Baseline Wrap-Up

Before illness, I loved to play tennis.  Although never the fastest player on the court, I appreciated the fact that tennis is also a game of strategy.  My strategy was often to aim for the baseline, a shot that almost always caught my opponent off guard.  Of course, missed shots were most often out-of-bounds.

This past week has called into question the standards and guidelines by which we govern ourselves.  Even though I don’t live in the U.S., what happens there is a reflection of universal imbalance – corrupt politics, arguments that serve power over the good of the public, and a reliance on an old baseline.

In tennis, the rules are clear.  The baseline doesn’t shift.  It is apparent, in light of the current upheaval, that societies need to review and re-evaluate their accepted practices.  So much of what is happening is definitely out-of-bounds, and partially due to a lack of clear-cut boundaries.

Okay, enough about that.  Thank you again to Proscenium for the prompt suggestion.  Other contributors include:  Olga from Stuff and what if…, The Bee Writes, and Sgeoil.  Thank you all for your thoughts, and here’s hoping a calmer, more sane week lies ahead.

See you tomorrow for a new challenge.

V.J.

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When Turning Off the News Is Not Enough

“I am glad that Bill Cosby got jail time,” I state, seated across from my husband at lunch.  “I hope justice doesn’t stop there.”

My husband shifts uncomfortably in his chair.  He thought that Cosby should have house arrest.  He doesn’t say it now – he’s too sensitive for that – but he has said it before, when I wasn’t feeling so volatile.

I’ve just been to see my psychologist, and the topic of conversation has been the rage that I have been feeling over this recent fiasco in the States.

“Many women are feeling it,” she says.  “It felt like we came so far, and now we’re pulled back under.”

“I don’t know how we change it,” I carry on as Ric focuses on his food.  “As long we live in a patriarchal society, seems women are devalued.”

“Patriarchal?  How is our society patriarchal?  Women hold positions of power too.”

I understand then that he is taking this personally.

“Honey, this is not about women vs men.  This is about a culture that oppresses and has done for centuries.  The ‘old boys club’ mentality that overlooks crimes against humanity in favour of power.  Religious teachings that denigrate and incite hate – not just towards women.  Hell, there are women on the Senate who are turning their backs against the abuse and voting to support the likes of Kavanaugh.”

I am too emotional to make a clear argument right now, and he knows it, so we let it drop.

“Maybe it’s better if we just don’t watch the news for a bit.”

Even that suggestion makes me mad, although I know he’s probably right.  I have no control over what is happening.

“It’s the powerlessness that fans the rage,” my therapist had said.  “There is healthy rage – that which promotes change – and then there is destructive rage.  Protect yourself in these times.”

So much of what is tolerated in society in based on unwritten laws.  On a crowded sidewalk, we move to the right.  In a bottleneck, cars from incoming lanes alternate.
When someone falls, we stop to make sure they are alright.  We are conditioned to be polite, so; when the situation crosses into lines that make us uncomfortable, we walk away.

I think it’s time to raise the bar.   We live in an age of information and the potential for enlightenment is riper than it has ever been.  Let’s set a higher standard for ourselves, people.

I am inspired today by the writings of Scarlet Virago, whose blog post, Lava, addresses the rage I have been feeling.  Please give her a read and a like.

We have a lot to talk about.  Love to hear your thoughts.

(I’ve added my poem:  Meaningful Toil to this post as I think it fits.)

 

 

Policy vs Need

“I can’t process your application with the information I’ve been given,” the woman on the phone is officious, likely hates her job, I theorize.  “Your doctor has only sent me four medical reports; there is not enough here to support an inability to work.”

th-4I might have guffawed at this.  “I can barely manage day-to-day living,” I tell her, “working isn’t even within my realm of capabilities right now.”

“I’m not challenging your diagnosis,” she is quick to reassure me.  “But I need empirical evidence.  There is nothing here to indicate what treatment regimes have been tried and failed.”

I explain about the chemical sensitivity – how every drug we have tried has had an adverse effect, some landing me in emergency.

“I don’t see that in your paperwork.”

I rack my brain for when we discovered that – even before my diagnosis, I think.

I tell her about how I am unable to drive, have cognitive impairment, and suffer from systemic exhaustion.

“I don’t see any evidence of that here.”

I get it.  She is performing a clerical job, and has boxes to tick.  No wonder she is so defensive.  Imagine having to call up severely disabled individuals and tell them that short of going back to work, there is no help for them as far as their government is concerned.

th-3Three years I have been homebound – two of that bedbound.  My case has been documented by my current insurance company every three months during this time.  At the two-year mark, my long-term disability provider required that I apply for CPP (Canadian Pension Plan) disability coverage.  At this point, I had imagined it would be simply procedural.

“You will have to appeal it; hopefully, your doctor will provide better records at that time.”

“So you’re telling me I’m between a rock and hard place.”

“Nooo…your coverage will continue with your current company.  We just have stricter requirements than they do.”

th-2“And likely no knowledge of this disease…” I add, cynically.  She doesn’t admit it, but it’s true.  Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (aka Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) falls outside of the scope of knowledge of many fields affecting well-being – medical, governmental, insurance, etc.

“How can I help you…help this process?”  I ask.  “Believe me when I say, I am not in a position to resume my life, and my need for support is very real.”

“Well, let me give it further consideration,”  she says.

She hangs up and I am struck by such a feeling of helplessness that I can’t move.

What happens to people who don’t have company benefits?  I wonder.  What happens to those who are fighting this battle alone?  Who advocates for them?

“I came this close to losing my home,”  I remember another telling me about her journey with ME/CFS.  She was forced to quit her professional practice and apply for disability at a time when even less was known about the disease.

I know that there have been cases of abuse and fraud that have forced stricter regulations.  That’s why insurance companies pay for surveillance, and make the sick jump through so many hoops.  I fail to understand why the government deems it necessary to have stricter criteria.

It’s been days since this conversation, yet still I am haunted by the realization that there are individuals suffering with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities who are not getting the support and services they need.  I am not alone in this fight.  I am one of many.  I am luckier than most.

Something needs to change.

I’m reminded of a poem I originally wrote in October of 2016:  What Future?

(Visit Solve ME/CFS Initiative for more information about this disease.)

 

 

We Are Called

My husband is googling “The Declaration of Independence”.

I am just trying to breathe: a tempest of emotions, thoughts, and fears attacking rationality.

I try to think back to another time when I felt such terror…to reassure myself that this will all pass…but I think about my son who recently converted to Muslim for the love of a woman, and her family (Canadian citizens) whose origins trace back to Somali…my kin now.  Will the hatred being propagated next door, spill over to them, to my future grandchildren?

Prejudice is ever-present; I get that.  I learned it from my father, who would come home after a long day of selling cars to rail against “those” people:  who I won’t list here, but who also included Rambler drivers.  Rambler drivers were the worst, according to Father. Once he didn’t speak to me for a whole week, just because I dated a man whose mother tongue was not English.

“Prejudice,” I learned in the eleventh grade, “is based in ignorance.  We fear what we don’t understand.”

It was a revolutionary moment for me: the realization that knowledge and investigation could transform hatred.  I felt relieved to know to that I was not called upon to take sides with one people against another, and, in fact, had the opportunity to grow through exploring differences.  My world opened up.

As did my recognition of the enormity of work that needed to be done to eradicate ignorance – within my family, my community, and beyond.

Discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, gender, social standing, ability, religion, age, or anything else is not acceptable, and we are all called to be warriors in the fight for rights.

The words are there in The Declaration of Independence, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and so on.

It remains to us to act upon such wisdom.

 

 

I Can Only Hope

I understand the need for political change – here in Canada it represented a landslide win for a young, politically inspired, English teacher with “great hair” as all the election attack ads reminded us in hopes of discrediting him.

I get that Hilary has a less than spectacular track record tainted by rumours of corruption. At least she has political experience and the know-how to work with the democratic system, but that has no relevance now.

What I don’t understand is how a nation can overlook the words and actions of a man who would be king, whose track record has consistently demonstrated self-serving tendencies, who is so far removed from the issues of everyday life, despite his rhetoric (he lives in golden splendour), and who came to power on the wings of hate.

I can only hope that this result, like a pimple that has festered under the surface, will explode, extracting its ugly venom, so that the my neighbouring country will be able to heal the core issues and rid itself of the poison within.

 

7 Strategies for Political Success

Have been watching American politics lately – it’s a bit like coming across a train wreck and being unable to disengage – and have concluded that in order to be a successful politician, the following tactics are crucial:

  1. Run your campaign like a reality TV show.  Put entertainment first and your audience will be sure to forget that this is a national election and the issues are real.th-6                            (nbcnews.com) Accompanied by “We Are The Champions.”
     
  2.   State that education is an important value in your platform and then throw in mindless slogans that appeal to the basest of emotions and override intellectual thought processes.th-8                                              (businessinsider.com)

3.  Base your platform on keeping the country safe while inciting hatred and riots at all appearances.  Be sure to emphasize that the extra police presence needed is viewed as evidence of the need for your leadership and not a result of your off-the-cuff rhetoric.th-2
(nytimes.com)

4.  Use fear-mongering, and scapegoating to mask the fact that you have no actual actions plans to deal with issues close to home.  th-6                                                      (www.cnn.com)

5.  Create a bully persona that will make the public believe that you are the ‘man’ for the job, and forget that this is a democratic system and once elected, you will be subject to democratic procedures (unless, of course, you plan to overthrow the status quo and declare a dictatorship.)th-5
(www.sheknows.com)

6.  Whenever possible, plagiarise – you are after all a busy person, with a ‘uge agenda, and the people will apparently forgive any and all indiscretion.th-5                                                     (www.cnn.com)

7.  Employ repetition – it doesn’t matter what you say, just keep repeating it, the louder the better, and the public will eat it up.

(OttomanEmpire)

“The Sellout” by Paul Beatty, A Humble Review

9781250083258Humbled is only way I can describe my experience of Paul Beatty’s novel, “The Sellout”.  Beatty’s comic approach to issues ranging from being raised by a single parent, racial matters, love, and the judicial system is cleverly acerbic.  Each line of the novel is packed with cutting commentary, and I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions.  The audio version features the voice of Prentice Onayemi who convincingly portrays the slow, breathy cadence of the pot-smoking narrator.  “The Sellout” features a cast of unlikely characters, who stumble through life and relationships, adding to the comedic effect and illustrating Beatty’s message.

“The Sellout” dares to grab society’s greatest problems by the ankles, hold them upside down, and shake out the pockets, exposing all the (otherwise unspoken) idiosyncrasies.  This is an intelligent, albeit humorous, expose, which merits more than one read through.

Found this video interview of the author talking about his inspiration for writing the novel: