Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Never Going Back Again

Conservative Christians and Muslims alike will not rest until they have all women wearing burkhas

The recent controversy over a requirement for health plans to cover birth control, including health plans offered by Catholic hospitals and universities, has me scratching my head. How can contraception be an issue in 2012? Didn’t Margaret Sanger win this fight almost 100 years ago? In reality, the controversy is manufactured. The majority of Americans believe that birth control should be safe, widely available and covered by insurance plans.  People under the age of 40 support that notion 2:1.
I believe that the opposition is not about contraception or health insurance. It’s about male dominance and female submission.  Islamic extremists and Christian right conservatives share a remarkably similar view of the proper role of women in society.  They both have a deep, deathly fear of women controlling their own reproduction and thus controlling their own destiny.  Women who control their own reproduction are powerful.  They have the time, space and energy in their lives for education, employment, political action.  A woman with access to education and financial independence has the self-confidence and werewithal to demand rights and respect. That scares the living shit out of conservatives, be they Christian or Muslim.  The idea of women as co-equal partners in society terrifies them, and why not? These patriarchs exercised complete control over civil societies for hundreds of years. They aren’t going to give up that control without a fight.  They can’t use facts or logic to justify their argument that a woman’s place is in the home.  They can only point towards the sky and claim that they speak for God. We must accept their word that God wants to keep us barefoot and pregnant.
I suspect that many women never bought that argument, but they were so physically debilitated by the process of birthing and nurturing child after child that they had no energy left to fight.  When a woman controls her reproductive destiny, she lays claim to her physical power. She insists on her right to choose her own path, regardless of what the patriarchy and their Sky God prescribe.
My grandmother gave birth to 10 children over 24 years.  The last one killed her, literally.  My mother remembered her being terribly sick and jaundiced during the pregnancy. She died within days of giving birth.  My mom was nine years old at the time with three younger brothers and sisters, one an infant, who needed looking after. 
When I was a young girl, a woman in my neighborhood died from an illegal abortion. She had given birth to four kids in five years. When she found out she was pregnant with number five, she went over the border to Tijuana for an abortion and never came home. Those four little kids were left without a mother.
Does the religious right really want to return to this world?
The religious right, be they Christian or Muslim, are absolutely sickened (and probably secretly tititilated) by the thought of women enjoying sex.  Seriously, that's what it boils down to.  Why? I think it’s because a sexual woman is a powerful woman. She knows what she likes and what she wants. She embraces her own physical power and that power terrifies these men.  One thing we know about male hierarchy: it doesn’t share power or relinquish control willingly.
Female sexual autonomy is the bĂȘte noir of bitter old men and their patriarchal religion. The next generation finds their fears laughable. They literally cannot understand what all the fuss is about.  Women have been in control of their reproductive destiny for over 40 years; my daughters have never known a time when birth control wasn’t available. The genie is out of the bottle.  Women fought and died for autonomy. We won’t relinquish it without a fight.    

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sign of the Times

Here's how bad the drought is this year: it's not yet Valentines Day and the irrigation ditch is open.  
Praying for rain in February does not bode well for August. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Art and Money II

My dad...

Just writing those two words made me stop and reconsider. Let me come at this from another angle.

My new PA showed up today and it's a beauty. It's lightweight enough that I can schlep it all by myself. More importantly, it's simple enough that I think (I hope) I'll be able to learn how to use it all by myself. It's going to take me a while to figure it out. I have no innate aptitude for the technical or the mechanical. I will have to drill myself on a step by step procedure for setting up and, if something goes wrong, I will have no ability to troubleshoot. I also still need to invest a little more money in order to create a complete, stand-alone package. The biggest outstanding issue is a mixer. I can invest in a couple of Y inputs for $100, which should give me as many inputs as I need most of the time. But, it would be great if I had my own mixer. Two of my fellow musicians have 8-channel mixers that I can use whenever we play together. My plan is to make do with a couple of Y adapters or a borrowed mixer for the time being.  If I end up using the equipment often, I may invest in my own mixer, but I want to wait and see what I really need.

Because, Lord knows, I don't want to waste money on something I don't need. Because, Lord knows, I hate to waste money.

Making this purchase has me wound tight tonight and I'm trying to figure out why. I mean, it's just money. It can't buy me love. It can't save my life. As I've mentioned in the past, I have a very complicated relationship with money. And that's what got me to thinking about my dad.

My dad had a much more fluid relationship with money than I do. Don't get me wrong, he was never afraid of hard work. Growing up, I never missed a meal and I never did without; he would dig ditches for a living before he let us do without. But we were never entirely secure around the issue of money. When I was very young, my dad was a construction worker and we lived from job to job. This was Southern California in the sixties so there was no lack for work, but it wasn't like my dad went to an office every day and picked up a paycheck twice a month. He worked his way up to supervisor, then contractor. I got a new bike, my mother got a coat with a mink collar. When I was about nine years old, he started a company with two other men, fabricating and selling hardboard concrete forms. I remember the outsized sense of pride I felt in the fact that my dad was the PRESIDENT of his very own COMPANY, something I trumpeted around the school yard. It was also a pretty big deal among the Okies and Arkies and 'Bama boys who constituted his social circle.

As mentioned, this was Southern California in the sixties. There was non-stop construction going on and plenty of call for concrete forms. The potential was certainly there for him to make a killing. He was very personable, my dad, very charming. He could sell ice to an Eskimo. He had a lot of friends, a lot of contacts, a big personality, everything he needed to succeed in business.

Well, at least that's how he told it at our kitchen table. He also had a self-aggrandizing streak a mile wide; maybe he was deluding himself. If so, we all bought it hook line and sinker.

A couple of years into running the business, something went horribly wrong. I was, what, maybe 11 years old, so I couldn't really follow the details. From what I picked up then and pieced together later, I believe that one of my dad's business partner, the "financial guy" in the triad, cooked the books, embezzled the company's funds and neglected to pay the taxes. The IRS seized the business and literally put a padlock on the gate. In one very bad year my dad went from presidency to bankruptcy.

Oh my god, what a blow that must have been to his ego, to his sense of self. It was a business bankruptcy, not a personal bankruptcy, but that word carried so much more shame back then. He was a man of outsized vanity coupled with deep insecurities. He had an inflated opinion of his own abilities and importance and usually operated on the assumption that he was the smartest guy in the room. In one brutal stroke, his good friend and business partner demonstrated otherwise.

Of course, he chose that moment to fall off the wagon.

My dad was a classic, serious, alcoholic. Once he started drinking, he literally could not stop until he blacked out. He started working a 12-step program before I was born and had great success. He became a sponsor, a speaker, and committed himself fully to living and working the program. Unfortunately, the more successful he became, the less he felt like he needed AA. He felt like he was too smart for the program. He thought he could keep it under control. As the business grew, he began to drink socially with his customers and competitors, "chipping" he called it.   By the time the bankruptcy came down, he hadn't been to a meeting in years. The business imploded and he fell off the wagon spectacularly, publicly, violently. There were scenes, fights, humiliating incidents.

My mother, bless her heart, tried to manage the situation. She tried to hold my dad together and keep up appearances, but it was a very thin veneer. I thought they would probably divorce, but they didn't. Instead, my dad took a job as a salesman with a national company and moved us all to Oregon for a fresh start, but the drinking didn't stop. More fights, more humiliating scenes. After two years, the company transferred him to Northern California where there was more conflict and drama, but I kept myself out of it . I was in high school and stayed almost frantically busy with choir, speech team, drama club and, later on, boys and drugs. I was rarely at home. Two years later, he changed jobs again and moved my mother and brothers to Illinois, but I stayed behind. I had had enough.

That's taking the long way around to arrive at an essential issue: I'm paranoid about money. After years of working and saving, I'm very lucky to be reasonably financially secure, more so than many of my peers, but I don't trust that security. I don't believe in it. I know from experience that, at any moment, it can all change. It can disappear without a trace.

I don't experience this much anxiety when I buy a car or a house. I expect a house to appreciate in value. It's an investment, not a purchase. Plus you gotta have a place to live. A car takes me to my job where I earn more money. I got a little wound up when I bought my instruments, but I knew I would play them regardless of whether I was in a band or not. It took a real leap of faith for me to spend this much money on musical equipment that I don't know how to use! What if I can't figure it out? What if the band breaks up? What if this system turns out to be a money pit that requires me to buy more and more and more equipment?

These are the restless, senseless loops in my head, stupid anxieties over stupid, stupid things. It's just STUFF for crissakes. It's just money; there's always more. But, there it is, I can't help it. A little voice twists and turns in my brain chanting "waste not, want not" and I can't make it stop.

Lord, I could use a Xanax tonight. I could use a drink.