Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'm it! Here are my seven.

Jonah and Beth both tagged me for the seven random/weird things meme. Thanks! This is good, my exam today is done and I wanna get back to blogging. I feel like I already write here some of the weird things about me, but I'll try to cook up a few more.
  1. When I was little, I used to shave every morning. I would get really really jealous of my dad shaving, so he'd give me a plastic spoon and some shaving cream (the kind with an orange top that comes out as awesome turquoise gel and turns into creamy white foam when you rub it). I would stand next to him in the bathroom mirror and shave my face almost every day (except when I got out of bed too late, which yes, I was doing even at 5 or 6 years old). Kind of funny for someone who doesn't shave her legs or pits at all now. Or... maybe it makes perfect sense.
  2. I love thunderstorms.
  3. Sometimes when I have a really intense yawn or nose-blowing, I feel like I can breathe in air through my ears.
  4. I am kind of in love the idea of my body being pregnant. Not with the idea of having a kid, I really want nothing to do with having any kids right now (or possibly ever). Just the idea of my body being physically pregnant. This is the opposite of how most people feel I think - they want the kid without all the icky physical things about a pregnancy. And I am well aware of how ridiculous this may seem, especially considering the actual reality and the extra mental/emotional and physical burden that would come with a diabetic pregnancy. And I should know better, considering that what I do all day at work is review medical records of pregnancy, scary complications and all. And even scarier/more painful, labor and delivery records (can you say, episiotomy? how 'bout 2nd degree vaginal laceration? contractions at a pain level of 10 out of 10?). But that's why this is just a fantasy, and it's about the beauty and roundness and just the general physical idea of being pregnant.
  5. Speaking of being pregnant, people think I am all the time. I get people giving up seats for me on the train for no apparent reason except that they are looking at my belly and smiling sweetly at me/it. I get asked about it my strangers and less socially conscious/inhibited family members (most recently, my grandmother and a cashier in a cafeteria). I wrote about it a long time ago - I just have a belly on me, which isn't that proportional to the rest of me I guess. Haha, or maybe my thoughts from #4 cause me to give off some kind of vibe?
  6. My ring finger is my favorite for checking blood sugar.
  7. I eat apples from the bottom up instead of around the sides. Since I eat more of the apple than most people, usually a little tiny core, it's the best way to go at it.
I'm tagging bsom, estrogenmoment, Claire, misscripchick, Liz, Kameron, FatlyYours, Jes, and Hannah. (yes, that's 9... see below how I feel about rules! or above, how I feel about decisions...) I don't know if all of you do memes, but it's worth a try.

Rules (but I'm all about bending/breaking 'em if ya want):

1. Link to the person’s blog who tagged you.
2. Post these rules on your blog.
3. List seven random and/or weird facts about yourself.
4. Tag seven random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
5. Let each person know that they have been tagged by posting a comment on their blog.

Friday, November 02, 2007

double-decker kitteh bus

We say that our kitties like to sit on the bus, or the train. Sometimes, even when they are totally konked out napping, they will be positioned in an orderly straight line one behind the other. As if they were sitting in rows on a bus. Or sometimes it's a vertical version; with one kitty on top of the bus (aka dining room table) and the other directly below.

This week, there were some suspiciously double-decker-bus-like positions, but they were with old man doggie instead of both kitties! The picture to the left is not surprising; Quito doesn't mind the dog and at times even seems to emulate him. Or dominate him - you can see who's on top.

However, on the right, was the special double-decker bus. This cat freaks out whenever he's within a few feet of the dog (or even thinks he might be in the near future). But here he was, dozing on top of the bus! It didn't last long though...

And, I couldn't resist posting one more of old-man-doggie Zack. He got clipped yesterday and now looks like something in between a weasel, a snotty poodle with facelift surgery ,a chihuhua, and a skinny skinny lamb instead of the irresistibly cute shaggy dog you see below (by the way, he likes hanging out in his crate - we didn't put him there).

Call for submissions on wealth, redistribution, and class, and a few other things

1) I wanted to do "NaBloPoMo," or National Blog Posting Month. I'll admit the initial temptation was due to the great lolcats-themed badges. I am easy, anything related to that website wins me over immediately. But I do think it would be a great chance for me to learn to write shorter (and more frequent) posts, connect more with other diabetes bloggers doing it, and to force me to finish up all the half-written or outlined posts (there are lots) on stuff I've been wanting to write about, and generally get more comfortable writing and enjoy getting stuff out. However, I am really behind with the class I'm taking and at work, and kinda stressed, so I need to be looking for ways to limit, not increase, my internet time.

2) I went to my diabetes doctor this week - a few thoughts, I will write more later. There wasn't much in the way of surprises or even guilt because I know I've been struggling with my blood sugars a lot the last few months, and part of it is this weird absorption issue, among other things.

3) There's a new project that I heard about at Aid & Abet that looks great. It's a website called Enough, looking for submissions on wealth, redistribution, and class by November 15th-ish (loose deadline). I think it would be cool to get some stuff from you folks out there that involves health/illness, disability, and how that both affects and is affected by wealth, class, our economic system, and ideas for change, etc. I'm hoping to submit something.

One of the coordinators describes what they're looking for:

Call for Submissions: Enough

What is the difference between financial security and hoarding wealth?
What are some ways we can share resources to support community and movement-building?
How can we talk to each other about personal money issues and politics without guilt, shame, and judgment?
What does a politics of wealth redistribution look like in the day-to-day, and what are the obstacles to developing conversations about this in political communities we belong to?

These are some questions we’ve been thinking about, and we’re interested in jumpstarting conversations about how we conceive of and live a politics of wealth redistribution. We’d like to invite you to contribute some writing to a website we’re creating to explore this topic, called Enough.

The ubiquity of capitalism in the U.S. can limit our ability, even in radical communities, to conceptualize creative responses to oppression and injustice. This can manifest both in how we build movements (reproducing bureaucratic, hierarchical, business-type models; packaging and “selling” social justice work to foundations in exchange for grants), and in how we deal with personal finances in our own lives (defaulting to patterns like hoarding, excessive consumerism, and individualism in how we conceptualize our lives and futures and economic security).

We’d like to address some of the ways that class privilege and capitalist dynamics function even within communities and within the lives of individuals working to fight oppression and economic injustice. It can feel taboo to share details about things like income, inheritance, class background, debt, and spending. Silence and secrecy about money make it difficult for us to challenge ourselves and each other when classist dynamics arise. Social conditioning trains us to hoard money rather than share it and build community. We want to get people talking about building shared values and practices around wealth redistribution, because we think figuring out how much is enough, and when to give away money, are key under-discussed questions in anti-capitalist politics.

Some examples of the kinds of things we’re looking for:

-Pieces about how your class position has changed over the course of your life, and how that has affected feelings of responsibility about wealth redistribution.
-Stories about cool methods of figuring out what is “enough” when it comes to making/saving money. How do class background, class conditioning, fear, guilt, and other factors influence how you think about this question? How do you figure out what you need versus what you want when it comes to consuming?
-Examples of (or ideas for) community-based support systems that serve as alternatives to individualistic models of taking care of ourselves.
-Strategies for redistributing wealth in your community, or to support social justice work.
-Discussion of how ideas about wealth, security, scarcity get reproduced in families.
-Diatribes on the politics of inheritance.
-Discussions of professionalism and salaries.
-Exciting models of people dealing with money ethically in activist spaces and organizations.
-Strategies for overcoming immobilizing guilt about class or money.
-Anti-capitalist/anti-racist/anti-imperialist analysis of personal choices about saving for retirement, buying real estate, taking certain jobs, supporting our community, etc.
-Diagnostic worksheets to help people figure out any of the following:
My place in the economy (local, domestic, global)
Am I rich?
What sources of security do I have that I may not be aware of?
How do I know if I need something or just want it?
What are my resources besides money?

The two of us come from very different class backgrounds (Tyrone grew up in a first- generation owning-class family, and Dean grew up on welfare) and we’re hoping for a specifically cross-class conversation about these issues. We think that the anxiety that can arise when talking about these things among folks with different experiences of class can be useful and productive, and we hope to create a space where we can learn by sharing our experiences and challenging each other.

Please send us an email if you have an idea you’d like to write about, a resource you think we should know about, existing writing you think we should post in this conversation. Your piece can be short or long, written in any style.

Please send submissions to: tyronius.samson(at)gmail.com and/or deanspade(at)gmail.com.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Did you know that breastfeeding could abolish all diabetes? No, you didn't? That's because it can't!!

Last week, a nurse (possibly a nurse practitioner) said at a health care activism meeting, well, if everyone breastfed, there would be no diabetes.

Um... I say, I am diabetic and I was definitely breastfed for a long time.

Instead of owning up to the stupidity and insensitivity of her comment, or at least backing off a little, this woman says, "Really?!! Wow, you must be the outlier, the one exception! It's an inflammatory process!"

Hell no. This woman did not only just talk about me and my mother, but then she tried to defend her statement and act all surprised.

I thought about not even telling my mom (a nurse practitioner) about it because even though we both know it's bullshit, I don't want her to even think for a second about blaming herself or that I might blame her. But, I decided to, and she articulated another thing about it that bothered me. She said, "Doesn't sound like politics to me, sounds like blaming the victim." Yes, the blaming the victim thing. Stupid and fucked up. But I think it was politics, or "blaming the victim" masquerading as a political statement/rebellion, which bothers me even more. And blaming mothers is a recurring theme in our culture.
EDIT: As I was writing this post, I found this great discussion going over on Scott's blog about diabetes, breastfeeding, and blame/guilt.

I am actually all about breastfeeding for mothers that are able to, but this comment was just ridiculous for a couple reasons. Even though I do think traditional medicine can be harmful sometimes and natural methods have a lot to offer, the "natural medicine" pusher people piss me off a lot because they take it to an extreme that is able-ist and/or just dumb. Also, not all mothers are able to breastfeed for various health and other reasons.

In general, people that think they have a cure-all "natural" solution for my diabetes, or whatever else, are pretty arrogant to think that they have the fix to something that I devote endless time and energy to on a daily basis. If it was that simple and complete a solution, don't you think I would have found it? Or am I just stupid for muddling through with my traditional medicine? Do you want to see what happens to my body for even 4 hours without any insulin?

Now, that nurse wasn't suggesting she had a cure for me now. This is just an example of where that kind of statment takes you. It's a way of invalidating my very real experience. That's the problem with universalizing especially when you havent had that experience (and especially when you're working out of this ableist framework).

Also, even if it really was true that breastfeeding can prevent all diabetes, that's a pretty serious, loaded thing to say in such a cavalier way to someone you met 15 minutes ago.

I need to learn to write shorter posts. If you're getting bored, you can consider yourself done here! More ramblings of mine follow...

There are studies that show breastfeeding does significantly reduce the chances of a kid developing type 1 diabetes. And inadequate nutrition as a fetus, infant, or child can be linked to higher risks for stuff like type 2 diabetes and other health issues as an adult (one reason why I think we need to look at environmental stresses like poverty, etc. before anyone chalks up racial health disparities to genetics, which can often end up being just a new sophisticated incarnation of scientific racism). But for her to talk about this one single cause is really inaccurate. And her justification that it's an "inflammatory process" doesn't help her case, because there are so many different triggers that contribute to inflammation.

Also - speaking of ableism - this nurse also made a bunch of comments about well, if something ever happens to me, that's it. pull the plug. She was trying to make a point about the excess money we spend in the U.S. on heroic measures like ventilators at the end of life. I actually agreed with some of what she was saying, that we need to reexamine what life is and how we're spending our healthcare dollars, and if we really want, from a financial
and quality of life standpoint, to be living hooked up to tons of stuff instead of letting ourselves die peacefully when life is ending. But I don't think needing outside assistance from other people, machines, or drugs are the definition of when life is worth living or not, and her statements went too far into ableism and almost even eugenics.

Do you really think life with illness isn't worth living? And do you want to say that to me and the woman sitting next to me that looks like she might have cancer? Besides being a messed up way of thinking, MOST people live with illness or disability in some form at some point (especially people that are not upper-class white people like she and I). And I think to not recognize that is both inaccurate and ableist in that it reinforces this idea that healthy and perfect (and requiring no outside help from other people/medicines/therapies/etc) is the "normal" state for everyone, and a fall from that is remarkable or abnormal.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Theory and Practice: Ketones

I couldn't help but be hit on the head with the irony of checking for ketones* while I crammed for my chemistry test on guess what? Ketones (and other carbonyl compounds). My professor likes to emphasize that we should not just memorize the material but understand it and know how to apply it. Unfortunately, he was talking about applying it in the form of writing reactions down on paper, and my excellent ability to pee on a strip and correctly read and interpret that data didn't earn me any extra points today. And I sure could've used them.

Since there were only a couple of us taking the exam in the office, I was totally tempted to make some joke or mention to the professor about the ketones. Some way to get a little validation for being funny/smart/special from the (hot) professor as I failed his exam. But I couldn't figure out how to do it without mentioning my urine, and well, that just seemed to defeat the purpose. Not so attractive, baddecisionmaker, not so attractive.

I took the exam in the professor's office before class because that was my accommodation through the disability resource center (since I might need to leave to pee, or need extra time in case of a low or high). It was the first time I've officially registered my diabetes; at the college I graduated from it was more relaxed; classes were smaller, and I relied on just talking to professors. I have had more problems lately, and also have started thinking about my diabetes and ability/disability a little differently in the last 5 years since I started college. I got more time than I would've even though my blood sugar wasn't too crazy, but this accommodation was actually not great for me because I took it at 10am instead of noon, and I do not function well in the morning (and could've really used the extra 2 hours to study). Also, the professor was having office hours at the same time so it was not quiet. Maybe he hadn't thought about this because the other kid getting accommodations there with me was deaf. I was jealous.

Anyways, I am a nerd and was curious about the ketone strips I pee on. Last week I was actually procrastinating by reading the ketostix box and trying to figure out how the reaction worked (no success) instead of studying the actual material. Yeah, that's how ridiculously distractable and unfocused I am - procrastinating by reading the box of my diabetes supplies, haha. That's why I had to cram for this exam.

I was checking for ketones because I'm still having weird blood sugar/insulin absorbtion issues, and I was having some unexpected highs and wanted to make sure my pump was working enough that I wouldn't be sick or wake up high and groggy the morning of my exam.

*non-pancreatically challenged folks' glossary: I and other type 1 diabetics might check our pee for ketones when we have unexplainable or multiple high blood sugars, think we might not be getting enough insulin, or are sick. Having ketones is different than just having regular high blood sugar (in fact, you can have ketones without high blood sugar), they are a sign of things not working right in the body and can be part of a dangerous cascade/imbalance if they are at high levels. It requires different and more careful management than just regular blood sugar issues. (Nerds: they are the byproduct of the body's metabolism when it switches over from it's normal fuel of sugar to breaking down fatty acids. The acidity in your blood can get dangerous.)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

follow-up on my fat runner soapbox

I got a response to my letter to the guy who wrote the stupid column about fat marathon runners = unprepared marathon runners:

When you note that you limit yourself to shorter races, you underline my point. You have wisely decided that the marathon is a challenge that requires intense preparation and may at this point be too much for you.

Many years ago, I trained my butt off to run a marathon: 12 weeks at 60 miles per week average, with some 7-day stretches over 100 miles. That is how I viewed the challenge of the event - something to be respected and taken very seriously.

The result? A 3:33 marathon for someone who had been 40 pounds overweight - 12 years earlier. I got myself in shape well before I tackled 26.2 miles. The training was a diet by itself.

For a variety of reasons, I never was able to put in that training time again. That is why my marathon career ended at 1.

Thanks for writing / PH
What irritates me the most about this most is the patronizing and wrong assumption that I have "wisely decided" a marathon is too much for me at this point, presumably related to my fatness.
As if:
a) He knew why i wasn't running a marathon. He doesn't - my reasons include being busy with school/work, diabetes struggles right now (which aren't caused by my fatness, thankyouverymuch), and not really wanting to. My knee pain is about #4 or 5 on that list, and if I lost weight I may or may not still have it.
b) I must be on this path (or at least be trying to be on it) of fat to skinny - I'm not.
c) The destination of the fat to skinny path is a marathon, you can't just do one while you're fat.

Also note his use of "in shape" to not only mean in shape, but also skinny as if they mean the same thing (my whole beef with his original column).

Monday, October 15, 2007

An Inclusive ENDA

There's a proposal to take gender identity out of the categories protected by the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) pending in congress right now. Please call your U.S. representative - capitol switchboard # is (202) 224-3121 - now to urge them to keep gender identity in the bill. If you don't know who your representative is, you can find out here by punching in your zipcode. For more on this issue with ENDA, see this page at the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Right now, legislative avenues are not my #1 favorite avenue for activism, but this still seems significant to me, partly because of the way trans exclusions within gay/queer communities have unfolded recently and in the past. Some people, including Congressman Barney Frank, have said that it is better to leave gender identity out "for now" so that the bill will have an easier chance of passing with sexual orientation protected. That is one of the problems with using law in a struggle - it constrains your struggle, and the "solutions" end up being exclusionary and/or policing.

Some posts I've read by other bloggers and even a few comments on facebook have helped me think about and better articulate why I'm against dropping gender identity from the bill. They also have further educated me about the exclusionary histories of groups like HRC (Human Rights Campaign), who was very slow to move on the current proposed exclusion of gender identity from ENDA.

Transgriot wrote a great informative post about the history of trans exclusion (as well as regional and racial exclusivity) in mainstream gay groups like HRC. One thing that she says about the problem asking the trans community to "wait" really helps bring the issue into focus:
"We're also pissed that the same people who demanded (and still demand) that we accept 'incremental progress' when it comes to trans rights hypocritically have no intention of accepting 'incremental progress' when it comes to legal recognition of same-sex relationships."
Angry Brown Butch also critiques HRC in this recent post:
HRC is, in a nutshell, an extremely mainstream, pandering, assimilationist LGB”T” organization that seems to work primarily for the rights of the most privileged, white picket fence (and just plain white) sort of queers. Well, not queers, seeing as “queer” is not their sort of word. They are decidedly lesbian, gay, bisexual I guess, and let’s throw in transgendered so that it looks like we care.
Transgriot also has post specifically about transphobia and Barney Frank in the past and with the current ENDA.

So... I don't think gender identity should be taken out because I can't stand the idea of (and don't want to learn how) embracing the idea of fighting for a "protection" that purposely leaves some of my friends and allies behind. Especially because of the way that trans exclusion/violence/oppression is written into all kinds of government and social practices. And the history behind this is important and not irrelevant to the current attempt at exclusion. One person on facebook said something like, this doesn't mean trans "later," it means trans never, because of the way power, and privilege work. And because of the marriage-rights focus of mainstream wealthy/powerful groups like HRC.

The other thing about this is that it works to divide queer and gay communities, and I don't think this is a total accident. Just like the way some race and/or class struggles work, it's offering one group some privileges if they agree to divide from the other part of the group. It breaks up alliances that could happen in a more inclusive way and forces people to choose between these alliances and a mainstreaming, limited protection that excludes or steps on other peoples' feet.

On the facebook wall for a group supporting an inclusive ENDA, someone made the point that this is also important for people that aren't trans but have some other kind of non-conforming gender identity or expression. It affects and constrains the expression of other people in (and not in) the gay/queer community. If gender identity and expression is an acceptable form of employment discrimination, then only gay people that are able to/want to/do assimilate to mainstream (straight) gender norms are protected. You are only allowed to be gay if you assimilate to straight gender norms and don't threaten/challenge anyone in that way. Besides being a fucked up way of policing what kind of queer community is acceptable, it's also a pretty gaping loophole that employers could easily use to discriminate against gay people that dressed or acted "inappropriately" or "unprofessionally" or in a way that "made clients uncomfortable" or whatever they want to say because they were too masculine or too effeminate or whatever.

It reminds me of an article I read about the "assimilationist bias" in anti-discrimination law called Covering by Kenji Yoshino. It's the idea that, if you can't change it (eg skin color), then you are "helpless" to change it and it's protected, but if you can (eg straighten or cut off your kinky black hair) then you should, and your "difference" (rather than society's structure/oppression) is what's generating the social inequality, and it's not protected. It's still racism if a black person can't be fired because of their skin color but can be fired because of having their hair in braids or locks rather than cut short or chemically straightened to look like white hair.

It' part of an idea there are a few different levels of assimilation: all-out conversion (think ex-gay movement), passing (think being in the closet at work and passing for straight), and covering (discreetly mentioning you've got a "partner" at work but making sure you didn't flaunt it in anyone's face or be yourself in a way that would make any straight people you work with too uncomfortable or challenged, maintaining your expected gender norms, etc.). Just because someone can "cover" or "pass" (and not everyone can, obviously, and many do so with trauma and/or self-suppression) doesn't mean they should have to - and an ENDA without gender identity could encourage this.

I'm writing from a position of a lot of privilege to be able to sit back and reflect on this in a really abstract/theoretical way. For a lot of reasons, I haven't experienced overt hostility or discrimination in employment because of my gender or sexual orientation. But to me it seems like supporting an exclusive ENDA is the wrong way to go.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

(belated again) friday petblogging

Sometimes old-man-doggie Zack is too weak to walk down the 3 flights of stairs from our condo (although this may be a vision issue as much as a strength issue). However, he gets suddenly quite strong (and smart) when it comes to foraging for food, or tissues, or cat litter, or whatever else suits his fancy that day.

So this senior doggie with food-only super powers struck again this week, chewing through a metal container for some chocolate-covered altoids:

close-up on the damage:

Zack says, DID WANT.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

gettin' up on my fat runner soapbox

I had to get up on my fat runner soapbox again today. It's interesting because I actually feel like I've been passing as "not fat" a lot more this year, between getting a little thinner and moving from a residential college campus full of rich young northeastern disproportionately white people back to Chicago and the work world that has a lot more body size diversity (and frankly, people are just fatter on average) which I think has something to do with the region, class, and age make-up of people I am around. However, I think I still definitely count as fat among runners. Heck, I'm slower with the same or more effort sometimes (I could probably leave those skinny people in the dust if they had another 50 pounds strapped on them), and I'm in the largest of 4 Clydesdale (bigger runners circuit, which is an awesome idea) categories for females.

I wanted to re-write this to make it more in my own voice and ass-kicking rather than what I tailored so that this columnist might be able to hear me and I might have a chance of getting printed. But I really need to get to studying or sleeping, and I think that kind of perfectionism prevents me from posting as much as I'd like to (ahem, see the last 2 months), especially when I'm busy. So here goes:

Regarding Phillip Hersh's comments (October 9, "A Saner, Safer Race) I agree with your point that a marathon is strenuous and runners should be well-prepared (although this does not absolve race organizers of the mismanagement that resulted in stations running out of water and Gatorade on a dangerously hot day). However, your comments about who "looks" like they can run a marathon were inaccurate and disrespectful. You cannot see by looking at someone how many training runs they have done.

I have never done a marathon, but I have done many shorter races, and despite training adequately and eating healthy food, I was still fat. I'm only running a few miles a week now, but I bike 50-60 miles a week, and yep, I'm still weighing in with a fat BMI of 29. The only way for me to become a skinny person that "looks" like a runner would be to go on a strict diet for years, and I actually enjoy my body and don't have enough self-loathing to want to do that. I'd rather put my energy into exercising, enjoying my life and taking care of my health.
EDIT FOR BLOG ENTRY: Screw that, I'd literally have to get myself a full-fledged eating disorder (for both physical ability for that to be possible and the attitude I'd have to have to dislike my body enough/be driven enough to have that kind of discipline) to be able to do that! I'm never going to "look" like a runner with that definition. Nor do I want to.

There are lots of us fat runners out there that "deserve" to be racing. I'm sure some of the fat runners trained adequately and were well-prepared at the starting line last Sunday, and some weren't. Just like the skinny people - some were prepared, and some of them weren't. Being skinny does not mean you are in shape to run a marathon. Being bigger does mean that you probably won't be able to run as fast as skinny people, but it absolutely does not automatically mean you are unprepared and should not be running. The Clydesdale circuits (the Chicago Area Runners' Association includes the Chicago Marathon) for bigger runners recognize this, and provide a forum for bigger runners to compete. See http://cararuns.org/cara_info/clydesdales.html

Additionally, if being heavier puts a runner at risk for anything, it is joint problems, not dehydration. Anyone who pushes their body too hard on an 88-degree day puts their health at risk.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bouncy bouncy

I'm riding the roller coaster. Boo for that. Not sure what's causing the lows (which are causing some, but not all of the highs. But especially the delicious wake up over 300 feeling hungover and really full from eating the entire kitchen in the middle of the night kind). That's all.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Fantasy

Wow, that really sucks, but it's gonna be OK, and you're already good at _____ and ______, so that will help a lot.

Man, I'm so sorry. I wish you didn't have it. But we are going to be there for each other so much for support.

It's ok, I know it's hard. You need to be self-sufficient, but if you've had enough for tonight and you want me to, I can just give it to you, and then you can do your own shot tomorrow.

It's The Fantasy. The fantasy that I sometimes catch myself playing through in my head, that a close friend or family member will get diagnosed with diabetes too. I think the fantasy is always about type 1 and not type 2, which is interesting for a few reasons including how I identify with type 1 (and mark that difference), and the fact that it is WAY less likely (especially since most of the people close to me are adults or close to it).

I think I don't even stop and realize that I'm fantasizing, that I myself am creating this scene, until I've already manufactured a whole scenario and am running lines in my head between me and whoever my brain has chosen that time.

I don't actually want it to happen. Well, clearly part of me does, but when I weigh everything out, I definitely don't wish it would happen. I hope that it won't happen when I stop and think hard about the actual consequences.

So what is it about? I think fantasies in general are interesting. They are what the mind creates drawing from experiences and desires and all kinds of social norms and ideas and categories. And I think often they manifest themselves in a way that disavows, or tries to deny, some of the desire that is behind them. I notice sometimes that I am pondering a situation thinking about the situation or dialogue and what it means, and how I'd respond, as if it was something that actually happened or might happen. As if the people I'm thinking about had themselves done or said the things, and they could be responsible for them, when the actions or words are actually my creation. It can be really hard to figure that out and own that. Because it can be hard to even realize they are mine when the words came from the other persons' mouth in that fantasy, but also because it can be painful or make me look bad to have those thoughts actually be mine.

A class I took last year helped me think about things in this way and recognize how those fantasies work, especially pertaining to race stuff. I notice myself and other people, especially in the media, articulating racial situations and characters that are actually fantasies, creations, caricatures, reflections of our own thoughts, fears, desires, and sometimes even our own selves. It's really crazy but I think important to realize what I'm doing when I have those kinds of thoughts that are fantasies.

So back to this one... what does the diabetes fantasy mean?

Part of it I'm sure is that I want some company. I want someone to understand, to share some of my experiences. I actually have found a lot of company here online over the past year (diabetes blogs, facebook groups, tu diabetes, listserves), which does help me feel connected and supported a lot more than I ever expected from internet sources. But it's still a different fantasy about one of the people close to me, that are already in my life and share my experiences, to share this too, and maybe understand better.

On a deeper and kind of scarier, maybe uglier, level, I think I want to be able to comfort someone. Is this about comforting because that would validate me to be able to help make things better for someone else? Or because I want this kind of comfort from someone else? I don't think much about wanting or needing this intense kind of comforting from someone but maybe I do want it in some ways.

In a similar way, I want to be able to help someone by sharing my knowledge with them. I have all this intricate knowledge about blood sugar and food and insulin and exercise that is helpful to me, but somewhat random to most other non-diabetics. I want a chance for this knowledge to be useful. So that I could help someone else but also to validate myself. Interesting because I'm not sure how much I'd want this kind of "help" from someone else, but that's after years of building up knowledge. I guess I have absorbed a lot from other people over the years, although before I was part of this online community most didn't come from other diabetics. But that's also why my fantasy is about someone being newly diagnosed, and not someone else just having diabetes (remember this is created - it's a fantasy - so anything could happen, even though it's easier to imagine the newly diagnosed scenario because technically that is possible right now).

I think some of it is more superficial too. Just general speculation, playing around with the idea, since diabetes stuff is something that's so much a part of me and what I think about on a day to day basis, that I just think about and am curious about how it would play out with someone else.

I was worrying about how vulnerable I may have made myself by being so brutally honest in this post, and was encouraged to post it by what Amanda wrote over at BallastExistenz about there being no dumb questions, and reasons for writing difficult posts. Partly it's what she said, that other people may be thinking this and it may be helpful for them, or spark dialogue between us, if I post this. But others don't have to be thinking similar things to make it ok for me to post this.

It's more about the people I know that I worry than those that I don't - sometimes I wish I could have the opposite of a friends-only lock on an entry. A non-friends-only lock. I've wanted this on other things I've thought about writing. So that only people that don't actually know me could read it. So that I could say whatever I was thinking and not self-censor myself before it even comes out since I am thinking about my audience and what they might think. So that I don't have to worry about offending or hurting anyone, that I wouldn't have to worry about something seeming like a passive aggressive attack when I really just needed to say it, and wasn't directing it at anyone (whether it did or didn't actually have to do with them).

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Avandia Cookies

So I looked at the label on my sugar-free cookies and was not happy to see that they're chock full of trans fats (the kind that are bad for your heart):

C'mon guys! If they can get the trans fats out of the glowing-neon-with-delicious-fake-cheezy-goodness Nacho Cheesier Doritos, they should be able to take them out of my sugar-free chocolate chip pecan cookies.

I'm calling them the Avandia cookies because they're good for the blood sugar, bad for the heart. Like the popular diabetes drug that has recently had attention called to it, they are maybe not so good for most diabetics if you look at the bigger picture because they may raise your risk of heart disease, which is the leading complication/cause of death among diabetics. And these cookies were clearly targeted at the diabetic market rather than low-carb dieters. You can tell by the package; dull and old-school rather than sexy and plastered with "LO CARB!" exclamations.

They sure were tasty though.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Not exactly, Dr....

Today my doctor called me back and was off in her ideas and suggestions to me, and mostly the timing of them, in a way that was kind of hilarious to me. She was just so out of context.

Basically, a few months ago, I was having problems with insulin absorption from my pump sites, resulting in high and up and down blood sugars, occasionally ketones, and therefore feeling shitty, physically and mentally/emotionally. Went on shots for a few months, which was better but made exercise, especially longer workouts, really hard to manage. Three weeks ago I started back on the pump, and overall things have been going well, but I've been having a lot of lows. These are mostly exercise related, since it's been easier to do a lot more of that with my pump back than it was for me on shots. Also, it is summer and I tuned up my bike.

But anyways, I said something about being able to exericse more, and she was like, yeah, it must be easier and you must feel much better without all that ketosis! Ha ha ha. That was um, about 16 weeks ago that my pump wasn't working and I had ketones. A lot has happened since then. If I had ketones for all that time, she definitely would've heard from me again. Slash I would be REALLY frustrated and sick and ended up on sick leave from my job or something. What I meant was because of the pump vs. shots in the last 3 weeks making it easier to exercise, not the no longer having ketones thing from bad pump sites months ago.

I don't fault her for that; it wasn't like she was being negligent to my health. And some of the things she said may be relevant if problems come back (hopefully they won't). I hadn't asked for continued help because I was doing better, and she was actually calling me back about something else, a basic logistical question about getting my next A1C (that's a routine diabetic blood test, for you folks that have internal automatic pancreases and are challenged on this lingo).

My diabetes is mine; it's a little weird to negotiate intrusions on that. Usually I think I am right to react in a way that let's people know this is my business and my body when they are intruding in a way that I find unhelpful or annoying. This doesn't mean it's off limits and noone can talk about it except me (in fact, I like it when friends or acquaintances are comfortable talking about it), just that I get to make the decisions, and be the expert. It's my body, and I have a lot of experience dealing with it, and generally know what I'm doing (or if I don't, probably you don't have the magic-bullet solution either).

With my doctor (and I mean my doctor that manages my diabetes, not all of the assorted people related to me that are doctors and bubbling with ideas about parts of my diabetes that they sometimes have no idea about), I definitely see the need for this shift, letting her in, it just is funny to figure out sometimes. Back when I was having the absorption problems, I felt like I was a little kid regressing and begging for her to hold my hand when I read her all my numbers and got help on dosing - it felt kind of wrong, even though it was probably necessary.

She has knowledge and skills that are different and help me, whether it is her training/experience or just another perspective from someone else familiar with the issues. She recognizes my expertise on my own body, because she is a good doctor and respects me*, but also because she is forced to because I just know so much more than her about what's going on. She needs my knowledge and assessments and details to even think about understanding anything or making treatment recommendations. I think this is one thing that might differentiate the relationship between type 1's and their healthcare providers (and maybe other folks with chronic issues and their providers?) and the way a lot of other people's relationships are with their healthcare providers. It is so constant and intensive and hundreds of decisions are necessary day-to-day, when the doctor isn't around, that the person with type 1 has to be recognized as an expert. Of course, I think healthcare would work a lot better for most people if providers ALWAYS recognized (and respected) the patient as the expert on their own body. And probably their are a lot of doctors that are bad at this even with type 1's, and don't do this even when it is painfully obvious that it's the case.

*hopefully this is how she treats all her patients, and this respect isn't just from me being well-read on my issues and considering nursing or medicine as a profession

EDIT: Another diabetic blogger just posted a news story that's a lil' empirical evidence for what I just wrote about, that obviously the person with diabetes is the expert over the doctor. Interestingly, this study on insulin dosing was with type 2 diabetics, who usually (not always) have less intensive medication and testing regimes than type 1's.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

fuck you, bush

Bush vetoed the embryonic stem cell funding bill for the second time.

I'm not that into exclusively cure-focused diabetes research as much stem cell research is. And I also am not so into the recent stem cell research findings that came out a few months ago in which they were able to reverse early stages of Type 1 with intensive chemo to kill the immune system and then a stem cell transplant (more on these things soon, I have posts on them that I just haven't finished). However, I think this research should happen, and especially for issues besides diabetes that are less treatable. But mostly, the justification he has just really bothers me.

This 'destroying human life' bullshit that he says pisses me off. It's like, what about my life? You're choosing balls of cells over me? If you want to talk about ethics, let's bring this into focus. I am here, a person, living right now, as are millions of other diabetics and people with other conditions that could benefit from stem cell research. If you care about preserving human life at any ridiculous cost, why not work on those cases that are already a real live life? Instead of those potential little things sitting in freezers not going anywhere. What, it's not worth 'saving' damaged goods like us?
EDIT: As 'Artificially Sweetened' reminded me, the bullshit here is especially obvious when you remember he didn't give a shit about the value of each and every human life, of US troops or Iraqi civilians, when we went to Iraq and bombed everything.

By the way, these vetoes were 2 out of only 3 that Bush has done his whole time in office. Boy, he must really love those frozen balls of cells that are just sitting in freezers (I'm probably going to get on the anti-abortion anti-embryonic stem cell research hit list for saying that, oops) , good thing he's SAVING all of them. He's saving their little lives. What a savior, don't you just love him?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

low creativity?

p.s. : Sometimes I think I have more lucid, creative thoughts when I'm low. Like I think of all these random interesting ideas, or even can synthesize thoughts better than usual. When I was walking home and low (sometime between the 72 and the 55), I had a few ideas about some stuff I've been stewing over and trying to write about all week. This is when I'm just starting to get low I guess, before I get too cranky, although sometimes I thin it happens even when other forms of coordination/strength are starting to go. Anyone else noticed something like this?

Maybe it's like being high or something, an altered brain state gives you a new creative perspective? Lowered inhibitions to think more freely (especially about stuff I'm trying to write and therefore may have anxiety around)? Or maybe it's just the adrenaline rush.


Tested my blood sugar before leaving work tonight: 72. That should be a number I'm really happy about, on the low range of my goal, perfect at a time when I probably will eat a meal soon-ish. It used to be. However, with all the yo-yos I've been having, especially around exercise, and without my pump (I am on shots for a few months to give my pump sites a break; scar tissue was causing really crazy/bad absorption), 72 makes me not happy.

On the pump, I would've turned my basal rate down or off for a while, and probably been fine. Maybe had to eat a little bit of something, maybe not. But on shots...

72 usually means that if I don't do anything, I will get low by the time I'm home or during the trip home, which usually includes almost a mile of walking to and from trains. If I had planned on biking all the way home, forget it. I'd have to get on the train unless I felt like eating a ton of food and risking getting low in a place that I don't feel so comfortable stopping by myself and want all of my strength (mental and physical) and biking abilities that make me safer.

So tonight I ate a fruit leather (bougie hippie natural version of a fruit-roll up) before I started walking even though I didn't really want to. I prefer not spend my food money, appetite, and calories (yeah, I wanted to leave that last one out of this story but I'd be lying) on eating dried fruit or gatorade instead of yummier, healthier, cheaper, more fun real food. That I could eat when I actually am wanting to eat instead of having to.

And I still was low (55) when I got home.

That's not a terrible low, but not where I want to be. Enough to make the walk home less fun, and make me cranky enough that I might pick a fight with family or friends trying to interact with me while I'm low. Also, lows, even really mild ones, don't facilitate good, conscious eating. It's more like grabbing whatever I see and inhaling it standing up instead of enjoying a thought out, balanced meal that I enjoy. And feeling low certainly isn't going to have me actually cooking anything for dinner. Besides being frustrating in and of itself, this is also frustrating and ironic because part of my up and down roller coaster blood sugar issues are because of this very thing - not planning or counting (carbs) well enough, not scheduling sit-down meals on a consistent schedule enough.

I've pinned the problem with not having a pump and exercise or scheduling problems down to 2 major issues, at least for me:
1) Not being able to have different basal rates at different times of the day (eg lower for exercise, higher for sitting around at work). With shots (lantus), you just have one basal for all day and all night.
2) Not being able to make decisions about my insulin 0-120 minutes ahead of time, as you can with the pump. With shots it has to be the meal before and/or the lantus shot up to 24 hours earlier.

How do people not on pumps do exericse? Or... life? I don't get it. I guess the privilege of having the pump for 6 years has really pampered me. Maybe my blood sugars are more wacky and variable than other people's, and I'm sure my erratic schedule doesn't help with that. But really!? How do you do exercise unless you're willing to eat a lot of fast-acting sugar constantly? Or your exercise is a planned trip to the gym at the same time every day that isn't too long of a workout and then you make sure to not move for the rest of the day? That's not really the type of exercise I like or how my life is and I want it to be. I need and love my little walking or biking trips interspersed throughout my day to keep me happy, sane, focused, and to have the time to fit in a lot of exercise because it is part of my commute. And to not have a car, which I don't want (and probably couldn't afford now anyways).

I'm off to attempt a run, hopefully without another low or a high enough to stop me after rebounding from that 55 (and, of course, overtreating it).

For non-insulin-pumpers that need help with vocab: a glossary

Diabetes blogging community and categories

I've been thinking about splitting a separate diabetes blog off of this one. I hadn't planned on posting lots of random daily stories, frustrations (aka my blood sugars are still crazy yo-yoing with exercise, and also drinking in a way that they didn't as much with the pump, and I MISS MY PUMP!!), and successes, more on thoughts or rants about issues that come up from those stories. But it's appealing after finding this huge diabetes blog community that is exciting for me to read, connect with and be a part of.

My pseudo-academic postings and non-diabetes-related rants might be boring and push away people looking for diabetes community. And non-diabetic people here for the other stuff might not be interested in the minutia of my daily issues, and won't get those thrills of connection and intimate familiarity with stupid mundane things that I know I get when reading other diabetes blogs. Maybe I would be able to build more of an interactive community, get more comments, if I split them.

But, let's face it. I can't even keep up with one blog, let alone two. And I don't really like the idea of splitting myself up into separate categories like that anyways.

Edit: I've added more links to other blogs I read sometimes, including a separate list of diabetes ones.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


(critical mass last friday)

thanks for the images

p.s. yay summer!

Monday, May 14, 2007

work less, live more!

I know I've been gone awhile; it's amazing what having a life and some warm weather will do for your time spent online. I have been busy here and also traveled for work and then to see friends, which was wonderful. I'm going to try to get back to blogging, I have a bunch of ideas ruminating....

One thing that came up a lot while I was catching up with people on my trip was jobs. Some of us have recently entered the full-time work world, some of my friends are preparing to do that after they graduate this month.

Basically, I think working a lot of hours sucks in a way that is not recognized or articulated often enough, especially if you are in a middle or upper class position (by salary or by other means) that you have enough resources that you could maybe avoid it. A lot of people have to work more than 40 hours a week to get by, but for the people that don't have to do this to make ends meet, then why do they do it??!?

Some careers require it, at least in some form of training/internship/gatekeeping phase (paralegals before they go to law school, residents who have finished med school but are not yet fully trained doctors) - but recognize that it could be otherwise? Working 40 or 50+ hours a week is taken for granted by a lot of people in the "professional" world. A lot of people talk seriously about wanting to make enough money or more money; less often do I hear people seriously considering working less or challenging the idea of working all the time when planning career choices in the short, but especially the long term. I

I find it's hard for me to fit in working 40 hours a week, commuting, enough sleep, exercise and generally taking care of myself and still have much time left over for a social life or other things I want to do. I feel like I am a little slower than many people at getting everything done, but it still seems like an issue. It's hard for me to imagine having any quality of life while working more and/or having other big responsibilities like a lot of people that work that much have like school or kids on top of all that. That is one reason why I don't at this point see myself wanting kids - your entire life gets taken over! This time issue is also another major reason why I'm considering applying to nursing school instead of medical school - med students and residents sometimes work 80 hour weeks. I can't imagine doing this and being able to take care of myself. Or be happy/sane/have any friends. Which is important to me.

I think part of what has gotten me thinking about this is recognizing the need to take care of myself, and that is not as deceptively easy as it might seem when you are stressed or working a lot or taking a lot of classes. Another part has been the anti-work politics and ideas that surfaced at my school, both in and out of class. This is a broader idea of challenging an industrious work ethic and work being inherently virtuous, but is also linked to the idea of a shorter work week.

The fact that in most other industrialized countries, especially Europe, they have a shorter work week and more vacation time (I only have 2 weeks a year, what is that?!) makes it seem more plausible to me, and not a totally wacky idea that we could work less. There's a "take back your time" campaign that looks interesting, although they are quick state that they are not anti-work.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Drug prohibition is stupid aka GIVE ME MY SYRINGES, JERK!

Today I tried to buy 10 syringes without a prescription and was denied. I had left a box at work in a building locked over the weekend, and I needed more. I knew from working in HIV prevention/surveillance about the IL law that allows people over 18 to buy (and possess) up to 20 syringes without a prescription. Although it is limited in it's ability to increase access to clean syringes (cost, needing an ID to prove age for undocumented immigrants, trans people, young people, and poor people, and the issue of pharmacies actually complying), I think it's a great step in the right direction because it supports harm reduction and drug decriminalization.

Moralizing is stupid and an obstacle to accessing dignified healthcare and other services. The U.S. war on drugs is racist, harmful domestically and in other countries (like Colombia), and ineffective. Yes, non-prescribed injectable drugs can be harmful, but dirty needles are harmful too, and forcing someone to use them doesn't help anything! Several studies have shown that pharmacy sales of syringes without a prescription did not increase illegal drug use, and decreased high-risk behaviors for HIV. Sharing syringes is a major source of HIV and Hepatitis C infection:
  • In the U.S., about 50% of all new HIV cases can be traced back to injection drug use (in people that use, their partners, or their children).
  • Sharing syringes is the leading source of Hepatitis C infection.
  • In Illinois, 70% of AIDS cases among women and almost all pediatric AIDS cases are associated with sharing syringes (including sharing of syringes by the mother of the child who is then exposed at birth).
I think that, among many other things, a fundamental disrespect of or apathy towards the lives and well-being of people affected by these issues is at the root of policies refusing to provide access to clean syringes. In addition to moralizing anti-drug sentiments, racism, classism, and sexism play into this. The Chicago Department of Public Health reports that the 2005 HIV diagnosis rate in black females was more than 15 times that of white females.

Despite citing the law and threatening to report her to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago syringe access project, the pharmacist still refused to sell me the syringes. She acknowledged that the law exists but said, "it's at the discretion of the pharmacist." Even when I appealed to the fact that I am diabetic and needed them for insulin, offering to show her my medic alert bracelet and blood test meter, she refused. I think that people that need clean syringes to prevent HIV/Hepatitis C infection when they use syringes for other purposes not sanctioned by laws and/or medicine (illegal drugs, unprescribed hormones) "deserve" them just as much, but my diabetes is seen as more deserving by many people so I tried that appeal.

It was pretty incredible to have someone look at me and say, no, I am going to deny you access to the supplies that you NEED to stay alive and healthy. And have them have the power to make that decision. I guess a lot of people face this kind of cruel denial on a routine basis, from lacking funds or other issues with our fucked up health care system.

(I did get the syringes from another pharmacy without a problem).

Thanks to the diabetes art pool for the image.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Science of Sleep

I saw the Science of Sleep last weekend. I liked it - weird and abstract, and I might not have liked it if I was in a different mood, but I enjoyed it. One of the friends I saw it with, an artist, loved it, and the other HATED it ("Half a star! Or less!"). I thought the shifting between and blurring of Stephane's "real world" and dream world which takes form of his own TV show was interesting, but I could see how it would annoy some people looking for a grasp-able storyline. I think if I saw this 5 years ago I might have been annoyed.

The movie critiqued the world of 9 to 5 work and repetitive jobs in a really imaginative way. All of the hyperbole you might come up with in your head about how your boss is driving you into the ground, and how you resist or dream of resisting, is manifested in fantastical scenes. It's funny, and pretty. The movie also did a good job of capturing that ridiculous/stupid feeling you get after embarassing moments.

At the end, we see how much the main character (Stephane) is being a selfish asshole. It made me mad at him, but I think it made me appreciate the movie more. I'm not into gooey cute romances or perfect happy straight couples/resolutions (although this movie was so twisted up onto itself there was no way it could've resolved anything if it wanted to). Also, I think it was good because it showed how being so self-involved in your fantasy world, while interesting, is self-centered and sometimes annoying, which I think some pretentious art misses.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Friday pet blogging: Bad dog caught green-headed.

Last week, I found Zack sitting like this, staring at the wall, trying not to look guilty:

Who me? I didn't do anything! I'm just sittin' here...

Hahahahaha. He raided the trash as usual, but this time he got the swingy-lid stuck on his head. This dog will eat anything, with tissues or any other paper products with snot or other secretions on them and cat litter being near the top of the list. Sad thing for him was that all this garbage can had in it was a piece of junk mail.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Friday petblogging

Ok, I know. It's Saturday. But I'm always a little behind the curve.

Meet Zack:

Zack really likes bathtubs. Not for baths, but to get that yummy water he loves extra fresh, straight from the source. This picture is from when we first moved in to the new place. The first thing he did when we got there was check out the bathtub situation.

And the kitties, wrestling:

I was inspired to start petblogging this week by the hilarious result of Zack being a naughty dog, but I can't find the camera to upload that picture. So you'll just have to come back next week to see it!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What you get when you "hold your nose and vote for someone." Or, painful reminder that Democrat does not equal less classist or anti-immigrant.

"Dr. Robert Simon, chief of Cook County health services, said the county should fly illegal immigrants living at Oak Forest Hospital back to the countries they came from."

He goes on to actually defend this comment, discussing the logistics and viability of this idea and that it should be done "humanely." Wow. This is what I get for thinking that I had to vote for the icky corrupt Democrat (Stroger) because the Republican (Peraica) opponent had to be avoided because he was so anti-immigrant and anti-poor people and would hurt the county health system. The Democrat appoints an outspokenly anti-immigrant anti-poor people doctor to run (or more like destroy) the county health system. This is the same doctor that said several years ago that he didn't come to County to take care of homeless people: "You can give them any opportunity in the world, and they would not take advantage of it. They could do things for themselves, but they won't. So who the hell cares about them?". The news article also has Simon lamenting that taxpayers are spending $800 a day to take care of patients at this facility, including undocumented immigrants. I am lamenting that taxpayers are paying Simon $1893.15 a day (he makes $691,000, that's if he worked all 365 days a year, which he doesn't) to increase the classism, racism, injustice, and all around bad policy already rampant in our healthcare system.

This is just the latest in a series of barabaric cuts devastating the healthcare safety net (already overburdened) for tens of thousands of people that mostly can't get healthcare elsewhere. The Movimiento 10 de marzo/March 10 Movement (immigrant rights/legalization group) and the nurses' union are both demanding Simon be replaced.

Monday, March 26, 2007


I've thought before about the use of the words genocide and Holocaust and what that means. One thing that has bothered me is using the Jewish Holocaust as THE genocide, the untouchable end-all be-all of genocides and bad things. Though it was huge, extremely intentional, and horrendous, the way it is discussed is a problem for a few reasons. One of these is as justification for Israeli violence toward Palestinians. Another that I have wondered about is whether it is "the ultimate" in genocides because it was a group of now-white (and in the U.S. often middle and upper-class) Jewish people being killed. There were also a lot of Roma killed in the Holocaust, as well as non-Jewish queers, socialists, and differently-abled people killed, but the mainstream discussion often leaves this out or only gives it a brief token mention.

I heard a snip of an interview on the radio this morning about the use of the term/category "genocide." This guy, Brendan O'Neill, discusses how the current use of the word/concept genocide helps us imagine this distinction between an enlightened, civilized first world and a barbaric, backwards third world. He also says that the way it is used helps ahistoricize conflicts, especially in Africa, by portraying them purely as senseless killing with no reason or context. Not that I think the killing can be justified, but I agree with O'Neill's point that it is a problem that it is taken out of context and the history is erased, so we just see this irrational, crazy killing with no reason, rather than with all the historical issues and conflicts, including the role of the West and imperial powers in helping create the climate for these conflicts in the first place.

The reporter brings up the idea of invoking the word genocide as a strategic weapon to draw attention to areas of the world that people here might normally ignore or not care about. I think this is an important question to consider; do people (especially powerful white people) in the U.S. care less about the suffering and deaths of brown people and could using this powerful word/symbol help them see people as people in a way their racist lens might normally not allow? In the past I have thought about this but been skeptical because I can't see how involving the U.S. army or other military forces could do anything except make things much worse. I am not against any outside intervention (and though problematic, I think sometimes the U.S. Jewish "It could be us/never again" thought is part of my consciousness that I do not want to silence), but I really think U.S. military forces, as some have called for, could only make things worse. I don't know about UN/international peacekeeping forces, I really don't know enough about them, but I am pretty skeptical.

However, O'Neill brings up a different problem with this "strategic weapon" to make people pay attention. He does a great job of flipping the reporter's question on its head - saying that is exactly why it concerns him as an anti-imperialist - that it is a "weapon" to demonize the third world. I remember an e-mail I got from a leftist U.S. group (possibly True Majority?) promoting awareness and action on the Sudanese genocide with an animation of animalistic, crazy-looking Janjaweed killers in Sudan. People probably do seem brutal and less human when they are killing other people. But this animation drew heavily from longstanding racist images/ideas of violent, irrational, animal-like brown men.

In the article "Pimp My Genocide", O'Neill discusses the implications of pandering to the idea of the worst most victimized to gain genocide status. He speculates that this has actually prevented some groups from signing peace deals to maintain their genocide victim status. The article further explores the question: "Why is genocide all the rage, whether it’s uncovering new ones in Africa and Eastern Europe, or rapping the knuckles of those who would dare to deny such genocides here at home?"

According to O'Neill, "Genocide-mongering is a new mode of politics, and it’s being used by some to draw a dividing line between the West and the Third World and to enforce a new and censorious moral consensus on the homefront... the labelling of today’s brutal civil wars as ‘genocides’ by Western observers, courts and commentators is a desperate search for a new moral crusade, and it has given rise to a new moral divide between the West and the rest, between the civilised and enlightened governments of America and Europe and those dark parts of the world where genocides occur...

In some circles, ‘genocide’ has become code for Third World savagery. What do the headline genocides (or ‘celebrity genocides’, perhaps) of the past two weeks have in common? All of them – the Serbs’ genocide in Bosnia, the Sudanese genocide in Darfur, the Turks’ genocide of Armenians – were committed by apparently strange and exotic nations ‘over there’. Strip away the legal-speak about which conflicts can be defined as genocides and which cannot, and it seems clear that genocide has become a PC codeword for wog violence – whether the genocidal wogs are the blacks of Sudan, the brown-skinned, not-quite-European people of Turkey, or the Serbs, white niggers of the post-Cold War world. "

O'Neill also critiques leftist anti-war activists' use of the word genocide to throw back at the Bush/Blair administrations and what they are doing in Iraq.

P.S. This may be the first (and possibly the last) time I've heard someone use "liberal" and "western pity" critically on NPR.

Hear the radio interview here

Read O'Neill's article here

More of the good stuff from O'Neill's article:
"The discussion of every war in Africa as a genocide or potential genocide shows that today’s genocide-mongering bears little relation to what is happening in conflict zones on the ground. There are great differences, not least in scale, between the wars in Rwanda, Darfur and Liberia; each of these conflicts has been driven by complex local grievances, very often exacerbated by Western intervention. That Western declarations of ‘genocide!’ are most often made in relation to Africa suggests that behind today’s genocide-mongering there lurks some nasty chauvinistic sentiments. At a time when it is unfashionable to talk about ‘the dark continent’ or ‘savage Africans’, the more acceptable ‘genocide’ tag gives the impression that Africa is peculiarly and sickly violent, and that it needs to be saved from itself by more enlightened forces from elsewhere. Importantly, if the UN judges that a genocide is occurring, then that can be used to justify military intervention into said genocide zone.

Hardly anyone talks openly about a global divide between the savage Third World and the enlightened West anymore. Yet today’s genocide-mongering has nurtured a new, apparently acceptable divide between the genocide-executers over there, and the genocide-saviours at home. This new global faultline over genocide is formalised in the international court system. In the Nineties, setting up tribunals to try war criminals or genocidaires became an important part of the West’s attempts to rehabilitate its moral authority around the globe."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

discomfort with anger, civility, and diabetes

I have been meaning to write something about diabetes and class. And then I was going to write something just about diabetes and things I've been thinking about my experiences since I've had to life more within them (and more constantly) lately with the problems I've been having. But then I got lazy. And then I got into an argument with my dad, so this is what I wrote instead. There's a lot of other things I want to bring out eventually, but too tired now.
PS I don't hate my dad, and this isn't meant to be a personal attack. I'm just frustrated and it illustrates really well what I think happens in a lot of situations.

my dad is so into civility and doesn't like anger. so frustrating to communicate with. since he can't deal with anger, frustration, or conflict, he can only discuss things on his terms or not at all. I asked him (i worked so so hard to be nice and "rational" and articulate cuz i knew this would be an issue) to stop 2nd-guessing me when I say i know what the problem is and my pump isn't working after another incidence of him continuing to second and third-guess me even after i spend a lot of time/energy laying everything out. and i said my anger was healthy and necessary and part of life.

now he says he won't discuss my diabetes with me anymore if that's what i want. it's not, i just want to discuss it without being constantly 2nd guessed. or if i "all i want do to is express my anger" (cuz clearly that's incompatible with conversation or intelligent exchange, of course). i was trying to stay understanding and communicate well with him, but it didn't work. he legitimately has some emotional issues with avoiding conflict i think, but still not fair and a cop-out. he got just what he wanted - this conversation about my diabetes doesn't occur unless it is on his terms, unchallenged. and it's so about upholding a fucked up civility - keeping me from getting angry or us from getting in a conflict under the guise of trying to avoid somethign that upsets me (which is there no matter what, by the way, and it's his reaction, not my diabetes itself that i was upset about in that moment), rather than actually addressing my concerns and engaging with me.