Friday, August 14, 2009

More on Health with added racism!

As lifted from Monica at Transgriot

I'm more than disgusted and tired of this vanilla flavored meme popping up in our national discourse. There are 300 plus million people who call themselves Americans and we ain't all White. We pay taxes, serve in its military, and have done more than our share to help this country grow and prosper. Get used to the fact that we voted on November 4 to take this country in a different direction. It's past time that our policy desires and priorities are pushed with our tax dollars as well and are front and center in the national discourse.

We were more than a little pissed when you people were in control and fracking the country up that we spent 8 years painstakingly cleaning up from the Reagan-Daddy Bush years. Now that President Obama is cleaning up Junior's mess you conservatives are all of a sudden 'concerned about the deficit'.

At least this man is tackling the problems you peeps refused to deal with. What's making you even more upset is that it's your worst nightmare, an intelligent Ivy league educated Black man with his summa cum laude Princeton educated wife that's succeeding.

So keep crying those crocodile tears lamenting the America you lost. Good riddance to that Jim Crow ridden America and welcome to the 21st century.

If you want to be pissed at somebody, aim it at the conservatives who look like you and bamboozled you into repeatedly voting against your own economic interests in the first place.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

On Health Care

via thecurvature



When I was 22 years old, I was very, very sick.

My insurance company, the one my father had worked for for 20+ years, mind you, refused to cover my intensive inpatient treatment for anorexia nervosa b/c they felt, after I had eaten my breakfasts for 5 days in a row, that I was cured. Never mind that my heart rate was 43bpm, or that my mind was completely gone, or that anorexia happens to be the psychiatric disorder with the highest mortality rate: they felt that I could do just fine at a half-day program which consisted of two meals and no medical care, or with a stay at the state psych ward for a week or so, which, not to get all Wurtzel on you guys, is basically a motel for crazies, where people struggling with everything from bipolar disorder to schizophrenia to suicidal ideation are thrown together in a big room to sit around, watch television, take their medication, and not kill themselves.

My parents, afraid that I was going to, you know, DIE, put me in the state hospital for medical monitoring purposes, as my vitals were quite bad, and my mental state wasn’t much better. I had a phone interview with an inpatient facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma that specialized in eating disorder treatment—one of the best in the country, for the worst cases, and halfway through my interview, a psych tech hung up the phone, saying, “It’s quiet time now.” When I cried about it in my room, another psych tech came in and told me to “stop whining.” Really top-notch care for the mentally ill in the USA.

Tulsa had a bed ready for me the next day.

Trouble with Tulsa was, my insurance company refused to cover it, on two grounds:

1. It was out-of-state, and why would I need to go to a hospital that specialized in eating disorders, the illness that was KILLING ME, when I could stay at the Cuckoo’s Nest and get yelled at by techs with no training in ED treatment (or humanity) for a few weeks?

2. They did not consider anorexia to be a “real” illness. It was, in the eyes of the insurance companies (and in the eyes of many in this country who have not experienced/do not understand mental illness) a matter of willpower: I was just another girl who wouldn’t eat her damn dinner. All she has to do is eat! She’ll be fine. And all the schizophrenic has to do is stop seeing things! And all the bipolar person has to do is stop cycling! You know! Real easy shit.

But my parents, knowing better, sent me anyway. I don’t come from money. My parents don’t come from money. I don’t know how they got it. They refuse to talk about it, still. If there is one thing that motivates me to stay in recovery (almost six years!) it’s that I know they sacrificed A LOT to get me there. I talk about my parents a lot. It is because they are my best friends. They saved my life. I believe they were helped out by family members, old friends, etc. I guess my parents should move to Russia, or something, what with accepting help from neighbors and friends to pay the damn medical bills.

At the hospital I saw women have to leave early, saw them disconnect the tubes, saw them pack their bags, sick sick sick, and walk out the door, because the insurance companies stopped paying. So to the “Leave my Aetna alone!” crazies, I’d like to say: your insurance company doesn’t give a fucking shit about you. AT ALL. You are nothing but a number on a claim form, and if you ever get sick, or if your kids get sick, and I mean SICK SICK HOSPITAL SICK, you are fucked. Because they will only care so much before they decide you are on your own. And then, I suppose, you’ll start looking around, wondering who is going to help you.

And then, I suspect, you will show up to rallies with a very different message on your signs.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ethnicity Crisis Part 2: Make Me a Matchless Match

(read Part 1 here)

So, when we left off, my burgeoning, two-decades-in-the-making- Jewish identity was languishing in the back of my mental dresser drawer as that one piece of clothing that you never wear but can't get rid of for fear of hurting the people who gave it to you, because you know what went in to making it and just casting it away turns the guilt up to eleven, because you may want to wear it someday, but just not now, the colors are all wrong, it doesn't fit your style, what it means to wear it is a fact that you aren't ready to face.

I backlashed against this rising awareness of where I came from and what that meant in relation to my place in the global hierarchy by diving head first into pro-Palestine and anti-occupation political stances. I dove so deeply, so quickly, that for a long time, all I could do was criticize Israel. I did so relentlessly, zealously, and very, very harshly. I still do in many ways, in the same way that I criticize my own government for actions they take in my name that I don't support, though I think I was and am tougher on Israel in general. This is not to say that my criticism does not have value on its own merits. I was careful to be very academic about my critique, the problem was how I tied that critique to my own identity and my own self-worth. The critique was personal as well as political. I desperately buried my sweater under a pile of slogan bearing t-shirts and hoped no one would notice it.

I spent years doing this. Years getting into fights with family members about the occupation, years insulting Israeli politicians and arguing in university classrooms about Israeli military actions, years rejecting Israel as a part of me, as I wanted no part in the subjugation of others. Somewhere in this process, I began seeing more Antisemitism, and I stepped up my rejection and criticism of Israel as a shield from receiving that same bigotry, while quietly rankling at it. Every once in a while I would mention my sweater, the fact that I had one at least, just to keep the conversation on track. The more I mentioned it, the more it grew on me. Just its presence in my mental wardrobe (yes, I will be beating the crap out of this analogy) made aspects of this part of myself harder to ignore in the world around me. Others noticed it too. I kept encountering random people who wanted to talk about my Jewishness.

I started toying with the idea of learning Hebrew, and edging towards wanting to get to know that part of me. I had been really attracted to Islam when I first started studying the Middle East, and had come to the conclusion that conversion was not for me. I wasn't interested in the whole "God" thing...what I wanted was the community. The concept of "ummah" appealed to the part of me that fell in love with the musical "Hair" at 16 and realized that what was missing from my life was a sense of responsibility and support both to and from a community of my choosing. Even with that felt wrong. Like I was romanticizing this concept from a position of privilege. This all came down around the same time that I started helping to moderate an anti-racism livejournal community, and snapped together in a discussion of appropriation and spirituality. I had my own ethnic traditions to draw on for these things. Did I really need to co-opt someone else's? Especially if it was not the precepts of faith that I was interested in?

In this same space of time, I got married. It was a non-denominational event seeing as I'm fairly agnostic, and my spouse is fairly atheist. It was also a sudden elopement that my parents happened to be around for. My mother, upon being informed of what we were about to do, whipped off her tye-dye shawl and conscripted my family and the friends that were there, along with random passers-by (we were at a folk festival) to hold it above us as we said our vows and then gave it to us as our khuppa (canopy designed to represent that we will always have a home/roof with God...I think...I could be wrong about that interpretation.) My spouse loved it. I understood what the gesture meant to my mother, and appreciated it in my own way.

My spouse has since been drawn in fairly close to the Jewish side of my family, and has even expressed an interest in raising any children we may have with Jewish traditions.

So, basically all I'm getting to in this entirely-too-long-and-navel-related post is attempting to bring across the tension around this for me.

Eventually, something had to give.

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ethnicity Crisis Part 1: Tradition!

I have been having a bit of a crisis the last year or so. This is going to be long, so I might split it up into parts.

Some background:

My father is from a mostly Greek family. My mother is from a mostly Polish/German/French family. Dad's family is Greek Orthodox Catholic. Mom's was raised Jewish. My parents are both second generation American. As far as cultural/ethnic background, they made sure we knew where our genes were from (more than the above list, but I'll spare you the complex details of my family tree) and that was pretty much it. As far as religious training, well...both of my parents walked away from the faith of their families at fairly young ages. My dad declined his confirmation as a teen. My mother is the only child in her family to not have a Bat Mitzvah. They raised us fairly agnostically, with one caveat. We did the major Jewish holidays because my paternal grandmother made my parents promise to raise us in the Jewish faith due to how the Catholic church treated her for getting divorced when my grandfather abandoned her with six kids.

So I grew up doing Seders and lighting Channuka candles, but it was something done as an addendum to the bigger, flashier, heavily marketed holidays. We would open Easter baskets after Seder, or celebrate only one night of Channuka and combine it with a Christmas tree trimming party. The other holidays were celebrated with dinner at Grandmom's but without any context of what those holidays meant.

My mom gave me the choice between Hebrew school and dance classes as a kid. I wanted to be a ballerina, and I had no reason to learn another language, so I chose dance classes. I preferred "A Chorus Line" over "Fiddler on the Roof" even though I could sing the entire score from both.

My peers at school were aware of my Jewish heritage, but since I wasn't actively participating in the culture or the community, I couldn't bond with them over it. I couldn't bond with the non-Jew kids either. Agnostic childhood kind of leaves you aren't being swept into a community you may not want with responsibilities that you don't understand before you are of an age to reason, but at the same time you are watching your friends have milestones that you can't share. It was during my years in elementary and middle school that I experienced anti-Semitism directed at me for the first time, but I did not have the critical consciousness to name it as such. I learned to joke about my heritage without ever feeling a deep connection to it.

I dabbled in radical atheism, and in paganism. I found a spiritually comfortable midpoint that is not one or the other, though I still can't find anything that makes me comfortable with the idea of a deity.

I have gone to the Holocaust museum in DC. I have seen the paperwork, written in German, that recorded the fate of the members of my family who did not manage to make it out of Europe in time. I felt a stirring, a deep sadness, but at the same time, it was not a sadness that differed from how I felt about any of the hundreds of injustices that I fought against in my life. It saddened me, hurt me deeply that people could do this to other people, but I never associated it with my self. I never associated these events with me, no matter how many times I cried at the end of "The Devil's Arithmetic" or "Number the Stars" or how worn my copy of "All-of-a-kind Family" got.

In college I decided to study the Middle East. I was prompted by a gut feeling during the "discussion" surrounding 9/11 that all this talk, about Arabs and Islam and how "they" hate us because their culture/religion says to, was false. this led to studying Israel and Palestine, and the sudden realization that, when the Israeli gov't talks about benefiting Jews everywhere, they meant me, and when anti-Israel groups talked about the "vast Zionist conspiracy," they were also talking about me...

I started seeing a connection coming from me to that place on the other side of the planet that everyone in the US is always fretting about, but often with talking points from pundits that bear little to no resemblance to any fact I have ever seen as the basis of their fretting.

I suddenly felt my ethnic Jew-ness for the first time. It settled around me like a hand-me-down sweater that doesn't quite fit, is too heavy, has a pattern that is unpopular to the point of encouraging anger and/or ridicule and is shaped like someone else from years of wear. And I reacted in a way that anyone who has dealt with kids will be familiar with.

I stuffed the sweater into the back of my mental dresser drawer, behind my rainbow hot-pants, my boho skirts and my t-shirts with radical, liberal political slogans and symbols, and tried to pretend that it wasn't there. The problem was...its one of those big, floofy knit things that takes up three times its actual area when folded, and every time I opened the drawer, it had taken up a bit more space...

To be continued...

Sunday, August 09, 2009

I liked this...

The Longest Way 1.0 - one year walk/beard grow time lapse from Christoph Rehage on Vimeo.

This made me happy enough to cry

Mama Cass Eliot, an incredibly talented woman who defines the term "musical gift" on many levels...
And all I knew about her until I was in my 20's was that she died because she was a gluttonous fatty who couldn't lay off the pork products and that this was supposedly funny, when it was probably yo-yo dieting that was responsible for her heart giving out.
I only hope I can ever be this freaking fabulous.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Broken Pedestals

My parents are kind of awesome. Not always, I mean, they are human and have flaws, but as far as humans in general go, they are fairly awesome ones.

My mom is a pilates instructor/stage manager and my dad is a musician/nurse/midwife-in-training/chef. they are fairly liberal types, who raised me pro-choice and anti-war. I went to my first peace rally in first grade. My parents book collection included anthologies on anti-racism, rape activism and civil rights. They taught me that when something is wrong, you fight to fix it, even if its bigger than you.

I thought they taught me to be who I am. (Turns out I was wrong about that, apparently I have always been like this)

In the last few years, I have been noticing that my opinions, my arguments, my perspectives, fall distinctly to the left of my parents. I found myself having to debunk basic myths about sexism, racism, homophobia, and these days transphobia with them. I haven't even tried ableism, classism, or fat-phobia, yet. I simply don't have the energy.

It started when I came out to them. My mother always claims to be creating a safe space for me to just be myself in, but as soon as that self crossed her comfort lines it became a problem. My dad was worse, in that he couldn't even joke about it with me except to sweep it under the rug or pretend it didn't exist.

It has come to a head recently, specifically surrounding my partner and hir gender identity. We decided as a couple to tell my parents that we were working towards a potential transition for hir. My mother not only refused to change pronouns (which is fine for the most part as my spouse does not currently have a preference from people who know hir as a male) but accused me of being "obsessed" with my spouse's transition because I do use female pronouns. My father only had one thing to say: "As long as he's a tripod, he's a man." And more recently, my dad sent me this video: "8 Miles Wide" (NSFW also your hilarious earworm for the day. you're welcome.) The chorus? "My vagina is 8 miles wide..." So I jokingly asked my dad if his vagina was indeed 8 miles wide. He couldn't even joke about having a vagina.

That was pretty shattering. i thought I was applying principles that they instilled in me. principles of respect, and acceptance. It was, and still is, shocking to me that my parents, the people who raised me to be an activist, would be unable to move past this essentialist block of genitalia defining your gender. It is especially shocking that the man who I credit for teaching me the principles that lead to my feminism buys into the societal desire to perform masculinity and even joking about having a vagina means he needs to assert that hes a MAN! Really! He has man parts and everything!

Ignorance really is bliss...

Monday, August 03, 2009

Hypocrisy Makes My Teeth Itch

I originally heard this story from my roomie, and I blocked it out for the most part because, really, who can spend every fucking day hearing about awful things happening to other people? Yeah, I could have come and put a post up here saying: "This was an awful, awful thing that happened, and that makes me sad/angry/tired," but there are six million posts like that every time a story like this hits the blogosphere, and lately I have been big on not speaking unless I have something to say.

It wasn't until I started seeing the ripples around the blogroll that I realized I did have something to say...

I am officially uncomfortable with the way this story is being presented. I think that with a few exceptions, its being framed problematically at best.

It starts with the police reporting that they have removed an 8yr old Liberian rape victim from her family because her family views her status as "raped" as a shame on them. Then there are the echoes of "down with victim blaming!" and "how could a family do that?" in the blogosphere, echoes which take the police accusations at face value as soon as they hear where the girl's family is from. The more diplomatic places talk about how victim blaming is bad no matter where it comes from, but there is still that assumption that the initial domino was pushed over in good faith. No second thoughts about how maybe this bears deeper investigation considering the rampant xenophobia, racism and Islamophobia in this country. Nope, the police are totes trustworthy in matters of race and cultural honesty. they would never, ever do something based completely on stereotypes!

::steps up to podium, clears throat::


::steps back::

Now, this happened in the Southwest, so some could say that it isn't exactly a bastion of liberal thought. However, the place that supposedly is this countries such bastion is centered around places like Boston and Cambridge, and look at the shit that has gone down with their law enforcement and race relations lately.

And even if she is in danger from her family because of what these boys did to her, victim blaming, shaming and mistreatment of rape victims is a global problem (not necessarily universal, but I don't have any specific examples where it is not present,) it crosses cultures, religions, races, and traditions. Acting like this case is something particularly egregious when it happens Every Damn Day is playing into the "Western World = more advanced" meme and the inherently racist "its their culture!" meme.

Its OUR culture. We are all immersed in it, and we are ALL responsible for ending it.