Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 4: Mirage or Reality?

"Life does not consist mainly -- or even largely -- of facts and happenings. It consists mainly of the storm of thoughts that is forever blowing through one's head."
- Mark Twain, Autobiography

The desert weirds your mind. My mind, anyway. Or maybe it was driving my car, AC blasting, along the desert road. Now, Qatari drivers are notorious for being aggressive and fast. But as I cruised I seemed to be keeping a safe distance from me. No honking. No tailgating. No cutting me off. Huh. Why? Is it because, as a clearly identifiable representative of the hetero-normative, white dominant, gender encoded, hegemonic American regime (as the scholars would say or, more simply as the fabulous band Majestic Twelve writes in the song, Condoleeza Check My Posse, which you really should check out, "I'm straight and white and male American and free"), the other drivers were graciously deferring to me? Not likely. Is it because they can see I'm a foreigner and, as everyone knows, foreigners can't drive? Perhaps. Is it all just the storm of thoughts blowing through my head?


Naturally, I was immediately tailgated, honked on, and cut off.

But, things do happen in the desert. My bald head is exceptionally dry, for example. Buying some body lotion at the store, however, made me face some existential choices: specifically, I could choose between lotion for "normal" skin, "dry" skin, or "sensitive" skin (not counting all the various flavors of each type). But I'm normal! Does normal skin even need lotion? And, in fact, my scalp is both dry and sensitive! What to do? WWJD?

The choices left me in tears. My eyes were literally watering. And reddening. And hurting. And more of each throughout the evening. My conclusion: I have conjunctivitis. Pink eye. WebMD helpfully tells me that this could be caused by a) viruses; b) bacteria; c) allergies; d) irritations. I want to check e) all of the above as my eyes are killing me. They feel like a size 8 shoe on a size 12 foot. They look like I'm now wearing the tux I wore to the senior prom: tight and hideous. If I don't look like the Great Satan, I do resemble Satan's spawn.

Pre-demonic, I took a chance in yesterday's class and discussed abortion (although I'm not censored any way at school, I do want to find topics that are useful and appropriate, so I had been reading up on abortion policy in Islamic countries.) I began by noting "This topic is extremely controversial in the US, with some people holding views that abortion should be totally banned, and others believing that the right to choose is absolute. Is it controversial in your country? (Note: I've now learned that six of my students are from Qatar, and eight are from other countries throughout the middle east; all, as far as I know, are Islamic.) The students overwhelming concurred: not controversial. I then posed what I think are some of the hardest questions for the ardent pro-life and pro-choice positions, and tried to expose the weaknesses in each....

As it turns out, abortion is not completely banned in Qatar: exceptions are made if the pregnancy threatens the life, physical health, or mental health of the mother (if verified by two doctors) or if the fetus has severe birth defects. Abortion is not allowed from cases of rape (and it's not clear about incest, although I'm guessing that might fall into the "mental health" category). Abortion is available on demand in Bahrain (a one hour flight from Qatar, about the same flight time from South Dakota to Minnesota). Indeed, policies vary across Islamic countries; yes, they differ. So Qatar has more strict policies than the US, to be sure, but they hardly reflect an absolutist position.

It seems that anyone imagining that Islamic countries are alike, and extremist, is buffeted by a desert storm of thoughts, more mirage than reality.


  1. See Mark, I am trying to be your faithful commenter.

    Hope your conjunctivitis has gotten better. Miserable condition. If you can find the supplement DHEA there, it might help you with your skin. It makes mine quite more oily and I have dry skin in Florida and you know what the humidity levels are like there. Also instead of just lotion, Nutrogena Sesame seed body oil is excellent and the body butter stuff they sell now at stores like the Body Shop. A thick warm butter consistency lotion that you scoop out of a jar.

    The cheapest thing to help with your eyes, and I don't remember if you wear contacts, is saline solution just use it profusely all day long washing out all the dust etc..

    That there is Dr. Quack's advice.

    Abortion. I am very proud of the fact that my dad did anesthesia for terminating pregnancies throughout his career in spite of the fact that it really was illegal before Roe vs. Wade. My parents were sort of hush hush about it but they did believe in it.

    And he also did everything he could do to save babies of teens when they chose to keep the baby. Two people we both know wrote me and told me their children would not be alive today had Daddy not done his magic and not given up on their newly born infant who had problems at birth. The mothers and the dads were both in high school.

    I wanted to talk about this when I was giving his eulogy at his memorial service but considering the political situation and such strong feelings of the "right to lifers' I was afraid it would embarrass my mother and chose not too. In a year or two I will write a letter to the editor of the NW Times and talk about it.

    I have no compassion or understanding of the RtoL people. They are crazy as far as I am concerned. I always want to say to them if you feel so strongly about saving unwanted babies then focus your energies on those babies who are born unwanted. They are the ones who really need your energy and money and compassion. But somehow that just doesn't register with these people and that is why I think they are crazy. I know what happens to babies born to alcoholics, to drug addicts, to young mothers who have no ability to take care of them and develop failure to thrive, or get shaken baby syndrome. Those are the babies who need help. Let the women who know they can't or don't want a child not have one. IT is better that way. Sure it is a terrible form of birth control, thus another problem in our society. All the statistics show that outside the LDS abstinence does not work.

    You know I am Pro Life and Pro Choice but Pro Life in a realistic way. Not by the popular culture meaning. There is a problem with the way these groups have become polarized and that there is no defined middle ground.

    I chose to not get tested for Down Syndrome and the other genetic diseases that can be culled out and then aborted at the age of 39. I had a feeling my baby had a problem, and specifically DS, but I chose to keep him. I tried to tell myself that it was just my worry wart imagination working overtime but it wasn't. I think our intuition is very strong and we do know things on a subconscious level more accurately than we do consciously if we only listen and trust that inner voice.

    I would not do it again although that is not a possibility anyway.... but only because I know I am not capable emotionally and physically to handle another child with such high needs. But, in no way do I regret having Daniel. I only regret who is father is.

    Hot day in Houston. Jim is at work. I leave early tomorrow morning and he flies to Angola in the afternoon. Long distance relationships are difficult because of the pain of separation.

    Hope you are having a great day ! LA

  2. Wow. Thanks for all the deeply personal stories and insights. I'm pretty loath to call those who disagree with me crazy, as I'm sure that I'm also crazy to them. If you don't believe me, read the comments on any political blog site to see the greatest hostility and contempt for anyone offering an opinion different from the one the writer believes in.