Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Standing Up for the Little Guy

Time and time again the majority has always ruled, and unfortunately, they've not always erred on the side of common sense. Whether it be stifling the human rights movement of numerous minorities throughout the years, voting in favor of multiple wars we had no business fighting, or collectively alienating a particular religious or cultural group for whatever ridiculous reasons, the hindsight afforded to us of past faults and folly is rarely applied to present day conundrums. However, despite reflections of public opinions in polls, on ballots, and in the media, it seems the tides are changing, and, if for a moment, the majority has found it's place: standing behind the little guy.

Yes, times for the gays have not been great these past two years or so. With the passing of gay marriage in California, then the removal with Prop 8, and a following rebuttal lawsuit, we now hang in limbo for the US Supreme Court to hear the case. And it's anyone's fight at this point. However, with the voting to repeal the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy of the US Army, and a guaranteed failed appeal, the majority is starting to tentatively lean in our favor. Following the tragic suicides of five GLBT college and grade school students who were ruthlessly bullied into taking their own lives, a massive outpouring of support has flooded the internet with the It Gets Better project. Hundreds of people, from everyday gays and friends of gays and big name celebrities to high profile politicians like Senator Clinton and President Obama have historically lent their voices to an anti-hate campaign that has fostered the creation of over 5,300 videos on YouTube. Even that queen chick I'm always bugging on had a few words to say about the bullying (the broader term of simple "bullying" was used, 'cause Lord knows an Arab queen could never publicly defend the gays without getting her ass handed to her by her more traditional countrymen, but we all knew what they were talking about).

And the movement of the majority doesn't stop there. As previously mentioned in an earlier blog, there was a massive movement in defense of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, when some crazy old dude tried to stage a book burning. The movement not only led to public outcry to protect the Quran, but protests, petitions, denouncements from more political figureheads (Clinton again...she rocks, doesn't she?), and a particularly memorable stand-in where people of all religions laid their hands over a barbecue grill so a Christian fundamentalist group couldn't light the coals to burn the revered pages and covers. Turmoil still stirs against Muslims as emotions rise over the recent debate over the placement of a Muslim-funded community center near the Ground Zero site. However, the power behind either side of the debate has balanced as an equal amount of people have come face to face with the opposition to support the decision. While there is still some bad blood over the attacks on 9/11, it seems the majority of America has finally developed the brains to discern between Muslim extremists and true Muslims of Islam.

Unfortunately, we didn't have the mental capacity for such 9 years ago when the war in Afghanistan began. A nation broken, hurt, and angered, made the emotionally fueled decision to support George W. Bush in his bid to go after Osama bin Laden and the Taliban in the middle eastern region. Now, many years later, after wising up to the shady dealings that underlined this so-called war on terrorism, many people have denounced the U.S.'s presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and have spoken out against the continuing failings of the government. But such frustrations have not spread to our soldiers, some of whom were beguiled into enlisting, thinking they were going to kill terrorists, some of whom were misled into believing they were going to liberate a nation oppressed by a horrific dictator. Many did not choose to serve under the truth of the matter, nor did they wish to continue once they found themselves in the very real circumstances of a fictional war. And we as a nation have not turned our backs on them. Well, the majority of us haven't.

Protesters were making headlines for some time, showing up to the funerals of soldiers KIA, shouting hate-filled chants, claiming the deaths of the soldiers was God's wrath being unfurled upon a nation that supported homosexuality. Bringing with them a black cloud to hang over an already darkened day for the soldier's family, they made their unwelcome presence known and tainted what should have been honorable memorials for soldiers who gave their lives doing our government's dirty work. But, a small town in Missouri was not about to let this happen for Corporal Jacob Carver. Upon hearing via word of mouth and Facebook that such a group planned to adorn his burial, not hundreds, but thousands of people from miles away arrived as early as before sunrise to secure their positions near the funeral site. Arriving in buses and caravans, nearly 3,000 people lined the roads with American flags waving to keep the protesters at bay. Most people had never met the young corporal who lost his life, many didn't know his family, but they gathered together to push out a tiny group of radical hate-mongers to protect his memory and his family in their time of need. The protesters were forced to set up nearly a third of a mile away from the funeral and despite attempts to shout across the town, their opponents out-shouted them and drowned out their message, forcing them to pack up and move out.

America was formed by the little guy, the ones whom, tired of being pushed around by a haughty king in a far-off land, sailed across the sea to escape the autocracy. But somewhere along the way we got too big, too strong, and slipped into the position of the oppressor, quickly forgetting what it felt like to fall beneath the ruling thumb of The Man. Laws that were created to protect us suddenly worked against us, and the power of the majority at times brought historic shame to our name. Granted, there were times when our government stepped up for the little guy amidst angered cries of the majority: a black girl may never have set foot in a white public school if a judge hadn't ignored the racist cries of a southern majority decades ago; blacks and whites would not have had the right to marry if the California Supreme Court hadn't ignored the cries of 92% of Californians who felt the races should not mix. And despite the efforts of 52% of Californians two years ago, a judge still had the cajones to stand up for the little guy and declare Proposition 8 unconstitutional. A group of a people with no personal affiliations to a religion risked burning themselves to protect it's holy book. A state of citizens with no personal connection to a soldier came from miles around to stand up for his right to have a peaceful burial.

They say never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups. Well, you better watch out for the power of large groups with balls and even bigger hearts. We will prevail...we must if there's any hope for this land and what we should stand for.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American peeps...stand up for the little guy...DAMN THE MAN! (sorry, I had to say it)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sometimes You Gotta Lose Till You Win

Hello to those who may have missed me! Though you can't see, my head is hanging in shame over my month long absence, as I was priding myself on a steady production of monthly blogs. However, recently life for me has been a speeding freight train carrying me away to some glorious horizon I never imagined I'd be chasing. In exchange, it has brought my expressive process to a screeching halt. I am an emotional writer, words flow through tears or flaring anger; happiness is my kryptonite, but I've been feeling the bog of creative constipation and racking my brain for some inspiration. Upon reviewing my previous posts, I've noted the repetitive theme of negativity, whether it be trashing misguided and delusional celebrities, misgivings of world issues, or wagging a scolding finger at royalty. I found this to be reflective not only of my point of view in this world but of my overall personal mood and frustrations, and since things have seemingly fallen into place for me, it appears it's time for a more cheery topic. Though I'm typically not given to outright self-disclosure on this blog, following my preceding post, it seems to be the trend of the moment, and I'm going with it.

Driving home the other day, I had some awesome tunes on the radio, my window down, the sun shining on my face (in case you hadn't noticed, it's blazing in Cali this November), and yes, I'll admit it, I was doing the hand windsurfer thing out of the car when the speed was right. Calmed, joyful from a good moment at work, and relaxed, a wave of peace washed over me and it was at this moment I realized, "I'm going to be okay."

Life for me has been unsure up until this point. The victim of child abuse (emotional, physical, and sexual), the survivor of rape at a very young age, the broken product of a destructive divorce and torn home, and a frequent target for bullying as I grew, I found myself in the clutches of a crippling depression that nearly killed me, twice. The darkness that enveloped me blinded me to any fragment of hope one might find in an eternal night, and I went to bed praying for death in my sleep. In the morning I woke, dismayed to find my wish unfulfilled, but pined for the coming night that would bring a new opportunity to try again. I dragged myself through each day, never expecting much from life, never anticipating surviving this long, just an empty shell wandering aimlessly through, trying to get to the end of this journey as quickly and quietly as possible.

Diagnosed when I was nine, the following ten years of depression yielded fruitless series of anti-depressant cocktails, unwanted therapy sessions (forced upon me by my parents), and frequent run-ins with razor blades and broken glass. After one early suicide attempt and a later meet and greet with the remnant pills in my medicine cabinet, I found myself wringing my hands on a psychiatrist's couch rattling off my symptoms and failed prescriptions. One more. One final slip of paper, written upon it some fancy names shielding the countless chemicals beneath them: Zoloft and Wellbutrin, and a recommendation to see a psychologist. Frequent headaches, dizziness, and nausea pushed me to take myself off the pills after just nine months, but coupled with therapy, it was just enough, and after a year and a half, I was finally balanced.

The road back was shaky and unsure, after spending nearly 12 years wanting to die, how could I learn how to live? Learn to smile, laugh, and love? It may be strange, dear reader, to try and understand how a smile could be a novel concept, but the first time I noticed myself doing it without obvious cause, it truly startled me. To laugh everyday was unknown, to plan for a future, unthinkable. But I went to college and took my first steps on whatever path I fell on. Is it any wonder my spinning wheel of fortune landed on Psychology? However, despite personal experience, I wasn't convinced this was my role. Plagued with doubts, I wondered what if I invested so much time and graduated to find I was a terrible psychologist? After graduation I found myself working with severely emotionally disturbed foster kids. A difficult job that had it's gratifying moments, but it more or less left me exhausted and on a downward spiral back to depression.

I returned to school to get my Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. With this newfound pursuit came new concerns: what if I'm not happy treating couples and families? What if I don't find a job in this tanking economy after graduation? How will I pay my student loans? What if I have to take some crappy cashier's job after all my hard work? Where am I going and will I get there? Depression and hopelessness began to set in again and it was all I could do to claw my way up from the bottom of that familiar pit.

Nearing the end of my program, I began my search for a Practicum site, a pre-graduation internship. Carrying my own personal preferences for specific populations, in my heart I knew I'd be lucky to get any site, given California's non-existent budget and non-profits closing left and right. But, following the helpful tip of a classmate, I landed in a place ironically called Hope. The population? Autistic children. Feeling apprehensive because I had never worked with autism before, I was welcomed with open arms by the staff, and almost immediately hit with wave after wave of positive feedback and praise. "A natural," they said. I'd never been a natural at anything. Loving my work, loving the kids, loving my co-workers, being good at what I do, and feeling a pull to continue working with autism. What more could I ask for? Oh yeah, I was offered a part-time job as an aide, and there's talk of a full-time job as a therapist after I finish school this March (Update: I am now employed as a therapist).

What truly was 17 years of despair, frustration, anxiety, and apprehension seemed completely resolved after a month and a half of discovering Hope. Now still bearing some of that residual pessimism, I've not deluded myself into believing this momentary perfection is forever. Things happen, life happens, and my plans may be derailed. But for the time being, I will bask in the glory of it, because I really do think this is my time to shine, in spite of the current state of the outside world. This is my little sliver of sunshine that finally found it's way to my heart. And I deserve it, don't I? It's my turn for happiness.

The day after my happy drive, I serendipitously stumbled across this fantastic song by Sugarland. Now I don't normally plug anything, products or celebs or their work (except my Renee), but what I love about Sugarland is that in the midst of their bubbly kick ass rock out songs, they plant these little seeds of heart-wrenching truths that apply to us all. Little Miss is that song of their album, The Incredible Machine: "Little Miss you'll go far/Little Miss hide your scars/Little Miss who you are is so much more than you like to talk about". The chorus is hymned with repeating I'm Okay's and It'll be alright again's, soothing us into lullabies of reassurance. The song closes with the optimistic "Little Miss brand new start/Little Miss do your part/Little Miss big ole heart beats wide open, she's ready now for love". Yes, yes she is.

*Photograph above was provided by my friend Helen M., though I never actually asked her permission, I'm sure she won't mind :)