Thursday, February 26, 2015

On Homeschooling: What I never learned.

This was a very hard post to write. I've let it sit for a couple days to...digest itself. Explaining this shit is rather impossible without explaining how it imploded. Please note: This is not to condemn my parents or anyone involved. It's just...this is what happened. This is how I saw it. I can't describe it another way.  

 It comes in images I don't want want to remember. They're isolated. Disconnected from context. This makes them safe. It's as if my brain has quarantined these pieces of my life out of fear that the rest of me will get infected. They stretch under my life anyway, sinews of motive I don't have to see. 

It's 2003. The test book sat in front of me, open to a bewildering set of blank, globe-shaped charts that I am supposed to answer somehow. It's math. I've always hated math. Four other books sit off to the left. Reading. Social Studies. Science. The Bible. It's the placement test for the ACE curriculum and I've begged my mother for it for the last six months.

I don't have the answers.

It's my fault, I think, because I didn't do enough work. I'm a failure. It's all my fault.

Children accept blame for things they didn't do, because it's safer to be in control and destroy everything you touch than to be helpless and alone. 

Our living room is in the middle of Flour Bluff, the unfortunately named suburb of Corpus Christi that survives because of the naval base. We are less than a mile away from it. When the massive carriers fly in, the windows and cups rattle. The last Fourth of July we watched the Blue Angels preform from atop the pool slide in our back yard. Everything inside this house is dismal, office-supply store brown. The outside is an unhappy pink that forgot it isn't maroon. There are several trees in the front yard and most of them were dead when we moved in. The summer of 2004 a storm rolls through at midnight, and I see the palm trees almost flush with the ground, the wind is so bad. The dead trees fall into the street. The transformers for our entire neighborhood explode like christmas lights in a bad hollywood movie and these trees keep the fire trucks from putting the one on our corner out. We can walk to the Laguna Madre from our house, but it's choked by the causeway out to Padre Island and it smells bad.

I don't realize why I've been asking and asking for this curriculum. I told my mom what I believed myself--I was seventeen and I needed a highschool diploma. What I don't understand is that this urge is fueled by desperation: everything is about to end.

When you are homeschooled, your life is your family. You raise your younger siblings as increasing responsibility is placed on your shoulders. To this day I talk in the royal "we" whenever I'm not careful. It's not an expression of MPD/DID, far as I know--it's because the idea of personal independence just...did not exist. We went to events together. My mother trailing us behind her to adult art classes and sometimes even business events, my Dad bringing me or my brother on long trips. I brought my parents to the first session of any event or group--dance class, writer's group, AWANAS--and frequently, most consecutive meetings. When my parents weren't present, my brother was. When none of them were around I felt as if a limb were amputated.

And by the last year of my homeschooled life, my family was dying.

I felt it in the house: a duplex rental property that my father operated his business out of. Everything smelled like mildew from the time we were flooded out (The storm of 2004. As the transformers in front of our house blew up, a tornado demolished the Del Mar GED program's temporary buildings. Ironically enough, I'd be sitting in one of those classes within four months of their replacement) and also car exhaust, gasoline, and the stale dry smell of "I give up." For the first year in that house we'd struggle to maintain the pool--it was roughly the size of a garden pond and dropped to a grand five feet at its deepest--but near the end the green algea stains were creeping up the side like the ghost of Swamp Thing.

I felt it when I woke up alone. I'm seventeen, and there's days where I don't see another human being until nine PM at night. Mom was going to college to be a nurse. Money, she said, because it was always tight. But it was escape. Running away. I don't blame her. I encourage her, like a flightless bird to an albatross, because this is my family and I'm not supposed to escape but she's miserable and I hate that she's miserable. Dad was neck-deep in a business that would fail within another two years. Money flowed in and then back out like the tide. I saw $20,000 checks; the next week, we'd be eating frozen corn and Ramen. Learning how to get creative when the only edible things in the kitchen are a bag of frozen ravioli and a can of mushroom soup isn't the kind of thing anybody should learn. Sometimes Dad's employees would call the house and demand their money. Once, the wife of an employee called. She said she wanted to talk to her husband. She had just taken a whole bottle of Tylenol PM and she wanted to say goodbye.

I'm seventeen and I'm responsible for all of my education, and now I have a suicidal woman on the phone and I have no idea what to do.

My brother spent all his time in his room playing video games.

Schoolwork piled up, forgotten and unwanted because it was a duty and a job and I wanted to  escape. I didn't have video games. I'd been writing since I was thirteen but now it was my way out and I dove into it. I did NaNoWriMo that year and it was like I was getting oxygen. I wrote eighty five thousand words in three weeks.

My first lace shawl was knitted in that house. My brother got a chihuahua puppy cheap because he had a heart defect, and that puppy took the half-completed shawl and ran three times around the house with it. I sat at the kitchen table for three days with a small crochet hook and my pattern book, slowly restitching the hundred-odd dropped stitches, the ladders, the runs. My school work would sit only a few inches away. I'd glare at it, then carefully work a stitch through a few dozen yarn overs and decreases.

It was escape. That's all.

There was no one to talk to. I tried to befriend the girl down the street, invited her over for a sleep-over. In the process I found a letter my mother had given my father, in which she said she wanted out. I sat there looking at it like it was written in hieroglyphics and I was waiting on a Rosetta Stone to walk me through the permutations of understanding. My parents  can't want a divorce. They can't.

I stopped trying to make IRL friends. It felt like too much work to reach their version of normal.

I discovered webcomics.  I dove into making it--learning how to draw, how to use photoshop for coloring, how to do sequential art. I did it all day, every day, obsessively.

The workbooks I'd begged so much for began to pile up too. They weren't enough. They couldn't drown out that feeling, that awareness that something awful was happening that I couldn't identify, that I did not understand. My life was my family. Nothing could happen to it. Nothing.


I decided that the tension was because I wasn't doing a good enough job on the schoolwork. It wasn't working. I needed to get my GED. I need to go to the prep classes at Del Mar because I cannot possibly be skilled enough. I've done so poorly on my workbooks. I've let my family down so much.

The first assessment test they put in front of me, I test out of the program. It was a month before the next set of classes. I would attend the program until then.

It was like the eye of the hurricane. Peaceful. I didn't have to answer a phone. I didn't have to feel hungry. I didn't have to keep track of my brother (I have no idea what he did while I was in the GED program. I do know that he was expected to supervise himself) and I got daily affirmations from strangers. Good job. Good work.

My mother came into it too. She came with me to sign up for the test. She cheered with me when I got the second highest score in the county for the year (It would be beaten out by one other girl, which I was fine with. It meant I didn't have to give a speech) But mostly she was sidelined. She had her own things to deal with, including a major and at the time frightening health issue.

I'd found peace. I'd found the nearest thing I'd ever come to normal school. I didn't recognise it. At the same time, I looked forward to going there every day. Part of me was scared to come home.

We moved.

We moved to a perfect house. Beautiful, in the middle of a cotton farm. There was a small patch of corn right next to the house which would, in a few months, provide us with something to eat for several weeks. It had what felt like a million acres of yard, perfectly manicured. Fruit bearing trees that I was unfortunately very allergic to. I could glean all the cotton I wanted for spinning, and I did.

There was no way in hell we could afford it. Ever. And all of us knew it.

We were like a wild animal chewing off its own limb to stay alive. It was a last ditch desperation move, quite literally. We had nothing left to lose.

It was escape.

Me graduating in no way diminished the pressure on the family. Mom had dropped out of college because of her health issue. My brother moved his games from the bedroom to the main room. My dad was always gone and when he was home there was a fight. o one hit anything alive but it was loud, and a few times he'd beat on the furnature until the fragiler pieces broke. He'd bought another truck--my brother made an animated sprite cartoon about this, and it did not end well for the truck-buyer. My mom and I all thought it was hysterical. We laughed at it until we hurt ourselves because we couldn't admit we wanted to cry--or another lawnmower, or he'd pawned something, or he'd spent all the money getting something out of pawn. I needed to focus on my future--art college was starting to look possible--but I couldn't do it. My life was my family, and I was watching it unravel. I did not have the capacity to look beyond it. The world outside of Family was a strange, scary place where children get abducted by the government and the music is loud and ugly and God is not allowed. If Family ended...

Homeschooling doesn't end when you graduate, you see. Because it's not just the education that impresses itself on you. It's the attitudes and cultures of your family. You are clay; your family's needs are pressed into you and you're not strong enough to resist. Your life is your family. Your family is your life. To claim anything like normal you have to break it. Everything you're taught to value. Everything you believe about you. Everything you ever relied on for strength and comfort and self image and pride. You have to break it all and go down to nothing, and then start rebuilding, which is even harder than breaking.

The last straw was when my mother's car got repossessed. We'd gone on a trip and left Dad with the money to pay the bills; these bills--including rent--never got paid. Instead we had new tires on the cars and new electronics in the house. We did not discover this until the landlord called, and the bank came for Mom's car.

She kicked Dad out.

I remember the panic. I remember knowing that my mom had thrown my dad out of the house. I remember darkness. I remember hurting myself for the second time several days later. Self injury is a red moment that you take from the inside and put on the outside where it's safe, where you can minimize it and fix it with a bandaid rather than risky, honest therapy. I remember struggling on, struggling on, making plans, hoping. Praying. At one point the GED graduation ceremony happened and we threw ourselves into it with suicidal abandon. It no longer mattered what we said or did, it only mattered that for one hour we weren't here, where everything was failing.

We got evicted. Dad found us another place to live.

That last month is mostly blank with small flashes of relevance. Packing. Packing. Packing. Getting to the new house. Watching my dad drag my piano against the door jam, gouging the wood I'd kept pristine. The fucking corn on the cob that we ate almost every day that last month because we literally had nothing. else. to eat. My cat, who was still a kitten and still being bottle fed, curled up on my chest in an expression of trust and security that I was no longer capable of.

 That's why I brought her with me when we went to Houston for vacation. A trip for one week to see my grandparents. Riding up with the cat in the carrier feeling so glad, because not only was this going to be an escape from the house but we'd be able to eat something that wasn't fucking corn for once. I had to bottle feed her still, and I knew my dad couldn't do it. She was so small, and I wasn't able to admit how much I needed her to need me. Like she was my anchor point.

It was October 2004.

I wouldn't see my Dad until Christmas. Snow was falling in Texas. Everything I knew and trusted and believed in had ended.

The one thing I never learned from Homeschooling was how to live when everything I counted on was gone. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Cognative Dissonance of Calvinism.

Christian theology is weird, man. It's a bizzare combination of ideological concepts and cobbled-together working theories that rarely work together very well. I'm saying that as a Christian who loves theology. When you realize that most of our concepts of Heaven and Hell come from Paradise Lost, that some (if not most) of our cultural prohibitions come not from theological sources but from Pre-Christian racism and cultural bias...your brain kinda starts to implode. It's as if the religion itself is two different things. The first is the personal relationship with God and Christ and your fellow Christians...and the other is the great theological conversation that carries more life-baggage than a backpacker on holiday. Possibly the hardest thing I've had to accept is that outside of "God loves everybody" nothing is exactly clear. There's too much human bias. There's too much human involved.

Calvinism, like a lot of theology, can be rather confusing if you don't have a background in basic principals. The thing that sets it apart from a lot of theology, however, is its theory of predestination. This is the idea that God created "Vessels of Wrath" and "Vessels of Righteousness". The idea is, basically, that God has Elected some to salvation, that He chooses You and not the other way around, and that means that he gets all the glory.

(If you're a long-time reader, you already know that I think God finds glory in our choices as much as he does our creation. Because the mark of a healthy relationship is being able to give your beloved their headway. In short:

But what becomes interesting is that the same group that denies choice exists (IE you cannot choose God) and that the only individuals that will be saved are the Chosen among God's Elect are the exact same people who insist that homosexuality is a choice and that this means a gay person cannot, therefor, be among God's elect.

Even though, by that logic, that means he made them that way in the first place.

I just had a conversation with someone that proves these two ideas (The concept of Election and the choice of homosexuality) are completely divorced from each other. God chooses his elect and choice does not exist...unless you happen to be gay.

It is, then, rather cruel of God to have the only choices in the universe be a choice for sin. If you choose sin, it's your fault, but if you choose God you were made to choose him and it's not your choice at all.

There are quite a few people who have correctly identified this concept as abusive--that only bad behavior is yours to own. Unfortunately the result of this bad theology--and, my dear readers, I believe that it is--is that many people have to leave the religion entirely. I don't fault them for that, and I don't believe that God does either. I believe that he favors intellectual honesty over blind acceptance of something you don't truely believe--because the only way to come to truely believe in him is to first admit that you don't. You can't change your mind on a concept if you are in denial about what you really think.

I do believe that God chooses his followers. But I believe that this choice is "Preferably, all of them." See, for every place where it says that it's not your choice to believe, it says that it's God's choice that everyone believe. "He is not willing that any should perish."

This brings us to the cognative dissonance in a great deal of Protestant theology, thanks to folk like Mr. Calvin.

First, you have the idea that God made people with the intention of them choosing him, that he guided their lives and orchistrated every event, every desire in their heart and every thought in their head so that one day this individual would look up and go "Oh, so you are the one I'm looking for", and that, by extension, choice does not exist.

Second: you have the idea of a God who is not willing to lose anybody. That it is not in his will or his heart that any part of creation should perish.

Third: You have the idea that people choose sin and thus fall out of his favor and are damned.

This is best highlighted by Christian condemnation of GLBT lifestyles. We believe that God Chose Us, and in the same breath we deny a gay man the right to claim the same, because he has "clearly" chosen sin and has "clearly" displayed himself to be a Vessel of Wrath AKA not one of the elect. But it's present in everything. Listen to the wrong music? You're not pleasing God. Get divorced? Not pleasing God. Watch movies with witches and wizards? Not pleasing God. And if you're not pleasing God then you are "clearly" not one of the Elect and, therefor, we who ARE "clearly" the elect now have the right to shit all over you.

And yet against that, you have "love (agapeto) your neighbor as yourself." You have the parable of the unforgiving servant, in which one who is forgiven much is punished because they refuse to forgive little. You have a verse in the bible (Romans 14:22) that says "You may have faith to believe there is nothing wrong with what you are doing." You have Jesus, who IS God, who MADE the Law, breaking human definitions of it to help the broken, outcast and unclean. When asked what the most important law is, Jesus replies with two: to love God above all things and to love your neighbor as yourself. And again, that word is agape, unconditional and unselfish love. When Paul speaks of how married people should love each other, the comparison is as Christ loves the Church. Again: agape. Unconditional. John 3:16 says "For God so loved the world," and that word is ēgapēsen, the past-tense of agape. God's love for the world--for all of us, for every soul on the globe, is unconditional. 

And if you place the verse in context, it  gets even better:

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.[e] 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[f] 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”[g]
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

 So how do you reconcile this vision of a love so pure that the Law himself denies his own satisfaction so that his beloved can survive with the idea that God made us with all our choices included with the idea that our choices leave us damned?

My answer is this: I do not get to tell you what God has and has not permitted you. I do not get to tell you how you were made. I do not get to tell you that something within your heart is invalid. What I get to tell you is that God loves you, and that this love is unconditional. It's not "As long as you choose not to have gay sex" or "as long as you choose to stay with your assigned-at-birth gender" or "as long as you follow every law as we define them". It's without condition. 

Perhaps from the eternal perspective, we are made with all our choices in place, because the Eternal Perspective sees all of our choices at once, the way someone high above a parade sees every float, or a traffic camera, every car on the street. But I don't believe this means that we do not have choice. And I do believe that our choices, good or bad, give God glory reguardless. Because if it is within our power to make a wrong choice, it is within God's power to deny us that wrong decision in the first place. It should, therefor, be possible to say "Great is the Patience and Faith of God, that he gives us the choice to be wrong." This does not give our wrong choices any value, or our right choices any greater glory--even a dog can choose obediance, after all.

And if God, in your heart, has told you that you are are.

I have faith my God is big enough for that.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Quick review: Melanie's Marvelous Measles

Seriously. How fucked up do you have to be to write a book about how kids should get life threatening diseases and to outright fucking copy the title of a book written by a man whose daughter DIED from the illness you're pushing?

I discovered this piece of dangerous stupidity during the coverage of the Disneyland epidemic, where a bunch of unvaccinated kids (and adults) contracted the measles during their trip, and kindly took it around the country to share with the rest of us. The book is based on something that was probably a good-ish idea several decades ago: to have your kids get illnesses like measles and chickenpox when they're young and healthy, so they don't get them when they're adults with exhausted immune systems and potential health issues.

The problem with this? We have vaccines.

I have talked about this before: being anti-vaccine because of autism is like being anti-breathing because of arthritis. Not only is the supposed effect completely divorced from the supposed cause, but avoiding the cause does more harm than good. There's no supporting science whatsoever, the paper that kicked the whole thing off was a proven, admitted fake, even if it weren't the study group (Twelve kids) isn't nearly large enough to be statistically significant, and even if it were you are effectively telling autistic people that it'd be better to be dead or suffer horribly than to be who they are. You know, because people like this, this or this have obviously ruined lives and therefore shouldn't exist.

That last part was sarcasm, by the way.

Add in the utter necessity of herd immunity--which provides cover for people who cannot be vaccinated because their immune systems are too low to handle it--and you begin to see how utterly fucking wrong the vaccination arguement is.

But there are some people who want to have control over the uncontrollable, and that brings me to Melanie's Marvelous Measles. 

I bought it expecting a massive amount of science and medical fail. It has that. I bought it expecting it to be quite biased towards its author's POV and it is indeed. What I did not expect, however, is how absolutely terrible the book is. You know Mystery Science Theater 3000, how some of the episodes have shorts about safe driving or sales or those old Rocketman vs the Moon People shorts? Yeah, it's that kind of bad. It'd be hilarious...if it weren't setting kids up for a medical nightmare.

It was written by a woman named  Stephenie Messenger. I have no idea who this is and I don't really want to know. It was published by Trafford Publishing, which is yet another of Author Solutions many hats. This tells me exactly how good Stephenie Messenger is at her research, because if you spend three minutes researching the publishing industry you learn to stay away from Author Solutions and Publish America/American Star Books, because these are scams and you can do a better job on your own for far, far, FAR less money. Guys, do you really want to be taking medical advice from someone who can't work out what a scam looks like?

The illustrations are terrifying. Serious uncanny valley territory. In fact, it looks as if the artist ran photographs through filters, traced them, slapped some paint on top and left it.

This is the nicest one of the lot. Also, is it just me or does this kid have a serious pot belly?
The book is dedicated to the author's dead son. Nobody should lose a kid, and she has my condolances.

However, so do all the parents of kids who will die because of this book.

The story is not actually about Melanie. It's about Tina, Melanie's best friend, who discovers her friend had to stay home sick that day. The book goes out of its way to let us know that the teacher is pregnant. The teacher announces that Melanie has the measles.

In a normal school setting this would probably be met with either apathy or envy (It's a kindergarten-ish class.) but in this school it is immediately met with utter fucking terror.

Some children in the class began to worry that they might catch measles and others were getting quite scared.
Then, because the book needs a "bad" guy, and because Ms. Messenger obviously comes from the Jerry B. Jenkins school of storytelling, a little jerk in the back row starts being a pill to the other students:

Travis said that he wasn’t vaccinated, but didn’t mind, until Jared then told him angrily, “Well, you’re going to die if you don’t get vaccinated.”

..."Well, I know that isn’t true because I haven’t had any vaccinations and I am still alive!”

 Jared didn’t know what to say to that!
 I buy Jared being an asshole in class because I've worked with kids that age and that's kind of what they do, but the thing is, intellectual opponants, especially six-year-olds with that kind of self-righteous asshattery going on, don't back down because of your snappy comeback. Also: trying to prove your POV by setting up a badly thought out character to play your perfect virginal angle MC off of is very, very lazy.

Tina, meanwhile, isn't vaccinated because her brother got sick and her parents decided that

vaccination was too risky,
Yes. Because Polio, whooping cough and the lifelong complications of chicken pox (Shingles, herpes zoaster outbreaks) are fine and dandy, but flu shots are risky.

But we are quickly assured that Tina had a very healthy childhood. Yeah, kids do usually have very healthy childhoods. Right up until they get sick. Then it stops being healthy. And the great thing about living in a society with regular vaccinations is that most kids won't get sick, which in turn means the odds of your kid meeting a kid sick with something serious they can catch is usually pretty low.

Tina goes home. We get her snacking habits (HEALTH FOOD!) in great detail. Her mom asks her how her day was. She tells mom that Melanie wasn't at school because she has Measles. Then Tina gets...erm...kind of stupid.

“Will I catch measles and do they hurt when they catch me?” Tina asked.
This is accompanied by a big illustration of a spotty blob monster chasing a little girl. So this kid is bright enough to know that she's not being vaccinated but doesn't have any concept of germs.

I think I understood what germs were when I was six. Tina's school's health ed really sucks.

It also must have sucked for Tina's mom, because she explains several points that are kind of full of it. One is that measles is not a life-threatening illness for most children. This is true. But for some children it becomes life-threatening without any warning whatsoever. Roald Dahl, the dude who wrote George's Marvellous Medicine, was playing a game with his daughter when she had the measles. He noticed she wasn't playing very well and asked her if she was okay. She said she felt sleepy. An hour later, she was in a coma and twelve hours later she was dead. So her parents were attentative, they had money, and at least one of them was sitting right there when the complications began, and the kid still died. Which means that measles can go bad so fast you don't get nearly enough of a warning to save the kid.

Mom's second point is that

“Many wise people believe measles make the body stronger and more mature for the future,”

Getting measles means you will never get measles again. This ensures that you will not contract them as an adult, when the disease can be much, much worse than for a child. THAT SAID: getting sick is not like lifting weights. It's not like your body goes "Huh, we've had measles AND chickenpox, now we can bench press HIV". Your immune system is not made of magic unicorns and fairy dust.

And then Mom decides to go for Worst Parent Ever Award, 2015:

“When I was a child, if one child had measles or chicken pox, many parents would take their own children over to play with them,” Tina’s mother explained.

And the REASON they did that is 1. so the kid would get sick when their immune system and basic health is at its peak and NOT when they are an adult with all the complications you get as you get older and 2. BECAUSE THEY DID NOT HAVE THE MEASLES VACCINE WHEN YOU WERE A KID.

And what the fuck do you think a vaccine is? Straight strychnine? YOU ARE GETTING THE ILLNESS WHEN YOU GET A VACCINE. Either a dead version of the virus or an extremely weakened strain. You won't get the symptoms because the virus isn't strong enough to do anything, but you get the immunity, because the same mechanism that kicks out a live virus cleans up the dead one.

So you REALLY want me to believe that the .0000001 microns of chemicals used to kill the virus are more dangerous than the live virus itself? That the potential complications of chemical dilutions so small they measure them in millionths of a gram are more severe than the potential complications of getting a real live virus? You want me to believe that autism, a disorder that makes someone's life slightly more difficult than mine, is a worse fate than measles encephalitus, a preventable disease that can kill in twelve hours?

Fuck it. Tina and Mommie Dearest here go to Melanie's house so that Tina can catch the measles. BUT! Mom brings Melanie a melon and carrot juice! That will make everything better!

Melanie, of course, is running around like a rabbit on crack, because she's getting all that maturity pumped into her system and shit. She shows off her belly to Tina while Melanie's mom implies that Melanie was vaccinated against measles and that the vaccination failed, rather than just giving Melanie a very mild case of measles, as evidenced by her bouncing around like a ping-pong ball full of helium. Melanie's mom says that the doctor proclaimed this the worse case of measles he's seen in years.

Well, it probably is, given how fucking rare measles is now, but the fact that Melanie ain't dead and she's all energetic says that her case is not as bad as it could be (Again: See Roald Dahl's daughter)

And magically, Melanie's measles don't itch. They're just spots that, Tina assures Melanie and her audience, look really cool and are really fun to have.

BTW never google "measles scars". EVER.

THEN Tina's mom explains that if you eat a lot of vitamin A you'll never get sick. Because somehow this creates a magical force field or something against germs. Giving your immune system its basic building blocks is a real good thing. You know what else is good? Giving it a safe immunity so it doesn't get sick in the first place. Like a vaccine.

Both Melanie and Tina drink carrot juice and love the fuck out of it. Because OF COURSE no child would EVER turn their nose up at carrot juice.

Tina's mom reveals her son with the sickly immune system is off at football practice. Sounds real sick to me.

Tina does not get measles. Tina's mom proclaims this a result of her diet, but both she and Tina are deeply dissapointed that Tina did not get an illness with potentially life-threatening consequences.

Stephenie Messenger forgets midparagraph that she's writing a kid's book, not preaching, and takes a sentence to go on about "nature's gifts" because nature never came up with anything like elephantitus and AIDS.

Jared, the asshat kid who did get vaccinated, does get the measles, because proper strawman deployment is important. Tina hopes that the measles will make him more mature. The illustration with Jared has a bunch of traced over junk-food on his nightstand, including cheetoes, potato chips, a soft drink and a random-ass hamburger that's been sitting out for God only knows how long.

The book closes with a creepy picture of Tina smiling over a glass of what has to be radioactive orange sludge and this paragraph of stellar dialogue:

“Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to catch measles next time someone we know has them!” exclaimed Tina.
The entire premise of this book is wrong, but it's pretty clear that Messenger had no clue how to present her argument without insulting stuffed-shirt variations of her opponents. It's a health issue, not an us-vs-them emergency. I haven't read anything as poorly constructed since Left Behind forgot about World War Three between books.

As for the arguement itself...doctors do a lot of studies before they allow someone to eat medicine or have it injected into a body part. Sometimes they're good studies, sometimes they're bad. But most of the time the doctors look at the list of side effects, look at the thing they're trying to treat, and decide if the side effects are worth treating the illness. Doctors calculated the risk of vaccines vs. the risk of being unprotected against disease and decided a very, VERY long time ago that the risks are worth it.

The fact remains that Polio is back, Measles is back, and we are all one airplane ride away from a global pandemic every single goddamn day. The Spanish Flu killed a third of Europe back in 1918. The Bubonic plague still exists. Stating that healthy food and cheerful positivity are enough to keep the nightmare senario away is about as wise as saying that thinking happy thoughts will treat suicidal depression (SPOILER: It won't).

Vaccinate your fucking kids, and vaccinate yourselves, and if you want to self publish an irresponsible children's book, use Createspace and KDP instead of an Author Solutions tentacle. That way you won't be blowing several thousand dollars on a losing bet.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Hate and the Perfect Victim

I don't do this.

I don't comment on current news stories, I don't do tribute art. I try VERY hard not to jump into publishing industry drama and genre drama. It's kind of my rule. I don't do anything that might capitalize on somebody else's misery.

But the Chapel Hill shooting has affected me.

One, because nobody IRL is talking about it past "He (the shooter) was angry over parking".

Two, because this should not have happened. 

In case you live under a rock (or get all your news from mainstream media) three beautiful people, a newly married couple and the wife's sister, were killed by an asshole who hated them and everything they stood for. The couple were deeply into charity work. The man seems to have been an all-around ass. And in a perfect world this would be all we'd need to say. We'd be able to grasp the gravity of what happened. We'd be able to comprehend the tragedy, speak for how unfair it is, shake our heads and then make an effort to make sure it never happens again. But we don't, and so we have to bring in details.

 The murder victims were muslim, and the shooter was an athiest.

These details should not matter. Our first question when someone is killed by someone else should not be "what did the victim do" or "what were their races?" or anything other than "How do we make this stop?" Victims of violent crime should not have to display their history to be helped. The clothes of a rape victim should not matter, or their blood alcohol content, or their gender. The victim of harassment should not first have to display their life story to "prove" that they did not deserve what they're getting. People who are hurt should not have to prove that they don't deserve pain.

We should not have Chapel Hill.

We should not have Gamer Gate.

We should not have Charlie Hebbdo.

We should not look at that list and think that any one of those people deserved it.

But we do. We look at rape victims and rate them on a scale from Virgin to Whore. We look at a murder victim and ask what they did and why. We say "This shouldn't have happened, but look at what they did" in the same breath, as if the first part has anything to do with the last.

We walk over homeless people. We deny the mentally ill necessary medications because they have a history of addiction. We tell women they asked to be raped and tell men that they can't be raped at all. We write stories where a young woman's death is justified by her sex life and her words, and another's survive by her pre-determined goodness. We indicate who the valued are through how pleasant they are to look at and be with.

We tell people that their pain is their fault.

We tell them that if they were only better, we'd care.

And then we celebrate the people who "fit" our victim checklist. Which is, if anything, just as bad. When we find our Perfect Victim, we put them on a pedestal. We look at them and point at them and go "Isn't this just horrible, what happened to them? Isn't it clear, how little they deserved it?" We treat them as if they are a broken treasure that must be kept and built back up and lauded.

We trap this person in the horror of the worst moment of their life. We keep them in a box labeled by the scars they carry forever. We make them choose between hiding their pain or having that pain be the definition of their relationship with us. We make them tell that story, THE story, over and over and over again until it's some malignant catechism they chant with their eyes closed, hoping that this time the words won't catch on their soul and hurt them all over again. We make the event that tore their life apart be the thing immediately following their name.

Sometimes we even use that in place of their name.

We become so caught up in the headiness of finally, finally having someone to rescue, we forget that victims are people, and by the time they have a story, they no longer need you to save them. Either they're recovering or their dead, and either way their story is not and never will be yours. Feeling sympathy does not entitle you to someone's life story. It just means you're a decent person.

Hate isn't only a problem when the victims are the nice, shiny people we want to know. It's a problem when the victims aren't lovely, when they're somebody you'd rather forget, and when something about them makes you squirm. Because the problem is not the victim. The problem is Hate.

There's a lot of bible verses that get flung around like confetti, but one that doesn't is the bit where Jesus says it's not what goes into a person that defiles them, but what comes out. The emotions and events and information you receive do not make you less of a person. A hurt one, yes. Even a scarred one. One thing I learned this past year that PTSD is a scar of memory. But that doesn't diminish you, build you up or break you down. It's what you do that counts. It's what you think, what you say.

And hate only exists inside you.

The only hate you will ever truly feel, the way you see the sky and taste your food and hear your music, is the hate that comes from your own brain and heart. That heady, hot, volcanic urge to destroy that's so addictive, so good to feel and so horrible to remember. That's the worst hate in the world. That feeling is what will destroy the world...and you in the process.

This is why it is so important to guard yourself, and your thoughts. Why it is so important to be generous to others. To make the joy of others your passion. To look at a person's pain rather than the circumstances around it and no matter what say "I'm sorry." To make other people valid, and the fact of their existence, rather than the nature of their lives, the definition of their value.

We need to learn how to love, not eros but agape, unselfishly and unconditionally, with the object of the beloved's own good above our own. Not because it makes us better people or because we get a benefit, but because it's right. This kind of love is literally what the bible repeats, over and over again. When Jesus says "Love your enemies" he uses the greek word agapāte. It is literally a command to care so deeply for those you currently hate that you would die for their welfare.

Because it's hard.

Because it's dangerous.

But most of all, because the people you hate are worth it.

We need to learn how to say I'm sorry without conditions.

We need to learn how to say I forgive you without conditions.

The details--the wonderful, myriad differences that make each of us unique, our religion and our sexuality, our gender, our heritage--should enrich our lives, not define our value as people. We should hate what people do. Hate the unfairness, the inequality, the cruelty, the blood letting. But don't hate them, because you might as well be the murderer when you do.

We need to learn that each individual person is the most priceless thing we will ever see.

Stroke of Midnight--chapter 25

Okay, my lovelies, business first:

I've been light on blog posts lately because I've been working on scripting and making a video for Patreon. Which should be cool. I've also been attempting (emphasis on attempt) to build up my twitter, which is over here. And trying to get the motherfucking book finished, which it isn't doing.

Second thing: I've been reading Atlas Shrugged in my spare time because I want to see what all the fuss is about. Well, replace "reading" with "struggling through" and you'd be there. No, it's not that the writing is particularly difficult--Ayn Rand is actually a pretty good writer in the sense that she puts words down on paper and they're rather a pleasure to read as long as you ignore the fact that the subject matter is batshit fucking insane. And that it drags on like a motherfucker. And that the protagonists are basically a bunch of fucking terrorists deliberately attempting to destroy society because the world pointed actual responsibility at them and they found it rather scary. (Also: EVERY personal or romantic conflict in the book, and I mean EVERY SINGLE ONE, could be resolved by learning how to set some fucking boundaries. Just saying.) It really ought to be titled "Strawman Suffering" because as far as subtlety goes it's about on a par with Captive of Gor.

My point? I'd much rather be reading about how awful social responsibility is and how it's cool to cheat on your marrige and hide it from your spouse because CAPITALISM than read Merry Gentry's whinging today.

BUT! We must push on. And so...

We drag in yet another random Faerie male who I swear to God has not been in this book before now. I know this, because we get a paragraph on his looks. We also know he's a bad guy, because if he were good that'd be several paragraphs, and one of them would be on his Sparkley-Sue eyes.

Apparently he attempted to put a spell on everyone with mortal...however mortality works, since apparently you can have human blood and be immortal unless you're Merry. He makes a big deal about how it got Merry and would have gotten the cops if it weren't for you stinking kids--I mean, glamourous boy toys.

(Frankly I think a cross over between Merry and Scooby Do would greatly improve matters.)

So then Andais decides to make the leader of both the current would-be assassin and one from the last book decide who gets killed for trying to kill a princess. So there's the whole "mercy" thing out the window.

The guy, being of roughly the same mental caliber as every other character in this book (that being very low) decides to blackmail the motherfucking Queen in front of the motherfucking court to get out of making the choice. 

Guys, I have seen maybe three things IN MY LIFE as stupid as this shit. One of 'em was the Republican party the night of the Wendy Davis filibuster, one of 'em was a foster kid mouthing off to Dad when he was feeling creative, and I think the third one was something involving Anita Blake.

The woman is a no-holds-barred psychopath who has PUBLICALLY ADMITTED to losing touch with reality, who tortures people for fun. WHY ARE YOU ATTEMPTING TO BLACKMAIL HER.

And then LKH does something that breaks her entire premise that I actually really like.

See, there is one good way to defuse blackmail: Own your shit in public. Not only does that take the power away from the blackmailer, you can now go to the authorities and own their shit too. Because blackmail is usually illegal. And in this case, probably fatal.

The one thing that neither Sidhe ruler is admitting right now is that they are infertile, because that's grounds for being forcibly removed from power (And is probably fatal).

Andais now announces this to the entire world.

"I'm infertile, Meredith...all those human doctors have done all they can for me. This is why you must prove yourself fertile. Whoever rules after me must be able to bring life back to the courts"
On the one hand: this is a gutsy, gutsy move from Andais. Not only does it take the wind out of Idiot Leader's sails, but it sets her up to be deposed and sacrificed in a fertility rite. So on the one hand, the stakes just got WAY raised. On the other...yeah, there ought to be a total riot now.

There is not.

So then, in a twist that is really, really fucking good (Seriously. WHERE HAS THIS PART OF THE BOOK BEEN AND WHY WERE WE NOT READING THIS.) Andais gets Merry to admit that she got Maeve Reed pregnant via a fertility rite and that Galen was her "green man" (AKA male god stand-in). And people are trying to kill Galen because he's proved that he can get Fae preggers so it stands to reason that he might get Merry pregnant, and since trying to kill her failed...

THEN Andais points out that there's a prophesy that a "green man" will bring life back to the faerie, and that by trying to kill Galen, Idiot Assassin MIGHT have doomed the Faerie race to infertility, forever.

I am flabberghasted that this is here. This is...good. This is plot. This is game changing plot, and it's tying in plot points from other books. WHY HAVE WE NOT BEEN DOING THIS FOR THE LAST TWENTY YEARS? Why do we only get two chapters that are, gasp, actually worth reading? 

And then it descends into suck again.

Andais tells Merry she can help Nicca and Biddy make their baby, as long as she has sex with them individually before they have sex with each other. And then, when Merry presses for more information, Andais literally says "Go make babies."

In short, Andais is telling Merry to go get fucked.

I'm kind of in love with Andais now. 

Merry then tries to pull Halfwyn out of the room. In the process, it comes out that she's never lost her ability to heal but that everybody thought she did because Cel is an asshole. Then it comes out that Cel lied to his mother and said his guard had all given him oaths of service of their own free will, and that he lied to his guard and told them his mother ordered them to go to him, and that none of them are oathed to him as guard.

Andais, predictably, flips her shit. And then, because continuing with interesting plot is too much work, she sends Merry and her entourage out of the room so that she can start hurting people.

Monday, February 9, 2015

State of the CW+ book and other things

Yeah. I fucked up BAD the last few months re: books. Part of that was depression but a lot of it was having to move...about fifty feet. From one small rental property to another.

To say I hate moving is an understatement. It dredges up all sorts of awful feelings and makes me want, desperately, to go hide under the nearest rock. I hate the sound of packing tape, I hate the smell of packing tape--it's a funny, overly sweet stink, like whoever made it stuck a bitterant into the mix--I hate boxes, I hate having all my things in boxes. There's a lot of awful memories of stress, family fights, losing things. One of the themes of my life, I have discovered, is losing things.

And then in the middle of all this, when I'm holding on by my fingernails and contemplating either getting very drunk or having a major SI relapse, I have about five different people say you're so calm. Uh...what? Not that I mind. It's feels like false advertising. No. No I am not calm. I'm compartmentalized. 

BUT! It is done! And yesterday I got off my ass and dug through six zillion badly packed boxes and found my art tablet, and so that is what I will be doing today.

I don't know what plans I have for this next year. I feel rather like I've blown all the momentum I was building over the last couple of years. And...uh...yeah. I'm kinda broke. And this is the last time I'll bitch about that, I promise.

SO. Let me give ya'll the short-term plans so we can all build from there.

First of all: Get the motherfucking book finished and out because I AM SO SORRY BOOK READERS.

Second: (This may be accomplished before the book because it's easier) I'm signing up for Patreon. It's kind of a continual Kickstarter that lets you guys support me however much you want. (And lemme make this clear: I HATE asking you guys for money. I HATE it. It makes me feel like a leech and an utter bitch (Robot Susan B. Anthony is having her software upgraded, sorry guys) and also self-conscious as fuck.  I say this because it feels dishonest to say otherwise. But...yeah, I'm not going in to all the ways things suck right now, but suffice to say that I really, really, REALLY cannot afford to not do this.)

The bonus for ya'll is if you're a Patreon supporter you get free books and art and all kinds of lovely things. I mean, it's not quite free (you're still giving me money in exchange for things) but it'll feel that way. That's cool, right?

The other bonus is...if I get enough support I'll be able to do all those things I was supposed to do from the beginning. Like pay an editor to make my books look nice. I'll also be able to do things like upgrade my computer, get better software for some projects I've been working on (or wanting to work on) and justify spending more time ON those projects.So ya'll will get higher quality shit for free.

So there's the state of the CW address. I've got one fuck of a hole to dig my way out of but I've got something of a direction to start digging in and that's enough for me.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Stroke of Midnight--chapter twenty four

And it is now time for LKH to remind us why some of us once greatly enjoyed her books. No, we don't go back to the plot. That's been pretty much abandoned forever. Nope. But we're about to plunge into intrigue that...actually works.

And it comes with character development.

I know. I can't believe it either.

Andais asks if "the ring chose a couple". It did: Nicca and Biddy. Merry admits this.

Andais proceeds to flip her fucking shit. She grills Merry about who she's screwed (Mistral) how many guards she's "brought" (Everybody who was in the hallway when she and Mistral "rode the storm") and how many people she's brought back into their powers (everybody she's 'brought'). Merry answers everything with a lot of groveling and a lot of "yes" and "no" answers because Andais enraged usually means somebody dies.

And it's actually working. Once again, kids, this is what I came to the dance for. And for once, I don't actually mind Merry being a Great Vag of Holding. The fact that sex with her can return a fae's powers is actually putting her in danger right now--it's a MASSIVE threat to the queen and having it be common knowledge--they're pitching their fit in a public place for some reason, so every single Fae is hearing this--both helps Merry and hurts her. It helps, because it gives her a bargaining chip with the other fae, but it hurts because her aunt is psychotic, jealous and toxic and can kill without any consequences whatsoever and the odds of getting out of this are going down, fast.

Several of the Fae nobles who have hated Merry step forward and say that if the ring really is bringing fertile love matches together, they'll follow her.

In terms of this world, that's HUGE. She's consistantly had no support. Having Fae nobles throw in behind her is a game-changing event. So again: It might help her become Queen, but it also might get her killed in the next five minutes.

And then the Fae nobles START CALLING ANDAIS ON HER SHIT. 


Random nobles point out that fertile love-matches should be honored, that Andais and her son are probably both infertile, that Merry quite obviously is fertile because the ring works and the goddess is moving through her (no, but I'm ignoring it right now) and that Andais needs to knock it the fuck off for the good of the Faerie.

And then, for the first time in about ten books, a Laurel K. Hamilton character does something selfless. She says she'd rather make sure every faerie pairing gets a child than have children herself.

There are a lot of issues with this--there's the whole binary pairing thing, the whole "only fertile couples count" thing, a thin veneer of homophobia that's kinda squicky in its own right--but this is the first time since, say, chapter three that this book has not been outright painful to read. It's actually interesting, and it's moving in positive directions. We've managed to escalate the tension, strengthen Merry's political position and put her in acute risk of death, all by having somebody blab to Aunt Andais about the Great Vag of Holding.

Then Andais completely loses it and accuses a known loyalist, Barinthus, of being a traitor. Merry talks her out of this pretty much the way you'd talk a lion out of a temper tantrum, and manages to survive. Andais then realizes that she's been listening to the wrong person and...

...yeah, the tension is starting to disappear.

One of the dudes that tried to kill Galen is Kerian, who belongs to a noble house lead by Blodewedd, a woman made from flowers. This is actual myth, and a permutation I really like. It specifies that Blodewedd didn't like being given to a hero like a party favor and joined the Unseelie court because the Seelie court's the one that passed her out. Sadly all she does is stand up and talk about things that are about to be totally invalidated.

She wants to protect her people, and that means (GASP) making sure that Kerian's wife is guilty before Andais goes all medieval ruler on her ass.

Kiran gives a speech about how Merry is bad. Frankly, if my choice were human ruler or inhuman blender, I'd overthrow the whole thing and elect a puppy or something so my species could have a couple generations to decompress, but that's just me.

Merry figures out that Kerian's wife is hiding something and orders her to be searched. LKH implies that this search borders on pornographic but mercifully does not describe it in detail. It turns out that the wife has a charm to make Andais listen to them favorably. They say they dared to do this because people have tried to kill Merry and Andais let them live.

Andais says "See what being merciful gets you?" and the chapter ends.

So on the one hand we have an actual, plot and series relivant chapter for the first time in ages.

On the other hand, it's segued into another chance for LKH to wax eloquent about how mercy and kindness to your enemies and all that jazz is bad, and killing them out of hand in terrible ways is good, and either way I am NOT looking forward to the next chapter.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

On Homeschooling: Anti-vaxxers, privilege and Social Orthodoxy

There's a wonderful book called Cheaper by the Dozen that has nothing whatsoever to do with a terrible Steve Martin movie. In this story, all twelve of the Galbraith kids contract measles within hours of each other. The doctor, exasperated, tells the Galbraith parents (Frank and Lillian) that whenever their kids get sick, it upsets the health statistics for the whole state. "If I report a dozen new measles cases in one day, they're liable to declare an emergency and shut down all the schools!"

This happened in the 1920s, when vaccines weren't common. This was roughly the same time the President of the United States was a wheel-chair bound polio victim who went through great lengths to hide it.

This book was part of my homeschooling curriculum.  It's one frequently pushed by homeschooling proponants as a good example of parenting, child obedience and, lately, the principles of Quiverful: Have as many kids as your wife can carry. But it also illuminates one of the massive contributors to the anti-vaxx nonsense we now have to deal with.

 See, long before somebody brought their kid to Disneyland and ruined it for the rest of us, the folks that hijacked Christian based homeschooling gave us all an early warning. It came a couple years ago, here in Texas. That group is on the outer fringe of the Christian Patriarchy movement, and I had hoped and prayed that these idiots were the only ones organized enough to break herd immunity, and that any outbreaks would be limited to the insular Christian Patriarchy communities that congregate in North Texas, Nevada, Arkansas, ect. Bad by me.

Dr. Amy Tuteur, AKA the Skeptical OB, has a fantastic article on anti-vaxx philosophy as an example of privilege in the modern world. The core theme is that there is no greater example of WASP privilege than someone having access to affordable vaccines and refusing to use them. And the fact that the Christian Patriarchy movement is full of anti-vaxxers came as no surprise for me.  I knew about this several years ago, when I first started reading up on people like Bill Gothard, Doug Phillips and the ever-disgusting Pearls. But Dr. Amy's words codified something for me that I've been mousing around for months: in our society, it is a privilege to be undereducated and ignorant.Christian Patriarchy takes full advantage of systematic privilege. If White Anglo-Saxon Protestants did not have the privilege they do, Christian Patriarchy would not be a supportable philosophy. The only reason they can hamstring their wives and daughters, keep their children out of public education and spit on modern medicine is because privilege will catch them long before they fall.

This is how you can have a family of twelve live in a house without electricity and running water for ten years.

This is how the raid on the Yearning for Zion ranch could end with positive proof of systemized, instituionalized sexual abuse of children AND have the children go right back to the system that abused them.

This is how you can make a business advocating that parents beat their children until they die from the resulting trauma.

Because people know, somewhere in their minds, that they have the power to be ignorant and suffer no meaningful consequences.

The Christian Homeschooling community was hijacked back in the late 70s and early 80s. I do not use that word lightly. The demographic involved are usually desperate, slightly gullible people who have concern as a primary motive--concern for their children, their education and their politics. It's a population that is very ripe for someone convincing to come along and take over. It happened with Jim Jones in California. It happened with the Branch Davidians in Waco. It's happened in every religion, in every social group, and in every race and creed known to man. It's gonna happen again, inside of groups we haven't invented yet. Predators will always take advantage of others. It's part of the human condition.

There's a lot of key steps to manipulating an individual into rejecting mainstream society and the materials it offers. One of the major ones is to make that rejection a part of your identity. If a person merely has concerns about, say, Child Protective Services, then one can have those concerns soothed. If, however, you are taught to be frightened of CPS, and are convinced through carefully selected and edited case studies that you have good reason to fear them, then you will likely reject information that places them in a good light simply because fear is addictive. But even then, it's likely that you'll start to change your mind. But if fear of CPS is a part of your identity,  then not only will you be virulently anti-CPS, you will greedily consume information that confirms your bias. It is more important to have this bias be confirmed by an outside source than it is to be correct in your analysis.

I watched this happen inside of my family without knowing it. We were Christians, first and always. Then we began homeschooling and, in her effort to get guidance, my mother was taught to identify as a Homeschooler. Homeschooling wasn't just the best choice for our education, it was a part of who our family was. It set us apart, and the negative reaction of her own relatives, and my father's relatives, and our family friends--which quickly disappeared after we began homeschooling--only re-enforced her acceptance of Homeschooling as a part of her identity as a parent. The more shit you get for supporting an idea, the more devoted you are likely to become. And then, of course, she began reading materials that said fear of CPS was a part of being a Homeschooler--that it was an inherent facet of that identity and if you didn't follow it you weren't a real homeschooler. And because being a homeschooler was now an important part of our family Identity, we had to incorporate a fear of CPS into our every-day thinking.

When you factor in that we were also running a foster home full of kids who had been rescued by CPS, and that we had a daily reminder of just how many hoops CPS and the state will jump through to keep families together, you begin to understand the cognitive dissonance I grew up in. On one hand, I was told that we had to fear the state. On the other hand, we were frequently working with Child Protective Services, the court system, the parole system and about nineteen other state-run boards to try to keep our foster kids in touch with their families. We had one child, in fifteen years, emancipate from their parent. And yet we still believed that if Child Protective Services saw me and my brother playing outside at noon, they would take us away from our parents and we'd languish in the foster system forever.

This existed, not because we actually believed this shit, but because we'd been told that to keep our identity as homeschoolers intact, we had to have that fear.

Now, replace "homeschooling" with "good parent", and CPS with vaccinations, and you begin to see the co-relation.

If you are told that to be a good parent, you have to avoid vaccinations like the wind up with a whole lot of plague. 

It gets even worse when you realize that anti-vaxx rhetoric has become part of the Homeschooling rhetoric. It's not enough to distrust the government anymore; now you have to distrust its medicine. In order to "count" as a homeschooler in certain circles, you have to avoid vaccinating your kids. These are the ATI/Bill Gothard/Doug Phillips/Quiverfull/10,000 kids and Counting people.  If you want to "count" as a real Homeschooler, or whatever, you have to do this, this, this and this other thing. It's a kind of social orthodoxy. If you don't fit all the tennants of their belief system, then you don't get to claim that identity. And because you have already claimed that identity, this means losing everything you now believe defines you.

Debi and Michael Pearl, who really cannot be villified enough, are both advocate anti-vaxxers. None of their children have ever been vaccinated. For anything. They boast about this constantly. They have many devoted followers.

Groups like Christian Patriarchy and Anti-vaxxers are so very strict in who they accept and what behaviors are allowable, that you have to claim and conform to the identity they define. Those who don't get thrown out (or, if they're smart, run the fuck away) very, VERY early on. Want to follow science? Get out. Want to question and analyze all research? Fuck off. Want to allow for the morals and physical safety of others? Selfishness is a part of the identity. Go away.

The result is a band that adheres to a very tight belief system, and who are so tied into it that they will absolutely protect the ideology and the ideologes to the death. Not because they actually believe this shit, but because they incorporated it so deeply into their own psyches, rejecting any part of the idea means rejecting themselves. When an anti-vaxxer or a Christian Patriarchy proponent goes on a spitting rage screed, they're not defending their horrible belief system. They know they can't defend it. What they are defending is themselves. And the knee-jerk defensiveness they display is the same reaction you have when you are physically assaulted--the self must be protected at all costs. It's basic human instinct.

In a very real sense, the anti-vaxx sources and the Christian Patriarchy leaders have built themselves a comfortable protective wall. They can spout whatever they want and know that they will never be challenged. They have a human shield of devoted followers so caught up in the message, they view the Message as if it were their own limbs. The human shield will die for the Idology.

Unfortunately in both anti-vaxx atitudes and Christian Patriarchy, that shield is made of children. And it's the children who will pay the price.

Edit to add: awesomely sarcastic article comparing vaccinations to breaks on a car:

Stroke of Midnight--chatper 23

You know, the one thing I liked about this series was how relatively rape-free it was. Anita Blake had questionable consent and downright rape basically every other chapter last time I visited her world, but because the Fae are "different" we've been able to make out without non-con getting all up in our faces.

I guess LKH decided we needed to fix that.

...but it wasn't him that made my hand slip underneath his shirt and glide along his bare skin. Fear choked me, ran along my skin like electric shocks, tingling out to my fingertips.
This is doubly disturbing for me, because in the next Exiles book (IT IS COMING I PROMISE I HAVE TO GET MY TABLET OUT OF STORAGE) I have a scene where Casey is confronted by a former lover who scares the shit out of her, only she doesn't recognize it. I used basically the same language and sensations. It was fucking difficult to write, too, because I had to pull on my sex assault to find the right words for "shutting down emotionally because you're that fucking scared". So to see that exact language being erotized makes me want to do a full decontamination routine a'la Silkwood.

Being afraid of sex is not sexy. Being manipulated into having sex with someone else is not sexy. Now, writing about being manipulated into sex because that's the plot? And you do it deliberately? And your goal is to point out that hey, this is not cool and it needs to stop now? Very good. Be careful about getting it wrong. Writing about being manipulated into sex because consensual sex is somehow out of your range? Boo.

   Merry and the MOST BEAUTIFUL MAN IN THE WORLD starts to make out...and then...



And then the goddess says "HURRY" which I think is LKH's agent going "Can we have a book now?" and Merry tells them to put the accused murderer in a cage--she specifices that this must be done "gently" because that is totally a thing--and they all have to RUN to the throne room.

Why? This is not explained. But they do it.

The fountain leading in to the throne room is suddenly in the middle of a dead garden. This is supposed to be shocking. For some reason. Merry feels fear like fine champagne, which is not a description I like much. Andais is doing...something. And it's terrifying. What it never is, however, is actually described. So we're supposed to imagine Andais torturing kittens or something. Merry asks for a private audience to make Andais stop torturing kittens. Andais demands Merry ask for it on her knees. Merry does so. They talk in circles for a few minutes and then head off to that private chat.

And it turns out that what has Andais so pissed is that Merry had astral sex with Barinthus. She assures her aunt that all their clothes were in place, so no vows were broken and everything is okay.

Yes. We have a double murder in the slithen, which is currently full of cops and psychotic fairies at the same time, and an attempt on Merry's life, and Andais wants to know about the state of clothing during astral sex.

And on that note, the chapter ends.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Stroke of Midnight--chapter 22

Merry complains about how the CS techs are complaining. Apparently electronic shit doesn't work down in the fairy mounds and Merry forgot to tell them this.

Merry, you INVITED the crime scene techs specifically for their tech. WHY WOULD YOU FORGET THAT THE TECH DOESN'T WORK.

Police do not like to be fucked with, especially if they've just, maybe, pissed off all the local feds on your behalf.
It never ceases to amaze me  how LKH manages to condemn her own main character's behavior in the text without noticing. It's kind of like accidentally solving impossible equations. Merry is ABSOLUTELY fucking with the cops right now, she has been since the minute she invited them down, and now she's acting like their concern--remember, she was screaming because somebody tried to kill Galen--is inconvenient.

Because of course the cops are supposed to ignore assassination attempts. Isn't that how cops work? (No. No it's not.)

Then Merry has a pang of guilt for brainwashing one of the female guards into falling in love with the male guards. Somehow this ended with her losing her eyes, which I really don't remember from the last chapter. Merry says her eyes will grow back, which means her bad behavior has no real consequences whatsoever.

The lead investigator grabs Merry and notices that beneath her glamour, she's covered in blood. He starts to grill her on what happened. She's dismissive because assassination attempts aren't a big deal. The cop advises her to get the fuck out of St. Louis because someone is trying to kill her. Then the cop asks her, flat out, if the evidence they gather will be used to justify murdering the perp and heavily implies that the nature of the evidence delivered depends on Merry's answer.

I now totally heart Captain Walters. He's calling Merry on her shit. He deserves all the things.

Merry asks if he knows if they've got something. He doesn't say yes, but yeah, they found something and they want to be VERY careful before they turn it over to Merry. Because, you know, somebody's going to die because of their info. Merry pushes, saying that her assassin might be the murderer. Given that this is the lair of bloody psychopaths, I think that's a big leap. The murderer could just be a hobbiest who doesn't give a fuck. Walters refuses to budge. If somebody's gonna die because of what they found, they're going to make absolutely sure before they turn it over.

We've spent fuck knows how many chapters on sex, and we had this plot the entire time. A damn good, honorable cop trying to find a murderer while simultaneously trying to protect both the perp AND any random innocents from the psycopathic alien monsters who invited them in.


Merry says "I can use magic and make you tell."

Walters says if she does, she'll never get any help from any cop ever again. 

I now want to marry this fictional character. This is the first LKH character that has a spine and reasonable boundaries. I'm terrified about how she's going to fuck it up, but...yeah, I want this character to get lead in his own book. DAMN.

Walters then tells the guard that what they found is a print from one of Merry's crew, so they need to be extra careful with her, and he's not saying anything else because he's not getting an innocent dude killed. He heads off to go take care of his people.

Merry then has a panic attack. Why she has a panic attack, I have no clue, but she does and she snuggles with everybody because...snuggling with a potential murderer is perfectly fine and dandy.

Seriously. She just found out one of these guys probably just killed someone and she's making out with 'em because Fuck This Book, that's why.

The tech that found the print goes over to talk to Merry, because this is smart and not-at-all risky. Merry repeats what she told Walters: they're gonna kill this idiot soon as they find him. She also explains that this torture-murder justice system is justified because it is, and I quote, "a cultural thing".

Then Merry asks if somebody could fake a print.

According to Mythbusters, the answer is "yes". Merry decides that the fae couldn't, though, because none of them watch enough CSI to understand how fingerprints work.

Seriously. They can't fake evidence because they don't watch enough TV.

The tech tries to demo how she found the print on one of the guards because somehow now the potential murderer is kitchen staff. The guard bewitches the tech because that totally accomplishes something. They send the tech to a different guard and she explains that she found a bloody handprint, as if they were trying to pull a knife out of the dead bodies. Then she starts to push on the connection between Merry and the MOST BEAUTIFUL MAN IN THE WORLD. Somehow this turns into a scuffle and Merry falls into skin to skin contact with the MBMITW. The chapter ends with the heavy implication that, once again, we're trading a good plot for sex.

And Captain Walters is now my hero.