What is the worst that could happen?

8 05 2008

When I was a kid, I took ballet from the time I was 2 to the time I was 11 or so. Why did I stop? Because my teacher said it was time for me to go en pointe. It was, I was more than ready.  What kept me from taking that step? My mother forbade me to. She was so afraid I’d break an ankle that she denied me the opportunity to pursue something that I loved.

Flash forward 23 or so years, and my daughter wants to get her ears pierced, but she’s scared it’ll hurt. (NB: We took her to a piercing salon and had it done with a needle, not one of those horrible guns that do mean and awful things to you.) I tell her that pain is fleeting. It comes, it goes, and it should never stand in the way of something you truly want. She gets her ears pierced, and not only doesn’t mind the pain, kinda likes it and wants more more more metal. Now, thank you.

The worst thing that can happen to your child is not that she might break an ankle or shed a tear at the piercing needle or get her heart broken or fall off the monkey bars while hanging upside down and break her arm.

No, the worst thing that can happen to your child is…nothing at all.


Sliding to the left

8 05 2008

I know that it’s a common trope that the older one grows, the more conservative one becomes. It’s not working like that for me, though, I can tell you that. The older I get, the more leftist I become. Let’s all say it together, kids:

It’s not ‘he who dies with the most toys wins’. It’s ‘if we all fail to cross the finish line together, we all lose’.

The world is getting smaller every day, and all the ways in which we are each utterly, inextricably interconnected are becoming ever more apparent. Us versus them is such a common, socially domineering concept that it’s almost impossible to raise kids with a pluralistic outlook in this culture. Different is not bad, same is not always good, when you see something on the surface, look under the covers at the whys and the hows. There is always, always more going on than you think there is.

This is also the virtue of teaching history. The world around us does not emerge from a vacuum afresh every morning, but so many people in this country lack even a fundamental grounding in history that it seems as though it did. Every day is a brand new day on Fox News! Don’t notice the pattern, don’t remember alllll the way back to the 80s when we funded kill and rape squads in Central America, or when we gave Saddam Hussein the wherewithal to fight and kill Iranians (and his own people, of course). Don’t pay attention. Paying attention is unAmerican! Just ask all the critics of Jeremiah Wright, who, while lacking in tact, has at least been paying attention to how things work in this country.

Don’t think about how all those ‘leeching’ ‘illegals’ are ‘pouring’ over our borders as a direct consequence of the actions of US big agribusinesses combined with NAFTA to strip hereditary protections from family farms in Mexico while simultaneously removing price controls on tortillas and corn. Don’t even KNOW that, much less think about it.

The truth is painfully simple, and as such, inescapable. We’ve sown the seeds, and now we’re reaping what we’ve sown.

Don’t know, don’t think, don’t pay attention, and don’t question. Just buy. Buy crap you don’t need, but feel like you’ll die if you don’t have. Feed the machine. Feed the march to oblivion. And don’t ever ever ask a hard question, or even worse, demand an answer.

Because love means hypnotizing your significant other

12 02 2008

This ad is absolutely puke inducing (click on ‘watch our valentine’s day TV ad’ in the right hand side bar). JC Penney’s Valentine’s Day advert consists of men giving their womenfolk tawdry, tacky, cheap-ass diamond heart pendants, and swaying them hypnotically. It comes complete with the men saying in a lulling voice ‘Shiny, isn’t it? You love how it looks. You think I’m the perfect man. You’re very happy with me right now.’ And the kicker, for me, is the end card: ‘Today is the day everyone gets what they want’.

Really? Let’s strip this down, shall we? Shiny jewelry = ownership. You ARE happy with me. Because I SAY SO. Because I have BOUGHT you. And if you don’t like it? I’ll find some way to coerce you into giving me what I’m rightfully due. A little hypnotism, a little rohypnol. Whatever it takes, right?

A symphony of perversion

10 02 2008

Why aren’t stories like this picked up by the national news outlets and broadcast far and wide? It’s exhausting, to keep reading about these stories on my blogroll, then finding out they aren’t getting any real attention:

“A local home healthcare worker reported to Deputy David King on Jan. 11 that one of her special needs patients might have been sexually assaulted. King then notified Detective Rocky Potter, who investigates sex crimes for the county.

Potter met with the alleged victim, a 47-year-old woman, a couple of days later. The woman told Potter that a minister she had known for several years had visited her periodically to pray with her.

Early in January the minister called her, then came to her Dayton apartment and spent several hours with her praying. The woman said the minister told her she had a demon inside her, but that he could force the demon out of her by anointing her with oil and praying over her.

The woman said the minister told her to go in her bedroom, take off her clothes and lie down on the bed. She then said the minister came into her bedroom, spread oil on her and touched her sexually, Potter said.

After a few minutes, the minister told the woman to get dressed, and they spent more time in the living room praying together. The woman said the minister then told her there was one more thing she could to remove the demon and coerced her to perform a sex act on him, according to Potter.”

That’s right.Yet another sordid, enraging, depressing, wholly unsurprising incident where someone turns on the light, and the roaches we call the religious hypocrites scurry for the dank recesses. Molesting a special needs woman in the name of religion…are we surprised? Honestly? Do we have an ounce of shock left? How do these evil, vile people still hold a shred of moral authority in our culture? How do THEY still get to be the ones to point their fingers and scold and scream and claim oppression?

I think the answer is simple – simpler than we’d like it to be. It’s simple, because human beings are really pretty simple. Some of us evolve, and lose our  taste for pointing and screaming and controlling. Some us – most of us – don’t. We hear about a fine, upstanding pastor molesting a woman incapable of giving her consent, and we think ‘Yeah, heh heh. What else are those fucking simpletons good for?’. Because we are still animals. We’re still apes. We still eat our weak, then thump our bloody chests and crow over it.

How can the ‘religious right’ still inflict so much blunt force trauma on our society? Because we let it. Because we refuse to evolve past the stage of playground bully, sniggering while we dump the brainy kid in the trash or humiliate the girl who dared to get breasts and hips with catcalls and nasty names.  We’re still stuck in grade school, our whole fucking culture. We refuse to grow up.

Here’s a piece of grown up reasoning for you: if members of the christianist right repeatedly show themselves as morally bankrupt, rotten to the core, hypocritical evil doers, maybe it’s more than just ‘one bad apple’. Maybe the whole bushel is rotted. Maybe the whole fucking orchard.

Pentagon refuses to investigate KBR gang rape charges

13 01 2008

This immensely infuriating piece of news came down the pike on January 8th.  It looks like there will be no justice for Jamie Leigh Jones, despite a testimony that should have absolutely reduced anyone to tears and motivated normal human beings to action. Alas, it looks like the Department of Defense is only interested in defending the profits of its highly-place, no-bid contractors, and not in defending the right to bodily integrity of a young woman who’s trapped in a Sisyphian hell where everyone looks at her plight, shrugs, and says ‘not my problem’.

The Pentagon won’t investigate. There can be no criminal charges. There won’t even be an official inquiry into how the Army violated the chain of evidence to give the SAE kit to civilian contractors from the same company who went on to lock her in a shipping container under guard. If the guard had not given her his cellphone, would she still be alive today? Or would she have found her way into a vehicle that tragically ran over an IED? Would she have just disappeared forever? Speaking of disappearing, what is that guard’s name, and has anyone heard from him recently? I sincerely hope he quit and turned tail and ran back home before he ended up dead himself. And did you all know that Jamie Leigh’s ordeal has been going on for two and a half years?

What really troubles me most here, and it may be just me, is this: is the threat of jail and prosecution (spotty though those threats might be here in the States) really all that holds many ‘ordinary’ guys back from becoming gang rapists? Is it really just rule of law? You take them out from under its gaze and…what? They turn into men who could do this? Does the same hold true for mercenaries like the fine, upstanding men of Blackwater? Give them power, give them carte blanche, give them big guns, and they choose to become monsters? Was there no one raising them to use their ‘gentle hands’, to look at violence only as something used to protect those who are weak and in danger? What the hell kind of home training is this? I don’t understand. I’ve known a lot of guys in my life, intimately and not. In fact for much of my life most of my friends were guys. I liked their straightforwardness, their bluntness. I liked how they were protective, and sweet, and mostly very gentle. I see guys today who work at my son’s after-school daycare who are patient and wonderful with kids of all ages. What’s the difference? What turns one guy into a rapist at the first hint of opportunity, and what turns one into an early childhood educator? I may be more or less done with men forever as intimate partners, but I do have a son. And that son will have friends. That son will end up in the position of being around a bunch of drunk people – what will make him the guy who walks the girl safely home, and not the guy who listens to his friends telling him it’s ‘okay’ to rape her? I love my son so much – and I think he’s got a very gentle heart, and a very kind soul. How do you protect that?

Sorry about all the questions. I see stories like Jamie Leigh’s and I start thinking, going from specific to general and trying to figure out what it all MEANS. Maybe the answer is that all it means is our society is fucked. Maybe the answer is that there are good people, and bad people, and you can’t teach a bad person to be good, only to act good as long as no one’s watching. I don’t know, but I wish I did.

Throwing out the baby with the bathwater

11 01 2008

Bush says the U.S. should have bombed Auschwitz. Really, Mr. President? We should have bombed a camp full of helpless concentration camp internees to stop the killing…of helpless concentration camp internees? That’s your brilliant historical insight?

Children of same sex couples in the military

11 01 2008

In all the furor over DADT, I’ve seen comparatively little coverage on the impact it has on the families of GLBT service members. This wonderful, heartbreaking article by Dana over at The Blend is a wrenching glimpse into the life of one lesbian Army officer, her partner and two very young sons. They have to dance a fine line, sacrificing every on-base activity for their children. When their mother is deployed to Iraq, the children cannot partake of any activities with other kids of deployed parents, cannot forge any bonds to share their experiences or form friendships. Why? Because children talk. The parents have promised each other that they should be the only ones to ever, ever have to lie. They never want their sons to have to lie, so they keep them out of situations where the truth would mean the end of a career that one parent cherishes.

This means no on-base daycare, no on-base playgrounds. For fuck’s sake, it even means no on-base Santa. So DADT is a nice ‘compromise’ compared to the criminal prosecutions of old? Really? I guess their mother couldn’t be thrown in jail if her secret comes out, just lose something she values highly – serving her country. I wish that Elaine Donnelly bitch from the ‘Center for Military Readiness’ could look those young children in the eye, square in the eye, and just flat out say to them the things she says in her screeds against letting those homos serve openly. It would never happen though. People who stand on the sidelines and spew hate tend to lack the courage to go face to face, eye to eye with the direct consequences of their bile fueled, small minded, petty faux outrage.

Go to the Blend, read the whole thing.