There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear.
It has been nearly 20 years since the day I realized that I was a liberal.
I was living in Atlanta, GA, a town I'd lived in when I was 20 and a flight attendant. In 1992, I had just lost my father to cancer, and I'd been divorced for eight years and had moved back to be near my sister. In 1987 I'd lost my kids for an entire year because I'd not been able to earn enough money to provide a good life for them and agreed (reluctantly) to allow them to live with their uncle and aunt while I tried to figure out how to live in the city, work and raise two sons.
After six jobs in three years, in 1990 I found myself living over my sister's garage and applied to go back to school. Again. I'd tried to go back before and they said I didn't qualify for financial aid. Now, finally, they said yes.
For part time work to supplement the student aid, I looked for and found a temporary position as a data entry clerk at a nuclear industry association. They convinced me to take a permanent position as Senior Clerk. Not a title I'd ever imagined for myself, but at the time I was desperate to provide a stable home for my sons. Eventually they actually paid for some of my education. Unfortunately for me, they would not pay for me to take a lab course, and there were no convenient biology classes nearby.
One son graduated. My ex took the other one after sending him to private school. Then he booted me out of the house he'd bought for us to live in and washed his hands of me.
In 1996, I quit. My doctors told me the job was causing me illness. I had been coming to the realization that despite my love of computers, I needed to be in a creative field.
That was not what I'd been getting a degree in. Not even close. My BS in Business Management was never going to help me much in a creative job -- try running that by the HR department.
Meanwhile, the 90's were full of something else I found much more fascinating. The internet. Information. Possibility. Oh, it was a wonderful, exciting time. Compuserve and prodigy and AOL.com and Mindspring. Earthlink. Domain names. Even free code. I set up a computer on my bed. I created websites with baby kittens crawling all over the desk I had built.
I started a website called antiqueconnexions.com.
The rest is history. Not good to dwell on those days. Let's move on. The painting just over the jump shows what my life felt like then and many times still does. It's called "She's Come Undone." (earworm alert!)
I was broke and unemployed when I came to Mobile from Fairhope where I had moved home to heal from a huge disconnect between the reality I knew and the reality I saw around me.
Before 1992 I didn't know the difference, and frankly I did not even care about labels. I was working in Atlanta for a nuclear Utility association (INPO) and I didn't start out being certain of anything except that the people from where I was from (the deep south - Alabama - more precisely) were an embarrassment to me, and when I heard that some guy from Arkansas was running for pres. I just couldn't get my brain to fathom how that would be a good thing. So I did something I never did. I sat down and taped the entire Republican and entire Democratic conventions from gavel to gavel. I watched most of it. I still have the tape in fact, although one of my sons taped over part of it with a skateboard competition (!?!) and I have written other diaries about that in the past.
(note: I recently watched the 1992 acceptance speech again to see if it still gave me the same thrill. It did, but also gave me a huge sadness that so many of the people that were in that venue that night are no longer with us.In teaching, we talk a lot about teachable moments. We understand that the best time to impress a mind (whether young or old) is when they have just found out that something that they thought was true turns out to be not true - or not completely the way they had understood things to be. That's when learning happens - the brain goes back and sees the whole picture, and in the process of getting past the mind shame and opening up the drawer in which the information is stored the brain is able to pack in new information and rearrange the concepts so that they more adequately realign with other parts of reality.
That's what made Peter Drucker's work called The New Reality in the early 1990's so fascinating to me. I remember those days - heady days when we talked about thinking outside the box, new paradigms, and all that. Bill and Hillary were part of that euphoria. Watch that video that they put on the massive screen for everyone to watch - I'd love to meet whoever engineered that one!
I find myself thinking a good bit about my own awakening to an understanding of how it could be possible that something I had never even known existed (nuclear testing in the Nevada Desert) could have been killing my father slowly with a cancer that he'd just died from the year before. I would never have believed then that I'd eventually end up realizing that the cancer that killed my mother in 1968 was likely a result of that same exposure. I don't at all doubt that now. Nor does anyone else. It doesn't matter that I know the answer definitively because she has been dead since January 1968, my senior year in high school. I've still not completely brought the story full circle but I'm getting very close to that now.
In 1991 I didn't know how to write my thoughts down and deal with them. In 1991 I didn't even have internet - or bbs or whatever it was called back then. But in 1991 I went to work for INPO as a data entry typist in the typing pool while I went back to school at Georgia State. I had been living over my sister's garage (my children had been taken away from me for an entire year because I could not keep a job and had six jobs in three years while I struggled to find a way to be a single mother to two growing boys who had a father that didn't know how to be a husband and father to us for reasons of his own. I could not undo the damage our divorce did but I did have some wonderful friends and family that helped me get through many of the issues that I was trying to understand. Those diaries too have already been written.
My concern here and now is with the collective trauma that a nation, a community, a family or a virtual community suffers when they see one thing and hear another. When they know they know what something means and yet they are told it means something else. When they find out that they were right to be concerned, even panic - when they learn that they were essentially right all along - what do they do. How does it affect the actual brain of individuals who are constantly having to shut off the logical in favor of some form of rationalization or in fact just shut off the entire process of thought at all.
Just disconnect. Pull the plug. Check out. Submit to the will of the world which says it can't be that way. If it was they would have told us. I know so many people who still believe that the news is something you trust - Oh, they don't trust the news that they see, really, but they still think that if it weren't true the media wouldn't print that stuff or say it.
There are still far too many people who don't understand how the world has changed.
They are everywhere. They might be elderly, but they aren't incapable of needing to function with accurate information. As the world becomes more digital, they are becoming less able to connect. People like my 93 year old neighbor who still goes to work to help finish a building he helped design as an engineer but whose hearing and vision are so poor that he can't understand the digital world and is frustrated by the technology. He just wants to give up and die but he can't and I'm sure not gonna let him. His mind is sharp and he needs to be needed, and apparently there are still people who need his knowledge. With diabetes and a stroke, however, he feels confined.
There are many reasons to disconnect. Another friend in the hospital, a 61 year old woman who had fallen down some stairs at work and broken her shoulder and some ribs the week of Thanksgiving and had been transported to a local hospital where she was being treated like a dementia patient when I found her two weeks after surgery. I was so upset over her condition after an overnight stay at her bedside that I nearly went insane myself. Plus I'd been up blogging for three days just before that.
If you look at my comments and blogging for the three days prior to my finding out that she was in the hospital, you'd have a perspective of how sleep deprived I was from having so much to say and so many great synergistic, serendipitous even, connections I've made here recently, and you'd perhaps have a background for understanding what happened next.
I headed over to the hospital to find out what happened to my friend (a woman I've known since kindergarten at Organic School in Fairhope) and I'd not intended to really spend the night, but just to sit and read, crochet and blog some more. That never happened. The nightmare started the minute I was dropped off at the hospital.
After many incidents that have to do with poor information and signage, plus the HIPPA laws that make everyone in hospitals a nervous wreck, these days, plus the entire system of hospitals in this area undergoing changeovers to new technology, I found my friend. She's now home after two months of rehab.
Let me tell you a bit about my friend, just so you have a picture of the trauma this woman has been through. Her father was shot by a young boy on Christmas day when she was 12 years old. He died the next day, her birthday. It was an accident. I guess. Who knows. It was 1963. There were a few shootings that year.
Her first husband died on just after their honeymoon.
Her second husband and she had a child. The child grew up in an environment of divorce, abusive third husband, and a hardworking, strong willed mother who didn't have time to coddle and cajole.
Her son became unable to control his responses to these cognitive dissonances. He's now in jail where he will remain until a decision is made whether he is ever allowed to terrorize his mother again, beat her again, or assault the other people in his world that have suffered the abuse he could not stop himself from inflicting on those he loved the most.
PTSD is not just a condition arising from being in the military.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can come from many shifting plates of reality that converge in your mind. Usually, in our world, these plates don't give you a warning before they jam up and jar you out of your sense of rational action.
I've seen it, experienced it, and have some sense of what causes it. I lost a family member to violence in the mid 90's, my son's godfather to suicide in 1996, lost contact with my own sons for long periods of time when the nightmares were too real and the dreams didn't make sense but left me spinning. I've been there.
I've been there when my father looked at me and said that he was joining a class action suit against the VA for his exposure to nuclear fallout from the blast he witnessed in 1952. I didn't understand what the connection was then. I couldn't understand the bitterness or the cynicism or any of that at the time.
In 1991, I watched my father die painfully of cancer, calling my mother's name out while he grasped at things floating in front of him, argue and finally win the posthumous hearing that finally granted my father's widow the right to the benefits that were hers.
I was reminded of that whole experience again vividly when I watched the recent Semper Fi on MSNBC. I know what those families are going through. Cognitive dissonance. They knew. Someone knew. Many people would have done something but the chain of command wouldn't approve it.
Bill Clinton was at the top of the Chain of Command in 1992. He changed things for me. He appointed Hazel O'Leary as Secretary of Energy. A wonderful choice which was met with outrage inside the nuclear energy industry which is largely ex-Navy nuclear and white.
She did something that directly impacted my life.
In this position, O'Leary won plaudits for declassifying Cold War-era records, which showed the U.S. Government had used American citizens as guinea pigs in human radiation experiments, as had long been rumored. President Clinton issued Executive Order 12891, which created the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments (ACHRE) to prevent such abuses of power.I've written about all these things. One of the reasons I wanted to go back to school was so that I might be able to do a better job of telling this story. I discovered the "internets" about that same time ---Salon.com, TableTalk, here.
I got the bright idea when I joined DK to choose the name AlabamaLiberal. How could I have known it would be such a lightning rod for trollishness when I first chose it. Ah, whatever. Get over it. There are lots of others here now. And DK4 is much, much better, though I have still not learned how to navigate.
Doublygifted. AlabamaLiberal. Those were enough to cause cognitive dissonance, and I felt safe that the readers I did attract would get enough of what I was trying to say that they would hear me out. It worked, more or less. Now I'm experiencing a higher level of the cognitive dissonance, because I'm having conversations at a higher plane I guess.
Conversations with my cousin who writes for RealitySandwich, for instance. My cousin who has interviewed McKenna and Rick Bragg and skinheads in Alabama and done some of the most incredible documentary film I've ever seen.
Initially I wrote this diary in mid December, and have not been able to even read it again much less publish it until today. What happened to me in the weeks following this writing, coming as they did during the Christmas holidays, caused me to stay away from writing and publishing here for nearly two months. I've just now been able to admit that I had been hallucinating because I was online so much of the time and sleeping in between postings rather than leaving the computer in the other room and getting proper sleep.
I am posting it now because of a post I just saw on a PTSD and TBI Facebook page which makes me realize that this is might be a phenomenon we ought to talk about.
Cognitive Dissonance is real. PTSD is one result. Traumatic Brain Injury is a different animal, although there could be overlaps in some areas I guess.
I'm thinking about the story in the New York Times of the 55 year old woman who is being dismissed because of Personality Disorder -
I'm thinking about my 93 year old neighbor who is still mentally capable of contributing to projects that are still incomplete that he started working on five years ago.
I'm thinking about the people living in Japan who have watched a portion of their country wash into the ocean, and the many people who lived at Camp LeJeune.
And I'm not going to answer any of your posts. I will just recommend ones that I think are thoughtful and allow the conversation sparked by my writing to take off on its own. Or not. I've got a different bee in my bonnet now anyway. So xoxo and all that...
Susan Hales aka Doublygifted aka AlabamaLiberal
PS - I've got an art show to prepare for, and that's the best reason for not answering your posts I can think of...