My name is Angela and I am a newsaholic, in particular a politicsaholic. A political junkie. A consumer of political stories. Primarily via radio and the internet.
As of today, I’m halfway through taking a week off from satellite radio on my daily commute, and this has also been a week of unusual “extra” driving to meetings. Most of the time, I’m listening to a book instead–Playing Big by Tara Mohr thanks to Laura Simms–and I’ll write about that in another post. Sometimes I drive in silence.
With the 2016 election cycle heating up, politics will be ever more tempting in the coming weeks and months, and I’m going to try to remember the difference in the way I feel this week after my driving/listening time. Listening to political news makes me feel powerless and tired and stressed; it also gives me the illusion of doing something to be the change I want to see in the world.
On the other hand, listening to a book leaves me inspired and energized. Wanting to take the microphone.
My ex-father-in-law died five years ago on Veterans Day, November 11, 2004.
This is part of what I wrote in his obituary: “He was born August 29, 1920 in Forest Park, Illinois. He volunteered and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1939, serving on submarines, destroyers, and battleships. A qualified submariner, gun captain, soundman and radar operator, Wes served as gunner on five submarine combat missions during World War II, sinking numerous enemy vessels while he and his crewmates narrowly escaped death on a number of occasions. Wes was awarded the Navy Commendation, Asiatic Pacific Service, American Area, Philippine Liberation, American Defense with an 'A,' World War II Victory, Korean Service, United Nations Service, China Service, Navy Occupation (European) Medals and various other honors and awards. He retired after 20 years of decorated Naval Service at the rank of Chief Gunner's Mate.”
All of that would have been important to him, but five years later, I add this:
Wes was proud of the medals I wrote about. He had wanted them for years, and getting them from the Navy was a project that took months. Angela, have you sent the letters about my medals?
Naval service was, for him, about doing the right thing according to a simple code of honor that had to do with sacrifice for his fellow seamen as well as for his country. He told the story of risking his life to disarm a live and malfunctioning gun, an act for which I believe he won the Navy Commendation medal. He didn’t see it as particularly courageous. It was the right thing, it was who he was. He was humble and brave and he was also one of the kindest men I have ever known.
During the last month of his life we traveled to Mobile, Alabama to attend a reunion of some of the men for whom he would have given his life, the veterans of the USS Texas battleship, and then almost immediately afterward he began the intermittent hospital stays that consumed his last weeks. The time I spent with him then was indescribably sweet.
I sat with him in the hospital one weekend after I had just begun the MFA program I will (finally) complete next Spring, and I was working on something for a workshop. I’m fine, don’t worry about me, he would say when I would stop writing in my notebook. Just keep writing. It’s important.
On November 8, 2004, Wes went home from the hospital via ambulance. I slept on the floor beside the hospital bed in his living room three nights, grateful for every breath. Thursday, November 11, Veterans Day, he died.
You can watch the first part of Rihanna's interview with Diane Sawyer here.
Diane Sawyer: Why be ashamed? Why should you be ashamed?
Rihanna: I fell in love with that person. That's embarrassing . . . that that's the type of person that I fell in love with, so far in love, so unconditional that I went back. It's humiliating to see your face like that, it's humiliating to say that this happened, to accept that."
I applaud Rihanna for this interview. Cynics say that she is only talking as part of promoting her record, but regardless of her motives, which are no doubt complex, her speaking out will help women to feel less shame, or at least to examine their own shame.
Please imagine yourself as a high-school girl. The fifteen-year-old you dresses up for a homecoming dance, wearing a sparkly purple dress and faux diamond jewelry. Choosing the dress has been your obsession for weeks. The jewels make you feel like a princess. You spend all afternoon on your hair and makeup.
You go alone to the dance, excited and nervous and hopeful that you will meet your friends, be comfortable and accepted, dance, flirt, gossip, laugh. Your father will pick you up at an appointed time. You have your cell phone so you will be safe.
When I put myself in the heels of a fifteen-year-old whose potentially joyful rite of passage ends with a horrific gang-rape and beating, I feel overwhelmed with sadness and powerlessness.
The bystanders stood by. We don't have to.
Dora McQuaid has created a Facebook Group called "Circle of Light" and if you're on FB, please join the group and post your prayers. If you're not on FB, please join the circle of light by offering your prayers for this survivor.
Here are some resources from the FB "Circle of Light" group page:
I reread Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Self Reliance" and hope for more subtlety as well as more civility:
"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored
by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a
great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself
with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words,
and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though
it contradict every thing you said to-day. — 'Ah, so you shall be
sure to be misunderstood.' — Is it so bad, then, to be
misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and
Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every
pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be
Take a chance at greatness, at being misunderstood. Speak the hard words. Don't parrot the lines of any ideology for the sake of consistency alone. We may not be in 1841 Concord, Massachusetts, but we can give it a try.
In 2004, my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. Today she is a 5-plus-year survivor, thank God.
In 2006, she and I walked in the Breast Cancer 3-Day together. I displayed pink ribbons and consumed products that promised to make donations to breast-cancer-related causes. I would have said unequivocally that National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and all that goes with it were beneficial. How could they be anything else?
I'm more jaded now, though, and I have a little pink-ribbon fatigue. I also ran across Think Before You Pink, which reports on how many dollars actually go to breast-cancer-related causes from our purchases (not as many as one might hope).
I've been thinking about Roman Polanski's extradition fight.
My first reaction was that he should have come back (or been brought back) to the US to face his charges long ago. I am not swayed by references to his artistic talent or claims that he has suffered by his self-imposed exile in Europe.
His victim's position that she has gotten over the rape, and that the media's focus on her story, more than Polanski's rape, has caused her harm, has given me second thoughts.
What role should the victim play in decisions about prosecutions of crime? How does a victim's desire to never think or talk about an event again fit into the equation? How does any of us decide when to speak the truth about the past and when to be "over" a painful subject?
Kate Harding wrote a piece on Salon today that's worth reading in its entirety. But her argument about the victim's role brought me full circle to being sure that Polanski needs to return to California:
"But what of the now-45-year-old victim, who received a settlement
from Polanski in a civil case, saying she'd like to see the charges
dropped? Shouldn't we be honoring her wishes above all else?
In a word, no. At least, not entirely. I happen to believe we should
honor her desire not to be the subject of a media circus, which is why
I haven't named her here, even though she chose to make her identity
public long ago. But as for dropping the charges, Fecke said it quite
well: 'I understand the victim's feelings on this. And I sympathize, I
do. But for good or ill, the justice system doesn't work on behalf of
victims; it works on behalf of justice.'
It works on behalf of the people, in fact — the people whose
laws in every state make it clear that both child rape and fleeing
prosecution are serious crimes. The point is not to keep 76-year-old
Polanski off the streets or help his victim feel safe. The point is
that drugging and raping a child, then leaving the country before you
can be sentenced for it, is behavior our society should not — and at
least in theory, does not — tolerate, no matter how famous, wealthy or
well-connected you are, no matter how old you were when you finally got
caught, no matter what your victim says about it now, no matter how
mature she looked at 13, no matter how pushy her mother was, and no
matter how many really swell movies you've made."
I watched the Tilda Spitzer and Elizabeth Edwards
husband-betrayal stories, on the lookout for clues to my own husband-betrayal story. I imagined
that they surely had experienced private moments of
thinking, oh, that explains that night, or, now I know why I had
that feeling that something wasn't right.
I speculated about their public reactions–Spitzer's loyal stoicism and
Edwards's public fileting of the story–and their private motives.
During my marriage I tended toward the Tilda Spitzer model. Now, since Lee's remarriage and our divorce and Lee's death, I'm going public, and wondering why I stayed as long as I did.
O:So after the tabloid story, did you immediately make a decision that you would stay with John, no matter how thick the story got? EE: No. I didn't know. I wanted to sit down with him. I wanted to scream at him. I wanted him to have to look me in the face. And I also wanted to protect him. I wanted all of us to come out of it like we had been, so we could keep our story (ital. mine). Oprah's followup question focuses on the "protect him" part, and I lived that motive, too, but now I am more interested in the last line: "so we could keep our story."
Yes, keeping our story. Keeping the story we've painstakingly crafted and protected for years. The story that we're happy, that our husbands are faithful, that our marriages are real, that we're not being abused. Keeping the story, like tending a flame, becomes a life's purpose, and it's consuming work when the story is a lie.
Keeping my story, I endured private humiliations in silence until finally a right combination of outside circumstances and inner change made me stand up and say, No, that's not my story anymore. This is my story. This is the truth. And the new story becomes the new flame to tend.