Saturday, March 29, 2014

Studies on Hysteria

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a world of naked people and suddenly find a pair of pants? Gabriel Borgetto brings us this film short called "Studies on Hysteria." It gives us an amusing look at the dynamics of conformity and peer pressure and a healthy criticism of our outrageous puritanism in our contemporary world.

Be mindful where you watch this film short. It's NSFW.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Children in Families First (CHIFF)

 March 28, 2014
The Honorable Elizabeth Warren
United States Senate
317 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C., 20510-2105
Dear Senator Warren,

I write to you today as a voter in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a licensed psychologist and health care provider, and a professional with over twenty-five years of working with children, adolescents, and adults who have experienced disrupted attachments with their primary care givers. I write to encourage you to reconsider your support for Children in Families First (CHIFF) S. 1530/H.R. 3323. I’d also like to encourage you to hold public hearings in which both inter-country adoptees as well as adoption professionals are able to voice their experiences, opinions, and needs for a bill that fully supports adoptee rights
I find this bill fails the needs of adoptees in many ways. 
  • Substantial criticism exists noting that the coalitions of individuals and groups supporting this bill represent the needs and rights of adoptive parents, not the needs and rights of of inter-country adoptees. 
  • This bill is advertised as one that supports maintaining families. A content analysis of the bill demonstrates the word reunification being used nine times, kinship being used thirteen times, and adoption being used 160 times. This bill is not about supporting families in foreign countries: it is about ensuring the supply of children available for adoption in the United States. 
  • This bill is in conflict with the UN convention for the rights of a child. Notably, there is no provision for: (1) A child’s right to have access to their name from birth, (2) a child’s right to their original identity and documentation or restoration of such, (3) a child’s right not to be removed or separated from their original parents, (4), a child’s right to be reunified with said original parents.
  • The United States is one of three countries that have failed to sign on to the United Nations Convention for the Rights of a Child. The other UN member countries who have not signed on: Somalia and South Sudan. 
  • This bill is not supported by Secretary of State John Kerry. 
  • The bill assumes that closing orphanages and group homes in foreign countries will help support children who are in need. In reality, closing orphanages and group homes often force children onto streets making them vulnerable to sex trafficking and child trafficking along with risking return to unsafe homes, poverty and homelessness. 
  • Research has demonstrated that the outcomes for children in foreign orphanages can rival the outcomes of US foster care and inter-country adoption. We need a bill that supports countries developing their own best practices: not a bill that supports countries continuing a pipeline of inter country adoption to satisfy the demands of the American adoption industry. 
  • Many who lobby you to support CHIFF point out the children that are in need in foreign countries. Supporters of CHIFF fail to note the 400,000 children languishing in the American foster care system. 
  • The vast majority of groups supporting and lobbying for the passage of CHIFF are anti-gay hate groups. These organizations specifically prohibit same-sex families from adopting children, and would prohibit same sex couples or individuals in Massachusetts from adopting children. Moreover, what is the impact these agencies have on the children they place into families who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. How are you ensuring LGBT inter-country adoptees are being protected? 
  • Significant questions remain about child trafficking issues associated with inter-country adoptions that are not addressed in S. 1530/H.R. 3323.
  • Significant questions remain about the controversial and repugnant practice of “rehoming” children when the adoption fails. Many of this “rehomed” children are inter-country adoptees. 

I ask that you take the time to review these points, consider the balance between the needs of children and the needs of parents wishing to adopt, and reconsider your support of this flawed bill. Most importantly, I ask that you consider the impact S. 1540/H.R. 3323 has on LGBT children in that offers no support and protection for adoptees that are delivered into the hands of hateful anti-gay groups. That’s not the Massachusetts way. 


Jason Evan Mihalko, Psy.D.
c: The Honorable Ed Markey

The Honorable Niki Tsongas

Friday, March 21, 2014

On Fred Phelps and Projective Identification

I'm not entirely sure the first time I heard of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. For a group of about 40 people, it has had an oversized impact on the media and our perceptions of anti-gay hostilities in the United States.

The damage that those 40 people have done is immense. Their pickets has caused immeasurable pain to countless families. The Phelps clan's vitriolic creed of alienation, destruction, and hate will impact our world for years to come.

Phelps died yesterday. Many have celebrated that his presence has been removed from this world. I'm not entirely unsympathetic for those expressing a great deal of hatred toward him as a result of the pain he has brought into this world.

I also worry a great deal.

  • I worry about how difficult it is to rise above our wrathful and vengeful desires. 
  • I worry what it says about us when we direct the same evil Phelps directed toward us toward him. 
  • I worry that we are no better than Phelps: we wish harm and destruction upon those we do not like. 
  • I worry about the ways in which we have become the projective identification of Fred Phelps.
  • I worry about the ways in which Fred Phelps has become a projective identification of us.

I also remember the funeral of Matthew Shepard. I remember the power of that small group of people who found another way. A group of concerned caring people gathered around the protestors from Westboro Church dressed in angel costumes. The angels turned their back to the protestors and with wings soaring up toward the sky, stood with silent power repelling the hatful projections of Westboro Church. They shielded those who came to mourn.

It's time those angels turn around and face Fred Phelps. We need to look silently toward him and see ourselves. We need to see our anger. We need to see our hatred. We need to see our own destructive potential.

We need to look at Phelps and find another way.

We need to change.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Shen Yun | The First Time I Left a Performance

Every year there is a blanket of advertising that envelops Boston when Shen Yun comes to town. After seeing the appealing advertisements for several years, we purchased tickets for a matinée performance yesterday afternoon. My heart sank a little while we were driving down to the theater. The Yelp reviews were less than stellar. (read my yelp review here)

Many of them took issue with the religious and spiritual undertones that were embedded (yet unadvertised) within the show. Billed as a celebration of 5,000 years of Chinese culture, the show also finds time to discuss the persecution that some practitioners of Falun Gong face in mainland China.

The performance is underwritten and produced by practitioners of Falun Gong/Falun Dafa. The practice is a modern day phenomena, founded in 1992, based on one man's appropriation of ancient Chinese practices. I'll get to Falun Gong in a moment. Let's talk about the performance itself. 

I'm fairly sure yesterday afternoon's performance of Shen Yun at the Boston Citi Performing Arts Center's Wang Theater would have been better if produced by Abby Lee Miller of Dance Mom's fame.

It was bad. I left at intermission. I've never left a performance. Ever. 

Bright lighting and colorful costumes covered up stilted uninspiring music, choreography suitable for high school dance troupes who have just learned to twirl, tortured singing, and a presentation of history that is nothing more than a cheap caricature of a lush rich culture. The advertisement for Shen Yun features phenomenal computer generated images that are projected onto a screen at the back of the stage. In reality these graphics are something suggestive of what a high school art class might do with a low-powered computer from the late 1990s. The dancers would disappear into trapdoors behind props and then appear in cartoon form on the screen. Hardly the stuff one might imagine when hopping for an awe-inspiring meld between a beautiful dance performance and high technology. 

I was underwhelmed.

I came home wanting to learn more about this performance. I wanted to dig further into the Yelp reviews of Shen Yun, which is translated as "beauty of divine beings dancing." What it really appears to be is a propaganda piece to convince Western audiences to be appalled at the plight of Falun Gong practitioners in China. Some also have left feeling that the propaganda is designed to convince people to follow the tenants of Falun Gong. Knowing something about the triple jewels of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, I found the cartoonish presentation offered by Shen Yun to be an insulting joke. 

There are mountains of glowing reviews. Interestingly, the vast majority of these reviews appear in papers published by various Falun Gong/Falun Dafa organizations. I was hard pressed to find anything other than what the practitioners of Falun Gong want us to hear. Here are excerpts from three pointed reviews I did find.

You've really got to hand it to the folks behind "Shen Yun," the unconscionable piece of religious propaganda that appeared Thursday night in Shea's Performing Arts Center.... Marketed as a survey of 5,000 years of Chinese culture through classical and folk dances from the country, "Shen Yun" turns out to be little more than a church pageant. Were it advertised as such, some of its flaws could be forgiven. Since it was not, it deserves to be held to account for the deception its creators have wrought. --Colin Dabkowski, Buffalo News

Whatever you think of “Shen Yun,” the fact that an organization would manipulate Internet search results to this degree should raise a red flag. -- Colin Dabkowki, Buffalo News

They move with great discipline and some grace, but the promised acrobatics are few and far between. The best of the routines - some ferocious drummers, a Mongolian bowl dance, a Tibetan dance of welcome - are those that are simplest and least admonitory. The rest are tainted by the baggage they are asked to carry. The result is one of the weirdest and most unsettling evenings I have ever spent in the theatre. --Sarah Crompton, The Telegraph 
And then there are the anti-gay aspects of Falun Gong. I found Vancouver based journalist Nathaniel Christopher's post entitled "Falun Gong is Homophobic." Who would have guessed that the $200 some odd dollars I spent on tickets for Shen Yun would have ended up supporting an anti-gay organization?

I'll let Li Hongzhi, founder of Falun Gong, speak for himself. The following two questions and answers are from a public teaching that Hongzhi gave in Geneva Switzerland in 1998. The full transcript is available on the Falun Dafa website.