Category Archives: politics

Gender Equity and The Green Party

I consider myself a 4th wave feminist, which means that I believe that all social injustices are interconnected. I’m also a social worker who believes in systems theory, meaning that no problem can be fixed independently. Classism, racism, and sexism cannot be demolished by only working in one domain. Our understanding of political issues can’t be reduced to just working on racism without taking into account the classism and sexism that is undoubtedly attached to racism. So we can’t work on fixing sexism without taking time to look at how we can fix class and racism in order to establish an egalitarian society.

The Green Party’s ideology is organized into Four Pillars which are then broken down into 10 key values. Feminism and Gender Equity are part of the key values, and it was this value which caused me to switch parties from blue to green. See, Greens don’t just want Gender Equality, they want Gender Equity, and that’s an important distinction.

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The Four Pillars of the Green Party

What is Gender Equity?  It’s the idea of allocating resources and positions of power to those who are underrepresented. Part of the Green Party’s bylaws is that there has to be equal gender representation whenever possible. This is true for the Lackawanna County Greens, where I’ve been secretary for the past two years- of the executive committee there are two men and two women. This happened organically, but the value of gender equity is important because it at least recognizes that historically it has been very difficult for women to be elected to any position of power. Gender Equity widens the gap and welcomes and values women.

The Green Party on Feminism and Gender Equity:

“We have inherited a social system based on male domination of politics and economics. We call for the replacement of the cultural ethics of domination and control, with more cooperative ways of interacting which respect differences of opinion and gender. Human values such as equity between the -sexes, interpersonal responsibility, and honesty must be developed with moral conscience. We should remember that the process that determines our decisions and actions is just as important as achieving the outcome we want.”

The Green Party cares about the process (one reason why we don’t take corporate money). We care about integrity. We care about having a moral standing in face of deception and sensationalism. We care about intersectionality and are established on these values which makes the Green Party the the best party for 4th wavers to introduce their objectives, especially on the local level, to help create a more peaceful planet.

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A Quick Explanation of Brazile’s DNC Bombshell and it’s Apathetic Implications for the Future of Truth

Last week, Bernie supporters, DemExiters, and the remaining disillusioned Dems have had our beliefs proven by Donna Brazile’s recent book that finally reveals that the DNC rigged the 2016 election in favor of Hillary Clinton. Most of my compatriots who fall into the aforementioned categories have known that the DNC was not on our side since 2015, so Brazile’s claims aren’t necessarily news to us. However, it is a bit satisfying that our truth has been recognized as such, and that we aren’t the un-American, conspiracy theorists, election-sabotagers that the Democratic Party has made us out to be. I personally have not rejoiced over Brazile’s admittance, although I am grateful for it, because I think the Democratic PR Machine is working right now to dissolve this mess and replace it with their rallying cry of “We did nothing wrong!”. This post is to hopefully help people understand what happened, so that the truth is a bit harder to sweep under the rug.

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Key Players

Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC): 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary loser to Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic Presidential Candidate loser to Republican challenger, Donald Trump. Since her loss, she has been spending her time promoting her book, “What Happened”, which details the 16 reasons why she lost the election (none of the reasons have to do with her or her campaign, fyi).

Democratic National Committee (DNC): is the organization  that runs the Democrat Party. They help figure out who to run, craft the party’s platform, and create campaigns to get Democrats to win unilaterally across local, state, and national races. It’s main purpose is to raise money and then use this to best strategize ways to get their candidates to win. When people want to donate money to the Democratic party, the DNC is the beneficiary.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz (DWS): She was one of Hillary Clinton’s top aides for her 2008 campaign. She became the chair of the DNC in 2011, where she took Tim Kane’s position, who would later be HRC’s 2016 running mate. She resigned from the DNC in 2016 after emails were published that showed her preference towards HRC during the campaign, among other allegations. She was a close friend to HRC, and didn’t resign herself from the DNC during HRC’s 2016 run, which is pretty unethical considering the chair is supposed to be unbiased. I mean, how can you be unbiased when one of your BFFs, and someone who would give you a top job in her administration, is running for president? For further reading, see this post from 2015 where I was first critical about DWS’ bias for HRC and the lack of Primary Democratic Debates between HRC and Sanders.

Donna Brazile: Took over as interim chair of the DNC in 2016, when DWS resigned, until Feb 2017 when Tom Perez was voted in as chair. Her book, “Hacks“, which this article is based on, comes out November 7th.

Hillary for America (HFA): Hillary Clinton’s official presidential organized campaign.  Under FEC rules, the maximum individual contribution allowed to any candidate is $2,700.

Hillary Victory Fund (HVF): Hillary’s Super PAC- if an individual exhausted the maximum contribution to HFA, they could give an additional $353,400 to this PAC in support of HRC.  In 2016 they raised $529,943,912.

Brazile’s book talks about a conversation she had with Gary Gensler, Hillary’s Chief Financial Officer, when she took over the DNC in the summer of 2016.  He explained to her that in 2015, the DNC, under DWS’s rule, contracted an agreement known as “The Joint Fundraising Agreement between the Democratic National Committee, the Hillary Victory Fund, and Hillary for America”. Apparently, the DNC was in debt in 2015 due to Obama’s campaign, and DWS was a shitty fundraiser and manager.  Under this agreement, HRC would pay off the DNC’s 2 million dollar debt (which is kind of measly, right?) in exchange for having control over the Democratic Party’s finances, strategy, and all of the money raised. Anything that happened within the DNC and the decisions about everything from operations to messaging of the Democratic Party had to go through Hillary. HRC had control of the entire party, ultimately halting any potential support from the party to go towards Sanders. Brazile writes, “The campaign had the DNC on life support, allocating money each month to meet its basic expenses, while using the party as a fund-raising clearinghouse”. 

Brazlie’s book is the proof that all of us who dared to question HRC and the DNC had waited for: that Bernie Sanders’s chance at winning the 2016 primary was doomed from the start due to the pro-HRC biased messaging and spending disseminated throughout the US by the Democratic Machine (DNC), which had HRC at the helm. The question is, now that our beliefs have been confirmed, will anyone who refused to believe that HRC or the party did anything wrong acknowledge and accept this new reality? Sadly, I have my doubts. I believe that the DNC and HRC manipulated messaging and took advantage of creating and promoting identity politics which lead to the formation of the current militant group of anti-Trumpers/HRC lovers, who shun and shame any thought that is outside of the Democratic box. The HRC “Feminist” Facebook Moms, who identify and exploit the message that they were wronged due to no fault of their own, most likely aren’t willing to open their ears to Brazile’s truth, let alone accept it. And that’s the problem. Even though the truth is out there, even though it’s been clear that the deck was stacked since 2015, too many people aren’t willing to accept that their golden calf was actually a serpent  who cares nothing of truth, virtue, dignity, fairness, or the democratic process from inception.

Again, I sadly don’t expect much to happen from this news. I hope it helps persuade people to question the Almighty Democratic Doctrine, but my faith in this is pretty low. I guess all we can do is continue to strive for truth and hope others eventually recognize that the truth is more important than being right.

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I used Brazile’s book excerpt and the actual Joint-Fundraising Agreement as the main sources for this article.

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#METOO and Challenging the Patriarchy

I recently broke my number one rule about social media usage: don’t engage with people who aren’t willing to hear a different point of view. I took this stance about a year and a half ago and it’s been pretty beneficial to my mental health. I often see things posted on social media that irk me because I believe them not to be true, but I need to step back and recognize that the poster believes what they posted and that’s okay. Unless someone is soliciting feedback, I won’t engage, so most the time I brush off stupid facebook posts as just that- stupid. Now listen, I love talking about things I’m passionate about, and a large part of my interests are all things intersectional-feminism. I love engaging in real discussion IRL (this is one of the reasons why I miss graduate school so much), or as a proxy I will respond to comments on my blog or to direct messages, but these occurrences are few and far between lately. My practice of not engaging with people on Facebook has strengthened my own beliefs and values because I take the time to learn as much as I can about an issue so that I can write a cohesive and well thought-out blog post. Another one of my digital media rules is to write my blog with the only expectation being that it is self-serving to me. If other people read it, that’s way super cool, but the point of my blog is for my own catharsis, a placeholder for the discussions I often don’t get to have face to face.

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What a gross fat f*ck

So lately, all this stuff about Harvey Weinstein and the the #metoo campaign has got me a little bit optimistic because I think this is perfect timing to push for real pro-feminist measures, like Affirmative Consent. I know some people (mostly men from my observations) found all the #metoo posts surprising, but I think most women were pretty chill about it, since sexual harassment is part of the woman experience. I think the #metoo campaign has been pretty successful in getting the conversation really rolling, and opening up a lot of people’s eyes to the enormity that is sexual harassment and misogyny behavior.

This brings me to the stupid Facebook comment-discussion I had. Basically, the person was saying that if the victims of Weinstein knew about his predatory behavior than why did they choose to go to his hotel rooms? I tried to explain my understanding of what this might feel like, based on my own worldview and experiences as a woman. I tried explaining to this person that there still continues to exist a hierarchy in male/female relationships, not in all arenas, thank God, but in many areas and aspects of life. It’s sad and antiquated, but unfortunately they exist. I tried explaining how I could imagine that this power relationship probably continues to exist in Hollywood culture (just as these abuses are able to exist in any closed system that is self-serving), as it’s been passed down from generations before. Women still do not have equal power in a lot of institutions and systems, and Hollywood seems to be one..Weinstein’s behavior was normalized by never being questioned, and therefore it was validated and allowed to continue. Weinstein’s victims probably experienced cognitive dissonance when they were walking to the hotel room, but they were in the weaker position in this power imbalance where saying no had worse consequence than being coerced into sex.

I related this to my own experiences of dealing with this imbalance in male-female relationships. When I was 19, I worked full time in the service industry where the assistant manager was a creep. This assistant manager used to make offhand comments and would buy our uniform blouses a size too small. I would be as cold-shouldered as possible towards this man, but I watched many other female co-workers put up with him constantly making innuendos, hitting on them, commenting on their bodies, etc. I couldn’t stand up to him, because I needed my job, and I was in a work-culture where this behavior was tolerated. He made my schedule and I worked basically the same hours as he did, so had I tried to stand up, I knew there would probably be retaliation. I knew that it was wrong that I had to put up with this behavior, but I also knew that it was normalized and if I wanted to keep my job or at least keep my job as stress free as possible, then it would be best that I keep my mouth shut. Happy ending: he was eventually fired for other reasons. But here’s a takeaway: I didn’t even really realize that this was that big of a deal. Because it was totally normal and I had experienced instances like this before in my short life then, and I have continued to experience power inequalities over the next decade.

The person I had the facebook disagreement seemed to be most offended when I insinuated that he was victim blaming. He said that we don’t leave our cars unlocked in shady neighborhoods and then expect people to be shocked or feel bad for us when our car is stolen, and therefore we shouldn’t be shocked or feel bad for the women who went willingly to Harvey Weinstein’s hotel room since they knew his reputation. I explained to this person that I could understand his frustration about this seemingly double standard of accountability. Then I let my emotions get the best of me, and told him that I could understand how it’s hard to not blame the victim in these situations. I knew that this would stir the pot, but I felt it necessary to call out what his argument deduced to. The is a difference in these two examples based on their context- one exists without a power dynamic, one exists within a power dynamic. The problem isn’t Weinstein in this case, it is the SYSTEM that supports and normalizes this behavior which is the larger, overarching perpetrator. Patriarchy is the real problem, and even though these women knew about Weinstein’s reputation, they were still in a system that enabled such coercion.

See, this is the intersection that I care about in this whole thing. It’s not the sensationalism that there are so many abuses in Hollywood against those in lowered powered positions, which is horrific in itself, it’s the fact that we live in a Patriarchal society where such abuses of power can take place. Calling out abusers can be extremely empowering for victims, which is why I think the #metoo campaign has been so successful. Sadly though, acknowledging that sexual abuse is rampant will not change its pervasiveness if we continue to live passively in this system that supports inherited power relations between genders.

Our entire world history is a patriarchal one, and we’ve only just began to shift the locus of control on the continuum of power towards a more balanced society. Women haven’t even been voting for 100 years yet. Too often I observe areas where we are stuck in ingrained ways of thinking, and the solution is to reexamine these beliefs! Moving from a Patriarchal society to a more inclusive and intersectionally just one is going to take work, and it is going to take the type of momentum that the #metoo campaign had 100 times over. We have to reexamine how our society understands our own values, and then change our beliefs and behaviors based on these principles. And guys, we can do it. If we can all begin to envision a world where gender hierarchy doesn’t exist, then we can have a world where gender hierarchy doesn’t exist.

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Healthcare is Confusing Part III: The Uninsured and Serious and Terminal Illness

So, this is one of those mega questions that I think all of our discussions about how we pay for and organize healthcare should boil down to: How does someone who is uninsured pay for treatment for serious, progressive or terminal illness? Guys, this shouldn’t be a hard question. The answer should reflect the value and theoretical framework that our healthcare infrastructure is based on. But, no surprise here, this is not the case in America. Our currently healthcare system is not based on valuing health, but on valuing profit. American healthcare is concerned more about money made than lives saved, and the answer to this question isn’t easy or simple.

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I mean, it’s not that crazy of a premise these days. 

I’m a social worker at a free clinic for those who are working but are uninsured or underinsured. Rita (not her real name) came into my office a month ago. She had short, gelled and spikey brown hair, stood about 5’4” and couldn’t have weighed more than 100 pounds. She was wearing short sleeves that showed off her barbed wire tattoo around her right bicep and a faded rose on her left arm. She didn’t have an ounce of fat on her, and looked closer to 25 than her actual age of 45, with the exception of her tired eyes. She was the assistant manager of a local 24-hour gas station and once refused to give up her drawer to a man who was robbing the store. This didn’t surprise me.  Rita reminded me of a few tough women I’ve known in my life, a few women who have been through some real hardships in life, and I immediately liked her- I immediately cared about her.

As soon as she sat down, Rita warned me that she was “a bitch”, and started to tell me about herself. She just moved back to the city a year ago after spending the past five years with an abusive boyfriend, living in a trailer park in rural Pennsyltucky. Once she got the courage to leave, she moved into an apartment in a housing project that her elderly mother and deteriorating aunt lived in so that she could help take care of them. She loved her job as the assistant manager, especially finding and firing the “scumbag thieves” who stole from the store during their shift.

Rita’s gynecologist, who is a volunteer at our clinic referred her to me. “I found out two days ago have cervical cancer and I don’t have insurance”. My heart dropped. I asked her how she was dealing with this news, which she replied that she couldn’t do anything but keep up her normal routine. She hadn’t told the few people she had in her life- her aunt, mother, and co-workers, and wasn’t planning on telling them anytime soon. She had no support group and was trying to figure out what to do on her own. She explained further that she didn’t have insurance from her job- she started as part time and once she moved to full time status they never offered her health insurance. She would be able to enroll in two months when her job offered open enrollment, but even then, the actual coverage wouldn’t start until January 2018. The cancer was progressing fast and her doctor needed to start treatment now.

I didn’t know what to tell her. I knew she made too much to qualify for Medicaid, but I didn’t want to discourage her. I told her to go home and I would call her as soon as I could with a solution. The truth was that I had no idea what the solution would be and was overwhelmed thinking about how this woman who was so full of life was going to die because she couldn’t afford stupid insurance.

Luckily, the answer in this case scenario came easily enough. Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program contracts with The Healthy Women Program which offers a medical assistance to women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer. The paper work was simple enough- send in 2016’s tax filings, proof of income for this year, and proof of the cancer. I made phone calls all day, and by 5:00 I was able to tell Rita that I had begun her application for medical assistance. I spoke with a representative from the managed care company, who The Healthy Women Program sub-contracts, after I filled out her application and was informed that the processing time would be 5-10 business days. I spent the next day completing the application for Rita, getting all of her paperwork in check, and pestering the Healthy Women Program to send the final application to the County Assistance Office for final approval. I checked in with Rita throughout all of this, and she was a fucking warrior. The weekend went by and Monday morning, Rita told me that her doctor informed her that she was going to need to get a procedure done ASAP and start treatment for the cancer- apparently, the cancer was worse than they originally thought. When I got off the phone with Rita, I got in my car and drove to the County Assistance Office to see what was going on with her application since no one had returned my phone calls. Luckily, I was able to speak with a reluctantly kind case worker and I pleaded for her to expedite Rita’s application. The case worker told me that they didn’t expedite any applications and she couldn’t talk to me at all about Rita’s application due to confidentiality, however the caseworker asked me for Rita’s phone number and called her right there to finish the application process. This caseworker didn’t have to do this, and I am so grateful that she listened to my pleas.

Rita was able to get medical assistance and started treatment by the end of the week. I’ve been keeping in touch with her, and she’s still working even though she’s really tired. She’s going to take FMLA, but wants to wait until she absolutely needs it. The cancer is progressing, but she’s not letting this get her down. I keep telling her that she’s a warrior, and she ends each phone call with thanking me for saving her life. I don’t know if Rita is going to live, but I’m so grateful that she was able to get treatment- it’s the happiest ending I could realistically picture of this scenario.

This wouldn’t have been a happy ending if Rita had a different type of cancer or any other serious or terminal illness. There wouldn’t have been a happy ending if Rita lived in a different state that didn’t have a program like the Healthy Women Program. Not to toot my own horn, but Rita was lucky to be referred to me- had she not had someone who was familiar with the confusing systems of American healthcare, and someone who would advocate for her, I guarantee her application wouldn’t have been processed so quickly. Rita got lucky that there was a program that could help her, and see, that’s the problem right there. No one should have to be “lucky” enough that their progressive illness is one of the few that is covered by specialized, state-administered, programs. Someone who is diagnosed with cervical cancer in Arkansas should be able to receive the same healthcare as a person who is diagnosed in Pennsylvania. People who are dying should automatically be eligible for medical assistance and obtaining this assistance shouldn’t be as complicated as it is now.

So, what is the answer to what happens to people who are uninsured and are diagnosed with a serious, progressive illness? There’s a small chance that there may be a specialized program to help pay for their specific illness. There’s also a small chance that they will be picked as out of thousands of other applications for a scholarship, grant, or charity care from large non-profits and foundations. There’s also a small chance that magic Jesus is gonna skateboard down from the heavens to lay hands and miraculously cure the person immediately. The more likely answer is that they person suffers and then dies. People who are uninsured are already unhealthier than those who are insured. Poor people are at a higher risk for serious illness than the middle class. People who are uninsured aren’t able to access preventative care, and thus will more likely have poor and deteriorating health. This is all such a bummer and such a fucking problem. This is the huge question that should be answered based on a collective value, but there are very few people of power who will admit that America healthcare values money over health. I don’t know what the answer is, and I pray that I don’t have to help anyone else in Rita’s situation who isn’t as lucky as she, but I know that I will, and that that patient is on their way.

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Healthcare is Confusing Part II: The Opioid Epidemic

I live in Northeastern Pennsylvania, an area that has been affected by drug addiction and rampant alcoholicism for as long as I can remember. I personally know more people who have died from drug overdoses than any other type of death. And almost all of these people were under the age of 35 when they died. I lost one of my best friends to a heroin overdose in 2008 when she was only 19 years old and a freshman at Penn State University. I lost a close family member to an overdose in 2011 who left four children and two grandchildren (along with many others who loved her creative and beautiful spark). My response to all of this is: Heroin (and prescription opioids) really suck.

There is no clear answer on what will end this “epidemic”. People are quick to make judgement on what should be done based on their personal worldview, which can be dangerous when forming any opinion. Recently, DAs have been charging people who have provided drugs that caused a person to overdose with homicide and manslaughter. I’ve been hearing the rallying cry crescendo over the past few months- “DEATH TO DRUG DEALERS!”.  In my opinion, although this may dissuade a few people to stop selling drugs, it isn’t the answer. And holding someone responsible (the person who sold the drugs) for the person who overdosed decision is an area that has the potential to create a dangerous precedent. We don’t hold gun owners responsible for people who kill themselves, right? We don’t jail Nabisco executives for those who died from diabetes or other sugar-causing illness, right? Now don’t get me twisted, I don’t think that we should be okay with people selling illegal drugs (or selling legal drugs illegally), but holding them responsible for this epidemic isn’t going to stop it, because it’s not looking at the real problem, the dangerousness of addiction, the availability of opioids, and both the lack of availability for drug and alcohol treatments and effective models to help people live sober lives after they’ve been addicted to drugs.

So what does the opioid epidemic actually look like? Someone only needs to visit the twin cities of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, to see an example of an area affected by addiction. People used to line up at a walk in Ready-Care clinic at 7am in downtown Scranton in order to be the first to get their script for Suboxone, a medicine akin to Methadone, which acts as the bridge between addiction (originally created for treating heroin addiction) and sobriety. The problem with Suboxone is that Suboxone has a high-risk potential for abuse, like all opioids. And, like all opioids in impoverished, rust belt cities, it is easy to get.

A few years ago, one of my friends was struggling with addiction to Suboxone and other opioids. Instead of the constant worry about getting in trouble for buying these drugs illegally, she wanted to get her own prescription for Suboxone. She also wanted to eventually get off of Suboxone, so having her own prescription would hopefully help her start the journey to living life without opioids. I ended up giving her a ride to a different walk-in clinic (about a mile from the one that people used to line up in front of), that appeared innocent and legitimate enough from the outside, but was actually just another pill-mill for those who wanted Suboxone. While in the waiting room, I spoke to a few other patients who were there for their “check up” with the doctor. I was told by one young man who was waiting for his routine check up to get his prescription filled, that all I needed to get a script of Suboxone for myself was to schedule an appointment (if I didn’t have insurance, that would be okay too, because the clinic had really good payment plans) and make sure I had some type of opioid/opiate in my system because they would give you a drug test. As long as your drug test came back showing that you had an opioid or opiate in your bloodstream to prove that you were addicted to an opioid/opiate, then they would start you on Suboxone. Easy as pie.

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Suboxone wrapper I found in my yard. It’s everywhere.

I was in shock. That’s all I needed to do? Just take a Vicodin or Percocet or whatever and bam!- I would have a script for a month for my own Suboxone. This really troubled me. My friend who I brought to the clinic was proof of how easy it was to get a script of Suboxone. That’s all she did- took a drug test that showed she had opioids/opiates in her system and she was all set. No more worrying about buying drugs illegally because now she could buy them legally. No type of psychotherapy or AA/NA attendance was required and her appointment with the doctor lasted less than 10 minutes. It was clear that this Ready-Care only cared about keeping their waiting room packed with drug seekers than actually trying to help these patients dying in addiction.

Now that was a few years ago, and I do know that the clinic where people used to wait in line outside was raided by the FBI and two doctors were charged with Medicaid fraud, conspiracy, theft by deception and insurance fraud for submitting false claims. They also directed unqualified people on their staff to write prescriptions for controlled substances. I guess this is  a start for holding prescribers accountable, but I’m not sure how much that will dissuade other doctors from over prescribing opioids and opiates. And as far as I know, the other clinic where I took my friend is still operating as a pill-mill.

The Center for Disease Control lists the number one group of people most at risk for heroin addiction are those already addicted to prescription pain relievers. We know that people who become addicted to their pain pills turn to heroin when they no longer can get their medication. To personalize this a little- think about all the people who used to wait outside the walk-in clinic I mentioned above that got raided. Once that raid happened, and those doctors were charged with fraud, the people who were dependent on getting their pain pills or Suboxone there had to find a new way to get their drugs- and when the medical institutions won’t provide them, there are drug dealers with heroin that will do the trick.

The Center for Disease Control lists the number one step for preventing heroin abuse by reducing prescription opioid abuse. The CDC calls on doctors to implement better prescription practices. Now this seems pretty logical, right? If doctors know how to better understand pain and treat pain in ways that don’t involve medication, or at least limited use of medicine, then of course the number of people abusing opioids and opiates will drop. However, I have observed that this is a real point of contention for doctors.

Back in May I held a panel discussion about opioid abuse in NEPA, with the focus on speaking about solutions. I had the Scranton Police Chief Graziano, Democratic State Senator for the 22nd District, Senator John Blake, and two direct practitioners who work with opioid and heroin abuse in our area- Doug Albertson and Ricardo Horn. The panel was very well attended, and I was so happy to get so many different people in a room together to talk about one of the biggest issues in Northeastern PA.  However, when the discussion started to move towards prescription practices, an attendee decided to take over the panel and made sure that those in attendance knew his opinion on the matter. He walked right up to the podium, took the microphone away from the professional moderator, and went on a rant for about 10 minutes. What he had to say really opened my eyes to the need for better prescription practices. He was a surgeon who works for a small hospital in rural Pennsylvania. His tirade included blaming the audience, and not physicians, for people abusing opioids (that didn’t go over too well- any “you people”, literal finger-pointed statements don’t tend to bring positive discourse). He went on and on about how doctors aren’t the problem, and that it’s the people who don’t throw out their unused medications who are the real contributors to the opioid epidemic. He went on to say that when patients want opioid prescriptions, he will give it to them, because he can’t risk having a patient fill out a patient satisfaction survey negatively. tBut again, he reiterated, that it wasn’t doctor’s faults for overprescribing pain meds.

I very rarely get mad. I’m a pretty calm person, and my anger has always manifested in sadness or self-destructive behaviors towards myself. But I can say truthfully that when that doctor took over my panel that I worked months on organizing, that I spent countless hours researching the epidemic in order to write the best discussion questions that I could, well, I was really mad. After his initial tirade, he continued to stand at the front of the room next to the panelists until I had to walk up and ask him to sit back down. After I calmed down a few days later, I was able to look back on the experience and saw how this doctor is a perfect example of what is wrong in our medical milieu when it comes to prescription practices. He refused to see himself, and fellow doctors, as adding to the problem in any aspect. He diligently defended himself, although there was no reason to do so- he was never under attack, in front of about 100 people. My theory now is that he needed to absolve himself by taking over my event. And I think this is where the real problem lies. No one likes to be wrong, especially when it comes to a serious issue like opioid addiction. No one wants to take any type of responsibility for being a potential factor that is adding to the problem. This doctor refused to see the part he and fellow doctors played in over-prescribing opioids, and that sucks. I really had to question the ethics of this doctor as well- he was more concerned with getting a positive patient satisfaction survey back than the safety of his patient.

The blame game doesn’t work. The doctor blamed everyone but himself for adding to the opioid epidemic, and I see a lot of doctors and physicians unwilling to look at how it might be beneficial if they changed their prescribing practices. Nothing changes if nothing changes, and that’s a scary fact when we’re talking about people’s lives. There is no easy answer to fixing the opioid crisis, however we must start to be honest about what works and what doesn’t work. This applies to all things healthcare (and I guess, all things in everything). We aren’t going to make any progress in reducing the amount of people addicted to opioids/heroin until we examine to why it’s so easy to get addicted in the first place.

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“You just got your wisdom tooth pulled? Here’s 45 vicodins, make sure you take them with food and fill out a positive patient survey, let me know if you need anymore!”

I think a good place to start to try and figure out how to combat the opioid crisis is what the  CDC recommends- looking at how we prescribe pain pills. One thing that I found very surprising and alarming is the minimal education students receive in med school about addiction. The Association for American Medical Colleges and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (the accrediting body for Med Schools) have no clear requirement of hours for studying addiction. This is also true for other health provider trainings and education. I recently spoke to a physician assistant student who is in her last year whether she had any training on addiction or working with people with addiction. She told me that she thinks there might have been one lecture on the subject, but she couldn’t remember it. This is a big freaking problem.

We need our doctors and medical providers to understand addiction on a micro level, on a direct-practice level. They need to treat addiction and be aware of the potential for addiction risk in their patients. Medical schools need to increase and mandate hours of learning focused on addiction in their curriculum. Although opioids are obviously a money maker for Big Pharma, my hope is that one day we can treat addiction and pain in a holistic approach. Studies on mindfulness have recently shown how practices like mindful breathing and meditation can be effective for treating pain and in helping guide people towards a life without pain meds and addiction. Teaching patients about the risks of the medicine the doctors are prescribing can also be helpful so patients know what they might be getting themselves into. I hold a hope that one day healthcare in all of its aspects will embrace a holistic approach and look at how integrating the mind, body, and soul into treating pain is more effective than writing scripts after scripts for opioids.

When will any of this happen? When will we see any change? When will the line graph finally show a decline in overdoses and addiction? The answer is, I don’t know. But I think the only thing we can do is hold our prescribers accountable. How we do this is isn’t clear yet. But at least the conversation is starting, and that’s a good place to start.

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Who and Where Are Our Leaders?

Who and where are our leaders? This is a question that I have spent a lot of time mulling over throughout the past year. My mind probably first wrestled with this when Bernie Sanders conceded his nomination for the Democratic Presidential Candidate at the DNC last summer. I’m sure the emotions I felt watching the speech were similar to other Sanders supporters- the feeling of defeat, the disappointment in the American electorate and democratic process, and the frustration that the Democratic Party got away with rigging the election in order to, once again, demand support and submission to their chosen golden calf. It was a rough night, I cried knowing that the hope I had in my heart for a real revolution wasn’t going to come by way of electoral politics.

I would say that Bernie is still probably the most revered US political leader today, however his followers aren’t nearly as energized as they were a year and a half ago. The same is true for HRC supporters. The only other person with a continuous strong following is Trump, and I think this is just because his base fails to ever take responsibility that Trump is ever in the wrong (ie: Trump said we’re going to Syria which is another broken campaign promise. Does his base really care? Probably not. Somehow, they’ll still be correct in their own minds). So this is pretty depressing if our most recognized leaders are Trump and Sanders.

So, why is this? Why does there seem to be less leaders in the era of Trump and Post-Truthism? Is  political fatigue really the reason behind the lackluster support? Are people too tired to care anymore? I have to believe that tiredness is only partially to blame- the real problem is the lack of enthusiastic, idealistic, moral leadership available.

I finally finished Judgement Days which is about the heavy weighted relationship between LBJ and MLK and chronicles their work on the Civil Rights Bill. The revolutionary movements that were sparked by the 60s wouldn’t have happened without these strong leaders and who knows what worse of a state we’d be in had they given up on their convictions. And you know what’s crazy? While I read JD I kind of felt jealous that there were actual leaders, leading groups of people and entire movements towards a real goal. Groups like the ACLU, SNCC, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference all were lead by leaders with strong organizing skills and a passionate heart. Where are these types of leaders now?

LBJ and MLK Signing 1965 Voting Rights Act

LBJ and MLK Getting Work Done and Signing the 1965 Voting Rights Act

A great number of activist groups have popped up and grown since November 8th, which is really great and important. BUT, I have to wonder. Who are the leaders of these movements? BLM? DSA? Who are the leaders of the movements to get money out of politics (other than Bernie?) ? Who is leading the movements to end discrimination against LGBTQI where, even in places like Scranton, PA, it is legal for landlords and employers to discriminate against gay and trans people? Who is trying to create real gun reform? Or criminal justice reform? Who is trying to end the war on drugs? Where are these people, and if they exist, why aren’t they visible and vocal?

Maybe I’m out of touch. These people must exist, but what are they doing for their movements? And why aren’t they actively trying to form coalitions with these like-minded lib groups? It’s so frustrating. I’m happy to be part of a bunch of different activist groups, but I have to wonder, where are we headed? Sure, acting locally is going to allow us to do more work than shooting for national initiatives, but there needs to be an overall national goal, right? We need some kind of roadmap if we really want to transform this nation, but we’re not going to get anywhere if no one is at the front of the line leading the way. 

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“Don’t Mind Him, He’s A Republican” shouldn’t be a thing

 

Guys. We gotta end attaching the connotations that someone is bad or stupid based on their political party. It’s gotta end now before it adds to any more reasons to develop unwarranted hate towards others. Stereotypes already exist and we need to question our biases NOW. Here’s a quick example: One of my big projects for my policy class was on the proposed borderwall. Not surprisingly my group took a liberal approach to the problem.  One part of the project was a critique from the class. One of my classmates said that maybe we should’ve looked more at the argument that the borderwall would save Americans money somehow (even though our project clarified this myth). Anyways, he had to critique us, and it wasn’t anything malicious or mean, he was just doing his work as a student. After the class, he and one of his friends and I were talking about my group’s presentation and his friend says, “Don’t mind his remark, he’s a Republican”. I was really confused by this and said I don’t care what anyone’s political party is and laughed it off.

Since then, my eyes have been really open to how our culture is using political parties as a way to insult others. And this is a problem for a few reasons.

First, we really only have two political parties (please let me know if you want to come over the Green side…), so grouping people into two narrow ideologies is stupid. People are way more complex than just Blue or Red.

pinkerton

if i’m being honest, it’s pinkerton all the way.

Second, trying to insult someone based on their political party isn’t going to get anything done. I realize that this is way simplifying it, but just because someone likes Pinkerton better than the Blue Album doesn’t mean that either person is better than the other. When we value ourselves based on the hierarchy of perceived “rightness” or “correctness” we devalue others who are no better than us. People who voted for Trump are not inherently evil. I know this can be hard to subscribe to when the liberal echo chambers of social media and sensationalized news often infers the opposite. But this is where I think it’s important to realize- this is someone else’s opinion, and even though I agree with them on a lot of things, I don’t have to hate, or think less than, the people who don’t agree with them.

Third, reducing people to political parties constricts growth. We need to be eager to have friends from all different ideologies in order to learn! So here’s what’s up. I like the Green Party because it is the party that most closely aligns with my personal values. I realize that a lot of people don’t pick political parties based on this- they are often just born into their political party and don’t question it. However, having open-hearted conversations with people about their own beliefs can be really enlightening for both parties (as long as both parties are willing to listen to the other’s side). Most the time when I talk to my friends who are democrats or republicans, I learn something from their point of view. And more often than not, my own personal beliefs and arguments are strengthened by listening to their side.

So yeah. Short and sweet. We gotta stop using “She probably voted for Trump” as a derogatory term. And guys, I am TOTALLY AWARE THAT I HAVE DONE THIS IN THE PAST AS WELL! But I’ve decided to recognize that this bias is stupid and now am conscious to challenge it whenever it might rear its ugly head. We are in a strange time. We have to work together instead of cutting each other part.

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A Quick Explanation of “Cuck”

First off- googling “‘cuck’ sucks” is nsfw. i learned that the hard way.

cuck robot

it’s just a fucking dumb word for dumb people

Okay. So the word “cuck” (short for “cuckservative”) has been floating around the internet for the past year. Or, at least, I only started noticing it in the past year and it was pretty much reserved to the subreddits of /r/pol and /r/thedonald until a few months ago. Recently, I’ve been seeing “cuck” used as an insult, or to insinuate an insult, on more mainstream internet platforms like Facebook and I’ve also heard it used IRL, pronounced in a bunch of different ways.

I’ve been interested in the etymology of the word “cuck” for a while now, especially because of the alt-right implications, and finally devoted a few hours of a stormy Sunday afternoon to dig in. And boy, oh boy, what a mess I found.

So, I’ve always associated “cuck” with the alt-right. Now listen, my knowledge of the alt right is limited to grabya-headlines about Richard Spencer getting punched in the face and from Chapo Trap House’s explanation of  things like Alpha-males and their riveting reading series of people like Mike Cernovich. If I had to describe the alt-right, I’d say they are a loosely organized far-right group, majorly male, and who aim for a society that furthers oppressive patriarchy for capitalistic gains that is ultimately rooted in hate/fear. Their values revolve around preserving the white man’s race, so hello racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and all the other different ways to categorize hating one group of people that are not white.

Okay, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get back to “cuck”. The word itself sounds like a bad word. It starts off with that hard c sound (see: the same sound in the beginning of “cunt”), and ends in the hard “ck” (see: the same sound at the end of “cock”). The mere pronunciation sounds like words that we already deem as offensive. What my mind first went to when I read “cuck” for the first times online was the sound a chicken would make- cuck cuck cuck! You know, like cucking. Turns out, I was kind of right. “Cuck” is a derivative from “cuckoo bird”… and “cuck” is a shortened form of “cuckold”… and a “cuckold”, by the definition of dictionary.com, is a husband to an unfaithful wife…Okay, wait, what? Okay, okay, okay, let’s recap- The cuckoo bird, which is a bird depicted as “crazy” in many different folklores from around the world, is the root term for “cuckold”, who is the husband of a wife that has sex with other men, which is the root for “cuck”, which is the insult that this whole blog post is about.

So apparently, cuckold is also a porn genre… I’m not well versed in porn genres, but cuckold porn seems to take different forms, all involving a man’s wife having sex. Apparently, a lot of cuckold porn includes the unfaithful white wife sleeping with a black man, which relates back to the inherent racism that exists in the alt-right. Some men in online communities have even professed that they are proud cuckolds- they enjoy watching their wife have sex with another person. So, this is where I am confused- this isn’t really that crazy of a fetish, right? It’s not really all that taboo at all. So here I think is where the alt-right tried to morph this term into an insult. When the alt-right uses “cuck” or “cuckservative” they are calling out men who don’t subscribe to their creed as weak. “These cucks can’t even take charge of their life enough to keep their wives from cheating!” The alt-right are simply appealing to men’s vulnerability about masculinity . “Cuck” is aimed specifically to offend men- to question their masculinity… because a cheating wife is emasculating (in the alt-right’s opinion). I hope that the men I know have a strong enough sense of self and understanding of human relationships that they wouldn’t feel less masculine because their wife was unfaithful. It also is in the favor of the alt-right that “cuck” has a harsh pronunciation and sounds like an offensive word.

For cuckold to exist, a power hierarchy in genders must exist- The implication of the alt-right’s definition of cuck is based on the idea that men should be stronger than women, that they should keep their women in line, and that they should be manly enough to control their life. They try to make the association between cuck and lack of autonomy, and this bias is completely sexist. The idea that a husbands wife is cheating on him with a black man, well that is just unacceptable, the worst-of-the-worst, in the alt-right’s eye! Ugh, what a bunch of sexist and racist fearful little boys.

The evolution of this word is interesting because of its rapid spread throughout online political culture and it’s ambiguous pejorative use.  Any man who is not an alt-right pledgee, is by default a cuck (and therefore a beta, but that’s a whole different blog post).  If the alt-right was actively trying to recruit members, then they would need to rethink their messaging- “cuck” doesn’t pacify men any more than the word “bitch” or “pussy” does. But, I don’t think the alt-right is actively trying to recruit members. Sure, they allow for prospective members to come to them, but they aren’t necessarily marketing themselves in the mainstream. So that’s actually really comforting, because the alt-right doesn’t have nearly as much power as the internet will lead you to believe. They are simply a group of men, who sit behind computer screens, and believe that they are genetically better than non-white men, and that their genetic traits need to be preserved.

I feel like “cuckservative” or “cuck” is just a really dumb and lazy insult. I mean, “cuck” in itself has no real meaning. At least “pussy” has a meaning.  As far as “pussy”‘s etymology, I wonder what came first- the vagina or the insult? Who knows.  I guess where insults come from doesn’t really matter, but my money’s on vagina (my theory is “pussycat” being used as a sexual innuendo dating back to like the Elvis days).

Alright. So what would I want someone to get from this blog post? That the word “cuck” is stupid, and it shouldn’t be given any greater power than the measly muscles it already has. “Cuck” exists in the alt-right universe, and we don’t need to acknowledge that realm of the digital milieu if we don’t want to. Using the word “cuck” just associates you with the alt-right losers and honestly has no real meaning other than the meaning that we give to it.

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geopolitics is hard

globe puzzle

Geopolitics is a symbiotic jigsaw. When one piece seems to fit in place, another pops out. And this puzzle isn’t going to be put together anytime soon. Fuck, we don’t even know what the finished puzzle is supposed to look like. I believe that we’re entering a new era that is changing what that picture will look like and the pieced may have to be rearranged. Whether this era is postcolonialism, I’m not sure, but if we use the past 6 years as a proxy for what will come, I think it’s fair to say that authoritarian powers aren’t going anywhere.

What is happening in Syria is really fucked up. And how Syria got to the state it’s at isn’t a simple path to understand. I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can about Syria, and the Middle East, and man, when you’re used to learning about your nation that is only 238 years old, it takes some catching up to learn about the history of a region that covers over 3000 years. And here’s the deal- I don’t know what to think of anything. All I can tell is that neoliberalism is strengthening its hold, and just as what was predicted far before Trump even came into the picture, wars aren’t going to end when there is money to be made.

I’m not sure what can be done. I’m nervous after watching how buddy-buddy Trump was with people like el-Sisi and then learning about how seemingly rash the decision to bomb Syria was. My only hope is that America is too big for an authoritarian ruler- that the democratic system in place will safeguard us from what we witnessed in post-Arab Spring countries and that there are too many of us, including elected officials, and too little of them, ultimately the deep statists. However, if we look at the past, empires that were relatively as big as America have fallen, and that’s pretty depressing to think about.

I don’t know what to do. I know it is probably stupid, but for myself, I have to pray (meditate) for some real macro conscious raising- and that’s at a cognitive and spiritual level. We need to help other people understand why we go to war, how war profiteering works, what the dangers are that can lead the US to an authoritarian regime, and how to tune inward in order to produce more loving kindness in the world. I know, it’s hippie shit, but if I don’t believe that there can be good, then what is the point?

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It’s “International Women’s Day” For A Reason

international-womens-day

Just remember, it’s International Women’s Day, not United States of America Women’s Day.

A good measure of how individualistic we are as a country is demonstrated by our response to “International Woman’s Day” (which happens to be on Wednesday March 8th). I bet all the money in my bank account (roughly $112.23) that on International Women’s Day this year someone you know either posts online or says outright in conversation that women already have equal rights and that feminism is basically useless in a society that most claim to be utilitarian in nature. These ideas can’t be further from the truth, and I beg to claim that although American utilitarian virtues can eventually mobilize globally, we need straightforward approaches to making the world a better place for women, and to be confined to our borders as far as our actions go is both uneducated and harmful. We need to start thinking across borders and focusing on how we can help our sisters in countries that have yet to recognize the rights which we are afforded here in USA.

MLK famously said “An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere” or something along those lines (an injustice to anyone is an injustice to everyone? Is that the quote?). Anyways, that’s true. If there are shitty things happening across the globe, it is shitty to all of our human experience. So how do we react to this? What are we obligated to do when we hear that there is still female genital mutilation happening in African tribes? Or that in the Democratic Republic of Congo, rape is a common instrument of war?  How about the fact that honor killings continue to take place or that China practices femicide, purposely murdering baby girls after their born or aborting fetuses once the mother learns that she’s pregnant with a female child.

honourkilling protest

Women and men protesting honor killings, which are still commonplace in some areas of India. An honor killing is when a woman is killed if her family is unable to pay a large enough dowry or if she somehow shames her family and husband. It’s not uncommon for a woman who is raped to be murdered by her family in an honor killing. 

We have to think past what we are afforded and imagine this picture of life on a mass scale. Thinking big often gets me laughed at, but I’ll take it. I’d rather be laughed at imagining a better world then succumbing to the idea that the world has to be an awful place.  I also will argue that it is worse to pretend that atrocities don’t exist than to learn about them and ignore them. If you know these practices are happening, and you aren’t doing anything about it, how is it different than if FGM was happening in Kansas, rather than Africa, and you chose to ignore it? It’s not different. It might make us feel shitty that we aren’t actively working for an NGO, trying to educate tribe leaders to not pass down the custom of FGM, but not everyone can do that. There are other ways to act that are beneficial to making the world a better place for women.

So what can you do? 1.) Educate yourself and those around you. When people start to moan about International Women’s Day and how women have rights in America, tell them a little bit about why it’s so important that we think about this on a global level. Technology and communication has allowed us to become a global society, so we ought to start thinking about all aspect of society as such.

2.) Donate $5 right now to some type of womencentric organization. Here’s a few:

Planned Parenthood

Catherine McAuley Center

Working Group on Women’s Peace and Security

RAINN

Scranton Women’s Resource Center

3.) Educate yourself a little more. Make a commitment to follow one issue this year that you care about. I recommend using https://iwpr.org/ to find and follow efforts you care about. it’s also my current dream to work here, fyi if anyone knows anyone here who is hiring  ❤

 And if anyone comes at you about “International Women’s Day”, remind them that it’s not called “United States of American Women’s Day”.

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