Whew! Thank God That’s Settled. Fling Open the Hospital Doors and Let the Veterans Out.

So, it turns out that the very same Department of Veterans Affairs that brought us such bright ideas as "Let’s contact the most mentally fragile veterans and tell them we think they’re lying about being mentally ill and thus are going to lose their benefits just to see if they’ll commit suicide and save us some money" and "Gee, we have too many hospitals, let’s close some when we’re in the middle of an on-going war which is producing more veterans who are more severely wounded than we’ve seen in any other war up until now" has decided that there’s no such thing as Gulf War Syndrome.

Never mind that "Gulf War Syndrome" was never actually, you know, a syndrome, but a short-hand way of talking about a wide group of ailments; a way of saying "Fuck, we were fine before we went to the Gulf, but upon returning, many of us seem very fucked up.  What’s an easy way to refer to all of the ways we’re fucked up?"

America, this just makes me irrationally angry.  It’s a total sleight of hand.  These folks come back from the war and they have a variety of symptoms.  They can’t get anyone to take them seriously that it’s a problem, so they give all those varied and sometimes contradictory symptoms a name–"Gulf War Syndrome."  Nobody’s claiming that it’s an actual medical diagnosis.  They’re just trying to put a name to a bunch of things that are going very wrong for them in order to get some attention for those problems.

And now the VA comes out and says "there is no such medical condition called ‘Gulf War Syndrome.’"

Does that mean those folks aren’t sick?  That they aren’t sick in greater numbers than the general population?

No.

It just means that we’re back where we were when folks first were trying to talk about this–that there’s a bunch of folks with problems that seem to stem from their time serving in the Gulf and no one knows for sure what causes them or if they’re all related.

But now,  there’s no media-friendly phrase to attach to it.

You know, really, when folks get out of the military, we ought to just hand them a letter that says,

Dear Veteran,

Thank you for your service to your country. 

Now, though?  Tough shit. You’re on your own.

Love, America

just so that they know what they’re in for. 

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Roger Abramson Reads My Mind!

I tease. 

Actually, I wasn’t thinking anything about Pat Tillman (so much for Roger’s mind-reading ability), I just read the story because Roger recommended it.

I love the reconstructionists almost as much as I love the world-views they’re trying to reconstruct.  And one of the things they’ve picked up, brushed off, and put back to use is the sumbel.

This is a kind of ritualized drinking event.  A horn of mead is passed among the group and as each person drinks from the horn he or she tells a story or makes a boast or swears an oath.  It’s a moment where the most important stories about who they are get told and retold and woven into the fabric of the community.

Usually, the first round is devoted to telling some exploit of a favorite god.  The next rounds go to telling the stories of great and honorable people whose memories deserve to be preserved.

That’s what this story about Tillman reminded me of, the necessity of having the means to share our most holy stories.  The importance of telling and being heard.

And, also, the truth that comes through in so many of those old myths–that a killing within a close-knit group can never be properly avenged, that it will, instead, tear the group apart and cost the people in the group dearly. 

An Open Letter to Roger Abramson

Dear Roger,


I believe you may be the first person other that Kleinheider I’ve written an open letter to.  But I feel compelled.  In fact, I feel so compelled that I’ve even added a new category to Tiny Cat Pants–“Open Letters to Folks Who Need Them”–which means I’ll have to go back, dig out all the letters to Kleinheider and add them.  Yes, I’m going to do extra work, just so that I can write an open letter to you.  That’s how compelled I feel.


You may wonder what has compelled me to write you this note.  It’s because I see you continuing to further this notion that history goes something like this–“These past 2,000 years of Western history have been a shining beacon of progress to the rest of the world apotheopized* by the arrival on the world stage of the United States, which, once it got on its feet, began doling out rights like they were candy.” And your reaction to said history seems to be “Why aren’t more folks grateful to us?”


Look, here you’re supporting such a notion: “Unless they have a 200+ year track record of expanding rights and unimaginable prosperity as well.”


And here’s the passage of yours that so flummoxed me I had to rest my head on my desk to recover:



Following ACK’s advice, which essentially amounts to nothing more than the acknowledgement of the fact that, whatever the flaws of Western civilization may be, advances for women in our sphere have far surpassed those in other parts of the world, would serve as a way to gain the ear of the sorts of people you need to get on your side to make further progress. What’s so hard about that?


I, being a fan of them both, might argue that sarcasm and petulance are the only ways to respond to such nonsense, but I see you’re not letting this go, and so I feel like I must try to reach you with reasoned discourse.  I hope you realize what a hard thing I’m doing for you this is.


So, let’s try to address your points in a reasonable manner.


Please look closely at the above-quoted paragraph of yours.  Can you not see how deeply ingrained in this paragraph is the belief that men constitute civilization?  “Advances for women in our sphere” for instance.  Roger, I know you and I believe that you think that sentence means “There’s a sphere of Western civilization (much like a team) made up of men and women and the women on our team (or in our sphere) have it better than the women on other teams.  If the women want to have it even better, they just need to convince the whole team of that necessity and, because we’re on the progressive, rights-doling out side, we’ll do it.”


But what I’m asking is that you see how that sentence sounds from the perspective of someone who’s not convinced that “Our sphere” means “all of us” because she looks at that same 2,000 years of history and sees that, for the most part, “our sphere” means “the sphere of men.”  Thus, when we have to gain the ear of the sorts of people we need on our side in order to make further progress, it seems like you’re saying we’ve got to beg men to grant us more rights.


Well, Roger, if we have to beg you to grant us the rights you already have, it kind of shows that y’all don’t think we inalienably have those rights, the same way that you do–that it’s still more of this ” white men are the standard of humanity to which all others must aspire but inevitably fall short” nonsense.


Can you see why, when the implicit assumption is that we’re still not quite human, that we still have to go around and beg for scraps of rights at the grand table that is American democracy, we’re not lining up to heap thanks upon you for the few things you toss our way?


Make real room for us at the table and we’ll be more than happy to be there. 


But when we’re still struggling to get you guys to share power, to recognize us as human beings?  It’s hard to feel grateful all the time.**


The other thing I think you don’t get is what Bridgett articulated when we were discussing Lindsey’s initial post, which is how much what you’re saying sounds like a threat–“Do you see how bad women have it in the rest of the world?  If you ‘ladies’ don’t start showing a little gratitude for how things work around here, we could make things a whole lot worse for you.”


And my last point.  You live in a city that is both central to the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Movement.  You can go downtown and stand on legislative plaza, facing the river, and look to your left and see the place where women won the right to vote and look to your right and see the places where black people began to desegregate Nashville.


When you perpetuate a version of history that makes it seem as if all we had to do was wait around for white men to get around to handing us rights, that things are how they are because of some almost inevitable push of history and culmination of Enlightenment ideas about human kind, you negate the hard work, grave sacrifices, and brave decisions the people who fought for those rights had to make.


The things we have–the right to vote, the right to own property, to control our own finances, to marry who we want, etc.–those didn’t come because we waited patiently for 2,000 years of Western civilization to reach this inevitable point.  Nothing about this moment is inevitable.


We’re here because the very people you want to be grateful struggled long and hard and at great personal sacrifice to get us here.


So, my question for you, Roger Abramson, is this: If you like this country so much, why aren’t you all the time kissing the butts of women and people of color who fought to make it this way?***


You know where to find me, should you need a woman to express your gratitude towards.


Love,


Aunt B.


 


*Is that a word?  I mean something like “culminated” but with a dash of “inevitable sacred destiny” mixed in.


**And again, gentlemen, what is it with you and your need to have your butts kissed, no matter how insincere?  Wouldn’t you rather have sincere affection than insincere adoration?  I just don’t get it.


***Oops.  That may have been a little of that petulance and sarcasm you’re so not fond of.

My Problem with Story Problems

Okay, my inability to do basic math used to be just an annoying handicap that I could work around.  But I just about wrote a comment over at Coble’s that went a little something like this:


“Well, now we know why Coble’s so happy.  In her world, all the men have twelve-inch dicks.”


Yes, I looked at “24 inches. 24. That’s 3 good men right there.” and thought “What is twenty-four divided by three?” and got “Twelve!”


I am an idiot.  Which is fine.  But what if I had left that up there?  Just put out there that I can’t tell how many times three goes into twenty-four?  You guys would have teased me mercilessly.


Shoot, though, gentlemen, I guess this means you can be honest with your size–“Thirty-six inches?  Shoot, that’s like nine of me”–and I’ll be all “yeah, I cannot wait to get a hold of this guy’s half a foot.”

Things that Are Annoying the Piss Out of Me

1. I’ve got some weird itchy patch on my ankle. There’s no rash, there’s just a weepy hole that itches. Thinking about it makes me itch all over. Ha, I should take a picture of my weepy, itchy ankle just so that I don’t have to suffer alone.

2. The Butcher went to bed, which means I have to take out the recycling and the trash.

3. Sure, he claims he’ll take out the trash, but is he including the tower of Q-Tips growing behind the trash can in the bathroom? I somehow doubt it, as a tower cannot grow that high unaided by someone’s neglect. So, why would this week be any different?

4. And I wanted to go to bed first so that he’d have to run the dog out one last time.

On the upside, at least I know there will not be a tower of Q-tips in the bathroom tomorrow morning. So, there’s that.