On becoming numb and desensitized

I just saw this tweet:
adam johnson iraq tweet

I responded with this:

And now I can’t stop thinking about how for years and years I maintained an Iraq death toll sign in my front yard. Every day I looked up the death tolls for Iraqi civilians and U.S. troops, and changed the numbers on the sign. The sign Zippy and I kept chained to our locust tree after other versions were stolen. The sign that resulted in vandalism and harrassment from people in our neighborhood. The sign that was my voice after my elected “representatives” refused to listen to me and the millions of people around the globe who took to the streets to demand the United States NOT invade Iraq in 2003.

Death toll numbers as of August 8, 2014

Death toll numbers as of August 8, 2014

That photo is from a post on August 8, 2014, when Obama started bombing Iraq some more. I never put it out again despite the ongoing, never-ending death and destruction following the U.S. led invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Which brings me back to Adam H. Johnson’s tweet and my shame.

The corporate elites and imperialists count on us to be apathetic due to overwhelm, but it’s on me that I’ve let the people of Iraq slip off my emotional radar. Just as it’s on me that I’ve pretty much become numb and desensitized to every single instance of death and destruction. I don’t want to feel numb and desensitized, I really don’t. I’d rather be angry and in the streets with a pitchfork.

But everything feels like too fucking much.

 

 

Still no words

I posted the following (I Can’t Breathe) on December 4, 2014:

I’m a writer and I’m supposed to be able to express myself.

But for the past two days I’ve struggled to put down words about the stark contrast between my experience as a white female in this society and all the black women who can never, ever take for granted that any of the males in their lives–sons, husbands, fathers, brothers, nephews–will walk back through the door at the end of the day.

I’m heartbroken. For all of us.

Nineteen months and a whole bunch more dead black men later, and I still don’t know how to write about what’s happening in this country. It’s seriously fucked up what’s going on here. I’m sad and angry and exhausted by the seemingly never-ending supply of fear and ignorance behind all this police brutality. It must end.

My heart goes out to those who, every single day, worry whether their boys and men will make it home.

Public domain image.

Public domain image.

EQUAL RIGHTS by Peter Tosh

Everyone is crying out for peace, yes
None is crying out for justice
Everyone is crying out for peace, yes
None is crying out for justice

I don’t want no peace
I need equal rights and justice
I need equal rights and justice
I need equal rights and justice
Got to get it, equal rights and justice

On Being There for Those We Love

Yesterday morning I was in my yoga togs, ready for my routine, when the phone rang. It was Wildebeest. Bernice, his beloved elderly cat, was not doing well and Wildebeest was calling for support. Zippy and I divvied up responsibilities: he’d go as planned to help his mother with insurance/tow truck/etc following her Sunday night car accident (!), and I’d go to Wildebeest’s. I quickly changed into jeans, remarking that our Monday morning was now clearly in the Shit-Storm column rather than Sunshine-With-a-Strong-Chance-of-Clouds column.

The day got much harder and much shittier: Bernice died.

Beautiful Bernice (although this picture doesn't do her justice.)

Beautiful Bernice (although this picture doesn’t do her justice.)

Wildebeest adopted her soon after moving out and the two of them were best of friends. She got him through some very difficult times and over the years I was thankful for the unconditional love she gave my son. (Plus, she was a soft and beautiful cat with a quirky personality!)

Yesterday was a day of tears. One of those cry-until-your-face-hurts day of tears. But it was also a day filled with real emotions and conversation, and a little bit of laughter. Wildebeest and I were together for six hours, and while it was excruciating to witness his pain and loss, I was (and am) grateful I could be there. I’ve been off-and-on looking for a job, frequently beating myself up for being out of the employment game for so long, but yesterday reminded me of the benefits to being a non-salaried Mom.

RIP Bernice. You will always be in our hearts.
Flowers for Bernice post

 

His Name Wasn’t Stu

But that’s what I called him.

The name change started about the time he and my mother-in-law traveled to Alaska to visit Zippy and me. I mentioned in conversation that he didn’t seem like a Steve, but more of a Stu. So later on when we were in a gift shop in Fairbanks and I discovered a STU coffee mug, it was a done deal. My father-in-law was forevermore Stu.

Yesterday, the family honored his wishes and let Stu die. The nurses did everything to keep him comfortable, and in the hours before letting go, Stu was surrounded by his wife and four children, two daughters-in-law and one son-in-law. The last thing he said after opening his eyes and seeing us all there was “My chickadees.”

Stu had accepted, once and for all, how much his brood loved him. Following a surgery in early December, his last three months were mostly spent in hospitals and two different rehab facilities, with only a handful of days at home. His health had declined on several fronts and it was incredibly difficult for him. But the gift of those months was that Stu spent time with his family and had conversations he’d never had before. Emotionally honest conversations. Pre-surgery, there’d been a standing joke that Stu’s favorite children were the three different West Highland White Terriers he had over the years. Stu didn’t do emotions. Stu stiffly accepted hugs, but never initiated them. Stu was a rock.

Except, the evidence said otherwise.

From the start, Stu made me feel welcome in the family. Despite our vastly different social and political outlooks. Despite our vastly different dietary habits. Despite coming from such different backgrounds that we were practically aliens to one another, Stu and I had a bond.

Yes, Stu was a rock. Except for that time vacationing in Puerta Vallarta with a six-month-old Wildebeest, when Stu and my mother-in-law babysat so Zippy and I could have a quiet dinner alone. Wildebeest of the mighty lungs wailed the entire time we were gone, and Stu patiently held him and walked round and round the hotel pool, ignoring the other guests’ groans of “Here they come again.”

Stu was a rock, except when we were in Hawaii when I was pregnant with Zebu and the twisty-turny road up to the volcano made me sick and he pulled over to let me throw up in the ditch and then allowed me to drive the rest of the way, even though Stu always, always was the driver.

Stu was a rock, except when putting in hours in his woodshop making toys for his grandchildren.

Stu was a rock, except the time I overheard him telling a nurse about his wonderful family consisting of one wife, four children, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild, and ending it by saying he felt very bad for people who didn’t have family.

Stu was a rock, except when he confided that the one good thing to come out of his lengthy hospital stays was that he and I had become better friends.

Stu was a rock, except when he asked the physical therapist to call him Stu rather than Steve.

Stu was a rock, except when I got to his bedside yesterday and he reached out his hand for mine.

I’m so grateful I got to be one of Stu’s chickadees. When I sat down to write this, I caught a flash of movement in the pine tree outside the window. I looked closer and wasn’t at all surprised to see a Black-capped Chickadee hopping around the branches.

Not this morning's visitor, but another Black-capped Chickadee.

A relative of this morning’s visitor.