Read Some More

There’s a part of me that sympathizes with Rep. Todd Akin, who got caught believing out loud that being very upset/scared/terrified can create super cells that roadblock the sperm forced inside a woman–or maybe the cells all circle the egg and hug it, protecting it from the invaders? Either way, the human body is amazing beyond comprehension. So it’s not entirely unbelievable that it could design a way for the reproductive system to work with the brain to prevent pregnancy.

It’s also not unbelievable that doctors paid by right-to-life organizations might write articles that conclude that rape rarely results in pregnancy, or that it never does because a woman will stop ovulating. And if that’s true, then an exception for rape in a law that bans abortion isn’t necessary. And politicians who want to believe said doctors’ conclusions read only those articles. Well, they need to read some more.

I think the following are worth a re-post.

“You Think You Don’t, But You Do.”

She says it was like a bad after-school special, and laughs. But there is sadness in her eyes, and shame. Not much, but it is there, I think. I want to say the right things, but it is hard to find the words when she tells me her story.

Jake* was older than I was, a frat boy. I’d had a crush on him for months and I was newly single, having just broken up with my boyfriend of three years. And now Jake and I were at the same party.

He fed me drinks all night. I laughed and flirted. My friend asked if I was going to hook up with him, but I said no. I was still sad over the break-up. My ex-boyfriend was the only guy I’d ever been with.

I blacked out for a while. I don’t recall walking upstairs. The next thing I remember is standing in a bedroom. Jake locked the door. We kissed on the bed but I was very drunk. I could barely move. He took off my pants and I remember saying, “No, I don’t want to do this.”  Click for more…

Teaching About Rape: 2 Things You Can Do

It’s a testament to its prevalence that I  know three women who have been raped. (Undoubtedly, I know more.)

But what I find particularly striking is that in each of the three cases, the man showed no indication that he thought he did anything illegal.

One waved and smiled at his victim in the days after and even tried to connect on MySpace. Another sent a text the morning after apologizing for being, “too drunk to realize you were saying no.”

If you know you committed a crime–uh, you don’t do that.

What’s with these guys?

Conventional wisdom, for one. Consider the alleged Congress Theater Rape. A young woman, in a drunken stupor, is waiting for her friends at a restaurant across the street from the theater when she is approached by several men. They are seen carrying her out of the restaurant. Thirty minutes later, she is found a half block away, bloody and naked on the sidewalk. She has been raped and beaten so badly she is in a coma.

Click for more.


I’d actually like to share a few things you might not know about healthcare reform. Let’s get right to it before I lose you to a search for YouTube’s “Top 10 Funny Baby Videos.”

My husband works in the healthcare industry and has been blabbering on discussing the legislation for months. These are the things I find interesting and easy to understand:

Fact 1. The mandate part of the law is not a mandate (or a tax, or even really a penalty). Everyone knows about the “mandate,” which supposedly imposes a penalty on folks who can afford to buy insurance but don’t have it. EXCEPT, the penalty won’t be enforced. Seriously. This is what the act itself says: “In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure.”

Whatever you choose to call it (I propose “SheDate.” Or “Mandate–Not”), less than 2% of the US population will be affected by this part of the law. And, seeing as the penalty won’t be enforced, I guess it’s more like 0%.

Fact 2. Many of us will get checks. Actual checks, people. Obamacare says that private insurance companies may spend only 15-20% of your premium dollars on overhead, salaries, and admin. They must spend the rest on your health care. Go figure. If they spend less on your health care than they’re supposed to, they must send you a check directly.

Fact 3. Obamacare addresses some of the more egregious past practices of insurance companies: no lifetime caps, no refusal of coverage for “pre-existing” conditions, and children can remain on their parents’ coverage longer.

Fact 4. The law will require small businesses to offer health insurance and will reward those businesses with a subsidy for doing so.

Fact 5. Free preventive care for things like mammograms and neonatal exams. NO CO-PAYS.

Yee-haw. I’m going to schedule my colonoscopy right now.

Take a Risk, Leave a Risk

When I started as a legislative assistant for a state senator in Minnesota, every day that I walked up the huge, stone steps and entered the Capitol, I looked around me in awe: the grand marble staircase, the painted dome ceiling, the pillars and statues. All beautiful representations of democracy. This is where I get to work, I thought. My coworker told me I’d get over it, but in three years, I never did.

Dave Wilson Photography

I had a similar awe for the senators around me–at first. I was nervous, I stuttered too often, my fingers felt like Jell-o. In meetings, I was quiet even when I wanted to speak. If the majority leader came in and chatted with me, my back started to sweat.

I seemed to hold the same reverence for the senators as I did the institution itself. Except, I learned, the senators weren’t works of art. They laughed until they cried, they cried until they laughed, they were intelligent and not so much. One popped into our office every day to grab the newspaper before heading to the john (we were right next door). Another was openly insecure about her authority. They worked hard, they lazed, they fought, and they made momentous strides in governance.

In short, they were human. (Not counting Michele Bachmann.)

My favorite lesson from that wonderful whirlwind of a job is this: No one is better than me. And I am not better than anyone. We’re all the same, in many ways. (Insert other obvious exceptions here.)

Of course, I was told similar things since I was little. But hearing a lesson is different from living one, isn’t it? That experience gave me the confidence to take risks–to direct communications for a statewide campaign having never even volunteered on a campaign before, to travel alone, attend a conference where I knew no one, write a novel, start a blog.

So — take one of my risks, if you’re partial. But leave one for me: tell me what risks you’ve taken.

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

 — Pablo Picasso

Meet: Jasmin, An American Muslim

Following is based on an interview with a 30-year-old Muslim woman on May 22, 2012 near Chicago. 

Part I

All my father does is sit in his chair and watch politics. Talk politics. Think politics. The Palestinian conflict is deep-seated in his every moment.

My father was born in a village outside Ramallah, my mother in Ramallah. Both towns are in the former Palestine, what is now Israel. When my father was 3, his family’s land was taken. Israeli soldiers came to the neighborhood. Both my parents have stories of hiding from the soldiers, of being scared. One soldier in my father’s home tore apart a chair that had been in the family for generations.

Britain and the U.S. sanctioned it. They gave the OK to Jewish leaders in the Zionist movement to take Palestine. They decided on Palestine partly because they thought it would be an easier sell to the rest of the world since the Jews lived there thousands of years ago. But—so what?

Jews started “settling”—buying land and creating communities. Most Palestinians left on their own because there was war—planes drop bombs in your neighborhood. Soldiers bulldoze your home. What do you do? You leave.

There were massacres. In 1982, the Israelis murdered two entire villages, including children. Then they built homes on top of the old villages, added Olympic-size swimming pools.

Their basic philosophy was, the young will forget and the old will die.

They gave a handful of Palestinians citizenship—many of them were poor. That small group had many children and the Israelis had fewer children. So it became a problem. What the Israelis thought would take a couple of generations to get rid of is still a problem. The Israelis say, “They’re Arabs. Why don’t they just go to another Arab country?” Palestinians are stubborn.

In the 80s, Palestine had a chance for a 50/50 agreement. It’s partly their fault this is still going on because they didn’t agree to it. But if someone takes your home and says, “OK, we’ll be nice. You can have the upstairs,” would you take it?

They allowed the Palestinians to live in the West Bank. But that area is a slum. There’s no running water. The Israelis cut off water and food to the area for months at a time. And then they give it back to show the world how caring they are. They make life as difficult as possible so the remaining Palestinians will leave. That’s why there are the checkpoints, too. If you are Palestinian and you live in Jordan, right next door to Israel, are you going to go to if it takes six hours to get through the checkpoints?

My dad’s father is buried in Palestine in Israeli-owned territory. My dad is allowed to visit the grave because he is a U.S. citizen, but still he is questioned every time. If he wasn’t a U.S. citizen, he couldn’t go there, to his father’s grave.

The Israelis say it’s for safety because of suicide bombers. But it’s a chicken and egg story. You terrorize children, they grow up to be crazy adults. If a child sees his parents murdered, he becomes the next Osama bin Laden. For the world to write them off simply as terrorists without considering the root of the problem is ridiculous, in my opinion. We are living behind an ideology, myself included. I like to go to the bar and drink a beer and not think about this, too.

So, my father sits and watches as his heritage is erased. That is why he is adamant about me marrying an Arab, a Muslim. And I haven’t told him yet that the man I plan to marry is white.

Everything’s a Circle

Social psychologist Dr. Paul Slovic has conducted experiments to determine how and when people feel compassion. I’ll quote directly from Genocide Watch:

“In one experiment, psychologists asked ordinary Americans to contribute five dollars to feed Rokia, a starving seven year old girl in Mali.  About half would donate the five dollars.  The same percentage would donate to save Moussa, a little boy from Mali.

But when photos of both Rokia and Moussa were shown, the percent who would donate dropped to thirty percent.  And when the photo of Rokia was shown representing 21 million hungry Africans who could be fed by a group of trusted relief organizations, the percentage who would donate dropped to less than ten percent.

Professor Slovic calls this phenomenon ‘psychic numbing.’  He believes human beings are usually unable to feel compassion for large numbers of people.  The more victims, the less compassion.”


In a recent interview, George Clooney stated that for years he has tried to appeal to people’s hearts regarding the ongoing genocide in Darfur, but it hasn’t worked. He’s given up. So now he is going to appeal to various countries’ economic interests in the region, in hopes of getting these countries to intervene.

How could a man like George Clooney not get people interested? I assumed it was because there is just Too Much Shit going on in the world—we simply can’t care about it all. Now I’m wondering if maybe, as the study above suggests, we won’t care. Not until we hear a specific story (the “hook”), or until we can relate (there’s always the question of possible underlying racism), or until the horror is so beyond our realm of thinking that we can’t help but pay attention–e.g., The Holocaust.


A few weeks ago, I read an article about a Holocaust survivor who, every year, tours schools speaking about his ordeal. A particular quote struck me:

“We have to keep it alive so it doesn’t happen again,” a teacher at one of the schools said.

I hear this a lot. What do we mean when we say “it”? Six million specifically? Does the genocide have to be as efficient as the Nazi system—do the victims need to dig their own graves? Do engineers need to be involved, figuring the quickest way to exterminate millions of people? Does it have to be unique as well as horrific?

Because, in reality, genocide is occuring. Right now. Today. In various places around the world. And it has been occurring in every decade since World War II.

Children in OUR world are being forced to kill their own parents. They are being kidnapped, drugged, and turned into soldiers. Seven year olds. Ten year olds. Women and girls are being raped tonight, now, by men who burned their homes and killed their families. Millions have been, are being, murdered and displaced.

There’s a quote: Everything’s a circle. Nothing’s ever new.

Is that true?