Monday, July 24, 2006

So, Just Let Me Make Sure We're Both On The Same Page.

According to the American Bar Association, when the President of the United States signs a bill into law that has been overwhelming passed by the Senate, then goes back and adds "exceptions" to the parts of the bills that don't quite fit in with the neo-con perspective, in order to avoid that pesky veto/override procedure that can be so very embarrassing to a President who cannot even muster support for his agenda from his own party, then that action is against the law. In fact, it is considered contradictory to the intent of the Constitution and is yet another means by which this current Administration continues to erode the Democratic process.


Good to know.

Thanks for the 411.

(Can we please impeach this mo-fo now?)


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Your Reproductive Rights and You (and More to the Point, Me)

Lately, because of the wear and tear on my central nervous system, and overwhelming time constraints, I have been tending to avoid topics like this when they pop up, regardless of the venue. It just upsets me, particularly in a forum like Salon, where the opportunity exists to comment.

In case you don't subscribe to Salon and can't read Cary Tennis' advice column, Since You Asked, the LW (letter writer, as those who post to Cary for advice are called on the forums) says that he and his wife are in their early 30s, make about 100K a year, and that she has been suffering of late from chronic depression, for which she's being treated (with Paxil and an occasional boost of Xanax -- a very intense "depression" cocktail). When they unexpectedly found that she was pregnant, she distinctly expressed the desire to terminate the pregnancy. He wanted the baby and "and was very upset that she felt this way." They made an appointment to see a counselor, but before the appointment, she miscarried. Mr. Wonderful believes his wife is lying to him. He believes she had an "induced abortion" (the correct terminology is "therapeutic abortion," peanut brain), and is toying with the idea of forcing her to present medical records to him as proof of her voracity. Lovely. Should these records show she's had an abortion, it would be difficult, he says, but he could forgive her.

Well, isn't he just the sweetest thing?

As you can well imagine, this letter sparked a particularly ferocious onslaught of posts to the Since You Asked forum, which can, for the most part be relegated into two basic categories. The first would be the "He's a Louse; She Should Dump Him" column. The second, we'll call the "Don't Men Have Reproductive Rights, Too?" column.

The first column, we'll ignore for now, since I suspect that Mr. Wonderful, whilst being wholly insensitive and obtuse, isn't truly evil -- just kind of lame and dorky. I think there may be hope for him yet, with some reeducation at one of our fine residential facilities just outside of Seattle. (tee hee -- kidding... just kidding....) But it's the second category that I comment on today.

The answer is, no. Men have no reproductive rights whatsoever. After ten thousand years of history, in which patriarchal society forced women into prostitution, forced matrimonial barter (doweries, marriage tithes, etc.), polygamy, legalized rape, sexual slavery and nonconsentual arranged marriages, I think its safe to say that men have pretty much ruled the genetic roost for quite sometime. Unfortunately for them, the chromosomal party came to a crashing halt about 40 or so years ago, with the advent of the birth control pill. Once the pill came along, it was women who made the bold decision as to when conception would take place, and with whom. Men didn't like that. They still don't. They want the power back. I don't blame them. I would too, were I in their Hush Puppies.

Years ago, pre-Santa-and-sitcom, Tim Allen used to be a stand-up comic. He had a special on Showtime called "Men Are Pigs." That's where all the grunting started in fact. One of the first lines in his monologue was this: "Men are pigs. Too bad we own everything." It was funny because it was true. One look at 2006 list of Billionaires will tell you that high finance is for the penises of the world. What does all this prove? Men own every goddamned thing. Except one -- this one freakin' little thing that doesn't belong to them. Our wombs. This, they do not own. This, they cannot have.

So, does a man have any reproductive rights? Sure. He has the inalienable right to financially support any children he fathers. He has the right to wear a condom until such time as he is ready and able to become a father, without putting the burden of contraception wholly on his partner. He has the right to consult with his partner as to precisely when and if she desires to become a parent. When such a time arrives that he feels he might be ready for fatherhood, he has the right to consult and collaborate with his partner, creating an environment for her in which she feels secure enough to take the plunge of motherhood, without feeling at risk of poverty, abandonment, betrayal or abuse (bearing in mind, please, the foremost cause of death among pregnant women in America is homicide at the hands of fathers-to-be). And, should an unplanned pregnancy occur at a time when she is unable and/or unwilling to have the child, he has the right to remain silent. Completely silent. He has the right to shut up and listen while she tells him all her fears and her reluctance to spend the next 40 weeks of her life undergoing permanent bodily changes, and then the next 20 years raising something small and helpless. And if after he listens and attempts to reassure her, she should remain unreassured and wish to terminate the pregnancy -- the one in her womb, that is -- he has the right to stand beside her and support her in surviving on of the most difficult decisions a woman will ever make about her life and her future.

If he's lucky, and he's picked the right woman, she'll be on the same page soon enough. But she may never be. And forcing a woman to spend the better part of year trapped in a body that's been co-opted by someone else is outrageous and unsupportable in any civilized society. We don't have slavery anymore. At some point, we realized it was wrong, so we got rid of it. A little slow, perhaps, but once we grasped it, we've really embraced it. And so shall it always be.

I know that this debate will wear on and on. There will always be men who just cannot seem to release the stranglehold they perceive they have on our reproductive organs. But they're wrong. Just plain wrong. And we need to keep telling them that.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bit by Bit

The hardest thing in the world is watching someone you care about fall apart, bit by bit. First physically, then emotionally, then mentally, until all the things that they knew, that they used to define them, that they clung for any sense of self, has fallen away.

My mother was a beautiful, brilliant woman. She was quick-witted, physically agile and artistically gifted. When the MS hit her, the first thing that began to fail was her coordination and dexterity. Then it was her physical strength. Then it was her memory and mental acuity. Then her beauty. Not all at once, mind you. A little at a time. Bit by bit. It was difficult to watch.Of course, I didn't really watch. I had, by the time it all came crashing down, estranged myself from her almost completely. What I didn't realize then is that the beatings she began to administer when I was eleven and a half were probably a direct result of the emotional and personality changes that MS brings about. She was finally diagnosed (after nearly nine months of testing) when I was 13. She was starting to hit me across the face by then. I was only able to stop the beatings by doing something I never in this world imagined I could do -- when I was fifteen, I finally hit her back. It changed me forever, and I don't think I was able to forgive her until long after her death in '91.

Now, of course, I'm going through it again, with my father. In my whole life, I don't think I ever remember my father stepping up from a street onto the curb. He hopped up -- hands in pockets, perched on the balls of his feet, rarely set back on his heels. His energy was nervous and kinetic, as if it was too much to be stored inside one body. Difficult, demanding, prevaricating, paranoid -- these were the things that always drove my father. He was like a shark, my dad. Always moving, always swimming, lest the water stop moving over his gills, allowing him to drown in his very own world.

Now, he sits in chairs all day -- lift chairs, wheelchairs, power chairs. He sits and watches television. He can't really read much anymore because his eyes are so bad. He can't teach class anymore because his left hand has become so useless, he can't type. He can't seem to concentrate or stay awake. Life and all its accompanying messiness has him in a constant state of borderline hysteria. He's screaming at his five-year-old granddaughter to -- and I quote -- "shut the fuck up!" Up until here, he usually has my sympathy. But since I've made it my mission that this is the generation that puts an end to the verbal and emotional child abuse cycle, I am forced to step in and come to my neice's complete defense. In essence, another parental smackdown, which goes entirely against my nature.

I have tried for everyone's sake to imagine what the lesson is here. Acceptance? Spiritual conquest? Emotional quickening through adversity? But it all comes back to the same thing for me. Sometimes, life just sucks for no damn good reason. It's not God's will. It's not a test. It's not a punishment. In my mother's case, it was sheer dumb luck. In my father's, it was the end of a long series of unwise choices regarding his health and his overall wellbeing. But in neither case was it a reflection of either one of their characters, nor some unseen, omniscient presence that has nothing better to do with its time besides bother us poor mortals. Shit just happened, that's all.

It continues to happen in our house, a little at a time. Bit by bit. The feet went numb, then the legs at the knees, then into the hips, now.... wheelchair. Everything seems to be winding down, getting ready to hang it up. How long that process will take remains to be seen. I just wish there were something to do to make him feel better, to make him less afraid. He's had a very fortunate, lucky life. I want the last bit of it to be a peaceful time for him. Everything's been in such chaos in our family -- most of it generated by us, and for no damn good reason. My goal is to change that pattern.

My list of things to do.... Fix the broken dog. Fix the broken house. Fix the broken dad.