Monday, September 28, 2015

Let's go Bizarro

Bloomsbury Coffeehouse
Soy Cappuccino
Chai Spice Biscotti

I just came from the physical therapist today.  Yep, going through that again.  This time, however, they might actually approve the referral.  I'm still trying to squeeze in as many appointments as I can, just in case, since I won't get billed for any treatments prior to the official denial.  Nonetheless, I have been assured that the insurance has changed their policies regarding pain management so there shouldn't be any problem getting this approved.

So they say.

I have been through this so many times, I have a conditioned dread of seeking help.  Towards the end of my first appointment, I almost started crying (catchphrase!) in front of the therapist, worrying that I wasn't broken enough, or hadn't described all the pain or in the right way, to get the insurance to approve it this time.  Again, they tell me it's going to be different this time.  But there was another deeper emotion mixed in that was driving the feeling of break down: body-hate.  I just hate my body right now.  Loathe it.

I have been fantasizing lately about Bizarro Chandra - the super-healthy, super-well-adjusted version of me from another incarnation of the universe.  Bizarro Chandra doesn't have these pain problems.  She never gained too much weight - she eats right, she does yoga.  She finished school and got a real job - she's probably your favorite math professor - so she has real health insurance, which she almost never has to use because she's so super-healthy and awesome like that.  She still doesn't wear make-up but she's still a super-hottie.  And crying at inopportune moments is not her catchphrase, because she has her shit together.  She is my most positive visualization of myself.

In short, Bizarro Chandra is my evil fucking nemesis.

And lately, I can't stop beating myself up with the image of this person I can never be.  No matter how much I can improve in this real-world version of myself, I will never be like that.  Too much damage has been done.  Even if I lose this extra weight that is such a burden to carry, and recover the functionality and strength in my body, I will still be left with a sack of extra skin hanging off me.  I already look like a half-deflated windsock and I've got at least another 30 pounds to relieve myself of to feel healthy and functional.  I fantasize about this mythical post-weightloss head-to-toe plastic surgery - so I wouldn't feel like a walking Savini gunk-dissolve - but I can't fathom ever paying for it.  I've priced it out and it would probably cost as much as we earned last year.  And even if we had an extra year of pay, and, miraculously, no bills to put it towards, I still could not justify spending that much money, no matter what it would cost me mentally to keep carrying that baggage - forever.

It has become abundantly clear that we're never getting out of this financial state.  Whatever changes will not be enough - it's not mathematically possible.  So whatever resources we have will have to be put towards making sure the boys are okay and have an education with as little financial burden as possible.  Retirement is not going to be an option for us, so we have to keep ourselves healthy enough for as long as we can to keep ourselves in the workforce - for as long as we can literally stand it.  So, costly indulgences like having a less cumbersome body that I don't have to think about are totally off the table.

So this is the Is!  I fucked up along the way and this is the body I have and I have to deal with it.  There are still things I can do to make it work better.  They may be much harder to do than other people think they ought to be, but they can still be done.  And my body doesn't really matter so much anyway, right?  I need it to function for my sake - and my family's sake, so I can take care of them - but in the grand scheme of things, who gives shit, right?  What I have to say and do and and who I am as a human being, is far more important to the world than what my body looks like.  Right?  And it's not like I'm in the dating scene anyway, so what do I care?

Yeah, all true, but I fucking care.  It's not just that my body hurts, it's that my mind hurts to think about my body... especially naked.  I'm angry at my physical pain because I feel like it's yet another way I have failed, failing to somehow take care of myself in spite of the obvious obstacles.  And I'm angry at my reflection because, even though I have known so many men - even particularly gorgeous men - who can love and be attracted to women of all physical states (including this women), I still feel undesirable - unlovable.  I even feel a sick pang of embarrassment at noticing an attractive celebrity.  As if I can metaphysically feel his disgust, or pity, and rejection of my attraction.  Like I'm a damn teenager again.

Perhaps, it's some deep-seated fear that, even though I've become strong enough (sometimes) to accept that I can be desirable to some mere mortal, if that same hottie were famous and had other options, I wouldn't stand a chance of being loved by him.  And I'm married!  I'm not looking for anyone else but the man who does love me.  But still, emotionally, I am always seeking that validation.  It's something primal, I guess.  Acceptance, not just by the Group, but by the Alpha Group.

I am aware of just how much of a downer this useless blog is.  But I guess it can't be useless if I needed to write it.  I know I am not alone.  I know that body-hate isn't just for fat chicks.  And sometimes I can inhabit that Bizarro Chandra mindset and love my own body, or at least not give a shit whether anyone else does or not.  But that's for me to work out.  What I would really like to see is a little more Bizarro from the outside world.

I would love to see an art project, a photobook or some such, of those rarefied A-list, Sexiest Men Alive types in intimate couplings with Hollywood's rejects.  All those people denied representation in the cultural consciousness - from my fellow fatties to the gay-lesbian-trans folks to any person of non-white color to the wide array of people with disabilities of one kind or other - being shown loved by their fellow human beings who already reside in that elite space.  It is not about being validated because of some beautiful person's interest in you - to make you feel better.  The power of it would come from seeing the people you identify with being fully accepted and integrated into this highest abstract ideal of our society.  After all, the absence of these real-life truths from our cultural vision can be absolutely devastating.

And we self-haters are fully capable of dismissing even this gesture.  We can tell ourselves that these rich, beautiful people want to be seen doing something nice, but they couldn't actually be interested in us in real life.  So, I would make it a part of the design of such a project that anyone approached as a participant has to actually believe they could, under the right circumstances (as in, if they weren't already married to another rich and beautiful person, etc) be in a relationship with the person they were ultimately paired up with.  Like a preliminary hypothetical dating service pre-screening.  Because the truth is that such couples do happen in real life.  Not everyone is stuck with Hollywood's narrow and superficial tastes.  Plenty are that bad, but plenty more prefer to live a little Bizarro.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

On doing your job

Rogue Valley Roasting Co.
Iced Americano
Vegan Pumpkin Bread

There have been a number of "Do your job"-themed memes lately directed at county clerk Kim Davis for refusing to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples.  And while some of them are genuinely amusing (I particularly liked the "Clerks" one), I get a little uneasy with the message.  I do believe that she should be doing what her job requires here, but I feel the need to clarify and expand that conclusion a little bit.

The reason I get squirmy here is that "do your job" is too simplistic and, in other contexts, is the absolute wrong thing to do.  When officers of the government, be they in military or in law enforcement, are told to do something that violates the constitution or international law, they are obligated to refuse to do so or they can, and should, be held accountable.  They can't say, "I was just doing my job," when their job entails torture or unlawful detention or other violations.  They are responsible for carrying out the order.  Further, they are supposed to be protected when they speak out and refuse to carry out what they believe to be an unlawful command.  Obviously, there are a great many people who did their job when they should have refused and were never held accountable (though I wouldn't necessarily go after them more than the ones issuing the orders).  Likewise, there are some who did refuse to be complicit in the illegalities, some who should have been protected as whistle-blowers, and were punished anyway.

But what about when something has been deemed legal, by the legislature or even the judiciary, that someone believes should be illegal?  What are their obligations then?  This is not as clear-cut an answer.

We all want to believe that we would have been running the Underground Railroad if we were living back in the day, that we would have defied any law requiring us to comply with slavery.  Clearly, some of us wouldn't have, had we been born and raised under that zeitgeist.  Nonetheless, we generally agree, today, that the abolitionists were in the right, and posthumously support any instance of their defiance.  We would surely not have said, "Do your job," to any government grunt involved in returning an escaped slave to their "owner."

But Kim Davis is no abolitionist, and she's certainly no persecuted Christian martyr.

Where we can clearly see that a once-legal institution that deprived people of life, liberty, and any chance in Hell of pursuing happiness, could not persist as being consistent with the founding principles of the Constitution, and should therefore be defied, we can't say that about everything we disagree with.  Slavery killed people.  Slavery stole their liberty.  That's pretty clear and reasonable criteria for disobeying the laws that upheld it.  But look at the defiance of laws that gave freedom to those once-enslaved.  For some people, it was evident that enfranchisement of these "obviously inferior" people was damaging to society as a whole, so they used whatever means they saw fit to prevent these laws from being implemented.  Some even quoted their deeply held religious beliefs to justify that defiance and obstruction.  "God's law" was ever superior to man's law, and that gave them the right to break man's law.

Sound familiar?

It's easy to vilify segregationists after the fact, but we should never doubt their sincerity.  So many monstrous things are done by people who fully believe they are doing what is morally right.  Some people know they are evil bastards.  Most seem to think they are destined for statues or sainthood.  Frankly, Kim Davis might be as much as a footnote someday, no matter how much of a political prop she is at the moment.

And I want to take a moment to say that I don't repeat her name to vilify her or call her a bigot, no matter what her actions show her to be.  My sense is that she is another one of those people who doesn't necessarily carry around a hateful heart, but whose actions are hateful and cause a great deal of harm to people who have been made to suffer too much already.  I think she is what happens to those otherwise good people who try to make their worldview conform to someone else's interpretations of someone else's stories about someone else's supposed actions, all of which occurred in an entirely different time, place, and context.  She is fortunate that those interpretations have changed already, otherwise she would not have been able to be divorced three times, nor to speak in public about religious matters, nor to be elected to public office.  Among other things.

To get back to disobeying the law...  It's hard to set a definitive criteria.  We can generally agree that laws that go against the basics - life, liberty, etc - should be defied in some way or other.  And we do have the right to peaceful protest, to petition the government for a redress of grievances, all that, without the risk of losing our own life or liberty or job (so long as we follow the established protocol, get our proper permits, and whatnot).  Beyond that, if we deem the laws to be so egregious that they require greater acts of civil disobedience, there may well be consequence.  That's Thoreau's Dilemma - do I pay my war taxes or go to jail?  But that remains between you and the State to square.  The problem comes when your act of conscience infringes on another citizen's rights.

When a Muslim airline attendant discovered that she was expressly forbidden by her religion, not just from imbibing alcohol, but from selling it, she approached her employer about reaching some kind of compromise.  Since other attendants were available to serve alcohol, they agreed that she would not be required to do so as part of her job.  However, a coworker decided to complain that this wasn't fair.  The company decided to fire the Muslim woman and she is now suing.  I believe the law is on her side, because her inability to serve alcohol, 1) could have been successfully accommodated without causing an unreasonable increase or change in the duties of any other employee, 2) was an act she was expressly forbidden from performing, 3) was not directed at any customer through discriminatory bias, and 4) would not have impacted the rights of any customer to receive equal accommodations from the airline.

Here's why the same is not true of county clerks or bakers.  The Muslim woman above was prohibited from performing a particular act - serving alcohol, which was only one task she was expected to perform as a flight attendant, and, thus, easy to work around.  Had she been a bartender who had then converted, she wouldn't really have a case.  Serving alcohol is the whole job, so not serving alcohol cannot be accommodated.  Bakers are not prohibited from baking cakes, under any religious doctrine.  They are prohibited from establishing a public business, then refusing to serve members of the public cake because they are feeling all judgey because those people wear make-up and don't cover their hair and the baker's sincerely held religious beliefs say that that is wrong.  Too bad.  If you serve the public, you serve the public.  Conformity to your religious values is not a requisite for service.  It doesn't matter if the customer plans to use the icing for eye-shadow, you don't get to single them out because you think your god doesn't like them.  The law is there to protect them from that kind of discrimination, just as it would protect you from whatever their religious beliefs might be.

As for the county clerk, you don't get to pull the Religion card either.  Issuing a marriage license is civil act, not a personal or religious endorsement.  A clerk is acting on behalf of the government and carrying out the laws of that government.  They are simply acknowledging that the petitioners have met the criteria set forth by the government to form a legal marriage.  The clerk's beliefs are not involved in that act.  Nor is the act of processing paperwork expressly forbidden in any Bible I can think of.  It doesn't matter that what the government considers to be a valid marriage isn't what the individual clerk considers to be a valid marriage in the eyes of their religion, their god.  That's between the couple and who- or whatever is there to meet them in the afterlife.  The clerk simply has to acknowledge that we live in a country where everyone has a right to their own beliefs and, as she wants her country to protect her right to each of her marriages - to not question their religious consistency with the written texts, or their conformity to the beliefs of the clerk who happens to be issuing her documents - if she is acting in the capacity of representing the government, she must protect the rights of every citizen to their own marriage.

If she believed that same-sex marriages were inherently unconstitutional for some legal inconsistency, she would be protected in holding protest signs and writing letters and petitioning for change.  If she refused to issue those marriage licenses, however, that's an act of obstruction and not simply protest, and, thus, not protected.  And since the act of issuing a marriage license does not cause the clerk to deprive someone of their life, liberty, or ability to pursue happiness, there's no moral case to be made, either.  Refusing to issue the license, however, does cause real harm, both mentally and financially, at least.

If Kim Davis can't get past the erroneous conclusion that allowing other people to have their own legal protections somehow makes her complicit in their perceived moral trespasses, then she has to leave her job.  Her beliefs cannot be accommodated here, nor should they be.  Her Oath of Office requires her to uphold the law - man's law - and uphold it equally, without discrimination.  She is failing to uphold her Oath of Office, selectively, based on a religious prohibition which does not exist and couldn't legally be accommodated anyway.  If she doesn't get that and continues to break the law, then there should be some kind of legal process to remove her from her office.  She is breaking the law, and obstructing others from exercising a right that harms no one.

As an ordained Methodist minister, my late grandfather officiated many marriages.  He managed to get most of the family, though he had to get my dad the second time around since my parents eloped as youngsters.  He also performed my marriage five years ago, despite the fact that my husband and I are both agnostic.  We discussed it all beforehand.  My grandfather felt that his authority to perform the ceremony came from the church, but we felt it would be disingenuous to make our vows in the name of a deity we didn't believe in.  So he found the language that we all felt satisfied our beliefs, consistent with the spirit of, well, the Spirit.  He still blessed us with a prayer, and we took no offense to the benediction, but God was not invoked in the actual vows.

During his visit here, my grandfather, the reverend, also made a point of informing us that he totally supported legalizing gay marriage.  And he couldn't understand why his church had to waste three days of their convention talking about how much they didn't support it - oy!

This whole thing is a pretty clear case of "render unto Caesar" because, even if you don't agree with gay marriage, it causes no one harm on this earthly plain, and allowing it to exist, unobstructed, alongside other marriages does not make you a party to it.  And, remember, if God is going to damn someone to Hell for any particular offense, that's His prerogative.  If I remember correctly, "Vengeance is Mine," says the Lord.  And, chances are, God is not so prejudiced as the people claiming to act on His behalf.