Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Culture of Deceit"

It was devastating to watch Fair Game, the film about Valerie Plame & Joe Wilson and how she was outed by the Bush administration.

Nuns vs. Rome

Sr. Sandra Schneider will speak in Los Angeles this afternoon to a packed room of nuns and other Catholics and feminists. Tickets are sold out, and I didn't plan ahead to get one.

Her passionate words against Rome's current investigation of American nuns appeared in the National Catholic Reporter last August.

"The current 'Apostolic Visitatino' is not a normal dialogue between religious and church authorities," which occurs annually in Rome, she explains. "It is the ecclesiastic analogue of a grand jury indictment, set in motion when there is a reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or a prima facie case of serious abuse or wrong-doing of some kind."

One might expect that the recent child sexual abuse scandal or its cover-up by bishops would have set in motion a visitation--but no. It's the nuns that Rome is worried about.

The elderly nuns who have worked 40 to 60 years without sex scandals and almost without pay are getting investigated.

This "visitation" could light the slow-burning fuse that will result in an explosion of changes in the church of Rome--including women priests, married priests, and a structural shift away from the top-down rule of the Pope.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day & PTSD

A sign of progress: on this Veterans Day the US is not fighting a war in Iraq. We are just assisting the Iraqi government now. There are no crosses placed on the Santa Monica beach to represent American lives lost there.

Our focus has shifted to Afghanistan--and President Obama is considering whether to bomb Yemen for the packages sent from there with bombs intended for a synagogue in Chicago.

Reuters reports, however, that the war in Iraq is "far from over":

George W Bush talked this week about the decisions he made in Iraq as if they were history, the insurgency had been defeated and the conflict, bar a few loose ends, over. Wrong on all counts. If American troops are not being attacked on a daily basis, Iraqis certainly are. Iraq Body Count says that an average of seven people die a day from suicide and bomb attacks, and that there are three deaths from gunfire or executions. Two months after Barack Obama hailed the end of US combat operations in Iraq, the conflict itself is far from over.

The most egregious attack was on a Christian church in Baghdad, killing 58 people attending worship on Sunday, Nov. 1. It was the worst attack on Christians in Iraq since the US invasion in 2003, which triggered killings of Christians.

The war is also far from over for those US veterans who returned with PTSD, some 30% according to a general interviewed in the new documentary Wartorn, released on HBO today. It tells the personal stories of soldiers from the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Vietnam War, and the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan.

I watched this documentary yesterday. A young man goes off to the Civil War "to fight for the stars and stripes." He's discharged two years later with severe PTSD and ends up shooting himself.

Jason Scheuerman, a soldier serving in Iraq, tries to get help for feeling suicidal. He's told that he's faking it: "Just be a man and go back to your unit." He's assigned to clean his weapon, and his buddies are told to stay away from him. He shoots himself. His father, a vet, lost his job training medics because of his recurring dream of working on a severely wounded soldier who turns out to be his son asking, "Why can't you help me?"

Nathan Damigo of San Jose is serving six years in jail for attacking a Middle Eastern taxi driver amidst a flashback of being at a checkpoint in Iraq--but what he thought was a drunken dream turned out to be real.

We watch another soldier trying to get through a trip to Walmart with his wife and daughter. He's confused, scared. "I've done some terrible things," he says, fighting off the sense that he deserves to die.

Not an easy film to watch. Here's a review from the Canadian Press:

Each year over 6,000 veterans take their own lives, about 18 per day, according to a Department of Defense report last January. That's 20% of the 30,000 suicides in the US per year.

Here's a report from CBS news in 2007:

Vietnam veteran advocates have estimated that suicide ultimately killed more of the soldiers who fought in that conflict than the actual war itself. The same trend is now surfacing among the veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Here are the total deaths not counting suicide:

Number of Americans killed in Iraq: 4,745

Estimated number of Iraqis killed: 107,707 as of November 10, 2010

Number of Americans killed in Afghanistan so far: 2,204.

It is fitting that we pause to remember everyone who fought in US wars--from Americans who died to Iraqis and Vietnamese who died, from those killed by roadside bombs to those struggling with PTSD today--especially the 18 who will take their own lives today.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Note: Veterans Day started out as Armistice Day, a commemoration of the end of World War I, "the war to end all wars." It became a national holiday in 1938.

After World War II, in 1954, the name was changed to Veterans Day. Unlike Memorial Day, it celebrates all veterans whether alive, dead, or missing.

In Britain, France, Australia, and Canada, it is observed as Remembrance Day.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Lil Wayne's Defense

Roz says Drake did not write those offensive lyrics I mentioned in yesterday's blog entry.

But he does sing them, I say.

Roz says rappers add a line or two of their own to another rapper's piece and often get their start that way.

Okay, cool.

Roz says many fans think Lil Wayne is gay, though he has several kids by different women. The line "I want to fuck every bitch in the world" is his uber-macho attempt to declare his heterosexuality. Fans forgive him because they understand it comes from his insecurity.

So it's okay to put down women and align yourself with rape, sexual slavery, and other forms of sexual oppression in order to defend yourself?

Is being thought to be gay so terrible that it justifies all this?

Sorry, but I don't buy this defense.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

"Kiss Your Mother"

"Who's Lil Wayne?" I asked about half-way through my 5-hr crash course in Drake while driving from LA to Las Vegas with Roz.

I already knew who Drake was--the rapper we were driving to Vegas to hear. On her Ipod she was playing Drake, Shakira, and Taylor Swift, trying to explain these icons of pop culture to me. (I was the recipient of her extra ticket because her sisters had declined this pilgrimage and some of her other friends would get drunk and be hard to handle.)

"Lil Wayne's voice is really different from Drake's," I said.

A few hours later we were standing on the ground floor of The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel being pounded by the music with some 4500 other fans.

We walked into the crowded chaos late. When one young guy and girl smiled and cheered me, I realized I was probably the only grey-haired white woman there. If only I had long hair dyed pink or a frizzy Afro or something. I just grinned.

Loud doesn't begin to describe this scene. I realized my lungs were pounding with the beat as if I were coughing. At some points I had to put my fingers in my ears (veterans bring earplugs, Roz said).

Next difficulty: when Drake talked with the crowd between songs, every other adjective was "motherfuckin'." Yet this Canadian 23-yr-old is well-educated and grew up as a cast member of a tv show, Degrassis High School. Does he talk this way to relate to his audience? What has the world come to?

I was okay until he did the piece I really object to: "I want to fuck every bitch in the world."

My options: Run out. Shout back with a few obscenities of my own. Try to understand gender politics in the hip-hop scene. Lecture him on how he's connecting to the five-thousand-year-old oppression of women in this world, including human trafficking, sexual slavery, gang rape of women in war, and other horrors happening in the world today.

But the next thing I knew Roz was giving me a big kiss and hug and saying something. The shred of her voice that made it into my ears sounded warped and fast-forwarded, completely unintelligible, but she later explained that the lyrics included "kiss your mother." Wha-a-at? Along with all this mf stuff?

Then I recognized Lil Wayne's voice and wondered why Drake would sing along with a recording while doing a live performance.

Suddenly, however, a small wiry bare-chested man with dreadlocks bouncing to his waist ran onto the stage holding a microphone. As the crowd roared, even I knew it must be Lil Wayne, aka Weezie. Roz had explained that he got out of prison two days ago after serving an eight-month sentence and might make a surprise appearance tonight.

She said he was in jail because a gun had been found in his tour bus in New York City; it was licensed in Georgia or somewhere but not in NYC.

Well, this experience was totally beyond my comfort zone, about as challenging as my climb up the steep wall of Governor's Basin last summer near Telluride.

In both cases there came a moment when I was thinking, "Help! Airlift me out of here--I'm way out of my league."

But I like adventure, and Eleanor Roosevelt said, "You must do the thing you cannot do."

At least I can be one small voice against the oppression of women in rap.