Monday, September 25, 2017

Mormons should be fighting Graham-Cassidy

Bold title, I know. After all, we're not supposed to be political.

Except that's bull. For every time that they remind us over the pulpit that the church does not endorse any political candidate or party, we still end up with a lot of members who are sure that their political and religious beliefs are inextricably linked. Making a connection is not unreasonable.

So, if your faith in eternal families leads you to value children, and want to have children, you should be against Graham-Cassidy.

Under Graham-Cassidy, insurers can charge an additional $17000 in annual premiums. That's if they cover it, because they would not be required to offer pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was the first time insurers were required to cover maternity care. Insurers may cover more than required, but the balking at fairly basic requirements isn't assuring.

Maybe you can decide that following the Word of Wisdom will protect you from a lot of things. If you are not only not smoking but also eating lots of grains and fruits in season, that should decrease your risk of cancer, making you unlikely to be affected by $142650 premium increase for those with metastatic cancer.

It does help, but off the top of my head I'm remembering some really good members whose cancer did metastasize. Eventually it killed them, so I guess they didn't need coverage after that, but it took a while.

Maybe you can consider many afflictions to be God's will, and best borne patiently. Maybe you put a lot of stock in essential oils. Maybe you find it completely possible to ignore any problem that is not affecting you specifically, though that's a strange thing to pull from the scriptures.

Regardless, even if you can manage to not care about any other health issue, there is a good chance that you are going to have kids, or you have already and someday they will have kids, or that someone you care about will have kids; how many of them can afford an extra $17000 per year for the privilege?

Maybe you think that can be gotten around with midwives. That can work out, but a lot of these pregnancies are older, too. Isn't it better to have medical care available and affordable? Doesn't that make sense?

And if you are living in some of the more densely populated LDS areas, your calling now will mean more than anything I can do. My hippie-liberal senators and representative would not support Graham-Cassidy if I called them up and asked them too. Orrin Hatch, on the other hand, could benefit from having constituents call and ask him to vote against it.

For that segment of members who don't like that the ACA covers vaccinations, I'm sorry, please do this for the greater good.

For any who feel left out because you are not a Mormon, also sorry -- it just felt like something that needed to be said. For what it's worth, I believe similar reasoning should apply to many fundamentalist Christians as well.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Band Review: Mayhem & Me

Without at all intending it, for the second day in a row we have a band from Hobart, Tasmania.

Mayhem & Me self-describes as alternative/ dark folk.

There is a definite sense of unease working itself through the songs, especially on "Ribs". This darkness does not present as evil or aggressive, but more an acknowledgment of being besieged by a hostile world.

Music made in reaction to that can become elevating, almost purifying, like "Holy Moses". The guitar strongly forces its way forward, rising above. That same guitar can be a menacing current moving underneath on "Look Before You Leap", perhaps underscoring the importance of that look.

All of that is strongly accentuated by the eerie inflection given to the vocals. I think fans of Siouxsie Sioux could appreciate Mayhem & Me. Also, maybe fans of The Cult.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Band Review: The Silverbeets

The Silverbeets are a band from Hobart, Tasmania.

Working mainly in the genre of indie/alternative rock, I get a strong sense of nostalgia in listening. The title of "We've Got a Groovy Thing Goin' " indicates that it may be intentional.

I can't swear that there's a Theremin in the accompaniment for "Does Not Equal Ten"; it's more likely that there isn't. There is still a rather experimental sound to it, summoning up how we looked to the future in the past. I think The Byrds would like what The Silverbeets are doing.

I am interested in the kind of New Age elements of "Passenger Side". About half of the songs are more that way, with the other half being more groovy. There are some thoughtful lyrics.

The Silverbeets do not appear to have their own Youtube channel at this time, but you can find a couple of performances by searching on their name.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Farther along, but there are others

There was one other thing that helped me be okay with myself, body and spirit combined.

It was a gathering of people from high school. While there were multiple good interactions, the most important one was someone I was in love with through most of high school and my first year of college. I hadn't seen him for about twenty years. He was so happy to see me.

I was just hoping he wouldn't be unhappy to see me. I have been this way with everyone, torn between thinking they wouldn't remember me, they would remember me being annoying, or they would find me annoying now. I have gotten through that many times, but because of my feelings for this one person, it was a lot more pressure. He was so happy to see me.

When people enjoy my company now I can sometimes think it's due to some of the growth and maturation that came over time. The last time he saw me, I was still that immature girl, fat and believing that it ruled out boys ever liking me, disowned by my father and in denial about how badly that was affecting me, sometimes prickly as I tried to shield myself emotionally from all of that, and rather socially awkward. Yes, I was also a kind and smart and supportive back then, but still a bit of a wreck, you know? That's the girl he knew, and he was delighted to see her. A lot of other work has gone into this level of self-acceptance, but that was a huge boost.

I am also pretty sure that it was having this positive experience with the first boy I loved that led me to look up the second.

I have searched at random times before, but this was the first time I had found anything recent; he had made some videos and posted them on Youtube. This was not surprising because he was always a creative person. It was disappointing.

The videos were poorly thought out and executed. That could have worked if they were playful. There was an underlying bitterness, and antipathy toward the audience. Maybe I'm reading too much into it. My heart used to leap when I saw him; here it just sunk.

If he were a stranger and I stumbled across the videos, I would have thought they were stupid and weird and moved on, but I remember when he was different. I remember him as someone goal-oriented and focused who would have put more thought into something he was filming. I remember that focus as also applying to people, where when you were talking to him you felt like there was no one else in the world, but he did that for everyone because he did care about people. I don't remember him ever being very funny, but he was definitely more pleasant. I remember him being charismatic.

It has been a long time for us too, but there were some signs of a growing bitterness back then. I guess the bitterness won, but I think it came from losing. It came from setbacks and trying to make things happen and them not working out. I'm really sorry about that. There is some relief in being sure I am over him, but it shouldn't be because of this.

Society tells women they have to be beautiful, and part of the insidiousness is that the standards keep moving, changing to something less attainable. There is a different pressure on men, but it is still destructive. That is more true as their targets keep moving, and at a time when even the old targets are becoming harder to meet.

We are going to spend more time on toxic masculinity. I don't know if it will be next week. I might have to spend some time on health care.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Bucking the system

A recurrent theme has been how different books interact with my learning and thinking. We're going to have some more of that today.

I read The Zookeeper's Wife (by Diane Ackerman) because we went to see the movie. That happened because we saw a trailer for it before A United Kingdom and thought it looked good. We then heard nothing about the film until we remembered to look and found it was playing at the second-run theater, so saw it a bit later than we might have otherwise. Seeing there was a book, we requested it from the library, where there were many holds. This happens with books that inspire movies even when they seem to be flying under the radar. That is why I did not read it until the end of August.

I read it a month after reading The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, which meant that when I read that Antonina was orphaned during the early days of the Russian Revolution, I was familiar with the Bolsheviks killing the Poles resident in Russia. I can't tell you now whether that was actually in the book, or if it was something I encountered when trying to sort out the Intelligenzaktion when Nazis were killing the Polish elites and the Katyn massacre, when Soviets were killing Polish officers and intelligentsia. Nationalists and Communists are supposed to be opposite, but then when you are reading about them there are so many mass killings that it can be hard to keep them straight.

I read The Zookeeper's Wife not long before Hunger and not really that long after Beauty Sick, which may have made the part about the rations stand out more.

During the German occupation of Poland, there were daily calorie allotments. In 1941, that was 2613 for a German, 699 for a Pole, and 184 for Jews. That was in the book, but in other sources too. Ackerman phrased it as something like "The only thing required of you is to disappear."

As much worse as it was for the Jews, you can see the Poles weren't highly valued either. They would have eventually been intended for extermination too, but I suppose the difficulty is that you can't gas everyone at once or shoot everyone at once. Logistically you can't bury everyone that quickly, but if you transport some, and crowd some into bad conditions where some will die on their own until there is room in the camps for the rest, and then once all the Jews are gone you start on the Poles, and hey, there is a logic behind it. Incidentally, this is why it is reasonable to assume someone identifying with Nazis is a bad person.

But that's not what I'm writing about today.

Today I writing about how many girls have put themselves on rations like the Nazis put on the Jews.

I know there is a sickness involved in taking on the level of self-infliction, but that sickness is in keeping with the demands of a society that doesn't value women. When the standard of beauty is always smaller -- more delicate, easier to look around, easier to push aside -- that is not a society that values women.

I tried to imagine a society where the beauty standards favored greater health and heartiness, and it just wouldn't happen. As long as we have a society where someone has to be on top and power is important and classifications like gender and color affect the balance of power, then having a beauty standard that is literally diminishing is completely logical.

Not everyone gets a diagnosable psychological disorder from it, but it creates a lot of unhappiness for the well, too. Frankly, under this kind of order the diagnostics become harder. That is how you end up with a diagnosis like EDNOS - eating disorder not otherwise specified - not specifically adhering to previously understood disorders, but still seriously ill. But that compulsion to be less would not run nearly so deep if there weren't already so many reminders, and so many people invested in maintaining that a woman is already less.

That is why our feminism needs to be intersectional. We will not resolve any of the bigotries until we quit needing to push down someone else to feel good about ourselves. There are probably going to be many, many posts revolving around that.

For today, just know that if a system requires you to be less, you need to buck that system.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Fat and feminine

At last, we get to those final two books from the Long Reading List:

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf

It was easier for me to agonize over my weight because I was a girl. Too much of my worth was caught up in being able to attract boys, and it was made very clear that I could not do that. It took decades to get over. There is more pressure on women to conform to beauty standards, and lots of obstacles to feeling like you have succeeded in meeting those standards. This fits into both patriarchy and kyriarchy, though I am not going into that now.

Instead I want to cover a some main points from both books, and then in the next two posts focus on how the system is harmful to women and how it is harmful to men.

Before reading The Feminine Mystique I had not realized that what happened after WWII was new. It's not that there hadn't been any type of sexism or chauvinism before, but great steps backward were forced as a reaction to the greater independence and leadership roles that women had gained during the war. Then there was a great effort to pretend that it had always been that way, and it was the natural, right, good way.

That is worth remembering now. People who feel that their spot on the top is threatened - no matter how illusory their supremacy is, and no matter how destructive their fight is - will fight. They will also pretend it is right and deserved. Hidden Figures as a movie focuses on three women, but that phrase can apply to many people who have been contributing all along and to whom credit is denied.

The Beauty Myth spent a lot of time on the advertising industry and how it contributes to that pressure to be attractive; we should constantly be looking at the effects of advertising.

I was recently reading about ways that advertisers appeal to children to nag their parents more effectively. Parents should be aware of those tricks and making conscious decisions about how to deal with it. Many, many products have ads trying to show you that your life is not good enough without them. Considerable thinking should go into what creates or disturbs the satisfaction in your life.

There was something else that I found in the criticisms of The Feminine Mystique, and that I kept in mind when I was reading The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir -- these are middle (or upper) class problems.

That is not that all issues of sexism are class-specific, but that vague feeling of things not being enough - "the problem with no name" - that was a result of empty time and no requirement for meaningful activity. Poor women had too many other things to do and worry about.

I am also not touting drudgery as a cure; that may be worse than the disease. But women are people, and want to be able to contribute. When their sole domain is the home, and labor-saving devices and hired help take all of the work out of that, it leaves a woman nothing to do but be an ornament. That wouldn't be satisfying even without all of the ads and comparisons reminding you that you just aren't beautiful enough as an ornament; even the most beautiful women age.

Friedan gave an example of women attending lectures on things like architecture and art, but those activities feeling empty because they weren't going to use that knowledge in any way. Initially I bristled, because I love learning about all kind of things, many of which I will never use. However, I do things. If your life is meaningful, these things are icing. If your life is empty, the frivolous may seem like a reproach.

A great source of guilt would be that the husband and children should be enough; didn't they love their family? Family is a wonderful thing, but the man was getting a career and family, and no one looked down on him for having both. For a women, it meant there was something wrong with her, and right at the time when a new wave of psychologists had come to the United States with training that blamed everything on the mothers. Sadly, it was not readily understood that their training was deeply grounded in Freud trying to understand why women would imagine having been sexually abused because such abuse couldn't have been real.

That's not even ironic. That's just, "Of course it would go like that!"

I am doing better about this thing that hurt me, and I am grateful for that. I am also aware that the system is still in place, and currently hurting many others. As I go back and forth between the personal and social, I am always looking for ways to make it better. I haven't stopped believing better is possible.

That bright possibility is going to require us to want everyone to have it better. That means not worrying about whether that weakens our own position, not feeling like some people don't deserve it, and choosing love and uplift over their opposites. It is radical, it might even feel violent, but it has wonderful potential.

(Apologies to anyone who thought the title meant the post would be about fashion choices and beauty rituals. Titling isn't really my strong suit.)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Band Review: Marshall Crenshaw

I put Marshall Crenshaw on my review list quite a while ago, when Jesse Valenzuela of the Gin Blossoms praised him. (Crenshaw helped with the writing of "Till I Hear It From You".)

One reason I add recommendations from musicians to my review list is that often they know bands I have never heard of but really like when I get to them. I knew who Marshall Crenshaw was, but something about Jesse's tweet made me think - absolutely correctly - that I didn't know enough.

I did not know about the release of six EPs between 2013 and 2015, mixing new, original material with covers. That includes the affecting "Driving and Dreaming".

I knew nothing about Miracle of Science (1996), which stands out because while there are lots of good songs all over Crenshaw's catalog, I feel like Miracle of Science has really great cohesion as an album. (I am not just saying that because of the outstanding "Theme from Flaregun".)

Most important, I knew nothing about "Whenever You're On My Mind", which pierced me to my soul from the intro.

Crenshaw has a remarkably expressive guitar; it amazes me again and again. That's the kind of thing you find going deeper.

Of course I knew "Someday, Someway" and I have always liked it. His voice is good for expressing yearning and was a great match for Buddy Holly in La Bamba.

But that guitar practically forms words, and says more than words can say. It is fitting for that talent to have a career that spans decades and keeps finding something new.

That's why I am glad I did this. So thank you Marshall, and also thank you Jesse.

Marshall Crenshaw plays in Portland at Dante's tonight, September 15th: