Excerpt from “The Daughter” from Portrait of An American Family Short Story Series

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“No right to what? I never really hurt you. It was all just a bad dream, remember? You say one thing about the nightmare you’ve invented and you’ll never make it to that cap and gown you ordered. This conversation is over. Take yourself up the stairs, neatly collect your things, and leave. I’ll make sure the good doctor is paid in full, and explain that you won’t be returning. You’ll be a good sister who keeps her mouth shut, and we’ll live happily ever after. Oh. And while you’re upstairs, make your bed. The last thing I need now is to hear our mother complain about your stupid sheets on the floor.”

Joe released his grip from Evey’s throat, letting her fall gasping on the floor. He turned to his plate of bacon, grabbing a slice with one hand as he wiped his brow with the other. Half crunching his bacon, half choking from his own tirade, Joe muttered “It’s cold. See what you did, Evey, you stupid whore. My bacon is cold.”

She never heard him. She was already back in her room packing her bag. It would be the last time she’d ever be back in that town, alive anyway.

Crucifixion, Anyone? Untruths in Journalism or How We Sacrifice Humans for Our Viewing Pleasure

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We all love a good crucifixion, don’t we? It’s all we can do to stop from gasping and cheering as we look on at the criminals hung before us. Finding satisfaction in watching folks pay their debt to society seems to be part of the human condition, however, the other part of the human condition we often fail to remember is sometimes those debts were never really owed. Sometimes the wrong person is prosecuted, and what’s equally as bad, many times the media convicts a person before they’ve actually been accused of a crime, just as happened this week with Jared Fogle.

Just as Danny Funt mentions in his Columbia Journalism Review  article, when the media published this week that Fogle had many instances of contact with children, the underlying connotations are “startlingly presumptive”.  They cannot say in so many words that Fogle is a child molester, but they can definitely intimate that idea for the world at large to see and absorb. The story then changes from what is really happening to whatever some large mouthed media guru would like it to be.

Social media was awash with Fogle news stories claiming his affiliation with his accused colleague was more than just business. There were stories claiming he must be guilty of harming children  and jokes even surfaced. What my newsfeed lacked were any real intelligent pieces bringing the public back to the realm of reality where a man is still considered innocent until a court of law convicts.

What I saw this week were thousands of people who, up until this week, were average citizens just like myself, but upon reading Fogle’s unfortunate story, attained their PhDs in criminal justice and law with a few clicks of their chosen news carriers and wiki links.

Fogle has not to this day been arrested or indicted, and yet folks sans privy to the minute details of his case hoisted him up on the cross, anxious to drive the last nail home. Jared Fogle became the media’s sacrifice to the world this week simply because the boring truth that his business associate had been in deeply disturbing trouble, but the jury is still out on Fogle just doesn’t garner too many clicks.

Nope. The media wanted another feeding frenzy, and so they ad libbed, dressing their words as a crown of thorns to sit neatly upon Fogle’s head. “Child molester?” “Kill him.” And so they did.

Sadly, we may never hear whether Fogle’s story ends happily. Retractions and apologies don’t make front page news. We will only know the outcome if the media can walk us up onto a sacrificial Hill of Shame when and if Fogle is, in fact, indicted. Until then, the media is happy to spin its own tale of what many will assume to be truth because it was on Facebook, Twitter, or the news.

There is little ethical journalistic reporting anymore. No one wants a feel-good story, or even just the plain old truth. Everyone wants Hollywood, and until we actively call for truth in reporting, we will continue to see humans sacrificed by the media, deserving or not.

Is Fogle guilty? Hell, I don’t know. When Quantico decides to confer with me, I’ll let you all know. Until then, I assume what I know is too little to decide his fate in court, on tv, or on social media.

(Image source:http://resources.alljobopenings.com/jared-fogle)

4th of July: Independence for All, Not Only Some

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As the 4th of July nears, here is a thought to ponder:

If you do not support equal rights and opportunities for everyone—even those who are vastly different from yourself, you’ve completely missed the point about what it really means to be American.

The United States is not homogenous, albeit some hate mongers would have it that way.  The US is made up of many ethnicities and cultures—so many I can’t list them all here. We are one country made up of every nationality, culture, and ethnicity under the sun, yet we are not a “melting pot’. That term was never correct.

Cultures did not necessarily melt together to become one here. Instead, we live side by side, complementing each other. That’s something special. It’s something to be proud of, really, that so many different people can live peacefully together to form a nation, not just a country. Unfortunately, some would like to keep us from having this wonderful community of people.

There are those who would block equal rights and opportunity, promote hate with archaic, unnecessary symbols, and deny religious freedoms. There are those who only protect the rights of those who fit their own molds. That, folks, isn’t “American”.  It can’t be. Because while the colonies were originally formed to break away from England, specifically the Church of England, and to form a Puritan society, that endeavor was short lived. New people came to the colonies. We expanded and moved beyond Puritanical life. We are not those people who came here, appropriated land, and massacred millions of innocent people in order to have a “pure” society. That is not us, or at least I hope not.

I would like to think we have evolved into people who can recognize the value of people different from ourselves. In 2015, we should be able to see that our own beliefs do not trump those convictions of others; they’re certainly different at times, but not “better”. We should recognize by now that there are many paths in life, not just one, and we can celebrate the cultural practices of all who live here. We can also support people who look different, have different lifestyles from ourselves, who carry different religious convictions, or who identify sexually in a way we do not. We should be able to do these things, but we don’t.

We don’t because we’re still too preoccupied with creating enemies—“the others”. We still believe it is our job to “save souls” in some invented theocracy we have never been.  We still haven’t let go of the past enough to move forward.

If we don’t want to keep repeating the past—a past filled with hatred and atrocity, then we have to recognize our need to progress. We must not remain those people set out to make our society “pure”. No society is pure. Ours, made up from so many different people, surely is not. When we admit our faults, confess the atrocities of the past, celebrate our diversity, and give everyone the independence–the autonomy and freedom— we claim to represent,  then and only then will we be what we often mistakenly call ourselves: a Nation.

Being In Charge Of Your Sexuality: Yes and No at 43

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When you’re a 43 year old single woman, the first thing people talk about is how you’re probably having sex with everything that isn’t tied down. People assume there is some string of lovers aged legal to retired, and ranging from truly single to married who are keeping the cell phone burning up with booty calls. Maybe that’s true for some people. Probably mostly true for women on reality shows and tabloids, but certainly not for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally hip with being in charge of my own sexuality and enjoying a healthy sex life, but part of being in charge means I also get to decline if I wish. Right now I find myself in the midst of a mindset where being alone just seems more desirable than tending to the sexual needs of a partner.

Folks call me crazy for that because these periods of chosen sexual solitude often extend more than a few days or even a few weeks. They can last months, but keep in mind, it’s by choice. This is what I want, so no pity necessary.

Once when I had just turned 40, I had a partner tell me I was in my sexual prime; that I couldn’t possibly be faithful because my hormones, paired with my angst of aging, wouldn’t allow monogamy. His words. Not mine.

I get it, though. That’s the stereotype about women of a certain age. It’s no different from women assuming men this age have a midlife crisis. Thing is, it just doesn’t happen to everyone.

Even though I’m not at all dealing with that hormonal onslaught in my life, I do feel like I’m certainly at the prime of my life emotionally.

I’ve finally reached a point where I’m in complete control of my emotions and what I want from life. That control allows me to have more sexual freedom than ever before. I realize I do not need to be in the context of a relationship to have really great sex. I’ve also finally figured out that being up front with someone doesn’t make me a “whore” or a “slut”. I can just simply say “I want to be friends with benefits,” or “I don’t want any more than sex,” and more importantly, I’m not afraid to say “I’m not at all interested”.

To me, having the power to choose is the most freeing part of being my age. I’m no longer stuck in the confines of what I think relationships should be, but rather, I realize what they really are. I know that as long as everyone is up front about their involvement in a relationship, sexual or otherwise, no one gets hurt, no judgement is necessary, and everyone can go home happy.

All that being said, I’m an introvert. Isolation is like vacation to me. Too much social interaction throws me into a state of anxiety I’m only just learning to deal with. Anxiety is a new thing I’ve started being honest with myself and others about, and it, too, is often judged. I just no longer care if I’m judged, but I digress.

I’m learning to nurture myself, protect myself a little, and make sure I’m able to keep out of the muck of depression too much anxiety can throw me into. So, sometimes I just stay home alone.

I love sex. It’s a very important part of life, but I’ve learned that for all the judgement people will throw you either for having or not having sex (people always have a damn opinion), few people really know how to handle their own sex lives. Many people have sex out of obligation. Some are doing it to feel loved, but few are really in enough control of their sex lives to realize whether they partake or decline is no one else’s business—providing no one is getting hurt, that is.

So here I sit in what many would call a “dry spell,” but what I call my “realignment period”. I’m happy. I’m comforted. I’m recharging my battery so I can be the best me possible.

If there’s anything being in my 40s has taught me, it’s that I own me. No one’s opinion about me or my sex life should be as important as my own. No one else owns my body or my sexuality. I thank feminism for helping me come to that realization.

It has been said (by Woody Allen-pardon, but he did have a point) that masturbation is “with someone you love.” It should be. You should be the sexual partner you love the most, and when you need a moment to collect your sanity, you can enjoy some time with the one person you can never break up with: yourself.