Thursday, September 27, 2007

tell me, general pace

I began the day furious that General Pace was spewing hateful words about homosexuals. I end the day feeling a bit smug. The Senate has attached some hate crimes legislation to the defense authorization bill. In order to get money for his war, the war in which out of the closet soldiers are not permitted to fight, Bush will have to agree to protect homosexuals.

Tell me, General Pace, which morality do you care about more?

God bless America. We sure aren't a dull people.

somebody on the Hill says something

The sanest member of Congress is an 89 year old coot from West Virginia.

love and war

My classes and I have spent the past few weeks talking about war, examining perspectives and morality. It has been draining, though it has also caused me to re-examine quite a bit about what I believe and why I believe it. That blog is too long and too private and too painful to write.

This part is not: During last night's class, we talked about what it means to kill another human. We talked about how the military trains and prepares soldiers to do so. We talked about how rarely there is any real public discussion of the moral complexities of killing another human being in military combat. As long as American soliders are shooting enemies, it is justifiable to commit what would be termed murder in polite society.

Over coffee this morning, I read this article about General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In his outgoing report to Congress in the midst of three struggling wars that directly affect the lives and purses of millions of people, he found time to reflect on the morality of homosexuality. He had quite a few comments on the appropriate way to love another human being, though he didn't seem terribly contemplative on whether it was moral to kill another person.

He said, "we should respect those who want to serve the nation but not through the law of the land, condone activity that, in my upbringing, is counter to God's law." I agree entirely. I think "Thou shalt not kill" is a pretty good rule. How can we reform the military to abide by God's law about that?

The Post offers the following quote as well: "In March, the Chicago Tribune reported that Pace said in a wide-ranging interview: 'I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.'" You're absolutely right, General Pace. War is a terrible policy. Let's outlaw it.

P.S. General Pace--you might wish to consider retiring to Iran. I hear it's a very free and open society that doesn't have a single homosexual.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

a man like this should run for president

Barack Obama explained why he didn't even bother to show up to cast a ballot on this ridiculous anti-moveon Senate motion, "The focus of the United States Senate should be on ending this war, not on criticizing newspaper advertisements,'' Obama said. "This amendment was a stunt designed only to score cheap political points while what we should be doing is focusing on the deadly serious challenge we face in Iraq.''

my favorite medication

Since I returned from Spain, I've been walking and walking and walking, partly because I like it, but partly because it helps me to even out my mood in a way that I have never before been able to do on my own. It's an incredible feeling to have some measure of control over the ups and downs, though I certainly can't sustain the number of hours I was walking when I was on the Camino.

It took me years to fully realize how vital exercise can be. Drugs are a much easier solution. Now, though, there is increasing medical evidence of the usefulness of exercise as a treatment. I am hopeful that my insurance company will soon be funding my pilgrimages.

Friday, September 21, 2007

dear senator webb, nincompoop

To Senator James Webb of Virginia,

I voted for you. I voted for you proudly. Today, I am ashamed to be your constituent.

After your victorious election last November, I beamed at press reports that during a beginning of session tea party at the White House, you refused to make small talk with President Bush about your son, a Marine serving in Iraq. You tried to redirect the conversation to actual issues. Others criticized you for being disrespectful. Not me. I was hopeful that, for the sake of your family and your country, you were committed to doing away with niceties and games and focusing on the real work of getting the United States out of Iraq.

Today, when I heard about the Senate bill condemning's New York Times advertisement questioning General Petraeus's credibility, I was incensed. I was certain you would reject such folly. I knew you would condemn the Bush administration's disgusting propoganda tactics meant to distract from the important dialogue about Iraq.

I was wrong.

I am sickened by your vote, Senator Webb. Shame on you. You actually devoted your time and your power, time and power that could have been devoted to crafting an exit strategy or improving benefits for veteran amputees or working to gather votes on your excellent proposal to regulate troop rotations, to casting a ballot against a silly newspaper advertisement that engaged in name calling? That makes you a nincompoop. That's right. I called you a nincompoop right there in print, Webby. I double dog dare you to pass a bill against me, too.

Maybe you're a little jealous of Petraeus? Quite a few people have accused you of betrayal over the past couple of years, but you have no Senate resolution to show for it. Even though you have deep military ties, you want the Iraq War to end. Maybe we can pass one of these little laws to honor you?

I encourage you to leave your office and walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. Have a look at those words of the First Amendment writ large on the side of the new Newseum, as I did last weekend as I read some signs about how I should burn in hell because I’m a traitor for wanting peace in Iraq. That stung a bit. Where’s the Senate bill recognizing my pain?

I don't much care what the damned New York Times advertisement said. I don't care whether it came from a liberal organization or a conservative organization. I care that you take responsibility for doing your job, for representing the American people and ending an unjust war, rather than simply playing around so that a grown man's feelings don't get hurt. Isn't he tough enough to handle criticism? He's an American general! How much tougher does it get? Apparently, you don't think he's particularly tough at all. He needs special protections, special exemptions from the right to free speech. Isn't the First Amendment one of those sacred freedoms that the military is charged with protecting?

Sticks and stones are not being hurled from the pages of the New York Times, Senator Webb. Only words. While you were working hard at protecting Petraeus from the shower of sans serif-fonted words, some American soldier or Iraqi civilian was fielding a shower of bullets.

What happened to the Senator Webb who wouldn't let President Bush draw attention away from the suffering and safety of Americans and Iraqis?

I am ashamed of you today, but we can't afford to focus on stupid mistakes, can we? I suggest that you and I, all of us, moveon. Please make me proud to be your constituent tomorrow. Get the job done. Get us out of Iraq.

Your Constituent,
Bridget Robin Pool

P.S. I've never sent a dime to before. Today, I'm sending a donation in your name.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

truth, finally

There have been quite a lot of lies associated with the Iraq War, but folks are coming clean now. Nearly as troubling as President Bush trying to rally support for the current Iraq War by drawing parallels to Vietnam is the Marine recruitment effort on campus today that attempted to attract potential soldiers by using a gigantic inflatable Marine with no legs. I suppose, at the very least, it's an example of truth in advertising.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


It has come to my attention that Mental Illness Awareness Week takes place during the week that I will be on a cruise with 20 family members.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

next placard

Next time I attend a protest, I will carry a sign reading: Another Off-Message Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, Free the Cuban Five, Free Palestine, Anti-Globalization, Anti-Climate Change, Serif Font Hating, 9/11 Conspiracy Theorist Scatterbrained Liberal Activist Who is Purportedly Here for a Rally Relating to Something Else!

Why, why, why do liberal protests have such trouble staying on message? I despise the assumption that everyone who thinks the war should end believes that ol' Mumia should be released. I didn't show up to cheer about ending Christian fundamentalism. My right to smoke pot is not contingent on withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. I don't think that anti-war activists need to believe in non-violent eating.

Every thinking person I know who goes to these rallies gets disenchanted by the inclusion of an array of issues that are largely unrelated to the main purpose of the event. Focus, people. Focus. Today, I was shocked at the number of people who want to re-open investigations into 9/11. I have no idea what they are hoping to find. Maybe this time around planes won't fly into buildings?

I was soft on one somewhat unrelated issue. There were many, many signs urging "IMPEACH!" though I preferred the placards that recommended going directly to indictment. I suppose that strays a bit from the central message, though it does relate directly to war crimes. I'm curious how many people would turn out for an impeachment rally. I was shocked that the movement was so strong.

"this is what dem-o-cra-cy looks like"

I marched down Pennsylvania Avenue today. Along with other anti-war protestors, I started at the White House and walked toward the Capitol building to encourage lawmakers to get the U.S. out of Iraq. I wore flag pants and held a sign reading "PATRIOTS FOR PEACE."

Counter protestors lined the sides of the parade route, the reverse inaugural parade route. One of them looked me dead in the eye and spat, "traitor."

We walked past the new Newseum building, a place dedicated to celebrating the freedom of the press. Etched in bold letters from the top to the bottom of the building are the best placard I saw today. These beautiful words are carved into the side: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Today, I looked at those last 18 words in awe.

Earlier, I had turned to my Pakistani roommate and asked:
"Aliya, if you went to a protest like this in Pakistan---"
She interrupted me and smirked. "No, Bridget, no." She shook her head.

Just no. That's the answer. There’s no “if” because there is no protest like this in Pakistan. There is no situation where you stand dead in the center of the three branches of government, in the shadow of the National Archives, across from the banner of the First Amendment and hang out with a bunch of your compatriots and scream that you don’t like what the leaders are doing.

When the anti-anti-war protestors stood a few feet away from us and shouted in favor of staying in Iraq, the anti-war protestors responded even louder in attempt to drown out the opposing opinion. Feverish chants rose up from those I was walking alongside:

I looked from the peaceniks to the warmongers and laughed aloud at the ridiculousness of using those words as a means of silencing dissent. Yes. This is exactly what democracy looks like. It looks like furious, principled people screaming angrily at one another and at their leaders in a public place without fear of violence. It looks like people on both sides of the police tape who care so much about democracy that they are using its privileges to disagree with each other about how best to extend those freedoms to other people thousands of miles away.

I walked up to one of the counter protestors and shook his hand and thanked him for coming. Then I went back to narrowing my eyes at the enemy and yelling about peace.

Friday, September 14, 2007


I like to look at my dad's crinkly eyes. They accentuate his ready smile and easy laugh. After baking my skin in the Spanish sun, I've noticed that when I smile, I have some lines, too. Some wrinkles seem like the good kind of wrinkles: indelible evidence of joy.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I decided to fast for Ramadan. I have never fasted before, but since my housemate, some of my students, and some of my colleagues are Muslim, I thought it might be interesting to join them. After walking the Camino to gain freedom from Catholic purgatory, it seemed like I should experiment with a tradition from another religion. I was excited for the challenge.

Then my friend R. pointed out that it is a bad idea. It is a bad, bad idea. People with bipolar disorder who are trying to maintain a stable mood during the least stable month of the year ought not deny themselves food during daylight hours.

I even did a little research into Valid Reasons for Not Observing the Fast:

Being on a journey
Risk of life

Well, I'm not unconscious and haven't declared jihad, but I guess I'm otherwise disqualified. I will eat.


Today is September 11th weather. There is warm sun, perfect sky, soft breeze, the echoes of summer, and the anticipation of fall all at once. The calendar says September 12 today, but I feel the echoes of the 6th anniversary much more strongly than I did yesterday.

Six years and one day ago, I thought "How could something so horrible happen on a day that's so beautiful?" On September 11, 2001, the fighter jets zoomed over my house, the Pentagon burned before my eyes, and I wanted to get the bad guys.

I'm six years older now; I'm six years wiser. In that time, the most important thing I've learned is that I know even less than I thought I did. There used to be good days and bad guys. Not anymore. If only the categories were so simple.

It turns out that good days and bad guys are hard to come by, as are bad days and good guys. Bad things happen on good days and then the days become less good. Good people become less good, maybe a little bad. Bad guys are hard to find, but sometimes when they turn up, they would rather be good, if we let them. We can turn them bad, though, if we choose to.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

an apple pie american

As I was walking, I saw some people gathered up ahead of me. They were standing on the 66 overpass, looking at the eastbound lanes. I took off my headphones and joined them to watch a long line of motorcycles rumbling toward D.C. They came in two lines, creating a festive atmosphere. There were about 40 people looking at the highway. Kids on tiptoes peered through the fence to wave at the riders below.

"What is it for?" I asked a guy with a shaved head whose son was wearing camouflage pants.

"It's for 9/11. It's to support the troops." I tried not to bristle at that easy link between 9/11 and Iraq. I tried to just smile and wave my open palm, my Nixon peace sign.

I looked around at the assortment of neighborhood people gathered there. There were a lot of categories represented. I was confident in those categories. Some families had just left services at the nearby Catholic church. One scrubbed family looked as though they were about to go pick their own produce for the week, maybe at Farm Fresh Fields. I examined the leather wearing, tattooed riders rolling beneath the bridge overpass who honked and gave peace signs. I thought about the different definitions of peace. I thought about how weird America is.

The last motorcycle rolled by, and the emergency support vehicles brought up the rear, sounding sirens. The crowd started to disperse, chatting idly and proudly about the spectacle as it rumbled away. Patriotism feels a whole lot merrier these days than it did 6 years ago.

"Me, too!" I heard a woman call out. "Me, too! I'm an apple pie American as well! My dad was a veteran." I turned back and saw a woman with shining dark black skin, wearing a long hijab and an even longer dress in the 90 degree heat. Her 3 year old daughter, braids poking out of her head, was in a stroller.

I went back to talk to her. I didn't have anything to say, really, but it seemed like she hadn't felt included. I'm sure I had already categorized her earlier. I'm equally sure that apple pie American is not the box I put her in. I asked her about her father, asked her if she was going to go to the rally. Her daughter and I talked about yellow fire hydrants. We all walked a bit together. It turns out we're neighbors.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


It's so easy to deride Senator Craig, particularly now that he is reconsidering his resignation. Can you do that? "Hey! I quit! Here's my resignation. Oh wait. I didn't mean it. Just kidding . . . ."

Anyhow, this article by James E. McGreevey is an eloquent and humbling reminder that we're all so human all the time. It hurts.


Sitting outside the Java Shack in the sun, grading papers, I looked over and saw the dreaded van pull up alongside Daphne F. The guy at the next table muttered, "They're not going to let you go."

I grabbed my wallet and sprinted over to the meter. "I was just inside getting quarters!" I shouted over my shoulder toward the meter people in the lurking truck.

"We saw you sitting there."

"I was! I had just put my stuff down and was coming over here!"

"No. You weren't."

Defeated, I gave up. "Okay, dude," I sassed back. I started walking away, leaving him to his ticket writing.

He beckoned me back, "Go ahead and put your quarters in."

I did.

I'm not sure why he let me go. He didn't believe my story. I should have just been straight with him. The truth was that I had simply forgotten to put money in the meter. I wasn't intentionally refusing to pay. Sometimes I leave the meter empty purposely. This time, I just plain forgot.

I spent the next hour or so feeling guilty for lying to this man. Why did I bother? Sure, it was just a white lie, but it wasn't worth it, even though I didn't get the ticket. It infuriates me when students lie to me about such minor, transparent things. Just come out with it. We all know you screwed up; at least be honest. And now here I am, lying to someone else about something silly and obvious.

Last night I stopped class when I noticed a student listening to an earbud during class. "Wow! That's a new one," I said, speaking to the whole class while staring at the student. "Wow. Actually listening to something else during class."

The kid said, "I'm listening to In Cold Blood," the assigned reading for the day.

I'm not sure if that made it worse or better. He hadn't done the work, but he was trying to do the work, but he was even too lazy to read the book subtly during class. At least he was honest, though, more than I can say for myself. Still, I mocked him openly.


[I just looked back at my previous post about bipolar news. I'm perfectly willing to lie to my doctor without any guilt. Apparently, health merits untruth.]

bipolar press

It's been a good and bad week in the bipolar press.

An MSNBC article describes hopeful information about developing treatments such as motion sickness patches. Using these patches seems an apt approach. The symptoms are roughly comparable: instability, lack of balance. The article also provides a reminder of the tremendous limitations of current treatment.

The MSNBC article states, "A study of treated patients published last year found that about 60 percent got well for at least eight weeks, but only half of that group remained well when followed for up to two years." Depending on what qualifies as "well," I am beating the odds so far, a fortunate member of the 30 % who is holding with fairly minor fluctations.

Even when stabilized on medications, though, I have the inevitable side effects. Three years after quitting Depakote, I've lost 80 pounds, but I'm still 15 pounds away from getting back to my weight before I started it. Now, I'm engaged in some Faustian arm wrestling with my current medication, Lamictal. Whenever I increase it, which will be necessary as time goes on, my skin breaks out severely. Dermatologists try to prescribe acne medication that interacts with my mood medications, or they offer hormonal birth control, which could destabilize my mood entirely. A little acne isn't the main problem, though. Whenever I have the tiniest rash, I have to fear for Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, an FDA black box side effect that was depicted in a Washington Post article this week. The article refers to an interaction with a different type of drug.

I hope I continue to be a member of that fortunate 30% for awhile, though it's likely that I have a medication switch in the reasonably near future. The FDA won't approve new treatments for a very long time, but I'm willing to get creative (and manipulative). After all, I am going on a cruise soon. Perhaps I need to see my family doctor for a seasickness patch . . .

Saturday, September 1, 2007

not my fellow citizen

While I am driving, any kind of pro-Bush propaganda plastered on a car bumper forces me to restrain myself from easing my right foot off the brake and pounding the gas pedal. After all of the ways that Bush has harmed America and the world, I find it infuriating that people are still supportive of him.

There is another type of bumper sticker that tempts me to purposefully crash into the car in front of me. Any variation of "Bush Is Not My President" makes me seethe. I despise those stickers.

I assume that drivers proclaiming "Bush is not my president" are not simply citizens of other countries who want to gloat that they have not been cursed with such a humiliating leader. "Haha! I got Angela Merkel and you got some bumbling fool from Texas!" I assume that cars with these bumper stickers are driven by Americans, other voting citizens of the United States of America who are trying to express their frustration with the current administration. I sympathize with their ire, but I abhor their attitude.

Not your president? Not your president? He is your president. You might not like what he's doing. You might think he's a vile undemocratic criminal murderer, but he is your president. He is your representative. He represents America. If you are an American, he represents you.

I have a great deal of respect for Al Gore's concession of the 2000 election to George W. Bush. In the act of conceding defeat, Gore expressed his love for America. He challenged the law, and when he had exhausted the recourse made available by the Constitution, he admitted that George W. Bush was his president--our president.

I think the reason those stickers really bother me is because I know that the other driver and I probably have fairly similar attitudes toward Bush. We're both exasperated and ashamed. We're tired of seeing the Constitution torn to shreds. The difference between me and that car ahead of me is that I think it is a patriotic duty to recognize that George W. Bush is my president. He and his gang of evildoers might not respect the Constitution, but I do. I'm an American, and I need to do whatever I can to hold him accountable to preserve, protect, and defend that Constitution.

Next time I feel tempted to punch the gas, I should get out of the car, knock on the window, and invite the driver to be my fellow citizen, explaining that if we work together, maybe we can make a change. To be my fellow American, though, requires recognizing our current president. George W. Bush is our president.