We Hold These Truths…

Young Teenage Girl Standing And Looking On Empty Picture Frame

Truth: all humans are created equal. We can sometimes distinguish ourselves by our actions in life, but to believe that one person is inherently better than another because of something they were granted unearned at birth–whether it be skin color, religion, sex, or bank balance–is to live in a juvenile world of fairy princesses. Such a world is not fair to our daughters, or our sons.

When I was growing up, sexism was acceptable and assumed. It was displayed out in the open without shame, because obviously women were not equal to men. We weren’t strong enough to be bosses, couldn’t do math, and we made decisions based on emotion rather than fact. Daughters were expected to be mothers, teachers, or nurses.

Young women today tell me that no one is sexist anymore, but it has not been extinguished so thoroughly. It simmers beneath the surface, creeping unnoticed through our subconscious. This election brought it bubbling to the surface.

A woman I know took me to task years ago for saying how ridiculous I thought it was to have a president who couldn’t pronounce the word “nuclear.” She told me that I needed to have more respect for the office that he held, even if I hadn’t voted for him. That woman, this week, said on the internet that Hillary Clinton was a “rat-faced whore.”

How is it possible to contain those two thoughts in the same brain and not notice the imbalance? Deeply held, unconsidered prejudice.

Amy Richards said, “the last time most of us had a powerful woman in our lives, we were children and she was our mother.” We have no picture in our heads of what a powerful woman should look like. We expect the impossible of every woman–she must be pretty, personable, useful, bright, successful–so we apply that in the extreme to a woman who is breaking down walls. Then we stir in a little jealousy because who does she think she is to accomplish so much more than we did? As Ms. Richards added, “we punish her for excellence and success.”

The State Department and the Senate Intelligence Committee made mistakes in Benghazi, and four people died. Investigation into the incident found many at fault; the report mentioned Clinton one time. She did, however, assume responsibility, because she was  Secretary of State.

97 people died in  20 embassy attacks when George Bush was president. Only one was ever investigated at all.

The recent email scandal occurred because Clinton used her private account for official business, rather than a State Department account. This was common practice at the time, and indeed both Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice did the same, as did the head of the CIA. No-one has called Colin Powell a criminal and demanded that he be jailed.

The anger toward this one woman is out of proportion, an extreme overreaction caused by beliefs instilled in our brains when we were still too young to reason.

I understand that people do not want to vote for someone just because she is female. We want our children to grow up in a world free of bigotry, not just reverse its direction. But I hope that they do not refuse to vote for her out of unconscious sexism. We are not obligated to vote for a woman simply because she is a woman; we are obligated to not blindly swallow the lies people spew out of a rancid sea of prejudice, because we have daughters.

To fairly evaluate a female presidential candidate we need to see past the overlay with which prejudice has painted them; we need to allow a strong woman to be a positive thing; and we need to look at actual facts.

Dig in. Think. Then Vote.

DomesticatedMomster
The Blogger's Pit Stop

Children in the Aftermath of Trauma

Sad child on black background. Portrait depression girlWe try to protect our children from as much as we can, but sometimes life has other plans.

The murders in Orlando have taken over our thoughts, our conversations at home and with friends, the internet, and the television waves. Our children are being bombarded by the nightmare in front of the TV at home, in conversations with friends, and with questions asked by their peers. It can be too much for a child to deal with.

Your child’s experience of an event will vary depending on their age,  personal style,  life experience, and  closeness to the disaster. A toddler will only care that his or her parents seem to be upset. Older children will hurt for the people involved, worry about friends and relatives that are not within their sight, and worry that it could happen to them sometime, at some other event. What seemed exciting to discuss with friends during the day becomes frightening after the lights go off.

Listen to them talk, and be patient when they ask you the same questions over and over. Reassure them, let them know that such things are extremely rare. Answer questions truthfully, at their own developmental level. Never lie.

Monitor what your child sees and hears – adult conversation and the media can magnify fear and confusion and increase their trauma. Repetition can intensify anxiety; pictures can get locked in their heads.

After the event symptoms of post-traumatic stress may appear, even in children not directly involved. They may be sad or moody, easily angered or irritable. They may be afraid to go to public venues. They may have trouble sleeping or sleep too much. Appetites may suffer. Your child may be anxious when his or her people are not all nearby, and wake from nightmares.

Children frequently have concentration problems after a trauma, and their grades will suffer. They may regress developmentally: your independent youngsters may become clingy, or need help doing things they had been able to do on their own. They may avoid activities they previously enjoyed, and withdraw into themselves. They may become anxious at the thought of going to school, or of being separated from mom or dad.

They can also develop physical symptoms like headaches and stomachaches. They may try to exercise more control on their environment, setting up their toys in a particular way, wanting their schedule to be predictable, or demanding activities they find reassuring. Teens may act out or try alcohol or drugs in an attempt to feel better.

Helping them may be as simple as listening. Be available and receptive but don’t push. A younger child may open up and tell you his story when you break out toys or art supplies; an older one may talk if you tell her a similar story about yourself, when you were scared or worried. Schedule time for just the two of you, and wait.

Children may try to hide their symptoms: they think they should be stronger, they don’t want to be a burden, or they think they are abnormal for having the problem. They may even feel that the disaster was their fault; children are not always logical. Allowing them to bury their symptoms will only erode their spirit from the inside.

Also, be a good example. Take care of yourself, eat healthy food, sleep, and discuss events calmly. Turn off the TV and stay off the web. Exercise. Take breaks to play, read a book, and do something unrelated to it.

Keep to recognizable routines– routine is reassuring and safe. Require reasonable behavior: if they still get in trouble for using that bad word, then everything must be OK. They may test you with bad behavior just to get that reassurance. Don’t spoil them with extra treats, because it will frighten them. Things must be really bad if The Parent gives me toys or lets me eat candy.

Lend a hand to other people. It will help to know that you have the power to help and comfort.

The traumatic symptoms may last quite a while. Triggers like parents going out at night or a security guard at a local festival may bring everything back. Fear of it happening again may linger. An anniversary will renew their anxiety.

If time passes and stress is affecting their lives, think about having them see a counselor or getting them into a peer group with similar concerns. We all need a little help sometimes.

My mom also used to say, “Time heals all wounds.” And with a little help from their guardians it always will.

The Egg Came First, Of Course!

Family remodeling house. Home remodel and renovation. Kids painting walls with colorful brush and roller. Children paint wall. Choice of bright color on sample palette for child nursery or kid room.

So, I’ll admit it. I truly do not understand that whole man/woman inequality thing. I don’t get why it exists. It’s like the chicken and the egg to me, which came first? It’s obvious: the egg. Something that was almost a chicken laid an egg that had a new mutation, and voila–a chicken! So simple, just a matter of definition, of where we draw that line.

Why is it not just as obvious to everyone that men and women are equal? Each has 46 chromosomes and the same arrangement of muscles and bones. Both have a brain, a heart, two arms, two legs.

How could a lesser being get together with a greater being and create a child? Part of two equals have to make that whole.

And yet we endlessly insist that they are not equal. We focus on what differences we can find and weigh them on an scale created from self interest, history and desire. Men are bigger, stronger, and have more muscle, so they are better! Women can bear life, so they are better!

We write off young women because they are girls, and sexy, and we judge them on that; we ignore old women because they are old, not sexy, and are thus useless. We walk on, satisfied with our actions because we have put them in their slot; it is settled. Women are less, because sex defines them.  We must allow them to be defined by their sex or they pose a threat to the status quo. She can’t be president, she might push the button when she has PMS!

Whole human beings are reduced to their sexuality because it orders the world and makes it easier to find and understand our place.

In the same way young men are written off when they are not big, athletic; old men are written off when they do not have money, a fancy car. If they do not conform, they must be derided, snickered at, because of society’s obsession with macho manliness and wealth.

These prejudices do none of us any good. If we win and convince ourselves that we are better than one person, the flip side is that we will be judged as less than someone else. Do we really want that?

At some point, if this is ever to improve and we are not to endlessly churn out damaged adults with sad relationships who in turn damage their children, we have to evolve to the point where we know, to the depths of our souls, that all humans are equally valuable. All talents are to be prized. All life is sacred.

We all want the same things in life: to love and be loved, to have a safe haven to go home to, to have work that inspires us. We have so much about us that is the same, yet we constantly focus on our differences.

Where does this need to compare and compete, to constantly evaluate and judge, come from? Is it hard wired into our animal DNA, or is it something our human brains can overcome?

Why do we need to write anyone off or judge ourselves against others? Why do we subject ourselves, let alone total strangers, to valuation by our obsessions and insecurities? One part of a person is not the whole; the one hue we individually consider important cannot stamp a whole human being with a value, like a price tag, ignoring the rest of the color spectrum.

It is time that we embrace the whole of the human spectrum, and take joy in our evolution. Each person–man/woman, tall/short, intelligent/talented/mechanical/weird–has equal value, is deserving of equal respect, and can be loved and appreciated as they are.

Why live a life that has already been lived, outlined by the generations who lived before? Grasp change; reach deep into your own unique soul and create something new. Then allow your neighbor, workmate, and child to do the same.

Charleston: Let’s Not Let Roof Win

Change- just aheadDylann Roof did not murder nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston only because they were Black; he murdered them because he was a criminally insane psychopath.

Blaming their deaths on their race reeks to me of blaming the victim. We did not blame the kids at Sandy Hook; we do not blame rape victims. We did not tell the grieving relatives in Colorado that their loved ones died because they went to a movie. We told them that James Holmes was a criminal psychopath.

Yes, this particular psychopath had craziness is his head that focused on Black Americans. His brain was irreparably diseased. It is horrible that no-one noticed. It is worse that he was allowed to buy a gun. It is a nightmare that will never end for the families and friends of the people he killed.

But if we feed into his insanity we are giving him jurisdiction over our thoughts. Buying into his “I had no choice, I did it because they were Black,” adds weight to racial division that is already at an explosive level. He wanted to start a racial war: feeding into that is allowing him to win, and giving credit to his insanity.

The traditional description of psycopathology involves lack of empathy, lack of normal fear, and no impulse control. These people don’t care about anyone other than themselves: no one else is real to them. They are unable to comprehend danger to themselves. Their impulse control never develops: imagine a 2 year old who has a toy taken away, who immediately lunges to take it back, hitting the other child. Normal adults mature and learn to control their impulses, learn that other people matter. These people never do.

Psychopaths choose their targets based on the craziness circling in their brains. The victims themselves are completely innocent. If we say that they were killed purely because of White on Black racism we are treating Roof as if his thoughts are worth our consideration. They are not.

Horror, grief and anger may push us toward blowing this up, expanding it so that it includes other white men, or all white people, or even all people of any race other than Black.

That is what he wanted.

All young men are not child killers because one chose to murder at Sandy Hook; all men are not rapists because some rape; all parents are not child abusers because some beat their children. These murders could justifiably feed righteous anger and increase racial tensions, but in the end more anger can only bring more injury and death.

Healing will not happen through hatred. Hatred breeds more hatred – it knows no other path. Tolerance and consideration breed understanding; respect breeds respect; time heals.

We cannot feed evil, or it will thrive. His craziness is your endpoint if you allow yourself to hate.

If we want justice for the lives that are lost, and to find some grace in their deaths, we must use it to put an end to racial bigotry. Do the opposite of what he wanted. Say Enough.

a Cure for Racism…

Change- just aheadPrejudice is “a feeling of like or dislike for someone or something, especially when it is not reasonable or logical.” (Thank you Merriam-Webster) We use our prior experience to place a judgement upon a new person or thing, fitting it into the system already set up in our brains. Prejudice works. It works so well that it is hard wired into the human brain as one of our immediate go-to’s. We function because we do not have to make decisions about each and every thing we do each day: we pre-judge. We know that if we run up a flight of stairs, we need to lift our foot at least 8 inches each step so that we do not go splat. The crazy morning routines to get the kids to school? Autopilot. Prejudice at work.

It can work so well that we don’t notice when it becomes irrational and destructive; so well that when our prejudices are threatened, we feel threatened and become defensive. So how do we break through the concrete wall of prejudice in people’s minds?

The only way to disrupt prejudice is to make it not work. Move to a town where all those stairs are 5 inches high and we will learn change, after a few of those splats.

Why do I have a say?

But first, why does a middle aged white doctor even rate an opinion on prejudice?

I was raised in the 60’s and 70’s as a homely smart girl in a family that did not… appreciate… brains in a female. In high school I earned a 96% in Algebra, for which I received a B. My teacher told me he had never given an A to a girl in math and I “sure as hell was not going to be the first.” I went to college, where my advisor told me not to bother applying to med school because I had no chance: for a female to get in was hard, and one who was not pretty? Impossible. When I went for an interview at the University of Virginia, the Dean walked into the room, told me that he had been told he had to accept 17 females and he had his 17, so he was not going to “waste his time” talking to me. My kingdom for a tape recorder!

Through med school and residency the women had to work harder and longer than any of the men to get half the respect, and frequently the boys got credit for what we did anyway. One of my mentors told me that I wouldn’t have been there at all if not for the quotas. What quotas? Women are not a minority! The other residents (all male) laughed, to make sure he knew they were all on his side, in the boy club.

At one point I passed out and had a seizure from exhaustion; my female senior resident had done the same thing the year before. The attending’s response was, “You’ll be here tomorrow, right?”

When I started my pediatric practice, the local hospital sent a letter to every doctor on staff telling them not to refer to me. The local OB/Gyn told me they were “not ready for a female doctor”, and I should go somewhere else.

Prejudice? I am an expert.

If you think that it is not the same as being threatened by police and possibly killed, I could add that my brother and sister-in-law were murdered by a Miami police officer, who was punished afterwards with a 3 day suspension.

Defeating prejudice

There are two options when faced with bigotry: either become bitter and angry, blaming someone else for your problems, or prove the bastards wrong.

Bitterness and anger solves nothing.

The only way to defeat prejudice is to prove it wrong, and prove that the people espousing it are idiots. Over the last 50 years, I have put a Kasey shaped hole in sexism. Add that to all the other women working toward equality and we have made a dent.

As another example, the tide of public opinion on homosexuality has changed more quickly than any other opinion ever polled. This happened after homosexuals came out in droves. In one generation people went from “I don’t know any homosexuals” to “My friend is gay, and I don’t want him hurt.”

The opposite option is the way the man haters in the original women’s movement behaved. Spouting hatred as your reason for change only poisons the movement and turns people off.

If we want to shatter racism, we have to change the African-American that people see. We need to push into view Black brilliance, talent and ability. We not only need to have people like Obama and Maya Angelou out front and center, we need Hollywood to change the stereotypes they display, and we need successful Black Americans in every walk of life. We need more Black doctors, lawyers, plumbers, and electricians to stand strong in the wind and disrupt the flow of racism.

Which means we need more Black professionals. We need teachers, police officers, nurses… To do this we need to effect change within the African American culture. It does no good to talk and yell that people have to believe differently. It will only change if people behave differently.

Change needs to come from within the culture. No one from outside can fix this. I can tell a little girl she can be anything she wants to be until I am blue. If she goes home and hears that she is “nothin” from her family; that she is a “ho” from her boyfriend, that she can’t escape, because the whole world is against her – in the end chances are good that she will give up and settle, and all of her amazing potential will be lost.

This rant is a plea to the leaders in the Black community: please lead. Stop placing blame and fighting racism with more racism. Take responsibility and offer change. Be decent role models. Value respect, education, determination, and work. Value commitment to family, and presence in the home.  Prove those racist idiots wrong by being better and stronger than they could ever be.