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Today, I gave my mom flowers and a card, and then I took her to a movie. My mom is awesome, and we had fun. And seeing her ignited some thoughts in my mind, so I’d like to share them with you.

There is a pervasive and stubborn attitude that persists in our society that often coincides with privilege of different kinds, and it is the attitude that those who are disadvantaged simply need to try harder. Hearing this point of view, most often from financially stable, white, able-bodied, male conservatives, frustrates me intensely. On a personal level, a lot of this frustration comes from being my mother’s daughter.

My mom is the most beautiful, wonderful person I know. She’s always been utterly selfless. She works at Burger King, and the work is terrible and the people are nasty and her bosses are rude but she never complains. She’s been there something like 10 years now, and she comes home with burns on her hands and arms and she takes the bus two hours each way to and from my parents’ home just to go work there. She is put to work on the front register even though she has hearing problems and has trouble taking people’s orders sometimes. But unlike most of the snotty kids she works with, she never complains, is always friendly, and works really, really hard. Even when I go to visit her there sometimes she ends up ignoring me because she’s too busy helping other people out. She also works a second job, which involves helping a woman she doesn’t like with housework and yardwork.

Her day tends to go like this: she gets up around 7am, has to get showered and dressed for work and pack up her bag. She doesn’t eat breakfast, she just has some coffee, and then she walks a few blocks to the bus stop and takes the bus to the next stop where she catches another one. Then she takes that bus into town, and by the time she gets there it’s about time for her to get into work and she’s been on the bus for two hours. She usually buys a dollar menu item for 50 cents with her employee discount to have something to eat if (and only if) she has the extra cash after bus money. She punches in, sometimes early if her boss asks her to, and works for a 6 hour shift. I’ve gone in to see her as she’s getting off enough times to realize that she often punches out early so she won’t go over 6 hours without a lunch break, but she still stays to finish up with whatever needs to be restocked and cleaned in her area. I’ve tried to tell her not to do that, but she waves me off saying she just needs to finish her work but she will get in trouble if she goes over her hours. She usually leaves around quarter after 4 and walks a few blocks to where the soup kitchen is and has dinner there. When she finishes there she often goes to see the other woman she works for to do more work, just to try and get some more money for the rent. After the two hour bus ride home (when she often has more bags with her than when she left in the morning because dad had her pick up groceries or something) she only has the energy to just fall asleep in front of the tv, unless dad asks her to clean the litter box or do laundry or walk to the store and get him something. Then she gets up and does it again. She has Sundays off from Burger King, and she used to go visit her sister on weekends but now she spends most of them coming back to town again to work all day at her second job.

All the while she does this, my dad dictates what happens to her money. He is in charge of the bills and doesn’t share the process of paying them with her, nor does he tell her exactly how much each one is. He keeps her in the dark and just takes her money and says he needs it all for the bills. He used to do this to me too, and even though he spends what my mom once estimated to be at least $100 a week on pot, he is even more honest with her about his habits than with me because he knows she just won’t do anything about it. When mom or I have ever tried to say anything, he could make us shut up really easily by yelling at us and physically threatening us. Mom doesn’t even try to argue anymore, because he has fooled her into believing that he really “needs” it. And he sits around all day, doing nothing, and she works her two jobs and has no time to do anything, ever, for herself, because deep down she loves him and is willing to sacrifice her own time–all of it–to support him. I’ve learned to be cynical and doubt everything he says, but she sees the best in everybody, so she believes him.

He threatened once to push her down a flight of stairs when she was pregnant with me because he wanted her to abort me. He made her get an abortion when she was pregnant before me. And even with those threats, she kept me and had me. Everything she’s ever done has been for me, or for other people. I finally convinced her once that he didn’t care about her, and she left, but then dad just kept using pot and we couldn’t even pay our rent or our electric bill. I couldn’t tell him to stop because he would just threaten me, and I couldn’t leave because I had no money and no where to go. And I had to keep asking her for money on his behalf, and even as this went on my boyfriend shamed me for it and even his mom found out and tried to shame me for it and I felt so guilty. I considered suicide at this point in my life because I felt like I could hardly bear turning around and asking my mom to let her abuser take her money again, just like he had before she managed to get away. They said my dad needed to hit rock bottom to change and it wasn’t fair to make his problems my mom’s since she had finally gotten out of there, but I felt like I didn’t have a choice because it wasn’t just dad on the line, it was me. If he lost the apartment, he was homeless, and so was I. Eventually we had to ask her to come back, and she did because even though he wasn’t around to abuse her, she felt so lost and sad without a family. She wanted to be with us and take care of us so badly that she was actually happy to have us ask her back, because she loved us so much.

When my mom was a baby, she got an infection in her ears that left her barely able to hear. As she grew up, she couldn’t hear her teachers in class very well, and she couldn’t hear other kids talking to her. She missed out on a lot of socialization and learning that is so crucial to kids, and even now she’s terribly sweet but really socially awkward at times. Her dad (who from what I’ve gathered over the years was quite like my dad) was convinced that she, like my uncle, was mentally retarded and so her hearing problems were ignored for a long time and were attributed to her being “dumb”. It wasn’t until high school that she had operations done on her ears to improve her hearing. Sometimes she still tells the story of coming home after an operation and being able to hear the rain hit the tin roof for first time ever. By that time, though, she had missed a lot of development that a kid needs, and her grades in school were iffy. She couldn’t get any scholarships for college, and only ended up being able to afford a couple classes before she had to stop going altogether. Her hearing issues are still very pronounced, even today.

My mom isn’t particularly bright by most societal standards, but I think she very well could have been if her hearing had been helped sooner. More importantly, my mom is the most selfless, hard-working person I know. She’s a bit meek, and doesn’t stand up for herself or rock the boat, but everyone who gets to know her loves her because she’s so sweet and so generous. When people act like those who are poor need to just “try harder” and “pull themselves up by the bootstraps” or imply that they’re just too lazy to “better” themselves, they are ignoring the fact that my mom is ALREADY better than they are. My mom has worked harder her whole life than most people can even imagine, and she rarely complains for a second that she doesn’t have shit to show for it. They ignore the people like my mother who work so hard just to scrape by. They ignore people like my mother who have gotten a raw deal their whole lives. They ignore people like my mother who have been abused and browbeaten. They ignore people like my mother who have just kept on being ignored their whole life. And that makes me sick.

So, I guess what I wanted to say with all of this is that my mom is the best. I hope she enjoyed spending Mother’s Day with me, and I hope the assholes of the world might consider cutting her a better break, as well as all those people who have met unfortunate circumstances. Most importantly, they need to shut the hell up acting like the cards that people have been dealt are their own fault. Happy Mother’s Day, y’all.

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Went to my new doctor yesterday for a physical. I guess I wasn’t very appalled at the time, because I had been bracing for the worst, but the more I think about it the more upset I am–the more I realize, I totally just got fat-hated by my doctor.

Since getting involved in FA I’ve read a lot of the horror stories about experiences with doctors. I’d gotten a lot of the you-need-to-lose-weight talks from previous doctors, but couldn’t speak up due to being a minor and having a father who put a lot of stock in the I-was-too-fat line of thinking. Once I turned 18, I only had one doctor’s appointment, and then stopped going altogether, aside from a few ER visits. I think it was a combination of being a busy young person with jobs and schoolwork as well as being afraid of the Weight Talk, and a few years into my doctor drought, reading these stories wasn’t helping my outlook on going to the doctor.

Problem is, I’ve had fairly severe asthma for as long as I can remember. It’s not the kind of asthma that went away as I got older, and it just got worse with age. I needed my regular prescriptions, because even with them my asthma wasn’t too well-controlled. When I saw a pulminologist for the first time when I was sixteen, he did some breathing tests with me and told me that with my results, he was surprised I was even able to walk around. Which, at the time, sort of stunned me because my breathing had been feeling pretty normal that day, and I was also a pretty active person in general, doing a lot of walking and biking and just generally living my life as a (fat) sixteen-year-old girl. But anyway, once I turned 18 I had to turn to adult medicine, and one 10-minute visit to my newly-assigned doctor later, I had my asthma meds in hand and promptly just seemed to stop going. Fast forward to now, and I’ve been without insurance and without medication for the better part of this past year. My health in general has declined–when I was without my prescription meds, I had only a fast-acting over the counter inhaler to rely on, which is bad for your heart and blood pressure, and which wasn’t nearly as effective as my usual meds. Not a great combination. Without Advair, that purple-y discus you see on the television commercials, my respiratory system in general wasn’t stabilized from day to day, and without my prescription inhaler, I couldn’t treat those systems as effectively.

In short, when I came to this doctor, I was almost a year without proper meds, was going through 2-3 over the counter inhalers a week (NOT a good thing), and was out of work for nearly four months and was unable to do much other than sit at home most days. A couple weeks before this appointment, I was yearning for a walk so much that I decided, hey, it’s warm out, I’ll just take a walk around the block and see how that works out for me. In short, it was a bad idea. Halfway around the block my lungs have seized up and it feels like I can’t get air in and out of them. By the time I made it back to my place, my legs were feeling numb and my head was pounding and I was dizzy. I felt like I was going to throw up. It was almost an hour before I recovered fully. From a walk around the block.

Fast forward to my doc’s appointment. I explain to him that my asthma has gotten very severe, stopping me from being able to be active or live a normal life. I explain that most of my life I’ve always been a pretty darn active person and that I can no longer live that way. He listens to my lungs, tell me I “actually sound pretty good”–of course, I was sitting and not exerting myself in any way–and then changes the subject.

I find myself being told that “obviously” my weight is a “big problem”! Oh noes! I stare blankly as he tells me he thinks I should try and get some exercise. GEE, REALLY? THANKS, I NEVER THOUGHT OF THAT! As courteously as I can, I explain that I’ve always been fat, even when I exercised an hour or more a day five days a week and through various diets, and that right now my issue is that I don’t feel well enough to exercise even though I want to. He orders a blood test to check for an underactive thyroid, citing that such things can make it “difficult for someone to lose weight”. Maybe the fact that permanently losing significant amounts of weight is basically impossible makes it difficult? Just maybe? Anyway, he then, after all this, announces that he is writing me a prescription for Zoloft for my depression, wink winking at me about how “depression might make it hard to focus on weight loss or exercise”.

What. The. Fuck. Did you even once consider for a second that for me, my weight is not “obviously” a PROBLEM? That who I am is not fundamentally an issue for me? That maybe, as STRANGE AND BIZARRE AS THIS IS, that I don’t WANT to “focus on weight loss”? You don’t even HESITATE to talk about what a PROBLEM my body is after feeling around my stomach and staring at me in nothing but my underwear and this silly blue poncho. And why the fuck are you assuming that I haven’t wanted to be active? Anything to get me out of this damn house, to get my blood flowing. ANYTHING. For god’s sake, you don’t think I’ve loathed sitting on this couch for months? I fucking never want to see this couch again. I don’t fucking want to stare at my messy apartment and not feel well enough to clean it. I don’t want to sit here playing Minecraft for 8 hours straight (well, not daily, at least). The reason I tried to take that walk around the block? Because I had spent a good part of the afternoon as a crying mess in the car and coming back home to that couch was too much. Because I needed to breathe some fresh air and move for once. Because moving around would actually make me feel better, make me feel alive. So yeah, there are days when my depression makes me feel like I have no energy, but most days I’d much rather be doing ANYTHING but just sitting here for fourteen hours.

Kind of stunned, I take the prescription and then I am hit with further shock: he tells me he thinks my current asthma meds are fine and isn’t going to change anything up. After all I’ve told him. After he’s expressed that he wants me to exercise, he is not even going to enable me to do so, which is most of the reason I went to him at all. He asks if, oh, maybe do I want a referral for a pulminary specialist? Like, in a tone that says, “I don’t know if this will help you at all but I GUESS I can do it if it’ll make you feel better, LOLsies!” I just say yes and take the referral. Hopefully THEY can actually HELP ME with my asthma.

It’s bizarre, because I had braced myself for this kind of treatment after hearing all of the horror stories. And really, I know it’s not as bad as a lot of other people have gotten it. But it fucking hurt. He went from being very sensitive and asking a lot of questions about my depression and writing up a prescription fairly quickly for it to being a dickhead who wouldn’t LISTEN TO ME AT ALL. I was fat, so clearly I wasn’t exercising because I just didn’t want to exercise, despite my explanations to the contrary. My lungs sounded fine right at that moment, when I was stationary and comfortable, so I must be dramatizing it in order to try and excuse my inherent laziness! It’s like everything I was trying to say to him was just completely erased by his perception of my fat. Who I was just got erased. Of course I’m depressed! I’m fat! Of course I don’t exercise regularly! I’m fat! And depressed about my fat!

God damn it, do you know out of ALL OF THE THINGS IN MY LIFE that depress me, my fat is NOT one of them!? People like this DOCTOR are what depress me. Treatment from a medical professional like this is what depresses me, and the fact that it happens to fat people everywhere is what depresses me. My fat is JUST FINE, thank you very much, and I am most certainly NOT depressed about it. STOP assuming that I am!

Three cheers for getting a referral to someone who knows what they are doing. Three cheers for getting a new primary care provider. Three cheers for Zoloft, because now I can feel happier about being discriminated against. Why aren’t we having riots yet? People die from being treated this way. I can’t imagine being treated even worse than this, yet I know that it happens. Fuck! Can we please DEMAND that something be done about this?!

When I was in my junior year of high school, my English teacher often used a combination of in-class reading and homework assignments to get us through our books, one of which was Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. At the time, I was only vaguely aware that the book even existed, so I didn’t really know what I was in for. What I was in for was this: we were going to be saying the word “nigger” out loud in class, something I did not know was going to happen until the second that it did.

I cannot speak for anyone else who was reading the book, but being a white kid at the age of sixteen, I was thoroughly ignorant about modern race issues and only vaguely aware of the history of racism in the US. I went to school and made friends with people of color, but I had no understanding of race in our culture and when I was picked to read out loud in class, it was the first time that this word had ever come out of my mouth.

The experience of saying that word was shocking, and my teacher hadn’t given us any warning. Nor did she stop to explain during or after any of the numerous times that she, my classmates, or I had to read the word out loud what exactly was going on. Maybe I’m going out on a limb here to say this, but during that experience I got the impression that my white peers were probably just as mystified by the use of this upsetting word as I was.

Not so long ago I may have been happy to see the 200+ instances of the word cut from NewSouth Books’ upcoming edition of the novel. The amount of discomfort I felt when I stumbled over speaking the word “nigger” aloud for the first time did not entirely fade with time. It had nothing to do with wanting to erase the existence of the word from history (or to whitewash the book) so much as my own fear of saying something so utterly loaded. Even after years of internet use and exposure to communities where people thought it was “funny” and “edgy” to throw the word around I have not become numb to it–I am still painfully aware of how toxic it can be when I encounter it today. But at sixteen, I did not immediately understand why my teacher had expected me to say it or even why Twain had used it at all. I did not understand that I even could say it out loud without being actively racist.

I think that avoiding the use of such a slur in speech, writing, and even reading comes from a place of genuine sensitivity. It is important to acknowledge that people who do not want to read a novel with these words in it are, in general, against racism. In my case, I felt the way I did because I was operating under the (incorrect) assumption that the use of this word unconditionally reflected back onto its user as an indicator of racism. The dominant mindset in white culture is that racism only occurs in the broadest and most obvious ways possible and is only perpetuated by those with malicious intentions. The idea that if someone “didn’t mean anything” by what they have said or done, or that if they “love black people”, it means that they cannot do or say anything that is racist–it means that the only people who could possibly be racist are those who want to be. Most of us who are involved in the social justice movement are aware that this is, of course, terribly inaccurate.

I think it is easy for those of us who actively identify as anti-racist to forget, as Angus Johnston of studentactivism.net writes:

“As a white person, to get up in front of a classroom of students of color and tell them about how race works? It’s weird. It’s frightening. It’s uncomfortable.

Even weirder, even more frightening, even less comfortable is to then open up the floor to discussion.”

It is, I think, this situation of fear and discomfort that people are coming from when they resist the use of slurs in Huck Finn. And being afraid of offending other people is pretty indicative that they DO mean well, I think; being sensitive to issues of race is so important. It’s obviously what most of us are fighting for. Where the problem comes in is that in the dominant culture (particularly in the US), the fear is sometimes so strong that conversations about race issues, along with other socially “taboo” subjects, are avoided altogether. This is where the fatal flaw of those who wanted this edition of the book to be printed occurs: rather than discuss the social climate and the context in which the word is used in the story and how the word has evolved since then, the fear of being labeled a racist when one doesn’t “mean” to be racist during these conversations becomes so strong that many people choose to avoid those conversations altogether.

When I said the word “nigger” for the first time I was actually afraid that other people would think I was a racist just for saying what was printed on the page I was reading from. I was so scared of being called a racist or offending someone that I thought this meant that I couldn’t possibly be racist! I thought that merely being afraid of offending someone was enough to make me entirely un-racist and “color-blind”. I had no understanding of the subconscious and subtle shades of racism that are rampant in our culture and how they influenced even my own attitudes.

Racism is a toxic force, and it hurts people. This is common knowledge. But as a society we are quick to believe that only those who delight in the misery of others and actively celebrate oppression for its own sake are the only ones who are capable of engaging in such forces. We are quick to believe that we are too “nice” to do it because it’s something that only “mean” and “evil” people can do.

And that is why these conversations are so important. Most white people do not want to be called a racist, and certainly don’t think of themselves as racist. Most white people, even the ones who do or say racist things, are certainly not mean or evil. But the only way that one can really insure that generally he or she is being truly sensitive to people of other races is to have these conversations and to stay aware of race in a social and political context. By actively avoiding such discussion, it’s put “out of sight and out of mind” and so it’s easy to be politically incorrect or offensive without realizing what is problematic about one’s own behavior. If we aren’t actively acknowledging and discussing how our behavior affects others or what it might imply to those we encounter, then we are ignoring the only tools and pathways that we have to making sure that our actions and words aren’t hurting people.

It was unfair that I had to face the use of this word as a student without a sensitive discussion of it and of race in general. But I was able to work out in my mind eventually that it was present in the novel because it was present in that period of history. It gave me a greater understanding of how people of color had to face the word and that, for a big part of history, the use of that word and much of the treatment that came along with it was both common and socially acceptable–encouraged, even. But because my teacher did not, for whatever her reasons were, talk about this word or raise a discussion about race and the use of the word in our present culture, it was many years after before I was able to connect that part of history with where our society is today. And without that understanding of the racism of our past, I would have no context in which to understand how racism exists and functions in our society today.

Very few people, if any, want to be racist. But it is imperative that we do not erase instances of racism from our history because then we erase the chance for discussion and for awareness. Without those things, we will never be able to identify and deal with instances of racism that happen today. It ignores racism altogether, and that is what makes people mistakenly believe that we live in a “post-racism” society. The people who are publishing this edition of Huckleberry Finn and the people who have banned previous editions have their hearts in the right place (I think), but at the end of the day they are hurting their own cause. Their actions will only serve to help shut down some of our younger generation’s most important chances for disucssion.

Forewarning: This post is a rough draft written quickly and clumsily. I’m going to leave it as it was originally posted, but I do realize that I have oversimplified some aspects of these issues. So just as a forewarning, you are about to read an unedited, angry, and simplistic rant about a complicated issue. It does not in any way reflect ALL or even many of my thoughts about this subject, but it is what I posted at the time and I am going to leave it as is.

Hi, I’m Parker Ross. I will introduce myself later, but right now I am going to go ahead and jump right into this blogging business because I am heated up.

Here’s what Michael Moore and others who are calling for Assange’s release need to hear: setting Assange free right now is NOT what needs to happen.

The solution to the US government trying to seize Assange from British custody is for the US government to STOP trying to seize Assange from British custody.

At the end of the day, there are two women who are claiming that Julian Assange raped them. Michael Moore laughing off these charges, as well as every one of you who is loudly doubting them or mocking them or smearing them in some way is doing a horrible, misogynist thing to ALL victims of rape.

Rape needs to be taken seriously. It needs to be investigated. Neither I nor anyone else have to say this.

I do not contest that Wikileaks has been a desperately, painfully necessary thing for the US, and I am absolutely 100% against charging Assange for the orchestration of Wikileaks’ existence. He is not a US citizen, and whatever “crime” the US government is pretending he committed by creating Wikileaks did not occur in the US. Wikileaks is bringing some of the “transparency” that the US desperately needs; it has done amazing things already and I hope it is left up and allowed to do more amazing things. If Assange is tried for a crime because of his work on Wikileaks by the US government, I will stand up and I will shout in protest until I am hoarse. I will write to whoever I need to write. I will bang on the doors of whatever institution has allowed it to be.

But ignoring two women’s allegations of rape is HORRENDOUS. Their allegations NEED to be investigated without people shaming them and belittling them. They need to be taken SERIOUSLY. To inaccurately summarize their charges as “a broken condom”, Michael Moore has betrayed a great number of his supporters and has disgusted many people with good reason. This is just a classic example of ignoring, harming, and shaming women that can only foster and encourage a world in which getting away with rape is easy. Just because Julian Assange has done one awesome thing doesn’t mean he can do no wrong, and it doesn’t mean that these women are liars.

I am truly, deeply disgusted. You do not know these women, and you do not know what transpired between them and Assange. The only thing you are accomplishing by laughing them off is to hurt and endanger ALL rape victims and ALL women.

The solution here is NOT to set Assange free from these allegations. It is to see that due process is followed in investigating and charging him for them. What you are so afraid of–Assange being extradited to the US–has not happened yet. If it does, then the feminists will stand with you in calling bullshit on it because if that happens, it will have been a gross miscarriage of justice to USE and exploit the victimization of women for the purpose of getting him extradited. In the meantime, maybe we should be solely protesting the Obama administration’s voiced intent to extradite him rather than the damn rape charges themselves?

The miscarriage of justice has NOT happened yet. If and when it does, it is my hope that we could all stand together in protest, but that can ONLY happen if you do not alienate us now.

This all frankly makes me too angry to continue. Kate Harding knocks the ball out of the park with everything she writes, so go read what she has to say about all of this.