Paying Attention

*Best Read in newscaster voice*

Earlier this week in SW Asia, a group of peaceful protesters were assaulted by officers of the state, wielding powerful water cannons. Health officials have stated that given the regions severe climate, the protesters are at severe risk of impairment and even death due to severe hypothermia.

This takes place just weeks after the election of a radical new regime, whose fascist campaign promises raised alarms from historians who warn of the potential for genocide in this unstable region – where an already highly militarized police force has been known to harass and kill minority populations. The election has already generated increased acts of violence and terrorism, raising concerns about what is to come after the newly elected party, which represents the more conservative adherents of the major religion, takes office.

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Paying Attention
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Blood and Roses: A Virtual Reality

For as long as people have been talking about social justice online, there have been people, trolls really, who make a point to argue, harass, and otherwise engage in actively hateful and bigoted behaviour. This has been the case in every online community I have been involved with: the feminist community, the atheist community, disability community. There is always someone prepared to defend the vilest behaviour you can think of. If you are a representative of these communities: a Person of Colour, a Trans Woman, a Disabled Person, if you are a member of some minority, the number of people who target you in particular escalates.

The sheer number of people committed to spreading hate has made places like the comment boards on Youtube a place to be avoided. Many magazines and blogsites have closed their comment sections. More than one writer, activist, organizer, and so forth has been forced off the internet as a result of death threats, threats of rape and violence, dealing with a constant barrage of slurs and hatred, and even having their private information released to the public.

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Blood and Roses: A Virtual Reality

Does chronic illness or a disability make you unfit for office?

Recently Hillary Clinton excused herself from an event, after which pictures were circulated that seemed to show her fainting as she was being helped into a van by her agents. The picture made the rounds almost immediately people were discussing the possibility that she had an invisible illness or some invisible disability that she had not disclosed.

This isn’t the first time that Clinton’s health has been under discussion. Earlier this summer, pictures of what appeared to be some sort of injection medication like an epi pen or other similar meds was seen being carried by her agents. The rumour mill started circulating that she experienced seizures as well as other theories about her health.

The search for reasons why this particular candidate is unfit for presidency is likely motivated by a desperate desire by people who usually begrudgingly support the Democratic Party in other years, and those who don’t support the party at all, to find some reason other than her gender for why they don’t want her to be president. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of valid reasons not to like Clinton, but I can’t help but notice how the discourse has changed from past elections with equally questionable but male candidates. Regardless of the likely sexist motive underlying the reason why the question came up, does chronic illness or disability make you unfit to run for or to be President?

Short Answer: No. And the question itself is Ableist.

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Does chronic illness or a disability make you unfit for office?

Not in Canada

CN: Police Brutality, Violence against Black and Disabled people,

Yesterday a black man with a cognitive disability was accosted and then violently beaten by cops. These days, it seems like every day brings a new story along these lines, except this time, it happened in Ottawa, Canada.

We unfairly and unjustifiably pride ourselves on being better here in Canada. I’ve even had angry people messaging me telling me I am being unfair and spurious in claiming that racist police violence happens here.

They had 5 cops against 1 man.

He was on the ground when they beat him with their sticks.

They beat him so badly, he may not live.

They beat him despite people in the area telling them he was disabled.

They beat him because they didn’t see him as human.

This happened in my city. This happened in a neighbourhood close enough to mine to be one I pass by regularly.

We need to start paying attention. We need to get off our fucking high horse and stop patting ourselves on the back, because better than the genocide that is going on in the US isn’t good enough. Because ignoring the genocides going on within our own borders because the body count isn’t going up as quickly as it is in the US, ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH!

WE NEED TO DO BETTER.

This happens in Canada, and turning away and pretending it isn’t happening is the same as condoning it.

UPDATE: Abdirahaman Abdi, the Somali-Canadian man who was violently beaten by cops in Ottawa has died. His brutal assault is now murder. May he rest in power, and may his family get justice for what was done.

Not in Canada

Rant: Fellow White People – We Need to Talk About Racism

I wrote a post responding to some of the objections I had seen the Black Lives Matter demands at the Pride Protest, specifically those relating to Police presence. I wanted to continue addressing further objections that I have seen raised. Specifically those dealing with a misunderstanding of racism.

It is not surprising that the majority of people, and white people in particular, don’t fully understand the concept of racism, especially those people who are white. Like many subjects at school, what we were taught wasn’t actually the truth, but a simplification that was meant to act as a primer to make the truth easier to understand as we developed our understanding of difficult concepts. As we grow in specific subjects and develop our interest in them, we begin to piece away at the earlier lies to reveal more complicated truths – the end goal of evolution is not a human being but rather survival and procreation – the solar system is not simply made up of 8 planets and the sun – actually you can find the square root of a negative number but the answer is an imaginary number, also imaginary numbers are a thing – we teach half-truths because we need to build a foundation on which our eventual understanding can be based as a launching off point.

The trouble with this when it comes to matters of social importance, like racism, is that the majority of people, and especially those in positions of power, never move past an elementary introduction into concepts that have a daily impact on countless lives.

In school we are taught that racism is the discrimination or prejudice against a person based on their race. We are taught about triangles who make fun of a circle for being different, or use the examples of grizzly bears encountering panda bears for the first time. We try to explain this difficult concept to children by appealing to their internal sense of fairness and empathy by making them think about how much their own feelings would be hurt if someone were to make a decision about them based on something like how they look.

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Rant: Fellow White People – We Need to Talk About Racism

Rant: Let’s Talk About the BLACKLIVESMATTER Protest at PRIDE (Part 1)

This past weekend, July 3rd, was the Toronto Pride Parade, one of the biggest if not the biggest pride events in Canada. This year’s parade was a historic one for a variety of reasons. The weekend included the largest trans march in the world and the first time that a sitting Prime Minister joined the parade. Another major historic event was the protest staged by Black Lives Matter.

For those who haven’t heard, during the pride parade, after a moment of silence for the victims of the Orlando Shooting at Pulse Club, Black Lives Matter Toronto staged a sit in halting the parade. Their protest had the following list of demands:

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Rant: Let’s Talk About the BLACKLIVESMATTER Protest at PRIDE (Part 1)

Did You Hear the One About the Dumb Polack

CN: Ableist Slur, Xenophobia,

Did you hear the one about the dumb Polack?

  • He thought his wife was trying to kill him because he found Polish Remover.
  • He tried to ask out a Lesbian by asking where in Lesbos she was from.
  • When a plane crashed into a cemetery, he recovered over 4000 bodies.
  • He locked his keys in the car and had to use a coat hanger to get his family out.
  • He crashed his helicopter when he got too cold and turned off the fan.

I’ve been hearing them as long as I can remember. It seems whenever someone finds out I’m Polish I get to hear a new one, or another variation of an old one.

Why don’t they make Ice in Poland? They lost the recipe.

If it’s not jokes about cognitive disability, it’s jokes about alcoholism. When I was staying in France on exchange, my host family couldn’t help themselves but to mention the famous French expression “drunk as a Polack” as soon as they found out my heritage. My father comforted me by telling me that it originated from Napoleonic times, when Polish foot soldiers would drink before battle to take away inhibitions. It made them terrifying in battle he said.

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Did You Hear the One About the Dumb Polack

7 Better Ways to Prevent Eugenics than Banning Abortion

In response to the horrible bill banning abortion in the case of disability, I would like to propose 10 much more effective ways to combat eugenics. Ones which will actually help.

  1. Fight for Better Accessibility

One of the biggest barriers towards integration into society and thus the biggest source of “misery” is the lack of accessibility in our world. What is infuriating is that it doesn’t have to be that way. In a world where almost every person carries around a tiny computer more powerful than what was used to send man into space, the idea that we don’t have the ability to make this world easier to navigate for people who can’t see, or hear, or have mobility issues, is a little ridiculous.

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7 Better Ways to Prevent Eugenics than Banning Abortion

The Little Sewing-box Star

little plastic red star
When I was a little girl, I was playing with my mother’s sewing box looking for something pretty. I found this little button or piece of a pendant or something in the shape of a small five pointed red star. At the time I loved the colour red, and I loved star shapes, so I took some thread and turned it into a necklace.

When my father saw it he froze solid. For a few moments he just stared at me, then told me with excessive calm to take it off. Shocked at seeing my father like that, the way his face paled, the way his eyes looked like someone had just stuck their hands directly into his chest and squeezed his heart, made me take it off and put the thing back in the box.

Later my mom told me that the star was a symbol of bad things that had happened to them in Poland before they came to Canada. That it brought back bad memories for them.

It was innocence only, and my father knew that. He didn’t scream, he didn’t curse or yell or threaten. He didn’t even explain. But that star disappeared.

Years later, I learned about Stalin and Soviet Russia and the Communist takeover of Poland. Over the years I learned about solidarity and bit by bit my father’s involvement with it. I learned that my father was blacklisted. I learned that my parents as newlyweds, were separated for 6 months while my father got out of the country and they worked to bring my mother down as well. Continue reading “The Little Sewing-box Star”

The Little Sewing-box Star

Open Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Wynne: Legalize Patients

To the Right Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and to the Honourable Premier Kathleen Wynne:

My name is Ania Bula, I am a citizen of Canada living in Ottawa, and currently a recipient of Ontario Disability Support Payments (ODSP). I am also a registered medical marijuana patient.

I receive this prescription to help me manage the symptoms of moderate-severe Crohn’s disease. As a quick background: Crohn’s Disease is an autoimmune condition that affects my digestive system. Symptoms can take place anywhere from the mouth down to the anus. This condition causes my digestive system to become inflamed and swollen, which in turn causes it to be very delicate. During flares, the inflammation can be so bad that the lightest pressure causes the membranes to tear and ulcerate, causing blood loss. The inflammation can also cause blockages in my intestines that need to be operated, a loss of digestive ability leading to malnutrition, as well as causing severe pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Needless to say, it is not a pleasant condition to have.

I have been treated for Crohn’s, in addition to other conditions, for close to a decade. The primary medication I receive is an immune suppressant by IV once every 6 weeks.

The prescription marijuana serves two purposes. The first is symptom management. Marijuana helps with pain and nausea control. Without it, many days are too painful for me to function appropriately. I cannot get out of bed, I cannot keep food down, I become malnourished and have to be admitted to hospital. Once there I am usually prescribe harsh steroids which, while helping minimize the flare, also causes damage to bones and joints already ravaged by this and other conditions.

Because I can take marijuana in ways other than through oral ingestion, it makes the pain treatment more effective. Frequently, the swelling in my intestines prevents more severe oral medications like dilaudid, Percocet, morphine, and others, not to work effectively. Moreover, the side effects of opiates can often mirror some of the same symptoms I am already dealing with like nausea.

I take small doses of marijuana throughout the day, which helps me get work done: either paid work like writing, or even just domestic chores like making dinner. For me, marijuana has been the thing that has helped the most when it comes to regaining some semblance of normalcy when it comes to quality of life. It has kept me out of the hospital on more than one occasion. It has helped me feel human again, when many of my conditions conspire to do the opposite.

In addition to symptom management however, marijuana also helps actually treat my condition. Studies have shown promising results when it comes to difficult cases such as mine. Many patients who have not responded to conventional therapies alone, have managed to go into remission when given the added treatment of marijuana.

Why am I telling you all this.

Recently, under the direction of Prime Minister Trudeau, the Canadian government has started the process towards legalization of cannabis. While this news makes me happy, there is a much more pressing issue facing patients that I believe could be addresses even before legalization can officially happen.

Medical Marijuana, ever since the new rules put forth by the Harper Government, is not covered by insurance. Not even that provided by ODSP.

The cost of marijuana is high. The standard dose of 1 gram per day can run you about $10 per day. For those of us with larger prescriptions, the associated cost is even higher. Often patients are forced to choose worse or less helpful strains in order to deal with the cost. My prescription can cost me up to $600 a month. As someone who lives on a fixed income from ODSP, that number is far beyond what I can reasonably afford. As a result I have had to go into debt to get my medication, borrow money from friends, ask strangers on the internet for monetary help, and sometimes make the decisions between groceries or my meds.

This is not a decision that should ever have to be faced by patients. Even if the mmj was only for symptom management, it would still be an essential part of my treatment. The increased stress surrounding the ability to get my medication also has negative side effects on my conditions itself, which are sensitive to anxiety and stress.

I am asking you to please help patients like me. To work to make our medicine a help and not an additional burden. Healthcare is, I believe, an integral Canadian value. We’ve built a national identity out of being the country that cares for its sick, and I am asking you to please continue that tradition. Help us get our meds covered. Help us not have to struggle to get treatment when already living on an extremely fixed income.

Sincerely,

Ania Bula

Writer of Young, Sick, and Invisible

Alyssaandania.com

Open Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Wynne: Legalize Patients