Wait – I thought Racial Discrimination Was Illegal. Silly Me

Very early in his career, my (African American) husband was on a temp-to-hire job doing complex data analysis – something he excels at. He had a 60 day review which was outstanding and his boss commented on how quickly he was performing as well or better than long time employees in the same position. Typically the 90 day trail period they put new employees through was just to evaluate if they had the capability of learning how to do the work.

A few days later, someone left an extraordinarily racist cartoon of a “ghetto fish” on my husband’s chair at work before he arrived in the morning. While he was looking at it in shock, one of the other employees walked by, glanced at the paper and said, “that’s pretty funny” (as if he had already seen the cartoon). Then waked off.

My husband didn’t think it was funny at all and went to his boss to show him the cartoon and explain what had happened. The boss wasn’t alarmed in the least but just snorted and told him to ignore it. That evening, my husband got a call from the employment agency telling him that the company he was doing the temp-to-hire with didn’t need him anymore. That was all he was told – “they’ve decided that they don’t need you to return.”

At my insistence, he contacted an employment lawyer to discuss the situation. He spoke to two different people who explained that filing a discrimination complaint is a long, drawn-out process involving a review by the EEOC which must be performed before any lawsuit can be filed to attempt to address the wrong done. The lawyer for the person who claims to have been wronged typically works for little to no money upfront, so they aren’t particularly motivated to pursue individual cases with little hope of a large pay-out. They will take those small cases, but typically the company uses their lawyers to draw the cases out to the point that they simply aren’t worth it and the lawyer forces a settlement that leaves everyone no better off than where they started. Further, they explained, once it is known that you have filed an EEOC complaint or are involved in a lawsuit, it is almost impossible to get hired in the same field. (Lawsuits are public record and if the EEOC decides to take action on a case directly, they make a press release.) They recommended that my husband only file a complaint if he was already planning or prepared to change his line of work entirely or get training to do so.

After that, my husband only ever complained to management about racism in the workplace once. That was also early in his career when he was hired to be a manager of a small office and his employees left racist graffiti on his car and refused to attend his meetings. He was told to ignore it and give people time. Otherwise he just found ways to work around the racism he encountered. And years later, when he was in a position to hire someone, he was told that he couldn’t hire his chosen candidate because it was known that she had won a discrimination lawsuit against a former employer which allegedly made her a high risk hire. Confirming what those employment lawyers had told him. Imagine that – you get treated like shit, stand up for your rights and then become unemployable in some employer’s eyes.

So, that’s the state of our workplace anti-discrimination laws in this country. In case you were wondering why things aren’t better. (Don’t worry – there’s lots more where this story came from.)

In Which I Own the Libraturd Title

I’ve avoided nearly all hot-button cultural and political topics around here for many years now. And I don’t write screeds about how terrible other people’s theology or morality is. Yet, somehow, the overwhelming majority of people who have responded to my writing are not, shall we say, politically conservative. I used to be conservative, but reading the bible has a funny way of changing that, it seems.  These days I’m a pretty flaming progressive. I’ll go back to being a conservative when we’ve dealt with our problems and have better traditions to hold on to.

I’m not remotely an ideologue. Ideally I’d love to see conservatives, liberals, progressives and (I guess) libertarians have a seat at the table and hash things out together. But as I’ve been saying for years, conservatives have so totally lost their way from a moral and ethical standpoint, that frankly, they need to be removed from the grown-up table until they can get their shit straight. (Hint: what you want to conserve, has to be worth conserving and can’t come at the cost of denying the dignity of some humans.)

Which isn’t to say that if you are conservative, you are unwelcome. Far from it. If you’re willing to put up with me, I assume you are wise and have excellent taste and want to engage with you. But I do find it interesting that, absent any liberal teachers or the influence of liberal theologians, just by following scripture and praying, I came to hold a theology which apparently appeals far more to people who are not politically conservative than those who are. I’m thinking that means something, frankly. I wonder if Jesus would be a libraturd too?

Don’t Be Like Joe

Back in college, I had a friend named Joe. He was funny and smart and deep. And he wore Hawaiian shirts with mismatched print sleep pants, so even better. But from time to time Joe would do something incredibly stupid.

One time, after he told me the story of how something he had done had gone all to shit, I asked him, “what did you think was going to happen when you did this thing that quite predictably lead to a bad outcome?” (Because I’m super sensitive like that.)

He responded, “see, that’s the difference between you and me. You would have I thought it out. I just got an idea, thought of all the reasons it would work and went with it.”

Don’t be like Joe. Be like Rebecca. Think things through.

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A Few Words and Some News About This Here Blog of Mine

Howdy to the imaginary audience in my head. Who has great taste and smells lovely and finds me enchanting. So. This Upside Down World blog o mine. It’s a thing. Maybe not the biggest thing in the universe, but I know that for some people it’s been a big thing. “Profound difference” is a phrase I’ve heard used repeatedly in reference to the effect that my blog has had. There are families and friend groups who pass my stuff between them and talk about it together. Not nearly enough of them, of course. But it’s a thing. (The imaginary audience in my head just smiled, btw.)

Anyways, if you’re reading this, odds are good that you’ve read one of the hundreds of essays I’ve written on religion and spirituality. That’s been the main subject around here. Particularly between 2011-2014, I produced a ton of essays which touched on nearly every religious and spiritual subject you can imagine.

If you read those essays, I was very open that I was going through an incredibly difficult time. A dark night of the soul experience was the only explanation that made sense at the time, so I went with that. But the even the dark night of the soul doesn’t last forever. Light finally broke through and I’ve spent the last 2 1/2 years coming out the other side and re-adjusting to life out in the open, free of the darkness.

I’ve mentioned before that judgment is really more of bringing everything into the light of day where it can be properly seen than it is about declaring good/bad – right/wrong. It’s simply about being able to see things for what they are which then allows you to respond appropriately. Well, when I was able to get a little light on the situation, what came out of the dark was some really heavy duty mental illness which had been badly triggered and I couldn’t resolve because I didn’t fully understand the root of it.

What I was experiencing turned out to be pretty characteristic of an active dissociative disorder. But I had no real way of knowing that at the time. And it takes, on average, 7-12 years of seeking help from multiple therapists for someone with a dissociative disorder to be diagnosed. So I sought help, but it was just taking the edge off a bit. It wasn’t helping.

During the time that I wrote the bulk of this blog, my circumstances were difficult, thus the reason that my underlying mental illness had been so severely triggered to begin with. Anyone would have struggled while dealing with the stuff going on in my life. But the intensity of what I was experiencing was on a different level. For much of 2012-2014, I flat-out wanted to die almost every day. Not only was I unhappy, but nothing good could get through to me. My kids would show me love and affection and it was like I could watch it pass me right by without touching me. I didn’t even realize it had happened until I had finally started recovering, but during this time, I lost my connection to my positive memories and even the memory of having once been happy was like a dream, probably a fiction of a wishful mind. It was awful. It’s nothing short of a miracle that I didn’t kill myself.

It’s also nothing short of a miracle that I was able to go through all that and not only recover, but come out the other side all in one piece with no lasting damage done to my family and our life together. Such as it is. (It is mostly very good, btw.)

Which is all to say, I’m here. I’m good. My brain has recovered and my life, such as it is, has recovered. I’m ready to start writing again. Except I’m going to be taking the blog in a different direction. The religious and spiritual stuff is my foundation. It’s who I am and forms the basis for how I see and understand the world. It’s what I kept my eyes fixed on during my darkest times. But it’s not remotely the only thing I’m interested in or want to write about. In fact, away from this blog, it’s not something I even talk about all that often. Partly because it’s a private relationship I’ve got going on here with Jesus and partly because the bible specifically says not to do stand on street corners and in the marketplace and make a spectacle of being religious. And I’m pretty sure that instruction didn’t actually come with an asterisk saying *unless you call it “being on fire for Christ”. No matter what your pastor says. IJS

Anyways, now that I’ve laid the foundations of this here Upside Down World, so to speak, I’m going to be unleashing my big mouth and overfull brain on y’all. I’ll be turning the site into an old school blog with multiple posts a day, covering a variety of inter-related topics such as religion, culture, politics, science, relationships, psychology and whatever other ridiculous thing I see fit to include. If you are one of the people who is connected to my personal facebook page, you’ll see a lot of the areas of interest I share there show up here. If you aren’t one of the people connected to my personal facebook page, um, well, I don’t know how to break this to you, but I’m super opinionated, kind of rude and much smarter than you. Probably. But you’ll either love what’s coming or hate it. If you hate it, don’t expect me to care. IJS. Nobody’s forcing you read my shiznitz. (You’ll love it.)

Anyways, I’ll still hit the spiritual and religious stuff. But I’m also going to be sharing a lot of writing on things I’ve been working on like trauma, abuse, racism, sociopaths and just general “how life actually works in the real world” stuff. And news analysis. And whatever other ridiculous thing I see fit to share. And you can all be appalled at what a flaming libraturd I supposedly am. Feel free to disagree with me and argue with each other in the comments. Just know that I am not a babysitter or a referee nor am I required to meet your standards of fairness. So if you hate what I say or if I randomly decide that you’re being too stupid to speak at the grown up table, don’t expect me to care. IJS. Get your own damn blog if you want to be able to make the rules.

So, expect an expansion of topics and a shift in tone, along with much more frequent posting. I hope that The Upside Down World will be one of those places that you come to catch up on a few times a week, if not daily. Multiple times a day would be appropriate and recommended. IJS. But if you are subscribed by email, you may want to modify your settings so you aren’t getting multiple emails a day. You can, of course, also keep up with me on Facebook and Twitter.

(The imaginary audience in my head is very excited about all of this, btw. Haha – just kidding, they’re super confused about why I think they should care about any of this and think I’m an idiot. The imaginary audience swings wildly between finding me enchanting and thinking I’m embarrassing myself. You should start sharing everything I write on social media with your friends so I can rub it in the mean imaginary audience’s stupid faces.😉 )

A Thanksgiving Blessing

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.
~ T.S. Elliot

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Thanksgiving Family Survival Guide – 2016 Edition

Illustration of Mother and Children Carrying Thanksgiving Dinner by Douglass Crockwell

Such a pretty picture. Now imagine that they all hate each other.

An oldie but a goody! BTW, if you read these and know exactly what I’m talking about when it comes to family, you are one of the people I wrote The Upside Down World’s Guide to Enjoying the Hard Life  for. It’s a collection of enlightening essays for thinking better, being better and growing where you’re planted. Even if where you’re planted is a, um, lacking in certain nutrients required for proper growth. (I was going to say something much meaner, but I’m trying to be a good Christian here.) The book is only $6 on Amazon. Buy an extra one for your sister. Or a whole bunch for your friends. Also, if you are one of those people who has been experiencing an increase in interpersonal verbal and emotional abuse over the last couple of weeks, you can follow me on my personal facebook page where I’m sharing other bits of advice for keeping yourself safe and sane under adverse conditions. (I swear a lot more and talk about God a lot less on my personal page though. Just so we’re all clear. I hate to have to make someone look like a jackass in front of everyone.😉 )

So, best of luck everyone. It’s a bit wild out there, but just put one foot in front of the other and you’ll do fine. Happy Thanksgiving, peeps!

Since I am a contrarian at heart and everyone and their brother is doing the “Let’s talk about what we’re thankful for” bit, I’m going to offer up something completely different.  Because as important as gratitude is, I also know that on Thanksgiving there are an awful lot of people for whom the answer to “what are you most grateful for?” is “that I don’t live any closer to these people.”  So for those of you going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house which had damn well better have a well stocked liquor cabinet waiting, I’ve dug through the archives to create The Upside Down World’s Thanksgiving Survival Guide:

1. Develop an Appreciation for the Absurd: My grandmother once had to be dragged away by a horrified aunt from her very concerned inquisition into the causes of my obesity.  One of my cousins made a big deal out of being “sorry we didn’t get a chance to talk” after resolutely ignoring every smile, nod, wave or question we threw her way from the next table over at my brother’s wedding.  Where all of my other 7 siblings (but not me) stood up in the wedding. That was weird. Learning to laugh is a much better tactic for dealing with people being absurd than any other I know.

2. Learn to Tolerate Conflict: Wishing you would have stood up for yourself is only rarely less painful than the discomfort of conflict.  The determining factor being whether you hold it together long enough to cry in private or abruptly leave the table after bursting into tears in front of everyone.  Thanksgiving probably isn’t the best time to confront your family with a list of all the things they have done to hurt you, but being able to speak up for yourself is a form of self-care everyone needs to know.

3. Learn to Avoid Conflict: At the other end of the spectrum, sometimes we need to tone it down.  Not every confrontation need to happen and not every invitation to conflict needs to be accepted.  Learn to see the difference and how to stop it before it gets started.

4. Deliberately Look For the Good in People: Thanksgiving with relatives is the perfect place to put this idea into action.  One of my grandfathers used to corner us Continue reading

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Update on Shamneet

So, for the last couple of weeks I’ve been sharing the story of a 14 year old Pakistani boy named Shamneet who was kidnapped and brutally tortured by a man his father had a financial dispute with. He needed surgery to repair his injuries, but his family lives hand to mouth and had no way to come up with the $800 for his care. I have been collecting funds to pay his medical bills.

We still have a ways to go, but I have some good news to report on his case. Two days ago the doctor checked on him and, alarmed at his condition, agreed to perform surgery to in exchange for a partial payment upfront and the remainder later. He wanted half up front, which we didn’t have, but I sent Atif, my friend who is helping the boy and his family, what we had and he was able to negotiate with the doctor to accept that as a down payment. Yesterday Shamneet had surgery to repair his internal injury. His blood work after surgery looks good and doctors expect him to make a full recovery. Yay!

Now he just need surgery to repair fractures in his shoulder. Atif is currently pushing the doctor to go ahead with that surgery and the doctor is pushing Atif to make arrangements to finish paying off the bill. As I write this, there is $500 remaining on his bill.

So if you are one of the people who have already made donations, thank you again. You quite literally helped to save a boys’ life. It would not have happened without your help. If you have not made a donation yet, now’s the time to get this done. It’s been almost 2 weeks since Shamneet was attacked which means two weeks with breaks in the bones in his shoulder. Obviously, the longer he goes without surgery, the greater the chance that this injury will result in permanent, life-long disability. Any amount you are able to offer helps. The $300 we’ve collected so far was pieced together from donations ranging from $80 all the way down to $5, so any amount helps.

I will be updating the amount still needed as donations come in. So . . . whatcha waiting for? Let’s do this!

Amount needed: $0! We did it!

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Help Needed – Please Read!

On Monday, I share the story of a 14 year old Christian Pakistani boy who was viciously attacked and tortured by a man who had a financial dispute with the boy’s father. He is in need of surgery to repair injuries to his shoulder and his bowels, without which he will be permanently disabled and live with severe pain. Now, I know that terrible things are happening every day all over this planet. But it’s not often that we are individuals in the Western world are in a position to help a specific child in a hard to reach part of the world in their moment of crisis.

This boy’s name is Shamneet. His family is very poor – they are living hand to mouth. Surgery to repair his injuries and medication for recovery will cost $800. So far, we’ve been able to raise just 10% of that. I totally understand that money is tight everywhere. But I have several thousand readers. All we need is for 9 more people to make an $80 donation or 18 people to make a $40 donation.

This is a thing that we as the Body of Christ do for each other. It goes back to the earliest days of the church. If we do not do this together, there’s no magic wand that’s going to be waved to make everything all better. It really is up to us to take care of each other.

Amount still needed: $0! We did it!

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For those who are inclined to skepticism, please be assured that this is not a scam. I have worked with the gentleman who is arranging for Shamneet’s care on multiple projects over the past year, including acting as a go between to obtain assistance for another child through the Smile Foundation and hearing aids through the International Society of Audiologists. You can see a video which this man, Atif Jamil appears in explaining one of the projects his foundation worked on. Below are his business cards and a recent picture which you can see shows the same man as in the video I linked to. If you need further evidence, you can contact Dr. Chuck Cristo who also knows Atif and was able to perform a memorial service for victims of an earthquake in Pakistan with him. I know that scammers from developing countries are always a cause for concern, but we should not allow our fear of scammers to prevent us from supporting real people with real needs. Yes?

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The Quiet Secret to Global Revolution

Well, look at me! Posting for the second day in a row. I told you I’d be back!🙂

I actually have a guest post up at Dr. Chuck Crisco’s site that I wanted to invite y’all to go check out. It’s on a topic near and dear to my heart – overcoming the “us vs them” dualism of the past in order to embrace a more humane, holistic understanding of humanity as “just us”. I’m sharing the introduction below and I hope you’ll head on over to Chuck’s site to read the rest:

The Quiet Secret to Global Revolution: “Us vs Them” or “Just Us”

In talking with my fellow countrymen, it has become increasingly clear that there are two competing and seemingly irreconcilable mindsets at work in the conflicts being played out around us. On one side, you have people who see the world in terms of “us vs them” in which humanity is divided between those who are on our side and those who are not.  On the other are those who see the world in terms of “just us”, as in there is no “us vs them”, there is only a broad “us” which encompasses all of humanity. “Us vs them” thinkers see our differences as a cause for division, while “just us” thinkers seek to transcend our differences and recognize our deeper, shared humanity. READ ON . . .

Also, I am still collecting money to fund necessary surgery for a 14 year old Christian Pakistani who sustained serious injuries after being kidnapped and tortured by a man his father had a financial dispute with. I shared the story here yesterday. If you missed it, you can read it and find the link to make a donation here.