On processing a tragedy

This week in Las Vegas, Nevada, a man aimed a modified semi-automatic weapon out of a window from the 32nd floor of a casino hotel, devastating the nation. I first saw reports when I was giving the baby his morning bottle just before 5 am.  My first thought was not of the victims or of gun control; it was of race.  My first thought was four words: “I hope he’s white.”  If you don’t already know, I am a white woman.  I don’t hate my race or wish ill against white people, but as I sat here feeding this sweet baby, my thoughts turned to what would happen if the shooter wasn’t white.  What would the reaction of White America be? What if it had been a black man, a Hispanic man, or a man of middle eastern descent; all natural-born Americans — not immigrants or non-citizens.  Had the shooter been anything other than white,  how many victims would there be that were nowhere near Las Vegas that night?  Just imagine the reaction.  If he were middle eastern, there would be cries for more “Muslim Bans”; if he were Hispanic, a call for a bigger, stronger wall, even if either of these people were 100%, natural-born citizens.  I can’t even fathom the reaction if the shooter would have been a black man.  I can guarantee you that he would have never been described as “a good man.”  What are we trying to do since we don’t have an entire race to vilify?

So that was my first thought, my second was of course, “Why do we keep letting this happen?”  I know, I know, I am a liberal “snowflake”.  I don’t care about the 2nd amendment and I am obviously not a loyal American.  In reality, I am just tired.  I am so tired of hearing that 58 dead Americans are the price of freedom.  I have purposefully not read a lot about the shooter, but I wonder if any of his friends had ever admired his gun collection?  How does that friend who thought his bump stock was “cool” feel today?  Why are we not doing anything?  I’ve seen a meme about the number of people killed on 9/11 and how no guns were used; that people will use whatever tools are available.  The difference is when someone used a plane to kill 3000 people, the United States, and the world heavily regulated air travel.  For goodness sake, you have to have a freaking body scan to get anywhere near a plane.  When Timothy McVeigh used fertilizer to kill all of those people in Oklahoma City, regulations were placed on the amount of fertilizer one could buy.  When some nutcase put cyanide in a few bottles of Tylenol in the 80s, the government started requiring tamper proof seals on everything from pills to mustard.  When something endangers American citizens, there is immediate legislation.  We have dozens and dozens of “named laws” that address something that usually only happened one time.  Why then do we claim that nothing can be done about gun violence?  That we can’t “legislate evil.” I’m not claiming to know the answer, I just think there needs to be some serious conversations about America’s priorities.  We seem to care more about an individual right to pursue a hobby or protect ourselves from hypothetical situations than we do about protecting the lives of our friends and family.  Because that’s who died this week at the hands of a really bad man with an arsenal of deadly weapons – friends, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and neighbors.  People died.  People with the right to live.  The next time this happens, we will once again mourn and offer “thoughts and prayers” to the victims and their families, but when will we actually do something that will prevent that “next time”?

On racism and recognizing my own white privilege: Part 1 of a series about how I came to realize why it’s not “All Lives Matter”

A friend of mine shared the song Glorious by Macklemore on Facebook the other day, and I hit play on the video.  The song was catchy, and I enjoyed the video very much; however, this isn’t about Helen’s 100th birthday extravaganza, it’s about the song that played next, White Privilege 2. It was a story that had been going through my head for months. The lyrics touched on so many of the conflicts I have been feeling about where I fit in the puzzle that is racism in America.

This may sound crazy, but I first became aware of my whiteness when I was working as a nanny.  I had joined a few nanny groups that were a collage of different races, ethnicities, and nationalities. It was in this mix that I first recognized my white privilege; strike that, it was the first time I had my white privilege pointed out to me.  The non-white or non-American nannies had a completely different experience than I did.  When I first thought about becoming a nanny, I posted an ad on a parenting forum with my picture and a short bio.  It should be noted that I was a twenty-year-old, college drop-out working at a daycare center in North Little Rock, Arkansas.  Within hours, I had six agencies and dozens of families wanting immediate interviews.  I had families fly me to all corners of the country, and it was up to me to choose which one I wanted to work for.  I was promised all sorts of things: private living quarters, lavish vacations, fully staffed homes where all I would do was care for the children, luxury vehicles for my private use, and of course, top salary for the field. I thought it was my stellar resume (hahaha), but it turns out it was probably just the color of my skin.  Sure, the agency I chose checked my references, which were from great families whose children I had cared for, but I was never in danger of not finding a job.  Like I said, this was not the experience of my non-white nanny friends. They worked more hours for less pay, were not given keys to the houses they were living in, they couldn’t find agencies to represent them, and they were treated badly by friends of the people they worked for; the list goes on and on.  I thought my experience was standard; now I know that in some circles (NOT any of the families I ever worked for), having a white nanny, no matter how young or inexperienced, is prized over having the most experienced nanny of any other race.  I had experienced my white privilege even earlier, I just didn’t recognize it for what it was.  At the daycare center I left to become a nanny, my nineteen-year-old self was promoted to Assistant Director after only six months working there ahead of several African-American women who had worked there for years.  In the Macklemore song, there is a section that speaks to this: “The one thing the American dream fails to mention is I was many steps ahead to begin with …. White supremacy isn’t just a white dude in Idaho. White supremacy protects the privilege I hold. White supremacy is the soil, the foundation, the cement and the flag that flies outside of my home. White supremacy is our country’s lineage, designed for us to be indifferent.”

This is a system I have greatly benefited from and most likely will continue to, but it is also a system I have grown to hate.  Which brings me back to the song. There is another part that says, “Am I on the outside looking in, or am I on the inside looking out? Is it my place to give my two cents? Or should I stand on the side and shut my mouth?” This spoke to me because this is how I feel, like saying nothing is being complicit, but speaking out is out of bounds.  Where does a white, southern girl fit in a movement that fights against a system she benefits from?

To be continued…..

On learning the art of failure

I am a succeeder.  I don’t even know if that is a word, but y’all, I get things done.  Well, I use to.  In fact, it was an obsession.  I had to be the one folks thought of first when there was something to be done.  I would never say no and I would do it faster than anyone thought it could be done.  I have a friend who use to say that all she had to do was think of something that needed completing and before she knew it, it was already done.  That is just not my reality anymore.

Long ago, a good friend told me that I was one of those people put on earth for the sole purpose of being a help to others, but if I wasn’t careful, it would destroy me.  I am starting to see what they meant; however, it wasn’t the helping that was in danger of doing me in.  I had to learn to succeed in a new endeavor — failing.  Turns out that there is an art to failing that one must learn and it is not an easy lesson. For the first part of this year, I had exactly 25 hours left in my week after all of my responsibilities to eat, sleep, bathe, and do any anything that wasn’t on the “list”.  Then in April, my nephew – a four-month-old, 12 pound, bundle of sunshine came to rest in my arms… and on my chest, my lap, my hip, and sometimes, my back.  Suddenly those 25 hours rolled into negative numbers.  At one point, the last week of school, I was typing my final papers and having to do a lot of backspacing because I was falling asleep and sleep typing whatever my dreaming brain conjured up – trust me, a tree swing does not belong anywhere in a paragraph about the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Don’t get me wrong, I had help.  I have wonderful friends who stepped in, whenever I asked, to take over the position of chief baby holder.  The problem is, asking for help isn’t in my nature.  I was convinced I could do it all and do it all just as well as I had always done.  The last week of the semester I was finishing multiple papers, working, taking care of farm animals, attending church meetings, making sure people got paid on time — oh, and caring for a small, demanding human.  I was doing this on less than three non-consecutive hours of sleep a day.  I was so tired I found myself dozing off anytime I got still, like for example while sitting on a parking lot bench trying to get my readings done for an upcoming class.  Still, for some reason, my obviously diseased brain kept agreeing to do things like write grants and drive to and from Memphis twice a week so my nephew could see his mom.

I didn’t sense the end coming.  Probably because I was too delirious to notice.  Things stopped getting done, or at least done in any resemblance of a timely manner.  I was failing.  As I mentioned earlier, this was a new experience.  I was accustom to being on top of everything, on being the one no one had to stay on to finish things.  Learning to fail is kind of like learning to ride a bike.  The first few times you do it, it’s ugly and you are a danger to yourself and others.  Group by group, I was letting everyone around me down.  Well, almost everyone – little sunshine, sugar pants was getting plenty of my time and attention.  In this process, I realized that I had everything all wrong.  Yes, I was still failing, but more spectacularly, I was failing at failing.  I was failing at failing because I didn’t call for a lifeguard when I realized that I was going to drown.  To be honest, I don’t think I knew I was caught in the current.  I was convinced that I’d get a handle on things any day, that I could redeem myself.  You can’t ever really though.  Once you become the person that is unreliable, you pretty much just stay there.  At some point, I finally learned that it doesn’t really matter.  (I don’t mean being reliable, that matters.)  What I mean is that I don’t have to be everyone’s person.  I can fail, but I can fail in a way where no one gets hurt.  I can fail to say yes.  I can fail to assist.  It’s much more graceful to say “no” than crash into a wall and scratch up your brand new helmet.

 

On booze, guns, voting, and healthcare

It is a popular belief that physicians take an oath to “first, do no harm.”  They do not, however, they should.  Not just physicians though — everyone.  Doctors, lawyers, teachers, mechanics, bankers, mayors, governors, congressmen, presidents……  What does it mean to “do no harm”?  Truthfully, I’m not really sure I know what it means, but I can imagine what it might look like.  It would look like people caring for their fellow man beyond platitudes and pity.  I would imagine it would stop lawmakers from making laws that are clearly harmful to any portion of the population.  “But it’s not possible to make everyone happy.”  I know this, but is it possible not to let people die for the sake of capitalism?  There have been numerous Facebook debates this week about whether or not healthcare is a right.  If I’m being honest, I think people get too caught up in semantics.  No, healthcare is not a right spelled out by what is apparently the holiest of all documents ever written, the Constitution of the United States.  

Let me take a moment to say this:  I love the Constitution of the United States of America.  It is a document that has stood the test of time and prevailed.  It is a simple explanation of what the government cannot do.  Yep, you read that correctly.  The constitution is not so much about the rights of the people as it is about the limits set on the federal government by that ubiquitous group of men we lovingly call “the founding fathers.”  The ‘founding fathers’ who, by the way, agreed with each other about as much as the democrats and republicans do today, really struggled to agree on what the government of this new country should look like.  The first seven articles, which comprise the ‘original’ Constitution, do not contain a single right. None. Nada. Zip. Zero. They simply lay out the powers of each branch of government and how each one is to function.

There are actually very few rights outlined in the Constitution besides voting and drinking. Yes, there is a ‘bill of rights’, but they have much more to do with what the government cannot either do to you or stop you from doing.

So, are the only rights we have the ones outlined in the constitution? Where does that leave us? We can drink, vote, shoot guns and tell everyone about how much we love or hate it.  Seems a little lacking to me.

What rights should we be guaranteed as humans? A few come to mind: safety, the right to self-determination, freedom; basically, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which is referred to in the 14th amendment, but again it’s telling the government that they can’t take those away from people “without due cause.”

While the Constitution does not go into detail about basic rights, in 1948 the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the United States ratified.  In it are 30 articles that are “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.”  The three above are part of it, but there is so much more.  Like the right to marry whomever one chooses and the right to own property.  The freedom of thought, conscience and religion.  The right to one’s own opinion. The right not be belong to an association.  And way at the bottom, at number 25 is the “right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services” and the “right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”  

How very refreshing to see that some entity somewhere cares about the well being of earth’s citizens.  Why do we, a “Christian Nation” allegedly “Under God” not care to meet those same standards?  Why do we think that some deserve for their illnesses to be treated while others remain sick?  Why do we think an adequate standard of living is only for the wealthy?  Why do we make health care a privilege?

It’s because we have been taught that God blesses the righteous and sends woes to the unrighteous.  We equate wealth with morality and it is sickening.  To be living in poverty means that you are not blessed by God and therefore not deserving of “handouts.”  You are not a “worthy poor.”  “If you would pray enough, you’d be healed.”  “If you tithed enough, you’d have more money.”  “Follow God and he will provide for all of your needs.”  These words only sound good to those saying them.  I am a Christian.  I believe in God.  I pray and go to church.  I serve my community in His name.  I study the bible.  Hymns are the first songs that come to mind when I need to fill empty space. I am a Christian.  I am also sick.  Before I knew what was wrong, I was in so much pain that I just wanted it gone or me gone, and that is what I prayed.

God didn’t take me to heaven or take the pain away.  No, He answered with a simple pill I take every night before bed.  A pill that costs $87 a piece.  Do the math.  That’s crazy, right!  Do you want to know what is even more crazy? In any other country it cost about $1. It is so much more expensive here because America not only worships the Constitution, but we worship capitalism as well.  The ability for the government to negotiate with drug companies has been repeatedly voted down because of capitalism.

There is a place for capitalism, healthcare is not it.  The right to live is not something that should ebb and flow with the market.  It should not be reserved for those who can afford it. Health care may not be a right in the United States, but it is a Human Right and should not be withheld just because someone can’t afford it.

On Rights

 

“Healthcare (medical care) is not a right…” I have seen this over and over and over on Facebook and Twitter this week.  There’s even a hashtag.  Well, you all know how I love my word play, so let’s break it all down:

Right:
Noun: A moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something.

Moral:
Adjective: of, relating to, or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong; ethical.

Ethical:
Adjective: Pertaining to right and wrong in conduct.
Synonyms: upright, honest, righteous, virtuous, honorable.

So, even if someone is not legally entitled to something, they could be ethically entitled.

Now, we may not be legally entitled to health care, but how can anyone say that we are not ethically entitled to it?

Would you like to know what we call something that we are not legally or ethically entitled to?
A privilege.

Privilege: A right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of others or a grant to an individual under certain conditions or an advantage granted to a person.

So which is it?
Should medical care be classified as a right or a privilege?

Is it something that should be “enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages (money, status, job, ect.) of others?”

Is it upright, honest, righteous, virtuous, or honorable to tell someone that they don’t deserve medical care for any reason?

Is medical care only for people who are good (wealthy) enough for it?

What makes someone worthy to receive medical care?

These are all questions each and every person who claims that medical care is not a right must answer.  Please look those who are sick and dying in the face and tell them that they are not worthy of life.  Tell them that if they didn’t earn it they shouldn’t have it.  Tell them they should have worked harder and saved more.  Tell them you’re sorry about their situation, but medical care is not a right.  Tell them you’ll put them on the prayer list at church.

The reality is that it is a shame that the United States doesn’t have universal health coverage.  We’re so damned afraid of government involvement that we are only hurting ourselves.  We are so set on capitalist ideals that we’re willing to sacrifice “the least of these” on the altar of the free market.  Medical care should be exempt from the divides of wealth.  The poorest among us should expect the same care as the wealthiest.  Where is the compassion?  Where is Christ in this “Christian Nation”?  When are we going to hold ourselves accountable?

Yes, healthcare is a right; it is the most basic of rights and it’s about time American caught up with the rest of the world and realized that.

 

 

On Technicalities

Yesterday, March 8th, was International Woman’s Day.  For some of you, this is a new holiday, but for the majority of women around the world, this has been their day since the early 1900s.  In many countries, it has the same status as Mother’s Day does here in America.  All day I have seen people complaining about the protest and strikes that have happened today, but what they don’t realize is that this is exactly what is suppose to happen on March 8th.

In 1908, 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York City demanding to be treated equally and then in 1910 in Copenhagen, Clara Zetkin proposed that “every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day – a Women’s Day – to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women’s clubs – and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament – greeted Zetkin’s suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women’s Day was the result.” It is a day “celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”  I am not making any of this up; this is not “fake news” or “alternative facts”. This day wasn’t created this year to piss off republicans.  It has existed for MORE THAN A CENTURY.

For more than 100 years on March 8th, women have marched, protested and held signs demanding equal treatment.  Please notice that I did not say equal rights because technically, we already have those.  I would also like to point out that technically, African Americans had the right to vote prior to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and technically, people who use wheelchairs were allowed to enter any building before the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.  Wait! What? You mean to tell me that Martin Luther King, Jr. marched from Selma to Montgomery for a right he already had? And those people in wheelchairs crawled ALL THE WAY UP THE CAPITOL STEPS to gain access to a building they were already allowed to enter.  That’s crazy.  Why on God’s green earth would they go through this:

They were beaten, attacked, and humiliated for rights they ALREADY HAD.  Why did they do it?  They did it because even though technically those rights existed.  They were just technicalities; so they fought to be treated equally and they achieved it.  The government had to force Americans to stop treating millions of their fellow Americans like they were undeserving of the rights the Constitution gave them; like being black made them ‘less than‘ whites..  Those who fought for equality were beaten, humiliated and killed because whites were so certain that they were in the right.  They used the Bible to justify segregation.  When Dr. King asked for the support of his fellow ministers, no one stepped up; they wanted things to stay the same.

So, what rights to women only technically have?  Well in 13 states, even though rape is illegal, a woman can’t deny her husband sex.  If he forces her against her will, it’s okay because she’s his.  In all 50 states, when a prostitute tries to report a rape, she is often denied because of her job.  On college campuses across the country, young women are being blamed for their own rapes because of what they were drinking or what they were wearing.  What women who protested yesterday or any other day are trying to do is convince the government to force Americans to stop treating them like they are ‘less than‘ men.  I’ve already laid out so much of what women are fighting for  Here if you would like some statistics on rape in the US; read them and then say that women are equal to men.

The point of all of this is to show you that women do still have to fight, not to be given rights, but for their rights to be recognized.  They have a right to say what happens to their bodies.  They have the  right to earn the same as men for the same work.  They have the right for their voices to be heard.  Every year on March 8th, women will continue to fight until we have equal status in society as men because we are not less than them; we can be just as smart, just as strong, and just as capable and we deserve to be treated as such.

On lies, lies, and more lies

When only 4% of what your president says is true and 26% is half or mostly true, it’s hard to trust anything that comes out of his mouth.  This truth vs. lies is not an opinion either and when confronted with the truth he makes excuses; usually it’s someone else’s fault.  Yet people continue to believe what he says; in fact, what he says becomes reality.  He speaks without caring what the truth is because he can.  He then tries to de-legitimize the press so that when he is challenged, his followers will believe him.  Cable news is cable news; it’s partisan.  However, if you discredit CNN, you must discredit Fox as well as they are biased.  You can’t only give credit to the side you agree with.  My problem is with the New York Times. The NYT has been a trusted source since 1851.  What people, including Trump, are confusing are news articles and opinion articles.  When you see something on Facebook from the NYT, 99% of the time, it is an opinion article/blog. This means it is not reporting on the news and isn’t a trusted source.  I still share them; not to report news or claim something as fact, but to say that I agree with their opinion.  An opinion is not, and can never be, “fake news” because IT’S NOT NEWS.  Where was the term when fox news and others were saying that Hillary Clinton worships satan and goes to LA every weekend to worship him and have lesbian orgies (thank you Breitbart). Where was the term when every right-wing media outlet was reporting that President Obama’s birth certificate was fake (thank you Donald Trump).

Now, on Breitbart.  Breitbart is not a news outlet; they are at best a rumor mill and at worst soldiers in the war against equality.  They absolutely hate women over there; for example, headlines include: “Birth Control makes women unattractive and crazy”, “The solution of online ‘Harassment’ is simple: women should log off”,and “Here’s Why There Ought to Be a Cap on Women Studying Science and Maths”.  How are any of these articles okay?  Now, theses are not news, but this is the “outlet” Trump trusts most and believes that they are reporting news and other trusted outlets are “fake news”.

Fake news is when people just make stuff up and report it as fact, which is what often happens when our president and mouthpieces speak (Bowling Green and Sweden anyone?)  I watch all the news networks often so I can hear both sides.  I also happen to be a very good researcher.  I have seen the lies told by the right (again, including Trump) and have seen the evidence that they were lies.  When the president will flat-out lie about things that absolutely do not matter (like whether or not it was raining during his inauguration), he will lie about anything.

Blah, I hate all the things right now that has to do with our government.  Disclaimer here: I am not paid by any super rich Democrat to protest, make calls, write letters, or post on facebook.  I am a member of several groups that organize visits with elected officials, attend protests, and conduct letter writing/call campaigns.  No one is paid, we just want our voice heard as we are the minority in our area.  Please stop insulting those who are working very hard in their very limited spare time to advocate for themselves and the people they love.

It’s time to get back to reality people.