The Soul-Crushing Job That Pays the Bills

When I was very young…like, seven…I told people I was going to go to Radcliffe. Which isn’t even a thing anymore. it’s what girls said when they meant, “Harvard.”

How sad we couldn’t just say, “Harvard.”

But it was in 1972. And I wanted to go there – hadn’t even read “Love Story” yet (which – spoiler alert – is a sack of poo girded in a crispy coat of Patriarchy). I just wanted a great – the BEST – education. So I could be who I wanted to be, whether or not there was a guy around to mansplain the world to me.

I was 8.

And then I realized I was good at school. Good enough, anyway, to get into a good-enough college, and a good-enough law school.

(That’s what we did in the ’80’s. We went to law school. To avoid adulting).

I was 25.

Then I got married, and I got pregnant, and then I got pregnant again, and then I had a sweet baby girl who was autistic and intellectually disabled.

I quit my job. I had to. No one could cope with my sweet baby girl.

Including me.

But I was her mother, and so I did.

Eventually, I went back to work. As a lawyer. Not because I wanted to, but because the costs of having a child with special needs were more than we could bear. I didn’t want to. I desperately DID NOT WANT TO.

But as my father said, “You have a law degree. Get a job.

And so I did.

Fifteen years later, I’m a shareholder in a large insurance defense litigation firm. I’m very good at what I do – better than I need to be – and painfully aware that my intellect probably exceeds what the day-to-day of my job requires. I make a good living. One that is hard to walk away from, especially with a child in college.

I do my job. It pays the bills.

And I am grateful.

My mother did not have the same choices. Her parents could not afford a college education, and there were no student loans. Least of all for women.

My parents paved the way, and I worked hard, and now I’m a lawyer, and I’m proud of what I’ve made possible for my children, but desperately unhappy with the trade-off that goes hand-in-hand with the kind of work I do.

My life is not my own, and the demand to BILL BILL BILL is an open app that runs nonstop.

Men who worked in coal mines 70 years ago didn’t like their jobs, but they did them, without complaint, year after year after fucking year.

They didn’t complain.

And so shouldn’t I.

I’m lucky to have an education, and a job.

I am.

But.

It’s not enough. Never will be.

I Drink too Much

I drink too much. I do.

I come from a long line of alcoholics…2 grandfathers, a grandmother, a father, a brother, a sister, and two uncles.

Despite my best intentions, my daughter married an alcoholic. I love him. But he’s an alcoholic, and that worries me, because there has never been a moment of my life that wasn’t largely influenced by an alcoholic…and not in a good way.

I grew up in a home ruled by an alcoholic. We all made excuses for him. He was larger than life. He beat my brother. He molested my sister.

He ignored me.

I grew up. I vowed I would be better. I went to a great college, graduated from law school, passed the bar and started my career

30 years later, I drink too much. I always have, except for the 9 years I was sober. I’m so proud of those years. I was sober.

And then I wasn’t.

I want to be sober. I want to be clear.

But I also want to be free if the anxiety and background noise that is the soundtrack of my life. I want the world to be quiet.

It isn’t.

So I drink. Too much. And I hope that those years of sobriety were enough to save my children from the demons that haunt me.

I hope they will be better than their flawed mother…though how they can be, with her example, seems insurmountable. God, I hope it isn’t.

Some days I don’t drink. Some days, I do.

If only I were made of stronger stuff.

If only the fiber of my being was imbued with the certitude of my youth that I would be able to surmount the intractable grip of my history.

I should be better. Dear god,I should be better.

I’m not.

I try.

But,

I drink too much.

Deep Thoughts and Other Wisdom

No matter how bad your day, someone else’s is worse.

Don’t allow Others to poison the well for you. Withhold judgment and form your own opinion. You may find out that Others were wrong.

Never say never.  Because you don’t know what you don’t know.

Your before picture might be someone’s after.

If you opt out of the process, you don’t get to complain about the result.

Instead of focusing our emotions on anger at those who wrong us, perhaps we should concentrate on gratitude that, in doing so, said individuals have revealed to us their true character and, therefore, have hastened the process for escorting them and their negative energy out of our lives.

So Much for Keeping an Open Mind

A few days ago, Kassy Dillon, recent graduate of the Seven Sisters college from which I graduated had an Op Ed published in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “My Alma Stops Identifying as a Mater” (WSJ December 26, 2018).  In the letter, she chastised Mount Holyoke College for its handling of a recent kerfuffle concerning the roll-out of a new logo that many students found offensive on the grounds that it marginalized the transgender community.

By way of background, Mount Holyoke admits to its undergraduate program “any qualified student who is female or identifies as a woman.”

After the student community – not to mention alumnae – spoke out against the proposed logo, the College took another look and ultimately decided not to proceed. A more detailed explanation of the College’s handling of the issue can be found here. https://www.mtholyoke.edu/communications/logo-proposal-community-response

Hence Ms. Dillon’s essay, and to provide just a bit more color, Ms. Dillon is an arch conservative whose opinions and online presence made her something of a lightning rod during her years at Mount Holyoke – and perhaps that was the point. By the time she graduated, she had firmly established herself in the Twittersphere as the “lone conservative” at a college that since its founding has been about as liberal as they come. That Ms. Dillon chose to attend Mount Holyoke may or may not suggest a desire to stir things up, which in and of itself is in keeping with the Mount Holyoke tradition; that she chose to remain there demonstrates – and she has admitted – that, for the most part, she was treated with respect and tolerance despite espousing positions that were offensive to many in the community. https://www.mtholyoke.edu/media/courage-be-right

The same cannot be said for those who commented on Ms. Dillon’s article. While I understand that WSJ readers tend to skew more conservative, I was surprised by the dearth of any serious discussion concerning the salient issue, to wit, how a single-sex college can arrive at a thoughtful and appropriate response to those who are not cis-gender (that is, those whose gender identity matches their biological parts)?  Having read all 127 comments to Ms. Dillon’s article, I can only assume that the answer is, “it shouldn’t.”

There is no question that the issue of gender identity has become one that confuses, upsets, and confounds many.  In my experience, many are uncomfortable or even frightened by those who are non-binary/non cis-gender, largely because they assume – as so many did with respect to gay/lesbian/bi individuals not so long ago – that the non-binary/non cis-gendered want to convert them, have sex with them, or overthrow cultural norms in an effort to upend civilized society.

Others object on the basis of biology or religion.  “It’s not natural,” I’ve heard people say. “It isn’t what God intended.”  Not so long ago, some of these same arguments were used to keep women and people of color from occupying any position of power.

As minority groups who in the past had been marginalized (whether because of sexuality, gender, race, ethnicity or religion) fought oppression and began to rise to positions of leadership, however, many came to understand that those minorities were equally capable and deserving of the same opportunities traditionally held by White Christian men, and ceased to feel threatened by their differences.  To be sure, racism and anti-gay sentiment, not to mention bias against certain ethnic and religious minorities, is certainly alive and well in our country – in some respects, bigotry has seen something of a renaissance in the last two years – and there is still much work to be done before we can fairly and accurately state that all who call themselves American citizens enjoy the same rights, freedoms, and protections under the law.

It’s also true, though, that, gradually (albeit, far too slowly) we are becoming a society that has begun to understand that the existence of people whose skin color or sexual preference differ from our own tends to have little, if any, impact on how we lead our day-to-day lives.  The fact that my husband’s co-worker is a devout Muslim matters little to his patients who find him to be, first and foremost, an exceptionally compassionate, capable physician.  The fact that a female colleague of mine is a lesbian does not seem to have undermined her ability to provide caring, high-quality legal services to her many grateful clients.

And so it is, I humbly propose, with this newest of paradigms – gender.  For those for whom the non-binary/non cis-gendered community represents a challenge or a threat, I urge you to consider that finding oneself in such a community is no easy thing, as evidenced by the dismissive and contemptuous responses of all who commented on Ms. Dillon’s piece.  One person commented, “[a]dmitting transgender men will do wonders for the Mount Holyoke football team. It could use a couple of good tight ends.”  Another lamented that it is too hard to keep up with all the “labels” and asked how they were supposed to communicate with someone if they didn’t know what to call them?  [Answer:  The way you would communicate with anyone else – decently, kindly, and respectfully].

To those who pooh-pooh the notion that gender might be somewhat more fluid than originally believed, I ask, who would choose a reality in which one is virtually guaranteed to be summarily discounted and treated, at best, as a silly, self-indulgent, attention-seeker, and at worst, attacked as being a freak, or worse? Indeed, the comments to Ms. Dillon’s article (itself free of cheap laughs and unfunny barbs) harken back to the restroom debates of several years ago and tacitly invoke the entirely baseless belief that anyone who does not identify as a heterosexual cis-gender must be a pedophile.

Which leads us to the question of how Mount Holyoke, or any other single-sex school, addresses the issue of gender in a way that is true to its history as a place where the marginalized can pursue an education, without fear of persecution based upon something they cannot change, and which has no bearing whatsoever on their ability to achieve and contribute.  Most who commented had nothing but derision for a school whose incoming class this year had a median SAT score of 1400 and an average GPA of 3.85, simply because its administrators listened to their students and alumnae (most of whom, I can assure you, had a far different reaction than Ms. Dillon) and did the unthinkable – that is, they dared to consider that perhaps they had made a bad decision, and then attempted to correct it.

Mount Holyoke was established in 1837 for the purpose of providing a college education to women at a time when there were few other such opportunities available.  In the 181 years since it was formed, it, and other all-female institutions, have turned out women who have gone on to inhabit the highest echelons of power in business, government, academics, science, the arts, and virtually every occupation that throughout history has traditionally been dominated by men.  Graduates of women’s colleges tend to earn graduate degrees (especially at the doctoral level) at a far higher rate, are more inclined to pursue careers in STEM, are more active participants in class discussions, are more confident, and have a higher undergraduate completion rate than those who attend co-ed universities.  In short, women’s colleges (much like traditionally Black colleges) have done a very good job of preparing their students to compete and succeed once they leave campus.

Single-sex colleges have also been a place where students can shake off traditional societal norms and celebrate what makes them unique, and while many decry the notion of a “safe space,” who does not attend college with at least some expectation that while there, they will be afforded the opportunity to explore new ideas, and new iterations of oneself, in an environment where everyone else is doing the same thing, and is therefore less likely to be critical? Colleges are supposed to foster and encourage the free exchange of ideas in an ongoing discussion about anything and everything; what better place, then, to tackle the complex concept of gender?

I should point out that the dust-up that lead to Ms. Dillon’s article in the first place concerned the roll-out of a proposed new logo intended to communicate an openness and acceptance of those who do not identify as binary or cis-gendered.  As an aside, my primary objection to the new logo was that it was cheesy and pedestrian, but those who have perhaps greater intellectual heft than I found it offensive to the extent that it was exclusive of those whose gender identity is not merely a question of Male or Female.  All who commented on Ms. Dillon’s article dismissed the discussion that ensued, and the ultimate decision of the College to take another look at the issue, as nonsense, hogwash, the pap of elite liberal Dems who have abandoned common sense in favor of mindless theoretical navel-gazing.  In so doing, they deny the experience of those who come into this world with a biological identity that does not square with their psychological reality.  Why?

Because thinking about what it must be like to not fall neatly into one of two categories requires people to question assumptions they have lived with all their lives and potentially alter the way they behave, and most people – especially those who are closer to the coffin than campus – don’t tend to be very good at doing that.  We don’t like to have our perceptions challenged, especially if doing so triggers a level of self-awareness that may be uncomfortable – as in, are there some parts of me that do not feel exclusively male or female? Are there aspects of my personality that are at odds with what my gender identity would suggest they should be?

It’s always harder to keep an open mind, to allow for the possibility that, to paraphrase Shakespeare, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in one’s philosophy.  It’s much easier to dismiss out of hand the things that challenge our worldview, especially when they make us uncomfortable or force us to have potentially difficult conversations with our children, but these are not legitimate bases upon which to ignore the reality of people whose only agenda is to be accepted for who they are so they can then be left alone to live their lives in relative peace.

If Mount Holyoke, or any other institution, is trying to make it easier for the non-binary, non cis-gendered to do just that, I say, good on you.  It’s a complex topic, one that presents many issues, but none so difficult that they cannot be addressed intelligently, logically, and compassionately by those committed to equality. For all who had something negative to say about Mount Holyoke, go ahead and pile on – it isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last.  Unlike Ms. Dillon, I’m proud that my alma mater stands, first and foremost for the rights of those who are most in danger of suffering behavior that is the result of ignorance and intellectual laziness.  Mount Holyoke has always been on the forefront of social justice – during my years there, for example, it made the decision to divest itself of financial assets that were linked to companies that did business with or in South Africa.  I was proud then, and I am proud now, to belong to a community that takes the time to muddle through hard topics, acknowledges that it occasionally makes mistakes, and is willing to listen to all constituents – even those who express opposing viewpoints.

It’s a shame that Ms. Dillon does not understand that the current, vibrant discussion of gender on campus is merely an extension of the philosophy that underpinned the founding of Mount Holyoke College nearly 200 years ago – providing a place where the marginalized and excluded were invited to accept “the challenge to excel.”  In America, in 2018, we should be pleasantly surprised and heartened when any person or institution makes the decision to be more inclusive and thoughtful.

 

I’m Not a Junkie, But My Doctor is a Dick

Three weeks ago, I broke my right shoulder after falling in the shower. It was a stupid injury, and one that has severely impacted my ability to do a lot of things I take for granted, and I find myself in much the same position as the plaintiffs I routinely depose about similar injuries. When I hear them tick off all the things the can’t do because of a torn rotator cuff, I am much more compassionate, because I feel their pain – literally. Compassion is a good thing.

It’s also something that the caregivers with whom I have consulted for my injury seem to be utterly lacking. Over the last three weeks, I have learned that there are no circumstances under which I qualify for narcotic pain medication – despite the fact that I have a broken bone in my body – because, apparently, I am at risk for becoming a junkie. Maybe I already am a junkie. I didn’t think so, what with the fact that the only times I’ve ever taken narcotic pain medication has been after dental surgery. I was given a prescription for twenty Percocet after I had Allison, and the doctor who treated my broken toe was prepared to have me take Vicodin for as long as I needed. I never filled either prescription, because I wasn’t in that much pain, and Tylenol was adequate to relieve my discomfort.

The orthopod who confirmed my broken shoulder told me that I should wear a sling for a couple of weeks and then start physical therapy. He noted that the pain would subside, but that if I was still having significant discomfort at the time of my follow-up appointment, he would have to consider whether there was any tendon or ligament damage. As he was sending me on my way, I asked, “what should I do about pain?” – of which I was experiencing quite a lot at that moment.

When he answered, “oh, Advil or Aleve should do the trick,” I was a bit skeptical, but since he was the doctor, and since I was in so much pain I was almost nauseous, I nodded, took the sling the nurse gave me, went home and took some Aleve. Several hours later, I could barely see straight, so I called Michael, who told me to take one of the Vicodin dispensed to Hanna after her appendectomy last spring. “Are you sure?” I asked. After all, who hasn’t heard about the opioid crisis? “Yes!” said Michael. “For Pete’s sake, you have a broken shoulder!”

Guess what? It worked.

Over the next three weeks, my shoulder got marginally better, but the pain was still pretty severe (probably because I insisted on working 10 hours a day typing and writing with my right arm). The only way I got through it was by budgeting Hanna’s 12 Vicodin (which the label says can be taken every 4 hours) at a rate of one every three days, and only at the end of the day, after I’d finished everything that required my focused attention, mostly so I could get some sleep. Without a Vicodin, the pain was so exquisite that sleeping was futile, and there were some evenings I got up and took a swig of Nyquil just to get some sleep.

I know.

After two weeks of this, with little improvement, I was ready to report back for my follow up visit. The orthopod canceled due to his overly busy OR schedule, so I was put off for another week. When I called to reschedule, I asked about pain relief. No one called me back.

The pain continued. During this time, I tried to get by on Advil or Aleve on my NVD (non-Vicodin days), and I also tried Naproxen and Meloxicam, both of which had been prescribed for me by my primary care provider when I was having right knee pain. Neither made a dent in the pain.

And so, anticipating that I was almost done with Hanna’s Vicodin (makes me feel like a dirtbag to admit that I took my daughter’s pain meds), I called my primary care provider and explained the situation – I told her what I had taken, what had worked, and what hadn’t worked. I asked for a non-refillable script for 12 Vicodin to get through the next three weeks in the hope that by then, the pain would be more bearable. I told her that I had reported to Michael each time I took a Vicodin so that he could monitor and make sure I didn’t become dependent. I begged her for relief.

She said no.

I should probably mention that my PCP is a former partner of Michael’s – a woman who worked alongside him for 10 years, observed his treatment of hundreds of patients and the very careful approach he, too, took with respect to prescribing narcotic pain medication. Although she has known me both personally and professionally for over 20 years, although I asked for a very limited amount of pain relief, although she knew my husband to be a conscientious physician who was carefully monitoring my care at home – she nonetheless refused to treat me.

So I called the orthopod – again – and did not get a response – again.

A few days later, I had my follow up appointment with the orthopod. To say that he was, and is, a gigantic asshole, would be an insult to assholes everywhere. Without going into details, he was as helpful – and charming – as bag moldy bread – but since he had told me at my first appointment that continued intense pain could be a sign of a larger problem, I made the mistake of telling him how I was feeling and mentioned that I had called twice for pain relief but hadn’t gotten a response. He stated that he wasn’t aware of any request for pain meds and offered to prescribe exactly the same medicines that I had already told him did not work. “Then I guess I’ll have to refer you to pain management,” he said.

“Are you telling me that you perform hip replacements and fix torn ACLS and you can’t prescribe pain medication?” I asked.

“You have a broken shoulder,” he said. “It’s gonna hurt.”

Uh-huh.

Imagine you hired someone to come over and fix your broken furnace. It’s the dead of winter. It’s 23 degrees in your house. The HVAC guy come over, looks at your furnace and says, “Yeah, your furnace is broken. Put an extra blanket on the bed. It’s gonna be cold, but it’ll warm up by April.”

You say, “but we’re freezing! We need some heat!” and the guy says, “Well, I could fix your furnace, but then you might become dependent upon heat during cold weather, and we can’t have that.”

After I left the orthopod, and as I was driving home, I found myself in tears of pain and frustration, wondering, what do you have to do to get appropriate relief when you are in serious pain without being presumed a drug-seeking junkie?

Believe me when I say, I understand that there is an epidemic of opioid addiction in this country. Several months back, I read an exceptional article in The New Yorker about a town in West Virginia where pretty much everyone is addicted to opioid medications. Those who can’t get prescriptions from their doctors are now scoring pills – or pure heroin – from dealers. It’s become a huge problem, it’s a scourge, and people who took opioids for legitimate pain are now addicted, and dying, because it is so very easy to become dependent on this class of drugs. Some blame Big Pharma, some blame the FDA, some blame the doctors who prescribed opioids like candy before anyone understood how terribly addictive they are.

I’m not so interested in playing the blame game, and I agree that something has to be done to address what has become an almost unmanageable problem. I do take issue, however, with the notion that from here on out, no one should ever get another prescription for narcotic pain medication, end of story, case closed.

Sometimes, people have injuries, and sometimes they are in pain. Conservative pain management makes sense, certainly, but I believe that the medical profession, which was at least somewhat complicit with getting so many people addicted to opioids, has now made a wild over-correction, similar to banks who, in the early 2000’s, where handing out subprime mortgages to people who clearly could not afford them.

After the economy collapsed due to the greed of companies like Countrywide, it suddenly became far more difficult to get a loan of any kind – even if you had high credit scores, steady income, and a low debt-to-income ratio. In an effort to make sure that people did not take out loans they couldn’t pay back, the mortgage industry started demanding that any potential borrower – regardless of their credit history – provide twenty years of paystubs, a letter of explanation for an unpaid parking ticket from 1982, and a semen sample before even opening a file.

That’s what’s going on these days in the medical industry where the issue of pain is concerned. Providers are immediately suspicious of anyone who asks for a narcotic, the assumption being that they are drug-seeking. Now, I’ve been married to a family practice doctor for 29 years, and in that time, I’ve heard a lot of stories about drug-seeking behavior: The patient who is going to multiple doctors to get prescriptions and who fills them at different pharmacies. The patient who is going away on vacation and needs a new script because they are going to run out of their pain meds while they’re away (even though, according to their chart, they still should have plenty to get them through). The patient who’s purse/car/bike/briefcase was stolen, with the prescription for pain meds inside – remarkably, the same patient has sometimes been robbed six or seven times!

So, I get it. I understand why certain types of physicians (orthopedics, pain management, for example) insist that patients receiving narcotic medications sign a contract acknowledging the prescription policies and the limits on what will and will not be prescribed. I appreciate that doctors have to be very careful and discerning lest they get a patient hooked on opioids.

I. Get. It.

But, hey, medical profession…WE’RE NOT ALL JUNKIES. Some of us are nice old ladies who wouldn’t know how to score drugs if our lives depended on it (is that something you Google? Yelp? I have no idea). And honestly, who has the time to got to six different doctors and eight different pharmacies? I am not trying to minimize the very serious issue of addiction, but here’s the thing: ASKING FOR PAIN MEDICATION AFTER SUSTAINING A SIGNIFICANT INJURY DOESN’T MAKE YOU AN ADDICT. If medical science didn’t recognize that humans can experience unbearable pain from time to time, I guess it wouldn’t have seen the need for developing pain medications. It makes me wonder if, should I have to undergo surgery, I’m going to be told to take two Tylenol while someone cuts into my body – you know – so I don’t become addicted to anesthesia?

It’s frustrating that I have not been able to get any relief for my pain, but I’ll get over it. Eventually, the pain will go away, and then I’ll just have arthritis that will flare up when the weather is bad, much like Uncle Henry’s bunions. I’m tough. I will endure.

Far more upsetting to me is to have a health care provider who knows me well question my veracity when I relate the my level of pain; I find it downright offensive that by making a request for pain medication that has proven effective, I am presumed to be drug-seeking.

It occurred to me ask how that same physician might respond if it were she, or her spouse or child, who had the broken shoulder. Would that same physician tell her loved one to just tough it out? Would she discourage them from seeking, or taking narcotic pain medication? Somehow, I sort of doubt it.

In the future, I will know better, and I won’t bother to ask for help, even if I’m in pain, because I would rather live through the “discomfort” (such an inadequate work) than be made to feel ashamed for asking for relief from legitimate pain. I mean, it’s not like the pain is going to kill you, except that it might: Statistics suggest that 10% of all suicides may be linked to chronic pain.

Pshaw. Just put on an extra blanket and take a Tylenol, and don’t call me in the morning.

A Brief History of Feminism

Ever since there have been humans, the women have been having the kids.

When women first started having kids, the only way to nourish them was by breastfeeding.

By the time they were done breastfeeding one child, there was usually another, and another, and another.

Women had no choice but to feed their children, so they ended up taking care of them, too. Until they died.

This freed up men to keep on doing what they’d always done, which, initially consisted of inventing fire and hunting mastodons.

But as technology and knowledge and our understanding of the world increased, men didn’t have to spend so much time killing large animals for food, and they got better at sheltering themselves from their environment.

Which women probably could have done, had they not been so damn busy breastfeeding and taking care of the kids.

Eventually, some men had so much free time on their hands they started to think about things like gravity and calculus and philosophy. They also found time to create art and literature and music. Which, once again, women might have done, but, you know…cleaning and cooking and stuff.

Later, some women were rich enough to hire other women to do those things, but since only men had ever done science or music or writing plays, it never occurred to anyone that a woman might be able to do those things, too.

But then it occurred to women, and so they tried to do the same things, but this made men uncomfortable, because if they couldn’t have babies (not that they wanted to, mind you), then women shouldn’t be able to think about chemistry and astronomy or write sonnets. Or think, really, about anything other than girl things.

Men tried to keep women from doing man things, and women caught on. Some woman did those man things, like writing books or making art, anyway, but they used male pen names so no one would know.

Other women tried to do man things as women, and sometimes they were even successful.

Which made men even more uncomfortable, especially since some people were starting to say that you should be able to have the same opportunities even if you weren’t white. What, with that to deal with, men found themselves fighting on two fronts, and that was hard, because they weren’t used to being challenged, especially by people of color AND women – who were supposed to be docile and stupid.

Yes, by the beginning of the twentieth century, men had their hands full trying to dominate anyone who wasn’t a white male. Then the automobile was invented, and men got really distracted. Also, rich people weren’t able to stay so filthy rich because of the income tax, and so you can understand how women were able to win the right to vote.

Then there was the depression, and then there was a war, and pretty much everybody was really tired, and that’s when men said, “Hey! This is a perfect opportunity to re-subvert all non-white males!”

And it was the 1950’s, and people drank a lot of milkshakes and wore poodle skirts and went to sock hops, and everyone was just so happy to be alive and prosperous, they didn’t notice that white men had re-established themselves as boss.

Well, that didn’t last long. People of color and women said, “Uh, no, bro.” And they marched and protested and rallied, and smart people like Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsberg got involved in civil rights litigation, and things started to shift again.

Then people who were LGBTQ said, “what about us?” And straight white men, sensing yet another diminution of their power, said, “NO!” They also hoped that all gay people would die of AIDS, but instead of doing that, the LGBTQ community got smart about how they had sex and pressured government and medical research to find a cure, which, essentially, it did.

Thus, by the end of the twentieth century, lots of women, gay men, and people of color had risen to positions of power and influence. They made good money. They began to enjoy equal opportunities.

This was a problem for some white men. You see, at least since the end of World War II, pretty much all you had to do to be successful in this country, as a white man, was to have a pulse. White men began to assume that well-paying jobs, a nice home, and a few weeks’ paid vacation was their due – something they were entitled to. But, as the new millennium approached, that wasn’t the case anymore.

“They’re stealing out jobs!” some white men cried. “They’re taking what’s ours!” They didn’t realize that the people stealing their jobs might have worked harder at school, or were better and more conscientious employees, or maybe didn’t act so entitled. Still, they complained.

Some white men saw this as a wonderful opportunity to manipulate those who were no longer able to get a job simply by virtue of being white. They decided to manipulate these people, and they came up with two really, really clever ideas, and they both started with “G:”

Guns and God.

They told everyone that people should have unfettered access to any weapon they wanted AND, also, God, because THE WORLD IS FULL OF NON-WHITE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO KILL YOU.

And people got scared, and when people are scared, they don’t act rationally, and so a lot of women who otherwise might NEED FEMINISM decided that what they really needed was God (and God hates feminists). They became less concerned about equal pay for equal work, or reproductive rights, because they were so afraid of being raped by men of color or getting shot up at a movie theatre by an Islamic extremist.

Then two bad things happened:

First, John McCain picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate, and men were okay with that, because she wasn’t very smart but she WAS very fuckable, which is what a lot of men want in a woman. Palin also told people that feminists abort babies with disabilities. Also, she could field dress a moose. And God.

Second, the economy did a nose dive because certain banks made bad loans to people who couldn’t afford them, then those people defaulted, and then lots of people lost their jobs, or were underwater on their homes, and their retirement savings tanked.

It sucked.

Now, John McCain did not win the election. Barack Obama did. That made a lot of people mad, because he was black, and everyone knows that black people aren’t smart enough to run a country. Also, his wife was very intimidating to many because she worked out and thought kids should try to eat healthy. Uppity Bitch.

Also, it took a little while for the economy to rebound, but ultimately, it did, just in time for the 2016 election.

Many, many people hated Obama, and lots of white men, like Steve Bannon and the Koch Brothers thought, “this is great!” And they started conservative websites that peddled stories like, Hillary Clinton runs a pedophile ring in the basement of a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor.

Also, her emails.

Hillary also scared people because she was a woman who acted like a man, and because she was very smart, but not very fuckable. Also, some people think she’s a lesbian, and she made men uncomfortable because she called them on their bullshit. Some women didn’t like her, I am convinced, because they resented her success. Such women are also known as “assholes.”

So you have a sluggish economy and a democratic candidate who was easy to dislike, and a lot of people said, “well, ANYTHING has to be better, even if its a self-promoting carnival barker who can’t say ‘anonymous.'”

And those people elected Donald J. Trump, who is the opposite of a feminist.

And that’s why feminism matters.

The End

Kavanaugh, At Last

Well, it’s done. We have a new Supreme Court Justice, which, given the manner in which he was confirmed, seems a funny thing to call the person who, together with 8 others, will, for the next 30 years or so, set the course for virtually every aspect of how Americans live their lives. Having lived through the last month closely following this story, I’m not sure anyone, regardless of their politics, believes that justice played any role in the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to our nation’s highest court.

It occurs to me that my perspective on the process is necessarily tinged by the fact that I am a lawyer, and a litigator at that. I try cases, I argue in court, and any matter I handle has the potential (albeit extremely remote) to be reviewed by the Supreme Court. Indeed, one of my partners just argued a case before the Court, and every attorney at our firm – litigators, all – were so very thrilled that one of our own got to experience the ultimate professional goal for a litigator.

For lawyers, the Supreme Court is a mystical, sacred institution. It was the Supreme Court that first articulated principles that now form the bedrock of our society – the rule of law, that all people must be treated equally under the law, and that the right to free speech may be abridged only under the most narrow of circumstances. The power yielded by the Supreme Court is enormous and far-reaching. That is why our country has consistently demanded that those who are elevated to the high Court be of an impeccable intellectual pedigree and possess a rigorous and exhaustive understanding of the intricacies of American jurisprudence.

I’ve read many Supreme Court decisions, both as a law student and as a practicing attorney who loves the law and is continually in awe of the talent, insight, complexity and passion that so many justices have brought to the bench. Whether you agreed with him or not, Nino Scalia made the Court better. So did Benjamin Cardozo and Felix Frankfurter and Thurgood Marshall and John Harlan and Sandra Day O’Connor.

I’m a scholar of the Court as well, devouring everything that’s ever been written about it. One of my most prized possessions is a copy of “The Nine,” signed by my favorite law geek ever, its author, Jeffrey Toobin.

I love the Supreme Court. I revere it. I have enormous respect for all it represents. Which is why I am so angry at the fact that Brett Kavanaugh will now join this most august assembly of jurists.

From the beginning, the process was shot through with political import: The retiring Justice Kennedy was ever a swing vote who frequently broke ranks with the more conservative wing of the Court in matters that perhaps have the greatest impact on day-to-day lives. Certainly, his replacement would have the ability to move the Court, finally, to the far right, accomplishing what so many evangelicals have, for 45 years, been fighting for.

Abortion isn’t the only issue that could be on the chopping block during this and subsequent Supreme Court dockets, but it is perennially and disproportionately the one that matters most when a Supreme Court vacancy opens up. For a very long time, it did not appear that there would ever be a point at which the Court included five reliably anti-abortion justices. Now it does, and we can all reasonably predict that Roe will be laid to waste in the not too distant future – everyone except Susan Collins appears to understand that.

So the stakes were high. Because Trump had promised that any justice he appointed would be anti-abortion (an oath that has nothing whatsoever to do with his personal beliefs and everything to do with solidifying his one-issue base), Democrats were understandably concerned about who he would nominate. When he chose yet another judge handpicked by the Federalist Society (as we all knew he would), Dems understandably lost their shit.

GOP senators have made much of the speed with which Dems expressed their opposition to Kavanaugh, suggesting that they had never even given the nominee a chance (which is sort of like what they did to Merrick Garland, some might say). It’s a spurious argument, though – the Federalist Society Chosen, as well as the names on Trump’s short list, were made public well before Kavanaugh was officially nominated. Is it credible to suggest that Dems hadn’t done their research as to ALL potential nominees and weren’t painfully aware of what a Kavanaugh nomination might mean prior to the moment he was anointed by King Donald? No.

But the instantaneous opposition to Kavanaugh set the tone for the entire process, and it wasn’t long before things spun out of control. The GOP accused the Dems of leaking the identity of Christine Blasey Ford – an accusation as uncorroborated as Republicans claim Dr. Ford’s account of a sexual assault by Kavanaugh to be. It got worse when Debbie Ramirez stepped forward with a second account of sexual assault by Kavanaugh, perhaps especially so because a number of her fellow students at Yale either corroborated her story or else raised significant questions about Kavanaugh’s penchant for frequent, heavy drinking.

And then we heard from Michael Avenatti, a self-promoter so shameless he would make Donald Trump himself blush. His client spun a tale of dubious credibility at a time when it was critically important that any challenge to Kavanaugh’s nomination be thoroughly vetted and fact-based. In disseminating a tale that seemed designed for maximum shock value while being entirely uncorroborated, Avenatti enabled many who already had questions about Ford and Ramirez to reasonably conflate their experiences with those alleged by Julie Swetnick, and it was all over after that.

That there was a hearing at which Dr. Ford and Kavanaugh both testified was perhaps as devastating to women, and Ford, as NOT holding hearings might have been. Those who watched (and there were many) almost unanimously agreed that Dr. Ford seemed credible, and that her testimony was powerful and heartfelt. Few could fairly argue (though some nonetheless did) that she comported herself with dignity and with respect for the tribunal of men so aware of experiences in their own life that must have leant a throbbing credence to the allegations of Ramirez and Ford that they did not trust themselves to do the dirty work of examining Ford on their own lest they reveal themselves to be entirely unimpressed and unmoved by testimony recounting the searing impact that such shenanigans might have on a 15 year old girl, or an 18 year old college freshman.

Terrified of revealing the inherent distrust they harbor for women, in general, and victims of sexual assault in particular, they brought in a hired gun who was largely ineffectual and severely hindered, given the manner in which the hearing was conducted, in her ability to establish what did and did not actually happen. During her testimony, Dr. Ford suggested possible avenues for locating corroborating evidence. She delivered powerful testimony explaining the neuroscience of human experience, something she has studied for 30 years. By the time she was finished, the consensus was that she was sympathetic, credible, and, in the words of the inimitable Orrin Hatch, “attractive” and “pleasing.”

It was then time for Kavanaugh. Many felt his testimony was disrespectful, arrogant, disturbingly partisan, and indicative of a man lacking the judicial temperament typically required of Supreme Court Justices. Others defended his remarks, and those of men like Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn, and Orrin Hatch – who abandoned their stolid, methodical sex crimes prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell, in favor of an all-out spleen-letting directed at SJC Dems and anyone who would seek to tarnish the good name of Brett Kavanaugh. How else would you expect him to react? they said. He’s been unfairly accused. He has every right to come out swinging.

The combined “outrage” demonstrated by these 11 white men has rarely been on display in such a transparently craven fashion, and to the extent that there was any genuine umbrage, it had less to do with the genuine pain experienced by Kavanaugh’s wife and daughters, and far more to do with the double whammy of (1) fear that their own behavior in high school and college, if known, could end their political careers; and (2) fury at any woman who dared to stand in the way of a white man getting what he wanted.

For a few minutes, Senator Jeff Flake exhibited a conscience, and a backbone, and there was hope that further investigation would tease out what even Republicans knew to be true but didn’t care about – that is, that in his earlier years, Kavanaugh was a heavy drinker who exhibited a lack of respect for women (which in turn suggested that he was very much the kind of guy who might assault a vulnerable young woman, especially if he was being egged on by a drunken buddy at the time). I think those same people understood that Kavanaugh had probably lied to the SJC, but they just didn’t care.

An investigation ensued. It appears to have been

woefully inadequate and limited. Many who alerted the FBI to information that would have been damaging to Kavanaugh never got a call back. People who perhaps could have provided greater clarity as to the cryptic content of Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook entry were not interviewed. Who knows if the Safeway where Dr. Ford claims to have encountered Mark Judge several days after the assault was ever contacted.

The FBI issued its report at the same time as the man who ordered it mocked and derided Dr. Ford to audiences all too happy to laugh right along with him. GOP senators issued statements in which they inexplicably professed to finding Dr. Ford – who testified that she was “100% sure” that Kavanaugh had assaulted her – credible, but nonetheless concluded that Kavanaugh had nothing to do with whatever had happened all those years ago.

In the court of public opinion, women called Ford either a brave hero or a dim-witted puppet of the Democratic political machinery. Those who supported Kavanaugh justified his TTEP (temper tantrum of epic proportion) before the SJC as understandable given what he and his family had so unfairly endured. Kavanaugh’s experience as a Supreme Court nominee even became a rallying cry for the #hetoo movement, and we as a nation were actually asked to commiserate with men who would now, in the context of their sexual encounters, have to exercise caution and endure the disbelief of strangers in the event that an allegation of rape was later advanced.

For a few hours on Friday, it seemed possible that Kavanaugh would not be confirmed, but as Senators Flake, Collins, and Manchin made their politically-motivated intentions known, the awful truth finally and mercilessly registered in my brain and was indelibly imprinted on my hippocampus, or whatever part of the brain records forever the twin emotions of grief and despair.

As I watched Collins’ floor speech with two of my daughters and the mother who raised me to be a nasty woman, I felt myself on the verge of tears. This was going to happen. There was nothing left to do. Protests and fury were futile. Once again, those in power chose to disregard what is more likely than not true, in order to accomplish a political gain.

I have never been sadder by what seems to be happening to our country. There appear to be no consequences for the outrageous behavior of the well-heeled and powerful, and women, when they confront men on their bad behavior, will be believed only when the experiences of those who are accused of wrongful conduct cannot somehow be used to advance the political goals of those in power.

That’s why no man in government cared that Harvey Weinstein or Les Moonves or even Roger Ailes were ousted from positions of great power following evidence that they had sexually assaulted or harassed women, because those men, and the things they were accused of doing, could not be twisted into a sound byte which would support their political agendas. It was easy to pay lip service to the to the #metoo movement, or, better still, to invoke their status as father, son, husband or brother to a woman who deserved to be treated with respect.

I have no idea what comes next, or if I can even stomach any continued involvement in or painstaking scrutiny over what happens in the hallowed halls of government. I don’t know that I can keep watching, and exhorting, and screaming about the blatant injustice that happens virtually every day in the Era of Trump.

What I do know, if I know anything at all, is that during the summer of 1982, two very drunken young men tried to rape a 15 year old woman. One of those men has acknowledged in print, and in unflinching detail, to his “wasted” youth, including the inebriated exploits of one “Bart O’Kavanaugh,” a name too conveniently similar to the manner in which Kavanaugh referred to himself in those days to be a coincidence.

The other man will now sit on our nation’s highest Court until he dies or decides to step down.

Thats what passes for “Justice,” in America, in 2018.

I Won’t Shut Up And You Shouldn’t Either

Called Senators Collins, Flake and Murkowski tonight. Had to leave voicemail. Hope they listened.

They won’t.

So. Here’s what we’ve learned…what we should know 27 years after Anita Hill, but probably still won’t have done anything about 27 years from now:

1. It would be worse for BK to not be confirmed than that a victim of sexual assault be believed.

2. There is no end to how gullible some women are, and how easily manipulated they can be. As an example, here are a few things that were said to me BY WOMEN when I attempted to have a measured, peaceful conversation with those who support BK:

“Ford is a stupid Valley Girl” (NB.. she has a Ph.D. In neuroscience, and I don’t think you even know what a hippocampus is)

“Those Dems are lying sacks of shit”

“36 years she’s lying. If something happened she would have said something. She’s a liar.”

“Wendy, you’re mentally ill.”

“Wendy, you’re passive aggressive.”

“Wendy, you don’t know anything about the law or BK.”

“I read Kavanaugh’s opinions except I didn’t actually read his opinions I just said that to sound like I form my own opinions based upon empirical data but I’m lying and how dare you actually read his opinions and tell me what they say!! “

3. Mark Judge wrote a book that discussed the drunken debauchery of “Bart O’Kavanaugh.” BK wrote a letter about BEACH WEEK LETS GET DRUNK AND PUKE ON EVERYTHING signed “Bart Kavanaugh” AND NO ONE THOUGHT TO ASK WHETHER HE LIED ABOUT HIS DRINKING. Because lying isn’t important.

4. Let’s write a letter to the WSJ trying to explain our insane, obnoxious behavior before SJC.

Wait…what? You want a do over???

That’s what you chose to say, you lunatic! On national television. You’re a federal judge, and that’s what you thought was the best face to put on your nomination???

(4(a): From the Republican members of the SJC: If you’re a white man who drank so much in college you just can’t remember how many women you assaulted…hey, we get it! We did that shit, too! God, how awful for you to have people challenging you on that!!! It’s OK, buddy!! Thoughts and prayers, BK. God, how you have suffered.)

5. Male. White. Straight. Christian. Western European. The rest of you, roll over, shut the fuck up, and wait to be penetrated. How dare you demand to be treated with dignity and respect.

6. “What goes around comes around.” Uh huh. Yes, it does. #2045iscomingwhiteboy

7. Justice = conducting a full investigation of anyone who could shed some light on whether or not BK is a serial drinking assaulter. Since he probs doesn’t remember.

8. Fuck those 1,000 law professors, the ABA, and Justice Stevens. What do they know? #trainingthenextgenerationoflawyers

9. Red State America say…FUCK THE VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT. Red State men say, women are vaginas. Red State women say, that’s okay and #idontneedfeminism

(But please watch me blinking in Morse Code to save me. Please. Also, he’s got 13 year old girls locked in a shed).

10. Wake the fuck up, America. Wake the FUCK UP.

Some Thoughts on Christianity and Our Faithless Leader

Although I believe that our current president is doing a woefully awful job and has engaged in conduct that warrants his ouster, I find all the coverage of his skirt chasing 15 years ago tiresome. Was there anyone out there who didn’t know he was an unfaithful degenerate who would sleep with anything that moved (particularly one with enormous breasts and dubious career choices)? Is anyone truly surprised to learn that he routinely cheated on his third wife, when the New York Post covered every sleazy detail of the affair that ended his first marriage (remember “best sex I ever had”?) Can you credibly say that you’re shocked to hear that he engaged in unprotected intercourse with both a Playboy Playmate and a porn star?

Of course not. And sure, perhaps there were payoffs that violated federal election laws (not to mention, depending upon whom you believe, the lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct). But whether or not he had sex with these women (he did) has nothing to do with whether or not he’s fit to lead (he isn’t), and it’s a topic that we as a nation have no standing to judge – that right belongs exclusively to his wife, who entered into a marriage with a pig, knowing full well that he was a pig, likely because being married to a pig was an acceptable trade-off for the lifestyle that said marriage would afford her.

So, until there’s proof that these assignations and the non-disclosure agreements that followed can be linked to illegal behavior – and I love Anderson Cooper as much as the next person – enough.

Here’s what IS worth discussing: The deafening silence of “Christians” who can’t figure out how to condemn this piece of crap without taking their foot off the Anti Abortion gas pedal. They know he admitted to assaulting women. They know he’s been accused of assault by almost a dozen others over two decades. They know that he’s about as much of a Christian as I am an Australian sheep farmer, but so single-minded are they in their quest to end legal abortion that they will twist themselves into a constrictor knot trying to apologize for his behavior.

They say it happened years ago (it likely continued right up to the point that he was too much in the public eye to be able to get away with it). They say he is a “changed man” (though there is no evidence whatsoever that he has). They say they believe in the redeeming power of God to forgive, and that only God can judge (unless, of course, you’re talking about a politician who supports a woman’s right to choose).

Here’s the thing, Party of Family Values: If you’re going to embrace the president as a beacon of ethics or moral leadership, you don’t EVER get to condemn any politician or celebrity or sports figure or whatever for not conforming to your so-called “Christian values,” because you’ve already demonstrated that the only “value” you care about is ending legal abortion. Whether or not that’s a worthy goal is an argument for another day, but stop pretending to be the standard bearer for what’s right and what’s wrong in the eyes of Christ.

I know plenty of “Christians,” and I know plenty of people who have at the center of everything they do or say love of and devotion to Christ and his teachings. The latter have made it their life’s work to walk in His path to be of service to the poor, the sick, the homeless, the discouraged. They live their faith, they know they are imperfect, and they are guided by humble, loving hearts that teach tolerance, forgiveness and social justice. And yeah, I can’t read their minds or see into their hearts, but I CAN see what they do and listen to what they say.

Every one of this latter group of people is deeply troubled by the arrogance, self-aggrandizing, tyrannical power junkie that holds our nation’s highest office. While they, too, may wish for a day when Roe v. Wade is overturned, they recognize the contemporaneous and urgent needs of children living in poverty, our obligation to preserve the environment so that people will be able to continue to live on Earth for the foreseeable future, and that being “pro life” means you also have condemn the death penalty. They also refuse to swallow the wholesale bullshit pedaled by Evangelical leaders that Donald Trump is a good Christian (note to said leaders…would you actually suggest that your congregation follow his example?)

Stop pretending that our president (it still pains me to refer to him in that capacity) is anything other than what he is: A morally bankrupt carnival barker who gathered a fearful, ignorant base of people who see diversity as a threat and education and knowledge as the enemy. A man who will embrace any organization, regardless of agenda, so long as it can be easily manipulated into supporting him.

How long, “Christian” Trump supporters, will you continue to support him? Because you’d better believe that if NARAL or NOW could offer up a similar number of mindless sheep who could as easily be hoodwinked into buying into his agenda (which boils down to amassing as much power and unquestioning fealty as he can), his next Supreme Court nominee would make William Brennan look like the leader of the Federalist Society. The only way he’s been permitted to get away with a systematic dismantling of our government and the rule of law is your silence and complicity. And to those who have criticized me for my anti-Trump posts, yes, I mean you and all whom you purport to speak for.

Being a Christian means having respect for all people, including women. It means leaping to service to help those in need. It means a deeply committed love for one’s fellow man, regardless of color, race or creed (which will probably come in handy when White Christians are the minority in this country, a time which is coming in the not-too-distant future). It means loving God with all your heart, your mind, your soul, and your strength. It’s about humility and compassion. And if you don’t want to take it from me, a devout agnostic, take it from the New Testament, because that’s what Christ and his followers who wrote is had to say. I’ve read it. Trump supporters, have you?

I don’t care who he slept with, and when I listen to Karen Mcdougal or stormy Daniels, mostly what I feel is sad. When I think of the president’s young son, and what he is surely exposed to on a regular basis despite what I suspect are the best efforts of his mother, I am sadder still. None of this really matters, though, unless you’re a right wing Christian conservative trying to convince The American public that Donald J Trump is good man devoted to the teachings of Christ who acknowledges any “higher power” than himself.

And that’s all I have to say about that. Peace.