Sunday 26 June 2022

No, you can't

I don't usually write about politics, but I have to share my shock and dismay at the US Supreme Court's new ruling that the Constitution doesn't include any right to abortion.

It's more than politics of course. It's a major blow to millions of women who for very good reasons don't want to have a child and will now be driven to desperate measures - travelling abroad or to another state, or using back-street abortionists - to free themselves from pregnancy.

Judges Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett voted to overturn Roe v Wade. The other four judges voted to keep the original decision.

As any woman knows, there are many valid reasons for seeking an abortion - the woman was raped, she accidentally became pregnant, she's extremely poor, she's extremely ill, she couldn't cope with another child, the child would be disabled in some way, or the child is incestuous - and forcing her to give birth is cruel and doctrinaire and utterly blind to the circumstances.

Of course the decision to have or not have an abortion should be up to the woman concerned, and it's absurd that the law can intrude on such a personal matter.

Those who oppose abortion sometimes maintain that women "casually" rid themselves of a child, as if they're discarding an unwanted present. They must surely realise the emotional anguish and turmoil that accompanies both the fraught decision to have an abortion and the aftermath of what they have done. To suggest the woman takes the decision lightly is ridiculous.

I can only hope that some way is found to reverse this new ruling and restore the original judgment in Roe v Wade.

(My apologies for all the mansplaining!)

Pic: Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump


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Tuesday 21 June 2022

Put it behind you

How often have you heard a politician or some other public figure - or even a family member or friend - refer to some traumatic event in your past and say "You've got to just put it behind you"?

Do they realise how deep a trauma can be and just how hard it can be to "put it behind you"? Yes, maybe you can bury a minor personal upset, but a truly devastating emotional injury is a different matter.

A serious trauma can embed itself in your psyche so deeply that it lingers for years, set off by one chance trigger after another. You can't simply tell it to go away. You can't simply shove it in your mental attic, shut the door and forget about it.

So those people who tell you to put it behind you are being both offensive and ignorant. Offensive because they imply it's something quite superficial and easily disposed of, and ignorant because they don't understand the reality of living with profound emotional anguish.

My mum's brother was flying a Spitfire in World War Two when he went missing and was never heard of again. I think my mum was still grieving her loss when she died at 96.

Northern Irish people are told to "put the Troubles behind you". Survivors of the Grenfell Tower inferno are told to "put it behind you". Ex-prisoners are told to "put it behind you". What if they can't?

But it's a convenient attitude for people who don't want to deal with the intransigence of someone's mental suffering and just want it to be gone. Do they think you can wave some magic wand and poof, it's all done and dusted?

Friday 17 June 2022

Unruly shrubs

An 84 year old Essex woman has been told by her local parish council to cut back the shrubs in her front garden as they're obstructing the pavement and creating a health and safety risk. They say they're responding to complaints.

Becky Curtis can't understand what all the fuss is about. She says there's still plenty of room on the pavement and nobody should have any trouble getting past the shrubs.

I can't understand all the fuss either. Why doesn't the council just tell the complainers (surely no more than two or three) that the shrubs aren't an obstacle and they have better things to do than monitor shrub size? This is the proverbial sledgehammer being used to crack a nut.

In out neighbourhood there are loads of privet hedges that encroach on the pavement but nobody ever suggests cutting them back. Even cars parked partly on the pavement are never sanctioned, although they're a genuine hazard to pedestrians.

Parish councils have dozens of important duties. You'd think they would focus on something more essential than a few exuberant shrubs. Some under-employed jobsworth obviously thought this was an excellent way of killing some time.

Mrs Curtis, a longstanding member of Dedham Horticultural Society, is resisting the council's demand with the support of many villagers. She says lots of people compliment her on her front garden.

It's not clear what enforcement action might be taken. Will the council send in some shrub trimmers? Will Mrs Curtis be fined? Will her rubbish bins not be emptied? The mind boggles.

Pic: Becky Curtis and the naughty shrubs

Monday 13 June 2022

The right image

Nobody wants to admit it, but one of our key objectives as an adult is giving ourselves a positive image. We approach every situation with an eye to what behaviour will make us look good and what behaviour won't.

There's no return to the days when we were small children and just blurted out whatever came to mind, without any thought for the consequences. We could look foolish or stupid or mean or rude many times a day because we hadn't yet got the knack of image-management.

As an artful adult however I do my best not to look in any way "bad" and I try to manage other people's reactions so they have a positive image of me. I try to avoid any impression that I'm anti-social or a law-breaker or that I'm selfish or arrogant or violent or domineering. I want people to think "He's a nice bloke, a sensible sort of guy, I like him."

Of course nobody wants to confess to ongoing image-massaging, it sounds so calculating and cold-blooded, but that's what we do. Nobody wants to be the bad parent, the bad patient, the bad student, the bad neighbour. So we tweak our behaviour to make it reassuringly "as expected".

And naturally we gloss over those big mistakes, or hastily conceal them. Those embarrassing workplace cock-ups or domestic blunders we'd rather not own up to. The car we wrecked or the kitchen we set on fire or the valuable antique we threw away. No no, they never happened. Or not the way you think.

If we believe our behaviour is spontaneous and unrehearsed, we're kidding ourselves.

Thursday 9 June 2022

So unnatural

It makes me laugh when people say that some activity or other is "unnatural", as if it's somehow totally perverted and bizarre.

Don't they realise that most of the things we do and most of the things we possess are "unnatural" - meaning they don't arise in nature but have been artificially created?

What's natural about plastic or mattresses or cars or violins or.... ? (I could trot out a very long list here). Our whole modern way of life is based not on nature but on hundreds of human inventions that have given us (or given most of us) comfortable, convenient lifestyles and all sorts of ingenious leisure pursuits.

Yet still there are those individuals who insist that homosexuality or talking in a foreign language* or men wearing dresses or women in high-powered jobs are "unnatural" and these deviant practices should stop.

The last thing I want is to be natural. I wouldn't fancy living in a mud hut in mid-winter foraging for food every day. I wouldn't fancy being without blogs or books or TV or newspapers. I wouldn't fancy catching all sorts of nasty diseases because of the lack of vaccinations and advanced medical treatment. Thanks but no thanks.

Predictably enough, activities that were seen as "unnatural" a few decades ago now seem totally normal, like homosexuality and same-sex marriage and women wearing trousers and men changing nappies.

Mind you, it's obviously unnatural not to possess a smart phone. I mean, how perverted is that?

*There have been several incidents on public transport where people have been told to stop speaking a foreign language. If they don't comply, they get physically attacked. Pure xenophobia.

Sunday 5 June 2022

Dressing your age

We oldies are often advised to "dress our age", whatever that means. As if left to ourselves we'd dress like lunatics or like Coco the Clown.

Thanks for the advice but I won't be following it. I'll dress the way I've dressed ever since I was a teenager - in a shirt and jeans (I'll gloss over the occasional budgie smugglers). Of course it's different for women, who have a wider range of clothing and are more likely to fall foul of the sartorial busybodies.

But what exactly does "dressing your age" mean anyway? Does it mean hiding all the wrinkles and wobbly bits and other signs of ageing? Does it mean not showing any flesh? Does it mean dressing respectably and discreetly?

Why should anyone have to tone down their clothes to satisfy some arbitrary notion of what's "appropriate" or "suitable" for old codgers? If people want to wear flamboyant, startling, highly coloured clothes and flash a bit of cleavage, why shouldn't they?

Why is it okay for young people to wear revealing, flesh-baring, figure-hugging clothes but not okay for oldies to expose a bit of leg? Why this age-based censorship? Why this squeamish puritanism?

As for the long list of what oldies should never wear under any circumstances - leather trousers, miniskirts, elastic waistbands, chunky earrings, leggings, sheer clothing, velcro shoes, low-rise pants etc etc (and that's just the women) - why should anyone take any notice? Who takes these prohibitions seriously?

Flaunt your wrinkles and wobbly bits, I say. They're the sign of a life well-lived.

Pic: The actor Karen M Chan