Saturday, October 31, 2020

Being a Mommy

A mom and baby. Image source.
Wrote this when baby was 2 months old

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I have a lot of *feelings* about being a mommy.

I love my child so much. Sometimes I hold him and I think, "This is the most important thing in my entire life. This is all I want to do."
And that's really surprising to me; I didn't think I would feel that way. I thought having kids would just be one small aspect of my life, taking up as much space as a hobby, but now it's the whole thing. Everything I do all day is focused around "I'm a mommy." (Note that I am still on maternity leave. When I go back to work in 2 months, things will change. And I'm not looking forward to leaving him. Oh I love him so much.)

I also have a lot of feelings about how I'm not doing all the things a mom is "supposed" to do. When I was a little kid, I thought my mom knew everything and could do everything related to housework and taking care of me. And ... when I think about my child realizing that I can't do some of the things he needs ... I'm very sad. I want him to feel safe. And I want him to think I'm a good mom.

And this is all complicated by the fact that my mother-in-law is living with us. See, in China, that's what happens. You have a baby, and then it's very common for the grandparents move in to take care of the baby. In our case, it's just Hendrix's mom. We call her Nainai because that's the Chinese word for "paternal grandmother."

It's extraordinarily helpful to have her here. She loves the baby so much. She's really good at cooking. If I have to go out and do something, I can just leave the baby at home with her and it's no problem. But the problem is, she's ended up "in charge" of a lot of the baby things. Like she washes his clothes and puts them away, so then I have only a vague sense of where his clothes are. She gives him a bath every night, so at the beginning I was so sad about the fact that I didn't even know how to give him a bath- how can I be his mommy if I don't know how we give him a bath?

(Don't worry, I have since learned how to give him a bath.)

And I feel bad because I'm "supposed to" be in charge of all the baby things, because I'm the mom. It's such a big change from pregnancy, where I was totally 100% in charge of him, and other people supported me. And I hated being pregnant, and I said that once the baby comes out, I am gonna hand him over to my husband and I am DONE. But now I don't want that; I want to take care of him.

It's such a big change; the pregnancy is suddenly gone and in its place we have this adorable squirmy child.

And so I feel bad that I can't do everything that a mom is "supposed" to do- but then I realized, maybe that happens gradually. Yes, going from "pregnant" to "mom" happens very suddenly. You get all these new responsibilities dropped on you, that weren't there 1 day before. But maybe after that, it's a gradual process of learning the skills I need for taking care of my child. So it's okay that I'm not "perfect" now. I'll get better and better at it as little Square Root grows.

I also want to talk about gender roles. I always thought, yes of course the mom and dad should share the parenting responsibilities equally. But now I feel like, it's important for my identity as a mom that I do most of the work. And I'm not thinking in terms of "who's doing more work, me or Hendrix" but in terms of "I need to do the best I possibly can for my child." Also I'm on maternity leave so I can spend all day taking care of the baby, while Hendrix has to work. And we have Nainai here, which introduces the question of what's the mom's role and what's the grandma's role. There's a big cultural difference there...

So. Okay. Those are my feelings about being a mommy. I love my child so much, and everything else has become a much lower priority- and I didn't expect that would happen so drastically. And I feel bad because I'm not some idealized concept of what a mom is supposed to be, but it's okay, I'll gradually get better and better. And I'm so feminist, I didn't expect to feel like "I'm the mom so I should do most of the work" but here we are.

Probably my feelings and our roles will change more over time. We'll see what happens.

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Related:

Monday, October 26, 2020

I Don't Want My Baby To Be "Brave"

Mufasa and Simba, from the cartoon "Lion King." Image text: "I'm only brave when I have to be. Being brave doesn't mean you go looking for trouble. - Mufasa." Image source.
Wrote this when baby was 2 and a half months old

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So we've been taking Square Root to the hospital to get all his vaccines. (In China, you get all your health care at a hospital- there's no separate "doctor's office", everything is at the hospital.) Basically what happens is I hold Square Root's hands and my husband holds his legs, and the nurse gives him the shot in his leg.

Typically, Square Root is sleeping when we're there at the hospital about to get his shot, or he's awake and smiling. Then he cries for 3 seconds during the actual injection, and then we hold him and he's fine.

And so I tell him "you did so good at the doctor today." Or the nurse tells him he is 勇敢 [yǒng gǎn], brave.

And sometimes I tell people "he is such a good baby- he doesn't cry very much." In Chinese everyone says he is 乖 [guāi], which means well-behaved.

But... this doesn't feel right.

We praise him for being good, for being 乖 [guāi], but what that really means is he's not making too much trouble for us. But is that really a good thing? I want him to feel all of his emotions, to understand his own needs, to communicate about how he feels. That's far more important than whether or not he's inconveniencing me. I don't want him to think that it's "good" to hide his emotions in order to make life easier for other people.

And telling an infant that he's "brave" for tolerating the vaccine is a little silly. We literally held him down. He didn't have any other choice- and if he did have a choice, he would have chosen NOT to get poked with a needle. (He's too little to understand how important it is to not get polio.) So he didn't do anything "brave." I get that we are trying to encourage him, and to recognize that it was painful but he got through it, and put a positive spin on that... seems like "brave" isn't really the right word for that though.

I'm thinking about when I was little, and what it meant when adults told me I was "brave." Because of my undiagnosed autism, there were often situations where I felt overwhelmed, scared, or in pain- and if I just braced myself to endure through it without complaining, that meant I was "brave." I learned that it's good to pretend I don't have needs. If I communicate about my needs, if I say "I have to leave because of this and that" or "I have to avoid xyz", that's bad. I'm being a bad kid; I'm making trouble for the adults.

Here's the thing: enduring the pain of getting a shot is medically necessary and there's no way to avoid it. But a lot of the other situations where I was "brave" were not necessary at all, and it would have been much healthier if I had been able to avoid them. At the time, though, I wasn't aware that these were two different types of situations. If adults were making me do something I didn't like, well I was supposed to just put up with it. Then I was "good" and "brave." I now know that if I am experiencing negative emotions like fear or pain, I should investigate the reasons and figure out if it's actually necessary for me to put myself in that situation or not. It turns out it's not a good thing to let people hurt me when it's not necessary.

I don't want my child to think that's a good thing, like little Perfect Number did.

So I tell Square Root he is 乖 [guāi], but I also tell him he doesn't need to be 乖 [guāi]. It's okay to cry. It's okay to express emotions. It's good and healthy to tell me when he needs something.

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Related:
Globophobia
"Seek First God's Kingdom" Doesn't Work If You Have Autism

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Blogaround

1. The American man who became a porter on Everest (posted October 12) Well this is really fascinating to me because it reminds me of myself moving to China, and my beliefs about "objectivity" back then (which I wrote about in this post: Culture, Objectivity, God, and the Real Reason I Moved to China). Makes me imagine a thought process like "there is an extremely strong correlation between people's culture / place of origin, and where they end up living as an adult- for example, all the people working the dangerous and low-paying job of being a porter on Everest are from that local area- but why is that? Something is *wrong* about this correlation; it shouldn't be like that, we should be objective. Why *shouldn't* a white American man work as an Everest porter making $15/day? Wouldn't it be racist to think there's something *weird* about that?"

Obvious disclaimer, I have no idea if that's what Menninger believes. I wish I had time to watch his documentary. 

2. Ira Einhorn and the politics of Jesus (posted October 16) "Maybe this thieving, human-trafficker/theologian had a preternatural ability to compartmentalize his life, and so his evil deeds had no influence on his piety and theology just as his piety and theology had no apparent influence on his evil deeds."

3. "Here Without You" - Well as I said in the last post, I'm homesick, so now I'm singing this song.

I remember 10 years ago, back in the US after my first trip to China, singing this song. I wanted to leave behind everything that was easy and familiar, and move to China. And then I did just that, and now here I am in 2020. I want to go back to everything that is easy and familiar. But I can't, not yet.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Homesick

The iconic Shanghai skyline. Image source.

The short version is, I established my life in China under the assumption that international travel is something I can pretty easily do. Okay, not "easy"- it's a thousand or so dollars and I have to sit on a plane for 14 hours and then deal with jet lag for days afterward- but at least if I was willing to go through that, I could do it. I moved to China because I lived in a world where it's no big deal for me to fly back to the US twice a year.

That world currently does not exist. Because of COVID.

I'm stuck here. I've been stuck here all year. And yeah, this year everyone is stuck in a country, so I'm lucky the one I got was the one I would have wanted. I have friends who weren't so lucky. We built our lives on the assumption that we can easily travel in and out of lots of countries, and when that suddenly wasn't true anymore, some people ended up stranded for months. Flights cancelled, borders closed, and they're trying to continue paying rent on their apartment in Shanghai as it sits empty. 

I'm lucky- if I have to be stuck in 1 country for the entire year, China is the one I would pick. But... obviously I wish we weren't all stuck.

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Last year I published my "6 Years Later" blog series, and I hinted that I'm ready to be done living in China. Our long-term plan is to move back to the US.

I wrote about privilege, and I said:

And my life in the US is still there, still available, I can go back any time. Sometimes literally- I know I can go stay at my parents' house and not pay for food or housing, any time I want. I'm so privileged... I'm writing this blog series to say "well it's been 6 years and here are the things I learned about the world, culture, and being an immigrant, well that was a fun experience but I'm ready to be done, gonna go back home now" and then I can just go back, simple as that. A lot of immigrants can't do that. A lot of immigrants don't have a choice.

How ironic, that suddenly this has changed. Suddenly, I can't "just go back."

Or, well, I could. Technically I could. There are flights- though way fewer than before. But the issue is, the US I left at the end of my visit in 2019 doesn't exist any more. Now there is a global pandemic, and the US is doing way worse than China.

From what I hear, you are all wearing masks and social distancing. I'm gonna let you in on a secret: I've never social-distanced. I basically stayed at home for a few weeks in February, only going out for groceries and to take my baby for his vaccines. Then I went back to work, and over the next few weeks, more and more people started to go back to work, til the subways were back to their normal capacity. I think it was May when I went to a restaurant for the first time. And ever since then, I've gradually settled in to being "back to normal"- I go places and do things and take my baby out to do fun stuff, and don't worry about COVID.

Yes, masks are required everywhere. That rule is enforced in the subways, but nowhere else at this point. Sometimes I forget to wear a mask when I go to the mall.

Oh, and I don't travel. So: masks, and not traveling. Other than that, I am "back to normal." 

And let me make this clear: The reason people aren't serious about masks and stuff here in Shanghai is that SHANGHAI NEVER HAD ANY LOCAL TRANSMISSIONS. Every single case we've had in Shanghai was someone who had just traveled from a known high-risk area (or their close contacts), or an international traveler- and all international travelers are required to get tested for COVID and also quarantine for 14 days. And this quarantine is very serious, it's a "you CANNOT OPEN THE DOOR" kind of quarantine.

The Chinese government did the right thing, and now stuff is under control in China. Every now and then there's a new "outbreak" that has everyone concerned- 12 new cases in Qingdao this week, everyone is talking about it- and so that city gets locked down and they are in the process of testing all 9 million residents. That's what you do if you actually want to stop a pandemic.

From what I hear, in the US the situation is much worse. Apparently, you are doing outdoor dining and trying to have church with everyone sitting a carefully-measured 6 feet apart. Apparently, everyone who can is working from home until next year. Apparently, it's awful for everyone's mental health.

I can't go back.

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My mother-in-law (Nainai) is living with us, to help take care of the baby. And umm, how do I put this, it's awful. She's good at cooking and housework and childcare, but she doesn't like me, and she's really passive-aggressive and childish about it.

And about once a month I can't stand it, and I think "all right let's pack up and go, let's apply for that US green card, I don't even care that there's a pandemic, we're leaving."

Weighing our current bad situation against the hypothetical bad possibilities in the US.

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And of course I'm concerned about the election. Vote. Vote vote vote. To be specific: Vote for Biden, because we need to get Trump out.

When we move to the US, my husband will be an immigrant. My son is US citizen born in China. And the president is stirring up anti-immigrant and anti-China hatred. He thinks only certain people count as real Americans who have rights. He encourages people to gather in groups with no masks- he only cares about himself; he doesn't even pretend to care about the 200,000 Americans who have died.

What if Trump wins, and US gets more and more fascist? I'm on the outside looking in ... at what point do I decide "ehhhhhh I can't go there"?

I keep telling myself, I'm privileged enough that the worst of it won't affect me and my family. That's probably true. I hope it's true. But also, is it bad to think that way? Why should I be able to "go to the US for a better life" when so many other people can't? 

Yeah it's true that the world is unjust and effed-up, but it doesn't help anyone for me to stay in China just because I ... feel bad for having privilege, or something? No, that doesn't help anyone. I vote and I give money to organizations that help marginalized groups. Those are things that actually help. Me staying in China because "it's not fair that I have access to opportunities that other people don't" doesn't actually do any good for anyone.

Anyway, vote for Biden.

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I grew up in the suburbs in the US, and now I live in Shanghai, the 3rd-largest city in the world (or thereabouts, depends how you measure).

Ugh, everything would be so much easier if I had a car (and also roads with little traffic, and plenty of parking- having a car in a big city would be way more trouble than it's worth). Everything would be so much easier if I had a dishwasher. And a real oven. And a dryer for clothes. And a grocery store with western food.

I guess it was fine living in a big city like this, before the baby was born. But now everything is harder, and all these little annoyances are suddenly a big huge deal. Like taking the subway- that used to be a little bit annoying because I had to walk for 10 minutes to get to the subway station. But now... navigating around narrow bumpy sidewalks with a stroller, trying to find an elevator at the subway station, avoiding rush hour because there will be no space for the stroller if the subway car is completely packed full of people. Taking a taxi used to be a bit annoying, but now with a baby, I have to fuss about with the seatbelts and car seat for a minute or 2, I have to fold up the stroller and put it in the trunk, I have to entertain the baby so he doesn't cry (the taxi driver will be like "just take him out of his seat and hold him" ugh, no). And then once I get where I'm going, I have to drag the car seat around. Fortunately we have a car seat that clips into the stroller, but it's still annoying.

And I want a second baby. But how would that even work, in a big city? Can you imagine bumping along on all these narrow sidewalks with a double-wide stroller? Dragging around 2 car seats? Ugh, I wish I had a car, everything would be easier... but obviously when I say "I wish I had a car" I also mean "and I wish I lived in a place that having a car would be nice and convenient, ie NOT SHANGHAI."

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The short version is, I'm ready to be done living in China, right when the US is ... how shall I put this ... not livable.

Maybe my timing is the worst. Taking care of a baby, living with my mother-in-law ... at the same time as a pandemic.

Or maybe the fact that I can't go back makes me want it even more.

We are gonna go back. We are. We're gonna get there. Hopefully next year?

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Related:

On Immigration and Double Standards

Culture, Objectivity, God, and the Real Reason I Moved to China

Saturday, October 10, 2020

An Update on Whether or Not "Marriage is Hard" Now That We Have a Child

A mommy, daddy, and baby, wearing shirts that say "Mommy", "Daddy", and "Baby", respectively. Image source.
Note: I actually wrote this a while ago, before COVID was a thing

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When I was growing up, I always heard Christians say "marriage is hard." So much talk about how "marriage is hard", how you have to work so much and sacrifice so much and put up with crap from your spouse, but oh it's SO WORTH IT.

Then in 2013 I started dating Hendrix, and we got married in 2017. In 2018 I blogged about the whole "Marriage Is Hard" idea, pointing out that it's harmful to teach kids that they should expect to be unhappy when they're married, because then how will they recognize when they're in a truly bad/abusive situation and need to get out? And I said this about my own marriage:
Well. I have been married 1 year, and my marriage is not "hard." It's good and fun and I often think about how happy I am that I decided to marry him, and how lucky we are. This isn't what I expected. I thought once our status changed from "engaged" to "married", it would stop being fun and start being hard.

Yes, we fight sometimes, and sometimes I'm angry with him and don't want to look at him or talk to him, but it only lasts 1 day at the most. And then one of us will apologize- usually if we're mad at each other, it's because one of us accidentally did something hurtful because we weren't thinking about how it would affect the other. We haven't really fought about anything where the problem went deeper than that- maybe once or twice? And I feel lucky, like wow we're so much more compatible than I expected. Lucky like we must be in the top 1% of happy marriages or something, because surely it isn't normal to feel so good about our marriage. It was supposed to be hard. Right? 
...
But I'm still in love with him. I wasn't expecting that- not when they literally used metaphors about death to describe married life. Am I the one who's not "normal" because I still feel so happy I married my husband? Or was it the "die to self" idea that's suspect?
Anyway, now that we have a baby, I would like to give a little update on whether or not "marriage is hard."

Basically, the first 3 months after Square Root was born was the hardest time our relationship has ever gone through. But even though we had problems during that time, I would not label those problems as "marriage is hard", but as "having a newborn baby is hard and is putting a lot of stress on our marriage." And now our relationship is back to being good.

Let me elaborate on the things that were hard:
  • The transition from pregnancy to having a newborn: 
    • During pregnancy, Hendrix did so much work to take care of me and make sure all my needs were met. Then when Square Root was born, Hendrix's focus moved to taking care of him. During the pregnancy, it was all about me, but once the baby was born, I felt like my husband didn't have time for me any more, because he was taking care of the baby.
    • During pregnancy, I was 100% in charge of the baby. But after he was born, other people could take care of him without me. Other people (like my mother-in-law) were changing his clothes, giving him a bath, etc, without my input. I felt like he was being taken away from me and raised by other people. It was a big adjustment, figuring out what my role would be and what other people's role would be in taking care of him.
    • And a lot of wild feelings caused by hormones.
  • Taking care of a newborn baby is just hard. Getting used to having him sucking on my nipples all the time. Pain in my back and shoulders from having to sit up very straight and hold him in exactly the right place while breastfeeding (on that note, I very much recommend getting a breastfeeding pillow). He wants someone to hold him all the time, and he cries if we lay him down. Waking up a bunch of times in the night. And then he won't sleep in his bed- he just wants someone to hold him.
  • My mother-in-law (Nainai) is living with us to help take care of the baby. There were a lot of things where she wanted to do it a certain way, and I wanted to do it a different way, and I felt like I couldn't tell her what I wanted because then she'd be unhappy and then Hendrix would be unhappy and act like I did something wrong.
Me, Hendrix, and Nainai were constantly doing a ton of work to take care of Square Root. Those first few weeks, Hendrix and I basically never had time to actually talk to each other about our relationship. We were so tired from taking care of the baby all the time, and Nainai was always there and we didn't have any time when it was just the two of us.

I would lay awake at night, breastfeeding Square Root, and worry that my husband didn't support me any more. Or I would lay awake at night because my boobs were huge and painful because Nainai insisted that the baby would sleep in her room and she would give him a bottle in the night, even though that's not what I wanted, and I would feel like I wasn't "allowed" to make decisions about how to raise him, and I would worry about the future.

All 3 of us- me, Hendrix, and Nainai- want to do what's best for the baby. We put him first. But Hendrix and I had different things we put second. For me, it was my right to be Square Root's mom and make decisions about taking care of him, and how to have boundaries with Nainai. For Hendrix, it was about trying to make sure both me and Nainai were happy.

And those two priorities often contradicted each other. When I was feeling bad about my "boundaries with Nainai" issue, Hendrix didn't support me emotionally because he didn't like how me asserting my boundaries was upsetting his mom. When Hendrix was feeling bad about his mom being unhappy, I didn't support him emotionally because I was focused on defending my own rights as the baby's mom.

We were never like this before. We always talked about our emotions, and cared about each other, and helped each other with our emotional needs. But after baby was born, we were both having a hard time adjusting to being parents and the fact that Hendrix's mom lives with us. And we didn't have any time to even talk to each other about it.

Here's what helped me:

  • I remembered that Hendrix and I have been together for years, and our relationship has a good foundation of caring about each other, communicating, being honest about our feelings and needs, taking each other's emotional needs seriously and helping get those needs met, etc. Even though we weren't really doing those things right after Square Root was born, I reassured myself that it was just a temporary thing, and the true nature of our relationship is all that good stuff about love and healthy communication.
  • I worked hard to find a few minutes here and there where we could talk to each other about serious things. And he did too. When we went to take the trash out. When we were in the taxi on the way to Square Root's doctor's appointments. We know how to say to each other "I need to talk to you about something," because our relationship does have that good foundation of communication.
  • I went to a therapist and talked about my feelings about being a mom, and about how to have boundaries with Nainai and how to communicate with my husband. I worked on standing up for myself more, while also letting Nainai know I appreciate how much work she is doing for the baby.
  • I took Square Root to the United States for a whole month, by myself. This wasn't because of conflicts with Hendrix or anything like that; it was because I had 4 months of maternity leave so we all figured it was a really good opportunity for me to spend more time with my family in the US. Turned out it was also a really good opportunity for me to be in charge of the baby the way I want to be, as his mom, and establish habits and routines, making it easier to have firm boundaries about that stuff when I got back to China.
  • And Square Root became much easier to take care of. Around 4 months old, he started only waking up 1 time in the night, and after I fed him he would go right back to sleep. Also, he learned to use his hands to play with toys, which means he can sometimes lay on the floor and amuse himself; he doesn't need to have someone holding him constantly.

Now I feel that our relationship is good again, just like it used to be. We often tell each other "I love you" and "I appreciate how much work you are doing for baby." I often ask Hendrix how he's feeling. And he notices when I look sad and asks me what's wrong- he knows me well enough that he can tell when I look sad without me even saying anything. And all those cute little affectionate things we do, the inside jokes, the way we cuddle each other, all those things are back.

So... no, our marriage is not "hard." Having a newborn child (and my mother-in-law living with us) brought a lot of stress and conflict into our relationship for about 3 months, but that's a completely different thing than saying "marriage is hard."

Living with him, planning our lives together, raising our child together, seeing him every day, laughing and joking and sharing funny pokemon videos we found online- that's what marriage is for us, and it's wonderful and just so FUN. My husband is sweet and loving and cares about me in ways I never expected that men were capable of. I didn't know it would be like this. I expected marriage to be "hard."

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Related:
He Just Loves Me (a post about Sex, Pregnancy, and My "Wifely Duty") 

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Blogaround

1. Religion is not spell-casting (posted September 25) "This is the kind of goofy nonsense you find yourself defending when you start imagining it’s your job, your right, or your prerogative to decide for somebody else whether or not they are or can be baptized." And I'm glad this post isn't just about 'look how ridiculous Catholics are'- it goes on to talk about how evangelicals do THE EXACT SAME THING, with salvation anxiety and praying the sinner's prayer over and over just in case they did it wrong.

2. I Grew Up Evangelical. Converting to Catholicism Got Me Disowned. (posted September 28) "We learn that Catholics are idolaters who worship saints, and who think their works can get them to heaven. People who think their works will get them to heaven go to hell automatically. Or so evangelicals believe, at least." YES THANK YOU for this post. I 100% was taught that the majority of Catholics weren't real Christians, that they thought it was all about following rules and praying to saints and not eating meat on Fridays, and they didn't have a "personal relationship with God."

3. ALL ABOUT THAT BASE (Star Wars Parody - Meghan Trainor's All About That Bass) (posted 2014) "Yeah, it's pretty clear, this ain't no small moon, but it can shatter, shatter, and bring your planet doom."

4. FROZEN 2 - Show Yourself (FULL Movie Scene) HD 1080p (posted March 2) So, you know how I have a baby and therefore no time to watch movies? Well I finally got around to watching "Frozen 2" and I LOVED IT. Especially this song, "Show Yourself", oh I get all kinds of religious vibes from this, maybe because the only context I've heard the phrase "show yourself" was in talking to God. And also just the style of the song feels very megachurch-with-fog-machines. But (spoiler?) the song is not about God, it's about discovering your own self. Love that.

Oh, and on top of that, Elsa's in yoga pants, which the Christian modesty police hate.


Saturday, October 3, 2020

That Time I Voted For Obama ... Plus a Bunch of Republicans

Obama giving a campaign speech, years ago. Image source.

I want to tell you a little story, about a presidential election a while back. I grew up evangelical and conservative, but at the time of our story, I had begun to identify as a feminist. I thought to myself, it's not good to automatically vote for someone just because of their political party; we need to do our research into the nuances of both candidates' positions. (And no, I no longer agree with this "I'm superior because I take a balanced view somewhere in the middle" philosophy. But that's a whole separate topic.) I followed the campaigns, watched the debates, and I felt that I agreed more with Obama's platform.

So there I am one day, filling out my absentee ballot, getting ready to mail it in. This was when I was in college, in a different state than where I grew up, so that's why I was voting by absentee. For the "president" column, I picked Obama, but then there were a bunch of other columns. Local elections. A few of the names I recognized, just because they were the incumbent politicians I'd always heard about in the news growing up, but I really knew nothing about what actual policies they supported. No idea which local candidates had views closest to mine. What to do, what to do.

I thought to myself, well, in general, I am conservative. I don't really know who these candidates are or what they stand for, but they're Republican so they should be okay. So I went ahead and voted straight-ticket Republican, with the exception of Obama for president.

A long time later, I realized, actually I'm not conservative. Whoops.

See, my perspective had changed so much. I had started reading some feminist blogs, and it gave me a whole new language to talk about the structure of society, the power dynamics between different demographic groups. I learned about systemic injustice for the first time. Learned so many new things about the reality of being poor or a minority in America, and of course that influenced my political views. And I found I was closer to Obama than his Republican challenger- but I chalked it up to "it's not good to have blind loyalty to one party- we have to look at each candidate as a nuanced individual" whereas the reality was "I'm not Republican any more."

I had never really been taught, in an unbiased way, what the general ideologies of the Democrat and Republican parties were. It was always this subtle, indirect message (from my parents, mostly) "Republicans are good, Democrats are bad". To expand on that, if I had been forced to try to put it into words back then, it was like, Republican policies are a reasonable and intelligent way to run a society, while Democrats are short-sighted and irresponsible, always wanting to throw money at people just because they whine about "it's not fair!" Like, geez look how unreasonable Democrats are, wanting to raise the minimum wage just because people are like "oh woe is me, I can't raise a family on my minimum wage income" and Democrats are all like "oh so sad, we need to help them! we need to give them money" but COME ON, you can't run a society that way. Adding more and more government programs just because some people are irresponsible and didn't go to college and get a decent job before they started having babies, LIKE YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO. How can we run a society that way, constantly giving free handouts to people who aren't living their lives the right way? You're encouraging bad behavior, and also taking money away from the people who actually work hard and made responsible choices. Yeah sure, we feel bad for that single mom working at McDonald's, but you have to make laws that make sense and benefit society overall. 

(Remember when that video leaked, of Romney saying that 47% of Americans are takers who just want the government to give them free stuff, and people were OUTRAGED? I was a little confused, because that's literally what I was taught. We didn't necessarily say it out loud, but yes, that's what I was taught.)

Then I learned about systemic injustice. I learned about how society depends on minimum-wage workers, and in reality a lot of those jobs are done by actual adults with families to support- it's not high school kids just getting some extra money to play around with, like my parents told me it's "supposed to" be. I learned that for people less privileged than me, it's very difficult for them to go to college. I learned that there have been some examples of cities that have raised the minimum wage and nothing bad happened; turned out it wasn't disastrous for the economy at all.

I learned all those things, and I changed my political views accordingly, and I still thought I was a Republican. Because, well, Republicans are the party of being reasonable and making policies that treat everyone fairly and benefit society overall, right? Whereas Democrats are the party of being short-sighted and irresponsible.

I remember back then I heard someone describe me as "super-liberal feminist" and I was very surprised. I really thought I was conservative. I really thought "liberal" was bad- that's how I'd always heard it used, as if it was a synonym for "evil."

Basically, I changed because I realized my past views were based on incorrect beliefs about reality. I truly wanted to treat everyone fairly, and when I was conservative, I truly thought conservative policies were the best way to do that. But then I learned more, and discovered that these other policies made more sense. Didn't realize they weren't conservative policies. Didn't realize they were the exact opposite. I still trusted that conservatives were reasonable, and once they learned the things I had learned, they would surely support those policies too. To keep going with my minimum-wage example: They would surely agree that we need to raise the minimum wage. Right?

And now I'm at the point where... I don't know what to think about full-grown adults that vote Republican. Do they just not know about systemic inequality? Do they just not know about privilege? Do they just not know about racism? Or do they know, but they vote for the policies that benefit themselves while unjustly keeping others in poverty? 

Is it ignorance, or is it something much more evil?

People told me that black people mostly vote Democrat because Democrats promise to give them all kinds of free benefits. And wow isn't that just wrong, how they're enticed by things that will just benefit themselves, rather than looking at the big picture of how a functional society should work. Well, I can't believe it's taken me this long, but I've realized that upperclass white people vote Republican just because of the benefits to themselves- not looking at the big picture of what makes a fair and just society for everyone.

I'm proud to say I voted for Obama back then. And unfortunately I also voted for some Republicans because I innocently believed the Republican party truly wanted to create a functional society that is fair to everyone.

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Related:

The Parable of the Living Wage

Friday, October 2, 2020

Bathsheba's Son

 

A woman holding a baby. She is dressed like a woman from the bible. Image source.

[content note: child death]

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Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” 

Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”

- 2 Samuel 12:13-14

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The child died. As a punishment for David.

The child that Bathsheba grew and birthed and breastfed. For 9 months she carried him in her body. From those first days, the fear and shame when she realized she was pregnant, and not by her husband. The morning sickness, the food cravings, the exhaustion. She gained weight, she got stretch marks. 

Around the 4th month of pregnancy, she started to feel the baby move. He grew more and more active, and sometimes the kicks hurt her. 

Did he grow inside David's uterus? Did he kick David? Did David risk death giving birth to him- because in those days, it was common for women to die in childbirth. Did David push an entire human out of his vagina? Did David bleed for this child?

Was David awake all night breastfeeding?

Bathsheba spent 9 months nurturing and loving the child that grew inside her body. David spent 9 months covering up a rape and a murder.

And when the baby got sick, who held him and comforted him? Not David. David went off alone to pray and fast.

When he heard the news that his baby had died, David stopped his praying and fasting and got up to eat. He started to move on with his life. Meanwhile, Bathsheba's breasts continued to produce milk. Her breasts swelled up, hard and painful, waiting for the baby who would never come back and drink.

Soon after, he got her pregnant again. She had another baby- who survived, fortunately. Maybe it was all the same to David. He wasn't that involved in the pregnancy. But for Bathsheba, going through all of that again... the morning sickness, the exhaustion, the labor. Growing to love her child even before his birth. Going through it all again. It wasn't "all the same." Nothing could ever replace her first child.

Bathsheba's son died, and God thought it was a punishment for David.

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