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Forty years ago

Forty years ago, the Bobigny trial took place, a turning point in legalizing abortion in France. While not at the same legal level, it has the same impact in France as Roe v Wade.

The story is of a girl who was raped by a classmate at age 16. In many ways, it is your typical “how to get an abortion in times of illegality” story- it all boiled down to money (remember: when you make abortion illegal, the rich and well connected will always find a way to have one) and the young girl’s mother wound up taking her daughter to an illegal abortionist and then having to take her to the hospital for hemorrhaging.

As I said, the girl’s story is sadly banal as far as abortion stories go, with one catch. As an American living in the Todd Akin era, one point in the Bobigny trial case is crucial for me: The girl and her family were ratted out to police BY HER RAPIST, who got nabbed for some unrelated petty crime and hoped tattling would get him out of trouble.  Are you with me here when I say rape is about power?

This situation wouldn’t happen in France today. But it could very easily, almost too easily, happen in the United States almost forty years later.  This part of the story is a perfect example on why I see abortion rights as an extension both of feminism and reproductive health. I cannot even imagine the pain, injustice and indignity of being raped, getting pregnant by rape and going through an entirely unsafe abortion where she almost died, and then the anguish of going through a court trial also because of her rapist.

This is the reality of why people like Paul Ryan scare me. Rape may be “another means of conception” or when Todd Akin wants to redefine what rape is for the millions of women who have been raped. The Bobigny trial is ancient history in France but the post-Roe America is future TODAY. Look at all the women in jail for being pregnant. Look at the personhood movement.  I can dig that people have religious or moral objections against abortion, but limiting access to abortion is when injustice like this happens.

 

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I don’t know what the answer is

(Phone post, sorry) So today i had lunch with a friend who grew up in the former Czechoslovakia and we started talking about religion. He mentioned how he was baptised in secret, had to hide to go to church and all that. It made me quite sad.

One of the few things I liked about the second Bush administration is that he expanded the “American” version of freedom of religion. While his motivations were definitely Christian, his policies applied to all religions, and even today it is easier, for example, to be a practicing Muslim in the US than it is in any European country except England.

I, like a lot of other people, have problems with some of the tea party actions in this election season regarding religion. I don’t like what Bobby Jindal has done with schools and vouchers in Louisiana. I feel like what were inclusive Bush-era policies are being turned and twisted into Christian-only policies. Yet at the same time i can understand and respect when a Christian says that certain things are deal breakers because of their religion. I have my deal breakers too and people shouldn’t have to justify it, and it makes me sad to see my Christian friends defensive over their right to freedom of religion.

Which is where my problem is. How can people truly have freedom of religion in a society while at the same time protecting non believers and including all religions? We have established that the French model is absolute bullshit, but the American model needs to be tweaked now too (thank you Personhood etc).I don’t know where the middle ground is. What scares me is living in a place like France, or living in a place like the ex-communist countries, where religion is de facto (france) or de jure (ex communist countries) illegal. That is a very real fear of mine. And while the Murdochs and Akins of this world did take things way too far this election season, I’m worried about a backlash against Christians, because what affects one religion affects us all. And i don’t know what the right answer is, but for now i still believe an inclusive freedom of religion is the answer.


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What I have learned about the menz

Well last night’s post didn’t go as planned due to staying later at work than intended, rushing to french class etc…so here is one today with another one in the evening.

The past few years I have learned a lot about people and how nasty they can be. It is strange to me how someone can function in society apparently normally, but below the surface be royally screwed up.  Although I play my cat lady schtick, I’ve learned a lot about men in the past few years. Here are some bullet points:

1. If someone cannot have a normal conversation with you about a casual topic, they may not be that into you.  Beyond formal niceties like the weather, and logistics info like house cleaning or bill paying, if the person cannot -and doesn’t want to- just shoot the shit with you for a half hour or so, it is because they have nothing to say to you.  Likely because they are saving that kind of conversation for someone else. Be wary of people who do not ENJOY talking to you about anything and everything- it is because they ENJOY talking to someone else.  Bad moods and silence are huge red flags.

2. Which leads me to my next point: we only have a limited amount of emotional capital. With work and hobbies and friends, you only have so much left at the end of the day to give to your partner. If you are giving this to someone other than the person you should be giving this capital to, it shows. Relationships only thrive when you invest in them, and if you invest in a relationship with someone outside your main relationship, then your main relationship will wither. No surprise then, that affairs tend to be strong emotional connections- because you are investing the only capital you have  in your affair rather than your “relationship.”  So if you want a good relationship, don’t cheat.  You can’t handle it. In other words, you don’t cheat because you have a bad relationship, your relationship is bad because you cheat or are open to cheating. Fix your relationship rather than running away to someone who flatters your ego.

3. Just because someone is right for you on paper doesn’t mean they are “right for you.” When you are with the right person, you know it. It feels right. Fighting, power struggles and drama do not happen weekly or monthly in normal relationships, they happen rarely.  If you keep wondering why you don’t get a second date, or stressing on why dude isn’t calling back, it is because it isn’t the right place or time or person and someone better is out there. The right guy, regardless of his “stats”, is not going to have problems with your hair, or the way you hold silverware, or getting an SMS from you. The chase gets very old, and if you feel like you are chasing someone, it is time to stop- they might not be that into you.

4. What has love got to do with anything? I don’t believe in soul mates any more.  What I do believe in are responsible, mature adults who choose to own up to their relationships, nurture these relationships, and put effort into making them work with phone calls, date nights, and shared activities.  I know what it is like to think I love someone who frankly isn’t treating me respectfully, and what I realized when I walked away is that love is a choice. I can choose to be in pain because I “love” someone, or I can choose to put the few positive feelings I have on the back burner and find someone who does not cause me pain or see me as a backup plan.  If someone doesn’t like you (as shown by the points above), they can’t love you.

5. You are ok just the way you are. Everyone flips out early in relationships about looking good and doing and saying the right things, but if every day is a new criticism about your clothes, your weight, how you choose to spend your time, your opinions, then you aren’t with the right person and both of you need to be free to find people with whom you are more compatible.  So-called love isn’t worth changing fundamental parts of who you are, and someone who wants you to change to fit their vision doesn’t love you, they love themselves.

6. It is ABSOLUTELY OK TO BE SINGLE.  I feel like in our societies the single, and especially those without children (another topic for another post) get looked down on like something is fundamentally wrong with them as people. This is unfair. There are a lot of reasons for staying single. Some people stay single a long time to heal after an abusive relationship; some people stay single because they want to; some are just single because, and that is ok.  I can tell you that being alone is way better than being in a shitty relationship.


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Computer literacy

One office where I worked had a strict policy regarding computer literacy.  It was a law firm and it went a little like this: support staff (accountants, secretaries, paralegals) were given a basic computer literacy test during the hire process. If they failed the test, they weren’t hired. If they did poorly on the test, it made the difference in shortlist time. Lawyers, who are often hired for network/money reasons, were given the same test on their first day, and either given new training or extra support staff (if big money was involved) if their skills weren’t up to snuff.  The sad thing is that the test was nothing special: opening, using (including typing test for secretaries) Microsoft Word, doing a basic presentation using a template in Power Point, a couple basic calculations in Excel (like what you would do for an expense report), an overview of the company’s legal document database (in dev version for interviewees).   And yet, it was unbelievable how many young secretaries (either digital natives or digital immigrants of my generation) failed the test. Seriously, these days how do people get through college without using Word and having a minimal proficiency?

The strange thing is, now that I work in IT, I find the most savvy software users in my admittedly limited sample are not necessarily the under-25s but, strangely enough, people of my parents’ generation, who are 55+. I have quantitatively had the most problems with people on the high end of Generation X, the ones who were on the tail end of having to use a computer in college. Meanwhile 65 year old dudes who used to have to use abaci and slide rulers are downloading stuff from torrents. But that, as usual, is another story for another post.  What continues to blow my mind is how anyone who wants to have any kind of an office job today thinks they can get away with not having basic skills in Microsoft programs (which are still the industry standard, sorry) and, most importantly, not want to learn these skills.  I think having a certain ease with word processing programs, for example, means you can write something yourself rather than dictate it to a secretary and proof her work (lawyers excepted for longer documents). I also find it absolutely criminal that a career secretary (not someone who came in from another profession like retail) need to be taught several years out how to do a mail merge. That for me is something you learn at your first job. Some people say that if you hire a CFO then he is hired to crunch numbers, not use a computer, but if a CFO can’t use SAP or Excel and, more importantly, doesn’t want to learn, I think that says a lot about that person’s initiative, drive and professionalism. Computer literacy is professional development on the same level, for me, as staying current with industry trends. I don’t understand people who refuse to learn.


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I hate smokers under bus shelters

If there is one thing that makes me go absolutely screaming crazy cat lady, it is smokers under bus shelters in the damn rain.

The sad part here is that I am one of the few people I know who is pro-cigarette. I used to work for a tobacco company and worked for the lead counsel of another tobacco company. I am all about “responsible use” and think that if you haven’t figured out cigarettes cause a myriad of health problems, it isn’t up to the tobacco companies to clue you in. I have no moral problem with cigarettes despite having all four grandparents die from smoking-related health issues. I think some of the restrictive marketing legislation against cigarettes should also be provided to alcohol but hey. Another topic for another post.

But the one group of jackasses making my pro-cigarette convictions wane quickly.  The jackasses who smoke under bus shelters in the rain.  Why does it make me go Eleanor Abernathy on people like I just did to one woman?

Because it is a selfish dick move. When you smoke at the bus shelter  in the rain you ensure that people like me can neither sit down nor stand anywhere but IN THE EFFING RAIN to get away from the cold cigarette stench and associated breathing problems. Because yes, I have to use an inhaler if I am around cigarettes too long. Because yes, you may enjoy smelling like a cold ashtray but I don’t.  Because I have no choice but to breathe your air.

Evidently the smoking initiative that just failed in Switzerland would have curbed cigarette use in places like this.  What I don’t understand is that I grew up in a family of smokers. My dad smokes a pack a day. Doesn’t smell like an ashtray, in fact, he actually smells darn good. Why? Because he smokes outside in a ventilated place.  And in my experience it seems that the assholes who smoke under bus shelters are also those who smoke inside, have stinky clothes, and wind up sitting next to you on a crowded bus, forcing you to breathe the residual smoke. How people kiss people like that is also another topic for another post, but seriously y’all? Why force people to breathe smoke? Why is this something that has to be spelled out to some people?


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Pablito, or when you only need one cat to become a crazy cat lady

If you haven’t been living under a rock or something, most of my lovely readers know that I have an unhealthy relationship with m cat Pablito, the star of the internet  (no really he was on tv), and as I prepare for a business trip  (robbers: crazy cat ladies have in-house cat sitters, fyi), it is time for my separation anxiety to hit the roof.

In my defense, Pablito is a pretty awesome cat. He is this big, black, shiny creature, he feels like a fur stole and is rather impressive to look at. He is generally chill and happy, and most people get sat on, plus purrs and headbutts (except for men, he hates men, kind of like me, the world has made me this way). Most people who come to my house agree he is up there on the coolest cats they have ever met scale, even cat haters.  So he isn’t just one of those cats who hides under stuff and poos everywhere (well he does that too). He interacts a lot, he is quite vocal (very deep manly meow) and generally hangs out with whatever human is in the house.

I think I like Pablito more than he likes me.  He’s a cat, he probably has zero effs to give if I am gone for a week as long as he has food and a clean litter box and his Katzenbaum. Pablito also has zero effs to give about anyone, really. The neighbor’s cat keeps trying to make a connection but Pablito has a rigid daily schedule, and if you meow at the Katzenbaum at 8am that just won’t work, because between 7 and 9 Pablito is on the couch in the other room. Every day.  But for me, Pablito is my primary relationship- my favorite thing in the world is to come home from work and listen to him purr (granted he is only purring to make sure I give him food but I will take it) and feel his fat tummy.

I miss him when I am gone way too much. I love to travel, I love to see new things, but for this upcoming trip I actually have angst. I don’t want to not have my nightly couch and tv news time where Pablito sits on me and purrs. (He purrs ALL THE TIME).  It has been like this since I got him a few years ago- leaving him is always a difficult process involving lots of tears. I will probably cry this afternoon. Again, he is a cat and has zero effs to give, but I am the crazy cat lady. Even when I go to work, my heart twinges a little bit. Especially in the snow, I think “do I want to go to work where people are unhappy about keyboards, or do I want to sit on the couch with my big black water bottle?”

One thing I will do differently in the next stage of pet ownership is get two cats when Pablito crosses the rainbow bridge IN FORTY YEARS (keep thinking it). In his case, he was raised as a single cat with his former owners, and I didn’t think it fair for him to have to adjust to a new home and new owner and also have to play cat hierarchy games. Some think the benefits of cat companionship outweigh the stress of the Top Cat process, but knowing Pablito’s personality in his case it would have been bad (It is worth it to note that in Switzerland, shelters will not generally adopt out single cats or cats who will stay inside exclusively. But that cultural difference is another topic for another post). I think having two cats next time (IN FORTY YEARS when Pablito is in the Guinness Book) will help in two ways: First, I will have less travel angst because I will think “hey they have each other.”  Secondly, I think having two will help me not to have this unhealthy, symbiotic relationship with them that I do with Pablito.

 

I am phone-only for the rest of my #back2blog posts and did not have time to pre-write and schedule, so the rest will be written from my phone, with the usual caveats about formatting etc.


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Whatever happened to empathy

When people ask why I vote Democrat or why I lean to the left (which is a joke, because in every other country I have lived in but America I am considered center-right, but in Mississippi if you aren’t teabagging, you’re a socialist), I always explain two things:

First, I reject the notion that poor people are poor because they did something to deserve it, which is the tacit undercurrent in the thinking of a lot of Republicans.  I don’t understand why people who have money find it so difficult to part with theirs as members of society.  What happened to human kindness?  This type of thinking is rampant when you talk about universal health care. People are always like “I don’t want to pay for other people’s cancer” or something.  God forbid you foot the bill for something that helps society. Let’s stop paying for roads too. Or even better-why pay for public schools?  I will never have kids but I have no problems morally or philosophically for something that helps the people around me grow up less stupid.  The worst is that the biggest opponents to universal healthcare are these middle class people making between 80 and 200 a year who, whether they like it or not, Obamacare or not, are one cancer diagnosis away from medical bankruptcy.  When people troll me I wish them well and hope they never, ever get so sick that they have to choose between medical care or paying the mortgage.

Secondly, the Republican party’s war on women is real. Whether or not it is legal, whether or not Roe v Wade still stands on paper, it is impossible to get an abortion in states like Mississippi. Morality aside, birth control, reproductive healthcare and yes, abortion benefit the poor.  Again, it is these middle class white women soccer moms who think it can’t happen to them voting for people who want to vote Roe away.  I have nothing but rage for these so-called Christians, mainly women, who forget that if it weren’t for the grace of God, you could have a shitty life. Guess what ladies? Not all of us get to have good husbands. Not all of us get to be soccer moms. Some women are the sole breadwinners in their families and when you make the Pill expensive, when you make abortion impossible, there are that many more children growing up poor.  That many more women you can call welfare queens. That many more women who will never make it out.  No one should be forced to be a mother, but the Republican Party has no answers for women who are not in the soccer mom demographic.  And the sad part is that some of these middle-class Republican women are only one divorce away from joining the ranks of the very group of women they so disdain.

I don’t understand the dream world people live in where we get to decide what we want to do with our tax dollars, where we labor under the delusion that people who are poor  or who don’t have nuclear two-parent families are somehow degenerate and unworthy of our kindness. It makes me quite sad. I find it arrogant that people who think they have something have only themselves to thank. When I look around at family and friends, I see all of us have worked hard. Just some of us-like me- had more chances along the way. You can call it luck, but that is what I mean by the grace of God- sometimes I was just in the right place in the right time, and someone who worked just as hard as I did to get to that point got passed over. I never forget how lucky I am, and I find people arrogant who get all Donald Trump about how their riches are all from them.

I know these posts are supposed to be light, but these thoughts have been weighing on my mind every time someone asks me about the election and I hold my tongue.  I don’t know what happened to my country. It is true what they say- you can never go home.