Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Papers, please"

I wrote last week about some of the harassment my children and I have been subjected to on the MBTA (I didn't go into the four other similar incidents that have happened in the last year) and an assault we witnessed.  I cross-posted this on my local Patch site.  Most of the reactions I received- publicly and privately- were what you would expect when someone tells you that bad things have happened to them multiple times.  "I'm so sorry," sums it up.  I thank those people for their kindness.

But there were a couple of people who were not satisfied that there wasn't more to the story.  Wasn't there some way that I was contributing to this?  When they seemed to be convinced that, indeed, I wasn't doing anything more than trying to enter a train station with my children, they could not understand why I wouldn't simply bring a copy of my child's birth certificate with me to end the harassment.


The regulations of the MBTA do NOT require me to show any identification when I bring my underage child with me.  Period.  In fact, scroll all the way to the bottom of that page- you will see that it says "No ID required."  When I called to complain about the employee who harassed us, the customer service people assured me as they apologized that this was indeed the case.  I am deeply offended by the suggestion that I should have had to have taken this extra step to get the treatment I deserved in the first place.

But... I considered doing so for one moment, then discarded the idea.  If they're going to think I'm a liar, why couldn't I also be a forger?  In the age of the digital computing, how hard would it be to alter a document?  I'm sure some people would be satisfied, but I'm also sure some wouldn't.  If they don't take my word for it when I'm asked, why are they going to believe a piece of paper?

The comment that really made me choke though was when someone said that (and I paraphrase) showing ID to get my daughter on a train shouldn't be a big deal because we have to show ID when we go to vote.  No, we don't, but some are trying to change that.

I live in Massachusetts.  I know you know, but I want to repeat that.  While I find many faults with my fair state, we do a bunch of things right.  One of them is not requiring voters to show ID at the polls.  We are not the only state without this requirement, and unfortunately we are not the only state where this is under attack.  As my friend Chris Matthews covered last week, two losers in New Bedford had tables at a polling center asking people to show their ID to vote, with a sign below that said the compliance was optional.  The Secretary of State is not happy, and he shouldn't be.  This is voter suppression.  (Rachel Maddow picked up the story as well.)

I'm not worried about this happening again in Massachusetts, at least not in this election cycle.  But as this site explains, this is a big, huge deal in many other states.  This New York Times article also lays out some of the threats and implications- I think the loss of 800,000 voters in South Carolina and Texas is a big deal, no matter which party they might be inclined to vote for.  (It kind of amazes me that the United States Supreme Court didn't think Indiana was violating the Voting Rights Act... until I remember the Citizens United decision.  A corporation is a person, a person has to show ID to vote... does that mean a corporation can vote if it shows ID?)

Read this story about the 96-year-old woman in Tennessee who was denied a voter ID card because she didn't have her marriage certificate.  God, what an idiot.  What was she thinking, going somewhere without every last scrap of paper proving that she was indeed whom she said she was?  And we should let her vote?  What country do you live in?

Lucky me- I have my daughter's birth certificate.  If I really needed to, I could show it to someone if I was legally required to do so.  But I am not handing over anything before that and I'm going to do my damnedest to make sure that Dorothy Cooper and others like her won't have to either.

Why is this so important to me if it was just an MBTA ride?  Because it was just an MBTA ride.  My daughter shouldn't be held to a higher standard than I am when I go to vote, and she's not going to be while I have anything to say about it.

Deb in the City

Thursday, October 20, 2011

It's rough out there

And roughest for me when I'm out with my children.

- A few weeks ago, I took Jazmyn to her orchestra rehearsal at BU.  When we entered a Green Line train station, I was accosted by two MBTA employees- one on duty, one off- that I needed to pay for Jazmyn.  They were wrong- she was eleven.  I told them as much.  They demanded ID.  I told them I didn't have to give it to them.  They accused me of being a liar. 

I walked down to the platform and fumed; Jazmyn handed me her phone so I could call and make a complaint.  The Customer Service person was very apologetic and requested that I get the on-duty employee's badge number.  He refused to give it to me. 

My husband was incredulous that someone would treat us like that.  Of course he was- he's a six-foot tall, white male- he would not have been treated like that.  He went with me to try and get the man's badge number.  The discussion degenerated to the point where my husband pressed an assault charge against the employee.  I am not making this up.

Just this week we got a phone call that the employee had been suspended.  Good... but not good.  I don't want him to be suspended, I don't want him to lose his job, I don't want him to have something on his record.  I want an apology from this guy.

- This Sunday, as Jazmyn and I were returning from her rehearsal, we were literally minding our own business and waiting to cross the street when a very hostile bicyclist asked me to move.  "Ask" is too gentle a term- more like "ordered".  When he addressed me, he called me a derogatory word for a female organ and modified it with a gerund that begins with "f". 

This man was so hostile to a complete stranger that I immediately assumed a mental illness of some kind.  I have told my children repeatedly that people like that should not be engaged because they are unpredictable.  I did not take my own advice because 1) this man used those words 2) in front of my daughter.  I told him not to talk to me like that.  He asked me if I was going to get my "gang banger boyfriend".  I told him I was married.  He told me to go home; I told him to do the same.  I was unharmed; I was lucky.

Once again, my husband was incredulous and outraged.  Jazmyn, however, just might be used to this. 

- I wasn't harassed today.  Of course, because I didn't have Jazmyn with me, I had Simon.  Instead, as the train pulled into the Chinatown stop, we saw one man get assaulted by five other men as he was trying to retrieve the phone they had stolen from him.  I didn't know what was going on other than that it was one against five.  I yelled for the men to stop (which, in retrospect, may not have been the best thing to do with Simon in tow).  It wasn't until after they got on the train that I realized what had happened, but we couldn't stop the train.  The young man filed a complaint, but the other men were off the train by the time they had located it. 

Here's hoping that they can find the little bastards who did this on the basis of their Charlie Cards and the cameras at the train stop they exited.  I do want to see these young men punished, not just because they committed an unarmed robbery, not just because they assaulted the man as he tried to get his property back, but because they were cruel and they were cruel in front of my seven year old son.  I don't want to see them go to jail, but I want them to make up for it.

What are my children learning?

Deb in the City

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Trust me, I'd rather have been blogging

So... remember last week I told you about our encounter with pertussis?  As you can imagine, that made for a really interesting week.

Jazmyn was signed up to begin a book group with some other homeschooled girls her age.  It's a big deal that she wanted to do this at all- last year she was allergic to the idea.  Given what happened, I asked the other parents to let me know if they were immunized.  Two people wrote back.  Several days later, I asked again.  I'll spare the details, but people did not appreciate being asked.  I'm going to compare the level of offense to asking someone's political affiliation or religion.  Evidently, there are four things you don't talk about: sex, religion, politics and vaccination.

People get offended- whatever.  What concerned me about the exchange was that I think people really don't understand why I at least think I have an interest.  The question seems to be "If you're vaccinated, why does it matter if I am?"

It matters.  NPR does a better job explaining than I'm about to, but it has to do with the development of immunity and how long the vaccination lasts.  Even children who get the shots are vulnerable before the age of five.  At about five, their immunity has kicked in.  (Which is why our pediatricians' office was not worried at all about Simon and Jacob, and why they don't have any symptoms.)  However, the vaccine's effect fades, and by the age of twelve, they're vulnerable if they don't get a booster.  Unfortunately, Michael and I had not gotten a booster.  This is why I- and my sons- spent last weekend at home, I spent Sunday night feverish and not at the political event I wanted to go to and Michael couldn't do any work on Thursday.  You see, I was given Zithromax, which is finished in five days.  For a number of reasons, he can't take that drug so he was given Bactrim.  (I actually have no idea why anyone gives anyone else Bactrim for anything, because in my experience it doesn't work, but that's another story.)  Upshot: Michael is still sick.

We, the adults who make things go in our house, have lost some time, productivity and money, but we'll live through it.  Even untreated, we'd have lived through it (probably).  As would my almost-twelve year old and my seventeen year old.  Even the seven year old twins would probably have lived through it if unvaccinated (although asthmatic little Jacob, who suffered a fit of asthma on Thursday after we walked by someone smoking, is more vulnerable).  But you know who might not?  My tiny little nephew and niece who are coming to visit the States in December.  They will only be five months old.  Jazmyn agreed with me that her cousins- and her father- are more important than a book group she would participate in once or twice per month and is fine not participating.

It's fine... but it's not.  It's nothing short of prejudice to assume that because one member of a group did something most other members will do the same, but I can't lose two weeks again.  (Also, I am wondering if people from the smaller group have started huffing and puffing about my intrusion into their privacy within the larger group.)  I'm not sure what to do.  I've made three friends in this community that I feel comfortable with- maybe that will have to be it.

I don't worry about removing Jazmyn or Jacob from a group of potential contacts, but I do worry about Simon.  For now, he thrives off of social contacts.  I take them to the playground frequently, but he likes playdates too.  So it was the perfect cap to the week when I got a call from Jazmyn's music program that Simon could proceed to the music workshop he had interviewed for... but Jacob could not.  I cried when I told Michael about it.  Jacob says he's fine- he doesn't want to practice anyway- but I don't know if that will hold when Simon starts and he doesn't.  What I do know is that it would be unfair to Simon to take that away from him especially if I have to take away something else.  Hopefully special time with Dad and piano lessons from his sisters will make up for it a little bit with Jacob.

Oh yeah... I also visited D.C. and spoke to Senator Brown this week, but that's a tale for another day.

Deb in the City