Friday, July 31, 2009

Forgetful

Sometimes I forget that actual people read what I write here. My blog readership is small and always has been. I like to think that I have quality readers instead of a large quantity of readers.

My average daily visits run anywhere from 20-35 people...and many of those are random hits looking for naked pictures. Reminder to self....never use the phrase "naked pictures", even jokingly, in a blog title. Google sends the wrong kind of traffic here as a result.

Yesterday, after linking to a CNN article, CNN linked back to my blog, sending about 500 people from all over the country to my tiny, little corner of cyberspace. I appreciate the love from CNN, but it's always a little overwhelming when things like that happen unexpectedly.

It reminds me that I need to be thoughtful about the things I write and what I put out into the internet.

I'm a personal blogger. While I will occasionally blog on politics, religion, or other "big" themes, even those posts are from my personal perspective and experiences. I realized a long time ago that the only opinion I can truly represent is my own. I have no notions of trying to influence, or argue people into agreeing with me. I enjoy discussions, but I'm not a crusader.

As a result, when my traffic spikes or my comment threads become involved and long, I often withdraw, because I'm not used to my "voice" reaching quite so far.

I'll try to get over that.

Another Blogroll Link

James' Thoughts and Musings--Interesting discussions about biblical studies and the occasional Desperate Housewives review.

I'm not sure how that all fits together, but it's nice to have a few surprises in a blog now and then! :-)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Blind to Racism

**language warning...I'm quoting some offensive terms here. I won't sugar-coat the offensiveness of the terms, because people should be shocked when they hear it, and shouldn't try to make things nicer than they really are.**

It's hard to tell if people contemplate the irony of the things they say or realize, after they have said them, how ridiculous they sound.

A Boston police officer who sent a mass e-mail referring to Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. as a "banana-eating jungle monkey" has apologized, saying he's not a racist.
and
"I regret that I used such words," Barrett told CNN affiliate WCVB-TV. "I have so many friends of every type of culture and race you can name. I am not a racist."
later in the article:
Barrett used the "jungle monkey" phrase four times, three times referring to Gates and once referring to Abraham's writing as "jungle monkey gibberish."
from Barrett's attorney
"Officer Barrett did not call professor Gates a jungle monkey or malign him racially," Marano said. "He said his behavior was like that of one. It was a characterization of the actions of that man."
Where to start?

How can a person use a term like "jungle monkey" and seriously believe it has no racial implications? I would venture to say that it is highly doubtful that Barrett has ever used that term in describing white people whom he has arrested, or considered arresting. It's a racially charged term.

Officer Barrett is not alone in his I'm-not-racist-because-I-have-black/ethnic-friends attitude. Many people seem to think that merely knowing someone of a different ethnicity, and being friendly and civil to them, constitutes an impervious shield against accusations of racism. Perhaps, they equate being racist with lynchings and segregation, things they would never be involved in, so having contempt in the way they speak about people seems like no big deal compared to the severity of what has occurred in America's past.

My father was a terribly racist person. It was difficult to have any conversation with him that touched on race in any way. It usually resulted in him saying outrageous things and me futilely trying to make him be reasonable. After a while, he would revert to the "two kinds of black people" argument, which consisted of saying that there were Niggers and there were black people. Some black people were hunky-dory, normal, upstanding people, all the others were animals or Niggers. (I only use those terms to relate what really is said by some people, not because I endorse using those terms. I recognize how offensive they are and cringe to even relate them.)

Of course, my dad only ever seemed to encounter Niggers, and never seemed to know any of these normal black people which he insisted existed. They must have lived in some mythical land far away from him.

I'm not proud of my dad's attitudes. I found it disgusting and always hated any time the conversation veered into the realm of race. With his "two kinds of black people" defense, my dad assured himself that he wasn't really racist.

When I read Barrett's comments, I hear my father's drivel and justifications for being an offensive jerk.

My dad is an extreme example of the prejudice lurking just under the surface of some people. He possessed no filter between what he thought and what he said. For many other people, the same sort of contempt and negative attitude toward minorities isn't expressed so bluntly and strongly. I remember my mother telling me when I was a young girl that black people were dirty and didn't keep their houses clean. My mother was a neat-freak, so this was a damning statement in her eyes.

What's funny is that I had a black friend in college who would say the same things about white people; that they were dirty and didn't keep their houses clean. I think it's fair to say that either race has equal numbers of messy and clean people. I'll remain silent about which one of those categories I fall into....though I prefer the term "lived-in" to messy.

My mother would also say that she wasn't racist. She did have black friends and was, by far, more tolerant than my father could ever think of being but her family was mostly Southern and harbored definite prejudices towards minorities, some of which rubbed off on her.

It is interesting to note that the "I have black friends" defense, which is supposed to convince us that Crowley or Barrett are innately free from prejudice, can go both ways. Gates is genetically bi-racial, was married to a white woman for 25 years, has children who are bi-racial, and is currently married to another white woman. However, many people who claim that Gates was racist in his statements wouldn't accept his relationships as proof that he wasn't.

Our attitudes go deeper and can be subtle, or blunt, while we simultaneously engage in relationships with other people. My father was my father. He was a racist jerk sometimes...many times, but he was still my father. Officer Barrett may be "friends" with people from many different ethnicities, but it doesn't discount his words and attitudes. A person can concurrently be friendly with a group of people while also looking down upon them or having a certain contempt for their background.

I do wonder how many "friends" Barrett will have after they discover what he's written. I predict a sudden shrinking of his circle of diverse "friendships".

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Reflections on Gates and Crowley

This past week has held much interest for me as the Gates incident continued to unfold, and all of the blogosphere and most media outlets had something to say about it.

It occurred to me, while considering the opinion that the President shouldn't enter into local police matters, that nothing really happens, in the view of most of the American public, unless it happens to a celebrity.

Imagine if Gates had been an obscure plumber, computer tech, or office worker. He arrives home, encounters his stuck door and takes the same steps he did in his real life. Imagine that pretty much everything happened in the way that we think it happened. Crowley arrives, there are words, Gates presents ID, proving himself the homeowner and events continue down the path to arrest and dropped charges.

I am certain of a few things in the above scenario.

1. We would never hear about it. There would be no bloggers frothing at the mouth to present their views on the subject. Obscure Gates would be arrested and it would be on his public record forever, with no opportunity to present his side of the situation. Obscure Gates wouldn't have the privilege of his celebrity to make his voice heard, no matter how unfairly he had been, or felt he had been, treated. He would have to suck it up, go home seething, vent to his friends and maybe try to approach his local paper to highlight the situation. The paper might choose to ignore him.

2. Crowley would never have to answer for any of his actions, words, or attitudes. Obscure Gates would be seen as a crank and promptly ignored by the police force and the city of Cambridge.

3. There would be no dialogue about race, the use of police power, and the consequences of our words and attitudes on others.

One could argue that Gates' celebrity is the primary cause of the incident. What some see as his sense of entitlement, and indignation that he should be put upon by Officer Crowley, seems to have given the situation its impetus and momentum. Saying,"You don't know who you're messing with," is not exactly an invitation to polite disagreement.

I'm not willing to grant the incident as Gates' fault, because as the evidence has trickled in it has made me more suspicious of Crowley than it has of Gates. We knew from the outset that Gates was yelling, upset and might have acted in a way that wasn't the best. With Crowley, little pieces have emerged, after the fact, which highlight cracks in the portrayal of him as completely faultless; his misrepresentation of his conversation with the 911 caller, his former boss unwittingly letting it slip that Crowley was leaving after Gates had proven his identity, and told Gates to come outside if he wanted to keep talking--something that seems to me to be a set-up to get Gates out of his house, in public view, so that Crowley can have an excuse to arrest him on disorderly charges.

I tend to see the whole thing as a power play by Crowley to show Gates who is in charge. Whether his motivation was racial, or simply a result of being ticked off at Gates, I won't venture to say. It could be either.

Is the whole thing a tempest in a teapot? A mountain out of a molehill? If Gates wasn't famous, and specifically hadn't spent his entire career documenting and speaking about the history of black people in the United States, would anyone care?

No.

There are certainly people who think that it's not worth caring about the power play that took place between two men on a summer afternoon in Cambridge.

However, what was an unfortunate event for both Gates and Crowley, has become a Rorschach test for the nation, and at the very least has created some interesting conversations in real life, and online. By no means will racial attitudes and assumptions from either point of view suddenly change and spawn a new era of peace, love and unicorns. Yet, there will be some change in some people. There will be people who at least consider the other side of the issue, even if they ultimately disagree about what it all means.

Hopefully, more than anything, it has made people think more about how they perceive things, and how others perceive things. The heart of this story is not ultimately about race, but about how wrong things can go when we are unwilling to extend the benefit of the doubt to people and let our emotions make our decisions for us rather than thinking things through.

This story is a human story. So much of what happened is connected to how events unfolded, how someone said something, and what sort of impression the other person had of what was happening.

It's interpersonal conflict in its purest form....something that most of us can relate to. The public has involved itself with the story because it can see itself in the various characters, understanding what Gates, or Crowley, might have been thinking.

We have more technological ways of communicating with each other than people 100 years ago could have imagined, but we still have a difficult time understanding each other in the midst of all our self-expression. Other people can be an enigma to us, and what makes other people tick can be as impenetrable as the mysteries of the universe.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Today's Quote

"Delusions of grandeur make me feel a lot better about myself."
-Jane Wagner

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Addition to the Blogroll

I've been meaning to add Reconciliation Blog to the blogroll for a while but hadn't gotten around to it.

I appreciate Ed G.'s current post about the Gates/Obama/Crowley situation and it reminded me once again to add his blog.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tragedy

A friend of our family just tragicallly lost her father, the one I mentioned in a post a few months ago, who had rejected all of his former beliefs and become an atheist. He apparently took his own life.

It's shocking and heart-wrenching, especially considering the recent strain on his relationships with other people.

I don't know the whole story, at this point. I know that he had recently been having health problems and had been hospitalized for physical ailments. Perhaps the pain of what he was dealing with physically, and the mental illness/depression he has battled off and on made for a deadly combination.

I worry for my friend, a devout Christian who, as far as I know still has a pretty traditional view of Heaven, Hell, and Salvation.

I worry that this tragedy will only be the tip of what she might be dealing with emotionally.

Say a few prayers for my unnamed friend and her family.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wow...who let the crazy out?

I came across this video hop, skipping and jumping about the blogosphere. I think Little Green Footballs, which I had heard of but not really read before, was where I first saw it.

The woman in red is obsessed with the idea that Obama is not an American citizen, which is a little crazy. Though I think the wacky, conspiracy-intoned rant she spews is completely off the wall, it's not what I found to be the most interesting part of the video.

Watch it first.



Now, consider the fact that this obviously angry woman was able to completely disrupt this meeting, taking it off-track to question Obama's citizenship, and feed into the crowd's emotions. That, in and of itself, happens now and then in public forums, so it's a little crazy, but is part of the nature of the beast.

What I find most amazing is the complete lack of control that the leaders show in handling the situation, and the power of a lone voice, crazy though it may be, in pressuring an entire room to listen to it.

This woman was able to completely derail things and get the whole crowd, leaders included, to stop everything in order to say the pledge of allegiance.

Wow.

I watched in shock as I saw all of the people at the front of the room give up any sense of control, turning to face the flag, hand over heart, reciting the pledge.

Were they too afraid to ignore the crackpot? Were they afraid they might seem unpatriotic if they refused to be pressured into dropping everything and bending to this person's wishes?

What were the people in the crowd thinking? Did any of them stay in their seats, preferring to not be used by someone with an agenda, to make a point?

Fascinating...in a creepy way.

I can imagine this woman marching through France in 1789, pelting the aristocracy with tomatoes and epithets on their way to the guillotine.

Green Light

I've been MIA for a while.

The summer has continued to be busy for me. While I have many things I would like to write about, I simply haven't had many chunks of undisturbed time in which to write them.

This week things are finally moving forward with the construction/rehab of my father's house. It's been a long, time-consuming process to get to this point, especially considering that I wanted this to happen in April. Between dealing with other people's schedules, the permitting authority in his city, and waiting for an engineer to draw up plans for the structural portion of the repairs, I have been impatiently waiting for the green light on the project.

This is what we are dealing with:


Extensive termite damage.

Every piece of wood that looks dirty, or grey, is nothing but dust. Although the wood still appears to be holding some sort of shape, if you were to simply press on any of those spots it would disintegrate immediately. There is nothing left but a shell of what used to be there.

Ashes to ashes...dust to dust, I guess.

This type of damage has been found in at least half of the walls in my father's home. If he had lived to see it, it would have killed him. He had been planning to retire and have his house sold by this time this year. Between the downturn in the economy and the real estate market, it would have wiped out all of his retirement savings and security.

Life is unpredictable and things seldom go the way we imagine they will.

A couple pieces of advice:

1. Never ignore the possibility that you have termites.

2. If you're looking for a profitable career, become an engineer. We paid dearly for plans to repair the house. I think the engineer we paid is on a cruise somewhere in the south of France, enjoying life to the fullest with the money he earned from this project.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Enjoying the Summer

It's hard to believe that it's almost the middle of July.

We have packed a lot into the last 6 weeks...mini-vacations, visiting family, and day trips to the beach.

Saturday, we headed to our favorite beach and played with the boys for several hours before returning home. It's so much easier, when children are school-age, to do things together. When they're young, so much time is spent managing and supervising their every move.

It's satisfying to be able to sit on the beach with DH for a while and watch them play in the water, without having to worry that they'll run off, get lost, or drown in the 20 second intervals when we look away. The Gulf of Mexico is relatively gentle, so there is less paranoia about a rip tide dragging them out to sea.

Sunday, we made our third attempt to smoke/barbecue some Lexington-style, pulled pork. It actually worked this time. Instead of accidently catching the wood chips on fire, like our last endeavor, we managed to get them smoking the "right" way.

It was a triumph of man over meat!

After dinner, we were sucked into family video game playing. The Rationalist bought Super Paper Mario with some of his birthday money and had egged me into playing it. For some reason, he takes great joy in watching his parents play. He'll pester me over and over to play....probably because he has a limited amount of time in which he is allowed to play. Watching me play is a vicarious way to get more Wii into his life.

Unfortunately, I have become addicted to this game. I didn't make it into bed until 12:30 am because I had worked my way through Francis' castle and hadn't defeated him yet. It became a matter of determination and pride. I couldn't go to bed defeated by a green chameleon.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy Fourth of July!

Have fun watching some fireworks tonight!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

One Year Ago

I headed into my first chemo treatment.

It was the beginning of what I call "The Lost Summer" and the scariest part of dealing with the cancer diagnosis that I had. I never felt so awful in my entire life. Fortunately, the worst part would pass about a week after receiving chemo. Then, I would have a couple of weeks of recovery and feeling pretty normal before starting the whole process over again.

By the time treatment was over, sometime in September 08, I was physically and emotionally tired and anemic.

I didn't know, until about halfway through treatment, that chemo not only makes you physically tired and sick, but that it interacts with your brain chemistry. Taxanes, in particular, have been tied to poorer emotional response during treatment, and prolonged susceptibility to clinical depression for up to two years after treatment:
The researchers also observed that patients who received taxane agents had significantly worse emotional distress and mental quality of life throughout the treatment period. Their psychologic recovery was significantly slower, requiring an average of 2 years, compared with the 6 to 12 months required by patients who did not receive taxane.

The rates of probable clinical depression were also higher among patients receiving taxanes. In particular, there were statistically significant group differences in depressive symptoms at 12 and 18 months, and a trend toward such at 24 months. The rates of probable depression among patients who didn't receive taxanes declined to less than 10% by the 12-month follow-up, whereas the rates in the taxane group remained high (at approximately 20%).
I can testify that it truly did affect me. I remember one treatment period in which I completely broke down, crying and fearful and completely unraveled emotionally. A few days later, I felt perfectly normal and looked back on that episode, wondering at its oddness. It seemed out of proportion for what I was dealing with.

Once I knew that some of what I was feeling was simply a side effect of one of the treatment drugs, I felt more in control.

Not quite a year out from treatment, I can't say that I have felt clinically depressed, though I have had moments of feeling overwhelmed or moody....but considering all that has happened in the last year, it doesn't seem out of the ordinary.

Yesterday, I went in for a breast MRI. I had been having some soreness in a certain area, and though it was very unlikely for it to be cancer, we scanned just to be sure.

Everything came back completely clean.

Standing back from things, one year out, with a completely clean MRI and no reason to expect having anything to worry about for quite some time, I could feel a sense of relief overtake me.

A year can make all the difference in the world.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Me...this past week

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Ah.

I felt guilty after my telemarketer/salesperson post. Writing it out made me think about what a jerk I was being..not without having good reasons to be a jerk...but still...I shouldn't embrace my jerkiness. It's too easy to let it become my default position.

And then...there was my post about Governor Sanford. I pretty much think he is out in left field, but he's such an easy target it's probably not fair to throw stones at him.

The only positive aspect of the governor's "confession" was the fact that his wife didn't stand by him while he made it. It sickens me to see women standing silently by while their spouse describes his infidelity to the media. It's terrible for a man to expect his wife to do that and worse for her to feel compelled to do it.

I've got to hand it to Jenny Sanford...she's strong, not withholding the possibility of reconciliation, but also not deceived about what exactly she is dealing with.

A good quote from her:

A former investment banker from a wealthy Chicago family, Jenny Sanford has said she is prepared to consider reconciliation but on Friday she made no attempt to conceal her contempt for his behaviour.

Asked by one reporter about the governor’s political prospects, she snapped:
“His career is not a concern of mine . . . I’m worried about my family and the character of my children.”

Love it. I have a feeling she'll find her way through this mess.

Anyway...this is my public confession.

Telemarketers and salespeople, I have sinned against you.

From now on, I won't respond with verbal jabs. I'll just hang up and allow you to call someone else.

It'll be a win for both of us.