It's hard to believe that I've been out of the hospital for almost a month. The meds are all finished. I've got most of my strength and energy back. I'm back at work full time. Most of those surreal feelings that are inevitable when you wake up from a week long dream have waned and it's back to business as usual.
I've had the privilege of meeting almost everyone from the ER and ICU whose name I was able to discover. There are a few folks whose names are still a mystery and a few who I haven't yet met, but at this point I think it's best to let these wonderful people go back to saving lives rather than forcing them to humor me in my quest to thank everyone who cared for me.
It's just not possible to thank everyone. Random conversations with nurses in the ICU turned up any number of people who stepped in to help out for a bit. It became more and more humbling to discover how many people made me a priority, even if just for a moment.
The same is true for friends and family who took the time to come visit, call, text, message, send a card or a plant, leave me notes online, or pray. So many prayers, so many pray-ers - it has been truly humbling to hear about the old friends and new friends and friends I may never meet who set time aside to offer up petitions for my health and healing.
Some friends have made it a point to continue to care for me after I left the hospital. Mike's mom fed me for two solid weeks. Friends carted me to grocery stores and restaurants because I had the attention span, and therefore driving acumen, of a squirrel. I am truly blessed not just to be alive, but to be so well cared for.
My friend still in ICU leaves the hospital tomorrow. I've been going up there to see her almost every day, but between seeing her progress and spending time with her nurses and techs and family and friends, it's been a time of continued healing for me as well. I couldn't be happier that she is making such incredible progress, but it's tough to finally close the book on this chapter of my life.
In the time I've spent up at the hospital I've learned a few things; the one that still hits me the hardest is just how rarely medical professionals are thanked. I would love to tell everyone that you should make it a priority to thank the people who care for you when you can't care for yourself, but I have to qualify the advice. Thanking these people has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done.
Looking in the eyes of someone who has comforted you, cared for you, treated you with concern and respect - someone who has seen you naked, broken, covered in blood and filth and instead of being disgusted, instead of throwing you back out on the street, instead of writing you off as dying, as worthless, as trash, they saw you as someone worth protecting, worth serving, worth saving - looking in those eyes and seeing tears start to well, tears of joy and thanksgiving held back simply because you took the time to show up, to stand up, to say thank you... it's painful, it's scary, it's humiliating and humbling and so deeply, intensely, physically, emotionally and mentally draining.
Every time I felt like I made an utter fool of myself. I was excited and embarrassed and I couldn't stop talking. I interrupted every 3 seconds. Even taking a breath risked the possibility of a break down. Worse was knowing that the end of the conversation meant good bye. It's hard to be in the presence of someone whose entire existence seems to revolve around compassion and care and not immediately be addicted to the experience.
But walking away... when the conversation ended, it was impossible to not feel like the entire universe came to a screeching halt to just take a moment to be completely, totally, absolutely right. I love to smile, but these were the sort of smiles that turn you inside out, that take all the pain and fear and humiliation and dump it all out on the floor and replace the ensuing void with more joy and peace than you could ever manage to fit inside yourself on your own.
It's not the almost-dying that changed my life. It's not the life-saving that changed my life. It's the eyes, it's the smiles, it's the hugs and the humility and the joy of the people who refused to let me die, of the people who did their job and prayed their prayers and encouraged me in the vain hope that it might just barely be enough to make a difference... that's what changed my life.
I've spent a long time saying that the whole point of life is to leave people better than you found them, to honor the ones who came before and serve the ones who follow. Never in my life have I so intensely been the focus of exactly that by such a tremendous host of people. To all the ones to whom I must now say goodbye, please know that you are in my prayers and in my stories and in my heart. To all those whose walk with me has not yet come to an end, please know that you are in my prayers and in my stories and in my heart and, to my immeasurable joy, in my life.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
It's hard to believe that I've been out of the hospital for almost a month. The meds are all finished. I've got most of my strength and energy back. I'm back at work full time. Most of those surreal feelings that are inevitable when you wake up from a week long dream have waned and it's back to business as usual.
Wednesday, October 09, 2013
I live a fortunate life. I have been blessed in ways I could never hope to describe. In a sense, the past few weeks are just another set of stories, another string of blessings. But some beautiful things have happened to me, and it would be a shame to split the stories up.
On September 20, 2013, I was admitted to the ER of Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. After 5 days in ICU and 7 days out, the first of October I was discharged with a bottle of pills and a single follow-up appointment and returned home to live by myself. This is the story of my family, my friends, my God and the medical professionals who saved my life.
It's a difficult story to tell, and likely a difficult story to read. But I owe my life to more people than I can even thank; hopefully this will at least serve as a down payment.
In hindsight, Blair was one of the nurses from ICU I remember most vividly. However with the exception of a few brief snippets of conversation, her face, and her name, I really don't remember much about her at all. I only have this overwhelming sense of safety when I recall her; perhaps that is enough. At the very least, I can tell you that this one lesson I learned from her translated into blessings for me and my nurses in the Jonsson building dozens of times over the next week.
My other memory was some sort of test and must have happened on the weekend, since I'm pretty sure my mom and sister-in-law were both there. My memory is a sort of snapshot, and it's taken just as the test was completed successfully. I'm looking at the excited faces of my loved ones and there in the middle is a light, a bright pure light beaming at me like it's smiling too. That image, just like the conversation with Blair and the memory of Kaitlin's hand carried me through the rest of my stay in the hospital.
(My brother pointed out that we talked about both of these events on the Tuesday I left the ICU. It's entirely possible that my "memories" of these events have no basis in reality other than my brother's description of them.)
To my shame I must admit that I don't remember why I should have remembered her. There are so many conversations and interactions that are just not there when I try to recall them. What I can say is that first day in the ICU I felt safe and completely cared for, even if I can't remember why. I know that Danielle did everything for me she could think to do. I don't think there is any way she could have fathomed just how much she had done.
Part of me wishes I wouldn't have taken the pain medication. There are so many beautiful memories I'll never have of amazing women I'll never know, and the only cost I would have had to pay was to bear the pain. I know it hurt a lot. I only wrote about 100 words in 3 days, and most of them are illegible, but twice I wrote "My throat hurts." For as desperately as I wish I had those memories, I know that if Blair asked me 100 times to take the medication in a way that made it sound as much for her as for me, then 100 times she would hear "Yes ma'am."
(My friend Sara, whose two boys still pray for me every day, pointed out that if I had turned down the morphine, all I would remember is the pain. Even before I was on the drugs, my memory is fuzzy at best. I know she's right. I told Kaitlin yesterday that if I knew everything that everyone did for me those first few days, I would not be able to bear the weight of the debt I'd owe. I know that's true. But I still wish I could say something to my ICU staff besides "Hi, I'm Mike. I don't remember you at all, but you saved my life. Thanks.")
"No ma'am, you have to win."
She can't leave, since it would violate the otherwise Very Good Care I had so far received. As she walks back towards my bed, I lift my hands up and say, "By the way, I cheat." Cue admin lady look of horror. "Ok, on 3..."
Now anyone who has ever been around me when I'm playing RPS knows what is about to happen. As I hit my fist in my palm the first two times, I say "I always do paper," followed by throwing paper on the third hit.
As I said it, she said "What!?" and threw scissors.
"Thank you very much, ma'am. Please have a wonderful day."
"Wait, why do you always do paper?"
"Rock Paper Scissors is about trying to decide who is going to make a decision. I force the other person to make the decision about who is going to make the decision."
"That's excellent! I'm going to use that."
As the admin walked out, Karen walked in laughing. That conversation made me feel like me again. It takes a special skill to be serious and ridiculous in just the right ratios to have your ridiculousness taken seriously. Just in case anyone wonders, the reason it's specifically paper is that if you wind up in a stalemate, it sounds like We Will Rock You by Queen.
That morning, Red gave me my first real bath since I'd been in the hospital. Apparently in the ICU, there's this kind of gel foamy stuff that works a bit like anti-bacterial gel. Red wasn't even my tech that day, but she took the time to scrub me down. Sometimes all it takes to feel good is to feel clean. Red became one of my biggest supporters; cheering for me every time I was doing my physical therapy and stopping by when she came on shift to see if I needed anything regardless of whether she was my tech that day or not.
I laid in bed just wanting the night to end. I couldn't close my eyes for fear of the visions. My head was pounding. I was tired and scared and tired of being scared. As I rubbed my face in my hands praying for something beautiful I noticed that I had a manicure. I'm a man; I've never had a manicure. I'm not saying you can't be a man and have a manicure. I'm just saying I'm not comfortable enough in my manhood to stroll into a strip mall and have a little Vietnamese lady make fun of me while she works on my cuticles.
I was knocked to the ground, just leveled. These women saw something in me to love when I was completely unable to offer anything in return. The nurses I had at Baylor were all of a different breed, but the ones in ICU are made of steel and ice and granite and fire and a whole mess of beautiful things I don't even know how to identify. I don't know why they gave me a manicure, but I can tell you beyond any shadow of doubt that I did not in any way deserve it. These women give everything and then have the humility to say it was just their "best." Their "best" probably wouldn't have saved my life; it definitely wouldn't have saved me from the darkness Wednesday night. My angels gave so much more than their "best" that I am permanently humbled. They showed me more compassion in one day than I've shown in my entire life.
I also wrote the previous post to this blog. When Kelli was visiting she mentioned that I had made it on TexAgs, an online forum for Aggies to get together and talk about Texas A&M. I never visit the site myself, and so when I show up on TexAgs it's either because Tom or Doug, two old friends from many moons ago, posted something about me. Whenever they do, I try to write something up for them to post to the discussion, and this time I wrote "Here".
It's not one of my usual posts. But sometimes when the darkness gets too close, you have to write something that reminds yourself and the world that there are some things bigger than the darkness could ever be. I also needed a way to remind Mike that under no circumstances was he allowed to feel guilty about the mixup on the Thursday before he found me. All of this, from my ambulance ride Friday to surviving the darkness the night before, was working out perfectly even though there were any number of times along the way where he and the rest of my friends and family couldn't have seen it that way.
I also decided that I was tired of mooning people in the hallway while I used the bedside commode, so I worked with PT to use a walker to be cleared to use the restroom. At the end of the session, my therapist Ross and I were talking and I mentioned that it was going to be hard to continue the therapy until I could get my feet in my boots. My feet were still extremely swollen and without my boots, my mostly-healed ruptured plantar fascia hurt too much to walk too far in grippy socks.
Thursday night, Lisa came in to help me to the bathroom and on the way I apologized for how often I had made her clean me of my filth and how grateful I was that she was always so quick to help me. She laughed and told me she's been cleaning up after people for a long time, so it was no big deal. But after I got out of the bathroom, she had cleaned up my room and made my bed. That usually only happens during your bath; I could have cried.
By Friday, my bleeding had become much worse. I was embarrassed by the state of my gown almost as soon as I would change it. The doctor had said that some "spotting" would be normal, but I would have used a much stronger word for what was happening. However, that evening I was able to urinate normally, even with the catheter, and that dramatically eased my fears.
The (Anti-)Social Network
(I do understand that my brother was scared that I was going to die, and so he leaned on his support group which is primarily on Facebook. I also understand that my father was scared that I wouldn't get better if I was entertaining guests all day, so he told folks to see me when I got home. I understand that they both did what they needed to do in the face of their fear. But it was not what I would have chosen for myself.)
There seems to be a universal consensus that Kaitlin is a beautiful woman. My memory has been so swiss-cheesed that I have to rely on friends and family to fill in the details about the people who cared for me. I want to know about conversations. I want to know what it is about them that made them care for me with such fervor. I'm frustrated that for all of my questions trying to discover what Kaitlin did for me and what she was like, the most I seem to be able to draw out is that she is pretty. While I cannot remember anything of her appearance besides her hand, I can assure you there is no way her face could compete with her heart. No one is that beautiful.
(Sara pointed out that my family was there to see me through my pain and sickness, not remember every detail later. I couldn't agree more. My frustration is twofold. I am angry with myself for being unable to remember the things that matter to me about people who matter to me, which makes it very difficult for me to understand or explain why they are so important. Also, I have been frustrated my whole life that beautiful people or smart people or people with special needs, et cetera, are seen as beautiful or smart or special needs by almost everyone and as people almost never. I'm frustrated that someone who everyone seems to remember could be described with such a small set of words. Failing to see the depth of character in others exposes shallowness in ourselves.)
(While it is possible that my memory of the ICU test was a figment of my imagination, when I finally did meet Kaitlin her smile was unforgettable. She quite literally lights up the room; I'm not shocked in the slightest that I would have thought she was beaming.)
I desperately wanted to go outside. Even just for a half hour. Even if it was just for a moment. I was so tired of the stale, cold, recycled air in the hospital. I just wanted a breeze and the sun and the sky.
But that Saturday night something fantastic happened. My nurse that day, Venus, came by after her shift was over and took my heart monitor. She told me she was very sorry, the order had come through earlier and she hadn't had time to take it. I was ecstatic. The heart monitor is a wireless transmitter connected to leads on your chest. Having your heart monitor taken means 2 things: no one will know if you die in the middle of the night, and you can leave the floor if you've been cleared by PT and your attending nurse is okay with it.
This meant that if a lot of people came Sunday, we could go outside as long as I could convince my nurse to sign me out.
When my night nurse Angela came in to take my vitals that night, I was lounging around like I was king of the world. It struck her as so out of place in a hospital that it made her laugh; well, that or there's the possibility that the way I was sitting in my bed wound up flashing her. Either way, she laughed. We wound up having a wonderful conversation that night and I wish her the best of luck as she chases her dreams.
Sunday morning started out great. An old friend from middle school, Amy, came by early that morning and we had a great conversation catching up. I had an equally awesome surprise from my old roommate Tommy and his wife Courtney the day before. The only thing in the world that beats seeing old friends is seeing old friends happily married.
My parents came by for a few hours at lunch, and then I figured I'd try my luck at getting to walk around on my own. I convinced my nurse Robert to let me go for a quick walk over to the ICU. I stopped in to check on Nancy, Sue's sister, and she was able to say a few things to me. I talked with her husband Mark about all the craziness that had been going on with me and then went upstairs to try to meet any of my nurses.
Bethany was shocked to see me up and moving. She had only ever seen me on the machines. Keep in mind I had been moved from the ICU Tuesday, and in 5 days had recovered enough to be allowed to walk unescorted over to the ICU. We only talked for a few minutes, but it was clear that I was truly fortunate to have had her as my nurse during those critical hours the weekend before. She saved my life and met my gratitude with humility.
I went back to my room to see if anything would come of the party invitation.
At about 6 that evening, my friend Ric showed up with his wife Vikki and 4 sons right after my friends Dana and David arrived. We had a great evening as I retold the stories of my angels and the darkness and the beautiful things that had surrounded me like a thick blanket during my stay. Ric was the only person who prayed over me in my room after I left the ICU besides the hospital chaplain, Cassandra. For me, it was a beautiful night and I'm so thankful these friends chose to spend their evening with me.
Late that night my friends Arturo and Susan came by and asked if there was anything I needed. Arturo and I are like brothers and it meant a lot to me that he had been up to see me several times in the ICU. I asked him if he would bring me some nice stationary and a good pen. He's an artist, so I figured he'd be my best bet at getting something that says "You saved my life; I will never stop thanking God for you."
The Way Out
It seemed a very strange question; I wasn't sure where she was going with it. "On the Internet."
"The Internet?! How old are you?"
"Haha, Barbara isn't my birth mom, she's just my mom."
"Why hasn't your real mama come to visit you?"
"It's tougher for her to get around. She's dead."
"Oh sweetie, I'm sorry, I didn't know."
"It's okay. It's been about 10 years. I'm pretty sure she's over it."
"Well, I just want you to know, your mama raised you right."
"Johanna, that's the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me. Thank you so much."
"It's true. With you, it's always 'Yes ma'am' and 'No ma'am' and 'Thank you very much.' You sure know how to make us feel nice."
"It's pretty easy to appreciate the folks who saved your life."
"Well, thank you anyway."
My brother thought that I was so sick I had regressed to childhood and that's why I was saying "ma'am" and "sir" so often. But I've never been very good about acknowledging people in authority. In reality, I discovered some years ago that saying "ma'am" and "sir" to people you care about is a great way to demonstrate willing submission in the relationship. It quickly establishes a sense of trust and respect. I enjoy saying it to people who are serving me, as it has a way of leveling the field by allowing me to serve them as well.
By 2pm I had filled the cup again, and this time the nurse was in shortly afterward. He said he'd go call the urologist right away and I begged him to give me 20 minutes so I could run down to see Nancy and deliver my letters.
And to Baylor, I'm begging, please stop calling it Very Good Care. Please stop telling your professionals to say they do their best. They do their everything. They give their all. They suffer with their patients, pouring their heart and soul and strength into providing care so exceptional it is its own miracle. Please rebrand, I don't know to what, but to something that honors the sacrifice these beautiful people make just to turn around 12 hours later and sacrifice everything again. Every single person I met during my stay deserves a Five-Star Spirit award. And frankly that's still a few billion stars too low in my opinion.
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
I wonder if Lazurus, when he walked out of the tomb 4 days later to find his sisters sobbing uncontrollably, found himself suddenly very angry with whatever jerk had hurt them.
In this whole ordeal, my faith was never tested. I was just asleep. But while I was asleep my friends and family were tested to their core. The only parts I remember were either decidedly beautiful or woefully boring. But everyone else remembers fear and anger and the pain of imminent loss.
I wonder if Lazurus, when he realized that he was the jerk responsible, felt guilty, felt guilty for feeling guilty or felt something much different.
I'm an arrogant jerk. I can't dodge it. I don't feel guilty, because you got something beautiful out of the ugliness.
You asked for a miracle and you got one. He finger painted "I love you" in my blood for you. He wrote you a love letter and used me as the letterhead. I'll do that any day. I'll do that every day. I'd do that for just one of you. For tens of thousands I wouldn't hesitate an instant.
Because either way I was going to leave that hospital and go home.
So enjoy your letter. It's more like a postcard honestly. The real letter he wrote in his own blood, and it's a much more compelling read than this one.
Friday, September 27, 2013
Friday, August 23, 2013
Rupert A. Murdoch lived on a beach
Along a long cliff within easy reach
Of a towering tower whose windows would see
Across the cliff and the beach to the deeply blue sea
Rupert B. Murdoch was a quiet old gus
Who never did make too much of a fuss
He lived simple and free each and all of his days
On the sands of the beach where he soaked the sun's rays
Rupert C. Murdoch sounds such a great guy
If you'd known nothing more to judge this one by
You'd think he had friends by the bundle to spare
Up the towering tower they'd stack in the air
Rupert D. Murdoch would agree with the claim
That he should have buckets of friends to his name
But he didn't have buckets or bundles or bunches
He ate by himself all his breakfasts and lunches
Rupert E. Murdoch had a secret you see
And that secret he kept, just between you and me
All to himself, it consumed him until
It had robbed him all his confidence and will
Rupert F. Murdoch wanted only to hide
From the people who picked and who poked and who pried
Into bits of his life he wished would wisp far away
From the bits of his life he had on the beach where he lay
Rupert G. Murdoch had a secret it's true
But some secrets aren't secrets except only to you
And the secret he kept and lived secretly in fear
Was the world would discover he was secretly... a reindeer
Rupert H. Murdoch lived in terror no doubt
But why would a reindeer hide and never come out?
Surely reindeers have fun, why they have their own games
They have roles in big holidays and they have funny names
Rupert I. Murdoch had a problem it seems
A reindeer means more than having wintery dreams
He knew that he should, he tried all he could try
But are you even a reindeer if you never could fly?
Rupert J. Murdoch never did soar
He barely could jump, his hooves stayed on the floor
He couldn't play in the games or help with the sleigh
In the stable alone he spent each holiday
Rupert K. Murdoch ran away to the shore
Far away from the others who thought him a bore
He sat all alone and stared at the waves
Head-In-the-Sand was the game he would play
Rupert L. Murdoch was not completely alone
In the towering tower on an ivory throne
Sat another who sat by herself all day long
As she stared at the sea and sang softly a song
Rupert M. Murdoch heard the song every day
And the song when sung melted his troubles away
The song made a part of him feel it could fly
And that part of him really wanted to try
Rupert N. Murdoch was a dreamer who dreamed
Better versions of him whose own selves he esteemed
Reindeers who knew only to do or to die
Who never had learned a definition for "try"
Rupert O. Murdoch was dreaming one day
Of holiday games even he could play
Mid-dream on the beach he started to choke
And quickly he realized he did not dream the smoke
Rupert P. Murdoch looked left and then right
He looked for a flame or a plume or a light
He looked down the beach for signs of a fire
His heart hit his throat as his eyes passed the spire
Rupert Q. Murdoch spied the towering tower
Engulfed in flames as though burning for hours
"Perhaps it's ok, perhaps it was planned
Perhaps it's just..." a soft cry pierced the land
Rupert R. Murdoch took off in a blink
He ran up the beach, scaled the cliff in a wink
To the tower he ran then he stopped at the base
Knowing what he must do, a firm look crossed his face
Rupert S. Murdoch shut his eyes really tight
Bent his knees to the ground, turned his head to the right
Stuck his tongue out his mouth, mumbled "fly Rupert fly"
He lept in the air with his nose to the sky
Rupert T. Murdoch could be a great many things
A lovable guy, a smithy of rings
A tamer of lions, an advisor to kings
But he could not fly if he'd been born with wings
Rupert U. Murdoch hung his head in disgust
He knew he should fly, he knew that he must
He stood there in shame, as the smoke swirled around
Then the soft cry rang out and his courage he found
Rupert V. Murdoch broke down the door
He raced for the steps, he raced up the floors
He raced ever higher, he raced to the top
He raced and he raced and he never once stopped
Rupert W Murdoch climbed the towering tower
The throne room he found with his newly found power
She sat on the throne beautiful, scared, and alone
Flames crept slowly closer, the roof started to groan
Rupert X. Murdoch knelt down by her side
The tears left her eyes as her eyes opened wide
To be offered escape, a surprise in itself
she climbed on his back smiling "I feel like an elf"
Rupert Y. Murdoch went to head down the stairs
But before he could start, a sudden change of affairs
The stairs had collapsed, no way out could he see
But the window overlooking the deeply blue sea
Rupert Z. Murdoch had no options left
No time to think, no time to rest
No time to plan, no time to try
No time to prepare, it was his time to...
Friday, August 02, 2013
Some definitions escape the bounds of human language. We have a word for "it", whatever this mysterious "it" may be, and we all, most of us anyway, know "it" when we see "it", or at least condition ourselves to believe we can recognize not-"it" when we don't see "it". We all use such words as though we have "it" in a convenient little box, and yet when pressed, none of us can provide any evidence that we have any idea what we are talking about.
The rest of this post is meant to be read out loud. It doesn't matter if there are people around, in fact, that's even better. If there's not someone around, go find someone and make them sit and listen while you read it out loud. And then make them read it to you.
Tuesday, April 09, 2013
Please be aware, gentle reader, that the following post is extremely adult in content. If you are not of a temperament where you believe it is occasionally acceptable to be rude, crass, vulgar and downright mean, then you're probably a good person and shouldn't ever come back to this blog. I throw down some pretty strong language in the text that follows, so if your ears bleed or your eyes forcibly eject themselves from your sockets when in the presence of profanity, please consider yourself warned.
So, it turns out that absolutely no one can tell that the previous two posts were intended to be satire. It is sad just how absolutely bat shit crazy the entire world has become. Then again, maybe that just means I'm the bat shit crazy one. Maybe I'm just not very good at writing satire.
But maybe that's not fair. Maybe you think debate is about playing word association games. Maybe you aren't even sure what the words mean.
I'm going to put this in super simple language so that everyone can understand: legal status is the pretty-pink-bow-on-a-pig way of saying legal discrimination. Maybe that was too hard... I'll try again.
Just so we're all on the same page, in this post and the two that precede it, when I use the word "love" either raw or in double quotes it specifically means the word being thrown around in the media as the primary reason that I should care about this whole debate. I don't know what the media means when they use that word, and frankly it's irrelevant. It's almost certainly not what I mean when I use the word, as almost no one means what I mean when they use the word. But I breathe oxygen and can generally smell a red herring when it wreaks of fish. "Love" may be the reason people want to talk about because it's warm and fuzzy, but there isn't a legal definition of "love" and I really really don't want there to be one. Seriously, if the thought of the government defining "love" doesn't scare the shit out of you... I just don't even know what to say. Can you imagine the government enforcing whether you meet the qualifications to use the word "love" to describe one of your relationships? Can you imagine the test a judge would have to perform to decide whether your relationship meets the legal definition of "love"? Ok, stop imagining, pervert... though to be fair there have been social groups throughout history that have invented some rather disturbing legal tests around all this stuff, so historically speaking at least, you're not all that perverted.
If you like to grow herbs in your garden, you might call it farming. Maybe you're trying to be cute, but maybe you really feel like it is farming. Maybe you feel like it's farming so much that you start to refer to yourself as a farmer and your garden as a farm. Maybe you find that the more you stick stuff in the ground and pull stuff back out, the more you identify yourself as a farmer. Finally one day, after seasons of sticking stuff in and pulling stuff out, you decide that you want to get the legally afforded benefits of being a farmer. So you try to gain the legal status of farmer, only to find that you don't meet the criteria.
This seems horribly cruel and unfair discrimination. You love your farm, even though the government feels it's really only a garden. And you love being a farmer, but that's just not enough to meet the criteria. Isn't the government denying you from being a farmer?
Absolutely not. If you go get yourself a qualifying farm, you can have all the legally supplied benefits of farmer-dom. No one is preventing you from being a farmer, you simply don't meet the qualifications. You're free to make the sacrifices it takes to get a qualifying farm, just like every other farmer, and those sacrifices may be more difficult for you than the ideal farmer given your deep love for your garden-farm. But other farmers had to sacrifice things they loved to get a qualifying farm as well. The government isn't interested in what you had to sacrifice to get the qualifying farm. A farm that qualifies for the legal status has been deemed beneficial to the greater good. Your garden simply doesn't benefit the greater good enough to gain the benefits granted to qualifying farms. So you have to choose between farming your garden and not qualifying as a farmer, or sacrificing farming your garden to get the benefits of farming a qualifying farm.
This applies to nearly every legal status. You can't be a veteran just because you love guns. You can't be a rancher just because you love animals. You can't be retired just because you love to not work. Legal status is about classifying a certain subset of the population for the purpose of granting benefits and responsibilities because their existence is critical to the greater good.
If you're mad now, just wait for what I've got in store for you next. If you're offended at the parallel I just drew, keep in mind that I haven't even used the m-word yet, so everything you're thinking and feeling right now is due exclusively to parallels you yourself have drawn to the plight of our hypothetical farmer. Really go back and reread the farmer story as a story about a farmer; you'll find that you would absolutely blow a fuse if owning a garden qualified a gardener for tax-funded federal assistance reserved for farmers just because he really loved gardening.
Let me ask you a question. Really answer this honestly. Do you believe for even a second that there is not a single instance out there of a person who identifies as homosexual but is currently in a legally qualified heterosexual marriage? These days, I'm expected to believe that homosexuality is not a choice, but is in fact genetic. So don't you have to concede that there is almost certainly someone out there who purely due to social pressures has consented to being in a hetero marriage, even though he has since birth been blessed with the gay gene? I mean with so many people living in denial due to social oppression, surely there's one homosexual who is in a marriage, right?
Of course. We all know it's true. The central point of the debate is not that homosexuals are denied the legal status of marriage, it's that they are denied the legal status of marriage with the person they want.
Well sure, we all know that, it's almost silly to point out. We all know that this debate has been about "love". So it seems almost pointless to bring up.
Imagine a man who because of the social groups he desires to remain a part of, say for instance his family or his church, is told he must marry the woman he has impregnated instead of the woman he loves. Now, he's certainly not being denied the legal status of marriage with the other woman that he actually wants to marry by the government. But if he desires to remain a part of the social structure he identifies with, he must marry a woman he does not want to marry.
Imagine a man who because of the social groups he desires to remain a part of, say for instance his family or his church, believes there is nothing wrong with entering into a marriage covenant with several women. Now he will definitely be denied the legal status of marriage with at least all but one of those women, and could face criminal prosecution should it be discovered he has other spouses. So if he desires to stay out of prison and provide for his family he will be prevented from marrying all the women he wants to marry, at least concurrently.
Imagine a man who does not believe in the traditional definition of marriage and wants to commit not to a person, but to a group. He wants to stay committed to the core group regardless of how its membership changes over time. He will absolutely be denied the legal status of marriage with this group, he will simply never be allowed to marry the group he loves and works to maintain, protect, grow and thrive.
Imagine a man who loves his sister so intensely that he cannot imagine spending his life with anyone else. He cannot marry the woman he loves because society is scared of their babies or some nonsense. He will absolutely be denied the legal status of marriage with the woman he wants to marry.
I'm frustrated from pointing out that I haven't actually heard any evidence at all about why the legal status should be extended specifically to homosexual unions but not all these other ones. I keep hearing "love" and "equal rights". I keep hearing that I'm a bigot because I'm not ok with calling a legal status a right or with using a legally undefined word to define a legal status. Can't you see that it is insane to demand that I without protest or discussion agree to grant one specific social group a privilege no other group can claim. Everyone else on the planet who wants the legal status has to agree to a qualifying marriage under whatever qualifies in their jurisdiction. What is the reason that homosexuals are somehow justified in being the only group that gets to redefine marriage so that they get to marry whomever they want and still be guaranteed the benefits? Why do you feel justified in saying that gay marriage is good and incestuous marriage is bad? Why should gay marriage be given the full benefit and privilege of the law, but polygamy is a felony? How am I the bigot if I'm interested in changing the legal status so that all unions are given the same provision under the law, and you're not a bigot even though you pick and choose which unions should secure legal benefits based on your own personal preferences and prejudice?
I'm being asked to support elitist policies, plain and simple. If you can't provide a single shred of evidence as to why the legal status of marriage should be changed to include a group it has never before in the history of legal statuses ever included, if you are not able to say what has changed that makes it a clear benefit to society, then you are asking me to arbitrarily discriminate in favor of one social group against all the others and you have the fucking gall to dress it up as equal rights.
Women couldn't vote, hold most jobs, or generally own property. Minorities couldn't vote, live other than in designated areas, pursue an education, hold most jobs, own property, use public services, eat in restaurants, have social relationships with whites, or drink out of a fucking water fountain. These are humiliating, degrading, dehumanizing atrocities that people literally fought and died to get reversed in law in a country that supposedly believed in the inalienable rights of all people. This is equal rights. If you come to me about equal rights know that you're putting yourself in the class of people that I have the utmost respect for and who we as a society will forever be indebted to; quite frankly you've got some damn big shoes to fill. If you spend too much time talking about how tedious it is to get a power of attorney, I'm likely going to explode.
Then when I bring up the fact that this isn't a love issue or a rights issue but a legal status issue, you feel the need to insinuate or flat out state that I am anti-gay. I am not anti-gay. I am anti-elitist, anti-discriminatory, and anti-you-pretending-you-have-the-right-to-abuse-folks-just-so-you-can-get-your-way.
I hate it when people imply I'm a bigot, because I hate being exposed as prejudiced against people who call me a bigot, unless they call me a bigot for being prejudiced against people who call me a bigot, because I love those guys. So normally I wouldn't help you out, (and by you I specifically mean the straight-white-guilt crowd who feels the need to act out their guilt in rage, not the gay community because I've got no problems at all with y'all) but since we're technically on the same side of the issue, I will anyway. Look at me getting over my bigotry; there's hope after all.
The legal status of farmer has changed several times over the history of this country. Over time the amount of land and types of crops a farmer can maintain to the benefit of the greater good has changed with technology, property ownership and water rights, co-operatives, et cetera.
Legal statuses are allowed to change their meaning over time. Legal statuses are supposed to change their meaning over time. But they change for reasons that benefit the common good, not just because the Real American Pastime is backing the underdog and making the other team feel like assholes.
The legal status of marriage has up until very recently never actually been defined. Even in places where it has supposedly been "defined" it's not the sort of definition that actually defines a legal status. Amendments, laws, or rulings have been passed in 33 states that say marriage is between a man and a woman. This is a constraint referred to as "necessary" but not "sufficient". In other words, if I walk into a state that has this "definition" and point to an arbitrary man and an arbitrary woman, they're not suddenly married. These states have decided that it is necessary for a marriage to be between a man and a woman, but they haven't separated all the between-a-man-and-a-woman things into those that are marriage and those that aren't.
A single necessary constraint does not in any way get you a definition. For a legal status to be defined and therefore exist it must have "sufficient" criteria. In other words, a legal status must have a legal test, there must be a clear way to determine what both is and is not granted the legal status, not just what is not.
So, I dare anyone to come up with a necessary and sufficient definition for one man, one woman marriage that allows everyone currently granted the legal status of marriage to keep their legal status without some sort of self-referential nonsense like "survival of the fittest". For that matter, I dare you to come up with a definition of "man" and "woman" that allows the entire population to be partitioned into the two groups with no overlap or exclusions.
If the legal status of marriage between a man and a woman cannot be defined, then it does not exist, and cannot be used to provide benefits to some members of society and not to others at the whim and mercy of the government or religion.
Therefore, if we wish to keep a legal status of marriage, we are bound as a rational people with rational law to allow the legal status of marriage to be available to all individuals who meet the necessary and sufficient criteria which we as a society define, whether that excludes some of those who currently enjoy the benefits of the legal status or includes those who currently do not.
If we decide to keep the status, I'm personally in favor of a definition that does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, familial status, disability status, veteran status, or genetic information (therefore close-relations) as we as a society have determined that these are protected classes and therefore cannot tolerate discrimination. In addition as it seems arbitrary to discriminate on the basis of quantity, I also favor a definition that does not discriminate on the basis of the number of participants in the marriage union.
If I'm wrong, which is I suppose somehow possible, and there is in fact a possible legal definition necessary and sufficient to determining the legal status of marriage between a man and a woman that does preserve the conventions and conditions which we have as a society up until now somehow managed to follow to the letter even though it has remained unwritten, then I would highly recommend that gay, polygymous, polyamorous, polygamous, incestuous and any other sexually oriented groups that might desire the status of marriage please come up with evidence that clearly shows that things have changed in our society in a way that makes it beneficial to the greater good to grant your particular sexually oriented group the benefits and privileges afforded to the legal status of marriage. And it's probably in your best interest to tell the straight-white-guilt folks to stop throwing words around like "love" and "equal rights" which are just clouding the real issue.
I support equal, not social-group-specific, rights. I support legal statuses with clear, necessary and sufficient criteria. The legal status of marriage is not defined with necessary and sufficient criteria and therefore does not exist. It should either be defined with necessary and sufficient criteria or deemed arbitrary and discriminatory and its provisions, benefits, responsibilities, and protections should be removed.
I would also like to point out that I am in general against the legal status of marriage since the vast majority of its benefits are predicated on the idea that women should stay home, make babies, raise the children and tend to, as Chaucer puts it, "hussif's capery" (At least I think he does. I can't find the reference because I don't remember the spelling. I vaguely remember it from high school, so maybe it's not even Chaucer. At any rate, it literally means "housewife's work", at least, whatever the quote really is does). I personally feel like this is one of those clear changes in our society that demands a reassessment of the legal status and the benefits it provides. I am not against the social contract of marriage as I believe it is one of the fundamental requirements of civilization.
Monday, April 08, 2013
So there seems to be some misunderstanding about my previous post. Specifically around what I mean when I say "social contract", and "traditionally". I'll try to correct that here. I would also like to go officially on record and say it makes me giggle to no end that the opinion of some folks seems to be that because I support the legal status of marriage being extended to everyone for reasons other than those that the straight-white-guilt community is espousing, I'm still a horrible person. Let's look at a smattering of some of the reasons why people are telling me I should form an opinion about the legal status of marriage and why I think they're ridiculous.
So, if this was all the government did with respect to marriage, namely track assets and children during the course of the marriage for tax and redistribution on dissolution purposes, provide reasonable benefits and subsidies for being classified as a potential child producer, and decide on fair and equitable ways of dividing assets on divorce or death, then I don't think there would be any real need for the debate on gay marriage. These days most of the asset division is handled by pre-nups in many straight marriages; if there's no children the only thing gay marriage-as-a-social-contract would lose out on is a few tax breaks and government assistance programs, which I am continually reminded they have no desire to claim by the supporters of gay marriage reform. At the very least, denying the subsidies could constitute material difference and not qualify as arbitrary discrimination. I do think that there could very easily still be a debate on the legal status of polygamy, as they clearly fall within the scope of this responsibility and denying them the legal status of marriage forces them to not register their marriage or register it incorrectly, increasing the judicial burden of redistributing children and assets on dissolution.
However, the legal status of marriage has become so heavily encumbered with laws, regulations, provisions, and benefits that are difficult or impossible to obtain without that legal status that it is now hopeless to both maintain the current privilege of the legal status of marriage and deny it to people on the basis of gender. In other words, if two straight men want to enjoy the legal benefits of marriage and the sexual benefits of the Swedish Bikini Team, the government is in little position to oppose the union. We've simply abused the legal status to the point where Americans are actually being denied access to expected goods, services, privileges and benefits which have been arbitrarily associated with marriage.
It has nothing to do with being gay. It has nothing to do with being in love. It has nothing to do with religious definition. It has everything to do with acknowledging that the lines have been crossed by such absurd lengths that we can no longer pretend with a straight face that marriage as a legal status has anything to do with marriage as a social contract.
We do still have a lot to talk about. We have to be particularly sensitive to the new definition of marriage as a legal status. We're now claiming it is not a social contract but a civil one. Under this new mindset it is now a right of any two people to enter jointly into a legal status that provides extensive tax relief, asset transfer and sharing, legal protections, immigration rights, survivor benefits, medical benefits, veteran and military benefits, and comes with a whole slew of state and local benefits too numerous to even start to detail.
Keep in mind that corporations are protected under the 14th amendment and are free to make and enforce contracts. So you could really be married to your job. Or a polygamist could form a corporation around his current marriage and that corporation could marry another spouse. The possibilities are as exciting as they are endless.
Man, it's hard to look at this and think it's going to be free. I'm assured by some pretty smart people that there's no "cost" to me for gay marriage, so I'm probably wrong to think that it's going to be expensive. Even if there is a cost, I'm willing to pay it just so anyone who wants to get all the legal benefits of marriage can without having to be burdened by silly social contracts. I might even go set up a sole proprietor LLC right now in the hopes that I can one day marry myself. It's a dream come true.