To Put Into Words

Six days post-election here in the U.S., and it feels like every day is different.

The night of the election I stayed awake until about 11 pm until it was clear that Trump was going to win the electoral votes. I refused to watch TV; I couldn’t bear to listen to voices yelling in disbelief, but rather I listened to my own favorite music and instead refreshed Google and saw everything roll in real time.

On Wednesday morning I woke up with my alarm clock – or rather, I woke up with alarm, saying to myself, “Fuck, Trump is president.” I went through the motions of getting ready for an appointment; as luck would have it, my regularly scheduled counseling appointment just happened to be that morning. Above and beyond my normal anxiety and depression and PTSD, I cried for all of the kids that morning who my friend as a teacher said were scared in her classroom about being targeted by racism and ignorance because of their immigrant status and religious beliefs.

On Wednesday afternoon, I was shocked by a call I received out of the blue. Back in August I wrote a letter to the POTUS regarding the sluggish process of applying for disability and antiquated means of qualifying, when people like me are clearly disabled but can’t qualify because science hasn’t caught up to our diseases. This woman was a staff member of the Obama administration and she had the unfortunate task to call me the day after the shitty election to talk to me about my letter to make sure my immediate needs were being met. I assured her that my hospital bed finally came through (it should be here in a few hours this morning) after trying to get it since January. Then we talked about how my current governor chose to expand medical assistance (“Medicaid”) to everyone at or under a certain income level (which comes out to be around 120% of the poverty level, or $1313/month for a single person without children in my case). In two years when my governor’s term is up and he has indicated that he will not be seeking another term, our new governor has the option of continuing this, or only allowing people with children and/or only allowing people who are federally recognized as disabled (which I cannot get) to continue receiving medical assistance.

So to be clear, I could lose my last line of access to healthcare. I confirmed that with her because I just needed to say it. We both cried on the phone together.

She gave me her phone number and told me to call her in case I had any follow-up questions for her. I will call her this week to see if she has any connections at the NIH to see if I can get anyone to reconsider my case, but I think that’s all that I can ask of her.

There are so many things rolling around about Trump already. I’m not sure I can remember all of them and they change hourly, so please excuse my imperfect recall. First, there are rumors flying about his desire to only spend part of his time in the White House in D.C., and part of his time in his place in Manhattan. It can be argued that not all presidents lived at the White House 100% of the time, but that was probably before there was electricity and running water and the Secret Service and, you know, technology. It’s not like his Manhattan penthouse has a bunker in case he starts a nuclear war by being a complete asshole – and let’s get real, it’s not such a far-fetched expectation.

I’m not sure what to think about him actually making it to the swearing in ceremony. Is he truly going to trial for rape and false imprisonment of girls under the age of 18? Are those cases going to suddenly disappear just because some judge is going to feel sorry for a guy who has been elected, just like judges feel sorry for star athletes?

And Jesus H., why isn’t anyone bothered by how many times he has filed bankruptcy? When I worked for Bank of America, we had to pass strict financial checks, and I just worked in the tech area. We couldn’t be hired on if we had bad credit including bankruptcies or foreclosures or judgments. Also, during my years as an escrow assistant, I was especially skeeved out when I had to work with mortgage brokers who had no scruples about giving financial advice to customers when I knew that the brokers themselves were on their own fourth or fifth bankruptcy filing (they told me how they played the Ch. 13 system before the laws were made more strict).

After his first visit with Obama, he walked out telling everyone that he wasn’t going to reverse everything about the Affordable Care Act, specifically the bits about the pre-existing conditions. That means that he has already reversed one thing he promised the ignorant, writhing masses who were convinced that “Obamacare” was responsible for their rising premiums – not the greed of the insurance companies trying to make a profit off of our bodies at the widest margins possible.

So if Trump doesn’t get sworn in, does that mean we’re stuck with Pence? I’m screwed with him too, since I no longer have my uterus, and he thinks that’s all that I’m good for – bearing babies and overpopulating the earth. That’s all he’s concerned about. Read “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood for reference.

On Thursday I had my very first psych evaluation test, ordered by a neurologist I met on Monday. It took about six hours to go through everything and I was mentally exhausted. It’s one thing to explain to doctors that I lose my words when I’m speaking and writing (you can’t see it, but sometimes it takes me 7-8 tries to write words that used to come easily to me), so this test was supposed to help pinpoint my deficiencies. From what I could tell I had pretty good picture and spatial cognition, but when it came to actual word gymnastics, I had a really hard time. One really painful portion of the testing was coming up with words that began with a particular letter. I think we did four or five letters total, but I only remember two letters – “A” and “S”. With the letter “S” I came up with about 10-12 words in 60 seconds that had multiple syllables, and with the letter “A” I came up with about 5 words and they were 1 to 2 syllables at most. It felt like the bottom of my mind had dropped out. This is actually what happens now on a regular basis and is one of the reasons that before every phone call I make I get a fair amount of anxiety, even if it’s just to make an appointment.

So after I went through all of that (I won’t get results for at least a few weeks), I got my usual cab ride/medical transport. I’ve been taking pictures of the cabbies and asking them questions and posting everything on Instagram. I asked this particular driver what he thought about the election because he was an immigrant and had only been living here in the U.S. for five years. He said he supported Trump because “Obama hadn’t done everything he promised to since he was elected.” I was absolutely floored. This guy was everything Trump (and all of Trump’s supporters) hated. I feel like his safety is at risk and I don’t want him to find out the hard way. I feel like all of us are at risk.

All of us, that is, unless you are a white guy between the age of 18-70 and you’re telling everyone else that they have to adapt to Trump/Pence and that you’ll be “fine” having your rights and/or access to basics taken away from you. Because, you know, ‘Murica.

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Anything But That

Late last night I was watching Netflix or catching up on Post Secret or something or nothing…I forget. It doesn’t matter. A lot of people are talking about what happened in the city near where I lived for five years in the middle of Minnesota.
Stabbing in St. Cloud

The off-duty officer featured in this news story is from the neighboring town where my mom has had her business for the past 21 years, its population is 1,000 on a good day if you include dogs on that count. I dreaded reading the news as it was unfolding. I was saying to myself, “Please don’t let the attacker be a Muslim Somalian, please let it be some dumb redneck asshole.” After moving back to Minnesota I had heard some dumb redneck assholes complaining about how the Somalians were making trouble in St. Cloud. I had even unfriended some former classmates on Facebook because that person was posting faux “articles” about how gangs of Somalian teenage boys/men were running around and attacking women and beating up men and planning on blowing up “good, hardworking farmers” in the area, but that the newspapers weren’t telling anyone – all very inflammatory and untrue.

I hate that the young man who carried out this violent act was a Muslim and a Somalian and his family relocated to Minnesota as part of a refugee program, because it’s exactly what every paranoid and prejudiced person in the area needed to see in order to get worked up into a frenzy. My heart sank as the details became public knowledge. Already I’m seeing these posts saying “Fuck Muslims, they all want to kill us, so we have to kill them first” and “That’s why we all need to carry guns” and “They need to go back home” and “See???? They’re no good!” One person suddenly represents a billion – at least, that’s true according to one former classmate who first said she had never seen any violence from any other religion, then said she never saw violence like that from any present-day religion, then said she didn’t see it from any present-day religion in the United States, then said she didn’t see it in any present-day religion in Minnesota after I kept challenging her with examples every time she changed her answer. Finally she deleted the post altogether; I imagine I’ll be booted from her friend list soon since this is not the first time I’ve called her out on her prejudices.

One of my high school classmates is now a school administrator in that city; she posted on Facebook that she is concerned for her students, because of course she has Somalian children in her school. Her concern is two-fold. First, the children will feel pressure from the other children, because the other children will be influenced by their parents. But then the Somalian children will also have prejudice directed at them specifically by adults who are completely shameless.

My thoughts on this situation: It has to be incredibly difficult to move halfway across the world to a small, isolated city where work is sparse, and you are pretty much universally hated. There isn’t much for a young man to do and if he is approached to join something that gives him purpose and he is promised eternal glory, well, that sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? He’s an easy target for recruiting. It’s complicated. I’m not surprised, but I’m incredibly disappointed and worried that this event will send that region into pre-civil rights era discrimination.

I Heard The News Today

I woke up this morning to a message that was sent to me around midnight telling me, “I know you were friends with Bart [not his real name]; just wanted to let you know that he died after a confrontation with the police Wednesday morning.”

I wasn’t awake to chat back and forth, so I had to do some searching of news articles when I saw the message. There was actually quite an extensive write-up as well as video clips so I was able to get a complete picture from the law enforcement’s viewpoint of what happened.

The hard part was seeing pictures of his dwelling and recognizing the side of his building. Bart was so proud of everything that he did to fix his place up. I still remember walking through his door and smelling his split pea soup.

Bart and I weren’t close friends; in fact, the person that notified me of his death had known him decades longer than I had and was the reason we had become acquainted. But we had gone to the Renaissance festival as part of a big group, and we always ended up attending the same get-togethers. Bart was friendly and jovial, though he definitely had issues with drinking too much. He also could not control his impulses or anger; this certainly fed into a never-ending cycle of joblessness and financial uncertainty.

From what has been published in the stories online, he got a DUI on Friday night and was sent home in a cab rather than sent to jail. On Saturday night he drove by a deputy and shot him and prompted a manhunt/search. On Wednesday morning the sheriff’s department knocked on his front door and he shot himself.

The county sheriff is proclaiming this man to be an obvious participant in the bigger war on cops. I’m calling bullshit on this. Bart was in an all-out war on his own life.

Did he drink to get drunk? Always. He couldn’t get together with a group without drinking. When you’re middle-aged and you’re drinking every weekend (and I am guessing for him, every day), it’s obviously a problem. He tried his luck with dating, but he was always stuck in his 20’s there too, referring to women as girls and only taking pictures with the pretty random strangers with their boobs propped up, never really being less than insulting. Bart was a smart guy and had loads of certifications and degrees in the tech field, so he should have had no problem with landing well-paying jobs. In fact, when I was laid off, I visited his place and we chatted about our resumes and wages, and I was quite impressed with his in both areas – he could have afforded to buy my house two or three times over with his salary. But Bart had done and said so many crappy things in his workplaces that he had been blackballed in his current state, and finding work out of state was proving to be just as difficult.

The friends who were much closer to him had relayed stories about how in recent years and months, he would suddenly become angry and take off, or disappear for hours. If they were all out of town for a trip and following each other in their cars, Bart would somehow manage to leave the caravan and insist on his own route and get completely lost. He would become belligerent if anyone tried to reason with him.

Not that this means a whole lot, but he and I used to debate his support of Trump as a presidential nominee. Bart definitely had prejudices against people who were anything except white middle-aged American men.

So here is this guy who is doing everything he can to make his own life as terrible as it possibly could be – ruled by alcohol, void of love and understanding, built on a foundation of fear and ignorance. He shot another human being because he wanted to blame someone for something. He shot himself because he saw no other way out of the pit he dug.

I have a hard time thinking about him no longer being on this earth. I saw the destructive behaviors in him, but Bart was mostly friendly towards me – maybe because I didn’t have a long or involved history with him, or because I knew exactly what to expect. I hope that now his soul is finally at peace. I think about this often, especially since death seems to be around me a lot more this year, and I wonder if souls review their lives and their lessons like I think they must. (I hope that Bart can see the humor in me saying that my wish for him is to finally understand why Trump would make a terrible president.)

In fact, I wish I could interview all of the people I knew who crossed over in the past ten months and ask them what they have learned. What were they surprised by? What was the biggest reveal? Was it all worth it, taking on this human body and signing this contract?

Super Bowl Sunday will feature another powerful anti-domestic violence PSA

Domestic violence happens in all financial demographics from the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich. Domestic violence is a part of the lives of the football players and their domestic partners, first because they take their violent sport home with them, and second because they have repeated blows to their head that cause permanent damage (CTE – chronic traumatic encephalopathy). When you watch the Superbowl, just keep in mind that a portion of those players are going to go home and punch, kick, strangle and humiliate their partners while you eat chips and talk game highlights and best commercials.

Source: Super Bowl Sunday will feature another powerful anti-domestic violenceĀ PSA

Where Have All The Good Men Gone?

Yesterday I posted an article on Twitter from The Good Men Project site.

http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/bots-wedding-feminism-marriage-cost-jrmk/

With the post, I said, “If men are butt hurt by women having careers and their own income, they’re not worth marrying.” Then I included the hashtag #feminism.

I always, always hesitate to include this hashtag. It’s not because I don’t believe in equal rights – I do – but some days I’m just not up to being attacked. There are a multitude of men on Twitter who create mask accounts and watch hashtags like “feminism” because they immediately jump on that thread of conversation to argue with women and tell us we don’t know what we’re talking about, and that we’re stupid, and that we don’t know how to read, and that we are emotional, and that we are fat, and that we just need a good dick to stick it to us.

The first kid that jumped in wasn’t using very strong language. In fact, he was a lot less forceful than the others, but I am thinking this is because of his age; as he gets older and continues to buy into this thought process that men are the “victims” of feminism – rather than understanding that a more equalized and emotionally connected society brings happiness and contentment to most rather than just a select few – he will become more and more angry and disillusioned about his life. When I remarked upon the fact that the ex Dumb and Angry wanted to shoot me because he felt threatened by me earning my own income (that was behind the fight I had to call the cops on), at first the kid said he didn’t know if that was true, but if it was, he wouldn’t continue discussing this topic because I would only be able to see my own experience. I keep saying “kid” because I’m guessing this one can’t be a day over 19. His next argument was that his dad wanted to be the breadwinner and his mom wanted to stay at home, though she ended up having to work. Did I deny those people exist? On the contrary, I absolutely know they do, and told him he can still find them in the 1950’s household fetish group on FetLife. I’m not speaking for them. I’m speaking directly about the men who feel threatened about women earning their own wages.

Another guy jumped in. I’m not sure if his picture was actually of him, but I’m guessing him to be about 27. His first statement was something like, “What if men won’t marry because when they divorce, the ex gets custody?” My reply was, “What if you’re assuming the sole purpose everyone gets married is to procreate and overpopulate the earth?” Then he started MANSPLAINING. He was alternately condescending and insulting. I could tell that he’s been hating on women for a very long time and participating in these “manosphere” groups and picking up their vocabulary. At one point he told me I must be “thick” if I didn’t understand what he was saying. I had restated his argument as “Marriage = children = divorce = custody.” He also pulled up some statistics saying that men work harder and longer than women (not taking into account, of course, that the imaginary children he was so worried about would be taken care of first by his imaginary wife – meaning, if the imaginary children got sick at school, the imaginary wife is traditionally the first one called if she can be reached to pick them up from school, therefore she misses work. We were also missing a chart that allotted time for each spouse for household chores like laundry, cleaning and yard work. Guys, the work doesn’t end when you leave your job). Then he started using the ultimate phrase that is the favorite of all white men from ages 18-60, and that is “strawman.” It didn’t matter what I said, he made sure that became a regular part of the exchange. Then he started calling me pet names (adding to the condescension), so of course, I used them right back. At one point I said something like, “Oh, Bunny, it will be okay. I’m sure some women will worship you – or at least you will tell them they do.”

A third man jumped in. My guess is that he is, again, white and probably around age 47. He said he would never ask “her” because if they got divorced, she would get custody of the kids and he would be ruined financially. He did not use any punctuation. Basically, his argument was the same as the 27-year-old’s: Marriage = children = divorce = custody (with a little child support thrown in). My guess is that he has already procreated with a long-term girlfriend and works at a job that he greatly dislikes; he’s one step away from living in mama’s basement.

A fourth kid (again, maybe 19-22) jumped in and said to me, “You’re a fucking retard.”

A fifth guy cutely said I just needed to get shagged. The 27-year-old agreed, then crowed about how happy he was being a white guy living in Asia (thereby revealing his oh-so-common fetish for Asian women as complacent sexual servants).

So a couple of accounts were reported for being abusive. Keep in mind I didn’t know these guys before they jumped my shit for including the hashtag #feminism. I wasn’t hanging out on the hashtags they use to talk about how stupid women are. They came over to my side to call me an idiot and a retard.

Today a friend sent an article without knowing what had transpired on Twitter. It very well could have been written about these guys. Why it resonates so deeply with me is because it seems to be EVERY man I encounter on OKCupid: not a single one I have interacted with has been interested in a relationship and commitment; rather, they want to fuck as many women as they can, and they are constantly on the lookout for a better choice. It happened most recently with Nashville, and with the guy who is currently separated and probably going to go back to his wife, and with countless others before them. Motherfucking internet.

“The systematic, quantified pursuit of women tends to make men bitter and resentful.”

This statement was written by the author of “The Game” as well as the most recent book, “The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships.” He’s a male who has fallen into the trap of fucking around and always looking for the next best thing, never placing any value on the person he is with, and he has fought his way out of that harmful thinking multiple times. There’s a whole subset of vocabulary used in the manosphere. I invite you to read the article below. It’s the most enlightening thing I’ve read in a very long time – mostly because I realize that it’s not my imagination, and that men are actually congregating and deciding to be heartless, nasty, promiscuous, belittling, dissatisfied, condescending, derogatory and abusive. As was pointed out in the article, all of them have missed the conclusion of each book where the writer talks about how all of that behavior is destructive to the man (and women).

As one of the guy’s grandmothers pointed out, “We’re women too.” Women are not anonymous islands; we are just as interconnected as men in our roles in this society. We are mothers, daughters, aunts, granddaughters, friends. Violence carried out on women affects ALL women. It’s not okay to punch your girlfriend and then turn around and kiss your mother.

It’s a long article, but I promise you, it’s absolutely worth the read from beginning to end:

http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/01/jared-rutledge-pickup-artist-c-v-r.html#

As a side note, no one – male or female – joined in this conversation to speak up and say, “Hey, it’s not okay to call her “thick” or a fucking retard or say she just needs some dick.”

Why I Don’t Pray

On Twitter, amid the hundreds and hundreds of posts flying around on my feed last night, one stuck in my mind, and it still galls me. It said something to the effect of, “Even if you aren’t religious, you can still offer prayers in support of Paris.”

I didn’t want to get in a war of words (or 140 characters or less) with a stranger, especially when there are bigger, badder things to be worried about. However, it’s enough of an issue with me that I would like to point some things out.

First of all, prayer is an integral part of religion. Any religion. If I’m not religious, that means that I don’t believe in religion, and therefore I don’t believe in prayer.

Second, religion is based on arrogance. Let me qualify that statement by explaining that every person thinks the religion they follow is the “right” religion, and believes that every other religion is the “wrong” religion. The monotheistic religions we hear about the most – Christianity, Judaism and Islam – are only a portion of what peoples’ belief systems are based upon. There are something in the neighborhood of 4,200 religions being practiced today. Which one is right?

Third, religions are created by humans. I’m sure you’ve heard of people saying they are going to “create their own religion” or “start their own church.” This is how all belief systems are born. Each faction comes up with its own rules and rituals. Think about Scientology: It was created by a former Navy guy who wrote science fiction. I mean, c’mon – what the hell is a “space opera” anyway??

Fourth, religions rely on mystery and lack of education. Leaders are always touted as knowing more than the rest of the followers. They are always revered for being more “blessed” than everyone else too. This is how religions continue to thrive. Think about the infamous Warren Jeffs and his “flock” – they all believe that he is some sort of prophet, and they hang on his every word. None of the kids growing up in the group know how to read or write properly and have memorized church elders as their only education. Obviously this is a famous group often singled out for its cult-ish behaviors. Pull back a little and look at all of the religions with the same eyes, and realize that leaders and organizers rely on the followers not questioning anything, or if they do, always circling back to the idea that the leaders know best. With all of the scientific discoveries we have made in the past century, how can anyone still believe in a virgin birth?

Fifth, believers tend to assign human characteristics to the objects they worship. For example, all of us have heard, “God will be angry” or “God will be sad” if we do certain things. Says who? We do. That’s right, humans.

Sixth, non-believers are not amoral. I don’t steal, I don’t cheat, I don’t kill other people or intentionally harm other creatures. I live a pretty upstanding life, and that is without following one or two particular religions and relying on them to be my conscience. Here’s something interesting: In some areas of South America, before Christianity was introduced, there was less crime because everyone lived under the same code and worked together to make a harmonious community. It was truly shameful to steal or kill. After Christianity, crime became more prevalent – because they started believing that “God would forgive them.”

Seventh and last, what has prayer done for me? People offer to pray for me all of the time, and I thank them because it makes them feel better. I’ve been signed up for continuous prayer circles, many times, with or without my knowledge or consent. But this is what it boils down to: If I get better, then it was “God’s will.” If I don’t get better, I either didn’t believe hard enough, didn’t pray enough, or it was “God’s will.” With either outcome I have no hand in whether I get better or not. Honestly, I think that the idea of praying has allowed people to become lazy. They can post on Facebook or Twitter that they’re praying for the people in France, or for praying for starving children in third world countries, or for gun violence to end, but then they don’t actually do anything. They think it’s enough to say that they’re praying and it magically elevates them to being better people.

Do I believe in God? That topic is best saved for another time.