Thursday, May 28, 2009

The story of Sage and me

When I got back from Iraq in 2004, I was seriously messed up. Fortunately, I found a good therapist within a month of my return, and spent 2 weeks in an in-patient program in Seattle.

Part of my therapy involved walking. I loved to walk at Point Defiance, as well as in my neighborhood. Whenever I walked, I carried dog treats, and I got to know all the dogs along my route.

One of those dogs was Sage. I used to pet her through the fence and give her a treat before moving on, just like everybody else.

One day, Sage was out of her yard, on her porch. This was very unusual. I called the number on her collar, the vet, and they told me the number they had on file was disconnected! Had she been abandoned?

I gave my phone number to the fire department just down the block (I was living in a no-pets apartment) and asked them to call me if no one came home.

No word from the fire department. A few days later, I was walking by the same home, and the front door was open. I introduced myself as the lady who had found Sage in the front yard. "Oh yeah," said the man, "She's been getting out a lot lately. I'm gonna hafta start chaining her up in the backyard when I go to work." Chaining her up??? I replied, "I walk every day. Could I walk her, too?"

He relented, and I made it my business to be there before noon each day to walk Sage. Even in the winter, when I couldn't even get my car out of my apartment complex, I took the bus to walk Sage. Eventually I bought a house right across the alley from her, so we never have to be apart.

Sage is my love and my life. All three classes of antidepressants had failed to quash the suicidal urges welling up within me. When the docs gave up and asked what I wanted to do, I said "Let's see how it goes without meds. I have a wonderful puppy to help me."

Sage has adapted to her role perfectly. In the store, she walks beside me, stopping wherever I do. In therapy sessions, she lets go and lets everybody pet her. She knows how to negotiate sliding glass doors. People always think she's way older than she is. That's because they've never seen her chase deer!

I used to put a hunting collar on her, which would emit a loud sound when the remote was activated, just to be able to know where she was. No, her owner never contributed to the cost of that. But the collar wore out and I decided not to replace it. She had demonstrated that she would come back within minutes, enough times that I figured it was safe to trust her.

And that's what's makes me smile -- the trust. I can run up to her and act like I'm going to stomp on her head, and she won't even flinch. I love that. It mean she knows I would never ever hurt her. It demonstrates a level of trust that I don't have for anybody yet, except maybe Sage.

Thank you, Sage, for saving my life. You are the most precious girlie in the whole wide world.


Monday, May 18, 2009

My foray into Glenn Beck-land

Curse my inveterate curiosity, but I just had to join the Tacoma 9/12 Project Meetup group and attend their second meeting the other night. It was interesting, to say the least.

I arrived promptly at 5:00, but the meeting seemed to be already underway. Soon we moved into a smaller, private room, though, which was nice because I was afraid the background noise would interfere with my sound recording. We had to start with the Pledge of Allegiance, which meant the group leader had to dash out to his truck to retrieve a small American flag.

Then we moved on to introductions, new people first. When it came my turn, I just said I had found them on and was intrigued, so decided to come see what they were all about! They seemed happy about that...

One new member was from the Federal Way area, and was there because her own area's Meetup group was "kinda dead." Why does Tacoma seem like the magnet for right-wing nutcases? Is it some kind of poison gas the port's spewing out or something? Even our "progressive" politicians aren't worth the ink I'd waste in putting an X by their name. A friend seriously suggested I run for city council, because if Tacoma's ever going to turn its reputation around, we citizens have to start getting involved in a bigger way.

They discussed the merits/demerits of mailing letters directly to legislators. One lady thought that if something arrived in a sealed envelope, the legislator was obliged to open it him- or her-self. I actually cut in to say that not only wasn't that true, but that mailed hard-copy letters might take longer to reach a legislator than email or faxes, due to security measures. Hey, I live to serve, even misguided folks like these!

The leader then shifted to a discussion of our nation's "extreme vulnerability" to EMP threat. I listened as long as I could before interjecting that I had studied this topic over 20 years ago, and it was hardly a new threat. The fact is, we're always going to be vulnerable to EMP, as long as nuclear weapons technology exists. You can't put knowledge and technology back into the bag, even if all nuclear weapons were abolished. But the leader didn't want to hear it. We weren't vulnerable, he contended, until Iran and North Korea began working on their own nuclear capabilities. I didn't argue, but that just makes us more threatened, not more vulnerable. There's a distinction.

Ironically, he had just criticized the media for, "even before this administration," feeding the American public "crisis-mentality news." Does he realize that that means they were reporting on Bush? That's who was devoted to scaring us into forfeiting our Constitutional rights and invading a country that was no menace to us. And did he not see the incongruence of this remark, coming as introduction to his EMP threat warning? Obama is "very naïve," he complained, for using diplomacy to defuse the potential for nuclear holocaust, thinking we're all going to "sit down and sing Kumbaya together." Does he not realize that Iran's nuclear program started in the 60's and 70's, with US assistance and blessing? And that concerns about its misuse began under Bush's watch? All our bluster and bombast hasn't deterred them one bit. Our invasion of Iraq only showed them that the only "shocking" thing about our fearsome "shock and awe" campaign was how easily we were driven back by a rag-tag band of insurgents. Rummy let us get beat by refusing to acknowledge the resistance we'd meet, and deploy adequate forces in the first place. That's what has emboldened Iran -- NOT the olive branch Obama's now offering them.

Next rant: disclosure of interrogation techniques in the form of Bush memos. I couldn't help remarking that I figured any detainee that ever got released probably talked long and loud about his detention, and whatever was in those memos, while news to Americans, was probably old news to Arabs and fundamentalist Muslims. But I backed off when the leader rather pointedly retorted that the bad guys were most likely still in detention. Well, that may or may not be -- we'd have to actually interrogate and investigate them to know, and in many cases, investigations weren't even conducted. But I bit my lip: who's being naïve now? Hundreds of them have been released, guilty or innocent. Does anyone imagine that each and every one has not told stories over and over again about what they saw, and heard, and experienced while incarcerated? And this is the modern world now -- word travels fast. No, the only people who didn't know, and didn't want to know, what was going on behind those walls were the American people.

Next up: public schools. I know, what's this got to do with EMP or interrogation techniques? Only one thing -- common right-wing agenda. Leader, a teacher, bemoaned the encroachment of "the PC" in public schools, "under the false premise of separation of church and state." He read an excerpt from this book they're all reading, in which it says that the Founding Fathers intended to promote "all religions" equally. I couldn't resist asking how they were supposed to do that. Was told that that was part of our later discussion. Otay.... Incidentally, I wonder if I might have blown my cover by noting that I had never heard of the book before then, only to discover in an Amazon review that apparently Glenn Beck has been hawking it on his show!

But the leader's intent was to show that, rather than separating church and state, the Founding Fathers really intended to offer all religions an equal opportunity to flourish and utilize public facilities if they so desired. How this led into a discussion of the encroachment of Islam on modern society escaped me -- it seemed to happen in a flash, and nobody apparently even noticed that if you're going to say "all religions," you've got to include Islam too! The words "fear" and "scare" kept popping up in every other sentence, until the leader shook his head and sadly informed us that it was "probably going to be like the French Revolution," leading one older lady to go off on "living in Montana," and something about guns. My head was spinning, trying to keep up with it all. One minute we're talking about school curricula, and the next we're wringing our hands in fear of a Muslim takeover?

In another blinding pivot, literally within the space of one sentence, the discussion then shifted from a serious examination of Montana gun laws to gay marriage! It's a good thing I got it all on audio, because if I had been taking notes, I would have suspected some pretty huge gaps in my recording. One astute member informed us triumphantly that just last week, the AMA admitted not having found evidence of a "gay gene." Thus, being gay is a choice! The younger man sitting next to him noted that gays already have the same rights as everyone else -- "they could still marry an opposite-sex person!" Now, why would any person want to marry any other person, gay or straight, to whom there was no sexual attraction? Sure, some do it for money, citizenship, or similar practical reasons, but the vast majority of people want to marry someone they desire to be intimate with. Does this guy really believe that, just because a gay man has the right to marry a lesbian, they have the same rights as straight people? In order to have the same rights, wouldn't you have to be allowed to marry any consenting adult human being you wanted to?

The leader then assured us that he would "like to see us all have happiness." What? Was he really going to come out in support of gay marriage? "But don't destroy the institution of marriage." Oops, I guess not.... Because gay marriage would inevitably lead to polygamy -- it's about to happen in Canada right now. God help us all!

How this led to a questioning of President Obama's birth certificate wasn't entirely clear. But the leader made sure we knew that the copy we've all seen online isn't a birth certificate -- it's a "certificate of live birth," and there is a difference, he stated! I couldn't resist remarking that my own original birth certificate says "Certificate of Live Birth" at the top. Perhaps I'm not a US citizen after all?

At this point, my recorder stopped. But it's worth noting that all of these topics were raised and discussed within the space of under 45 minutes! EMP, interrogation techniques, public schools, Islamic rule, Montana survivalism, gay marriage, Obama's citizenship, and more! Amazing, these people.... But oh so predictable.

I wonder if they've pegged me as an infiltrator. Indeed, near the end of the 2-hour meeting, one lady piped up and actually asked, "Should we worry about being infiltrated?" The general consensus seemed to come down to "no," because there really wasn't any way to prevent it. And besides, as soon as anybody heard the logic and reason behind their carefully thought-out positions, they could not help but be converted anyway. Righhhht....

Will I go back? I haven't decided. They don't really seem to have an organized campaign afoot to target legislators and trumpet their agenda. It's mostly on an individual level right now, although they are planning to stage a protest at the health care rally coming up in Seattle soon, at which Patty Murray will be speaking. And, those who can will be attending the weekly Pierce County Council meetings at 3:00 every Tuesday. This might be something we need to think about doing as well, because this county, and Tacoma in particular, seem to be home to an oddly disproportionate percentage of these folks, and the last thing we need is for them to shout the loudest.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dan Choi and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

There's a lot of outrage among liberals right now at the Army's dismissal of Dan Choi, the gay Arabic linguist lieutenant who came out publicly on TV. Well, unlike some of my more conservative friends and family, I really have no personal rancor toward or condemnation of gays. As long as they don't harass me (and that goes for straights, too), their sexual practices are a personal matter between them, their partners, their doctors, and God, who sees beyond appearances and judges every heart rightly. In short, it's just none of my business.

But I think "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was a terrible policy to enact. I was a sergeant on active duty when Clinton first proposed allowing LGBT to serve openly. My first gut reaction was, "What a leadership nightmare. Now we're going to have to deal with troops who refuse to shower or bunk together; blanket parties; cliques and "black sheep" when we're having a hard enough time building unit cohesion and esprit de corps; hell, possibly even fragging and other tragic consequences. You can't FORCE people to truly accept one another. The military's not ready for this!"

Military leaders must've voiced the same concerns, and the right undoubtedly pressured him to retract in order to score their own political points. So Clinton, rather than retracting completely, goes, "Allright, we won't go that far, just don't ask, don't tell... (winkwink)" At that point, I thought, "How chickenshit. Grow a pair, please, Mr. Prez."

There was a young gay black private in my unit, although not in my squad. He used to confide in me about his trips to see his boyfriends and such. Nobody seemed to have a problem with him, fortunately, but he was pretty discreet. I doubt anybody in command knew anything about it.

Choi's mistake was in trotting out his orientation on national TV, for what? To get attention? To force the administration's hand? Sorry, Mr. Choi, but have you noticed that the President has just a few little emergencies he's sorta tied up with right now? Could this have just waited a while, ya think? Because right now, DADT is still in effect. And surely you're smart enough to know that Obama's not going to suddenly throw all his political capital your way when he needs it for so many other things. Some of us are wearing ourselves ragged pleading for environmental and species protections, health care reform, and other priorities that are literally matters of life and death to many Americans. So could we just stop stirring the pot if possible, at least until the country and the world are in a little more comfortable spot economically, environmentally, and strategically?

Choi knew what he was doing. What did he expect Obama to do in response? I don't blame the administration one bit.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My questions for Jim Merritt, running for Tacoma mayor

After listening to the online interview, I have a few questions, if you don't mind:

1. How important is it to you that Tacoma become a "model city" in the PNW of sustainable, eco-friendly living? And how would you, as mayor, work toward that goal?

2. How can the mayor/city hall rejuvenate neighborhood councils? I personally have pounded pavement, worked with Safe Streets, and asked for help from our local leaders to get a neighborhood coalition going, to no avail. How specifically can you, as mayor, help?

3. How would you encourage use of public and/or no-emissions transit? Would you be open to radical ideas like allowing pets on the buses, or a community bike program?

4. What is your view on using federal stimulus funds to convert foreclosed/abandoned housing into homeless shelters? And could the mayor/city hall feasibly put these shelters to good use in improving their surrounding communities?

What are your questions for Jim, after listening to his interview?


Nez Perce warrior on what his tribal elders told him about PTSD

They said I would be changed in my body. I would move through the physical world in a different manner. I would hold myself in a different posture. I would have pains where there was no blood. I would react to sights, sounds, movement and touch in a crazy way, as though I were back in the war.

They said I would be wounded in my thoughts. I would forget how to trust and think that others were trying to harm me. I would see danger in the kindness and concern of my relatives and others. Most of all, I would not be able to think in a reasonable manner and it would seem that everyone else was crazy. They told me that it would appear to me that I was alone and lost even in the midst of the people, and there was no one else like me.

They warned me that it would be as though my emotions were locked up and that I would be cold in my heart and not remember the ways of caring for others. While I might give soft meat or blankets to the elders or food to the children, I would be unable to feel the goodness of these actions. I would do these things out of habit and not from caring. They predicted that I would be ruled by dark anger and that I might do harm to others without plan or intention.

They knew that my spirit would be wounded. They said I would be lonely and that I would find no comfort in family, friends, elders or spirits. I would be cut off from both beauty and pain. My dreams and visions would be dark and frightening. My days and nights would be filled with searching and not finding. I would be unable to find the connections between myself and the rest of creation. I would look forward to an early death. And, I would need healing in all these things.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Trying to get over an argument with a dog

Sage and I have a special bond. Ever since I began walking her in June of 2005, our mutual affinity has just continued to grow. So imagine my horror this morning, when after she laid down on my arm as if to cradle her, she growled and jumped up when I bent to kiss her! No, I hadn't been smoking or eating, and all I'd been drinking was weak green tea, unsugared.

I'm not mad, or even hurt, but mostly confused. I know Sage loves me. Why would she reject my kisses?

I tried not to take it personally, but it was difficult. Sage asked to go outside after her initial attempt at reconciliation was rebuffed. And she stayed out there until I was ready to let her in.

So I'm torn. On the one hand, I of course want Sage to accept my gestures of affection. On the other hand, I want her to be free to express herself, and to let me know when those gestures aren't exactly welcomed.

It's not a difficult proposition -- but it means I have to stop taking it personally whenever Sage growls!