Category Archives: Justice & Peace

Early Morning Activism

Thing these little beauties out into the world this morning. Postcards by Marta Pelrine-Bacon.

Update: I hesitated to post this on Facebook, and I even hesitated to post it here, in my own virtual living room (knowing i would probably be allow it to be sucked into Facebook, but that fewer people would see it because: algorithms.)

But now, instead of cowering, I’m roaring.

During the election I felt things strongly and I posted them on Facebook because that is where I interact with people the most, now that I am at home, writing all day.

I was one of those people who prompted Facebook comments like “I can’t wait for the election to be over so we can get back to posting about the kids and cute kittens.”

But I can’t go back.

This is who I am.

This is why you rarely see me at neighborhood get-togethers. It’s why you don’t see me hanging out making small talk after church. It’s why I tend to turn down invitations to jewelry parties (that and the fact that I don’t wear it.)

It’s not that I don’t care about the people in my community. I do. I like a lot of them an awful lot.

But this is who I am. And this is what I want to talk about.

I very much appreciated my two years of being a bus-stop mum, after the kids switched to public school. I liked the comradeship and the forced socializing early in the morning (the requirement that I get dressed, for one, and maybe drag a comb through my hair), and the opportunity to share concerns and triumphs with other parents, maybe to help, maybe to be helped.

And I miss that.

But that’s not all I am. (It’s not all anyone is.)

I am passionate about Big Ideas. And I can’t not talk about them. 

I care a lot (head-‘splodingly) when the leaders of the richest nation on earth “decide”, in the face of scientific evidence, that climate change isn’t being affected by humanity, because it might slightly affect profits if they do.

It drives me insane when our so-called ‘leaders’ protect a broken status quo rather than looking for bold solutions to the problems we face.

It makes me want to punch things when I see people lying to support their ideology.

And I can’t shut up about it because they work for me.

My blood pressure goes through the roof every time I see a flier for pot-luck dinners and fundraisers when someone in my community gets sick.

And do you know what? I haven’t seen so many of those in recent years, since the Affordable Care Act raised premiums but required that all insurance covers stuff like, actually getting treatment when you get sick. The calls for help that I have seen, tend to be about ‘helping out with living expenses while the family deals with this’, which is still not utopia, but is better than the panicked “OMG, she’s going to be homeless and bankrupt if we don’t help right now”, like the ones I used to see.

(This is true in my physical community and even more so in my professional community of artists, who don’t have big corporations to sponsor their health-insurance for them. One house fire, one tumor, one car accident can mean DISASTER to the self-employed, underpaid writers and artists who provide all the entertainment we rely on so much to get us through the day.)

I care ALL THE TIME about war and international relations and small businesses and public transit and corporate welfare and the dignity of human life, the poor, the vulnerable, the prisoner, the refugee, the underemployed, the at-will contract worker, the person with mental health issues, the rich person who doesn’t know why they still aren’t happy, the unborn, the born, the entrepreneur; I care about how we treat our animals; truth in advertising; integrity in government; faith (yours, mine, and his right to lack it); philosophy, history, truth, truth, truth (subjective as it is, but pare away as much of the rubbish until we get as close as we can, clear-eyed about our own prejudices and privileges).

I cannot wash my hands of it all. I can’t shrug cynically and say nothing makes a difference. This doesn’t makes me better than someone who can. I’m simply stating who I am.

Are You There, Senator? It’s Me, Your Boss

Our voices ring in the ears of our elected representatives. I’ve been blessed with a mostly-tax-payer-subsidized and excellent education that trained me to research, gather information, compare and contrast, analyze and build an argument formed from the best available facts. It is a talent and a gift and I feel compelled to use it to spread truth, and battle misinformation.

I will continue to suck in information and share the best-researched, the most-thoughtful, most useful information I can. I will be eloquent when I can and pointed when I cannot. I will be opinionated and honest about my biases.

TL;DR: This executive action on the environment SUCKS and I will be screaming about it for a long time. This small-hearted, short-sighted government chaps my ass and I will be screaming about that for a long time, too. 

If you’re looking for kittens, move along.

The Personal Cost of Sexual Assault Culture

I’m angry this morning.

I’ve been angry about having-voluntarily-become-a-citizen-of a-country-where-people-elected-Donald-Trump-as-candidate-for-President for a long time.

Today I’m specifically angry that someone I know, a ‘pillar of the community’ in my town, thinks it’s OK to dismiss Donald Trump’s 2005 chat about how he treats women, because “Bill did it too”.

OK, let’s go:

1. If We’d Had Proof About Bill

If we’d had this kind of iron-clad proof about Bill Clinton’s character would he have been elected president? Maybe.

1991 was a long time ago, even though it doesn’t feel like it to people my age—except when you think about how far we’ve come on issues like, uh, acknowledging unwanted sexual contact as the damaging assault that it truly is.

2. Bill Clinton is not running.

If you think Hillary is morally weak for staying with her husband after knowing what he was like, then you clearly will have no compassion for other complicated human emotions and situations.

Why do abused people stay with their abusers? Why don’t drug addicts just pull their socks up? Why do we have to pay all this money to put ramps in for the couple of disabled people who might conceivably want to enter our buildings? (Can’t they just wait outside until we send someone down to help them like the infants they are?)

3. When we had proof of Bill Clinton’s actions, he was impeached.

We didn’t invite him to stay on. We weren’t proud he was our leader. It’s not ‘going all Democratic” or “defending the Clintons” to demand that we don’t knowingly elect another man like him.

He is not “a dirty boy”. He is a grown, 70 year old man, who has shown us the content of his character in many and varied ways. This is only the latest.

And, at the risk of being accused of defending Bill Clinton (which I am not), he HAD some skills in the job he was doing. He trained for it his whole life. He qualified as a lawyer. He apprenticed as governor of a large state. Twice.

I disagreed with many of the policies he put in place, and think the fallout from them has been bad. But he understood government. He did not need on-the-job-training.

4. Contact Without Consent is Sexual Assault

People like me, your sister and your mother had to put up with Trumpian behaviour from the moment our periods started, because now we were women.

You had to smile and laugh and learn to brush off grown men in order to voice being called a bad sport or a ‘shrill harpy’ or frigid or worse, to avoid being physically intimidated or attacked.

We had to endure being touched and propositioned by strangers because ‘it’s just a bit of fun’.

5. Assault is Damaging

When someone decides they can be in your personal space, touch you however they like and demean you when you say no, it is a psychologically damaging assault that leaves an impression. It might make a dent, or it might crush someone, but, as with all interpersonal interactions, it has an impact.

Are we clear on that?

6. A Climate of Degradation Doesn’t Just Hurt The Target

Sexual predation doesn’t just hurt women. We have to stop saying “this language has to change ‘for our daughters and our wives”.

We have to change this language for our daughters and our sons and our wives and our brothers and for all human beings.

This culture hurts men too.

Decent men feel bad, and often powerless when the Dude-Bros let loose. Decent men have historically felt stressed and constrained by cultural norms and had to tamp down their natural decency so as not to look like a “fag” or a “pussy”or whatever demeaning name guys like this would throw their way; guys that might be their boss, or their partner on a project, or 243lbs of angry muscle.

7. How The Threat of Sexual Assault Affected Me

First, I’m fine.

I’m tall, and strong, and opinionated and I never once felt in danger from a man.

I did, however, learn to be careful about how I bent down to pick something up.

I learned to tug my skirt down.

I learned it was not OK to go out alone.

I learned to smile and deflect when men tried to chat me up on the train, when I was 13.

I spent the years when Bill Clinton was busy being elected, at university, with one hand on the rape alarm I kept in one pocket of my biker’s jacket and my other hand on my sharp housekeys as I speed-walked home with my head down. From. Studying. At. The. University. Library. I was 18.

It never occurred to me to get particularly angry that I had to do this. I had been conditioned to think that I might get attacked and that if I did, I needed to prove I had done everything possible to excuse myself from blame.

Let me repeat that: I didn’t expect to be attacked. BUT I learned to walk with my head down, not making eye contact, carrying a rape alarm, so nobody would blame me (much) if the unthinkable happened.

I internalized this at 18.

What did that do to my character? I don’t know, because whatever it did is part of me now and always will be.

Is this what we want for our children?

I wasn’t angry on my own behalf, but now that my kids are approaching their teens, I am mad as hell.

  • I’m angry that my boys will be viewed as predatory.
  • I’m super-angry that my friends’ tall, beautiful, bold, witty daughter will soon begin to duck her head and shorten her stride if she dares go out after dusk.

I’m angry that I, an adult human being, think twice about taking walks in quiet places lest something bad happen and I get blamed.

I thought we had moved past this. I was 19 when Bill Clinton was elected. I was 33 when Trump was recorded making these comments. I am 44 now and I have one question:

Can we stop?

Can we stop normalizing this behavior, please?

And while we’re at it,

  • Can we stop thinking it’s OK that African American mothers have to train their sons to be meek so they don’t get in harm’s way, sometimes by officials of the state?
  • Can we stop treating everyone who’s poor as if they’re weak?
  • Can we stop dismissing everyone with an accent as lazy because they ‘haven’t learned English properly’ when they’ve uprooted their lives and learned to live and work in a new culture, raising kids in a place where they don’t understand the school system, taking fewer benefits than they’re entitled to and paying more of their income in taxes than richer, native-born Americans?
  • Can we stop demonizing people because they love who they love and they just want to be treated equally?
  • Can we stop asking people to calm down, when we’re metaphorically punching them in the face?
  • Can we start respecting that my experience may not be the same as your experience and that two realities can be true at the same time?
  • Can we stop pretending we’re Christian or Pro-Life when we do not demonstrate it with our words or our actions, not to mention our policies?

Let’s Move Forwards, Not Backwards

We have proof of the kind of man Trump is and he’s not “a dirty boy”. He’s the kind of damaging, hateful man who wants to take us back to a time when wolf whistling was cool, and it was ok to not employ people because of their parents or which side of the tracks they came from.

I though we were making progress. I thought people like Donald Trump were figures of fun, who we reviled and kind of pitied.

I didn’t think we were ready to put them back in charge.

Health Care Reform for US – Why We Must Have It

I’m taking on one of the many, many myths about what will happen in the US if we have health care reform. Just one, but I think it’s one of the two or three most powerful and it says:

“If we change the system we’ll end up having to pay more.”

But how much do you know about how things work today?

Last month I had a sore throat. I went to my doctor. I paid my $25 co-pay. She swabbed my throat to check for strep, put the cotton swab into a little plastic dish, checked the reaction and said, nope, not strep. The sample did not go to a lab, no-one pored over it for hours analyzing it, and she told me that it often misses strep anyway, if it hasn’t developed sufficiently.

Three week later I got a notification that my insurance company was being billed over $70 for that test 1.

Luckily I have extremely generous health coverage courtesy of the Evil Big Pharma company that pays the bills around here.

But What If I Didn’t Have Good Coverage?

Back when I was first in the US, I went to a new doctor who recommended a series of tests “to establish a baseline” or something like that. I’m a good, obedient girl who assumed that doctors do what’s best for their patients, so I held out my arm and let him drain some of my blood.

Then my insurance company declined to cover the costs.

I freaked out and called the doctor’s office in a panic 2. They made sympathetic noises and sent me a revised bill for a token amount that was likely much closer to the true value of the doctor’s time and efforts. It was still an unwanted dent in the budget, but more than that, I was disturbed by the casual dishonesty of it.

If the test costs $30, why are you billing my insurance company $140?

As it turns out, this is standard practice.

The whole medical community (hospitals, specialists, general practitioners) understands that you have to get what you can out of the insurance companies when you can…and when you can’t, well, you still treat the patients who can’t afford you, using the cushion of money you built up by treating the ones who can.

You see what we’ve done here?

We’ve created a system where the only humane thing to do is commit insurance fraud.

Let’s be clear: I don’t mind subsidizing the less fortunate. I really, really don’t. I think it’s my duty and makes me more human, humane and decent. But I hate that it’s done dishonestly.

So what, if the insurance companies are getting scammed?

1, And I know I might sound hopelessly old-fashioned for saying this, but I believe this institutionalized fraud is bad for the soul, or, if you prefer, bad for the moral character of the people involved and the society as a whole. If you are training people to ignore the Jimminy Cricket voice that is chirping in their heads “You’re using someone else’s money to pay for this”, then you are training people to squash that voice in less altruistic moments too. Maybe I only use my cell phone for two business calls a month, but what the heck it’s easier just to claim the whole bill as a business expense on my taxes. It’s not that much money when you look at how much the government collects… Or, even worse: meh, everyone’s doing it.

2,  Less importantly but still significant: current practices drive up costs for everyone, making insurance more expensive for people who can afford it and inaccessible to people who don’t have a few hundred to spare for the premiums every month. Five years ago, my co-pay at the doctor’s office was $10. Last year it was $15. This year it’s $25. And my insurance company covers fewer services today than it did ten years ago.

And that’s without any reforms.

I can afford it now, but there was a time when that large a fee for every doctor’s visit (with a family of four it adds up) would have been a serious hardship.

If health care reform makes things ‘more expensive’, I say so what? It’s going to happen either way.

I’d rather it happen in a way that made health care more accessible to everyone.

I’d rather have less money to spend on plastic cr*p for my kids, and know that someone with a pre-existing condition who works two 30hr a week jobs 3 can actually go to their doctor when their condition flares up, and they won’t have to spend their off-hours researching the cheapest treatment options or the ways they can get into debt to cover the costs.

There’s a world of difference between ‘not being able to afford to go to Aspen twice this year because the government increased taxes on the fabulously wealthy to cover the health care costs of the stinkin’ poor4‘ and ‘not being able to sleep because I don’t know how I’m going to pay my child’s medical bills’.

Really.

  1. $70+ I kid you not. And it looked like one of those pee-on-a-stick pregnancy tests you can buy online for $1 a pop. I guarantee you my doctor did not pay even 50% of the bill for that test when she ordered them in bulk
  2. Being from the UK I wasn’t familiar with medical billing and the numbers boggled my mind
  3. because certain employers like to keep you below a certain number of hours so that they’re not legally obliged to pay health insurance benefits to you — ask me how I know…
  4. No-one except movie stars and sports gods will admit that they are wealthy, but I say if you’re earning over half a million a year, you’re wealthy. Get used to it!