when the status quo frustrates.

Fear and Hatred of the Other

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

I don’t understand it. Part of me doesn’t want to understand it, either; as with exploring the motives of pedophiles, it leaves me queasy and shaken in any kind of belief in the basic goodness of mankind. However, I should understand it in order to better combat it…I suppose…meh…it’s really hard to work up enthusiasm for plunging your hands into untreated sewage, you know?

Two news items today: One is Sarah Palin’s admittedly very funny Twitter debacle, where she confuses “not knowing what existing words mean” with “inventing new words.” Is she too stupid to be embarrassed? But aside from the vocabulary funzies, this was the sentiment:

Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing.

I feel unprovoked and unstabbed. Really. Now, the case could be made that I am not a New Yorker and therefore, perhaps, am missing some special degree of angst that would make this all explicable; however, Sarah Palin’s not one either. And in my case, I was actually within some geographical proximity of 9/11 events. Anybody remember this..?

(The US Pentagon, 9/11)
…or this?

(Near miss of the US Capitol–in rural Pennsylvania about 20 minutes from DC)

There are lots of terrorists out there. I remember learning in the 5th grade that while all squares are rectangles, not all rectangles are squares. And in this case, it can’t even be claimed that well yes I’m sure not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists ARE Muslim, you know..! Neither Ted Kaczynski nor Timothy McVeigh were Muslims, for example. Since 1977, 41 abortion clinics have been bombed–forty-one!–and to the best of my knowledge, none of the bombers were even remotely Muslim. Among these were an abortion clinic and two physicians’ offices in Pensacola, Florida were bombed in the early morning of Christmas Day, 1984, by a quartet of young people (Matt Goldsby, Jimmy Simmons, Kathy Simmons, Kaye Wiggins) who later called the bombings “a gift to Jesus on his birthday.”

I’ve also heard the argument that the Koran encourages Muslims to kill unbelievers. Gee, now there’s a point. I mean, just listen to these!

Suppose you hear in one of the towns that God is giving you that some worthless rabble among you have led their fellow citizens astray by encouraging them to worship foreign gods. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find it is true and can prove that such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock.

If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him.

Whoever sacrifices to any god, except the Lord alone, shall be doomed.

They entered into a covenant to seek the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord their God was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.

Oops, wait!…those are from the Bible.

This, and the ongoing furor over illegal immigrants, has really led me down a depressing path. “Several states” (reported variously as nine, ten or twelve depending on where I’m looking) are supposedly following Arizona’s lead in obsessing about their undocumented worker populations. Why the obsession..? I’ve heard it variously and defensively described as “Well they’re breaking the LAW don’t you CARE about the LAW?” (frequently put forth by people who regularly speed, jaywalk, cheat on their taxes and smoke weed–a rather selective reverence towards the LAW)


“Well they’re costing us MONEY WELFARE!” (Nevermind the fact that in 2008, the percentage of Arizona’s state budget going towards welfare was 12%…not exactly the lion’s share…and presumably even that isn’t somehow all being distributed to illegal aliens–how could it be?)


“Well they’re taking all our JOBS!” (FactCheck.org doesn’t agree.)

I’m pretty sure it all really boils down to one thing, and for that one thing, see the title of this post.

Why I’m So Glad I’m Not a 21st-Century Republican Voter: A Collage

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Updated: This would be enough all by itself. The Hip Hub of Fun…! (hat tip Jesse)

The history here is well known to everyone interested in politics but worth summarizing. For most of the first 190 years of the country’s operation, U.S. Senators would, in unusual circumstances, try to delay a vote on measures they opposed by “filibustering” — talking without limit or using other stalling techniques. For most of those years, the Senate could cut off the filibuster and force a vote by imposing “cloture,” which took a two-thirds majority of those voting (at most 67 of 100 Senators). In 1975, the Senate adopted a rules change to allow cloture with 60 votes, and those are the rules that still prevail.

The significant thing about filibusters through most of U.S. history is that they hardly ever happened…

…as the chart below shows, the huge increase in threatened filibusters came from the Republican minority, after the Democrats took back the Senate in 2007. Since the time covered by this chart, the number of threatened (Republican) filibusters has shot up even more dramatically.

In an interview on MSNBC this morning, newly retiring Sen. Evan Bayh declared the American political system “dysfunctional,” riddled with “brain-dead partisanship” and permanent campaigning.

In this morning’s interview he noted that just two weeks ago, Republicans who had co-sponsored a bill with him to rein in the deficit turned around and voted against their own bill.


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.

Once more, I’m only shocked that everyone else is pretending to be. They ARE just pretending, right..?

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Many years ago, not too long after my military enlistment ended and back when I got most of the news from actual newspapers made of paper, I was confronted with the following headline:


I was remembering reading the story–in case everyone’s forgotten about it, the gist was that

at Aberdeen Proving Ground, a United States Army base in Aberdeen, Maryland…the Army brought charges against 12 commissioned and non-commissioned male officers for sexual assault on female trainees under their command.

Specifically, a bunch of drill sergeants had been having sex with a bunch of female trainees, with varying degrees of consent on the parts of the trainees. Now, this did not surprise me at all, but what did was the way it was being reported–as if it was a huge shocker, unbelievable!! etc. etc.

Mostly I remember just sitting there, staring at the story, and trying to swallow the fact that anybody, anybody at all was shocked by this. Maybe, I remember trying to think charitably at the time, the reporters on this case had absolutely zero familiarity with the military..? Because boy howdy, anybody who’d ever actually served in the Army knew quite well that Army basic training was a big ol’ sex fest of male drill sergeants and female trainees, right? In my basic training unit, one of our drill sergeants was having sex with at least four of the girls that I knew of, and another was having what could most gently be described as an emotional affair with a fifth, and another drill sergeant, not in my platoon but in my company, actually got married to a sixth girl after she graduated from training.

And yeah, the degrees of consent were variable. The time that the first drill sergeant collapsed our tent on me and a squadmate when we were out in the field and then, after I crawled out, crawled in with her and stayed there for about twenty minutes–that was absolutely consensual, to the best of my knowledge. The time I got sent back to the barracks to retrieve something or other and a girl in one of the other squads in my platoon was sitting on her bunk staring blankly at nothing..? Less so–

Me: Brady*, what are you doing here? Are you sick?
Private Brady, about five feet tall and ninety pounds soaking wet with big blue eyes and freckles, all of eighteen years old: No…I was waxing the floor, and Drill Sergeant Morris* came in, and told me that after I finished the floor I had fifteen minutes to get all the toilets in the bathroom clean enough to eat off of.
Me: Seriously?
Private Brady: I told him I didn’t think I could do it and he said I’d better do it, or I’d better learn how to fuck.
Me, only eighteen myself and totally bewildered: Oh. Wow. What did you do?
Private Brady: We fucked.
Me: Oh. …are you okay?
Private Brady: I guess so. (went back to staring blankly at nothing)

And, of course, there was graduation night, when we all got a four-hour pass to hit the base and wound up at the enlisted club, and another cycle (all male, as ours was all female–Army basic training used to be sex-segregated, the trainees anyway) that was graduating invited us to a party that two of their drill sergeants were having for them in a hotel room–I didn’t go, but some other girls did. When midnight rolled around (the expiration of our four-hour pass), two of them were missing. They did finally show up at the barracks a few hours later, though–one shoved past everyone and ran into the showers, where you could hear her screaming as she tore off her clothes and started viciously scrubbing herself, and the other one flung herself into my arms and started shaking hard enough to bruise my chin with the top of her head, though without making a single sound. The first girl managed to wash away most, though not all, of the evidence of her gang rape before the MPs showed up, but I kept a firm grip on the second girl after some advice from the cold-eyed female drill sergeant from another platoon that was first on the scene, and I heard later they got plenty of evidence off of her body.

My basic training experience was quite representative, really–so you can see why I was sitting there shocked that anybody else was shocked. I mean, everybody knew…we all knew everybody knew.

I had a similar experience last night, reading the following headline:

Uninsured trauma patients are much more likely to die

The risk of dying from traumatic injuries is 80% higher for those without any insurance, a study says. ER physicians say they’re surprised by the findings.


Patients who lack health insurance are more likely to die from car accidents and other traumatic injuries than people who belong to a health plan — even though emergency rooms are required to care for all comers regardless of ability to pay, according to a study published today.

The researchers also did a separate analysis of 209,702 trauma patients ages 18 to 30 because they were less likely to have chronic health conditions that might complicate recovery. Among these younger patients, the risk of death was 89% higher for the uninsured, the study found.

Rosen, now a surgical resident at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, said the group expected to find at least some disparity based on insurance status. But she said the group was surprised at the magnitude of the gap.

Dr. Frank Zwemer Jr., chief of emergency medicine for the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, Va., said he was “kind of shocked.”

“Kind of” shocked? Gee, because I’m not shocked at all.

“We don’t ask people, ‘What’s your insurance?’ before we decide whether to intubate them or put in a chest tube,” said Zwemer, who wasn’t involved in the research. “That’s not on our radar anywhere.”

Good God. Did you just spear somebody on your nose, Pinocchio? The very first thing they do when you go to an ER is admit you, and before they ever ask you what’s wrong with you (but, I admit, usually after they ask you for your name) is if you have insurance. If you are unable to speak, they ask whoever has brought you in. LONG before they offer you any medical treatment. I speak from personal experience.

Well, I guess I should be glad that they’re willing to pretend this is some kind of news flash, right? Nothing like emphasizing your dirty laundry as publicly as possible to raise the chances of someone with actual power and authority being willing to do something about it, even if everybody did really already know all about it. Let’s hear it for the pressure of public shame.

But I’m not willing to go along with the pretense. Of course they all knew about it already, just like we all knew already about what went on in Army training barracks. Of course they did.


*Names changed. Duh.

Political Power, the Barrel of the Gun and All That

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

I believe that the only human future, that is, a future with humans in it, is one in which violence as an acceptable mode of human interaction is renounced. This renunciation will make the state, as we know it, impossible. Every power of the state rests, ultimately, on its power to “legitimately” kill its citizens. I realize that I’m repeating myself, but there seemed to be some disagreement over my claim and I thought it worth while to clarify my position and attempt to come to some understanding before I go on and make yet more outrageous claims.

I am not claiming that the only action that state agents can take against a citizen is to kill him or her. I have been fined and put in jail. I hear they have over two million people in prison, so yes, I understand that alternatives to execution exist for the government. However, I can’t imagine very many of those 2 million would have gone willingly to prison or would be easy to keep there if the death of an inmate at the hands of a policemen or guard were considered murder (which, by any objective standard, it is).

People submit to state agents specifically because those agents are authorized to kill people who resist. Nobody surrenders to mall security*.

Without the ability to drag people to jail, authorized to kill resisters and escapees, how does the state level fines? Unless they can take houses, killing those who defend themselves as they would against any other home invader, how can they levy property taxes? Without threatening employers, how do they collect income taxes?

This stands separately from the claim that they shouldn’t do these things. It’s not a novel position that they should, but it cannot be claimed that these powers ultimately rest on anything other than the power to kill people.

Everyone likes to call out state violence–well almost everyone–that they don’t agree with while justifying or redefining the state violence that they support. This argument is as old as time and has gotten humanity nowhere**.

While we may disagree about the necessity for violence to maintain social order, provide for the sick and the old, or educate the young–it is disingenuous to deny that, ultimately, agents of the state require the monopoly on violence and the “authority” to kill citizens to enforce the preferences of the ruling class.

*Actually, I take that back: there are people, broken people, who will submit to any authority figure. I submit, without evidence, that those people were likely broken by violence at some point in the past. Broken by aggressors who, explicitly or implicitly, threatened death for continued resistance. That’s a topic for the future.

**In reference to the undeniable increase in the standard of living and the no-longer-being-as-frequently-killed-to-death of huge swaths of humanity under state control: These victories resulted from a multitude of individuals sacrificing their lives and wealth to drag the state kicking and screaming out of some aspect of barbarity. In reference to the idea that, for example, not arresting homosexuals who marry (or those that marry them) is a good use of state violence: it is a good renunciation of state violence–yet another subject to revisit.

Non-Violence vs. Political Solutions

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

A position of non-violence is incompatible with the idea of political solutions to social problems. The state, as we know it, ultimately has only one tool for controlling behavior, it can legitimately kill individual people. All other punishments are premised on this power. Until this is understood, the mass of humanity will remain the the impoverished slaves and servants of a tiny parasitic ruling class and will, perversely, thank them for the “safety” they provide.

If you oppose the non-violent position, then you will only ever contribute to problems stemming from violence. While you may point to a temporary victory–a political solution that “solved” a social problem–growing from the “solution” like bamboo shoots will be dozens, hundreds, thousands of resulting problems, each begging for a new political solution.

I’ve encountered alot of anger around this argument. Almost nobody, especially on the left, wants to be in a position of preferring violent solutions to non-violent. Yet how can one logically argue that support of state solutions is anything but the preference for violent solutions (answer: you can’t).

This puts the angry person in the position of having to create an imaginary world in which violence and only violence can stave off apocalyptic disaster. In this fiction, attempting, or even beginning to attempt to organize voluntarily to address social problems leads immediately to a fate worse than death–a world of chaos and violence in which everyone good dies at the hands of the evil, mad and powerful.

These arguments, lunatic as they are, can be persuasive because a) no matter how horrifying real-life state atrocities are, the apocalypse is worse and b) they rely on fear, a historically reliable way of overriding rational thought and bringing debate to an end.

A novel position came up in a conversation recently that simultaneously surprised and delighted me. It is worth addressing because it is the only alternative to the fear based response. The position is that the state doesn’t need to use violence but could be reconstituted in such a way that it is a voluntary organization. In principle, how can I have any problem with that? If the state renounces violence in favor of voluntary cooperation, it will cease to be a remnant of stone-age barbarism and become a part of the future of humanity. By my definition, it would no longer be a state at that point, but I would be happy concede to calling it a state if it is ever brought into being.

Your elitism is showing–! Here, let me tuck that back down into your collar for you. I’m shocked your valet let you out the door like that!

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

This article is so transparent it’s hard to believe we’re expected to take it seriously, but I suspect we are–much like when John Kerry, during his failed presidential bid some years ago, movingly asked, “And who among us doesn’t like NASCAR?”*

It’s pretty much a fail from the get-go; what amazes me is that anyone bothered to write this article at all.

A Recipe for Riches
by Duncan Greenberg
Friday, October 9, 2009

Want to become a tech titan or hedge fund tycoon?

Well yes, of course, who wouldn’t? And it’s really an option for all you Joe and Jane Sixpacks too—

Up your chances by dropping out of college

!!!! See?!? Most of you already got that part covered, don’tcha?

(and in a mumble)

or going to Harvard and working at Goldman Sachs.

(Oh yeah, those too! But let’s speed rapidly on past those parts—)


Why Virtue Really Is Its Own Reward And Other Stupid Cliches That Actually Have a Grain of Truth In Them

Saturday, September 5th, 2009

So, as most everyone knows by now, I recently got divorced because my husband left me for his ex-wife. Now, what I haven’t shared globally is that my husband actually left her about a month after he left me. (No, he did not move back in with me, nor did I stop the divorce proceedings–sorry, folks, but one must draw the line somewhere*, eh?) I did give him a hand in moving out, though, for the simple reasons that I was both (a) free and (b) had an SUV in which he could transport his belongings. Now, this moveout took place on a Monday afternoon, when his ex-wife/soon-to-be-ex-roommate was still at work–perhaps not too suspicious in of itself, but when he asked me to park out of sight behind the building and then proceeded to start shifting items at a pace that could only be termed frantic, I did feel I had to ask, “Uh, D?”

“Yeah?” he puffed, wrestling a hamper of haphazardly piled clothes into the back of my Jeep.

“…she doesn’t know you’re moving out, does she?”


When Your Male Privilege Stops Applying To Your Situation, It Goes Beyond Inconvenient, Doesn’t It?

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

I had seen this post by Melissa MacEwan of Shakeville before Hugo wrote about it, but I hadn’t been aware of her follow-up post til he linked to it. Basically, her emphasis in her follow-up post and Hugo’s primary message in his own were the same–in their own words:

Melissa: Feminist men who do the right thing often do it quietly, while misogynist men spew their rubbish at incredible volumes…If, my esteemed male feminist allies, you don’t want to be part of the problem, these fights have got to be your province, too. Giving yourselves the permission to not get publicly involved, or to get publicly involved only when it’s convenient and not all that risky and not all that hard, is the ultimate expression of privilege.

Hugo: I was able to assent intellectually to the principles of feminism long before I was courageous enough to espouse them in potentially hostile settings. I had to take baby steps. Identifying as a feminist in a women’s studies class came before identifying as a feminist in an all-male environment. But I felt a sense of urgency; it is male privilege that allows feminist men to pick and choose to join battles into which women are regularly drafted against their will. If we’re serious about our feminism, we can’t just be allies when it’s safe or convenient, we can’t merely offer soothing reassurance in private to the women in our lives. We’ve got to do it as publicly as possible, remembering that our primary usefulness to the egalitarian cause lies in our willingness to model publicly a different way of living as brothers, fathers, sons, husbands, lovers, bosses, students, roommates, coworkers and friends.

(emphasis on convenient mine)

Certainly this is something I’ve thought about before–even written about, rather passionately–grounded as it is in the unavoidable knowledge that women will never achieve true equality if we can’t get more than 50% of the human race on board with that as a basic societal truth. But seeing Hugo write about it made me pause for a second, because Hugo is, after all, a man…who apparently doesn’t entirely know what he’s talking about. Not when it comes to being a man representing feminism, or even anything remotely like feminism, in an all-male environment…a hostile setting.

I used to be pretty close to someone, a man, who had spent nearly 20 years in the military by the time I knew him. When he was 19 years old, he was stationed in Korea. Now, nobody in the Army brought his family over to Korea then; the Army wouldn’t pay for it and there was no real housing available there for family, schools for the kids, etc. Few Army women were sent to Korea, as nearly all the military specialties over there were either combat arms (outright banned to women) or very closely combat arms-related, in which there weren’t too many women serving to begin with. In short, it was essentially an “all-male environment”–not just for a few hours a day every few days or so, but 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And as anyone who has either been stationed there himself or has been very close to someone who has been stationed there knows, the standard operating procedure was for all the guys to go out together at night, get hammered, and patronize prostitutes.

Now, my friend was not particularly feminist–certainly not at age 19. But he didn’t want to patronize prostitutes. He’d only had sex a few times in his life period prior to being stationed in Korea; he was, he told me, frightened and repelled by the idea of doing it with a prostitute, just like that. His stint in Korea was only a month long–it was a training exercise–so, he said, he did manage to avoid having to do it–though both he and I doubted that he would have been able to continue to successfully refuse if he’d been stationed there for the standard 12-month Army rotation.

Because I don’t think Hugo and Melissa really know what a hostile all-male setting really consists of, sometimes, especially to a five-foot-nine inch, 140 pound, 19 year old boy. Like this*:

A Youth Radio investigation has found that between 2004 and 2006, sailors in the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain Military Working Dogs Division, or “The Kennel,” were subjected to an atmosphere of sexual harassment, psychological humiliation, and physical assaults.

It was inside that Bahrain kennel in July 2005 that Petty Officer Joseph Christopher Rocha, then 19 years old, says he was being terrorized by other members of his own division. “I was hog-tied to a chair, rolled around the base, left in a dog kennel that had feces spread in it.”

Rocha says that beginning six weeks into his deployment, he was singled out for abuse by his chief master-at-arms, Michael Toussaint, and others on the base, once Rocha made it clear he was not interested in prostitutes. “I was in a very small testosterone-driven unit of men,” Rocha says. “I think that’s what began the questioning-you know-‘Why don’t you want to have sex with her? Are you a faggot?’”

Youth Radio has conducted interviews and obtained documents released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) showing that the hog-tying episode was not the first or only case of harassment and abuse during Rocha’s deployment. In another incident cited in the documents, Rocha was forced to appear in a twisted “training video.” A member of the Working Dogs Division, Petty Officer Shaun Hogan, recalls the scene.

“Petty Officer Rocha and another junior sailor…were instructed to go into a classroom by Chief Michael Toussaint, who orchestrated the entire training. And Chief Toussaint asked them to simulate homosexual sex on a couch,” Hogan says.

Next in the simulation, Hogan says a handler and his dog barged onto the scene, and that’s when “one person…would sit up, kind of wipe off their mouth, the other would get up, and they would be fixing their fly.”

Rocha says Toussaint bullied him, “telling me I needed to be more believable, act more queer, have a higher pitched voice, make the sounds and gestures more realistic…I didn’t think I had a choice…It made me feel that I wasn’t a human being, that I was an animal, rather.”

Youth Radio has obtained a copy of both Braden’s investigation and the Navy’s Findings of Fact, which detail what happened to Rocha, in addition to incidents involving other service members. The FOIA documents have been redacted, so names are blocked out, but the actions listed include: throwing hard balls at the groin, spraying down uniformed personnel with multiple hoses, and a dog attacking a sex worker on base to the point of hospitalization.

Youth Radio’s investigation includes interviewing four members of the Bahrain Working Dogs Division who served between 2004 and 2006. All say the tone was set by Chief Toussaint. Some sailors participated in the culture of hazing as victims, others as perpetrators, or in some cases both.

When discussing his own Korea experience with my friend, I suggested that it might have been different if he’d been sent there as a sergeant in his 30′s rather than as a scared private of 19–he laughed and agreed: “Oh my God yeah…I wish I could go back there now…and this time they’d be like, ‘What’s wrong with you, man? Are you gay?’ and I’d be like, ‘That’s right, not only am I gay…I am THE gay**!’” But that’s now…as a mature adult man who has been to war and seen terrible things, who has the full growth and strength of a male in his physical prime, who has had enough sex of his own choosing to feel comfortable and confident in his own sexuality–and also, as a man with the authority of a senior noncommissioned officer’s rank.

I was in the Army myself, at age 18, in a heavily male environment–I know exactly what that’s like. There is no way in hell you could reasonably expect any of those boys to buck the system, and no, not just because they would be called names, or ostracized–they would be at serious risk of physical and sexual assault…just like I would have been if I’d ever made waves myself. And no feminist alive would have expected me to open my mouth and speak out under those circumstances. Male privilege doesn’t exist anymore when everyone in the group is already male, does it..?

So Hugo’s and Melissa’s messages are important…but they are lacking context. Which would be the privilege of never having served in our glorious Armed Forces, I would imagine. If you really want to advance the cause of feminism, first you’re going to push to make those spaces safe for the young men inhabiting them. That must come first, or you will never accomplish anything real and lasting in terms of encouraging young men to speak up for gender equality. And for God’s sake don’t trivialize a situation you can’t or won’t understand by calling it inconvenient…haven’t we had enough of that from the anti-choicers?

*via Pam

**He’s heterosexual, I should mention–you get his point, though.

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.


Sunday, July 12th, 2009

The Fourth of July in general, the twenty minutes I spent Saturday night lying in the middle of a field watching fireworks specifically, and Antigone’s second-last post all inspired me to muse upon patriotism (the musing actually took place a week ago, but cut me some slack–my life is fraught right now, you know).

I think the first time that the concept of patriotism ever crossed my personal horizons was in the first grade, when I found myself starting a new school mid-year in a state that was a leetle different in character than the one I’d recently been uprooted from. Specifically, we’d moved from Hawaii to Kansas; the shock of experiencing the season known as winter pretty much dwarfed all my other concerns, but I do remember being rather bewildered by the way all the other kids in class popped to their feet as soon as the morning bell rang, smacked a hand over their heart, and began reciting…something.


Sorry–I Refuse To Hate Men, And None Of You Can Make Me Do It No Matter How Hard You Try

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

“Men are dogs,” said my previous ex-husband to me, as we were driving out together to meet my current ex-husband at the bank to close our joint account.

“No, they’re not,” I said.

“Yes they are,” he said, very firmly, staring straight ahead at the road. “You need to stop thinking everyone’s like you, you know. You always do that. You did that with me, too.”

“You wouldn’t have done something like this.”

“No,” he agreed. “But I take marriage very seriously. Clearly he doesn’t.”

Obviously true and inarguable, so I let it go. But I didn’t forget that conversation, nor could I erase something my current ex-husband said to me since our parting of ways:

Him: I think your feminism may have been part of the problem.
Me: How so?
Him: When you said your divorce lawyer told you that you must have a problem with self-respect to have allowed yourself to be treated this way. That really bothered you.
Me: Don’t you want me to have self-respect?
Him: (pause) In some ways. Sometimes.

The above theme had cropped up earlier as well, in the month or two before we separated–of course, I wasn’t aware at the time what was triggering it, that his ex-wife had moved up here and they were conspiring together to get rid of me (maritally, not literally, of course!). In short, he mentioned on several occasions that what he really wanted was someone who would do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted without interference from such concepts as her own self-respect or personal desires–my efforts to please and placate were clearly underwhelming, and he just as clearly believed that such a woman was indeed out there just waiting for him. (Again, since I didn’t know about the eager availability of his ex-wife–who I should probably point out, didn’t actually consistently perform to that standard while they were married, which is why they separated repeatedly and finally divorced–I found his assurance on the subject bewildering. Not anymore, obviously.)

But the thing that troubles me is that both men do think that this sort of behavior is simply something that’s endemic to men, to the gender male of H. sapiens. Now, you’ll never find me arguing that there aren’t a large crop of asshats running around the planet at any given point in time–but I just can’t really bring myself to believe that all or even most men are secretly (or not so secretly) this particular brand of asshat. Some, sure. But so are some women–I’ve met them. And I would definitely agree that society and culture (pretty much all of ‘em, even worse in other cultures than in ours) set men up to be more likely to be this sort of entitled, domineering, sexually uncontrolled brand of asshat.

But I still can’t really believe that menarejustlikethat! I especially reject that they are like that as an inborn trait–I have no patience for that brand of evo-psych. But I also reject that they are all like that as an acquired trait, too. I reject that most of them are like that…men are people, not badly programmed sexbots. (Well, okay, except for Dennis Prager.)

But my first ex-husband and my current ex-husband aren’t the only men who’ve made these statements to me. Over the years, many many other men have made similar statements to me–about the inherent selfishness, sexual obsessiveness, immaturity, etc. that is the essence of malekind. I’ve always rejected them as blanket statements or even as reliable generalities.

So am I being stupid, to assume I know better what men are than all these other men who’ve argued with me about it? Many men have treated me with respect and consideration during the course of my life–am I to believe, as all these other men always insist, that it’s because I’m desirable and it is done solely to enhance the possibility that I might someday accidentally trip and fall on top of their waiting dicks? That it’s all an act to get me where they want me (emotionally and often, legally bound to them) so then they can reveal what they’ve really wanted all this time..? Gad, it’s all such a stereotype–must I buy into it?

Sorry–I still don’t. I still think it’s more likely that I just haven’t been careful…though I’ve gotten more and more careful with each spouse, and put up with the subsequently revealed repellent post-marriage-ceremony bullshit for shorter and shorter durations each time, clearly, I simply haven’t been careful enough in my choices.

On a kind of funny side note, I now have an saved email archive full of ex-husbands declaring (post-divorce!) what a wonderful, special woman I am, and how sweet and kind and beautiful and caring and intelligent and strong and–! I do have a good, positive relationship with the first ex, and I may well have one with this one, too, if he chooses that. It’s very peculiar; I’ve never really witnessed the like. Either I’m really something spectacular, or they want to keep the hope alive that I might put out again someday when they’re desperate and alone–I just can’t decide which. :)