Friday, December 19, 2014

Ben Franklin and the War on Christmas

I had intended to write about at least a couple quotes this week and just didn't get the chance. I came across this one by Ben Franklin and it said so much in so few words.

"How many observe Christ's birthday! How few, his precepts!"

Masterful.

I have to wonder what he'd say if he was here observing our society today, not just about Christmas, but about so much.

I am fairly certain that he'd scoff at the alleged war on Christmas, that he'd laugh it off as yet another manufactured battle created for television ratings. It's easy to get people riled up by pitting them against each other these days, and there are entire networks that exist for that sole purpose. 

Those who claim there is a war on Christmas are so wrapped up in the preservation of their own traditions, in the insistence that the rest of society cowers to them, that they can't understand that the requirement that other people be permitted to observe as they choose has no impact on them. Truly.

Just because someone else does something different than you do doesn't affect how you live your life. Honest.

As much as some people seem to believe it, this nation was not founded as a Christian one. We do not have a state religion. Our founders didn't ever intend to dictate from above that one religion was superior to the others, in fact they bent over backwards to do just the opposite. 

Religious freedom does not equal religious oppression, even if the talking heads on television want you to convince you of it. There isn't some giant conspiracy wrapped up in the words Happy Holidays.

If Ben Franklin were here today, I think he'd have something to say about this alleged war on Christmas, and this quote is a hint. 

I think he'd tell people to stop being so worried about being offended, about focusing on who is doing what or using which words. I think he'd be a little shocked at how commercialized the holiday season has become, but more so I think he'd be taken aback by how much some of those who cling outwardly to the Christian faith fail to abide by the lessons it teaches.

We live in a nation where "good Christian" politicians routinely talk about stripping families of their food stamps, where immigrant children are seen as a vile threat to our way of life. They talk and talk and talk about the importance of hard work as though that is all that is ever required in a society as complex as ours. They don't want to see their privilege because admitting it exists at all would shake their foundation to its core. 

I'm fairly certain that Jesus wouldn't have wanted rich people arguing on his behalf on television about their "right" to say Merry Christmas and then demanding that complete strangers not only reply in the same words but express gratitude to them for uttering them in the first place. 

I'm fairly certain that Jesus would want them all to stop talking for a moment and listen to his lessons instead. Live the example instead of seeing who can yell the loudest about their beliefs. 

Humility, kindness, charity, these are the true lessons of Christianity, not judgement and entitlement.

There isn't a war on Christmas. 

Some people celebrate Santa. Some people celebrate the birth of Jesus. Some people celebrate winter solstice. Some people celebrate Hanukkah. Some people celebrate Kwanzaa. Some people celebrate Festivus. Some people don't celebrate anything. Why does what someone else celebrates or doesn't celebrate have to have anything to do with you?

OH WAIT. IT DOESN'T.

I say Happy Holidays because I love everyone and because I'm not about to impose my beliefs on anyone else.

You do your thing, I'll do mine. Can't we just smile and wish other people well instead of questioning why they believe what they do and insisting that whatever we believe is the only right belief? 

No one is assaulting Christmas. Laws and court rulings that mean that other religions must be permitted to display in public spaces as well don't infringe on your Christmas rights. They just mean you have to scoot over a little and make some damn room for the other people.

You know, like a loving your neighbor thing.

Who said that, again?

Jesus.

I could talk about how all those claiming that their Christmas rights are being offended seem to have missed almost all of Jesus' teachings. I can promise you that he would have been way more concerned with feeding the starving and helping the ill and taking care of poor children than he ever would have been with whether first world people 2,000 years later got to celebrate his birthday as loudly as they want. This article does a fantastic job of that and you should go read it.

I could talk about how Jesus wasn't born on December 25th and not even in the winter at all. I could talk about how Christmas was banned for years in colonial America. I could talk about how Christmas trees are actually pagan. I could talk about how the celebration originated more as a winter solstice thing. I could talk about how St. Nicholas didn't really have much to do with Jesus. I could talk about how elves are a recent addition to the lore of Christmas. I could tell you that Santa could be purple and kids wouldn't give a shit as long as he brought gifts...and then tell you that basing Santa's whiteness on Jesus' whiteness is a flawed freaking argument because Jesus wasn't white. I could talk about how Jesus probably wouldn't care about your exterior illumination problems and would probably ask if you've donated to charity instead.

I could.

But then I'd probably offend someone.


I'm pretty sure Ben Franklin would be in total agreement with me.

Happy Festivus.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Nation Loses its Fearless Leader

The very last episode ever of The Colbert Report will air tonight. Stephen Colbert will be taking over for David Letterman on The Late Show next year. Although he will still be a nightly presence on television, it just won't be the same. I will be the first to admit that I'm more than a little bit emotional about this.

I've loved Stephen Colbert since his first moments on another one of my favorites, The Daily Show. Back then, he was a correspondent on the comedy news show, one who had an uncanny ability to deadpan the audience.

David Shankbone/Wikipedia
It worked so well that he got his own show, The Colbert Report. The premise of the show has always been a satirical one, with him at the forefront playing a faux conservative host. It amazed me that throughout the show's nine year run, he managed to get people to come on the show who obviously hadn't gotten the memo that he was playing a character.

His interviews with some of the politicians are just priceless.

I mean, seriously....how can they not know that he's just screwing with them?!?!?! Don't these people have handlers? Do they not understand the show airs on Comedy Central? 

Some of them, far too many of them, thought that the character he was playing was real. And it was awesome to watch.

How he always managed to keep a straight face, I don't know.

Using the show, he's been able to analyze the current events of nearly a decade through this twisted and warped lens, unveiling the hypocrisy of how the political machine often works in this country.

Calling his fans affectionately by the name Nation, he even ran for President twice.

Hell, I'd vote for him, character or otherwise.

I know that he'll still be around, but any performance by him on The Late Show will necessarily be different. First of all, he won't be playing a character anymore. He's been in character for so long that it seems like it is impossible to separate the real him from the fake him. Second, the platform is so vastly different in late night on the major networks. Hosts on those shows have to appeal to a larger audience, be a little tamer, be a little more generic, a little more middle of the road.

I like him on the edge.

I have always adored the show, one different than The Daily Show. The Daily Show has always been a comedic take on the news, yes, but something about the slant of The Colbert Report made it even funnier at its core.

I'm excited to see what he brings to The Late Show, though it will force me to use my DVR for yet another time slot. I'm pretty handily committed to Fallon on The Tonight Show right now, who came in and breathed fresh new life into a show that was so tense and stale that it had become unwatchable under Leno.

Plus, The Roots are the best band in the business right now. Hands down.

Finally, there will be two competing shows in late night that have a decent shot at a ratings war. Finally.

It's just too bad that it had to come at the expense of The Colbert Report. 

In the past week as we've been watching the last shows, I've sighed at the end of each one. My husband laughs at me, but it really is getting to me. It's getting to me because in this day and age, we need more shows like this one, shows that are willing to hold the politicians accountable for their decisions, for their choices, for their votes, for their backers. We need people behind shiny glass desks that will unveil the sordid relationships between corporations and the government, who will tell us the ugly truths, who will point out the gleaming hypocrisy.

We need more shows like this one, not less.

It's a disturbing reflection on the state of journalism in this country when a satirical comedy news show can be more relied on for accuracy in reporting than the major networks.

As a current events junkie, as someone always tuned into the state of affairs, as someone who has dabbled in reporting myself, I'm sad to see this show come to an end.

At least we still have The Daily Show. If Jon Stewart ever leaves that desk, I just don't know what I'll do with myself.

An era ends tonight.

The tears I'll probably shed won't be faux. They'll be real ones, for sure.

Nation, we will soon be losing our fearless leader, but we must go on.

Tip of the Hat/Wag of the Finger.

Jogs off set, waving wildly to the audience....

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

All I Want For Christmas Is This Stuff...

It's time for my annual Christmas list.

Because I'm five.

This is a thing around here, and if you're so inclined, you can read the lists from prior years here:

2013
2012
2011
2010
2009


Holy cow, is this really the sixth year I have done this?!?!

Anyway, sorry that I'm writing this so late this year. Usually I try to get it done in time so that it could actually be of real use to people who want to get me something....not that most of the things I ever wish for are things...

1. I want the people who live in my house to do things without me having to become a nag. I hate the sound of my own voice, I hate being annoying...but that is quite literally the only way shit's getting done around here. Well, not true....I could just do it all, but that's not gonna happen. I'm supposed to be teaching my children life skills. I'm supposed to be teaching my children life skills. I'm supposed to be teaching my children life skills.

2. I want more patience. I try, I try SO HARD to hold it together when I'm dealing with my most difficult child. Really, I do. But goddamn. There are days every once in a while that I just can't handle any more interactions with this one. I need more patience. Or shorter days. Or an earlier bedtime. Or something. Serenity now.

3. I want more room on my DVR. Yes, we already upgraded and got the one with a ton of storage, but it just isn't enough. We need to record ALL THE SHOWS!

4. I want the bridges fixed. Seriously, the flood was over a year ago. Let's get on that, city.

5. While we're at it, I want the pool that was destroyed rebuilt. Pronto. I've got another baby who would like to play at the pool this summer, so hurry.

6. I still want a pair of thigh high red patent leather platform boots. A girl can dream, right?

7. I want a tattoo. Well, three actually. Okay, fine. More than three. But there are three that I know I want for sure. I got money for a tattoo from my inlaws for Christmas last year (because clearly, they are the most kickass inlaws in the history of time, amiright?!?!), but then I ended up pregnant right after New Years and had to use the cash for maternity clothes, which aren't very much like a tattoo at all. Unless we're talking about new stretch marks...

8. I want to get back to writing my books. I've neglected them for a while, intentionally. The thing about the books I am working on is that they are tremendously draining, emotionally, to write. I didn't want to go there while I was pregnant for health reasons. Now that the baby is living on the outside, I could theoretically get back to it. Of course, he has to cooperate, and that hasn't happened yet. I keep telling myself the books will always be there, but he'll only be a newborn once. Sometimes I have to repeat it on an endless loop.

9. I want the Batman v. Superman movie to not suck. I especially want Gal Gadot to kick ass as Wonder Woman so that she can get her own movie.

10. I want a dancing Baby Groot. A real one.

11. I want a money tree to take root in my backyard immediately. The Oldest is such a joiner, and all the things he wants to do cost so damn much money.

12. I want the time and energy to repaint the main floor of my house. I have the paint. I just need a cooperative child (hahahaha) and the motivation.

13. I want my basement organized. It's seriously scary down there. I need a week, uninterrupted, and a dumpster. For the love.

14. I want this ring. It's actually pretty cheap. It has seven strands, like the now seven members of my family. It's silver, which I prefer, and the stones are CZs, which I actually prefer too. Diamonds are overrated, not to mention the whole conflict diamond issue. But yeah. This one.


Hey, while we're at it, you can buy it here....just don't pay full price. Wait for a sale or a good code. Size 7. Hint, hint.

15. I want a new crockpot. The lid for the smaller one that I've had since we got married has vanished. I have no idea how something that big can just disappear, but it has. Gone. Totally gone. Everyone in the house has looked for it. Weird. Someone knows what happened, and nobody is talking.

16. I want to sleep. Right now, that's really what I want. Just being honest.

17. I want a do-over on Little Asskicker's birth. I know that's not possible unless someone invents time travel, but there has to be someone working on a real life Tardis, right? I'd totally go back and change how that all went down. Grumble grumble.

18. I want to take a shower without having to play a game of 20 questions with at least one of my children.

19. I want world peace, an end to hunger, freedom for all, true equality and for Citizens United to be overturned. I want Ginsburg to stay on the Supreme Court forever, and I want her replaced with someone as feisty and left leaning as she is when she retires.

20. I want Daryl Dixon sitting under my Christmas tree with his motorcycle and crossbow. Claimed.

Oh, and just in case you think that the things on my list are crazy and ridiculous, they are...but they aren't nearly as unrealistic as I thought. There was this one thing I'd been secretly wishing for...


Sometimes wishes do come true. xo

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - The FFS edition

Maybe it's a good thing that this year is almost over. Maybe it's a good thing because next year is 2015, the year we were promised hoverboards in Back to the Future. While hoverboards may not fix any of the things wrong with the world, they would be a fabulous distraction.

Wait.

Back to the Future isn't real.

Dammit.

It's not a good week to watch the news...
Just this morning, the Taliban is claiming responsibility for the deaths of over 100 students between the ages of 12-16 in Pakistan. They've said that the school, an army school, was chosen for the attack because the government is targeting them. They were told specifically to shoot only the older students, all of whom were innocent and had nothing to do with the harms the Taliban claims have been perpetrated upon them.

The hostage situation in Sydney finally ended this morning after two of the hostages were killed, leaving people to wonder how the man responsible was missed by the system for as long as he was.

Then there is the huge manhunt going on in Pennsylvania today after 6 family members of Bradley William Stone were discovered killed in three different crime scenes yesterday. People locally have been receiving reverse 911 and shelter in place calls, the authorities trying desperately to locate him before anyone else is hurt.

...and those are just the major stories this morning.

Amal Alamuddin is the most fascinating person of 2014, so says Barbara Walters
As she has done every year since the dawn of civilization (okay, fine, she isn't that old...), Walters ran her end of the year special profiling the most interesting people of the year from her perspective. Amal Alamuddin was chosen as the most fascinating, but the reasons should make you bang your head on the wall a little bit.

For those who don't know, Amal is the woman who just married George Clooney, which is mostly why she was chosen. Prior to that, she wasn't flying high on the public radar. Now, though, she's fascinating simply because she landed one of the most persistent bachelors in the free world.

Whaaaaaat.

Nevermind the fact that Amal is one of the most high profile attorneys in the world with a client list that includes Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. She clerked for Justice Sonia Sotomayor while she was in law school and previously worked on the investigations of Enron and Arthur Andersen. She's been involved with international war crimes cases too. I could write and write about all the amazing things she has done....but somehow the fact that she married an actor is deemed the most interesting thing about her.

No. Just no.

The Cosbys. Ugh.
By now, most of the world seems pretty handily convinced that Bill Cosby is a creeper. As more and more women come forward, the picture it paints of him isn't a flattering one at all. Though there have been some people assuming that the women now speaking up are solely doing it for some kind of financial incentive, this is too big and too gross for that simplified kind of explanation.

There isn't a huge "make Cosby look like a predator" conspiracy.

He is one, though, or so it seems.

I was talking to someone about how there's even potentially a case to be made for criminal charges surrounding the incidents that may have happened a long time ago, even though the statute of limitations would have long ago expired. In cases where there is a deliberate deception and/or hiding of the fact that a crime may have been perpetrated, the statute of limitations can be found to be frozen, arrested. The clock doesn't start ticking on it until the victim reasonably would have known that a crime occurred.

Here, the women were systematically abused then told they'd gone along with it. As more of them have started to come forward, it reframes the way that others see the interactions they had with Cosby. It's entirely possible that some of them didn't even realize they'd actually been raped until now.

In these cases, since he seems to have drugged most of the women then convinced them that whatever happened was consensual when it wasn't, there is at least a theoretical argument to be made that he could face criminal charges. I highly doubt that will happen, but it's a possibility if there is a really creative person working in the DA's office and wants to try it.

What I'm having trouble believing this morning, though, is his wife's defense of him. She said this, "None of us will ever want to be in the position of attacking a victim," she wrote. "But the question should be asked -- who is the victim?" The man the media has been talking about of late doesn't sound to her like the man she married.

Well, yeah. That sure as hell doesn't mean that all these women are lying, though.

$81 Million Torture Handbook
There are pieces of the CIA report that I can't bear to stomach. The rectal hydration, the waterboarding, the leaving men on the floor to die of hypothermia.

For fucks sake.

Whoops. I let out the swears. 

We should be so ashamed of ourselves. The fact that the government paid two contractors $81 MILLION dollars to develop the torture procedures used is sickening.

I can't say much about this better than Jon Stewart and Senator John McCain did, so I'll just let them do it.


There is a line of reasonableness, a line where interrogation becomes torture, a line past which nothing is defensible or justified.

We were so fast past that line that we cannot defend our actions. Period. If anyone would know about torture, it's John McCain. Maybe we should listen to him.

In the YAY department
There was one small shining beacon of good news this week that I wanted to share. Dr. Vivek Murthy was norminated for Surgeon General over a year and a half ago, but hadn't been confirmed until this week.

These are your tax dollars at work, friends. 

He wasn't confirmed, even during the early days of the Ebola crisis, for a reason. It's a good one. Are you ready to know what that reason is???

He has said that the number of gun deaths in the country is a public health crisis, WHICH IT IS.

But you can't just go around and willy nilly say things like that without pissing off the NRA and all the gun rights groups. I mean, suuuuuure...we'll ignore the statistics on gun deaths and just pretend like there aren't more people that die from guns than a very long list of diseases...

Right.

His confirmation was delayed this long because of the gun lobby's opposition to him. The Senate finally told the gun lobby to suck it, and confirmed him. 

Score 1 for humanity. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Luxurious Grief

Earlier this week, I was scanning my newsfeed on Facebook while I was trapped beneath a softly snoring infant. I came across a blog post shared by a friend, one that discussed the new Reese Witherspoon film Wild in a way that I hadn't considered.

I've heard buzz about the movie, for sure, though far too much of it seems to be banter for the shallow surface dwellers of the world. Discussions about whether or not she was wearing makeup during filming and whether that was something to be considered brave. Musing about her age and whether she'd taken a risk by foregoing being made up.

If that is all you can honestly think of when you are introduced to the story she tells in the film, I for one will call you lucky. I'll call you lucky because it translates to the fact that you mustn't have encountered that kind of reality yet, endured that kind of loss and the seemingly bottomless hole that comes with it.

There is more to this story than discussions about vanity, for sure.

The film, one based on the book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, centers on Reese's portrayal of Cheryl Strayed. Strayed wrote of her journey in the wake of the loss of her mother and other personal devastation, including drug use and the end of her marriage.

I haven't yet read the book, so I'm in no position to comment on that. I haven't obviously seen the film yet either, but the post that I read this week about it made me think that perhaps I shouldn't. Not yet anyway.

Maybe someday, but I'm not there yet.


That post, this one by Veronica Arreola on The Broad Side, it struck a nerve, one that hasn't stopped twitching since I read her words. It reached into the deepest darkest parts of my psyche, to the places where I stuff things away, slam the door and hope they stay hidden. It hit there.

It is a phenomenal piece, and I encourage you all to read it for yourselves. She talks about how she can't relate much at all to the journey that Strayed took in the wake of the loss of her mother even though she too lost her mother at a young age. She couldn't for a simple reason, she was about to give birth to a child. She couldn't just take off on some self discovery grief journey. She couldn't.

Something about her words, the eerie similarities of pieces of her mother's story and my mother's story, it brought me to tears. And I understood her.

I also began to understand a piece of this grief journey that I myself have been on, one that I hadn't even realized was there before.

It is this.

The type of grief in the story, the one that involves this level of self discovery, it is a luxury, and one that I wasn't afforded.

Some of us don't have the chance to wander.

It seems strange to think of any type of grief as luxurious, I am sure, just as I am sure that those words placed beside one another may bother some of my readers. It's not to say that one grief is bigger than another, that losses should be compared, that one person's experience is better or worse than another's necessarily, but they are indeed quite different.

And I just hadn't realized this piece of it before I read her words.

I see it now. There have been times, god have there been so many times, in the past four or so years when I would have given anything to run away. Nothing would have been so enticing or delicious as isolating myself away from all the noise, fully immersed in the grief that I felt. I could have thought things out, worked through what was going on in my mind so much easier if I'd had that opportunity.

I could have backpacked alone for as long as I needed, sat alongside the rivers and lakes and streams and oceans until it all made sense. I could have done anything I needed to in order to get to a good place, if I'd only had the time and ability.

I could have, in some imaginary world where the luxury of that kind of grief exists.

I do not dwell in that world.

When my father died, I had to take care of my children, and I had to take care of someone else far more needy and demanding - my mother.

When I lost so much in the months after his death, there was nowhere for me to find that peace and solitude. I couldn't go off and find myself, draw on that inner strength in the middle of a river somewhere. I couldn't do it because I had too many obligations here. I had those children to care for, that mother to attempt to care for.

When she died last year, after far too many tragedies, far too many heartbreaks, far too much conflict and the creation of far too many new wounds, I had to wrap my mind around the fact that I now occupied a world not just without my father and without the other things that I had lost, but I was now without her too.

And I had to do it all between 9:30-11am because it was the only time I was ever alone.

The harshness of grief doesn't comply with our rules and desires. It doesn't say to us that it will cooperate and only come when it is convenient for us. It comes when it wants, often without warning. It is whole and heavy, the weight of it oppressive at times.

In the wake of her death, though there was pain and sadness, there was relief too. In that relief, a guilt. A confusing reality. A shame. The questioning of what could have been, what should have been. The certainty that it will never be.

So many feelings, so much depth and complication, each feeling leading endlessly to another.

And I was supposed to get it all processed in that short time frame because I was too busy. I had too many obligations. I didn't have the luxury of grieving the way I necessarily wanted or needed.

I still don't.

I suppose that there is an argument to be made that I could. I could have left, taken off at any time. There is nothing physically holding me here. There wasn't then and there isn't now. I could have just announced that I needed time to sort all my demons out, time to work through these losses and how they changed me or didn't or whatever. I could have.

Sure.

But then I'd be failing them, the innocents in my life, the ones who had nothing to do with the losses I've endured. My children. And I couldn't go.

I couldn't do that to them.

I wouldn't do that to them.

I wonder sometimes what it must be like, to not have anyone else to really worry about, to not be needed, to truly have time to oneself, to possess the ability to just walk away and allow oneself all the time in the world to process.

Then I stop wondering because there's no utility in it.

Besides, I'm too busy.

I'm intrigued by Strayed's story. I'm absolutely certain that there will be parts that I relate to, parts that resonate so deeply and that only the other parentless children in the world can fully understand.

I'm also certain that there will be a piece of me that will be envious of her in a twisted and bizarre way, that will envy how she was able to walk away until she found herself.

Then there is the deep dark part of the envy that I fear the most, the piece where she could just mourn the loss of her mother. I wasn't given that luxury either, because sadness wasn't all I felt when she died.

There was relief too, peace that it was over, that she couldn't hurt me any more.

Having a complicated, troubled relationship makes the grief more complicated and troubled. I envy those who can just embrace the grief without hesitation, without qualification.

Perhaps this inability to own my grief the way I feel like I should is what has made it last as long as it has. Perhaps.

Perhaps the reality that I needed to stay strong and grounded and present and stable is the very thing that led to my development of PTSD. I refused to allow myself to deal with the pain when it was new, because I couldn't, because I didn't have time, because someone had soccer practice or needed a snack or was sick. In refusing it, in disallowing it, in suppressing all of it, perhaps I created more demons.

Perhaps.

I'll never really know.

What I do know is this: not every adventure that needs traveled is, not everyone is granted the time they need to find themselves, not all of us have the luxury of this grief.

~~~~~~~~~
My sincerest gratitude to Veronica for opening my eyes, and to Aliza for introducing me to her. May we find peace on the journeys we walk, even if they aren't what they might otherwise be. xo

Friday, December 12, 2014

I wish I had that. Instead, I have guilt. A Guest Post from Anonymous.

Today's post is a special one, and I hope that you'll all see what I mean. This person asked me to write about this topic, and I turned it right around on them. You do it, I said. Tell me how you really feel and why.

And they did just that. 

I'm absolutely certain that more than a few of you out there will relate.



Guilt.

Such a powerful word.

People say you only feel guilt if you let yourself feel it.  Hmmm...I don't know about that.

I'm talking about the guilt that you wrestle inside your head with.  

I don't think I should feel guilty about anything. I'm a good person. I've raised my kids to be responsible adults, that job is done.  I've lived a "fairly" unscathed life.  I mean, who gets through this life totally unscathed by anything? I've been divorced and remarried.  I've had a career I was good at. My grandchildren are starting to appear now.  

On the surface, I'm a happy person.  Ahhhh, but don't pick that scab.  That guilt scab.  The one I don't admit to out loud.  

Now that the holidays are upon us and everyone is bustling about, buying this and that for family and friends, exclaiming, "Oh, I've found the perfect gift for (insert name here)" , and saying...how I wish my parents were still here to enjoy the holidays with us.  Or, I miss my mom, dad, or both, who have crossed over.  That brings the guilt.  

My mom is still with us.  Dad passed 5 years ago.  He was always the healthier of the two, so it was a shock that she's outlived him, but that's another conversation.  

Let me just say it.  Out Loud.  If my mother wasn't my mother, absolutely, positively, under no circumstances, would I have anything to do with her!  

Yes, she gave birth to me.  
Yes, she gave me life.  
Stop there.  

Her love is a strange kind of love.  The love of, "you have to love me, because I'm your mother, and you better respect me, or else".  On the outside, she's sickly sweet to strangers, outsiders and friends alike. 

Growing up, when my friends would come over, after hearing me regale tails of her escapades, and she'd pour on the sweetness that would turn my stomach, they would think I was the troubled one! So consequently, I  wouldn't have friends over.  

It continues to this day.  Her facade.  Her fakeness.  

Am I alone in this feeling of guilt, that I, the good Italian girl, can't stand her elderly mother?  

I feel guilt when people gush holiday sentiment over their loving families and all I feel is dread.  

I don't want to feel this way and Heaven forbid, I'd die if my kids felt this way about me!  

I don't want to go over to her apartment for the  obligatory holiday visit, so she can critique my hair, my weight, my husband, my kids.   I have no feelings for her.  It's been deadened by years of harsh criticism and now I feel guilt.  

No one is making me feel this, because it's not been said out loud.  

No one knows.  

Will I feel more guilt when she does pass away?  
Because of a relationship lost?  

Don't get me wrong, I've tried to have one with her.  I'm no spring chicken, I'm in my 50's.  I've done some living.  But doesn't there come a time in your life that you just say "Stop the Madness" ?  

I'm actually jealous of people who have wonderfully loving relationships with their parents. 

I wish I had that.  
I never did. 
Never.  

I was a nuisance to my parents and they didn't have a problem showing that.  

Who said I had to pay homage to my mother for the rest of her life?  Where is that written? I'd like to meet the author.   

So to try to make up for the relationship I never had with my parents, I try to be the best Mom and Gramma to my kids and grandchildren.  

I push the guilt down. 
I swallow the bitter pill when I have to go for a visit. 
I ask myself, why do I keep doing this to myself and the answer is always, to be a better person than she is.  To show my kids that I can be the better person.  

Push the guilt down, take a stiff drink, and make my husband drive home from "the visit".  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Things That Piss Me Off Thursday - torture, fracking, diabetes and Nick Jonas. What???

I know, I know, I know. It's Thursday.

Normally, this is a Tuesday thing, the ranting and the raging and all that. I've been busy. So there.

Let's just get on with it since we're already two days behind, shall we?


Torture
If you haven't at least glanced at the report that came out this week, you should. Truly. I've only seen tiny snippets of it, but what I've seen only served to confirm some of the worst things I have believed about our behavior in the past 13 years or so.

And yeah, when I say our, I mean it, because like it or not, the actions of officials working within our government reflect on each and every citizen of this nation.

There are, for reasons I can't quite understand, some people vehemently defending the torture techniques employed in the report. Even when it has been revealed that they didn't yield much in the way of information. Even when it has been stated that we could have obtained most of what little information we did in other ways. Even then.

Here's the problem with most of the arguments I have seen in favor of the torture: there would never be a justification for the things we have done. I don't care what kind of information it yielded, what happened was not okay.

If we are to hold ourselves out as the leaders of the free world, we simply cannot stoop to that level. We cannot honestly believe that we can police the rest of the world and get away with the atrocities we've perpetrated. I don't care what these prisoners were accused of, we don't treat humans that way.

There aren't two sets of rules, one for us and one for everyone else. No.

We are better than this, or we should be.

There are so many problems with what happened. The ethical implications are huge. HUGE. There were almost certainly domestic laws broken, but bigger than that, we violated just about every peace treaty and international agreement written in the world. The report stopped short of saying that the President was involved, but I don't buy that. I'm sure Bush was aware, just as I am sure that Senator Udall's accusations about the complicit nature of the Obama administration have at least sizable elements of truth.

This shouldn't be a political issue, this should be an ethical one. Period. There are people involved at every level of government on both sides of the aisle who did things and approved things and authorized things they weren't supposed to. Period.

I have been saying for years that in the eyes of many people around the world, we have become the terrorists.

I wasn't wrong.

We've just given them confirmation.

The Bullshit Fracking Commercials
Now that the elections are over, we're back to seeing wiener pills and urinary incontinence pads on television. In this part of the country, we're also back to the constant propaganda of the oil and gas industry.

There is a new commercial that makes me stabby and the more I read about it, the angrier I get. CRED - or Coloradoans for Responsible Energy Development sounds like a legitimate organization concerned with balancing environment, health and industry, right? It isn't. It's funded by O&G.

They just make it sound legit.

Anyway, there is a new commercial pairing organic farmers with fracking interests, claiming that these poor downtrodden organic farmers depend on fracking to keep the lights on. You can see this fantastic piece of fiction here if you are interested.

The woman in the ad, the one who claims to be the organic farmer that needs fracking wells drilled in all the places??? She's in the O&G industry. Shocking, I know.

Her family might own a farm, they might not. I don't honestly care. But if they are running an organic farm in the red and would depend on fracking rights to survive, then maybe they shouldn't be in the organic farming business....

Also...it disturbs me GREATLY that there are tons and tons of wells being drilled here in the center of fields. Those fields are growing crops. Food. Food that you eat and I eat and no one seems to care that there are wells being drilled in the center of fields growing food. We'll just assume that everything is fine and that there isn't anything to be worried about as far as pollution. Uh huh.

Nick Jonas
Nick isn't actually pissing me off all that much. I mean, his lyrics could use some work...they are a bit on the side of ridiculousness. The suggestion that he has a "right to be hellish because he still gets jealous"??? No. You don't have a right to anything, young man. Sorry.

That isn't what this rant is about, though.

It's about the fact that there are groups of people kinda angry with him. You see, he has a new solo album out now and is working on a drama that involves S-E-X and nudity and dirty dirty dirty adult things.

He's an adult now, so whatever.

And, personally, I like him dirty. What???

The problem is that he's a Disney child, so people think that, like Peter Pan, he should never grow up. Not only was he a Disney child, he was a Jonas Brother, purity ring and all. Part of their deal was that they were supposed to be uber religious and into purity and saving themselves for marriage and all that stuff that makes the overprotective fathers of tween girls feel somewhat at ease with the world. Even if it's all manufactured and doesn't work anyway. (but that's another post entirely)

People are bent out of shape that he's most often shirtless these days, that he isn't being a role model anymore, that he's taken off the purity ring. He's human, he's an adult. Seriously.

He can have sex. He can be sexy. I'll allow it.

There are other people upset that he isn't using his most recent propulsion into fame to stump for Type 1 Diabetes. Nick was diagnosed as a kid, and there are some vocal T1 people out there who feel like he's slighting the cause by not talking about it all the time and using his fame to raise money.

Here's the thing.

We don't want our kids to be defined by their conditions, right? Why then should we expect him to be? 

We shouldn't.

He doesn't owe anything to anyone just because he has the same diagnosis some other people live with.

Also, he's solidly in the young adult self discovery phase. I'm going to assume that the two things that defined his youth the most were 1) the highly repressive public identity associated with the Jonas Brothers and 2) the fact that he has Type 1 diabetes.

He has every right to figure out who he is without those two things limiting him.

Shirtless.

Always shirtless.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

When you get it...

Every so often, I'll realize that something I haven't watched in a very long time but have always loved is running on Netflix.

Last week, we introduced the kids to Stand By Me this way. That was a coming of age film that first was released when I wasn't much different in age than my kids are now. I was prepared for my experience with it to be a little bit different as a parent than it was back when I was the one watching it for the first time.

Aside from the bit about how he was a writer, it wasn't.

That part though, oh, did it resonate with me.

As Netflix is so ingeniously programmed to do, it began to show me movies that I might be interested in because I had recently watched Stand By Me. One day, a new film appeared on that list. One that I loved from the moment I saw it the first time.

American Beauty.


Original film poster
It was released in October of 1999. I'm almost certain that my husband and I saw it in the theater just before everything in our lives changed later on that month. Though he'd soon be diagnosed with cancer, we didn't know it yet. I was just a law school student drowning in case law and he was a guy celebrating passing the CPA exam.

I saw that film as a young adult, as a film critic, as a person who felt closest to the younger characters in the movie. I related mostly to Jane, the misunderstood daughter. Though things in my life were necessarily different than hers, I felt a kinship with her, a connection. I lived most of my life feeling like no one really knew me. There are days that I still feel that way. Hell, there are times I'm not sure I understand myself.

I fell in love with the film immediately because it was so brutal, so honest. So real. It was, of course, over dramatized for effect as movies tend to be. It would be highly unlikely for that amount of things to happen to any group of people in such a short period of time, with all the interconnected stories and such. Highly unlikely, but not outside the realm of possibility.

That, and it was disturbing. It bothered me. It bothered most people that watched it on some level. And it bothered us because it was not too far off from the things that we've seen or lived or felt.

The mid life crisis.
The emotionally detached marriage.
The feeling stuck in a dead end job.
The craving irresponsibility.
The lusting after shiny and new.
The discomfort in your own skin.
The denial.
The attempts to control other people.
The fact that no one asked how you were in so long you can't even remember.

I can still remember with so much clarity the discussion I got into with a family friend over the movie. It wasn't so much a discussion as an argument, really. I insisted that it was an instant classic, so well done. It was cinematic brilliance, I reasoned. He, a generation older than I was, insisted that it was sick and wrong.

Or maybe it just hit home too much.

I'd make the argument that is exactly what it did for him, knowing what I know now.

Anyhow, it popped up in my recommendations and I couldn't wait to watch it again. Over the past three days, I've re-watched this film, a bit at a time, taking it all in anew.

It's different this time. So very different. I don't so much relate to Rose anymore as I do to her parents these days.

I've lived more than 15 years in the 15 years since this film was released, I'm certain of it.

The things I have seen, the experiences I have had, all changing my perspective on just about everything.

I get Lester now. I feel like I have crawled into his skin and lived his life a little bit, save the part about being obsessed with his daughter's friend of course.

The film is narrated by his voice, and you know from the first moments how it will end - with his death. Dying in those last moments, his words:

I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me... but it's hard to stay mad, when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst... And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life... You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. But don't worry... you will someday.

What does it mean if I know what he's talking about already?

I think that it means that all the shit I've been through wasn't for nothing. I came out on this side of it all, bruised and scarred sure, but with a wisdom that can only be acquired this way.

Wisdom isn't just an outcome automatically generated by a certain number of years lived, I don't think. I believe that it has a hell of a lot more to do with the experiences we have than it ever will with the number of times we've seen the calendar change. You can live a lot of years and learn almost nothing. You can have lived only to the ripe age of 37 like I have, and learned enough to fill a few lifetimes.

I want to believe that since I'm past so much of the naivete that comes with youth, it necessarily makes me more grounded. I have a perspective that most people my age just don't have, not yet anyway.

Like Lester, I could have let those experiences change me for the worse. I could have used them to wallow and be miserable (and in all honesty, I did for a while).

Instead, they made me stronger.

I get it. Maybe you don't yet. Maybe that's okay.

You will.

Monday, December 8, 2014

30 Days of Quotes about Life - Rose Kennedy

Up today in the quote series is one that I was asked to write about. This quote came to me from someone that I've only ever met online, but have come to know and love as a friend. It's a good one, for sure.

Incidentally, if there is a quote that you'd like me to write about in this series, please send me an email to debiehive@gmail.com. 

Off we go.


"Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn't people feel as free to delight in whatever sunlight remains to them?"
~ Rose Kennedy

Ah, Rose. She is of course most well known as the mother of JFK, Robert and Ted Kennedy, but she was much more than that. She was born of privilege and wealth, but lived a life of heartbreak that included, among other things, enduring the assassinations of two of her sons.

She's known for resilience in the face of loss, and this quote is just one of many well known pieces of her wisdom.

This quote was sent to me by a woman who knows what Rose meant perhaps more than most people ever will. When terrible things happen to us, when we experience painful losses, when tragedy strikes, it is easy to let that define you. It's far easier to mourn indefinitely than it is to figure out how to truly move on.

Our society is such a strange one when it comes to grief. We don't like sadness, we don't like loss, we are afraid of death in a bizarre way here. We don't do well at recognizing and acknowledging grief. We push people to suck it up, to overcome, to deal with it and move on. We give ourselves unreasonable expectations for how we should process losses too, and none of it does us any favors.

For as much as we are collectively in denial about grief, for as much as we cringe at it when we see it, it is a part of life.

We all lose people.

We all have things go wrong.

We all experience loss at some point.

Live long enough and it is inevitable.

What matters is how we cope with it, and by coping I mean actually processing it as opposed to the superficial management that society likes to see.

Society just wants things to be "better", even if "better" is nothing more than a bandaid.

We need time to process the things in life that don't go the way we believe they should. We need to feel all the feelings, we need to grieve. We need to let go of the past. We need to do all that, and rarely are we given the time, space and opportunity to do so.

If we don't, though, if we just put the fake smile on and act like we're okay, we never really heal.

I think that that quote says that isn't enough. We need to do more.

It says that once we endure a loss, we need to accept that life isn't going to be the way we thought. Once we recognize the paths that won't be walked and the futures that can never be, only then can we truly find happiness again.

I know that in my life, this has been true. I also know that after enduring heartbreak and loss, I had to get to a place of acceptance. Then, I had a choice to make. I had to choose to be happy again.

Choosing to seek happiness can be terrifying when you've lost so much before. It's simpler to just say that things will always be awful, that they'll never be perfect so why bother trying.

It just isn't living, not fully anyway.

It's existing, and that isn't the same thing at all.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Suicide, Mental Health and Parenting Teenagers

I try the very best that I can to remember what it was like to be a teenager as I am raising my own. I had a hellish time in middle school, I loathed drama all the way to my core. High school wasn't much better. I was not popular, not pretty, not any of the things that ever seemed important at that time in my life...and consequently have taught my kids from the time they were wee little babes to embrace who they are and discard with the expectations that society would like to impose on them.

My two middle schoolers are fairly grounded people, perhaps in part at least because of all that. They are unique and interesting and love what they love without regard for who might tease them. They are pretty resilient with friends and all the teenage drama. They avoid conflicts when possible and those who feed on them. They are independent and outgoing, sometimes in ways that floors me. I was never that confident in who I was at their age. It's refreshing to see.

I don't worry about them too much when it comes to interpersonal conflicts at school, or at least I try not to. Every once in a while, though, I remind them that I'm here to listen if they ever need to talk, that there are tons of other adults ready too if for some reason they don't want to talk to me. If you don't want to talk to me, just talk to someone, I tell them. I encourage them to share their feelings, telling them to feel all the feelings, not just the good ones. Squashing the bad ones down won't work.

I remind them frequently, and I've reminded them more so recently because of reality. In this world where we want to insulate our children from pain and grief and loss, it's always there in some capacity. Sometimes it hits home a little more, and has done that here in the past few weeks as our community has faced a series of suicides.


I asked The Oldest if they had talked about suicide at school, if the counselors had been in at all, especially in light of recent events. These deaths have impacted another school on the other side of the district most directly, but being as we have open enrollment, the kids all seem to know someone who knows someone over there.

We may not want to have these conversations as parents. We may not want our children to know that sometimes people take their own lives. We may not want to talk to them about the effects of bullying on the human psyche. We may not want to confront the realities that mental illness happens to people of all ages. We may not want to believe that we've passed down our own tendencies to them.

But we have to.

The Oldest asked, during that conversation I just had with him, what OCD was. I explained it, asked him why he was curious about it. Told him that there are traces of it throughout our family, but he has never shown the signs of it aside from methodically lining things up when he was a toddler.

We got to talking more about the conditions that people in our family face. The ADHD, the anxiety, the depression. The things that could be a part of his life someday. The things he may have inherited from us, his parents.

The things he needs to keep an eye out for, that I need to watch for. The things that we need to address if and when they do show up. The things that already affect some of his siblings.

These aren't easy conversations to have, but they are necessary. For as much as we may want our children to dwell in the world where tragedies don't happen, we aren't doing them any favors by letting them stay naive. Part of growing up means having an awareness of mental health problems, of depression, of suicide, and they need our help to do it.

We can't make light of their situations, their worries, their struggles, no matter how inconsequential we may believe them to be - to them, they are hugely important. If we don't listen to them and honor their place in life, they will stop talking to us. We need to hear them, we need to listen, we need to keep the channels open so they have a safe place to land.

Talk to your kids.

Make sure they can talk to you.

Make sure they have someone else to talk to as well.

There are tips here if you aren't sure how to start this conversation. Please have it.

National Suicide Prevention hotline 1-800-273-8255.

TEENLINK is another resource available 6-10 PST, 1- 866- TEENLINK

Thursday, December 4, 2014

All The People

I took a picture of my middle son today at the endocrinologist's office, as I tend to do. Trying to document this bizarre journey he is on, I usually snap a quick shot of him while we're in there for the current update on his blood sugar.

Today, when I quickly checked the image viewer to make sure the shot wasn't too blurry, I saw something I didn't intend to see.

And it hurt my heart.

I realized in that moment how different my son's life will be than it will be for other little boys his age. The oversized beanie that he pulls down over his ears just so. The jeans with the ripped knees, sagging down below his waist because he's so thin. He pulls them up almost constantly. The most precious, most expensive piece of any outfit he ever wears, his shoes. Around his neck, a ball chain with a dog tag style pendant. Sitting in the chair beside me, his hoodie, always a few sizes too big for his slight frame.


He exudes a level of confidence I couldn't have even fathomed at that age or now for that matter. He has a swagger to him, one that I swear he was born with.

And he's white, so it's charming. It's cute. People think he's cool.

Take the entire wardrobe, the confidence and the swagger, then put it on a little boy with darker skin than his and he might be called a thug.

Thug.

I've seen that awful word tossed around so much in these past two weeks. It stings the most when I hear someone who professes to be a supporter of equality using it. I cringe, flinch, squint my eyes at the screen when I read the words from someone I didn't expect to display that level of bias.

There are mothers of little boys just like my son that will have to contend with more worries than I can ever imagine simply because of the color of their skin. If that truth makes you uncomfortable, I'm sorry to rip you out of your world of denial.

Not really. I'm not sorry.

I'm sorry that it is reality, but I'll never be sorry for forcing people to face it.

There is systemic bias in this country. There are words that are only ever used when talking about certain groups of people. There are groups subject to routine profiling. There are biases inherent in all social interactions, biases that we aren't born with but that we are taught, biases that change how people interact with one another.

To say that we live in a post racial society where everyone is equal, claim that the law is colorblind, is to kid yourself.


This isn't just about Eric Garner. This isn't just about John Crawford III. This isn't just about Tamir Rice.

It's about the fact that a man begged for his life on video, killed by a man wearing a badge using an unauthorized chokehold.

It's about the fact that a man was killed in a store just for holding a BB gun, the same store where guns are sold every single day to white men without anyone getting killed.

It's about the fact that a 12 year old boy carrying an Airsoft gun in a public park, living in an open carry state, was gunned down two seconds after police arrived. The officer that shot him, one that had resigned from a prior department after being found emotionally unstable and unfit for duty.

It isn't just about this one case or that one case because there isn't just one case.

It's about the fact that unarmed black men are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than unarmed white men. That's not just a statistical anomaly that can be explained away, waved off dismissively.

It isn't just about one case or one situation or one incident or one death.

It isn't just about the police, either. I know many, many police officers. The overwhelming majority of them are good people doing the very best they can in a difficult line of work. The good ones will tell you that there are people who shouldn't be allowed to wear that badge.

It isn't just about the prosecutors, either. Rather than just file the complaint themselves (which, by the way, they could totally do), they toss these cases to grand juries, passing the buck. They put together what amounts to a defense and the grand juries refrain from issuing indictments precisely because that is the goal. If the prosecutors wanted indictments, they would get indictments. 

Many people, far too many people I know refused to get outraged over the Michael Brown case. They reasoned away his death, found flaws in his actions, were content to blame him for creating the situation. If only he hadn't robbed the store, they said, he'd be alive. Or that he should not have done this or done that. As though any of those things legitimizes his death. They were unwilling to advocate for Michael because he wasn't a saint. He wasn't the perfect victim. They could explain his death away, blame him for what happened.

What will they say this time with Eric Garner? Those ways of rationalizing death don't exist here. This man wasn't violent. He wasn't attacking anyone. He was asking to be left alone. And then he was begging for his life. And then begging. And then begging. And then he went quiet. All of it happened on camera.

We didn't need testimony from eyewitnesses. We can all see what happened with our own eyes.

How will they, the ones who explained away Michael Brown's death justify Eric Garner's?

If they can't justify it, this death that has already been ruled a homicide, where do we go from here?

We know that he was killed. We know that a police officer killed him. We know that he was killed using unauthorized procedures. We know all these things.

And still, no indictment.

How the hell can that be justified?

Simple. It can't.

If you have the time, I urge you all to go to Twitter. Follow two hashtags.

#blacklivesmatter
#crimingwhilewhite

Put them together and you'll have two very different pictures of our society.

Then demand that all cases involving lethal force and police are investigated externally. Push for police departments to better represent the communities they serve. Holding the bad cops accountable, getting them out of the departments, cleaning up the ranks...all necessary steps that need to be taken if there is ever any hope of rebuilding trust between the police and the community. All that needs to happen so that the good officers, the vast majority of them all, can do their jobs safely.

The legitimacy of police authority relies on trust to work as an absolute, and it's a two way street.

Going forward, things have to change. And that change is only going to come if we, the people, demand it.

We, the people.

Not the black people or the brown people or the white people. All the people. All the mothers of all the little boys wearing beanies and hoodies and saggy jeans, no matter how much pigmentation they were born with.

All the people.


“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”

~ Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the I took a week off and this is what you get edition

Oh hi, blog. I haven't been around much, mostly because I haven't been in the mood to write.

Strike that.

I've been in the mood to write all kinds of things. I could have written ridiculously long posts full of rants and rage and anger and sadness, but I didn't. I figure at some point you guys might get tired of all that. Plus, I live with a tiny dictator who decides when I write these days.

At least he's cute.

Anyway, last week was a rough one where I hardly touched the computer at all, and to be honest it was probably better that way. Thanksgiving is always emotional for me, plus my Dad's birthday, plus all the kids were home, plus there was all kinds of social unrest, plus someone around here had surgery (I might tell you more about that later. Maybe.) Needless to say, I was pretty damn excited for a little peace and quiet around here, even if it only last 7.3 seconds before the tiny dictator issues his newest list of demands.

Speaking of which, I'm running out of time here, people, so let's get to what we need to cover for the week.


The Kids Aren't Alright
There should be an unspoken code when it comes to the children of politicians. They should be off limits. They should be. Usually, they are, though every once in a while some one crosses a line like what happened last week.

GOP staffer Elizabeth Lauten said this on Facebook about Sasha and Malia Obama:

Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department. Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised public events.

Needless to say, it didn't go over well.

She resigned.

She resigned, but the problem with this is bigger than just her. It's this idea that those on the far right can disparage the Obama family in whatever way they want and it's supposed to be okay. There are the subtle racial jabs (okay, some aren't even subtle), the disgusting things said about Michelle, and now this. These girls aren't fodder for some political point you think you are making. They are kids.

Leave them alone.

Also, those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, Ms. Lauten. ;)

The Trouble with the Grand Jury
I haven't actually watched the news all that much because I just can't bring myself to do it. The news out of Ferguson is awful. I decided that I would write about what went wrong with the grand jury at some point, I just haven't had a chance to get to it. I used to work for the district attorney's office and I can tell you one thing about prosecutors. It's this: If they want an indictment, they almost always get one. It's just reality, and honestly there's nothing to argue with me about on this point. The statistics overwhelmingly support this truth, except of course for cases where a police officer is the one accused of a crime.

The reason that one wasn't issued in the death of Michael Brown seems pretty obvious to me....the prosecutor didn't want an indictment issued.

What most people, even those talking head "experts" on television don't seem to understand is that the grand jury system isn't supposed to operate the way it did in this case. The sole purpose of a grand jury is to decide if there is enough evidence, enough of a question about the facts to bring it to trial. They aren't supposed to weigh the credibility of witnesses and they sure as hell aren't supposed to determine guilt or innocence. In a case like this, with an unarmed suspect, with the number of shots fired, with vastly different stories about what happened, with conflicting autopsy reports, there certainly was enough evidence to warrant bringing charges. Any one of those facts alone would be enough in most cases, let alone the combination of them.

There are so many problems with what happened in Ferguson without even getting into a discussion of the racially charged background it all took place in front of. From the time of the shooting, Wilson was listed as the victim even though he was still indeed very much alive. There was questionable handling of evidence, interviews that weren't performed properly and more...all of which point to the fact that police departments shouldn't be permitted to investigate cases where one of their own officers is involved in a shooting such as this one. An external investigation should be the default.

The prosecutor in this case is the President of the board of directors for an organization that supports police and other first responders. His father was an officer killed in the line of duty, shot by a black man. That smells an awful lot like a personal conflict of interest here.

This case has created some unlikely alliances in its wake. While the vast majority of the conservative media and political machine has celebrated the outcome, some very vocal opposition has come from those like Justice Scalia and Nancy Grace, both heavily critical of how the grand jury was handled. Scalia criticized the situation, discussing the propriety of Wilson's testimony and the fact that the grand jury is charged only with deciding if probable cause exists and no more.

Nancy Grace, another surprise. She has plainly said that she just isn't buying Wilson's story, that it doesn't add up.


In addition, since the issue of whether Michael Brown had his hands raised or not is one that not everyone agrees on, it's possible that the grand jury was instructed improperly. Police officers are not allowed to use deadly force on fleeing suspects or on suspects that do not pose a threat, under a 1985 Supreme Court decision. If, as some of the eye witnesses say, Brown was walking away and/or had his hands up in the air, he would not have presented a threat to the officer at the time. That question is one that should have been put to a trial jury. Instead, the grand jury here was instructed using an outdated law about the use of force, one that was found unconstitutional in certain circumstances.

There is a federal investigation of the case, though I highly doubt anything will come of it. Far more likely is a civil case brought by the family against both Wilson and the police department.

At this point, nothing will bring Michael Brown back. The best that we can do is learn from this experience and make changes going forward. Departments need to better reflect the communities they serve. Non lethal force must be the first line of defense when dealing with unarmed suspects. Profiling must end. We need to confront the uncomfortable realities of racial bias in law enforcement (and every other aspect of life for that matter), admit what is going on, and work towards eradicating it. When incidents like this occur, external investigations need to be performed. Those with conflicts of interest need to recuse themselves from these cases to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Grand juries need to be instructed properly and limited in the scope of their duties.

Until and unless all those things happen, what happened in Ferguson is destined to repeat itself. Maybe not now, maybe not there, but it will happen again.

And that pisses me off.

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