Tag: politics

On Patriotism

On Patriotism

I don’t like to talk much about politics in public places, and none is more public than my blog. Even though I have a disclaimer, I’m searching for a job and there’s some worries that if I disclose my political beliefs, it might cost me a job. But I can’t write about this subject without saying it. I’m left of center and a Democrat. There are reasons for these stances, but I don’t want to get too deep in those weeds right now.

Anyway. I want to say that I’m tired of the insinuation that because I’m on the left side of the political system, I cannot be a patriot. Even more offensive are the ones that say that I’m not a “real American”, when I can trace my roots to the Mayflower or, in another direction, the Bering Land Bridge. I’ve had ancestors on this soil long before this country existed. Telling me I’m not a “real American” because of my political stance simply ticks me off.

I am a patriot. I love this country. I’m proud to be an American, just as I’m proud to be a Californian. I still attempt to hit the high notes in the Star Spangled Banner. I’ll admit I loved poking through the airplanes the Air Force and the Navy would bring to the airshow, and cheer as the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds went through their paces.

From the beginning, we were a beacon of new ideas. The French Revolution — the call of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité — has its roots in the American revolution. A fledgling nation, trying an entirely new way of governing, became an inspiration for people around the world.

Where I depart from those who say that they are patriots is that I am capable of understanding that (gasp) America isn’t perfect. For all the good this country has brought into the world, there are ways in which we have completely failed. The stain of slavery is woven into our founding documents, and the resulting treatment of African-Americans to this day perpetuates that great sin. There’s the internment camps of World War II, taking American citizens and putting them behind barbed wire for no other reason than that they were ethnically Japanese, assuming that none of them were actually American. There is the way we’ve treated Native Americans, the ones that were here first. And last, don’t forget the numerous governments around the world that we’ve destabilized or outright overthrew. We have brought light to the world, but we have also brought hideous darkness.

No nation — no person — stands at the pinnacle of perfection. Even heroes have feet of clay. The United States is no exception in this matter. We’ve done amazing good across the world; we’ve perpetuated some dark deeds. How can I be a patriot and think this way? Very simple:

“My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”

Senator Carl Schurz ended a speech on the Senate floor in response to Senator Matthew Carpenter’s use of the first half of the phrase. But the phrase has a kernel of truth that connects to something I was taught in therapy. I learned about the juxtaposition of two important thoughts: “I am good enough.” and “I can be better”. While those thoughts seem to be contradictory, there is truth. I am good enough, but I can always strive to be better.

I feel the same about my country. The United States is good enough, even great. But she can strive to be better — we can strive to be better, because the United States is the sum of all of us. Such is the nature of a republic.

I prefer to think of it as a thoughtful and nuanced patriotism, as opposed to simple “Love it or leave it!” rhetoric. But I am just as much a patriot as any right-winger, and I am not going to give ground simply because I happen to be on the lefty side of politics.

My Mind is My Own

My Mind is My Own

Over the last few days, I have been voraciously combing the internet, reading anything and everything I can find on the nominees for the Hugo awards and wrestling with my own conscience. I think I have finally come to a conclusion as to what I am going to do.

I will read all the Hugo nominees as if this were a normal year. I cannot betray my own sense of professionalism and well, I’ve read Glenn Beck and the entire Left Behind series without throwing the books through the window or across the room. I am, as I said in my earlier post, not looking forward to this. I am not reading these because the Sad Puppies demand that I must — I am because I feel an obligation to my own conscience to do so, just as I would any other year.

That said, I will rank all the nominees on either the Sad Puppies or Rabid Puppies slates below No Award.

There are some things on the ballot for which it pains me to have to do this. I have loved the Dresden Files ever since my good friend Eileen introduced them to me by giving me the books for Christmas — but Jim Butcher is on the slate. Guardians of the Galaxy was my favorite movie of the year and a work I might have actually nominated if I’d felt well enough to turn in nominations. Nope. The Lego Movie is right behind it in terms of movies I loved last year, and would have been a very close #2 to Guardians. Sorry.

I am especially grieved to make this decision in cases like Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Black Gate, and Annie Bellet. It grieves me because Jen Brozek, a person I know and respect, is on the short form editor ballot and I would love to see her win a Hugo.

But I can’t vote any of these folks above No Award. I am sorry, but this is what my conscience demands of me. I will read your work in my packet. I will consider you for my own nominations in 2016 — and I plan to participate in the nomination round next year. But any ranking you may earn by the quality of your work will go after No Award this year.

I have decided this because I care about the Hugo. I have cared about the Hugo ever since I found out about it in an introduction in one of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels, and I dream of winning it someday. But in order to keep that dream alive, I have to make sure the Hugos survive. If it comes to a slate vs. slate situation, I would have even less chance of ending up on the Hugo ballot than I already did. So the only thing I can do is express my horror and displeasure at slate voting, and use what few tools I have to express that displeasure.

For those who are saying that I am only doing this because I disagree with the political stances of Sad/Rabid Puppies, I would be doing this if it were the John Scalzi/Making Light Slate of Rainbow Joy Kittens.

My mind is my own, and I make my own decisions.

It doesn’t really matter. I am just one person, and my blog is so minuscule that it won’t register. My vote is but a drop in an ocean, but it is mine. My mind, my thoughts, my opinions — they are my own.

spitting nails

spitting nails

Don’t mind me, I’m in spitting nails mode today over several dozen things all colliding at once.

Some of it is financial troubles, which I don’t feel like getting into right now. But here’s the exchange on Twitter that has pushed me over the edge. (Sorry, , you’re not the reason I’m spitting nails, but the convo with you caused somebody else to tweet things that really set me off.)

katster: I need to win the lottery. It’s the only way I can get myself out of the hell I’ve been residing in.
katster: I don’t know how else I’m going to be able to pay my bills and build up a modest reserve, let alone do fun things.
katster: Oh right, I forgot. I’m not allowed to do fun things because I’m poor and thus lazy.
underpope: Sounds like you’re tuning in to the Governator’s mindset there.
katster: it ain’t just the governator. it seems to be a common thought of Republicans in general. :P
underpope: Sadly, this is true.
katster: Yeah, and it’s eating me up more than usual today. I think I need to find a new job, but where is the next question.
SocialMedia_Mkt: stop eating, be productive, you need a job right: [link to how to monetize Twitter redacted]

Now, I happen to think that folks that think they can monetize twitter are pond scum and should be first against the wall when the revolution comes, but that’s beside that point. It’s the nature of that advice that just made me see red. On a day when I’m already feeling like crap, this was the last thing I needed.

So yeah, today’s epic fail award goes to assholes like the one above who doesn’t have hesitation to tell complete strangers to stop eating and become pond scum.

Other than that, I may have more to say later on the other issues as I’m not sure how to approach them. But right now, I’m just — yeah.

A bottle of pills [extended healthcare rant, part 2]

A bottle of pills [extended healthcare rant, part 2]

[Alright, this is a bit long, but do me the favor of reading it through, okay?]

There’s a bottle of pills sitting on my bookcase. Every night, I swallow one.

I asked once at the pharmacy how much it would cost me to fill the script. Their response was eighty dollars for a month’s supply. It could be worse. The last time I asked the same question, the particular script didn’t have a generic, and the answer was somewhere slightly north of two hundred dollars.

I suppose I’m a lucky duck in the sense that I’ve got some form of health insurance, as much as that health insurance is Medicaid (although that’s a frakking joke here in the State of California, let me tell you). And the reason I qualify for Medicaid? Well, because my income is low enough that I’m on disability. And why am I on disability? That’s what the bottle of pills is supposed to address.

You see, some of you know this, but a lot of you don’t. I’m bipolar. (Not to mention the other chronic medical conditions I have, but those complicate the situation, so let’s stay right here.) I’m lucky, if one can call it lucky to have a mental illness, that I’ve got the slightly less serious form, which doesn’t involve the complete detachment from the world that a full-blown manic state can cause.

Of course, the sudden chasms are all the much worse for it. I’m prone, especially when I’m not being good about taking my medications, of falling into a deep and horrible chasm from which there is no escape. The whole world goes dark and grey, like a fog so thick that I begin to think that I’m the only person in the world. I seriously contemplate ending it all, to stop being a worthless sack of meat that nobody particularly cares about. I can barely get out of bed, let alone do all the things the world requires of me. I start shying away from people, because if they knew, it might contaminate them and I couldn’t live with that. If I had to interact with the world, I’d put on a brave face, keep my head down, and try my best to act normal as much as every word is difficult and every step is agonizing and I’m doing my best not to break down and start crying or screaming. And all this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Did I mention I fell into this hole in the last semester of both my undergraduate and graduate programs, and it was only sheer luck that saved my hide in both cases?

It’s an awful place to be, and something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. And it took us forever to find a pill that would keep me from falling into that dark place. The one I’m on now seems to be doing okay, although it doesn’t take away the intrusive thoughts that everybody’s looking at me and either rooting for me to fail or doesn’t care if I did. I deal with that the best that I can, and there are days that are better than the others.

Enough so that I’ve gotten a job. It’s only part-time. And in this country, being part-time (or being a contractor) means that the company doesn’t have to give you health benefits. Well, okay, that’s fine at the moment, my income is not high enough for me to move completely off SSI. So I still qualify for the little bit of help this country grudgingly gives to its poor.

And the amount of money I make is, quite frankly, unsustainable. The car payment doesn’t help, of course, but I needed a reliable car. And, you know, while my parents are great and awesome and wonderful people, I need to get out of here. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that I’m nearly thirty-one and still living with my parents.

So I’m looking for a full-time job, which is difficult at the best of times, because I have to find a job that provides health care. Which means stringing together a couple part-time jobs or doing contract work is out of the question. Also, being at my job, if they raise the money I make an hour while keeping me part-time, at some point I’ll cross the income threshold for SSI.

And when that happens, that eighty dollar bottle of pills that’s my link to sanity, let alone the doctor to prescribe it, ends up being too much to afford. And then bang, I fall back into that hole that I’ve worked so goddamned hard to climb out of, get to the point where I can’t keep the job, and et voila, I end up back on SSI and I get to start over. That is, if I even qualify for it on the second fall.

So here I am, trapped. I’d like to do contract work. It’s more suited to my skill set and it means that I can keep my own hours, which is a good thing because I’m a night owl and run naturally on a noon to 3 AM clock. But I can’t do that, because I can’t afford to take a job that doesn’t come with benefits. Which leaves me caught nicely in a catch-22, where any attempt to make my situation better ends up, in all probability, making it worse. (Not to mention that this just feeds that little anxious voice in the back of my head: “See, they’re all rooting for you to fail!”)

Which makes me see red when I see the rhetoric that ‘all people on welfare are lazy.’ Are they lazy, or are they just trapped?

And this is just in relation to the bipolar. I’m not even bringing in the other medical conditions I’ve got, that’ll probably end up killing me. I know nobody makes it out alive, but, if you want the honest truth, most days I don’t think I’m going to make it to fifty.

…and this came out a hell of a lot rawer than I expected it to be, so be gentle.

Words have power [extended health care rant, part 1]

Words have power [extended health care rant, part 1]

First off, I know my hometown is rather Republican. It’s part of the reason I don’t always feel comfortable up there, but people have a right to their politics despite how much I may disagree with them. But this video makes me embarrassed to be from Redding:

Alright, so again, there’s a first amendment right to say as you please, no matter how dumb you come across sounding. The guy has a right to protest, so I don’t mind that he’s a teabagger sort. Folks have a right to say what they want. However, the bit that just makes me angry is that bit about being “a right-wing terrorist”.

Again, I know that folks have the right to say what they want to say. But labeling oneself a terrorist is a bit like yelling fire in a crowded theater. If you want to pull the Feds down on your head, there’s only a few worse things you can say. But alright, fine. First amendment and all, even though the first amendment doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences for what you say.

The things that make me embarrassed to be from Redding in this video is by how loud the crowd applauds. I mean, they literally cheer for the guy — a guy who has said that he’s not above blowing up buildings and killing innocent people for his cause. Let’s not beat around the bush (or the Bush, for that matter) here. A terrorist is somebody who uses terror — the threat of hurting innocent people to cause fear — to achieve a political goal. I’m willing to give the guy in the video a pass in the sense that he meant another word and said the wrong one, as much as that is a really bad slipup, if that’s the case. However, the crowd cheering at those words — in essence, approving of terrorism — is what appalls me.

Then there’s what the Congressman said, which makes me embarrassed to admit that I think I voted for the guy once. You see, Herger was pretty good, despite his political affiliations, of doing what was right for his constituents. He even listened kindly to me when I asked him at a town hall meeting how he could help in regards to the cost of attending college. In the end, he might not have done anything, but I got the feeling he was taking me seriously and at least thought about what I had said when the next bill to help with college aid came up.

But again, there’s a line you cross when you say to somebody who’s just declared himself a right-wing terrorist: “Amen, God bless you, there’s a great American.” I don’t really think our representatives ought to be encouraging those who would stoop to violence to achieve their political goals, whether they share the same political beliefs or oppose them. There’s a line of decorum here that shouldn’t be crossed.

I know Republicans don’t want this health care bill, and I can vaguely understand why. But, that said, some of this rhetoric is getting a bit out of control.

(BTW, don’t give me the it was a joke bit. There’s some things that just aren’t funny — and I hate to say it, that didn’t sound like a joke on the tape. He sounded dead serious, and to cover it up by saying “Haw haw, it’s a joke, it’s supposed to be funny, you liberals have no sense of humor” isn’t right either. My mom taught me that some things just weren’t funny no matter if you meant it as a joke or not, and terrorism is one of those things.

That said, this bit in that editorial is spot on and something I can agree with:

If there’s a lesson here, maybe it’s about the need for everyone to turn the volume down. Left and right alike slap the vilest labels on those with whom they have political disagreements. Critics slag both “tea-bag” activists and Acorn organizers as “Brownshirts” – as if voting differently on the “public option” is the equivalent of slaughtering millions, as the Nazis did in the 1930s and ’40s. What will we say if real Nazis ever show up?

Is it so hard to be polite and respectful to one another even though we disagree? Can we stop with the hot-button words?)

But between this video and the news that Ted Kennedy died, some part of me this morning is sorta feeling like, there went my last best chance to become a productive citizen. I’ll have more to say on that later, when I’m not rushing off to work, as it’s a story that’s going to take a bit of time to tell.

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