Saturday, March 27, 2010

solitude and leadership

My boss, the venerable Bill Shore, forwarded one of the most phenomenal speeches I've read in a while. Not that I'm reading 100 speeches a day or anything. It's titled Solitude and Leadership by William Deresiewicz. It was delivered to the plebe class of the US Military Academy at West Point last year.

It was long, and that's always hard for me, especially if I'm reading it online. My attention wanders to other tabs at least several times every few minutes. For example, while typing this post I remembered I had to buy tickets to the New Pornographers show. So what did I do? Bounced over to Facebook to get the link to the website to purchase the tickets and the rest is history.

One of the ideas I got out of it was the concept of trying to quiet all the noise of Twitter, Facebook and everything else (Blogger, perhaps?). It's gotten so hard to focus on one thing at a time. To concentrate and dedicate our energy into one task at a time. Even as I type this I'm thinking of all the things I have to do today, the plans I have for next week, etc. This guy ain't kidding...

The main theme, of course, as the title would indicate, is the idea of pairing solitude and leadership. Sometimes, when something matters to you, a principle, a belief, you have to be the lone champion. You have to become okay with criticism. You really have to find a way to allow yourself to continue when everybody thinks you're crazy. Radical ideas are sometimes just new ideas that people can't process yet. Of course the Tea Party goers might say this and that doesn't lend much credence to my defense. But, to help me out, here's another example, my ties to feminism puts a wedge between me and some of my friends, sometimes. Many of my friends would argue that women have arrived. They arrived back in 1920 when we got the right to vote and we should've shut up a long time ago. But I'm not going to let their criticism keep me from arguing otherwise. I have to become comfortable with not always agreeing with everyone I'm friends with.

The speech was an eye opener, to say the least. I love these little bits of inspiration that float my way. They keep me going.

Read the speech here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

immigrant discrimination

I can remember a time when I was adamantly against the "dirty Mexicans" who were taking over "our" country. It is not a time I'm proud of, but I will admit that in my ignorance, and in a voice that wasn't my own, I shunned and criticized a group of people I did not know or understand. Where did this voice come from? Was it my parents? My peers? Either way, it was decidedly hateful and with no knowledge to back it up - that's the scary part.

It wasn't until I graduated from high school and went on to college that I learned more about my "enemies."

I started working at a real estate office part time during my time in school. It was like the United Nations of real estate in many ways, as I met people from all over the world, Ghana, Nigeria, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Columbia, Peru...

I became especially close with one Peruvian girl in the office. We talked and laughed about everything, thus my feelings regarding Latinos, Hispanics, etc. began to soften in a major way. Then one day she told me her story of coming to the U.S. Her parents left her and her brother, both around the ages of 8 or 9 at the time, with a relative. And on their own, they came to the U.S. to carve out a life for the family. It was not out of greed that her parents decided to go north, but out of necessity. Peru at that time was being run by a military dictatorship, fraught with corruption which crushed civil liberties. They didn't leave because they wanted to, they left because they felt that had to.

Her parents spent several years working as much as they could, and saving for the opportunity to bring my friend and her brother up north to join them. She spoke to her mom, as much as she could, over the phone. She paused as she began to explain the time that she told her mother she had gotten her period. I could tell she wanted to cry, and it took her some time to continue. Her mother was so overcome with the fact that she could not be there for her daughter during this milestone. Her mother knew that the years of childhood she missed could never be brought back, she couldn't stop time from bringing her daughter and eventually her son, too, into adulthood.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Never in my sheltered existence had I thought of a situation so desperate and difficult within a family. My feelings regarding "Mexicans" and immigrants would never be the same.

This was the first time I saw immigrants as humans, as families, as people who are fighting for happiness just like everyone else. But, due to the hand they were dealt, they have to fight harder. They have to travel further, they have to endure more.

That is why it is so frustrating for me to listen when I hear Americans belittle their struggles. For a country that has done a pretty good job of taking what is not ours, (hello, Native Americans), we certainly have a lot to say when other people want in on the American dream.

In an article on Yahoo! regarding Obama's promise to reform immigration, the comments flood in from all over, many negative.

Strange to think that being born in this country instills the right to guard it from all enemies, real or imagined. And we can do so in our own broken and abhorrent English:

Jim C says: You want result! pack the Illegal criminals in busses and take them back where they came from!!

Jack M says: At the least learn and speak english, pay a big fine, and go to the back of the line.

I could give these comments to the immigrant students in my English class to correct. "At the least" they would know how to spell "buses" correctly.

I think if we really want results we should get to know the people who are working to make our lives easier, at McDonald's, cleaning our offices, our homes, doing our gardening, taking care of our children and much, much more. Maybe then we could see them as people who really just want what we want, to be happy.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

the art of using the bathroom

I might start a new Facebook group:

"I know you're waiting for me to leave the bathroom so you can poop"

We've all been there, haven't we? Silence in the bathroom when you know someone else is in the next stall. You've already walked in, closed the stall, peed, and now you're washing your hands and you haven't heard a cricket's fart from your clandestine stallmate.

When you're the one who doesn't have to #2, you're left with the uncomfortable task of hurrying yourself along at lightning speed to give this person some privacy.

But really, come on, we're both adults here. Don't be afraid. Let's talk about this right now, or, better yet, feel free to unload. I know you have to poop, you can't fool me.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

all for an abortion

I read an entry recently that made me want to cringe to the point of literal physical discomfort and bawl my eyes out simultaneously. It was titled "Lucky Girl" and was written by Bridget Potter about her experience of the pursuit and eventual finding of an illegal abortion in 1962.

She became pregnant as a result of failed birth control. Male condoms were considered "disgusting, unreliable, and boys didn’t like to use them anyway." Needless to say sexual education was not considered a good idea back then. Because, after all, young people should not be, and therefore won't be, having sex, anyway. Any sort of education would surely encourage teenagers to go out and have safe sex.

So, then, after the pink foam spermicide she was using failed, only 19 years old and nowhere near ready to have a baby or get married, she thought of seeking an abortion. It ended up being a several week journey of judgment, (from disapproving male gynecologists), and disappointment which inevitably took her all the way to Puerto Rico. It was in a remote part of the island that she eventually had the procedure done in what looked like a house on a wooden table with no anesthesia.

When she returned to the states and saw a gynecologist for the aftermath, she learned that she is not the only one who has been through such an ordeal. She was, however, a lucky one...

“The familiar symbol of illegal abortion is the infamous ‘coat hanger’—which may be the symbol, but is in no way a myth. In my years in New York, several women arrived with a hanger still in place. Whoever put it in—perhaps the patient herself—found it trapped in the cervix and could not remove it… Almost any implement you can imagine had been and was used to start an abortion—darning needles, crochet hooks, cut-glass salt shakers, soda bottles, sometimes intact, sometimes with the top broken off.”

If there is a simple and safe solution to stopping unwanted pregnancies, why would we deny women the right to such a procedure? Are we just looking for a way to "punish" women for having sex? May they never repeal Roe v Wade here and may they also never insert loopholes to make access to abortions more difficult for women of all classes *cough* STUPAK!

Even today, 67,000 women die from abortions each year around the world, mostly in countries where abortion is illegal. Women should not have to subject themselves to self-torture in order to avoid having a child.

See "Lucky Girl" by Bridget Potter

Photo source: we heart it

Thursday, March 4, 2010


A friend came to visit from Ohio & I made him take glamor shots of my girls -


gay marriage in DC!

At long last gay marriage is allowed in DC, what a proud and exciting day!!

As with most happy events, there always seem to be a few stinkers who want to ruin the day, open a storm cloud on a big parade, etc. That was the job of Fred Phelps and his crew yesterday.

The infamous "God hates fags" crew was on hand to make sure that people could see them publicly wave their self-righteous fingers at love between two people. How did they get to DC? I'm not quite sure, I wish I could tell you a time machine from the eighteenth century, but I can't. That would be a lie.

Where would the world be without these fundamentalist religious nuts constantly reminding us how much god hates us?

I wake up every day wondering, does god love me? And of course I know the answer is no:

I live with a gay man who I platonically love and support. (hell)
I support a woman's right to choose. (hell)
I have premarital sex. (hell)
I am agnostic. (burning hell)

It's strange because I had always been taught growing up that God loves you no matter who you are or who you love. But Fred Phelps disagrees. Because, according to him, if god represents anything, it's shame and guilt. And luckily, for us sinners, he has rained down these representatives to remind us just how far into hell we all will be going.