Domestic Violence Awarness Month: The Shame of Being a Statistic

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. On average three women a day will be killed by their partners everyday. As of today, October 30th, eighty-four women have died died at the hands of their spouses and partners. It is estimated one in three women will experience some kind of domestic abuse during their lifetime. To paint this picture more vividly, it means in any given day, in any given place you go (grocery store, church, the DMV, the workplace etc), every third woman you see could possibly be a victim of domestic violence at some point during her life. What’s more, perhaps every third or fourth man you encounter, could be an abuser. This is a silent epidemic.

The term of domestic violence has expanded to include all sorts of abuse, emotional abuse, emotional isolation and manipulation, belittling and degrading one’s partner and of course the physical beatings. This is important to point out because for a long time, people pictured domestic violence victims as the woman who turns up at work with a black eye but she says she fell down a flight of stairs or tripped on the concrete. The ‘falling down the stairs’ is the most often used excuse for visible physical injuries. But domestic violence need not have physical scars to be considered abuse. The abusers have gotten smarter, they’ve learned to not leave visible scars, this can mean abusing their partners in areas of the body where clothing will cover up her bruises or scars or mental abuse and torture.

The most often used method by abusers is isolate his victim from her nearest and dearest, degrade his victim by convincing her that he’s all she’s got, no one else will have her, no one else can love her because she’s so vile, so she’s got put with up with the piece of trash that is he and when he’s totally robbed her of her identity and self-esteem, he removes her financial autonomy so that she couldn’t leave even if she wanted to, he controls the routines of the children and finally he beats her at will, for any reason, for any excuse. The dinner is too hot, dinner is too cold. It’s got too many vegetables, it doesn’t have enough vegetables. The woman spends all her waking hours trying to avoid him and his wrath, trying to do everything perfect to not incite his wrath, trying to protect her children from the grotesque scene happening at home. This formula of abuse hasn’t changed much since its inception.

If prostitution is the oldest profession in the world, then domestic violence must be the oldest crime in the world. It’s also the least prosecuted crime, the least understood crime (Why don’t you just leave? Why did you wait until now? Why do you keep having children with him if he has been beating you for 20 years? Why do you still have sex with him? Why didn’t you tell anyone?) and sadly the most tolerated crime, even in the West. Domestic violence crimes in America, unless grievous bodily injury is inflicted, is considered a misdemeanor. This means an abuser can verbally threaten his partner until she’s scared out of her wits but as long as he doesn’t inflict grievously bodily harm, he will get a slap on the wrist, serve 30 days in jail, a bullshit restraining order which he’ll violate at will and somehow worm his way back into his victim’s life. What law enforcement does not understand is that most victims are too traumatized, demoralized and are most likely suffering from PTSD or other types of psychological trauma to effectively carry out and follow through with legal proceedings and processes to keep their abuser away. If the victim is suffering from financial distress as a result of her abuser being locked up and she’s got no other backup from family, friends or survivor’s groups, she will have no choice but to let him back in.

I am a domestic violence survivor. I am the statistic of one in three women who has suffered domestic violence some time during her life. I won’t go into the details of my abuse except that I needed to go to the hospital to get treatment for my injuries. The mental scars are far worse than the physical scars. I suffered nightmares, flashbacks and possibly undiagnosed PTSD. I had PTSD brain for several years after the event except I didn’t know what PTSD brain was. I was very confused at my own behavior which wasn’t present present prior to my assault. For example, why at certain voices or situations, I just froze and became a robot and went into autopilot mode. This is not me, I am a fighter. After my attack, I just wanted to move forward. I just wanted to put it all behind me and start a new life, which I did. But I didn’t attend to those old wounds and the reason is not because I didn’t have the resources, I did. The reason was I was too ashamed. I was too embarrassed. I will not be one of those weak, battered women cowering in the corner and weeping through therapy sessions. Not on my worst day. He won’t rob this last ounce of my dignity too.

Oh the shame, the embarrassment of being a battered woman is the strongest impediment I have had to overcome. Despite reading a lot of literature on domestic violence and what it does to people, I could not accept that I was ‘one of those people’ that let someone do this to me. And I hated being a ‘victim’, even though my head acknowledged that I was a ‘victim’, my heart refuses to allow it. You see, being assaulted by cowardly bastard wasn’t supposed to happen to me. I am educated. I am smart. I am tough. I can hold my own in many situations and I didn’t grow up in a home where there was domestic violence, this isn’t supposed to happen to me. I know that from countless studies and research, domestic violence can happen to anyone, in any culture, in any social class. No one strata or group of people is immune from domestic violence. A doctor, lawyer or university professor teaching Greek Classics is just as likely to abuse his partner as his working class counterparts. I read it. I comprehended it. I get it. But still, it shouldn’t have happened to me. And I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed that moving forward, should I prefer, I can refer to myself a domestic violence survivor and I hated it. I shuddered at the thought of it. I didn’t go so far to blame myself. I left after the one and only incident and never looked back, never talked to him again. Yet I was still ashamed that it happened to me.

It’s an incident I never mention or talk about. I pretend it never happened. I was lucky in the respect that I didn’t depend on this person financially nor did I have children with this person. I just left and never looked back. I did report my incident to the police but the ‘investigation’ was a joke and results so abysmal, it was a huge waste of my time. Reporting my attack didn’t make me feel better or feel that any sense of justice was served, except when he nearly got deported and was locked up in ICE detention for many months not knowing his fate. He was quaking in his boots and I enjoying a case of serious schadenfreude. Being deported is the worst thing he could imagine happening to him and the mere fact that he thought he was going to be deported and was sitting in jail worried sick, the thought makes me feel vindicated for all the stuff I put up with. This was my justice. Through a mutual acquaintance, he asked for my help (imagine the gall) to put in a good word for him so that he wouldn’t get deported, I told him to fuck off. That felt good too. It felt good that his family had, one by one, came to me, begging me to put a good word in for him so he won’t be deported back to some barren, sand swept, God forsaken place. They said it would be the last thing I have to do for him, I told them all to fuck off. These were the same people, months prior blaming me for his predicament, for ruining his life and they threatening to ruin mine.

Thinking about this chapter of my youth still fills me with dread. I cannot believe I allowed this to happen to me. Today, I feel better because I promised myself to harbor no more shame, blame or guilt about anything which has happened to me. But I still feel prickly when I think back on this episode. I’ve learned a lot about myself, I’ve set boundaries for myself of what I will allow to happen to me and what I won’t. No matter what, I don’t allow my self-esteem to get so low which would allow another person to treat my like garbage.

I am also fighting the urge to stay silent because of my daughter. She is four years old right now, I don’t know if I’ll ever tell her about this. I suppose I would if the opportunity came up but most importantly, I don’t want her to think that being a domestic violence victim is something to be ashamed of. I don’t want her to stay quiet if she encounters any form of abuse in the future. I want her to come running to me, to tell me who did what to her and how to appropriately respond. I don’t want to in any way impart the message of shame, due to my own personal issues, onto my daughter. I want send a clear message to her which, if anyone treats her badly, whether she’s in the first grade or 12th grade, it’s unacceptable. Most importantly, I don’t want my daughter to ever feel trapped any situation. As long as I am alive and have one breath in my body, I will be her safety net. No matter what, she can always come home to me. She will never have to endure any abuse because she has nowhere else to go. I am forever her safe harbor.

Schooling Bristol Palin About Respecting Authority

Dear Bristol,

You seem like a well intentioned and well meaning young woman. However, your commentaries on current events especially when it has to do with race is very naive and tunnel visioned. In my previous piece I wrote about you, I emphasized that you should not be slut shamed for your choices even though your views on contraception, sex and family planning are very contradictory and hypocritical. Clearly, whatever it is you are preaching about sex and contraceptives is not working for you. This is not a dig, but a fact. I offered you support and reiterated the position in which you owed no one an apology, not even your parents. You are a grown woman, you are financially independent and this is the predicament you find yourself in. You accepted it and and took it ‘on the chin’. You blamed no one but yourself and you are celebrating the life of your little girl. Congratulations and good for you.  You do not identify as a feminist as you associate feminism with something that is incongruent with your personal beliefs, and that’s fine. However, the feminist in me gives me the urge to speak on your behalf even though you didn’t ask for it. You are a woman, therefore you deserve the respect for your choices, even if you are very narrow minded when it comes to some things.

Yet given what you’ve been through, you still refuse promote the birth-control methods which could have prevented your pregnancies to begin with. Obviously, abstinence only education doesn’t work, yet you express outrage when public schools take proactive methods such as giving out contraceptives to prevent teenage pregnancy.

Your reaction to the brutal handling of a schoolgirl in Spring Valley High School in South Carolina is another case of your naivete stemming from your White privilege and tunnel vision. And it’s worth pointing out because a lot of White people express similar views as you, not knowing how damaging your views are to children of color who are from an underprivileged background.

Your statement in full states:

I can’t believe this, when are we going to look at what KIDS are doing wrong? Instead of instantly blaming police and higher authority?

I know my son would leave a classroom if he was told to, so why didn’t this student? Do parents teach their kids now to question authority? That they must be the victim?

I don’t know the full situation – none of us do, but this just makes me sick. When will parents take full responsibility for their kids, teach them not to act like punks, and listen to AUTHORITY – no matter what their race is.

First of all, this girl is in foster care, so effectively she has no parents. You made an immediate assumption about her lack of parenting based on her behavior. You made this assumption based on how you were parented and expected to behave. You must know that not everyone comes from a comfortable middle class, two-parent home such as yourself. You had the consistency and structure growing up which would then lead you to have proper respect for authorities.

About blaming the police, yes, the officer deserves blame. He’s the adult, the student is a child. An adult is not supposed to lose their cool when disciplining children, even unruly children. More importantly, as an adult, someone of authority or someone in uniform should never lay a hand on a child, ever. And he didn’t just lay a hand on her, he dragged her across the room like a rag doll, for refusing to put down her cell phone and leave the classroom as instructed (I’ll get to her behavior later). There are  no ‘buts’ here, no excuses can be allowed. But he could have been having a bad day – too bad, you are in charge of keeping children safe, check your personal baggage at the front door. But the student’s behavior and surly attitude was really awful, it could make anyone steamed up, too bad – you are the adult, you are the person in uniform, you are supposed to maintain order and keep everyone calm and cool. There are a thousand and one ways to deal with an unruly teenager which does not involve physical violence but he chose the easiest way, which is to totally blow his top and lose his temper. He got himself fired in the process and he deserves to be. There is no place for that kind of behavior in schools.

I know my son would leave a classroom if he was told to, so why didn’t this student? Do parents teach their kids now to question authority? That they must be the victim?

Bristol dear, you absolutely DO NOT know if your son would leave the classroom had he been asked. You just think he would based on who he is now, which is a darling cherubic 6 year old boy who adores his mama. Fast forward 10 more years, he will not be the same cherubic little boy, he will still adore his mama but he will be a complicated young man on the cusp of young adulthood processing a million emotions a minute and you mix teenage hormones in there, there’s no telling what he would do at any given time in the day. You were 16 years old not too long ago, I don’t need to remind you how difficult those years are.

‘Do Parents teach their kids now to question authority?’ No, they don’t (at least no sane parent would), but the sole purpose for a teenager’s existence is to question authority and push the boundaries whenever and wherever they can. It’s their job to annoy the shit out of their parents to see how much of their crap they can take, it’s part of growing up. I did it and so did you.

As for the ‘victim’ blaming, that’s uncalled for. This student who got dragged across the room is a ‘victim’ in every definition of the word. And if that happened to your son, even if he grew to be a big strapping 16 year old and he got abused by a police officer like that (regardless of what he did to provoke the attack), he is a victim. And if that happens, you will be so angry, you will charge into the principal’s office to demand to know exactly what did a 16 year old kid do to deserve this treatment. At that time, it will not matter one jot to you what your son did to deserve this treatment, whatever he did, you will deal with him on your own at home, but for another to lay a hand on your child is unacceptable. But you see, this girl has no ‘parents’, she has no advocate in the form of her parents, she’s in foster care and we don’t know how long she’s been in foster care or how many times she’s been in and out of foster care.

You judged her behavior to her lack of proper parenting, perhaps you are right. Perhaps she wasn’t parented well. You don’t know this girl’s family background, socio-economic background and you don’t know what her life has been like from age zero to 16. This doesn’t excuse her behavior but it explains her behavior. You don’t know what other personal issues she’s dealing with as a result her being placed in foster care (perhaps not for the first time).  All of the above can contribute to disruptive behavior at school. Poverty, inconsistent parenting, family instability affect children terribly and so they act out. However, when they do, it’s up to the teachers, school counselors and protection officers to help her correct her behavior, not drag her across the floor and causing her serious injuries for refusing to put down her cell  phone and leave the classroom.

You finish with the oft repeated line by White people ‘I don’t know the full situation’ – no you don’t. You know nothing about the girl’s background besides she’s black and was misbehaving in school that day. The assumption that in your tone is the girl must have done something to deserve this, so perhaps the police officer overreacted, but he wouldn’t just do that, he must have been provoked, therefore she bears some responsibility. Yes, the police officer was most definitely provoked, his reactions show it, but he shouldn’t have been. He, as the adult in this situation, should have maintained his cool and if for any reason he’s unable to do so, it’s his responsibility and duty as an adult to remove himself from the situation and stay away until he’s able to control himself.

Your implication of ‘had she just done what she was told, none of this would happen’, this is typical victim blaming. Would you tell a battered wife, if she just did as she was told by her husband, she wouldn’t be beaten? Or an abused child, if they just obeyed their parents more, then they wouldn’t get beaten? Since when is laying a hand on another person an acceptable way to resolve a conflict? This isn’t a street fight where guns and knives are involved, this is an unruly girl, in a school classroom, who decided she was going to act like a ‘punk’ that day. Why? Because she feels like it and she’s 16 years old. It’s almost required of her, it’s her job description. A 16 year old girl is not responsible for the actions of adults and people in authority, regardless of how bad her behavior is, regardless of how badly she provoked him.

And lastly you bring up ‘race’, that pesky little thing everyone is talking about these days. The stain which is on our collective conscience that people just won’t shut up about. As if ignoring ‘race’ will make it better or make it go away. As if everything existed in a vacuum and race was introduced to mess everything up.

What if the scenario was reversed, what if Ben Fields was black and the student he dragged across the floor was a small petite white girl, for refusing to put down her cell phone and leave the classroom? How do you think that will go down for the black police officer? There will be no ‘excuses’ made for the black police officer, that’s for sure. People will assume him to be a brute, reduce him to a stereotype of an angry aggressive black man, they won’t even bother to hold an ‘investigation’ and get ‘his side of the story’, he’d be fired on the spot, charges would be filed against him by the DA and his career in law enforcement would effectively be over. The media definitely won’t say, well, it’s not about race because he’s dating a white woman. Which, by the way, is the dumbest excuse I’ve ever heard. The actions of Ben Fields can’t be about race, because why? Wait for it, he’s dating a black woman, therefore he must not be racist.

Maybe he isn’t racist, maybe it isn’t about race, maybe he really was just having an awful day and this girl refusing to get up out of her seat and go to detention or whereever she was supposed to go was the last straw for him that day so he lost it. Whatever the reason, he should know as a White male police officer, he is in the privileged and dominant position of authority. His actions will be judged regardless of what his thought process is. Brutalizing a young black girl in a classroom by a White police officer will come across like a race thing whether he likes it or not, and that’s the burden he has to carry for having White privilege.

So, next time, before you feel the urge to type whatever comes to your head. Think about it for a bit. More importantly, try to think about it from the point of view of someone besides yourself. Know how privileged and lucky you are, most teenage mothers plunge into poverty and most likely stay there. You were spared that fate because of your family. You were presented career opportunities and money making opportunities that women your age don’t normally get. You are the exception, not the rule.

Society Has Failed Them

‘This Is Life With Lisa Ling’ recently featured a show called ‘Fatherless Towns’. It’s a show about men who are incarcerated and in hopes of rehabilitating them, the prison is providing them with parenting classes on how to be better more present parents. It is done with the hope that if these men had something to go home to and someone besides themselves to care for, the recidivism rate will decline. The end of the program is celebrated with holding a father-daughter dance inside the jail. It was a day where the men could dress up in a suit and tie (for some it was the first time in their lives they’ve put on a suit) and their daughters wearing the prettiest frock they’ve got. They celebrate by having a sit down dinner followed by a dance afterwards. This is not just any regular sit down dinner. Etiquette coaches are brought in to teach the inmates how to conduct themselves in a formal dinner setting, how to use utensils and where to put their napkin and such. It was sweet to watch battle worn inmates trying to negotiate a dining table setting. The scene was moving and touching, but it’s also sad. It is sad that our society has failed a whole demographic of people: young black men.

I didn’t view this show from the perspective that these repeat offenders have failed society and failed themselves, society has failed them. This program is offered in tn Richmond, Virginia, to mostly non-violent drug offenders. The 12 fathers enrolled in this program all have some sort of substance abuse problem and 11 are Black and one is Latino. Most come from fatherless homes themselves and all of them are repeat offenders. Some have lived in jail cells longer than they’ve lived on the outside. All of them have multiple children, some with multiple women. When they go to prison, they leave behind a trail of broken hearts and tears and they’ve just repeated a cycle which was just perpetuated onto them. They are leaving their children fatherless.

Each of their stories almost start out the same, they were born to a single parent home, their fathers either left before they were born or left the family or died when they were very  young. And most of them had happy childhoods being raised by their mothers and grandparents, but trouble always found them at the crossroads of going from child to a man, the critical age where a father’s influence on a boy can make or break a man, was not present. One man, Terrence Williams, he was a straight A student, he got a scholarship to play football at college, all he had to was graduate high school. But he fell in with the wrong crowd in his senior year, started smoking pot and drinking, he failed two classes and failed to graduate from high school and down went his dreams. Since then, it’s been a cycle of drug abuse and criminal activity. He became a drug dealer and his life revolved around getting arrested, being charged and getting incarcerated. He has 5 children with 4 different women, he wants to do better for those children. Being fatherless himself, he has no frame of reference on how to be a father, forget good or bad father, just a father. He told Lisa Ling that he attempted to turn his life around many times, on his own, but he had no ‘roadmap’ and had no idea what to do or where to start, so he just fell back into the same trap.

Another man, Aziz Scott, is in his 50s, his first incarceration was 14 years old, one year after his father died, he begun selling drugs to make ends meet. He estimates that he’s been to jail at least 20 times, he was described as ‘institutionalized’ meaning he no longer knew how to live life on the outside. When he heard that he was shocked into making a real change. Getting treatment for his addiction issues, getting clean, staying clean and improving himself on the inside to be a better man, namely to be a better father to his two youngest children. He looked to them as his salvation, his last chance to make things right as he failed his two older children.

During the program, the thing I heard over and over again was the only they could make ends meet in Richmond,Virginia was to sell drugs. There were no other viable employment opportunities for high school dropouts, definitely none for a high school dropout with a record. Even when Aziz Scott was arrested and sent to jail, his family’s finances suffered because his drug dealing money supported the meagre wages she made (her job was not disclosed).

The over policing and heavy handed sentencing of nonviolent drug offenders (so-called War on Drugs) have disportionately affected Black and Latino communities. These families do not have the resources to hire a lawyer to reduce the charges and get probation for first time offenders. These boys are immediately sent to jail for their crimes and their issues not addressed, whether it’s addiction or continuing their lapsed secondary education or getting counseling for their non-addiction related issues. They get released after they’ve served their time, but because of their record and not having a high school diploma, their chances of getting any job, never mind a living wage job is non-existent. So they go back to streets, doing the only job available to them, which is drug dealing. Due to their record, the social safety net does not protect them because if you have a record you are prohibited from getting any type of state assistance or welfare. This leaves their wives, girlfriends and other relatives carrying the burden of raising their children, whether they are incarcerated or not. Aziz Jones’s wife said, even if he weren’t in prison, he wasn’t all that helpful with the care of their children. This is not to say these men don’t love their children, they very much do, but loving your children and knowing how to parent them are totally different things.

According to the Criminal Justice Fact Sheet from NAACP, below are some statistics, and they are sobering:

Incarceration Trends in America

  • From 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled-from roughly 500,000 to 2.3 million people
  • Today, the US is 5% of the World population and has 25% of world prisoners.
  • Combining the number of people in prison and jail with those under parole or probation supervision, 1 in every 31 adults, or 3.2 percent of the population is under some form of correctional control

Racial Disparities in Incarceration

  • African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population
  • African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites
  • Together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population
  • According to Unlocking America, if African American and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates of whites, today’s prison and jail populations would decline by approximately 50%
  • One in six black men had been incarcerated as of 2001. If current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime
  • 1 in 100 African American women are in prison
  • Nationwide, African-Americans represent 26% of juvenile arrests, 44% of youth who are detained, 46% of the youth who are judicially waived to criminal court, and 58% of the youth admitted to state prisons (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice).

Drug Sentencing Disparities

  • About 14 million Whites and 2.6 million African Americans report using an illicit drug
  • 5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites
  • African Americans represent 12% of the total population of drug users, but 38% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 59% of those in state prison for a drug offense.
  • African Americans serve virtually as much time in prison for a drug offense (58.7 months) as whites do for a violent offense (61.7 months). (Sentencing Project)

By reading the numbers alone, with all other factors being equal, the criminal justice system in America is racially biased. Black and Latino communities are policed more, therefore leading to more arrests, they are not more criminal in nature than White people. Due to socio-economic disparity between Whites and Black/Latinos, Black and Latinos do not have access to the resources to which they can minimize their offense. A relative of ours got into police trouble, a shoplifting case, because it was his first offense, he was offered probation, he took it but after he completed his probation, his father hired a defense attorney to expunge his record as is his right to do, so that moving forward his record will be clean and it won’t impede his career opportunities. He was only 19 years old at the time of his arrest. This is information in which indigent families don’t have access to and law enforcement officers are definitely not going to tell them about this resource available to them.

White relatives of mine whom reside in an exclusive White neighborhood in New England, they were habitual pot smokers as teenagers, not once were they arrested for smoking pot or possession. The laughed it off like it was one big joke, a rite of passage for their youth, killing unnecessary brain cells. Hell, we all sat around and laughed about it. The only smart thing they did was not get behind a wheel when they were wasted, but aside from that, like many affluent white kids with not enough ambition and too much time on their hands, the passed their time smoking pot. And when their parents finally had enough and gave them a swift kick in the pants, they cleaned up their act, went to college and got a career, never once facing any trouble with law enforcement.

As I watch this program of repeat offenders, I don’t see them as fuck-ups. Society may have written them off, their families may have written them off in some regards, but I see them as people who were misguided as children, children who never got the right kind of guidance and as a result went astray. When they went astray, the law enforcement system instead of helping them or rehabilitating them, only punished them. There’s no problem punishing someone for a crime they committed, but it’s a big problem if it’s just punishment without rehabilitation. Prison is often referred to as a ‘correctional facility’, which implies that some sort of rehabilitation should be offered, but most prisons systems do not offer rehabilitation systems. So, it’s a vicious cycle of arrest, incarceration and reoffend. For these 12 lucky inmates who got to be part of this program, they had to ‘apply’ to get into the program and prove that the were worthy and ready to better themselves. All inmates should be offered a chance at rehabilitation, but if they decline it, that’s on them, but it should always be available to them.

There is something very wrong with the criminal justice system in America, when a country is affluent as America, where we are 5% of the world’s population but holds 25% of the world’s incarcerated population. It’s either Americans are pathological criminals or the criminal justice system is flawed. And then you take into account that 58% of the prison population is Black or Latino, when Black and Latinos comprise only 25% of our population, the system is rigged to incarcerate black and brown people.

What I Wish Everyone Knew About Sylvia Plath

Oct. 28th is Sylvia Plath’s birthday, she would have been 83 years old. Another fellow blogger wrote a loving tribute to Sylvia Plath and focused on the triumphs of her life, her writing and her work, not the tragedies and misfortunes.
I studied Plath in my college poetry class, I was blown away, especially by her collection ‘Ariel’. To get to know her better I read her unabridged journals. She was an amazing and resilient woman. Her husband, who failed her in life, at least, didn’t fail her in death. Though it does slightly make me sick that he got to reap the financial rewards of her work while her last days were spent in near penury, in an icy flat with two tiny children who were constantly ill, during the coldest winter England has ever seen in 100 years. It brings to light the gross unfairness of life. It makes me sad that she never got to see the impact she made on literature and she never got to enjoy the rewards of her hard work. For a woman who only lived for 30 years, her volumes of work was extraordinary. If one reads her journal, one will know just how hard she worked at her craft. Despite her battle with mental illness and depression that just won’t leave her, having a husband who won’t keep his pants up, and taking care of two tiny children on her own (while her estranged husband was about to jet off to sunny Spain for a holiday with his girlfriend), she wrote her best work ‘Ariel’.
The professor who lectured Sylvia Plath to us, thankfully didn’t focus on her suicide and he didn’t paint her to be a tragic figure. And no, she didn’t kill herself because her husband had run off with someone else. She always knew he was going to do that, it was just a matter of when. It would have been nice if at least left enough money for her and the children to live on and kept her flat heated. But, alas, men, especially these egotistical poet types who have women throwing themselves at him, what can you do?

The Belle Jar

Today is Sylvia Plath’s birthday. She would have been 83 years old today. Maybe in an alternate reality she’s living in a cottage somewhere at the edge of the cold, grey Atlantic where she paints and writes and keeps a hive or two full of bees. Or maybe that’s what the afterlife looks like for her, not that she believed in an afterlife. Is it wrong to wish something on someone if they don’t believe in it? Probably.

You don’t have to be much of a detective to figure out that I love Sylvia Plath. I mean, I named my blog after her only novel. I’m obviously a pretty big fan, but I’m a fan for different reasons than you might think.

I write a lot about mental health, and I think a lot of people assume that I love Sylvia because we’re both part of the Depressed Ladiez club. And it’s true…

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Why Are You Upset?

From the age of 6 to until I moved out, nothing got me more riled up than someone in my family asking me ‘why are you upset?’

They are not asking because they care that I am upset, they are asking because they feel obligated to ask a child who is upset how she’s doing (they don’t want to appear to be shitty people) and the fact that I am upset about something is more of an annoyance or a nuisance that they need to resolve rather than any concern for my wellbeing or feelings. Chinese families are not known for caring about the feelings of children. The oft heard conversation at home is ‘why are you upset? You are well fed, clothed and sheltered, you don’t work, everything is done for you, you’ve no reason to be unhappy.’ Well, maybe because of you? Just a thought. I learned early on no one really gave a shit why I was upset or what was was bothering me or why a promise made to me by a grown up was being broken again. So, I felt no need to bare my soul to them.

This trend continued through adulthood except it changed from ‘why are you upset?’ to people getting upset at me for being upset or being in a not-so-sunny mood. I am no Katie Couric. The whole idea of a Katie Couric, the perpetually perky and smiley persona is my ultimate nightmare. No one over the age of 12 should be allowed to be that perky. It’s unnatural and creepy. I am unable to hold a coherent conversation with another human until after my third cup of coffee and it’s past 10:00 AM. I can’t help it. It’s genetic. My 92 year old grandmother growled at me one morning because I greeted her ‘good morning’ too early. The coffee was still brewing. I looked at her knowingly and apologized. My dad refuses to look at another human in the morning until he’s on his third cup of coffee and second cigarette. Yet, in spite of all this, the mornings are when I get harassed the most and the my harassers get upset with me for being upset that I am harassed so early in the morning. Is it any wonder the divorce rate is at 50%?

The comments went from a question to ‘your face is so serious’, ‘your face is too unfriendly’ or ‘your face puts people off’. All of a sudden it’s my fault that other people don’t like how my face hangs. Yes, I get it, my face hangs like a miserable cow sometimes because, well, I am a miserable cow some days and I need not explain why I feel like a miserable cow unless you are prepared to do something about it. It may have nothing or absolutely everything to do with the person asking, but I don’t feel compelled to respond. Also, be aware of the question you are asking another, you may just get the answer in the most direct unvarnished way and it may not be pretty. Law School 101, do not ask a question you don’t already know the answer to. It applies in the courtroom and it applies to people too.

Going back to my childhood days, I suppose some of the scorn I received was justified. In my young mind I had a list of ‘favorite grownups’ and they started with my grandfather at the top, he was my favorite person of all time, then came my mother and father when they were around, my grandmother, then came my maternal aunt, my mother’s only sister at a very distant fourth. Everyone else simply didn’t register on my radar. I did not care for them nor did I make any attempt to appear to like them. These people were uncles, other aunts and distant relatives and family friends. In a Chinese household, respect for elders is very important and as long as I was able to maintain a modicum of respectful behavior, I was able get away with my contempt. And as long as my grandfather approved of me and had no problems with me, I felt no need to modify my hierarchy of favorite grownups.

The few times where I was in a good enough mood to confide in whomever was asking how I was, I was always bitterly disappointed. My grandmother and my aunt do not have the ability to just listen, nod and offer a sympathetic ear. No, they must interject themselves into my situation somehow made it about them and then proceed to tell me what I’d done wrong and so whatever happened was my fault. If only I did this instead of that, if only I said this instead of that…When I was younger, I never knew why my grandmother and my aunt were so irritating to me and why each time after I talked to them about anything, from wearing the wrong jeans to a situation at school, I felt worse not better and what’s even worse, I felt irritated. I hated myself for even saying anything, it was the biggest waste of my time trying to explain my feelings and perceptions to a couple of emotionally static people who could not understand subtlety. It’s like their brain short circuited when it came to situations like that. Then in college, the very last time I confided anything serious with them and it backfired again, I said this was it. They were lovely people, the helped raise me and I wouldn’t be here without them, but me and they just do not get along. They were women of a different time, different era, different generation with different thinking and we were never going to see eye to eye about anything. Afterwards,  my grandmother said ‘you don’t talk to me anymore’. With the exception of my grandfather and my parents, this was sort of the trend when I confided anything serious with anyone. So I stopped confiding in people. I just developed a miserable face, which worked fine with me. Later I found out, my mother like me, was unable to confide in her mother and sister, for the same reasons, except she was less scathing in her criticism.

In continuation of my post yesterday about expectations of women in society vis a vis men, women having to continually plaster on a smile so that people around us don’t feel uncomfortable or threatened or worse, feel the need to make it better. When I begun working, I always kept my personal life away from my work life. Work was just that, work. It’s not a social club and besides perfunctory office etiquette, I feel no need to adjust my facial expressions so that others don’t feel upset that I am upset. I don’t work in sales, I am not a diplomat, I rarely came into contact with customers so I am not required to twist my emotions into a pretzel to please everyone. But somehow, society never got this memo.

I was tattled on by a male co-worker once, he said that I was ‘difficult to approach’, which is funny, my office door was required to remain open and my job required me to be available to all sales staff, both requirements I executed faithfully. When I pressed further, it was my face, my stony expression. I told our manager to tell him he’s reading too much into nothing and he may continue to approach me as he needs. If my face bothers him, he can talk to me and not look at it, I won’t mind, I don’t take shit like that personally. Given ‘situations’ like these, the invention of emails is a godsend. I can be as polite, sweet and malleable as I need on paper without costing me an ounce in irritation. Same goes for phone communication, I can be ‘polite’ and ‘accommodating’ on the phone even though my face is twisted like an angry cloud. That trick where you smile while you are talking really works.

This incident led to me question for the first time, why am I responsible for his feelings? He doesn’t like how my face hung, don’t look at it. That’s why email was invented. Did you really need to go running to mommy? If something about me makes another person uncomfortable, and it’s not anything rude I’d done or said, why is my problem to fix? Is that even a legitimate complaint? She makes me feel uncomfortable, but when pressed for details, they can’t give any?

There’s a phenomenon called Resting Bitch Face (RBF), yes, someone actually came up with a term for women who wear permanent scowls or when they are not smiling they are scowling, you can’t make this shit up. It’s not a Relaxed Happy Face or Joker Smile Face, it’s Resting Bitch Face (RBF) and I think it’s awesome. Bravo to those who have it. Where in this messed up society where people think it’s a requirement to appear happy at all time, especially if contrasted with the rates of depression, how can scores of women be suffering from depression but should have a happy face all the time? Do we wear a happy face so others feel comfortable? Is it like the grieving widow, she doesn’t want her friends to feel uncomfortable with her loss and grief so she says nothing and pretends she’s fine so others don’t feel awkward and not know what to say?

We are not responsible for the feelings of others. It’s not my problem that you feel uncomfortable with how my face hangs. You can assume whatever you like about me just make sure I don’t hear about it. If our RBF makes others uncomfortable, get comfortable, because it’s here to stay.

Germaine Greer – The Feminist Who Won’t Back Down (Nor Should She)

Feminist and author Germaine Greer kicked up a shitstorm when she said she does not believe a transgendered woman is a real woman. She makes clear that this view is her personal view and it’s an opinion, her own opinion, which last she checked, she was still allowed to have one, even if it runs contrary to political correctness.

I am not here to debate whether her statement is correct or not. I am not a gender expert and I’ve had the privilege of being a heterosexual cisgender woman. As Ms. Greer said said, it’s an opinion, her own opinion, derived of her own mind and she’s free to have this opinion without apologizing or being abused by the public for it. Ms. Greer is an easy target. She made her name on being a radical feminist and is equally unapologetic about that as well. Her views are left of crazy at times but she is using hyperbole to illustrate the everyday misogyny a woman faces, where a woman doesn’t even know she’s being misogynized. In her view, fighting for equal rights starts with the small trifles everyday. The catcalls, the snide remarks a woman gets (from both sexes) when she’s near that time of month. The assumptions made about a woman when she’s on her period, when she’s pregnant or menopausal are all unacceptable. After all we don’t discuss men and their personalities with respect to their receding hairline, their expanding waistline, the age where certain functions south of the border loses its agility or any other physical changes. So why is it acceptable to make assumptions about women at certain transitions in their lives? Why is it acceptable to make fun of women and their physical appearance as they age, after they have children or any other naturally occurring changes?

Germaine Greer didn’t state her opinion on transgendered women out of bigotry. She made her opinion based on what she thinks makes a woman which includes her life lived from birth to adulthood as a woman. It’s her belief that one cannot be a ‘man’ for most of his life, enjoy the benefits and privileges of being a ‘man’; granted he may be tortured inside due to gender identity crisis, but as far as society is concerned he is still a man and is afforded the respect a man gets and the minute he transitions into a woman she gets to enjoy some sort of hero status for being ‘authentic’ or ‘brave’ and overshadow all the other women who were born women and lived their whole lives as women and suffered the misogyny that comes with being a woman. This is not an unreasonable point to argue. It’s not a popular view given today’s intellectually challenged and emotionally incontinent population, but it’s valid and worthy of debate.

Greer was to give a lecture at Cardiff University about women and power but due to the uproar her comments about transgendered women caused, there is a petition going around demanding her lecture be canceled. The BBC made a rather misguided attempt to interview her to get her to apologized for her comments, not only did she not apologize, she didn’t back down and no matter how the interviewer reframed the question to bait her, she never bit.

The trend these days is when people have too much to drink or is having a particularly opinionated day, they tweet, blog or say something on their mind, their truth but perhaps not totally politically correct. The other twits on Twitter or elsewhere have nothing better to do and attack the position of the ‘offensive’ tweet, comment or blog, all assumed identities hidden behind a computer screen. And the person that made the original statement goes into overdrive to backtrack, clarify and elaborate what they really meant to begin with and then followed with an apology: ‘If anyone was offended, it was not my intention, I am sorry’. It’s like a pathetic bad Hollywood script. If that’s how you feel about something, then own it. If it’s not palatable to be said out loud then don’t get loose fingers or lips and tweet, blog or say it. If you said it and you did not misspeak and that’s your truth then own it too. In other words, grow a pair, own your thoughts, own your beliefs. Since when did people become so soft spined, where they worry about the opinion of the twits that are tweeting?

Ms. Greer basically told everyone they can fuck off. She won’t be giving the lecture after all, since all everyone wants to talk about is transgendered issues (not an area she’s ever talked or written much about) and Caitlyn Jenner, which she has choice words for. Bravo to her. She told the BBC reporter, she’s 76 years old, she doesn’t need this shit, to be abused by the public for expressing her opinion. She stated clearly she’s not transphobic, nor is she encouraging or spreading transphobia by stating her opinion that a transgendered woman in her view isn’t a real woman. For those that say she’s inciting transphobic hatred and violence, she told them to get a life. She has total respect for transgender people and will always address them with the correct pronouns.

In her opinion, to be a woman, one must experience the highs and lows of being a woman from birth to adulthood. You don’t get to enjoy your status as a privileged male, getting glory, accolades awards in sports as a male (paging the former Bruce Jenner) and then you transition to a woman and you are suddenly inundated with awards for ‘being a woman’, when she’s only been a woman for ten minutes. What about all the other women who’ve been women their whole lives, doing work on behalf of other women or humanity for most of their lives. Where are her awards for bravery and authenticity? Where are her accolades?

This Caitlyn Jenner thing, it’s getting fucking old. She gets more comments about her surgically enhanced looks than anything she’s really accomplished as a woman. Besides bringing transgender awareness to the public, which is very noble and very important, but again, she’s doing it for ten minutes, her achievements as a woman still remains to be seen. It’s not so easy to become a ‘woman’ as I am sure Caitlyn Jenner is all too aware now. All those surgeries she underwent was probably the easy part.

There are scores of men and women who do the difficult work of bringing transgender awareness to the public, educating parents and family members, providing counseling and guidance to transgendered children, what are their names? Where are their awards? Where are their accolades and magazine covers?

Justin & Marsha Harris – How Hubris Led to Their Daughter Being Raped.

Earlier this year it was reported Arkansas State Representative Justin Harris, in October of 2013 disrupted the adoption of his two daughters and out of desperation they ‘rehomed’ them without the involvement or intervention of law enforcement agencies or children’s protection services (an act which was still legal in 2013). As a result of the rehoming, the older daughter was raped by her new prospective adoptive father. She was just 6 years old.

The Harrises originally sought to adopt the three sisters together but in the end only finalized the adoption for the younger two sisters. They wanted to expand their family and provide a forever home for children who needed one. Except in this case, they took on more than they could handle and adopted children who had been severely abused and neglected by their birth mother and her strings of unsavory boyfriends, most of whom were drug addicts and drug dealers. When they first came in contact with the Harrises in 2011, their ages were 4, 2 and 9 months. By this time the oldest and middle girl had already been repeatedly sexually abused and were exhibiting predatory and disturbing behaviors. According the their foster-mother, the 9 month old on the surface seemed fine, except that she rarely cried. An infant not crying is a telltale a sign of neglect. This little baby knew, even just at 9 months old, if she cried, no one would come get her and comfort her, she might as well been raised at a Russian orphanage. This keen observation came from a very experienced foster-mother who has cared for over 70 children in her home. The first and second daughter were later diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).

In the end, the Harrises decided to adopt the younger two girls. The oldest girl proved too much for the Harrises to handle due to her RAD and before the 6 month trial adoption period was over, they made the decision to not formally adopt her. However, against the recommendations of the adoption counselors at DHS, the Harrises insisted on finalizing the adoption of the middle and youngest girl. They claimed they both had 4-year degrees on child development, they run a successful Christian based therapeutic child care center and Marsha Harris herself was a survivor of abuse so she could provide the healing that was necessary for the girls. The Harrises felt they were more than equipped to parent these two little girls. They felt the opposition by the DHS was due to their religious devotion and not their inherent unsuitability. They believed they were being discriminated because of their strong Christian faith. As a result, any constructive advice and recommendations made to the Harrises by DHS was construed as bias and was dismissed.

The final tragedy of this story is, when the Harrises disrupted the adoption and ‘rehomed’ them on their own to Stacey and Eric Francis, a couple the Harrises knew and Eric Francis worked for Marsha Harris’s day care center, the middle daughter was raped by Eric Francis. The Francises were deemed suitable by Justin and Marsha Harris because they have three internationally adopted children of their own, one of whom is also diagnosed with RAD. Within months, when his wife went out-of-town for just one day, Eric Francis raped the middle daughter, who by this time was 6 years old. He is currently serving a 40 year sentence for this crime. Before hiring Eric Francis, he was thoroughly vetted by Marsha Harris and even underwent a FBI background check, his record came back clean. Eric Francis was also a child development specialist and came with good recommendations from his previous employment. But Eric Francis was fired just three months after he was hired due to poor work attendance. Even after his termination, the two little girls still remained in he and his wife’s care.


From the Beginning

This story made the news for two reasons. First, the principle character involved is an elected official, a representative for the Arkansas state legislature. Second, because the ‘rehoming’ went really badly. If the ‘rehoming’ of the two little girls was successful and no one was harmed and it was a true miracle solution where all parties are safe, happy, growing and thriving, then what’s the harm (besides concept of ‘rehoming’ your children like you do pets)? If this were the case, it would have been a small blurb in the news or it would be spun as a positive story. And the controversy and barbarity behind the concept of ‘rehoming’ your adoptive children like you do an unruly pet wouldn’t have been exposed and examined.

In the Harrises 20/20 interview with Elizabeth Vargas, they claimed that they were discriminated by DHS of Arkansas because of their strong religious faith. They claim that they were called religious ‘fanatics’ by the authorities at DHS and that’s why they were recommended against adopting these three girls. I find this claim to be spurious, they live in Arkansas for God sakes, specifically in his area of West Fork, AK, where there are more churches than 7-11s, the demographics of the area is white, affluent Southern Baptist Christians. Most of the other people interviewed in connection to this story all describe themselves as practicing Christians.

However, the fact that they’ve never even been foster parents to any child, never mind severely abused and troubled children didn’t factor into their thinking? Perhaps that besides running their day care center, though it offers therapeutic services, is about the only other experience they have with children who are not theirs? And since their day care center is a ‘Christian’ based organization, it’s safe to bet that most of the children enrolled there are of a Christian background not too dissimilar to theirs. The therapy methods used may lean more towards Christian based therapies as opposed to secular therapies. There’s nothing wrong with religion based therapy but one must be open minded to all types of therapies when helping children. In other words, the Harrises have no experience dealing with children and families which do not resemble theirs, whether abuse is involved or not. This perhaps was the main concern of the Arkansas DHS, not their Christian faith. For two people who claim to be child development professionals, they seriously lack the introspection required for their chosen profession.

The genesis of this whole sorry saga began when Marsha Harris received a phone call from the girls’ biological mother out of the blue one day (she didn’t clarify how a strange woman got her phone number). The woman said she had three daughters that was about to be removed by DHS and asked if the Harrises could take the three girls and adopt them. The birth mother felt this was better than her children being forcibly removed from her. The birth mother explained her situation and it wasn’t pretty. She was drug addicted and the people she hung around with was drug addicts and drug dealers. She could no longer cope with her three girls.

Marsha Harris went home, told her husband and they prayed about it and decided to go for it. They contacted DHS about their intentions, the girls were removed from their mother and were placed in temporary foster homes while the adoption process was making its way through the courts. The oldest girl was placed separately from her two younger sisters and they were all placed with foster parents who are experienced in caring for children with behavioral issues. It was clear right off the bat the oldest girl had been repeatedly sexually abused and was beginning to show predatory behavior.

The recommendation made by the two younger girls’ foster parents Cheryl and Craig Hart is to have the girls be placed in homes where there are no other small children: 

While the Harts did not have the older sister in their home, they had been in touch with girl’s then-foster parents and knew she was a troubled child. In fact, because of the repeated sexual abuse she had suffered at such a young age, she had begun to exhibit predatory behaviors. Cheryl Hart recalls asking the Harrises, “Why would you subject your sons to a sexual predator?”

And though the two youngest girls had never given the Harts any severe problems, they did not believe the younger sisters should be placed in a home with any young children because of the abuse they had suffered in the past.

And the Harts said they weren’t the only ones who opposed the adoption. For reasons similar to their own, the Harts said DHS therapists, case workers, adoption specialists and other former foster parents also warned that this would not be the right fit.

But the Harrises countered:

 …They were both early childhood educators, ran and operated a preschool and had experience working in therapeutic daycare centers. They argued they were more than capable of raising these young girls. Furthermore, Marsha Harris had been abused in the past, which she said would help her deal with the two older girls’ special needs.

One of the main reasons the Harrises chose to not adopt the oldest girl and eventually rehomed the two younger girls is because they were posing a legitimate threat to their three sons and the middle daughter has already killed a family pet and threatened to harm another family pet. So when push came to shove, they chose their biological children over their adopted children, which one cannot fault them for doing. It’s every parent’s instinct and right to protect their biological offspring, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, this was precisely why DHS and the other foster parents didn’t feel the Harrises were a right fit. This is exactly the reason these three girls needed to go to homes where there are no other children present, where in order for them to not only heal but thrive, they need to be the sole focus of their adoptive parent’s endeavors. The girls need to be in homes where the ONLY ‘choice’ is them, not them or mommy and daddy’s real kids. Again, the Harrises being child development professionals, how could they not realize this? Even an amateur such as myself watching the 20/20 program was able to arrive at this conclusion.

Next, the two older girls got diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), which is a “rare but serious condition in which an infant or young child doesn’t establish healthy attachments with parents or caregivers. Reactive attachment disorder may develop if the child’s basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren’t met and loving, caring, stable attachments with others are not established.” There are no established treatment protocols or cures but “treatments for reactive attachment disorder include positive child and caregiver interactions, a stable, nurturing environment, psychological counseling, and parent or caregiver education.”

If one reads carefully between the lines, the ‘treatment’ prescribed for RAD is there is no ‘treatment’ except a lot of patience, love, time and see if it makes a difference (sometimes it doesn’t). And during this ‘time’, a lot can go wrong quickly as evidenced by the Harrises. The RAD child can scream violent abuse, thrash and kick for hours, non-stop. If you think toddler tantrums in the middle of the grocery aisle is bad, you’ve seen nothing yet. RAD meltdowns can last for hours, imagine a child of eight or ten years old screaming and tantruming non-stop, and there’s nothing you can do to appease them. You can’t offer them a new toy, candy, chocolate, put on their favorite movie, nothing works. Many who are unfamiliar with children with RAD symptoms wrongly believe that no child could have the capacity or cognition to say things like ‘I will kill you’ or ‘I will kill my brothers when they are sleeping at night’ or when they’ve killed the family pet and then smile cruelly afterwards, revelling in the harm they’ve done on a small helpless creature and causing sadness in other family members. Many people believe children do not have the capacity for this, especially children as young as 6 years old. This type of behavior is only reserved for psychopaths. But when the three girls have been neglected and abused from the day they were born, and given the birth mother’s history, these children could have been born with controlled substances in their systems, there’s no telling the kind of damage these girls birth mother has done to them, in-utero and postpartum. Even if the Harrises are not familiar with RAD and its pathology and symptoms, they should know the damage (regardless what they are ultimately diagnosed with) done to these three girls is far more than the eyes can see.

RAD is a rare disorder, but after a quick Google search, there many places which offer alternative therapy for RAD and resources for parents who has a child that is afflicted with RAD. There’s no pill to take for a child that did not experience love and comfort from a parent. There’s no other shortcut to their healing but with extra amounts of love, patience and tolerance, so much that the child is convinced, finally, no matter what, he or she is worthy and deserving of love. Sometimes, despite everything, it may not be enough. Some adoptive parents must come to accept that no matter what, their adopted children, whom they love with everything, will never love them back because they are too damaged. It’s a tall order for most parents. Even parents who believed themselves to be ready for anything their children throw at them struggle with parenting children with RAD.

The Harrises, citing safety concerns for their three sons, didn’t even have these poor girls in their home for one year. They saw the writing on the wall early, decided this was beyond their capability or comprehension and decided to cut their losses. In doing so, they were delivered to the den of a sexual predator. These girls, again, are being rejected, deemed unwanted and unlovable.


What Went Wrong? 

In a word? Hubris. The hubris of a privileged white family who is used to getting what they want. Despite all the opposition from DHS, the judge granted them them them the privilege of being permanent parents to these children. If Justin Harris was not a representative for the State of Arkansas, it’s highly unlikely the adoption would have gone through. As most adoptive parents will tell you, it’s notoriously difficult to adopt a child through child protective services. The level of scrutiny is beyond what anyone can imagine.

I do not doubt the sincerity of the Harrises to fulfil their Christian calling to provide a home for children who need one, but they went about it all wrong. Because you want to adopt children and out of the blue one day, three little girls are dropped in your lap (quite literally), and you are convinced it’s Divine Providence. You go home, join hands and pray about it and you decide you are fit parents for three little girls who have been abused and neglected. On what planet is this logical?

When the two younger daughters resided with the Harrises, the methods employed to calm their rages were suspect at best. According to their babysitter Chelsey Goldsborough, Marsha Harris was convinced that the children were possessed and had ‘demons’ in them. The family frequently prayed over them to cast out the demons and when that didn’t work they enlisted Christian spiritual healers from Alabama to do an exorcism (a claim the Harrises later denied) to cast out their demons. The babysitter also alleged Marsha Harris blasted Gospel music in the rooms of the girls all day, again to cast out their demons. The sisters are not allowed to be together in the same room because they could speak to each other ‘telepathically’ and egg each other on with their bad behavior, alleged Marsha Harris. Their three sons were kept away from their younger sisters for fear that they will harm them. The middle daughter verbally expressed wishes to ‘kill’ her brothers. The three boys for a while slept in their parents bedroom as protection from their sisters.

But NO. These children are not possessed with demons. They are not possessed period. These children were abused and neglected to the degree no one can imagine and this is the result of that abuse. This is the result when a mother puts her needs or the needs of her boyfriend, drug dealer or pimp ahead of her children. This is the result when her child is crying and she refuses to attend to it and just lets it cry until there are no more tears and that child to protect itself from more hurt turns into a rage filled human being, yes even at 2 years old, this is possible. The Harrises treating their adopted children like they are to be feared is already the wrong start. Despite their RAD, they are still people and they know when they are stigmatized and feared. Again, this is exactly why DHS advised against the Harrises adopting these girls. And if they opened their minds and ears and listened to what was being told to them as opposed what they wanted to hear to suit their agenda, all of this could be prevented. Were there no other children available for adoption in Arkansas? What got into their heads that they must, despite all recommendations against, adopt these girls?

The greatest evil which resulted from this tragic series of events is the middle daughter being victimized again. She was raped when she was rehomed, by Eric Francis, her prospective ‘new’ adoptive father. She was delivered on a silver platter by an elected official because he didn’t want to go through the proper, safe and legal channel of surrendering the girls to DHS, for fear of the state filing abandonment charges against them and possibly remove their three biological sons from their care. So the Harrises took the easy way out, they called around to see who will take their ‘demon possessed’ children so they can resume their lives before they made this ill-advised decision.

The final injustice is when their actions were found out, no charges would be filed against the Harrises because rehoming wasn’t illegal in 2013. They did do their due diligence and vet Eric Francis, however, background checks are only useful if someone was caught committing a crime and was arrested, charged and found guilty, Eric Francis skirted the law until now. And when the Harrises were forced to make a statement on the ‘allegations’ against them, they chose to do it in the Arkansas State Legislature building to appear credible, and roundly blamed DHS for giving them children they weren’t equipped to handle, when DHS all along advised against such adoption. The Harrises countered they were recommended against the adoption due to their devout Christian faith, not because they were ill-equipped.

Marsha Harris told Elizabeth Vargas if people wanted to “judge” her for protecting her three sons, they they can go right ahead. She, as their mother, has a duty to protect her biological offspring. No Marsha, no one will judge you for wishing to protect your children, it is your instinct and duty as their mother to protect your boys (the precise thing which is lacking in the lives of your daughters). What you are being judged on is your intractable and obstinate stance (based on prayer) on adopting children which are beyond your capability, your husband pulled strings to make it happen, you got what you wanted except it was more than what you bargained for, you turned around and cast it off to someone else and made it their burden. In the process, you got one of your daughters raped. That’s where you are judged. You made your bed but you won’t lay in it and then you turned it all around and blamed DHS when they warned you of your unsuitability.

The 20/20 broadcast ended on a happy note. All three sisters found new forever homes and are thriving. The oldest girl was adopted by one family and the two younger girls was adopted by another family. Their adoptive parents are older parents who have already raised biological children and do not have any other children in their homes but them. The adoptive parents of the two younger girls said it took them one year to settle in, but now they are thriving.

One more tidbit about the Harrises, after they rehomed their children, it was reported they were still receiving their adoption subsidy from the state, because, legally, they were still the girls’ permanent parents. This little fact was lost in the avalanche of information, but it’s worth pointing out because he is an elected official. He is also a ‘Conservative, Family Oriented’ politician, which loosely translates to he will defund Planned Parenthood if given the opportunity, restrict women’s access to contraceptives and safe abortions, and blames the poor for the own plight and leeching off the government. Oh yes, after his daughter was raped by a former family friend, he went on to sponsor a legislation where it makes it even more difficult for a woman who became pregnant by rape or incest to get an abortion, it’s called HB1424. 

We can all be relieved that after this tragedy, not only will they never be able to adopt any more children, they will have trouble trying to adopt a cat.

Bibi Netanyahu – Beyond the Pale

Preface:

I am not Jewish, I do not have Jewish ancestry, nor am I Palestinian or have Palestinian ancestry. I do not reside in Israel or in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, nor do I have any interest (business or personal) of any kind in those regions. But I am an American citizen, a registered voter who faithfully executes my privilege to vote during every election (local or national). I go to the polls no matter how I am feeling about the issues or the candidates who are seeking office. Therefore any candidate whom I vote for national office will at some time in their political careers make a decision about Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without my consultation or input. They will use my vote, one of millions cast, which allows them to hold the office they do, to make a decision on behalf of the reputation of my country,  my tax dollars and me, on issues I’ve no direct input in. These decisions will most likely take place behind closed doors, in secret, with some Congressional Intelligence Committee, shielded away from the public or the press, citing security concerns. We won’t know the contents of these meetings and decisions until such information becomes declassified many decades later, when the security risk is deemed to have passed. It is with this in mind that I decided to speak about the United State’s relationship to Israel and by extension the whole Middle East Region. I normally do not like to discuss things which don’t involve me directly or subjects in which I have no direct knowledge about. I am no expert in Israeli-Palestinian or Israeli-Arab conflicts over the decades. I’ve not kept track of the ‘scores’ between these two regions. What I know about it is what I see on the nightly news and in my book, that’s nowhere near credible. But in this case, I must speak out against these atrocious claims by the Prime Minister.

The Holocaust is one of the most heinous crimes ever committed against humanity. This, apart from a few deluded and deranged groups and individuals, is a universally agreed upon fact. What’s universally agreed upon (even by the deranged and the deluded) is that Hitler, the Nazis, and Hitler’s henchmen were responsible for this crime against humanity. Though they were ultimately responsible, they also had collaborators, who were vocal and silent and pointed the Nazi thugs in the right direction, people who deliberately looked the other way while these crimes were being committed under their noses, all of whom are equally guilty. The Holocaust claimed the lives of 6 millions Jews (wiping out two-thirds of the European Jewry) and 6 million others and they include: homosexuals, mentally ill people, disabled people, political dissidents, gypsies, basically any persons who didn’t fit into the Nazi creed of racial purity were exterminated. Anything I will say in this entry will not detract from, change or diminish this fact. Hitler and the Nazis are responsible. Period. 

The United States and Israel are ‘friends’. A rather strange word to describe a relationship between two nations. And we (royal we) are not only just friends, we are also ‘family’, as Bibi Netanyahu told Fareed Zakaria of CNN, the acrimony and antagony showed by Israel about the Iran Deal is just a trifle ”disagreement in the family’‘. And with friends and family like this, who needs…. (I digress). Also, with this particular ‘friend’ of ours, it’s one we can’t really ‘unfriend’. When discussing friendships between people, we can usually choose to unfriend someone or at least put them on pause when they get out of line and then ‘revisit’ the friendship when the straighten their ass out. We have no such choice with Israel. Come hell or high water, our nations are BFFs. Wouldn’t it be nice if marriages had such tenacity, again, I digress.

So, imagine the shock of the world, when our ‘friend’, Benjamin Netanyahu declared at the World Zionist Congress:

“Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jew. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here (to Palestine).’ According to Netanyahu, Hitler then asked: “What should I do with them?” and the mufti replied: “Burn them.”

This is just wrong on so many levels. So wrong that one doesn’t know where to begin. Never mind that it’s historically wrong. The fact that such utterances by the mufti of Jerusalem at the time is unproven and unsubstantiated and to repeat statements and findings by fringe historians only serve to divide not unite. Lastly, the greatest wrong is Netanyahu towards his own people that he proclaims to love so much and would do anything to protect: the Jewish people. By shifting blame or even trying to diminish the role of Hitler in the conception and execution of The Final Solution is victimizing his people all over again.

The mufti of Jerusalem in 1941, Haj Amin al-Husseini was no angel. He was virulently anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist and he did fight to keep Jews out of Palestine, which would have undoubtedly saved many Jewish lives had he allowed European Jews to come to Palestine. He also encouraged Bosnian Muslims to join the SS and ally with the Nazis (presumably to help exterminate Jews). It was also claimed by many historians that al-Husseini was aware that the Holocaust took place as it was happening (not after the fact) but did nothing to help, and in fact he was said to be ‘delighted’ or ‘unconcerned’ that millions of Jews (and others) were being sent to the gas chamber or worked to death. He never lifted a finger to help the sufferings of the Jews, he blocked their attempts to safety, even in regions outside of Palestine for the worry that the Jews might eventually end up in Palestine and he never gave them a second thought as they were being marched to their deaths. He never lost any sleep at night over the deaths he could have prevented. Like the Nazis, he viewed the Jews as a scourge to be dealt with and it won’t be in my backyard. In other words, he’s a monster.

To put this mentality in its proper historical context, and as disgusting as the actions (or inaction) of the mufti was, it was not unusual at the time. Many people, who were in positions of power, who could have helped the Jews didn’t, including their current best friend, the United States. There was no coherent plan for the rescuing of Jewish refugees until 1944, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt was under pressure from American Jewish groups and the death camps of the Nazis were made known to the president, did he then relent. But by then it was too late, the end of the war was nearing and millions had already died.

While some American activists sincerely intended to assist refugees, serious obstacles to any relaxation of US immigration quotas included public opposition to immigration during a time of economic depression, xenophobia, and antisemitic feelings in both the general public and among some key government officials. Once the United States entered World War II, the State Department practiced stricter immigration policies out of fear that refugees could be blackmailed into working as agents for Germany.

http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007094

The ‘not in my backyard’ sentiment was not only restricted to monsters like the mufti al-Husseini. Just like Islamophobia today, anti-semitism (overt and latent), even amongst the ‘civilized’ peoples of the West was rife during the early 20th century. There was a pervasive mistrust of Jews, that they were somehow ‘different’. This doesn’t mean society at large wanted to see Jewish people gassed and murdered but when tragedy was befalling on the Jewish people of Europe, when their homes were being confiscated and looted, their businesses being trashed, synagogues being burnt, very few people felt the inclination to help because they didn’t sympathize with them. Many people looked the other way. There was a grand conspiracy of silence.

So, back to Bibi’s assertion that had the mufti allowed the Jews to find safety in Palestine and relieved the burden from Hitler’s hands, The Final Solution wouldn’t have happened. Firstly, most credible historians and scholars doubt that such conversation took place between Hitler and Haj al-Husseini at their one and only meeting in 1941, and most agree and evidenced from the meticulous file keeping nature of the Germans, Hitler always had The Final Solution in mind, he didn’t need persuading or dissuading by anyone else. But for argument’s sake, let’s pretend the mufti did say to Hitler ‘burn them’ – do what you want, just make sure they don’t end up in Palestine and there is proof that this utterance by the mufti took place, it still doesn’t absolve Hitler from his actions, not even a little bit. We are all responsible for our actions, even if we are goaded by someone else to commit evil and we take the bait and succumb to the goading, how does that absolve us of any responsibility? The mufti can say whatever he wants to say with respect to the Jews and what to do about them, does that mean his intended audience (Hitler and his henchmen) have no choice but to listen and carry out his plans? Hitler and the Nazis were a lot of things, being weak willed wasn’t one of them. In 1941, where this meeting took place, the Nazis were at the height of their powers. Hitler thought his Third Reich was going to last a thousand years, he didn’t need to (and he wouldn’t countenance to) take any advice from anyone but himself and his Nazi henchmen.

Of course this sort of race baiting language by Netanyahu is to serve his political aim, which is to do more of nothing about a Two-State Solution with the Palestinians. By inciting recent history, the most tragic chapter in the existence of the Jewish people and how a Palestinian leader had something to do with their extermination, it’s then permissible to occupy Palestinian territories and its people. It’s then permissible to deprive millions of people their civil rights and rights of due process, rights of traveling freely and to live unharassed and unmolested, regardless if they’ve committed acts of terrorism or not. They are all treated with suspicion, as potential terrorists, guilty until proven innocent – a most un-American notion.

Every president since Harry Truman has looked the other way or defended our ‘friend’ when their actions were questionable, especially when they are not up to the standards of American civil justice. They were never condemned. At best they were excused, depending on who was in power, some presidents made excessive allowances for Israel and there are some, like our current president, President Obama decides to say nothing, no praise or rebuke, which is taken as indifference by Israel and its allies (the Republican Party who know not one jot of modern Israeli history). When Bibi decided to come to Congress and give Israel’s only friend in the world a schooling about the Iran Deal, our president said nothing, except that he won’t attend. Our Vice President was otherwise engaged, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, by default had to attend as leader of the Democratic Caucus. Representative John Yarmuth (D-KY), when the whole sorry episode was over, he said: “Now the prime minister can go home to his campaign and say he lectured Congress and the American people on things that, apparently, we didn’t know.” Former President Bill Clinton rather politely said Bibi’s actions were ‘unprecedented’ by a leader of another nation. Others showed their disapproval with their stony silence.

The fact is, this friendship is unbalanced. Unbalanced in the way that Israel needs the United States more than the United States needs Israel. In the world of polite diplomacy, in fear appearing in poor form, this fact isn’t articulated quite enough. Israel, for anyone who opposes the Prime Minister’s policies they are promptly called anti-semitic if they aren’t Jewish. If one is Jewish and opposes some of the policies of Israel, then they are a self-hating Jew.

Bibi was invited by House Speaker John Boehner, without consulting the president, which is a break with protocol and etiquette. The president chose to not meet with his ‘friend’ during his short trip because Netanyahu was in the middle of a tough re-election and Obama doesn’t want to be seen as endorsing him. Bibi and John ‘Crybaby’ Boehner both need to attend charm school and brush up on their manners, as it is sorely lacking. Obama has been accused of throwing Israel under the bus, of being indifferent to their ‘plight’ and many noted the personal animosity between Bibi and Obama and how they dislike each other, or more importantly in this scenario, how Obama never warmed to Bibi. Last I checked, it isn’t a crime to not like someone, especially someone as difficult to like as Bibi.

At the end of the day, these ‘friends’, the leaders of US and Israel, have to serve their national interests first. The reputation of the United States have suffered because of our unconditional support for Israel. This is a fact. This not a policy debate. This isn’t a biased view. The United States have also taken this unnecessary scorn from other parts of the world silently because we are being a ‘good’ friend. And what did we get in return for this loyalty and friendship? A schooling from Bibi.

However this time, Israel’s former enemy, Germany, has come to the rescue, in light of Bibi’s monumental misunderstanding of his own history. Poor Frau Merkel, she’s got to drop everything she’s doing, make a call to the Prime Minister of Israel and summon him to Germany like a naughty schoolboy being called to the principal’s office, her spokesperson Steffen Seibert released the following statement:

“All Germans know the history of the murderous race mania of the Nazis that led to the break with civilization that was the Holocaust. This is taught in German schools for good reason, it must never be forgotten. And I see no reason to change our view of history in any way. We know that responsibility for this crime against humanity is German and very much our own.”

And from Frau Merkel herself: “Germany is clear on its responsibility for the Holocaust. We stand behind our responsibility and I don’t see any need to change our relation to history.” Just like the woman herself, short (in her speech, not her stature), succinct and to the point. It must be exhausting for her, to first deal with the xenophobes in Europe with respect to Syrian refugees and now she’s got to clarify her country’s history to say ‘Yes, we murdered 12 million people for no good reason other than we feel they were inferior and inflicted the worst human conflict the world has ever seen.’ Now can we go home?

And Bibi, never to back down from a fight (he wouldn’t be who he is if he did, got to give a man props for that):

“The questions about the mufti shouldn’t be directed at me,” said Netanyahu during the press conference with Merkel. “The questions should be directed to President Abbas. Why do he and the Palestinian Authority officially glorify the mufti and call him the father of the Palestinian people? It’s important to see what they’re doing in textbooks as well. During the twenties, the Mufti also said that the Jewish people want to damage the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and it was as much a lie then as it is today. Therefore we must ask Abbas – why do you glorify him?”

Oh Bibi, as a student of history, as a son of the most prominent Jewish historian of modern times, must you really insult your own intelligence and ask why Palestinians ‘glorify’ the mufti?

When a population is oppressed such as the Palestinians are, they seek to find a ‘hero’ to save them, if they can’t find him in life, then they look back to history and glorify a time in their history when they were in charge of their destiny and for now, it’s the mufti. This is how Hitler came to power, this is why Hitler is still revered in some quarters. It’s how communism came to power. Lastly, Haj al-Husseini isn’t responsible for the Holocaust, he may have looked the other way, he may have encouraged it, he may have even praised it, he may have jumped for joy at the thought of it, no doubt he’s a monster too, but he didn’t do it. The Palestinians, perhaps in a different time or different era, when their lives have improved significantly, they will regard the mufti as the monstrous person he was and may recoil at the thought that they once worshipped him but for now, the mufti is part of Palestinian history.

Moreover, as long as it’s acceptable to study Ariel Sharon in Israeli history books and regard him as a military hero even after the Sabra and Shatilla Massacre during the First Lebanon War (1982), and Sharon was never brought up on war crimes and became Prime Minister of Israel after 1982, it should not be held against the Palestinians to study about the mufti in their history books.

The United States, for all its faults, has been a good friend to Israel, at the expense of her reputation to the rest of the world. For that, Bibi, and all Prime Ministers of past and present should be grateful. And they should show their gratefulness with their actions not just with their words.

Schooling Mr. Kristof, Pulitzer Prize winner

Note: These views are entirely my own, based on my observations and my own anecdotal evidence while growing up in a predominantly Chinese family and environment. Though I am half-Chinese, I don’t pretend to know everything about Chinese and Asians and their experience as minorities in this country. 

Dear Mr. Kristof:

Since you published your piece ‘The Asian Advantage’, you have gotten a lot of feedback and criticism on your overly generalized and white biased views on Asian American academic achievement in America and why they outpace other minorities and even white kids.

Right now you in need of a good “read” from someone and I appointed myself to be that someone.

In fact, you needed to be handed a good “reading” a long time ago, but I resisted because I know deep down you are trying to do good with the power of your pen and platform as a well known journalist. I know that your white-washed and over-generalized views are just a product of your race, upbringing and how you view the world, which is through the lense of a privileged, heterosexual, white male. Because you frequently acknowledge your privilege and you try to use your privilege to do good for not just people here at home but for the underprivileged all around the world, I resisted the urge to give you a “reading”. But after your last mis-informed piece about Asian-American achievement, I can no longer resist.

Just like the black experience in America, one must be black to fully appreciate what it’s like to be black in America. To face racial prejudice daily, ugly stereotypes about your morals, ethics and intelligence, not the least your own personal safety when just going about your daily business. The same is true for Asian-Americans (to be very clear, I am not equating the Asian-American experience with the black experience at all, I am just making an analogy). You cannot know what challenges Asian-Americans face just by virtue of your proximity to the Chinese-American community. You will forever be an outsider looking in.

A well intentioned white male such as yourself, even with your deep ties to the Chinese-American community and with your broad knowledge of Chinese culture when compared with your other white peers does not make you an automatic expert on Asian-American issues. First of all, we have a geography problem we need to address first. The term Asian-American is a term assigned to all persons of Asian origin who live in America. Asian-Americans have been reduced to a mass monolith. The people you (collective white people) refer to as ‘Asian’ covers peoples who originated from India, through China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia and every country in between, roughly half of humanity on this earth. Half of this earth’s humanity have been reduced to ‘Asian-Americans’, have you any idea how insulting this sounds? The variety of cultures, languages, dialects, local customs, cuisines and traditions which originate from this vast land mass and what people refer to as ‘Asia’ is so enormous, to even attempt to lump them together as one ‘Asian-American’ monolith is farcical. Would you lump Bulgaria and Germany together and refer to them as the ‘European Peoples’ just because they reside on the same continent and share similar facial features and skin color?

Next, to the subject of your column, which is about Asian-American achievement, particularly in the STEM fields, which you attribute to positive stereotyping, because we are expected to do well in math and sciences, so voila, magically we do because we need to fulfil that stereotype (oh how I wish that were true, it would make my life so much easier). This is supposedly based on research and science, but I defy any researcher or scientist worth his or her salt to sign his or her name on such general finding. Never mind the fact that in any given race, population or ethnic group, you naturally have people who are gifted in the arts, humanities or math and sciences. And we don’t need science or a research to tell us that. What you also don’t realize is that behind that achievement is a lot of relentless and unnecessary pressure on young Asian-Americans. Many young Asian-Americans have been driven to despair due to the relentless pressure (by parents and now society) to perform well academically. If they don’t perform well academically, it’s not only letting their parents down but now society’s ‘perception’ of them. Only after all this hard work and ‘achievement’, they are to be held back in their careers by the ‘bamboo ceiling’.

Writing a piece such as you just did does not only add more the pressure to some Asian-Americans (as if their parents breathing down their throats isn’t enough) but you also diminish the other achievements of Asian-Americans who are not in the STEM fields. Asian-Americans are artists, writers, poets, business owners, restaurateurs, fashion designers, homemakers and yes, engineers too. Talking about Asian-American ‘achievement’ within the confines of the narrative of immigrant or minority achievement allows the Establishment to overlook the problems of discrimination and racism that Asian-American still face today.

You claim in your piece that you don’t seek to generalize. You understand that there are different achievement gaps amongst the different groups of Asian-Americans. But the fact that you wrote about this very complex subject on your weekly column, where you are allowed a finite number of inches, shows that you are still generalizing. Asian-Americans, especially the high academic achievers, this constant mention of ‘The Asian Advantage’ or ‘Model Minority’ obscures the challenges Asian-Americans face. It leads the not-so-well informed public to believe because Asian-Americans are high achievers academically, even at times out performing white people, then they must have no challenges and face no racial barriers in the corporate world and that is far from the case.

Finally, the below exchange took place at an elementary school in Northern California (a very diverse part of the state). The Chinese children here were being mocked by their white classmates. Apparently people still find this sort of thing ‘funny’.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 5.09.56 PM

The truth is, with all other factors being equal, if the Asian student gets better grades and is ten times smarter than the white student, the white student will likely still get ahead sooner and earn more during his lifetime than the Asian student. Unless this type of inequality is addressed and pay equality is legislated across all genders, race, ethnicity and country of origin, all the academic achievement in the world is just a piece of paper.

A Letter from Burroughs to Kerouac – About Buddhism

I came across this letter from William S. Burroughs to Jack Kerouac and it’s about Kerouac’s recent ‘conversion’ to Buddhism and how in light of that, he’s taken a vow of chastity and is abstaining from sex (Kerouac, not Burroughs).

As a Burroughs fan, especially his dark and gloomy works, I found this letter to his friend a real treat and surprise to read. By this time, he’d had already accidentally shot dead his second wife Joan Vollmer, he was in a spiral of despair, which ironically began his period of his greatest work, albeit most of it done under the influence. This letter to Jack Kerouac, his arguments about why Buddhism isn’t for the West, is surprisingly lucid, logical and analytical.

This letter piqued my interest because I was brought up in a Buddhist household until I was 18 years old. My mother is a devout Buddhist as is the rest of her family. I was technically raised a Buddhist but I never felt myself to be a Buddhist. I always felt myself to be an impostor when I am in a Buddhist space chanting or praying. It never felt real or sincere to me. I never spiritually or emotionally connected with it. I always knew deep in my gut I am a Catholic and one day I will return to the Catholic church (I was baptized by at birth because my father was a Catholic). I knew the Catholic church, for all of it’s problems, is where my spiritual heart belongs, it is where I belong.

I had several issues with Buddhism, and my chief complaint is I found it to be too passive and devoid of emotion or as Burroughs calls it ‘avoiding suffering’. From how I understand Buddhism (and that’s not saying much), the aim of being a Buddhist is to release ourselves from this painful world full of human suffering by attaining enlightenment so that we can become a Buddha ourselves and leave this suffering world behind for eternity. There are many ways to achieve this but the central and main method of achieving this is to detach ourselves from all worldly things and they include love for parents, children, family, romantic love, love for your pets as all those emotions are seen as an impediment to enlightenment because they cause unnecessary emotional attachments. I’ve seen many Buddhist morph from normal sentient human beings to being a emotionless robot who cannot process the most common of human emotions. I do not think this is what the great Siddhartha had in mind when he created Buddhism.

Burroughs (perhaps in an altered state as it’s safe to assume that he spent many years of his life in an altered state) has articulated what I long felt about Buddhism: “…So my conclusion was that Buddhism…it is not, for the West, An ANSWER, not a SOLUTION. We must learn by acting, experiencing, and living; that is, above all, by LOVE and by SUFFERING. A man who uses Buddhism or any other instrument to remove love from his being in order to avoid, has committed, in my mind, a sacrilege comparable to castration. You were given the power to love in order to use it, no matter what pain it may cause you”

I do not believe in order to attain ‘enlightenment’ or salvation, one must become a robot devoid of any emotions, sympathy and empathy. I don’t believe that to feel love for another fellow man, women or animals is an impediment to our ultimate enlightenment. In fact, it’s sometimes through love, especially love that was unexpected, and I don’t mean romantic love, but real agape love, sincere love towards another human whom we didn’t expect to love, do we find our salvation. Such as finding love for someone who has wronged us, someone whom we would not normally love but we are able to look deep in ourselves and find that even people who we find repugnant also deserve love and mercy, do we find the true meaning of life and God’s Will for us. This is what ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ means.

It’s very easy to love people we like and to whom we have much in common with, and it’s also very easy to dislike all people equally for no good reason, but it is very difficult to find love and mercy in our hearts to people we find unlovable. And this, according to Burroughs is the meaning of life, “Whether you like it or not, you are committed to the human endeavor. I can not ally myself with such a purely negative goal as avoidance of suffering. Suffering is a chance you have to take by the fact of being alive.”

This is what make William S. Burroughs a great writer and thinker, in the depth of his despair (by his own doing), in the downward spiral of addiction, he can still articulate the essential idea of love and the human endeavor. His own, mainly self inflicted problems, did not obscure what his mission in life is, and that is to love.

The full text of the letter is below:

...I can't help but feeling that you are going too far with your 
absolute chastity.Besides, masturbation is NOT chastity, it 
is just a way of sidestepping the issue without even approaching 
the solution. Remember, Jack, I studied and practiced Buddhism 
(in my usual sloppy way to be sure). The conclusion I arrived at, and 
make no claims to speak from a state of enlightenment, but merely 
to have attempted the journey, as always with inadequate equipment 
and knowledge (like one of my South American expeditions), falling into
every possible accident and error, losing my gear and my way, 
chilled to the blood-making marrow with final despair of aloneness: 
What am I doing here a broken eccentric? A Bowery Evangelist, reading
books on Theosophy in the public library (an old tin trunk full of notes 
in my cold water East Side flat), imagining myself a Secret World 
Controller in Telepathic contact with Tibetan Adepts... Could I ever
SEE the merciless, cold FACTS on some Winter night, sitting in the 
operation room white glare of a cafeteria - NO SMOKING PLEASE -
see the facts AND MYSELF, an old man with the wasted years behind, 
and what ahead having seen the Facts? A trunk full of notes to dump in 
a Henry St. lot?... So my conclusion was that Buddhism is only for
the West to STUDY as HISTORY, that is it is a subject for UNDERSTANDING,
and Yoga can profitably be practiced to that end. But it is not, for 
the West, An ANSWER, not a SOLUTION. We must learn by acting,
experiencing, and living; that is, above all, by LOVE and by SUFFERING. 
A man who uses Buddhism or any other instrument to remove love from 
his being in order to avoid, has committed, in my mind, a sacrilege 
comparable to castration. You were given the power to love in order to
use it, no matter what pain it may cause you. Buddhism frequently amounts
to a form of psychic junk... Because if there is one thing I feel sure 
of it's this: That human life has DIRECTION. Even if we accept some
Spenglerian Cycle routine, the cycle never comes back to exactly the 
same place, nor does it ever exactly repeat itself... When
the potentials of any species are exhausted, the species becomes static 
(like all animals, reptiles and other so-called lower forms of life). 
What distinguished Man from all other species is that he
CANNOT BECOME STATIC. "Er muss streben oderuntergehen" 
(quotation is from myself in character of German Philosopher)-"He must
continue to develop or perish."... What I mean is the California 
Buddhists are trying to sit on the sidelines and there ARE no
sidelines. Whether you like it or not, you are committed to the human 
endeavor. I can not ally myself with such a purely negative
goal as avoidance of suffering. Suffering is a chance you have to take 
by the fact of being alive. I repeat, BUDDHISM IS NOT FOR
THE WEST. We must evolve our own solutions... I am having serious 
difficulties with my novel. I tell you the novel form is completely 
inadequate to express what I have to say. I don't know if I can find 
a form. I am very gloomy as to prospects of publication. 
And I'm not like you, Jack. I need an audience. Of course, a small 
audience. But still I need publication for development. 
A writer can be ruined by too much or too little success...
From "Letters of William S. Burroughs 1945-1959." 
Edited with an introduction by Oliver Harris. Viking, 1993.

Ladies – This is Very Simple, if You Are Pregnant, Don’t Drink!

The American Pediatric Association (APA) announced on October 19 in definite terms that any amount of alcohol consumption during any stage of pregnancy can be harmful to the fetus and therefore no alcohol should be consumed while a woman is pregnant. Its previous recommendation was along the same lines except it wasn’t as  forceful. It was believed that light consumption of alcohol was not harmful to the baby as long as it’s past the first trimester, but because one can’t really accurately measure and determine just how much alcohol is safe for the baby, it was recommended that women should not drink during pregnancy. But for those who are inclined to have a beer or glass of wine here and  there, it shouldn’t cause too much damage as long as she’s past her first trimester. But today the APA changed its tune and added alcohol to the list of banned substances to ingest whilst pregnant.

What the hell? Are we still debating this subject of ‘how much’ booze is ‘safe’ while pregnant? Was this particular edict missing from the plethora of sanctimommy blogs, books and ‘experts’ out there? Are we REALLY still debating this in the year 2015 where almost every single food group or chemical (unless it’s naturally occurring) is considered hazardous and harmful to the baby? Which include: plastic bottles laced with BPA, plastic bottles made in China, infant formula which contain some sort of ‘metal’ residues, GMO foods, all of these sanctimonious rants that go on and on in the blogosphere, yet they missed one of the most poisonous substances of all to a fetus: alcohol. The issue whether a pregnant woman can drink at all now needs to be defined affirmatively in the negative ‘NO’: N-O spells NO for it to get through to people’s heads. And these are the same pregnant women crossing the street to avoid the smoker on the same side of the sidewalk as you.

If we accept as medical fact that a fetus eats, drinks and breathes what the mother eats, drinks and breathes; and assuming that most people agree (at least in theory) that it’s harmful to expose a fetus to alcohol while it’s developing in its mother’s uterus, wouldn’t it then follow that women who are pregnant should not drink, just like she should not smoke, do drugs, eat raw fish or take medications which may be harmful to the baby? Did we really need to be told by the APA (again) in more definite terms that any amount of alcohol may harm the fetus as there are varying degrees of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and women should not take that risk. This report is published in America,  presumably its target audience are American mothers-to-be , the same women who are obsessive about not even taking an over the counter pain reliever for minor aches and pains but have no problem washing down their dinner with a glass of vino.

Specifically in regards to FASD, the diagnosis and recognition of its signs got murkier now that it’s a ‘spectrum’ disorder:

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) is an all-encompassing term for the range of effects that can occur in someone whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. Neurocognitive and behavioral problems from prenatal alcohol exposure are lifelong, but early recognition, diagnosis and therapy for any FASD condition can improve a child’s health.

Unfortunately, a lack of uniformly accepted diagnostic criteria for fetal alcohol-related disorders has critically limited efforts that could lessen the impact of FASDs, says Janet F. Williams, MD, FAAP, one of the report’s lead authors.

“Even though fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are the most commonly identifiable causes of developmental delays and intellectual disabilities, they remain significantly under-recognized,” said Dr. Williams.

I am no parenting expert nor do I promote one style parenting over the others. Each family knows what works best for them and they ought to follow their instincts. As long as the child(ren) is safe and loved, it’s not up to the sancti-mommies and self-appointed parenting experts to judge how people should parent their children.

That being said, it’s a whole other matter when a fetus is in utero. Should a woman find herself to be pregnant and she has decided to keep her baby to term and deliver her baby, then she has the responsibility for the next 10 months to put herself aside and do what is best for the baby and the list runs as follows: no drinking, no doing drugs (including marijuana and unsafe prescription meds), no smoking, no eating undercooked or raw seafood, poultry or meats, taking any medications that are not approved by your attending OB/GYN and whatever other recommendations your doctor  has for you. It’s that simple ladies. It’s very black and white, very clear, no grey.

We cannot control what happens after the baby is delivered. As mothers we don’t know and cannot predict what issues our baby may encounter. As much as we like to prevent our babies from getting ill, developing food allergies or any other ailments, we can’t. We can, however, control want we do and eat while we are pregnant, which also happens to be the most important time in a child’s life where the baby develops all of his or her organs, tissues, cells which are to sustain it for the rest of its life. It’s about the only thing we have any control over in the journey that is parenting. So, the least we can do is to not engage in any activity that will harm or impede the development and health of the baby. We don’t need to be killing their brain cells before they are even born. We only get one set of neurons, we don’t get anymore than the ones we are born with, we also need to factor in all the brain cells our children will eventually kill on their own when they reach their adolescence, so let’s not give them too much of a head start.

For women who find themselves pregnant during a difficult time in her life, such as battling addiction issues, and she wishes to bring the baby to term and deliver the baby, it is incumbent upon her to to get help, not just for the prospect of becoming a mother, even if she chooses to not parent her child and have it adopted or placed in foster care, she owes it to her child and to the future caregivers of that child to produce the healthiest child she can. If you are an alcoholic, get help. If you are drug addicted (prescription or street drugs), get help. If you have a nicotine problem, get help. If you have any other kinds of problem which may negatively impact your unborn child, get help. You owe it to your child.

There are now whole hosts of congenital disorders and diseases that children get diagnosed with even when the mother did everything ‘right’ during her gestation. ADD, ADHD, Processing Disorders, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Autism Spectrum (which may include some or all of the above mentioned disorder), brain chemical imbalance, hormonal imbalance all of which have been diagnosed in children whose mothers had healthy pregnancies. It is cruel and inexplicable. Doctors and scientists have no concrete reason why children are being diagnosed with these disorders and at a younger and younger age. The cures are scant at best. The method to control many of these disorders is by taking strong doses of medications for life. Children suffer in school and in life as a result of these disorders, and these cannot be prevented. So for the illnesses that can be prevented by modifying our habits and behavior, however hard it might be (I don’t take addiction lightly, I know it’s a serious disease that is very painful for the addicted), we owe it to our unborn child. So, get help.

I Wish My Religion Will Stop Comparing Me to St. Mary Just Because I am a Mother.

This post will come off as a rant. And I apologize in advance. I just can’t help myself.

Several posts ago, I declared myself a Catholic and a feminist. However incongruent that sounds, I believe there is a place for Catholic feminists of both genders in the church. And with the pontiff Francis I, I feel we may be going somewhere with that. But they’ve got to stop doing this one annoying thing. Comparing all women to St. Mary, most especially women who are also mothers. As a Catholic woman, and one of my reasons to remain a Catholic was in no small part due to St. Mary and the prayers and intercessions that She has bestowed upon me. I look to her as a source of comfort and inspiration in difficult times, but I do not model my life after hers. That would be an act of supreme folly.

Let me explain why. Mary, The Mother of God, was a unique woman in history. There was no one like her before and no one after. There will never be another woman like her. Her position in the church is unique. She was called upon by God to carry his only Son to bring him into this world to save us from our sins. She did so willingly, graciously even at great personal danger to herself. She was also made to endure the ultimate grief of a mother in the most horrific way, seeing the son she carried, nurtured and raised for the Lord, be executed by being nailed to the cross. He did it to save us from our sins though I don’t think that thought lessened Mary’s pain and grief.

Also, Mary existed in a time and space in history where women’s choices were limited. In ancient Jewish society, unless she was somehow unmarriageable due to a disability or a mark on her family’s name and reputation, Mary would have been required to marry a suitable man in her social class at a suitable age. Unmarried women in ancient Jewish societies drew scorn and suspicion as evidenced by Mary Magdalen. The rumor that she was the ‘fallen woman’ that Jesus saved would not leave her, though there was no evidence that she was ever a prostitute. She was just an unmarried women with some means, as a result, her reputation as the whore that Jesus saved as reverberated throughout church history. She is held up as an example of even sinful women can be saved. The fact that Jesus chose to reveal himself to her first after His Resurrection only drew more ire from the patriarchs of the early church and have never corrected the rumor that she was a prostitute.

Modern women living in modern times have choices (the other thing the Church hates for women), whether to marry, to become a mother or not or to dedicate our lives to the church either as a Consecrated Virgin or religious orders. We can manage this all on our own without any input from the geriatric cardinals in Vatican City.

The ‘Church’ (aka the above mentioned geriatric cardinals) have decided that for any woman, once she becomes a mother and adopts Mary’s devotion to motherhood, all of that have ailed us will be solved. If we were depressed and directionless? Go get married and have children, that’ll take care of it. If we are unsure as to what we should do with our lives in terms of career path, go get married and have children, that will give you new purpose and meaning. The church’s doctrine of subsuming that every woman’s dearest wish is to become a mother is demeaning and infantilizing to women. And for the record, it’s not every woman’s dearest wish to become a mother. Most women in this world do not have not much choice whether they become a mother or not or how many times they wish to become a mother. Only women in the West and advanced economies and societies have such a choice.

Next, the women that choose to become mothers and should we encounter difficulties with motherhood, their answer is to ask us to turn to St. Mary. Look to her example and again, all our problems will be magically fixed. In fact, any issue relating to Catholic women, we are told to look to St. Mary for guidance (she never gave any ‘advice’ during her life), to look to her intercession and to her life’s example as a template for our own. It’s as if all the answers to women’s problems can be found in the life and actions of St. Mary (which by the way, are scant on details in the Bible).

I thoroughly reject this. Catholic church leaders have not-a-clue what a woman goes through on a day to day basis, the relentless pressures we face, regardless if we are mothers or not. This is just another way to demean, shame and dismiss women because we know we will fall short of the glory of St. Mary. St. Mary is not someone we should even compare ourselves to to begin with. The ‘What would St. Mary do?’ is not the same as ‘What would Jesus do?’ The ‘what would Jesus do?’ is a real rhetorical question and it’s been universally accepted by Christians that Jesus, his actions and sufferings during his life was infallible and irrefutable. No one really expects people to ‘be like Jesus’, only emulate to the best of our ability. But this is not the case when comparing women to St. Mary. Women do not get this ‘pass’. Women are really expected to be like St. Mary, not just ‘to the best of our ability’ metaphoric way.

Catholic women are tasked with the monumental task of keeping our families together. If the ship is steering in the wrong direction, it is our responsibility to steer it back on course. If your husband is unhappy, find ways to make him happy. If your unruly kids are tearing apart your marriage, make them behave. As long as the man is bringing home the bacon and fulfilling his basic responsibilities as a provider, he’s basically off the hook. In the case of Catholic divorces, women always get the short shrift. It’s the women that bears the ‘shame’ of a divorce in the Catholic church, if she were to remarry and wish to remain as an active member of the church (attending mass and receiving communion), she will be branded an ‘adulteress’ because that’s what church law says. It doesn’t matter why she divorced, whether if it was her choice or not. Her husband could have been an alcoholic, drug addict, physically or emotionally abusive, he could left her for another woman,  all of which she has no control over but she somehow bears the shame of divorce within the church context. It’s easy to tell a divorced Catholic to cease going to church, but what if she doesn’t want to? What if she likes attending mass and receiving communion because that is her spiritual home and wishes to do it with a new partner. She’s now an ‘adulteress’?

In my local parish, every so often, when certain parish members is coming up on a special anniversary, they are ‘celebrated’ for their longevity in marriage before the end of mass, and the presiding priests says a few words of congratulations to the couple and words of encouragement to the rest of the congregation. Invariably, it’s always a very elderly cute couple (the kind you say ‘aww’ to when you see them on the street) who’ve been married 50 years or more (blissfully as they’d like you to believe), who are in church that day with all of their children, grandchildren and even at times great-grandchildren, being shown off to the rest of the congregation and held up as an example to the rest of us, this is how we commit ourselves to our families, for better or for worse. A whole host of descendents all originating from the same mother and father, there are no ‘steps’ and ‘half’ siblings in this equation, only full siblings.

While it’s heartwarming to see and elderly grandfather leading his elderly wife of 60 years to the podium with all of their descendants behind them, I only think what it took for them (specifically for the grandmother) to keep this marriage together. And was it really as ‘blissful’ as they like us to believe. What were their struggles? What were their arguments? Were they anything like the arguments of modern day couples? How did they resolve it? Do they know something we don’t? Whereas I am full of contempt and anger doled out by silent treatment to my spouse when I am unhappy with him, what did she do? Did she ‘cave in’ to him save the marriage and family unit? And most importantly, was it all worth it? To be the ‘good couple’, the good family, the couple that upheld the church’s teaching on marriage and family, did it bring them satisfaction and happiness at this stage in their lives (like the church said it would)? Would they do it all over again? The real and honest answer, not the one you tell to strangers and polite company. Would you do all this again if you knew then what you know now, 60 years later?

As I was thinking these thoughts, I leaned over to my husband and whispered to him ‘I hate how they make it look so easy, it makes me sick’. He looked back at me a little surprised and said ‘why do you say that?’ And therein lies the problem. He thinks this whole ‘marriage’ thing is a cakewalk whereas I am over here trying so hard to be the best wife, mother and woman that I know how, without losing myself, without lessening my standards of what I find acceptable and tolerable. It’s a constant battle for me, when do I ‘cave’? When do I stand my ground? Does it even matter in the end? Will my best ever be good enough? Not just for him and my children, but for me.

So, no, do not compare me to St. Mary. Do not shame me because I fall short of St. Mary’s heroism and kindness, I already knew that. Do not diminish my womanhood because I refuse to compare or even emulate myself after a saint. That’s why she’s a saint and I am a sinner.

Esther Perel and Infidelity

It was recommended to me by many friends that I should watch therapist Esther Perel’s TED Talk on Infidelity: Rethinking infidelity…a talk for anyone who has ever loved.

Amongst my women friends, this is one of their favorite TED Talks. I resisted for a long time because I don’t view infidelity in the same way as most women do. I am quite tired of all the books, lectures, Oprah appearances and essays written by people across various disciplines (rabbis, pastors, preachers, psychologists, animal behaviorists, anthropologists, and religious fundamentalists) on the subject. They always arrive at two conclusions: sanctimony or excusing the behavior. The first, it’s a sin, and you’ll burn in hell for cheating on your spouse – but here’s how you can ‘affair proof’ your marriage, a most ridiculous notion. The second conclusion, and is equally repugnant, which is humans aren’t really biologically wired to be monogamous citing evidence back to the caveman days, and marital monogamy and fidelity only existed in the past few thousand years, which short compared to the existence of the human race. Humans weren’t ‘biologically wired’ to eat with a knife and fork either, but now most humans eat with some form of utensil.

I view each case of infidelity to be a unique case. There is no one major reason why men cheat and there’s no one major reason why women cheat, each person steps out on their marriage for his or her own reasons. On the surface it may appear the same but if you dig deeper, it really isn’t. Marriage and relationships are one of the most complicated things in the world. Even for just one couple, who on the outside may appear conventional even almost boring, but if you just dig deeper, there are layers and layers of feelings, hurt, betrayals and disappointments. And the idea that you can ‘affair proof’ your marriage is the most ridiculous of all. We never know what our spouse is really thinking and vice versa. Even the most ‘open and honest’ relationships have their secrets. No one man or woman tells their other half everything they are thinking and feeling, otherwise World War III will erupt every other day.

I decided to watch Esther Perel’s TED Talk on this often expounded upon subject and it was a breath of fresh air. A Jewish woman, a daughter of two Holocaust survivors from Belgium (not France as she pointed out) was able to articulate this very sensitive subject matter which is so personal to many in a way that is non-judgemental, non-sanctimonious, delivered in a matter-of-fact manner but not totally devoid of emotion as she’s aware how devastating to an individual infidelity can be. And I understood why this particular TED Talk is so popular among people. To date, it’s been watched 3,348,652 times.

She articulated my deeply held belief that each affair is unique and to lump them all together as a monolithic entity is wrong. People cheat for many different reasons and most importantly, cheating is ‘here to stay’ in her own words.

In modern times, we put too much emotional investment in our relationships, as Esther Perel points out:

There are three ways that I think infidelity hurts differently today. We have a romantic ideal in which we turn to one person to fulfill an endless list of needs: to be my greatest lover, my best friend, the best parent, my trusted confidant, my emotional companion, my intellectual equal. And I am it: I’m chosen, I’m unique, I’m indispensable, I’m irreplaceable, I’m the one. And infidelity tells me I’m not. It is the ultimate betrayal. Infidelity shatters the grand ambition of love. But if throughout history, infidelity has always been painful, today it is often traumatic, because it threatens our sense of self.

This passage I hits home to me because there was one incident many years ago with my then boyfriend, who is now my husband; we go into an argument or misunderstanding of some kind and a horrible exchange ensued. I was enraged and shattered. I cried for days. There was no infidelity involved but it still felt like a betrayal, a betrayal of trust, a betrayal of all that I put into this relationship to make him happy. After it was over, I told myself that this will never happen again, me crying for days over an ‘incident’ and if threatened to leave again, he was welcome to and I won’t stop him. This was a turning point for me and my relationship with myself. I never told him this. I never told anyone this, but just as a resolve to myself, I will NEVER let anyone do this to me again and the door is always open for anyone to walk out. There are no prisoners in this relationship. I suppose one would say a part of me hardened and the vulnerability one should be able to have with one’s spouse is no longer present for me, but it’s fine with me because I understand that one person cannot be everything to another person. I recognize the strength and weaknesses of my husband and I manage my expectations accordingly. It was a huge lesson of personal growth for me and 11 years later, we are still here.

And as for the cheating part, and I say this flippantly, tongue-in-cheek, if my husband were to cheat on me, he can go right ahead, but I have one caveat. His mistress must take him lock stock and barrel. She will be the one to put up with him and all of him, not just when he’s nice funny and charming. You don’t get to send him back to me when you are done with him. It doesn’t work that way. If you can stomach him day in and day out like I did for the past 11 years, then he’s all yours. Otherwise, don’t even think about it.

Affairs are for amateurs. Affairs are immature. If anyone thinks an affair will solve whatever is wrong with your life, inject a bolt of shazzazz into the boredom that’s become your life, you are sadly mistaken. Affairs are usually short term, potentially ruinous and in the end to be regretted, especially if it caused more problems than it solves. It’s also disrespectful to the institution of marriage, not just to your spouse. Marriages are usually unhappy because the parties in the marriage are unhappy. Unhappiness is like a poison that infects every part of your life, not just your marriage, it makes the smallest nuisances and annoyances unbearable. Before any decisive step is taken to end marriages and relationships, especially when there are children involved, it is incumbent upon us to fix that personal unhappiness and see what happens. If we don’t fix what we are unhappy with, we will just bring it to the next relationship.

Betrayal in a relationship comes in many forms. There are many ways that we betray our partner: with contempt, with neglect, with indifference, with violence. Sexual betrayal is only one way to hurt a partner. In other words, the victim of an affair is not always the victim of the marriage.

Her TED Talk is also a great read. Here is the full transcript.

Generation Entitled and We are Awesome

Spoiled. Narcissistic. Entitled. Self-Absorbed. Demanding. Short Attention Span. Addicted to our smart devices.

These are the some of the choice names that are used to describe Gen X and Millennials. I was born in 1979, I am not sure if I am Gen X or a Millennial, according to some I am Gen X, according to others I am a Millennial. Either way, I decided challenge these stereotypes that have been attributed to us.

Every generation has generalizations and stereotypes made about them, most have some degree of accuracy or truth. Our grandparents who made it through The Great Depression and then fought Fascism in World War II were ‘The Greatest Generation’ as anointed by a misty eyed Tom Brokaw. Their self-sacrifice was what saved the free world. Winston Churchill put it even more succinctly, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

The people from the Greatest Generation that survived came home, married and gave birth to the Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 to 1964). Arguably the largest human population boom in such a short time. It fueled the economic growth of America and in part made America the great power that it became. Baby Boomers have the reputation of enjoying unprecedented economic upward mobility without really having to work too hard for it. As long as you have a strong pair of hands, a good work ethic, you don’t even need to be too smart, just be white and male, you will be alright. You can make a living, buy a little home, marry and raise your own family in better circumstances than you were raised, or aka, The American Dream. The flip side of the Baby Boomers is that they are believed to be selfish, self-centered and basically pissed away all the good fortune that was handed down to them. Ok, so that’s my own biased view since my parents and their siblings are Baby Boomers, I find them quite intolerable at times, especially when they have the nerve to lecture us how good we have it. It’s not our fault that they spent the better part of their adolescence and early adulthood doing drugs and fried most of their brain cells. My maternal relatives to be specific, under my grandparent’s loving care, basically handed everything to them on a platter and some of them still fucked up. All they had to do was show up and they couldn’t even manage that. But I digress…

Come to Gen X (those born between 1965 to early 1980s) and Millennials (those born mid-1980s to early 2000s), the progeny of Baby Boomers, due to the explosion of the digital age in the 1980s and the drastic change in lifestyle as a result, we were attributed with all these unsavory character traits. I can tolerate almost all of them (and a lot of the labels are teapot calling the kettle black situation) except the ‘entitled’ label.

The ‘Because I am Worth It’ mentality of entitlement has followed Gen X and Millennials around like the plague. Many Gen X and Millennials feel compelled to defend ourselves against this label. Up until now, I’ve often laughed it off as just another crude stereotype created by people who don’t know better. After all, Gen X and Millennials, compared with the previous generations are much more diverse racially and ethnically, to even attempt to put us in a box is preposterous. Especially when the Gen X and Millennial population is analyzed across the world, there has never been a more diverse generation of people.

So, back to entitlement, the ‘right’ to pursue our own desires at times to the detriment of others, and by detriment, I really mean hurt feelings and not real harm. Whereas our grandparents and parents, either of their own accord or due to pressure from society hunkered down at certain stages in their lives and got a job, got married and started a family – basically a slow death. They suppressed their own desires and wishes until their ‘responsibilities’ were taken care of, they held off on their dreams and goals so that their children wouldn’t suffer and their families wouldn’t be upset with them. Apparently, Gen X and Millennials have tossed all this out the window and we decided to do whatever we want whenever we want without sparing a thought for the consequences. However, let’s consider that to be true for a minute, we are just that selfish and self centered to do whatever the flip we want, with whomever we want, whenever we want; but when done without harming others (feelings of parents and society at large not included), is that really so bad?

Do we want to repeat the doldrum lives of our mothers and grandmothers? For what? So that we can be seen as a ‘good girl’? Isn’t this what women’s lib was all about, for us to do what we please with our lives and now we are being chastised for it? As I am inching closer to 40 and as I examine my life, I’ve done things that were expected of me because I wanted my mother to be happy and I did it of my own volition and when she was genuinely proud of my actions, I was happy too. There were also times I caused great anguish to my mother because I did whatever the flip I wanted without any care or regard for her feelings. I felt a little guilty about it, but oh well, she’ll get over it.

And looking over the major decisions I’ve made in my life, some were horrible and disastrous, some were pretty awesome but like most people, most of the decisions we make in life have more to do with the present circumstance we find ourselves in rather than what we really want to do, and this is no different throughout any generation of folks. And yes, I bloody well do deserve to pursue my desires, regardless of what stage I am at in life. There is no expiration date for my goals. No life’s circumstance can deter me from my dreams, I will make it happen for myself. My dreams of entrepreneurship, being a lady-boss, it will all happen for me because I want them to, and I deserve them, I am willing to work for them, and yes, because I want it. It’s that simple. I want it, so I will go get it and make it happen. I am entitled to be happy to do whatever the hell I want even if I have to upset some people. Why? Because I can, and because I deserve it!

Lastly, the most narcissistic, self-absorbed and demanding people I’ve ever met were age 50 and over and what’s worse, they think they deserve to be complete assholes just by virtue of their age (just like all the men wanting to defund Planned Parenthood – total assholes). As if after reaching a certain age earns you a badge for the right to be an asshole.

I am addicted to my smart devices and my attention span has gotten shorter and shorter maybe because my patience is on the wane too, so, guilty as charged!

But, I am worth it.

Reblogged Content: Impressions of poverty – by Critical Dispatches

This is one of best writings about poverty and what it does to people. It’s done without too much sentiment or political correctness (no one needs anymore poverty porn). Poverty just is…and the effects of poverty is unsavory and unpalatable all around. It degrades your soul and being. Especially poverty in the West where you know there are millions of other people getting along in their middle class lives and they don’t even spare you a thought. They treat you like the scum of the earth but then you know they aren’t totally wrong because when you hold a knife to someone’s neck or stomach to steal 6 Euros and a six-pack of beer…what does that make you?

Confucius said, and I paraphrase as I’ve no clue how to properly translate the Analects, ‘To know and feel a certain degree shame, one must have life’s basic necessities.’ Meaning when a person is poor, desperate, unemployed, addicted and what have you, how can one expect him to know the shame of his actions? 

Full text and link Below. Give this fellow a follow. He’s a great writer. 

Our national epic has yet to be written – James Joyce

If you’ve ever listened to the song Running to Stand Still from U2’s Joshua Tree album you will have heard about the Irish town of Ballymun in the lyric “I see seven towers but I only see one way out.”Located on the northern periphery of Dublin city, Ballymun was at one time Ireland’s largest and – at least as much as my own experience has led me to hold – most unattractive public housing estate. Hastily conceived through a confluence of public and political pressure in response to a housing crisis in Dublin in the early 1960’s, the Ballymun Housing Project was missioned with providing relief from the wholly unsatisfactory conditions of the collapsing inner city slums for the region’s poorest and most desperate. Upon the project’s completion in 1966, the Ballymun estate featured seven fifteen-story tower blocks, nineteen eight story deck access “clusters”, ten four-story “walk-up” blocks and 400 two-story houses. Publicized as a “model new town”, the new dwellings featured a larger-than-the-national-average living space, running hot water, flushing toilets and central heating: these convenience were not at all a common feature in Irish housing at that time. The estates appeared as towering havens of gleaming concrete and prospective tenants were excited at the idea of their new homes. At least, that is the way the official record of history has chosen to remember how things went down. The truth of the situation and what lay underneath the politics and spin, eg. the anxieties and reservations felt by those being moved toward this entirely new neighborhood – not to mention the multitude of emotions they must have felt as to the fact that they were being quite physically separated from their previous locale – may never be known.

As has so often proven to be the case with large scale government sponsored housing programs, the story of Ballymun is one of blind optimism swiftly followed by catastrophic failure (take, for example, the case of the Pruitt Igoe housing complex in St. Louis, a story admirably presented in Chad Freidrichs’ 2012 documentary, The Pruitt-Igoe Myth). While the Irish press and Dublin Corporation were enthusiastic to highlight the architectural achievements of the Ballymun project, the vital social as well as recreational resources required by such a community had been carelessly overlooked. As much as a decade after the project’s ostensible completion, the promised health services, shopping facilities, office accommodation, community centre, meeting hall and swimming pool remained incomplete. In 1974, Ballymun had only the swimming pool, snack bar and two pubs – even today, with a population exceeding 22,000 people, just two police cars are stationed at Ballymun. Here you had a fragmented and disorganised population, annexed miles from their home city and significantly lacking the basic amenities necessary for the conducting of their daily lives. These were already vulnerable people, remember, with many lacking the skills to make any sort of functional lives for themselves in this foreign, barren and entirely new township.

When the global economic recession of the late 1970’s and 1980’s hit Ireland, Ballymun went into social and economic free-fall. With increased unemployment and reduced government spending came the familiar problems of poverty, drugs, crime, exclusion and alienation. By the early 1990’s, the area had a reputation as being one of the most distressed and crime ridden neighborhoods in the entire Republic. What had at one time been heralded as the solution to Ireland’s housing problem was now essentially an economically, socially and physically exhausted ghetto.

In Ballymun was found all the indicators and cliches of an underclass: joblessness, out-of-wedlock births, female-headed households, crime, violence, welfare dependency, substance abuse, and high rates of school dropout. Try to imagine what it must have been like to live in this kind of place. The thoughts going through your head as you made the journey home to your apartment complex after a day spent traipsing the streets of Dublin city centre, trying to find absolutely any kind of work, unsuccessfully. The elevator is broken so you have to take the stairs to your 9th story flat, which is work enough in and of itself, but as if things couldn’t get worse, on the stairwell you have to dodge both the yet-to-be-cleaned-up dog shit that has been on that step for 2 weeks now and the heroin addicts who see no problem in shooting up right there in the communal hallway. The place stinks of trash, urine and vomit and the council won’t be sending anybody to clean it up any time soon. You live in constant fear of being robbed or attacked or worse. Every day is like this, there are no prospects, no support, no relief, no future. Try to imagine this is you and what this would do to your sense of reality. Imagine trying to raise a family in this kind of environment. This was the everyday reality of life in a place like Ballymun. Oscar Wilde is quite wrong in his essay, The Soul of Man Under Socialism, when he writes that “misery and poverty are so absolutely degrading, and exercise such a paralyzing effect over the nature of men, that no class is ever really conscious of its own suffering.” The poor and dejected in Ballymun knew exactly what was happening to them. These were not a people ignorant of their suffering. Ballymun was more than aware of its place in the pecking order; at the very bottom of the scrap heap; shit out of luck. What we’re talking about here is hopelessness as a way of life. Despite several refurbishment initiatives being attempted by interest groups, statutory agencies and the hard work of many community task forces, the region deteriorated to the point whereby it was difficult to conceive of anybody actually being able to conduct any sort of tolerable existence in such a place.

Capture2

By the early 2000’s, as a result of Ireland’s new found economic prosperity (referred to internationally as the Celtic Tiger), the decision was finally made to pull down the 7 towers and to reinvent the area. A fresh start, so to speak. Ballymun was the target of a €1.8 billion regeneration scheme intended to create a self-sustaining community of 30,000 people. The idea being that this new strategy would be more successful than that of the 1960’s, they would get it right this time. The regeneration scheme was in full swing when, in the summer of 2007, I came to rent a room in the centre of Ballymun.

As I saw it, the amendments to the area, including the construction of higher quality housing and investment in local business were entirely cosmetic. The truth is that, in Ballymun, I was exposed to such a degree of urban decay and decrepitude that it still astonishes me that a country would allow such undiluted misery to exist for so long. The scale of the degradation I encountered is incomparable with anything else I have so far experienced. There is nothing to be gained from kicking and demonizing the vulnerable, nor will romanticizing or patronizing their situation get us anywhere, I aim only to tell what I saw.

First of all my still vivid memories is the level of physical deprivation, especially around the old flat complexes: abandoned tenements, vandalized blocks, litter, graffiti, torched cars, drug paraphernalia, nettles growing high between paving stones, animal excrement, uncollected rubbish everywhere, broken furniture, kitchen appliances dumped in the middle of the street etc.The danger of broken glass kept young children away from the local playgrounds, instead teenagers hung menacingly from the frames of long-ago broken swings, harassing passers-by for cigarettes, money or both. It may be true that these teens came from perfectly respectable homes and were simply bored due to a lack of adequate entertainment, but with such dilapidated surroundings, their appearance could not but take on an air of the sinister.

Swing

Almost without exception, the uniform of the Ballymun casual – at least as of 2007/2008 – is the cotton tracksuit, accessorized with a pair of name-brand training shoes for males and puddle-stained ugg boots for females. Never jeans, and most certainly never a suit. The locals, regardless of age, had the most terrible skin. A condition I attribute – though I have absolutely no description of professional qualification to make any sort of formal diagnosis – to their grease-saturated, fast-food diet. Nearly everybody smokes; eyes closed and cheeks sucked tight against acme-pocked jowl, pulling on a cigarette as if for dear life. I never saw so much as a single person reading a book on the bus heading in or out of the neighborhood. Answering the door to an unexpected visitor was a definite no-no, you heard too many horrific stories to even consider such a thing.

Ballymun is the sort of place that strangely seems to suit the rain. Not that such weather makes the place look any better, but the grime of a raw sky and the wasteland of grey-sodden concrete just somehow seem to compliment one another. In the morning, conspicuously young mothers could be heard yanking their hysterical children in the direction of the local preschool, usually pushing another equally hysterical child in a rickety pram. Fathers were rarely ever to be seen on the streets with their children. Older children loitered in the doorways of the many abandoned blocks,smashing the windows of vacated flats, kicking the corpulent metal shutters that sign-posted a building’s condemnation – its eardrum perforating clang reverberating through the neighborhood with each kick like a corrugated banshee’s scream – and generally being a nuisance to anybody who happened to walk within shouting distance. One such 16 year old lad – no more than a kid really – died of a stab wound 100 metres from my back yard during my second month in the area.

It is said that in a city, you’re never more than two feet away from a rat, in Ballymun, the same can be said of junkies. While you might occasionally spot one or two during the day, the bulk came out at night. Their otherwise surreptitious movements detectable only by their shouting up to unspecified block windows. The calls, though difficult to decipher, pertained exclusively to ordering – often pleading – for scag, before the scurry back into the night, returning a few days later for a top up. A pilgrimage of both habit and necessity. Their days devoted entirely to the business of scrounging and robbing money for drugs in the city centre.

It should go without saying that there are honest and hard-working people in Ballymun and that this group is vastly underrepresented in most news coverage of the area. The simple and stark truth – quite plainly put – is that a story involving a man being dismembered in a pub brawl will always be a lot more headline grabbing and eye catching than one covering the construction of a community art wall.My live-in landlady, Lucy, was a Ballymun native and a figure of both dignity and conviction. She kept an immaculate house and, while well aware of the Ballymun’s various shortcomings, would staunchly defend the area against anyone who spoke ill of the place. I would go as far to say that she was in possession of a greater sense of honesty, humility and strength of character than I have encountered among the middle-class bohemians and pseudo-intellectuals in whose company I have found myself.

Lucy was, however, very much a product of her environment. Here was a person totally desensitized to a great many of things from which your average law-abiding, god-fearing, tax-paying citizen would be eager to shy from. It was, as one might imagine, worth taking note when she quite candidly informed me that one of her former boyfriends had been arrested during a police sting operation on account of his involvement in the attempted armed robbery of an armored car. Though never a user herself, I would frequently return home of a Saturday night to find Lucy sat next to a different guy each week- her partner for the night – who would be chopping mounds of coke (other controlled substances are available) into neatly arranged lines on the living-room coffee table. The gentleman was usually a different but the gear was always the same. One side effect of cocaine use – as any anti-narcotics campaigner will tell you – is impotence. To account for such a possibility, 2 emergency Viagra tablets were always to be found in the top drawer of her bedside locker; one for the line chopper, one for herself.

Two memories, the first an example of the indiscriminate violence that can erupt in Ballymun at any moment, the second, I think, giving a certain insight into the arbitrary nature of crime in the neighborhood.

I remember quite distinctly, walking home from the bus stop one otherwise forgettable day, listening to the radio through the headphones of my cheap-ass mobile phone, only to be unexpectedly jerked from concentration by the terrible crack of cement meeting concrete at my feet. To my immediate left, an eviscerated Coke bottle (other colas are available) spilling fragments of hard cement – its filling – across the pavement. To my right, on the roof of an 8 story tenement block, a troupe of teenagers hurling every imaginable expletive in my direction. On realizing the heft and density of the bottle’s former contents, the initial surprise of the impact turned swiftly to one of confused panic. Few things are more terrifying to me than the idea of indiscriminate violence; of being the unwitting and randomly designated victim of another’s whimsical inhumanity. What if that solid bottle had made contact with my skull? From that height, forget about it. Even if the bottle had been filled with water, from 8 stories, it would still mean lights out. It is probable that their intention had been simply to spook me for their own adolescent gratification. A shot across the bough for shits and giggles. To think that this thing was actually aimed at my head is a little too much to consider. Either way, it was a calculated act of violence. I think it’s got something to do with the ability to snatch a person’s control in a situation. To prompt fear at will. These are the same sort of people that prank call fire and ambulances services only to pelt the responding units with rocks and glass bottles when they arrive. They are cruel activities, perpetrated by cruel people. It is a hostility caused by the misery and rage and depression of desperate circumstances. It is absurd but understandable. The behavior of people without a sense that a better life is in any way attainable. The way out of poverty, of course, is not through violence but education. This, however, wasn’t the occasion for proselytizing.

Capture3

I got mugged in the broad daylight of a Saturday afternoon. I was making my way to an off-license to pick up a few beers for the weekend. Apart from my trusty cheap phone, I had a wallet containing 7 Euros in the loosest change (the cost of a six pack) and a backpack holding my winter hat and a few miscellaneous papers. A kilometer long stretch of road, one side lined with disused flats the other with the high perimeter wall of a newly built housing estate, separated my house from the store. I minded my own business, walking alone through the cold air of this queasy November afternoon. It was a good day to have stayed in bed. Helplessly outflanked, it is only with hindsight I can appreciate how easy and tempting a target I must have appeared. I remember, even just from the sound of their footsteps from behind, that I was about to be in trouble. I was knocked stupid by how suddenly it all happened.

The business of mugging, as I have come to see it, is not necessarily undertaken for any material gain to the aggressor but is more immediately concerned with the seizure of power. When you are on the receiving end of the knife, you are certainly not the one in any sort of control. No-one comes away from this sort of situation any the more romantic or interesting. I did my best to cooperate with the scumbags conducting the exchange, the knives they held at me would make swift work of my gut and I was in no mood to have my gut swiftly made work of. What surprised most was how utterly charmless this episode played out. While one of the bastards held his knife at my neck, the other rifled through my pockets. Money changed hands and they were gone.

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There is a saying that only a coward steals from the poor. What is to be said, then, when the poor are robbing from the poor? I had nothing to my name in those days. There is something very pathetic about the low tier street crime. It is, as far as I can see, a practice with few results other than its own unpleasantness. When I got home, I called the police – on my landlady’s phone – but no unit ever turned up. In the days that followed, it is embarrassing to admit, I was somewhat hesitant to leave the house. At one point, I even considered carrying my own knife but ultimately decided that this was more likely to cause more trouble than it could ever possibly remedy. When winter really got going, I made a decided effort to be home before the sun went down.

While living in Paris, the minimalist playwright and author Samuel Beckett was stabbed in the chest by a pimp named Robert-Jules Prudent. The knife narrowly missed his heart and left lung, confining Beckett to a Parisian hospital for over two weeks. When the writer met his attacker in court, he asked why had he done such a thing. Prudent responded “Je ne sais pas, monsieur. Je m’excuse.” In an act of incredible sympathy, Beckett chose not to press charges, believing his assailant to be “more cretinous than malicious.”I wish that I was capable of that kind of compassion. It is a brutal truth that violence is a part of the fabric of everyday life in Ballymun and despite my best efforts, I am unable to empathize with the mind that would derive pleasure from such a practice. Modern liberal thinking has ruled it unacceptable to simply hate the people of areas like Ballymun, preferring instead to patronizingly lament the desperate measures to which these people have been driven. I can tell you that in that particular moment, with that knife pointed at me, I hated them. I could not have cared less about the socioeconomic circumstances that drove them to this, I wanted them erased. It is one thing to moralize on the plight of the disenfranchised, it is another to have its most unpleasant qualities bearing down on you. It may be true that crimes of this sort occur to all manner of people, in all different cities. On this occasion, however, it happened to me and here.

I moved out of Ballymun just as Ireland was sliding into a similar economic quagmire to that which it had spent most of the 1990’s crawling out from. I cannot help but wonder what effect the bubble bursting has had on that already derelict town. For decades, the people of Ballymun have been the underdogs and as long the neighborhood exists they will remain so. And why should anyone care about a place such as Ballymun? As Hunter S. Thompson wrote, “Some people get rich and others eat shit and die.” The condition of Ballymun reflects an unpleasantness in us all, something quite unsavory, existential even. It is not a case of them and us, only us and what we have allowed. The termunderclass is a dirty word with ugly connotations, but I struggle to find a more descriptive term for many of the people I encountered in Ballymun. These were a people failed by local government, by the state, by official policy, by their Dublin neighbors and by each-other. The people of Ballymun know they are hated and well aware that a great number of people would soon enough forgot the place even exists, much as they would so many other of the country’s failures. But the buck stops here, it doesn’t get much rougher than this. That isn’t to say, of course, that it couldn’t always get worse, but for the sake of civility, let’s hope it doesn’t. At least from what I’ve seen, the poor may be virtuous but there is no virtue to poverty, and little charm to be found in squalor and misery.

Source: Impressions of poverty

Guest Post: I’m A Man And I Had An Abortion

A powerful story. No words to describe the horror and the savior that is Planned Parenthood for some people. People calling to defund Planned Parenthood for the 3% of the abortion services it carries out is an act of direct and gross misogyny.

The Belle Jar

Guest post by Anonymous in Pennsylvania

Trigger warning: sexual assault

The recent debates about defunding Planned Parenthood have gotten me really riled up. At first I just assumed it is because I know the array of services they provide and how often they are the only point of access for people to obtain reproductive healthcare. I understand that Planned Parenthood often needs to step in to fill in the gaps where people have had woefully inaccurate (or no) sexuality education and find themselves in need of care to become healthier and stay that way. Unlike some people engaging in the discussion, I actually recognize how much would be at stake if Planned Parenthood were to lose its federal funding.

It took me a while to realize that while all of this stuff was contributing to how I felt, a big part of why I was upset was because of the whole…

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The 2015 Nobel Prize Winners Gives Me Hope For Humanity

The full list of 2015 Nobel Prize winners have been announced. It has restored my faith in humanity and faith in human achievement through hard work and meritocracy, not whoever comes up with the coolest gadget, social media fad or the next drug to enhance male or female sexual satisfaction. The winners this year, through the various disciplines of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, efforts at creating and sustaining peace and economic sciences, made real, tangible contributions to improve the human condition.

In a world where the likes of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are revered as intellectual gods for their contribution to technology and how their inventions have made modern life easier and more convenient, contributions by other scientists, writers, doctors and activists are often overlooked. Their contributions are important. Can we even imagine a world without Apple products or Microsoft Windows? But the Nobel Prize each year reminds us that there are scores of other people toiling away in their unglamourous labs and homes, toiling away in dangerous political situations all to bring a little peace and relief to humanity.

In the category of physiology and medicine, it was awarded to:

William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura, for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites and the other half to Youyou Tu, for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria

Diseases caused by parasites have plagued humankind for millennia and constitute a major global health problem. In particular, parasitic diseases affect the world’s poorest populations and represent a huge barrier to improving human health and wellbeing. This year’s Nobel Laureates have developed therapies that have revolutionized the treatment of some of the most devastating parasitic diseases.

William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura discovered a new drug, Avermectin, the derivatives of which have radically lowered the incidence of River Blindness and Lymphatic Filariasis, as well as showing efficacy against an expanding number of other parasitic diseases. Youyou Tu discovered Artemisinin, a drug that has significantly reduced the mortality rates for patients suffering from Malaria.

As big-pharma concern themselves with maximising profits by flooding the market with more anti-depressants (many of them cause more harm than good), erectile dysfunction drugs and the most preposterous of them all, a ‘female viagra’, most of which have more side effects than curing qualities; William C. Campbell, Satoshi Omura and Youyou Tu have been researching and creating drugs to help the poorest amongst us. Infectious diseases such as River Blindness, Lymphatic Fever and Malaria is still a huge concern in the undeveloped Third World, and they created something which will save lives. Big-pharma can use the hundreds of millions of dollars they spend on ‘researching’ the drug to give a man the best boner instead to fund diseases that should be eradicated and prevented, such as infectious diseases, but drugs to fight malaria aren’t really the biggest moneymakers.

After the drivel that is ’50 Shades of Grey’ and the ‘Twilight’ Trilogy, what a relief to have an author like Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich got recognized for her life’s work. The reason she was awarded a Nobel Prize for literature is “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time,” simple yet powerful. The suffering and courage of the human race is universal, it is not divided by race, ethnicity or country of origin. Suffering does not discriminate and is painfully felt by all who experience it. This is especially poignant since we are in the midst of the biggest human migration and refugee crises since World War II. All those people who are fleeing their homeland, regardless of the origin or reason, have one thing in common, and that is suffering and the desire to escape from that suffering.

The one prize that people waited with baited breath was the Nobel Peace Prize, arguably the most well known of all the Nobel Prizes, because it usually features people or groups that most people are already familiar with. Many speculated that it would go to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for her political leadership in finding a solution to the refugee crisis. She led the charge in the political efforts and the humanitarian efforts. She put aside the all the various immigrant phobias the other EU member states was suffering from and lead by example. She would give asylum to 800,000 Syrian war refugees in the year 2015 alone and will accept 500,000 Syrian refugees every year after that. This isn’t remarkable just because Merkel showed kindness and leadership instead of scorn for people fleeing danger from war torn lands, but Merkel, prior to this, was a known ditherer in all her other European policies, especially when dealing with the EU economic crisis. She was known for her irritating ‘incremental’ wait-and-see, kicking the can down the road approach, proposing a bunch of non-policy policies as her solution to the currency crisis, all in a bid to save Germany’s economy by sacrificing others. She imposed economic austerity on all the Southern European member states as a condition to remain in the Euro currency and the EU and if they didn’t comply, tough luck. It was ironic to many that her first show of political leadership was on a humanitarian issue as opposed to an economic or other political issue.

But in the end, and perhaps it was wise of the Nobel Committee as it would smack of back-slapping and tooting one’s own horn should they decide to award the Peace Prize to Chancellor Angela Merkel, in the end they decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, a secular, multi-ethnic, gender inclusive, religiously tolerant group formed by various Tunisian activists to avoid Tunisia going down the same road as Egypt, Libya and Syria in the wake of the Arab Spring. Many people have not heard of this group before and the Nobel Committee decided to promote a smaller peace seeking activist group rather than a well known person or institution. The achievements of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet are:

…for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011. The Quartet was formed in the summer of 2013 when the democratization process was in danger of collapsing as a result of political assassinations and widespread social unrest. It established an alternative, peaceful political process at a time when the country was on the brink of civil war. It was thus instrumental in enabling Tunisia, in the space of a few years, to establish a constitutional system of government guaranteeing fundamental rights for the entire population, irrespective of gender, political conviction or religious belief.

The course that events have taken in Tunisia since the fall of the authoritarian Ben Ali regime in January 2011 is unique and remarkable for several reasons. Firstly, it shows that Islamist and secular political movements can work together to achieve significant results in the country’s best interests. The example of Tunisia thus underscores the value of dialogue and a sense of national belonging in a region marked by conflict. Secondly, the transition in Tunisia shows that civil society institutions and organizations can play a crucial role in a country’s democratization, and that such a process, even under difficult circumstances, can lead to free elections and the peaceful transfer of power. The National Dialogue Quartet must be given much of the credit for this achievement and for ensuring that the benefits of the Jasmine Revolution have not been lost.

The Nobel Committee finished with its press release by saying:

Tunisia faces significant political, economic and security challenges. The Norwegian Nobel Committee hopes that this year’s prize will contribute towards safeguarding democracy in Tunisia and be an inspiration to all those who seek to promote peace and democracy in the Middle East, North Africa and the rest of the world. More than anything, the prize is intended as an encouragement to the Tunisian people, who despite major challenges have laid the groundwork for a national fraternity which the Committee hopes will serve as an example to be followed by other countries.

After a slew of strange Nobel Peace Prize awardees (Barack Obama in his first term as president, where he just ordered troop increase in Afghanistan, the European Union during its economic crisis where it was anything but cohesive), the last two years the Nobel Committee gave the Peace Prize to awardees which were comprehensible to the general public.

The remaining awards for the rest of the categories are as follows, they are in subjects in which I don’t understand fully so I won’t make a fool of myself and elaborate on things I don’t understand:

Nobel Prize in Physics: Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B. McDonald: “for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass”

Nobel Prize in Chemistry: Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar: “for mechanistic studies of DNA repair”

Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences: Angus Deaton: “for his analysis of consumption, poverty, and welfare”

Bravo to all these scientists, academics, writers and activists who don’t get enough newspaper inches written about them but are every bit as deserving.

When Recruiters Misrepresent an Assignment – You Live and Learn

This happened to me.
Don’t let it happen to you.
Good recruiters are never desperate, they always have backup plans for when people bail on you.
Never accept anything less than what you are worth and never be afraid to confront a recruiter. Just because they bring you jobs it doesn’t mean they can do what they like with you.
Live and learn.

Not Your Usual Career Advice

Late Wednesday afternoon, I received a voicemail from a recruiter whom I’ve worked with before. She left a voice mail saying that she had an assignment for me, which was for a four day special event at a well known high end retail flagship store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. They needed bilingual speakers and the duties involve greeting and conversing with customers from China, and the fact that it was a ‘special event’ was emphasized. And the cherry on top? I had one hour to decide because the person that confirmed this assignment the previous Friday canceled the day before the assignment (red flag number 1) and they needed to fill that position right away. Next, the rate was nearly less than what I normally charge for translation type of work, but since this isn’t strictly a translation job though my bilingual skills may be needed (red flag…

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100th Post

This will be my 100th post. Pretty amazing considering I just started this blog about 5 months ago.

This blog was created to detail my daily musings and a platform to practice my writing. Most importantly it’s a space where I can rant and rave about what’s bothering me in the world or in my world.

One of the most important virtues of a writer, no matter his or her personal state, is discipline. A writer must force himself or herself to consistently churn out work at a given times. The only way to become a better writer is to just write more, even when the work is crap and you’ve really no good ideas left but you still write.

This is what I aim to do. Just write when I can, what I can, about whatever I can.

Thank you for reading.