I must admit to being uncomfortable when, after a major tragedy, I see and hear advertisements everywhere for products promoting solidarity. Facebook and Twitter – and I’m sure MySpace and any other social networking site – are rife with posts saying, “Buy this T-Shirt to show your support for X,Y,Z Place/Victims.” In most cases, some or all of the profits are going to charities/scholarships/memorial funds set up in the victims’ memory. I think that’s a byproduct. I think it’s a salve for the feelings of those who realize they are taking advantage of a tragedy to get face time/free marketing with consumers.
A great Maine philanthropist passed away recently. Al Glickman is a name that’s pretty well known throughout Portland. From the Glickman Library on the USM Portland campus to the Glickman Family Center for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Spring Harbor Hospital in Westbrook, Glickman’s philanthropic giving touched – and will touch – the lives of hundred of thousands of children, young adults and far beyond.
While this view may be jaded (okay, while this view is jaded) I find that there are a lot of multi-gazillionaires who give of their wealth, but for the write off. Because their publicist says that’s the thing that they should do to recover from some PR snafu. And no, when you reach the bottom line it doesn’t really matter why X or Y organization is getting a gift of $1 million, it just matters that they are getting the gift of $1 million.
But Maine philanthropists seem to be different. There are so many people like this in the state of Maine. Brenda Garrand, Leon Gorman (one of my heroes!), myriad others that fly under the radar. People who have the means to give, and to do so generously, of their time and their money because it’s the right thing to do.
At this point in my life, I don’t have those means. Well, not the monetary means. I do what I can to donate my time, and when I have a spare alm or two I will pitch it towards this, that or the other organization.
Which is all a long preface to me saying this: I’ve finally decided what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be a philanthropist. I want to start a scholarship fund at St. Lawrence University. I want to give beaucoup bucks to the United Way. I want to help headstart and other early childhood education organizations thrive.
The problem is getting to a point where I have beaucoup bucks to give, but I figure that’s just a small (big) speed bump along the way. With the wishing, comes drive. I’ll get there eventually. And when I do, I’ll help my community to the best of my abilities.
Cross your fingers it happens sooner rather than later.
I’ll admit it. I don’t like public displays of affection, I am discomfited when there’s an abundance of sex talk. In my opinion, sex, sex acts, foreplay, whatever, these are all things to be done in the privacy of your own home. I understand not everyone feels that way. Heck, I understand that some people get off on exhibitionism, voyeurism, many different permutations thereof. Whatever. That’s not my issue. My issue is that I don’t want to see it.
This is a long lede in.
In a recent bout of insomnia, one of my favorite authors sent out a tweet about David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, wanting to block access to porn via wifi in public areas. In my mind he’s shouting, “But think of the children!”
Here’s my problem with this whole scenario – kids have been finding ways to look at “illicit” content for millennia.
Where they can’t find images, they always have their imagination which, as a former child, I’m willing to bet is quite vivid and active. Fodder for sexual fantasies has never been in short supply.
To be clear, I don’t want kids OR adults looking at porn in public spaces. A) Awwwwkward. B) I’ve already established I’m a prude, I don’t want my coffee with a side of raunchy sex scenes. C) Ew.
My biggest hold up is that it’s a slippery slope when the state – or even the internet service providers – determine what is acceptable to access or not. It quickly goes from porn sites to left- or right-wing blogs being banned. Maybe the powers that be say it’s illegal to look at natural birthing sites or websites devoted to gun sales, or – cod forbid – you need to do research on terror attacks in the last decade. Now the government thinks you’re some hippy terrorist looking to exceed any attack that’s happen before. It doesn’t matter that maybe you’re just writing a research paper on mass shootings in the United States and you happen to be pregnant at the same time.
To be clear – I have no issue with individual places limiting the sites their patrons can go to. Schools do it all the time (have you ever tried visiting Facebook from a school’s wifi?). I’ve been blocked from visiting tumblr when on a public wifi network (due to potentially explicit material). I am fine with these things. The person who is providing the service is saying, “These are the rules.” When the State and corporations get into it saying what’s okay and what’s not, that leaves a horrendously bad taste in my mouth.
I wish the need to limit what sites people can access wasn’t a thing that needed to be addressed. I wish that everybody had the common sense and decency to realize that maybe, just maybe, looking at explicit porn when in a public space isn’t the best thing. But, in the absence of common sense, and with the assumption that people will inevitably do stupid things I think it’s fine for BUSINESSES to limit what sites their customers have access to. In fact, I encourage it.
But the state needs to keep their fingers out of it. It’s a short jump from “protecting the children” to Big Brother. I’d prefer that the state work on locking up pedophiles and rapists for longer than two years instead of dictating what website I can go to strictly because I “might” look at porn in a public space. (This isn’t even broaching the topic of what is and isn’t porn.)
I long for a world where common sense rules the day. A day when we don’t need to be reminded that kids are around the corner. A day when the state no longer feels the need to control what information we access or when and where. A day where we can self-monitor ourselves about what’s acceptable and what’s not in public spaces. Maybe if we all work on it, this dream will come to fruition.
Growing up is funny.
When you’re a child, you’re learning new things all the time (hopefully). You’re learning how to interact with people, hopefully in a positive manner. You’re learning facts and figures. Finally you graduate your primary and secondary school. Maybe you head on to an institute of higher education – whether a two-year or a four-year school. Maybe you don’t and jump right into the work force. Whatever. The learning hasn’t ended, but instead of raw facts and figures you’re learning how to synthesize the information that’s been shoveled into your head into more facts, new theories. And then you hit your mid-twenties and it’s like, “yeah, I’ve got this. I know what’s up.” And you think – and claim – that you’ve learned all there is to learn. And then here come your late twenties and beyond. That time when you’ve finally grown up enough to admit that you don’t know shit.
This is, for the most part, the place where I am today.
For the past week, my good friend, Brent, and I have been debating/arguing about violence in today’s world. I will say it started as a debate and ended as an argument. We came to the conclusion that our differing views on it are irreconcilable. It is one of the 5% of topics that we just, flat out, don’t see eye to eye on.
I found myself getting all, “rawr,” about it. Why couldn’t Brent just see that I was right and he was wrong??? And I found myself as irritated as I had been back in college, back when I was a leader for the college Democrats on campus and debating with the college Republicans. And I worried (foolishly) that this would affect my relationship with Brent just like my relationship with some of the college Republicans had changed back in the day.
And then I thought about it.
That would be fucking dumb.
One of the most important things that I’ve learned over the past couple years is what the hell does it matter?
Brent – and many, many of my friends – stretch my mind. While my opinion on any given topic may not change, my approach sometimes does. And that’s one of the most valuable gifts a friend can give.
So, while Brent and I have agreed that this topic is part of our 5% of vehemently disagreed upon topics, that doesn’t mean that we won’t circle back around to it. It certainly doesn’t mean that we won’t argue about (m)any other topics as they come up in the news or in our minds.
At some point I’m going to have to start coming up with new titles for these posts, but at this exact moment before my coffee has hit, I don’t really have the creativity to do so.
So here we are. My fourth post (ish) about depression.
I’m very lucky and blessed that I have an abundance of friends who don’t suffer chemical depression. Like anybody, they occasionally suffer from situational depression – the circumstances they find themselves in when the universe seems to just be piling on.I’m happy for them. More, I think it’s important for me to have them in my life.
However, when I’m suffering a downswing, or just in general talking about depression, these friends don’t necessarily “get” it. They know that I’m hurting. They know I’m frustrated. They know I’m suffering immense mental anguish. And they want to fix it. And that’s so laudable. In the good times, and on the fringes of the bad, knowing that I have friends who want to ease my hurt is a comfort, a salve.
But as I’ve addressed in this space before, chemical depression isn’t something that can beat. It’s a siege. It can’t be fixed. It can be allayed. It can be pushed back, but it’s always there.
I know it’s difficult for people who don’t suffer chemical depression to understand it. Even if you’re not a “fixer”, I imagine it would be tough to look at someone like me – a good job, for a good company; an incredibly loving and comforting family; a wealth of friends who never give up on me even when I drop off the planet – and say, “what does she have to be depressed about?” (If you know me in any way you know that this is often a refrain that runs through my head about myself and I do suffer from depression)
I wish I could explain how chemical depression works. But I was a history major and barely passed chemistry and never took anatomy. So, I’ll leave that to the folks over at PsychCentral. My description is a little more floral.
The problem with depression is even though you know something intellectually, even though you can see where you should be and where you need to be. It’s hard to actualize how to get there. You’re like Sisyphus, but you’re forced to crawl on your hands and knees – which are tied to each other – and before you even get to the mountainside you have to cross a river filled with jello. You can look up and see your goal, and you can start working towards it, and maybe you make a little bit of progress, but getting there is nigh impossible. However, maybe you make a little bit of progress. You’ve made the snack shack halfway up the mountain, you get to rest on the plateau ready to push on and get to the top. You soldier on again. And finally, you get there. You’ve made it out. You’re at the top. Things are golden. And then you fall back and the battle starts all over again.
This cycle, this battle, much like Sisyphus’s, doesn’t end. Its timing may vary. Sometimes the cycle lasts six months, six days, six years. It’s hard to tell when you’re going to be knocked back on your ass so you’re always concerned today is going to be the day. The feather knocking the boulder backwards could be as little as a bad day at work or as major as losing a loved one.
For what it’s worth, I’m more than a little scared right now because I do feel like I”m reaching the top of the mountain. And I don’t know whether this will be one of the times the mountain just continues to grow or whether I’m going to be knocked back on my ass. Time will tell. It’s a comfort to me knowing my friends – depressed or not – are there for me unflinchingly and unquestioningly.
For those who may read this who don’t suffer depression, I hope this helps you understand where my head is at any given time. I hope you have a little more patience (or less depending on the situation). I hope not that you stop trying to fix it for me, but think about where I might be emotionally and mentally before you try and fix it.
I love that you want to. I love that you are unquestionably there for me. But sometimes I just need someone to listen when I bitch, to lean in to as a shoulder when I need to cry, buy me a drink when I need to get drunk, give me a hug when I need a hug. Just being there is sometimes enough.
A person I follow on Twitter sent out this riveting and incredibly well put together survey/quiz thing about a person’s slavery footprint.
Natch, I took it.
And it was incredible. The facts about this world, this 21st century world, this world that still relies so heavily and strongly on indentured, conscripted, or flat out enslaved people. It’s nauseating to think about.
The cotton in our clothes, the components in our electronics, the flair in our makeup. Chances are better than even that something that you have consumed and/or will consume and/or something you use on a regular basis has been helped along in its life cycle by a slave.
To continue with the theme from awhile ago, let’s talk some more about seeing things you remember as a young person through the eyes of an adult – and a little more life experience. This one, at least, is a little more light-hearted.
When I was in college, my favorite TV show – hands down – was the West Wing. I longed to be Josh Lyman. I definitely didn’t want to be the person in charge (the President or Leo), but boy did I want to be the person who made it happen. Hence, Josh. Aaron Sorkin’s writing was fantastic. Every episode was tension wrought. Whether that tension centered around international incidents or Donna’s love life varied, but the tension was always there. Optimism laced the script throughout the seasons (even seasons 5 and 6, the ones after Sorkin left the show). The characters leading the fictional United States wanted the best for the country. They wanted the best for every citizen. They wanted to stick it to the Republicans (when I was 20 that held a lot of appeal for me).
I was, unequivocally, what I call a “West Wing Democrat”. And I know I wasn’t the only kid who got involved, or wanted to get involved, with politics because of that show. An entire generation of kids was inspired to go to Washington, D.C., and work for our Representatives (or home to work on campaigns) so that we could be the next Josh Lyman or Toby Ziegler or C.J. Cregg.
Among the many problems though, is that my generation (and especially the ones that came after) is a generation with a real immediate gratification complex. We want to be hired into the Senior Staff of the White House or Senate and nobody really told us just how much work goes into getting to that level.
Flash forward from 20 to 22. I’ve just graduated from college and am, naturally, looking for a job in politics. I go to work for the Maine Democratic Party. Better, it’s through part of Howard Dean’s 50-State Plan. So here I am, ready to make a huge difference. I’m going to affect change. I’m going to be the hope that’s seen in the world. Of course, no one told me that campaigns are incredibly hard work. And that when you’re just starting out you’re not writing policy or speeches, you’re going door-to-door fighting with people who want nothing to do with what you’re selling. Following six of the most miserable months of my professional career, and one particularly devastating loss, I got the hell out of there.
Turns out that was the best decision I’ve ever made.
I’d tasted politics, and found out that – much like seafood – I didn’t like it. At all. My memories of The West Wing stayed strong, though. Strong enough that, fast forward another few years, when The West Wing started streaming on Netflix come Christmas 2012, I thought it the most magical gift ever given to me. I could now watch West Wing at my leisure. I could watch ten episodes in a row and not have to worry about getting up to change DVDs. I could watch twenty episodes and not have to worry about accidentally damaging the DVDs by leaving them out of their packaging.
I curled up, iPad close to hand, down comforter pulled up to my chin, head propped on pillows and fleece throws.
I turned it on.
My nostalgia assuaged, the quality of the show remains strong. Aaron Sorkin’s writing stands the test of time and, unfortunately, many of the issues Sorkin and his team address throughout remain pertinent today.* Without a doubt, Martin Sheen, John Spencer (may he RIP), Allison Janney, Bradley Whitford – the entire cast, really – put in such incredible performances. They are smart, they are empathetic. Even when you hate them, you love them. It’s one of those rare shows that deserved every single one of the awards it won.
That being said, instead of voraciously watching all 150+ episodes I’ve cycled through the first season and some of the second, but don’t go too much farther than that. I don’t care that much about politics anymore. From anything written on this blog, or that I’ve put online, know that it’s not that I don’t care about issues or my community anymore. It’s that I don’t want to look at the ugly underbelly. In Season 1, Episode 4 Leo says, “There are two things you never want to let people see how you make them: laws and sausages.”
I hate seeing and hearing the extremely partisan, extremely bitter fighting that happens in Augusta and Washington, D.C. It’s incredibly rare these days that any bills that really matter pass quietly. What seems to have been forgotten along the way is that, much like kids take their behavioral cues from their parents, the public take their behavioral cues from their representatives. This isn’t a chicken or egg thing – if our representatives modeled civil behavior and discourse then maybe, just maybe, there would be less vitriol across the board.
In civility’s absence though, I find myself – like a lot of my generation – avoiding government and politics. I can improve and contribute to the community just fine while not embroiling myself in the ickyness (technical term) of politics. So that’s what I’ll do. And I’ll continue to watch and re-watch seasons one and two of The West Wing and remember, with fondness, being an idealistic twenty year old. Someone who used to think that working in the system was the best way to change the system. Now I’m just going to ignore the system and hope that those of us on the ground are able to make the kind of difference we’d all like to see in the world.
*Although, as I noted on either Twitter or Facebook as I was re-watching, it’s kind of awesome to re-watch some of the episodes and have some of the issues resolved. For example, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell plays a prominent role in an early episode.
There is a battle being waged in my body and mind right now. I wish it was as simple as white blood cells battling infection. I wish it was something that could be helped, allayed, or – cod forbid - cured using something I could purchase for four dollars over the counter.
It’s intense to look at how far I’ve come and, in one overall insignificant event, feel the backslide to where I started.
For those who may be worried, I still have that pharmacological plank holding me at a 4. It’s this plank that has me fighting the battle. It’s this plank that has me writing about my mental and emotional state. It’s this plank that has me talking to friends. It’s this plank that has me saying, both internally, audibly, and using the written word, that I’m not okay right now. I’m not okay in this moment.
I guess there’s not too much more that can be said.
Other than this.
Whether with my friends or with myself, I’m so fucking over having to have this conversation.
While a bit excessively intellectually curious (I recently wrote to a friend, “I WANT TO KNOW ALL THE THINGS!”) I am far from being an academic. Frankly, I don’t have the attention span to be an academic. The thought of sitting down in a library for three months is dreamy. The thought of taking what I’d learned over that three months in order to write a hundred page paper fills me with fear. More accurately I already feel my attention wandering and my sentences running on and veering off and…well. I have ADD. That should be clear to anyone who’s read my writing or had a conversation with me or, hey, look, shiny!
Per usual, this is a long lead in.
I may not be an academic, I may not ever be an academic, but I have a good idea of how scholarly research and writing should be done. This instinct says that if you’re writing an academic paper – if you are proposing scientific theories – then the studies and articles that you use to support your hypothesis should be written by people other than you.
It’s like defining a word using the word itself.
In a surprise to absolutely nobody (especially if you know me, read my tweets or read this blog regularly) I’m a giant, giant, giant nerd. I love to learn. I love to know things. Hence, for the past three days, I’ve been listening to a practically endless stream of podcasts/television shows.
These have hailed from the BBC, PBS and NPR. They’ve been on topics as varied as recreating legendary Viking swords to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The march of Christianity east and Islam west to the Bhaghavad Gita. The Holocaust, tattoos, and the Scopes Trial. Decyphering Mayan, fabled Incan battles, and Columbine. Say what you will about me, but you can never say that my interests aren’t varied.
Aside from learning about how the Vikings were making iron stronger than anything that would show up elsewhere in Europe for centuries. Aside from learning about how the Scopes Trial was originally intended to be a show trial to boost regional tourism. Aside from learning about how one of the most storied Incan battles – long thought to be between the Spanish and Incans – was actually an intertribal fight. It’s been interesting to listen to people who were present at an event recount events that happened in my lifetime. Events I remember as a child, but hearing the same tales now, as an adult.
Case in point.
There was a BBC Witness episode that centered around the Columbine, CO, shooting in 1999. I so clearly and distinctly remember that as a fifteen year old. I remember watching the news that night after putting the girl I babysat to bed. I remember crying at a version of “I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan that had news clips playing throughout. I remember Bonny Eagle had months of emergency closures from kids calling in bomb or gun threats. I remember not being scared per se (let’s hear it for going to an all-girls high school), but being scared nonetheless. But these memories are all through the eyes of a teenager.
I’ll admit it. I haven’t given it too much thought since. I think about it and I remember it when anniversaries roll around. When another tragic school shooting happens. But it’s always thinking about it in terms of what 15 year-old Kate remembers, not what does 29 year old Kate think of the big picture of that particular tragedy.
That changed somewhat today.
The first interview was with the principal of Columbine. He discussed hearing the first gun shots and instantly thinking of his wife and kids. He talked of a pivotal moment when he saw a couple of his students walking out of the gym and realized that he had to be the one to protect them. He pulled them to safety. The second interview was with a reporter who was on the scene. He shared a tale of the crowd of worried parents’ aversion to using the words “death”, “dead”, and “killed”. The Witness producers wrapped with the principal telling of the end of that horrible day.
Once the police had cleared the school of danger, the children had been bused to a nearby school to reunite with their parents. There were tears, there were hugs, and – at the end – there remained 12 sets of parents whose children never got off that bus.
As I listened to this – in my backroom at work – while organizing knit hats and as a twenty-nine year old – I was on the verge of tears. For the past fourteen years I’ve thought about things in terms of what it would mean to me to watch my peers gunned down. To see my friends scared, literally, for their lives. To not know where or why the attack is coming from. This afternoon, I found myself thinking of what it would mean to be a parent (or aunt/caregiver/mentor/whatever) and not know where my charge is. To be a teacher or administrator and not be able to keep my students safe. To be a bystander and not be able to do anything to help.
When the idea for this post came to me, I wasn’t thinking I would be writing a eulogy to Columbine. I thought I would talk only about seeing childhood events through the eyes of an adult. Maybe I would touch upon the L.A. Riots in 1992. Maybe the trial of O.J. Simpson. But at the end of the post, end of the day, all I could think about was the principal talking about the parents who would never see their children climb off the bus again.