Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Conscience vs. Consensus

I have been reading James Bovard’s Terrorism and Tyranny: Trampling Freedom and Justice, and Peace to Rid the World of Evil. This book represents an aspect of the whole of all my reading over the last four years and more that my attention and passion have been zeroing in on. More specifically the themes of freedom vs. safety, democracy vs. tyranny, civil rights vs. abuse of power, individual conscience vs. the tyranny of the consensus. In my thinking and reflection, daydreams and nightmares, this is where I feel my stifled voice straining to be freed. The fear that the freedom to use my voice will be gone before I have broken through the inhibitions of my past and claimed my right to speak is creating this sense of an awesome scream welling up from within. But it is still mostly an incoherent ‘NO!’ As it was Nov. 2, 1994, the day of my emancipation from the mental and spiritual slavery of Fundamentalism. I fear that releasing it before I can contain and direct the passion into a resounding ‘YES!’ to something, I would only be contributing to the discord and dismay that is already too abundant in the world. Because discord and dismay is what fills my soul right now. Especially as I try to comprehend the possible repercussions of the election.

This election held so much symbolism for me this year. I saw in it all of the same themes which had gripped me on the day of my emancipation and shook the foundations of my soul. That may sound to some ears like hyperbole, like pure exaggeration for effect. But it is the most accurate description of what happened to me that night. Everything I thought I had known for sure up to that point, everything that made me who I was, everything that gave meaning to my life, that gave me a sense of security and peace--everything was called into question and my sense of self--my soul--was left inhabiting an edifice as shattered as any wood-framed structure which has just gone through an earthquake, tornado, hurricane or tsunami.

As it was, I was already marking the two year anniversary of my claiming the right to think for myself. Two years previous in the month of November 92, I had stopped trying to figure out which side of the fence erected by the squabbling Brethren of the Fundamentalist sect I was raised in to come down on. In witnessing the suffering inflicted on the children in the families who were torn asunder by doctrinal dispute and the willy-nilly wielding of excommunication, I saw the fence itself as the evil. Full of righteous indignation on behalf of those children I wrote my first ever rant which served also as my declaration of independence from the Meetings it was also the last one until I started letting loose in my daily journal and in occasional emails to trusted correspondents in the past year:


“All those sober Elders who appointed themselves our teachers, who
point proudly to the missing Rev. before their name and the lacking Ph. D.
following, are far from lacking in B.S. Their head’s and heart’s are stuck so
far up inside their hollowed out egos--that echo chamber where they hear nothing
but the sound of their own voices, but think it God’s--they couldn’t see the
light if the sun orbited their eyeballs and they couldn’t know God’s love if
Jesus himself walked up and kissed them on the nose. None of them will ever have
any further authority over me, body, soul, or spirit. I would wash their feet in
my spit! And anoint their brows with the sweat of my pits! They are worse than
the blackest hearted crook. They are hypocrites! When they try to make out like
they got god’s mouth in their ear, I want to ask how far he sticks his tongue
in!”

Realizing that I had never learned how to think for myself I set out on an intensive quest to learn to do so and at the same to time to study the history of religion, the history of Christianity and most especially the history of the sect which I was raised in--an offshoot of the Plymouth Brethren which sprouted in Texas between the world wars. But until the night of November 2, 1994, I continued to believe that my quest would not take me all that far from my roots.

On that night I witnessed a battle of wills between a father and his one-year-old son in which the infant was disciplined for screaming by a hand over his mouth during every exhale to ‘deprive him of the reward of hearing the sound of his own voice’. This took place in a roomful of adults and children who nearly all acted as though nothing out of the ordinary was happening. But as I sat there trying to remain calm while holding another sleeping infant, I began to feel the stifled screams of the struggling baby as if they were my own and memories from childhood flooded in and I saw that it was the very teachings of the Meetings that sanctioned this, that made it not just acceptable but a duty of the father’s to break his child’s will and severely constrain all expression of self that did not conform to expectation. It was the belief that though infants are innocent when first born they are still ‘born into sin’ into the ‘weakness of the flesh’ and that from the moment, sometime during the first year of life, that they begin to form thoughts and intents of their own they must be held suspect since the Bible says that mankind’s thoughts and the intents of their hearts are ‘only evil continually.’ We were taught to distrust our every thought, every intent, every perception and every emotion. The hours of all our days and nights were suffused with shame and guilt for always falling short of that very ideal we were told we were incapable of achieving anyway. And since that ideal was unachievable the only acceptable substitute was perfect submission to authority--the authority of God through His Word via the authority of the Brethren who interpreted it. Somewhat buffered--depending on the temperament of the man involved--by the authority of the fathers over their children and husbands over their wives.

The moment I understood this connection between the doctrine and the squashing of our spirits, something in me said a ‘No’ so powerful and resonant I still hear its echoes. I knew that I could not comply with a doctrine that defines humanity as incapable of independence and yet holds that they are responsible for their choices and thus merit eternal torment for making the wrong choice. It was at that moment that it first entered my mind that not only were the doctrines of the Meetings I was raised in suspect but so was the entire doctrinal and theological edifice of Christianity itself. I was terrified. That is not too strong a word. I was terrified to stay and I was terrified to go and this terror paralyzed me for months afterward. I was repulsed by the vision I had of a ‘god’ that held humanity in his hand in the same way that father held his infant. But I was bereft by the loss of confidence in the ‘Abba Father’ of the teachings of Jesus. The metaphors of Christianity were deeply interwoven in my soul and I could not disown them without disowning my own self. And so my quest continues and is apparently going to be an open-ended life-time struggle--a personal spiritual Jihad--with the stories that shaped me and That Source of All Being (That I AM) in which I live and breathe and have my being.

A year ago, right around the ninth anniversary of my emancipation, I became aware and then astounded by the common themes between that event and certain current events in America. The fact that election day was to fall on the exact day seemed a powerful sign to me as well. I have been obsessed with reading, writing and thinking about these themes. Bovard’s book is just one of dozens and books are just one of a number of sources of info on these themes which I am sure will continue to occupy me for some time to come: Abuse of power. Stifling of voice. Equating empathy with weakness. Denial of the pain at the root of rage and thus justifying a cold blooded resolute use of overwhelming force to punish the expression of the rage with either no cognizance of or a willful acceptance of any ‘collateral damage’. And of course, the underlying theme that it is done for the victim’s own good, that the end’s justify the means when good is confronting evil, (even when the ‘evil’ is, as on that day ten years ago, the willfulness of a one year old child) that we can inflict pain and terror in the name of love, or the name of god, or the name of order, or the name of justice, or the name of peace, or the name of freedom, and expect an outcome that in anyway reflects the ideal in the name of which we justify our actions.

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Failed Experiments

My experiment with NaNoWriMo fizzled. As I should have anticipated, overnight guests and other holiday doings curtailed my time on the computer. And my first attempt at generating word count was a discouraging dud. I squeezed out less than 2000 words that were nothing like coherent narrative but rather a collection of names, and phrases of description and lists of potential actions and plot twists. It would have made more sense as a bulleted list than as a story. And of all things to get hung up on, I spent hours trying to settle on a name for my protagonist and could or would not be satisfied. I could not get emotionally attached to the character without giving her a name resonating with my vision of her. I was reminded once again of the loss of my collection of baby name books which aided me in this task in the past. I tried using the phone book but that was only of moderate help for the support cast.

So I essentially gave up on the contest and went back to working on creating my web page. I had spent most of the week my in-laws were gone designing Joywrite with the Geocites online page builder but I was increasingly dissatisfied with it. Aside from the fact I had to be online to work with it and did not want to waste my online time that way, it would not let me do things I wanted to do and the ‘text boxes’ seemed to be limited to less than 1000 words so that longer essays and stories would have to have multiple pages created for them and then be linked together with forward and back links. A hassle I did not want to commit to.

When I complained to my husband about it he encouraged me to experiment with Selida, a WYSIWYG he had downloaded a few weeks previous. And he proved to me that a page created with Selida could hold indefinite text content and could be uploaded and linked to the other pages already existing. But the look of the pages I had created online could not be duplicated in Selida nor could pages created in either be edited in the other. It was important to me that the site have a coherent look. So another experiment was failing on me.

I was intimidated by Selida as I am by any new application but more so when it involves having to work with actual code. Selida is not as sophisticated a WYSIWYG as I remember FrontPage to have been in 98. The user interface and the help files are not as friendly to a non-tech savvy word wright. But I took my husbands advice and started playing with it. And before I knew it I was learning my way around the code. Not so that I could write it in any fashion but I was beginning to comprehend the purpose of certain elements. It was a language after all and I do know language. They even call it syntax--certain code elements that is. I played with templates of pages created by Selida by changing colors and sizes of tables and fonts, inserting and deleting using the WYSIWYG design mode and then studying the code to see what had been added or subtracted. In the process I created a look I liked.

I even went into the minimal Paint program on the computer to create my own graphics--logos and buttons. And then I got very brave and started with a new blank document and tried to recreate from scratch the look I had cobbled together by manipulating the template created by someone else. I wanted to do this because I had already begun to notice that all the cutting and pasting had left behind straggling bits of code that no longer served a purpose and they offended my sensibilities. I was surprised at how easy it was. It took me only minutes to recreate what had taken me several all night sessions at the computer to learn to do. And once I had a working template it became a simple task to insert the text of the already existing essays, stories and poems and create the links to knit the site together. And once I had reached a point where it was ready for a test drive online, I decided that I might as well go ahead and get Joyread ready to go first so that I could post them simultaneously with all the links woven in and thus existing in the templates that will be used to produce new content pages for the sites. A little extra work now will save a lot of tedious fixing and tweaking later and will leave me free to focus on the content creation which is my original passion. I expect to be posting both sites within a few days.


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Tuesday, November 23, 2004

NaNoWriMo

I discovered this site in late October and was seriously considering signing up to participate. But then the events of early November distracted me. But after the events of November 17 and the following day when I produced a 5000 word narrative journal entry about it and also in the same day two fresh and polished essays--Daydream Believer REDUX for Joywrite Reflections and Decision 2004 for Joystory(see last post)--I decided it wasn’t such a hopeless proposition after all even so late in the game as the very last week. I thought it could be instructive as an exercise if nothing else. So I am a proud participant of this year’s National Novel Writing Month contest.

The novel idea I am playing with is titled Majoring In Marine Biology and is about the teen bride of a Marine, daughter of a backwoods pastor who dreams of swimming with the whales and dolphins and hopes to study marine biology someday--maybe while her husband is stationed at Oceanside California. But instead she is forced to supplement their income by working as a maid in a motel catering to Marines on off duty passes and gets an education in Marine biology.

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Sunday, November 21, 2004

Decision 2004

Retreat is not an option. I Pulled my head back into my shell for five days but I discovered the sense of safety was an illusion. My sanity was at risk and my sanity--integrity of heart and mind--is infinitely more precious to me than my reputation or my physical safety. November 2 is a hugely symbolic date for me and I had loaded the coincidence of this year's election with all its related themes falling on that date with an unwarranted significance. So the outcome hit me even harder as though I were being told that I had been on the wrong path for the last ten years, that I might as well give up and surrender once again to the fundamentalist mindset that I had begun my escape from in November of 1992 and made a definitive break from on November 2, 1994 when the essence of its heart had been revealed to me as corrosive fear and nothing to do with faith or God or even truth. Not one whit!

But the thought of returning to that mindset is so repulsive to me that I find I am more afraid of that then of the possible consequences of once more standing up to an authority which has no integrity. Even though this time the authority may soon have the power to make life a misery for dissenters or even take it away altogether. It is no light matter this new meme (an idea with the properties of a virus) propagating through the culture with rampant rapidity and an astonishing level of acceptance: that dissent in a time of war is tantamount to treason. Especially when the war in question--the 'war on terror' has been carefully designed to be a perpetual one--un-winnable because the very act of fighting it promotes the rage and the sense of powerlessness in those who use terror as a tactic against those who abuse their power.

And so I concluded that it was no longer enough to continue to use my freedoms without starting to do my part to help ensure that they will continue to be a vital part of our society. It also occurred to me that defense of freedom is not a job for a loner. It cannot be accomplished in isolation. It took a community pulling together to create the society founded on the principle that there are certain rights that belong to individuals which cannot be usurped by others--not even the state. And it takes a community to keep those rights protected as the precious jewels in the crown of our common endeavor they are. My fear of the herd makes me wary of getting involved with groups. But a community of autonomous souls creating a society that works for the betterment of all its members while harming none is something I can acquiesce to. The trick is in preventing that tempting slide back to the comfort of the herd mentality.

Ten months of vigorous surfing, reading, research and lurking online revealed to me the plethora of communities out there who were working for these ideals and searching each other out and coalescing to consolidate power and resources. I realized that my unique set of talents and experience was a good fit both for the needs of this spiritual battle and for the forum provided by the internet. I would have to stop hiding my light under the bushel as the old Sunday School song says. No sooner did I make this determination, I came down with a cold which compromised my impaired vision further not to mention the energy and stamina for working, even thinking. It didn't stop me, only slowed me. But I found it too difficult to work with an unfamiliar application--the blogger program and the on-line WYSIWYG where my website is hosted. So my high ambitions toward the end of October took a bit of a nose dive. But it was only temporary. I am more determined than before to continue down the path I have begun.

The theme which November 2, 1994 and November 2, 2004 have in common for me is the hijacking of one's voice by abuse of power. When I witnessed the discipline of a one-year-old infant for crying by the application of a hand over the mouth--as a means, as explained to me, of depriving him of the reward of hearing the sound of his own wails--it constituted the final and irrevocable break with the Fundamentalist sect I was raised in. In a profound epiphany, I saw that this person I loved, admired and greatly respected was operating from the underlying principle of the philosophy that shaped our lives--that it was necessary to break the will as the will was the source of all evil because our hearts and minds were full of evil continually and incapable of governing themselves or our lives. I experienced a visceral repulsion towards this idea and with it the entire world-view it sprang from. I could no longer assent to it. Even if it meant isolation from many of those I loved--both blood relations and the 'Brothers and Sisters in the Lord' as we had been taught to think of one another. And it had seemed to me a large, spirited and joyful family for most of my life. Until, that is, the late eighties when dozens of the Teaching Brethren began to excommunicate one another and their entire families left and right for heresy in an unfathomable doctrinal dispute. This split up many of the very inter-married and otherwise intertwined families. When I witnessed the pain and confusion this brought upon the innocent children involved, I began to question the entire edifice of doctrine but I realized that I did not know how to think for myself. That had been actively discouraged. So in November of 1992 I set out on an autodidact program to learn how to think. I was two years into that and still not feeling very competent at it when the incident of November 1994 occurred and I was forced to choose between the safety of conformity and the challenge of freedom. But there really was no choice. It was already too late to retreat. I could no longer stuff my mind into that mold. It was either go forward or succumb to despair.

I decided then to go forward and it has not been a smooth path. For years afterwards, I dreamed of buildings collapsing, under construction or appearing to be fine but walls would fall when bumped against and rugs would fall through a floorless void when walked upon. But I persevered and soon began to test my fledgling voice and developing world-view through my writing. First through a commitment to daily journaling in the summer of 1996. Which led to the development of a personal voice and of mature themes in my creative writings--poems, essays and stories.

As for the outcome of Election 2004 and the seeming assent of over half of the voters to the exchange of liberty for the illusion of security and the growing demand for conformity with a concomitant defining of dissent as treason... It changes nothing. Yet it changes everything. It changes nothing because the issue is the same for me as it was in 1994--having freedom of conscience or being fenced in with a herd; a voice unleashed to speak its truth or muzzled by the force of authority (that of the herder or that of the herd itself); a will and a spirit free to create a life worth living or a choice between joining either the herd or the pack of wolves that hound and hunt the frail ones who, having given their will over to a herd find that it will not or cannot protect them when any deviation, any accidental straying makes them easy prey for the ravenous and devious will of those who feed on the energy, labor and spirit of the vulnerable.

Both of those choices repel me and not just because I no longer fancy being a joiner of any kind. I have both witnessed and experienced the pain of the abused and have no wish to be either partaker or imparter. And I have had a taste of the freedom outside the fence without the herd and have no wish to return. I sat on the fence for a long time but no more. For awhile I kept the fence at arms length where I could reach out and touch it for a reminder of that sense of belonging that once gave me security. But I am no longer nostalgic for the herd and the fence was beginning to give me a sense of security only because it was keeping the herd on the other side. But lately I've been getting the sense that both the herd and the wolf pack are eyeing that fence with the idea that it is no longer needed because the wolves can serve the purpose of keeping the herd corralled and culling the non-compliant. With this collusion between the wolves and the herd it is incumbent upon those who value the rights of individuals to apply themselves to the work of defending them from erosion by the greedy and the fearful.


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Thursday, November 18, 2004

Bouncing Off the Walls


Relating this event in my journal consumed five hours and five-thousand words. I have no intention of giving it that much time or space here. But I need to mention it because it has become so pivotal. It was the wake up call I needed and it motivated me to get serious about getting my web sites posted as one way to secure at least some of my most important files. That is just a partial solution but it is a start. The event in question had me literally bouncing off the walls in an attempt to rescue what I could of my manuscripts and library books from what I thought was a fire.


It began at 7am on Wednesday, November 17. My in-laws were spending the week at the coast and my husband had just left for work. I was getting ready to sit down at the computer. But first I wanted to take the edge off the chill in the house. It was in the low thirties outside and I had just taken the garbage out and gotten my slippered feet wet. I stood in the hall after turning up the thermostat of the gas heater talking to my two cats as I waited for the heat to start blowing through the vents. I was giving my cats some attention before having to shut the door and leave them alone for most of the day as they are not allowed free run of this house. But instead of the blower kicking on, the gas kicked off and a second or two later the fire alarm went off over my head. And then I smelled the distinctive smell of an electrical fire. The acrid smell of a lightening struck rubber tire.

I raced to the back door and then the front door to throw them open and then raced back to my cats to unhook and untangle their leashes so I could take them out and leash them to the stake in the back yard. I knew from watching such shows as What would you do?, 911 and Oprah that once you are outside you should never go back in but go to a neighbor’s to call 911. But while I was dealing with the cats, the smoke alarm had ceased clamoring and so I risked going back for my manuscripts. My papers and notebooks were spread all over the living room as I had been working with them since Sunday night without the necessity of gathering them up daily since my in-laws had left Monday morning and I had stayed on the computer all day. It had been a long time since I’d had such luxury but that made it the most inopportune time for an emergency. I was stuffing papers and notebooks willy-nilly into my soft-sided attaché case until it bulged. I brought it out to the front porch where I left it on the chair my father-in-law sits to smoke. Then I remembered there were more papers and notebooks in the bedroom. And I went after them. And while I was in there I laid eyes on my library books and the number 64 popped into my head--the number of books I have checked out as the librarian had told me on the previous Friday. At an average cost of replacement of $20 per book that gave me a liability of around $2000 bucks. I could no more bear to be bereft of my library privileges than of my manuscripts. So I began schlepping the books out as well. The first stack I took out to the front porch and put in my husband’s smoking chair. But that was the last safe surface out there. Everything else was covered with the moisture applied by the morning fog. The rest of the books I brought only as far as the front room couch where they would be easier to take the rest of the way if it became necessary.

Since fifteen minutes had now passed and there was no further peep from the alarm and only a dissipating odor to account for the potential tragicomedy (or potential farce) I was participating in--I was becoming bolder about staying inside and started gathering more items like a change of clothing, shoes and socks, jackets, grooming items, purse and personal papers. All this time I was in a panic but it was unlike any panic attack I’d ever experienced. I wasn’t paralyzed by it but highly motivated. And focused. And since I was moving much too fast to watch where I was going, in the careful way my visual impairment requires, I was bouncing off walls and door casings as a way to propel myself around corners and feel my way forward at high speed. In the moment I was living it I was aware of the ridiculousness of the whole scene. And also that I’d set myself up for it by not doing the kind of maintenance of my files that I knew was necessary. How many times did I have to learn this lesson? 1st, 2nd, 3rd

These were the thoughts I carried through the event and on into the following hours and days. And I made some new commitments in response which I will discuss in future postings here or in Joywrite Reflections .

There was much more to the events of that day but of little relevance to the theme of this posting. So suffice it to say that I learned later that day that neither the cats, my files and books, nor myself were ever in danger as when the heater’s fan motor had died the entire mechanism had kicked itself off and the circuit had blown which, I am told though I don’t really understand, prevented the fire spreading.

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Thursday, November 04, 2004

Just Can't Wrap My Brain Around It

Just can’t wrap my brain around it. I wish I hadn’t got my hopes up. Six months ago I was still of the opinion there wasn’t much hope of a regime change for America, seeing as how dirty a game they play and how intent on keeping their power they are and with what distain they hold the constitution and what contempt they hold the voters.

But I allowed myself to hope as I got deeper into the progressive blogs and online publications. There seemed to be a strong and growing movement with a lot of prominent voices and a lot of fresh and creative ideas and a lot of money to go with it. Someone is supporting these web sites. Many are still shoestring but most of the ones I visit regularly are not. Someone with bucks is funding them. And even if it is mostly readership contributions, that would mean the support for their agenda is strong and growing. So why couldn’t Kerry ride that tide? Unless it is because he remained so camouflaged the progressives couldn’t identify him as one of theirs. He does seem to be more in tune with the corporate agenda than the common man. And he doesn’t articulate his views in a manner easy to understand and hard to misinterpret.

And Cheney used the word ‘mandate’ in his acceptance speech this morning. The arrogance is astonishing. Just can’t wrap my brain around it.

I just had an eerie flashback to an incident on October 12 as I was walking home from the bus stop after going into town to register to vote. I was feeling so optimistic and so pleased with myself for having braved so many of my fears to make the excursion to the county clerks office. As I was walking down the drive leading into the trailer park where I live, there was a gentleman walking past, whom I don’t remember ever seeing before and haven’t seen since. He could have been any age from forty to sixty. He was wearing a baseball cap that shielded his eyes and my own eyes were shielded by sun glasses. He was speaking as he passed by and at first I did not realize that he was speaking to me. But he paused and waited as though for a response so I turned to look more directly at him but he averted his eyes and repeated what he had been saying three more times in the sing-song voice of the Rain Man. “Bush is gonna win. Bush is gonna win. Might as well put yourself in the garbage can. Bush is gonna win. Bush is gonna win. Might as well put yourself in the garbage can.” He was staring straight at the bottom half of my white cane as he then asked as though it must be a given, “You’re for Kerry, right?” and it occurred to me that he was addressing me as a fellow disabled person.

I stood still as he continued speaking. Now he was quoting in meticulous detail the results of polls from the TV. I wanted to reassure him that the polls were not definitive. That there were so many reasons why they could not be relied on: bias in the questions, bias in the fact that only those with home phones get polled and then only if they answer--think of all the answering machines screening calls; bias in the fact that only those registered to vote get polled and only those who actually voted in the last election get counted as likely to vote this time. So many assumptions are so many divergences from fact into supposition. But all I could do was nod and say “There’s still hope.” But he shook his head as he wandered on his way continuing to intone, “Bush is gonna win. Bush is gonna win. Might as well put yourself in the garbage can.”

I was spooked a bit by that encounter at the time. Now I get a chill remembering it. Can’t help but think that little Phoenix, Oregon has got its very own prophet of doom. Or was he even real and not a figment of my sleep deprived imagination? But to the best of my knowledge I’ve never hallucinated in broad daylight before. :)


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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Hope Deferred

My purpose in choosing last night to create my blog was rooted in the hope of participating in my own small way in the celebration of John Kerry's win. Now it seems pointless. And worse. The strong numbers in Bush's favor will likely give his administration a sense of a mandate and thus permission to pull out the stops and push their agenda pedal to the metal for the next four years. I have looked into that potential future with nothing but fear and despair ever since the fallout after 9/11 made it clear how the Bush administration was going to use that event to push an agenda of fear mongering and war mongering, the steady eroding of civil rights and civility, along with the dismantaling of the social safety net and the middle class and the progressive economic system that supports prosperity and hope for the many and not just the few.

The sense that a majority of americans have somehow given their assent to the proposition that safety and conformity are more essential values than freedom of conscience and privacy is the most dissappointing. And the most fearful. Just contemplating the implications of that and what John Ashcroft could do with that mandate...Not to mention a re-vamped Supreme Court..Oh it all just makes me so weary. And my tender, newborn voice which has just recently found the courage to speak up loud enough to be heard outside the confines of my head, is now shivvering with a sense of nakedness. What if another four years of the Bush agenda creates an atmosphere in Americal like that in 1930's Germany? The outcome of Election 2004 seems to indicate that a majority of Americans would be content to see that happen.

I hope I feel more hopeful and couragous after a good long sleep. I've had nothing but cat naps for over three days. Maybe I can also recover my courage in my dreams.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Obsessions

Well, I've been obsessively reading blogs since I discovered them last January when my discovery of them coincided with and fed several of my obsessions. Those referred to in the subtitle above: Reading, Writing, Thinking & Being. But most especially my obsession with freedom of conscience, freedom of speech and the impact on them of the Bush administration, the Iraq war, the Economy and the political climate since Election 2000 followed by 9/11 and the new "Dissent = Treason" meme. As I will relate here later, when I have more time, I spent the first 37 years of my life in the mental prison called Fundamentalism. I just spent the last 12 years strenuously and painfully and meticulously extricating myself from it. And just as I was about to find the courage to start speaking my true mind, the whole entire country seemed about to be taken over by clones of the enforcers of thought that I had just finally convinced myself were in a slim minority and thus of no danger to me or my mind anymore.

So, as you can imagine, my current obsession is with today's election. And has been since the nightmare of Election 2000. I wish I could stay online and stay plugged into my favorite blogs all day. They are so much more reliable than CNN or any of the other TV based news sources. So much more interesting too. At least the ones I frequent. I wish I had time to add links to some of my favorites but I'm going to have to give up the computer any minute. I only have dibs on it from about 10pm to about 5am when my in-laws get up. My husband and I have been living with them since he lost his dot.com job and we found ourselves living on the streets of Santa Clara for two weeks in August 2001. Hence my obsession with the economy. A story for another time.

I usualy go to bed about now but I have to stay up until the library opens this morning as that is where I need to go drop off my ballot. Oregon has a vote by mail system but you can turn in your ballot at various sites right up until polls close at 8pm. All library branches and the County Elections Office are among the sites. I meant to do it yesterday but it took me five hours to fill it out. Here in Oregon, we have a plethora of initiatives and I am an inveterate procrastinator. I thought I knew my position on all of them and it would only take me a few minutes and then I could sleep and get up at noon to walk it over to the library. But then, wanting to be a conscientious voter this first time out since 96, I started reading the voter pamphlets. And next thing I knew my brain was scrambled. I consider myself a seasoned reader, practiced at finding the meat of a paragraph and getting the point to be got. But I was reading the silly pamphlet for an hour before I realized that the "In favor" and "In opposition" entries were not a 'just the facts mam' rendition. They were, in fact, paid advertisements and some needed to be held at arms length with clothespin for the nose. Like many of the TV ads. But at arms length I can't read them. I could barely read them at six inches from my nose. What with the small print on newsprint easily smudged by handling. Especially hard for someone who is vissualy impaired as I am. Legally blind from RP aka Tunnel vision. A story for another time.

Thus it was after noon Monday by the time I finished shading in the little ovals on my ballot and I had not slept nor eaten and with the eyestrain and sleep depravation, I was in no shape to be wandering the streets by myself. So I postponed it. But I am in little better shape now after a seven hour stint on the computer and having had only three hours of sleep Monday evening. And I still have to wait four hours before I can leave here. Probably should get a nap instead of trying to stay up to do it. But I am so afraid I will oversleep, or wake up with a headache. Or some other thing that makes me unfit to walk out on my own.

Well I just ran out of time. Gotta sign off until tomorrow night.

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