Butterfly Cauldron

Friday, September 29, 2006

Two, Four, Six, Eight -- Jesus Camp Teaches Kids to Hate!

So, I've been reading lots of stuff about this Jesus Camp movie -- check out my previous post for a clip -- and there's lots of reaction from fundamentalist Christians who are offended by the way the religious are portrayed in the film. Now, I will admit upfront that I haven't seen the whole film. I've only seen clips and read interviews from the participants and film makers. However, from what I've seen, I think I know what the problem is.

These people don't know they're fucking scary.

I've seen this played out in my own family. There's a certain 'code' that fundamentalists talk in. They make lots of allusions to warfare. Most of them mean 'spiritual' warfare, not physical. But that comfort with military themes, with the terms of death and destruction is scary to the rest of us. It's particularly scary to those of us who grew up in fundamentalism, because we know, we've seen first hand, how that absolute belief in owning the truth can manifest in actions that harm other people.

Most of the time, those actions aren't intentional. Or at least, they aren't done out of malice, per se. I honestly believe most fundamentalists do not actively hate people who are not of their faith. Because I don't think they really think about it that deeply. Most of them believe, in a rather passive way, that They are saved. They are right. They have a message other people need to hear. The world is against Them, it is out to destroy their faith and make them fall. (Although, how that's possible if they honestly believe, I don't know.)

So, when this preacher is telling the children they are frauds and hypocrites, she's not trying to hurt them. (She does, but that's not her true intent.) In her mind, she's administering 'tough love". Sure, it may hurt for the moment, but it'll be good for them in the end. It's like the shot of penicillin to cure your strep throat. It doesn't feel good, but in the end you'll be glad you got it. Only, this treatment is way more damaging than a momentary shot could ever be. At the age these kids are, their minds are pretty much malleable. They can learn to trust others, to treat other people as equals deserving respect or they can be instilled with fear of The Other, taught to attack those unlike them, to always be on the defensive. Whatever gets taught to them is going to affect them for the rest of their lives.

But the fundamentalists like those in this movie don't see it that way. They don't realize they're teaching fear. (Which is in direct contradiction to the Bible, btw. There's that verse that specifically says God is not the author of fear, that anything that envokes fear is not of God. But hey, why pay attention to that when there are Sinners to Terrorize?) They believe they are teaching survival skills, because they believe the world is going to end shortly.

We all have a certain image of ourselves that is, often, at odds with the way other people see us. This movie is like a mirror for some of these people. They don't see themselves the way they are on film. And so, because that's not how they see themselves, they immediately say the flimmakers have an agenda, they're biased. I've had this happen to me with people I've interviewed. They're not misquoted, their words are not twisted or altered and yet they don't like the way they sound in print. Because they don't realize how they sound to other people, they don't realize how what they do/say actually affects other people.

If they're lucky, or at least willing to accept the possiblity that they were not set up, maybe the people in this film can get a clue about why the rest of us think they're so fucking scary. (Because they are?) If you say you want to see Christian children as willing to die and kill as radicals in other countrys, what exactly do you think people are going to say? That it sounds like a good idea?

Anyway, I think we need more films like this and I think it's important that they not be altered or slanted in any way. It's not necessary. These people are scary, they are as bad (or at least have the capacity to be as bad) as any fundamentalist in any other religion and it's time the majority of this country realized that.

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posted by Zan at 12:15 PM 7 comments

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Remind me again how parental notification is a good thing?

This must be the month for attempted forced abortions. Yet another girl, this one a 16-year-old rape victim, has family that attempts to force her to abort. But this time, it's nasty. They made the girl drink turpentine!

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) — Police have arrested three women who are accused of forcing a pregnant 16-year-old to drink turpentine in an attempt to cause an abortion.

The girl’s mother, Rozelletta B. Blackshire, 44, was charged with criminal abortion and first-degree cruelty to children, Columbus Police Sgt. Debra Bohannon said. The teen’s cousins, Shonda Y. Blackshire, 26, and Monica M. Johnson, 28, of Eufaula, Ala., also were arrested Friday and charged with criminal abortion.

Investigators have not determined whether the turpentine has had any toxic effects on the teen, who is three months pregnant, or her unborn child.

“There’s no medical evidence that would support you could induce an abortion by giving her turpentine,” Bohannon said. “Still, it’s not made to ingest. It’s not good to ingest.”

Bohannon said the girl’s mother and cousins twice forced her to drink turpentine between Sept. 12 and Sept. 20.

The women might have wanted the teen to have an abortion because her pregnancy could have exacerbated an unrelated health problem, Bohannon said. The girl is in protective custody, she said.

Police were notified after the girl told her school counselor that her mother made her drink turpentine. Bohannon said her sex crimes unit was given the case because they already were investigating a sexual assault case involving the pregnant teen. Investigators believe the girl conceived during that assault.

If convicted in the criminal abortion case, the women could face up to 10 years in prison.

Where do I start? First, clearly this woman did not want to have an abortion. If she had, clearly her family would have supported her decision. So, she wanted to have this baby. A baby that seems to have been conceived as the result of rape. Okay, if a woman wants to bring to term a baby conceived in rape, she's way stronger than me and needs to be supported, not further tramatized.

Second, the girl has some sort of health condition. I can understand that upsetting her family. But again, it's her choice. She gets to decide if she wants to risk her life to give birth, not her mother, not her cousins, no one else.

And for gods sake - turpentine?? Where the hell did they get the idea that would make her lose the baby? Or were they hoping to do so much damage to her body she'd have no other choice? These people are fucked up. And who knows, maybe they've seriously hurt this woman. Maybe she's going to have lifelong damage from what they did to her. If they're so worried that carrying a baby may endanger her health, what did they think drinking a poisonous substance was going to do? They could have killed her.

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posted by Zan at 12:00 PM 3 comments

Monday, September 25, 2006

Painful flashbacks

So, there's this new film out called "Jesus Camp." There's a clip on iFilm.

It hurts me to even watch that. I'm sitting here, my stomach is starting to churn, I'm feeling sick and lightheaded. Gods, that's the exact same shit I went through. Look at those kids. Look how young they are. See how they're crying? That was me. That was me starting from about the age of 8. I was sent to church camp every summer, there were Youth rallies at least once a month, Sunday School every Sunday, Discipleship Training every Sunday, Girls in Action every Wednesday. There were the revivals every year. All of it like that, all of it so emotional and forceful and so many times there'd be someone, someone in charge who'd stand up just like and make that sort of pronouncment. God is telling me people here are fake. They're phony. They need to rededicate.

How many times did I go to the altar? How many times did I beg God to please, please, please just change me, just make me good? How many times did I cry myself to sleep at night, knowing I'd never make it?

I remember, quite clearly, one night at our youth group. It was almost time for class to be over and the leader had us all kneel in front of our chairs and then turned the light out. So it was dark in this room, with probably a dozen teenagers kneeling in front of metal folding chairs. And our leader started talking, this huge voice in a small, dark room. How many of you are saved? How many of you need to find Jesus? If you die tonight, if some drunk hits your car on the way home, will you end up in Heaven? Or will you burn in Hell forever? Then, he paused. Now, I don't want anyone to feel any pressure. If you're not ready to accept Jesus, just get up and leave.

Just get up and leave? How?? It was pitch black in that room, but the light would come on again. And everyone would know that I had left, that I was lost, that I didn't want Jesus. That I was going to Hell. Everyone would know I was broken and bad. So I couldn't leave. I couldn't leave, even though I wanted nothing more than to get out of that room, away from that voice in the dark, away from those people trying to force me into being someone I wasn't, from those people who didn't understand me or love me or care about anything but there holy mission to make my life miserable.

If anyone tells you this damned film is a misrepresentation of what's going on, don't believe them. That clip is dead-on. It's not an exaggeration, it's not an isolated incident. It's happening all the time, all over the place in this country. If you can still manage to believe in God after watching it, pray for those children. They're going to need a lot of help to heal the damage that's being done to them.

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posted by Zan at 5:47 PM 6 comments

Fingers crossed

I just got a call from one of the...dozen...jobs I applied for last week. And now I have an interview Wednesday, in Baton Rouge.

It's a decent job, paying a bit more than I make now starting out. But it's a state job, so there's a 7% increase each year until you top out of the pay bracket. And it's PR, which I'm really qualified for. So....fingers crossed. I could use the extra cash, the retirement, the medical benefits...oh yes. I could indeed.

EDIT: Actually, I just got another interview set up in Lake Charles for Thursday morning. Ha. Another state job, so the same benefits, etc. I feel a strange flu coming on..may have to call in sick those days. Doh.
posted by Zan at 1:36 PM 1 comments

The wheel's turning

Oh, Autumn, my favorite season, where have you been?

At long last, the temps here have dropped to a completely reasonable level and I feel....alive. The summer is my enemy, the sun wants to kill me and the humidity wants to drown me. But the fall? Ah, the fall is my friend, indeed.

Right now, it's 10 a.m. and a lovely 63 degrees. I have the windows open so I can feel the air and it's just...lovely. Not two weeks ago, it was over 90 degrees at this time. I was in pain, I was cranky, I was pissed off. Now I just want to lay around, soaking in the lovely atmosphere. Actually, that's not true. I don't want to lay around. I want to move, do things, be places, be alive.

Fall does this to me every year. My pain goes into remission. My disease decides to go to sleep for the winter, like a bear hibernating in her den. One moment, I'm barely able to move, the next I can dance. It's a weird thing, that sudden shift but I've learn to relay on it. Last year, I didn't get a break. Last year, I was having lots of problems with my gallbladder, but we didn't know that's what it was. So I was in pain for almost a solid year. But not this year. No no, I'm getting my remission and I just love it. *sigh*

Autumn always seems hopeful to me. It always makes me believe the best is possible. The cycle is begining to close, to wind down. This peace is my reward for a year of holding on, for believing I can endure and for finding people and things to love and make me happy despite the pain.

I like, around this time, to take stock of my life, to look at it and sort out the good from the bad and hold the good up, higher than the rest. Because the truth us, for all my problems, my life isn't all that bad. Yes, I have a chronic illness and yes, it causes me a great deal of pain occassionally. But it's treatable and it's not killing me. Yes, I have a crappy job and it doesn't pay me enough, but I have a place to live and people in my life who aren't going to let me starve and fall through the cracks. Yes, I'm still single and have some er, issues, with relationships that need to be sorted out, but I also have the privelage of living on my own, of taking care of myself, of discovering who I really am and that makes me strong. And lucky.

I also like to make lists of things that make me happy, so I can look back on them when I'm down and remember that life isn't as dark and bleak as I may think it is, just at that moment. So. Things that make me smile:

  • My niece, Kady. She's so wonderful, she's almost (but only almost) enough to make me want one of my own.
  • Scented candles, made with my own two hands
  • China and Frank, the demonic felines who have chosen to live with me. Sometimes, a warm cat is the most healing being in the universe.
  • Friends that love me
  • Modern medicine!
  • Turtles
  • Butterflies (Yes, apparently, naming your blog after Her is enough to invite Butterfly to be a spirit helper. Who knew?)
  • Unread books
  • Tulips
  • Finding the pair of boots I thought I'd lost (Turns out, they were under a box in my closet)
  • Painting
  • Christmas -- even a heathen like me loves Christmas. Mostly because my family gets together. And there are presents.
  • Growing my hair long
  • New nail polish
  • Pretty earrings
  • Lip gloss -- you can never have too much lip gloss
  • The sound of rain against the windows
  • The feel of freshly laundered towels
  • New sheets
  • My new handpainted, butterfly canister set. (Plus, found them on sale. Go me.)
  • The scent of fresh brewed coffee
  • Hot tea after a long day at work
  • Unexpected e-mail -- that's not spam
  • Discovering cds I'd forgotten I had and listening to songs I'd forgotten I loved
  • Dancing around the living room in the dark
  • Sleeping late on Sunday mornings (my own way of worship)
  • Knowing no matter how badly I mess up, I can always go home again
  • The fact I've got my first novel half finished. I mean, that means I'm almost done, right?
  • Temporary tattoos
  • Lunch with friends
  • Tin Roof ice cream
  • Fresh apples

    Okay, that'll do for now. The point is, there's always something that can make me smile, if I just stop and think about it. And I always remember that at this time of year and I always have that to look forward to when things get rough the rest of the time.

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  • posted by Zan at 9:50 AM 3 comments

    Saturday, September 23, 2006

    Gender Roles -- Second Verse

    I'm afraid to be 'feminine'.

    I don't mean I'm afraid to be girly, because I'm not -- I just don't like being girly. That's not true to who I am. I mean 'feminine' -- vulnerable, nurturing, forgiving. All those stereotypical things I was taught a woman is supposed to be. For the longest time, that didn't bother me. But lately, I'm beginning to feel cut off from parts of myself that I know, instinctively, will make me stronger, more complete.

    I'm better than I used to be, with being 'feminine'. (And I realize, the word may not mean to others what it does to me. That's fine. I'm just dealing with my own issue here.) I'm learning there's a very specific sort of peace in being able to forgive people for the hurt they've done to me, even if they don't realize they hurt me or even if they never realize they've been forgiven. I've begun to realize my capacity for nurturing and helping people heal is actually a gift, not a burden I'm forced to bear because I was born with two X chromosomes.

    I had never considered my inborn sense of justice and fairness to be nurturing before. I'd always assumed it was something...different. Because I was always told that, for a woman to be nurturing, she had to have children or tend a home or be a nurse or a teacher or something stereotypically feminine.

    I've never really doubted I was strong. Or smart. Or capable. But I've never thought of myself as a nurturer. Is that strange? I don't know. I know I grew up wanting my life to look nothing like my mother's. Not that my mother's life is bad. In fact, her life is pretty sweet. She's been married to my father for 35 years, they're happy, her children are both responsible, productive adults. She has friends, a job she likes, a granddaughter she absolutely adores. I'm sure she'd say she's got just the life she wants, and I'm glad she does. But when I was growing up -- things were different.

    I think we learn most from the people closest to us. And when I was a girl, my mother had a problem saying no. Not to me, unfortunately, but to everyone else. She taught Sunday School, she was the head of the Social Committee, she was always, always, always cooking for...someone. Anyone, really. She did all sorts of things at our school, whatever anyone asked her to do -- she did it. She felt that she could not tell anyone no. (I understand her motivation. She wanted everyone to like her, because her own father was an abusive asshole who was disappointed she was a girl, not a boy, and never let her forget it.)

    And she was miserable. Completely, totally, miserable. She was also very depressed, but I couldn't know that as a child. So, what I saw, was my Mother giving all her time and energy to these projects and people who never told her they appreciated what she did, who often times didn't even ask her to help, just assumed she would and I never, ever saw her stand up to them and tell them to stop. She would cry at home, but she'd be all smiles around them. The stress would get to her and she'd snap at us (my brother and I, although mostly me since I was the one expressing the most disagreement). To a child, it seemed an easy situation. She was unhappy, I wanted to be happy. Therefore, I would do the opposite of what she did.

    My father worked offshore until just before I graduated high school. He would usually work two weeks away, then be home for two weeks. It was like I lived two different lives. When Dad was gone, my mother was less stressed. We'd have ceral for supper, or cinnamon rolls or pancakes or whatever we wanted. We'd watch movies or cartoons or go visit my grandparents. She wasn't as concerned about having the house look Just So. She wasn't concerned about what we were wearing, so long as it was clean and covered everything. It was just much, much more relaxed with my father away at work.

    When Dad came home, the world flipped. Suddenly, my mother was all about making sure everything was perfect. The house had to be clean, supper had to be hot every night, we had to dress better, we had to go and do whatever my father wanted. The stress level jumped about a dozen notches. Suddenly, we couldn't watch what we wanted on t.v. Suddenly, we were going to visit my father's friends, who didn't have kids and I'd never meet before, so I'd sit there bored out of my mind for hours on end. For a child, that's a big deal. I saw my mother as two different people. On, when she was with us, I liked. She was fun. The other, when my dad was around, eh. She wasn't all that much fun. Partially, I'm sure it was because I was a child and wanted all my mother's attention. That's pretty normal. But partially, I felt that I was supposed to immulate this behaviour. Like I was supposed to drop everything and mold myself to fit his (and by extension, any man) expectations of his family.

    So, again, following kid logic I decided -- this did not make me happy. I want to be happy. Ergo, I'll do the opposite.

    Unfortunately, it's been that way the rest of my life. Even as I get older and realize the compromises necessary in any relationship, somewhere inside me I'm that little girl, thinking she doesn't want to mold herself into someone else to make someone else happy. A little girl whose mother was held up as what it means to be feminine and a woman.

    So, this all makes me angry. I've got this block inside me, keeping me from parts of myself that I want to get to, dammit. To parts of me what I'm not afraid of anymore, and yet....it's still there. I know life and relationships are about finding balance. That's what I'm trying to do, I suppose. Find the balance between who I really am and the assumptions I've been engrained with.

    (Frankly, I'm starting to feel like a basketcase when I read what I'm writing. I don't think I'm really that messed up, but sometimes? Eh. I'm not sure.)

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    posted by Zan at 5:22 PM 4 comments

    Friday, September 22, 2006

    Gender roles at the Southern Baptist Corral

    Relationships are on my mind again. I've been trying to figure out where my distrust of men comes from. Every woman raised in this society likely has some level of distrust of men, given what our society values and how it devalues women. But my distrust goes much deeper and only manifests in one area -- romantic relationships.

    In all other areas of my life, I don't have any fear or wariness around men. As co-workers, friends, worst enemies, whatever, men are...well, no threat to me. But in a romantic relationship? It's there, this looming, chilling fear. It's a panic, a sense of being trapped, the very thought of being involved with a man. (And no, my romantic relationships with women, while they have their own difficulties, are not characterized by this fear.) I don't like it. I don't want to pull away from a man I'm interested in, I don't want to go from "He's cute and interesting. Wonder if he'd like to go out?" to "Oh, nevermind. He'll just want to boss me around or fuck on the first date anyway. Why bother?" in .6 seconds. I hate that I do that, I hate that my instincts kick in and tell me to run, far, now.

    So, in my quest to figure out why I feel this way, I've been thinking. Again. (And I realize, to some, this may seem like so much navel-gazing, but I believe if you don't understand what motivates your behaviour, you have little chance of effectively changing it. And I really, really want to change this.) And I realized, no matter how many real life examples of good, decent, loving men I see, I'm still hearing those 'lessons' I was indoctronated with as a child.

    Men were, not exactly the enemy, but they had more power and would always use it, I was told. I lay this firmly at the feet of the Southern Baptist Church. How many Sunday School lessons did I sit through where I was told it was my responsiblity as a woman to make sure I didn't do anything to tempt a boy? How many times was I told I had to be careful with my dress? With my makeup? With not going out alone at night? How many times was my worth, as a woman, measured by how far away I could keep a man, until I got married? The story of the Virtuous Woman? Her worth above rubies? Who can live up to that standard? And where was the corresponding role for the boys? There wasn't one.

    So what I got told was, well you see, boys are...they want sex. They do, they really really do and they'll try whatever they have to to get it from you. It's not there fault, you know. That's just the way they're made. And it's your job to keep them from getting that sex from you, okay? You have to be very strong, because boys are sooo tricky. Why, they'll tell you they love you! But they don't. No, they just say that because they want to fuck you. (Only, you know, not in those words. Fuck is the WORST word in the world, ya know.) So...men don't love women, they just want to fuck women and they can't help it and they can't change because that's how God made them.

    They're also more powerful than you are. Oh, yes. They are. You see, not only did God make them sex-crazed and uncontrolled, he also gave them the position of power in the relationship/marriage. Before you get married, you have to use your power to keep him from getting fucked. But, once you're married, you have to give up all your power and let him take over. That's just the way God wants it, see? It says so right here in the Bible.

    The church built this power-struggle in my head that haunts me to this day. Now, no one wants to be a slave, but that's what I was told--although not in those exact words, the meaning was the same -- I'd end up being if I got married. You know, like the church is a slave to Christ. Only, no man is really like Christ. They're human and they have flaws and they'll be problems, but you're the wife so you have to submit and give in. And of course, I was going to get married. Not only was it just what people do, but it was also the way God had ordained the world. Not so much because I would want to get married or enjoy it, but because woman was made for man, it was her role in life and well, if she didn't get married, what was she going to do?

    So now, fourteen years after I left the church, I have to deal with this shit. It's all subconscious. I never mean to think the things I do, but they pop up and then they won't go away. This is regardless of the fact that I know, have living evidence that all men are not this way. None of the men I've dated have been this way. My father isn't, my brother isn't, my dear friend S isn't. They're good men. They'd never, ever dream of trying to force their will upon me or their wives or their daughters or their female friends. I know this, I see this, I believe this. And yet...I'm haunted by that little voice in my head that says "Don't trust him."

    I can't even bring myself to accept a date, for gods sake! I want to, and yet...I freeze. What does he want from me? What is he trying to get? Does he want sex? Does he want to tell me I have to stop writing? Or painting? Will he try to make me give away my cats? Is he going to insist upon having children? If he finds out I'm bi, is he going to think I'm an abhoration? Will he tell my parents? What if he's not like that, but he doesn't like me? What if I love him and he's an asshole and I can't make myself give him up? What what what what?

    I want, so very much, to just be able to accept men as they are. I want to believe they can want me and love me and cherish me for who I am without wanting to control or change me. It's exhausting being on guard all the time. It's exhausting and pattenly unfair to all the good men in this world to have this monster in my psyche. So how do I get rid of it? How do I allow myself to be who I am with men I'm attracted to? How do I stop this fear from freezing me solid?
    posted by Zan at 6:03 PM 7 comments

    Who's the patron saint of anger?

    When I was younger, I had a terrible temper. I mean, it was on a razor-thin tripwire and could explode at any time. As I've gotten older, it's subsided some, reserved now for things that truely deserve anger. I've also gotten better at dealing with it, because I've accepted and embraced it. Contrary to what I was taught, my anger is a source of power for me. If I can get angry at something, there's no limit to what I can do to change it.

    Example: I was diagnosed a few years ago with Lupus, a chronic auto-immune disease that really runs roughshod over my life at time. Because it took years to get a diagnosis, at first I was elated. It had a name. I wasn't crazy. Then, when I realized just how much medication I was going to have to take (14 pills per day to start with), how much I was going to have to alter my life, how long I was going to have to do this (uh, forever) -- I got very depressed. Which is a perfectly normal reaction. When people get sick, they expect to either get better or die. They don't expect to live in limbo for the rest of their lives. So, for probably about a year I was very depressed about being sick, about being the only person I know with this illness, about how it made me feel, about how my family wasn't really able to understand or accept that I was NOT going to get better...Which is also a prefectly normal reaction, although I didn't think so at the time.

    Then, at some point, I got angry. I got really angry. I got angry at my body, I got angry at God, I got angry at my family, I got angry at the whole damn world and I got very, very angry at this damned disease for stealing my life. I got angry and sick of it all and refused to put up with it anymore.

    And I started to get better. Literally, within days, there was a detectable difference in my pain levels, in my exhaustion, in my attitude, even in my damned test results.

    Anger for me works like a fire, one that turns me into steel. I have this image in my head of my spine being coated in steel, of something in me waking up and saying "Enough of this shit." If I can get angry, I can get better. Period. It's powerful and, yes, can be dangerous if not applied wisely.

    I was taught that I wasn't supposed to be angry, so I repressed it for a long, long time. Or, I tried to, but the thing with power is it won't be ignored. If you won't use it the way it wants to be, it'll find other ways to manifest. My very healthy anger, which is and was always triggered by injustice, turned itself into that hair-trigger my family was so afraid of. Instead of helping me find ways to express my anger healthily, I was sent to my room or told not to say that or that it was wrong to be angry and I should apologize. Which made me even more angry, thus perpetuating the cycle.

    I've always felt it was perfectly ok to be angry with God. If something happened that pissed you off -- your Grandfather dies when you're 13, say -- if you want to yell at God, go ahead. I mean, isn't God big enough to take a little anger? From a grieving girl? This really alarmed my family. You're not supposed to question. You're not supposed to second-guess God! You're just supposed to be resigned and accepting of His will.

    Bullshit. If we're supposed to have a real relationship with God, as the church is always saying, then it has to be real, not fake and one-sided. Name a single person you know personally that you've never been angry at. Name one you've never wanted to shake until they saw sense and reason. Those things happen in relationships and if it's a good one, they'll understand and not hold it against you.

    I was a girl, in the South, so that was another reason I wasn't supposed to be angry. Because ladies didn't do that. Funny thing is, I have never had the desire to be a 'lady'. I want to be real, for gods sake! I want to be me, with all my flaws and gifts, in full-color. I want people to know me not some idealized version of me that makes them comfortable.

    I know I scared my parents, in so many ways, when I was growing up. They were really unprepared to deal with this sulky, angry, misfit of a daughter. And because they were young when I was born, they reacted out of their own fear and tried to suppress a lot of what made them uncomfortable. They mellowed as they got older, but the lessons you learn as a young child are the ones that stick with you. They're also the ones that take the longest to reject, but sometimes you have to, otherwise you cut yourself off from sources of strength you'll need to survive.

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    posted by Zan at 7:33 AM 8 comments

    Thursday, September 21, 2006

    No Zan is an island

    Home at last, a pot of fresh tea (white a cappella from Adagio which I highly recommend) and the intent to tackle another topic that's been on my mind lately: community.

    I don't really have a community. I'd like one, in fact in some ways I long for one, but I don't have one. I have friends, of course, and family. Work acquaintances. But no place I feel really at home. I don't think I'm a particularly strange person, I just don't seem to fit where I am.

    I miss having a place I belong. I miss having friends I can call at bizarre hours to talk about absolutely nothing. I miss being with people who believe in the same things I do, who can accept me as I am. That's part of the reason I blog and comment on other people's blogs. I have a need to connect, yet I'm also wary of trusting people too much. (It's so Enneagram Four I want to scream.) I'm trying to figure myself out, but how do you do that in isolation?

    I don't seek out the isolation, but somehow -- here I am, again, after work, at home in my comfy 'jammies, waiting for my favorite tv shows to come on. And most of the time? Eh, I'm cool with that. I have only a limited interested in going out on a regular basis, plus I have an illness that requires me to rest more often than most people my age. (It really is fortunate I'm not much of a party girl, otherwise the limitations Lupus puts on my life would be impossible to live with.) So, where do I find a place I can be myself wholy and completely? Or at least even partially? Because I'm growing more and more dissatisified as I get older.

    Obviously, life is not a television show. But I like the notion of creating your own family out of people you willingly choose. The problem is, I don't seem to meet people who really click with me. Well, not anymore. Twice in my life I've met people and it was like I'd known them forever, from the moment we saw each other. One of them was the first girl I fell in love with, the other is...well, we can't decide which of us is the evil twin, ya know? We share a brain. We think alike, we talk alike, we finish each other sentences. We have those conversations that go something like this:

    *walks into room, sees S sitting there reading*
    Z: Blue, I think.
    S: Blue makes you want to kill someone.
    Z: Yeah, but look at who I'd be killing.
    S: Good point. Blue, then.
    Z: *gives pointed look*
    S: *smirks*
    Z:*nods head*
    S: So. Tacos for lunch?
    Z: Sure

    No one else has a clue what we're talking about, but it makes perfect sense to us. I mean, we had addressed the issue on the phone. Three weeks ago. And haven't spoken about it sense. Unfortunately, he livese in another town so we don't get to see each other very often.

    I'm feeling more and more like a very square peg in a round hole universe. The more political I get, the more I really examine what I believe and want from my life, the less and less I connect with people around me. Yet, paradoxically, the more and more confident I become in myself, the more capable I become, the more I want to be around other people.

    So, anyone around Louisiana feel like doing some community-building with me?

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    posted by Zan at 5:55 PM 6 comments

    Wednesday, September 20, 2006

    Jesus killed my sex life

    Growing up in the grip of fundamentalist religion can only result in a few outcomes. One, you'll be a good fundy like you're taught you should, not because you really believe it, but because you're too terrified to do anything else. Two, you'll be a bad fundy, terrified constantly because you know it's crazy to expect a human being to live up to that crap. Three, you'll leave the church completely, never to darken its doors again and spend obscene amounts on therapy putting your life back together. Four, you give up and kill yourself, probably before you reach adulthood.

    Myself, I took option three with a pretty close call at number four. I do my best to avoid thinking about the things I was taught, trying to live my life by my own principals. However, sometimes I see stuff like this and I have to say something.

    Sadly, I don't find that letter the slightest bit surprising. Having sex when you've been told, over and over and over again, that you shouldn't. That it's painful. That you'll get pregnant. That you're life will be over -- well, it's not easy. It should be, shouldn't it? It's the simplest thing in the world, exploring with someone you love. And yet, I see so much of my younger self in that letter I want to cry.

    I left home, and the church, when I was 17. I didn't have sex until I was 19, but during that time I was dating, seriously, one man for over a year. I knew I wanted to have sex with him in the first two weeks. But I didn't, for almost a year. Why? Partially, because I'm not the sort to just jump into bed with whoever. But mostly, it was because I couldn't. Not physically. But mentally, emotionally, spiritually even, I could not do it. I wanted to. I wanted his so badly it made my physically hurt. But I couldn't do it.

    We came close over and over again. It must have been agonizing for him. I know it was agonising for me. I lost count of the times we'd end up in bed together, naked and ready, only to have me completely freak out at the last minute. I loved this man. I desired this man. I was so turned-on I was shaking. And I could not do it. We had protection, we had privacy, we had a committed relationship. And I couldn't do it. I would sit in bed and sob, because I wanted to and I couldn't and I didn't know why I couldn't.

    During that time I sat and thought hard over what was going on and I realized -- even if we'd been married, I couldn't have had sex with him. The very thought of having sex panicked me. My heart would race, I couldn't breath, I felt trapped, I was terrified. I would have full-blown panic attacks and my poor boyfriend didn't know what to do for me. He wasn't asking me to do anything kinky. He wasn't asking me to do anything unusual. He wasn't asking me to do a damned thing I didn't want to do, but I couldn't do it.

    Sex had been painted as this important, life-altering, traumatic event. I wasn't abused as a child. I wasn't raped or molested or had anyone so much as look at me inappropriately. Physically, I had never been abused. But emotionally? Emotionally I was tormented constantly. Repress your desires. Repress your longings. Don't think about men. Don't think about sex. Don't think about anything physical. If you do, you're bad. Damaged. Broken. No one will want you. No one will love you. You'll be all alone and you'll deserve it.

    I don't know if I can explain how horrible it was for me, being completely incapable of having sex with the person I loved more than anyone else. I don't know if I can explain how broken that made me feel. I don't know if I can explain how it made me feel like a failure. He never said anything cruel to me about it. He was nothing but supportive and understanding. He never once attempted to make me do anything. When I said stop, he stopped, no hesitation, no question. And that, eventually, is what helped me get over it. If he'd once attempted to coerce or talk me into it when I'd said no, I'd have walked out and been justified in it. But he never did. Instead, he let me take control. We only did what I was able to do. Instead of sex, we'd take showers together or we'd bathe together or we'd just lay naked together, touching and kissing but not having sex. Because I was terrifed of penetration (all those stories of bleeding and pain and sobbing wedding nights had done a number on me), we started slow, just fingertips or tongue, until I was ready to try more. Because I was crazy afraid of becoming pregnant, he was willing to use any contraception I wanted him to. (The boy was willing to wear two condoms at a time, if it made me feel safer. Compare that to so many men who don't even wanna use one ever...Such men don't deserve to have sex. Ever.)

    I was able, after a full year of slowly building up to it, to overcome the revulsion my family's faith had created in me for sex. And it wasn't amazing or anything, but it wasn't the terror I was expecting it to be. Because I'd had time, I was with someone who was patient and loving and who geniunely wanted me as I was, not just a body to use for pleasure. I cannot imagine being a "good" girl who doesn't do more than kiss or hold hands before the wedding and then going right into sex immediately. I could never have done it, and I wasn't really that invested in retaining my good girl status. A lot of the things I did with my boyfriend would have gotten me kicked outta lots of churchs. Hell, I wasn't even supposed to masturbate. (And the guilt I had from that is a whole different post in itself.) Good Fundy Girls do not shower with men before marriage. They do not let him run his hands over and into their naked body. They do not sleep naked together without a wedding ring -- and they really shouldn't do it then either. And if I hadn't done all those things before the actual Act itself? I'd have never been able to do it at all.

    And now? Now I've found myself on a spiritual path that celebrates the physical body. Still not one for casual hook-ups, but no more hang-ups about sexuality anymore. And I grieve for the girl I was and for all those girls growing in with those same beliefs today who are going to go through what I went through. For those who aren't going to ever be able to reconcile what they were taught with what they want. For those that will, but only by leaving completely the life and family they've created. For alll those people that think it's okay to live a life where you can't enjoy your body, can't enjoy the sensations it's capable of, because....why? I still don't know why.

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    posted by Zan at 12:20 PM 15 comments

    Tuesday, September 19, 2006

    Your daily dose of outrage

    I hope you weren't feeling too comfortable in the world. Because this lovely tale of parents attempting to force their adult daughter into having an abortion is brought to you by Racism and Stupidity.

    SALEM, N.H. (AP) — A Maine couple accused of tying up their 19-year-old daughter, throwing her in their car and driving her out of state to get an abortion were upset because the baby’s father is black, a Maine sheriff said Tuesday.

    Katelyn Kampf, who is white, told Cumberland County Sheriff Mark Dion that her mother “was pretty irate at the fact that the child’s father was black, and she had made a number of disparaging remarks about that,” he said.

    Because what's worse than a biracial baby? Why, nothing, of course! It's such an outrage that it makes perfect, logical sense to tie up your adult daughter, throw her in a car and drive across state to compel her into an abortion. Because the bloodline must remain pure.

    The parents were arraigned Monday on kidnapping charges. The judge set bail at $100,000 each and ordered the Kampfs to have no contact with their daughter.

    If convicted of kidnapping, the Kampfs face 7½ to 15 years in prison. Dion said he expects to bring charges in Maine also, after investigators consult with the district attorney Wednesday.

    The couple’s attorney has said there was no evidence the parents threatened their daughter or her unborn child.

    “What we’re dealing with here is a terrible family tragedy with some unfortunate misunderstandings and some overreaction, perhaps on all sides — but not an attempt to terrorize anybody,” Sisti said at Monday’s arraignment.

    According to a police affidavit, there was no evidence the daughter remained tied up by the time the Kampfs entered New Hampshire, he said. The affidavit also said Katelyn Kampf told police she was not hurt and that she and her parents “had been talking cordially” during the trip.

    Dion said Katelyn Kampf told him her parents got upset when she called them Thursday night and told them she was pregnant. The Kampfs had met her boyfriend before and been friendly, but the pregnancy apparently “changed the dynamic,” he said.

    Katelyn Kampf said her mother “kept referring to the baby as a thing, as ’It,’ and there were other comments made,” he said.

    And why was she untied when she escaped? Because she convinced her parents to let her go to the bathroom. And how is driving someone across state against their will, calling the child she clearly wants an "it" and other racial slurs, while letting her know you're taking her to get an abortion, again against her will, not terrorizing?

    In a court affidavit, Salem Police Officer Sean Marino wrote that Katelyn told him her parents “chased her out into the yard, grabbed and tied her hands and feet together.” Her father carried her to the car and they headed to New Hampshire, he wrote.

    Katelyn Kampf escaped from her parents in Salem after persuading them to untie her so she could use a Kmart bathroom. After her father went into the men’s room, she used a cell phone she had swiped from her father to call for help, then ran to a nearby Staples store, where police found “a hysterical female hiding in the back of the store,” according to the affidavit.

    Yep. Sounds like she wasn't scared at all.

    Investigators said rope, duct tape, scissors and a .22-caliber rifle were found in the Kampfs’ Lexus and Nicholas Kampf had a loaded .22-caliber magazine clip in his pants pocket.

    Authorities in Maine said the parents apparently thought that, in light of their daughter’s stage of pregnancy and the different abortion laws in each state, the abortion should be performed in New York. It was unclear how many weeks pregnant she was.

    Clearly, it was all a misunderstanding. I mean, doesn't everyone carry around rope, tape and weapons in thier car? And ammo in their pocket? I know I do. And, since they were taking her to New York, it's fairly safe to assume she is at least in her second trimester. So, she'd doubtlessly known she was pregnant for awhile, made the decision to have the child and -- probably knowing how her parents would react-- decided not to tell them until she felt it was safe to do so. (Or maybe she didn't want to tell anyone until the risk of miscarriage was lower, who knows?) But given the reaction her parents had, maybe she shouldn't have mentioned it until the baby was born?

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    posted by Zan at 12:09 PM 4 comments

    Saturday, September 16, 2006

    I used to be Daddy's Girl

    My father and I have an interesting relationship. When I was a little girl, he just adored me. (He still does, I'm sure.) He used to take me everywhere. He even picked out my name. Which is a funny story, actually. My parents had decided on two names, either Sarah or Candace, but they weren't sure which one they were going to name me. So, I'm born and they're looking at me and my dad goes, "You know, I think she looks like a Zan." And that was my name. A name they'd not considered before. But he looked at me and decided it fit and here I am. I always liked that story.

    So, when I was a little girl, things were really good. But then, I hit puberty and he didn't know how to deal with me. Part of this was because I wasn't a very girly teenager. Actually, I was the broody goth kid reading Russian literature and scaring my teachers. Face it, puberty isn't easy for anyone and it's really hard on those of us who don't quite 'fit'. So, things got strained for a few years. I think some of that's inevitable with fathers and daughters -- it's got to be hard for a man watching his little girl turn into a woman, knowing all the shit that could happen to her out there. I know that was on my dad's mind a lot, not because he said anything to me, but because my mom let me in on it later. He was really terrified that some boy was going to hurt me or abuse me. A not unfounded fear, given how common assault and abuse is, but it would have helped our relationship a great deal if he'd sat down with me and told me that. Instead, I always thought he just didn't trust me, because my brother had a later curfew, could date sooner, didn't have to get our Mom in there insisting that he be allowed to go to his senior prom. (And I went by myself! I didn't even have a boy for him to worry about!)

    Anyway, I went away to college and got a boyfriend. A serious, long-term, maybe-I'll-marry-him boyfriend. Who was nothing at all like my dad. Well, not in any way that was easily noticable.

    My father is a smart man, but he's not educated. He went to trade school and worked as a welder off-shore on an oil rig until he got hurt when I was a senior in high school. Education for his children was very important to him, even though he didn't have much past high school himself. He works hard, he works a lot and he has always taken care of us. For him, that's what his job was, that's how he showed us he loved us. He provided a good home for us, he provided a stable marriage with my mother, we never had to want for things we really needed -- even though we rarely had money for extras or brand names. He is always fair, always decent, always willing to help out someone in need -- even if they're a total stranger or a person he doesn't really like. He does what's right because it's the right thing to do. (He's not a saint though -- some of his ideas about race and religion make me just want to scream.) But overall, he's a really good, decent man. He's also very stoic. I call him the jolly green giant. He's nearly seven feet tall, built like a brick wall, the kind of man who just terrifies other men by his sheer existence, but every woman knows will never, ever hurt them. Moreover, every man knows not to so much as hint at disrespect toward a woman in his presence. To do so would.not.be.pretty.

    My boyfriend at the time was somewhat like that too. He had a lot of my father's standup qualities. He was a decent person, fundamentally. He was kind and generous and never, ever would dream of harming or disrepecting a woman. He was also gangly and geeky and not the most socially ept person. Which was part of what I found attractive. He wasn't a man's man, none of that macho posturing. He was wicked smart, planning to go on and get his Masters in Physics, because he wanted to design rockets for NASA. Seriously, wicked smart. (And I have suuuuuch a weakness for smart, it's not funny.) He and my dad, eh, they didn't have a lot of interests in common. My dad's a farmer, the Ex wasn't. At all. My dad had certain views on what a man should do and how he should act and the Ex? Well. He didn't seem to fit them. He was too awkward in social situations, his sense of humor was too out there. He didn't watch football or do stereotypical guy things. Which is part of what I really loved about him. Plus, he was a good writer. And we could talk and he always made me feel safe.

    But I knew, always, that my father wouldn't really like him. Oh, he wouldn't dislike him, ya know. He would just think he wasn't 'strong enough' for me. Now, in the end he really wasn't, but not for the reasons my father would have pointed out. The Ex had grown up in a very disfuncational family. He mother was an unmedicated, manic obssessive compulsive with serious control issues and his dad was an (eventually) diagnosed, treated manic depressive. He really didn't know how a healthy family functioned or how to fight healthily, so he avoided conflict at all costs. So, when I started to get sick and the doctors thought I was just seriously depressed -- well, he couldn't handle that, given his upbringing. Looking back now, I can understand and forgive him for that, but at the time? Eh.

    So, anyway, I knew Dad wouldn't ever really click with the Ex. And they never did, even though he and I were together for almost six years.

    The thing is, I don't think my father will ever really like any of the men I'm attracted to. (And gods help me if I bring home a woman.) Because they're not like him in ways he'd understand. And I want my father to approve and like the men I like. I want him to be able to accept them and love them because I love them. I don't want to always feel like I've done something to disappoint him, because that's just stupid. Because the person I love, whoever he/she ends up being, will be the sort of person I can be proud of, who I can tell the world I love because they're good, decent people. It's almost an insult to me, this feeling that my suitors will never be good enough. Because what the hell? I have good judgement. I would never, ever tie my life to a person who wasn't worthy of me, who wasn't the kind of person I could spend a lifetime with, who wasn't fundamentally a good, decent, loving person. And if I can love them, if I can want them, how can anyone ask for more than that?


    posted by Zan at 8:19 PM 8 comments

    Oh, of course it was her husband. . .

    Remember the nurse who killed an intruder with her bare hands? The story deepens. Apparently, he was hired by her husband, whom she is divorcing, to kill her. So, this goes from a cautionary tale about strangers lurking with hammers to a cautionary tale about abusive, psychotic, asswipe husbands hiring strangers to lurk with hammers. Bastards.

    PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — When Susan Kuhnhausen returned home from work one day earlier this month, she encountered an intruder wielding a claw hammer. After a struggle, the 51-year-old nurse fended off her attacker by strangling him with her bare hands.
    Neighbors praised the woman for her bravery, and investigators said they believed the dead man — Edward Dalton Haffey — was burglarizing Kuhnhausen’s home.
    But after an investigation, police now say the intruder Kuhnhausen strangled was apparently a hit man hired by her estranged husband — Michael James Kuhnhausen Sr. — to kill her.
    The 58-year-old husband was taken into custody Thursday and charged with conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder. He was ordered held on $500,000 bail.
    Haffey had worked as a custodian under Kuhnhausen at an adult video store, according an affidavit filed by the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office.
    Kuhnhausen and his wife were in the process of getting a divorce, and she told officers “her husband was distraught about the divorce and wanting to reconcile but that she was insisting on the divorce,” the affidavit states.
    A background check showed Haffey had served lengthy prison terms for conspiracy to commit aggravated murder and convictions for robbery and burglary.
    Inside a backpack Haffey left at the scene was a day planner with “Call Mike, Get letter,” scribbled on the week of Sept. 4, the affidavit said. Michael Kuhnhausen’s cell phone number was jotted on the inside of a folder, it said.
    An emergency room nurse who lives in a southeast Portland neighborhood, Susan Kuhnhausen arrived home on the evening of Sept. 6 to find Haffey coming at her with a claw hammer.
    She was struck in the head and wrested the weapon away, but the struggle continued and Haffey bit the nurse, according to police. A large woman, she was eventually able to get the slight Haffey into a chokehold and police later found him dead in a hallway. An autopsy revealed the cause of death as strangulation.
    Police say she acted in self-defense.
    There was no sign of forced entry into the home, but according to the affidavit, Susan Kuhnhausen offered an explanation for the lack of evidence of a break-in: Her estranged husband had the security codes for the home’s alarm system, and would have been able to disarm it.
    Michael Kuhnhausen denies any involvement, the affidavit states.
    Susan Kuhnhausen was out of town attending a nursing conference and did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
    She left this message on her voicemail: “I’m not able to answer all the calls that I’ve received in the past few days. I’m being comforted by your concern and your support. I want you to know that our lives are all at risk for random acts, but more likely random acts of love will come your way than random acts of violence.”

    Although, I must say, she seems to be an awesome person. Even after what she went through, reminding people kindness is still more powerful? I wanna give her an award.

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    posted by Zan at 4:29 PM 7 comments

    Friday, September 15, 2006

    First, teh Gays want to marry. Now, they're coming for your church! Eeee!!

    Some people just don't get it, really. Gay marriage is not a threat to..well, anything..but certainly not to religious freedom. No one is asking any church to recognize gay marriages. No one is legislating that. And hey, you know what? No one is saying that religious nuts can't say all the nasty things they want about gay people -- even if it makes my skin crawl.

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Religious conservative leaders, sensing declining alarm over same-sex marriage, are warning that the debate over homosexuality has prompted attacks on religious freedom.
    By expanding the discussion from marriage to religious expression, social conservatives say they will reconnect with religious voters and religious leaders who don’t necessarily view same-sex unions as a threat.

    Ah, I see. Because they won't respond to your carrot anymore, it's time to...lie? Hear that sound? That Baby Jesus crying.

    Perkins and others are building a case file of anecdotes where they say religious people have spoken out against gay marriage only to be punished. Perkins specifically cited the decision by Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich in June to fire his appointee to the Washington area transit board after the board member referred to homosexuals as “persons of sexual deviancy.”
    The board member, Robert J. Smith, said he was expressing his personal beliefs as a Roman Catholic.
    The subject of religious expression will be the main theme of an Oct. 15 gathering in Boston of conservative religious and political leaders that will be broadcast to churches nationally.

    Let's see...was the man speaking as a private citizen? Or was he speaking in his capacity as a representative of the state? Because those are two very different things. If he was just hanging out with friends, having a few drinks or whatever and makes his comment (stupid as it is) well...whatever. But something in me doubts that's what happened. If it was, there wouldn't be a reporter around to hear it. And so, I have a feeling, he made this comment in some public forum where he was clearly identifiable as a state rep. Which means, yeah, that's not acceptable speech. Because you're functioning as a representative of the government, not as a private individual. These people would like to argue there's no distinction, but come on. If I'm writing a story for the newspaper about pro-lifers and I call them "forced breeders" because that's my personal belief, are they gonna let that go? No, they're not. And they shouldn't, because it is my obligation as a journalist not to let my personal beliefs color my reporting. Now, if I say on this blog, as a private individual, that pro-lifers are all moronic, egomanical, force-childbirth idiots -- well, sorry. That's me speaking as a private individual, not as a professional. There are lines to these things and anyone involved in any kind of public life better know that and respect it or get the fuck outta public life.

    So, basically, Perkins (who is from Louisiana, of course. The man ran for governor and my parents voted for him. But they're not fundamentalists!!) is finding he can't get any more mileage out of the anti-gay marriage hubub and is looking for ways to lie and spin to scare people into voting against their best interests this November. Blah.

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    posted by Zan at 12:20 PM 1 comments

    What is there to say except "Yay"?

    The depth of my loathing for these people knows no bounds. I'd like it if were possible to use existing legislation to bust 'em outta existence, but, alas, this will have to do for now.

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Internal Revenue Service has revoked the tax-exempt status of the anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue West for prohibited political activity during the 2004 election.

    President Troy Newman said the Wichita, Kan., group, now known as Operation Rescue, relinquished its charitable status and reorganized more than a year ago.

    “We gave it back. We didn’t fight any sort of deal,” he said.

    The laws that permit some organizations to organize as tax-exempt entities also bar them from participating in or intervening in elections, including advocating for or against any candidate.

    The IRS revoked the group’s tax-exempt status last week, and it was reported Friday by The New York Times.

    The tax agency said earlier this year that it found violations in three of four churches, charities and other civic groups suspected of running afoul of restraints on political activity. It did not identify any of those organizations.

    Most of those examinations found only a single, isolated incident of prohibited campaign activity. In a few cases, they found flagrant violations of the law.

    IRS Commissioner Mark Everson called the amount of political intervention discovered through their examinations “disturbing” for the impact it could have on the integrity of churches and charities.

    The examinations looked at only a tiny fraction of the more than 1 million tax-exempt groups organized under section 501(c)(3) of the tax law.

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    posted by Zan at 12:16 PM 0 comments

    Thursday, September 14, 2006

    Speaking of prophecy coming true..

    Just about every religion has some sort of prophecy about the 'end of the world'. Depending on the faith, the end of the world can be a good thing. (I know. Try telling that to some Fundy Chrisitans.) In this case, the 'end' is not seen as a wholesale destruction of the earth and all her people. Instead, it's understood to mean the 'end' of our current way of living, for a more wholistic, compassionate, equal way for all people's everywhere.

    And so, because I like to remind myself that not everyone's god is a paranoid, egomanic: Another white buffalo has been born. They are exceedingly rare and play a huge part in the mythology of certain Native American tribes. White Buffalo Woman appeared once to teach the People how to live and has promised to return again to teach All People how to live together in peace. (The story's more complicated than that, but that's the gist of it.) Now, that's a God-returning story I can get behind. No promises of death, destruction, judgement and Hellfire. Simply a god who promise to come back, when people are ready, to teach them how to Be.

    There have been three white buffalo born on this particular farm in the last decade or so. The current calf is male, but is still seen as symbolic for many Native Peoples.

    MILWAUKEE (AP) — A farm in Wisconsin is quickly becoming hallowed ground for American Indians with the birth of its third white buffalo, an animal considered sacred by many tribes for its potential to bring good fortune and peace.

    “We took one look at it and I can’t repeat what I thought but I thought, ’Here we go again,’” said owner Dave Heider.
    Thousands of people stopped by Heider’s Janesville farm after the birth of the first white buffalo, a female named Miracle who died in 2004 at the age of 10. The second was born in 1996 but died after three days.

    Heider said he discovered the third white buffalo, a newborn male, after a storm in late August.

    Over the weekend, about 50 American Indians held a drum ceremony to honor the calf, which has yet to be named, he said.
    Floyd “Looks for Buffalo” Hand, a medicine man in the Oglala Sioux Tribe in Pine Ridge, S.D., said it was fate that the white buffaloes chose one farm, which will likely become a focal point for visitors, who make offerings such as tobacco and dream catchers in the hopes of earning good fortune and peace.

    “That’s destiny,” he said. “The message was only choose one person.”

    The white buffalo is particularly sacred to the Cheyenne, Sioux and other nomadic tribes of the Northern Plains that once relied on the buffalo for subsistence.

    According to a version of the legend, a white buffalo, disguised as a woman wearing white hides, appeared to two men. One treated her with respect, and the other didn’t. She turned the disrespectful man into a pile of bones, and gave the respectful one a pipe and taught his people rituals and music. She transformed into a female white buffalo calf and promised to return again.

    That this latest birth is a male doesn’t make it any less significant in American Indian prophecies, which say that such an animal will reunite all the races of man and restore balance to the world, Hand said. He said the buffalo’s coat will change from white to black, red and yellow, the colors of the various races of man, before turning brown again.

    The birth of a white male buffalo means men need to take responsibility for their families and the future of the tribe, Hand said.

    The odds of a white buffalo are at least 1 in a million, said Jim Matheson, assistant director of the National Bison Association. Buffalo in general have been rare for years, thought their numbers are increasing, with some 250,000 now in the U.S., he said.

    Many people, like Heider, choose to raise the animals for their meat, which is considered a healthier, low-fat alternative to beef.

    Gary Adamson, 65, of Elkhorn, who is of Choctaw and Cherokee heritage, said tribal elders will help interpret the animal’s significance.

    “There are still things that need to be done, and Miracle’s task wasn’t quite done yet, and we feel there’s something there,” he said.

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    posted by Zan at 12:32 PM 1 comments

    So much drama over a pentacle?

    At last, common sense prevails. If a soldier can put the symbol of their faith -- including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism and 20-plus other religions -- on their headstone, then Wiccans should get fair play too.

    ENO, Nev. (AP) — The widow of a soldier killed in Afghanistan won state approval Wednesday to place a Wiccan religious symbol on his memorial plaque, something the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs had refused.

    “I’m honored and ecstatic. I’ve been waiting a year for this,” Roberta Stewart said from her home in Fernley, about 30 miles east of Reno.

    Sgt. Patrick Stewart, 34, was killed in Afghanistan last September when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his helicopter. Four others also died. Stewart was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

    He was a follower of the Wiccan religion, which the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does not recognize and therefore prohibits on veterans’ headstones in national cemeteries.

    But state officials said they had received a legal opinion from the Nevada attorney general’s office that concluded federal officials have no authority over state veterans’ cemeteries. They now plan to have a contractor construct a plaque with the Wiccan pentacle — a circle around a five-pointed star — to be added to the Veterans’ Memorial Wall in Fernley.

    “The VA still has not determined yet if a Wiccan symbol can go on the headstone,” said Tim Tetz, executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services. “But we have determined we control the state cemetery and that we therefore have the ability to recognize him for his service to his country.”

    Wiccans worship the earth and believe they must give to the community. Some consider themselves good witches, pagans or neo-pagans.

    The Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration allows only approved emblems of religious beliefs on government headstones. Over the years, it has approved more than 30, including symbols for the Tenrikyo Church, United Moravian Church and Sikhs. There is also an emblem for atheists.

    This always seemed to be a no-brainer to me. If you allow one faith, you have to allow all faiths. Period. (Although -- what symbol would be used for athiests? I'm curious, really, that's not a snarky question.)

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    posted by Zan at 12:24 PM 8 comments

    Wednesday, September 13, 2006

    Wednesday morning poetry

    Emily in Italy

    There's a cat in the ruins, she says.
    Actually, there are three,
    Two more than yesterday.
    I've been feeding them too much, I know,
    But I couldn't stand to see them starve.
    I sit up in the bed, the blanket falling to my waist.
    The air is cool, raising tiny mountains across my shoulders.
    Next, you'll tell me you want to bring one home, I say.
    I can't imagine how we'd get it past customs,
    But I suppose we could try.
    She laughs, falling back into the bed, pulling the blankets over us.
    You'd do that for me, I know.
    Where should we go today?
    The Sybil's cave? The Mysteries' villa?
    I thought we could wander Herculeneum today, summon visitors from our past lives.
    Past lives? I'd rather live this one--but we'll go.
    We'll walk through graveyards, tumble over our old bones,
    So long as we can come home again
    And I can hold you--and maybe
    Find a way to smuggle a cat through customs.


    posted by Zan at 7:43 AM 0 comments

    Tuesday, September 12, 2006

    Size only matters when you're talking about dress sizes

    The subject of this article had such promise. What the hell is wrong with the way women's clothing is sized? It's insane. I never know what size I'm going to wear when I go to try on clothing. I have one store that I know I can go into to buy a bra off the rack and it will fit. I have an other store I go to if I want a good pair of blue jeans, because I have one brand that I can count on for size. If I want dress clothing or shirts? Another store or two. And what makes me crazy is that my pants size is TWO sizes smaller than my shirt size, even though I'm pretty evenly made all over. I've got a figure-eight figure -- like an hourglass, only more ample ;) And yet....I wear different sizes in different stores in different brands because there's no standard sizing in women's sizes. So, you know, good topic for an article.

    But, of course, it soon devolves into "everyone wants to be skinny!!"

    Ugh. Seriously. Ugh.

    I don't want to be skinny. I don't even care what size the tag says. I just want to be able to go into a store, pull something off the shelf in that size and have it fit! Everywhere I go. At every damned store. I hate this guesswork!


    As any woman who tries on clothes frequently can attest, a 6 in one place can indeed be a 14 somewhere else — or an 8, a 10, or a 2. Which makes you wonder: Is there any logic to sizes, or are they just a random jumble of numbers?
    The question might not matter, if the whole issue of size didn’t matter. But as the fashion industry has long known, a woman’s size certainly does matter — to her. Call it the psychology of size: We care deeply about the number on that tag, even though it’s likely no one else will see it, save the person manning the cash register. Perhaps no one else will know, but WE know, and that’s enough.
    Just ask another Andy — Andy Steiner, a mother of two in St. Paul, Minn.
    “I hate to admit it,” says Steiner, 38, “’cause I know size is just a number and I like to think I’m too smart — and feminist — to fall for that. But I certainly have a size I consider myself. Of course, I’ll buy smaller — and maybe one size bigger. But I’d never buy two sizes bigger. Way too depressing!”
    Steiner recalls a particularly rash fashion decision three years ago, when she bought a pricey, too-short designer dress in hot pink, a color she dislikes. But it was a size 2, and she was literally flattered into buying it.
    Not just the everyday shopper gets fooled. Suze Yalof Schwartz, executive editor-at-large for Glamour magazine, loves walking into a store and finding she’s a size lower. “It can make you feel fantastic,” she says. “It’s like stepping on a scale. It can make your day. Or, it can ruin your day.”
    And that feeling, of course, will directly impact whether you make the purchase.

    Okay, has anyone actually ever done that? Bought something they didn't like just because it was a smaller size than they usually get? Seriously?

    “Designers know that nobody wants to be a big size,” says maternity designer Liz Lange. “Nobody wants to be more than a size 8 or a 10.” And she includes herself. “I can’t do it,” she says of buying a larger size. “I don’t want that thing in my closet!”
    And yet vanity sizing doesn’t explain most of the disparity. The larger picture is that every designer uses their own silhouette, or “fit model,” based on their target audience, says Dan Butler of the National Retail Federation. There were once government guidelines for sizing, he says, but they were abandoned decades ago, and were never mandatory. Maybe that’s a good thing, says Yalof Schwartz: “Everyone would be depressed. I’d rather feel skinnier.”

    Woooh. Hold back that disgust will ya? Shit, an 8 or a 10 is considered too big? What the hell? I haven't been a size 10 since I was 10! (No kidding that, I started developing waaay early. The smallest I remember being was a size 13....when I was 13. Oh, the joy of my "fat" childhood. I also happened to be getting close to 6 foot at the time, but somehow no one thought to tell me that my body was working out quite nicely and proportional. Nope, I was just the fat kid.)

    Not every woman cares about size. Some are more like, well, men, who tend to be more pragmatic. “I think many men do care about what size their waist is,” says New Yorker James Cribbs. “However, I can’t imagine any of them would buy something they don’t like just because it fits. Why not move on until you find something that fits AND that you like?”
    Sounds so sensible. It certainly would avoid tales like that of Steiner’s hot pink, “it-was-the-size-2-talking” purchase.
    She wore the dress once, to a wedding, where she covered it with a shawl. “I wanted to pull out the size label and show people why I bought it,” she laughs. She ended up lending it to a friend, who also wore it once.
    So did the friend like it?
    “She was happy to be a size 2.”

    Oh, of course. Why can't a woman be more like a man? Uh, because the idiot designers can't standardize their sizes and fucking society is telling us that a size 10 is obese? Maybe? You think? Goddamn, I hate this shit. Grrr.

    (And a size 2? I realize there are people naturally that small, but come on! The only thing I think when I see someone that thin is how I desperately want to take her home and let my mother feed her!)

    (Oh, btw, that gorgeous dress up there? (That I want, want want!) Can be found here at Zaftique. I adore their clothing and they all fit me! Whoohoo.)

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    posted by Zan at 6:30 PM 2 comments

    Soulforce protest close to home

    I wonder if they'll be coming to my Little Town to attempt to enlist. I wish they would. There's a story I'd volunteer to go out and cover :)

    SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — Police took three people into custody after refusing to leave a U.S. Marine Corps recruiting office Tuesday during a protest of the military’s ban on openly gay recruits.

    The Virginia-based gay rights organization Soulforce said it was staging such protests in 30 cities around the nation in the coming weeks and months.

    Organizers have dubbed the campaign Right to Serve.

    The three taken into custody were among nine who tried to enlisted at the Marine recruiting station on Mansfield Road.
    It is a protest against the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that dates back to the early days of the Clinton administration.

    While running for the White House, Clinton vowed to overturn the military’s long-standing ban on gays.

    But, amid pressure from religious groups and concern from military leaders, he endorsed don’t ask, don’t tell. As passed by Congress and signed by Clinton, the policy requires gay service members to keep their homosexuality hidden and refrain from same-sex sexual conduct.

    The military is prohibited from asking recruits about their sexual orientation, and commanders are limited in their ability to investigate rumors or allegations of homosexuality in the ranks.

    Soulforce condemns the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as blatantly discriminatory and says it hurts recruiting at a time when recruits are needed.

    Charles Moskos, a military sociologist at Northwestern University who helped craft the policy, defended it in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

    Moskos said allowing openly gay service members would hurt the morale of the military rank-and-file and make many recruits uncomfortable. ‘The gay advocates say it will cause enlistment to go up, but I think you’d find it dropping rather than rising,” Moskos argued.

    Stupid thing to do, refusing to allow out gays/lesbians in the armed forces. Not like we're low on recruits or anything. Oh wait. Yeah.

    Soulforce is a very cool organization. They've got lots of nifty info on their homepage, including a breakdown of what the Bible does and does not say about homosexuality. If you've got the time, surf on over and check them out.

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    posted by Zan at 6:16 PM 5 comments

    Monday, September 11, 2006

    Do we ever crawl out of our parents' shadow?

    Is there an age at which your family's opinions cease to matter to you? I'm wondering, because I'd like to know how long it will be before that thought -- but they'll be so upset/disappointed, this is going to cause problems -- won't pop up everytime I consider taking a path at odds with my families.

    Case in point: I really, really, really need a new job. Seriously. So, I'm always looking at job announcements and mailing off applications. Eventually, something will stick. So, last night I'm looking on idealist.org and find an announcement for a Media Relations and Marketing Manager for the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Leadership Institute in D.C. This job seems tailormade for me, so instantly I'm like "Oh. Must apply." Next thought? "No, wait. My parents would completely flip out."

    It's a ridiculious thought. I'm far too old to be worried about what my parents will think of the job I choose to take. I'm far too old to worry about what they'll think of the relationships I do or do not have. And yet...there it is, popping into my head anyway.

    That's part of the reason I want to move away from here. (Well, aside from the fact I'm in fricking Louisiana, it's waaay too hot for my illness and I'm so vastly underpaid I could cry. And have.) I have this idea that physical distance will help me establish emotional distance. I don't want too much emotional distance, because (contrary to apparent assumptions) my family and I are close.

    I think there are things in life that we are easily able to resist and things that are much more difficult to resist. Some people have little difficulties going against expectations and others don't. For me, I can disregard pretty many anyone else's opinion of me except my family. And it's not really their opinion -- I just don't want to have to deal with the disappointment, anxiety, their sense of 'how did this happen.' Because they reduce something in my life, my life, to being about them. I don't think they do it on purpose, but that's what happens. What will the neighbors think if they know my daughter is working for a gay organization? What will the people at church think if they find out my daughter writes erotica for a living? What will the people at work think if they see her out drinking? And ultimately, they're not worried about what people will think about me, they're worried about what people will think of them. How did they raise a bisexual daughter? Aren't they good Christians? Didn't they teach her better?

    And that makes me angry. Why should they care more about what other people think of them than about what makes their daughter happy? And why do I still have this crazy amount of rage about it?


    posted by Zan at 6:14 PM 13 comments

    Friday, September 08, 2006

    Then again, sometimes we fight back

    In contrast to the tales below, I give you this lovely story of a woman who found herself in danger and well...read for yourself.

    PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A nurse returning from work discovered an intruder armed with a hammer in her home and strangled him with her bare hands, police said.
    Susan Kuhnhausen, 51, ran to a neighbor’s house after the confrontation Wednesday night. Police found the body of Edward Dalton Haffey, 59, a convicted felon with a long police record.
    Police said there was no obvious sign of forced entry at the house when Kuhnhausen, an emergency room nurse at Providence Portland Medical Center, got home from work shortly after 6 p.m.
    Under Oregon law people can use reasonable deadly force when defending themselves against an intruder or burglar in their homes. Kuhnhausen was treated and released for minor injuries at Providence.
    Haffey, about 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, had convictions including conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, robbery, drug charges and possession of burglary tools. Neighbors said Kuhnhausen’s size — 5-foot-7 and 260 pounds — may have given her an advantage.
    “Everyone that I’ve talked to says ’Hurray for Susan,’ said neighbor Annie Warnock, who called 911. “You didn’t need to calm her. She’s an emergency room nurse. She’s used to dealing with crisis.”

    Not that I'm a fan of killing, but I keep a baseball bat next to my bed for just such occurances. If I have the chance, anyone who tries to hurt me will not be walking away unscathed. Plus, look at her -- not a young woman, doubtlessly taunted for being fat. Probably seemed like a good target. Oops?

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    posted by Zan at 5:38 PM 9 comments

    Reasons to hate the penis (or select possessors thereof)

    We interrupt our regularly scheduled deep thought and contemplation to bring you a reminder that People.Are.Shit.

    First up, a little snippet about a girl, her crush and the 20 plus boys who wanted an oral gangbang:

    MILWAUKEE (AP) — It began with a crush, police said, and turned into one of the most shocking crimes in Milwaukee’s long, violent summer: an 11-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by as many as 20 boys while a 16-year-old girl she was romantically interested in watched and coached her.
    The 16-year-old and a 15-year-old boy have been charged in juvenile court in the alleged attack, which authorities said took place Monday in a house on the city’s north side. The teenage girl’s 40-year-old uncle might also be charged, authorities said.
    . . .
    The 11-year-old girl told police she was interested in the teenage girl, who looked and dressed like a boy, authorities said in court records. She and two friends went to the teen’s house, where the child performed oral sex on three teenage boys, the court records said.
    The teenage girl’s 40-year-old uncle admitted he also had sex with the 11-year-old and told police that his niece was coaching the child, the records said.
    The 11-year-old told police she then went to the basement, where there were about 15 males and “began to choose who she wanted to perform oral sex on,” the records said.
    The teenage girl told police that the 11-year-old had told her she wanted to perform oral sex on the boys in the house, according to court records. The 16-year-old denied encouraging her.
    The teenage girl and the 15-year-old boy were charged with being a party to sexual assault. Torbenson said he will probably seek to have them tried as adults.

    Ok -- first idiot who makes some comment about what does she expect, being all lesbianish, is going to get their ass kicked. Second -- what the fuck? Seriously? I can almost, almost (in that what the fuck were they on? sorta way) understand the teenagers -- but a 40 year old??? Huh? The hell? And what sort of evil uses a person's crush to get them to 'perform' for the masses? Who does that to an 11 year old?? I have a cousin who is 11. Oh.My.God. I'd fucking kill anyone who did this to her.

    But, lest you believe that this is an isolated case -- this molestation of children and destroying their innocence -- I present episode 2:

    BASTROP, La. (AP) — A Morehouse Parish grand jury has returned indictments against a former Morehouse Parish jail trusty arrested on rape charges after it was learned his wife’s 11-year-old daughter was pregnant.
    Rodney O. Morrison, 37, of Bastrop, was indicted Thursday on one count of aggravated rape and one count of oral sexual battery. He is scheduled for arraignment Sept. 26.
    Morrison was arrested Aug. 14 after the victim’s mother contacted police. According to the arrest affidavit, Morrison admitted to having sex with the girl once, though she told police they had sex on numerous occasions since he married her mother in September 2005.
    District Attorney Jerry Jones said he personally will prosecute the case. “There is no way in hell I’d let anyone else try this case,” Jones said.
    Morrison was arrested in December 2005 after his probation was revoked for testing positive for cocaine and alcohol multiple times.
    He was arrested in March 2003 for possession of cocaine and later placed on probation and assigned to the parish Drug Court. He became a trusty at the Morehouse Parish jail sometime after Feb. 21.
    After Morrison’s arrest, Morehouse officials last week decided to end the jail’s trusty program.
    Police Chief Alan Freeman told The News-Star last week that the investigation thus far indicates the child became pregnant before Morrison was jailed last December.
    If convicted, aggravated rape carries a mandatory life sentence without possibility of probation, parole or suspension of sentence. Oral sexual battery carries up to 10 years in prison.

    Who wants to stab this guy in the eyes? Anyone? Anyone? Yeah, me too. Pregnant at 11, by her fricking step-father? They won't ask for the death penalty, although they can in this state since the victim was under 12. I'm assuming she didn't have the baby, since it would have been born by now and well -- someone would have noticed that, I'm sure. Still, fuckers like this should be slowly boiled to death then eaten by a pack of rabid dogs. Fuckers.

    Oh, but it's not just the young who suffer! No, it's not safe to be an old woman either!!

    MONROE, La. (AP) — A convicted felon was arrested on charges he raped and robbed an 84-year-old woman at gunpoint inside her home here, police said.
    Dallas Taylor, 30, of Monroe, was booked Thursday into Ouachita Correctional Center on charges of armed robbery, aggravated rape, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, authorities said. In 1993, Taylor was convicted of armed robbery.
    Maj. Don Bartley said the suspect spoke with the woman — whose name was not released — early Thursday, asking if her husband was at home because he was to do some yard work at the house.
    “He forced his way into the house and put a gun to her head,” Bartley said. “He took her to the back of the residence and did a sexual assault on her.”
    Bartley said Taylor then took two rifles, jewelry, cash and other items from the home and left in a green truck.
    When officers later spotted the vehicle, Taylor got out and ran, Bartley said. He was caught a short time later. The stolen items were found in the truck, Bartley said.
    Aggravated rape on a person under the age of 13 and over the age of 65 is an offense punishable by death, Bartley said. Armed robbery can carry a sentence of up to 99 years in prison.

    And people think I'm paranoid because I keep my doors locked all the time and won't let anyone use the phone or whatever if I don't know them. (Even though, even that's not safe.) You know what gets me? In Louisiana, if you're young or old and are raped, your assailant could go to jail for life or the death penalty. But if you're over 13, younger than 65? They get jail time. Maybe. You get more time in this state for armed robbery than rape. What sense does that make? Seriously? Someone steals my car and they could go to jail for 20 plus years, but if they rape me they'll get less than 10? What? Goddamn fuckers.

    Clearly, I'm pissed off. I need a new job before this one kills me with rage.

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    posted by Zan at 12:08 PM 2 comments

    Thursday, September 07, 2006

    What's the big deal about virginity?

    Let's talk about sex, shall we?

    There's a new article, blogged about here among other places, that details how hard it is for women who are virgins at 'advanced ages' to lose their virginity. Advanced age in this case being into the 30s. The article doesn't talk about male virgins, but I'm assuming they have some of the same difficulties. I'm not sure though, so if I have any male virgin readers, feel free to chime in.

    The thing is, I don't see why virginity is such a big deal. You are either a virgin or you are not. You either have green eyes or you don't. You're either left-handed or not. You're either going bald or you're not. It's just one state of being, neither better nor worse than any other state. I also don't understand the apprehension of being someone's first time if they're an older virgin. Or a younger virgin, for that matter. This may be because I've been someone's first time before, but I just don't see why it's an issue. So long as you engage in any sexual act with passion and respect for your partner, why does it matter what he/she hasn't done before?

    I was one of those persons who skipped the high school dating/fucking scene. First off, I terrified most of the boys in my school (and wasn't aware or capable of acting on my attraction to women just yet) and I just didn't want to chance ending up pregnant. I had plans, I had things I wanted to do and so...no sex for me. And I admit, at the time I did feel a little weird about it. Everyone else seemed to be hooking up and I wasn't, I didn't even get any offers (see: terrified boys at my school) so I thought something must be wrong with me. There, wasn't, of course, but it seemed that way to me.

    I felt ancient as a 17-year-old virgin, so I can imagine how it feels to people much older than that. (And it's not all that uncommon. I have a friend, 32, a lawyer, who is a virgin. I had another friend, a professor, who was a virgin until she was 30. I have male friends in the same boat, I'm sure.) At 19, when I slept with my boyfriend for the first time, I thought I was the oldest virgin on the planet. Dumb, but that's how it felt at that age.

    Our society is way too sexualized. (Duh!) We put so much pressure on people to have sex, or to not have sex or to conform to some unrealistic idea of sexual behavior. I grew up in FundyLand, so I got the No-Sex-Until-Marriage lecture over and over and over again. Partially, it stuck. Even when I was embarking into sexual activity, I was scared and nervous and ready to be struck down at any moment. I was, however, more practical than most. I didn't expect the first time to be incredible. In fact, I expected it to be terribly painful.

    It wasn't, thank god. It wasn't particularly wonderful, either. It was fast and over with before I could get a real handle on what I was feeling. Afterward, I felt lied too. Not by my BF, who was great, but by all those people who made such a big, fucking deal out of virginity and the first time and how it was so important and would change your life forever. No, it didn't. It really, really didn't. All it meant was, hey, I'd had sex. I was still the same person, with the same thoughts and passions and ideas and problems and whatever as I had been before. So, what was the big deal?

    The idea that everyone is running around having all this hot, crazy sex? Bullshit. Some people are, I'm sure, but I don't know these people. Their life doesn't look anything like mine or most of the people I know. Most of the people I know my age are focused on work and paying the bills, not trying to get laid. So, if someone is a virgin at 35 or 40? So what?

    The truth is, if you're enthusiastic and engaged and willing to talk to your partner and find out what they like, it's unlikely anyone is going to be able to tell you're a virgin. The pressure to be amazing the first time is stupid. No one can live up to it, but that doesn't mean it has to be awful. I wouldn't have a problem dating a virgin -- unless they were hyper-religious and wanted to convert me. But that wouldn't be about them being a virgin, that'd be about them being fundyish.

    Also, we seriously need to revisit our definition of sex. Just because someone hasn't had PIV sex, doesn't mean they're a virgin or inexperienced. There is soooo much sex that can be had without penetration, to limit your defination seems counterproductive to me.

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    posted by Zan at 11:54 AM 10 comments

    Wednesday, September 06, 2006

    My family doesn't believe they're fundamentalists

    That's another little gem I gleaned from my visit with them this weekend. They're not fundamentalists, because there are other people more fundy than they are.

    Apparently there's a church in the neighborhood that's been becoming popular and they refuse to go, because those people are fundamentalists. And, they probably are. But that doesn't mean my family isn't as well. They're just not as rigid as other sects are. Frankly, Southern Baptist by definition are fundamentalists.

    I've got a lot of problem with the SB church -- as anyone whose read here knows. Some people interpret that to mean I'm hostile to Christianity. I'm not, necessarily. I do oppose certain forms of the religion because I believe it does a great deal of harm. Of course, I'm also opposed to certain forms of other religions for the same reason. Any belief system that tells it's adherents it's okay to hurt others is not an okay system. It's not okay to feel justified in inflicting emotional, social or physical harm on another human being because your god told you it was ok. Any belief system that is predicated on the idea that humans are unworthy, broken creatures is not ok. Any belief system that denies the inherent dignity of humanity is no ok.

    I take issue with reading any holy book as literal and inerrant. To do that is to raise the book, which was written and edited by human beings, to the level of diety. And, no matter how much I adore the written word, it's not on the same level with god. It's become a tenent of the SB church that the Bible is literal and inerrant -- which breaks the commandment not to create any idols. Because by elevating the Bible to such a level -- isn't the only perfect truth supposed to be God? -- they're turning it into an idol, placing it on equal footing with god. Which is a no-no by their own teachings.

    Futhermore, this insistance on literal meaning strips layers of meaning and history from any text. It dumbs down the population and kills critical thinking skills. A literal understanding is a surface understanding, its the sort of understanding you'd expect from a child who hasn't developed more nuanced reasoning skills yet. For a child, that's fine. A child is going to grow and develop and obtain the ability to reason and think critically. But for adults to reject any nuanced reading of a text in favor of a strictly literal one? That's madness.

    It suggest to me a weak faith. How strong can your faith be if you must have everything literal? You're setting yourself up for a huge fall -- and cause thinking people to reject you out of hand. Plus, you're creating a very, very fragile basket for your faith. If Jesus has to literally be born of a virgin, what happens to your faith when someone comes along and proves it didn't happen? Or not even prove it, but just gives you enough alternate possiblities that you doubt it? If there has to be a literal, physical ressurection, what are you going to do if someone finds Jesus' bones?

    A literal faith doesn't have room to grow or expand. It's trapped by the box it's built in. It's also more likely to be suffocated by collapsing under its own weight. The belief that everything in the Bible has to be literally true -- or it's all false -- makes no sense to me. Why? We don't expect that of anything else in our lives. If we have a best friend who is honest and trustworthy, but one time -- one time -- they tell us a lie, we don't assume that everything they've ever said to us was false. If your child does something out of line, you don't assume that everything they've ever done was equally out of line, do you? It doesn't make any sense to do that, because we understand that one event does not necessarily reflect badly (or well) on any other event, unless those events are specifically related.

    When I stop and think about it -- when I'm not pissed off by something they've said or done -- I genuinely feel sorry for people bound in this type of thinking. How much of their lives are bounded off because they insist upon literal, black-n-white meaning? How much of the nuances and colors of life to they miss out on? I'm sure they don't want my sympathy and doubtlessly think I'm lost and hopeless, but the further away from this sort of thinking I stay, the happier and saner I am.

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    posted by Zan at 11:53 AM 1 comments

    Monday, September 04, 2006

    The nature of belief

    I think there are basically two types of people in the world -- those who believe people are essentially good and decent and those that believe people are inherently flawed and evil. I tend to fall into the good and decent category, which makes it difficult for me to have conversations with people who fall into the other category on the topic of faith and religion. I don't look at the world as black and white, as one extreme or the other. In nearly every situation, circumstance has a large bearing on meaning and morality. Things do not have to be literal to be true, they can be literal and quite false.

    I spent most of the day with my family today. I love my family, but we disagree on matters of faith. Not so much on matters of morality, but faith. Here's a secret most people don't seem to know: You can be pagan and believe in Jesus. You can be pagan and attempt to live your life by Jesus' teaching. We let you do that, it's cool. You cannot, however, be a 'Christian' and embrace parts of paganism. (Which is really funny, considering how much Christianity 'borrowed' from paganism.) So, I, personally, really like Jesus. He had some really great ideas and they got him killed, which is often the case with enlightened beings. I don't even have a problem with claims of Jesus' divinity -- I believe we are all part of God, all born with a spark of divinity inside us. Some of us are just better at developing and honoring that divinity than others. Some of us never develop or honor it at all, but that doesn't mean it's not there. So, Jesus and me? We're cool. It's the idiots who've come along and twisted his very simple teachings into...whatever the hell is passing for Christianity these days that I have a problem with. And I ran smack into an example of that today at lunch.

    First, a little more background. My brother is a youth minister, my uncle is a preacher, my father is a deacon and my mother is a Sunday School teacher, all Southern Baptist. Okay. So, my brother is talking to my uncle about this woman at his church. Apparently, she's one of these controlling type of people, you know, the sort that always needs to be in charge, that doesn't like any idea unless it's hers, that sort of thing. Well, she's been causing problems at their church. He didn't say what exactly, just that she was insisting on being in charge a lot, trash talking church programs in public -- if she wasn't allowed to be in charge. Which isn't cool, but still....So, my brother and one of the other church leaders was going to go talk with her about it, because it had become a serious problem. Except, the day before they were going to talk to her about it -- she had a stroke. Now, to me, this seems like a horrible thing, but it hasn't got anything to do with God. The woman had a stroke. She was an older woman and well, people have strokes all the time. She's in the hospital, going through rehab and will be out of commission for quite awhile. Which means she won't be able to be really involved in church leadership for quite some time. Which is sad for her, but again, what does that have to do with God? Ah, well, according to my brother, "God took care of it for us."

    Yes, that's right. My brother and uncle and, apparently, my mother believe that God caused this woman to have a stroke, because she was being controlling. Their God is apparently a bully, who smites down people who get in His way. (Although, was she really in his way? Maybe She was right and my brother was wrong. Maybe she wasn't struck by God, but by Satan!!)

    There's a little bit of conversation about problem people in the church and more comments about how "God will take care of them." And them my uncle, who had always seemed rather reasonable to me, said "I wouldn't mind conducting a few more funerals for them."

    No. Shit.

    He basically said he wouldn't mind if God KILLED the people in his church who give him grief.

    Holy. Fucking. Shit. What???

    I just kind of looked at him and shook my head. And they wonder why I won't go back to church? (My mother did try to get me to go to church THREE times today. THREE times in maybe six hours!)

    See, this is what I mean. My family is on the people-are-basically-nasty side of the fence. They see people as inherently sinful and broken, intentionally trying to do bad and cause trouble. Or, they see people as victims of Satan, used to thwart God's will. And so, those people, God can remove from this world and well, that's just what happens, see?

    I always want to ask them, what if you're wrong? What if it's you that is thwarting the will of God? They're so certain they're not, but how do they know? No one goes around (not anyone with a true belief in God, anyway) actively thinking "Hey, I'm gonna fuck up God's will today!" Everyone just assumes that what they're doing is the right, good thing to do. But if they are right, and other people are doing things differently, then those people must be wrong. And if they're wrong? Well, God can just kill them.

    See, this pisses me off. It does a disservice to humanity and to God. How can you possibly love your fellow man if you believe, in any way, that it's okay for him to be killed at random? How can you possibly love God if you believe he/she is the sort of diety what would do that? You cannot love someone you fear and you'd have to fear a god you believed not only capable of such action, but one who has no reservation about doing so. That belief reduces God to an ordinary abusive parent.

    And really, if a behavior is wrong in a human -- no parent would get away with killing their child just because they did something that displeased them. We throw those people in jail. -- how can a behavior be acceptable in a Diety? Isn't God better than humans? Doesn't he/she adhere to a higher standard?

    I think part of the reason they believe this is because they believe they, themselves, are capable of vile deeds. After all, they believe they were born flawed and evil, unworthy of love or acceptance. (This is literally what I was taught as a child in my parents Southern Baptist Church.) And, if man is made in the image of God and they are capable of such horror, then it stands to reason that God too is capable of such things. The problem is, they got it backwards. (In my, not terribly humble opinion.) God/dess is capable of much, much better things than most of us can imagine. And, because we are all born with Her spark inside us, so are we. Because we are born good and decent, we are capable of love and compassion and empathy and connection. I think Diety grieves when we forget that -- but she's not about to strike us dead because of it.

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    posted by Zan at 5:31 PM 15 comments