Saturday, February 19, 2011

What are you hiding from?

I always thought that in most cases,I could easily spot racism. I knew it had insidous forms, but I thought I usually caught it in myself. I firmly believe that everyone has some deep-seated prejudice against any group he or she is not in (as well as prejudices in favor of groups they belong to), and I've always been immediately suspicious of people who say, "I'm not racist." Immediately upon hearing that, I'd think, "Oh, but you are. What you just told me is you're not dealing with it." I think we never totally overcome our prejudices, but we have to work on being open to finding them and eradicating them over our entire lifetimes.

That said, I myself have fallen prey to placing more importance on being 'funny' than being 'human.' I have come to realize that if I make a joke that I wouldn't share with all my friends of any color, then I shouldn't make it. If I wince, knowing it's wrong, then why would I write it? I feel that this also applies to profanity, etc.

I think that exposure to crappy radio shows that have white men doing fake black voices (or straight people doing fake gay characters) is what made me recognize my mistake. I don't even want to name the shows, because they don't deserve popularity. Humor is dangerous. If you don't have the guts to make statements in your own skin--to at least claim your own identity--then maybe you shouldn't be making them at all, even if everyone understands it as a joke. People often use humor to cloak hatred and fear, because if someone calls them on their prejudice, they can back away and say, "It was just a joke. You don't understand." This is what those radio shows do. I don't want to even remotely be like this.

I am sorry to anyone who read anything I wrote as another character that played up stereotypes. I can't take back the words, but I won't use them again.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Went to a Meeting for People who Lost Loved Ones to Homicide

The last blog didn't get read, but in it I wrote about how I met with a parole officer. A girl who was involved in my father's homicide was up for parole after only a year in jail. I need to write to the officer, so he can email me--he said he can't tell me outright over email but he can say "in so many words"--the results of her parole hearing. I'm really thinking that she won't get out this time, but he says she will not serve her whole sentence. As an accessory, her offense is not considered violent, so she won't have to do Mississippi's required 80% of her sentence. She will get credit for time served and be out in three years, max.

So, I said that I wanted to tried to get the laws changed. It won't affect her, but it will give me something to contribute. I want 'accessory' to a murder to be considered a violent offense. I want higher maximum penalties for the crime. Yes, a judge can still give a lenient sentence, but I want the possibility of more than 5 years maximum. I guess this seems to be a pipe dream. I know it will be an uphill battle to change anything. I thought I'd start by going to a meeting for "Survivors of Homicide Victims," because if anyone would be willing to fight for change, these people surely would.

I'd gone once before a year ago, and seen a woman there who'd lost her husband just a few months before. Last year, it had been two years since my dad died, and this woman's face kept reminding me of something. Her eyes were just so angry that they burned. I can't describe it any other way. He had been run down by a drunk driver, and justice was her mission.

I realized as I was leaving that she reminded me of me. The look that is some kind of mix of shock, rage, disgust, damage. You tuck it in over time, but those first few months it is there, and you really are only aware of it because, looking into the eyes of others, you see pity and your pain reflected. This woman was not at the meeting I went to last night, but she was mentioned. She is going for the death penalty.

The meeting last night was hard. One woman lost her daughter less than 6 months ago. She looks awful. She is having to hire doctors and detectives. The murderer might get away with it. I said nothing of lobbying the state senators. I know I have to put in my time. Gauge things. The group is a place for people to expel their grief and rage, as best they can.

I miss my father. I would never have thought he would die in that way. I can't even explain the disappointment I feel about life. That is one of the worse things--this idea I thought I had of how bad life could get, the way I thought I was jaded enough--was wrong. I guess I trusted that certain things wouldn't happen in my family, even without knowing it. I still sometimes can't believe that someone would do what they did to him. There is really nothing else to say.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Meeting with a Parole Board Member About My Father's Murder--lowlights

I wrote at length on my other blog about my father's murder in '06 and how a girl who pled guilty as an accessory is up for parole now, after only a year in prison.

The link to my other blog is at bottom, and I won't rehash all that here, but suffice it to say that it is as if the systems wants the criminals out.

First off, as I understand it, you get on the parole board because you have kissed the governor's ass in some way. He appoints people--five--to the board. There is no vote from anyone else. It is the taxpayers who will pay upkeep on these people and the taxpayers--not wealthy politicians--who will live among the ex-cons if they are released, yet we get no direct say in voting in a parole board member. Our governor was a wealthy tobacco company lobbyist for years and is a Republican. He was chairman of the Republican National Committee in the '90s. He recently commuted the sentence of a murderer, who spent the bulk of the time he was supposed to be in prison working in the governor's mansion. Now he is totally free.

Would people who voted in a governor like this do any better voting in a parole board? I think so. The public can realize their mistakes (for instance, many have turned against the governor now, who can't run again anyway). If a parole board let a criminal out that went on to commit another atrocity, you can bet people would be angry. Right now, there is no record that I know of to show how each parole board member voted. I have seen articles in which parole board members would not answer questions about how they voted if asked by citizens of this state. I think this should change. There should be a record that could be accessed. Let them keep their home addresses and the parole hearing locations private, but let their vote be public.

Finally, the parole board member I spoke to claimed that letters from family members of victims mattered the most in their decision of whether to let someone out or not. I told him that a life is worth something, no matter how many letters they get. The circumstances of the crime should be considered, not how 'popular' someone was. Are we back in high school, with a new and improved yearbook category--Most Likely to Not have His Murderer Paroled?

I want to do something about all this, though I am not sure what. I am going this week to a support group for people who lost family members to homicide. I also want to meet with a state representative, but I know I will need much research (and hopefully support) before I do. People need to understand that we can't make the system perfect, but it could be fairer.

I can tell you from experience that you hate to become aware of the unjust system when you have already lost a loved one and it is too late to correct the court system's handling of their death.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Water and Sewer Secretary? Has it come to this?

Yes, lil chirren, it has.
Tomorrow I will fill out an application to be a district water and sewer secretary. This doesn't mean I'll have to get wet and wade in shit (and I asked them that, believe me!). This means I'll shuffle papers and organize mindnumbingly boring "projects" for low pay.
I once wanted to be a published author. I had dreams. Now, look what my life has come to! I wish I could think of something funny.
My illspent youth was spent illly working for the public school system. I was cussed out by third graders whose parents were more concerned with procuring new SUVs than raising decent children. I used to joke that the little hellions didn't have attention -deficit disorder, they had ass-whipping deficit disorder. I grew tired of it. I left.
And finally landed here, jobless. I may not even *get* to be the sewer secretary. They may find someone with better qualifications. I've sunken low, my frenemies, low.

Monday, December 29, 2008

How To Argue With Your Bipolar/Schizoaffective/Dementia-prone Mother Who Has Heart Trouble

Me: You don’t, Mama, you don’t need to check your medicine. I’ll give you—
Her: It was right here. Just let me--- (yanking things out of a carefully packed sack)
Me: MOM! I just fixed that—
Her: Isn’t it in here? (pulling her diapers out of the bag)
Me: No, that is NOT medicine. Give me the bag—(jerking it away from her)
Disinterested Brother from next room: I’m on the phone!
Me: (growling)
Her: (swatting ineffectually at my hands)
Me: Now! Listen…No, would you just…Listen! Let go! (I wrench it free of her.)
Her: No. (she pouts)
(We stare at each other.)
Me: (starting to cry) Where have you gone? Where is my mother? I don’t know you…
Her: Oh, honey--- (reaches to comfort me but also tries to grab bag)
Disinterested Brother: I’m on the PHONE!
Me: (grabbing everything) I’m putting it all up here!
Her: (plops onto bed) We’re broke.
Me: I’m starting a new job tomorrow. (sits down and tries to blog)
Her: We can’t pay them. At the home.
Me: Robert will help us.
Her: There’s not enough money in the account I tell you. You’ll bounce a check!
Me: I checked it yesterday. Yesterday when you HOUNDED ME…
Me (beating table with brother’s computer on it) I. DID. CHECK.
Newly Interested Brother tells friend: Hold on. I have to go in there and settle something…(bursts into room)
Brother: Quit beating that table with my computer!
Me: She is driving me---
Her: I tell her we don’t have the money—
Brother: (at me) But that’s no reason to—
(at Mother) Stop, Mama, you see what you do to her?
(at me) You can’t let her get you this way! She doesn’t know (makes spinning crazy sign at temple) You can’t win with her.
Me: I can’t take it!
Brother: Mama, just give her a break! (leaves room, telling friend on phone:) They were gonna break my computer.
Mama: (muttering at me so brother can’t hear): You’ll go to jail when you bounce a check.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Devil is a Liar

This December 1st, I started training at the Worldwide Widget Manufacturers. Having lost my last job three months previous due to this superb economy, I was happy for another chance at solvency. Also, I have a sick mom whom I partially support and an out-of-work brother. I need this job, so I will not tell you exactly what kind of widgets we produce. Let’s just say we work very complex widgets with lots of government regulation.
So on the first day, there was orientation. And it was good. We eight new employees are herded into a conference room containing slick company folders and little Worldwide Widget gift bags full of goodies. The corporate world may steal your soul, but at least you get a cup cozy. Peppy, the woman from HR, welcomes us to Worldwide. I notice the perfection of her lipstick and upswept hair. She tells us that WWM is X years old and one of the fastest growing widget manufacturers in the country, yet still small enough to be personal and “like family.” Every day we have an inspirational quotation to focus on and we have fun themes such as Everyone-dress-like-a-hippy day or Let’s-all-wear-flannel day. She turns a page in her orientation manual and sits up straighter. “Now, I’m going to tell you what will get you fired.”

First, there is sexual harassment. We get this long copy of the company policy and a form to sign. There are detailed descriptions in business language of the kind of behavior that could be construed as sexual harassment. We can’t proposition an employee, even if in the beginning the employee seemed to invite it. We can’t touch each other, unless someone appears to be dying or on fire. We should not comment or notice someone’s body or dress. We should not use vulgar language. By this time, I am certain I have sexually harassed many people in the past (in fact, probably one or two that very morning). I will have to be more careful. We all initial that we have been warned, then Peppy moves on.
Attendance and Punctuality. Peppy says this is important, as the company can’t make widgets without widget makers. There is a long list of rules about what happens at each absence or tardy. The first one is a written warning. While discussing the second one, Peppy points to the wall. “See that?” she says, gesturing to one of those foam “We’re number one” hands. “We put those up next to the desks of our best employees. But we also have these…” From beside her chair, Peppy pulls out a foam hand that is giving us the middle finger. “On your second tardy or unexcused absence, your coworkers are encouraged to beat you with one of these—an F.U. hand, or, as we say, a foo.”
Peppy keeps explaining what happens after each successive absence or tardy. “Is there paid time off?” a girl with bug eyes breaks in. Peppy nods. You can get paid time off, IF it is the 5th Tuesday in a 30-day month and your mother was eaten by a bear. There are a few other stipulations. We are told to sign. Peppy moves on.
Next is dress. Peppy stresses that this is very important. She gives us 10 seconds to look at all the rules, then tells us to sign.
We sign forms about our badges and how to use them to get in the building, out of the building, clock in, clock out, go on break, and go to the bathroom. “Worldwide wants to know where our employees are at all times.” Last year, Peppy points out, they found some employees hiding in the closet, fearful of a foo beating. Now the closets also require badges to open them. “Let’s go on a tour!” says Peppy. She leads us around our “cubes.” They are each about 10 x 10, so we will share them with only 6 other people. “Worldwide wants to maximize space to reduce our overhead,” Peppy says, pointing to one woman working on a laptop while wedged under one of the counters in her cube. A man is sitting in the only available seat, and her head is near his knees. The bug eyed girl asks Peppy if this can be construed as sexual harassment. Peppy reaches for a nearby foo, the girl apologizes, and we all go silent. Peppy finally smiles. We move on.
“Here is the water cooler,” Peppy gestures with a flourish, then points out that it also accepts our badge. We are allowed to visit it once a week for two and a half minutes. About this time, as Peppy reaches over to show us how to swipe our badge, I can’t help but notice how full she is up top. She is tall and lean except where a woman is not supposed to be. My eyes fall on a nearby foo. There I go, committing sexual harassment. I feel ashamed.
We are led back to initial and initial and initial again. We are taught a company cheer. We are given a two and a half minute break, then led to the training room. But that is another story.
At the end of the day, I go home. My mother sits quietly in her rocking chair. I turn on the light. She is staring at nothing. I sit beside her. Finally she speaks. “How was work?”
I look at her small face. Her mouth and hands tremble from the effects of prescriptions. She sleeps most of the day and almost doesn’t smile. Two years ago, after my father was killed, she’d had a heart attack and was shocked back to life. I’d prayed vehemently for God to spare her. Now I see how selfish I was.
I tell her about work. The rules. The badges. The foos. She says nothing for a minute, then gravely comments, “The devil is a liar, Delia. He tells us if we work and slave all our lives, we’ll be left with something in the end. Do you know how much I’ve lost?” I’m not sure if she means time or retirement money. Both my parents had trudged into work at their own widget factories. My mom’s boss wouldn’t even let her stay home when my brother had a fever. After my father died, I read things he’d written, and I saw how much he hated work. “I believe I could make for myself a new life, and forget about all those people.” This was scribbled next to plans of how he could save and get out early or try selling insurance on the side. He did not get out early and was killed after only a few years of retirement.
“You have been left with something in the end,” I tell my mother. “You have us.” She says nothing. I take my training manuals and company policies and goody bag back to my room. I take a nap. Tomorrow will be a long day.