Sunday, November 18, 2012

Expanded Definition: Family

Family has an ancient connotation, a biblical interpretation, and a literal application. The word itself is from the Latin familia, meaning household, which itself came from famulus, meaning ‘servant.’ There is also the historical biblical interpretation, which says that marriage is the lynchpin of the family unit. From Genesis 2:24, which is, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh," we get the modern social construct. The personal family is today best described as Marilynn Robinson puts it in her book The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought: a collection of people with shared “habits, tastes, stories, customs, [and] memories.” Well more than a framework for boring and technical scientific definitions of relationships between members of a species, family is also a way humans identify themselves -- by blood or by choice. Emotionally defined, family is perhaps the yearning in every person to belong to a strong and protective group one feels an obligation or loyalty to, a unit that can provide strength in numbers and shelter or comfort from a sometimes cruel world. Of course, families have their own brand of cruelty, and no family is exempt from this rule.
With the ancient definition, the overtone is clear: family is something owned (an object), or someone possessed by the House – these would be the women and their children, seized in conquest and forced into familial relationships for the sake of a nobler lineage or a wealthier family’s profit. Where family was once an identity given to someone when they were purchased by nobility or born into a specific bloodline, family in today’s more inclusive society is as much about association as it is about blood. This hidden history of the word is not often brought up or discussed, and of course not. It would decimate the moral judgment of those who hold the literal biblical belief described next.
Many believe America is a Christian Nation, but the Bible can be a confusing mess when defining family for those who attempt to literally follow the book.  If family is the producer of morals and values, and marriage is the foundation of family, honest accounting means admitting that the definition of marriage has changed numerous times throughout the Bible. From polygamy as the standard in Deuteronomy 21:15 to God sanctioned-rape in Judges 21:10-24---. Expansion of family is the way of accounting for the history of man. Family is hard to characterize with consistency when using the biblical framework. The definition as according to civil law must, to be consistent with history, continue to expand.
Another incongruous example, relating more to my literal experience, is where the Bible, in Romans 8:15, tells me to “Be not afraid, for it is a spirit of adoption [I] have received.”  In my life this bell rang more like a warning than an invitation – in hindsight – because a verse from Deuteronomy 23:2 which I also read, says “A bastard shall not be entered into heaven even until the tenth generation.”  I am confused.  How can I or my children and their children ever receive salvation?  If America is a Christian Nation, and if the Constitution is truly Biblically based and therefore written and maintained in accordance with the accepted Christian familial structure, then there can be no true belief -- just a coerced ‘faith’ – and no real place within society for me and every other bastard-child.
Another misconception is that there was ever a perfect time for families. To use a typical white American’s view of the 1950’s, that decade was the idyllic time. But, says researcher, author and Professor Stephanie Coontz, “…rates of unwed childbearing tripled between 1940 and 1958, but most Americans didn't notice because unwed mothers generally left town, gave their babies up for adoption and returned home as if nothing had happened.”  There is no ‘moral best’ available in the family structure; there has never been a generation where the family was the exclusive generator of proper values.
My personal story about family is not easy to digest, and most of it does not fit here. However, a brief overview is necessary to understand my perspective on the subject. At first, my only family was my fifteen year old mother. Having run away from home at twelve to escape a sexually aggressive father, her life quickly degraded into hard drugs and prostitution.  This was how she met my ‘father,’ and became pregnant at fourteen.  I never have known this person whose DNA is carried on in my body.  I have no clue who or what he is.  Family, for me, is incomplete.
Until I was three years old, this teenage girl was all I really understood as family.  Yet she was the family who sexually abused me, who zipped me up in her backpack and left me on the bed in her hotel room while she went in search of tricks and/or drugs for hours or days at a time.  She threw me at walls, sold my companionship for extra cash.  Not long after that age, I ended up entirely dependent on the State and the generous taxpayers of California for my survival. Child Protective Services did finally step in, and my family for a time was the State-run orphanage. Not to burrow into hyperbole, but if there had been no state interference I likely would have died before age five.
I was adopted by an affluent family at three and a half. By this family I was consistently portrayed and treated as an angry and  argumentative child looking for confrontation, a feral kid with no control over his emotions, rather than as the confused and inquisitive bright child with adult sensitivities about sexual activities that I was. Since the separation in my teenage years, when I was again returned to the custody of the state, there has been no contact. Well, that’s not exactly true.
I called my mom once when I was almost twenty-one. She asked who I was. I said “Jason.” She said, “Jason who?” “Your son.” “I don’t have a son.” I probably should have hung up then, but I stayed on the phone hoping she would acknowledge the eternal bond.  I still sting every time a memory pops up (a lot) or a conversation with friends turns towards family affairs. When U2’s One is on at the supermarket or some other innocuous place, I get all weepy, because the last portion of lyric reminds me that we are all family. I include this last chunk because in its entirety we see described the tension between unconditional and conditional love in a family setting:
Did I ask too much?/More than a lot./You gave me nothing/ Now it's all I got./We're one/but we're not the same/Well we/Hurt each other then we do it again/You say/Love is a temple/Love a higher law/Love is a temple/Love the higher law/You ask me to enter/then you make me crawl/And I can't be holding on/To what you got/When all you got is hurt./One love/One blood/One life/You got to do what you should./One life/With each other/Sisters/Brothers/One life, but we're not the same/We get to carry each other/Carry each other…
It really is a privilege, I have learned, both to be carried and to have someone to carry when they need it. 
Family is something I have now that, even as a young man, I never thought I could have again. I think often about the fortunate life I have led, how happy I am to love and be loved.  How set apart I am from others who have been through similar horrific abuse, to have survived all of this.  I thrive and feel grateful for my life despite what I’ve been through.  I’m lucky, I know, and not just to live to tell the tale, but to be encircled by inexhaustibly amazing people.  I belong to a family now, having surrounded myself with those who can stand my decline, those who do not pity me or take advantage of my vulnerabilities. These are people who know my sweet and gentle nature and believe it still exists though all they hear, night and day, is my bitching.  This is the family that will mourn my passing, that will monitor my attitudes,  and remind me that I appreciate a good debate but loathe a faulty argument, calling me on my bullshit when I try to sell it.  This family will see the joy I take from parenting my not-yet-three year old girl.  This is an amazing, smart, beautiful, and hope-filled child who will never have to know the horror or betrayal of my own childhood.
I know I have blood brothers somewhere, maybe sisters too.  I know my birth mother is still alive. She lives somewhere near me, even.  I have struggled, holding her address in my hands, with whether or not to attempt contact.  I doubt it would be a good idea.  Any reward of reconciliation must be balanced with the knowledge that my entire family – my family as we have chosen each other -- would also reap the consequences of my illogical inner need to somehow outwardly forgive the unforgivable.
Family for me has never been what it is for the people around me, the not so close and the close friends.  I have watched their moms and dads die, their brothers get married, their sisters divorced, I have lost contact with countless caring women and as many generous men that I counted as my close friends. That has always been my family, until I found my wife.  Now, there are two lives to intertwine, and a third to lead. We may not live up to someone else’s definition—we surely are not slaves to one another—but we are happy to have each other.
From slave to marriage and children, to units sharing emotional bonds, the word family has evolved and expanded in definition.  Humans don’t need to bind themselves for profit or to please He Who Judges—but we are connected, connected by identity and common longing to trust and unconditionally love without fear of betrayal.  This is impossible to expect from the family of man.  We all want our Pops to have been perfect or our family history to not include the pedophile uncle. But families do, and keeping these secrets is unhealthy. Slave. Family meant slave.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Wife's Rebuttal to an Unnamed Veteran on Veteran's Day, 11-11-12

about an hour ago via mobile ·
I am a veteran. I did nothing in my service that I look back and feel proud of myself. The 10-year war is a disgrace to america. There have been scandals around every corner, cover-ups, broken rules of war and laws of humanity, and the millitary has been the biggest unnecessary drain on the economy. I feel more proud of my insignificant 4 months serving the occupy movement, than I do of my USAF service. I know most of you have a fake impression of our service members, and that tv and generational stories of heroism have led you to believe that soldiers are honorable and justly defending our country... but its not true. You probably wouldn't believe the truth if jesus tramp stamped it on you. Fuck it all.
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o 9 people like this.

o _________ May I share this friend?
about an hour ago · Like · 1

o ___________________ I cannot say that I can understand what you're saying from your prospective, but thank you for sharing this and god damn it... Thank you for saying this. Nice to hear some truth every once and a while.
about an hour ago · Like · 1

o ____________ I don't claim rights to my quotes or my art.
47 minutes ago · Like · 1

o Diana Albright I understand your sentiment, ______, and I respect your perspective. There are certainly things in recent memory that our military has no right to be proud of (Abu Ghraib comes to mind immediately, and I know there are myriad other examples), however I politely offer a counter to the statement you made about "generational stories of heroism": in WWII, my grandparents - natives of the island of Guam - suffered horrific abuses and tragic losses at the hands of the Japanese soldiers who were occupying Guam. My grandmother and grandfather, as they were from different villages, had not met each other yet, yet they each suffered similarly in different "camps" where they were imprisoned. On the day that the US military landed on the shores of the island, my grandfather was in the process of digging a mass grave. Had the Navy not arrived, he would have been laying dead in that grave along with every other Guamanian in his camp. If it had not been for the US military, an entire people would have been annihilated on that day. My grandfather, in a show of gratitude perhaps, shortly thereafter enlisted in the US Navy as a humble cook, where he remained until he retired. He took great pride in his work, and he was a very patriotic man. He was also a very kind man, who often helped other people to his own loss. He never uttered "No" to a person in need.

Unfortunately, war leads to countless tragedies. Some of the biggest tragedies are carried out by members of our military. I do not celebrate them. Not every service member is good, or even well-intentioned. They are just like all of us - some follow blindly, others live for cruelty. They are human. Many that I have known however are neither stupid or cruel. They are GOOD and they really do care about our impact on humanity. I do not think of you, a veteran, as a monster or a murderer. My grandfather certainly was not. I have dear friends, who would give their lives for anyone's right to demonize them or characterize them as other than the well-intentioned people they are. I, personally, am thankful for my grandfather, for you, and for those people.
14 minutes ago · Like · 2

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Soup Shares

  1. Like · · Promote ·
    • Bruce Lindner likes this.
    • Bruce Lindner I say we stay here, but send the Teabaggers there. If they can figure out a way to travel at light-speed, they'll be there in two generations. If not, then a few thousand years watching nothing but darkness and reruns of Glenn Beck seems appropriate. Thanks Soup!
  2. --Well, well. Look who suddenly believes in unicorns. Grover Norquist: Why 2012 Election Was Actually Good For GOP (VIDEO)
    Huffington Post - 17 hours ago

    Conservative Grover Norquist joined HuffPost Live Wednesday to explain why he believes the 2012 election actually brought good news for the Republican party.
    Like · · Promote ·
  3. Like · · Promote ·
  4. Economics and Organized Wealth:
    From the the Austrian School to Neoliberalism.
    Service with a smile.
    Like · ·
  5. OK. So I rubbed it in to one person. I couldn't help it!!
    Unlike · ·
    • You like this.
  6. So, Karl... After your guy's cousin called the state of Florida before anybody else back in '00, setting the stage for handing Bush the White House – and this nation an unmitigated DISASTER, I find it interesting that you challenged a mathe...See More
    Like · ·
  7. (Brad) All hail Dick Morris, the galactic ruler of hack pundits.
    Like · ·
    • 2 people like this.
  8. We are grateful for each and every one of you.
    Like · ·
  9. """"""He wanted it to be “different,” and he’s praying for you, America. That is not “gracious.” What it is instead is a pretty typical Romney, a man who would arrogantly refuse to entertain the notion of defeat and then grind in his heels and refuse to accept it for as long as possible."""
    Like · ·
  10. Recreational use of marijuana is legal in my state Soup!
    Unlike ·
  11. 1Like · ·
  12. Like · ·
  13. -- If and when Mitt Romney comes out to concede that will be a peaceable transfer of power. This, of course, is a process that would be impossible absent tax revenue which more than a majority of elected republicans oppose. Now the work begins.
    Like · ·
  14. --Hate, when disappointed, is vengeful.
    Like · ·
  15. Can't run on his record, huh?
    Like · ·
  16. Like · ·
  17. Like · ·
  18. 5 signs at PA polling place: "NO PARKING FOR DEMOCRATS"
    Like · ·
  19. Chris Matthews: ‘Idiots’ vote for ‘numbskull’ third party candidates
    Like · ·
  20. Go Vote!!!!
    California friends....
    Vote away the embarrassingly old-school, costly and brutal California Death Penalty! (yes on 34)
    Vote for a more sensible 3 strikes (yes on 36)
    Vote to help balance our budget in California and help our schools, not to thwart the process (yes on 30; No on 38)
    Vote to know if your food is REALLY natural or not. (yes on 37)
    Vote to prevent billionaire money (Koch B
    ros among others) from basically crushing Unions' ability to stand up against corporate bullies. (vote no on 32)

    Friends across the country:
    Vote Obama. Vote Democrat!

    vote against women... against gays... against the poor... against the middle class.... against health care... against the right to choose.... against Planned Parenthood... against the environment... against new energy... against the better interests of nearly everyone in this country (whether they know it or not).... but make a bunch of billionaires very, very happy! :-)
    Like · ·
  21. Is this an appropriate display for a polling place?

    A church being used as a polling place in Colorado has an anti-abortion message out front in the form of more than 3,000 crosses representing aborted fetuses. Thoughts?
    Like · ·
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  23. I know everyone's feeling stressed about the election - I suggest some deep breathing exercises - breathe in...hold the smoke..breathe out
    1Like · ·
  24. "It's out of my hands now. It's in yours. All of it depends on what you do when you step into that voting booth tomorrow."

    — President Barack Obama