Political Architecture vs. the Architects of Politics

It was an interesting weekend. First, I watched The Post, a movie directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. It’s about the Washington Post’s release of the Pentagon Papers, which proved that several presidential administrations had lied to the American people about the Vietnam war. It was also about the risk that our country’s first female newspaper publisher took to get that information out there, and how it sparked a landmark lawsuit that reinforced freedom of the press. I highly recommend this movie. It’s kind of a precursor to All the President’s Men.

But to say it reinforced my bitterness toward this nation’s politically corrupt shenanigans is putting it mildly. Politicians suck, man. No question about that in my mind. We need some serious political reform in this country. But the rich people will never let us have it.

So there I am, in that mindset, when we decided to take a road trip down to Olympia, the state capitol of Washington.

For starters, let’s get something straight for all the readers from other countries, and for all the readers living on the east coast. Washington is a state. Really, it is. It’s not the same as Washington DC. They’re two distinct places, about 2,700 miles apart. I know. Hard to believe. But there you have it.

Okay, so now that you’re in the right place, let’s get back to the capitol, Olympia. I’d never been there before. It’s a pretty little town, right on the southern tip of Puget Sound. It’s definitely worth a visit, if only to take a tour of the legislative building on the state capitol campus, which we did.

It looks like your typical capitol building. Classical style. Pillars. A dome, rising up 287 feet. Carved sandstone. Granite. Marble. Masonry. Ornately painted plaster. A big fountain out front. Bronze statues. Lots and lots of flags and official seals.

It took 500 master craftsmen 5 years to build it, and it was finished in 1928. It’s overflowing with Tiffany lighting, and one chandelier weighs 5 tons and has 200 lightbulbs.

There’s an ornate reception room on the third floor, where they have the Governor’s Inaugural Ball, which the public can attend, if you can afford the price of the ticket and the formal wear you’d be expected to sport. In essence, publicly, democratically open. If you have the money.

It was really interesting to see the Senate and House chambers as well. They were not in session at the time, but you got a strong sense of the seriousness of the place. The mahogany and walnut desks alone must be worth a fortune.

That’s the thing about political architecture. It’s designed to inspire awe. It made me want to speak in a whisper. I felt funny walking amongst all that marble in my tourist wear. It’s truly a gorgeous building. I’m glad I went.

But I also struggled, because the ostentatiousness of the place really annoyed me when this state has such a homeless problem. And The Post was still fresh in my mind, with all its political corruption.

We’d like to think that We, the People are who these people are serving, but really? Why the need for so much flashiness? Does that much pomp fit our circumstance?

There is political architecture, which is usually stunning, and there are the architects of our politics, and they can be quite ugly. That juxtaposition of this beautiful building housing what can be, at its worst, a pit of vipers, makes it possible to feel pride and disgust at the same time. And that’s a confusing combination.

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The Last Thing I’ll Ever Write

I read a heartbreaking opinion piece in the Washington Post the other day. It was by Jamal Khashoggi, and it was entitled, What the Arab world needs most is free expression.

It was the last thing he ever wrote. We now know he met an outrageous and brutal end in the Saudi Arabian Consulate. We also know that Trump has absolutely no intention of holding the Saudis accountable for it, because whatever type of compass he has, it’s not a moral one. It points directly toward dollar signs. Which is even more outrageous.

But I digress.

Of course, Khashoggi didn’t know it would be his last piece when he was writing it. Very few writers do, I suppose. In fact, very few of us, in general, know what the last thing we’ll say or do will be. That adds extra weight to one’s actions, doesn’t it?

If I die while I’m still writing this blog, whatever my last post happens to be is going to seem more important than I’ll probably have intended it to be. I hope it’s not one of my lazy days when I’m rambling about stuff and nonsense. I also hope it’s not one of those days when I’m predicting the end of civilization as we know it. I hope it’s one of my positive posts where I end with words of encouragement. Because that would be a lovely way to go out.

Khashoggi’s last piece was appropriate, given his demise. In it, he says, “Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate.”

Wow. Yeah. What he said.

Rest in peace, Jamal Khashoggi. You wanted the best for your country, but its government had other plans for you. May we never forget.

Last Writing
Poet Fernando Pessoa’s last writing: 29-11-1935 “I know not what tomorrow will bring”.               He died the next day, November 30, 1935.

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Money Trumps Morals

It sounds like the beginning of a really bad joke. “Jamal Khashoggi walks into the Saudi Arabian Consulate…” But the punch line isn’t very funny. He never walks out again.

The Saudis tried to claim that he did leave, but there is no evidence of this happening on any of the cameras in the area. And Khashoggi’s fiancé was waiting outside for him. It’s not like he’d wander off and leave her. Not willingly. I mean, come on.

Khashoggi entered the consulate in Istanbul simply to get the proper paperwork to marry his Turkish bride to be. But he had also been in self-imposed exile in America, because he was a reporter that had been critical of the Saudi government. He had been working for the Washington Post.

Apparently that same day he went to the consulate, 15 Saudi operatives flew into town and wound up there. Their cohort included one autopsy expert, who was, according to NPR, complete with (shudder) a bone saw. Then these 15 men flew away again, with several new suitcases in tow. Khashoggi has not been seen or heard from since. I hope that in this case one plus one doesn’t equal two, but I have my suspicions.

In light of all this, Trump says we’ll be looking into it, but that he thinks stopping arms sales to Saudi Arabia is a bad idea, because it would hurt a lot of American jobs. Maybe we can do some other type of sanctions. We’ll see. But not arms.

What does it take, exactly, for morals to trump money? I mean, it was Saudi citizens who where the main players in 9/11, and yet they remained our allies. Now they can play a very sketchy role in the disappearance of a reporter who currently works for an American newspaper, but hey, let’s not stop selling them arms. Oh, no. We can’t do that. Perhaps a slap on the wrist is what’s needed.

Jamal Khashoggi
Jamal Khashoggi

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The Destruction of Women

Today I came across this picture on Facebook.

 deform

A friend of mine rightly commented, “And this was before Photoshop.” Women used to aspire to have wasp waists. To heck with breathing, we wanted to be desirable! These contraptions caused deformities in ribs and internal organs, weak muscles, and respiratory problems. It also increased the rate of miscarriages and death in childbirth. How many women had to faint before this became less fashionable?

This got me thinking of other ways we women have allowed ourselves to be altered, to our detriment, all in the name of “beauty” or cultural norms. Foot binding springs to mind.

Foot Binding

We’d like to think this particular form of mutilation was isolated, but it’s estimated that one billion Chinese women were put through this over a period of 1000 years. Yes, you read that correctly. People thought this was a good idea for 1000 years. One’s toes were bent into the soles of the feet until they broke, and then the arch was broken. Needless to say, this caused infections, especially if the nails weren’t clipped short enough and they grew into the soles. The solution for that would be to remove the toenails altogether. Sometimes the toes would drop off completely, but that, apparently, was seen as a good thing because then you could bind the feet even more tightly. And then you had the continual breaking of other bones because it’s impossible to balance on bound feet, and falls were quite common. Does reading this make you uncomfortable? Well, it sure beats the lifetime of agonizing pain that these women suffered.

The two horrendous body mutilations mentioned above are, fortunately, a thing of the past. I wish I could say that this was the end of this blog entry, and there is nothing new to report. But no.

In some Asian and African cultures, women wear neck rings to make their necks seem longer. Actually, their necks aren’t elongated. What a relief, right? No, what happens is their shoulder blades become deformed, giving the illusion of a long neck. Their collar bones and rib cages also get pushed down. This is done so they will appear more attractive.

neck-rings-1

Even more horrific, in my opinion, is female genital mutilation, which, according to the world health organization, is still practiced in 28 countries throughout the world.

281851582_221142755001_100723FGM-3622281

About 120 million women have been subjected to this abuse. I won’t fully describe the procedure in all its grizzly variations. You can look it up yourself if you want to lose your appetite, but I will say that it is known to cause fatal hemorrhaging, cysts, recurring infections, a lifetime of pain, incontinence, fistulae, and problems during intercourse and childbirth.

Ah, but we western cultures don’t have to worry about these things, right? We honor our women! We would never cause them harm in the name of beauty, right? We’d never mutilate them, right? Well? Right?

breast-augmentation

Augmented breasts are supposed to make you more attractive and more successful. What they don’t tell you is these implants can make the breasts sore to the touch or numb and can decrease your sexual response. They also make it harder to detect breast cancer. Ruptures of the implants can cause pain and deformity. And your immune system can reject the implant and build a wall around it, causing pain, distortion and rupture.

And then there’s high heels.

high heels fallon 6 inch black patent stilletto

According to an article in the Washington Post, wearing heels places pressure on the inside of the knee, a common location for arthritis in women. It also causes your hips and spine to go out of alignment. It increases pressure on the forefoot, and shortens the length of the calf muscles. It can cause numbness in the toes, bunions, hammer toes, and ankle injuries. But hey! It’s attractive! That’s all that matters!

Since I’ve started viewing heels in this context, I’ve stopped wearing them entirely, and when I see others wearing them, I shudder.

What frustrates me most about all these horrors I’ve mentioned above is that we women are almost always complicit in these acts. If we don’t choose it ourselves, our mothers allow it or encourage it. So why are we so surprised when this happens?

 anorexia-nervosa

Eating disorders are more prevalent in women than men for a reason, and before we get all culturally superior, they are much more prevalent in Western cultures. We are raised to think that it’s important to be beautiful, but sadly we are often not warned that many standards of beauty are sick and twisted.

Eating disorders cause a whole host of side effects, including acne, constipation, osteoporosis, scurvy, diarrhea, electrolyte imbalance, cardiac arrest, kidney failure, tooth loss, brain atrophy, suicide and death.

Ladies, ladies, what are we doing to ourselves? I weep for my gender. And I’m also very, very pissed off.