Perspective


I was thinking about Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib today. I was thinking of her because she isn’t going to visit her grandmother, and that makes me so sad.

I’m a grandmother, too. I love my two grandchildren so much that sometimes I think it might be too extreme. I love their smiles, their hugs, their sweet voices.

I love their hair, and the softness of it against my cheek. I love their deep brown eyes and all the emotion those eyes express.

Being separated from them, even for a week, is a pain that tears my heart.

I live because my children and grandchildren breathe and laugh and sing and because they love me almost as much as I love them.

I can’t begin to imagine how awful it would be to be kept away from them.

So I think of Rep. Tlaib. I think of her “sity”, her 90 ish year old grandmother. I imagine how much the old woman craves the embrace of her beloved granddaughter, and how much Rashida misses her grandmother.

The Congresswoman wanted to travel to Israel/Palestine. She wanted to go to see her family, but also to address the desperately important issue of how the USA’s key ally treats its Muslim citizens. She and her colleague, Ilhan Omar, wanted to have some oversight of the country that receives one third of our foreign aid.

That’s their job, after all.

But Israel, with a push from the Donald Trump, denied them entry. The Israeli government claimed that the two Muslim women, who support and promote the idea of Palestinian autonomy, would be coming only to damage Israel.

Two young women.

And the most powerful country in the middle east was afraid of what they might say.

After a strong pushback from Americans of both political parties and many Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups, the government of Israel offered a tepid compromise. Rep. Tlaib could go to see her grandmother, but could not engage in any conversations or activities that would promote the cause of Palestinian activists or criticize the Israeli government. Rep. Omar, lacking a local grandmother, would not be allowed in at all.

Ms. Tlaib rejected the offer, saying that it violated her right to free speech and diminished her role as an elected official of the USA.

“Why doesn’t she just accept Israel’s offer to let her visit under a humanitarian visa?” I thought yesterday, as the story of the Congresswoman’s thwarted visit to her ancestral homeland unfolded.

“Why not just go, and hug her grandmother, and thank her for her years of care and guidance? Why not just brush off Israel’s rules about not mentioning the conditions under which the Palestinians are living? Just go, and don’t be so political!”

But then I started to think. I realized that I was thinking like a grandmother, and not like an educated citizen of the world.

And I remembered a moment that happened to me long ago, in the summer of 1973. I was living as an exchange student with a Muslim family in Tunisia. They were open minded, very well educated and as kind as any family could be.

We were talking about the increasing tensions between Egypt and Israel and the threat of war on the horizon. I said something about Israel, and there was a sudden silence in the room.

My sweet, kind, loving Tunisian Papa said to me, very gently, “Karima, ici on dit Palestine.”

“Karima, here we call it Palestine.”

Not Israel, but Palestine.

That simple phrase opened my eyes.

That land is both. It belongs to both. Both have roots in that place. But the needs and wishes of the Palestinians have long been pushed aside as the west tries to make amends for what happened during the Holocaust.

I understand both sides. I support both sides. I think there is room for both peoples to live in that ancient land.

But I also support Rashida Tlaib in her decision not to go there now. Not to visit her much loved grandmother.

I support her desire to go at a time when she can address the governments of both the US and Israel and say, “Here we call it Palestine.”

Disaster Mindset


West Yarmouth 07/23/19- Yarmouth firefighters search for possible victims after the roof of a whole wing of the Cape Sands Inn was blown off in what is believed to be a tornado early Tuesday afternoon. No guests were reported injured as violent storms moved over the Cape. Photo by John Tlumacki/Globe Staff(metro)

It’s been a long and scary day here in Massachusetts. One, or maybe two, tornadoes touched down on Cape Cod. We saw roofs blown off, power taken out, trees uprooted, roads blocked.

And of course we saw dozens of people stepping up to help their neighbors, their friends, and total strangers.

It got me thinking.

When the storms blow in, and everyday life is turned completely on its head, we humans immediately become our best selves. We bring each other water, and give each other food. We pull the trees off of our neighbor’s houses and we offer to share our generators.

I’ve seen it.

In 2008, a huge ice storm hit this part of New England. My street was without power for nine days. But our neighbors across town offered hot showers, a place to do laundry and a community meal. Our neighbors across the street emptied their swimming pool into barrels and brought them around to all of us who couldn’t flush our toilets because our water runs on an electrically operated pump.

We shared food, wood stoves, water, chain saws. It was wonderful and awful at the same time.

Disaster mentality. It’s not a bad thing.

So how about this?

How about if we all approach each other as if we were in the middle of a disaster? How about if we look at each other as people, humans, neighbors?

I know that when the power went out, I didn’t ask my neighbors who they were voting for. I didn’t ask their thoughts on immigration or global warming or race relations or anything.

I just asked if they needed anything. They asked me that back.

So wouldn’t it be a wonderful idea if we all decided to think about each other as if we’re in the middle of a major disaster? If we could ask each other, “What do you need?” or “What will help you?” instead of asking how we feel about Medicare for all?

I don’t know if it would help.

But it couldn’t be worse than what we are doing right now. It couldn’t be worse than judging each other by which T shirt we are wearing.

Right?

What do you think?

Feeling Thoughtful


We live in difficult times. We live in sorrowful times.

We live in times that make it hard for us to keep our humanity close at hand. Times when we need to remind ourselves that those “others” are really “us”.

So I’m thinking. I’m not talented enough to come up with the powerful words that these times require. Luckily, a lot of very talented people have already covered this ground.

“What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the observer.” by Elie Wiesel

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

– Abraham Lincoln

A Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me.”

– Robert E. Lee

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

-Emma Lazarus, poem on the Statue of Liberty

“If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”

Founding Father Samuel Adams

“Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”

Author Mark Twain


Disordered Language, or Disordered Thinking?


I’ve been writing about Donald Trump’s disordered language since the morning after his nomination. I listened to him speak extemporaneously on that morning after his big day, and I recognized the very same disorders of expressive language that I had seen for 30 years as a speech/language pathologist.

I wrote about my observations then, and my feelings have not changed at all in the past two years.

In fact, now I find myself ever more convinced that our leader has a significant expressive language disorder. But I am wondering now if that disorder is secondary to a cognitive disorder, like dementia, as has been posited by the group Duty to Warn.

I am not a neuropsychologist, so I am not qualified to speak on the question of Trump’s cognitive functioning. I’ll leave that to those who are so qualified.

But I think I need to go on the record in documenting what to me are clear and obvious symptoms of a language disorder.

So here I am.

Today I was in my car, listening to XM Radio. I happened to hear 10 minutes of comments by Donald Trump on the environment and his administration’s determination to keep it healthy and clean.

Here are my observations, as a retired speech/language pathologist.

  1. Overuse of a familiar word: In the space of ten minutes, Trump used the adjective “incredible” 6 times. His other adjectives included “big, beautiful, tremendous”. The word “incredible” carries very little meaning, obviously. It could mean a variety of things, including powerful, successful, unexpected, unbelievable, etc. When a speaker relies on one word, it can be an indication of a word finding issue.
  2. Trump was talking about the situation with Iran, and used this phrase “They threatened them dearly.” What does this mean? Huh? “Threatened them dearly”?
  3. This one goes back to Trump’s statements at the Lincoln Memorial. In that speech, Trump used the phrase “they rammed the ramparts.” As a former speech/language pathologist, this sounds to me like a situation where the speaker knew the phrase “man the ramparts”, but was unable to recall it on demand. Instead, he used an incorrect and laughable phrase. One cannot “ram the ramparts” as Trump stated.

All of this is of serious concern. I’m not writing because I dislike Trump. I’m writing it because it is increasingly clear to me that we are all under the control and guidance of someone who is demonstrating very serious issues with communication and possibly with cognition.

We need this President to undergo a serious and complete neuropsych eval as soon as possible.

And as a committed and confirmed Bernie supporter, I’d like to see the same eval happen on any future elected President.

Am I Proud to be American?


The other day I saw a poll question on the website Smerconish.com. The question was “How proud are you to be an American?”

Interesting question, I guess.

I really like Michael Smerconish, the owner of the website. He is also the host of a show on SiriusXM’s POTUS station and one on CNN. He is very smart, so I always learn something when I listen to him. He is very well informed, so I believe what he reports. And he is pretty non-partisan. He has been a Republican for most of his adult life, but is open minded and thoughtful.

I like him.

So I thought a lot about his poll question.

And here’s what I decided.

There are many things in my life that make me proud.

I’m very proud of my children. They are kind. They are altruistic. They all work in fields that let them help other people. They love each other. They are loyal friends. I am proud of them because I had something to do with how they turned out. I worked hard to be the best parent I could be.

I’m proud of my professional life. I’ve helped to teach hundreds of kids over the years. I’ve learned a lot, taken classes, listened to my smarter colleagues. I’m proud of having done my best to be a supportive and loving adult in the lives of my students. I did my best. I worked hard. I’m proud of my efforts.

My garden gives me a lot of pride, too. When I moved into this house almost three decades ago, there were no flowers. I have dug, weeded, thinned, composted, taken gardening classes, read books, transplanted, pulled up grass……You get it. I have worked very hard to make my yard look inviting in the warm months and cozy in the cold ones. And it’s all organic, too!

But when I think about the question on the website, I am confused.

Why should I feel pride in something for which I bear no responsibility? I was born an American citizen. I didn’t do a single thing to make that true. It’s true because of blind luck. And because of the courage and determination of my grandparents, who chose to leave the beauty and poverty of Italy in the hope of giving their children a better life.

I’m grateful that they did that. I’m happy about it. But proud?

I don’t deserve to feel pride.

How do I feel about the founding principals upon which this country was built?

Well. Given the fact that my ancestors were on another continent when all of that glory was unfolding, arriving on these shores only in the middle of the industrial revolution, I don’t see why I should feel pride in my country.

Do I like the principals and goals enumerated in our founding documents? Sure, for the most part I like them just fine. Sure. Freedom, liberty, pursuit of happiness? All good.

But am I proud of them? No. Because I didn’t think of them, fight for them, sacrifice to see them put into place. I didn’t write them down and sign the Declaration of Independence even though that signature might have cost me my life.

So. I guess I’m not actually proud to be an American.

But how do I feel about my personal role in the life of the United States? Am I proud of that?

To some extent, yes I am.

I’m proud that I follow our political discourse. I’m proud that I read multiple sources to shape my ideas. I’m proud that I have gotten involved and have marched for causes I support. I’m proud of the fact that I always vote.

These are actions I’ve taken. Efforts that I have made, on my own, to improve life in this country.

I’m proud of myself as an American. But I don’t understand the idea of being “proud to be an American.”

I am an American because, by the luck of the draw, I was born here. I am an American because other people made sacrifices to get me here.

I am proud to be a decent, kind, loving human. I am proud to be inclusive and welcoming. I’m proud to be nurturing.

I am be proud to have given something good and beautiful to the world.

And I will remember that I have no reason, and no right, to be proud of the things that were given to me simply by luck.

It Is So Simple


I had a wonderful conversation today with two intelligent, thoughtful women. One is a college student. Incredibly bright, well read, an engineer in training, and a gifted singer. The other is her grandmother, born and raised in the Netherlands, but an American for many decades.

We were chatting about life at a family party, and the topic of motherhood came up. The young woman has her doubts about wanting to raise a child. As I teased her and prodded her about the joys of parenting, she said something that brought my words to a halt.

“I don’t know where this country will be in five or ten years. I don’t know that I want to bring a child into a place like this.”

That lead us to a discussion of national politics, and to the scary and bewildering place in which we find ourselves.

We talked about the current horde or Democratic candidates, and realized that all three of us are firmly behind the progressives who are running. We all shared our excitement about the fact that there seems to be a competition to shake out which one of them is the most liberal.

How refreshing, I said to them both, I’ve been calling myself a Socialist since the 1970s!

That’s when my new friend, the woman raised in the Netherlands, began to share her thoughts.

“I don’t understand this strange reaction to the word Socialist! It doesn’t mean that you don’t want any kind of capitalism! It means that capitalism must have a conscience!”

We talked about the fact that a healthy and thriving country is one that takes care of the very basic needs of it’s people. About the fact that our friends from Europe are unable to understand when we tell them that our daughter will only have six weeks of unpaid leave after giving birth to a child.

We talked about the fact that if a country is able to produce a healthy, well educated, financially secure next generation, it is likely to have a stronger economy than a country whose people live in poverty.

“It’s so simple!” said my friend. “Socialism means that the government takes care of the social needs of the people. Why don’t Americans look at the lives of Europeans and see what it could be like here? Why don’t they look at life in the Scandinavian countries? Or in the rest of Western Europe?”

I had no answer for her, obviously. But I agreed with her assessment.

It is so simple.

Taxes should be paid to the government so that the government can provide the basic needs that individuals can’t grant to themselves. Education, paved roads, healthcare, national defense, a secure retirement, a healthy environment.

“It is so simple.”

Yes. It really is.

I wonder if the United States can ever get itself to see that fact.

Solving Problems


We are your lawmakers.

I watch a lot of news. As in, way too much news.

I was a political science major way back in the seventies. And I studied and taught history for a bunch of years. I am a huge fan of the United States of America, and of its founding principals.

So I am feeling pretty freaking frustrated at the inability of our elected officials to solve any problems.

ANY PROBLEMS.

Even the most obvious, most smack you in the face problem can’t seem to find an answer.

For example, let’s look at the suddenly-salient-once-again issue of abortion. So many of our elected “leaders” are suddenly determined to stop all abortions. They are so serious about stopping this medical procedure that they are threatening women with life imprisonment or death if they find themselves so desperate to abort that they go forward with the procedure in spite of the laws.

Those on the right scream about being “pro-life!” and pat themselves on the back for being the protectors of innocent children.

I get it. I was a patient at an infertility clinic for several years. I would have given anything to have had a baby. I understand the pro life position. I do.

But then those on the left scream about the attacks on women and on female power. They insist that they are protecting the rights of women to protect their own bodies, their living children, their family units.

I remember when I found myself shockingly and unexpectedly pregnant when my second child was only 6 month old. The child who was conceived using a boatload of high tech interventions.

I never thought about abortion, but I was badly shocked and thrown off to find myself pregnant, anemic, nursing and working full time.

The fact that I could have made choice to end that pregnancy, protecting myself and my other two kids, gave me a sense of peace.

I get it. I REALLY get it.

I chose to go on with my surprise pregnancy, but nature ended it for me only four weeks later. I grieved for a long time for that lost child, but I am eternally grateful that I had the freedom to choose whether or not to go on with the pregnancy.

I understand the desire to end our need for abortion. I understand our desire to keep our choices in place.

But here’s what pisses me off.

If we, as a society, TRULY wanted to limit the number of abortions in this country, we could do it tomorrow.

It isn’t that hard.

We just need to do more research into the best and safest forms of birth control. We need to be putting a whole boatload of money into finding a successful male contraceptive.

And when birth control is safe and effective, we should offer it out there to EVERYONE. It should be given out at high schools, at colleges, at workplaces. It should be free. Easy to use. Easily talked about.

There should be public kiosks where you could get yours.

Cuz, you know what? The whole idea of limiting unwanted pregnancies by limiting sex is so far beyond ignorant that it can only elicit a laugh.

ALL life is designed to procreate. Mammals do that through sex. We all want sex. A lot. Babies are a side product of our natural, God given, scientifically proven desire to mate.

If you want to stop the unwanted pregnancies, you don’t do it be shaming people about sex. (Weren’t these legislators ever teenagers? I mean….seriously!) If you want to stop pregnancy, you push for birth control.

Easy. Logical. Clear.

So why isn’t that the plan?

I don’t know.

Maybe because those who hold power benefit quite a bit when we “little people” are engaged in street fights about our bodies and our sex lives.

All I know is this: If those people being paid with our tax dollars really wanted to eliminate this problem, they could do it.

Right Now.

#weekendcoffeeshare. Mueller, of course


Siberian Squill

If you were here, having coffee in my living room, you’d notice that the air is warm and moist. Almost tropic feeling this morning. Outside my door, daffodils and crocus have opened, and my little squill bulbs have pushed up their tiny blue blossoms.

You would think I’d be happy, wouldn’t you? There are two cuddly dogs asleep at our feet and the coffee that I’ve brewed for us is hot and rich. We have slices of banana bread balanced on our knees, too, and the cinnamon smell is wonderful.

I want to be filled with joyful spring feelings, but I’m struggling today.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t bring myself to understand how my government has become so totally corrupt.

I used to be a fifth grade teacher. I loved teaching the kids about the formation of the government. I taught them about the “great experiment” in the US, in which a people’s government would be saved from corruption through it’s system of checks and balances.

How sad.

We don’t seem to have either checks of balances. Mueller’s report shows us that our President got help in the campaign from the Russians. Might not have been his idea (is anything?) but he surely benefitted and welcomed that help. Then he tried to get in the way of the investigation into that help.

He did everything he could to thwart it. He lied in public. He fired the head of the FBI. He hinted at pardons for the multitude of friends, hirelings and administration officials who’ve been indicted. He threatened those who thought of testifying.

So where’s the check on this?

Nowhere.

The House of Representatives, according to it’s overly pragmatic leader, won’t impeach the President. Oh, sure, he’s committed all kinds of inappropriate and possibly illegal actions. But the Senate is in the hands of the Republics, so impeachment would fail to bring a conviction. So we won’t bother.

REALLY?!

What do teachers tell kids now?

“There is a system of checks and balances but it’s really only about the two big parties. A corrupt President will be just fine as long as he’s protected by a corrupt Congress.”

Gah.

I need more coffee.

I found this little weekend coffee klatch through Eclectic Alli. Check it out. Most people were more upbeat than me this week.

Gettysburg


A part of Cemetery Ridge on a moonlit night.

I’ve never been here before. Never seen the battlefields or the gravestones. Never stood in the place where Lincoln made his eloquent speech.

But I’ve always wanted to come to Gettysburg, to see this historic place and to feel my feet stepping on the earth that has absorbed so much death.

Lately I’ve wanted to come to try to make sense of what happened. As I watch the anger and bitterness rising between Americans these days, I’m afraid that it may be too late for us to learn history’s lessons.

So here I am, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I came with my husband and two friends. We read the books and watched the movies and documentaries. And now we have toured the battlefields.

The zig-zag fences that stand today look just like the ones that ran across these fields in 1863.

I have been left with so many questions, and so many emotions.

I know that this happened.

But I can’t understand it.

I mean, I know the economic reasons for the war. I understand the political forces.

But I don’t know how actual human beings could have ever believed that it was the right thing to do to murder each other for a political cause.

I stood there on the beautiful hillsides of Cemetery Ridge and Seminary Ridge, where thousands of young Americans faced each other across the green fields, each side waiting for the other to attack.

Gettysburg’s green fields.

I stood on Little Round Top and Big Round Top, and put my hands on the stones and the trees that must have stood there on that terrible day in July of 1863. I thought about the blood that had soaked into that ground. I thought about the trees that had been torn up by mortar fire, and the animals that must have run desperately for safety.

But mostly I thought about all of those young men. All of those boys.

I thought about them dying in the very spot where I stood.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Gettysburg is a wonderful place to visit. It is so well preserved. It is beautiful. There are great restaurants and little shops and lots of fun ways to tour the site.

You can go to the Visitors Center and tour the museum. You can watch a movie and view a gorgeous 360 degree painting. You will learn a lot and you will have fun.

But you know what?

I wish, so much, that you could see fewer images of the glory of the battle. I wish that you could hear less about the “great deeds of great men” who “alter the course of history.”

I wish that when you go to see Big and Little Roundtop, you would hear less about the courage of the men who ran barefoot and desperate up the slopes, and less about the bravery of those who withstood them.

Here is what I wish you would learn at Gettysburg.

I wish that you, and all of us, would see the faces of the boys who were exhausted, and sick and hungry. I wish that you could hear their thoughts as they huddled in the trees, waiting for death. I wish that you could learn the stories of their wives, grieving and anxious and waiting at home with babies in their arms.

I wish that we could all be encouraged to look at the face of every slaughtered young American, and to think about the mothers and fathers they left behind. To think about the children unborn, and lives never lived, the dreams never known.

I wish that we could all be taught that in the National Cemetery, where a monument to Lincoln and his famous address now stands, there are rows and rows and rows of grave markers. Each of them marked with the tragic word “unknown”.

We should think about how it felt to the wives, the sweethearts, the parents and grandparents, the children of all of those fallen men who were never even identified.

What was the meaning of all of that death? All of that fear and horror and pain and loss?

Couldn’t our national course have been shaped without that violence, without war?

As I watch the news today, in our newly divided and bitter and anger country, I think about Gettysburg.

I wish that the lessons taught there were less about the glory of war and more about the pointless destruction of an entire generation of Americans.

“Laugh, Clown, Laugh.”


I’m trying.

I’m trying to find something funny in the situation. I swear I am.

See, here’s the thing. I’m a lefty. A progressive. A bleeding heart liberal. A pinko. The leftiest of Democrats stands to my right.

I hate, loathe, detest, deplore Donald J. Trump and everything that he represents.

I hate the lies, the greed, the bloated sense of self-worth and self-promotion. I am sickened by his vile hatred and ignorance.

It makes me physically ill to even hear his voice. The way he whines, distorts reality, sniffs between words, abuses and debases the English language itself.

GAG.

Even the way he breathes makes me nauseous.

So what do I do with the Mueller non-finding? What do I do with the feeling of betrayal that I’m left with after the desperately awaited report has come out?

Well.

I’ve been eating chocolate. Drinking. Binge watching “Mrs. Maisel” and baking bread.

I’ve also cried, tweeted, Facebook posted, written letters to the editor and now blogged.

It still hurts.

How strange and discomfiting it is to realize that I have so lost my sense of balance that I’m actually upset to find that the country will not be put through a torturous impeachment battle.

Like my liberal friends, and even many of my conservative friends and family, I really honestly expected Mr. Mueller to find a direct link between Trump and Vladimir Putin. I thought there’d be a letter or something. You know, “Dear Volodya. I enjoyed the emails that you and your pals dug up on Crooked Hillary. I’m working hard to help you get all your money freed up from that stupid Magnitsky thing. Thanks, by the way, for the Deutsche Bank loan! Once the millions are all scoured and shiny clean, I’ll be sending along your share. Love, Donnie.”

I thought there’d be a photo. I fingerprint. Something. Anything.

I fully and totally expected Trump to be found guilty of obstruction of justice at the very least. I sort of assumed that Mueller would have believed Trump himself when he said publicly that he was firing Comey because of the Russian “witch hunt”.

So what do I do with my emotions today?

I’m trying to channel my inner Italian. I’m thinking of Pagliacci and his famous clown.

I remember my grandpa singing the song to me in Italian.

Ridi, Pagliaccio,
sul tuo amore infranto!
Ridi del duol, che t’avvelena il cor!

Laugh, clown, laugh.

I’m trying. I’m really trying to laugh.

I’m also waiting impatiently for the Southern District of New York to conclude its investigation.

Until then…….

Want some chocolate?