Monday, December 23, 2013

Reason's Greetings!

"Why would an atheist celebrate Christmas? You don't believe in god so you shouldn't even be allowed to!" Yes, people actually say this shit to me. Phrases like this one have been flooding my Twitter feed for the last week, I'm getting sick to the point of tears of hearing this drivel, and after perhaps a few too many I'm going to tackle this bullshit HOPEFULLY once and for all. Yes, there are atheists who also enjoy the Holiday Season, and it may surprise some of you to learn this, they do so for VERY DIFFERENT REASONS than you'd probably ever thought of.

Reasons up to and including, but by no means limited to, because I fucking want to.

It's common knowledge that what we now call Christmas is a mish-mash of hijacked pagan holidays with traditions stemming from the Vikings, the Romans, the Celts and then some. You don't need to consult your friendly neighborhood Bible Scholar about this, they've been teaching it in public schools even since I was a little girl. So NO, Jesus is NOT "the reason for the season" as many claim, this is not only historically inaccurate but factually untrue in ALL CONTEXTS. Besides, Unlike Jesus, at least there's evidence of Axial Tilt having a distinct effect of Earth's seasonal weather patterns.

So why, for those of us who DON'T believe in bullshit, would we want to participate? For the same reason many of us enjoy things like the Fourth of July or even Valentine's Day: Yes, I used those two examples deliberately: ONE is an American National Holiday (not in any way religious in nature) and one USED TO BE a religious holiday in ancient times but is generally no longer considered as such. Atheists, being human, tend to enjoy meeting in groups of people that they have a common bond with and having good times together, you don't HAVE TO BE an American Citizen to appreciate or acknowledge the significance of the Fourth of July. I never used to be a huge fan of Valentine's Day, I don't think a lot of people are in this day and age. It so happens to be my anniversary, so it has some extra special meaning for me & my family instead of what people THINK that meaning should be.

For a group of people who idolize a long-haired hippie that told people not to be assholes to people, today's Neo-Christians sure do enjoy being assholes to people.

No one OWNS a holiday, certainly no one owns THE Holidays, no matter what label you want to slap on the front of it you will never be able to honestly tell someone they are not allowed to enjoy a special day on their own terms because it's yours and yours alone. Nope, no dice. Atheists have families, too, are we not supposed to enjoy giving gifts to each other and eating meals together because YOU SAY SO?

I am very hard pressed to think of anything more anti-Christmas than greed, and no I'm not talking about Black Friday Corporate greed. Christians do not OWN Christmas, Jews do not OWN Hanukah nor do Wiccans OWN Halloween (at least they're happy to share with the rest of us, but it's still superstitious nonsense) and so forth: So you can stuff the self-righteous "Keep Christ in Christmas" anger straight up your chimney, I'M going to enjoy myself and you can't do a damn thing to stop me!

So why do I celebrate Christmas? Because of my friends, my family, and the best reason of all...

Because I fucking WANT TO.

Io Saturnalia, friends ^_^

Sunday, December 22, 2013

What's the Point?

I've spent a great deal of my time deliberately trying to make a mountain out of a mole-hill, and for what I thought was a damn good reason: In late February of 2011 while I was deployed in Iraq, a male squad-mate forced himself into my room, grabbed my shirt-collar, threw me into a wooden wall-locker, then after searching my room B-Lined straight at me while I was barely off my floor. Several Shrinks & Lawyers later, I've come to agree with their assessment that this incident was extremely fucking likely about to become a rape, were it not for a male NCO that so happened to come strolling along past my still-open door. TO THIS VERY DAY, that incident was never formally or officially addressed, investigated or even acknowledged by my (now former) Commanding Officer nor my Unit: Certainly NOT for failing to report it, of course.

Now that I'm no longer in the Army (I got out this Summer) I've tried very hard, to my detriment, to raise as much awareness about this as I possibly can. I've been screaming it at the top of my lungs since the day I hung up my ACUs, and with the exception of some good folks I've gotten to know via the Twitter Atheist Community, I've received little to no support AT ALL: I've harangued the Army Times newspaper, reached out to what seems like a non-existent "Women Veterans Network" whom has yet to resound to ONE EMAIL almost 6 months after I initially contacted them, I've even written a very detailed letter, to include EVERYTHING surrounding the incident mentioned above, to a US Senator: What acknowledgement have I received for trying to clue in the public about JUST HOW SERIOUS the military's rape crisis really is?

With the exception of appearing on some Independent Humanist media programs, because they graciously agreed to allow me on their programs, ZILCH.

I don't want money, not for THIS. Maybe I'm just exaggerating here, but it seems like the louder I try to make myself sound, the harder people jam their fingers into their ears. Really? Is this how far things have degraded that people who try to speak out about sexual violence are seen as little more than an annoyance? I've even tried writing a book about the entire ordeal, lousy fucking writers' block killed THAT project (at least for now, I hope.) 

Why am I trying to do what feels like the right thing if no one wants to hear my side of things? What is the point of raising my voice, shaking my fists and gnashing my teeth for all the Internet to see just to be shut out and bypassed like the 14th beggar on the same city block? If you have no idea what I'm talking about AND have half-an-hour to kill, proceed no further until you've seen THIS, and hopefully when you're done my frustration conveyed in this post will make some degree of sense to you. 

Again, I am not doing any of this for money: I am doing this because I find it morally fucking abhorrent that the Army treats sexual assault & harassment as a means of punishing Soldiers who screw up instead of as the criminal acts that THEY ARE.

Would I be wrong in interpreting apathy for acceptance? Are people REALLY okay with things just the way they are? Whoah, I do hope not! How bad do things have to get that someone who breaks the rules, however severely, is objectified and dehumanized to such an extreme capacity because of it? Worse yet, that such things are quietly encouraged to continue by those in charge? I THOUGHT that this was an issue worth bringing up publicly once the boots came off for good, but it would seem that I've just been shouting into an abyss all this time. Trust me, I've tried the whole "Unrestricted Reporting" road while I was still in the Army, my own at-the-time C.O. deliberately ignored my story: Fuck him right in the eye, the coward.

Maybe I'm still not trying hard enough, maybe I need to aim higher if I want my story to truly be known.

I'm going to consult YET ANOTHER LAWYER, and then I'll do my damnedest open up the cyber-flood-gates, I'd kindly appreciate as much help that you'd be willing to give me.

I titled that original entry "Vae Victis" for a reason.

Friday, December 13, 2013

RANT: Survivor vs "Victim"

I've survived a great many horrendous things in my 32 years, and considering how things often pan out for women in my position I actually consider myself pretty damn lucky just to still be alive. I've done my share of very bad things (fortunately none of them got anyone killed) and what good I HAVE DONE with my life isn't much comfort in retrospect. At no point in my life have I professed to be a good or moral human being, I've also made no claim whatsoever to sanity (as any of my former squad-mates will probably tell you) but I do the best I can and try to enjoy my own life without imposing directly onto those of others. Even as an atheist, as much of an asshole as I can often be to theists and their tired-ass catch-phrases their priests & pastors taught them, I genuinely get no joy or jollies in arguing with them. In fact, I'm downright dreadful at debating for that very reason.

Maybe my bad experiences in life are a big part of what has shaped me as a person, but I still can't honestly say that they've really made me a "better person," just sharpened my awareness for suffering, at best. I'm a domestic violence refugee, I barely escaped a cult as it was solidifying it's purpose, I served in a war that I never agreed with started by a spoiled old cunt that I didn't vote for and I almost died on numerous occasions while deployed. Also, at the hands of at least one person and almost by two, a multiple rape survivor.

What a funny word, it is: "Survivor." To the uninitiated it does sound a bit heavy, and it's not something I talk about very often in public if only BECAUSE people's reactions to the term are often unpleasant. 

And quite frankly, unless I actually WANT TO open up and discuss my thoughts ON MY TERMS, it's no one's business but mine, maybe my lawyer as well but that's it, really. People have often tried to persuade and coerce me into spilling my secrets to them, even family members, but No Dice: Trying to force someone's memory of a painful incident is, in my experience, as selfish and cruel of them to do as inflicting the actual incident itself. If someone WANTS TO talk about the things that hurt them, they will, but that doesn't de-facto mean that THEY HAVE TO talk about anything WITH YOU just because you ask. If they don't want to talk about it, fine. It's not your job to try to convince them to, asking respectfully out of concern is fine but remember that NO MEANS NO and once that magic word is dropped, YOU WILL kindly STFU and drop it. 

I do my best not to let the things that hurt me haunt me so, but I see so many who let their pain literally become their lives that instead of wanting to be a helpful friend I feel like shying away. It's also hard for ME to remember my own advice at times, to stand aside and let that person process their pain on their own terms without intruding. I can offer a hand, a shoulder, but reasonably that's about it: I can't cry or scream someone else's issues FOR THEM, and I sure as shit have no right to try to MAKE THEM vomit out their story for my benefit, absolute worst case scenario I call the cops if things get violent. I try to do what I can when I can, but it's a tough balance to keep between being a friend and being a nosy jerk.

I have no right to expect others to tiptoe around me, if something irks me SO STRONGLY I'll either say something or walk away. That's just how I am.

I never wanted to be "that one" who lives their life through the lenses of PTSD Glasses, though I have an official diagnosis (finally) my issues are a part of me but they are not who I am as a person. I've known lots of people, mostly via the Army, who can barely function: Usually for one of two reasons, either their issues are more serious than they are actively willing to admit or take proper care of OR they seem to over-analyze every goddamn thing around them and quite vibrantly project their internalizations like a constant blood-spatter-pattern. On rare occasion, some of them find a wandering soul to cling to expecting that person to "save them."

If it sounds like I'm being insensitive or judgmental I do hope you can forgive me, but I'm not going to censor myself for any one else's benefit, especially on MY OWN SITE. I have been that damsel in distress, I used to find the casual ignorance and unknowing of others absolutely crippling, to the point of tears and great malaise. Until one hot day in Iraq, while conversing with yet another "saviour" I'd found, he offered me a tidbit of his insights on human beings in general: No one is ultimately responsible for your feelings, or how you express them, but you. Suffering is, to a point, an unfortunate fact of humanity and no one can reasonably expect nor demand that another person feel something that they simply don't. I found this puzzling at first, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't having some doubts about this person's sincerity but after having a good hard think about this for a few days, I found it hard to disagree with him on it.

No one HAS TO appeal to your emotions, however strong. Share your thoughts, express your feelings, bearing in mind you will have ZERO CONTROL over their reactions however poor or favorable to you.

In a way, I try to find a fucked up sort of peace in bad dreams and ill memories. I can't put my whole life on pause to go sob in a corner under a blanket anymore, I can only remind myself that I have no control over the images my brain shows me. I'm not in Iraq anymore, I'm home. I'm no longer in harm's way, it's been years since anyone from ANY ASPECT of my past has shown up on my doorstep demanding information, apologies or payment. I am in a pretty good place RIGHT NOW, this is no longer BACK IN THE DAY. If someone I don't want to talk to DOES show up at my doorstep, I have options (within the realm of the law) at my disposal.

I want my life to be my own, it's the only one I'm ever going to have. I've never been completely comfortable with the idea of relying on others for my own happiness or stability anyway, I rather like being the kind of person that can take care of themselves. Granted, I do have my bad days, and some days that are downright shitty. Some days I still go home in tears, but I do eventually get back up on my feet. I acknowledge that this isn't easy for everyone who has been in my boots, for many it may seem impossible. I get it, I've been there, what seemed to get ME out of that slump was coming face to face with my own mortality (NOT something I would recommend that anyone actively seek out for themselves, this is just MY side of things) and relinquishing all illusions of fate, destiny and control. Instead I embraced responsibility for my own life and well-being, even if at times it just boiled down to getting out alive.

I have severe PTSD, but I am not my disorder. 

No one is responsible for my feelings, for good or ill, but me.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

RANT: Suicide

My Grandmother, Josephine, lived to be 99 years old. In the last month or so of her life she didn't lament never being able to make it to her 100th birthday, she knew she was very ill and likely going to die very soon (this was in 2012.) She was living at my Aunt & Uncle's house in Patchogue, New York, a nurse and a Catholic priest would stop by the house every other day to see that she was comfortable and being taken care of (my Aunt & Uncle aren't bad people, per se, they just have no concept of "bedside manner" or how to take care of a dying person) and my Mom made a special trip from Maine to stay with her for a few weeks. About 10 days after my Mom was back in Maine, my Grandmother passed away in her sleep.

Death comes for us all: Christian, Muslim, Wiccan, Scientologist, and yes, Atheists like me. While I wasn't exactly surprised to learn about my Nan's death due to her slowly failing health, it still hit me like a speeding Mack Truck: A person that I grew up with will no longer be in my life, I will never hear her voice or see her face again outside of old family home movies. Nan left existence as peacefully as she lived her life, and now her remains are in a Catholic cemetery on Long Island. I will never again get to give her a hug or see her smile, she's gone.

I was yanked from a Field Training Exercise to go to her funeral, my husband called me and told me the news: For some fucked up reason I'm always the last person in my family to find out when something bad has happened or when someone dies.

About a month ago I learned that a former squad-mate, US Army SPC Steven M Hays, was found dead inside his vehicle with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. When I first met Steven I was so badly dehydrated that I was pretty much completely delirious, our unit had decided that it would be a BRILLIANT IDEA to drag everyone out to an obstacle course and make everyone run it in the height of September with the Arizona sun blasting it's ultra-violet hatred on everyone: You know, to boost unit cohesion and some good clean "fun." So after ranting, yelling and swearing at my entire Company (and apparently my Commanding Officer as well) I was taken to the ad-hoc Med-Station (Which was basically a Humvee with a tank of water and some stretchers) and then I completely blacked out. It would seem one of the Soldiers I had inadvertently cussed out was Steven: Um, sorry 'bout that. 

The following Duty Day, he came to me and asked me what the fuck I was going on about: I told him a very abbreviated version of my story, he recalled to me some of the crazy shit I apparently screamed at everyone, our friendship was sealed from that point forward. I was never terribly popular in my old Unit to begin with, engaging in an act of consensual sex with another grown adult (a concept that our military has always struggled with) during the deployment in Iraq didn't improve my odds with them either, but unlike the other Soldiers who tried their damnedest to make me into a pariah, Steven at least took the time to say "Hello" to me when he could, in a group of people who could obviously have cared less if I had lived or died, it was a shining relief to see at least one other person who was glad that I was alive.

The difference between an otherwise natural death versus a suicide is that while both tend to be an emotional surprise, news of a suicide just doesn't seem to register in the brain at first. It's like you don't believe it at first, it literally "does not compute"

Our military demonizes people who die by their own hand, our society does this as well but not always to quite the same extent that the armed forces do. Sure, they tell you that they want you to get help if you're feeling like self-medicating with a .45 "Anti-Depressant" and they encourage Service-Members to do so, all the faster they can get the necessary paperwork started to kick your ass out. If life in the military is so awful that you want to DIE, why on Earth would you want to STAY IN? Because for many of them, especially those who have deployed repeatedly to Iraq or Afghanistan, that's all they have left: PTSD has ravaged their minds, military life has destroyed their families (Service-Members are up to four times more likely to get divorced than civilian couples) they're so beaten-into the system that it becomes the only life they know. After they have no more self-will, no more distractions from outside and no more control over their own circumstances, it becomes their life in it's entirety.

After that point, a Service-Member becomes so absorbed into "The Almighty Army" that it literally takes over their life. They are so indoctrinated that they can no longer understand anything else outside of the uniform, this can get to the point of "ordering" a spouse to do push-ups or even trying to pull rank on civilians who don't even live or work on Post. They literally BECOME their job, and when anything threatens them in that state (be it an injury, thoughts of suicide or even an Article 15) they will fight like Hell, scream, shout, even flat out lie, to keep the only thing they have left in their world, their only means of existence. 

The military suicide plague isn't due to a lack of options, it's because of a crippling lack of human decency toward one another.

Choosing to end your own life isn't a cowardly act, but it's nothing particularly ballsy either. Generally most of the people who express that sentiment are those who are upset only because the person they knew is no longer around for THEIR BENEFIT, not because that individual was in a tremendous amount of pain that he/she felt was being ignored or overlooked. There's nothing cowardly about wanting pain to go away, so suicide isn't "the easy way out," if anything it's got to be the most fearful and mind-breaking way to die that I can imagine.

I should know, I've tried it repeatedly.

I guess, to a point, the desire to self-terminate will always be there. When I was younger I was honestly so terrified that I would either go straight to Hell or maybe I'd reincarnate as an animal I didn't like. The last time I gave offing myself any serious effort was in Iraq, I had been stealing my Jesus-Freak roommate's painkillers over the course of a month, along with any & all pills I could get my hands on, and my original intent was to down the entire bottle on or before the day of my Article 15. I made it to about half the bottle before I started vomiting, they never quite made it into my stomach because I could feel my own esophagus squeezing shut: Of course I never told anyone that things had gotten THIS BAD, if I did then they would have just sent me on the next plane to Germany and shoved me into a cotton-box until my discharge papers were done.

I guess at THAT POINT it hit me that not only was the game rigged the entire time, that my squad-mates were NEVER going to grant me the respect that the uniform mandated because I admitted to myself that I'm just a person after-all (and a lowly female, no less) but that if I had actually gone through with my plan it would only be granting them what they wanted the entire time: For me to get myself out of the way before "the Enemy" could do it for them, and I wasn't ready to put my family through all of that. At the time, they had no idea about the kind of relationship my husband and I had, about our "friendships" with other consenting adults, it wasn't so much about me being afraid of the consequences anymore, but instead that I had to live through just long enough to see that they were eventually exposed for their own wrong-doings as well.

Surprised? Don't be. THAT was the big turning point for me, I fed them a line of bullshit about "seeing the wrong of my actions" while in the back of my brain swearing revenge for not dealing with another squad-mate who had assaulted & harassed me to the point of physical illness (I had been blacking out and vomiting so often from stress& sleep deprivation at that point that I honestly thought I might have had cancer, I even went to the clinic and requested a screening: UNFORTUNATELY, I didn't have cancer) and I gave any notion of gods or devils, even any version of an afterlife, the boot: If any all-intelligent being out there purposely allows people to get to the point where they'd rather die horribly than suffer the abuse of their fellow humans, then who in their right might can call this entity "good?"

There was recently a YouTube user going by the handle "MannixThePirate" whom, for the third time, faked killing himself: It's causing quite the outrage.

There is no pain in the world quite like realizing that someone you once knew is now dead, by whatever means. This is an especially troubling process when that person opted to decide things for themselves, but it's hard to put into words the fury that one feels boiling up inside themselves when they discover that someone, for whatever fucked up reason, decided that it would be a BRILLIANT IDEA to play it as a sick practical joke: Fuck you, dude, there are families and lives that are ripped apart because of suicide and you wanted to make a mockery of it? I'm not normally one to say that there are things you just can't joke about, because that would be censorship and I hold very tightly to the idea that censorship is for cunts, but this Mannix character should feel free to go dine on some fine light-bulbs with a tall glass of bleach to wash the shards down: People actually thought you were dead, you sick fuck.

In the end (haha, see what I did there) death really is the only thing that anyone can really take seriously at all, there's never really any going back and no one, despite any and all claims, ACTUALLY KNOWS if anything awaits us on the other side. I can no more demonize the act of suicide than I can cutting of one's own leg, it's your body and your life so I can't tell you what to do with it so long as you don't mean anyone else any harm.

But please, I don't want you to kill yourself. If only because there may be circumstances that you might not have considered until now.