Wednesday, November 4, 2015

I Hate November

To those close to me who've been watching my Tweets & Facebook posts within the last 48 hours, you've probably been wondering what's been going on that's got me so freaked out and on edge lately. You'd probably be right in assuming that my PTSD has been fucking with me extra hard and really taking a toll on me, however I want to take a moment to assure you all that despite being extremely overwhelmed I am not suicidal. We all know how common suicidal ideation is among Soldiers and Veterans, so any of you who were worried about THAT being the case, your concerns are valid however (at this time) inaccurate. 

Monday 2-NOV-2015 was a shit day for more reasons than I care to recall, most of which I had little to no control over and could not have prevented. So with this post, for those who care (and for which I am VERY grateful for) I'm going to attempt to explain what has me in such a mental and emotional bind & why I'm going to call a doctor at my local VA at some point later today.

That morning, I had a real bastard of a bad dream about Iraq: Not a specific thing happening, per se, but a cluster-fuck of all of the feels I was feeling downrange (abandonment, disgust, horror, despair, etc...) all at once & in one place.

I'm no stranger to deployment dreams, I'm strongly under the impression that many fellow Veterans often experience this as well. It's not necessarily just "being back there" that troubles me, most of the time. I deployed with a less-than-savory lot who rarely hesitated to remind me that my life and wellbeing did not matter to them in the slightest, as I've already detailed more times than I care to recall in this very blog. I do have GOOD memories of being deployed, it's just that extremely few of them include my squadmates from 40th ESB. Most of them are interactions with Soldiers from other units and branches, even a few Iraqis that I met, on the rare occasion that I was able to do so.

So after waking up at around 0330 or so feeling flash-flooded with the immediate aftermath of experiences that I'd sooner saw off a tit than re-live ever again, I first tried desperately to calm down and fall back asleep: Obviously, I had just had a nightmare and could probably benefit from hitting an inner reset button, take a few deep breaths and think happy thoughts... only I couldn't fall back asleep. This happens from time to time, insomnia fucking blows but there's not much I can do about it, plus I also have an early morning class on Mondays so I may as well get up and make myself some coffee.

I proceed to drag my ass for the next two hours because despite a feeling of urgency and alertness, my limbs refused to cooperate with what my brain was ordering them to do: Get off the couch, get the damn coffee and get your ass to class!

I live very close to Fayetteville's bike trails, I can see the Scul Creek crossing from my apartment window. I cross this crosswalk every morning to walk to my bus-stop, that day some frat-boy jack-hole on his cell-phone decided to run the crosswalk with me still in it: He came within two feet of either maiming or straight-up killing me. I'm rather confident that if I had an object in my hand, I'd probably have thrown it at his head: I really don't like violence, but FUCKING HELL DUDE, YOU COULD HAVE KILLED ME! And I know the prick saw me, because I saw him turn toward me and then duck his head slightly, then he just kept on rolling like nothing happened at all. 

Hey dick-face, if I ever see you do that again I'll shove that phone so far up your lilly-white ass you'll be able to taste your next text-message.

Class wasn't anything really all that special, even though this is normally the class that I enjoy the most. I've also had more writing/essay assignments this semester than I had all of last year, which leaves me with almost no free time at all (hence, a huge reason why I haven't been posting all that much.) I came home eager to talk, obviously there is something going on and it's fucking with me pretty damn hard: It's not even lunchtime yet, and the knock-out-punch was still yet to come.

I'm very lucky in that I have an awesome husband whom I can talk to about almost anything and he'll usually understand, we have our disagreements from time to time but communication is something we've always taken very seriously and this has been a huge boon for us both. He knew I'd had a bad dream because he woke up around the same time I did, that aparrently I'd been shifting and whining in my sleep which is usually a clear indicator that something's wrong. Again, this happens from time to time, but usually I can navigate my way through the field of feels and get through my day unscathed.

So after some coffee and an otherwise pleasant heart-to-heart with someone I care about and love, this oughtta be enough to get me back on the right track... right? 

Sometime around noonish, a reminder notification popped up on my computer and my heart sank: I'm no stranger to forgetting birthdays, it's happened before even to friends and family because if it weren't for things like Facebook I'd never remember ANYONE'S birthday.

Monday was someone's birthday, alright: Someone I think about every single day, especially staring down feelings of guilt and regret almost every single morning in my own reflection. 

Someone I loved with every fiber of my being.

Someone who needed me when times got tough.

Someone I abandoned out of selfishness & fear.

Someone who's life was utterly destroyed partly because I'm a coward.

Yeah, there are a lot of times when he pops into my mind out of the blue and then I outright fucking hate myself for not having the balls to be a decent human being.

ALL of the feels, ALL of the 'I-told-you-so's' and 'wish-it-weren't-so's' as well as all of the lingering guilt and regret for things I could-have and should-have done, but didn't. EVERYTHING came crashing down on me all at once, from being publicly humiliated by my unit for loving someone they didn't approve of while refusing to cave to THEIR advances, to the last memory I have of holding him in my arms, to really wishing I'd had a rock in my hand at the crosswalk early in the morning, then flashing back to vomitting up the jar of stolen pills and the cold steel of the muzzle of my M-16 in my mouth a month or so before coming home from Iraq.

All of THAT came crashing down into my mind like a Predator Drone Strike at THE WORST POSSIBLE TIME.

Self loathing is exhausting.

NOW, let's Tarantino this chuckle-fuck back in time to about one week ago...

Since I ETSed out of the Army in 2013, only two medications have really helped me balance out & negotiate the trials of life with Service-Connected PTSD: Marijuana and Lamotrigine. I live right down the street from my local VA hospital and this is a College town, normally access to medicine isn't an issue for me and I'm extremely lucky in that regard. However, the order-from-home-prescription-refil service that my VA facility offers takes about a week. And while I like to partake in the occasional "herbal remedy" like any other red-blooded American, if I do it too often it has it's own realm of unpleasant side-effects, and so I moderate my (rare) use very carefully.

Due to a miscalculation on my part, I was unmedicated for an entire week.

It's easy to talk shit about "big-pharma" until your ability to fucking LIVE is compromised. Anti-vaxxers and anti-modern-medicine shills are the scum of the Earth and are thoroughly deserving of public scorn and ridicule. Yes, I rely on two tiny pills every morning to manage my ability to think straight without becoming overwhelmed to the point of collapse, but you know what? It sure as shit beats joining the Daily 22 just to prove a point.

I have my pills now, they finally arrived on schedule, and as soon as I hit the "publish" button, I'm calling my doctor for an appointment.

My negligence has already shattered ONE life that didn't deserve it, I'm not going to do it to MYSELF.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Super-Crunchy Non-GMO Granola

I'm writing this blog post in particular because I had a conversation very recently, the outcome of which is still upsetting me. Many people here in the South often stereotype "Liberals" as being whiny little piss-babies with empty heads and full wallets. I promise you this, I would not have considered moving South of the Mason Dixon line if I could afford, or stand, to continue living in my home (mostly Blue) State of Maine: Be advised, many Mainers are losing what little patience they already had with that fuck-stick of a Governor they call LePage (dude looks like my alcoholic auntie without her wig on, and whose decision-making capabilities and capacity for sound judgement are comparable) 

When it comes to talking about Soldiers and Veterans, especially in terms of politics, I tend to see a great deal of what I like to refer to as "Flag-Fapping." That is, publicly and unabashedly waxing 'patriotic' for the sole purpose of drawing attention to ones' self. The practice of Flag-Fapping can be readily observed manifesting in a variety of forms, such having one's photo taken holding a Bible in one hand and some manner of fire-arm in the other. Instances of Flag-Fapping often include, but are not limmited to, unnecessary bald-eagle paraphernalia, a perceived over-abundance of bacon, seemingly excessive "thanking" of the troops, posting Ayn Rand quotes out of context (intentionally) or most puzzling of all, expressing outrage over (real or perceived) desecration of the American flag while citing the Flag Code, also simultaneously wearing a t-shirt with the American flag printed upon it (which is ALSO a violation of that same Flag code, see also the landmark SCOTUS ruling Texas v. Johnson)

Flag-Fapping: You want everyone to know you're so goddamn patriotic that you can jerk it to the Star Spangled Banner, cum fireworks, whose sparks then turn into eagles that fart red-white-and-blue streaks across the sky as they fly in formation over untold hordes of marching troops, as legions of adoring civilians shower their heroes with bacon and $100 bills.

'Murica! FUCK YEAH!

Most of the time, when people thank me for my service, it's genuine; and I can tell the difference between a kind gesture versus Flag-Fapping. But when my military service gets dragged into online arguments about really bizarre things like wether or not someone thinks Caitlyn Jenner is "brave," then has the audacity to weild ME like a fucking shield, I wanna throw up in my mouth a little. Caitlyn Jenner just wants to be who she wants to be, and stood on a stage in a theater full of strangers openly declaring as such: That's a bigger deal than many people realize, and I'm not even talking about stage-fright. What pisses me off is that blind hero-worship is SO PREVALENT in our culture that the very idea of a soldier or veteran disagreeing with the person doing the Flag-Fapping/sheild-weilding, that soldiers and vets (like myself) that DON'T fit this constructed narrative are often dismissed, shunned, or called traitors.

It's more than just annoying, it's downright fucking rude: I am a PERSON, not your PROP. Please stop using my military service to justify things like racism, homophobia, transphobia, in fact, just stop doing that altogether. If YOU'RE a veteran, use YOUR OWN damn service as a platform for your opinions (whatever they might be.) Stop waving the suffering of other human beings around like a goddamn flag because you're too closed-minded to grasp otherwise simple concepts like equality and justice!

(sigh) ... And NOW, the reason I'm making this post.

The other extreme, the ultra-uber thrice-tie-dyed far-Left, is relatively rare (in my experience.) As previously mentioned, I grew up in Maine, which is probably (at the time) one of the most "liberal" States you've ever heard of. I lived in Portland for about 5 years, watched the Old Port transform from a cluster-fuck of grungy dive-bars to another cluster-fuck of trinket shops tailor made to drain gullible tourists of their money. Hippies, hipsters, homeless people, you name it we had it: It was also a super-expensive place to live, eventually I had no choice but to move South.

Being a godless lefty myself, there are times I think I've heard damn near everything. A few days ago, I found out that I was quite wrong: Over the course of my entire life, only 5 TIMES has anyone ever inferred that I'm a murderous peice of shit war-criminal directly responsible for the deaths of innocent Iraqis. Three of those five times it was through Tumblr (which should surprise exactly NO ONE) and another one time through Twitter. A few days ago, it was said straight to my face.

For the interest of not directly incriminating specific people and preserving my "career," I'm actually going to refrain from saying where I was, what I was doing, or even what started the conversation. I CAN tell you, that during the course of the "conversation" I found myself frequently cut-off, interrupted and talked-across, and that was even BEFORE I mentioned the fact that I'm an Iraq Vet. Not too long after which, I heard a sequence of generalized statements regarding the "Military Industrial Complex" (which doesn't mean what most people seem to think it does) along with corporate greed (which is true, no argument from me THERE) and that, basically, if people wouldn't enlist at all, there'd be no 'war machine' to keep rolling.

Whoah there! I was just a comms-technician, but a lowly pog, and by my own free admission not even a very good one at THAT! What's all this about WANTING to kill other human beings? That's a pretty bold statement about my character coming from someone who just met me less than an hour ago, in fact I can honestly (fortunately) say that while I was in Iraq I never once was put in a position where I had to shoot at or kill ANYBODY. My job was asking brass-grabbing Officers if they've tried plugging something in or turning it off-and-on again, not lining people up for some kind of slaughter. Basically, my job never involved killing anyone.

Her response: "Yeah, I'm sure the Germans making tick-marks on their lists as people were marched into the ovens said the same thing."


I can be, as I often think that I have always been, an asshole. But what I AM NOT is a needlessly violent person, and I say "needlessly" in particular because I'm not the kind of person to intentionally start a fight with anyone. If someone throws the first punch and I can't get away, then of course, hitting them back is understandable. I think most rational people would agree that resorting to violence in a moment of anger doesn't accomplish anything.

I didn't even feel like flipping my desk, I just wanted to cry.

Seriously? Did you just compare me to a goddamn GESTAPO and then try to play off the whole conversation like you're somehow a victim of a system you obviously KNOW NOTHING ABOUT? Do you honestly mean to tell ME that you're incapable of discerning the fundamental difference between fixing a phone and FUCKING GENOCIDE?!?!? 

Holy shit, I met one... a real one, alive and in the flesh: I actually met what Flag-Fapping strangers on the internet think that I AM (which I am SO FUCKING NOT) ... an ignorant sack of crap. I know, I know, I m breaking the 'cardinal rule' of atheism and debating, "Thou shalt not resort to Ad Hominem, for it is a logical fallacy and just not a nice thing to do anyway" but I do have my fucking limits. Anyone who knows me knows that I don't handle accusatory statements very well: When a previous employer accused me of something I didn't do, all it took was the mere hint that I was considering legal action and they shut right up, and to think that it all could have been easily avoided if they had just checked the damn cameras like I told them to.

As previously mentioned, this is extraordinarily rare. Even among fellow liberals, damn near none of them genuinely harbor this kind of "fuck the troops" mentality that the right-wingers often stereotype us for. As for the three instances I encountered on Tumblr, it's Tumblr. Even Tumblr is occasionally shocked and disgusted by Tumblr, so I can't say I was at all surprised. Hurt and pissed off, but not surprised. But coming out of the mouth of an actual human being, it cut deep.

And I didn't even get a proper chance to explain the error of her statement or otherwise defend myself.

Something I can do in abundance (and without restraint) HERE...

America's occupation of Iraq was illegal and never should have happened, already there seems to be some measure of agreement among historians, legal experts and some military leaders on THAT. Even I won't dispute it, I really won't. But here's the big glaring obvious difference between MY military service and what the Nazis did to the rest of Europe: Genocide and destruction was the single primary goal and purpose of the Nazi regimes, and while Bush used shoddy information to justify the violent invasion of Iraq in 2003, our military objectives and missions were absolutely NOTHING OF THE SORT. 

On that note, Abu Ghraib never should have happened, but here's the difference: The people involved are monsters who broke the law for their own sick satisfaction, and those responsible were rightly tried for their crimes and sentenced to prison. Well, except the Officers in command, of course, which doesn't surprise me at all. Officers can get away with damn near anything, including ACTUAL war-crimes, it seems. The difference between Abu Ghraib and Dachau is that while it never should have happened at all, when we DID find out about it, we held those responsible accountable.

The difference between kicking down doors looking for suspected insurgents versus kicking down doors and rounding up whole families into trains should be painfully obvious, but aparrently not. Do you honestly mean to tell me that giving food and shelter to Iraqi families whose lives were destroyed by Saddam's Fedayeen & Ba'ath Party is in any way comparable to shoving people into gas ovens? 

And on the subject of Iraqis killing EACHOTHER, I hate to rain on your pity-parade, but that was actually a thing. And unless you've been living under a rock, it still is very much a thing. If you want to rant about millions of dead Iraqis, fine, but I'm going to write up a little equation for you to try and work out and see if your "answer" still holds up.

Consider the following: A "sovereign" nation with a dreadful track-record of killing it's own people off en-mass for no significant reason other than their 'dear leader' felt like it. This nation had no established polling or census means in it's entire history, meaning that unless you were a registered member of the Ba'ath Party, your life didn't matter. That means that Kurds, Yezidis, Armenians and other non-Arabs living in the country (even other muslims, especially Shia) were perceived as having no value and not fully human. Anyone the Ba'ath or the Fedayeen felt like fucking with had no recourse, to include extermination and enslavement. Now... in comes an invading force hastily thrown together at the collective whim of their own "leaders" without proper training or equipment, not knowing anything about the local culture or even the language, nevermind the atrocities they've been effectively commiting against THEMSELVES that were already going on since the 1970's. Someone shoots first, the other side shoots back, people die. The regime falls, but the Fedayeen manage to keep their shit together and enlist outside help in maintaining thier presence among the people. Without a government to serve, the Fedayeen no longer need uniforms or flags, just persistence and unabashed cruelty. They continue torturing and executing anyone who gets in their way, including anyone sympathetic to the invaders or even accused as such, just as they always have before the invaders arrived. A group of invaders fucks up royally (E.G., Abu Ghraib) and the Fedayeen manage to turn the situation to their advantage, justifying even more killing because hey, "we're not as bad as THOSE guys." After a long and bloody war of attrition (basically, who can be the sicker bastards) the occupying force eventually gathers what they can and leaves, while what's left of the Fedayeen forces give themselves a new name and dines on the corpse of an already broken country.

After all of this, if the answer you come up with is still "f(x) = Hitler" then you clearly haven't been paying attention to what's been happening int he Middle East, or in the U.S., for the last 30 years. And that wall-of-text took me the better part of an hour to carefully word-smith to leave room for error: Few military historians seem willing to touch this particular topic, so I've taken to reading & researching it on my own for the last 3 years.

No, we can't account for the millions of Iraqis that were killed during the occupation because we have no reliable way of knowing how many of them were dead before we got there.

Trust me, you don't need to lecture ME about how fucking horrible war is. But what you AREN'T going to do is put me in a box, demonize me for things I had no control over, and then tell me that this is somehow MY FAULT because poverty drove me to a particular line of work that you happen to not like. Do you have any goddamn clue how many people enlisted after the housing bubble burst in 2008? Do you have any idea how many people enlist just to get as far away from the inner city/trailer park/reservation as they possibly can? If you had no other prospects what-so-fucking-ever for basic needs like food, shelter, healthcare or even education, ESPECIALLY if you have kids, tell me with a straight face that the thought wouldn't cross your mind. Tricare health benefits FOR KIDS: I've lost count of how many people I've met who enlisted for THAT REASON ALONE! But no, we're all mindless blood-crazed Nazis because you don't understand what our military ACTUALLY IS?

Do you really think it's just as easy as telling them to lay their weapons down and refuse to fight, because YOU say so, when often the penalties for doing so include a felony conviction and imprisonment without parole, or never seeing their families again? Do you not understand that you can't force your ideals, for good or ill, onto other people just because you personally don't approve of their choices? On that note, do you even have a working concept of what freedom of choice means and why others aren't obligated to agree with or even respect your opinions, or mine for that matter? How can you say to me, with a straight face, that you're a Buddhist and all about compassion for other sentient beings while simultaniously telling me that my own suffering was deserved because I, like millions of other Veterans before me, just wanted a paycheck and some hot meals? SERIOUSLY?!?!

If you REALLY cared about stopping bullshit wars, then be ever mindful who you vote for and who you buy things from: THEY make the decisions, NOT ME. And ACTUALLY fucking vote, I hope at least you're not THAT much of a coward.

We live in a country that was founded on, built upon, and continues to thrive by way of, prowess in warfare. If you were really so genuine in your self-proclaimed commitment to peace, then you'd give your house and land BACK to the Native Americans your ancestors stole it from without bickering about the massive financial loss you'd suffer. If your commitment to stopping war in the Middle East was as sincere as you claim, you'd never use anything with an internal combustion engine (to include public transportation) OR anything made of plastic, EVER AGAIN.

But you're not going to do any of that, are you? Of course not, that would be inconvenient. Of course it would be, just like the aura-shattering reality that HUMAN BEINGS OCCASIONALLY KILL ONE ANOTHER, and on occasion THEY ARE justified in doing so!  That doesn't make the situation any less shitty, but it's the world we live in wether or not we like the idea. Are soldiers and Veterans somehow not deserving of the exact same 'compassion' you claim to emulate?

Because if you think what you're peddling is 'compassion,' calling me and others like me "Nazis" or "war-criminals" isn't compassion: It's arrogance, ignorance, and fucking disgusting hypocrisy.

You're doing just as much damage as the Flag-Fapping theocratic Republicans, and you can't even be completely honest about it.

Ever hear of Tumblr?

Monday, July 27, 2015

On Sandra Bland & Racism

Odds are, this is probably going to be the longest apology you're going to read today. Ever since Mike Brown's death, Eric Garner's death, Tamir Rice's death, and now the highly suspicious death of activist Sandra Bland (as well as hundreds of other black Americans whose names are escaping me at the moment) some wheels have started turning in my head and today I'd like to share what they've churned out. There seems to be a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding regarding concepts such as privilege and institutionalized racism, as well as an often misunderstood concept called Cultural Appropriation, which isn't going to be the main focus of this entry, but I will discuss it briefly. 

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last year or so, then you've probably noticed that black Americans of varying ages & backgrounds are dying horrific, unnecessary deaths at the hands of police. I'd like to think that we live in a fair & just society, as I WOULD LOVE to actually live in a fair & just society, but I've long ago accepted the reality of the world we ACTUALLY live in being chaotic, unfair, and occasionally downright cruel: This is a fact of life, "welcome to Earth" in all it's horror & glory, but I think that a lot of people who have this kind of mentality often forget that many of these kinds of 'cruelties' in life are easily preventable.

I'd hate to be a cop right now. Good or bad, people are watching the cops like their rights depend on it, mostly because THEY DO.

In my many past conversations with black squad-mates, co-workers and friends, I've noticed that certain jokes and anecdotes would often dominate those conversations. Most notable, sarcastic references to police fucking with them during traffic stops. Sure, I've been stopped by police for things like speeding or running a stop sign, but the worst that I'VE ever walked away from was a $200 ticket for having an expired registration (Note: In light of recent events, if you're ever pulled over within city limits of Westbrook Maine, it might be a good idea to have a camera handy.) True, my tags waere, in fact, expired, by a few months if I recall correctly; but every time I told my story among black Americans, the follow-up with almost always take a strange turn. For a long time it seemed very strange to me, that I just rather assumed that because the law said that cops HAVE TO regard the public fairly, that by default THEY WOULD. The general idea that I took from these conversations was that I could consider myself (a then-20-something year old white woman) lucky that they didn't pull me out of the car and kick my ass.

Up until recently, I thought of these sardonic responses with an air of humor to them. But lately, with every headline of black Americans dying in full view of rolling cameras, or even within jail cells, I can't quite summon the same cynical 'humor' that I used to. The more I see the parents & families of the dead plead for inquiries and investigations, I guess I no longer find racism "funny."

The fact that NOT ONCE has a traffic stop made me fear for my life speaks volumes to the sick reality of something called White Privilege.

I already know that I spend way too much time on Tumblr, but not for the reasons you're probably assuming (now that I've dropped that particular phrase.) Allow me to attempt to explain how concepts such as privilege ACTUALLY work, at least so far as I presently understand them:

  • Not having to be afraid of cops searching your home or vehicle without probable cause
  • Reasonable confidence in a prospective employer reading your resume AND actually calling you for an interview, especially if your name is a common one that is easily pronounced
  • The rarity of anyone looking twice at you playing your music loudly as you drive by
  • Strangers NOT touching your hair or asking you weird questions about it
  • The perceived "ability" to say the word without consequence... you know the one of which I speak
I realize that these examples aren't perfect, but this is the best way I can explain them because these are based from my own experiences, especially when I cross reference them with the experiences of those around me, especially people of color. I'll address the specific subject of the word later in this post, that's where the apology will come in. In light of recent events, both the suspicious death of Sandra Bland as well as the controversy about the Confederate flag, I will still adamantly defend free speech, but I must emphasize that free speech IS NOT freedom from consequence: If you want to wave the "stars & bars" from the back of your truck, regardless of your motivations for doing so, that's your right because it's YOUR property and therefore YOUR consequence to bear. As for flying it on State or Federal property, basically anything paid for by taxpayers, that's a NO-GO: Why should black Americans, or anyone for that matter, have to pay for that to be displayed on public lands? Why should I, as an atheist, have to pay for a 10 commandments "monument" to be erected on government property when they embody an institution that endorses hate and violence against me just because I exist? 

If it's a private citizen slapping a sticker on their vehicle or a flag on their own private property, then whatever; I couldn't care less what Jimmy-Joe-Bobby-Danny-Frank does with HIS OWN STUFF. When a GOVERNMENT ENTITY flies a Confederate flag, or puts up a giant cross, however, THAT IS NOT FREE SPEECH: That's showing undue favor toward a particular ideal that may or may not represent the people or their best interests, especially when doing so involves use of taxpayer money. Amazon & Wal-Mart no longer carrying Confederate flag merchandise is ALSO not (technically) a violation of free speech because they are PRIVATELY OWNED BUSINESSES, and their CEO's & Shareholders can make whatever decisions they please, and to the best of my knowledge, that particular decision was made completely voluntarily. 

Contrary to popular belief, white people CAN say the word: It's prefectly legal and is, in most situations, protected speech. We just have no fucking business whatsoever doing so, which brings me to my apology for having done so...

Sometime about a year or so ago, I remember getting into a discussion about race with some friends on Twitter. I don't remember what started it, exactly, but I do remember a brief discussion about the word and how there was a perceived superficial "difference" between black Americans and a group of people categorized under the word. This was roughly around the same time that Atheism Plus started evicting people from their elite ranks & pre-emptively banning people on Twitter for even hinting that they disagreed with their organization or their opinions. Again, they're a private entity and legally they can do so, but they still suck: Yes, I've somehow managed to find my way on their stupid little shit-list, but to my surprise, it's NOT for the reason I'm about to apologize for.

During this conversation, I recall making a tweet about "loving & respecting black people," and then "hating..." well, I used THE WORD. I used the word to categorize an entire race of human beings in the perjorative, I did so of my own volition but thinking that somehow there was an ACTUAL difference. I tweeted a racial slur against black Americans, I did this (at the time) thinking that I was being distinctive and "edgy" but in light of recent events, I now realize just how fucked up and wrong that was of me to do.

I am sorry: I should not have done this, I see now how divisive and damaging the word is, and in the future I promise not to use it again.

Some people close to me are probably going to be pretty pissed off at me over it, and I can't rightly say that I'd blame them: You have every right to be disappointed and angry at me, and please go right ahead and let me know if you do. Your anger is justified and I'm not even going to bother trying to justify it or explain it away. Twitter is forever, opinions and beliefs are not. The recent exposure of police brutality, as well as ongoing conversations about race and privilege, have forced me to confront my pre-existing ideas and opinions.

Especially in terms of language and actions.

I don't expect anyone to readily accept my apology, but I am genuinely remorseful for having done this.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

New Artwork (NSFW)

This is proving to be an interesting, and somewhat difficult, Summer for me. I somehow managed to pass the most difficult algebra course I've ever taken (and, hopefully, the LAST ONE I'll ever have to take) in my entire life... with a B. Don't mistake my amazement for ingratitude, because I'm glad I passed the course & met the University curriculum requirement, but holy shit I suck at math so I'm honestly wondering how the fuck that happened. 

But in non-academia related news, I'm having minor surgery at the end of this month: I'm finally getting my tubes tied, and since I'm getting it done through the V.A Hospital, I shouldn't have to pay a dime for it. They say it's a 15 minute out-patient procedure & that I'll be back on my feet within a matter of days. The only downside is that earlier in the month they had to remove my I.U.D, which was followed by a regiment of heavy antibiotics that seemed to do little more than make me sick and fuck me up. I'm fine now, but the odds are good they're going to put me back on them not long after the procedure.

But enough about my lady-bits, I wanted to take some time to show you fine people a bit of what I've been up to in what little free time I've had. Last year, I started work on a series of paintings using donated & discarded military uniforms. Mostly due to school, I've had to put off working on the project until a later date. I'm nowhere near done with this project, but lately I think I've made some pretty significant progress: And today, I'd like to share what I've made with the good people of the Internet.

Keep in mind, this series was made with an underlying theme of sexism, misogyny, and religious fundamentalism that I've experienced in the American military. 

Also, at present, none of these have been framed and they are not up for sale (yet.) I want to make enough that I can display them in a gallery setting before I decide how much I want to charge for them. I'm running out of some crucial supplies faster than the idea-machine that is my mind can keep up with, so if you happen to know where I can get more intact ACUs for cheap, please do let me know. More photos of my work can be seen on my Instagram

I haven't quite decided yet what title I want to give this one, but the message should be clear: They show you EXACTLY what they want you to see while trying to hide the things they DON'T.

What we see here are three figures: Two dead women, one of whom is being "displayed" in from of an old television set by a male wearing the uniform, who is trying to hide the body of the other woman from view of the audience (the TV.) During my time in the military, especially while deployed, I heard no end of condemnation of Iraqis treating their own women like shit, even stoning them to death for having beed raped. All the while barely acknowledging the creeping plague of violence and discrimination against women wearing our own uniform, ESPECIALLY rape. 

The male figure is pointing out the "tragedy" that is the dead woman in the niqab for all the public to see, while deliberately hiding both the dead female soldier (the nude figure in the Belleville boots & pro-mask, this will be a recurring theme in this series) AND the bloody knife behind his own back. It's the worst kind of bold-faced hypocrisy that I can think of: Condemning an entire group of people for comitting the exact same kind of violence and discrimination that you are, the only substantial difference is the clothing. 

Moving on...

I'm thinking of calling this one "S.H.A.R.P Training." I realize there's a bit of a shine coming from the right-hand side of the image, that was unavoidable.

S.H.A.R.P is an acronym for Sexual Harassment and Assault Reporting and Prevention: Indeed, the American military loves it's acronyms, they make what should be crucually important ideas and turn them into easily digestible little chunks to be processed quickly & efficiently. In my experience, though, the Army treats S.H.A.R.P training like a "politically correct" inconvenience. Many of my squamates, from my previous unit as well as others, report a similar reaction to the training overall; it's a fucking joke to these people.

Of the several figures in this painting, we see a male N.C.O (Non-Comissioned Officer, any enlisted soldier with a rank of Sergeant or higher) taking the dominant position in our feild of view, he's holding two female figures forcibly by their hair in front of a group of other soldiers. S.H.A.R.P training is typically the responsibility of an N.C.O, though in my experience I've seen lower-level comissioned officers administer it as well, and it's supposed to be conducted either on some sort of regular rotation OR after an incident is reported. 

In my experience and observation, as well as those of my squadmates, the general idea is your typical "No means no, Restricted vs Unrestricted Reports, 'Don't be THAT guy' blah blah blah" kind of speeches, sometimes accompanied by a Power-Point slideshow & sign-in roster. Only what will also happen, rather often actually, is a follow up with "Don't be that GIRL" tropes, full of nods at 'her reputation,'  'what you were wearing,' or 'drawing attention to yourself' etc... otherwise known as victim-blaming or slut-shaming: People think they're being fair, but this ACTUALLY creates an impression that if something DOES happen to someone, that the recipient is somehow to blame for their attackers' actions. In the context of assault & harassment in the military, I've always found the "what were you wearing" question especially ridiculous. I was assaulted & harassed by a male squadmate when I was depolyed to Iraq in 2011, I was wearing the uniform I was fucking issued when he forced his way into my room! 

Next piece...

I don't know what to call this one yet, either. The painting itself isn't very large, either: It's actual dimensions are 8 by 10 inches.

I wish I were joking or exaggerating about this, but ever since Basic Training in 2009 up until my last days in the Army (and occasionally, I still get this drivel forwarded to me via Facebook) I must have heard every single imaginable half-baked 'argument' about why people think women shouldn't be in the military, and I've repeatedly refuted EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. I get it, you don't want me here: Well I'm already here so either find a way to deal with it or kindly fuck right off.

The Army knows they need us, even if they don't actually WANT us. Type the term "Army FET Team" into Google and see for yourself where we are headed. Wether or not you like the idea, you CHOSE to join the military and the institution permits you to stay as long as you abide certain rules & standards. The military did not "choose" YOU, never forget that.

Moving on (and this next one's going to be a bit, how shall I put this... Georgia O'Keeffe)

Yes, that is EXACTLY what it looks like: A bold & brazen digi-cammo vulva, and I'm thinking of calling this one "Hooah" ;-)

Hey, you saw the Not Safe For Work tag in the title, otherwise you wouldn't have opened the link! We're all adults here, we should be able to discuss things like vagina paintings calmly and rationally, right? It would seem as if other 'grown adults' within the military don't seem to think so, for some strange reason. I promise you that I didn't paint this image for pure shock value, I have a reason (and a story) behind this. 

Of the many subjects we occasionally have to sit through briefings about, there are officially sanctioned health & safety presentations regarding sexually transmitted diseases: The Army has to do this because of parents who refuse to do their damn jobs and educate their own kids properly on the subject, then when they reach enlistment age they often catch S.T.D's like they were goddamn Pokemon. I'll never forget the very LAST briefing about sex & diseases that I ever had to sit through, it actually made me incredibly angry...

The woman they tasked to give this particular briefing couldn't have been that much older than ME, and I was 32 at the time: Supposedly, she worked with the Raymond W Bliss Hospital on post (Fort Huachuca, Arizona) but I must have been there thousands of times & I'd never seen her before. She has poofy house-wifey hair, a mauve sweater and wore "mom-jeans" that looked way too starched. She seemed relatively polite and sincere, especially when considering having to stand in a room full of strangers talking about infected genitalia, but she had this incredibly aggrivating habit that made me want to slap the shit out of her: She could name every single individual piece of MALE anatomy by their proper medical terms, but whenever she was presented with anything involving FEMALE anatomy, she'd give this stupid little shrug-and-giggle and only call it "Hoo-haa."

Both sets of Labia were the "Hoo-haa"

The clitoris was also a "Hoo-haa"

Pubis mons, vulva, urethra, etc = "Hoo-haa"

EVERYTHING biologically female (regarding this particular presentation, as the military STILL won't allow transgender soldiers regardless of wether or not they transition) was reduced to the level of jr high school snickering followed by the obligatory "Hoo-haa" as if this bitch wasn't grown enough to know what her own organs are, as if she was ashamed of being a fucking woman and had to let everyone else know it, too! And the REALLY irritating part of this, is that every time she did it, others in the audience would laugh. 

Seriously, bitch? What are you, goddamn 9 years old!? Did you only just recently pick up a copy of Grey's Anatomy and skim through it while glancing over your shoulder like a fucking CHILD?!?!?! Fuck you, you willfully ignorant Stepford escapee!


*deep breath, bong rip*

Yep, apparently not only is being a woman something to be embarassed about overall, but in the Army it is something to avoid openly asserting at any cost. Lest one becomes reduced to the subject of juvenile sneers or giggles it would behoove you to completely forget who you are.

And lastly, I'd like to bring you back to the beginning of this series...

THIS painting is actually twice as tall as it is wide, part of the reason why it didn't photograph terribly well. It's about a year old and I STILL have no idea what to title it.

What you (unfortunately) can't see in this photograph is her stepping nervously in poorly fitted Belleville boots, the idea was to create a feeling of fear and nervousness like she's being unwittingly exposed to a situation she might not have any control over. As I said earlier, there's a recurring theme of female figures in Bellevilles & pro-masks to signify that this figure is supposed to be a soldier, but not quite. I did this on purpose, here's why: In order for a figure to have an identity, they need to have a face. Having a face shows that you are a person, and a person has feelings and rights. Have you ever worn a pro-mask? It's awful, they smell weird and aren't easy to breathe through; I chose the pro-mask on these figures to demonstrate the "dehumanizing" element of sexism, especially sexual violence, against women in the military.

Once you step forward and make a report, or someone so much as notices you in the wrong context, the ensuing harassment and retaliation serves to strip you of your status as a human being and turn you into a 'thing' to be acted upon. You become an inconvenience, a walking meat-sack occupying otherwise an otherwise useful uniform. You identity ceases to be YOU and becomes what is dictated TO YOU or even UPON YOU, at least as far as THEY are concerned.

I hope you've enjoyed what I've shown you so far, there will be more work to come in the future.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Lament of a Liberal Atheist Iraq Veteran

So I’m thinking I might be DONE looking to forums like Facebook or G+ pages catered to Soldiers & Veterans, mostly Iraq & Afghanistan Vets like myself: I know, I know, it’s “social media” and anyone can use it, and I’ve long ago accepted that I can’t control what other people post. But, and it saddens me to admit this publicly, I’m starting to think that my fellow Veterans (mostly those who served in the Middle East like I did) are quite possibly the most easily brain-washed, closed minded & willfully ignorant people I’ve interacted with in recent memory.

OF COURSE THERE ARE GOING TO BE EXCEPTIONS, as at present this mostly seems to happen on forum pages instead of with other people I've served with (I can already see it, “#NotAllVeterans”)

It’s just that lately I’m seeing so goddamn many public military forums break down to Ad-Hom at the drop of a hat, often over minor disagreements like the Flag Code, women in combat, PT standards, many of them will blast each other over anything that upsets them in the slightest. These forums are becoming less and less about community support and camaraderie, as they seem to have all-out turned into social & intellectual war-zones in of themselves.
Fuck forbid you try to explain how and why the Consitution trumps the flag itself, that flag-bearing t-shirts and coffee mugs are also Flag Code violations that no one’s making a fuss about, suddenly everyone and their dog wants to call my Commanding Officer, my Battalion, or just straight up insult & threaten me (which is rare, but it DOES happen from time to time.) Fellow Soldiers also seem convinced that service in our military is somehow de-facto service to a Christian institution, which it is very much NOT: I even gave a pretty lengthy presentation about this very subject at the University of Arkansas earlier this year, but hey, what the fuck do I know, right? I'm just a godless communist because I took the time & spent the effort doing research on something that has directly impacted my military career AND my personal life (to be fair, they got the 'godless' part right) despite the facts happening to be terribly inconvenient, even for ME. Even on the pages made for & made by FEMALE TROOPS, I find rape apologism and internalized misogyny. What the actual fuck, OVER!?!? 

I don't rightly give a flying-lizard-clit who you are or what your rank is: If you're defending rape or shaming a victim, YOU ARE A DISGRACE TO THAT UNIFORM AND OUR COUNTRY.

So why do I think this is becoming a problem within our armed forces and surrounding communities? My answer is this: Shortsightedness, basically the reluctance or inability to think beyond the immediate consequences of one's own words or actions to the point that the very concept no longer being in the military completely escapes them. If you're an 11-Bang-Bang who doesn't want to have to serve with women, do you really honestly think that once you hang up that uniform the real world is going to continue to accomodate your willful ignorance? If you can't handle the thought of a woman in your convoy, how do you think you're going to handle having one as your supervisor at the office? If you can't stand the idea that one of your squad-mates might be gay, and have no issue letting them know this, about how well do you expect that to work when you eventually have to go work for a Fortune 500 company with a strict non-discrimination policy? 
Don't get me wrong, I served with a lot of Soldiers who were genuinely decent human beings. I also served with a lot of arrogant shit-heads who's undeserved rank patches on their ACU's are probably going to only ever be their greatest acheivement in their lives, people who are so full of themselves they're no longer fit to shovel shit from one pile to another. There's a term for this in the Army, they call it "Toxic Leadership," and boy-howdy was 40th ESB toxic! When a female E-6 tells you to your face that she hopes someone rapes you just so you learn a lesson, you know your entire Unit is shit. 
A lot of military personnel can't seem to grasp the concept of long-term consequence, that just because you're wearing a flag & uniform like a personal sheild doesn't mean your bad behavior won't follow you after you eventually hang it up & get your DD-214. I have, in my immediate possession, footage of a male E-6 physically striking another male PFC that I sincerely regret NOT releasing to the public; I'm thinking that at some point in the future, I should just go ahead and do it. Fuck it, why not? What are they going to do, come to my apartment and give me a stern talking-to? If they're willing to do anything to me, it'd be quite a bit more than what they did to admonish the soldier who forced his way into my room and physically/sexually assaulted me  in 2011 (and for THAT, they literally did nothing AT ALL.) Really, if cops can be made to wear body-cameras, then, situation depending, why not run-of-the-mill Soldiers? Since corruption, fundamentalism and violence seem so pervasive in military culture anyway, why not encourage Soldiers to film each other? 

Unless there's an immediate issue of security clearance, at present I'm unaware of any pressing reason why this would be impossible or impractical.

And honestly, I think I'm done trying to explain the "freedom" that we claim to defend to people who just aren't interested. If all it gets me is a lot of pissed-off theocrats and flag-fappers sending me nasty comments, then what is this really doing for me? I tried learning how to debate properly like a good atheist so that I could sucessfully challenge bad ideas with logic and reason, but some people just don't wanna hear it. They only want to hear their own opinions & biases echoed back to them, which I admit that I am guilty of from time to time: The difference is that I can disagree with people and still be friends with them, until they give me a concrete reason not to be anymore.
Final note, these are just my thoughts and opinions. I appreciate you taking time to hear me out on this, regardless of wether or not I'm right about any of it: I can only ever be myself, I don't expect or demand people to agree with everything I say.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

I Want to Go For a Walk!

I know, I know: Where the bloody-grunge-fuck have I been? Do you want the simple answer or the needlessly complicated one? Short & sweet answer, ever since the start of the Fall 2014 semester at the University of Arkansas started, I've been balls-deep in academia with almost no free time of my own. The really complcated answer involves school, sure enough, as well as relationship issues, a slight 'complication' that arose as a direct result of running out of medication, a road trip to lovely Boulder CO, spending way more money than any human being should ever have to on text-books that I'm only ever going to use ONCE, and a whole bunch of other shit. 

I'm fine, John & I are both fine, school is going fine: For the most part, everything is under control. 

A handful of former squad-mates have been in contact with me with their own alarming news about what's been going on in their lives, both as current and former members of my previous Unit (I deployed as a member of the 40th Expeditionary Signal Battalion to Iraq in 2010, they were a collective clusterfuck of religious fundamentalism and general top-heavy incompetence: From what I've learned recently, not much has changed since I ETSed in 2013.) For their sake, I'm not going to go into what exactly has been going on for them because there's a chance, albeit a small one, that it may put them in immediate danger. That, and I don't think they'd take too kindly to having their personal/professional affairs being thrown all over the internet like chum over shark infested waters.

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, I have a unique opportunity coming up soon: A plan is in the works for me to give a small presentation about religious extremism within the American military, as well as issues faced by non-believing soldiers, at the University of Arkansas on March 8th. I was asked by the secular student RSO, Occam's Razors, and I'll be the first to admit that while I'm super-excited to be giving such a presentation, I have no idea what the fuck I'm doing. 

I've never had my own public event like this before, EVER.

Most events like this presented by Occam's Razors are free and open to the public, until I hear otherwise from them I'm going to safely assume that this one will probably be the same. I'm chomping at the bit, but I'm also just a little bit fucking terrified. That's not a whole lot of time to throw a Power-Point presentation together, and I need to gather information from the most accurate sources I can find (I have a few in mind.) 

I'll TRY to stay on top of things & keep you good folks up to speed. The last couple of months have just been tiring and stressful. My vacation in Boulder was fantastic and very well needed, and maybe as I find time I'll write a post about THAT, but for now I'm going to focus on my school-work and coming up with material for this presentation. 

Be good to each-other, dammit.