Friday, November 22, 2013

50 Years On

On November 22, 1963, at a little after 1:00 PM, I was sitting in my 9th grade civics class, in junior high in the small college town in Minnesota where I grew up, when the PA system came sputtering on and the principal cleared his throat and announced that there was a report on the radio that President Kennedy had been shot in Texas. I was 14 years old.

The principal didn’t say anything about Dallas in that first announcement, and at 14, I pictured Texas as a vast, wild, plain, interspersed with occasional men in cowboy hats riding around on horseback. The father of one of my classmates had been shot in a hunting accident, so I thought perhaps the President had gone hunting there and been injured in a hunting accident. I assumed being shot meant he was wounded, not dead. The word “assassination” never crossed my mind, because that was a word that had only historical or foreign meaning for my classmates and me. Lincoln was assassinated, and in recent memory, Patrice Lumumba had been assassinated, but that was in Africa. Modern American presidents were not assassinated; people didn’t shoot each other in 1960’s America.

In those first couple of minutes, upon hearing that the President had been shot, our social studies teacher, a woman in her 50’s, became hysterical. Immediately after the first announcement everyone had begun talking. Of course this wasn’t allowed, and it contributed to her agitation. I remember her face got very red, and she began to clap her hands in a futile attempt to get our attention, and her voice got very shrill, and she began to shriek, “HEARSAY! This is nothing but HEARSAY! Listen to me; I’m telling you this is only HEARSAY!” She shrieked that over and over and over, but no one was listening. Always a skeptic, and analytical even at 14, I remember thinking the principal wouldn’t have turned on the PA and announced that the President had been shot if he wasn't pretty sure the report was accurate. I sat at my desk and looked at her and I also looked around the classroom. Some of my classmates were laughing nervously, but most just looked shocked. Within 5 minutes, the PA came on again, and the principal cleared his throat again and announced that the President was dead. Our teacher then gave up any attempt at trying to maintain order, and just sat down at her desk and burst into tears. Most of the girls and many of the boys in my class also began to weep. I felt very nervous, but I didn’t cry, because I didn’t want to cry at school.

We were dismissed early. We didn’t own a car, and even if we had owned one, Mom and Dad were both at work, so I walked home as usual. Normally I walked fast, but that day I walked slowly, because I knew that when I got there, I’d be alone. I remember I wished there would be someone at home that I could talk to about this. I was just beginning to realize there were families where, if you were a kid, your parents would talk to you about stuff like this, but that wasn’t my family.

I remember what I was wearing. It was an outfit that I'd sewn for myself in August: a long sleeved, cotton blouse, in a small, dark green paisley print, with a lime green, narrow wale corduroy straight skirt. I wanted to cut a swatch out of the blouse and the skirt,  and put them in an envelope to keep, but I thought Mom might not like it if I did, so I didn't do it, but I wish I had. We had a television set, so when I got home, I watched the TV coverage until Mom got home.

I wanted to go to Washington to see the President’s body lying in state. There was a special fare on the train; I think it was $25.00 round trip, Minnesota to DC. I asked Mom if we could go, but she said no. At 64, I understand all the reasons why she had to say no, but at 14 I didn’t.

On Sunday morning, I was watching TV when Lee Harvey Oswald got shot. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, that I had just watched someone get shot. It was as if everyone was going insane. And in a way, that was accurate, because America changed, in so many ways not for the better, on November 22, 1963.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


This is excerpted from a speech given by President Eisenhower in April 1953 after the death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Officially it's known as The Chance for Peace. The excerpt below is the part that is best known and the popular title harkens back to William Jennings Bryan's "Humanity hanging from a Cross of Gold" speech from the turn of the last century.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms in not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.

It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."

Ike was probably the only president, certainly the last president who truly understood the real costs of war. The dead, injured, maimed, shell shocked soldiers and civilians are the most obvious costs. Ike highlighted the additional costs in what we could have had if we had chosen to follow another path.

(Ok he probably had help, most presidents do when it's time to write the speeches. But his name is on it. He gave it. And God help any Republican who tries to do the same now. Sixty years. SIXTY YEARS! And we haven't learned a damned thing.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

If I Shared What's Really Going On In My Head ...

This post started out on Facebook:

"I found myself wondering today what people would think of me if I shared what's really going on in my head. Pretty sure my parents did a great job raising me: If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.
Some days I wonder, where's the fun in THAT?"

Quoting myself.  Now that's fun.

After a busy weekend of activities for my twenty-four year old, youngest daughter who has Down syndrome, I found myself tiredworn-outexhaustedreadytodrop, a bit crabby and thinking about my life  (instead of hers). 

I know that she is the heart and soul of our family.  THE heart and soul.  Without her, my husband and I wouldn't be us.  Or would we?  Without her, the sun wouldn't shine as brightly.  Or would it?  Life would be boring.  Or maybe it wouldn't.

So as she reaches out to a milestone birthday just a little more than a month away with way more enthusiasm for it than I,  I find myself thinking.  Way.Too.Much.  I am freaking out.  Just a bit.  It's part of the maturation process, I am sure.

Where the hell did those twenty-four years go?  I swear, if one more person tells me what a great mother I am, I will weep.  For I fear that I am not.  That I never will be.  And I try every day to be.  I'll settle for good.  Great should be saved for mothers that aren't sitting with a cup of tea on that rare occasion when they have a moment to themselves, thinking, when am I going to get my life back?  

I've discovered that I don't like my friends so much anymore.  Yes, you read that correctly. It's because I am jealous.  I am jealous of their weekend plans with their husbands, sans adult children in tow.  I am jealous of their trips to the drug store, the grocery store, all on their own.  Jealous.  Of everything they can do, that I cannot.  

I am no longer the friend that you could call and say, 'hey, want to go to the mall for a while?'  Nope.  Can't do that.  I have to have someone stay with her.  Or I have to take her with me.  Don't get me wrong, I want to take her with me.  Most often I'm the one that wants to stay with her. In fact, I often prefer her company to that of others.  She's funny, witty, smart, clever, engaging, and entertaining. She doesn't have many complaints. She's a bright light in a long list of dark days.  She is an inspiration to me.  She is so much more than Down syndrome. She is also a child in a young woman's body;  it's not something you can overlook or forget.  

I yearn for an evening of appetizers and cocktails with adults.  In a bar.  With no time limit on when we get there or when we get home. (and maybe even a hangover in the morning) Without having to ask 'are you going to be home so I can go out?' or plan who will stay with her and what's on the agenda for the next morning.

I think it would be really nice if my friends took a serious look at me and just knew that sometimes I need help; that they could help me and that I would accept help. If only they would offer.  One time many years ago a friend told me she'd have my daughter stay over one Saturday night so that The Husband and I could go out for an evening or for a quick overnight stay out of town.  I was so appreciative of the offer.  But I would have appreciated it more if she'd actually, you know, followed through.  

Friends (and relatives) mean well.  They say nice things.  They tell me how great I am.  How "you do so much for her."  How she's so wonderful.  Did you know?  I am an inspiration.  Ha.

What I am is a sixty-year-old woman woman watching her friends send their children off into the adult world, dating their husbands anew, starting anew, traveling, retiring, attending college, downsizing, wintering in warmer climes.   I am happy for them.  But what about me?  

I promise, this isn't a pity party.  It is is a moment of darkness in an otherwise wonderfully funny, always interesting adventure growing up with a daughter who has Down syndrome.  We've grown together and because of that I am truly a better person than I ever could have been without her. I wouldn't want her to be any different or any other way. She has taught me so much.  She has been the inspiration of my days.  

Have I done enough for her?  Hell, I don't know.  I'll keep working on it. 

I'm sure my life will turn up again one of these days.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Spin, Lies and Political Firepower

Spin is defined as providing a certain interpretation of information meant to sway public opinion. According to Randall Rothenberg, CEO of Interactive Advertising Bureau, the term “spin” has lost part of the pejorative connotation it had in the 1950s; while back then [it] was indicative of deceit, since the 1990s, according to Rothenberg, its use has shifted to a "mockingly admiring ‘polish the truth’”

The techniques of spin include selectively presenting facts and quotes that support ideal positions (cherry picking), the so-called "non-denial denial," phrasing that in a way presumes unproven truths, euphemisms for drawing attention away from items considered distasteful, and ambiguity in public statements. Another spin technique involves careful choice of timing in the release of certain news so it can take advantage of prominent events in the news.—Wikipedia

It took two generations—forty years—for the concept of “spin” to crawl out of the carpet bag of the snake oil salesman and become the tool of choice carefully tucked into the briefcases of corporate executives and political aspirants. Forty years and the fortuitous explosion of audio and video media. And since the final decade of the last century, Americans have been a captive audience to the rise and ultimate dominance of political spin—that commodity which has made it so easy for a gullible public to choose and zealously defend its own reality. But the 2012 presidential campaign has made it clear that even “spin” has had its day.

We knew, or should have known, it would come to this eventually. How great a leap is it, after all, from “spinning” to all-out, in-your-face, pants-on-fire lying? Rush Limbaugh—that ordained prophet of the American right wing—has been doing it for decades. Caught in any demonstrable lie, Limbaugh simply blows off responsibility with the self-deprecating declaration that “I’m just an entertainer.” We all know Rush Limbaugh is anything but entertaining. He knows it, too. But his lies, tirades and none-too-subtle pandering to the fears and prejudices of the American Everyman have garnered him the largest nation-wide audience in the history of radio—to the tune of a $50,000,000 a year contract through 2016. (Ever wonder where, exactly, that money comes from?)

Which demonstrates, I suppose, that America loves a liar.

How long did we think it was going to be before the politicians tossed out their bags of spin and laid in a lifetime supply of outright lies? The Republican presidential campaign has certainly bought into the strategy. One of the most popular television attack ads rolled out by the Romney campaign has been proven to be based upon false information,  but the campaign refuses to pull it, claiming that it is getting great results in swing states. At the Republican National Convention, vice-presidential hopeful Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech was riddled with falsehoods and half-truths, as was Mitt Romney’s. No spin. Just lies.

By now, they know the American public is so inured to creating its own reality that they needn’t worry that anyone will check the facts. It doesn’t matter a damn if a politician speaks the truth. If we hear what we want to hear, we not only accept it, we guzzle it like moonshine. And God help the “revenooers” who try to bust the still.

The Democratic National Convention starts tonight.  I don’t expect a much more truthful or upstanding performance from this side of the political spectrum. When a tactic, no matter how objectionable, becomes part of the accepted arsenal, it’s available to both sides of the battle. I suppose it could be said that it would be foolish for one side to refuse to use a weapon because it’s morally objectionable. No place, not even the moral high ground, is safe from the strength of superior firepower. Being right and dead gets them nowhere.

But how I wish it could be different!

Cross-posted from Coming to Terms...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


And we thought that things like this only happened under dictatorships. It can happen here. Freedom is messy. Enjoy it while you can. 

"Would you give up a day’s pay to see Mitt Romney in the flesh? Workers at one Ohio coal mine might not have had a choice.

Earlier this month, Mitt Romney was welcomed for a campaign event at the Century Mine in Beallsville, Ohio, by hundreds of coal workers and their families. Now many of the mine's workers are saying they were forced to give up a day-worth of pay to attend the event, and they feared they might be fired if they didn’t, according to local news radio WWVA.

The claims have been mostly denied by Rob Moore, Chief Financial Officer of Murray Energy Company, which owns the mine. He acknowledges that workers weren’t paid that day but says no one was made to attend the event. Well, kind of.

"Our managers communicated to our workforce that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend," he told local news radio WWVA, which has received several emails from workers claiming that the company records names of workers that don't attend those types of events.
The company's interest in having its employees show support for Romney may be a result of its CEO's close ties with the presumptive Republican nominee. In May, Romney teamed up with Murray's CEO Bob Murray for a fundraising event in West Virginia. And Murray's made no secret of his support for the Republican party, previously backing Rick Perry.

In addition, his company has donated more than $900,000 to Republican candidates in the last two years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Murray, who is also a climate-change denier, has been an outspoken critic of President Obama’s stance on coal. That view may be why Moore told WWVA that having employees attend the Romney event “was in the best interest of anyone that's related to the coal industry in this area or the entire country."
This isn’t the first time workers have been frustrated by a Mitt Romney campaign event either. Employees of Sensata Technologies, a company owned by Romney’s previous employer Bain Capital, protested a campaign event earlier this month in Bettendorf, Iowa. In that case, Romney didn't respond to questions about what he would do to prevent their jobs being outsourced, The Rock River Times reports."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Just when you think it can't possibly get any worse this headline greets your unbelieving eyes. MITT ROMNEY STARTED BAIN CAPITAL WITH MONEY TIED TO DEATH SQUADS.  Included in the list were the supporters Roberto D'Aubisson's ARENA party. D'Aubisson, trained at the school of the Americas at Fort Benning was finally tied to the assassination of archbishop Oscar Romero. 

Goddess can it get any worse? Drove me to haul out my old Jackson Brown albums. This one is painfully appropriate. I want to take this sorry excuse for a human being, shake him until his teeth rattle and ask him what the hell he was thinking. 


God is great, God is good
He guards your neighborhood
Though it’s generally understood
Not quite the way you would
You try to take the slack
Stay awake and watch his back
But something happens every now and then
And someone breaks into the promised land
Ah boy boy
This world is not your toy
This world is long on hunger
This world is short on joy

You speak as if you know
What’s good for everyone
What’s good in what you’ve done?
What’s good about a world in which
War rages at a fever pitch
And people die for the little things
A little corn, a little beans

Ah boy boy
This world is not your toy
This world is, this world is
Long on hunger
Short on joy
How much longer
You gonna keep the world hungry boy?

You measure peace with guns
Progress in mega-tons
Who's left when the war is won?
Soldier of misfortune--
Soldier of an angry call
Soldier on foreign soil
I’m not here to fight your war
I know what you're fighting for

Ah boy boy
This world is not your toy
This world is, this world is
Long on hunger
Short on joy
How much longer
You gonna keep the world hungry boy?

I wonder if he can claim he retroactively returned their investments? 

Cross Posted in Walking With Hope

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


“When you go to build a cathedral, you must build your foundation strong.” Robin Longstride in Ridley Scott’s version of the Robin Hood story. Or you can go with Sir Isaac Newton. “If I have seen further than other men it’s because I’ve stood on the shoulders of giants.”

The president made a speech the other day. Rush Limbaugh excerpted about three sentences from the whole thing and issued one of his over the top fulminations. Oh, Rush, the gift that just keeps giving, like dysentery. 

“I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together." (Okmaybe he was speaking off the cuff and wasn't as clear as he could have been)

The president didn’t say businesses don’t succeed on individual hard work and creativity. He did say that you have to have a strong foundation to build on. And a profound appreciation for all the hard work that went into building those foundations. That pyramid of strong shoulders we stand on.

Some early human realized that you could use scrap rock with sharp edges to cut pieces off a critter. The first brick in the foundation came when somebody, somehow realized he/she could recreate that edge on demand. That you could shape those rocks, put them on the end of a long piece of wood and have a more reliable weapon than a sharpened stick.

Lightning starts fire. Humans made it semi portable. More bricks went in when several somebody’s figured out how to make it reliable and portable. How DO you get from rubbing sticks together really, really fast to making fire? How DO you get the idea of putting a piece of string (after you’ve invented string), gut or tendon between the ends of a piece of wood and using it to shoot another piece of wood with a stone tip at something, preferably dinner.

Domesticating animals for meat, milk, hides and fleece. Love to know how that happened. When did some bright man or woman (Probably a woman, men still hate to take out the garbage) notice that the wild grain they’d been gathering was growing near the camp’s rubbish tip?

Weaving? How did we get to that? Watch spiders spin their webs? But spiders don’t use looms or spinning wheels. What Neolithic genius fastened a piece of hide to a stick and used it to catch the wind to help move his raft along? And who the heck was the unsung genius somewhere in the Med who came up with the Lateen sail. That triangular steering sail that lets a ship tack against the wind?

Wheels? And some folks saw the Central American natives as backward because they put wheels on their kid’s toys but didn’t use them the way Europeans did. And did I also mention they lived in either a jungle or steep mountains or both. Even the northern Europeans used the sea, rivers or man made rivers when they could.

The biggest improvements in the last thousand years haven’t been in how we do the jobs but where we get the power to do them. From animals walking in circles to power millstones to water wheels to internal combustion engines. Same job, different power source. And what genius figured out how to use a series of wheels and gears to turn the round and around motion of a water wheel into up and down or back and forth to power sawmills, lathes, trip hammers the whole foundation of industry. Actually, what genius realized he could put two really big wheels together with flat pieces of wood between and harness the power of a river in the first place. All Watt’s engine did was make it possible to have your factory someplace besides the edge of a river or canal. As long has you could get fuel you could keep the engines going. 

The president’s speech might have been better written but it was said in praise of the foundation builders. The ones who provided the tools for the bright, hard working business builders we have now.

Cross posted in Walking With Hope. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Being a woman...

Today I read about photographer Liz Gorman getting groped in Dupont Circle and then I discovered the CASS site, which is worth checking out.

Years ago, in Chicago, on a crowded street on a sunny afternoon, I had an eerily similar experience. Last Friday night, although thankfully there was no contact, I had a creepy experience that reminded me that even at 62, being a woman means I sometimes feel very vulnerable, in a way that men don't.

As I was finishing up my walk, about 2 blocks from my house, I heard someone coming up behind me. I thought at first it was someone on a bicycle, and although I was on the sidewalk, I glanced over my shoulder to see if I needed to get out of the way. To my surprise, the guy was not on a bike, but was on foot, jogging, with a dog on a leash. He held a cellphone to his ear, and he was talking loudly into the phone, so loudly that I could hear his conversation, and my hearing is not that great. Among other things, he said he was only in Dallas for a couple of weeks, yada yada yada. Flags went up in my head on hearing this because there are no hotels anywhere near my neighborhood, and if that was the case, whose dog was he walking? But then I thought well, he must be staying with a friend, or in a friend's place...

He was jogging, I was walking, so I moved to the side to let him pass, but he didn't pass. Instead, he stayed right behind me, closing the distance, with the dog off to the side. This felt weird, and made me nervous. I increased my speed, and as I turned the corner, to my relief, I saw an elderly neighbor whom I don't know by name, but whom I frequently see when I walk in the evening as he steps outside his house to allow his ancient dachshund to take a few steps for his evening constitutional. As usual, we exchanged hellos. I slowed a bit to let the jogger pass, but the jogger slowed too; he wasn't passing. I could see my elderly neighbor checking him out, and I thought well I'm not the only one who finds this weird. I'd completed the short block and was now at my street; relieved, I turned the corner, thinking I'd lose the creep. WRONG. He turned the corner right behind me, and continued to stay about 10 feet behind me, although he was now in the middle of the street, which didn't particularly reassure me. I heard him say into his phone that he'd been running for 1.7 miles and the comment seemed so pointless that I got a feeling that there was no one else on that call. Suddenly, to my great relief, I saw another neighbor jogging toward me on the opposite side of the street. I ran the rest of the way to my door, unlocked it, and rushed inside, very relieved to be home safe and sound.

Was I unnecessarily paranoid? I don't know. But I'm pretty sure that guys have completely different concerns when they're out in the world, and I wonder if this will ever change.

cross-posted on Talking to Myself

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Freedom Isn't Free

There is something about national holidays, these days, that brings out the curmudgeon in me. Memorial Day, especially so.

National holidays have become battlefields themselves. Rather than setting aside days to ponder and honor our national values, we now engage in flag-waving contests. Nationalism is loud, confrontational and in-your-face. Those of us who would subscribe to a quieter, more introspective brand of patriotism are shouted down and shamed. We are tacitly accused of not loving our country enough. With sneers and derision, we are invited to go live somewhere else if the United States—in its current state of upheaval, escalating class war and legislative impotence—is not good enough for us.

Because we can’t allow respectful silent reflection on the freedom we often take for granted and the cost of the campaigns embarked upon in the name of that freedom. If we did, someone might realize that these tear-misted photos of military graves or dirty and bloodied soldiers reverently hoisting the Stars and Stripes on battlefields throughout the ages, tagged with the soppy banner “Freedom Isn’t Free,” do not accurately represent the forces which send our young people to their destruction.

When you think about it, when was the last time the United States fought a war to defend OUR freedom? Seventy years ago, the Greatest Generation sent its sons into battle against Hitler and his allies. Though Hitler’s forces never set foot on the continental US, their dreams of global domination were indeed an imminent threat to our freedom. So though that war was as ugly as any, it was indeed a battle for freedom—ours and others’ across the globe—and needs to be remembered as such. But that was a long time ago, outside the living memory of most Americans.

What about our 21st-century wars? Iraq? Sadaam Hussein in no way threatened the freedom of the American people; even the most ignorant moron on the planet understands that by now. Afghanistan? What, exactly, ARE we doing in Afghanistan? Especially since the elusive Osama Bin Laden, rumored to be sheltered there while he raised up an army of Islamic terrorists, was eventually found and executed in Pakistan (a US ally?!)? What freedom are our young people deployed to those theatres of battle defending? Our freedom to beat up on small countries safely distant from our home shores because those countries share ethnicity with a group of lawless religious sociopaths? Our freedom to go kill Muslims because they pissed us off?

And Korea? Viet Nam? What were our tens of thousands of young people sent to Asia to die in the fifties and sixties defending? Our freedom to name “Communism” the 20th-century bogeyman, and to throw armies of nineteen-year-olds at it wherever it threatened to catch on?

In my heart, I have nothing but respect for the children who have comprised the forces of our military. And nothing but sorrow and regret for their blood poured out on battlefields across the world. Surely, they are paying the price for our freedom. But not in the way the flag-waving, in-your-face armchair patriots believe. They are paying with their lives for our abdication of our personal duty as Americans.

Freedom isn’t easy. It requires pruning and tending. It requires constant review and refinement. It requires searching for and comprehending truth. It requires compassion and empathy. It requires an examination of conscience EVERY DAY—because freedom in the hands of those with suspect moral grounding can be a dangerous, uncontrollable weapon.

But, apparently, the American people have decided that this responsibility—the daily examination, refinement, and gratitude for our freedom—is too much trouble. Instead, they are happy to hand that job over to “leaders” that they only have to think about occasionally. Every two years—or four, or six—the American people line up to hand over their freedom to the Snake Oil Salesman of their choice. They sit in the audience watching hopeful candidates squander obscene amounts of money gambling to appeal to whatever instincts—the baser, the better—will cause the individual members of the faceless mob to place a mark in the desired box, come Election Day.

No…Freedom ISN’T free. There are those who spend a tremendous amount of money getting their hands on our freedom. So that they can invest it where they see fit—usually in some enterprise designed to bring them MORE money. Do you think they care about the human cost, as long as they get what they want?

Freedom isn’t free. But it isn’t paid for by shedding a tear or two once or twice a year, pretending to grieve for the young person who is not YOUR child lying in pieces beside a road in the Middle East. It is paid for with constant vigilance and understanding of the complex issues that threaten or strengthen it. Every single one of us who would exercise this freedom has to put time and effort, thought and work into it, EVERY DAY. If we wimp out and sell that trust into the hands of anyone—ANYONE else—we deserve the consequences. And worse.

It was all put very succinctly in this speech by a fictional president written for a movie script back in 1995.

America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.

You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free.”

(Written by Aaron Sorkin for “The American President”, 1995.)

It’s a stunning commentary on the current state of our nation that no one—right, left, or center—NO ONE in today’s political arena would have the balls to publicly express anything even approaching this sentiment.

Think about it. And ante up. Freedom isn’t free.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The United States: Where Pregnancy is Probationary and Your Body Is a Crime Scene

Sorry guys, this is a long one, but I believe it's worth it.

That's the title of a Reality Check article on the web. The bolded text is the article by Soraya Chemaly. There are links to the story about Bei Bei Shuai and the dipsticks in Mississippi

Prosecuting women based on the outcomes of their pregnancies violates their constitutional rights and is cruel and unusual punishment. And yet, this is what is happening.

Last week, the Indiana Supreme Court declined to drop feticide and murder charges against a woman named Bei Bei Shuai, who has been in jail for 14 months and faces 45 years in prison because, after attempting suicide while pregnant. She was saved by friends and three days after an emergency c-section the newborn died. Her situation is tragic. But, her case is also a very dangerous precedent, ensuring as it does that girls and women will lose their rights and can be put in jail for miscarriage, drug addiction, accidents, attempted suicides, and for “chemically endangering” their fetuses from the moment of conception. Circumstances like hers are sadly, too frequent. She needs public support. Another woman, Christine Taylor was arrested and imprisoned and charged with "attempted feticide" for falling down stairs under what her doctors thought were questionable circumstances.

Of particular note is that in denying Bei Bei Shuai reprieve from charges, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld a mid-level appellate court ruling that said that laws established to penalize people who hurt pregnant women can actually be used against pregnant women themselves. Hundreds of women around the country* are currently imprisoned under the aegis of "best intentions" laws. What this means is that feticide and fetal murder laws can now be used to charge, imprison and penalize pregnant women at the discretion of legislators and law enforcement officials.

“It means that women can be charged and imprisoned if they engage in any intentional act that law enforcement believes will threaten the life or health of the fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses they carry,” explains Emma Kettering of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

So, since this is happening, it is only fair to say that once a woman gets pregnant she is a crime scene in waiting. In Arizona, she doesn't even have to be pregnant. How much jail time should she consider when she is expecting?

In the case of Bei Bei Shuai, up to 45 years. What was clearly a sad and gruesome suicide attempt (she took rat poison) resulting from depression and desperate personal circumstances is being turned into murder.

In this environment, and with no confidence that their rights will be respected and protected, pregnant women will continue to be jailed, in ever increasing numbers, in unexpected ways that violate their rights. Fear of imprisonment will result in women compromising their health and the health of their fetuses by avoiding pre-natal care, treatment for addiction and medical help if they fear they are miscarrying. They will have more abortions to avoid penalization.

The creeping expansion of these laws needs to be broadly objected to as a matter of citizenship, rights, law, logic, science and public health. This is particularly true in the case of insidious chemical endangerment laws, which demonstrate as Bei Bei Shua’s case does, the danger of turning health issues into criminal issues.

Chemical endangerment laws in particular ignore actual scientific research regarding fetal development, relying instead on faux moralities, irrational mythologies and deliberate misunderstandings. But, once the laws are established they can be mis-used. And, whereas “chemical endangerment” starts off with illegal substances, like cocaine and meth, among women who need drug treatment programs, not vilification, it is applicable to any chemical threat to a fetus in any woman’s womb. Severe alcohol abuse, although entire legal, can be far more dangerous than illegal drugs, what do we do about that? What about pesticides in your garden? How about BPAs in...everything? What about if a woman works somewhere where she is exposed to toxic substances, say she's a nurse in a hospital? What if she takes medication to regulate an illness? What if she needs chemotherapy? These are all chemically endangering. How long should a woman go to jail? Twelve months for cigarettes? Six for anti-depressants? She has to take them, because if she is depressed enough to attempt suicide and her fetus is lost, she – like Bei Bei Shuai - will go to jail for much longer.

What has come to pass is exactly what anti-abortion activists always denied would happen: namely, that women would lose their rights and be criminalized through pregnancy (*see below). Their strategy has always focused on eliminating abortion and prosecuting abortion providers. But, that strategy is increasingly obsolete. Changing medical technology and options that allow women to bypass doctors in terminating unwanted pregnancies clearly mean that doctors cannot be the target of prosecution and women have to be.

“You pass laws first that say only physicians can perform abortions. Then you pass laws that make it impossible for those physicians to provide abortions. And then women take the steps they need to take as they do all around the world, as they did before Roe," explains Lynn Paltrow, founder of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, one Bei Bei Shua's legal representatives. "And you create a perfect setup for making literally millions of women subject to arrest for having illegal self abortions.”

This is the only way to achieve their goal - stripping women of their right and ability to control their own reproduction safely and legally. That's what happens when wombs are public property and pregnancy loss is considered murder.

Using laws like the ones used against Bei Bei Shuai and creating fetal pain and chemical endangerment laws ensure that women are penalized for exercising their rights, claiming bodily integrity and assuming they have equal protection under the law. They are criminalized. And criminals are punished when they break laws. What the “pro-family,” “pro-life” movement has successfully done is create dangerous precedents and legal frameworks that penalize women who violate state defined breeding rules.

In pursuing anti-choice, fetal protection policies that erroneously pit a woman’s rights against those of her fetus equally from the moment of conception the “pro-life” movement targets unsympathetic women and manipulates public opinion about what makes women “good mothers.” Women who break laws, use drugs, seem careless and unethical are “bad mothers.” They do this strategically and effectively play on the complexity and nuance implicit in research regarding fetal development, societal ideals that glorify motherhood and public opinion. Women like Bei Bei Shua and others are paying the price for their achieving their goal of voiding Roe v. Wade. Persecuting women by any means necessary is just one component of dismantling women's rights and eliminating abortion.

Consider Mississippi which while it has not technically outlawed abortion, in practice it has, especially for women who cannot afford to leave the state to end their pregnancies.

• Murder in Mississippi includes the unborn. A prosecutor in Mississippi is already trying to use the state's murder law to punish Rennie Gibbs, a teenager who suffered a stillbirth and faces life imprisonment. She was a cocaine user, but there is no evidence of a correlation between her drug use and the stillbirth.
• There is one, at-risk, remaining abortion clinic staffed by people who drive from Alabama.
• Women in Mississippi are prohibited by law upon threat of penalty from performing their own abortions, even with perfectly legal drugs. A doctor has to be involved.
• Doctors in Mississippi who want to perform abortions must have admitting privileges in a local hospital, which legislators – dismissing the coat-hanger concerns of “some African Americans” – boast is near impossible.
• Women in Mississippi who cannot travel because they do not have the financial wherewithal or they have children or parents that they care for, will do what women have always done and find dangerous, not medically sound ways to terminate unwanted pregnancies. This is, of course, illegal.

But, hey…” if women die using hangers and "home remedies" and go to jail for doing it or miscarry trying, so be it. Mississippi is proud to be the first state to enact compulsory pregnancy for women.

Is this really what American’s want? There is no other conclusion. Pregnant women will all be potential criminals, their bodies considered potential crime scenes. They will deny themselves health care, endanger their lives, harm their bodies, have high-risk pregnancies. Many, many will go to jail.

People need compassion, they need to be educated about how to avoid unwanted pregnancies, they need medical attention, pre-natal care and drug treatment if suffering from addiction. They need access to safe abortions. They need their rights to be respected and protected. They do not need to go to jail.

Forty-seven medical and legal advocacy groups have filed amicus briefs describing their objections to this “disturbing trend.” This isn’t a trend. A trend is something organic and possibly unexpected. This is a planned strategic assault on women and their rights.

So what’s next? Mandatory, monthly pregnancy tests for every woman between the ages of sixteen and sixty? And if you text positive you’re forbidden to travel out of state just in case you might try to terminate your pregnancy in a state where it’s still available?

This is the logical, terrifying outcome of the unholy marriage between the fundagelicals and the Republicans consummated under Reagan with his famous “I know you can’t endorse me, but I can endorse you.” The mainline churches have basically stood on the sidelines wringing their hands. OK, nobody I know is comfortable with the idea of abortion. That’s a given. Trouble is these bozos are working to demonize contraception and sex education too.

I honestly don’t know what it was like for women before the Judeo Christian era. Even the old Celts and Irish weren’t fully equal, but the old stories suggest that is was a lot better than this. Bad enough to be threatened with stoning if you couldn’t prove you were a virgin on your wedding night. But, at least Jewish society believed that marriage was a good thing. Men and women weren’t complete unless they were married. It took Christianity and especially Augustine to tie sex to original sin and make even sex between married partners a sin. And those of us with two X chromosomes have been on the shit end of the stick ever since.

That’s it. I’m outa here. I’ll take the best of my old heritage with me but I’m off the reservation for good. I’m not sure where I’m going, but where I’ve been isn’t working for me.

Monday, April 23, 2012


There's something wonky about the formatting over here. Everything becomes one huge paragraph. So it's over at Walking With Hope. I've run across some bullshit in my time but this guy is really pushing it. Although I have to admit it's an original way to get environmental teaching out of the schools.

Friday, April 13, 2012


I don't know what's going on, but this turned into one big paragraph. Sorry. Whoo hoo. The Tempest in a Teapot du jour. A democratic spokesperson, Hillary Rosen, lit a small bonfire when she claimed that Ann Romney couldn’t relate to the economic problems of women because she was a stay at home mom. Rosen should have thought things out a bit and could have phrased things a little differently. Ann Romney is out of touch, not because she's a stay at home mom. She's a stay at home mom with money. In a way this is just as much about Rosen as Romney. We’re gotten so used to buying what we used to do for ourselves that too many of us have forgotten everything that mom’s used to do. My dad was a logger and mom was a stay at home mom. At least until dad was a stoved up old logger tossed on the scrap heap with a daughter starting college and two much younger daughters still at home. Mom ran the house, cooked (from scratch), ran the garden, canned, froze, sewed, made sure we never ADMITTED we were bored, and stretched a dollar till it hollered uncle and then stretched it a little bit more. We had a huge Kenmore chest freezer that we filled every year. That freezer was four years younger than me and it didn’t get retired until we couldn’t get parts any more. The pantry held five hundred jars filled with beans, corn, peaches, pears, cherries, pickles, kraut, jams and jellies. The last were handy not only for us but they made great gifts. If you didn’t have anything else there was always the Heaton’s patented sauerkraut, dill pickles, jams and jelly. Oh, and if it was raspberry or boysenberry, those were our berries in the recipe. To top it off she took extension classes from the local community college for tailoring and upholstering. She added ten years to the life of a good couch. I can appreciate that it's hard to raise five boys. I"m betting that the Romneys never paid off the bills at the beginning of December facing the rest of the month with the modern equivalent of fifty bucks to make it through Christmas.