Sunday, December 21, 2008

2008: the bastard year i never wanted*.

This has been one of the worst years ever save for one very huge, very amazing exception. Yes, Obama winning was one of the happiest moments of my life, and I still can't believe we actually did it. But while I would love for that fact to cancel out all the many bad things that happened in these last twelve months, it just doesn't. 2008 was wretched in so many ways for so many people, and we each have our reasons. These are mine, in no particular order.

1. The economy sucks.
This country is in the dumps, economically speaking. So many people are struggling to afford health insurance, have lost jobs they once deemed stable, and/or were fucked over by evil lenders granting misleading loans individuals could not afford. And it's supposedly only going to get worse. Oh, and we have to bail these awful institutions out, too. Also? They're using our money to finance their partying (which they did the day after asking for another $40 billion, no less). I'm not saying the bailout was a terrible idea, because last I checked, not helping didn't work so well for Japan in the face of a similar economic crisis. I'll just call it the shit sandwich that comes with bacon, standing in firm opposition to the alternative: the plain shit sandwich.

2. The above is probably (hopefully) why I am still unemployed.

What a time to enter the professional world as a fresh-faced (read: inexperienced) aspiring ANYTHING. I knew it was going to be tough, but I didn't realize it was going to be so bad that I can't even get internships or clerical work. It kind of makes me wonder why I worked SO VERY HARD in college. Why I worked hard in high school to get into a good college, then worked even harder in college to graduate with distinction. Look at all these rewards! Pfffth. A waste of time, as far as I'm concerned. I should have majored in something useful, like civil engineering. Studying PEOPLE? Unnecessary. SOCIETY? Useless.

I don't mean to belabor the point, but I really worked my ass off in college and I'm bitter. I spent night after night pulling 12-hour study sessions at the library, drinking buckets of coffee to stay awake, forming calluses from recopying page after page of notes so that the information would be seared into my brain. I woke my clinically depressed ass up (almost) every morning to get to class on time, I forced my socially anxious self to speak in big, scary lectures so I could get participation points. I studied something I was passionate about and learned about the economy and politics and food production and poverty and globalization and the media and international relations and everything involving people. And now? I can't even find work as a secretary. The fuck? I'm qualified, damn it. What's wrong with me?

I guess, in a less selfish way, it just points to how far from a meritocracy this society is. All too often, it doesn't matter how hard you work. It depends on who you are and who you know. Whether daddy can get you a job with his company, or you interview with an employer who was in your sorority and is thus a sister 4 life. This sucks for me, who has no connections but did well in school, but it sucks even more for the poverty-stricken child who can't even get a decent education no matter HOW hard they work, simply because they don't live in the right area of town.

And I've applied for, um, I'd say thousands of jobs. It's fine if you don't want to hire me, but could you at least get an intern to write a simple email saying, "Thank you for your application, but we do not have a position we believe best suits your skills at this time." (Unless it's a receptionist job, because that's just condescending.) Oh, and if you call me in for a second interview and tell me you'll notify me by the end of the week whether I got the job or not, please stick to your word. If you don't plan on ever speaking to me again, just say "Due to the high volume of job applicants, we cannot notify those who are not selected for this position" or whatever your preferred method of polite rejection. It's pretty shitty to just leave me hanging like that. Especially when I diligently fill out each and every one of your company-specific registration forms where each one needs a unique user id and password. Where you have to submit your formal resume and then manually enter each and every exact thing you have provided on that resume once more, just for good measure. I spent an hour filling out each one of your applications, and I even tailored my cover letter precisely to the job description to boot. Could you at least take five seconds to respond? I'm kind of appalled by the rudeness of people.

3. Speaking of rude: Christian hypocrisy.
I suppose this isn't 2008-specific, but election years always bring out the extra-crazies. It's fine if you want to be Christian, but at least understand your religion. I'm an agnostic who has never touched a Bible in her life and I know more about the teachings of Jesus than many of his followers. For example:

a. Saying, "Oh, well, God will punish him/her for that!" is not a Christian virtue. To say that once someone makes a mistake, they are forever doomed to hell pretty much flies in the face of that whole thing about FORGIVENESS. Wasn't that why Jesus existed in the first place? Just because someone makes a mistake does not mean they are a wholly terrible person. Many people later feel remorse for their mistakes. But, oh, I guess once you fuck up, you're destined to hell. You get one shot, and that's it!

Also, to look at people who ARE able to forgive and deem them terrorist-sympathizers or whatever term applies is not very Christian, either. An Evangelical I know was mad that John McCain hugged one of the interrogators from his POW days years later. Terrorist! He's practically a MUSLIM.

b. Saying "I think Barack Obama is a Muslim and that's BAD!" has two levels of awful in it. He had a Reverend Wright Scandal. REVEREND. How can he be a Muslim and have a scandal involving his Reverend? And if he WAS a Muslim, when did xenophobia/bigotry get back in style?! Putting "I'm a Libertarian with theocratic and xenophobic leanings" on your Facebook profile does you no favors, it just makes you look like the biggest asshole known to man. All three of those are bad individually, but put them together and you've got a recipe for disaster. Also, I didn't realize there was a passage in the Bible calling radical American nationalism the one true way and proclaiming that anyone who looks different (Latino, African American or otherwise) is a foreigner who doesn't belong here. I guess the lesson here is, it's cool to be a non-American Christian who has been converted by missionaries, just so long as you stay in your own damn country.

c. Judging others when you've got a big fucking closet full of skeletons is pretty low. This guy I know is a so-called honest-to-goodness Christian who judges people like it's his job. To his current girlfriend, who had an abortion: "I don't hate you." Regarding the homeless man he begrudgingly gave money to: "Well, if he spends it on alcohol, he'll be going to hell." Dude, you had a three-year relationship with a married woman (oh, hey, his current girlfriend is married, too!). I'm pretty sure that kind of thing (premarital sex included) is more explicitly frowned upon in the Bible than people buying things they can't afford (otherwise most Americans are in trouble).

d. Laughing about the prospect of an Obama assassination is not very Christian, either. Seriously, I'm a better Christian than the ones who not-so-secretly hope he dies or refuse to accept him as their president. Karl Rove is probably one of the most evil men alive, but I don't wish death on anyone. I guess it's because I'm such a bleeding heart compassionate tree-hugging liberal. As if that's a BAD thing!

4. Speaking of abortion: Idiotic legislation.
I am LIVID over this regulation honoring religious objections from pharmacists and doctors who don't want to deal with abortions and birth control pills. Okay, I get it if a doctor doesn't want to perform an abortion. He or she should not have to. But now they can refuse to refer a patient to a doctor or pharmacist who will. In fact, a pharmacist/doctor can refuse to provide ANY information to a patient if it goes against their morals. But only as it pertains to women's health! The legislation specifically talks about abortion only. Which is why it makes no sense that this regulation also okays pharmacists refusing to dispense contraception. Contraception is not abortion.

There are so many things wrong with this decision, it's not even funny. First of all, don't say you're trying to protect all medical practitioners' religious beliefs if you're only focusing on abortion and contraception. If you were concerned about all religious freedom, you would realize that many other religions have prominent beliefs that interfere with other common medications and write these equally stupid provisions into this awful regulation. Is it okay for a Scientologist pharmacist to refuse to dispense anti-depressants, because it's against their religion? Is it okay for a Christian Scientist pharmacist to refuse to dispense any medication? Is it okay for a Jew to work at a butcher shop and refuse to sell pork? Is it okay for a Jehovah's Witness to refuse to give a blood transfusion (it's against their religion!) to a critically injured patient, or even refer them or take them to a doctor who will?

According to this legislation, probably not. But why is our government valuing one religion's beliefs over another's? Don't Scientologists and Christian Scientists and Jews have the same rights to religious freedom as well? Why is it only Christians that get to have their beliefs "honored" in ridiculous ways? Doesn't the First Amendment prohibit enacting a law that respects an establishment of religion? Aren't you playing favorites with Christianity?

My second, more important point is this: oral contraception is not just used as birth control. Many women, virgins even(!), use hormone therapy (read: birth control pills) to regulate conditions such as endometriosis and ovarian cysts. This isn't even an issue of pain reduction. It's about REDUCING the spread of cysts or polyps. It's the only way to treat these conditions, minus a hysterectomy. I understand that pharmacists are not required to take the Hippocratic oath like doctors are, but their job is to dispense medicine that aids people's health. They make sure medications that have dangerous interactions aren't taken together, and they give you what a doctor has deemed necessary. Preventing a person from getting vital treatment means they aren't fulfilling their job duties. I'm guessing a Jew who refused to sell pork, or a vegan who refused to touch or sell any meat, would be fired from a butcher shop pretty quickly due to the fact that they were failing to meet job requirements. Why are Christian pharmacists being singularly sheltered?

I talked to a very pro-life Catholic about oral contraception for ovarian cysts (and other conditions), and he said that most Catholics are perfectly fine with taking medication for this purpose. Okay, so, it's alright to deny Susie her birth control if it's for pregnancy prevention, but not if she's a virgin with a medical condition. How on EARTH are you going to regulate that? Doesn't that violate doctor-patient confidentiality? Are you going to call little ovarian cyst Susie each day and say, "Are you having sex? If so, you need to stop taking those birth control pills under MY watch!" Are you going to conduct some ridiculous TEST to see if she's a virgin? (There isn't one.)

A Slate article I found uses this final point as the last pin in the coffin:
"The most important distinction between [doctors and pharmacists] has to do with their differing relationship with patients. The law recognizes that doctors' special relationships with their patients warrant a legal privilege: Their discussions are kept secret. You may like and trust your pharmacist. You may even trust him with intimate details about your yeast infection. But your pharmacist has neither the tools nor the right to probe details about rape and abuse, incest and health risks. Which is why pharmacists who interpose themselves between decisions made by a doctor and her patient are overstepping moral and ethical boundaries—and undermining another professional relationship that is fundamentally different from their own."
So? How are you going to selectively administer hormone therapy without violating doctor-patient confidentiality? No one in favor of this regulation has answered me on this. Hey, here's a thought: Don't like birth control? DON'T TAKE IT. Oh, and perhaps you should reconsider gynecology if you have a problem with women. (Just a guess, but I assume, as a gynecologist, you'll be interacting with them a lot!)

Also, gay marriage. The passage of Proposition 8 was surprising and upsetting for many, and now proponents want to retroactively enforce the ban on gay marriage, rendering all previously recognized (pre-Prop 8) marriages invalid. Way to be an asshole and change your story, folks. Luckily this has thoroughly disgusted California's attorney general, who is now urging the Supreme Court to void the proposition.

5. Death

This is another inevitability of life, obviously, but this year it has seemed especially prominent. There were the deaths of Tim Russert and George Carlin, two men I adored for their respective talents; the passing of Bernie Mac, who seemed like great family man; and Obama's grandmother, who died the day before he was elected. ONE DAY. Awful.

I'm sure I'm forgetting some others that really hit close to home, but I was most recently affected and disturbed by the death of
Jdimytai Damour, the Wal-Mart worker who was trampled on Black Friday. What a perfect symbol for our rampant consumer greed. We want what we want and we don't care what or who it hurts. Perhaps this is just a rumor, but I heard that people knew someone had been horribly injured, and they kept shopping. They were ANGRY about the holdup, about the need to clear the scene after he died. Honestly? An HDTV is not worth it. (It'll be standard in a few months, anyway.)

Perhaps most shocking, I know three people in one family (not mine) who are dying. Two are near the end of their lives and their ailments are relatively natural, but one woman simply collapsed last week and fell into an irreversible coma. She was young, in her forties, and the sister of a friend's stepmom. They just had Thanksgiving at this woman's house and everything was perfectly fine. And then she collapsed, never to regain consciousness. They just took her off life support and she has less than a week to live. She's already in a vegetative state. They don't even know what's wrong, really. Their guess is its some kind of viral infection in her brain.

So, with this last sobering bullet point, it's not my intent to be heavy-handed or to trivialize these deaths by listing them under me not having a job as explanation for why this year has been so awful. I guess my point is that life is so precious and uncertain, and people too often show a blatant disregard for others. We all know that certain things are inevitable: death, heartache, hardship, whatever, but we don't need to make personal relations another annoyance of life by treating one another like enemies. Why do we have to look at others with such immediate disdain? I'm including myself in this. I know I dislike many Republicans and Libertarians. I admit it, I'm a partial-hypocrite. But I like to think I always give people a fair chance. I don't judge people solely based on their political labels; I let them elucidate their beliefs before forming an opinion (or I try to). I'm not saying I'm perfect, but I at least make an effort to give people the benefit of the doubt. I try to be nice to strangers, and help others, and believe in the goodness of people (even though many of their actions suggest otherwise). I don't assume people on welfare are going to use that money for drugs or whatever. I don't assume the worst. It's one thing to be cautious and realistic, but it's quite another to be a misanthropic jerk.

I think the problem is that too many individuals regard life as a movie starring them. They're the main character, the most important one. Everyone else is simply a supporting actor or a tool to get their story to progress. They're looked at as fixtures, features, not real people with real lives. And, of course, the environment is just a backdrop. Not an ecosystem, but a setting. And things only happen when you're present. I guess I'm talking about a real version of The Truman Show. But life isn't like that at all. Each person has their own little life, a family, a story. The world does not revolve around you. (It revolves around the sun, but that's a terrible joke.) I know it's cheesy, and I'm devastated that it was made into a song for High School Musical, but we are all in this together. Maybe in 2009, we can start acting like it.

(Disclaimer: I'm doubtful. It's just a pipe dream from a weak, compassionate idealist. My problem is that I want the whole world to be humane with me, when I think the key to life is to surround yourself with the ones who actively share that desire.)


lmb said...

"I'll just call it the shit sandwich that comes with bacon, standing in firm opposition to the alternative: the plain shit sandwich."

Love it. Great quote.

The above is probably (hopefully) why I am still unemployed. What a time to enter the professional world as a fresh-faced (read: inexperienced) aspiring ANYTHING.

It is a great time. You have a the ultimate excuse to get the kind of experience one can only get from working for free. Imagine your dilemma if you were faced with 50k a year or that internship you have dreamed of. The choices in this case are much clearer. And, a few years from now, no one will question your ambition when you cash in on your experience. "The economy sucked back then, so I volunteered." Wow-- what a worker!

About religion and death... let's deal with the most pressing issues first... ;)

I am by no means a pro blogger, but this post maybe could be a 5 part series? People who read in the web typically don't consume large amounts of multivariate information. They want small chunks focused on one topic, or they will skip it.

It's better to post smaller items more often than large items infrequently.

Dennise said...

This post made me bawl my eyes out. I can absolutely relate. This year has brought me face to face with pain dealing with death, a loved one moving away, my heart being broken by the man I thought I was going to marry. I can't tell you how much I want this year to end. Although, I'm aware that when the clock strikes midnight and it is no longer 2008, it doesn't necessarily mean that the pain will instantaneously disappear. I can only hope that the impending year will bring me enlightenment and clarity as to why I went through all that shit at once. Here's to us Allison, to clinging to the hope that we will someday find our way.

Anonymous said...

This type of thinking usually leads to that god awful sentence, "and that is when I decided to go to law school." Avoid this outcome at all costs.

The good thing about all this gloom and doom is that the government is picking up the slack...and you live in VA! Piece o' advice - call staff assistants at any/all congressional or senatorial offices and see if they have any positions available. It may be government work, but it leads to other things....

shi(f)t said...

i'm right there with you on the unemployment. good thing i have a college degree...oh wait no one cares. good thing i have work experience...oh wait no one cares. good thing i have stellar work reco's from busting my a$$...oh wait no one cares...

here's hoping 2009 is better...