Tag Archives: Politics

My Coronavirus Story

I doubt anyone from the old days is still following this blog, but just in case someone pops in to see why I rose from the dead, I want to make clear that I’m not planning on rebooting this blog. I’m just a person who finds writing both cathartic and therapeutic, and these days I could use some catharsis and therapy. This blog post will also be political, not writing-related, and it is written by a Democrat. If any of this is problematic for you, please feel free to stop reading. I won’t mind. Okay, here we go.

Yesterday, my three-year-old son brought us (me and my husband) his jacket. I may live in North Dakota, but summer does reach even this area of the country. It was high eighties/low nineties yesterday. (And humid. God I hate when the air has water in it. Growing up in Los Angeles will do that to you.) But the air was on, so my husband indulged our son. Put on his jacket. Then my son went over to the front door, looked back at us, and asked, “Bus?” [It is at this point that my eyes are welling up. Here’s that therapy bit I was talking about earlier.]

See, my son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) when he was two. He is language delayed, often speaking in only one-word sentences. When he turned three in January of 2020, he qualified to start preschool at an early education center. My son’s favorite vehicle is the bus. On the Monday after his third birthday, a bus showed up at his home. A real bus. One that he got to ride in. And he took his little backpack [tears are starting to fall now] and he ran out to that bus. It took him to a magical place where he got to play with other kids his age, and he did art projects, and he even got speech and occupational therapy. Every morning, he looked out the window waiting for the bus to come back. He liked preschool so much that he threw a tantrum every time he came home. My husband and I didn’t love dealing with the tantrums, but we loved that he was happy with preschool. I had been scared that he wouldn’t understand what was happening. We couldn’t exactly explain due to the aforementioned language delay. But he loved it. He loved it so much that he didn’t want to leave.

And then in March it all stopped.

See, March in North Dakota was still jacket weather. Which is why he brought us his jacket in hopes of making the bus reappear yesterday, a hot day in June. And my heart shredded. Because when the bus suddenly stopped coming, I couldn’t explain to my child why that had happened. I couldn’t tell him we had to stay in for our own safety. All he knew was that the bus had stopped coming. And we’d stopped going to his grandparents’ house. And we’d stopped going to his “gymnastics” class every Friday when he didn’t have school. (Can it really be called gymnastics without scare quotes when a three-year-old is doing it? Perhaps. I shouldn’t disparage his hobbies.)

My son no longer slept easily at night. He screamed endlessly whenever he entered his crib. During the day, he stuck by my (or my husband’s) side like glue. Again my heart shattered when I realized he was doing this because, well… if his school, his grandparents, and his gym could all disappear in a day… why couldn’t his parents be next? He was scared we were going to poof away like everything else he loved, so he was sticking by us. (Incidentally, he has recovered largely from this, to my great relief.) I’m running too long here. Sorry.

So I found myself some days just standing in the middle of my kitchen feeling something I’d never felt before. I felt sad–and above that I felt a frustrating kind of impotence–that the President of the United States didn’t care about me. For the first time in my life, I wanted him to. Me. My family. Specifically. Not the “American people.” Me. But that wasn’t what broke my heart. What broke my heart was the certainty I felt, the clarity, that I wanted him to care about me… and he didn’t. He just didn’t. Doesn’t. I am fairly convinced that if I somehow ended up sitting across the table from him today, and I let him read this, or I told him the story out loud (surely crying like a baby), that he still wouldn’t care. Even more worryingly, I’m not even sure he would know that he should pretend to care.

I used to comfort myself with the knowledge that preschool would come back in the fall. I can’t anymore. I can’t because the president doesn’t care about me or my son. Or my second son, who will arrive this August. He doesn’t care about the 120,000+ dead or the millions infected. And his followers see wearing a mask as some sort of symbolic declaration of disloyalty. I suspect Trump himself sees wearing a mask as troubling symbolism. See, if he puts on a mask, it is a tacit admission that the virus did not go away as he said it would. That it was not a hoax or a conspiracy. He puts on a mask, and it becomes real. And it becomes, in some way, his fault.

Trump can’t have that.

So he doesn’t wear a mask. His followers don’t wear masks in solidarity. And maybe my little boy doesn’t get to go back to preschool in the fall. It’s not just a school for him either. He needs those speech and occupational therapy services. He needs to socialize. He needs to learn about others’ emotions and how to respect them. I don’t know what I’ll do if that is taken from him again.

I am aware of the hypocrisy. I am sitting here wishing others would be less selfish. I am wishing that others wouldn’t look at 120,000 dead and ask the question, “Yeah, but how does that affect me?” At the same time, this whole post has been about me. It has been about how I am affected. And let me assure you, I am aware how lucky I am. No one I know is sick. I have not lost anyone to this terrible virus. My heart goes out to those who have suffered from this. I would never assert that my preschool issues are more important or tragic than mass death. But I do want to assert that this pandemic affects everyone. It affects absolutely everyone. And to see what is happening in this country… Look, I’m going to categorize this and tag this with words like “politics.” A story about a global pandemic, and I’m going to label it political. My God, the one thing that shouldn’t ever have become a political issue was a global pandemic. Sickness is not partisan. Viruses don’t care who you voted for.

I love my son. Very much. When he was born, I found out that I have more capacity to love a single human being than I ever would have thought possible. I want the very best for him. I want him to have every opportunity to succeed in life [God I’m crying again], and I just… I don’t know what to say to him when he looks at me and asks for his bus.

I’ll end by saying this all happened before we became aware of the Russian bounties on American soldiers. Now, with that knowledge, I know that my story is even more insignificant. And yet I had to type it out. I had to type it out so… I don’t know. So someone out there would know how I feel. And maybe someone out there needs to read this. Maybe they’re going through something similar and they need to know they’re not alone. I’d love to know that I’m not alone. That’d be great. I’d also love for the bus to come back for my son, and for the president to care about me. Like so many others, I’m scared. And, yeah, I’m angry. But I really appreciate you reading this. I’ll be done now.

Maybe I’ll come back if I need to cathart again.

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Filed under Politics, psychology

Let’s Get Shrill

What year is it???

No one told me that having a baby would mean having less time for myself and getting less sleep!  I assumed babies were like those tiny dogs that you carry around in your designer purse as a fashion statement.

Baby in bag

MS Paint for the win!

Okay, so I just read this book.  It’s called Shrill, and it’s written by Lindy West.  Go.  Buy.  It.

Delete
This book is for every woman who has ever felt the need to apologize for being a feminist or to explain that being a feminist does not mean hating men or to lie about thinking of themselves as a feminist to avoid judgment.  The fact that many women (myself included) feel that feminism is a bad word IS PROOF THAT WE NEED FEMINISM.  Guess who propagates the idea that feminists are monsters and Nazis?  It starts with M and rhymes with Flen.

Anyway, Shrill is pretty good.  I fell in love almost immediately because Lindy West states all the things I have thought in the past, and she does so much more elegantly (fart jokes aside).  She is a Word Wizard TM.

For example, she, too, thinks it’s strange that we ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  As West states in the opening of her book, asking this question is the equivalent of saying, “‘Hello, child.  As I have run out of compliments to pay you on your doodling, can you tell me what sort of niche you plan to carve out for yourself in the howling existential morass of uncertainty known as the future?'” (1).

I, too, hate that question.  That question tells children, “You can only be one thing ever.  Choose one interest and stick with it.  Pursuing two things is for Communists.”  If someone had forced me to stick with one thing, I would not be a self-proclaimed blogger-author-English-teacher-jewelry-maker-glass-blower-calligraphy-artist-Japanese-and-Spanish-student.  In other words, my life would be supremely boring.

I want to train my son to say something clever whenever he gets asked this question.  Like, “What don’t I want to be?”

Eternal

Lindy West’s thoughts on The Trump and Trump supporters also mirror my own.  At first I didn’t want to get political on this blog, but then I realized if I’m offending Trump supporters then I’m probably doing something right.  Pardon my French, but fuck that guy.

I expected this election to be bad.  I know from experience that shrill bitches get punished.  I did not anticipate that millions of Americans would be so repulsed by the hubris of female ambition that they would elect a self-professed sexual predator with zero qualifications and fewer scruples. (West viii-ix)

Just a warning that the book does get into some pretty heavy stuff.  Abortion, periods, rape.  But it’s so necessary to read.  Even if you don’t agree with everything she says, it is important to absorb her perspective.  At least bask in the glow of her words because she’s so damn eloquent.

I’d like to end by telling a story involving my best friend and best-friend-in-law who are smarter than me in every way.  A few years back, there was a popular song on the radio by Lukas Graham called “Seven Years.”  There was a lyric in this song that rubbed me the wrong way.

I’m still learning about life|My woman brought children for me

My woman.  For me.  Brought children for me.  My woman brought children for me. My.  Woman.

It buzzed around in my brain until I had to ask Liz and Martyn, “Should I be offended by this?  Or am I just being overly sensitive?”

Liz looked at me and said, “The fact that you are asking permission to be offended is proof that feminism needs to exist.”

She and Martyn talked me through it until I realized that feminism is still controlled by men, and we need to change that.

In short, women need to be shrill.  We need to be opinionated.  We need to be feminists.

Read Shrill.

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Filed under books, Music, Politics, reading, writing

Let’s Get Angry (Part 2)

For those who just joined us, please read the previous post, which is part 1 of this story.  To recap, I interviewed Alex, an American, and his/her spouse, Sam, a UK citizen, about the dehumanizing process of applying to live together in the UK.  I’m also including screen caps from a video game called Papers, Please, (created by Lucas Pope) as it is scarily relevant to the situation detailed in these two posts.
 PP2
[RESUME INTERVIEW]
Q: Alex, at this point I’m going to say, for the record, that you are not a certified expert in law, immigration, foreign affairs, etc. That being said, I want to go back to what you mentioned before. You said you and Sam were prime candidates because you speak English and you are a heterosexual couple. Does this mean people are being rejected on the basis of their language or sexual orientation? As a follow-up: Isn’t that illegal?
 
ALEX: Well remember that gay marriage wasn’t made legal in the UK until last year. Before that point, I know that immigration was a major point of debate for same-sex couples, as it is in the US. Still, there’s a separate category for them, with its own requirements re: proof of the relationship, joint financial responsibility, etc. I see this entire application process as unduly burdensome and a complete failure at actually detecting sham marriages, and I imagine it’s even more so for couples up against widespread discrimination. This whole process, which for some takes years, is decided by one UKBA agent and his or her mood. S/he cannot say, “Your application is rejected on the basis of your sexuality,” but they can say, “Your application is rejected on the basis thatUK4 you have not provided sufficient proof that this is a genuine relationship.”
Vague guidelines, social prejudice, and public anxiety are what discrimination feeds on. Anecdotally, people from the Middle East and Africa seem to have more problems getting in than people from the US, whether they have the money or not. This is not surprising. These regulations are very recent, and a response to the UK’s cry for pointless immigration caps, usually implicitly targeting Middle Easterners.
Oh, here’s another thing: This system is blatantly ageist. As we’re both young and still in education, we don’t have the necessary qualifications for A) Sam to get a work visa and live with me during the application process, or B) for us to start earning the crazy amount they require. So what they’re saying is, if you’re young and still being educated, fuck off. You don’t deserve a family life.

The whole system, if we assume (highly generously) that it is a good-faith attempt to only let in genuine families, is geared towards educated and qualified people in their 30s or 40s. Not people like us, who don’t generally communicate via email, who can’t get high-paying jobs yet, and who haven’t joined our finances together.  Which, come the fuck on. Just try and get joined finances when Sam doesn’t even live here permanently.

Q: Sam, how much would you estimate you have paid, including visa fees, airfare, etc., in the past two years alone on traveling back and forth between the US and the UK? For the record, you have to travel so often because you can’t get a visa that will allow you to stay with your spouse for longer periods of time, correct?

SAM: Yes, that’s correct. I’m not completely sure about the overall costs because there’s a lot to consider. The flights alone have cost several thousand dollars, but that doesn’t account for living expenses here in the UK. Since I don’t drive and don’t get to choose where I live, transport costs hundreds cumulatively. Food is expensive because I don’t have my own kitchen, thus can’t manage a proper food budget. I need a portable computer for work so we have had to invest a couple of thousand dollars in that. The visa fees are not much in comparison, though I was forced to go to an early morning interview in Belfast for my last visa, which cost considerably more in transport and accommodation.  So it’s hard to measure, but it is a lot.

PP5

 

Q: I suppose I shouldn’t have said “can’t” get a visa that will allow you to stay longer. It would be more accurate to say you aren’t allowed a longer visa, yes?  The difference being that you are an upstanding citizen with no criminal record, so you are not being denied on the basis of your own faults or actions.

SAM: Yes, it would be more accurate to say that. Longer visas don’t exist for someone in my position, in that I’m not studying there [in the US], I’m not working in one of the small number of “shortage” industries, and I’m unwilling to be apart from Alex for the processing time of a marriage visa, which can take up to a year. There are no other options for me.

Q:  I’d like to ask a general question, similar to what I asked Alex. What are some thoughts you want to share? Anything that comes to mind. Especially anything that you feel the general public should know.

SAM: Well my experience of talking to other people about this is how little they understand it. Most are constantly surprised that I’m forced to be apart from my partner of 6 years, my spouse, because of this. It’s not simply that the process is time-consuming, expensive, and complicated, though it is certainly all of those things. It’s also thatUK6 it’s deeply violating in a very personal way. Our relationship isn’t really ours anymore, it’s wholly dependent on the demands of total strangers who don’t and will never know us, yet want access to the most intimate details of our lives so they can judge whether or not our love is real. We’re expected to play the part of what a couple should be in their eyes, a role that is not only painfully restrictive but also constantly changing, without warning.  I feel like people need to be aware of how painful this is, and how much worse it must be for those not lucky enough to be in our position, supported by friends and family in a lot of ways.

Q: This may seem like an obvious question, but for the record: Do you love your spouse?
ALEX: Obviously. I love him/her deeply. I didn’t even consider marriage before her/him.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary wants to make it harder for British citizens and those settled in the UK to bring their spouses, civil partners and indeed other family members to the UK.

 Sam: Yes, very much. S/he completely changed my life, and made me want to spend my life with him/her when no one else ever has.
[END INTERVIEW]
PP14PP15PP16PP17
Once again I beg you to share this blog post and/or the previous one.  My heart goes out to the various divided families that are struggling to live with each other (and stay with each other).  The previous post includes links to websites where you can help by donating to this cause.  I am going to post them here as well.
Thank you so much for reading and for bearing with me as we diverge from the fun, light-hearted path this blog usually takes.  We’ll be back to Mini-Bex shenanigans soon.
A special thanks to Sam and Alex for taking the time to share their story with me and with my readers.  It is my hope that this blog post and the above websites will help to make a difference, not only in Sam’s and Alex’s lives, but in the lives of many others.

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Filed under Foreign Policy, Games, Immigration, marriage, Politics, Travel