IMNSHO: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s finest speech.

Before I got sick, I would post every year on this occasion my favorite speech of King’s, that I know of or have ever heard, in its entirety. It was delivered by Dr. King in my much loved, adopted home town at Manhattan’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, and entitled Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence. When I last wrote about it here in 2017 I said this:

It has become my tradition on this day of remembrance to post the text of a speech delivered by Dr. King on April 4, 1967 at Manhattan’s Riverside Church entitled Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence (audio recording here), along with a short commentary about why I believe these words are so important. The speech is truly magnificent, yet it tends to be given short shrift relative to other works of the slain civil rights leader.

King’s “I Have A Dream” speech is of course his most well-known and celebrated. He gave it from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, at the closing of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and major television networks broadcast it live. The text is short (by King’s standards) and is notable for, among other things, painting a vivid picture of what racial justice looks like.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is also frequently cited. He wrote it in response to an April 12, 1963 open letter by eight white Alabama clergymen, who took issue with King and his tactics. Its central focus is a beautiful, powerful defense of non-violent activism. But what always strikes me most about it is King’s crushing disappointment upon learning that the greatest enemies to social progress are not, in fact, those who are openly and hatefully opposed to it, but those “allies” who rend their garments and advocate moderation, patience and gradualism in the face of immediate, deadly and enduring injustice. King held up a mirror, and in doing so, he showed us what ally-ship looks like.

Four years later, he spoke the words of Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence. Here, he showed us exactly how inextricably linked are the battles against discrimination, oppression, poverty, injustice, and many other social ills to the evils of war. This is a broader, much more sweeping vision; in my opinion, these are his finest words. Yes, there are religious references. Yet King tethers these to his eloquent defenses of secular ideas of justice, compassion and love to make the same case; in this way they function to bolster his arguments (for the religious-minded) instead of standing in for them.

As King said in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

We have a lot of work to do.

PEACE.

__________

I have nothing to add to that today (nor, apparently, the energy and focus to do so even if I had wanted to. *sigh*). Speech below the cut. [Source.]

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Mah spiritual needz!

Since this came up in comments on my previous post, I thought I’d regale readers with the tale of that one time I had a so-called nondenominational cleric and self-proclaimed “spiritual counselor” approach me during chemo.

Yes, some pasty-faced white d00d in a somber black suit and white collar straight out of central casting came by my station, introduced himself as a “spiritual counselor” and handed me his business card:

Yes that’s right: an official Staff Chaplain was here to help me with aaaaall mah spiritual counseling needz! Whoo-hoo!

Now, contrary to my fearsome reputation as a raging, fire-breathing, anti-theist terrorist*, I do not generally begrudge my free fellow Americans their own personal supernatural fantasies and frivolities, except for when I do absolutely and unequivocally begrudge them. For instance, when they see fit to inflict said fantasies and frivolities upon myself or others by force of law or otherwise. And I have a particularly dismal opinion of clergy, whom I hold in the very lowest esteem for many reasons, including the fact that they are either primary vectors for spreading all manner of hellish evils and deadly nonsense here in the US and around the world, or at best apologists therefor. Also, in my experience clergy are, without exception, all. flaming. narcissists.

And yet, believe it or not, I was SUPER NICE to the Staff Chaplain! We had a looong chat wherein I pretended to be interested in his theological education and its flavor of supernaturalism: some kind of Protestant Christian (*omg yawn*). Then I asked him about his chaplaining philosophy and experience: “oh, it’s non-denominational,” he answered. Why, he could provide me with Buddhist spiritual counseling, even! He said so when I pressed, and I pretended to be impressed.

This “conversation,” if we can call it that, went on and on AND ON, more or less in the form of a monologue, with just a few little prompts and prods here and there from me: his utterly captive audience, attached at the chest to slowly draining IV bags via a one-inch needle recently pierced into a surgically implanted port.

But this part was expected. Just ask any run-of-the-mill narcissist to talk about themselves, then sit back and behold the MEEEEEE that pours forth without end.

Once I was sure he was enjoying himself thoroughly, I pounced. I asked him ever so sweetly about, you know, his actual counseling qualifications. Any certifications? None. Academic degrees in psychology? None. Clinical social work? None. Perhaps institutional internships or residencies as a counselor? None. Any actual license to practice counseling in New York State? None.

NONE.

“Huh,” I said cooly, and pretended to be disappointed. Hurt, even.

By this point his hackles were visibly rising, but yet he looked torn. I mean, I had only moments ago been such a delightful, rapt and eager listener, so generous with my encouraging wide eyes, “uh-huhs” and a few tactical “wows.”

I waited a beat – and yes, I admit I enjoyed watching him squirm – then casually dropped the “Well, I’m atheist” bomb. “But I am sooo interested in discussing religion and spirituality with you! I’ve got nothing but time to kill here!”

The Staff Chaplain seemed taken aback for a second, maybe two. Then he very quickly offered up some banal farewell pleasantries, and oh man, this d00d was out the door of the chemo suite in a streaky black blur. Oh well. I guess nobody else locked up to hideous poisons drip drip dripping into their fragile veins was in need of spiritual counseling that day?**

Listen, as far as I’m concerned, amusing myself by toying with a clergyperson while I’m quite literally stuck getting chemo? Now that is addressing mah spiritual needz!

I never once saw him again at the hospital, despite being a frequent flyer. Or maybe he just saw me first.

__________
*Okay, so maybe I am a hopeless raging, fire-breathing, anti-theist terrorist. But I prefer to think of myself, at least in this instance, as a raging, fire-breathing, anti-theist Cheshire Cat.

Sir John Tenniel's hand-colored proof of Cheshire Cat in the Tree Above Alice for The Nursery "Alice"

**Yes I know, there were religious/spiritual/nondenominational/whatever patients lining the long wall of the chemo suite right along with me. But Iris, don’t they deserve access to an official Staff Chaplain to comfort them if they so desire? HOW COULD YOU BE SO AWFUL?!!! Indeed, I myself have said before, not coincidentally to my therapist, and also to my much-missed dear friend and FtB colleague Caine, cancer treatments are trauma. Full stop.

But no. No, my fellow patients most certainly do not deserve this. And I’ll tell you why in my next post.

My esteemed colleague is asking…

How are you treated as an atheist? [Via From the Ashes of Faith.]

I saw the question/post on the sidebar and felt like flexing Ye Olde Writing Muscle and answering it. Unfortunately for ashes, my answer turned into a rambling rant more suitable to inflict on you people, by which of course I mean my people: Squirrel Haters. Here’s my answer. (My comment, followed by my apology therefor, are still awaiting moderation there as of this posting.)

Reporting from NYC here, that infamous bastion of moral turpitude: feminists, POC, AOC, leftists, queer people, Muslims, godless heathens and all those other notorious devils your mother warned you about. Especially those godless heathens!

Even for me, it’s an interesting and timely question, it turns out. Soooo…I’ve recently had multiple surgeries followed by hospital admissions at an enormous, sprawling, nominally Jewish hospital-and-medical-school complex in Manhattan. It’s the kind of place where the intake forms in nearly every doctor’s office – and I’ve been to a LOT of ’em – ask for “preferred name” and “preferred pronoun,” and the various departments proudly display a rainbow flag or two with messages of welcoming and inclusivity. The staff, from renowned surgeons to janitors, is probably as diverse as the U.N.’s. You get the picture.

Now I don’t know if it’s an effect of cancer and its treatments or just a typical case of don’t-give-a-fuck-itis, but if someone who is responsible for some aspect of my medical care is going to ask me about my religion, and the physician practices all do, I say “atheist” without skipping a beat. I have that privilege here.

Or do I? Two surgeries ago back in November, I remember filling out some form or answering some questioner as usual with “athiest.” I get up to pre-op holding, and various people and teams keep dropping by to introduce themselves, then examine and interrogate me (anesthesia docs, O.R. nurses, surgical residents, etc.). I instantly forget all of their names, faces and roles. As I was being wheeled away to the O.R., one of these people, a woman perhaps in her thirties, leans over and says to me almost conspiratorially, “It was nice to see ‘atheist’ in your chart. I wish more people were so open about it.” Huh?! Okay…

As an aside here, yes yes this is a “Jewish” hospital, but nearly every single Jewish person in my circle of friends is at least agnostic, and some are quite openly atheist. And also Jewish, in the cultural sense. They celebrate and honor Jewish holidays with family and friends, just like other atheists might celebrate Christmas.

FF to my most recent surgery and admission, about a week ago. It’s 6:00am and I’m at the very first gatekeeper: the insurance coverage and your copay’s due now person. She takes my credit card and asks me the usual litany of basic biographical questions, including religion. “Atheist,” I say. She doesn’t blink, but after a few seconds appears puzzled at her screen. A supervisor type behind her apparently overheard me, and comes over to assist. It’s apparently no longer a fill-in-the-blank space, and it’s not on the (new?) drop-down menu. I mean it should be right there after Adventist, Seventh Day. Or whatever. I helpfully pitch all sorts of euphemisms like “godless?” “how about heathen?” “None?” “Listen I can take agnostic, just for today?” They’re both mystified that it’s not there. I say, “Come on, I can’t be the only one here today, there are lots of us!” They sort of mumble agreement and apologies and a “Yeah, I know some…”

I don’t know what religion they finally decided to choose on my behalf. Pretty sure the credit card part was the only real key to getting past them.

Some interesting answers are already there – maybe go have a read and answer for yourself?

Tuesday Premonitions.

CONTENT NOTE: Graphic image. No, seriously: g-r-a-p-h-i-c. Contains a partial photographic image of an open wound with medical-level detail of a laparoscopic procedure; female frontal nudity.

__________

Hey, so whatcha doing Tuesday? Nothing nearly as fucking strange as I am, I’ll bet. As I mentioned in my last post, September kicks off Surgery Season here in New York City, and we’re about to kickoff on Tuesday with a laparoscopic exploration under anesthesia (“EUA”). At least two surgeons and possibly three will be having themselves a really close-up look-see at the tissues they would need to construct what radiation has destroyed – namely, a functioning colon as well as a sparkling new vagina. I call this aspiration “Plan A.”

My colorectal ladysurgeon is running the show, along with the gynecological oncology d00d, tho I’m not yet sure whether this mysterious”plastics” person I’ve heard so much about will also be in attendance. Regardless, there will no doubt be biopsies and good times galore. Which, ideally, I will sleep right through.

Back before my first surgery, i.e. the initial colon resection plus bonus ileostomy in February of 2018, I found myself working with my therapist, my original colorectal surgeon and his Physician Assistant to help me visualize exactly what would be done to me. I had started with some Google image searches, but what I found didn’t seem to line up with what had been explained to me. Also, most images I found, whether photos or drawings, were of men, and I was having a hard time relating those bodies to my own. I ended up creating this:

…wherein the dotted line represents the outline of an ostomy pouch, the oval is the stoma itself and the rest of the marks are incisions. It turned out not to be entirely accurate due to various issues and considerations during the operation, but for my “trying to get my head around this shit” purposes, it was close enough. As un-ugly as I could possibly conceive of it, anyway. I remember the night before the surgery lying in bed, running my hands over the soft, smooth, unblemished skin of my belly, and deeply grieving that it would never, ever feel like this again.

So now there’s this fuckin’ EUA on Tuesday. And I’ve had one before, performed by the very same colorectal ladysurgeon back in March when she gave me an(other) ileostomy. I already know what the recovery is like, and it isn’t terrible: it’s like the deep soreness from a couple hard punches to the gut, that gradually fades over a week or so.

Why, then, am I having so. much. anxiety. over this? Lard knows I’ve been through worse – a lot worse. And there is much worse to come, for sure.

Well, I have a theory. I think it’s because I’m terrified of what they will find, or more precisely, of what they will not find. That the radiation damage has kept right on blooming for all these months, and now there is not enough healthy tissue left to re-do a colon resection. That the blood supply to critical areas has deteriorated to the point where successful healing will be practically impossible. That Plan A gets scrapped. There is no Plan B, at least not one discussed in any detail, because Plan A is the only one with any potential for a good outcome. And it has been impressed upon me, many times, that we only have one shot at fixing this.

So I took to drawing again. Only this time I wasn’t trying to create anything approximating medical accuracy, although it would turn out to embody exactly that, at least in part. I made what envisioning this procedure feels like to me – if that even makes any fucking sense. And once again, I made it as un-ugly as I can possibly conceive of it.

Before you proceed, I just want to remind you again of the content note at the top of this post. I mean, this stuff is triggering to me, which is why I’m doing it in the first place: to help me process it in a healthy way.

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CONFESSIONS OF A DEADBEAT BLOGGER.

[CONTENT NOTE: disgusting bodily functions and fluids are discussed and drawn (poorly).]

To my beloved Many Tens of Loyal Readers:

As you may know, in August 2018, our colleague Caine lost her battle with colon cancer. I was and still am devastated to lose my longtime (Pharyngula/SciBlogs-era) friend, FTB comrade-in-arms and sister trauma survivor.

What you probably didn’t know is that Caine and I shared something else in common: the exact same colon cancer diagnosis. She had that bomb dropped on her just a few months after I did. Unlike Caine, however, I am reticent – or chickenshit? take your pick – about exposing much of my personal life online. As much as I admire it, I do not possess even a fraction of the courage Caine did to write so openly about her life and her illness.

By December 2017, after my first four cycles of chemo and 28 doses of radiation, I was still blogging regularly. But cancer treatments had begun to take more (and more important) pieces of my life and myself away from me. Where writing used to “flow” for me, I was now finding myself blinking back at a blinking cursor. Ideas became jumbled, everyday words escaped me, my focus and concentration kept slipping. Writing coherently about anything of substance was (and still is) an often tedious and frustrating process for me. I naturally drifted away from blogging, and from social media too.

When Caine first wrote about her cancer, I reached out to her immediately and shared with her what was going on with me. We stayed tightly connected (privately). When we lost her, I lost my source of so much comfort and strength from the only person in my life who truly understood what I was going through. (I hope that I gave her some strength and comfort, too. I know I made her laugh at least once or twice.)

As the 1-year anniversary of her death is upon us, I find I would like to start blogging again. Not so much “in Caine’s honor,” but more like…in her footsteps? I mean that I would like to be more open about my health and my life. And yes, this is waaaaay out of my comfort zone.

To be honest, these new blogging endeavors of mine may turn out to be a total bust: nothing more than a bunch of cutting-&-pasting items of interest I find on the ‘net, maybe calling attention to worthy candidates, causes and clicktivism, perhaps keeping readers informed of nefarious squirrel activities. Or, you know, I might fizzle out completely (again). Like many things about my future, I don’t really know. I do know that I miss being a part of this community, and I would like to contribute again to the extent I am able.

So I then I got to thinking: what better way to tell the story of the past two years of my life than…a webcomic! Yes! Having never done one before, indeed having rarely even read one unless PZ or someone posts one? PERFECT.

Enjoy?

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I don’t understand their objection to “shithole countries.”

Trump attacks protections for immigrants from ‘shithole’ countries in Oval Office meeting

President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they floated restoring protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to two people briefed on the meeting.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to African countries and Haiti. He then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries like Norway, whose prime minister he met yesterday.

…and whose population is overwhelmingly Nordic/North German white?

Naaaaaaah. A US President could never mean something that so blatantly disqualifies him from holding public office, amirite?

Anyway, I really don’t understand how Republicans could possibly object to “shithole countries,” when they are so very committed and determined to turning the country into one.

Let’s see: destroying the safety net at every opportunity, unleashing Big Polluters on our air and water, increasing maternal and infant mortality rates, increasing the devastating effects of the climate crisis, militarizing police forces, increasing extreme wealth inequality, squeezing the poor and middle class to fund tax cuts for their benefactors, running prisons for profit, eviscerating health care access for millions of people, undermining quality public education [I could go on all day but I already have a fucking headache]… Seriously, the only conclusion that can be drawn from their actions is that Republicans fucking LOVE “shithole counties” so much that they are eagerly remaking the US into one.

What are you, my mom?

First, I get an email from The Nation with the subject line “you DID NOT sign to impeach Donald Trump (WHY NOT?).”

From this alone we can conclude that The Nation must have sent out a mass email survey of some sort recently – one among many similar missives I receive daily from various organs of the Democratic party. Apparently readers were asked to “sign to impeach Donald Trump.” Because that’s how impeachment works: a particular number of readers of a pretentious neoliberal magazine must click “YES” to an email poll.

However, when I tragically failed to timely respond to this embarrassing bid for attention in the guise of an impeachment vehicle, The Nation suddenly got all shouty at me and demanded to know WHY NOT.

Explain yourself, woman!! Do you even read our magazine?! Do you secretly looooove Donald Trump?! How could you???

Because FUCK YOU, The Nation. How’s that?

Moving on.

This morning I get an email from my illustrious Senator Chuck Schumer (D-Wall $treet), presently serving tirelessly as the de facto head of the Democratic party. His subject line is “Yesterday? That was just the start.”

As you might expect, Chuckie is trumpeting Doug Jones beating Roy Moore for the Senate seat abandoned by Jeff Sessions, after Mr. Sessions decided that he could do a lot more damage to peoples’ lives as Trump’s Attorney General than he ever could as Senator from Alabama.

So of course Chuck lays on the usual banal accolades and then he says this:

Now, look, you are welcome to celebrate for a moment. You’ve earned it. This win is thanks to Doug Jones, his incredible team, and you — your calls, your donations, your Facebook posts, your emails to friends. Thank you.

But that moment to celebrate is over. Now it’s time to get back to work.

You had your fun missy, but all that’s over!

Can we just pause for a minute to appreciate how generous it is of Chuckie to allow everyone a brief moment to celebrate a hard-won victory in Alabama?

BZZZT! Show’s over! NOW GET THE FUCK BACK TO WORK!

I am sure you are now wondering how we might toil to best please the honorable Senator? Funny you should ask! Why, it turns out Chuckie wants all of us to give a single dollar to each of the eight most conservative Democratic incumbents running for reelection in the US Senate:

If you’re fired up, the single most important thing you can do to help us seize this moment is to let Democrats across the country know that you have their back.

Baldwin, Brown, Donnelly, Heitkamp, Manchin, McCaskill, Nelson, Tester — those eight Senators are on the frontlines of the fight for the middle class. They’re in the fight of their lives. And they need your support — celebrate last night by splitting $8 between them!

Uh no, sorry Chuck. That is not how I celebrate election victories. I’d prefer to spend my eight bucks – more, even – on a lefty primary challenger for your Senate seat.

Any takers?

No…?

Hello…?

FANTASTIC NEWS for anti-choice d00ds!

All you misogynist motherfuckers can now live out your shitty convictions with your very own bodies!

[D]octors at Baylor University say a woman born without a uterus has delivered a baby after a successful transplant, the first time the surgery has worked outside of the Swedish hospital that pioneered the procedure.

That’s right: no uterus? No problem! Anti-choice d00ds, now you can save the preshuss baybeez in your own implanted uterus!

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