Saturday, November 12, 2011

Stupid responses to abuse

As the news and Web chatter about the child-abuse case at Penn State grows and mutates, people all over the Web are understandably talking about it. This is a good thing: the more attention we bring to child abuse, the better. It is something we should stop.

Unfortunately, of course, some of the comments are offensively stupid. I've seen a few and had friends point me to others. Here are a few of the worst.

What did the child do to encourage the abuse?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nothing a child can do, no matter how outrageous the behavior, is reason enough for abuse.

In the main case here, we're talking an eleven-year-old boy being raped repeatedly by a grown man. Get this straight:

It is not the boy's fault. Rape is never the victim's fault.

It is the man's fault.

Come on, he was 11. That's hardly a child.

I'm so glad I only read this comment and didn't have someone say it to my face. I really don't want to get in more fights. I don't want to punch out a stranger.

This comment, though, deserves it. Yes, 11 is still a child. In case you haven't noticed, we have laws that specify when adulthood occurs, and 11 is years before that age. More to the point, though, just go see a few eleven-year-olds, or remember what you were like then. They are children. Period.

Why didn't the boy tell anybody?

Odds are, he tried. If he didn't, it was probably because the abuser told him not to, and because he was terrified. We're talking a child being raped by an adult in a position of trust. This child had no clue what to do, was terrified, violated, and in mental and physical anguish.

Why didn't the boy stop it?

First, see the punching comment above. Exactly how should the boy have stopped the abuse? Fought off the man? Over-powered him? Run away from home--a path as likely as any, by the way, to lead to more abuse? At age 11?

The boy was powerless.

I could go on, but you get the idea: When anyone tries to make this the victim's fault, that person is wrong. Period.

If you are an abuse victim yourself, and I am, you have heard all of these before. You have tried to tell people, and they have told you that what happened to you was your fault, or it was disgusting, or you should just get over it. You have learned to hide the abuse because surely, surely there was something you did to deserve it, something wrong with you that made this horrible thing happen to you, and you should have found a way to stop it.

No. No. No.

That is all bullshit. It is the set of lies others tell themselves to rationalize their acceptance of fundamentally unacceptable behavior or to avoid the ugly reality--an avoidance that encourages the continuation of these horrors.

Here is the simple, single most important truth:

It is not your fault.
You did nothing to deserve it.

You could not have stopped it.

It is not your fault.

In the Penn State case, it is not the fault of any of the boys. Saying otherwise is not only stupid but damaging, because each time someone says it, they condone abuse, and they are wrong.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thanks to the vets who paid--and are still paying

We should all take the opportunity today to thank the vets we know. Those who served in war paid a high price for doing their citizen's duty, and they are all still paying. I'd like to thank three different folks in this entry.

To my friend, Dave, I give my thanks for keeping it between the ditches even when going into them looked a lot less painful than motoring on. Dave's writing has helped a lot of fellow vets understand that they're not alone, that others do understand, and that though they may never again be who they were, they can spend a lifetime improving. I'm most particularly grateful for his friendship.

To my deceased stepfather, Edmund D. Livingston, Senior, I give my thanks for all the years of taking care of my mother, my brother, and my sister. Ed went ashore at Okinawa and watched as everyone around him was injured or killed. He was injured twice and carried shrapnel until the day he died. As I said at his wake, he wasn't my father--I was almost 17 when he and my mom married--but I would have been proud if he had been.

To Jester, a guy I know only in email, I give my thanks for holding it together and fighting every day not to use his training. We both know how easy that would be, but you are too strong, too good to give in. I thank you for putting back the tools of war, over and over and over.

Thank you, all.

Thank you, all who served.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pissed and embarrassed

My master's degree is from Penn State. I lived in Happy Valley for almost 18 months, 15 of them getting the degree and 3 working at a job I ended up hating. I've never had any huge love for the school, but I generally have fond memories of it, and I met a lifelong friend there.

I mention this because I'm pissed the child-raping scandal at Penn State has left me angry at the school and, irrationally, embarrassed at having ever been associated with it.

I understand that there's always a chance the allegations will prove to be unfounded, but based on the university's actions, I believe that's highly unlikely. (Ref., for example, this sports-oriented article. Or this one.)

Fans are feeling sorry for good old Joe Paterno. Fuck that. I have no sympathy. When you learn that an adult man has been raping a child, you don't call your bosses and shrug. You fire the guy, call the police, tell your bosses, and help the kid. You stop the abuse. I don't care if the abuser is your best friend or the most important person in your company; you stop the abuse. Period.

Fans are worrying over whether this event will color Paterno's great football record. I sure hope it does. He turned a blind eye to a man raping a child. He deserves all the suffering life can heap on him.

Fuck Joe Paterno and all the other gutless Penn State football and administrative staff who let this child raping continue. They deserve no sympathy. The raped child (or children, as it may well be) deserve our sympathy and our help.

The adults who let it happen deserve only our condemnation and the harshest penalties the law can throw at them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It's almost time... watch this movie again. Yeah, I know it's not Thanksgiving yet, so I'm not putting up any holiday decorations, but that doesn't mean the movie isn't in my thoughts.

You see, Sarah will be home in about five weeks, and she's already decreed we'll watch it that first night.

Hell, yeah.

That's my daughter.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tumor update

Today, I spent most of the afternoon in the offices of the Duke Health Clinic waiting for and then talking with Dr. Ramon Esclamado. Dr. Esclamado leapt out of the online research as one of the leading surgeons in the country for dealing with tumors of the parotid gland, which is of course what I have.

The wait was entirely unreasonable, well over 90 minutes, but at least I was able to do email from my phone. Eventually, I did get to see the man. Despite my request to send his office my records, my ENT office had not done that. Esclamado listened, asked questions, and checked out the tumor. (The tumor's name, by the way, is Hymie, a friendly name for a benign tumor.) He wanted to be 100% sure it was a Warthin's tumor and wanted his own pathologist to check the tissue sample--hey, this is Duke!--so I agreed to a second fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNA) right there and then. After all, it hurt not at all last time.

Ah, this time was a bit different. The pathologist came in and did not offer to numb the skin. She was moving fast and noted that she liked to take two extensive samples, i.e., to stick a needle in my face twice. She did. Each time, she rooted around like she was using that needle to check for underground cables.

The result was a more bloody, more cell-filled sample than the previous doctor obtained, which is good for accuracy but was definitely more painful to supply.

She took the samples outside--four of them, two from each session in my face--and read them at a microscope right there.

Conclusion: Warthin's Tumor, just as the previous pathologist had said.

Dr. Esclamado then returned. He said that in 24 years he'd seen the FNA be wrong exactly once, and that was a very long time ago. He said Warthin's tumors have zero chance of turning cancerous and basically are no problem. He said mine might stay as it is, or it might grow slowly. If it grows to the point that its appearance bothers me, he can take it out. It's also possible that when I get a cold (as I have now) or a sinus infection (as I just had), the tumor could get inflamed (it is not and was not, which is a very good sign), in which case they would give me antibiotics to reduce the inflammation, and then they would remove it.

Otherwise, though, he said there was absolutely no reason to take it out unless I just hated how it looks. He suggested I just leave it alone.

Considering that I spotted it only by accident and that I haven't met anyone yet who noticed it without me telling them it was there, I am indeed going to leave it alone.

If it one day grows big enough to bother me or starts becoming a problem with colds, I'll visit him again and schedule the surgery. He said he'd be shocked if that happened anytime sooner than a decade, and it very well might never happen.

So, like my broken arm and deviated septum, the tumor will be another sign of wear and tear that I will carry around with me.

I can live with that. In fact, I'm damn happy about it.

Hymie is here to stay.

Monday, November 7, 2011

On the road again: a long trip, day 13
CONtraflow, New Orleans, day 5

The morning went to work, though I did get some much-needed sleep before it. After checking out, we headed into New Orleans to a hole in the wall, Hobnobbers, that a con-goer, who was also a concierge, recommended. He said if you wanted real New Orleans food, you had to try it.

Damn, he was right!

It's a small place behind a bar, though you can reach it through a narrow covered alley that runs alongside the bar. Once you're inside, you see old tables, old chairs, metal on the walls, and linoleum floors. The initial vibe is sketchy...or charming, depending on your perspective. You go to a counter, place your order, get hassled by the perpetually annoyed woman taking orders, and pay in cash. No credit cards here.

The food makes it all worthwhile. The roast beef po boy was an amazingly tasty treat, though as folks had warned me, there's no way to eat it without covering your hands in its juices. The red beans and rice were the best I've ever had, and the sausage was damn fine.

I will definitely go back there the next time I'm in the area.

The rest of the day--and well into the next day, despite the timestamp--went to the usual rental car return, airport shuttle, security, waiting, flying, waiting, flying, waiting rituals of travel.

Unfortunately, today's flights were more interesting than usual.

No one wants interesting flights. You want calm flights. Standard flights.

On the first leg, a woman two rows behind me and to my right (I was lucky enough to have an exit-row aisle seat) went off. She was drunk and loud and obnoxious, but she turned truly shrill and annoying when she heard from another passenger that a flight attendant had (correctly) called her obnoxious. She then declaimed loudly for the rest of the flight and well into the terminal about how bad American Airlines was, what a great person she was, and then tons of personal details, from her name and number of children, to her destination, and so on. Wow. Where's the trank gun when you need it?

On the next flight, the one home from DFW, we started out late because of tornadoes to the east of DFW and lightning all around it. (As it turns out, the pilot told us that we were the last flight to the east to leave for quite some time.) The take-off and initial flight time were thus far more interesting than any of us wanted.

Still, I had a first-class upgrade, they brought me plenty to drink and a snack, and I was able to work. My ears still won't clear, but in time they will, so I can't complain.

In the end, I'm home and fine, which is all one can reasonably ask of any day spent traveling.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

On the road again: a long trip, day 12
CONtraflow, New Orleans, day 4

I can tell I ran myself too far down in part from how long it's taking me to heal--I'm nowhere near healthy yet--and in part from the fact that no matter how much I sleep, I am always exhausted. Still, I will get there.

My con duties began today with the job of moderator on the panel, "Paranormal Skeptics vs. Believers." I began by revealing my bias--strongly on the skeptic/disbeliever side--and then asked the panelists to give their opening positions. As it turned out, David Brin and I held down the skeptic end, while three of the four other panelists took the believer position. (One said he was uninformed and open.) The discussion ran the full hour and was polite but occasionally rather lively. I think the audience had a good time, which is always the most important thing.

After a quick trip out for lunch, I acted as the auctioneer for the art auction, which was a decidedly low-key affair that raised a little money for the artists and a few dollars for Falling Whistles, thanks to some lovely pots the child con attendees had painted and donated.

Work filled all the free time in the day before, around, and after these activities except for a run for take-out Italian dinner and a short time at the dead-dog party.

The folks here love their con, love their town, love SF, and give their all to this event. I was honored to get to serve as their inaugural Toastmaster.

Oh, yeah: I promised to talk about the show.

I was to perform Mr. Poor Choices in the hotel bar/lounge, Rumors, at 11:30 last night. The problem is, the LSU/Alabama football game had ended not too long before that, and the local crowd was still celebrating the overtime LSU victory. The TVs were loud, the people were drunk, and almost no one remembered the comedy show.

For a bit, it looked like the show might not happen, but about 11:45 folks decided I should do it. They turned off the TVs, a very small crowd (maybe 20 folks, some of them not con attendees) gathered, and I took the tiny makeshift stage under the three very hot lights. I did a fifty-five-minute set, people laughed a lot, and everyone seemed happy at the end. It was a bit demoralizing going from over 400 folks at Balticon to fewer than two dozen here, but, hey, that's the gig, and I gave it my best. I received only praise, including from the bartender, who loved it, so I must have gotten at least some of it right. When I have time and bandwidth later, I'll study the video.

For now, I will finish work, pack, and then crash.

Tomorrow, I will work, hope to grab lunch in New Orleans, and do a lot of traveling and working en route to home.


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