Brigitte Joneses For A Baby

Brigitte Joneses For A Baby

Brigitte Nielsen, a Danish actress best known for co-starring in Rocky 4 (while being briefly married to Sylvester Stallone) recently had a baby.   The interesting thing to most people is that she is 54 years old. The interesting thing to me is that it’s Nielsen’s first daughter after 4 sons.

As one might expect in this social media fish bowl in which we swim, the troglodytes of the Internet feel perfectly entitled to sound off on Nielsen’s decision to bring a child into the world.   She’s too old, they say. The way she conceived is “unnatural” – she had frozen her own eggs over a decade ago and had been trying to conceive with them ever since. She has four children already – adults! – and she should be satisfied with that; asking for more than she already has is greedy.  She will surely die or be infirm and unable to raise the child “properly”. She’s doing this for her own selfish reasons and not for the good of her child.

The reason why I find the maternal longings of a D-list actress of interest is that I too had a girl after 4 boys.  Like Nielsen, my oldest son was an adult when my daughter was born. Like Nielsen, I was in an age group that is considered “too old” – 42, definitely an age many would consider too late to be bringing a new life into the world.  After all, the media likes to drum it into people’s heads again and again…having a baby over 40 is unacceptably perilous for both mother and baby. I am sure that many people thought I was making a terrible selfish decision, although no one ever said it to my face.

They did say other things to my face, though.  While mothers of more than 2 are often criticized, and older mothers are always criticized (it feels that way, anyway), there seems to be a special level of vitriol reserved for women who have sons and still want a daughter, particularly if they have the temerity to try for one.  The very idea that any woman might want to continue having children until she has a particular gender is presented as being borne from some sort of monstrous desire, and worst of all is when a woman wants a daughter. I suppose this is because trying for a son is usually painted as something a woman does for someone else – her husband, her family, her culture – and so a woman trying for a son is seen as selfless, giving, generous.  A woman who admits to wanting a daughter, on the other hand, is either an egomaniac who wants a “mini-me” or a rabid feminist who plans to use her daughter as a political pawn.

But that isn’t reality.  I wanted a daughter in the way I imagine a person who has lived in the mountains their entire life wants to see the ocean.   Not because I was trying to make myself over again or to score social justice points, but because I wanted to see her and know her.  Her, not me. My longing for a daughter had nothing to do with me. It had nothing to do with my sons. I was and am happy with myself and beyond ecstatic with my sons.  I didn’t need a daughter to complete me or to make my family whole.  

I just wanted her.  

It is entirely possible to adore living in the mountains or in the desert and be utterly unable to imagine living anywhere else, but still have a strong desire to see the ocean, to watch the waves break, to know what it’s like to walk in the sand and dabble your toes in the foam.  Some people don’t want to see the ocean and that’s ok. Some have seen it already and didn’t think it was that big a thing, certainly not worth turning their lives upside down for. Others have lived there for years and are used to the view. But others want to see the ocean.  Sometimes a silly little want grows into a longing that takes hold and won’t let go.  That’s how it was for me, wanting a daughter.  It was an experience that I really hoped to have.  I’d dreamt of her since I was a tiny little girl myself.   And I found that I just couldn’t walk away without her, not unless I tried everything in my power to turn my imaginary girl real.

We live in a time of celebrating experience.   People make bucket lists and delight in accumulating life experiences as if they were merit badges.  People take risks and make sacrifices in exchange for experience all the time. Some people climb Mount Everest or go on a safari or skydive.  Some people think smaller and go to Napa Valley to drink too much wine, or to Disneyland, or to see the lights of Broadway. People want things and some of the things people want are not important to anyone but they themselves.  Just like Brigitte, I wanted a daughter for no great or noble reason – I simply wanted her.  Her existence was important to me.  I was willing to take some risks and make some sacrifices for that. My desire for that experience is no more wrong than the person who decides they need to see Paris before they die.

Some would say my desire for an experience does not outweigh my daughter’s need for a young and sprightly mother who can turn cartwheels down steps and will live another 70 years in order to do lots of babysitting for future generations.  But how many of us really have a child in an ideal situation, anyway?? Children are born into situations far worse than Brigitte’s or my daughters’ all the time. Situations of poverty, of abuse, of neglect, in countries torn apart by war, in families torn apart by all manner of terrible things.  Situations in which they are not particularly wanted or not wanted at all. Having a child young is no guarantee of success and having a child older is no guarantee of disaster. My mother had me when she was young but then divorced and started a new family, relegating me to a kind of second-class status within our family (I’m not faulting her, not at all, my parents are wonderful people who raised me well.  My point is simply that youth is no guarantee of a child always getting everything they think they need.)  If our daughters are loved and cared for, and were so hoped for and dreamed about, what difference does it make if we will live another 20 years or another 50?

Because that much is true – the odds are pretty good that Brigitte and I will both live another 20 years at the least, long enough to raise our girls.  Something no one tells you about turning 40 or even 50 is that most of us still have another 20-30 years of good solid living within us, if not more.   Shockingly, my life did not stop when I turned 40 the way women’s magazines had led me to expect that it would. I didn’t crumble into dust and suddenly require a Life Alert button. I still have hopes and dreams and plenty of hours in my day to care for this small entity who has come my way.  Most women in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s are not sick or unhealthy. I am not physically fragile. Even though I have a chronic illness I have ample energy to take care of my children, work full time, and run a household. The joy my daughter and my other children bring me only helps to recharge my batteries at the end of every day.

There are no guarantees, of course, but none of us have a guarantee in life.  If Brigitte and I have provided for our daughter’s futures no matter what life has in store for us, 20 years is really just as good as 50, and if we’re lucky enough to have 30 or 40 instead, even better.  20 years is more than enough time to raise a child to adulthood. Beyond that point, it is your child’s life to do with as they will. Life is a gift we give to them, not a project we are doing that requires us to be hands on every second of every day from now till forever.  No one ever tells a man in his 40’s or even in his 50’s, “don’t start that project, Bill, what happens if you DIE before you finish it?” Are we all supposed to go through our lives never doing anything if we may die before it’s done?  Are 25-year-olds the only people who are allowed to plan for an unknown future?

Children are different, some may say.  Children aren’t a stamp collection or restoring a hot rod or sailing around the world.  Children simply need their mothers.  The expectation for mothers is that we will dedicate the rest of our lives to micromanaging our children’s existence from birth till age 70 at which point we will die and somehow they’ll have to muddle through without us.  But in reality most people are quite competent as young adults and don’t even want their mother meddling in their business when they’re 25, 35, 45. Even at 15, a needy, overly involved mother is an unwelcome thing. NO ONE wants their mother all wrapped up in their lives forever and ever.  Our children don’t need us in perpetuity the way people say that they do. Why would anyone build our lives around an expectation that is silly? Why would we base our decisions on a fiction that our daughters will need us desperately until they are 105 years old?

My hope is that by the time I shuffle off this mortal coil, my daughter will not need me any more.  By that point, I plan for her to be able to stand on her own and take care of herself.  I’ve already gotten her to age 6, and that’s quite an accomplishment. We have had more time together than many mothers and daughters have been fortunate enough to have.  I hope with every fiber of my being to be here till she’s a fully capable adult because I’ve found I love it here at the ocean and I want to watch the waves break for many more years to come.  I want very much to see the woman that she will become and to hold her children in my arms.  But I may not get that wish granted to me, and Brigitte Nielsen may not get that wish granted to her.

Nevertheless, our daughters will still be ok. When people ask “what will happen when you’re old and die and your daughter needs you?” the truth is, death happens even to mothers, even to younger women than me, and in fact it used to happen far more often than it does now.   People muddle through. Mothers are meant to give their children a start in life, not to be here until the conclusion.

I wish Brigitte every happiness with her daughter.

  

           

If Kirk ran Hollywood…

If Kirk ran Hollywood…

 

Sorry, fellow Trekkies, I mean Kirk Cameron, not James T.

What if Kirk Cameron ran Hollywood?

Record scratch.  

What?  Hold up, there!  Kirk Cameron running HOLLYWOOD!?!  That’s like a fate worse than death or something.

I know, right?  But let’s play a little game where Kirk Cameron is somehow made Dictator of Hollywood.   

For those who are not fully up to speed on the illustrious career of Kirk Cameron, he’s the kid actor from Growing Pains that grew up and became super religious, or maybe he was all along, not really sure about the timeline there.  Anyway, he left mainstream acting and now focuses on evangelism and making Christian-themed movies. And more power to him.  This is not a Kirk Cameron bash. I like living in a world where people of varying philosophies and mindsets can provide diverse choices in entertainment.

So let’s imagine a world where Kirk and his Christian compatriots were put in charge of the movies you watch, the tv shows, the music, the books and magazines…pretty much everything comin’ at ya from the squeaky clean mind of Mr. Kirk Cameron.   Call it a thought experiment.

Most people, even many Christians, would agree that would an unpleasant state of affairs.  You’d probably feel supremely bored by the product that Kirk Cameron’s Hollywood churned out, if not actively repressed by it.  Entertainment would likely become mind-numbingly homogenous, representing only the evangelical Christian worldview, promoting only evangelical-approved values.  Kirk’s Hollywood would not feature a wide array of viewpoints and life experiences in their final product. Filmmakers and authors could tell their vanilla-flavored tales a thousand slightly different ways using ever-more-advanced CGI techniques but the audience would be left unentertained, unfulfilled.  

Everything would be mundane and predictable since the same theme was simply echoing over and over again.  And if you were from any culture other than fundamental Christianity, you wouldn’t be able to relate to what was on screen. You’d know in your heart and gut that there were millions of perspectives that were being ignored, billions of stories left untold.   Even if you were from the dominant culture, maybe you’d still want more variety. Maybe you’d thirst for something thought-provoking, something that challenged your preconceptions and taught you something you didn’t know before.  Maybe you’d long for a story that came at you from a slightly different angle, showed you a viewpoint you hadn’t considered, made you think hard about what it means to be a human being. 

But you wouldn’t get it.  The products of Kirk Cameron’s Hollywood would not shed new light on the human condition.  They wouldn’t be art, they would be propaganda.

Over time, you might even come to resent mainstream entertainment. So preachy. So dogmatic. So smug and self-congratulatory.  Even when you agreed with the moral of the story, you would resent the heavyhandedness with which it was told.  Art would no longer be used to criticize, to illustrate absurdities of politics and culture. It would only be used to lecture and chastise and preach to the converted. You’d come to crave realness, authenticity, anything other than more of the same. But it would never stop because Kirk and the friends of Kirk run Hollywood.  Every show, every movie, every book – all Kirk, all the time. There’d be no getting away from it.  Eventually you wouldn’t even be able to read a cooking magazine or watch the sports scores on ESPN without encountering gross proselytizing.   Not even a lowly taco salad recipe would be free of the testifyin’.  Kirk would not approve of anything that did not strictly push his evangelical agenda.

Having even the most positive of messages shoved in your face repeatedly would be irritating for all but rabid zealots.  You’d start finding yourself rolling your eyes at “thou shalt not kill” not because you disagree with the principle but because you’re so. fricking. sick. of it.

A while back I decided I was gonna watch Downton Abbey.  I turned it on and it seemed interesting, I generally like that kind of thing, but I could just tell that somebody was gonna turn out to be gay.  Now, please understand, I’m PRO gay rights. I support gay marriage. I think there should absolutely be more stories told about the specific experience of gay people and more stories where characters are gay and it’s not a plot point or an issue or a big deal, but just because people are gay and art reflects life.  I would watch those movies.  I do not and never would favor Kirk Cameron’s sanitized Hollywood where homosexuality is excised from the human experience. But – and I’m not particularly proud of having done this, but I share in the interest of being forthright – I decided to stop watching the show because it was just so damn distracting.  “Is it going to be those two?  Or those two?  Or maybe even those two?”  It was like watching someone operate off a PC-approved checklist instead of telling a story. I wasn’t offended by the concept, I was BORED by the execution. It was boring waiting for the reveal and even more boring that I could immediately foresee every single plot development that would grow out of the revelation. So predictable that even I, pro gay rights person, roll my eyes at the plot twist. My politics haven’t changed, but I’m. so. fricking. sick. of it.

It’s gone well beyond being beaten over the head by the point.  The point is chasing me around the house as if I’m Jamie Lee Curtis and it’s Michael Myers and the point now wants to stab me to death with itself just to be sure I really, REALLY, get it.

I get it, I promise.  I got it like 35 years ago, dudes.  As soon as I heard about the concept, I got it.  I’m with u. I’m just fricking sick of the same handful of moral points being shouted at me again and again and again.  I’m sick of entertainment feeling less like joy, less like relaxation and more like dodging a flock of Hare Krishnas at an airport.  I don’t want any of your damn pamphlets, please just let me worry about my own soul.

I’m sick of boring greedy amoral businessmen.  I’m sick of boring heroic environmental activists trying to uncover boring pollution.  I’m sick of boring blue collar dads who like sports ignoring their boring nerdy sons until their boring nerdy sons somehow save the day using their nerd abilities.  I’m sick of boring noble women who are held back by the nonsensical sexist machinations of boring inferior male coworkers. I’m sick of boring crooked government agents being brought down by someone getting a super important envelope to a boring crusading reporter.  I’m sick of boring corrupt police officers taking boring bribes and boring corrupt soldiers covering up boring war crimes. I’m sick of boring housewives who feel repressed till they have magic boring sex with some boring dude. I’m sick of boring dudes who feel depressed till they have magic boring sex with some boring manicpixiedreamgirl.  I’m sick of scary boring scientists screwing something up and creating some boring monster or disease that then other boring scientists have to defeat using unscary boring science. I’m sick of boring country people who have boring abusive parents but rise above it by moving to the boring city and embracing boring careers in entertainment or the arts.   And I’m so, so, SO superduperly sick of boring cartoon animals and boring spandexed superheroes as generic stand-ins for some oppressed group, going through the motions of a thinly veiled, boring morality play.

I’M BORED.

It’s all so preachy and dull and predictable.   Even though I AGREE with the overall philosophy, the execution is so heavyhanded and cookiecutterish I can’t even stand to watch it any more.  It’s always the same few stories told from the same perspective, the same good guys and the same bad guys, making the same handful of ethical points again and again, never asking a single new question or sharing even a slightly different perspective.  I always know how the hero’s journey will end and I know every single beat we’ll hit along the way, and I don’t think about the story at all once it’s over. Hell, I don’t even think about the story when I’m watching. No new questions are raised in my mind.  The tales I hear and read and see don’t stick with me. They’re like cotton candy, melting away as soon as they hit my brain, leaving nothing behind but a slight, vague sensation of stickiness and a bad taste in my mouth.

I long for programming that does or says something unexpected and unique, for works of art that inspire me to think about something I haven’t thought about before or that I have thought about before but maybe just not in that particular way.  I need some complexity, complexity of plot, complexity of story, complexity of character, moral complexity; I’m dying for some shades of gray here.

For me, the entertainment industry in 2018 is little different than if Kirk Cameron was put in charge of Hollywood.  Even if you agreed with Kirk in theory…stealing, bad…killing, bad…dishonoring mom and pop, bad…loving thy neighbor, good…there’s just something in human nature that resents being preached to.  There’s something in human nature that resents being preached to constantly still more.  Enough already.  We get it. We got it.  What else d’you got?

Most already know about the “the Code” (aka the Production Code, the Hays Code, a few other incarnations along the way) – a set of moral guidelines that Hollywood studios had to follow in one form or the other, from the 1920’s till well into the 60s, when the last vestiges fell away.  Great movies like Casablanca and Some Like It Hot notoriously ran afoul of the Code. While we look back on the Code today mostly as a Puritanical approach to keeping movies squeaky clean in the sex department, it also encompassed political and moral censorship. Movies couldn’t show criticism towards members of the clergy, police officers, other countries, public figures, and could not depict anyone disrespecting the flag.  They couldn’t show prostitution, homosexuality, interracial relationships, and were never supposed to portray criminals in a sympathetic light. Negative portrayals of race, color, or creed were also forbidden.

Kirk Cameron would probably like the Code.  Honestly, the Code wasn’t entirely wrong; there are elements of the ethics underlying the Code I tend to agree with.  But most of us look back on the entire notion and snort derisively because we can so easily see how a blanket dictum led to movies being overly tame, unrepresentative of our nation’s diversity, and lacking insight into the human condition.  It’s undeniable that the existence of the Code prevented some hard questions from being asked via art. It had a huge chilling effect on what movies could have been, what stories might have been told, what truths may have been revealed. You can see it in the movies produced in the late 50’s to early 60’s, as the Code fell apart – the quality of the storytelling grew exponentially. 

If a movie can’t show a guy doing drugs, you can’t portray the harm drug use caused or the ripple effect that it had on his entire life as Preminger did in The Man With the Golden Arm (1955).  If you can’t show extramarital sex, Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (1960) wouldn’t have had much of a plot. Even though there are many wonderful movies from the 30’s, 40’s, and early 50’s (many of which challenged the dictums of the Code) it’s clear that the death of the Code improved movies as an art form.  I can’t help but wonder how many secret truths we will never know about the way people of that era really lived and thought and felt because the Code didn’t allow their stories to be told.

And yet we’ve now fallen into our own version of the Code; it may not be formally codified but it exists all the same.  It is simply not allowed to make movies, television shows, or yes, sadly, even books anymore, in which certain moral viewpoints are expressed.  Even briefly, even if you are not advocating them, even if you have a higher purpose for doing so.  Even if you are showing those moral viewpoints only to damn them. Even if their inclusion was germane to the plot and was (or at least attempting to be) thought provoking, challenging, and artistic, the risks of censure are so high that most writers, directors, and actors don’t even take the chance.  Too much is at stake. 

Many people believe that the heyday of movie making was the late 60’s to early 70’s.  The Code was no more, but political correctness had not yet taken hold. Some of the greatest movies ever made were produced during that time period – movies that asked hard questions about real issues, movies that portrayed human beings as flawed beings rather than angels or demons.  I’d like to return to that time again, because I value art and I value storytelling.

But mostly because I’m bored.  I don’t want Kirk Cameron in charge of Hollywood.  I don’t want the liberal equivalent of Kirk Cameron in charge of Hollywood either.  I want artists in charge of Hollywood. And art is messy and imperfect and sometimes makes people uncomfortable.  Art is not made by consensus, committee, or focus group; it’s made by individuals that sometimes will get things wrong – ethically wrong.  But art may reveal more in its wrongness than a perfect and pure religious allegory ever could. Art asks questions polite people may not want to even consider and pushes envelopes right off the edge of the desk sometimes. Art should not tell people what they want to hear a thousand slightly different ways using ever-more-advanced CGI techniques to avoid ruffling anyone’s feathers.  Art is SUPPOSED to ruffle feathers.

Telling people that what they believe is unequivocally right again and again (even when what they believe is true and just and good) is not art, it’s propaganda.       

    

I want to be kissed by a scoundrel.

I want to be kissed by a scoundrel.

I am told Han Solo is problematic.

https://mic.com/articles/186792/does-the-best-star-wars-movie-hold-up-in-the-metoo-era-lets-ask-han-solo#.A2Tfj8OXP

Some authors even go so far as to blame Han for male confusion regarding sex assault.  

http://www.cracked.com/blog/how-men-are-trained-to-think-sexual-assault-no-big-deal/

Since day one, my fear regarding the #metoo movement is that will devolve into strictures not on male sexuality but on female.  I worry that in the name of protecting women from sexual violence, women’s ability to embrace their sexuality as it IS, not as others think it should be, will be diminished and controlled.  I’ve already seen several social media proclamations about what women always like or never like from people who seem otherwise fully reasonable in matters of sexuality and feminism.  Some male feminist allies claim that because (other) men are animals women need to be constantly shielded (by said male allies) from (other) men’s gross and sweaty aggression because women are sexless bastions of purity and are helpless, passive victims who have no ability to defend themselves in the demanding presence of peniskind.   Women shouldn’t even have to think about penises because their brains are too dainty.

The implication is that this shielding process needs to occur BEFORE the fact; that women should never have to endure any act, no matter how brief, no matter how G-rated, that they didn’t strictly initiate because they lack the wherewithal to do so without being forever ruined by the encounter.  Fielding the occasional unwanted romantic overture will surely break the exquisite, inscrutable Faberge eggs that are female minds and thus women need to be kept under the control (thumbs) of the good men who would never do such a thing. It all feels very weird and backwards and Victorian to me.  This concept that women are born victims who need to be constantly protected from sex, never allowed to get into situations that are too challenging for them to handle because they don’t have the strength or the skills – it rubs me the wrong way. And entirely without my consent!

Applying this logic to the Han Problem, as a decent, righteous man, Luke should have ensured that Leia was bundled offworld into the care of robot nuns who would have protected her virtue and made sure that her lips remained unsullied by smuggler saliva.  Right? She would have rather kissed a Wookie, she said as much! And as for what Leia may have wanted but not clearly stated, well, her safety simply had to come first.

The fact of the matter is, I want to be kissed by a scoundrel.  I pretty much have my whole life, starting with when I was 10 years old and sitting in a dark movie theater – a very protected child, mind you, who had not yet internalized any misogyny (that came later).  I don’t know what chemical cascade happened in my heart and mind but Han kissing Leia was the single greatest thing I had ever seen. Even though I didn’t know why I knew, I knew that somehow, someday, that was gonna happen to me.  I hoped so anyway. The first available scoundrel I came across was going to kiss me. I wasn’t going to kiss him, oh no, because that wasn’t how things were supposed to work. I would entice him with my princess-ish charms like spaceship repair, blaster accuracy, and exotic hairstyling, and he would kiss me, and I would like it a super lot.

So these dudes suddenly coming out of the woodwork to explain how creeptasticaly problematic the Han-Leia relationship is feels an awful like people mansplaining my own sexuality to me.  Remember mansplaining? It’s bad. Don’t do it. Because I am telling you as a woman that Han kissing Leia was not creepy, it was perfect and wonderful and even now I still think that with every fiber of my being even though I know that I am supposed to think otherwise and that I should not be admitting this terrible humiliating secret to my closest friends let alone writing a thinkpiece on it that might actually be read by somebody someday.

But, but, but he didn’t have her permission, they were on a spaceship in the middle of nowhere, blah blah blah, yeah I read that first article.  Look, we saw about 15 minutes of the entire Leia-Han relationship, ok? We don’t have a clue what transpired between them after the Death Star blew up, what happened at the afterparty the night Leia gave Han and Luke their medals, what happened for months on end on Yavin and on Hoth and on transport ships in between.  We didn’t see how Han may have comforted Leia when she was feeling low about Alderaan’s destruction, we didn’t see how many times they chatted and flirted and laughed together and all the subtle non-verbal communication going on between them that Han picked up on and we didn’t because we are imaginationless idiots writing thinkpieces for Mic magazine.

Leia did not feel threatened or in danger from Han.  NOTHING in her demeanor at any point in time in any of the movies indicates that she was scared of Han, like in a rapey way.  She seemed perfectly comfortable with him. She argued with him, insulted him, bossed him around, treated him like an inept servant.  From the moment they met she was busting his chops. She called him a scruffy nerf herder, for Porg’s sake. Later on she risked her life and her freedom to save him.  Han and Leia always had relationship of equals – maybe not even equals, really, since she was a princess and he was a lowly smuggler. He was kind of her employee, her underling, her minion, even.  She had a lot more power than he did, really, in pretty much every way. Cue the “Leia was actually sexually harassing Han” bit in 3, 2, 1…

Ok, so right before they kissed she was nervous.  Scared, even. That is true. Brave, strong Leia was scared.  But she wasn’t scared of HAN, duh, gawd, I cannot believe I have to explain this.   It is glaringly obvious to me anyway that it was because she was having some pretty intense feelz that she didn’t think she ought to be having.  Feelz can be scary. And she knew it too, that’s why she was so prickly and defensive every time Han got close to her. It wasn’t because she didn’t like him, it wasn’t because she thought he was a rapey bastard, it was because she liked him too much and that was a scary experience for her.  And Han knew it too, he saw right through the charade. It wasn’t because he was a predator that got his jollies off of forcing women to do stuff against their will, it was because Leia was putting on an act and he understood that. If Leia hadn’t actually liked Han, Han wouldn’t have made moves on her.  He didn’t make any moves on Mon Mothma, did he? No, he saved his scoundrel-y moves for the chick who he had (rightfully) perceived was into it.

But why was he so damn pushy over it?  Why didn’t he accept what Leia was saying at face value?  Well, obviously, because he was getting other messages from Leia that occurred in the many, many weeks, months and possibly even years between the events of Star Wars and the events of The Empire Strikes Back.  Just like how, oh, I don’t know, two adult humans in the actual world are probably sending all kinds of signals to each other that they both might detect and act upon without anyone stopping to blink and awkwardly clear their throats before drily stammering “By the by, I am finding myself interested in pursuing a sexual relationship with you, are you in any way interested in that possibility, no hard feelings if you aren’t, just tossing it out there for your consideration.”

Han realized that the reason why Leia didn’t think she ought to be having those feelz is because Leia (like virtually all women both fictional and real) was socialized to follow a certain set of respectability rules drummed into her bunned head starting when she was in her cradle back on Alderaan being rocked to sleep by robot nannies.  Leia (like virtually all women both fictional and real) had been socialized since Padme birthed her to sometimes follow society’s rules even when it wasn’t in her best interests to do so. Han further realized that Leia’s internalized rules did not involve getting it on with a sketchy, morally ambiguous smuggler very far beneath her in social status while a war was going on and both of them could die at any minute and an ill-fated romance could cause all kinds of trouble and heartache for everyone.  It doesn’t mean she didn’t want to, it didn’t mean that it wasn’t the best thing in the galaxy far, far away for her to do. And it for sure doesn’t mean she was getting rape-kissed. It simply means that Han picked up on some messages she was sending via other modes of communication that were louder than what she was saying verbally. It wasn’t that he wasn’t listening to her, it was that he was listening to some other things she was saying too.

I am – not unlike Leia – a defensive, prickly, highly strung woman.  And because of that I sometimes will take a swing at even people who have my best interests at heart, who care about me, who want to be on my side.  It’s not just romantic stuff either, it’s friends and family and well-intentioned strangers. Is that really very unusual? Who hasn’t made mistakes, missed opportunities, been afraid to take a chance on something that could have really been awesome if only you were brave enough to give it a whirl?   A good friend, a relative, someone who cares about you can sometimes point that out, give you a stirring pep talk about winning one for the Gipper or whoever, or in the case of truly good friends, very nearly even twist your arm and force you into making the leap. No one says a word when it’s your mom or your best friend spurring you on.  The idea that someone, a scoundrel, perhaps, could see through your protestations and breach your defenses and make you realize hey, there’s really something here, maybe I should take a closer look at this concept even though the good little girl in me is telling me not to is the stuff romance novels are made of.

I think this happens a lot and not only in the world of Han and Leia, but also in the worlds of Sam and Diane and Dave and Maddie and Veronica Mars and Logan and Billy Joel and whoever that complicated chick is that he wrote all his good songs about.  A woman believes that because of society’s rules, a man she wants is off limits to her. He’s low class. Unpredictable. Crazy. A downtown man. Like, so totally wrong for her! He’s a scoundrel maybe even. I think many women depend upon the scoundrels in their lives to take action in situations where said woman is scared (What if he rejects me? What will my friends say?) or is listening too hard to the unhelpful little voices in her head (I so totally should NOT be doing this! I’m such a slut) or is so intent on following the rules (I’m not supposed to kiss guys like this! He voted Trump probably!) that she loses sight of what she herself really wants. So she leaves the ball in his court whilst sending indirect, nonverbal encouragement as a passive way of getting what she wants without having to be the one who initiates it, without responsibility or remorse or risk of rejection. She sends the signals, he pursues or not and she allows herself to pretend she’s getting swept up in the moment if he makes a move. She never has to take a chance that he’s not into it, she never has to really REALLY make the decision to tell society’s rules to eff off until she knows he’s on the same page, and she never has to drop the pretense that she’s anything less than perfectly ladylike.  Because one thing most women agree upon regardless of girl power and slut walks, is that chasing men is like a super duperly big no-no.

Han and Leia was not a Pepe Le Pew situation where her lips said no, no but her eyes said yes, yes.  There was obvious, definite, 2-sided chemistry between Leia and Han. Theirs was a relationship of friends and comrades.    I think a LOT went on that we didn’t see onscreen. You send the signal and you wait. Leia knew.

I am unclear on how sending the signal and waiting is going to mesh with overt female consent for everything, even a tentative first kiss.  I don’t believe that ~most~ women are, overnight, going to feel comfy with making the first move towards initiating sexual contact with men.  There is a deeply ingrained cultural pressure upon women to follow a pretty narrow set of societal expectations in this arena, few of which involve being the pursuer.  There is even an argument to be made that these female preferences for pursue-ee status may be at least in part innate and not cultural. And I don’t think that ~most~ men are, overnight, going to feel comfy with women doing initiating relationships with them, either.  Men may want to pursue, may prefer it, may be programmed to do so culturally and/or innately, and we’ve heard enough jokes about desperate women chasing men to know or at least strongly suspect that many guys are put off by Sadie Hawkinses.

Truth – we can’t litigate and legislate romance because it’s all very shades-of-gray-y.  I am wary of blanket rules that seem to overly simplify a complicated issue that is probably best left to each individual couple to work out for themselves in any given moment.  We’re dealing with instincts and desires that run way down deep in places that most of us have never probed (er, so to speak) and personally I trust women to be able to navigate those waters for themselves.  

All throughout history, whenever society has acted on behalf of women for their own protection it has manifested itself sooner or later as less freedom for women.  I don’t see the consent issue as being any different. The “c” word gets dropped and all of a sudden we’re hearing…from MEN…about what women like and don’t like, about what women want and don’t want, about what women will willingly consent to and what they will not.  And apparently one of the things that men have decided that we delicate, wilting, crushably-fragile oh-so-feminine females simply cannot handle is being kissed by someone we’ve known and have interacted with for months without having issued a strict verbal invitation beforehand and without ever having sent any mixed signals.   Ok. Sure. Yes. That makes sense (no it doesn’t).

Heads up, dudes, YOU’RE the ones that can’t control yourselves, some of you.  Why don’t you let me decide what I like and want for myself? Because I want to be kissed by a scoundrel, I assure you that I do.

And I actually as I write all that, I think I understand the reason why good and decent men can’t let me decide for myself that I want is to be deeply and somewhat forcibly tongued by a man on the run from the Hutts.  It’s because blaming men’s bad behavior on Han Solo is easier than considering the possibility that maybe there’s something dark inside of themselves. Something that may need wrangling and taming; something that cannot be indulged even in a society of gross overindulgence.  Because I refuse to believe that men are that dumb! I do not and will not believe that most men truly cannot see the difference between someone who is into is and someone who isn’t, into it. I don’t believe for one single solitary parsec that most men cannot see a difference between Harvey Weinstein and Han Solo, that most men truly cannot see the difference between exposing yourself to a woman you barely know and kissing a woman with whom you’ve had a complicated monthslong interpersonal relationship fraught with sexual tension without asking “pretty please with sugar on top” first.

And while I suppose it is possible that a small percentage of men are indeed clueless idiots who are hopeless at reading body language and can’t tell the difference between a movie and real life, it seems far more plausible to me that a much higher percentage of men know exactly when a woman is into it and when she isn’t, it’s just that some of them kind of like it when a woman isn’t into it and wanna do it anyway.  

Thus the Han-made-me-do-it defense is not gonna fly with me.  “We men can’t control ourselves because we’re helpless buffoons…animals, really…easily dazzled by boobies, and such…we can’t control ourselves, so of course we can’t control ourselves, I mean even Han freaking Solo is a rapist, practically, and that’s what we watched growing up, you know, and um, lookit, also girls in bikinis provoke us, to insanity, practically, just to the left of insanity anyways, so maybe, possibly, if it isn’t too much to ask..if you could just give us a pass on the things that some of us did, because we are just dummm, you know, it’s, like, rape culture, I guess, and stuff, and we can’t help it.  Beer commercials. Just sayin, you probably ought to be wearing a burka.”

This entire argument is contingent upon a kiss that many, many women find romantic and appealing (it ain’t just me, chaps) being bad and why is it bad?  It’s bad only because it’s there. It’s bad because we all saw it growing up and that includes some guys who are looking for an easy way to excuse their own bad behavior and that of others so they aren’t guilty by association.  To blame it on Han Solo seems to me to be a huge dodge of responsibility, a sidestep, and what’s worse, it’s adding insult to injury. It’s compounding bad behavior by befouling something that was important to not only myself but to many women.  And I don’t think that’s right, to take something away from women in order to explain away or justify the bad behavior of men. Any more than it’s right to make women wear burkas to prevent men from raping them.

I am not entirely sure that replacing the occasional unwanted kiss – which women are NOT too fragile to be able to handle, mind you – with women not being able to get what they want from sex because the culture vultures have been too bluntly instrumental about what constitutes “consent”, is a good trade.  And now that you mention it, what’s so damn great about “consent” anyway? What does “consent” even really mean?  Because it’s not so cut and dry as people want to make it.  What if you only consent due to external pressures and societal expectation? Women have consented to all kinds of crazy ass shit over the years when they thought they were supposed to – and still are (Aziz Ansari, looking at you here).  I do not believe that swiping right for a shot to be treated as a Tinder cum dumpster by some dude you just met…loudly consenting all the while…is in any way more empowering than Han giving a seemingly reluctant Leia a kiss that she wasn’t quite sure she wanted but then she realized that she actually kind of did.   

In fact there’s a suspicious conspiracy theorist in me that is starting to think all this is a gambit, a ploy, a way for men to still get exactly what they want  – which is lots of fer-reaky sex with a rotating schedule of messed up girls whose self-esteems are in the toilet, without having to exert any effort as a romantic partners or limiting themselves in any way from the all-you-can-eat sex buffet.  Men want women to think they’ve held up their end of the bargain by talking super loudly about consent when what many of them are doing is treating women like they are disposable sexbots. Some men seem to want “consensual” sex with women to be like Lando Calrissian sexing up droids (a disturbing concept, since in the Star Wars universe droids seem self-aware, yet can be reprogrammed and have their memories wiped) http://eleven-thirtyeight.com/2018/06/droids-sex-and-consent-should-it-work/.  

These men want women programmed by the culture so we kinda feel like we can’t say no to anything (because the threat is, if you don’t consent to everything, there’s always someone else who will) even as they exclaim loudly that it’s ok to say no (just be aware it’s totally over if you don’t consent to everything, because if there’s no one else who will, there’s always Internet porn) and they want us to call that empowerment.  They want us to call that feminism!! So they equate a Han-Leia kiss between equals that turns into a relationship, with a grope from a stranger…with a proposition from a boss…with a Louis CK move…with a rape and somehow it’s all the same thing because if it’s all the same thing it not only makes the small things seem bigger but doesn’t it make the big things seem smaller?   

I mean it almost seems like they’re trying to float away with the rest of the garbage.

 

One of these things is not like the others

One of these things is not like the others

I can’t believe it.

Sarah effing Palin strikes again.

Every time I try to open the lines of communication with a liberal friend about how it feels for everyday conservative America (including people like me, who are really just the teensitinesiest bit conservative) to be constantly on the receiving end of name-calling, mockery, thinly veiled threats, and real live ACTUAL death wishes coming from the left (hint: it’s bad, mmmkay, and leads to intolerable shit like Donald Trump getting elected) this happens:

“Welp Sarah Palin once called liberal America Not The Real America, herp de derp, and I cried lots of supersad tears over it.”  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/21/AR2008102102449.html

Fuck you, you did not.  Seriously, most liberals don’t care one flying FIG about being called Not The Real America or unAmerican or any of that.  In fact, a pretty healthy chunk of them take at least a little delight in being unAmerican. I know this because I used to be a liberal and I admit freely I hated America with the passion of 1000 fiery suns and went 4 whole years not saying the Pledge of Allegiance in high school and feeling exceedingly self-righteous about it because I KNEW that America sucked a$$ even worse than the Class of ‘87 did.  I remember absolutely despising America – the concept, the execution, the fireworks, Hank Williams, Jr, the Osmonds, Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, trailer parks, Christianity, barbequed meats, becobbed corn, all of it right down to that goddamn bald eagle. Did you know it’s a scavenger? It eats GARBAGE, just like America. America IS garbage and eats garbage and spreads its garbage like disease, and just like garbage the American experiment should be buried under tons of dirt and allowed to ferment until it rots away and ceases to exist or burned into ashes maybe instead and replaced with something better like Europe or maybe Portland.

I remember with crystal clarity having those feelings daily for years.  I hated America with more passion than I felt for mostly anything except perhaps Duran Duran.  Thus I am just not buying that the average liberal is losing any sleep over being torn up re: Sarah Palin’s opinion.

I believe most liberals trot out that stale ol’ Sarah Palin quote (that was ten years ago, people!) because they think it gives them political traction with conservatives.  It’s like fracking, you don’t really care about it because it doesn’t really affect you, but you think WE care about it because it affects us, so you talk about it. (37% of all readers just said “Well I for one actually care about fracking because blah blah blah STFU YOU DO NOT)  It’s as if because conservatives value “being American” (whatever that even means), liberals believe that by invoking Sarah Palin’s horrific decadesold verbal transgression maybe conservatives will think “Well gee whillikers, I’d certainly be upset if someone called me unAmerican, yup, you’re right, that was a low blow, she probably shouldn’t have said that.  Our bad.” And maybe that actually worked for a while there between the Dawn of Sarah Palin (who contrary to popular belief, was an absolute NOBODY among right-leaning voters when she came out of Wasilla to sink the McCain campaign like an impossibly upbeat torpedo and didn’t represent or speak for conservatives, the group at that point in time and barely does now) and today but heads up, it doesn’t work any more, not on me anyway.

Because the fact is, liberal chums, quite a lot of you DO hate America.  Maybe not YOU personally, I’ll take your word on that, ol’ buddy ol’ pal, but a lot of your compatriots actively hate America.  At least the red part of it, anyway. The American American stuff.  Statement of fact: you will never find a flag or a cross or a gun or an eagle or a Harley Davidson motorcycle embossed on anything belonging to a liberal.   All that red white and blue bullshit I used to hate so violently and vehemently in high school and college (and still don’t particularly love TBH, an aesthetic viewpoint you may be shocked to learn is not at all unique amongst conservatives who are actually far more diverse in thought and opinion than we are made out to be), you hate it just as bad as I did.  

You demonstrate your hatred constantly in every way you possibly can – in music, in books, in tv shows, in cartoons and bumperstickers and slogans on T-shirts. The people who speak for you say it – the politicians and celebrities and reporters and college professors. There are a kajillion tweets a day with some important lefty mouthpiece saying how much they despise America and how they wish the United States was more like Canada or Australia or Sweden and how embarrassing it is to be an American and all those kajillion tweets get a kazillion retweets.  You’re not fooling anyone with your crocodile tears over Sarah Palin saying this that or the other thing, it’s a nonsense political ploy, your ace in the hole that you think proves some point but it’s all lies and bullshit just like 90% of all the other stuff you say.

Let me digress for a minute to talk about cunts.   

You know that recent Samantha Bee thing where Roseanne said some awful thing and then Bee said “cunt” (which is like NOTHING compared to what Roseanne said) and some conservatives suddenly flipped their shit and y’all were left scratching your no-poo’d man-buns in perplexity about the hypocrisy of it all?  Well, that’s you over this Sarah Palin thing. I mean seriously, Sarah Palin saying “not the real America” is so utterly minor in the grand scheme of political barbs (political barbs are ALLOWED, people, barbs are not off limits! Hillary calling people in red states deplorables is a dumb as b@lls but it too was a political barb and allowed just the same as Palin’s “not the real America” should have been allowed).  Yet you trot “not the real America” out like it’s some magical totem you can invoke to shut down the VERY LEGIT point that the left en masse is doing an awful lot of ugly talkin’ here and maybe-just-maybe conservatives have valid reason for being a little bit concerned about the long-term implications of your guyses present mindset. You’re scared, concerned, feel threatened, conservatives?  Well, Sarah Palin, case closed, check and mate, Elvis has left the building.  Your argument is invalid, Sarah Palin’s hair is a bird.  U throwing Sarah Palin in my face is Sam Bee saying “cunt” only writ large, since it is STILL going on and on and Sarah Palin happened forever ago in the grand scheme of things.  You and yours are insulting and even outright threatening me and mine every day via 100,000 different mediums and when asked about it you blink stupidly and pretend that you don’t know what I am talking about and have the audacity to ask me to list my sources to prove this outrageous claim.  

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?  My SOURCES? How about everything and everyone on your side for like, oh, I don’t know, the last mywholeentirelife?

But ok, whatever, I’ll play.  Let’s just go over a FEW of the more notorious things that are just a wee bit more…shall we say, in your face…than Sarah Palin saying “not the REAL America” during the course of a political campaign, shall we?

Famous singer says she hates America, later explains it’s because America is fat  https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/ariana-grande-says-i-hate-807275

Reporter says coal miners should die and they deserve it https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/12/12/1610198/-Be-happy-for-coal-miners-losing-their-health-insurance-They-re-getting-exactly-what-they-voted-for

Childhood icon says old people need to die to protect the environment https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jul/20/bill-nye-climate-science-needs-older-generations-t/

Tech company founder says Middle America is a shithole filled with stupid people http://dailycaller.com/2017/01/08/tech-company-founder-middle-america-is-a-shthole-filled-with-stupid-people/

Television writer says it’s good that Congressmen he politically disagrees with were shot https://twitchy.com/samj-3930/2017/06/23/classy-bill-nye-writer-is-ok-if-a-few-old-ass-conservative-white-men-have-to-die-to-pass-gun-control/

Hollywood royalty calls for mass execution of NRA members https://www.theblaze.com/news/2017/10/05/famous-singer-calls-for-mass-execution-of-nra-members-it-doesnt-go-over-well

Hollywood royalty calls for woman to be raped…  http://dailycaller.com/2018/06/20/peter-fonda-asks-for-sec-nielsen-to-be-caged-and-publicly-raped-for-enforcing-immigration-law/

…and child to be molested.  https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/peter-fonda-barron-trump/

Actor bullied and forced to apologize for saying conservative writer has good intentions  https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/7/19/17593174/mark-duplass-ben-shapiro-apology

Anointed celebrity golden girl and Friend of Hillary celebrates the extinction of white men https://twitter.com/lenadunham/status/793929098926166016

Congresswoman calls for members of presidential cabinetto be publicly harassed/bullied by the private sector to force political agreement  https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/25/politics/maxine-waters-trump-officials/index.html

Failed presidential candidate calls those who did not vote for her backwards, pessimistic, racist, sexist, jealous, and very obviously worst of all, poorer than her voters http://www.businessinsider.com/hillary-clinton-says-trump-won-backwards-states-in-2016-2018-3

I could sit here and post like a hundred of these, a thousand of them, and I could back them up with a MILLION examples from fictional sagas where conservatives or Christians or country folk were mocked as stupid/inbred/ignorant and/or portrayed as bad guys and terrible people and it would still be a drop in the bucket really.  And remember, these are NOT just random yo-yo’s on the street, these are famous people putting together thoughts that they KNOW will be highly scrutinized by millions of people. The average everyday liberal yo-yo’s are also posting similar sentiments, I’ve read them, and honestly, YOU’VE read them too. You like to pretend you haven’t read them when I press you on the issue, but you’ve read them and a good many of you have written them yourself.  I read these sentiments on social media all the way back into the Obama administration when you were winning and winning wasn’t good enough, oh no, you had to also stand over the virtual corpses of gay-marriage-opposing Christians WHO YOU WERE FRIENDS WITH and instead of being magnanimous, conciliatory, generous in your triumph, you pushed your digital foot into their cyberchest and screamed victory into their avatar’s face.  (and I happen to agree with you on gay marriage but the gloating and mercilessly unkind behavior to people who didn’t agree after gay marriage was legalized was one of the most troubling things I’ve ever witnessed)

When I say “we’re scared” you bloody well know why or you are the stupidest, most inside of a bubble person ever.   

Yet again and again, I emerge from hiding like a little shy mouse to try to explain this to you, to tell you my concerns, to express the concerns of my friends and neighbors out here in Shymousepeopleland and in return you give me Sarah Palin?  REALLY? Is saying “not the real America” during the course of a political campaign really equivalent to calling for murder and rape? Is ur complicated feelz about hearing “not the real America” one time 10 years ago REALLY equivalent to millions of mousy conservative folks being actually afraid to talk about their deeply held political beliefs because they know they’ll be stomped on by a thousand combat boots and maybe even lose their little mice jobs at the cheese factory if they do?

I don’t think it’s unreasonable paranoia for conservatives to have some concerns in light of the many troubling statements that YOU, liberals, both everyday folk and those in your leadership, are making every. damn. day.   The people you are surrounded by and look up to are saying that I am evil. Not wrong, evil. And evil things are to be eradicated. ERADICATED.  The moldy, outdated past that had nothing good in it at all whatsoever should be eradicated utterly from the history books, ushering in the glorious, flawless, golden Future of Tomorrow in which everything will be perfectly utopian and everyone will be happy all the time.  Or else.

This is happening, it is real, and I don’t need to post 10,000 examples to prove that it is real every time we chat, because you gotta be living at a Helen Keller level of oblivious if you don’t see it.  And you – who are ostensibly my friend, right?? I thought so anyway – telling me that it is unreasonable paranoia on my part because Sarah Palin, makes me even more concerned. Because one of these things is NOT LIKE the others.  

And this is not me calling for censorship!  Not EVEN! I think it’s fine for Samantha Bee to say “cunt” and Robert DeNiro to say “fuck Trump.”  (even though, again, it’s dumb as b@lls if you wanna win elections IMVVVVHO cause you’re gonna need the moderate people like me and I for one will never vote Democrat again not even for the freaking dog catcher).  Feel free to call me a cunt or a gash or a deplorable and I’ll defend to the death your right to say it. But don’t you even dare, for a single solitary minute, talk to me condescendingly like I’m a fucking idiot born yesterday and try to conflate a minor political jab that happened 10 years ago with high school teachers casually suggesting burning down a pizza parlor over some people’s political and religious beliefs https://www.weaselzippers.us/219251-high-school-teacher-in-liberal-mass-town-calls-for-burning-down-indiana-pizza-shop-over-christian-beliefs-on-gay-marriage/

https://www.christianpost.com/news/memories-pizza-where-christian-owners-got-death-threats-for-not-catering-gay-weddings-closes-223357/  And this shit is happening CONSTANTLY from you people and it’s bad and making our country less and less pleasant and worse, less and less unified.

Tolerance!

Tolerance?

Now I know there are people on the right who have done and said some terrible shit and yep it’s indefensible.  But for some reason you never bring those people up, do you, preferring instead to resort to bitching and moaning about Sarah Palin.  Why? I suspect it’s because deep down inside you know that those people are not mainstream. Alex Jones is not mainstream and you know it and I know it.  Alt-right trolls are not mainstream. But on your side? The extremists RULE. Lena Dunham, who was once put in charge of Hillary Clinton’s Instagram account for a whole fucking day that’s how much of an insider she is, made a cheery video about how great it was that white males would go extinct.  You cannot disavow the extremists in your midst because 97% of you ARE extremists and the other 3% of you have your heads so far up your own asses that not even the soothing sounds of NPR can lure you out.

God, I miss Dick Gephart.

I have a child who’s an instigator.  He will push and push until finally one of his siblings flips their shit, usually over the most minor, mundane, innocuous thing but it’s because he’d been doing that same thing and worse for the last 17 hours straight.  Then he will profess shock and outrage that he’s being punished for this microaggression that he of course never even meant to do. He’ll point a quavering finger at whoever it is who had simply responded in kind out of exasperation since he’d been provoking them for a good long while prior.   Then he cowers behind “but Johnny did so and so” and gets all offended and claims to have no idea why anyone is even angry with him when everyone knows it was Johnny all along.  You know the type. He’s not a bad kid and I believe that HE mostly believes what he says and probably cannot understand why he is in trouble most of the time because he also has a selective memory and seems to immediately forget the bulk of all his small but obnoxious transgressions.  

What my child fails to understand is that we, his parental units, have been watching his behavior lo these many years and we KNOW that whenever one of his siblings blows up at him, it’s usually entirely justified because he’s such an unremittant little passive-aggressive pissant.  That is YOU, liberals. You poked us and poked us and poked us for decades and we took it in good faith, with good humor, in the spirit of a pluralistic society, but now ya done poked us one too many times and you cannot, CANNOT run back and hide behind “but Sarah Palin!!!  Fox NEWWWWSSSSSS!” any more.  Even though I suspect that you have the short-term memory issues of any garden-variety unremittant passive-aggressive pissant and you don’t even know why we’re mad at you because you didn’t even DO anything, trust me, you did.

Better start keeping score because we have started keeping score.

AKA check yourself before you wreck not only yourself, but everything.  We got a good deal here, America. We got a good thing going. We got freedom and a world of choices and technological shit that was unimaginable when we were children and you can absolutely reject the trappings of “America”, the bald eagles and Jell-O salads and deer heads on walls and Little League baseball and toddler beauty pageants while still embracing freedom and the marvelous stuff that freedom has created for us.  Because the freedom stuff is the stuff that really matters to us right-wing wackos. Believe it or not we don’t care if you like the same home decor and extracurriculars we do if you’d just stop telling us how problematically awful the stuff we like is and writing thinkpieces on how our every preference reveal us as much-dumber-than-u monsters. I promise we don’t want to force our way of life onto you.  That’s your department.  

The stuff y’all think of as “the real America” is just aesthetics. We can share the American stuff – freedom and tolerance and respect for individual rights and civil liberties – without sharing the aesthetic trappings. Conservatives do it every day – I assure you, my daughter has never been in a beauty pageant nor does the severed head of an animal adorn my home, and I don’t even LIKE apple pie. But I don’t go around judging and insulting my comrade-in-arms who does like those things, and our relationship works.  

Sooo, I’ll do me, and you do you, and Bubba McLardass or whoever you think lives out here in the red states can do him, and we could all live happily side by side in peace and harmony but ya gotta quit with the demonizing everybody who doesn’t like everything that you like all the time.  And if you can’t do that, if you can’t change, I get it, change is hard. But at the least you need to ADMIT that a lot of the people on your side of the aisle are saying some things that are beyond the pale and way outside of the boundaries and that we on the right have reasons to feel afraid of these people and fear makes some people who are already halfway there, get totally cray-cray. 

Please, PLEASE just admit that your side’s rhetoric, from the very bottom right on up to the tippity top, has gone way beyond something mild and minor Sarah Palin said in a speech 10 years ago because by pretending these things are in any way the same, you are then compounding the matter with deceit and condescension and making me question the motives of everyday people I genuinely like.

That’s right, dudes and dudettes of the left, I LIKE YOU.  We ARE all totally the real America and I like you bubble-headed Coasties from Haight-Asbury all the way to Greenwich Village.  We have way more in common than you think. I believe you mostly have good hearts and some of you even mean what you say which makes you wrong, not evil.  I don’t mean you any harm and I don’t ~think~ u mean me harm either, but when you piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining, I start wondering if you’re really my friend or if you’re just looking for a convenient place to drop a dook.

 

Babies behind bars?

Babies behind bars?

According to a recent article in Cosmopolitan, the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act means that a flood of poor women will be going to jail – deliberately – to get prenatal care.   The author claims that prior to the implementation of the ACA, for many women, prison was their main provider of prenatal care, and should the ACA be repealed, it will be so again. http://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/a8672870/obamacare-repeal-will-send-poor-pregnant-women-jail-prenatal/  

Of course, the ACA does not really mean all women have access to prenatal care.  It simply means that they have insurance. Insurance does not always equate to health care.  Health care, for most people, carries additional costs and fees beyond the amount insurance covers.  The amount of money I had to pay out of pocket for my pregnancy and birth in 2009 vs. my pregnancy and birth in 2012 more than doubled in only 3 years.  Our insurance paid a lower percentage of my prenatal care post-ACA. Since the price we paid for our monthly insurance also went up significantly at the same time, it certainly didn’t translate to affordable care for us, anyway.  If we hadn’t been able to afford the money for the co-pay, our insured status would not have equated to prenatal care for me. But I digress.

The author of the Cosmo piece never exactly proves that because the women received prenatal care in prison, that it was really their REASON for being in prison, nor does she establish that the women in question tried very hard to get prenatal care outside of prison, either.  And even before the implementation of the ACA, there were social programs that offered free health care to people below a certain income available for the taking – no need for poor women to go to jail to get prenatal care. But let’s take the claim at face value. For the sake of argument, we’ll agree that at least some women are willing to deliberately subject themselves to prison to access prenatal care.  Some would argue that adequate prenatal care is so important to the good of the country that so we should provide it for free to everyone. Let’s accept that as a given, too. As a caring, empathetic society, we should ensure that everyone has access to some basic level of food, water, air, and prenatal care. But what adequate prenatal care should entail is hard to pin down, exactly.   “Adequate” is a pretty amorphous term. What does it really mean?

Women’s magazines and medical experts universally agree that adequate prenatal care is very important for the health of women and their unborn babies.  Without adequate prenatal care, terrible things can happen. But as most women who have had a baby will testify, the bulk of prenatal care involves an afternoon taken off work, finding a sitter for your other children or dragging them along if you can’t, a stressful drive into heavy traffic, paying for parking in a crowded parking garage, waddling into a building full of sick and possibly contagious people, waiting an interminable length of time for a nurse to check your pee sample/take your blood pressure/measure your stomach/weigh you and scold you for the amount you’ve gained, be it too much or too little, and then waiting another interminable length of time for the doctor to show up.  The doctor shakes your hand and glances at your paperwork and tells you to return in a month, 2 weeks, a week, or a few days, depending on how far along you are. Sometimes you get to listen to your baby’s heartbeat on the Doppler, which is fun.

Quite frankly, a good percentage of prenatal care is bullshit.  You lose an entire afternoon, if not a full day, to see a nurse for a few minutes and a doctor for fewer.  Somebody behind the scenes dips a test strip into your pee. It’s basically an excuse to listen to your baby’s heartbeat.  Lots of appointments, lots of ultrasounds, lots of tests, lots of weighing and measuring and poking and prodding, but most of it is only window dressing.    

If you have concerns about aches or pains they are usually played off as inconsequential.  If you have minor pregnancy complaints, they are easily fixed. If you have heartburn, take Tums.  If you are constipated, take a stool softener. Varicose veins, put your feet up. If you’re nauseous, try soda crackers.  But adequate prenatal care should not mean going to the doctor for advice about soda crackers and footstools and reassurance over cramps.  It should mean that which is minimally adequate for a healthy pregnancy. Adequate means good enough, not best of the best. Yet women are sold a bill of goods where if they don’t have it done exactly as the OBGYN suggests, their uterus will implode, taking out everyone within a 5 yard radius.  

Things can and do go wrong in pregnancy.  But most of what pregnant women receive when they get prenatal care is useless.  It isn’t preventative, it’s a placebo. A lot of hassle for a lot of nothing. Most of the patients OBGYNs see in the office are not having emergencies and most who are having emergencies are well aware they are having them.  In fact, developing emergencies are sometimes missed during prenatal visits when doctors and nurses write off concerning symptoms as minor complaints, lulling women into a false sense of security that everything is ok when it actually isn’t.

Most serious problems in pregnancy (that are able to be corrected by doctors, that is) show up towards at the end of pregnancy.  Gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia rarely develop before the 5th month and usually much later. Problems during the first trimester of pregnancy are almost always terminal.   If you’re losing a pregnancy before 26 weeks (more realistically, 32 weeks) there is usually little they can do to save your baby. Despite this, some doctors will have women come in every 2-3 days day at the beginning of a pregnancy for something called “betas”.  Betas are blood tests to check the level of pregnancy hormones in a woman’s blood. They’re done repeatedly to see how fast they’re rising. Slow rises can mean a pregnancy is not developing normally. But fast rises, while encouraging, do not guarantee a pregnancy is developing normally.  Betas are largely pointless, but women love them anyway. They will obsess over their betas. Women whose doctors won’t do betas lament over not having their beta numbers. But betas are totally useless because if the pregnancy is ending at the earliest stage of gestation, there is nothing doctors can do about it anyway.   Betas are a huge waste of valuable medical dollars that could be spent more wisely on about a million other things.

Some other things that doctors like to do in early pregnancy:

Prescribe really expensive prenatal vitamins, but prenatals are readily available over the counter for a much lower price and prenatals have never been shown to do anything to help a pregnancy anyway.  https://www.statnews.com/2016/07/11/prenatal-supplement-unnecessary/  Folic acid has, but most foods are fortified with folic acid now, and it’s also readily available over the counter at a fraction of the price as the prescription brand.  Vitamin D may also be a good idea, but again it’s available in fortified foods and also over the counter.

Prescribe progesterone supplements which data indicates are no better than placebos and do not help maintain any pregnancy that isn’t developing normally http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/9829-201606229829

Pressure women over 35 into having amniocentesis or CVS tests that carry a risk of miscarriage even though there are now non-invasive blood tests that do the same thing for a much, much lower cost and without risk to the pregnancy http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/noninvasive-prenatal-testing

Send women for “dating ultrasounds” which involve something called a transvaginal ultrasound wand (just as pleasant as it sounds) to verify when the woman got pregnant.   Even when the woman knows exactly when she got pregnant, many doctors insist upon the “dating ultrasound” even though it is of no proven medical benefit. They are also very unreliable and many times women end up highly stressed out when a technician can’t see a baby on the screen because they are not far enough along.

Insist upon doing Pap smears and other preventative vaginal exams “because they won’t be able to do them later in pregnancy.”  But Pap smears only need to be done every 3-5 years https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/prevention-and-early-detection/cervical-cancer-screening-guidelines.html

Put women on bed rest or pelvic rest even though these things have never been shown to help sustain pregnancy and bed rest even make matters worse by causing blood clots in the legs.  https://www.fitpregnancy.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-news/experts-call-bed-rest-be-discontinued

Things that doctors DON’T like to do in early pregnancy:

Check thyroid levels of women with a history of thyroid problems.  Thyroid problems are known to cause or contribute to miscarriage and yet some women have to fight tooth and nail for their doctors to do these tests and adjust their medication even when they’re experiencing troubling symptoms.  https://www.endocrineweb.com/news/reproductionsexuality/15793-untreated-low-thyroid-function-during-pregnancy-can-lead-trouble

Properly investigate severe cramping and spotting.   One true medical emergency that does occur in early pregnancy is a pregnancy that occurs in the Fallopian tubes (ectopic pregnancy).  The tubes can rupture and cause potentially fatal internal bleeding. It’s rare, but worthy of a thorough investigation, not only to be sure an ectopic pregnancy has not occurred, but also to avoid medical mismanagement where a viable pregnancy is terminated.  There is a strange dichotomy wherein ectopic pregnancies are both frequently missed http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1479-828X.1996.tb03282.x/full but at the same time viable pregnancies are terminated wrongfully http://commonhealth.legacy.wbur.org/2013/10/ectopic-pregnancy-misdiagnosed-methotrexate

Investigate unexplained fevers.  Women occasionally go into their doctor with an unexplained fever during pregnancy.  Yes, usually it’s viral. But occasionally a woman develops a bladder or kidney infection during pregnancy or even an infection in the uterus.  Because doctors often assume fevers are benign in cause, infections may be left untreated until a woman is very ill. If the infection is in the uterus, the pregnancy cannot withstand it.  Invasive procedures like Pap smears and transvaginal ultrasounds (as in, those things that some doctors like to do without cause in early pregnancy) during pregnancy may raise the risks of uterine infections, due to a lack of sanitization of equipment, the medical provider, or contamination of the gel products used during the procedure when technicians reuse the same container of gel again and again rather than opening a new sterile package for each patient.   https://www.cdc.gov/hicpac/Disinfection_Sterilization/3_1deLaparoArthro.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3973690/

http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/Safety/AlertsandNotices/ucm299409.htm

The argument for Mercedes-level prenatal care is that “If it saves one life, it’s all worth it”.  But the problem is, when every patient is treated as a ticking time bomb in need of intense scrutiny, it makes it much more likely the minority who really ARE developing a complication will be missed.   It’s like a reverse form of the needle in a haystack. Doctors and nurses are so busy dealing with all the pieces of straw, they can’t spot the needle even though it’s shiny. If a doctor’s office is so busy doing “dating ultrasounds” that it doesn’t have the capability to quickly and thoroughly investigate a woman who is actually having symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, then they’re doing it wrong.  And if they’re so busy doing those “dating ultrasounds” that employees can’t even clean their equipment properly, wash their hands, or even open a sterile container of ultrasound goo, then they’re making even more needles to lose in the stack.

Some doctor’s office do early pregnancy right.  They refuse to see patients (without cause) until the start of the second trimester.  This allows them to better focus on their patients who are experiencing real problems and those later along in pregnancy and at higher risk of developing complications.  It also prevents temptation for doctors to cave in to their patients, who often demand interventions like dating ultrasounds, beta testing, and progesterone supplements when they are not medically indicated.  Unfortunately these non-interventionist doctors have to compete with the offices that are willing to do unnecessary intervention, so the pressure is on everyone to provide more and earlier care.

Prenatal care is likely even being overused even into the second trimester.  Most serious, life threatening pregnancy complications do not start to occur until the 5th month of pregnancy, and even then it’s only a tiny percentage which gradually grows to a still-small percentage by the 9th month.  So why do ALL women have to come in for numerous appointments even when their risk of complications is miniscule? Is this the best of use of our medical time and dollars? It probably isn’t, and any woman who is experiencing weird symptoms and is terrified and wants to come in right away only to be told “we can squeeze you in next Tuesday at 3” wants to tear her hair out knowing that most of the people in the doctor’s office are only there to listen to their baby’s heartbeat on the Doppler.  

Did I mention how fun that is?   It’s pretty fun. Fun enough to justify wildly inflated medical bills?  Nah. Fun enough to justify having to wait days for true medical emergencies?  Definitely not.

There are some very clear markers for gestational diabetes and preeclampsia that are easy to spot.  Increasing blood pressure, sugar and protein in urine, and excessive weight gain are early signs. Why not allow pregnant women to take their own blood pressure, check their own urine with dip sticks to check for sugar and protein, weigh themselves, and call for an immediate appointment if anything seems off?  Maybe come to the lab a couple times for a blood test at the start of the second trimester and the start of the 3rd to rule out anemia, gestational diabetes and a few other rare complications? A woman wouldn’t even need to see the doctor for that, if everything came out ok. It would give doctors and nurses more time to answer the mundane questions about heartburn and support stockings via email.

Some women won’t do those things, of course.  But I’ll wager that most if not all of the women who aren’t willing to take their own blood pressure and check their urine for glucose and protein once a month are also the ones who weren’t going to prenatal exams anyway.  And that’s not meant as a slam on them. If you don’t have reliable transportation and someone to watch your children, it becomes a massive ordeal to go to the doctor’s office once every 2 weeks or even once a month. If you work a non-professional job, and are expected to work 9-5 M-F, it’s undoable.   And knowing that you’ll face judgement from the nurses and receptionists if you miss an appointment or two makes it that much harder to show up at the visits you can. Who can blame them for wanting to stay away? I actually suspect we’d see better compliance with a do-it-yourself approach than with traditional prenatal exams.

Articles about women going to jail to get adequate prenatal care are nonsensical because no one is even questioning what that even means.  No one is calling for “good enough, get the job done” prenatal care. They’re calling for an unnecessary amount of prenatal care that most do not need, which puts huge burdens onto the backs of poor and working-class women (whether or not they have insurance).   Prenatal care as it exists here and now, America 2018 is NOT adequate. It’s a fun and reassuring life experience for women who can afford it and have the luxury of being able to get to the appointments. But a lot of women don’t want a fun and reassuring life experience, they want adequate prenatal care.  Truly adequate. They want a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby and I believe we can do that with far fewer visits.

No one needs to go to jail for “adequate” prenatal care.  We need to start giving women the option of a basic level of care.  This isn’t harming women, it’s helping them. If doctors weren’t stretched so thin, they’d be better able to serve all their customers.  They may even be better able to help the women and babies who truly require medical intervention by decluttering the doctor’s schedules and making it easier to spot the needle in the haystack.  It would very likely be more affordable as well – an important consideration given the recent debates over health care. And nobody would have to go to jail to get it.

 

   

 

Supernatural: Manic Pixie God Girl Part 10 – With Friends Like These

Supernatural: Manic Pixie God Girl Part 10 – With Friends Like These

And that was how Dean Winchester, the artist currently known as God (he had just thought of that one and it cracked him up every time it popped into his head) came to find himself on the top of a mountain in the Alps in the middle of a lightning storm accompanied by a very small, very cute deity with a meat cleaver in her hands.  “What’s that for?”  He wasn’t sure he really wanted to know.

“You probably don’t want to know.” Ah, crap.

Jovi had known where they were going and was wearing jeans and hiking boots and a puffy black coat trimmed with pink fake fur.  Her hair was up in braids like a milkmaid.  Dean hadn’t, and was dressed in his normal clothes.  His vessel was freezing its ass off.  He still felt sick and awful and weak and now he was gonna catch a chill on top of it. Luckily, it wasn’t far to where they were going, which was some kind of an old temple that hadn’t been attended to for a very long time by the looks of things.  Unluckily, it was up a steep narrow mountain path and his heart beat hard and fast from the exertion and he saw spots before his eyes.  He breathed hard because he needed to breathe to sustain himself, that’s how bad off he was.  He needed to breathe.

The ornately carved marble of the temple looked like it was melting; the faces of the statues that had once adorned it were worn away to featureless nubbins.  Jovi looked at them in dismay as they passed.  She clucked her tongue disapprovingly.  “It’s the acid rain that does that.”

“What?”  It wasn’t that he’d not been paying attention, he just literally felt like he was about to keel over dead at any moment and had been focusing all his energy on maintaining consciousness.

“The pollution.  This world used to be so nice, Dean.  I wish you could have seen it when.”  She didn’t wait for a response.   She just walked off, left him there desperately trying to catch his breath, and descended a set of steps to the center of the temple.  Looking at it from above Dean could see it had at one time been a clock, the floor of the temple had; a clock with no hands.  The numbers were worn away but there were faint indentations where they had once been.  In the center was a pillar with an oxidized copper bowl on top.  Jovi stopped and looked down inside it.  

His curiosity piqued and his breath at least somewhat restored, Dean stumbled down the steps to peer down inside the bowl.  It was filled with some kind of opaque, oily liquid.  It seemed to be both colorless and all colors at the same time which he knew was a trite and overused sort of description but it was the most apt.  He knew who they had come to call upon for help, but he didn’t know how they would do it, since Jovi hadn’t exactly revealed that part of the plan.  Sam had said that she needed part of his energy, which was more than a little worrying since Dean felt like he had absolutely none to spare.

The meat cleaver worried him even more though.  How did one extract energy, anyway?   Gabriel had said something about…chopping….

“I need your pinky, Dean.”

My what?  “My what?”

“Your pinky.  I am SO sorry?”  While Dean was digesting this tidbit of information, Jovi slid a very large hunting knife out from her coat pocket and slapped it into Dean’s palm.  He pulled out the blade with his thumbnail and contemplated it.  The blade was 7 inches long and sharp – wicked sharp.  The metal gleamed as lighting flashed above.  Before he could think about it too much, he lopped off the pinky on his left hand.  The knife slid right through the bone, no problem.  The digit dropped down into the liquid in the bowl with a plurp and the liquid started to bubble.  It barely even hurt…oh wait, yes, yes it did.  Took a second to kick in was all.  Phew, boy, did it ever hurt.  Hurt like a bitch.  Hurt more than you would even think it did.  Considerably.  He grunted without meaning to and his knees, which were already like jelly, nearly crumpled.  Jovi’s eyes were wide, scared.  “Wow you did that really super fast.  I thought maybe you’d have to work up to it or something.”

“Nah.  I figured it was better not to think about it too much.”  His voice shook and he flushed with embarrassment, but to his relief Jovi didn’t even notice.

“Oh.  You’re smart.”  Jovi slipped out of her coat and tied it around her waist.  Then she gulped and fidgeted and blew out some air from her cheeks, trying to get psyched up for whatever it was that she had to do.  The cleaver was for her, he realized with a chill, as she raised it in her fist.   And she was scared.  She set her left hand on the edge of the bowl.  Her hand.  He got off with a pinky, he had got off light, but she had to give up her entire hand.   He thought she was going to do it, but then she stopped.  Definitely scared.  “Should I go up, or down, do you think?”

“What?”

She demonstrated with the cleaver to indicate her meaning.  “Should I strike up, or down?”

“Oh.  Down, definitely.  If you went up, you might end up hitting yourself in the face.”

“Oh, of course.  Ok.  Down it is.”  But she still waited.  He could see her lips move…one, two, three…and then she hesitated.  She did it several times and the knot in Dean’s stomach relaxed a little bit thinking maybe she wouldn’t go through with it after all, but then she did it all of a sudden unexpectedly without counting and he cried out without meaning to.  She did too though.  The hand fell into the basin along with a river of blood and the liquid swirled and roiled but nothing more happened.  “Oh, that wasn’t enough, I guess.  Oh.”

“I can…I can…” He didn’t wanna he didn’t wanna he didn’t wanna…

“No…” She breathed the word so faintly he could barely hear it.  She moved the stump of her arm forward so the bloody edge rested on the rim of the basin and with all her might brought the cleaver down again, just below her elbow, and her forearm fell into the turbulent liquid.

This time, the spell took.  They were thrown back by a gushing gust of power and Dean even slid a ways across the frigid marble, the chill soaking through his jeans like he had sat in a puddle of water. The bowl cracked down the middle and two halves fell to the temple floor, but the liquid remained, still swirling, wilder than ever.  It began to solidify to the consistency of Silly Putty, less liquid, more elastic, and Dean watched in amazement as it rose into a column and then the column took on the shape of a man.  The goo stretched out and down from the pillar, depositing the man on the floor of the temple and then the rest of it absorbed into him with a slurp.  “Hey, Mom.”

“Chronos, I’ve told you like a jillion times, I am not your mom.  You’re like my toenail clipping.”  Dean was dismayed to see a spreading crimson pool forming around her as blood gushed from her severed arm.

“Looks like you need a hand.”

“Ha, ha.”   Chronos tilted his head and Jovi held up what was left of her arm.  A smooth flap of skin had grown over the stump.  “Tch!  Is that the best you can do?”

“On short notice.”  And then, with meaning.  “I’m hungry.”

“Of course you are.”  Jovi climbed to her feet and the pool of blood around her disappeared.  She held a goblet in her hand.  “Will this do?”  

Chronos took the goblet and raised it.  “Cheers.”  Down the hatch it went.  Dean managed to fend off a surge of nausea and climbed back to his feet.   The activity attracted the demigod’s attention.  “You?”  He cast an eye at Jovi.  “What is wrong with you?”

“I don’t even know any more.”

“All those times you told me to leave the sexy humans alone and now look at you.”

“We’re just friends.  Not even that, really, I don’t think.”

“We’ll see what I see in the future.  What do you want, Mother, because I know you want something.  You wouldn’t have resurrected me without some horrible request.”

“We need you to hunt Lucifer for us.”

“Lucifer?  Oh, heh.  Sure.  I’ll get right on that.”

“He’s loose in time.  It’s kind of your area of expertise, I figured?  Go with a pro!”

“And what would I do if I found him?”

“You’d come get me, and I would deal with him.”  Dean was cold and exhausted and he had no pinky and the place where his pinky had been was throbbing and bleeding.  He wanted to just cut through the crap, get Chronos on board, get healed, and sleep for another 3 weeks.

“Because you were so effective against him the last time?”  Chronos snorted.

“Things are different now, Chronos.”  Upon hearing Jovi speak, Chronos peered at Dean through narrowed eyes as if trying to discern his nature.  

Chronos burst into laughter when he realized.  “You have got to be freaking kidding me.”

“No joke.”

“Thanks, but no.  I will fix the damage he causes in time, inasmuch as I can, no promises, no guarantees, but Lucifer and I are two ships, passing in the night.  As are we.  Farewell, Mom.  And thanks for my existence back.”  And with that, he vanished.

“Well, I guess that didn’t exactly work out.”

Jovi sighed and looked defeated.  “We used to have a thing.  It’s complicated.”

Dean felt the rage flare up again and he almost called her a whore before he stopped himself.  Jealous, so jealous.  “He was your ace in the hole, Jovi.  So now what?”  

“We can bind him.  We can make him.  But not tonight.   I need rest, and so do you.”

Before Dean could protest, before he could mention anything about trying again or pizza, he had been dropped off unceremoniously like a package outside the bunker and Jovi was nowhere to be found.

**********************

Oriphiel had nearly worn a hole in the carpeting from pacing.  He had wanted to go, asked to go, begged and pleaded to go but she wouldn’t have him.  Said he’d be a distraction and ordered him, ordered HIM to stay behind.   The only one that was on her side.  When she appeared the feeling of relief was so great that he felt tears pepper his eyes.  No crying, not now.  Not again.  She needed for him to be strong.  She was so sick and weak and fragile.  He swallowed hard, twice, and was infinitely thankful when his emotions fell into line with his intentions.

Her arm was gone.  She had warned him that she might be missing a piece when she came back but she’d made it sound like nothing, like the tip of a finger, her eyelashes perhaps.  But her arm was GONE.  Oriphiel knew that Dean Winchester, given the state he was in, could not have sacrificed so much, that it hadn’t been 50-50 like Sam had promised.  And as he drew her a bath and made her warm milk flavored with vanilla beans and cinnamon and just a hint of orange peel, he fantasized about all the different ways he could kill Dean.  

Today had been a missed opportunity.  Dean had been so weak, if Oriphiel had only been left alone with him for a mere moment, a pillow to the face could have done, but he knew that if he committed the murder in anything less than the most final and magical way, that Jovi would simply resurrect Dean once again and be made even weaker for having done so.  He needed a way to kill a god and a way to make it permanent.  

Patience, patience.

She came to him then, wrapped in a fluffy crimson robe, her hair damp and curling.  She looked beautiful, she always looked beautiful.   He thought for the seven-millionth time that Dean was a fool.  He took her arm, her upper arm, since that was all that was left, and gazed at it.  He thought for a long moment about what it had looked like, the rest of it, freckles and pores and a faint layer of soft fuzz.  A hand with five slim fingers attached.  He imagined what it felt like to wrap his own fingers around her delicate wrist.  He knew as if it was his own arm by then; even better, for what sort of tosser sat around gazing at their own arm well enough to memorize the bloody thing?  

It took him a great effort but he managed to regrow that lovely arm once again and when he had, she laid the warm palm against his cheek in appreciation and he asked a very stupid question.  “Do you love me?”

As the words escaped his lips he knew he’d made a mistake and longed to call the words back or perhaps to douse himself with gasoline and light a match before she could respond.  “I love everything I ever created, silly.”  His guts twisted and his heart ached as if she had squeezed it like it was a damp sponge, as if she had wrung it entirely dry.    He willed his face to stay still and not move, not one little bit, other than a faint smile about his lips, pretending as if that terrible reply had been in any way enough to satisfy him.

Dean had to die.  It was just that simple.  

*********************

Once the object was safely hidden away under Sam’s bed in the bunker he had Castiel help him cast a spell that would hide it interdimensionally as well so no one would sense it was there.  All good.  But then after the spell was done, Castiel got weird about it.  “But…but Sam…I don’t want to kill Dean.”

Sam sighed.   Sometimes it was as if Castiel was being deliberately dense instead of just his normal level of accidental denseness.  Some of the angels could understand things like schemes and gambits and ploys – Gabriel was a master of the art – but Castiel seemed to have a giant black hole where his conspiracy center was located.  The plan was necessary.  The plan was obvious.  The plan should not need to be explained.  We hold this plan to be self-evident.  It was like, super annoying, because the more they talked about it, the likelier it was that Dean would overhear them and then all would be lost.  Or that Jovi would overhear them and then all would be awkward.  Sam needed Castiel to just understand something intuitively for once and get on board without having to have it explained to him repeatedly in exhausting detail as if he was a retarded squirrel that spoke only Japanese.

Dean having been out of commission for the past few weeks had been, for lack of a better term, a Godsend as far as Sam was concerned.  He’d been worried out of his skull, of course, so worried, but the upside was that he’d had a lot of free time unsupervised by either God to track down one of the ancient weapons rumored to kill deities.  During Dean’s absence and Jovi’s distraction over Dean’s absence, he and Cas had procured a certain mystical device without ever talking openly about it, operating almost as if they were connected psychically.  As if, had either one of them spoken the words, the magic would have dissipated, their silent pact would have been shattered, they’d have gotten cold feet and refused to consider what felt more and more to Sam to be inevitable.

Or so Sam had thought, but Castiel was blinking that confused vacant blink of his.  Really.  Really?  Now that both Gods were back in the game and ostensibly paying attention, apparently now he wanted to debate the necessity?   Loudly?  Sam sometimes wondered whose side Castiel was really on.  “It’s just a backup plan, Cas, that’s all.”

“But I don’t WANT to kill Dean, Sam.”

Sam gave Castiel a look, the kind of look that any human would have immediately comprehended.  It was the kind of look that was meant to communicate volumes without speaking.   He willed Castiel to fall into line without any further discussion that Dean or Jovi might overhear and tried to keep his own words as cryptic as he possibly could just in case any holy ears were tipped his way.  “That’s not…that’s not what we’re doing here, Cas.  Right?  You understand that, right?  That is not.  What we are doing.  We aren’t…Dean?  No. This is just…worst case scenario, that’s all.  Nuclear option.  If all other options have been exhausted, there’s this.  In the one in a million chance…one in a trillion chance it comes down to it, we’ll have this in our back pocket.”

But Castiel was apparently unable to understand the intent behind Sam’s expression.  “I won’t kill Dean, Sam.  I will not do it.”

Agh, he would not stop saying it!  Sam sighed and figured it was too late anyway.  The words had been uttered and anyone who had been listening already knew.  He stared at the ceiling a moment before meeting his friend’s eyes.  “Who says it’s meant for Dean?”

“Oh…OH!”  Castiel’s eyes went wide.  Finally he got it.   Geez.  It was so obvious – they simply had to be prepared to kill Jovi if need be.  Not like he wanted to, he didn’t, but maybe they needed to.  To Sam’s way of thinking, Jovi was the problem, so killing her very well may be the solution at some point.  At least having the ability, if they needed to.  It was like a check and balance, that was all.

“It’s just a backup plan, Cas, that’s all.  Just in case.”  Sam sucked in a breath, preparing for an argument, readying the list of indisputable, anti-Jovi facts and figures he had ever ready on the tip of his brain.  “I mean, we’d be stupid not to be prepared, all things considered.  Knowing what we know…about history, and in light of, the dangles, and everything…I mean, things just aren’t right, Cas, you know it and I know it.  Making angels out of demons is not right.  Things as they are, are not RIGHT.”

“You’re right, things aren’t right, but…but…Sam…”

“Now maybe they can go on this way, and maybe things will be ok, and maybe everything will work out in the end, happily ever after just like we all want here, and of course we all hope for that, of course we do, but knowing what we know, given her mysterious ways and everything, we’d be stupid not to be, you know, I don’t know, prepared.”  Sam had the vague impression he was talking too much and too fast and was repeating himself in a pretty unconvincing manner but couldn’t stop himself, he had to make Castiel see reason.  “I mean, it’s entirely possible that she could be working with Lucifer, Cas, entirely possible!  And even if she’s not, I mean, come on, she’s not exactly the most balanced entity we know, and Dean…well, we can’t rely on Dean to do what needs to be done, if it comes down to that.”

Much to Sam’s relief, Castiel didn’t put up a fight.  He simply nodded solemnly.  “Only if we need to.  Only if we absolutely NEED to.”

“We will probably never need to though.  For reals.”

“Probably never.  Of course probably never.”

“Just a backup plan.  That’s all.”

“A backup plan.”  Sam willed Castiel to stop talking about it.  “I have to think for a while.”  The angel blinked a few more times and disappeared, and while Sam didn’t think it had gone entirely well, it could have been worse.  Castiel could have refused outright and Sam could be in it alone, trying to save his brother singlehandedly yet again.

************************

After another few days in bed eating anything that wasn’t nailed down, Dean started feeling better.   He was sort of surprised that Jovi hadn’t called, or swung by to check on him, to make sure his pinky had grown back again the right way.  The more he thought about it, the more outrageous it seemed that she hadn’t even bothered to check up on him, to see if he needed to be healed, to see if he needed any help learning to use his powers, since Lucifer was on the loose and all.  It was like she didn’t even care about him.  Well, screw her, and so he decided to get out of the bunker and get some fresh air.

Dean didn’t sneak.  So he wasn’t sneaking.  He was just walking, strolling, meandering, really, on the totally public lands that just so happened to lie just outside of the grounds of Jovi’s castle.  He wished she didn’t have a castle; it seemed so silly for her to live in a castle, juvenile and all that. God shouldn’t live in a house, of course, it was beneath the dignity of the title – “Oh I’m going over to God’s house to borrow a cup of sugar”, that just didn’t work – but a castle just seemed so over the top.  Now, he thought he might want some sort of a castle-ish-structure of his own eventually, but a more tasteful one. More like, a compound, or, or, a fortress. Maybe a lodge.  Jovi’s castle was a castle castle, all froufrou and princessy.  It was made of pink marble and looked like something Barbie or Strawberry Shortcake might live in.   Dean’s fortress would be solemn and Germanic and dark and respectable, like the castle of a guy who could get some crap done.

Extending out from Jovi’s castle ran an elaborate system of landscaped grounds, and Dean felt annoyance to see that she had been wasting time and energy on gardening when she should have been helping him, or else resting.  Being God seemed way too much about her sometimes. Yeah, sure, ok, when he had first gotten his powers he had effed around with them and screwed off with the gambling and stuff but that was understandable, anybody would’ve needed to to play around with that kind of thing at first, to get it out of their system.  But she’d been God for like, ever, since the very beginning, you’d think she would have been used to it by that point and known that defeating Lucifer was more important than having a nice yard.

Dean felt a pop, like when you yawn on a plane and the pressure in your ears releases, only this feeling wasn’t just in his ears, it was in his whole body.  A tension outside of him formed suddenly and released. And it wasn’t a good feeling or a relief, this was a pop of badness. Something that hadn’t been there before, was there, and it was an unpleasant something.   A demon, maybe or, or…Actually Dean realized with a start that he knew exactly what it was, or who. Lucifer was there, somewhere nearby, he must’ve come in from whereever in history he’d been hiding out in. And where had he come, but here, to Jovi.  Of course. Dean hesitated, knowing he didn’t have but a fraction of his strength back, knowing that what he really ought to do was run away, but he simply had to know what was going on. Because it was obvious they were plotting against him, Lucifer and Jovi were, meeting up to talk and plan and scheme and God only knows what else, only God didn’t know what else.  Talking, talking about him no doubt, laughing behind his back and making plans on how best to wipe him off the map.

That was the original assumption, anyway, but much to his surprise, he came upon Lucifer doing pretty much the same thing he had just been doing.   Lurking. Well, Dean hadn’t been lurking, but that’s what Lucifer was doing. Lurking in the bushes like the snake he was. Apparently even though Dean really tried to keep quiet like an Indian scout Lucifer already knew he was there the whole time.  Because as Dean crept up behind him, he spoke without even looking Dean’s way, just kept staring at Jovi’s castle the entire time. “You know, there are flowers in that garden that are unseen by the human eye, that no human has ever seen or ever will see.  There are fruits no one will taste and fragrances that none shall ever smell.”

“You don’t say.”

“Some of her creations only last for a day, an hour…she tries them to see if she likes them, and if she doesn’t, she destroys them.  It seems a little unfair, doesn’t it?”

“How so?”

“Why does she get to decide what things live and what things die?  Why does she get to decide that there should be beauty in the world that no eyes shall ever get see but her own?”

Dean thought about his dodo project with irritation.  Why did she, anyway?  “Somebody has to, right?  I mean, doesn’t there have to be some kind of…vetting process?”

“You haven’t even walked with her in the garden.  You haven’t seen what I’ve seen.”

“Maybe not, but I guess she has a good reason why she does things the way she does them.”  Dean certainly hoped that this was the case.

“She doesn’t though.  That’s the thing. She just gets off on it.  She creates beauty, she creates love and light, she gets you hooked on it, and then she takes it away.  She’s like a drug dealer. She gets you addicted to her gifts but it’s all just to control you. If you don’t toe the line, she’ll take it away.  It happened to me and it will happen to you, too, mark my words.”

“You know how I can tell you’re lying, Lucifer?  Your lips are moving.”

“I used to be her favorite, don’t forget that.  And look where it got me.”

“Things are different now.”

“I know, and…heh.  I must admit that was a twist I did not see coming.   But there’s a failsafe somewhere, I assure you. A back door.  An escape hatch. She can destroy you. She wouldn’t have created you if she didn’t have a way to destroy you.”

“She doesn’t have a way to destroy you.”

“Are you sure?  I’m not.”

“What do you…what do you mean?”

“Haven’t you ever wondered, Dean?  Why does God simply not destroy Lucifer?  The humans have been wondering that for ages.  I’ve been wondering, for ages. And the answer is, the only possible answer is, she doesn’t wanna.  I still serve some purpose for her, so she allows me to live, to plot and scheme and feel like I’m even making some progress sometimes, but all along she has her finger on the button that could end me. Have no doubt of that. I exist because she allows me to.”

Even though Dean knew that Lucifer was a master manipulator, THE Master Manipulator, he could feel those words buzzing hot as they entered his ears, echoing inside the arched, empty halls of his already troubled mind.  “Maybe she created me to destroy you.” Take THAT.

“Maybe she allows me to live to destroy YOU.”

“That doesn’t even make any sense.”

“Doesn’t it?”  Dean turned it around in his head and it didn’t make sense, naturally it didn’t, since Lucifer had been around for thousands of years and Dean had just been created but the whole thing with Lucifer was, even when you knew what he was saying was 100% pure unadulterated BS it still gave you second thoughts, and third ones too sometimes.  ‘“Time paradoxes can be a real bitch sometimes, can’t they?” Dean pondered the implications of that cryptic statement while Lucifer peered at him with his hooded eyes. “I couldn’t help but notice you’re looking a little…worn out, Dad. Frayed around the edges. Have you been burning the candle at both ends?” Lucifer grinned and Dean had the chilling thought that since Lucifer had been traveling through time, for all Dean knew he had been gone a hundred million years and eaten all the lesser gods and that the only reason why they were even having this conversation was because Lucifer was toying with him before he ate him, too, like a cat with a mouse.

“Yeah, I been working too hard.  But it doesn’t mean I don’t have enough left in me to end you.”

“Augh, that’s so tempting.   Even if I don’t win this time, and I’ll admit I probably won’t, not yet, I’d so love to take a nice juicy bite out of you.”

Dean grinned challengingly but the hackles on his neck were standing at full attention.  He had brought an angel blade, of course, he wasn’t a complete moron, but Lucifer could only be killed by an archangel blade.  Dean hadn’t trusted himself to bring one of those in case he ran into Crowley and his borderline uncontrollable jealousy issue flared up again.  He had enough of his glory back to finish off a darkangel, he was pretty sure; the darkangels didn’t seem to have quite as much oomph as the archangels and they had practically nothing compared to the massive power of Lucifer.  But if he did it, if he fed Crowley an archangel blade point first down his fat freaking face, then Jovi would get all pissy and it would be this big freaking thing.  So he had left the archangel blade back at home in a trunk under his bed because stabbing Crowley seemed like a crime he would enjoy committing in a moment of weakness. “The feeling is mutual.” He’d only be able to fight Lucifer using whatever scraps of power he could scrounge up and his limited skill with the angel blade.  But what could he do, back down now? That would only encourage Lucifer; would send a message that it was possible to psych him out, to bully him. Then it would never stop till one of them was dead. “Ok.”

“Are you saying we should try this?”

“Sure, why not?”

“Because I’m gonna beat you like I beat you the last time.”

“Well, I’m gonna make you wish you were still a snake.”

“That’s actually a common misconception.  I was never a snake. The snake worked for me.  As an employee. And it wasn’t an apple, either, by the way, it was a pomegranate.  Haven’t you ever read a book? Are you illiterate or simply slow witted?”

Dean punched him in the face, his fist imbued with glory, and was greatly satisfied to feel a crunch of cartilage as the fallen angel’s nose broke.  They exchanged a few blows and Dean was pleased to see he was at least holding his own or maybe even better, the way Lucifer’s head snapped back hard when he made contact.  He was stronger yet. But fatigue was already settling in, he could feel it, the way his bones shook every time Lucifer hit him. And not even the bones where Lucifer was hitting him, all his bones right down to his little baby toes reverberated with every strike.  Sometimes he had dreams where he’d have to jump from a cliff or a really tall building and when he’d land his whole body would vibrate with the impact and that was exactly the feeling he was getting right now from Lucifer’s fists. Only way, way realer.

Lucifer managed to get in a couple body shots to his flank and then an uppercut that really rang his bell and Dean went from feeling ok with the way things were going to realizing that he better get his ass out of Dodge sooner rather than later.  But how? Lucifer would just follow him wherever he went and then whoever was where he fled to would be in danger too. Sam, or Jovi. Jovi, or Sam. Where to go? Jovi, at least, had a chance of defending herself, but Dean had a sneaking suspicion that Lucifer would enjoy hurting Jovi even more than he enjoyed hurting Sam.  Then there was the whole “former vessel” thing and Lucifer might be able to worm his way back into Sam’s head again if he got too close.

He was just about ready to flip a damn coin when Chronos, of all the unexpected saviors, appeared behind Lucifer and grabbed him in a headlock.  Dean saw a red glow come from the godlet and realized that Chronos was draining time itself away from Lucifer, attempting to give Dean a head start. He hesitated because he knew that it was probably a death sentence to leave the poor guy there locked up with Lucifer and just like with most of the lesser gods Dean had encountered, he hadn’t been entirely bad, at least, not pure evil like Lucifer was.  He was just a morally ambivalent predator born to hunt humans and he couldn’t help that. Plus, he’d been made out of Dean’s pinky and all, so he felt a little protective. But Chronos urged him on. “If you don’t go right now, you’re not gonna like the future!”

And that was all the encouragement Dean needed.  He was gone like a shot back to the bunker and while he felt terrible since he was abandoning the demigod to certain death and an unpleasant stint inside of Lucifer’s belly he didn’t want the sacrifice to have been for nothing.

 

 

 

    

 

    

 

Don’t have a mob, man!

Don’t have a mob, man!

I haven’t watched The Simpsons in years, but it used to be among my fave shows ever.  One of the things I like best about the show is how it perfectly illustrates out the madness of crowds.  From Snake Whacking Day to Homer being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, I’d go so far as to call that one of the overarching themes of the show.  Irrational mobs form at the power plant, on the playground, at church. Groupthink infests the police department and the Mafia alike. The crazed populace calls both for the saving of Timmy O’Toole from an old well at any cost and the firing of Principal Skinner at Timmy’s behest, and later the abandonment of Bart down the same well when it turned out that Timmy didn’t actually exist.

These episodes take one of two forms.  Somebody – usually Bart or Homer – does something stupid and even though they’ve learned their lesson, the reaction that follows is so heavy-handed and/or ridiculous that in the end the townsfolk themselves become the bad guys.  Or, succumbing to mob-fueled hysteria, the majority makes an idiotic short-sighted decision leaving everyone living with legalized gambling or a Monorail or no television violence or a bear tax or a mass deportation of immigrants to justify the expense of the bear tax.

Even more than Mr. Burns, torch-bearing mobs are the archnemesis of the people of Springfield.

No one is immune from the temptation.  While often Marge is the sole voice of reason in the crowd, other times she’s carrying the biggest torch of all.  Lisa is usually sensible, but even she can fall under the mob’s spell, putting her personal politics and philosophy above her normal reticence to join the feeding frenzy.   In their finest episodes, The Simpsons perfectly demonstrates how sometimes the mob may be right, but they’re still a freaking mob, and that everyone is vulnerable to become not only victim but villain, because we all feel so darn justified.

The Simpsons as it was, would have been the ideal show to tackle the issue of Apu and political correctness thoughtfully.  https://newrepublic.com/article/147980/epiphany-problem-apu-simpsons  

But The Simpsons hasn’t been “The Simpsons” for ages.  So when it comes to Apu, they basically shrugged their shoulders and said “It is what it is”, an approach that satisfied no one.  I can’t really even blame them since I suspect the reason they did things that way was because they were scared to make an attempt at being thoughtful and risk missing the mark completely.

Because mobs are scary.  There’s probably something innate in us that fears a mob and rightfully so.  Most of the evil that humanity has done was at the hands of a big group of people utterly convinced they were doing the right thing.  The mob is justified, surely; if it wasn’t, would there be so many people in it?  No one ever rode out into the dark of night on a mission to destroy thinking that they were wrong and the person they were going out to get was an innocent victim.  They rode out thinking “These people are bad people, sinners, rule-breakers, criminals, degenerates, possibly inhuman, and we have to GET the bad people.” Mobs are willing to punish transgressors at any cost.  Any cost to the transgressors, not to the mob, of course. Mobs are willing to sacrifice anyone and anything to achieve their desired result, as long as it is the other guys.   

And just like Lisa and Marge, even though we’re mostly noble, mostly good-hearted, we remain forever susceptible to getting sucked up into the torch and pitchfork mentality, especially when the people who are the “bad people” are those we actually think ARE the bad people.  

I don’t like it that the character of Apu has ever made anyone feel upset, offended, hurt, or angry.   I understand completely why people feel that way. I even remember the first time I noticed Apu and I was uncomfortable from minute one with the way he was portrayed.  But nowadays I mostly feel like Lisa, looking at an awful lot of people and thinking, “yes, you’re right, these people made a stupid mistake, they’re wrong and you’re right, but you guys are a freaking mob here”.  Yet it feels safer to say nothing, to let the mob do what they’re gonna do, as long as it isn’t me. It’s easier to just stay a face in the crowd. I mean, it’s just a dumb cartoon, is it really that big a deal?

But people burn books, don’t they – and for far less noble reasons.  “As long as it isn’t me” and “is it really that big a deal” is what gives the mob its power. It the nature of the mob to force complicity on us all, to silence our consciences, to make us hold our tongues over the small things and then when the big things start happening, it’s too late.   

When the torches and pitchforks come out, the mob-ers become worse than the mob-ees and it doesn’t matter how stupid or wrong someone was to begin with.   The mob is worse. It doesn’t matter if Bart cut off the head of Jebediah Springfield, it doesn’t matter if there is child-harming violence on the Itchy and Scratchy show, and it doesn’t matter that Apu started off as a terrible stereotype and is voiced by a white actor.  All the foibles and failings that humans have, the shitty things that people do to each other and say to each other – the mob is ALWAYS worse. Because the mob thinks like a mob and acts like a mob and mobs are irrational and insane and they always go too far and yet the people within them still have all the same foibles and failings and willingness to do shitty things to one another that they had to begin with.  

You can’t reason with a mob because when you try, they turn on you, and each other, and everyone in their line of sight. And it’s so easy for even the very best of us to get caught up in them, let alone the very worst of us, who often seem to find their natural homes in the center of a large and angry horde.  Mobs are like a force of nature, an avalanche or a wildfire or or a mudslide.  Once they get going, they destroy everything in their paths until a rainstorm or a flat piece of land eventually stops them.  Only inertia + time stops a mob, so it’s better to never create one. I can think of no other show but The Simpsons that has portrayed this truth so accurately.  

It feels both ironic and inevitable that The Simpsons was attacked by a PC mob.  Well meaning, well-intentioned, thinking, no doubt, of the children. And they’re totally right. The mob is right. The people who created the character of Apu were stupid and wrong. Full stop.  There’s no defense. But I don’t like this world we’re creating where idiots (and we are ALL idiots on occasion) no longer have a little wiggle room to be mistaken without risking having the mob grab them by the scruff of the neck and rub their nose in their transgression like they’re a naughty puppy, then punish them for it in perpetuity.

Our world these days is looking an awful lot like Springfield; every day someone new is in the hot seat and the mob already has their pitchforks sharpened.  I don’t like this world. In the words of Stephen Hawking voicing himself on The Simpsons “This utopia you’re creating is a lot more like a Fruitopia”.

Paradise on earth is not an option; no matter how many folks get strung up, we will always have to negotiate a world in which people are idiots and do and say the wrong thing.  We can’t control that. All we can ever control is our response to that. We can form a mob or we can choose tolerance and understanding, if for no better reason than that next time, it could be us.  It’s time to put our torches and pitchforks away because even when the mob is right, it’s wrong.