Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I'm Back Home - in Canada!

Back in 1999, my wife-to-be came up to stay with me in Richmond, BC, where I was living at the time, because she had just been told that her "condition"would require ten years of therapy and a life on disability. She had just been diagnosed as a multiple personality, and this had expressed itself in the usual startling and awkward ways.

We had run into each other on a mailing list we both belonged to, and I snorted aloud. You see, it's a condition we have in common, and I was quite certain that between my own knowledge and a couple-three visits with a trauma therapist I knew very well, one who I knew would not focus on the condition in hopes of a book contract but rather how to deal with the underlying trauma, we'd have her back together inside of six months. And in fact, I was correct.

I was definitely in need of a room-mate I could stand to have underfoot so I prepped the spare room for her. I'd no thought of anything further; she was married, after all, and besides, this was hardly the time to be considering such things. Actually, me being me, it just never occurred to me, at least, not in any conscious way. The understanding of why I didn't consider it came long after the fact.

Anyhoo, the day came, and I was awaiting her at the bus terminal. The bus came... and I couldn't find her. This was not aided by the fact that an alarm had been going off for an hour and my brain was utterly fried. Finally, she found me. I'd literally overlooked her. She's five foot nothin' and I'm nine and a half inches taller - ten in the boots I was wearing.

I must have looked as fried as I felt; she grabbed and hugged me - and we fit. That room was never used. It would have interrupted getting to know each other after we had bonded. We literally did not sleep for three days.

Then a lot of stuff happened, but it's personal. Suffice it to say that over the next few months, my intellect came to agree with my hind brain that we had found our other half. I was suprised, delighted and very confused by the fact that her husband agreed. He's now my best friend. I like to say that their divorce is better than most marriages. Indeed, they have kept the best parts of that relationship alive.

In every way, she is the part of me that I knew was missing, but could never define; she feels the same, and it's a relationship that makes it possible to include more people than we could either have managed separately.

You have probably heard and dismissed the idea of "love at first sight" as romantic nonsense. I had as well, until it happened. Everything else that has happened since is a consequence of that one moment; my relocation to Nevada (of all places for this green-dependent web-foot), my abandonment of a comfortable, if dull niche as an adult link and review site webmaster, our marriage at the city registrar's office in Reno, my starting up Graphictruth and many other things.

You see, among many various and sundry things that occurred right after I arrived in Reno, the most significant one (aside from marrying my dear Wampus) was 9/11. When the first visible local response to it was someone gluing a printout of the US Flag to our apartment dumpster, I knew in my bones things were going to go downhill. I got out my teaspoon and started bailing.

I was born of Canadian and US citizens in Saskatchewan and raised in the Pacific Northwest, with regular excursions to visit family "across the line" in Canada and "Back East" in Virginia. I'm a composite product of two nations and several cultures; the small town values of Saskatchewan where my father's family farmed - since just after the Irish Potato Famine; Grays Harbor, Washington and the tri-city area of Aberdeen, Hoquiam and Cosmopolis where I grew up and the courtly values of an upper-middle-class family rooted in Lynchburg, VA, since just after the War for Southern Independence.

Both families have one thing in common - carpetbags, a tradition I continued when I stuffed a few belongings into my carpetbag and headed north to BC in 1981, because I could see that life for me under Reaganomics would be a chancy thing at best. I was able - thanks to the robust social safety net in Canada - to make a life and deal with the things I needed to deal with in order to ... well, to not check out.

The odds of suicide for Aspie males between the ages of 14 and 30 is apallingly high, even now. Add in clinical depression, unemployment, severe chronic pain, PTSD and two undiagnosed wetware issues and my odds were (generously) 50/50. Even with help, I came very close to not making it and had I crashed and burned as badly in the US as I had in Canada, I'd almost certainly be an unremembered statistic.

Welfare and Disability made it possible for me - paradoxically - to become useful enough in my own eyes to start exploring my assets instead of just trying to be adequate in the face of maddeningly inexplicable disabilities. I have done my best to pay that debt forward - and my excursion with my wife to Nevada was one aspect of that. You see, my wife is a special educator, and we squeezed out another eight years of her frankly magical ability to teach kids who would fail into kids who know that they can succeed and thrive with what they have, simply by rocking who and what they are rather than accepting blame and shame for being other than what they "should" be.

Of course, as her partner and husband-to-be, it was no real question in any case. You support your partner in doing that which they love the best, and my wife loves teaching in the way that Picasso loved to paint - and she's that good at it. Since she is that good, over the years she has prevented far, far more problems than I've ever been able to articulate, explain and help clean up after the fact.

I'm an ethicist, which I sometimes refer to with deliberate crudity as "the art of not fucking up." What I do is to look at things that have gone wrong and point out why they did go wrong in that case, and then use that case to illustrate the general principle. I like to think that in that way I make a difference. But her strength is to take kids and teach them how to be ethical and effective people before they make any mistakes that matter to this world. That trumps what I do by definition.

Frankly, had George Bush been on my wife's case-load, he would have been a much better person, and might have known better that to tempt Murphy, Fate and the Peter Principle.

But it came to the point where my wife was paying too high a price to continue. Even if the housing market collapse had not wiped out all the equity we'd built up, even if I'd come to love Nevada as I'd hoped - even if she was making the money she deserved as a "master teacher" with a very rare talent and the professional experience to back it up - it would have been unconscionable to push her out the door one more day.

And from my viewpoint, I could see no way in which I could contribute further to the survival of the United States in it's present form. Indeed, I have come to doubt the wisdom of trying to retard the inevitable. I think the choice at this point is between which pilot is better qualified to beach the Ship of State for the salvage crews. Thom Hartmann over at Air America likes to talk about an eighty-year cycle in history of war, rebuilding, expansion and profit-taking, and his argument is compelling. But it also happens within the confines of another cycle of roughly 200 years, in which structures and entities must pass through a fire to be reborn. For the United States, that time is now. For Canada, it's not yet.

And when it is time; well; how that happens depends very much on culture; in Canada, the revolution will be the result of a Royal Commission and will express a broad consensus. We will be polite, we will be courtious and we will not muck things up with posturing nor let trivialities and superficial differences get in the way of the common good OR paper over fundamental disconnections. Ultimately, I mean.

Both nations are dear to me, as much for their differences as their similarities. Each nation has it's strengths and weaknesses, and I'm afraid it struck me that 9/11 was directed with malice aforethought at the weakest point of an already sadly weakened social and cultural infrastructure.

And as I sit here in Greenwood, a few hours north of Spokane, I'm simply stunned at the difference a seemingly artificial line on the ground makes. There is a pervasive miasma composed of blame, of shame and of fear in the US and I fear that even undoing the last eight years would not cure the deep, fundamental crisis of spirit, the all too literal cultural insanity that underlines the political process.

The world is, indeed fascinated with the outcome - but I'm afraid that from my now foreign perspective I can say aloud what I've long felt - they are aware, as most US residents are not that they are watching a train-wreck. It's a wrenching, transformitive reality check with no predictable outcome, other than it will be as much of a change as happened during the FDR years (for a relatively good outcome), when the Soviet Union disintegrated (a pattern I consider somewhat more likely at this point) or outright Somalian Style Anarchy; the Culture War with guns, ropes and yahoos welding quad fifties to the roll cages of their pickup trucks.

And I see what is seen with brutal clarity by people who have lived through something like that - often as the result of a malicious shove from the District of Columbia. From Pravda, H/T "Say No to Palin: Russian to Judgement"

The candidate for the Vice Presidency of the United States of America, whose experience in small town politics, mothers´day dos and the local hockey club is her claim to fame, threatened to open the gates of Hell by attacking Russia in the event of another invasion of Georgia in a televised interview on ABC (shown today). One question for this self-opinionated upstart: Do you know what a nuclear holocaust is?

Sarah Palin, Mrs. Nobody know-it-all shrieking cow from Alaska, the joke of American politics, plied with a couple of vodkas before letting rip in front of incredulous audiences while McCain coos in the background, cuts a ridiculous figure as she strives to be taken seriously.

How can anyone whose husband is a member of the Alaska Independence Party and who is running for the Vice Presidency of the Union be taken seriously? How indeed can the Republican Party be taken seriously for not vetting this female, or have they not yet discovered the skeletons in her closet? We have.

So Sarah Palin, Mrs. Hockey Mom housewife-cum-small-town gossip merchant and cheap little guttersnipe, suppose you shut up and allowed real politicians and diplomats to do their work? Threatening Russia with a war is perhaps the most irresponsible thing anyone could do at this moment in time. Have you any idea what a nuclear holocaust is? Have you any notion of the power of Russia’s armed forces? Did you know that Russia has enough missiles to destroy any target anywhere on Earth in seconds?

And have you not forgotten, you pith-headed little bimbo from the back of beyond, that small detail about the slaughter of Russian citizens by Georgians, which started the whole debacle? So next time suppose you keep your mouth shut and while you’re at it, make sure the members of your family keep their legs shut too. Your country has enough failed mothers as it is.

Oh, and there's one thing they know so well that they didn't even bother adding it. Yes, you can see Russia from Alaska on a clear day. But more importantly, you see Siberia from Alaska.

What they are seeing - from the relative comfort and civilization of Moscow - is a place that is not all that different from Siberia, and a vice-presidential candidate with the values and depth of understanding of a Siberian peasant. It's cultural stereotype as powerful as our own "cracker" type, the sort that is proud of their ignorance, secure in their bitterness, their sense of persecution and self-rightious in their approach to preying on the weak and different. I don't defend the perception, I don't even claim to have the slightest idea of it's real world accuracy. But I do know that the perception exists.

It would be especially easy for people in the US of all persuasions to discount it for the mysogyny and the xenophobia or just because it comes from Pravda, but you would be wrong to confuse the means chosen to express such a level of contempt with the reasons for that contempt. The idea that a Siberian Peasant could ever be allowed such access to power - even in Siberia is viscerally horrifying. One of the very worst things one Russian can say of another is that they are "Uncultured." It's nothing to be proud of, even in secret, and that's something that I understand trancends fairly much all Russian political philosophy.

And yes, I do have echo the key point. Sara Palin, do you have ANY IDEA what a Nuclear Holacaust is?

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