What the Hell

What the Hell

Friday, October 23, 2015

Gun Control, Civil Rights and the World We Live In

This afternoon someone I know is spearheading a campaign to push for dialogue and action towards solving the "guns in schools" problem, beginning with a rally in downtown Seattle.  Hard to believe that it has become commonplace for us to turn on the news and hear about yet ANOTHER school shooting (elementary, middle, high school, college....it matters not) in which there have been fatalities from some crazed gunman.  And I do mean crazed.....mental illness is at the root of this problem.

That said, there should be restrictions on guns in people's homes; i.e. laws that require proper storage (in a locked cabinet) to prevent the senseless shootings you hear about between siblings who don't know any better, not to mention REAL CONVERSATIONS (between parents who own guns and the children who are fascinated by them) about how to properly and safely use them, how to manage one's more volatile emotions like anger, and how dangerous both of these can be given the right (or in this case, WRONG) circumstances.

But how about passing laws that make it mandatory for anyone who has a mentally ill person living with them (often these people have already been diagnosed and/or received treatment, or refused treatment) to disclose that information to the neighborhood and school where he/she attends (if applicable) through a state or county-maintained database, much like as done with sex offenders?  Oh, I know, I know.....this violates the mentally ill person's right to privacy and all that.  Well, it certainly does.  However, there are times in any civilized society in which one person's (or group's for that matter) civil rights are violated in the interest of public safety.  There are also times when one's civil rights need to be suspended to respect a more basic civil right of someone else....but since there seems to be no one with enough sense of decency and respect for others to determine when to do this, it just doesn't happen.  For example, your right to carry a handgun if there is any documented reason to suspect you might be a danger to others (AND THESE DO EXIST) is superceded by someone else's right to LIFE.  

Being a diagnosed depressive myself, I have always been up front about the fact and find it extraordinarily stupid to hide it.  I would expect no less of myself if I fell into such categories as  Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, or other similar  in the DSM (that's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for the unaware).  You see, depressives don't go around killing other people; they kill themselves, but there are other types of mental illness that don't just represent a danger to the person who has them.  The two should be treated differently.  And understood differently.  

The so called "Extreme Protection Bill" that was defeated in Washington state earlier this year was a step in the right direction....and yet.....  It did not adequately address the role that mental illness plays in these events.  Yes, there are all sorts of good reasons to deny an individual's access to firearms.  Not that these will affect those who obtain guns illegally,but it's a start.  There was a clause BURIED in the bill that would allow for the right to gun ownership to be denied (temporarily, to be reinstated upon re-consideration and further review) to those who have been INVOLUNTARILY sent to a mental health facility.  Well, DUH....that's a no-brainer.  But let's go farther than that....say, anyone diagnosed with such a disorder that could possibly make them a danger to someone else, who refuses treatment or refuses to take prescribed medications would be reported to authorities, and it would be against the law NOT to report them.  Are you hearing me, parents of seriously mentally ill children, whatever their age?  And how about legislation that requires a school to:  a) advise the family of a student acting in a manner that may indicate an undiagnosed serious condition which could potentially endanger him or herself or others, to seek professional help for him or her  or else b) notify the authorities? 

There is much heated debate on this issue.  Those who support the right to bear arms feel that any restrictions on gun ownership are the "slippery slope" to the eventual federal government disarming of ALL of its citizens.  This is not even sensible.  Nor is it a valid argument.  The likelihood of that happening is so remote that it does not in any way make it acceptable to do NOTHING about these senseless deaths.   The aforementioned Extreme Protection Bill is a beginning, but it is not enough.  

There is one more factor in these killings.  It is a crucial truth found in human nature.  The need to know the most horrible of thing....the impulse that makes a person want to see what has happened at the scene of a horrific traffic accident, slowing down traffic to a crawl....or makes otherwise sensible people rush to the scene of a fire or any disaster; not to help, but to get a good look.  This is the basic human impulse which our media feeds like dry tender to a fire.  Yes, it sells to focus on the negative and most disturbing events for our news, but does that make it a good idea?  Yes, we need to stay informed about what is going on within reason.  But the FOCUS on such events as these school shootings AD NAUSEUM by the press is not geared towards finding a solution, or even towards understanding what happened.  It is about readership and the amount of attention these stories get.

But there is a tragic consequence to this focus.  It gives these seriously psychotic individuals what they want.  Which is notariety, or infamy if you will.   One thing that any depressed person will tell you (and I suspect it is the same in other mental disorders as well) is that when you feel at your absolute worst and become suicidal, there are usually two lines of thinking that go through your mind.  The first, that you will do anything to get the pain and mental anguish to stop.  And second, the delusion that either a) your loved ones and everyone left behind will be better off with you gone, or b) they'll be sorry they didn't listen/treat your better/etc, etc.  The last one is often the motivation for the rampage.  And anticipating the publicity they KNOW they will receive afterward (even though they are not living to see it) gives them the sense of vindication they crave and is reward enough.  There is also the even worse danger of some other unhinged individual out there seeing all the attention that was focused on this event, and being inspired to do something similar on their own.  IT HAPPENS, PEOPLE.  They call these unfortunate individuals copycats for a reason. 

So, tragically, I see no reason why these horrible events won't keep occurring; given that human nature being what it is, people do not want to give up or even partly restrict what they see as their "rights," and are also (with good reason, given the litigious times we live in) extremely afraid to be seen as restricting the rights of someone else who they don't think they can beat in court.  People also don't want to give up the cheap thrill that our sensationalist media gives us by going over these events OVER AND OVER AGAIN, feeding our insatiable appetite for the gory details, regardless of the results.  I won't even attempt to address the desensitization to violence that occurs as a result of viewing the ridiculous amounts of it being portrayed in movies, books and TV.  Well, at least not in this post.  I admire those who still think human beings have enough goodness in their souls to band together for real change, but I just don't see it happening.  But in this case, I REALLY do hope that I'm wrong.    

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Latte vs. Lunch

Good grief; time flies whether you are having fun or not.  After kicking myself inwardly for not being more faithful about posting in my blog for close to a YEAR now, I actually had an inspired thought the other day and decided to write a post.  It's been a tough year…more on that later.  But for now, the thought….LUNCH or LATTE.  When self employed and pinching every single penny, and your husband hands you 6 dollars to grab some lunch one day, and then you remember that there is a new coffee place on the island that serves STUMPTOWN coffee out of Portland, do you choose

a) As decent a lunch as you can get with 6 bucks.
b) A triple latte, then scrounge the car for change to get a McD's tiny burger.

No contest.  Here in coffee-land we do have our priorities.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thoughts on Aging...

I have been busy helping my husband with his new Etsy online store, and also keeping my own things stocked at the co-op gallery.  But I've also been out of pocket because of the evil drug Evista.  While I am certain that the pharmaceutical is very beneficial to many women, I can't tolerate it.  I am osteoporitic.  I don't know if that's an actual word, but I like the sound of it.  I also have increased breast cancer risk because of calcifications, that when biopsied in 2011, showed abnormal cells.  Raloxifene (or Evista its brand-name) would have helped both.  I started taking it the first time in May this year, then suffered a horrendous case of the Shingles.  Since I was pretty young for the Shingles, I insisted the Evista must have lowered my immune system.  But that could not be proven; it could be coincidence, so I agreed to go back on the medication about 7 weeks ago.  

For those of us who are depressives, we must submit all prescription drugs (and for that matter "natural supplements") to the "does it make my depression worse?" test.  If the answer is yes, they are NOT an option.  The only exception would be if  the condition being treated is imminently life-threatening, and even then, caution should be exercised in proceeding forward.  It is a hard choice.  We all have to make them.  Let me put it this way.  I could choose between being a "knuckles-dragging the ground" miserable, angry, hopeless black blob with a death wish WITH HEALTHY BONES, or a slightly dowager-humped, rickety, curmudgeonly, eccentric mostly content human being you might occasionally even want to be around.   Some choice, but there it is.  So I'll give up ice-skating, sky-diving and break-dancing.  

Which brings me to the point of my post.  We live in a youth-obsessed culture, which coincides with amazing medical advances which have us living longer, and often looking and feeling younger, as well as cosmetic procedures which can erase years from one's appearance.  40 is the new 30!!  50 is the new 40!!  And so on.  And all the hubbub about people retiring later.  They want to work into their 70's!  They have so much energy they don't want to slow down!  Let me say that many who are working into what would have once been considered not just golden years, but DEAD, have to do so because their 401(K) savings have tanked with our economic crash of recent years.  But I digress.  I do so tire of hearing, when I say that I feel _______, or think that I look ________, that what I really need to do is:

1)   Change my diet.  Eat more_______.
2)   Supplement with ________.  I am deficient in __________.  
3)   Exercise more.  Do _________ or play __________.
4)   Get out and socialize more.
5)   If you looked better, you'd feel better about yourself.
6)   Have a more positive attitude.
7)   Learn a new hobby.
8)   Find meaningful work.
9)   Plug into my community.
10) Find something you believe in.

To the above I answer:

1) I eat fine.  I cannot eat certain foods I used to love when I was younger; i.e. fish and chips or fried chicken, lots of butter, spicy chili, cream sauces.  Some days fiber doesn't agree with me.  This is not because I am unhealthy or have a bad attitude, but because I am getting old.  It happens.  Deal with it.  I see no point in persisting in denial that will give me heartburn.

2) My osteoporosis requires that I take calcium, which I do.  And everyone who lives in the Pacific Northwest and endures our miserable dark gray, cold and wet winters lasting 6-7 months is Vitamin D deficient.  I take that too.  Beyond that too much or the wrong supplement or vitamin can be harmful.

3) I admit I could exercise more.  It would probably help me feel better, although it would hurt.  It would eventually hurt less, but a body does not act at 50 like it did at 25.  That is a fact, no matter how hard you push it.  I don't like sports and I never will.  That does not make me less of a person.  And by the way, there is a medical term known as sarcopenia.  Like osteopenia (the loss of bone with aging) it refers to the loss of muscle with aging.  For those who say you can do at 50 whatever you did at 25 I offer this:  
Although sarcopenia is mostly seen in people who are inactive, the fact that it also occurs in people who stay physically active throughout life suggests there are other factors involved in the development of sarcopenia.

Do I need to elaborate?  I am NOT making excuses for sitting around and getting grossly out of shape and unhealthy using our pain as an excuse.  Pain is part of life, and it gets worse with the passage of time.  We have to keep moving.  But neither do we have to be in denial of the stage of life in which we presently find ourselves.
4) I am an introvert.  It is extremely emotionally draining for us to socialize.  Many of us are quite adept at it, so much so you might never know that we hate it.  But it takes days for us to recover afterward.  So we need to take it in small doses, when we are feeling up to it, usually one on one.  And even then, SPARINGLY.  This is not a bad thing; it's just the way we are wired.  Let me also say that as we age, we naturally want to stay around home more.  That's just how it is.  That's why it is such a good idea to get your traveling done before you are too old.  It becomes harder to be unsettled and uncomfortable.  You can't go at the pace you used to, see and do everything you want to, and sometimes you just want your own bed in your own home.  Home becomes a bit of a sanctuary.

5) After a certain point, you can only look so good.  Even plastic surgery can only do so much.  I agree it is painful to realize that by the time you realize that when you were younger and felt so ugly and awkward you were really so beautiful and did not know it, you look in the mirror and don't recognize the person staring back at you.  But can't we learn to embrace ourselves at whatever stage of life we are in instead of trying to recapture something that we never can?

6) I am a depressive.  We don't do positive.  Unless we are bi-polar and in a manic phase.  I am not bi-polar.  I can sit here all day long and try to look at every situation from a positive viewpoint and it won't change the way I feel.  I promise.  We can't work it that way.  It is what it is.  It is much more effective to try to aim for contentment.  Sometimes that even feels like happiness.

7) I am learning to knit (AGAIN), and to do digital collage.  There is a high frustration level with learning something new when you are past middle age.  It is not pleasant.  Sometimes it's worth the pain, sometimes it isn't.  Only you can decide.  Sometimes the old familiar things comfort.  That's ok too.

8) Aaaah.  Meaningful work.  What color is your parachute and all that.  At the risk of sounding bitter, hogwash.  I found my meaningful work once.  It was in a highly specialized field in which people with PhD's were getting the entry-level positions, of which there were very, very few, and the few that existed paid absolutely pennies.  I found work in the sidelines, so to speak, by using the same skills in other industries.  It was fulfilling, but also frustrating.  I can't imagine having the position that I would love so much I would do it into my golden years.  But if it wants to come my way, I wouldn't say no.  However, I would say "part-time."  I do have things I want to do.  People who say they can't retire because they don't have any idea what they would do BAFFLE me.  Are you serious??  How about I give you some ideas....all those hobby projects you haven't had time for, travel, reading, collecting, shopping, volunteering, etc. etc...

9)  I'm sorry to admit this, but as I age, I seek less communal relationships, not more.  People are complicated beings, and the longer we have walked this road the more difficulties we have had with relationships.  The young are naive enough to believe that they can get together with others and change the world.  As we age we just hope that someone remembers something we did while we were here, and was positively changed by it, and that is enough.  My community is made up of individuals all over the world who have touched my life; they do not all reside in a geographical area.  I strive to stay in touch with them if I can, and even if I have not to make sure that I have let them know what they have meant to me.

10) There are things I believe in, passionately.  But there is only so much I can do, and I am tired of tilting at windmills.  That's ok, because there's a whole new group of younger people to do that for me now.  It is their turn.  There are also beliefs that I have had that have changed.  I did not used to think that this was possible, but it is part of the learning and growing process.  There are absolutes, but not as many as we think.  And the way we view them is sometimes as individual as we are.  We are in control of our own values and beliefs, but not those of others.  This is called respect.

May we learn to grow old with grace and dignity, and hope to find a little wisdom along the way...  now, back to my knitting.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Black and White in a Gray World

Trying to ignore the fact that besides the few of you out there who are following this blog, there's no way to know who else is looking thanks to this spammy internet world we live in.  Oh well, maybe it's better not to know.  I don't like it but I can't stop it.  Life is mysterious, is it not?

Been musing as of late about the difference between CONDONING something you find abhorrent and realizing that you have little to no control to STOP it.  This has got to be the beginning of wisdom and a less stressed existence on this planet.  We can and often do say that we have reached a point where we "don't care" about something in the world that is upsetting to us, whether it is something that affects us directly or more global in nature.  But is that ever really true?  Can we STOP caring?  Especially if the issue at hand strikes at the very heart of one of our deepest held values?  No, I don't think we can.  We say that we have, but it's just not true.  If we had stopped caring, we would be severely depressed.  And those of us who have been there know that is no way to exist.

So what to do?  One's principles and values are trampled on daily, repeatedly and heartlessly.  We most want for things to change, but if we can't have that, we would be encouraged if others would simply respect our views.  This is the hardest thing to realize; and years of therapy later I still have immense trouble practicing it...that is, we have to allow others to have their views as well, even those we find most despicable, or else we are demanding something FROM others that we will not give TO them.  This falls under the category of realizing, like the trite cliched old serenity prayer says, that there are things in this life over which we have no control.  Others' thoughts and actions are two of these.  I'm not advocating letting others break the law, or even having no laws at all, but when something is legal, as long as we find it morally reprehensible, we cannot do anything about those who choose to practice it.  And unfortunately in the world we live in, things will continue to be made legal that we find unethical, if not dead wrong.  I'm also not saying there are no absolutes, no right and wrong.  I AM saying that no one can seem to agree on what those absolutes are.  Even the atheist believes that there are absolutely no absolutes.  That's a paradox.  Example:  there are several things that are quite legal in the state where I live, and to others besides myself are quite right, but I don't agree.  However, I can't force them to change their beliefs.  It just doesn't work.  That said, I wish that those others could not blast me continually for mine. Often times, it becomes an argument about bigotry, religious freedom and that some things are just fundamental, not subject to interpretation.  I disagree.  Things are fundamental to you; things are fundamental to me, but we won't agree on what those things are.  Sad but true.  Everything is subject o interpretation.  That's why the church is in the state it is.  I don't like what the KKK believes, and when they break the law I think they should be prosecuted, but I can't change what they believe.  This is so hard to swallow, but truth in THIS world isn't black and white. And who is wise enough to judge others?  You?  Me? 

We have trouble letting others have their own reality because we still have (somewhere, no matter how tiny) an expectation that they will change.  It's not impossible that they will; people do change.  But not very often, and not because someone is breathing down their neck to get them to.  And there is nothing more crazy-making than concentrating all your thoughts and actions toward that happening and it often never does.  Meanwhile you suffer all kinds of stress and frustration and even resentment toward the person who doesn't see any reason to change how they think or act.  I believe, and many others do as well, that for a human being to change in a major way it takes years of experience, a humble heart, and very often an act of Divine Power.  We just don't have the strength.  

It's really hard living in a world like this.  We go back and forth between intense passionate bouts of hyper-involvement with causes and groups and completely retreating from everyone and everything for a time, a season, possibly a lifetime. Such radical acceptance as allowing others to believe what they want doesn't come easy.  It takes time, lots of it, and many, many disappointments along the way.  Or at least have the respect to just listen to others, and OBSERVE, not jump in with both feet and all our emotions, drawing conclusions every step of the way.  It's a higher way of living, and not for the fainthearted.  Let's try it, can we?        

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Referer Spam vs. Real Live People

For those of you who are real, living flesh-and-blood persons and not referer spam-bots, you deserve an apology for my lack of postings of late.  I discovered back in June that a blogger cannot really trust the stats to tell him or her how much traffic is coming to the blog because a lot of it is from "bots" which are computer programs acting like people.  My subsequent disgust at the idea made me not want to go to the trouble of writing anything for fear that there are no actual readers out there in cyberspace, just hackers and their machines.  In good faith, I have decided to keep blogging and trust Google to block these imbeciles as much as possible.  If you are a breathing human being, thanks for following.  If you are otherwise, stop playing massive multi-player games 14 hours a day and get out of your parents' garage and get a real job.  If you are a spam bot, may you catch the next nasty computer virus that comes along. . .

Pear Poachers

The first year we moved here (2010) we didn't have much fruit on our fruit trees.  They were very overgrown and in need of serious pruning.  The next year, we got lots of apples and figs, but the deer ate many of the plums.  This year, our third here, we had many figs and plums, but the deer got most of those.  The apples I picked yesterday.  But the pear tree was loaded before we left to go on vacation for a week.  Loaded!  But not quite ready, so I determined to wait and pick them when we returned.  Big mistake.  They are all gone.  Now, if it was only the pears within 6 to 7 feet of the ground, I'd blame the deer again, and Lord knows we are overpopulated with them on the island.  But the pear tree was absolutely CLEANED OUT!  All the way to the top branches, which you would need a tall ladder to reach.  Now, I'm not naming any names, but I find it hard to believe that someone would just drive by and then decide to go to all that trouble of pear poaching not knowing if we were home or not.

And we have some strange next-door neighbors.  They were obscured by 8 foot tall Japanese Knotweed when we first moved in.  But the county wanted permission to spray the noxious weed.  We granted it, as did the neighbors, and now we have no buffer between us.  What was it Robert Frost said about good fences making good neighbors?  I understand.  We see and hear everything from their property these days.  Everything from the fact that they live in an odd assortment of travel trailers and a garage with a upper level apartment to the fact that a mentally challenged person (or it could be an EXTREMELY eccentric person) lives over there who becomes agitated upon sighting a deer in the yard (which is an almost daily occurrence) and starts banging on the dead knotweed with a long stick and barking loud unintelligible protests.  And with the knotweed gone, they can well see our fruit trees now; that's all I'm saying for now. . . .

One of our friendly deer looking in the downstairs window.  He probably wants an apple.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Dark Side of Success

Just watched a very interesting documentary on Henry Ford tonight.  What a visionary he was.  But while he achieved tremendous success far beyond what most people could ever even dream of, it seems that he still wasn't happy.  The program talked about how absolutely driven he was his entire life, to the point that he alienated many people who worked with him or for him.  He expected others to meet his high standards, and had no mercy when they did not.  

The saddest thing about his life would have to be his relationship with his son Edsel, his only child.  Of course Henry's high expectations were thrust upon his son, and there was absolutely no room for Edsel to be his own person.  In every way that he tried, he was always thwarted by his powerful father.  The story was told about one time when they were building the new plant, Edsel had the idea of having a separate building built for offices, and went ahead and okayed the excavation for the foundation.  Then his father found out and said "No, we will not do that."  The son asked what about the huge hole they have already dug, and Henry said "Leave it."  So every day Edsel had to walk past that enormous hole in the ground and be reminded of his failed attempt to defy his father.  So did everyone else who worked for Henry.  Wow.  

When the Ford Motor Company was the last holdout in the American auto industry against unionizing, even amidst violent uprisings and protests which were equally violently squashed, Edsel tried to reason with his father that negotiation with the unions would be unavoidable.  Henry still refused to give in.  Ever the controlling leader, he saw workers who wanted to unionize as lazy leeches who wanted to capitalize on his own hard work, just as he had seen investors when other company leaders had wanted to go public with company stock years earlier.  When Ford workers were seen talking to anyone thought to be associated with the union,  they were beaten and then fired.  Finally Edsel, on his own, without his father's knowledge, negotiated a contract with the Auto Worker's Union, then presented it to Henry, who held out for days, then finally agreed to sign it.  Not too long after that incident, Edsel became ill.  He had suffered with bleeding ulcers for years, and who would not have, living life knowing whatever you did it would never being good enough?  It had now progressed to stomach cancer, which he kept from Henry as long as he could, but as he was dying, his wife told her father-in-law.  Somehow deep down the elder Ford must have known that blame for his son's early death at age 49 was at mostly his.  The narrator remarked how Ford never recovered from losing his son.  When he asked his closest confidante, the man he considered to be the son he had always wanted, if he had treated Edsel cruelly, the man said, "I would not say cruelly, but I would say unfairly.  I would have been angry had you treated me like that."  To which Henry replied, "that's what I wanted, for him to get angry."

The other fascinating thing about Henry Ford was his other great legacy Greenfield Village, a historic museum in Michigan that he founded and built in 1929, and which is today the largest indoor-outdoor American history museum.  As a historian, I had known about this historic site for years, but I never really knew the story behind it.  Henry Ford grew up a  farmer.  As a matter of fact his father had expected him to take over the family farm, but he had refused to do so, first going to work as an engineer for Edison, then after meeting Thomas Edison and receiving encouragement from him to continue with his designs,  making the first automobile for the masses, and as they say, the rest was history.  

Yet, it seems he had regrets.  Even after his auto company became hugely successful he lived out in the country and worked his land himself.  He held only disdain for the massively growing,  sprawling city that his own ambitions had created.  The thousands of teeming masses needed to fuel the factory existed due to his own actions, yet he hated being around them,  and retreated daily to his own private peaceful oasis to wish for a simpler time.  It seems likely then that he created Greenfield, actually a "fake" historic town, by hauling in historic buildings from other places in a sad attempt to recreate that simpler time, and try out the path he had chosen not to take as a young man.  The famous Wright Brothers bicycle shop, Thomas Edison's lab, and Daniel Webster's house were three of the historic structures that he brought in to create his town.  He even had an old one-room schoolhouse restored and placed on the property, and selected children to actually be schooled there.  Reproductions of antiques were placed in the buildings, including the recreation of a set of his own mother's china which was placed inside the home in which he was born, assuring his own place among the other notable historical figures celebrated there.  Yet as much as he wanted to be remembered for his far-reaching vision, it was as if he had, through the actions of his life, also put into motion a process he wished that he could stop, but because he could not, he tried to recreate what existed before.  He said himself of his museum, "I am collecting the history of our people as written into things their hands made and used.... When we are through, we shall have reproduced American life as lived, and that, I think, is the best way of preserving at least a part of our history and tradition..."   How sad.