I’m not crazy, right? This is the year that the United States started looking more and more like a police state, right? I have never felt so acutely that the fabric of our society here has been so much the stuff of cautionary novels about dehumanizing, dystopian futures. (This editorial manages to say all this a little more lucidly than I can right now.) Every day when I read or listen to the news, I get a little more incensed, a little more astounded. How is it possible that we're not making more of a fuss?
"Un-American" is a term that’s getting tossed around a lot these days, usually in a context that perverts the very sense of that. Apparently, it's become un-American to worry about the erosion of many of the guiding principles that characterized the essence of being American. I don't meant to paint a squeaky-clean picture of our political and diplomatic past, but aren't things seeming a little over the top to you yet? Read this. Or this. How about this one? And you already know about this (follow-up protests to this), right? What's going on here? If our liberties and our belief in participatory democracy are so precious, why are we surrendering them so easily? And, ummmmmm, shouldn't we be making more of a stink when we're told it's unpatriotic of us to even question whether or not our government is doing the right thing?
I abhor small talk. I’m just not good at it, and it's a real effort for me to say the dumb things over and over again. "Oh, I’m doing great, thanks." "Yes, the food is great." "Yeah, it would be great if we hung out some time." Ugh. Kill me. Well, today will be the first of three consecutive days of tedious office parties and luncheons. Three days! And this at a place where I’ve done my best to avoid contact with co-workers for over 5 years now. (A handful of good friends and kooky pals being the exception to the rule.) Most everyone is basically nice, but more often it's "nice" in that bland, awkward-small-talk way where you do much better when all you have to to share is cruel office gossip and work chat. Kill. Me. At least there are a lot of baked goods around the office this time of year.
By the way, I had a completely wonderful Christmas with my family this past weekend, as I always do. If I could just parachute down into Christmas with the kith and kin, and avoid the rest of the season alotgether, I’d be much jollier about the whole thing.
A point of clarification for anyone who read the last entry and got the wrong idea: I really enjoy spending time with my family, and I don't get to do it often enough. That doesn't mean that it's not a hassle to get everything together and haul up there. (Longtime readers will recall, for instance, that every year I write about how much I hate Christmas because all the go-go-go is stressful and sucks all the joy out of celebrating until I’m actually there and basking in it.) I don't really have to choose to spend time with the kinfolk yet I do, over and over again, because they mean a lot to me. That also means, unfortunately, that I have to sacrifice spending special occasions with other people who are really important to me. If I gripe, I’m just being honest about the holiday season being filled with lots of hard choices. It's not an insult to anyone for me to be straightforward about being stressed by it all I wish I could gather all my dear kith and kin around me all at one time, but life is just more complicated than that. OK?
OK, let me get this straight because of "serious economic conditions" connected to the war on terror, January's scheduled pay raises for federal employees are being cancelled (s'okay if you're actually fighting the war, though the military will still be getting their raises) but the administration is reinstating cash bonuses for political appointees? Um, wasn't that policy stopped because it was widely abused the last time a Bush was in office?
Oh yeah, if you have a federal job, you might also get shitcanned if a private company can provide a lowball estimate for doing your job itself, even if it's a company that’s moved its headquarters offshore to avoid taxation. So it's a great time to be a robber baron with sworn loyalties to the crown, but it's a bad time to have a stable civil service job in a shaky economy. And all this is good for the country because...?
First off, check out the new shirts:
And in the better-late-than-never category, a few snaps from the various Aaron-centric events of the last few days:
Today is World AIDS Day 2002, a day when we are all encouraged to take a moment to pause and consider HIV, AIDS, their impact on our society and others, and our own views about them.
Frankly, I wish I had the luxury of taking just a day to think about them. I wish I had the luxury of being able to consider those issues abstractions that only intrude on my consciousness now and then. I wish I had the luxury of forgetting the rest of the time.
I stop to think two times a day, minimum. Two times a day I wish I didn't have the burden of taking medication, perhaps for the rest of my life, to make sure I didn't do something stupid somewhere along the line. Two times a day I wish I didn't have the responsibility to keep taking the medicine, maintaining an antiviral assault on my system so that I don't develop a resistance to the drugs. During many other moments during the day, I wish I didn't have to worry about the possibility of infecting the man I love, or I wish he didn't have to worry about me. Every time I get a cold or some minor ailment, I wish I didn't have to wonder if it could turn into something worse. Every three months, I wish I didn't have blood drawn to check on my progress. Every time I hear people talk about their adventurous sex lives, I wish I didn't have to hope they're keeping their wits about them the whole time. Every time I read about some culture's reluctance to fully acknowledge the magnitude of HIV infection and AIDS, and the efforts that could be made to reduce them, I wish I didn't have to quake with rage.
But you know what? At least two times a day I count my lucky stars. I’m grateful I have excellent health coverage and access to my medication. I’m grateful I have a doctor I trust and respect. I’m grateful I have a family, friends, and a partner who don't consider me a pariah. I’m glad I’m able to stay in excellent health. And I’m glad I have the opportunity to use means like this to remind everyone else to count their blessings, and get up and do some damn thing to help someone else have some blessings to count. Because it's never just someone else's problem. As long as we live on this earth together, it's yours, too.