Saturday, October 31, 2009

I begin to think - poem

Scattered words no more than usual
no less
than stinging
on a screen
no more duck's back water-roll today
I begin to think
I begin to think that these words are enough
I begin to think that I have words
Of my own
I begin to think
I'm worth the consideration
Of recognition

would rather be right than happy
would rather win
than say I'm sorry
would rather be here
I begin to think
And I begin to speak
I challenge
I reject
the hypothesis of misinterpretation
I reject the ideographs of emotion painted on your caveman walls
I say
I say
And you don't
You can't back down or back off and I don't want to be public
but in public
you may behave
I begin to think that
push me too far
too hard
too often
I reject the premise that in being hurt I'm wrong
I speak, finally and set a limit
I say
to the overwhelming amount of
juvenilia couched as humor
And still
don't listen
I begin to think
you don't know
to hear
the things
that matter

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why yes, m*****rf****rs, I WILL play the rape survivor card.

Update: @ButMadNNW brought the Kitty Genovese case and this article by @MarkTyrrell to my attention.
This relates directly to the Richmond High School case. (See Below.)

There are about...four things that have happened in the last four months to make my gang-rape survivor radar, start blipping like the motherfucking Kraken is rising from the motherfucking deeps. (Cover your ears, children. The nice lady is about to lose her shit and get medieval on some asses.)
The most recent, and most innocuous: Natalie Portman's vegan advocacy equates eating meat with rape! Here's what actually happened. Get real. I actually agree with the moral stance posited in the original piece. If someone is a vegan and genuinely believes that eating meat is murder, (annoying as that may be to omnivores,) it is an ethical act for them to speak up. Just as it would be an ethical act, (as stated in the article, before it got mangled,) for someone to, in the face of rape, speak up. Is it a bit of a hyperbolic analogy? Yes. However, it is a rational analogy, regardless of the amperage. 
The second, which is where the maces and broadswords start coming out, is here and here
Last Friday, after leaving a homecoming dance, a 15 year old girl was beaten and gang-raped for nearly two hours. I'm going to let that sink in first, because that's not the worst of it.
While this young woman had apparently gotten drunk and was walking home, then set on by 7 men who viciously beat and raped her, more than a dozen people stood by and watched - DOING NOTHING TO STOP OR REPORT THE ATTACK.  Go ahead and take some deep breaths, because that's not even the end of it. The school officials and security personnel claim that, "It's the parents' responsibility to prevent..." this sort of thing, being the gist of it. She was walking to meet her father, who was picking her up. If you can't be responsible for the safety of someone on school property after a school function, when there are security cameras on-campus and the crime takes two hours to commit, when the FUCK can you be responsible for the safety of your students, faculty and personnel?
That sound you hear, is the sound of my brain trying to turn itself inside out.
The part that makes me wish for a fucking flash-freeze scenario out of, "The Day After Tomorrow," is this: MORE THAN A DOZEN PEOPLE, some estimates say close to TWO dozen...STOOD AND WATCHED. They stood and watched and didn't try to stop it, they didn't call for help, (although some of these jackals wearing human masks did use their cell phones to take pictures and video, apparently.) Someone did eventually tip off security that something was wrong. They found her unconscious near a picnic table. She's still in the hospital.
Do we even deserve to exist as a species if we're not only capable of such horrific brutality, but such terrifying apathy? I say that every last one of the spectators should be charged criminally. Then sued by the girl and her family. For every last penny their parents are worth. Let these hellspawn rot in jail and bankrupt their families. That seems fair to me.

I can speak from experience, if this girl survives the first year, she's got a shot at making it out of the other side of the hell she's going to have to walk through every day. I can also tell you from experience, surviving the first year...I didn't want to. I had someone who depended on me and I stayed alive for her. That's the only reason I made it through that year. It's like spending every day of your life with broken glass covering every inch of skin - inside and out. Just because survival is possible, doesn't make it easy.

Note: What happened to me? Simple. One night, away on a work trip, myself and 3 colleagues, plus one's GF, went out to dinner. We went to the hotel bar. In total, over 6 hours, I had 7 drinks. We had food. I'm not a small person. 7 drinks is enough to leave me relaxed, maybe a little buzzed, but not in any way out of control. There were a couple of guys flirting with me. At one point I walked into the corridor to take a phone call. I left my drink on the table with my friends. It was a stupid mistake that changed my life. After finishing my drink, everything else is pretty much a blur. I didn't remember that I threw up at one point until somebody told me. I don't know how I got back to my hotel room. None of the people I was with, had the sense to take it upon themselves to decide I wasn't ok, and make sure I got to my room safely. Everything else is flashes. Disjointed and horrific snapshots. I couldn't speak, I couldn't move. I may have done both of those things, but I was completely disconnected. There were two men who took turns doing...things, to me. This included violating me with a mini bottle of champagne. There was a third man in the room, watching. When I woke up, I didn't remember any of this. I was just sick and hurt. Ultimately, because I hadn't put all the pieces together by that time, on Monday morning, I sat through a reprimand about my behavior. Someone had assumed I was simply out of control. In a way, they were right. I was out of control. Not because of anything I'd done, but because of what was done to me. I was drugged and raped and no one did a thing that could have prevented or stopped it. It's always somebody else's problem, isn't it?

Which brings me to the circle of hell I'm reserving for women who cry rape.
Unless it happens in a public place, with witnesses, with DNA evidence and a complaining witness who can ID her attacker...rape is one of the hardest crimes to prosecute. Date rape is a he said / she said quagmire that has led to bad campus policy and a lot of women being torn apart on the witness stand. Even intruder rapes aren't always easy to prove. A woman's sexuality is always suspect. God help a DA if they try to prosecute the rape of a sex-worker. At least half of all rapes go unreported, GHB and Rohypnol have made it easy for men to turn women into amnesiacs who aren't even aware they've been raped until all the evidence is gone. I should know, it's what happened to me.

I have a metaphorical t-shirt, "You can't scare me, I've been gang-raped."
Can I still be hurt? Of course. Do I still worry and get freaked by day to day stress? Duh.
But I've survived far worse than most people are capable of dishing out. To them, I say: Go fuck yourselves, pedants. I've seen the big bad wolf, and you ain't it.

Here's the latest in the Ben Roethlisberger case. All of the stories I've read, because, A. I don't think celebs and sports stars should be let of the hook when they commit crimes, and B. The story seemed hinky to me from the start, (google for more, people,) indicate to me, and my survivor spider-sense, that this is a case of going for a paycheck, rather than a case of rape. If you're raped at your workplace, by someone you can identify and you've got security on-site, YOU FUCKING REPORT IT.
Then, there' this: 15 year old girl claimed she was abducted and raped in order to avoid being punished for having sex with her boyfriend.
Are we making the sexuality of young women so anathema that they're willing to cry rape out of fear of the consequences, or are we so numb to rape that it doesn't seem like that big a deal?

The cumulative effect on my brain is simple: We don't take women seriously. We don't sexually empower women. We treat women like objects. Our bodies, our lives are worth less than a man's, we are not entitled to control over them, and we prostitute ourselves and marginalize the very real traumas that are perpetrated every day. Then we act like carrion-feeders.
What the FUCK is wrong with the human race?
I want an answer.
By the way, in my utter rage, I almost forgot this. I can't rant anymore, but this is what our tax dollars are paying for.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

NaNoWriMo prep, playlists and KITTENS!

If I could draw, I'd storyboard my novel rather than outline. The fundamentals of my writing process have always been a little bit of voodoo. I see a word, and it unlocks a door filled with images and sounds, tastes and smells. It's a little spooky at times, but it works. At least, it works with poetry. So far, the outlining is going ok. I've got a fair amount of the structure laid out, I've got a sketch, (figuratively speaking,) of my protagonist and I'm getting a sense of her partner. He's tricky, doesn't like to talk to me much. Shows me things, though. Kind of harrowing things, in fact. I'm covering 30+ years in this venture, I've got a little family tree going, even. That's one part of the puzzle. Do I think I'm going to end up with a fully finished, polished, ready-to-query novel at the end of November? Oh, HELL NAW, I don't. I'm hoping to have a well-constructed and fleshed-out first draft of one.

  Part of my process is music. It's an emotional shorthand, it's a mood-setting device. Music focuses me and calms me down. If I know what sort of music a character likes, it's an immediate in. A man that loves Depeche Mode and Nina Simone, drinking Glenmorangie 12 out of the bottle in the rain and covered in mud?   I can get to know that man. I have to. After I wrote about a page of rough notes on him, I realized that the music I was listening to, was NOT right. I made a playlist, 200 songs, all over the musical spectrum. It's a start. *mutters to self* "Yes, you really do need the fucking hard drive." Note: Take the change jar to coinstar and get amazon gift card towards hard drive.
I feel pretty solid so far. Weird and without a clue whether anything I'm doing is, "The right way," but I'm not so concerned about that. There's a fantastic group of writers who drifted together on twitter, and I'm lucky to count myself among them.

Now...KITTENS. Just one, actually. here's all the info, including a picture of my new kitten, Ani DiFranco. I'm gonna see what she's like, but I really like the name, so unless the kitten seems totally NOT an Ani, it'll stick. BTW, if you can, throw a couple of dollars Beth's way. Vet bills are insane. Give up a latte, for heaven's sake. Also, if you can support your local no-kill shelter. It could be as simple as picking up a big bag of cat or dog food the next time you're at Sam's Club or Costco or whatever, and taking it to them. Not only do the shelters need help, but a lot of people are having trouble making sure they can feed their pets. There are a lot of folks that would love to keep their pets, but are surrendering because their homes have been foreclosed on and they can't have them in apartments; some, are surrendered because their owner lost a job and UI isn't enough to take care of their family AND pet. So, supplies not only help the shelters, but help them help owners. Think about how you'd feel if it was you, ok?

 I did not have any intention of getting another pet. Not now, not anytime in the next 6 months. Losing Zoe, then Spike and knowing that Steppenwolf is not going to make it through another winter... It's a lot to take in one year. When the call went out on twitter, via @bethofalltrades, I re-tweeted and hoped for the best. My friend Jon, nudged and cajoled and irritated me to the point where I looked at the picture of this adorable kitten and couldn't imagine her not having a home. Beth's mom is from Pgh., and is visiting Beth in NY, and now Ani will be hitching a ride to me. Twitter power will not be denied. Saving one kitten at a time, sometimes one person at a time, if we're lucky. I bought Ani's first toy today, it's a squeeeshy sock w catnip, and a bell. The bell may be coming off, as it's on a long elasticized string. I'd prefer it if my kitten doesn't strangle herself. (Seriously, do they not think of these things?)

In other news, I had a total stress crack-up the other day. Weeks and weeks of stress at work, not to mention the underlying 24/7/365 stress of being the head of a household with a disabled parent. (She's got a sharp mind, but the body is in constant agony.) Let's just say that hours of sobbing ensued. I did feel better, which is good. It's like the, "Wall," that runners hit. If you can push through, you end up being in a decent state of mind. The limits of what I can control in the world became perfectly clear. For now.

 I'm hoping that the last quarter of the year starts to show a bit of a turnaround. A new year and a birthday coming up, a clean slate to paint and write and make into something completely amazing. I love fresh starts.
So, new novel, new playlist, new kitten, new year coming.
Things can always change, right?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Shaking the tree of the spirit: Acts of creation

Note: I recommend reading the previous post, and particularly clicking through the links and watching the video you'll find. (The second half, equally powerful is here.)
What do I want to say? Everything. I want to scrawl in abstracted, emotional hieroglyphs on the walls. I want to scream from the roof and show the world my battered and bloodied self and say, "I'm still here. I will not be as worthless as you want me to believe." I want to write furious reams of poetry and paint myself into the weave of the canvas. I want to be heard, I want to show you something that is not tidily packaged and pre-chewed pabulum. I want to tell the truth.

Sometimes, telling the truth is like pouring acid on an open wound.

Sometimes, forming the words feels like an alien act.

Those times are not now.
I always preface by saying, "I'm a poet. I'm not particularly prose-y. This is not my form." I've been rejecting the notion that I'm simply a storyteller. Foolishness.
BTW, if you don't feel incredibly moved and energized as an artist and human being after watching the videos... well, I don't know what to say.
So, last night: Epiphany. I've been dithering about with a sort-of trashy-kinky-angsty romance novel. Well...actually, dithering is exactly the right word. I published my first piece of fiction in January. The novel was meant to be an exercise, the fledgling testing the wings. Ultimately, I'm forced to admit that this is not an authentic effort. It was me, playing it safe. The precise reason I couldn't make myself write beyond the third chapter, is that it would be too safe. I couldn't get excited, I couldn't get my blood flowing to care about writing it.
That was then.
This is now.
That first piece of fiction, written with incredible constraints, sparked my imagination. In moving forward, I'm going back. There are stories in the world of that short story, that are whispering in my ear. I can see them. I can hear the whispers of voices demanding to be heard. I can see the gaunt and wasted bodies of the starving. I can hear the flood waters. I can taste the acrid dust of scorched cities.
There are lives waiting to be revealed on the page. Emma, Cassandra, Jamie and...the others. They haven't introduced themselves yet.
There is joy and agony and acceptance of grief. There is peace and contemplation, there is cataclysm.
There is a world to be explored.
The moment I knew it, I started to zing. A physical tingling of my skin. The kind of sensation I associate with absolute rightness in a situation.
I have no idea how NaNoWriMo is going to turn out. I know that I have to write this. It's necessary. It's not a choice. If I don't write it, I may as well lay down and die.
This is who I am. I'm a writer.

(Note: I began this blog last night, in the throes of my first truly organic experience as a writer of fiction. This afternoon, an interesting thought came up on twitter, from @Lifemapper," I am observing that so many artists associate their life's work with pain. It has to hurt to be authentic? What about true joy in creation? ") 

Much conversation among several of us, ensued. I'm not sure I approached it correctly. This dovetails with the beginning of the post, I promise. 

In my experience, blissfully happy people don't ask that many questions. 
Artists do. 
Questions don't lead to contentment. 
Questions lead to expression. 

The act and inspiration of creation is separate from the personality of the creator. Writing can be: release, exorcism, analysis, exuberant joy, bliss, and any other emotion. It can be hell, dredging up emotions and events from life and observation in order to communicate a character's experience authentically. 
It's just that...every artist I've ever known, has been damaged in some way.
Creating is how we put ourselves back together. 
It's how we let go, how we mend, how we reach out into the cosmos and ask to be seen, to be heard, to be known, to know. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Shaking the emotional tree: Art and experience

From time to time, I will expound on certain thoughts I have about being an artist. You can see earlier thoughts, here and here. I ask a lot of questions, I'm pensive and analytical.The rickety audio of my observations and experiences is here, Lives on Display and Beauty were my commentary after 2 seasons of slam poetry contrasted with a more academic point of view. The original poetry/blog archive, with much meandering and wibbling about art, is here, have at it.

I often refer to my first year, post-trauma, as the year I spent as a walking corpse. The truth is, I'd been flayed alive. What callouses I'd built up to the world, were ripped away.

Last night, I watched this and wept. With both the joy of recognition and the rippling memory of agony. It's about halfway through the video that the, "A-HA! That's exactly right! Oh my god..." *wibble* moment occurs.
There are extraordinary souls in this world. Watch that, and you're watching one of them.

When you carve away all the layers of ego and bullshit, the making of art is about making something whole in ourselves. Making something outside of ourselves that can be shared, is a method of communication. We mend ourselves and each other in tiny ways. It can mean everything, at the right moment.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Random Geekery:Horror, Twilight, vampire overkill and Why I defend the sparklepire

Sooo... Yeah. I like Twilight. The movie. I've read the book. That's a separate issue, which I will address.

I've been into vampires since 1979, when I was 6. Why? Frank Langella, because well: OMG, HAWT. Now, I should mention that horror is practically a part of my DNA. My mom is a horror fangirl, old school. We're talking Hitchcock, James Whale, SERIOUS Vincent Price/Hammer horror kinda stuff. Also, she both read and saw The Exorcist while preggers with me. (I've always claimed this explains a lot about me, if you buy into the in utero learning thing.) I was watching Claude Rains as The Invisible Man before I could write my own name. So, the seminal event, 1979 Dracula, (which, btw, TOTALLY FUCKS UP THE NARRATIVE. WTF, W.D. RICHTER!?!) It was at the drive in, my mom and her boyfriend up front, me and his daughter in the back. The first feature on a double bill happened to be Andy Warhol's Frankenstein, (aka Flesh For Frankenstein, 1973.Rated X, btw.) This, scarred me for life. My mom thought we were asleep. I wasn't. Nope. Not at all. (No, I really don't want to talk about it. No, really.)
If you've never seen Frank Langella as Dracula, DO IT NOW. Even my little 6 y.o. brain went, ZOMG!  He's all dark and smooth, with that whiskey-chocolate voice. *sigh*
I've been reading and watching vampires ever since. Oh, I read Bram Stoker's original Dracula in the movie tie-in format when I was 6. It came with creeeeepy pics of the underground tomb where, "Mina," (yeah, I know, s'posed to be Lucy, and in this flick, Mina is somehow Van Helsing's daughter. Don't ask,) is all undead-corpsified and looking not at all unlike a really serious Goth.)
I started reading Anne Rice when I was 12, due to my mad crush on Sting, (Moon over Bourbon St., Dream of the Blue Turtles. Google it.) Salem's Lot kept me awake like a motherfucker and had me digging out my rosary from my 1st communion, (I'll say this for Stephen King, that man has caused me more sleepless nights from sheer terror than just about any horror writer I can think of.)  The lush prose and the way she paints the scenery led me through the entire Vampire Chronicles, including the non-Lestat books, and The Mayfair Witches, Rameses the Damned and...oh, you get the picture. Tanith Lee's Personal Darkness, not exactly a fave, but still noteworthy. The Lost Boys, (be still my fluttery 14 y.o. heart, Keifer Sutherland AND Jason Patric, a girl could swoon. No, not the Coreys. Never.) My consumption of vampire fiction ebbed and flowed. The Hunger, by Whitley Streiber, (loved the movie, the book...meh, it's ok. It lacked...verve.)
I've always see-sawed between heavy lit and the fantasy/horror genres as a reader, same with films. Always drawn to the darkness, because that's where the secrets are. Always drawn to that which is, "Other." (Hey, when you're a shy, unpopular kid, losing yourself in a book can save your life. They can take you places where, "Other," is the norm.)
Now, given my fondness for vampires, Buffy, (movie, series, books, comics,) was a natural fit. While the film was fun, the series really did help me work through my post-adolescent angst. Yes, HIGH SCHOOL IS HELL. No, really. It also introduced the idea of a, "neutered," vamp. Angel, (who I never really found that damn fabulous, honestly,) is the precursor to Edward Cullen. To my mind, Spike was always a helluva lot more interesting. I don't mind angst, but I need a little snark to liven things up.
My favorite vamps in print, during the 90's, was Christopher Golden's Shadow Saga, (soon to be reprinted, *squee* so, check it out.) It was world-building and a mythos that challenged the expectation of good and evil. I'm always down for that. "Bram Stoker's Dracula," and, "Blade," were my films of choice, and I'd be hard-pressed to choose between Gary Oldman's fully-fledged performance and the abyssinian grace of Frank Langella. (Won't, actually.)

Which brings me, at last, to these 21st century vamps. Oh...dear. I can live with the Southern Vamps, I love True Blood, as another layer of mythos. My sticking point, is the sparklepires. I will absolutely applaud Stephenie Meyer's ability to make not-sex as sexy as humanly possible. However, I've only read the first book, because...I don't really see a mythos. I need substance to my vamps. Also, better prose. I don't even have a problem w the sparkling, per se. (Go back to Rice, by QOTD, they're all glowy and buffed marble, with the diamond-shiny nails, hair and eyes. Get over the sparkle.) I have a problem with the not-entertainingly narcissistic narrative, and the omg-clingy-needy-addicted vibes between Edward and Bella. Also, HELLO: STALKER. Not good for young women to find that shit romantic. No, SERIOUSLY. You don't want your daughter, little sister,, to think that a guy creeping in her bedroom to watch her sleep is...sweet. EWWW.
Do I like the movie? Yeah, it's way less suck than the novel. Plus, Rob Pattinson is totally dreamy. *facepalm* Yeah, I said it. Deal with it.  I like Kristen Stewart. The soundtrack's pretty awesome, and you know, a little unresolved sexual tension will do ya good, sometimes. I read The Vampire Diaries when I was in HIGH SCHOOL, I don't need to watch the show. I just don't. I'd like to see some serious adult vamps. Kim Newman's Anno Dracula would make a FANTASTIC film, for example. So would the Shadow Saga. Maybe it's time adults took back the Vampires. We need to stop further marginalizing horror and fantasy. I don't mind if the vamps sparkle, but I'd rather venture into the dark. That's where the secrets are.  I'm hoping that all these girls and women will realize that there are better tales to dive into, better books, better films. Women control an awful lot of the disposable income in this country. Imagine what would happen if they all said, "Wow, the sparklepires were fun, but...I really need something with a little more...BITE." We might actually get it.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dear President Obama

Dear Mr. President,
                               I think you're trying to do what is best, what is right, what will make the United States a better country both for its citizens and as part of the global community. Here's the thing: your job can't be about putting out one fire at a time, be it the economy or wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm not naive enough to think that's how you're thinking, but it needed to be said. I sincerely believe that you are looking at the big picture. You know that that picture is both immediate and long term. I'm offering my thoughts, because I know how loud the opposition gets and that sometimes the opposition is in your own party. (Let me add, I've never been polled in my life, most of the people I know haven't, either. So, I think the data is skewed. However, in the course of my job, I've talked to hundreds of Democrats, who btw, really HATE congress and their politicization of issues that are crushing most of us under the heel of corporate america.)

Here's what matters:
1. Health care: most of us are paying obscene amounts of money for benefits we can't afford to use. It's not just seniors choosing between putting food on the table and getting medical care or medicine we need. It's a lot more than the nearly 50 million uninsured Americans who need health care reform. I believe in a free market, but decisions about people's health, well-being, suffering, and life-and-death decisions ought not to be made while looking at a profit margin. The profit margin will always win. Most of us, who aren't being heard, want single-payer. Let's join the rest of the western world in doing the right thing by our citizens, ok?
2. The economy: Right now, there are people buying up life insurance policies and bundling them as commodities, just the way mortgages were bundled. We need better regulations to stop people from doing monumentally stupid things like this. We also need the oversight and regulation to get our money back from the robber barons and schemers who've proceeded to pay out millions of dollars in undeserved bonuses. Sorry, that doesn't fly. We need a new economy that will serve us through this century and the next, based on technology and green jobs.
3. The environment: This is what will get us all in the end. Climate change is already creating numerous problems that we can't solve immediately. I could care less about saving the planet as an entity, but I'd really like to have a habitable environment to live in. The human race is destroying the only home we've got. Clean coal is a myth, nuclear CAN be done safely, and if it's done at all, must be done safely. We've got sun and wind going to waste, in Norway they've got hydrogen refueling stations the size of a refrigerator, and there's no reason other than will, that we can't do this.
4. Equality: You're CIC, sir. You can issue an order allowing LGBT service members to serve openly. Let the military deal with the logistics, but issue the order. It's costing money, (training, skills, etc.,) and it's costing lives, (mostly skills and personnel that we need in the field.) Marriage is so much simpler an issue than people want to admit. Marriage is both a civil contract and religious ceremony. The government must extend equal protection to ALL citizens. Full faith and credit takes care of the rest, if DOMA is thrown out as the unconstitutional instrument that it is. Let the churches decide for themselves about performing the religious ceremonies. We cannot be held hostage to the moral viewpoint of a loud minority. It's about civil rights and human rights. Imagine where we'd be if Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act had been pushed aside as unimportant. Imagine if the military hadn't been integrated along color lines during WWII. Imagine if we'd allowed the south to secede and propagate slavery in the 1860's.
5. Reproductive freedom: We need comprehensive sex-ed. We need doctors and pharmacists to do their jobs. We need women to be fully autonomous members of society. Our bodies are not political issues. We are not chattel. We are not children. If someone can't perform their job because of a moral conflict, they shouldn't have that job. The government cannot continue to endorse the notion that women can be forced to reproduce. It violates equal protection and it violates the 13th amendment.
6. Poverty: Globally, poverty kills more than 10 million people a year. Domestically, more people than ever are living at or below the poverty line, even though the poverty measurement methodologies have not been updated. Just because we aren't counted as poor, doesn't mean that we aren't. You can't survive on the poverty guideline incomes. People around the world can't survive without clean water. My poverty doesn't make me blind to the suffering of others. It makes me understand it in a non-abstract way. We need a living wage in this country, sir. We don't have one yet.
Sir, I trust that you are trying to accomplish as much as you can. I firmly believe that your intent is true. I also know there is an awful lot of shouting going on. Most of us, regular people, people who are scrabbling hand to mouth, with no safety net, are bleeding to death while congress toadies to corporate donors.
We are dying, sir. We are dying of red tape and politics. It's not merely physical death, or economic death, we are experiencing a death of the spirit, the death of dreams, the death of hope.
I could tell you my personal story, but that doesn't matter. I'm one of millions. We are the faceless, voiceless masses who are not seen, are not heard and who bear the brunt of politics meaning more than people. Congress wants to keep getting elected, parties want to win. There's just one thing wrong with that: it's not their job. The job of the Congress and the President is to serve the American people. The job is to uphold the constitution and serve their constituents. Not the corporations, but the people. Why is that so hard a principle to hold onto?
I love my country, but my country is doing nothing to ensure that the entitlement to: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, is being met. Happiness as a pursuit of self-fulfillment, enrichment, liberty from tyranny of others' beliefs, as more than being born, but the ability to live...where is it?
We can be so much better than this, Mr. President. We need the leadership to do it. Government has to be about doing what is right and what is just, more than it is about doing what is popular or convenient.

Please lead us. Please.
Kristen McHugh
Age 36

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Relative poverty and realistic expectations

I'll begin with this: There are more than a billion people on this planet living on $1 a day or less. (Roughly the equivalent of .86PS) This is reality. In developing countries, roughly every 3 seconds, absolute, extreme poverty kills someone. Mostly children. Almost 30 thousand a day. These are big, mind-numbing, coma-inducing numbers. It's too big to get the mind around. It's nearly ten times the number of people killed on 9/11. It's a holocaust. I don't use that word lightly. Extreme poverty kills approximately the number of people killed by the Nazis, EVERY YEAR. More than 10 million. Yet, we don't really talk about it.
The millennium development goals have yet to be fully funded. We don't talk about that, either.

In the US, we annually consume approximately 23 quarts of ice cream per person.

Why am I being Debbie Downer?
Because poverty is real. There are relative levels of poverty in the western world, but there is also absolute poverty. The amount of food we dispose of daily as waste, would feed most people in the developing world to an extent they can't imagine.
That's not the point.

There is poverty in this country. The US has a high standard of living, yet about 25 percent of the population is un- or under-insured. I'm one of them. My entire adult life has been spent either without, or with the kind of health insurance that really only helps me keep from losing my house if I have a catastrophic illness or accident.
Maybe. That's not a guarantee, when it comes down to it.
I'm better off than a lot of people. I don't have a mortgage or a lifestyle, (nor the inclination towards one, except for the desire to travel,) that includes day to day living beyond my means.
I don't have savings.
I don't have a 401k anymore, because in an attempt to stave off a total mental breakdown due to a lethal combination of PTSD and the corporate hell of the health insurance industry, I quit my job. I took a sabbatical of sorts, and cashed in my retirement fund.
No, you're not supposed to do that.
I was trying to keep from going completely round the bend, I broke some rules. Oh boy.
Survival, both literal and emotional, seemed like a higher priority.
I'm not sorry I did it. Mostly.
What I do have, is a boatload of inherited debt, plus the accrual of additional tax debt, (real estate: county and borough, and school district,) that I'm more or less constantly paying off. It's a monthly bill, because there isn't any one time when I have $1800 dollars in my hand. That's just the school district, by the way.
Home ownership is for suckers. Buy a condo if you must, but don't buy a fucking house.
Things break, things wear out, and you can't ever really get ahead unless you're making more than 50k a year. Seriously.
I get nickel and dimed to death. Slowly being ground into dust the way I grind my teeth until they crack.
(No, night guards don't work for me. They set off my TMJ.)

I have realistic expectations of my life. I don't expect to be rich and famous. I'm very good at what I do, which is raise money for things that matter a lot to me. I pretty much expect to muddle along. Unless something extraordinary happens. I'm too cynical to have much faith in that, but I've been wrong before.
I'm typing this on a laptop that was a birthday present from my Uncle. I'm so incredibly grateful for that. It was 36 years of cheap birthday presents rolled into one and I'm making the most of it.
It doesn't take much to make me happy. I count myself lucky there.
I may have a lot of stress in my mundane world, but I have a rich life of the mind and amazing people I've come to know.
10 million people a year are dying. Not because they can't afford to go out to dinner on their birthday, but because they can't afford anti-malarial drugs, or oral rehydration salts when their child gets diarrhea.
In this country, there are people who are miserable because they can't get another credit card to buy a 50 inch flat-screen tv with.
I'm just trying to survive.
Maybe it's depressing, but given the recent economic crises around the world, maybe we can all think about NOT getting one thing, something small. A latte. Don't buy that one thing, give it to a food bank or an organization that works to eradicate poverty.
We haven't updated the methods used to determine the poverty level in this country since 1963, only adjusted them for inflation.
Maybe you can email your representatives and ask them to do something about that, too. While you're at it, mention the millennium development goals.
10 million people a year.
A holocaust.
Poverty is relative. Poverty is real.
Look around you.