Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Importance of Being Bradley

I’m feeling almost sick waiting on the verdict of the hearing. I don’t write about politics or the news

very often on here. There’s plenty of that to go around and more than enough opportunity to voice my opinions on such matters. For here, I tend to focus on the personal and that which is personal, yet shared, among my peers. But in my heart this case feels personal and it has since the story first broke, when I first saw that very young man being led in handcuffs to what would become a seemingly endless confinement to a tiny cell. I’ve spent time in a holding cell, about 48 hours, and it damn near drove me mad. I can’t even fathom what two years in such a place would do to a person.

I know there are a lot of people who care and who do take it personally as well. This case and it’s outcome will be a turning point in our country, just as the release of the Collateral Murder video was also a turning point. Those of us who know veterans and have heard their stories weren’t terribly surprised by what we saw. Most vets will tell you these things, and worse, much worse, happen all the time. There was something that was disturbingly ‘safe’ about having that knowledge restricted to a select bit of the population. Like incest, you want to keep it hidden away and that first confession, no matter how healing it is, feels like having a layer of skin ripped off.

 I had a friend who was in Vietnam who told me about taking trophies, human ears, and wearing them strung around their necks like jewelry. War does that to people, it makes them do things you would never imagine them doing. This man was one of the kindest most caring people I knew and yet he had at one time sliced ears right off peoples heads. He told me that if someone was in the road when a truck of troops came along that person would be run over and left to die. It didn’t matter if that person was a child or an elderly person, which they usually were. There were other things too that he wouldn’t talk about but I can imagine.

Most people don’t want to know these things. I don’t want to know these things and yet I feel it’s my duty to know them because I live in a country that perpetrates more war than any other. I want to know these things so that I never forget why I oppose war in any way possible, even if most of them don’t feel very effective.

There’s another layer to this story and it’s even more personal. I have children about Bradley’s age. I have always taught them principles of honesty and integrity. You know, do the right thing and you will be rewarded, at least if only with the knowledge and satisfaction that you took the high road. How can I tell them that now? How can I tell them to intervene if they see injustice if they see an innocent young man go to prison for life for doing just that? It’s one thing to teach your kids that life isn’t always fair but this goes far beyond unfair.

Obviously Bradley’s parents taught him the same kinds of values, and now they have lost their son because no matter how this all turns out he will never be the same guy.But in the midst of all the grief and anguish I hope they will always be proud that their son changed this country forever in a way that needed to be changed. The scab has been ripped off, the flesh is still raw and now its up to us as a nation to decide how to heal the wounds of war and injustice.

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

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Life’s Work

What is the first question people typically ask when you first meet?

“What do you do for a living?”

For those of us who are not formally employed, running a business or in school that question can evoke some less than comfortable emotions. In our culture we are defined by our occupations almost more than by anything else we do. Even parenting, that vital consuming and essential role is not ‘enough’ in today’s world. I have my own feelings about that but that’s another topic for another day, and besides my children are grown so I can no longer claim Motherhood as my profession anyway.

It has been over two years since I have had a full time job and I’ve begun to adapt to this status. I have also learned some clever ways to respond to the big question, some of them are reasonably graceful. But before I was able to do this I needed to be okay with my status in my own heart and mind. Even now the level of being ok with it can fluctuate depending on other things that are effecting my mood and sense of self.

You would think that with unemployment rates holding steady over the past several years there would be less stigma surrounding unemployment and to a certain extent there is. What clearly is not acceptable to most people is the condition of being at peace with unemployment. The prevailing assumption is that if one is unemployed you must be desperately searching for work and quite possibly willing to accept any opportunity that is presented. The old “McDonalds is always hiring” mentality. As a matter of fact they are not always hiring, and even if I were willing to subject myself to the humiliation of working there they certainly aren’t hiring grown women with Masters Degrees. McDonalds aside, I am frequently given well intentioned suggestions as to where a person with my employment history and qualifications can apply for work. Sometimes, if I feel up to it, I will let the person know that I have applied at each of the places they suggest…and I have. Sometimes these jobs require a State licence, most require a car and insurance (I have neither) and many of them have interviewed me but ultimately chose another candidate. I honestly did put in a good year of applying and interviewing after my last job ended. I even applied for hourly wage service sector jobs, finally omitting my hard earned education from my resume so I wouldn’t be considered overqualified. Still no luck. While age discrimination is illegal, it’s nearly impossible to prove. I read somewhere the other day that Social Security claims have risen by 20% among people between the ages of 50 and 60 since the economy crashed or fell or whatever it did. There are plenty of other statistics that point to the fact that people my age are not getting hired to fill the scarce jobs that are available.

When I finally had applied for every Social Work/Advocacy/Case Management position in town  and had nothing but a folder of rejection letters to show for it I decided I might as well take on the grueling yearlong medical treatment for a disease I’ve been carrying around for many years. During that process I was able to qualify for Social Security Disability and Medicare, just in the nick of time as my Unemployment was about to run out. So that kept me pretty busy for a year and since I looked and felt like death not quite warmed over no one bothered to ask if I was looking for work.

 Now after all this time I really am not all that fired up to go back to work 40 hours a week. I am, in fact, downright happy to be not working.

So what do I tell people when they ask me what I do? Admittedly I often do recount the years I spent as a Youth Advocate then later as a Domestic Violence Counselor. It was hard work and I deserve the credit. But what do I do now? I’ll tell you.

I still help out people in crisis and frankly it’s much more effective and rewarding without having to document and maintain statistics for every single step of the process.

I read and watch documentaries and I learn something new every day.

I care for my animal companions.

I spend time with my family.

I stop and smell the roses, literally, and the trees and the grass and the earth.

I meditate and dream.

I have gotten to know myself and I realize I actually rather like who I am.

I write stories and draw and practice arts and crafts if I feel like it.

I grow things and make things.

I am learning my family history.

I volunteer in the community and put energy and effort into social causes that I hope will help make the world a better place for future generations.

I thoroughly experience life in all it’s beauty, dullness, excitement and unpredictability.

I appreciate every day I have been given even the crappy ones.

It’s a pretty good job if you ask me and I even like my boss.

 

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard