t be detected at all through parental screening, which is what the original article is all about, because it’s caused by a mutation in the reproductive cells themselves, not in the parents’ cells. Rinse, repeat: Down Syndrome is not an inherited genetic disorder.

But since the heartstrings clearly get tugged the wrong way by discussing babies born with Tay-Sachs disease–it’s a hell of a lot harder to paint the prevention of that occurence as parents on the lookout for excuses to kill their babies–I suppose Concern Troll PhD couldn’t really use that as his handle, huh?

Thank God it turned out this way, rather than some other way.

Friday, January 29th, 2010

(Hat tip.)

“The jury deliberated for just 37 minutes before finding Scott Roeder, 51, of Kansas City, Mo., guilty of premeditated, first-degree murder in the May 31 shooting death” of Dr. George R. Tiller.

Interesting snippets from the trial:

Roeder’s attorneys were hoping to get a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter for Roeder, a defense that would have required them to show that Roeder had an unreasonable but honest belief that deadly force was justified.

But after hearing Roeder testify (emphasis mine), District Judge Warren Wilbert ruled that his lawyers failed to show that Tiller posed an imminent threat and the jury could not consider such a verdict.

Hmm…wish a transcript was available of that.

At one point Friday, District Judge Warren Wilbert stopped defense attorney Mark Rudy from using the word abortion when cross-examining a witness who had not first used it himself.

If the witness brings it up “that’s fair game, and you can explore it,” Wilbert said.

Paul Ryding testified he had an “awkward conversation” with Roeder when Roeder came to church services six months before the shooting. Ryding said he had a feeling Roeder had “an agenda,” without explaining what he thought that might be.

But Ryding steadfastly skirted the word abortion when pressed — leaving defense attorney Mark Rudy so plainly frustrated that he asked Ryding whether he had previously discussed his testimony with any officials other than detectives.

Nice. :)

But lest we forget what else we’re dealing with here…

Photos of Tiller’s body after he was shot showed the doctor lying on his side, with much of his face obscured by blood. A large puddle of blood had pooled under his head.

A Roeder supporter seated in the public gallery grinned widely and swayed visibly in her seat as the gruesome photos were shown — leading a sheriff’s deputy to quietly issue her a stern warning.

Well, he’s locked up for at least the next 25 years. The best we could’ve expected, really. Rest in peace, Dr. Tiller, and I hope your family finds some closure in all this.

So Why Did I Have Kids, Anyway?

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Photobucket
So you really want one of these?

It’s a question I try not to examine too closely, frankly. The reason for that is, well, I have them already–I’ve had them for my entire adult life, really. The time to question my decision to have them at all has long since passed, I think.

But sometimes I’ll come across an article like this one–I try not to wince at the tone they inevitably sport, a combination of defensiveness and superiority–and I’ll find myself musing a bit on my own embedded and irrevocable parental status.

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A little bit of slavery

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Red Queen points out a crucial missing element from the argument going on over here:

The question of when life starts may be fun to debate in a purely philosophical exercise, but it has nothing to do with the actual problem of women who are pregnant and don’t want to be. The real debate is who controls your body? You, your nearest patriarchal overseer, the assholes in navy blue suits who vote for our laws? If you believe that you are the only person capable of making decisions about your own body, then you believe that everyone is capable of making decisions about their own body. If you believe that there is ever a time when someone else gets to make decisions about a body not their own (which is slavery), then you better be prepared to line up for mandatory blood donations. If you’re okay with a little bit of slavery, it’s best not to assume that you’re going to be the slave owner.

The epithet “forced birther” may not win any friends with folks on the anti-legal-abortion side of the fence, but if you actually take their arguments at face value, that is exactly what they are. While usually making an exception for conditions which threaten the life of a pregnant mother (though mind you, they are the ones setting the risk level over which this threat is unacceptable), they are suggesting that our government ought to proudly step in and force women to give birth to children.

Now, forced birthers would choose to frame it differently, probably in terms of murder. This is why I, reproductive rights noob that I am, have only been tackling the ludicrous claims that zygotes have equal rights to adult human beings. Because this issue is cut and dried. There is no murder possible if there was never any sentience. But it’s been useful with me to engage folks like Neil and Theo, who believe this nutty view, if only to expose where their real priorities lay. They would sacrifice the rights of adult women on the altar of the (yes, human) zygote.

Why do they persist in valuing the “rights” of even a non-sentient one-celled organism to exist over the rights of a woman to have control over her own body, and thus the course of her own life? Perhaps it’s:

  • A religious belief that the zygote (but not the sperm) has a soul.
  • A desire to get off on controlling the bodies of other people.
  • Both of the above.
  • A fourth option which I am too close-minded and/or dense to comprehend.

Obviously different individuals may have different answers here. Forced birther zygote worshippers, I invite you to tell me your own answer. I’d really like to understand how one can even come to hold your perspective.

Heroic embryo-rights firefighters make me so hot

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Not counting the comments in this old thread over the last two days, I have written exactly zero on the subject of reproductive rights. In my life. Guess I just figured other people had it covered. What a spineless coward I’ve been. Time to get out there and knock some heads! As I’m an RR noob, please forgive me if I come out swinging on an argument that has only been definitively kiboshed about a zillion times, namely the whole “life begins at conception” thing.

I won’t rehash what’s gone on so far in the thread, but suffice it to say that my right hand has been busy, and thus All Your Uteri Are Belong To Us (“us” being me and my gametes).

In one corner: me and Antigone (who kindly reminded me as to the difference between a gamete and a zygote).

In the other corner: Neil, a biblical literalist who in the last week has not only blogged a response to Lisa’s nearly year-old post, but also noted how gay pride parades are God-mockery and helpfully pointed out that Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett just might now be in hell (pretty classy, Neil!); and Theobromophile, a regular at Neil’s site. Neil’s blog seems to get decent traffic, so we may get some other new visitors too, but what the heck, I’m in the mood to add a few more kleenex to the pile.

The fight: Can the “rights” of a single-celled organism trump the “rights” of a woman? (I’d like to point out the first set of scare quotes are mine, and the second set Neil’s.)

Taking off from the last current comment on Lisa’s thread, by Theobromophile:

The scientific fact is that gametes are not human beings the way that zygotes, blastocysts, and embryos are. There is no right to life of a gamete, no more than your dandruff has a right to life.

However, conception changes all of that. From the moment of fertilisation, the egg changes; it develops a hard outer shell to keep out other sperm; DNA from the parents’ gametes mixes; and cell division begins. (Scientists can examine two-celled blastocysts and determine where the head will be.) The result is a complete human being at the earliest stage of life.

There is a tremendous amount of intellectual dishonesty required to pretend that foetuses (or embryos) are not living human beings. While I fully understand why most anti-lifers do not acknowledge this point – as to do so would be to admit that some humans in our society have a right to life, but the smallest, most vulnerable, and unwanted ones do not – it is, nevertheless, antagonistic towards basic biology.

Theo, considering you would apparently gladly risk the life of a real woman with a lifetime of experiences just as deep as your own for the sake of a non-sentient single celled organism that happens to have a hard outer shell, you really oughtta reconsider who you want to call “anti-life” here.

Wanna argue with me about about late term abortions, sure, we’ll still disagree, but at least I’ll feel like we might be able to have something approaching a rational conversation. Arguing in favor of a single cell is pure kookiness. Now you can claim “INTELLECTUAL DISHONESTY!111!!” all you want, but you’re not actually demonstrating exactly how I am supposedly being so. Let me instead show you your own.

You and Neil and others like you make the argument that because the scientific establishment classifies a certain parisitic single-celled organism as “human”, this somehow also proves, scientifically, your faith-based ethical belief that this non-sentient microscopic life form is morally equal to (or perhaps higher than) the life of the host human off of whom it is currently leeching. What we have here is a (yes) human single cell which has precisely as much awareness as a monkey zygote or a cat zygote or a mouse zygote or a gamete or an amoeba or a rice krispy. Your position seems to be that since a human zygote has a chance of growing into a self-aware homo sapiens at some much later date, it has already got some magic quality which makes its worth equal (or better) than the life of an adult woman who has it. But… why? Unfortunately, you guys are missing any kind of middle steps in your intended chain of logic.

This is intellectual dishonesty. Though I’ll give y’all the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re being just as intellectual dishonest with yourself as you are with me. I really can’t understand why anyone would hold your point of view, except with the theory that you are only getting so hot and bothered over this issue because believing this confers on you moral superiority and thus the right to control other people. Like, women.

Speaking of hot and bothered, here’s a challenge to Neil, Theobromophile, and to any other pro-zygote anti-woman’s “rights” lurkers out there. (Remember, that’s Neil’s scare quotes, not mine.)

Let me pose you a simple question. A variation on one I’ve read somewhere before, wish I could remember where. Anyway, please answer directly, as it may clarify a lot for all of us.

First, imagine that you are a heroic firefighter. (Who knows, maybe you really are one.) 

You’re passing by a fertility clinic when you notice it’s burning down. Being the brave and plucky embryonic-rights crusader you are, you leap into the fray to save as many frozen embryos as you can. You’re just lumbering out of a burning lab, loaded down with a refrigerator full of potentially hundreds of frozen blastocysts, when you suddenly notice a child whimpering in the corner, trapped behind a fallen timber which you are sure that you, with your rock hard pecs, can easily move.

Now, you might be able to leave and then come back for which/whoever you left behind; but the fire’s raging pretty badly. You also might not. Do you…

(1) …drop the refrigerator to save the child, and take the chance that the blaze might destroy the hundreds of frozen blastocysts before you can return?
(2) …keep on going with the refrigerator, and take the chance that the fire might kill or maim the child before you can return?

Follow-up questions:

If you chose the child, why did you do so?

If you chose the refrigerator, does your answer change if you know that the refrigerator has only ten frozen blastocysts? Only one?

And finally, if you refuse to give a straight answer either way, what does this say about the strength of your convictions?

Congratulations, Douchebags

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

For everyone out there who has been praying nightly that Dr. George Tiller would drop dead, and especially those of you who have expressed that wish out loud on a regular basis on your nationally-broadcast talk show, your prayers have finally been answered. The delay in finding yet another total nutjob to do your dirty work has been a shame, sure!–the idiot who bombed his clinic in 1985 was a big F-A-I-L and so was the individual with really bad aim who only managed to shoot Dr. Tiller in both arms in 1993.

To everyone out there who is really, really glad Dr. Tiller is dead, it can’t be denied–his death is going to directly prevent a number of a certain category of abortions from happening. Unlike abortions that occur in the first trimester of pregnancy, where the evil murdering sluts women attempting to obtain them usually (though not always) have access to at least a small handful of providers within their very own state borders, the kind of abortions Dr. Tiller did are performed by less than ten other physicians in the entire United States. (No, I’m not going to provide any further information on them, their names or their whereabouts here, and if you email me asking for it–sorry; unless you can prove you’re not compiling a hit list, you’re on your own.)

But really–congratulations. You can rejoice in knowing that a decent number of women with usually desperately wanted pregnancies who find themselves more than halfway through those wanted pregnancies risking death, permanent disability or carrying a dying fetus firmly ensconced in their own wombs, are now much more likely to be forced to carry their pregnancy to term. I am so, so happy for you.

But I haven’t been in that situation myself…exactly…I mean, the pre-eclampsia I developed in both my pregnancies didn’t actually threaten to kill me off til my babies were full-term and the babies themselves were totally fine, not so much as a hangnail in sight in their ultrasounds. I didn’t get to seek out a third-trimester abortion like all those other feckless, selfish broads that did. Gosh, I’m so jealous! You will be too, after you read their stories–or rather, you’ll be able to bask in the warm glow of satisfaction that now, those awful, heartless, immoral women are really going to suffer when they try to snuff out that sweet, innocent life growing inside their very own bodies–no more easy, thoughtless terminations in the third trimester for them! Damn STRAIGHT.

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Why I Concern Troll About Being Pro-Choice****, by William Saletan

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

…er, okay, actually the article is called “Lady Parts,” by William Saletan. He doesn’t really talk about any lady parts in it, though, so I thought the above title was a far more accurate descriptor of his latest offering of emergency toilet paper (just hit “Print!”).

You know, that observation is worth pursuing a little. William Saletan, in this article about abortion, in vitro fertilization, pregnancy and surrogate motherhood, manages to discuss them all without once referring to a mature human female uterus. He does manage to refer seven times to a developing human embryo, though. What a surprise!

Clearly I (and Amanda*, and others) are not the only ones who have been steadily repulsed by Saletan’s concern trolling about abortion for, well, years now. Apparently, he has gotten a flood of inquiries on the subject!

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Let’s Keep an Eye on This

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

Hmmm.

Obama made that clear Thursday morning at the National Prayer Breakfast, announcing a new Presidential Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships that will weigh in on matters ranging from funding of social-service providers and poverty alleviation to the more controversial issue of abortion reduction.

Why is “abortion reduction” controversial? “Abortion increases,” now, that would be controversial! It seems like we could look at this one of two ways:

1. The number one cause of abortion is unplanned pregnancy. “Abortion reduction” could be directly translated, then, as “unplanned pregnancy reduction,” which I think everyone except the looniest of the Quiverfull types is in favor of. No controversy there, right? Of course, how to best reduce unplanned pregnancy is a topic full of manufactured controversy, with scientists on one side (who define “best” as “most effective”) and religious fundamentalists on the other (who define “best” as “most acceptable to God”). There’s definitely a corollary to the “controversy” over the Theory of Evolution here.

2. The easiest way to reduce abortions would be to make them legally unavailable. Certainly that’s a controversial idea, but it’s been one for decades–not exactly a new controversy, is it?

Perhaps the controversy lies in nobody’s ability to make out exactly how “abortion reduction” is being defined?

But, moving on:

“The goal of this office will not be to favor one religious group over another — or even religious groups over secular groups,” Obama said.

Or even religious groups over those Godless heathens! Sigh

“It will simply be to work on behalf of those organizations that want to work on behalf of our communities, and to do so without blurring the line that our founders wisely drew between church and state.”

Slightly better tone there at the end, Boss.

One of those controversial points was the question of whether faith-based groups that receive government funding should be allowed to hire only individuals who share their religious beliefs. Early in Bush’s first term, he signed a series of Executive Orders exempting religious organizations from nondiscrimination laws.

That hiring question is the first landmine Obama will face. In Zanesville, he left no question as to where he stood on the issue. “If you get a federal grant,” Obama said then, “you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help, and you can’t discriminate against them — or against the people you hire — on the basis of their religion.”

The statement caused an immediate uproar within the ranks of Obama’s religious supporters, who pushed him to back off from the promise to undo Bush’s Executive Order. He has not done so publicly, but several of them insist that Obama and his aides have given them private assurances that there will be no rapid movement to change the status quo with regard to religious hiring. If so, it would be a rare case of political ham-handness by the Obama team, because his secular supporters say they have been assured that the hiring change will take place.

It’ll be very telling to me, personally, which way he ends up going, or if he manages to neatly dance around going any way at all for as long as possible.

We’ll see what happens.

More Shameless Glee

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Obama signs equal-pay bill

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama signed an equal-pay bill into law Thursday before cheering labor and women leaders who fought hard for it and the woman whose history-making lawsuit gave impetus to the cause.

Obama, choosing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as the first bill to sign as president, called it a “wonderful day” and declared that ending pay disparities between men and woman an issue not just for women, but for all workers.

Darn skippy.

GOP fails to revive abortion-group funding ban

WASHINGTON – Senate Republicans have failed to revive a prohibition on using federal funding for international groups that perform abortions or provide abortion information.

By a 60-37 vote, Democrats turned back an amendment that would have denied aid to groups that may be involved in abortion but also work on other health care issues abroad.

The amendment was offered by Republicans during debate of legislation to expand the government-backed health insurance program for lower-income children.

Stay strong, my brothers and sisters!