Monday, 13 June 2016


Post by author David Gerrold, shared with permission. I take no credit.

If you've never been struck by disaster, you have no idea how traumatic it is.
If you've never had a loved one shot to death, if you've never leapt out of a burning building, if you've never been at the epicenter of a killer earthquake, if you've never been beaten and raped, if you've never had your life ripped asunder by circumstances out of your control -- then you have been blessed with a charmed life.
But also, you have no idea what other people are going through.
Those who died -- they were trapped in a horrific circumstance from which there was no escape. Panic, fear, terror, anguish -- we don't have the words to evoke the sheer brutality of the emotional tsunami in that room as one by one, their existence was snuffed out.
Those who survived -- they experienced the same. And they survived.
They will be scarred forever. Physically, emotionally. There isn't any real healing from something like this. Some of the survivors will be afraid to go outside. Some of them will never go out to celebrate again. Some of them will never enter any kind of crowded situation again -- not a theater, not a club, not even a restaurant.
Some of them will have lost a lover, a husband, or a wife. Some of them will never be able to be vulnerable again. Some of them will never dance again -- emotionally, they are a wasteland tonight, and nothing will bloom there for a long long time.
Pain is a tsunami that overwhelms you. It comes in waves, one after the other -- crippling waves that drop you where you stand. After a while, you incorporate those waves of pain into your existence. Sometimes they come less often, sometimes they don't hit as hard, but they never stop coming.
It can be little things -- like, "I wish Steve were here to see this. He would have loved it." You wonder what he or she would be doing now. Or big things, like suddenly the radio plays that song and you remember the moment when -- oh, god -- you fall down sobbing, racked with emotion, because you will never ever have that person in your arms again. And as much support as people want to give you -- you still end up in bed alone, missing the one who was there to comfort you.
And then there's the guilt -- "Why didn't I listen when she said she wanted to go to the other club?"
And all of the above I've just listed -- that isn't even a fraction of the pain that all these people are going to have to live with for the rest of their lives. Even after they recover, there will be that puckered wound in their flesh to remind them, to reawaken the nightmare.
And this event only makes the news because of the numbers. If it had been five instead of fifty, we'd all just tsk-tsk a little bit and then go back to our own concerns.
But you know what? Those people -- the ones who died, the ones who've survived -- they're us.
Just last night, they would have been the ones tsk tsking about the five or fifty people who died somewhere else. They didn't suspect that it was going to be the last night of their lives. Or that they might end up in the hospital with a shattered knee or a broken hip or a head wound or crushed ribs from being trampled in the panic.
Nobody ever assumes it could happen to them -- but we all walk around anyway with that same gnawing fear of the possibility, that somewhere there's another home-grown terrorist who's assembling a truck-sized fertilizer bomb, or maybe the airplane we're on might also have a bomb in its belly, or maybe the celebration we're attending will also be a target for another madman.
Shock, horror, grief -- all those are natural reactions. But also fear and anger. Fear of the horror is natural.
But so is anger -- but let's be angry at the ones who are truly responsible and who have failed in that responsibility -- the obstructionists in our Congress who refuse to pass laws for gun safety. The blood is on their hands tonight. Because they had the responsibility and they betrayed us, the American people.
They get away with it, because we let them. Because we keep letting our conversations get bogged down in semantic nitpicking, in sidetracks and tangents. We keep getting tied up in the ignorance of those who've been lied to by the propagandists.
Every time, we ask ourselves -- is this it? Is this the one? Is this the moment when we finally say "Enough!"
And every time ... we fail to follow through.
If we weren't going to get outraged when twenty schoolchildren were murdered, are we going to get more outraged when fifty queers get gunned down?
Probably not. Because it's collateral damage for the Second Amendment. It's the tolerable level of carnage.
Nearly seventy years ago, the federal government started setting safety standards for automobiles. Since then, the death toll from car crashes has gone down. Seat belts and airbags and better construction of passenger compartments, and a lot of other safety improvements have made our automobiles and our highways safer than ever.
If we are willing to protect ourselves against the carnage on our highways, then why can't we also protect ourselves the carnage on our streets, in our schools, and theaters and clubs?
Every congressman who ever voted against gun safety -- there is blood on that person's hands tonight. I will not forgive. I will not forget.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

A Guy Walks Into a Bar...

I had no words for a very long time.  I call myself a writer, and yet today I found myself unable to write anything appropriate.

On Saturday night, rising star Christina Grimmie was shot and killed as she signed autographs for her fans.

Early Sunday morning a man walked into a gay bar that was packed with over 300 people celebrating Pride.  Within half an hour, 50 people were dead, more than 50 wounded, and a community was in shock.

Mere hours later, a heavily-armed man who supposedly was on his way to the Los Angeles Pride Parade was arrested.  Quick thinking by people on the street could very well have stopped a similar occurrence.

Again.  And again.  The violence seems to be never-ending.  It's happening so often that many people can't even react any more.

Naturally the media is tearing apart the suspects in any way possible - their names, their heritage, their affiliations - looking for anything to lay blame on.  Few people are addressing the elephant in the room.  Few people want to because pro-gun organizations will most likely shout them down if they do.

I will lay the blame on hatred.  Hatred of that which is different: women, gays, members of a specific religion, whatever you can think of.  And I blame the coincidence of living in a place where access to high-powered firearms is easy enough so that the avenue to act on that hatred is there.

Twenty children lost their lives to a mentally ill gunman in 2012.  Every shooting since then has been followed by platitudes and calls for action but nothing has changed.  The United States has become a country where "others" - children, gays, women, people of colour - have become acceptable losses for a culture that insists on having an armed population.

That is no longer a "well-regulated militia".  That is anarchy.  And a disturbingly high percentage of people want to vote in a leader who wants more of the same.

It's not going to get any better.

Not unless enough people care about what happens to their fellow humans.

Friday, 10 June 2016

The Prevalence of Rape Culture

I was reading an online conversation about whether the 6-month sentence in the Stanford rape care was too lenient, and one commenter claimed to know the victim and that she had been lying the whole time.  I immediately called him out on it and said that the evidence was clear that she had been brutalized, and that his bringing up her sexual history was pure victim-blaming and rape culture BS.

He then proceeded to attack me, asking me if I had really been sexually assaulted (I had mentioned it in another comment) and asking what I had been wearing at the time.  As far as he was concerned, wearing nice panties was an invitation for sex.

That, my friends, is how to push my Berserk Button.

So to avoid cluttering up the comment section of that forum I'm posting my rant here.

People who have never been sexually assaulted can't possibly understand.

Forcing sex onto a person who is defenseless is reprehensible.  Nobody ever asks to be raped.  End of story.  It doesn't matter if the person was drunk, high, or wearing skimpy clothes.  A woman could be wearing a full length burqa and still be raped.

It has been embedded in our culture for too long that women must always have the onus of avoidance.  From the age of 13 women have to learn to carry their keys in their hands, to not walk in dark areas alone, to watch their drinks, to not hang out with strangers.

At the same time, many men believe that they can take what they want without fear of consequence.  It's all in the misogynistic mindset of power and control.  Especially if the man is rich, athletic, or successful.

"If a woman gets treated like a victim she will act like a victim.  Too many women show off their panties in public, thinking it is a sexy thing to do.  LOL" wrote the aforementioned commenter.

I dare any man to walk down the street wearing a Speedo and a muscle shirt and see what kind of reactions he gets.  Does that mean he's asking for it?  What about all those guys who walk around with their pants down to their knees and the boxer shorts showing?  Are they asking for it?  Chances are they won't get that much attention, because, well, they're men.

Women get the attention because their bodies have been objectified by rape culture and the media.  And to quote an online acquaintance: "It's baffling how men don't want women in positions of power because they're slaves to their hormones and emotions, and yet one of the first lines of defence when it comes to rape cases tends to be: it's hardly his fault, look at what she was wearing, how could we expect him to control himself?"

I was emotionally abused and sexually assaulted by my ex.  I never asked for it.  He believed that since we were in a relationship he was entitled to it.  It happened when he was angry with me.  At night when I was trying to sleep.  In the morning while I was trying to get ready for work (I nearly lost my job because of chronic lateness stemming from that).  Whenever I told him "no" he would pout, guilt-trip me, and claim he was being "deprived".  Even after I left him he stalked me at my new place, and assaulted me when I tried to talk sense into him.  I had a nervous breakdown and was in therapy for months.  I told his family about it, but they said "he wasn't raised that way" and disowned me.

Why did I never do anything, you might ask?  For the same reason that so many other abused women never take their attackers to court.  Because we know full well that the burden of proof will be on us, and that we will be blamed and shamed to the point of losing all faith in a system that is supposed to protect us but doesn't.

So I speak out now on behalf of all women who've had to go through the same thing.

Men need to be taught "Don't rape" instead of women being taught "Don't get raped."

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Justice of the Rich and Famous

Two 16 year olds publicly raped a girl and posted their heinous acts on social media.  School authorities tried to cover up the incident because the two boys were star football players.  Both boys ended up serving less than two years in jail.

A 16 year old from a wealthy family got himself drunk and then ploughed his car into the back of a stalled SUV, killing four people.  His lawyer argued that he didn't know any better because he suffered from "affluenza".  The jail sentence was two years.

A 20 year old university student was caught in the act of raping an unconscious woman, but only received a six month sentence because he was on the swim team.

Do we all see a pattern here?

All these so-called sentences scream "Rape/killing is okay if you are a heterosexual rich male athlete.  There are people looking out for you.  There are people who want you to succeed in life.  You didn't rape a girl, that was '20 minutes of action'."

Hey, remember O.J. Simpson?  That was the same story.

There's a lot of fear out there, but sadly it has been directed to the wrong places.  There are laws made in fear of a remote possibility that transgender people might go into bathrooms to commit sexual assault.  But men who ACTUALLY commit sexual assault don't get adequately punished.  Instead the victims are blamed and shamed, which is why so many sexual crimes go unreported because women know they most likely won't be believed.

There's something extremely wrong with this.  Far too many brutalized women struggle with depression, anxiety, and the stigma of what happened to them.  Some even end up killing themselves while their abusers are given a slap on the wrist.  Women need to be taken seriously and given the justice they deserve.  Not the "justice" reserved for the rich or athletic.

For more insight, have a look at Mr. Matt Lang's Facebook post on the subject:
Here is the problem: Some guys are entitled pricks.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Medically Screwed

For those who don't realize how messed up our medical system is.

I visited a regional medical clinic recently (known as a CLSC in Quebec) to have something looked at; they said that soon the clinic will be for people who don't have regular doctors, or for non-emergency cases that don't require going to a hospital E.R.  If you have a doctor you have to see that doctor even if getting an appointment takes weeks.

Case in point: In late April I was having eye problems but my regular eye doctor wasn't taking appointments until July.  So I paid to have an exam done within a week at a private establishment.  (My eyes were fine; I do need new glasses though.)

As a result of the aforementioned clinic visit, I was referred to a specialist.  However, getting a hold of one was a challenge.  Out of four local specialist clinics, no.1 was no longer accepting referrals, no.2 was unreachable, no.3 voice mail box was always full, no.4 their main specialist was ill and they had a waiting list of 14 months.

Eventually I chose to take an appointment next week at a specialist that I had seen previously, whose office is almost two hours away by public transit.  It's a bit inconvenient but at least it's timely.

Our health minister is supposed to be a doctor but he keeps changing the rules and making cutbacks that go against everything the medical profession stands for.  The brand-new hospital in Montreal has already been suffering from infrastructure failures, equipment shortages, and bed closures.  Seeing a specialist within a reasonable amount of time seems to be a matter of luck.

Worst of all, E.R. wait times in the province are the longest in the country.  A few years ago our daughter fell and got a bad cut on her head that needed stitches.  The accident happened after 7 PM and all the local walk-in clinics were closed, so we had to go the E.R.  We ended up waiting 13 hours - all night - before her cut was properly treated.  Wait times haven't improved much since then.

Moral of the story: Don't get sick.  Not if you live in Quebec.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Being a 21st Century Woman

We have come far in the last 50 years regarding our technological advancements and acceptance of that which is different.  Unfortunately there's still much to be done.  The clown circus that is the Republican Party in the United States is proof of that.

Girls are still forced into arranged marriages with people much older than they are.  Young women are abused for the "crime" of attending school.  Women are turned down for jobs or promotions due to their gender and/or age.  Female comedians are heckled with sexual threats.  Female game developers are doxxed and receive death threats.

Why is this still happening in the 21st century?  Why do parents still have to tell their daughters to not walk in certain areas at night, keep their keys in their hands, watch their drinks, and keep everyone at arms' length?  Why do women still have to work twice as hard for less pay, fight to keep control of their own reproductive ability, and endure unnecessary scrutiny?

It's because of men who have been taught that women are mere objects they can use for their own benefit, who think they know best for everyone around them, who believe that women are incapable of anything other than looking pretty and making babies.

I place the blame squarely on patriarchal societies that force women into undeserved stereotypes, punish women for trying to assert themselves, and use nudity and sex as marketing tools.  (I'm still angry that my favourite bookstore was closed and replaced with a lingerie shop.  Boobs before books indeed.)

Are men so afraid that they'll lose their self-worth if they allow women to be their equals?  It must be so, if on the street the worst insult you can give to a guy is to call him a "pussy".

Something has to change.

If the Americans elect Hillary Clinton as their next President, perhaps something will change.  The U.S. is one of the most powerful countries on the planet and needs to set the example.