Let Liz Speak

Okay, okay, okay, I swore that the next time I posted it would not be about politics and, come to think of it, that’s probably why I haven’t written anything in like 3 months, because, honestly, what the fuck else is any sane, thinking human being preoccupied with right now?!?!! So I decided to hone my outrage to one specific thing and that thing is motherfucking patriarchy! Specifically the atrocious and hypocritical treatment of Senator Elizabeth Warren during the Senate debate over the confirmation of Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions.

On Tuesday Senator Warren attempted to read a letter written by Coretta Scott King. The letter had been sent to then Senator Strom Thurmond regarding Jeff Sessions’ nomination for a federal judiciary seat in 1986. In her 1986 letter the widow of the Civil Rights leader details how Sessions had continually made efforts to suppress the votes and voices of Black Americans in the State of Alabama. King laid out, in very measured language, how Sessions attempted to abuse the power of his office at the time in his “eagerness to bring to trial and convict three leaders of the Perry County Civic League…despite evidence clearly demonstrating their innocence of any wrongdoing”. Sessions was not confirmed for that Judiciary seat in 1986 by a vote of 10 to 8. Did you guys hear that? This guy was deemed too racist and polarizing to be  judge….IN 1986!!!!

Not once, in her letter, did King resort to name-calling, speculation or rhetoric. She simply recited history from an eyewitness point of view. So it was kind of slightly odd when Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell stopped Senator Warren in the middle of her reading this letter to say that she was “impugning the character of a fellow Senator”. What happened next is straight out of my college journalism class where I would raise my hand to answer a question, get called on by my flagrantly sexist Indian journalism teacher (yeah, it was community college so he definitely does not get to be called a “professor”), provide the correct answer to his question only to have him tell me I was wrong, then call on the boy sitting next to me who said THE EXACT SAME FUCKING THING AS I JUST SAID and was told he was correct. It was literally like being in the Twilight Zone. I audibly said, simultaneously addressing everyone in the class and no one in particular “Isn’t that EXACTLY what I just said?!?!” which was met with general murmurs of confirmation and agreement.

McConnell interrupted Senator Warren’s remarks about Sessions and she was then reprimanded by the Senate Majority Leader. Warren was then gaveled down by Republican Senator Steve Daines (Montana) and told to “take her seat”. McConnell then cited rule XIX which prohibits debating senators from ascribing “to another senator or to other senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator.” Which is pretty much a bullshit rule to begin with and one that no one has ever paid attention to until it came time to shut up an outspoken woman on the Senate floor. When asked about the silencing of one of his colleague McConnell responded by saying “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless she persisted.” and now Mitch McConnell will have to live the rest of his short, miserable life knowing that thousands of feminists are at this very moment getting his words tattooed across their ribcages. Take that, patriarchy! Mitch McConnell’s very concise history of the Women’s movement was quickly turned into a meme because of course it was and #ShePersisted became one of the most awesome things on the internet for a few hours because that’s pretty much the shelf life of sensationalist internet memes.

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Sadly, the fact that Senator Warren was censured, reprimanded like a disobedient school girl, ordered to sit down and shut up, and ultimately blocked from speaking by her male peers comes as no surprise. What was slightly more surprising and very irksome was that just a few hours after Senator Warren was ordered off the Senate floor Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon picked up Mrs. King’s letter and read it in its entirety, uninterrupted by McConnell or his cronies. So to recap, it’s okay for a dude to violate rule XIX but not for a lady? Is that the lesson I was supposed to learn from watching C-SPAN yesterday? That my voice, because it issues from a body in possession of a vagina, will never be as valuable as the voices of my male peers and colleagues? Because THAT is shit! To be clear, I applaud Senator Merkley for picking up where Warren left off and using his voice to convey the messages that she could not. I just think it’s supremely fucked up that he had to do that in the first place.

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Then there is the hypocrisy that goes along with all this shit. The fact that male Senators have, on record and on the Senate floor, called other colleagues horrible names and definitely impugned their characters but were never censured and rule XIX was never officially invoked. It was not invoked in May of last year when Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas had this to say about then Democratic Senate Minority leader Harry Reid:

“I’m forced to listen to the bitter, vulgar, incoherent ramblings of the minority leader,” “Normally, like every other American, I ignore them. I can’t ignore them today. . . . When was the last time the minority leader read a bill? It was probably an electricity bill. … This institution will be cursed less with his cancerous leadership.”

It was not officially invoked when, in the Summer of 2015, Republican Senator Ted Cruz called Senator Mitch McConnell a liar on the Senate floor. It was not invoked when Senator Harry Reid called his Republican colleagues “puppets” in 2007. It was not invoked when, in response to Reid’s comments, Republican Senator Arlen Specter fired back with the implication that Reid was not qualified enough to do his job. It was not invoked in the initial 1986 hearing when Senator Ted Kennedy called Jeff Sessions “a disgrace” (although Sessions was not then a sitting Senator). It was not invoked in 1979 when Republican Senator Lowell Weicker (Connecticut) called his colleague, Republican Senator John Heinz (Pennsylvania) “an idiot” and “devious”. Have you noticed anything about all those who were warned about Rule XIX but were not forced to “take their seat” or forced to “shut up” or ousted from the Senate floor? If you guessed they were all dudes you get a gold star for paying attention.

This serves to reinforce the idea that it is far more uncomfortable and outrageous when a woman is being tough and outspoken. I actually just read an “article” (those are my sarcastic air quotes) on the clearly bipartisan website Restate.com (nice name guys) about how liberals need to stop whining about Warren’s treatment and that “the Republicans treated Senator Ted Cruz much worse” for the comments he made about McConnell’s being a liar. That is just patently false. Cruz was never told to sit down and shut up. Cruz was never voted off the floor by his colleagues and to suggest that he was “treated much worse than Warren” is irresponsible, false and incendiary (and maybe someday we can talk about how right leaning news outlets feel the need to lie in order to maintain their narrative that the left are a bunch of nazi hypocrites who are also, somehow, hippies and whiners and cucks and stupid and elitist all at the same time but that conversation is for another day). Even if one scrolls down to the comment section on the C-SPAN video of Warren’s hour-long speech “impugning” Senator Sessions the majority of the comments are about how Warren is a mouthy bitch who needs to be put in her place. This despicable rhetoric is just being reinforced by those in the Senate and in the current White House who are more concerned with protecting the speech of Neo Nazis, white supremacist, anti-feminists and basically just racists and xenophobes of every stripe than it is concerned with hearing facts and history recited back to them by a well-respected sitting Senator.

My point, and I do have one, is to ask my Senate why it is okay for a man to call his fellow Senators names (idiot, cancerous, liar, bitter, devious, vulgar, disgrace etc.) but when a woman dips her toe into that territory she is immediately voted off the floor and told to “take her seat”? Did she not earn her Senate seat in the same manner as her male colleagues? Did she not work as hard or spend as much money (because honestly) to get where she is today? How can you say out of one side of your mouth that you “cannot understand why women think they need to march” while simultaneously exploiting your station to keep a woman silent? Do you not see what you’re doing? If not, let me assure you that we see what you’re doing and we’re not going to forget it….you useless, wrinkled, old, limp-dicked, fascists! (I threw in that last part for any Republicans reading this post [HA!] or anyone who wants to tell to “go high” because fuck that!)

And here is a link where you can buy your very own “Nevertheless She Persisted” T-shirt and a portion of the proceeds will go to Planned Parenthood! 

This was Supposed to Have a Happy Ending…But Alas

I was at work on Wednesday, in our usual Wednesday afternoon production meeting. When the meeting let out I sat down at my desk and, because I had no real work to do, started to write a post for my blog. I then checked my phone. I saw that I had two missed calls and 3 texts. The calls had come from my brother which could only mean one thing; my Dad was in the hospital again. The texts were from two of my Dad’s roommates and one from my brother. I picked up my phone and went into the hallway to call him back. I listened while he told me that Dad had passed out in Home Depot, that his heart had stopped and that his ICD (or implantable cardioverter defibrillator or, if you want to get technical, the “shock box” that lives in his chest) had not recovered him from the spell. His roommate/friend/special lady person (not going to get into that now because it could not be more irrelevant), Erica, was with him and luckily Erica is a nurse. She performed CPR on him for 15 minutes while waiting for the paramedics to arrive. I don’t know how many of you have ever performed CPR or even watched someone perform CPR but it is a monumentally difficult task, physically and emotionally, to sustain for even 5 minutes straight so to Erica I say thank you, thank Sweet Muscly Jesus for you and your being there.

When the paramedics arrived they took him to UW Valley Medical Center in Renton. He had hit his head when he went down…and now it occurs to me that I should probably explain why my Dad passes out all the times and ends up in the hospital all the time. About 10 years ago my Dad started passing out, no one knew why. He eventually had a spell that landed him in the hospital where they discovered that he had a golf-ball sized tumor ON his heart. The weird part is they had no idea how long it had been there. Some of the doctors thought it was possible that it had been there all his life and was just now starting to cause problems. After many pokings and proddings and tests it was determined that this enormous mass on his heart was not cancerous, not malignant and not really doing anything anyone could find fault with so he was released and told to go live his life. Which is exactly what he did, occasionally passing out along the way, until May of 2011. It was May 26th at about 8:45 in the morning and Dad was driving the service truck for his work when he passed out at the wheel.

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This is the actual picture of the actual remains of my Dad’s work truck taken from the Tacoma News Tribune.

After being taken to the hospital by paramedics and being cleared for any major life-threatening injuries, doctors began to examine why this was happening. It was determined that my Dad had Atrial Fibrillation (AF) which is the most common form of arrhythmia, a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm. A-fib causes his heart to function at a significantly decreased efficiency than a normal, healthy heart. His A-fib is thought to be caused by or at least exacerbated by the mass on his heart and his A-fib has, ostensibly, caused him to develop congestive heart failure (his body, and chest in particular take on fluid at a rapid rate and because of his decreased heart function he is unable to move the fluid around and distribute it throughout his body causing enormous amounts of pressure to build up in his chest and on his lungs making it difficult for him to breathe) and the congestive heart failure causes him to pass out. After the accident in 2011 was when they installed the shock box in his chest. Since then he does not drive (legally anyhow) and was forced to quit working. His heart functions at about a level of 10% efficiency which, as you might imagine, is not too great.

When my Dad arrived at the hospital Wednesday afternoon he was going from bad to worse. He had to be intubated, he was unable to breathe on his own, his heart had stopped, completely, at least 6 times that the medical staff was able to determine from the cached data on his shock box, he had two heart attacks and had been defibrillated like 12 times. It was not looking good but his heart, we quickly learned, was to be least of our concerns.

After I spoke with my brother I decided to leave work. Something felt different about this time. I picked up Bo and headed down I-5. I was in downtown Seattle when I got another call from my brother, except when I answered it was his wife. She said “you’d better get down here” and proceeded to inform me that Dad was not breathing on his own and it was not looking good. I called Josh and asked him to meet me at the hospital; whatever was happening there I knew that I could not take Bo with me to see it. I got my visitor’s pass after handing Bo off to Josh and went into the ER. My sister-in-law was standing outside the room. She came up to me and delivered the broad strokes; he had hit his head, he had bleeding on his brain, they might have to do surgery, it would be tonight… I could barely stand up, everything around me went watery, nothing would hold still. I walked into the room, determined not to lose my shit, and promptly lost my shit. Dad was on a respirator, sedated, in a large room with every piece of intimidating medical equipment on the planet hooked up to him or shoved inside of him. It was not easy to see him underneath the confusing, twisted, labyrinth of medical technology.

Before I knew what was happening my brother and I were being swept out of the room by someone in neurosurgery who wanted to “speak with us about our options”, which sounded like a thinly veiled attempt at not being foreboding. It did not work. We were now in another room, a small room that had only one purpose; this is where they told you the bad news. An impossibly tall man with a gentle demeanor spoke to us about what we could expect from my father’s condition moving forward. It was all very vaguely worded and presented in hypotheticals. And then we were being lead back to the room of medical and technological marvels to be shown my father’s CT scan. The tall man pointed out the white, shadowy area that covered the better part of the left side of my Dad’s brain. The cardiologist joined us, admitting that the brain was not his area of expertise but his casual positivity seemed, if not encouraging, at least comforting.

I went out to the lobby and found Bo and Josh. I asked Josh to go grab me some cigarettes while I took Bo to the cafeteria to get something at least resembling dinner. I picked at a salad and Bo ignored everything in the way of food while he and another little boy at a nearby table struck up a lively conversation about the grossness of zombies. Josh called. We left the cafeteria and met him in the upper parking lot, presumably far enough away from the hospital proper where I could smoke without noticeably violating hospital rules. Just as I lit up my Mom and Aunt pulled up. We spoke briefly and I told them to go ahead and that I’d be in shortly. I got Bo’s things out of one car and put into the other, preparing him to go home with Josh. I got a call from my sister-in-law saying that the neurosurgeon was coming down and needed to talk to me and my brother.

I went back into the hospital after seeing off Josh and Bo. We went back into the tiny room where bad news is delivered. There were more of us in there now; me, my brother and sister-in-law, my mom and my aunt. The neurosurgeon was there with the tall man I now understood to be his surgical assistant. He had small, beady pig eyes like a dead shark or Tony Romo. He was wearing his surgery hat and had a faint air of dude-bro-ness about him. He started to explain that the bleeding on my father’s brain was quite severe. He said that surgery could relieve any pressure that might exist but it would also probably kill him; that with his heart and respiratory health he may not even survive anesthesia and that even if he survived surgery we would most like be a vegetable. Okay, so what happens if we don’t operate, doc? Well, if you don’t operate the swelling or pressure (if there is any) might go away on its own but your Dad will probably still be a vegetable. Don’t get me wrong, pig-eyes had a fine bedside manner and, frankly, getting him to give it to us straight did take a little cajoling.

The gist of what he was trying to say and only half succeeding was that brain injuries like the one my father had were typically traumatic and the likelihood that he would make anything close to a full recovery was not probable and, in his opinion not plausible. He basically said there was almost no chance that my father would be the same man he was before this ordeal. We were in a difficult spot. We had to decide between doing nothing and doing something but no matter what the results would not be good and would probably be the same. I, for one, could not see the point in having my Dad’s skull cut open to relieve pressure that might not exist in a procedure that would most probably kill him for the result of his definitely being on life support for the rest of forever…I mean, fiscally alone it did not make sense, let alone all those other really good reasons to not cut someone’s skull open. I was about to pass out and could not look at pig-eyes anymore so I left the room and went to my Dad. I sat by his bed and cried while holding his hand. I leaned into his ear and said, “Daddy? Can you hear me?” He opened his eyes and nodded. I said, “I love you.” and he mouthed around the respirator that he loved me too. I could simply not reconcile that he was a lost cause at that point, that he was as good as broccoli and we should all just save ourselves the trouble and pull the plug, which is pretty much what pig-eyes over in the other room was getting at.

Once the decision was made (with no help from me) to NOT operate my Dad was able to be moved upstairs to the ICU. His fate, at this point still seemed murky. It was difficult to determine how much communication he was capable of between the heavy sedation and the roadblock of intubation. For the next few hours we just went in and out of his room, getting him settled, trying to gauge the severity of his brain injury. Trying to shake off our Sophie’s Choice ordeal that was still haunting all of us. We was a little more awake now; Erica and her husband Andy (I told you, not now) had shown up and we all went into his room in shifts, two at a time. It was quickly determined that not only was Dad awake, he was aware of what was going on, he knew everyone who had come in to visit. In short, he was the same man as he had been that morning before the fall! We did not know what, if any, effects to his motor function had been suffered but we could breathe a little bit easier knowing that Dad was, from what we could tell, still Dad.

The other visitors trickled out of the ICU, leaving me, my brother and his wife. We decided food and whiskey were in order….okay they decided food was in order, I decided whiskey was in order. After whiskey and poutine and fried pickles and buffalo wings and tater tots or as I like to call it, grief’s smorgasbord, we went back to the hospital. I fell asleep for a little while on the fold-out chair. I woke up around 1 am and decided there wasn’t anything else I could do. I went home.

The next day he was off the respirator and breathing on his own. He was fully awake and aware, all in all, himself, that is to say he was ornery, cussing at the nursing staff and bitching about not being able to pee (he a tube up his pee-hole so he was able to pee just not in the earthy and satisfying way he wanted to).

The next few days were strange. We were still coming down off the high of knowing that Dad was not, as predicted, going to be a vegetable, but the road ahead of him was still roughly cobbled and dimly lit. On Friday evening he was moved out of the ICU which we all viewed as an immensely positive turn of events. His Mother and Sisters had come up California on Thursday (alerted and alarmed since we were told he was most likely going to be a shell of his former self); we spent the better part of Thursday assuring them that we did not jump the gun in calling them and that the night before we were told that his brain injury was most likely going to kill him because by the time their flight had landed on Thursday morning his brain injury had been all but forgotten.

Despite his ability to shake off an enormous blood clot on his brain as if it were nothing more than a hangnail he still had his heart to worry about. He struggled to breathe normally, exacerbated by the fact that the chest compressions from all the CPR he had endured on Wednesday had left his ribs deeply bruised making it nearly impossible for him to draw a deep breath or cough.

He was moved back into the ICU on Saturday night/early Sunday morning because of trouble breathing. I went down to the hospital on Sunday before I had to work. He had not been intubated, thankfully, but he was wearing an oxygen mask or bi-pap but he was able to talk while wearing it and able to take it off at times. My brother, his wife and I sat in Dad’s room for hours, joking and laughing, sometimes with Dad and sometimes at him; Ian (my brother) worked on RC car body he was preparing to paint, Kayrn (his wife) played a puzzle game on her phone and joked with me while I sketched in one of my many books. At one point Dad suggested that a unicorn I had drawn on the whiteboard hanging up in his hospital room should “shove its horn up the nurse’s ass”. It was a beautiful day outside and the room had huge, south-facing windows and was flooded with light. I helped my Dad drink soda and told him what his oxygen saturation levels were when he obsessively asked every 74 seconds. When I had to leave for work around 4 in the afternoon I hugged him and kissed his forehead and told him that I loved him and that I would see him the next day.

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I started writing this on Sunday night and it was supposed to be a story about how my Dad beat the odds, refusing to succumb to the grim predictions of the neurosurgeon who said he was going to be a vacant invalid for his remaining days, if, in fact he had any days remaining at all.

My Dad passed away yesterday morning just before 6 am.