Formula One and Bahrain – A force for what, now?

Even with the best intentions there’s a limit to what one can do in any given day, which is why I’ve been following the uprising in Bahrain (a family-run Sunni dictatorship with a majority Shiite population), but haven’t yet written about it. The day, 24 hours, etc, and so on.

But that country’s crown prince said something today that just about made my skull fold in on itself, and so I’ve been driven to the keyboard.

Discussing the fact that the Formula One Grand Prix race will be held in his country on Sunday despite a year-long uprising in which protesters have been killed, gassed, imprisoned, and tortured, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa told the BBC that “cancelling the race just empowers extremists,” whereas holding the race can serve as “a force for good.”

A force for good.

A force for good?

You know what’s a force for good? Democracy. Human rights. Liberty and justice. That sort of thing.

You know what’s not a force for good? This:

“We have been receiving worrying reports of the disproportionate use of force by Bahraini security forces, including the excessive use of tear gas, the use of bird shot pellets and rubber bullets,” said Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. high commissioner for human rights.

“The use of tear gas in particular has reportedly resulted in a number of deaths of protestors and bystanders — and that number has reportedly risen in recent months,” he said. “Reliable sources indicate that the civilians who died from tear gas suffered complications from gas inhalation, and that security forces have been firing metal tear gas canisters from grenade launchers into crowds.”

Oh and hey –  look! Here’s a fact that surprised me exactly not at all!

Bahrain’s royal family owns a stake in Formula One racing, including part of the McLaren Group racing team.

Of course there are complications. The Crown Prince is considered a moderate, and the International Crisis Group pointed out to NPR that the Crown Prince “has built up the Formula One race in Bahrain as part of an economic power base designed to counter his hard-line rivals.”

And protesters have responded to violence with violence, breaking out gasoline bombs in response to the crackdown.

Not to mention the fact that Bahrain is spitting distance from Saudi Arabia and Iran, and serves as home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.

But at a certain point, I just don’t care. “Moderate” is far too slippery a term when you’re talking about a family business that’s invested in torture and extrajudicial killings; Bahrain’s protesters responded with violence after they were greeted with brutality; and I kinda thought that the US Navy was a representative of a nation predicated on democracy?

If the Crown Prince really wanted to see a “force for good” take hold, he would do everything in his power to see to it that the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (also known as the Bassiouni Report) are implemented in full, rather than piece-meal and as suits the ruling family’s interests. His country wouldn’t be hosting flashy races while a detainee approaches death on hunger strike, and riot police bring out stun grenades, birdshot and tear gas to hold protesters at bay.

What does the rebellion look like? It looks like the death of 14 year old schoolboy, killed for seeking freedom – even as the government tries to blame his parents for not controlling him. It looks like a family harassed for the temerity of having their child killed:

Indeed, it looks like a Formula One executive fired, because he made the mistake of liking a protest photo on Facebook.

But sure. The Formula One race can be a force for good. Why the hell not.

Insufficient memory.

Note: I spent last week dealing the world’s Horrible Things and though they’ve hardly abated, I’ve decided that this week, I won’t write about them. I’ll tweet, or comment elsewhere, but this space will be Horrible-free — except at the end of each post, where there will be a few links to Your Day In Horrible, should you feel the need.

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Note the second: Sooo. The day got entirely away from me, in ways so many and varied, that I wouldn’t want to begin to explain where it went. So I won’t! But I’m allowing myself the luxury of re-upping a column I wrote a few years back in the Dallas Morning News about the fact that — resist the truth as I might — I am an irredeemable birdbrain. No — you read the following (about which very little has changed in the intervening years, other than the girl’s need for a binky), and then try to think otherwise of me. I challenge you.

Insufficient memory

(It's forget-me-nots. Get it? Plus: So pretty!)

Recently, I was forced to come to the conclusion that, deny it as I have tried my whole life, I am, inarguably, an airhead.

Ok, I’m an intellectual snob, too, so let’s call me “absent-minded.” Like a professor, only without a teaching position. Or office hours.

I may approach it with humor, but it’s a truth I actually loathe. I’ve spent my life devising and maintaining systems by which to mask the fact of it (from myself primarily, I guess. The world’s probably caught on).

I’ve tried everything from calendars with copious notes, to lists on the door, to (and I mean this literally) keeping a running total in my head of the things I left the house with, so that I don’t leave anything behind. It can become a bit of a mess if I leave the house with something that was intended to be left behind. Like, you know, the dry cleaning.

And yet, in spite of these efforts, I am always forgetting things – objects, plans, dates. Thank God, I have yet to forget people, but my (two) children know I may forget their names. When my son was three years old, if I posed the question “What would Mommy do if she could take her head off?” he would say: “Lose it.”

I will say that, at the very least, this forgetfulness has granted me a deep faith in people. I’ve left my backpack in a cab in Istanbul, my camera in a store in Tel Aviv, and (my personal favorite) my sister-in-law’s pearls in a taxi in Washington, DC. Around the world, people have consistently saved me from myself and returned these items to me, often going out of their way to do so. The kindness of strangers, indeed.

On a recent morning, a stranger – a county official with whom I had an appointment in order to appeal my property taxes, a date you might think I’d want to keep – called to ask where I was. Not to reprimand me for blowing her off, but to suggest with a smile in her voice that perhaps I should make my way down to her offices.

Then, on the way there, I drove nine blocks the wrong direction, because, after living in my town for more than seven years – five of which were spent three blocks up from the address to which I was headed on the same street – I got confused about where the north/south demarcation starts on our grid.

As I started to compose the “I’m so sorry for being even later” in my head, I heard myself thinking “I don’t want to seem so disorganized,” and it hit me: I am. I am just that disorganized.

Anyone who has ever: had her babysitter look for her wallet so that she can get on a plane; left that same wallet at home on her way to a store 40 minutes away; forgotten her debit card in the hands of the gas station attendant, is a complete space-cadet. Bona fide.

When I got pregnant with my son seven years ago, having just moved to a new place, new friends kindly chalked my muddle-headedness up to pregnancy, and then to post-partum, and then to exhaustion. And then a second pregnancy. With two kids running around the house, they now say, who can remember anything? You lose a piece of your brain with each placenta.

I’m happy to leave them their delusions, and I will certainly concede that all of those things have not helped. I will even admit, with some genuine pride, that when it comes to the kids, I’m mostly on top of who needs what and has to go where (even if I don’t, as I say, reliably remember what we’ve called them). It’s my own stuff that goes missing.

Seriously, I take some comfort from that. Because there are days when it feels like all of this means that really, underneath my carefully constructed façade, I’m out of control. One misplaced piece of paper from the unraveling of my entire life.

But if I can keep it together for my children – old What’s-Their-Names – I figure that will have to be enough. Just admit the truth, accept who you are, and move on. I can make it without my coat; my daughter, on the other hand, would be lost without her binky.

Emily L. Hauser is a freelance writer living outside of Chicago. As far as she can remember.

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Your Day in Horrible:

  1. Bradley Burston at HaAretz wrote a heartbreaking column about the uses to which the horrific murder of children have been put in the last week in Israel: “[M]ost of us, on both sides, are people who, despite everything – despite their grief and their rage and their one-sided, blind-eye narrative and their truly unjust history and the guaranteed injustice of any possible solution – actually want the same thing: a future for their children in an independent country living alongside and at peace with the people who are now their enemy. For every child. Both sides. For every child.”
  2. Bullets Stall Youthful Push for Arab Spring – “The Arab Spring is not necessarily over,” writes the New York Times [which will soon be behind a paywall, not that I’m bitter], “but it has run up against dictators willing to use lethal force to preserve their power.”
  3. OH! And another thing the GOP apparently hates (in addition to: workers, women, the Special Olympics, puppies, and the earth itself): Parks. “This week, in an unreleased portion of [Gov] Kasich’s proposed budget, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources would be given authority to lease 200,000 acres of state park land for oil and gas exploration.”

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

Don’t ever make me go back there! Unless you carry me.

I spent all of last week writing/thinking/emoting about terrible things and while the Awful has hardly abated, I’ve decided that this week, I won’t write about it. I’ll tweet, I may well comment elsewhere, but this space will be largely Awful-free — except at the end of each post, where I will provide a few links to Your Day In Horrible, should you feel the need.

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All told, I’m pretty happy to be an adult.

We get to vote, drive, and keep our own hours, more or less, not to mention that the pay is better.

I remember (I mean: really, really remember, visuals and the whole thing) being a four year old, being ooh-ed and ahh-ed over by a group of third or fourth graders, and just thinking “Can you not see the book in my hands? I want to read.”

I never wanted to be cute. I wanted to be taken seriously. Which is, let’s face it, kind of tall order for a tow-headed girl who is, in fact, totally cute and, moreover, the youngest of three children. I wasn’t taken seriously nearly anywhere, and if I tried to demand it? Well, wasn’t that just the cutest thing! (Which goes a long way toward explaining how I deal with my own, undeniably adorable children, but that’s another post all together).

So mostly I like being an adult because adulthood is a prerequisite, in most circles, to being taken seriously.

However. And yet. Regardless (and even irregardless, if irregardless were a word): There are a few pieces of childhood that I really I miss. Not the sorts of things that we’re told to miss by cultural gatekeepers who appear to forget what childhood actually is, once they’re out of it themselves, but other stuff, stuff that comes largely from being kind of new to the world, kind of fresh out of the box.

Such as:

  1. Pre-birthday excitement. These days, about every other year, my birthday is more irritant than celebration. It falls in September, after a nearly endless round of summer birthdays (the husband, the daughter, and the son — all of them — plus lots of other family). In a perfect world, a week before my birthday, the husband would inform me that all and sundry have come together, made a plan, I need not worry my pretty head, and — oh hey! He just got a surprise bonus, and he’ll be using it to shower me with fabulous gifts! Which is, frankly, kind of what happens when you’re a kid. Someone else makes great plans, and then you get showered with gifts. What’s not to love about that? Who wouldn’t miss that? Today, on the other hand, I know exactly what we can and can’t afford — and “fabulous gifts” tend to be the latter.
  2. The absolute certainty that if I have chosen to take up an activity, I will be awesome at it. Late 1970s skateboarding, anyone? As but one example. When I asked for a skateboard, and got it — dude. I was going to whale! When I got a smidge of style and bought a few particularly attractive items — I was going to be my school’s fashion plate! A bit earlier, when I decided that I was going to work with the blind — I was going to be my generation’s Annie Sullivan! The realization that, in fact, none of that would happen was slow in coming, and arrived hand-in-hand with the understanding that perhaps I didn’t really enjoy the skateboard very much, nor was I all that interested in Braille, and while being a fashion plate might be fun, being lower middle class in a patently wealthy community was going to serve an understandable barrier. Which is to say, it’s not like this knowledge shattered me or anything. But that kind of confidence is fun when you feel it — and there are days when having access to it now would, it must be said, be an altogether delightful thing.
  3. Being carried places. The husband (who is quite genuinely as adorable as his kids) has offered to do this for me. But I’m not particularly small, and he’s not particularly large, and anyway, to be carried as a child is — arms wrapped around, head drooped, nose against the warm scent of a beloved and trusted neck — he would have to be, what, nine feet tall? Something like that, surely. And that would be a most inconvenient height differential for almost any other purpose, not least, furniture buying. But I do wish that he could stretch now and then, magically grow big enough to take me in his arms, carry me upstairs, lay me gently on the bed, and pull the sheets up. He does sometimes pull the sheets up for me, and tuck me in. And it makes me smile, and burrow into my pillow, and tell him I love him. For I do. He is, after all, one of the best perks of adulthood I’ve found to date.

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Your Day In Horrible:

  1. The battle over workers’ rights – Michigan edition.”In Michigan,” Talking Points Memo tells us, “new Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has just passed a bill through the legislature to allow state-appointed financial managers to void municipalities’ union contracts.”
  2. U.S. Calls Radiation ‘Extremely High’ and Urges Deeper Caution in Japan. “The chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” we learn in the New York Times, “gave a significantly bleaker appraisal of the threat posed by Japan’s nuclear crisis than the Japanese government, saying on Wednesday that the damage at one crippled reactor was much more serious than Japanese officials had acknowledged and advising Americans to evacuate a wider area around the plant than the perimeter established by Japan.”
  3. Curfew follows deadly Bahrain crackdown. Al-Jazeera reports (and provides a suitably distressing, brief round-up video): “At least six people are reported dead and hundreds injured after security forces in Bahrain drove out pro-democracy protesters from the Pearl Roundabout in the capital, Manama. A 12-hour curfew came into force at 4pm in areas of the city including the roundabout, the Bahrain Financial Harbour, and several other buildings which have recently been targets of protests. By then, most of the area had been cleared after troops backed by tanks and helicopters stormed the site – the focal point of weeks-long anti-government protests in the tiny kingdom – early on Wednesday, an Al Jazeera correspondent said.”
  4. Libya: Red Cross pulls out of Benghazi, fearing attack. “The organisation said it feared an attack by forces loyal to the country’s leader Col Muammar Gaddafi may be imminent,” the BBC reports. “Government forces say they have captured Ajdabiya, the last town before Benghazi, but the rebels deny this.”

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

The perils of kindness.

Last night, sitting at my desk, trying to write a book review, I finally just burst into tears.

The book deals with Israel/Palestine, and the many brave and noble people attempting to find a path to true peace and genuine justice, and it comes on the heels of two other books that dealt with what amounts to the same subject matter — and last night’s book and the earlier two came at either end of days and days in which I was dealing quite intensely, in my writing and in my heart, with the topic of rape (a couple of times on this blog, on and on at Twitter, and elsewhere across the wilds and in the corners of the blogosphere), while all the while, people living across a swath of the world that holds a place very deep in my soul are being shot at from their own fighter jets and by their own police forces. And the public employees in some quarters of this country — teachers, for God’s sake! — find themselves faced with the possibility of losing their freedom to ever collectively organize again. And at some point I discovered that a (male) blogger had accused me (specifically) and other women bloggers of “raping” Lara Logan by choosing to use the story of her assault as a reason to write about rape. And then an earthquake in New Zealand….

What finally reduced me to tears was a good friend being kind.

In this case, the good friend happens to be a truly, genuinely lovely person who has spent his life telling the truth about Israel/Palestine, and the one clear thought I could get to (as I read his completely unrelated email and cried) was: How can the world still suck so hard, when there are such beautiful people in it?

I’m tired. I’m tired of the world sucking and of beautiful people dedicating themselves and their lives and all too often their deaths to trying to heal a world that still sucks. I’m tired of the ever-peeling layers of suckage — after all, just under “pro-democracy protests turn violent in the Middle East,” you’ll find “well-founded fears of chaos,” “well-founded fears of military takeover,” and “well-founded fears of economic collapse and further human suffering.” Under which, of course, you will also find “Lara Logan was brutally assaulted and more than 80% of Egyptian woman complain of constant harassment and women are raped everywhere, anyway.” Under which you will find… many other things that I cannot bear to think about right now.

It matters not that I’m tired. Not really. Despair and exhaustion are luxuries, and I already live in the lap of luxury.

But I confess that I have found it easier to not know over much about about Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Iran, or Wisconsin and Indiana over the past 24-48 hours (oh, and Ohio. Where apparently someone decided it would be a good idea to lock the people out of their own statehouse) — or even of New Zealand, where, after all, it’s not the sucky people, it’s the sucky tectonic plates we have to thank for the wave of grief and sorrow now washing over a nation. It feels wrong to admit this. I confess that, too.

I’m going to the J Street Conference this weekend, and I think that will have to count as my good deed for the next week. Me being tired doesn’t matter — but me crying doesn’t help.  I think it’ll be helpful to go hang out in a room full of compulsive do-gooders for a couple of days.