V Week events I’m stoked about

These are part of the V Week of Events. There’s lots more, but these were the ones that caught my eye.

2/6 Friday — Critical Mass & Speak Out
–Take to the streets in a critical mass bike ride to raise awareness of violence against women.

2/11 Wednesday — Film Screening & Teach-In, The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo @ 7:30PM
–Join us to view and discuss the documentary film that explores the violence faced daily by the girls and women of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Roe v. Wade Anniversary Rally in Bloomington

Event: Roe v. Wade Anniversary Rally
“Celebrating 36 years of reproductive choice!”
What: Rally
Host: Roe supporters
Start Time: Thursday, January 22 at 2:00pm
End Time: Thursday, January 22 at 3:30pm
Where: IU Sample Gates

To see more details and RSVP, follow the link below:

New Neighbor

Moved House

Sometimes people move into your neighborhood, and sometimes it’s the whole house.  I think the house moved from N. Walnut St. to a block from my house.

Voting and CommUNITY

From Georgia early voting: Prada wearers, discount devotees together:

There, overlooking an Office Depot and, in the distance, a Wendy?s and a McDonald?s, an anymore rare public coming together of the classes has been congregating on recent weekdays to exercise an all-American right: the right to stand in line.

Voters decked out in everything from Prada to Family Dollar have been queuing up for weeks now. The other day, a priest stood shoulder-to-shoulder with some lunchroom ladies, in front of a man in full camo, a uniformed school-crossing guard, a local TV weather guy, a woman in a Dave Matthews Band T-shirt and a fellow in a half-zipped-up blue hoodie with nothing underneath but his bare, hairy chest.

This was also my experience early voting yesterday in Bloomington.  I thought it was great.  I also loved the number of parents and young people voting together, though I hope that each had the mobility to make up their own minds, with input from each other.

Early Voting and Sample Ballots

One of the ways to ensure your vote gets counted is to vote as early as possible.  You may be able to vote but there may be complications with your registration (you’ve moved for instance) that might complicate things and could delay your voting or just make for an uncomfortable situation on election day.

Early voting in Bloomington will be available at the Curry Building weekdays 8:30-4 through Nov. 2 and 8:30-noon on Nov. 3 as well as 8:30-4 (I think) on Saturdays Oct. 25 and November 1.

The Herald Times has information about the election and sample ballots on their website.

Update: Information on the state judges who are up for retention.

Update: Information on state judges up for retention with regards to abortion rights issues  This site is put up by an anti-choice organization, but the information provided should give anyone an idea of the decisions of some of the supreme court judges with regard to rights to have access to abortions.   The site mentions two key decisions with Theodore Boehm being the only justice up for retention who seems to have decided in favor of preserving access to abortions for Indiana women.

From the site:

Dissented against an opinion upholding Indiana’s 18-hour waiting period before an abortion could be done, stating, “Article I, section 1 of the Indiana Bill of Rights includes the right of a woman to choose for herself whether to terminate her pregnancy.”  Clinic for Women v. Brizzi, 837 N.E.2d 973, 994 (Ind. 2005).

Concurred with an opinion that expanded taxpayer funding for abortions through Medicaid in Indiana, stating, “denial of benefits to indigent women for medically necessary abortions is a violation of their state constitution.”  Humphreys v. Clinic for Women, 796 N.E.2d 247, 795 (Ind. 2003)

Republican environmental policy

Republican flyer on tree

I’m as sick of snarky partisanship as much as the next guy, but couldn’t help but share this flyer for Indiana Republican candidate Mike Sodrel that I found stapled to a tree on the IU campus.  I think the tree will survive, but it just seemed crass to me somehow.  Still it wasn’t quite as crass as the flyers discussion of “The more you make, the more they take” tax policy.

FYI: change of address and voter registration

Procrastinating as usual, I went to change my voter registration address today, the last possible day to do it.  I asked what would have happened if I hadn’t changed my address and the answer was that, at least in Monroe County, you are allowed to vote once at your previous polling location.  The challenge is that, with redistricting, your previous district’s polling location may now be the polling location for a new district.  So, in that case, one would most likely have to wait in line, only to be sent to a new location.  In any case, I was told that having different addresses wouldn’t keep you from voting, but could delay voting.  Info about this was mailed out to registered voters, but in a community like Bloomington where, for students, and many of my peers, housing situations change a lot, it’s easy to not get the info.  So, for those who moved, but didn’t change their voter registration address, I would just call the local election office and find out where the polling place is for the address under which you’re registered.  If you go there, you should be able to vote.

Healthcare and the state update

Healthcare and the State continued

There are few feelings better than knowing that someone’s got your back, or at least is looking out for you, or at the very, very least is holding up their end of being accountable to you.  So, I was really excited when my primary medical provider’s office called me and told me that, while the surgeon I had originally been scheduled to see didn’t accept the Healthy Indiana Plan insurance, they had scheduled an appointment with another surgeon.  They couldn’t find a dermatologist who accepted the HIP in Bloomington, but I could see one about the wart on my hand in Indy, in December.

Today I went to see the surgeon.  I had to wait an long time, or what seemed like a long time, but the receptionist was friendly and clear.  Being fairly healthy, and fairly irresponsible, I haven’t used healthcare services in a long time.  So, I feel like I have few points of reference to evaluate the quality of care that I’m receiving.  I think this is a common problem with folks who haven’t been able to see healthcare providers in a long time – you don’t know what to expect, so it’s hard to hold doctors, insurance providers, and paramedical staff accountable.  The surgeon was to the point, but moved through what he wanted to tell me really fast.  He was glad I didn’t smoke (it saved him a lecture), I had a sebacious cyst which was the result of a natural glogging of the sebacious glands, since it seemed inflamed and was on my neck where infection could easily spread to dangerous places like the spine it should be removed, I could choose to have it removed under local anesthetic at the office or by going under at the hospital.  The first option would be faster and cheaper, but bad if I had a low pain tolerance or an aversion to shots.  The doctor paused only briefly to allow me to make my decision. I chose the local anasthetic because I didn’t want to spend my day at the hospital, and, as I understand it, I am only covered for up to $1100 in healthcare expenses, so I need to watch costs.  The doctor prescribed some generic antibiotics (covered by the HIP, but they would have only cost me $4 out-of-pocket) to get rid of any infection of the cyst and scheduled a date for the surgery.
All in all, I’m happy with how things are going so far, but would be really nervous if I had to deal with more serious or complex medical issues.  I get this sense that I’m being herded through a big system, as efficiently as possible, and that I’d have to really struggle to make my concerns known and have my questions answered.

Decarcerate Monroe County/Critical Resistance Fundraiser “Vegan Dessert Party!” @ 110 N. Maple St. 2-8p. $5.

Decarcerate Monroe County/Critical Resistance Fundraiser “Vegan Dessert Party!”

–Saturday, September 13th.
–110 N Maple Street

Support local jail resistance and help us get to CR10 in Oakland, CA!! Decarcerate Monroe County(DMC) is a Bloomington-based coalition resisting jail expansion and working toward meaningful alternatives to incarceration. CR10 is the tenth anniversary conference of Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization working against the prison industrial complex- DMC will be hosting a panel of local anti-jail campaigns at CR10!! Please join us for a dessert party. The cost is only $5, and the food is served buffet style, so you can try whatever you like. There will be a number of different items, from cakes to pies, cookies to breads. All of the items are vegan and many will be wheat-free. Refreshments (tea, coffee, etc) will also be served. Please stop by, have a bite to eat, and support DMC. To donate $$ directly over the internet, please visit: http://criticalresist.live.radicaldesigns.org/article.php?id=55 Just click on the orange “donate now” button at the bottom of the page, and please specify that you want your donation to go into the CR10 travel fund, on behalf of Bloomington, IN.

Reading across the lines

The book group I’m facilitating at the county jail met again this past week, interrupting an Uno game going on in the common area of the cell block.  I had just played a game of Uno that afternoon, sprawled out across a post-picnic blanket on a grassy patch just above the lake.  Kids splashed below in the warm water, teenage girls lounged allofly in inflatable furniture, and in the distance, people careened back and forth across the wake of motorboats.  This is one of the things that is the most difficult about going into the jail – things that are completely familiar to me, like the Uno game, in a context that is completely different to my everyday reality.  Actually going into the jail has made me realize the boundary between solidarity and being in the same boat.  I think everything that I’ve encountered about jails and prisons firmly establish where you stand.  You are a guard, you are incarcerated, you are incarcerated and in the “therepeutic” block, you are in solitary, you are in the general population, you are a family member or friend here for visiting hours, you are a volunteer.  The roles, the mobility associated with each, and the expectations of each group by the others seem hard and rigid, ruts torn deeper and deeper with all the inertia of the prison industrial complex.  I want to just think that I’m just down, but even going in with the interest of supporting incarcerated folks is mediated by the fact, told bluntly by the corrections officer who did the volunteer training, that my ability to go in is largely based on the realization that programming in the jail tends to placate the incarcerated population there.

The reading group happens in the block and has a variable number of participants.  This is affected by what people have going on at the moment and the fact that people are constantly coming in and out of the jail, coming from a DOC facility for court or returning to a DOC facility after court.  This week, only 4 folks sat down at the table, with only 1 of them having read the book to be discussed.  The book might have been part of the problem.  A few weeks ago we had decided to read A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, a travel account of two middle-aged men who decide to hike part of the Appalachian Trail.  It was funny enough, and met the criteria that was established by those initially interested in the group, of having a subject that seemed to be far, far from the reality of incarceration and didn’t have the self-help twelve-steppy overtones that mark some of the other programming they participate in.  Still, a few folks expressed that they couldn’t get into the book.  My favorite response to the book that I heard was one word – “quitters”, as the protagonists seemed to spend as many nights sleeping in hotels and eating at diners as they did in the woods.  As I read through the book myself, I was a little worried that the book centered on this activity that represented an idleness and mobility; to spend weeks just hiking without worrying about jobs, families, or the things that a lot of the things that people in the jail talk to me about as concerns; that it would seem just insensitive.  Still, it’s unfair and just not true to make assumptions about people’s situations or their reactions in the context of their lives.

So what is my place here in the jail?  Reading, for all the reasons that anyone loves it, with the additional weight of it being an activity that can happen, relatively unhindered, even within the constraints of incarceration, seems to be an important part of people’s lives at the jail.  People talk about the books that they read, and pass them around.  I remember a conversation starting with “Remember that Marilyn Manson biography …”, the book having apparenly made its rounds through the block.  There’s no question that books are important to people in jail.  Having someone come in to facilitate a discussion group about books seems of more questionable value. For the men in the cell block where the programming happens, their days are filled with different groups, many of them focussed around rehabilitation, I think that one more structured activity that involves a group and a discussion just doesn’t seem that appealing.  Volunteering in the jail, there seems to be such an impasse between what corrections officials and non-profits think people who are incacerated need and what people who are incarcerated say they need.  I think that more than anything, people need to not be incarcerated, because dealing with all the other things in life become frustratingly cumbersome to impossible.  Beyond that I think the concerns of incarcerated people are the same as a lot of people that I know, obviously with varying degrees of severity: economic security, a safe, comfortable place to live, help sorting out relationships and family.  Those are such large, ambiguous things, but it’s the way I can most accurately express it.

I like going into the jail because it has made me have to reevaluate how I think about other people and about prison issues as “issues”.  But, even though I feel like I’m getting something out of my volunteer work, the exchange doesn’t exactly seem equal.  One of the men interested in the reading group said he would talk to others in the block to guage the actual interest and to get some input about what format would be best.  We talked about two things that would be an improvement – meeting once a month instead of biweekly and reading shorter works of fiction.  One thing that seems like something that I can really offer is just giving people access to books.  The Monroe County Public Library has a sweet jail library program, but the men I work with said that while they used to get to go to the library once every two weeks, they now can only go once every 4 or 5 weeks.

I’ve also sporadically tutoring math in the jail, and had been working with someone who just passed his GED exams.  Working in this capacity seems like I can offer people something of myself that seems more useful, but it’s still hard.  The person who just passed his GED said that one of the reasons he wanted to get his GED was so he could go into the armed forces when he was released.  I don’t want to see anyone join the armed forces, but I’m afraid that, facing the realities of the current economy, and the additional challenges that someone with a criminal record faces getting a job, the options are limited.  It’s so frustrating that I, and the things I believe in, can’t offer an alternative.  This makes me feel like I’m not in a position to do what people really need.  I can give people books, or some tricks to solving math problems, but I can’t give people jobs or build houses.  It makes me feel like I’m not doing the right thing. Everyone, and I mean everyone everyone and not just incarceration people, need inspiration and tools, to be sure, but it seems really narrow sighted to think that they’re enough.