Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Shhhhh....you're making yourself look foolish.

Dear World,

There are a great deal of things I know nothing about.  Public policy, for example.  Politics just upset me in general. I know next to nothing about sports, pretty much of all kinds except baseball.  And when I say I know baseball, all that really means is I can follow the game.  While I consider myself to be a Christian, I in no way ever profess to be an expert on scripture, and will forever have to look things up.  I don't know the history of yoga.  I know absolutely zero about the business world...zip!  Every time a friend who does know informs me of something, I am shocked that the world actually operates that way.  I don't understand the stock market.  Hell, I don't even understand our taxes, or our investments.  People have to break certain subjects down to a true primary level in order for me to even begin to get it.  I have no spatial ability whatsoever, and any little iPhone games that require spatial skills, I suck at. I love art, but I would never, ever claim to know a lot about it.  I just know what I like to look at.

When presented with a subject I know little to nothing about, I admit it.  There's no sense in trying to fake my way through a conversation.  It's  been my experience that people respect this...if it's something I should know, or would benefit me to know, I make it my business to find out. I don't, by any means, find myself amongst the smartest people in a room.  My skill set and knowledge is very specific and very specialized.  

Here's what I know a fair amount about:  Music...I have no musical talent or extensive knowledge about the history behind it, I merely know as a lifelong appreciator.  Early 70's funk, Motown, 80's New Wave, 90's grunge, etc....I think I'm reasonably informed.  I know about weird details about certain areas of the world like the horrific conditions in North Korea and genocides in Africa.  This is not due to high intelligence or extensive study, I just like to read a lot.  My husband will never get why I enjoy reading about these things, but I do.  Currently, I'm reading about the history of mental hospitals in America.  It's horrifying and fascinating, and soon I will be fairly informed about this as well.  I know a lot about musical theater, which would have happened one way or another growing up with my father.  It would have seeped in via osmosis. I can sing almost the entire Pippin soundtrack, although I don't know if I should even admit that.  I've never even seen the play.  I know about clothes, and I know about makeup.  This knowledge does not make me deep, I realize.  But I like clothes and makeup, so there you go.

Here is what I know a LOT about.  My job.  Over the past 15 years I have learned and will continue to learn more and more about special education and psychology.  I have no doubt that my learning isn't anywhere near being complete, but I pour my heart and soul into it every day.  So world, here is what I would like to ask of you...please don't try to inform me of how a child qualified for services...I qualified them.  I know the 13 handicapping conditions, and the educational criteria. I may not have all 13 committed to memory, but I do know them. I also know the difference between Ed code and DSM-IV-TR diagnoses...contrary to what some of you appear to believe, they are not the same. Do not tell me that you "know" a child has this disorder or that disorder, when in reality you know nothing about any of them, other than maybe from Wikipedia. Do not attempt to intimidate me with your vast "knowledge" about  my job. Try not to inform me that I'm not a "real" psychologist...I'm an educational psychologist and will never claim to be more than that.  I will always be respectful in meetings, and I will always word things as carefully as I can.  However, if you're wrong and I know you're wrong, I will shut you down and you will end up looking monumentally foolish.  Don't try to fool me with your dizzying acronyms in an attempt to make yourself look like an expert.  You're not...and I know what disorders are real and which ones are the disorder du jour that you found on the Internet.

I am an expert...in the few things I know.  I'd be happy to educate and inform, if that will help you.  If you have information I could benefit from, please let me know.  Otherwise, please...shut it.



Saturday, March 17, 2012

The New Elitist Feminism. (I'm SO going to catch hell for this...)

I feel so conflicted right now...but all these thoughts are swimming around in my head, and they're screaming to get out...so here come the screams!

A little background...My parents divorced when I was 3, and primary custody was given to my mother.  As I've written before, my mom is a highly complicated, incredibly intelligent person who raised me while being exposed to her strong feminist belief system.  At the time of my being raised-dom, the 70's and 80's, there was a lot of good coming out of these teachings.  I went to grade school during the time of "girls can be anything", which I believe I greatly benefited from.  I was taught to never see myself as been less-than, simply because I was a girl.  I listened to a lot of Helen Reddy. But I also grew up kind of not seeing boys and men as truly "people".  I was very close to my father and my brother, of course, and I have had male friends my entire life.  Despite this, outside of my family, I don't think that I really saw the males in my life as having real emotions and perspectives on things. I have to add at this point that I do not blame my mom for this (really, mom). For whatever reason, this is just what I picked up.  I honestly don't have a reasonable explanation for this and am positive this is not what my mother intended. In my mom's defense, she grew up in a totally different era, and believing in something that could empower women was a very positive thing for her. She has accomplished a great deal in her life and I'm incredibly proud of her.

As I grew older and entered middle school and high school, things changed for me.  I loved clothes and makeup, and I still do.  I received a fair amount of grief about this from both my mom and my sister during this time.  They both accept this and have apologized for giving me a hard time about it.  It was a weird time for me. I still believed I could accomplish anything, but didn't put a whole lot of effort toward anything in particular.  My bedroom was plastered with pictures from fashion and beauty magazines that, of course, added to my already rock solid belief that I was a hideous troll.  I think I probably would have sold my soul for clear skin.

In my 20's, I believe that I experienced a fair amount of discrimination for being female.  I was horrifically sexually harassed at a job I had in college, something I haven't ever spoken much about.  Nothing happened to me physically, but the husband of my boss of the software company I worked for said vile, explicit, disgusting things to me on a regular basis.  I didn't tell anyone, and did nothing about it.  I also just didn't fully understand the psychology behind it at the time, that this loser was actually engaging in this behavior in order to intimidate me.  I wonder what that that paragon of male virtue is up to these days.  Also in my 20's, I met and married my husband Mike.  He is my best friend, and probably bore the brunt of  my leftover "men don't really have feelings" problem.  I've since gotten over this, obviously.  

I had our children in my 30's.  I clearly remember a moment after I'd had Maddie, and had gone back to work full time.  I'd been having a really hard time keeping on top of everything, and was exhausted and thought I was doing everything wrong, as most moms do.  My own mother said to me, "I think we did you girls a disservice.  We all worked so hard at being forces to be reckoned with in the working world,  we never really took the time to think about who would raise the babies."  I remember feeling supported, relieved, and shocked, all at once.  Jeez, mom!  I thought I did everything I was supposed to do...I got an advanced degree, I have a meaningful job, I have a great marriage and beautiful children.  And yet, what I discovered at this time is the whole "Superwoman" thing is a total and complete MYTH.  No one I know skates through this experience.  All the working moms I know freak out that their house isn't clean, stress over the fact that they aren't being good enough mothers, and lament about not being on their A-game at work.  The only thing that brought me peace with this is the acceptance that I won't and can't be perfect at everything.  Good enough has had to become...well, good enough.

Probably my favorite moment in the last decade in which I was the victim of serious sexism was simply ridiculous.  Many people have challenged our marriage and questioned the type of wife I am.  In this instance, it came from the husband of a former friend.  You see, I have this really irritating habit of having an opinion, in case you haven't already noticed this.  I don't tolerate being mistreated, and as a result of this, I'm not.  However, while in the presence of this person, I would be continually disregarded and talked over.  Women didn't matter.  It absolutely bothered me, but I tried to overlook it and roll with it for the sake of the friendship.  Then Mike shared something with me...this person had told him that he should really work on trying to "get your wife under control."  This was years and years ago, but still makes me giggle to this day.  Yeah, give that a try!  As a matter of fact, I think that was Mike's response to him...a sarcastic, "Ok, man.  I'll try that."  I remember being astounded that there were still guys like this out there. Good Lord, it still makes me laugh.

These have all been my experiences that have evolved from being brought up by a feminist, and trying to forge my own path.  However, there is a "tone" to some feminist-like voices these days that literally make my stomach hurt.  A very good example of this is Jezebel.com, an online blog that I've mentioned before. To be fair, they don't identify themselves as a "feminist" site per se.  Jezebel is described as: blog aimed at women's interests, under the tag line "Celebrity, Sex, Fashion. Without Airbrushing.The Jezebel manifesto states that the site "will attempt to take all the essentially meaningless but sweet stuff directed our way and give it a little more meaning, while taking more the serious stuff and making it more fun, or more personal. Basically, we wanted to make the sort of women's magazine we'd want to read." One of the site's guiding principles, according to Holmes, is to avoid saying "misogynist things about women's weight."  Okay, that all sounds fairly benign and positive, right?  Let's address women's issues, inform the masses, and have some fun.  Yeah...not so much.

Their recent salivation over ripping Jason Russell to shreds has gone to new lows.  In response to his recent breakdown, they write, "We're not sure how to adequately express our shock and disbelief at the news that Jason Russell, one of Invisible Children's co-founders and the star of the Kony 2012 campaign, was taken into custody last night for drunkenly masturbating in public. But, as Jezebel's own Erin Gloria Ryan put it, "Wasn't the entire Kony 2012 campaign essentially this white guy masturbating in public?" Holy Moses, ladies, HATE much??  They've been after this guy since day 1, and why?  Because he's a white guy.  How does this further the cause of women in our country?  How does being snarky, sarcastic, obnoxious, and just flat out MEAN help empower women?  You know what this kind of crap does for us women?  It makes us look awful, mean-spirited, and petty.  I will say that there were plenty of comments on the site that stated what I just did...that if Jason is truly having a breakdown, it's not something to laugh at.  They truly ought to be ashamed of themselves.

It's possible that they have intended for their site to be purely entertainment based, but that's not what it has turned into.  It has been touted, at the very least, to be pro-woman.  Yet, look what else I found?  This was dated February 10, 2012. "On Wednesday, Jezebel.com posted screenshots of a woman being raped. They didn’t post the video, because the video had been removed from the Internet. Luckily for everybody, though, Jezebel had screenshots from the video, so even as the victim may have been feeling relief that it had been wiped from the Internet, hey! Jezebel still has screenshots. Like a white knight on a trusty steed, raping and raping and raping and raping and raping the victim with every pageview. And because Jezebel is a responsible website, the editors… apologized? Explained? Justified? Justified their action in a short and sour editor’s note."

Jezebel.com, what, in the name of God, ARE YOU DOING??  They've also covered the foolishness regarding the birth control debate quite a bit, but have chosen to focus on the fact that it's all white males making the decisions.  Really?  Hmmmm, read this:  "Yesterday, a Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed Republican Debbie Lesko's HB2625 by a vote of 6-2, which would allow an employer to request proof that a woman using insurance to buy birth control was being prescribed the birth control for reasons other than not wanting to get pregnant."  Last I checked, Debbie was a woman's name.  So who is to blame?  The GOP, or just all men ?  Jezebel, could you even attempt to be fair?  I hate what's going on with regard to contraception in this country, it feels like we're living  in maybe 1975 or so.  But it's simply not fair to put all men at the end of the barrel of your gun. (I know you don't like guns, I don't either.  I was just trying to make a point there.)

I was raised to be a strong woman, and I am one.  I also love and adore the men in my life.  My husband and my son have my heart.  My father made a profound impact on my life. My father in law is one of the kindest people I have ever known. My male friends have all helped me to see that just because men don't emote as much as women does not mean they don't have emotions.  I am proud to work alongside with many dedicated educators who work long hours for piddly amounts of pay.  I have tremendous respect for my pastor.  The list could go on and on.

To the people in today's media and on the net who have hidden behind being proponents of "women's issues"...Guess what?  Being mean doesn't make you smart.  Hating men doesn't make you any more involved or informed.  Being incredibly insulting doesn't make you clever.  We can all empower women, our sisters, our mothers, our daughters, but we don't have to cut men down to do it. Jezebel.com, I will no longer visit your site or read any of your articles.  I hereby announce my boycott.  Oh, I'm sorry, was that sexist?  I will be girl-cotting your site.   Lose the tired old rhetoric, stop whining, and grow the hell up. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

My take on KONY 2012 and the arrogance of America...

I'm imagining by now that most people have heard of the KONY 2012 movement and have either seen the video or at least heard about it. Filmmaker Jason Russell is the co-founder of the organization Invisible Children and has made a 27 minute film hallmarking the atrocities of the warlord Joseph Kony.  Kony was the leader of the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) and has committed horrific crimes against humanity across Central Africa for more than 20 years. He's stolen children in the middle of the night from their villages, turned the girls into sex slaves and the boys into soldiers.  He has forced the boys to kill their own parents, and in some cases, abuse them before killing them in ways I don't even want to write about.  He has essentially taken these children and systematically and maniacally broken their hearts and their spirits in order to manipulate them into doing other atrocities in his name.  Many hadn't heard about this going on until this video came out.  I had.  I knew that children were walking miles and miles away from their villages to the bigger cities to sleep at night because they knew they'd be safe there.  The next day, they walk back and then do it again. I knew that one of Kony's tactics is to get his boy soldiers addicted to drugs, primarily amphetamines, so as to make them more effective killing machines. I also know that similar things have taken place in Liberia and Kenya.  This just happens to be an interest of mine, and something that I like to read and learn about.

Jason Russell made it absolutely clear that this video was an experiment using social media to raise awareness about this particular issue.  However, over the past couple of weeks the criticisms of this video, and of Jason Russell, have truly astounded me.  I find it incredibly sad that our culture has essentially turned into a pack of vultures that actively enjoys watching people go down.  It's practically a national pastime at this point.  I think there are a lot of reasons why people have come out so strongly against this video and the Kony 2012 movement. In my opinion, many of the reasons are disgustingly egocentric and short-sighted.

Everyone is a Critic

A major downside of social media and the Internet in general is that it's given license to anyone to attack and criticize at will.  Look anywhere and you'll find it.  Kids are being horrifically stalked and bullied on Facebook.  Actually, adults have gotten to the point where they use Facebook to complain about everything!  The weather, bad traffic, bad drivers, not feeling well, their lousy jobs, former friends, the lists are endless and tiresome.  I'm not exempting myself here, I've done it too. People post reviews of books on Amazon that are absolutely scathing, not just about the book, but about the authors on a personal level.  The comments about videos on YouTube aren't even worth glancing at...they quickly plummet to anonymous people calling each other expletives.  What are people getting out of this? It's just mean-spirited and cowardly. This leads me to my next point that is specific to Kony 2012.

Let's Play "Hate the Hipster"!

This is an element of this situation that truly troubles me...I've read articles on websites that I sometimes enjoy, like Jezebel.com, which at the very least is usually amusing. One of the articles I read started with "I hated this video on sight" and went down from there.  Why???  They accuse Jason of being arrogant, superior, and someone who has used this video to exploit the issue.  Regardless of the fact that using the video to expose Kony was kind of the POINT, I think there's a bigger issue at play here.  I believe that these "elite" people are choosing to criticize Jason Russell because he's a cute, white, surfer boy from San Diego.  I truly, truly do.  These critics are so "cool", that they have to dislike popular things, God forbid they become conformists!  I think that if a different "type" of person had done the exact same thing, the response would be different.  An older woman perhaps, or someone of color, or someone not as good looking.  Yet, the fact that he's a cute white boy seems to have diluted the issue for some.  Isn't this discrimination? I've read criticisms about the fact that he included his own adorable little tow-headed son in the video.  What could this darling little boy know about suffering in Central Africa? I personally think that having his son in the video is brilliant, the point being that these atrocities that Kony has inflicted on thousands of children could happen to us.  Any one of those beautiful children in the video could be our children, had we been born into a different culture.  America has become absolutely gifted when it comes to lifting  themselves above everyone else in the world, and think that nothing that bad could ever happen here.  The arrogance of that is amazing to me.  

Everyone Knows How to Run a Charity Now?

One of the main criticisms has revolved around the way Invisible Children spends it's money. Jason Russell has made it very clear that they use a three pronged approach...fund their films, pay their employees, and help to rehabilitate the children who have been rescued out of this slavery.  That's the way that they have chosen to run their organization, why does everyone have something to say about it?  There are plenty of other charities who raise money that may go directly to the people they are trying to help.  I don't think that anyone should give to a charity blindly, do your research and donate to whatever cause you believe in.  I will say this though...if other charities had undergone the same level of scrutiny that Invisible Children has over the last few weeks, I guarantee that our nation's people would learn a lot of things they would not want to believe. No organization is immune to corruption, it happens all the time.  I personally don't believe, based on what I've read, that Invisible Children is a corrupt organization.  I don't believe that I've learned enough about them to make a call one way or the other, to be honest.  Somehow though, amazingly, everyone else seems to have already tried and convicted these people.

Another criticism that I've read was "child slavery isn't a new issue to Africa..."  That one absolutely floored me.  Because they didn't uncover something "new", it's not as important? Is it old news?  Are those sweet little faces not worthy of attention and help because they aren't novel?  WOW.  I guess helping horrifically abused children is "so yesterday!"  Lord, please help us.  The fact that child slavery isn't new should fuel the issue, not weaken it.  The fact that it's been allowed by our nation, the most powerful in the world, to continue for decades is evidence of our complacent society.  It's so easy to distance ourselves from these issues.  Those kids in Africa are all really poor and dirty, and they look different, and they may even worship differently than we do.  That would never happen here,, maybe they're cursed somehow.  For all the Christian folks out there who are dismissing this movement, what about Matthew 25 34-40?   “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’"  

I don't know about all of you, but that directive is certainly clear and easy for me to understand. HELP.  We're supposed to help! What could be more meaningful than to educate the younger generation about these issues around the world?  Oh, there's a criticism for that as well...

These Stupid College Kids Will Fall For Anything!

The major focus, the most intended audience for this video, is young people.  High school and college kids have been largely responsible for spreading the word and sharing it.  The video itself has been minimized as being "slick and fashionable".  Well, the young people of our country are used to and tend to expect slick and fashionable.  It works, it gets their attention.  Right or wrong, this is true...this generation has grown up being bombarded with visual images that are far more advanced and sophisticated than the images we grew up with.  Yes, production was probably quite expensive, but I believe the style of the video has a major role in how widespread this movement has become. Now Invisible Children is selling t-shirts and bracelets and posters, "conning" our kids into thinking this is a cool thing to do.  It'll just be a flash in the pan that should fade overnight, right?  It hasn't faded, though.  Our kids have brains, and the ability to think for themselves.  Sure, the idea of running around in the middle of the night on April 20th to plaster the city with posters is appealing to the rebel that resides in most young people.  Legal vandalism! When I was in my 20's, I would have been all over this, no doubt about it. 

Our young people are not being used as pawns, as some have said.  They're actually being given an opportunity to learn about something unjust and evil that is happening in another part of the world.  Currently, our young people are bombarded with negative things...promiscuity is rampant, drugs are everywhere and being sold on campus at high schools, popular music is largely vulgar and disgusting.  WHAT could be wrong with making international awareness "cool"?? I'm sure that this will be a passing fad for some, but what about the young people who could become truly inspired by this, and empowered?  There are amazing young people in our nation who have the potential to help change the world, but they can't do it if they don't know what's going on.  It doesn't have to be with Invisible Children, it doesn't have to be about Kony.  These people could grow up and start their own charity, volunteer overseas, or become investigative journalists that help expose monsters like Kony, and there are a lot of them out there.  Give our young people some credit.

Jason's Experiment

Again, at the beginning of the video, Jason Russell stated that this was an experiment using social media for global change, and to raise awareness.  HE SUCCEEDED.  His video has broken every record, and is the fastest spreading viral video ever.  The last figure I heard was that the video had reached 72 million people.  The day after I saw the video, he was on The Today Show. In the evening, it was on the local news, which is generally so inane that I don't even watch it. Later that evening, he actually even reached what I refer to as "Stupidity News", that being Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood.  Oh my God, how refreshing it was to watch that story covered instead of another tired story about another idiot Kardashian person.  That same day, I googled it, and the amount of links that popped up was overwhelming.  Those were only the ones I saw...he's been everywhere, trying to defend himself at every turn.  He set out to raise awareness, and he HAS.  He's chosen to focus on Kony, who is by no means the only evil tyrant out there.  You have to start somewhere.  What's more important is that he's brought attention, in general, to the plight of children throughout the world. America, historically, has been  very good at ignoring this issues. 

I'd be lying if I said that there haven't been moments when I have been weary of hearing this, all the varying opinions, all the criticisms, all the media.  This is what divisiveness does...it paralyzes people.  In hearing so much conflicting information, the brain (mine, at least) becomes overwhelmed and just shuts it out.  The presidential race is a great example...so overwhelming and stupid, I'd prefer to just not pay any attention.  I'll vote, but beyond that, I'd like to pretend it isn't happening.  What the critics of Invisible Children don't realize is that they're casting these shadows of doubt on people who are putting everything they have into helping others.  As a result, people don't know what to believe, so they just put their attentions into other things.  I'd urge everyone who is reading this, do some research.  Find out the truth about whatever organization you'd like to support.  Doctors Without Borders. Clean Water International.  Peace Corps. World Vision. Courage To Be You. There are hundreds of organizations out there that are working to change the world.  Just choose one!

What Jason Russell has managed to do is truly ground-breaking, and he deserves a ton of credit.  I don't know what will ultimately happen with this movement, but he has accomplished something monumental, surfer boy or not!  He gets major props from me. More power to you, man, and God bless you.