Christmas after death…

Typically at Christmas I write a post about the “war on Christmas” or why I choose to celebrate despite being an Atheist… I will write about traditions and how important they are to me. This year I can’t seem to do it. This year was different. This year I lost my baby.

I have had no motivation to celebrate since the loss of my pregnancy. Four holidays that I enjoyed each year for 32 years didn’t make it to 33… not Halloween, not my birthday, not Thanksgiving and now not even Christmas.

I watch friends that have suffered loss finding comfort in their religion and just for a moment I wish I could also believe that everything was okay. They are confident their child is in a better place. They know the plan God had was for their child to sit beside him, to watch over them, to help others get through life. Their child was actually divine and therefore they are blessed to have received this gift.

 

As a nonbeliever I don’t have that. I know that what happened was inevitable, not because God needed my child but because genetics failed me. A chromosome abnormality made it so my child was never going to survive, even if I had carried to term. I know my child is gone and I will never see them again.  So what now?

I have actually had someone question if this is really that upsetting. It is. I have had people say it gets easier. I am sure it does… but not this Christmas. Something about the holiday season seems to make people more sentimental. Personally I find myself reminiscing of a simpler time. A time of innocence. When the older generations shouldered the stress and the burden and everything looked just fine to me. Maybe ignorance really is bliss… that would certainly explain the comfort my friends are able to feel. Due to their religion they are trapped in the mindset of a child. Instead of growing to shoulder the burden that was once held by older generations they can circumvent it by passing the buck to God. Sometimes I have to wonder which of us is the lucky one. A line from the dreadful remake of “Miracle on 34th street” springs to mind… “What’s better? A lie that draws a smile or the truth that draws a tear?”. In my heart I know that for better or worse it is always best face reality and find a rational way to deal with the situation… but that doesn’t mean it is easy to do.

The first Christmas without my pappy broke my heart, the first without my grandma felt that much worse but somehow this one tops them all. I don’t care if anyone understands my pain, I felt my baby inside me, I saw the life we created and that life was lost. I wish there was an easy explanation of how to handle Christmas after a death but there isn’t. For now I will continue to lean on those that love me and look towards the future. I will focus on the positive aspects of my life, for in the grand scheme of things I am incredibly fortunate. This particular year was quite trying, but  it has to get better at some point… right?

 

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Abortion may not be what you think it is…

 

It is election day in the United States. For the record, I am voting for Hillary Clinton. I could go on and on about the plethora of reasons why… but I am not going to. One issue and one issue alone is enough to keep my vote strong and that issue is abortion.

Donald Trump has spent much of his campaign using scare tactics such as graphic descriptions of 3rd trimester abortions, making up scenarios that do not exist in the ob/gyn field, threatening to overturn Roe v. Wade and of course spewing inflated statistics to make it seem that getting an abortion is just a walk in the park.

While I have always been pro-choice, I never realized what it would feel like to have to say goodbye to the baby inside you and sign the papers authorizing an abortion. Now to be clear, as was described in a previous post, I did not voluntarily get an abortion, I miscarried at 12 weeks. However, due to a technicality in our ever so flawed health care system, in order for my insurance to pay for the procedure I had to sign papers authorizing an abortion. I was already weeping from learning there was no heartbeat so to go from that to scheduling my surgery and signing the papers in just a matter of moments was overwhelming to say the least. When they asked me to sign and I saw the word “abortion” on the consent I stared up at the nurse and exclaimed “I don’t want an abortion, I want my baby!!” and she went into damage control saying “no no it’s just what the papers say, you aren’t having an “abortion”, your baby is already gone but this is how we word it.” talk about adding insult to injury.

So now I am part of the overly inflated statistics for first trimester abortions. My tragedy can now be used against me. People won’t know why I had an “abortion” and guess what? They won’t care. Just like me, they are focused on the fact that a baby has died, the difference is that I now know first hand that it isn’t something anyone would want to do… it would only be done if it was in the best interest of mother and baby… and whether it happens naturally (miscarriage) or with help from a compassionate doctor, it is still painful and not something that needs to be thrown in the faces of all of the women who go through it. My doctor told me that 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, so if you take the number of those that need a D&C (the procedure which I had to sign off as an “abortion” and is used for abortions) with the number of women who have to make the impossible choice to abort and you are going to have what looks like an epidemic… but you are wrong… you are so wrong and you don’t even know it.

People have this image of a promiscuous girl who uses abortion as her primary form of birth control… and if they are as stupid as Donald Trump they envision a girl who waits until her third trimester and then decides “eh, I don’t think I want this baby afterall, I am going to go get an abortion”… it just does not work that way. I am not saying that every woman who has a miscarriage or an abortion feels the same way, there is certainly a broad spectrum of reactions… and that is okay. I am also not saying that the person who is lax about it doesn’t exist, but they aren’t the majority like pro-lifers would make you think. The “magic pill” that pro-lifers always describe still makes a woman deal with the choice of passing naturally or possibly ending up with a D&C… and either way it goes… natural or surgery, miscarriage or abortion… there will be pain emotional and physical and I would not wish it on anyone.

Sure, you could say that if I was pro-life or if signing the papers for my “abortion” really bothered me that much I could have let my baby pass through my body naturally… I could have sat there at home wondering when the baby would come out of my body… but I wasn’t able to handle that. The change in hormones had already caused one grand-mal seizure and my doctor feared more. Also, the choice to even see the baby after it is passed is incredibly personal and passing the baby at home takes away the option. I know people delivered in the hospital, who spent time with the fetus, took photos and had a funeral… I know people who wanted to see the fetus after their D&C but only after waking from anesthesia did they learn that they could not see the baby because it did not make it out in one piece… I know women who passed at home and then had to take the fetus to the hospital for genetic testing, an event that turned out much more traumatic than they ever imagined. From the moment I found out on Friday, October 28th to the moment I went in for my D&C on November 1  I was an emotional mess. It felt like my heart stopped every time I stepped in the bathroom, changed my clothes, took a shower… I was already bleeding so much, passing clots and much more… I was so frightened that my fetus would pass and I would be alone… so I am thankful that there were options like the one I chose… it could have been weeks and weeks of waiting and I have no idea what that would have done to me… and I would never judge any other woman who had to go through what I did for choosing the way that worked best for them… you have to do whatever you can to get through it.

You cannot imagine the pain of losing a child if you have never lost one. Some of the most courageous women I know have been through this in one form or another. I know women who aborted because it was the right choice for them, the brave choice to say they were not ready for a baby. I know women who lost their child through miscarriage in all different stages of pregnancy that had to be strong enough to make the best choice for their health now that baby was gone. I know women who had to abort based upon fetal/genetic abnormalities… these women knew their child would not survive outside of the womb and new that for themselves as well as their family it was better to end it before things got any worse. I even know a woman who was told by every doctor that the child was suffering genetic abnormalities that made life outside the womb impossible and yet she continued on with her pregnancy. She  wanted a miracle and she believed that it was possible and that everyone was wrong. When her baby was born it was extremely disfigured, internal parts on the outside and as predicted was born sleeping… the laboring and the reality had a detrimental effect upon her livelihood from that point forward. Of course with every tragedy there are times when it turns out alright, or that the choice to continue on even with the sad reality that baby wouldn’t survive was therapeutic and best for their particular situation. But no matter if you choose to terminate or decide to see it through it should be your decision because you are the one who must live with it… and it is not something that just goes away… just like a healthy pregnancy, one that ends tragically makes a lasting impact on your life. That baby was and is a part of you, no matter how short of a time you were together.

So when you cast your vote for a politician, if anti-abortion laws are high on your priority list I hope that you will take a moment to stop and think about what banning abortion could do. Any women who can get pregnant could end up with an “abortion” and not only is that a choice no one wants to make, it is sometimes the result of a choice we didn’t make.

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“I am sorry but I do not see a heartbeat”

 

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A few weeks ago I wrote a post called “Life Finds a Way”  it was about how we had just found out we were pregnant for the 2nd time. I included the ultrasound picture and took the same stance as with the “A Uterus from Nothing” series… that yes, this baby was a miracle, but not a miracle of God. Well I figured that I had plenty of time to post and I was super busy with work, family and other activities so still it sits in my draft folder… and now it will not be published.  This is because I lost my baby. I went in for a check up and learned that our baby had died.

I will never forget the look on the technician’s face when she said “I am sorry but I do not see a heartbeat” I started to weep… I wept as they assured me it was nothing I did… I wept as they said it was nature’s way of handling something that wasn’t right… I wept as they handed me a pamphlet explaining what a D&C is and I wept as I signed the papers consenting to an “abortion”.

I haven’t had the procedure yet, that is scheduled for Tuesday. So here I sit with my baby inside of me and no way to help it. I think that is the part that is scaring me the most, that the baby is still here. My tummy was starting to pop and I still look/feel pregnant… but my baby is not alive. As a mother I feel like  I have one main job, to protect my children… and this time I couldn’t do it. My body was supposed to keep baby safe, nourish it, allow it to grow in a warm safe environment… but this time it didn’t work out.

We were not trying to get pregnant. If you read my previous blog series you know that I do not naturally ovulate and used fertility treatments to conceive Arabella. This pregnancy was a shock, but a good one, a welcome one… it was like my body finally got it right after all these years and I was truly amazed…. but somewhere between seeing the baby on the ultrasound screen September 29th and having the screen turned away from me on October 28th my baby died and I will never know why.

I have been running through all the different scenarios in my head. One major standout moment was on October 26th when I had my first grand-mal seizure in 7 years (I have Epilepsy but had only been having petit-mal seizures thanks to the aid of a VNS implant and medication). My OB assures me that the seizure did not cause the miscarriage but more likely the miscarriage caused the seizure. Apparently the fetus was measuring smaller than the yolk sack, and there was something about how my uterus had tipped backwards since the previous visit I really don’t know what it all means, just that the doctor was insistent that the seizure was not responsible… I almost wish it was because even though there still wouldn’t have been anything we could have done i’d at least have an answer… but I don’t and I never will.

One thing that I found very disturbing occurred right after they told us there was no heartbeat. Suddenly my baby stopped being referred to as a baby/fetus and became “the tissue”.  “I will go in and extract the tissue” were words that cut me like a knife. It was as if I was just supposed to forget that this was a part of me, with it’s own developing organs, it’s own skin, it’s own heartbeat. Now it was “the tissue” this just made me weep even harder. I understand that they want you to agree to the procedure and that if they actually said “we are going to scrape out your baby, throw it away and pretend none of this ever happened” no one could bear to go through with it… but that was how it felt when they said it to me and that is what is eating at me right this very moment. Perhaps I will feel differently on Tuesday after it is all said and done. This is just the raw emotions and honest words of a mother trying to comprehend a terrible loss.

So until then I will just continue to hold my daughter close, find strength in Rich,, and accept the support of all of my wonderful friends and family members. Whatever it is you may believe in there is no right answer for how to cope with this… so send me your positive thoughts, your well wishes and even your prayers… lord knows I need them all.  

 

A letter to the judge…

As a mother I cannot imagine a pain more severe than the loss of a child. A woman who lost her child in 2010 was asking for letters to the judge who will preside over an upcoming parole hearing, deciding the fate of her child’s killer. I was honored to provide a letter giving perspective on how that December night didn’t just affect the families involved, but our city as a whole.

I have a strict rule. No matter what, when someone is grieving I will not ever question their beliefs. If it is prayers they need then I will take time to sit and reflect. I have witnessed secularists throw the question “where was your God?” in the face of a grieving mother and it made me sick and still does all these years later. Religion encompassed this particular case. From the fact that both the Clelands (victims family) and the Isimingers (killers family) were extremely religious, to the fact that they had just left Lexa’s church pageant, the mother’s own words “By faith, I know it’s not my fate to judge you. That’s in God’s hands. I can forgive you.” and the killers response “I can never make this right. On behalf of your daughter, I will include a prayer for Lexa and her family every day.”.  

Though I respect the rights of those to grieve as they wish I do not believe that it is enough to think that it is in God’s hands to judge or that a prayer a day is penance enough. I want changes in our legal system. I want drunk drivers who kill to be treated like the murders that they are. So I was proud to write to the judge and let him know that six years is not adequate and that we need to do a better job of protecting the public. I am not sure if my letter will make a difference to the judge, but by sharing it I can only hope that at least one person will think twice before they drink and drive.

To Whom It May Concern,

On December 4, 2010 our city suffered a tragic loss as a result of the choices of one man. Travis Isiminger, a young man from a good family, who had values and a bright future ahead of him proved that good people can still do wrong. In choosing to drink himself sick and the Hofbrauhaus, then choosing to get behind the wheel of his car he took all choices away from the public. His actions made those of responsible citizens irrelevant. No matter how careful they were, Travis making the choice to play God put all of our lives in danger.

That night the Cleland family paid the ultimate price on a tab that belonged to Travis. They lost not one but two children and their lives were forever changed. The forgiveness they have offered and the compassion they have shown towards Travis is nothing short of amazing. To be able to look at him, at his family, and take the murder charges off the table was commendable… but I doubt they thought doing so would cut his sentence down to a time frame less than the short life their daughter Lexa was able to live.

There is no sentence long enough to make up for the lives lost that night. The beauty and joy in the face of little Lexa cannot be replaced. The potential of the life forming inside of Nicole cannot even be imagined. Nevertheless, I believe the maximum sentence should be served. I did not know the Cleland family in 2010 but as someone who has lost a loved one to drunk driving I can tell you that I felt a closeness to them and my heart broke with each detail that was released. When you lose a family member to a totally avoidable tragic event such as that on December 4, 2010 it does not just affect the immediate family. Generations of people will suffer a loss from the choices Travis made. From all of Lexa’s future nieces or nephews to the classmates that had to learn the news of their friends death, to every citizen of Pittsburgh that drives down Carson Street and for just a moment catches a glimpse of the memorial cross… lives have been touched and they will continue to be touched until the end of time.

I hope that when you make the choice of whether or not to release Travis you will consider the severity of his crime and the impact he has had. I am sure that it will be said that he has learned his lesson, that he wants to raise awareness, that he is forever sorry for what he has done. That is all well and good, but his wants and needs should not be a consideration. The needs of all those who were touched by Lexa Cleland, especially the beautiful family that has been left behind, are what need to be addressed. Any future plans that Travis has will still be available to him when his twelve year sentence is up, but no amount of time will compensate for the lives he stole that night.

Sincerely,

Allison Reed

 

your privilege would allow it

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So much has happened in the past few days that it is hard to figure out what to write about. The horrific murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and then the tragedy in Dallas that left five innocent police officers dead. I could reiterate the details of each case, give you bullshit excuse for why someone deserved what they got or an anger filled rant about who was justified. I am not going to do that. I will be frank and state that I believe that the officers who killed Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were 100% wrong. I don’t care about their pasts, those officers had their own demons and none of them deserved to die. I also believe that the shooter(s) in Dallas were wrong. The officers who were killed were not the ones that did the killing, it was random, it was fueled by rage and families will never be the same.

What I want to talk about right now is the frustration I am feeling by the views expressed by my demographic. Caucasian women, mothers, 30-40 living in the suburbs. There was little talk among the moms in my local groups when it came to the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. An article or two was posted, a comment here and there… but in general last week was business as usual. Lularoe leggings, toddler problems and what’s for dinner tonight. I am not saying that I was trying to force it on them. I know from experience that these types of discussions are best saved for other groups, a more diverse crowd. Then the recording from  Diamond Reynolds’s (girl friend of Philando Castile) live feed sprouted up and this conversation did catch my eye.

Right off the bat, the person posting was commenting on how calm  Diamond Reynolds seemed. Many of the women in the conversations were intelligent enough to know that if nothing else she was probably in shock. Others speculated she was trying to keep it together since her child was in the car. Then someone dropped this bomb.

“What bugs my so much about this…. instead of trying to do something for her boyfriend in the seat next to her she feels it’s more important to video it for facebook! If someone next to me gets shot the last thing I’m doing is recording the aftermath of it…if she was that concerned with a routine traffic stop why wasn’t she recording from the point the cop showed up? I’m not trying to justify anything anyone did
It just doesn’t sit right with me that her main concern was that she recorded the aftermath of her boyfriend being shot as opposed to trying to save his life…”

This comment made me physically ill. It is impossible to know what you would do in this type of situation and this is compounded when you remember that this a white woman putting herself in the position of a black woman. I am not sure if it needs to be spelled out this clear but just in case, here it is. WHITE PEOPLE WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE A POC.  I am sure that she believes that the last thing she would do is watch someone she loves die next to her, white privilege allows for it. As a white woman I am sure that the thought of being held at gun point during a traffic stop has never crossed her mind and even after all of this it still won’t. A broken tail light should never, ever result in death. She poses the question “why wasn’t she recording from the point the cop showed up?” that answer is simple, because she shouldn’t have to. No one should have to, though perhaps moving forward they should.

I can only imagine the fear that was going through Diamond Reynolds mind. A man so unstable shot four bullets into a man who died while still in his seat belt, all while a four year old child was in the car. Even as she is recording he has a gun on her…. what do people expect her to have done at this point? Scream, yell, jump on top of him in an attempt to save him? Any and all of these actions guarantee that poor child would have been witness to the death of both parents instead of just one. There is no doubt in my mind that the woman who made the post believes she would have done all of the things I mentioned above and that the worst that would have happened is that she’d be arrested, and then later interviewed by networks praising her bravery. Her privileged allows for that confidence… and also the confidence to know that the odds of her husband dying while buckled into the family car are slim to none…and if it did happen, a heart attack would likely be the killer. I truly admire the strength that Diamond Reynolds showed. I am thankful their child still has a parent and I hope that justice is served.

On a separate post I saw another member of my demographic say that she went to bed last night thankful that her husband is white and that she is not afraid of losing him to senseless violence then she reflected on how horrible it is to think such a thing. I really don’t know if it is horrible or just plain honest. When a white couple gets pulled over for speeding, running a red light or a busted tail light odds are they will get a ticket, maybe just a warning… but they are not being profiled. We may live in fear of the state of our country, we may be afraid that we will get caught up in a random act of violence, but we do not have to go out each day and worry that it will be our last simply due to the color of our skin.

 

 

God and my .40 caliber

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Recently one of most compassionate, loving people I have ever met started making posts to her social media that promoted violence, intolerance and hate speech… things I would never have associated with her. Between the bathrooms in Target, Harambe the gorilla and now the tragedy in Orlando there has been no shortage of opinions- but it is difficult when you realize how great a difference in belief that you have compared to the ones you love.

When I saw the words “all I need in my life is God and my .40 caliber” in a text message from my friend I almost died. It started on a thread about the tragedy in Orlando and ended via text. While we discussed the events of that night several people were more focused on their gun rights than the lives of the 49 people that died. Instead of seeing that more regulations and a high standard for gun control could have stopped this tragic event, they were worried that preventative action going forward would impede their progress to have a full unnecessary arsenal of military weapons. Those focused on themselves couldn’t grasp that a premeditated mass shooting has never been stopped by a gun toting civilian. They couldn’t understand that if proper regulations were in place this man never would have legally owned a gun. They couldn’t see that our world is so backwards that it takes more clearance to provide a child with a family through adoption than it does to obtain a gun and destroy an entire family unit.  When I asked how my friend felt about the danger these lax laws put her in she said “all I need is God and my 40 caliber”… I didn’t even know how to respond to that.

This friend knows that I am part of the LGBTQ community. That each year I celebrate at Pittsburgh Pridefest. Despite all of this she could not seem to understand why I was taking the Orlando tragedy so personally. That was when another person chimed in that they wish the media would stop calling it a “gay club” because their sexual orientation “doesn’t matter”.  I am sorry but that is just pure ignorance. The fact that it was an LGBTQ club is without a doubt relevant to the case. The fact that this person targeted the LGBTQ community makes this a hate crime, a terrorist attack- which will have a greater impact moving forward.  This was not a random act of violence. It was not a mentally ill person who was off of their medication. It was a deliberate act preformed by a religious extremist and it needs to  be portrayed for exactly what it is.

The final straw was when my friend piped up with gem:

“you know, i’m a conservative Christian and I think this is a perfect example of how much harder everyone is on Christians than they are on Muslims, I mean when someone shoots up a Planned Parenthood the world hates all Christians but this guy shoots up a club and everyone wants to make sure we know he doesn’t represent Islam”

Holy shit. Is that really what you got out of this? Despite all of the news reports, all of the articles and all of the discussion this was all that you came up with. First off, you are wrong. We are not harder on Christians than we are on Muslims. Perhaps it would appear that way because the Christian population is so much larger than the Muslim population, but I assure you all rational people are equally frustrated by hate crimes committed in the name of religion, regardless of the God. Yes, there were Muslims that were quick to say that this man does not represent their faith but that is to be expected as most people would not want to be associated with a terrorist. We went back and forth until she finally said I couldn’t understand what she was feeling because I don’t believe in God. To which I explained that god or no god I will never understand the ability to justify taking the life of someone based upon a difference of opinion. I need to believe that god or no god there are people out there who want to make a difference, want to promote tolerance, acceptance and respect. I need the government to do what is right in order to protect our country, to make amendments to outdated laws and to make regulations that fit with the growth of our society. I need to stand up beside like-minded citizens and demand to be heard until everyone realizes that just one more hate related death is unacceptable. Some people out there are like my friend, content with relying on God and gun to protect them, but I know that as a society we are capable of so much more and I will not sit and wait around for it to happen again. We cannot let the victims in Orlando, and all other hate crimes die in vain. It is imperative that we make a change.

 

To judge Aaron Persky, you make it better to just accept the pain.

 

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I know I just published a piece, my first ever, addressing my rape in 2004 but I feel that in the aftermath of the Brock Turner sentencing that I need to speak out. One person commented on my previous piece that it was not personal enough, perhaps that is because I didn’t go into great detail, because divulging each detail is painful and reliving an attack is not something anyone should have to do. The pain that is felt when you have to discuss the details of your attack, combined with the pathetic punishments that judges like Aaron Persky give to rapists, makes fighting for justice seem like more trouble than it is worth.

Just like “Emily Doe”, my attack occurred at a college party. I was at a house party in Oakland, PA in 2004.  I went with a few girls from my college but we got separated once at the house. I remember music, I remember talking to a few people, I do not remember drinking, next thing I remember is waking up in a dry and filthy bathtub. I looked over and saw a 20-something male who immediately looked scared and just said “No, you don’t know what happened, it wasn’t me it was him” and pointed to the door where another male was leaving. I felt dizzy, disoriented and scared. I stood up and ran out of the house and called a friend of mine for help. When my friend picked me up he did not take me to a hospital, he did not take me to the police, he just took me home because I refused to talk about it… it didn’t seem like there was anything to talk about, I didn’t even know who he was or who the other man in the bathroom was… and I didn’t have to courage to go back and find out. All I wanted to do was shower, to wash away the pain, to try to block it out and move forward.

I wondered to myself, if I was able to identify him, would it even matter? If women who know their attackers cannot get justice, why would anyone take me seriously? I don’t remember drinking and yet I feel like I have a hangover and don’t even know how I got upstairs, no one will take me to be a credible source. Just like Emily Doe discussed in her letter to the court I would have had to listen while others filled in the blanks, let an attacker and his friends explain why what happened wasn’t what it seemed. I would have to hear that I wanted to be in that filthy bathtub and that I consented to all that was done. In the end, what would come of it? A slap on the wrist? Six months in prison with time off for good behavior? Rapists like Brock Turner and judges like Aaron Persky who exonerate them are the reason why many of us never report our rapes. They make accepting that it happened and that this is the world we live in, seem like the best choice and this needs to change.

This cannot be the future we set up for our children. I encourage you to share your story and let everyone know that rape is so much more than just “20 minutes of action”, you are never the same after an attack  and people need to pay for their life altering decisions. Though I know that the time has passed for me to face my attacker I can still make an impact by sharing my story, and so can you. If the justice system is going to continue to fail us we need to band together and demand a change. People like Turner and Persky want us to accept it and move on but I think better still we should address the issue and move forward.

 

not a badge of honor…not a source of shame…

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I found myself in a heated discussion concerning the X-men promotional billboard that features Mystique and Apocalypse. The billboard shows Apocalypse holding Mystique by the throat. This image has proven to be triggering to some people. Our society is focusing on women being triggered stating that it glorifies brutality against women that is being inflicted by a man. I agree that brutality against women is a very important issue that we need to raise awareness for… but the particular discussion I was in showed me two things which I will attempt to dissect. First, that male v. male violence is acceptable while female v. male violence is unacceptable. Second, and more disturbingly, that only women who have been abused can have an opinion on the topic. Both of these are absolutely wrong.

 

Everywhere I look there are people arguing that what makes this billboard problematic is that a man is attacking a woman. It isn’t so much that people have an issue with the violence, but the violence against women. So let’s get something straight. Women can abuse men, men can abuse women, men can abuse men and women can abuse women.  Now that we’ve cleared that up I want you to ask yourself if you worried that people might be triggered by an image of Wolverine fighting Apocalypse? Of course not! You would think that you were about to see a superhero movie that was going to feature fight scenes between the hero and the villain and guess what THAT HAPPENS IN ALL SUPER HERO MOVIES. In one article Rose McGowan was upset by the tagline “Only the strong survive” well I have news for you Rose, “the strong” refers to the X-men! Even if I take off my nerd glasses and assume that you don’t know the back story of Apocalypse, I have to assume that you do know the basic premise of every super hero movie/comic/television show which is, the hero wins. If you want the Joker to beat batman, or Green Goblin to overtake Spider-man you are going to have to start writing fan-fiction because in the comic book world it just doesn’t happen that way. In all honesty it makes perfect sense to have “only the strong survive” right next to Mystique because she is arguably the strongest of the X-men. Did you hear that, a female character is the strongest and one who can beat the villain. Listen, you cannot have it both ways. If you want to have a female protagonist you have to be okay with her battling against evil in the form of both genders. How anti-feminist of the feminists to take a perfectly good example of what a female lead is capable of and imply that she isn’t capable of winning against a man.  The discussion made all these points and counter points and then it took a nasty turn.

One woman decided that my view of not being offended by the billboard must mean that I have never been raped. As if rape is a trump card that can be played whenever you need to be right. While myself and another person were discussing the many violent roles Rose McGowan has played (like her role in Jawbreaker where she kills her best friend and then stages her corpse to look like she was raped… yay feminism!) a woman named Sarah decided to ask “Hey, you two. Have you ever been raped?”. I told her that yes, I had in fact been raped and that it is completely irrelevant to the conversation. This woman, who so clearly felt the need to defend women was now shoving abuse against women in our faces… just like she said the billboard did.

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Listen people, just because I was a victim of a sexual assault that does not mean that the assault gets to follow me around and dictate the rest of my life. No one is going to tell me that being raped has to make me feel a certain way about a billboard, or anything else for that matter. What happened to me that night is not a badge of honor or a source of shame. It is something that I have made peace with and not something you get to judge me on. I am sorry if you think that my night of pain should always be front and center in everything  I do, but you are wrong. I refuse to let my abuser control my life. I also do not believe that as a victim of sexual assault my opinion is somehow more important than that of one who hasn’t been assaulted. Not to mention the fact that unless you are a cold-hearted soul like Sarah, you aren’t going to survey everyone on their abuse history before deciding if they are worthy of an opinion. I do not believe that a mutant on a sign promotes abuse because the type of person who has it in them to abuse does not need a fictitious deity like Apocalypse to tell them it is okay. No amount of censorship is going to take away the fact that people hurt other people everyday… and maybe, just maybe, victims of abuse would like to believe that “only the strong survive” because it doesn’t take strength to hurt someone, but it does take strength to persevere.

Further Up The Mountain: A Response to Robert Jastrow’s Infamous Quote

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“At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”[1]

For those who haven’t encountered this quote before, it’s from American astronomer, physicist and cosmologist, Robert Jastrow. This statement has been championed by theists and has even found its way into high profile debates against atheists[2]. I probably wouldn’t have given much consideration to it had it not been thrown at me on more than one occasion. I assume it’s touted by theists so ardently because they think it carries significant weight simply because of his scientific credentials (and not on the scientific merit of the statement itself, proving once again that in apologetics, it’s not what is said but who is saying it). It would seem that Jastrow’s renown is all that is needed to confer the stamp of legitimacy, even if the statement itself doesn’t pass muster.

So what are we to make of this? Many of us will no doubt balk at such an irresponsible utterance, having heard such rhetoric before, but it deserves a retort if for nothing else than the widespread patronization of it by crass apologists.

In taking a closer look, right away we see there are problems. Not just with the statement itself, but also with the way theists present it. For example, it is often used as a point of argument by theists that Jastrow was a self-professed agnostic, but given the many interviews he’s given in various Christian forums, and by the tone of his books, like as evident by the statement on offer here, he’s pretty clearly of a theistic (or at least deistic) slant[3]. Funny how these same theists that prop up this tripe as an honest concession of a skeptic fail to take into consideration that an agnostic can in principle be a theist and continue on portraying him as if he were of the more common atheistic type.

Also, I could spend quite some time addressing other obvious issues that jump out to me. Like in the use of the word “faith” here or the way theology is expressed to take precedent over science (It is a bit surprising to hear such a dismissal if science coming from a scientist). These two issues alone could fill an entire book. But I’d rather focus on analyzing the symbolism of the analogy itself because there’s several problems contained within that I don’t think Jastrow anticipated. In my analysis, I noticed how this analogy could easily be used against theology instead of in support of it. And the finale is that it actually exposes what has been argued by my fraternity to be true of theology in the modern scientific climate all along, and that is that science has passed this antiquated ideology by and left it far behind. Allow me to illustrate what I mean, then offer a response to Jastrow’s analogy in kind.

First, it could be asked if they’re even on the same mountain as theology never answered any such questions about reality. But for the sake of argument, we’ll assume they are. If they did happen to reach any point of the mountain before the scientist, it wasn’t because they knew where they were going nor did they even know where they were. They were essentially wandering in the dark and lost[4]. But it’s even worse for the theologians because in their faith induced self assuredness, they stopped climbing the mountain (the scientist is greeted by the theologians who are just sitting there). Their religious faith gave them the illusion that they have reached the top. We see that the theologians here assume they have met the scientist at a pinnacle that, as science has shown us, hasn’t been reached. Their faith essentially serves as clouds obscuring their view to what lies beyond. And this is the obstacle religious faith creates.

So now that I laid a bit of foundation, allow me to offer (oh so humbly) my response to Jastrow’s careless analogy. This is what the logical conclusion to the story would be…

“As the scientist sat amongst the theologians, he found that he was not content with just faithfully sitting on the rocks. His commitment to reason and scientific inquiry compelled him to explore further and he discovered that the mountain continued past the clouds that had kept the theologians from seeing any higher. So he began climbing further up and out of the clouds to find the vast universe beginning to open up to him as he left the theologians below to gloat by their dwindling fire beneath the cover of the clouds. Left clouded by their faith, they arrogantly thought they had reached the highest peak and so they just sat… as they have for centuries.”[5]

– Rich Hess


Notes:
[1] From God and the Astronomers, Robert Jastrow (1978). Jastrow’s allegory was about the Big Bang Theory (which many fundamentalist Christians still deny). This isn’t relevant to this particular discussion however and I only mention it here for accuracy. But for further research, I recommend looking up works from philosophers of science, such as Quintin Smith, and any number of contemporary physicists and cosmologists (Lawrence Krauss, Stephen Hawking, Victor Stenger, just to name a few) who explain the Big Bang and why the theologians are wrong.

[2] The example I had in mind was the debate between Frank Turek and Christopher Hitchens (23:44 mark) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVZnwZdh-iM

[3] Now I’m not going to go out on a limb and speculate that he was a believer in God, but it’s enough to point out that there is a distinction in how we are to understand “agnosticism” here. It’s certainly safe to say that he was sympathetic to theology.

[4] After all, it’s theologians that teach as fact Noah’s Flood, the Genesis creation myth, talking animals, etc. Even if they were to stumble onto some observation that turned out to be factual (or even partially factual), we can hardly credit their “methods” of getting there.

[5] The “clouds” here represent the theologians faith. In thinking they had all the answers they were looking for as prescribed by their religious dictates, they were ignorant of the possibility of there being anything beyond. And thus they have stopped searching. Unlike religion, in science, the climb is never ended. 

Satanic Sabotage

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While surfing the net (yeah, I just wrote that lol) I came across a discussion concerning a child sustaining a scratched cornea just days before her baptism. This sounds terrible, I feel bad any time a child is hurt, but to be in pain and then put on display at a big party and  passed around like a tray of hors d’oeuvres sounds truly awful. The mother wanted prayers and blah blah blah… but then sweetened the pot by blaming the injury on Satan… as he was clearly trying to sabotage the baptism. I received all of this through a post about a post so I do not know what type of response this got but I do know that to me, this is just plain ridiculous.

Social media is a place to show off. Everyone has to have the worst injury, the cutest baby, the cleanest house, the grossest rash  and they cannot wait to be validated.  Then when something bad happens they just absolutely need to plead for prayers. These posts can become incredibly lame and it isn’t just Atheists that think so, I have seen plenty of believers say that asking friends to “please pray my son scores a goal in soccer” is obnoxious and not what they wish to have their God wasting time on. When you are in a truly tough situation, like a death in the family, I see no harm in posting for prayers- I myself have asked for “positive thoughts” to be sent my way… sometimes it just feels good to know people care. There are definitely times where we need the most support we can get and if this comes in the form of “prayers” so be it.   However, I do not support vaguebook prayer requests… this type is the worst of the worst for prayer seeking. “I cannot tell you what is happening, but it is bad, so so bad, please ask God to save me” . Wait, what?? If it “bad, so so bad” shouldn’t you be with the police or at a hospital or just skipping the pedestrian prayers and running straight to a priest??? With the vaguebookers we don’t know if the tragedy is a kidnapped child, domestic abuse or a ripped pair of LuLaRoe leggings in a pattern they discontinued. So if you really want help and not just attention from people begging for the details, just tell us what is up… personally I won’t pray for you, but I will definitely help any way that I can if you’d just spit it out already.

So prayer requests are common, but satanic sabotage is a new one for me. To think that a parent sees their kid get a boo-boo and instead of assuming this is one of life’s unfortunate events (bad things happen all the time, sorry if you are just learning this) their first instinct is that Satan is coming after them… ridiculous, almost comical, if it wasn’t  for the kids involved. I just imagine them teaching their kids these lessons. “Don’t worry Bobby, it isn’t your fault that you punched little Tommy, Satan was trying to turn you away from God”.  Listen, I don’t claim to know everything but one thing I am pretty sure of is that SATAN IS NOT ATTACKING YOUR CHILD. Blaming Satan (and I guess God for not protecting you from Satan) is dangerous. So many unavoidable crappy things are going to happen throughout your child’s life that they need to be prepared to place blame where it is appropriate, accept blame when they are at fault and distinguish when an unfortunate event is just a random act. If your daughter gets her period in the middle of the school dance while she’s wearing a white dress, this is biology, not Satan. If your son isn’t tall enough to slam dunk, this is genetics, it doesn’t mean that Satan is trying to hold him back.  If five minutes before your beautiful Catholic wedding is to start the groom splits his pants… it is not divine intervention attempting to stop the exchange of vows… it is an unfortunate moment that will become a funny story to pass on to grand-kids and a cautionary tale for all those to be married after you.

I love taking my personal life to social media, my network of mommy friends is as large as it is because of the power of the internet. That being said it is one thing to get advice on the best pampers, to vent about the day-to-day frustrations of being a parent, and to even give a little brag when your cutie pie does something extra special… it is another to assume that “likes” and “shares” will ward of Satan and bring God back to your side.  I assure you, if I am wrong and Satan is sabotaging your child’s life… the answer is not going to be found in a Facebook thread.