Saturday, March 28, 2009

Economic Paradigms

Before I jump on my soapbox, I’d like to beg your forgiveness. While I’m not sure that I could have made this all make sense when I was at my best, I am really afraid that this might be incomprehensible, as it seems like my IQ has dropped 20 points since I started this medicine, but I feel like I need to try to get it out anyway, whether or not it makes any sense or any difference.

Next, I should say that I don’t understand the economy. I’ve never really wanted to. I’ve never taken a class on it, or even read a book on it. I have an IRA that I don’t pay attention to that I got from my high school graduation. But I do have a love-hate relationship with politics and news, so it is hard to avoid economics these days. And I know, generally, what each side is fighting for and against, the principles and theories that each side says is guiding them. But I can’t claim to have any idea what is best.

But it isn’t just a lack of education and understanding of economics that prevent me from feeling like I can claim what option is “best.” It is that there is also the question of “What is BEST for what and for whom?” For someone who holds the belief that the country is best as a strictly capitalist economic structure (which it hasn’t been for a long time, but whatever), then they would think that it would be a necessary evil for people and corporations that couldn’t hack it to go under, for the country to go through more economic strife if it meant maintaining and/or reasserting a strict capitalist structure. Most of these people think that capitalism is best for the general good, that capitalism provides the best opportunity for innovation, for people to rise through the work force, for individual and group liberty, etc. And many also believe that it is what is best for them. Even if they aren’t rich now, they still think they could be rich, could run a successful company that they don’t want heavily regulated, and that they don’t want to give more of their money to the government in the form of taxes. This goes for every theory. The theory that a person or group prefers benefits them in some way, just as it also benefits the greater good. I used capitalism as an example, but it is true of all these theories and, also, it is almost impossible to follow one of these economic or political-economic theories completely. There’s always a mix of something else in there too.

But I guess what’s been bugging me lately is the attitude around me. “Both my parents taught me about goodwill and I have done well by their names.”-Ani. We’ve never had a ton, though we’ve never wanted, but my family always encouraged the idea of spreading it around. I remember my stepdad inviting guys he worked with over for Thanksgiving when they didn’t have family nearby to spend the holiday with. This Christmas, I overheard him in the other room telling someone about how all the guys he worked with pitched in to get the poorest among them proper clothing to shovel show in. It was all second-hand work gloves and boots, but it made all the difference to him. So, how can this same man unsympathetically advocate throwing people on the streets if they face foreclosure, without any recognition that some people were tricked into ARMs or the simple economic fact that it would be net a lender more to change the terms of the mortgage than just foreclose? Who calls those to use government help, not just welfare but even unemployment benefits, bums? Who doesn’t want to pay more in taxes, to have less personally, because he says that, even if it were to JUST go to create more jobs, those jobs would only go to the same old people, not actually employ those who are currently unemployed? I could go on, but it’s depressing.

But the fucked up thing is that, if I present a specific example, he usually agrees with me, has a more compassionate stance, based on the reality of the situation. When I asked him if I was a bum, as I’m currently living off of him and my mother, he said that I wasn’t a bum, that I was just going through a difficult time, but that it was different because I was relying on family. When I pointed out that, if for example I went on disability for one reason or another, I would be taking money that I had paid in on my paychecks, which is also what unemployment benefits are. These things are part of why we pay taxes. When I asked him if he didn’t think that the government should take taxes that go to public education, he said that he thought that was ok. So, he obviously doesn’t think that the government shouldn’t do anything. Or he at least believes that there is not a current privately funded system to do those things for us. But the big picture answer stays the same. No higher taxes. Let companies and corporations fail. Let us go through what we’ll go through, as a country.

One of the high-profile liberal bloggers that I read regularly, John Arvosis, recently wrote about how tired he personally is of the sob stories surrounding home foreclosures, especially as he’s worked hard, sacrificed, and maintained his payments on a condo he bought after saving a sizable down payment and doing his homework on loan terms and interest rates. His biggest point is that he might care about home foreclosures if the news stories he read didn’t use people who did stupid things or were planning on flipping the house for more than they originally paid as examples, but instead showed real people that had been taken advantage of by fast-talking, misleading mortgage brokers. While John got a lot of flack from commentors, a few did share their personal stories of being mislead or outright lied to, while others pointed to stories in their local paper or on their local news stations that highlights real people who had been mislead or lied to about the terms of their loans.

To me, the lesson seems to be that when one gets down to specific examples, to the level of the individual, the story can often change. One part of me things that this means that the best way is to bring up a specific real life example of an individual to sway someone who might only be thinking of themselves or sticking to their larger economic and political views, rather than the good of those currently less fortunate, along with the reminder that they could be that less fortunate person at any time. An example of this might be to talk about the real life person I know who was just laid off from his job at a small company that didn’t have to give him any notice during which he could look for another job and doesn’t currently have much saving because he just paid for the burial of his son. If he doesn’t take the unemployment benefits, which he has been paying into all of his working life, he and his working wife could lose their home and cars while he is looking for a job. There is no reason this man shouldn’t take the benefits available to him and he is not a bad person for making use of this safety net, which seems to me like a mass savings account. And I do think that this might be able to sway the person, get them to agree with you in the moment, maybe even make them change their idea on a vote, but I’m not sure it’ll make any long term difference. I suppose as I think about the larger liberal movement and also all the –ism movements that I follow, the real argument needs to be about everyone, what rules and rights and privileges should be afforded to everyone, not just a few, based on what one thinks a human is entitled to from their government and from other people. For example, saying that no recently unemployed person who is eligible for unemployment benefits under the current law should be denied them, have it made difficult to get them, nor should they feel a stigma attached to taking a security net benefit that they have been contributing to for the duration of their working lives. Unfortunately, that broader argument is going to be more difficult to sway someone on, as they already have their own view of what a human is entitled to. So I’m not really sure how to answer this or fix any of this, except to share it with others, knowing most people won’t change their mind.

I’ll leave you with another Ani song. I guess I paid attention to it for the first time tonight when she was playing on PBS. It highlights what I feel right now, the difference in my head and my stepdad’s head between what is right and what is wrong in this situation, when I learned a good deal about helping others from him.

Sorry, it's sideways. What do you expect from youtube?

Paradigm - Ani DiFranco
I was born to two immigrants
Who knew why they were here
They were happy to pay taxes
For the schools and roads
Happy to be here
They took it seriously
The second job of citizenry
My mother went campaigning door to door
And holding to her hand was me
I was just a girl in a room full of women
Licking stamps and laughing
I remember the feeling of community brewing
Of democracy happening

But I suppose like anybody
I had to teach myself to see
All that stuff that got lost
On its way to church
All that stuff that got lost
On its way to school
All that stuff that got lost
On its way to the house of my family
All that stuff that was not lost on me

Teach myself to see each of us
Through the lens of forgiveness
Like we're stuck with each other (god forbid!)
Teach myself to smile and stop and talk
To a whole other color kid
Teach myself to be new in an instant
Like the truth is accessible at any time
Teach myself it's never really one or the other
There's a paradox in every paradigm

I was just a girl in a room full of women
Licking stamps and laughing
I remember the feeling of community brewing
Of democracy happening

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Update to "More freewrite..."

This is what BT posted as a comment to this post on Myspace:

All that I wanted was to let yo know that I still think about you, still
care about you, and still worry about you. I am very sorry if all that upsets
you, so do not fear, I will be gone from Kansas in about 3 months, back to
active duty, and another state, and hopefully back to Iraq. I am very sorry if
my calling you upset you, but something inside me told me to call you, and you
know that I always follow those instincts. But you may rest easy, as you just
said, you are not sure you want us to remain friends, so I will not contact you
again, and if you wish, my phone will always be on for you, as I do still care
for you.Goodbye Ava

So I don't know what to write or say to that. It seems to be to just be more "woe is me" without ever taking credit for anything or asking what one could do to make it better. What fucking bullshit. You know, no one makes me want to hurt myself like him....

And SERIOUSLY- you care about me??? Where was all this caring when you left me less than a week after I got out of the hospital and promptly moved another woman into your place? Where was that caring when you demanded that I do all the work for a divorce and beg my parents for money so that I could pay for it, so that you could marry that woman, so that her and her children could get your military benefits when you re-deployed, despite all your claims of horrendous PTSD? Caring is about what you actually DO, all the time, not just a phone call here and there, not just words that don't mean anything when not backed up by actions, and not just when the newest crazy bitch allows you to talk to your female friends and exes. And I fully allow that you can and probably should hate me forever for what I did to you. That's why I left you alone once I got that you were really gone, except to talk about the real issues of the divorce. But you don't seem to want to allow me to have my pain over what happened. AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! "They say time heals everything but I'm still waiting."

More freewriting than writing...

Can't sleep because of my "restless leg syndrome". Ok, so it probably isn't that but I don't know what the hell to call it and it sure as hell feels like what the commercials describe. Keep thinking that I should have stolen some of my Gram's meds for RLS when I was visiting last week. And a few Vicoden while I was at it.

Laying here wondering why you called me. St Patty's Day. You were between bars. I can't deny that a part of me envies those who can and do go out to bars, drink, smoke, have a good time, though I also have to admit that I wasn't that wild when I was drinking, mostly due to a lack of designated drivers. But I think I kinda rained on your parade when you called. I didn't have much to say, no recent good news in my life, and I wasn't happy and drunk myself.

But I'm not sure what you expect to hear. I don't exactly feel comfortable telling you about seeing and fucking my ex-bf while I was out of town visiting my grandmother, the one who really dislikes you, the one who just got out of jail and still owes me money that I got from you. And I know you don't want to hear about the only consistent friendship and bed partner that I do have, a man you despise and think stole me from you, among other crimes. And you've known that for the past couple of weeks I've been too depressed to really do much of anything, including hang out with most of my other friends or do anything constructive, like get a fucking job. Thankfully, just the driving and singing of my road trip helped that some, but.... I don't really feel like you want to hear about me being happy. Hell, I didn't feel like hearing you all happy-drunk, especially because of issues that were between us about alcohol. Not that I begrudge you happiness, but I just wish it felt like it was a little more real and lasting, instead of something that can only fuel more drama in your life.

The day before this call, while sitting at a red light, the driver of the car next to me lit up a cigarette. The weater was beautiful and we both had our windows down. I caught a long, lingering whiff of her cigarette smoke before the light changed. It reminded me of you. One might think that, after a childhood living with my grandparents who both smoked like chimnees, I would associate the smell of cigarette smoke with them. And I guess I do, but I usually associate them with the smell of stale, lingering cigarette smoke in a too-small room. But fresh cigarette smoke..... Hell, if it wasn't for the interest of another man, memories of you might have ruined my experience at a day-before-Valentine's-Day party. One of the other players at my Spin The Bottle table was a smoker. He tasted like you. Hell, he even kissed kinda like you. And a Juggalo to boot.

So I'm still wondering what you expected when you called last night. I guess I just think it is all a little too soon for all this. Even if I wanted to remain friends with you, which I'm honestly not sure I do want to, because it hurts to fucking much still, I'm not sure I'm in a place to do that. When people are friends with their exes, they usually end up trying to get back together. Unless they have significant others at the time, in which case they just cheat. The prime example being my ex-bf I just saw and all your ex-gfs who crawled out of the woodwork once you were married and gainfully employed. Just don't know what the fuck you wanted or expected. Not sure any answer will actually make me sleep any better.....

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Minefields

I don’t tend to “date”, as such. Until the past two years or so, I would get deep into a relationship early on, usually before the previous relationship ended, and stay in that relationship long-term, until the next one came along. For all that practice at relationships, one would think that I might have gotten good at it, but that was not the case. But at least I had experience in that. I didn’t have experience at the whole dating thing.

Actually, I don’t think I really do have much experience with the whole dating thing. After the confidence boost and push to control my own sexuality that MP gave me, I hopped around a bit, but I wouldn’t call that “dating” either. There was a “date,” meaning there was a meeting in a public place, usually for a meal, so we could scope each other out, then there was usually sex. Basic sex in a box set-up. Most guys tended to come back, as I was discreet and not clingy after the sex. Guys don’t usually pass up free sex. A few guys either just disappeared or faded away, some of them I’d slept with, some of them we didn’t get the chance. Some of them I developed a modicum of friendship with, and I usually paid them the courtesy of a message here and there, at least let them know when I stopped being interested in fooling around. But for the most part, everyone knew what was what and, while I was sometimes disappointed when someone would just disappear, I accepted that was what it was and just let it be. No calls or emails. While explanations are always appreciated, they don’t owe me one and, really, I don’t owe them one.

But “dating” is different. It’s all bullshit and calculation and fa├žade, even when one attempts to really be real. I’m not the most social of people. I’m ok once I get to know people and can usually come off well with small groups of people. But I don’t really like doing it for very long. It’s too much work. Hell, sometimes even people I know, people I’m close with, are too much work. I remember how relieved I was to get to just BE, be myself, be nothing, with TyRoy after a four-hour car ride with my grandmother. You know, that might be a good simile for dating: Dates with new(-ish) people are like a long car ride with my grandmother, only I know where I shouldn’t step with my grandmother. Dates are wholly new minefields.

But we brave the minefields because sometimes the treasures we find in the fields and on the other side of the fields are ones that complement our own. But I think we can always find treasures there. Also, I guess the sex in the box relationships, the dating relationships, and the LTRelationships all present different minefields. I’m just more comfortable navigating the sex in the box and LTRelationships. But back in December, knowing that I didn’t really want to bed hop as hosting is rather uncomfortable for me right now and the meds somewhat alter my sex drive, and knowing that I wanted a LTRelationship, eventually, though probably not completely monogamous and I wouldn’t want to jump right in, so I started “dating.” I don’t think I’ve been what one would term successful.

I think the most successful I’ve been is more in developing a friendship that may never become physical with the woman I’ve been dating. In my experience, dating or even just fooling around with women, especially, usually, more femme women, there’s a problem getting the physical aspect going. I’m really just not that sexually aggressive. Also, I know what it’s like to have someone who is too sexually aggressive be all over me, making me uncomfortable, but be too stupid to get my hints for them to back off. I don’t want to be that person. And currently we both have issues hosting the other. But I really do enjoy her company. She is one of the few women that I know who really gets and agrees with my non-monogamy. Her soon-to-be-ex-husband is very very much like my own ex-husband. Blah blah blah. You get the picture. We get each other. And I think we are both pretty much ok with not labeling or limiting what we are or aren’t to each other.

Now, I’ve had less luck with the boys. Things just not fitting. Not bad guys, though. Now I’m trying to navigate that part of the minefield I had only really seen in sitcoms and romantic comedies. You know, I’m not really sure if it has a title. It’s not really a “break-up” because you were never together as a couple. Calling it “the brush-off” sounds mean, but it might be the most accurate. In LTRelationships, I’m used to the drama-filled break-up with someone you still love very much and who still loves you and the gradual process of trying to become friends, because you both know each other in very close, intimate ways. And, with the sex in the box, as I wrote above, you accepted that no one owed anyone anything, and just let it be.

But ending a “dating” relationship, especially early on, is different. I’m probably putting way too much thought into this, though. I went on a couple dates around the beginning of the year with a guy I was sorta interested in, but we had a couple weeks where our plans fell through and we didn’t really communicate very much, then he kinda disappeared. I sent a text or two, saying hi and asking if he wanted to hang out. When I got no answer I stopped. No need to stalk, right? Now, I have absolutely no idea why he stopped communicating with me. But I would guess that he didn’t struggle for days with if he should stop seeing me and how he should do it. I’m not saying he wasn’t a good guy who didn’t appreciate my company. But I really doubt it.

I, on the other hand, spent days thinking about how to end things with someone that I had a few dates with recently. [NB: I probably sound like a completely patronizing ass, especially if he happens to read this, but I can only write from my side and to get across the point I am attempting to make. Sorry if I step on any toes. But, then again, everyone I date knows about my blog so….) For the most part, I don’t think two people are ever equally interested in each other at any given time. It might be close but it’s never equal. And when you are in a situation where you just don’t fit, where you just aren’t “feelin’ it,” but the other person did nothing wrong, I don’t see any reason not to at least try to minimize any hurt feelings. This is even more true if you think that the other person is already more invested in the relationship than you are. But, on the other hand, it isn’t fair to anyone to continue when you know it isn’t going anywhere, especially not where they want it to go.

Grrrr….. But I’m still so torn. Do most people have this same dilemma? Is it different for men and women, generally? Do men and women prefer different methods, namely does one gender prefer to be disappeared on vs. getting as nice and civil of an explanation as one can honestly give them? And do most people put more thought into one or the other? Is there a possibility that the guy I was dating around New Year’s really thought about it long and hard before he stopped returning my text messages? This shit is too fucking hard. Not sure I’m up for this stupid shit right now. I have loving friends, and I get sex regularly at this time, so I think I’ll just let a LTR find me, if it’s going to. And keep a first aid kit handy, in case I stumble upon any more minefields I want to walk through.