Of mice and sleep

winterberries2This hasn’t been an easy week at my house. Sickness and sleepless kids. Not fun at all. But it is Friday and we do seem to see the light at the end of it all.

I often feel like I shouldn’t be whining so much about my lack of sleep. I mean, everybody is sleep deprived to some extent. I’m nothing special. I can’t help it though. I don’t know how others deal with it, but I can barely make it through the day. It feels like torture. Understandably, since it is torture. Although, apparently, the American public believes that it is the most acceptable form of torture.

Now, forgive me a short digression, but don’t you hate the euphemisms used nowadays to make the atrocity that is war seem less of an outrage? Calling soldiers “troops” so they sound less human and we are less shocked when we hear about these young people’s violent deaths? Calling torture practices “enhanced interrogation techniques” so that we feel that they are justified instead of inhuman acts that are abhorrent by any standard of morality? On the other hand, it just shows how much language matters and how it can shape what we feel about events. Language is such a powerful tool of manipulation, and it has been used so masterfully throughout time by politicians, religious leaders and marketers, with the help of the media, to shape us into the confused, scared and angry little mice that we seem to be today.

Right. Well, things are happening in the world this scared mouse is too tired most of the time to even become aware of anything, even what’s right under her nose. But soon things will be better. Soon.

It doesn’t help this week that I am about to finish a technical communication class I am taking, and I need to submit the final project on Saturday. My project was to create an informative website on author platforms. It has been fun. I might actually make the website public soon, because it could be useful for people, who knows. I am also trying to learn a new website building software, which is a lot of fun. Any day now I’ll probably make some changes over here, because this website right now looks so bad on tablets and phones! Not acceptable these days, right? Now when you have hoards of people waiting to read your every word the instant you publish it on your mega-successful blog, like not me. But still, I’m practicing my web design skills over here, so this website is, ultimately, good for something. Hurray! Now back to her wheel this mouse swiftly goes.


It is too hard to talk about what happened on Friday in Newtown, Connecticut. It’s too painful, too unbearable. It doesn’t seem real, and it will never make sense. It’s too much to bear. What we must talk about is what we can do to make unthinkable events never happen again.

This is the time when we need to come together and do something. It is the time when we need to talk about gun control, about how we deal with mental illness in this country, about overexposure to violence in the media, movies, video games, and we need to look at ourselves and how we disconnect from one another and choose isolation instead of community. Community is healing and protective, and many of us don’t have that support. Mass violence is not an accident and it is not caused by “pure evil.” It is caused by people and their circumstances. And there is something we can do about it.

We have no more time to wait. This is when we need deal with gun control issues, with mental illness treatment and support, and with changing our culture of violence and isolation. It’s when we need to stop arguing with each other and act in every direction we can think of until we start to feel safer again. Until our babies are safe. Until we feel like this world of ours is not pure evil.


Sandra-Fluke1I do not like to get into political discussions and I didn’t do it, for a very long time. Unfortunately, time is running out, and I believe that every one of us has the duty to say the truths that need saying, so that this world does not go spiraling down into the dark ages again.

I am sure that most of my readers know by now about the fact that a political commentator has horribly insulted an outspoken women’s rights activist, Sandra Fluke, (along with almost any other woman in this world) by calling her (and every other woman along with her) a slut because she is in favor of contraceptives for women being covered by health insurance. If you didn’t know about this, take a few minutes to watch your heart rate go up, get filled with really violent urges, then try to gather some of your composure.

I do not need to defend Sandra Fluke here, because she is so unbelievably self-possessed, composed and so outrageously smart, that she can do it better than anyone else. I just saw her on The View and wow, this is the person whom they do not let speak in front of Congress, while allowing that … man to poison the radio waves? I do not need to speak for Sandra Fluke, but I do need to speak for women. I do need to speak for myself.

“Slut” is a word that does not describe anything in nature. This is an abstract noun used against women to make them feel like they are lesser human beings. This sort of language is not acceptable in any public forum in a civilized world.

But the words this … man used, as unbelievable as they are, are the lesser of wrongs here. The bigger problem here is that this type of rhetoric is trying to undermine a very clear and simple right of women to have their medical needs covered by health insurance. This is not about tax payers giving their money for contraception, but about employers and insurance plans who should not be allowed to opt out of covering contraception based on faith and “moral” objections. So first of all, this is not about women getting anything “for free,” OK? It is clear that some part of the political spectrum wants people to misunderstand this issue. This is not about charity. This is about the basic human right to basic medical care. But sure, we are women, so our human rights are lesser than the rights of other humans who do get Viagra on health coverage and nobody uses any slur against them.

(I do not want any of my words to be construed as an attack against men. Many men are open-minded and intelligent to understand the social injustice that women face and not to condone it. There are also many close-minded men and women, and the world we live in is a man’s world [in most ways]. It is this world that needs changing, a change that can be brought about by those open-minded men and women together. Together. Having only men testify regarding women’s needs for healthcare is not acceptable.)

If you feel you are on the fence about this, think about one thing: the United States is the developed country with the most unwanted teenage pregnancies. U.S. does not have “a high” teenage pregnancy rate, nor “one of the highest” teenage pregnancy rates: it has “the highest” rate. It is a fact. As a parent, as a productive and proud citizen of a prosperous, wondrous country, aren’t you shocked about that? As a woman, aren’t you in tears with outrage? Do you think that is right? That it is fair? That it is how things should be?

The thing is that contraception has been recognized as one of the main contributors to women’s liberation success. It is not an issue of “personal sexual recreational activities,” as it has been called by Rush Limbaugh in his so-called apology. Without contraception (and I am solely speaking here of contraception used for birth control, not other medical issues, which are many) women would not be able to step out of the house and into the public/work space any more than they did in the middle ages. If you take that back from women, you can erase a few hundred years of history and struggle of very courageous women that came before us.

Another problem that I cannot help but decry is that religious freedom of the employer is being invoked while debating the issue of covering contraception for women. So, if my employer, who most likely is white, older and male, has any religious affiliation (most religions will not support many women’s rights), he has the right to deny me coverage for contraception. So his religious rights would trump my religious rights. Do you see anything wrong there? Religious rights are supposed to be personal. An employer can have the right to deny contraception for himself. He has no right to limit my own rights. It is the basic logic of human rights, isn’t it? Why is that logic absent from the political dialogue? As a woman, I feel that unfortunately most religious traditions let me down and fail to give me any rights whatsoever. So when we speak about “religious rights” again, we basically speak of men’s rights. And when our governing bodies are formed mostly of men who are allowed to decide women’s medical needs … what should we expect as a result?

We need to find more Sandra Flukes out there, who are not afraid to speak and get involved, who don’t flinch in front of disgraceful attacks. When someone resorts to such despicable tactics, it means they have no rational argument on their side. It means the irrational has replaced the common sense. It’s actually a good sign that things can only get better. Let’s hope that the debate cannot go lower than that. Our collective voice needs to be heard, though. The Sandra Fluke in each of us needs to speak out loud, unafraid, before it’s too late.

People also boycott the companies that support the Rush Limbaugh show through advertising. Several advertisers have already distanced themselves from the show by withdrawing their ads.