Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Family Ghost

This post falls under the heading of what I started with on this blog, stories of life that I always figured that someday, I would get around to telling. Such as it is, I am not going to bury this one. I did save it for just the right season though.
In the last year, I have thought much about my mortality and the things I wanted to get written before I was gone. Somehow, the family ghost(s) was not on the list, or maybe it was. It is not that I ever officially said, well yes, I do believe in ghosts. Somewhere along the way though, I realized that no matter how logical we want reality to be, there are some things we just plain do not understand. And ghosts are one of those things.

Most of the time, when the subject of ghosts comes up, I have avoided mention of my own. One does so love to maintain a semblance of normalcy, the illusion of sanity. Be that as it is, with all these books and stories and histories of ghosts, it’s time to fess up, this one is among those stories that I am not inclined to take with me to the grave. We have a ghost(s). And we pretty much have, since we moved into this house.  

We had only been in the house maybe a couple weeks when we had our first encounter. Actually, my daughter had the first encounter. I am trying to remember her exact age, she was still in the carry her around in your arms, diaper wearing stage, less than two years old. But she had a few words, and one word that she communicated very distinctly was “Baby.”

I was walking through the kitchen with her in my arms, and suddenly, she reached for the ceiling and squealed “Baby!” almost jumped out of my arms reaching, like very small children do, when they are so excited to see another little person just like them. Except she was reaching for the ceiling, and there was nobody else around. The first time it happened, I brushed it off, didn’t think much about it. The kitchen is more like a great room, with a cathedral ceiling, and I figured maybe she saw a shadow—or something. The second time it happened, I squinted trying to make out what she was seeing. I didn’t see a thing, tried again to make outa shadowmaybe. About the third time, she started excitedly squealing “Baby,” and excitedly reaching toward the ceiling, for something I still couldn’t see, I thought maybe I would say something to one of the neighbors the next time I ran into one of them.

Well, the next time, I am in the yard, here comes the neighbor walking over to my fence, “Did you hear about the baby?”

“What baby?”

“The people who lived there before you, their baby drowned in a swimming pool not long after they moved out of the house.”

I never met the family who lived there before us, never knew the child’s name. My own daughter was too young to have a clue what a ghost was, but after so many instances, there was no doubt, she was seeing and communicating with something that appeared very childlike to her. It was also eerie that in these early experiences, the apparition was always above us.

That was the start, but over the years, we had a number of what would be considered paranormal experiences in the house. When the kids were in elementary school, there was a while that it seemed to be a perpetual problem. And I do mean problem. Somebody was always seeing something. My son, who was maybe ten years old at the time, was in the backyard, and swore somebody was walking behind him. In the same time-frame, he had walked past me, looked at the wall beside me, which was toward the hall, and said, “There’s a dog man.” He pointed and kept going. Didn’t even stop. He doesn’t remember that now, but it sure stuck with me at the time.

Over the years, there were a number of instances in that hall. More than once during this time, out of the corner of my eye, I would catch a fleeting glimpse of a shadowy being that seemed to hurry away when it realized it had almost been seen. But it was always an almost, I never really saw a thing, nothing that I could define.

And then there was the neighbor’s kid. Late one night, one of the neighbor’s kids, she was around 16 at the time, started banging on our door to wake us up. She was terrified and had crawled out the window to come to us for help. She said somebody was in their house. Her parents were asleep in bed and she heard footsteps walking down the hall. We called their house to see if everything was okay. And her parents, of course, answered. Everything was fine. This child was an honor student; she was about as far from what you would ever consider a flake in your life. If she said she heard footsteps in the hall, there is no reason anybody would doubt her. As far as I know, she had never in her whole life had a silly little goofy incident; that was not her personality. She was rock solid as both a child and an adult. What she heard that night, we’ll never know. But at the time, it was just a late night incident with the kids. Alone, it was the inclination of teen angst, ghost stories perhaps, but in the context of the other, too close for comfort, and never to be discussed again.

Even for somebody who doesn’t believe in ghosts, and I never honestly did, but after so much of this, you start thinking, well could be we need to do something about it. So I had the bright idea of seeing a family counselor, a shrink perhaps. Whatever comes in life, I have always been of the mindset that you just deal with it. At least I felt like I was attempting to do something—the most rational think I could come up with to deal with an irrational problem. That was among the dumbest decisions of my life.

At the time all this was going on, I didn’t know about things like parapsychologists, there really are people who make their living as ghost busters, and later somebody did tell me that a family therapist probably wasn’t the best choice for dealing with ghosts. I figured that one out. I tried, I really did. Shrinks, Rid-Damp, and salt. I tried everything. For a while I wondered if a Catholic priest might know what to do, but I’m not actually Catholic. If a person can deal logically and rationally with a ghost, I gave it my best shot. I eventually tried to read and understand what I could. Didn’t deter those ghosts one bit. And the thing is, in the middle of all this, if you had asked me if I believed in ghosts, I would have still answered with a resounding “No, of course not, you have got to be kidding.”

As to the Rid-Damp, whatever you live with, you do your best to deal with it. Being the logical pragmatic person that I tend to be, who never believed in ghosts in the first place, except now I apparently had a problem with them, and no matter how crazy your problem might be, or how crazy it sounds when you try to talk about it, there are some things a shrink can’t fix, and ghosts are right near the top of that list.

So after the useless money I spent trying to shrink the ghosts away, I attempted to figure out what one does to rationally deal with ghosts. For a while, I would go from corner to corner of the house sprinkling salt. I heard somewhere that would work. It seemed like it would work for a while, and then they would be back again, so I kept at it, trying to resolve the ghost problem.

Then somewhere or other, I heard that ghosts really like damp places so if you get rid of as much dampness as possible, at least the place won’t be so enticing to them—perhaps. So how do you get rid of dampness in your house? Rid-Damp, of course. I put Rid-Damp containers all over the house. When an old friend dropped by and I was putting out more Rid-Damp, he was asking what I was doing, and I was explaining my ghost problem as I went from room-to-room and he is following me around the house as I put out more and more Rid-Damp. That was a particularly bad episode and I had Rid-Damp all over the house. Nobody questions my ghosts, my eccentricity, or even my sanity, they just nod their head, not a suggestion at all, and I continued in my mission to drive away the ghosts. And that week it was Rid-Damp.

Needless to say, the Rid-Damp was a complete waste of time, money and effort. Rid-Damp is not effective for controlling ghosts. I don’t remember who gave me that helpful household hint, but it doesn’t work.

Over the years, we had several instances that involved the family pets, when a cat or dog caught sight of something that nobody else could see, and for the cat, growling, and hair standing on end. One instance with the dog, she stood at the entrance to the hall, her hair stood on end and she started trembling, suddenly she broke out of the tremble, put her nose to the floor like she was smelling something distinct, on a trail, with her nose to the floor the whole time, she followed the trail into the bathroom and it ended at the vent. That was it, and she turned around looking, running around in circles, she clearly had the scent of something, and was going back and forth with her nose to the floor, over and over, tracing the same path. But whatever it was, it was gone just as quickly as it had appeared.

Over the years, there was also the realization that we were dealing with more than the spirit of one child. The ghosts are not an everyday or even an every year occurrence, but one can be pretty certain though that once you get complacent and you are sure they are gone, they will be back. And that is generally when you least expect it, and frequently at a time when you really do have real life problems to deal with, in the real word. The world does not stop just because you have a ghost.

The years brought acceptance though and then there was the one time, my daughter yelled out, “They’re back.”

“Who’s back?” I asked,

“The ghost,” she said. “The cat. Look at the cat. He sees something.”

By then, we were past worrying about it all. And we were no longer afraid of those ghosts. I can’t say the same for the cat though. One more time, that cat’s hair was on end and near the same area of the hall where the dog had also had an experience. Also, by this time, we had had so many encounters over the years, it was old hat, and this time my daughter went scrambling for a camera. I didn’t know what to look for in the picture, despite it all, I was never well versed in the lore of ghosts. There was indeed a light in the hall that we were able to see in the picture. I no longer have a clue where the picture is. But that was the day when the ghost went from being a problem to one of the family, or at the least a member of the household. It was there. It wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and neither were we.

The one time when the ghost actually manifest to the point of a poltergeist experience was the morning after my now ex had left. My soul was shattered at the break-up of our family and there was a horrendous storm that night, there were floods all around the area, as if the heavens were sobbing with me. In every sense of the word, it had been a dark, loud, wet, and stormy night.

The next morning, my daughter and I were sitting at the table in the kitchen, still digesting what had happened. She had a glass of something, I don’t remember what, probably juice, and one of those little toy straws like you get in the kiddy meals from MacDonald’s. It was something between a whistle and a straw, that you put together with one of those little action hero heads, then you could blow it and make noise while you drink your drink. We were sitting there and the action hero whistle straw starts blowing. And we were watching it blow, by itself. This was not a battery operated thing; you had to blow it. We were already in shock about her dad leaving and for a minute, we just sat staring at the thing. Then I picked it up and took it completely apart to stop it from blowing. A couple minutes later, the dog goes to the entrance of the hall and her hair stands on end. She stands frozen and trembles in terror for a few seconds, and then she snaps out of it, puts her nose to the floor, and begins the chase that once more ends at the vent in the bathroom, and then she runs around in circles, continuously retracing the trail of the scent, trying to find whatever it was she had both seen and smelled.

About that time the phone rang, it was our insurance man, sounding oddly nervous, stressed. My soon to be ex had already called about his car, the flood the night before had been so bad, places that had never flooded in town before flooded with that storm, and his beloved Beemer was among the damage.

Strange doings, the world doesn’t stop because a five year old ghost or any other ghost for that matter drops by. Over the years, I discussed these matters with people who knew and understood ghosts and the paranormal more than I did. With time, the fear of the unknown was replaced by an acceptance that there are some things we just plain don’t understand. In some of the experiences, it was clear that the ghost, or whatever it was, was a child and communicated with my daughter when she was too young to have a clue what a ghost was. Later, with that realization, in the times when it manifest, I tried to think maternal thoughts toward it. I really didn’t know what else to do. It is not like there is a manual on how to deal with the family ghost, or maybe there is and I just missed it.

With more time still, it was pretty clear, that not all of the encounters were with the same being. Although my daughter’s early encounters were very positive, the time in the yard with my son, and the incident with the neighbor’s child were both very frightening for everyone involved. Since, at times, the incidents seemed to involve more than the actual house, it has been suggested that perhaps the area was at one time a Native American burial ground. Since I too have at least a partial Native American ancestry, I did not find that troubling, and almost in some way felt like, well maybe I am supposed to be here. I don’t know, as frightening as it all was in the early days of awareness, with time, I have wondered what happens to the ghosts when the family moves away. Disconcertingly sad and odd thoughts.

Over the years, I have also visited other places that were supposed to be haunted. Sometimes accidently, sometimes on purpose, at which point it was as much curiosity as a search for common ground. Something I could latch onto. With time, I also learned that where there is a tendency of a ghost to manifest if, for whatever reason, that spirit is not at rest. It has been a while now since the last visitation, but if it was somehow within me, it was my inclination that my home would be a place of peace, strength in spirit, love, and respect for life in all its manifestations. I didn’t know what else to do.

The years have changed what Halloween used to be about, and we do so love a good ghost story. But the day used to holy, for honoring those who had gone before. What was really going on? I still don’t understand it all, probably never will, but could be those ancients were onto something. I have long since quit putting out the Rid-Damp.

Copyright 2013 Regina Garson

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mule Days and Medical Marijuana: It's Time for a Lesson on Cannabis

By now, most people in this country are starting to have some kind of awareness that there have been some serious misspeaks when it comes to marijuana/cannabis/hemp/weed/pot, whatever you want to call it. However, with the way the media coverage goes, it is not surprising that some areas are not yet aware of the misspeaks. At this point, 20 states and Washington DC have legalized the medical use of marijuana. We are not talking about getting high. We are talking about doctor prescribed, cannabis based medications. It is typically prescribed for things like cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, arthritis, gastro-intestinal disorders, movement disorders, HIV/AIDS, and conditions related to aging (Americans for Safe Access, ASA) and dementia, such as Alzheimer’s. It is also long regarded as one of the best anti-nausea treatments in the world, including the nausea from invasive medical treatments such as with cancer. In addition, for some children, suffering from some forms of childhood epilepsy, nothing else seems to work. It is also effective in end of life palliative care. That is merely a start.

So what’s the deal? As informed as I pride myself in being when it comes to the War on Drugs, I didn’t know much about medical marijuana until very recently (Garson, 2013).

This story is about Mule Day 2013 in Winfield, Alabama. Or it was. My intent was to write a blistering editorial about how the Mule Day festival organizers kicked AMMJC, a patient advocacy group out of the festival. A patient advocacy group, no, it is not a typo. And yes they filled out the application in a timely manner, paid their fees, did their homework, setup properly, and did everything else they were supposed to do. And no they weren't misbehaving. It had something to do with pictures of a green leaf and some city ordnance that still hadn't been located by the time the AMMJC group had been unceremoniously ordered to leave. To make it all so much more interesting, the AMMJC had also invited a couple thousand some odd friends, family, neighbors and supporters from throughout the South to come out and support them and Mule Day as well. A fair number showed up, kind of got interesting when they started looking for the AMMJC booth though. 

The Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition (AMMJC) is the major legislative advocacy group for patients in Alabama. They are working toward the legalization of medical marijuana/cannabis based (doctor prescribed) medications in the state.

This is not about getting high, this is about the fact that for thousands of years before marijuana prohibition, cannabis based medications were an important part of our pharmacopeia, as in a valued and trusted doctor prescribed medicine, and it is time to bring that doctor prescribed medical option back to our people.

Marijuana prohibition
Marijuana prohibition was a combined political/money grubbing maneuver by Harry J. Anslinger, who made his career enforcing alcohol prohibition, and thought marijuana prohibition would be a good replacement when it ended, and William Randolph Hearst, the media/newspaper magnate, who was also openly racist and thought that it would be financially beneficial if instead of making paper out of hemp, it was made out of timber, of which he owned much land and stood to make quite a fortune. Andrew W. Mellon and the DuPonts were in on it as well. Just about anything that could be made from hemp could also be made from petroleum, and they stood to make a whole lot of money from that (and you wonder why the environmentalists keep wringing their hands, much less what our soldiers have been really dying for). So, somewhere in the process of ensuring job security for Anslinger, coming up with a new form of prohibition, with new laws to enforce and more people to arrest (most especially Blacks and Mexicans, the KKK was lightweight in comparison to Hearst), creating a viable market for petroleum by taking hemp off the industrial map of the country, cannabis was also, pretty much coincidentally, made illegal (not much worry about those medical patients either).

The weed scam
Hearst helped pulled the scam off (and continued to implement) via a massive public relations campaign, which he was easily able to implement since he owned a large number of the major newspapers and magazines of the day. While much of the general public depended on his publications for news and information, he published a steady stream of what came to be known as reefer madness propaganda, with the sole intent of convincing the American people of the evils of marijuana and the people who used it. Never mind, that at the time, cannabis was one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the country (the fact that they were in the same family of plants and would also be made illegal under the new prohibition was somehow swept under the media rug along with the use of different words at different times and in different contexts).

Anyway, cannabis medications were very affordable, very effective at treating a number of ailments, and had fewer side effects than just about any other medication ever in the pharmacopeia of the world. Its use was so common at the time, chances are good that if you had ever been to the doctor and brought home a prescription, you very likely had at least one bottle of cannabis-based medication in your medicine cabinet. In addition to its other uses, it was a common prescription level painkiller, and in comparison to most of today’s counterparts, it was safe, non-addictive and had very few side effects.

So what happened? 
When they passed the new prohibition laws, marijuana, hemp and cannabis were all made illegal at the same time. Whereas they are all in the same plant family, and the words are frequently used interchangeably, different strains are used for different purposes. Until the law was already passed, most people did not have a clue that it was also going to affect the availably of certain prescription medications on which they relied.

Bad news for the medical community
The American Medical Association had a conniption fit. Even though it was already a well-known, proven and beneficial medication, many in the medical community felt that with additional research, they would learn that cannabis had even more uses and more benefits than was then known. For thousands of years, cannabis had been just about as close as it comes to being considered a miracle drug, and the consensus of the medical community was that the future would prove it even more beneficial than was already known. There is no doubt, its use was well regarded and well respected.

In response to the change in the laws, “In 1937, the U.S. passed the first federal law against cannabis, despite the objections of the American Medical Association (AMA). Dr. William C. Woodward, testifying on behalf of the AMA, told Congress that, "The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marijuana is a dangerous drug" and warned that a prohibition "loses sight of the fact that future investigation may show that there are substantial medical uses for Cannabis." (Americans for Safe Access, ASA)

The damage done
Needless to say, from the prospective of medical care, this change in the law was a big problem for a lot of people, and it continues to be a problem to this day. In the meantime, in the ignominious tradition of the Hearst legacy, we have been inundated with generations of blatantly false and misleading media spin to convince us that what was once considered the miracle drug of the ages was actually an evil weed. In the process, seriously ill individuals have been denied access to doctor prescribed medications, and others, who were just as seriously ill, have been imprisoned because they dared to reach for the cure.

These laws have done major damage to communities, families and individuals across this country. There has been so much needless suffering. Countless numbers have lost their lives because effective treatments were deemed illegal, and not made available to them.

As active and involved I have been in so many issues, for so many years, until very recently, I flat didn’t know what was going on when it came to medical marijuana (Garson, 2013).

I too thought these medical marijuana folks were a bunch of stoners looking to have a legal high, and if they couldn’t get it any other way, they were going to go the medical route. Anybody who knows me is aware I am on the liberal side of things, but on this one, my liberal attitude really got in the way of me seeing the truth when it comes to the medical use of marijuana.

Whether we are liberal with good intentions or conservative with good intentions, I think people mostly have good intentions, but both sides of the aisle have been fed some serious misinformation when it comes to marijuana, most especially when it comes to its medical applications. On a certain level, that can be life or death serious.

Educating the public
Educating the public and bringing back access to doctor prescribed medical cannabis is what the Alabama Medical MarijuanaCoalition (AMMJC) is about. They frequently spend their weekends staffing booths at flea markets and festivals. They educate the public on medical marijuana, collect petition signatures, and they sell T-shirts and trinkets to help fund the efforts of the group. AMMJC is a non-profit patient advocacy group, whose members are professionals in communities across the state, working directly toward change in these laws. So what’s the big deal? Could be the folks at Mule Day didn’t want what they perceived as a bunch of long-haired hippie reprobates sitting around stoned, doing who knows what, with who knows who. And no telling what else. Talk about stereotypes.

When it comes to marijuana and the news, we have had such a constant, one-sided story, for so long, a whole lot of people don’t know up from down on this one. In no way to imply that the Mule Day  folks don't know up from down. I'm sure they do. But we get such a constant stream of arrest numbers, and reefer madness hype, and little mention of how many lives these laws are destroying, or how many of these media portrayed criminals are either seriously ill patients or have seriously ill family members who seriously need a cannabis based medicine. Marijuana prohibition laws have destroyed more lives than marijuana ever will. Despite the damage of marijuana prohibition, in the course of human history, marijuana itself has saved many more lives than these very recent laws have destroyed. So what is going on here? Where is up and where is down?

Why don’t we hear more about this? Things are changing, but still, there is so little coverage of the medical uses of marijuana, people don’t even know it is there. And if they have heard of it at all, likely as not, they think it is a joke some stoner is making because they really would rather be getting high. Although that was a big so what to me, it really was part of my own problem in not understating the bigger picture on this one. I am also pretty close to absolutely certain that the people at Mule Day  thought they were doing the right thing when they showed the door to what they considered those long haired hippies from AMMCJ.

Things sure look different when the truth starts coming out.
Dr. Sanja Gupta made some major news when he came out with a very public proclamation that he had got it wrong when it came to marijuana. He issued a very public apology because, in his writing, media work and medical reporting, as have so many others before him, he had played into the same media cog that Hearst started and that he too had helped to spread the mis-information. He is a surgeon among surgeons, one of the most respected medical professionals in this country, and he too had been mis-lead when it comes to cannabis and its medical applications. It takes some doing to get to the truth. When he realized that he too had been duped, and he too had believed the lies, he had a few things to say about it. He also sat out to set the record straight (Garson, 2013).

Dr. Gupta did a documentary in an attempt to start correcting some of that mis-information that we have all been fed for so long. Since then, there has been a Senate hearing on state’s rights when it comes to medical marijuana laws, there have also been other hearings on the sentencing and what these laws have done to our people (Garson, 2013).  

Changes are most definitely being made (Garson, 2013). Despite the fact, it is still illegal at the federal level, state after state has been reaffirming their state’s rights and passing legislation to make these medicines available to their citizens once more. When I say once more, I do mean once more. Records vary somewhat, but some say that marijuana/cannabis based medications have been in use for as long as 12,000 years. It is one of the 50 fundamental healing herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

There is no doubt that Big Pharma stepped in to fill that gap. As much as we all like to yell about them, on some things, they have truly done a good job. Many medical and pharmaceutical advances have been made in the last decades. However, on other things, medical science has reached a dead end. You can’t throw away thousands of years of best medical practices and make up for it in a day, or even a few generations. Marijuana/cannabis was one of the earliest cultivated herbs on the planet. For almost that many years, it was among the most frequently utilized medical herbs on the planet.

New studies, old ways
New studies and transcriptions of the Old Testament books have led etymologists to believe that “kaneh-bosm” was accidently translated to “calamus,” when it should have been “cannabis” (Bennett, 1996). That is still being debated. Others question whether it was used in some of the healing oils that Jesus used in his ministry. Not to take a thing away from his miracles, but he was undeniably a physician, a healer, and at times, he sent his apostles out with oils and preparations to heal as well. Because of its wide range of uses in healing, the time-frame, and some of the things it was used for, questions are now being asked as to whether what we now know as cannabis was perhaps in some of those anointing oil preparations as well (Chris Bennett cited in BBC,2003). If so, that would surely put a different spin on a whole lot of things.
With the perpetual lies we have been fed about marijuana in the last generations, it is very easy to dismiss that notion. However, for the thousands of years before marijuana prohibition made it illegal, marijuana/cannabis was one of the most effective and widely used medicines on the planet.

The War on Drugs is not just about the right to get high, or that we have the biggest prison population in the world, it is also about the fact that these laws have seriously influenced what is available by prescription in this country. It was not an accident or a fluke of nature that this so-called evil weed has for most of recorded history, been one of the most widely prescribed medications in the world. Many times over, marijuana/cannabis has been shown to have been one of the most all around beneficial, for more medical purposes, with less side effects than any other medication known to humankind.

Changes are being made
People are catching on to the truth. That is why, in state after state, the citizens are changing their laws. They have had enough. They are tired of watching their loved loves suffer while the cure is deemed illegal and just out of reach. Others watch helplessly as their loved ones die shackled to a prison bed for daring to have reached for the cure. Or, like Peter McWilliams, they die on the floor, choking in their own vomit, because they too are refused the medication that could have saved their life.

When we throw away the wisdom of the ages, we all lose. It has been a long time since the US had the best medical system in the world, and doing things like arbitrarily (it was all about the money) making one of the most all around beneficial medicines in the history of the world illegal to our people is just one of the things that is wrong.

People are working hard for change. The Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition hits the road every chance they get. Most of the time, people are glad to see them. However, sometimes they run into situations like what happened at Mule Day. I am aware that words were exchanged. A whole lot of people really do think it is all about the high. Most people don’t honestly know the difference until a person in their own family has a health problem for which there seems no answer, and then, doctor after doctor, pill after pill, and the same story of hopelessness, nothing working, then they too hear a whisper, maybe cannabis will work. And sometimes it does. It’s not a guaranteed miracle. Like the base of so many other medications, it is simply an herb of the field, but it is also a serious and proven medicine, and sometimes it really does work.

All these things take on a completely different light when you realize there is a possible cure for you or your loved one, but the cure is illegal. What do you do when you realize that the real reason certain treatments and even cures are not available is not that we don’t have the medical know how. It is not even because of a lack of availability or difficult manufacturing processes. It is for no other reason than the greed of certain individuals that cannabis based medications were ever made illegal to our people. Too many people have already suffered and died to feed that greed. This is not something that good people in a good country will put up with for long. There is a growing number of people working for and demanding change on that one.

There have also been major migrations of families into areas where medical marijuana is legal, for children suffering from epilepsy, others with cancer and other diseases. Clearly, more studies are needed, but there is also no doubt that there are already way too many cases of healing for it to be coincidental.

This march to legalize medical marijuana in the states is not a march of the stoners. People are fighting for their lives and the lives of those they love. The Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition (AAMJC) travels across the state to educate people on medical marijuana and work toward its legislation. Mostly they set up at flea markets and festivals. And, for the most part, they are welcomed.

This past weekend, they were asked to leave the Mule Day Festival. Run off is more like it. As if the weed were evil, as if it were all a joke, as if they were evil for suggesting there might be a cure in the green leaf. It is not about the high. It is about healing, about ensuring that the people we love and the doctors who care for them have the option of a cannabis-based medication, if it is deemed, by their doctor, to be needed—on a prescription basis.

Despite the affront and the implications when the festival organizers kicked out a patient advocacy group, I don’t think they had any intent to do wrong. The things we don’t know about these laws have in some ways hurt us all. Until the need arises, or it somehow affects us or one of our loved ones personally, most of us don’t have a clue as to the truth. Medical marijuana is not about the high. It’s about the cure.

Some of the patients:
  • Charlotte Figi --  suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a rare, severe form of intractable epilepsy. As with a certain number of childhood epilepsy patients, none of the medications were working. Her parents are very conservative, never in their lives the type who have ever touched pot, which made the choices even more difficult. As a last resort, when they realized their daughter would not be getting any better, they tried medical cannabis, doctor supervised prescription and treatment. It worked. Charlotte is doing well.
  • AMMJC Testimonials 
  • Patient Testimonials on the Efficacy of MedicalCannabis: Documented by the Cannabis Patient
  • Peter McWilliams -- was one of the early medical marijuana patients and activists. A cancer patient, marijuana was prescribed for the nausea caused by his other medications. Although the treatment was effective, and he lived in a state where it was legal, he was arrested and labeled a drug lord kingpin for its use. He was financially ruined, and died, choking on his own vomit, just days after a court order that took his cannabis medication away.Peter McWilliams is regarded as a martyr to the struggle to legalize medical cannabis.  
  • Richard Flor: Remembering a Victim of the War on Medical Marijuana -- a seriously ill patient who died in custody.
Also see:
  • Patients in the Crossfire: Casualties in the War on Medical Marijuana, by Americans for Safe Access 
  • Patients out of Time: With a founding mission of educating health care professionals and the public about therapeutic cannabis, the goal of the group is to make therapeutic cannabis available for all patients.
This article was updated with minor changes in the verbiage October 2, 2013 

Copyright 2013 Regina Garson

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Miley Cyrus, Banned NZ Student Video, "Blurred Lines" and Rape Culture Run Amok

I was aware of the Miley Cyrus MTV Video Awards episode and I will even admit I was secretly rooting for her, but I didn’t pay it a whole lot of attention. Then I heard about a video parody some New Zealand students had made of the same song being pulled from YouTube. When you consider Miley and her outrageous butt twerking, tongue wagging performance, I started to get curious.

There is no doubt, when Miley Cyrus got on that stage with Robin Thicke, she pushed at the edge of everything we consider good, proper, and decent in the decorum of a young woman. She gyrated, she twerked, she rolled her tongue, she licked and she fondled. She did just about every raunchy thing a person can do, and still keep their clothes on. And she did it all on stage.

It seemed that just about everybody had an opinion, except me — at least until I caught wind of this YouTube video ruckus out of New Zealand (NZ). And could be I was the last person on the planet to hear about “Blurred Lines” and Robin Thicke. Not that I watched the awards show, I just caught clips of the ruckus that followed. I honestly just thought he was a Beetlejuice prop, or something. I always did love that movie.

It appears that the whole MTV Video Award thing was supposed to have been Robin Thicke’s show. He was not actually a prop. Although an expected winner with his number one hit song, he won nothing. But he had invited Miley to perform a duet with him. Some duet. They both had their own hit songs, and somehow came together in the middle. I didn’t even realize he was supposed to have been part of the show until I did a little follow-up on the NZ video parody.

No doubt that performance got Miley a whole lot of attention. Rumors were flying, and not just about it not being what was practiced in rehearsal. Leaves me curious as to what was actually practiced. Of course, if you take a minute to look at the Thicke video, think about what was going on, and perhaps what was expected of her performance, given the song…. Could be she was doing a little pushing there too, and I don’t mean twerking.

Although Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” (NSFW) was the number one hit song of the summer, the feminist community has not been particularly impressed and have pretty much been coming out of the woodwork on this one. The consensus is that the song is indeed about blurring lines—between consensual sex and rape—a misogynistic glorification of rape and sexual violence.

In a time when women all over the world are suddenly fighting to hang on to what hard won rights they do have, Thicke’s video performance took everything that was reprehensible about the glorification of a culture of rape, and the objectivation of women, and bumped it up to a whole new level. And he was laughing all the way to the bank. For 12 weeks and counting, “Blurred Lines” has been at the top of the Billboard charts.

For me though, it didn’t start sinking in as to the implications of Miley’s performance, much less the discussions going on in the feminist community, until I caught a blip about a video made by some students at Auckland University. A comedy skit, “Robin Thicke – Blurred Lines [Feminist Parody] ‘Defined Lines.’”

Although it had 300,000 YouTube hits within days of its release, it didn’t hit the news until it was pulled—something about it being derogatory toward men. Really?  A parody of “Blurred Lines” is pulled for being derogatory toward men. You know if it got pulled, I had to see what it was all about. You can watch it on YouTube.

It’s obviously back now, but could be their video was indeed derogatory toward men. No doubt about it, “Blurred Lines,” of which it was a spoof, was derogatory toward women. There is also no doubt that it showed significantly more skin than the student parody, which depicted good looking men, nearly naked, existing for no other reason than to serve as sex objects for their women. It was hilarious. The whole thing was supposed to have been a joke, which the Auckland Law Revue students put together for a comedy show. It was pulled from YouTube just about the time it started going viral. Nothing like a little censorship to bring proper attention to a subject.

The video parody featured Auckland University law students Zoe Ellwood, Olivia Lubbock, Adelaide Dunn, and a few of their male friends. Here are some comments from Adelaide Dunn, who wrote the lyrics.
We just wanted to make a fun video exposing the objectification and sending out a positive message to women, also being a little bit jokey and tongue in cheek. Our intent of making the men topless and putting them in their underwear was just to expose the impact we felt when we saw topless women in a similar situation. When you reverse it, you are making a statement about it…. When you take something out of its original context, which was a comedy skit show, people are going to take it as more of a political statement than we intended it to be….  But if you can start a discourse on what it means to be a sex object, I think that is a positive thing. (Adelaide Dunn, Channel 3 News, New Zealand, 2013)
Essentially, what started as a comedy skit turned into a feminist political discussion.

There were definitely some folks who felt that the Thicke video was pornographic. In one version, the women were scantily clad; in the other, they were even more scantily clad and wore only nude colored g-strings. Thicke maintained that the nudie version was his wife’s idea.

In both versions, it was pretty clear that the women were there for one reason. That is not really that big of a deal; when you get down to biology, we are all sexual creatures. However, whether or not that sex is consensual is an entirely different matter. A whole lot of people took the message of the song as one of blurring the lines between consensual sex and rape. In a time when a convicted rapist gets 30 days while his victim gets a trip to the morgue, the flippant perpetuation of that attitude is not okay.

During my first trip to DC as an activist, one of the older feminists talked about how her generation had worked so hard for women to have certain freedoms. She also mentioned that earning those freedoms did not mean that the next generation was going to define freedom in the same way.

I have thought about her words many times. I’ve been very troubled in recent months with all the efforts toward legislation that will turn back the clock on women’s rights. Leaders are coming forward though and that is clear. Elizabeth Warren is one of them, so is Wendy Davis. It could be that the young Barbara Bush is another.

I don’t know what they have to do with Miley Cyrus, and the growing list of feminist video parodies, except momentum is growing in more than one way. Women are not ready to give up the gains they have made. If Miley Cyrus got tongues wagging, the students in New Zealand got some people thinking. Obviously, if he has a number one hit, Robin Thicke has countless fans. Everyone wasn’t shouting hooray though, and the video left a whole lot of people troubled.

As to the MTV Video Awards show, it really was supposed to have been his (not Miley’s) show. But looking at his video, it is pretty clear what he expected — a good stage prop of the scantily clad female variety. Something in the song about domesticating a good girl with an animal nature. “I know you want it,” and “You’re a good girl,” and again, “I know you want it.” Those are the lines people are picking up on.

Good family man that he is reputed to be, a whole lot of people found the “Blurred Lines” video troubling. Those students and a whole lot of others have had a few things to say about it all. Could be Miley Cyrus did too. Yes her performance was raunchy, yes it was in bad taste; but if you’ve ever watched the video of “Blurred Lines,” it was too, and suddenly you get it. Was it some kind of feminist statement or was she merely stealing the show? I don’t have a clue. Word has it, she has been known to steal a show, crash a party with a twerk. She has also sang “Blurred Lines” with him before. Things sure do look different though when it is a woman overstepping what was supposed to have been defined boundaries and aggressively asserting her sexual power in the process.

Make no mistake, when Miley Cyrus walked on that stage, she took command of her sexuality. She took command of Robin Thicke and his show too, she was not one of his “good girls” awaiting his whim. There is no doubt, she was rude, raunchy, sexually aggressive, and condescending toward Thicke. Her performance was an indisputably despicable display of onstage depravity. Could be she nailed it though. Although the vocals were lovely, his song was rude, raunchy, and sexually condescending toward women.

Miley cut the glitz, trashed the glamor and played it for what it was. The award winner for “The Most Misogynistic Video Song Performance of the Year” was righteously upstaged, turned into a nameless sexual prop, much like the women he sexualized in his own videos, and subsequently emasculated — by a twenty year old “Disney sweetheart” and a growing list of young feminists who somehow have the appearance of having been directly spawned by the implications of the lines that were way to blurred in his song. It took me a minute, but I finally got it.

Go, Miley go!

PS — Although the move did not originate with her, shortly after Miley Cyrus’ MTV award show performance, the word “twerk” was officially entered into Britain’s Oxford Dictionaries.

Copyright Regina Garson 2013
Originally published on Forward Progressives September 4, 2013