Oh, But I’m Afraid.


I’m sixty one years old. I’m white. I am happily middle class. I speak English as my first language. I was raised as a Christian. I’m heterosexual.

I have every kind of privilege there is, other than being a man.

There is going to be a big right wing rally in Boston tomorrow. It says it’s about “free speech”, but the speakers are Nazis, white supremacists, racists.

There is going to be a big counter rally nearby, as well as a march to the spot where the alt-right is gathering.

What do I do?

I am so conflicted.

Here is a bit of my thinking.

Don’t go:

• I live an hour and half from Boston

• I’m a 61 year old Grandmother

• There are younger, more fit people who could go.

• It might be violent. I don’t want to get hurt.

• There are people who depend on me! My children, my grandchildren. They need me to be healthy and whole.

Do go:

• For my entire life, I’ve wondered why more German people didn’t stand up to the Nazis. I assured myself, time and time again, that if I had been there, I would have done something to stop them.

• I’m as safe as anyone can be. White haired, white skinned, pudgy; I make a ridiculous target for anyone who wants to look like a tough guy.

• My grandparents gave up everything they knew…home, language, family, livelihood….so that they could raise their family here in the United States. They came for inclusion, acceptance, safety, prosperity.

•My father and his brothers, first generation Americans, went to war to fight the Nazis. They fought in Germany and even in the homeland of Italy. THEY would certainly march here if they were still alive.

• I was a teacher. I made it my life’s work to support and encourage and nurture children. At no point did I EVER say “but not the black kids” or “not the Jewish kids” or “not the Muslims.” As a teacher, as a nurturer, it is my obligation to stop bullies. Adult bullies, armed to the teeth and ready to murder anyone who isn’t one of their sick group, those are the bullies that I have to Stop. Right. Now. However I can.

• There are people who depend on me. My children, my grandchildren. They need me to be a model of courage in the face of evil.

So I’ll be joining my brave husband, and two of our progressive, courageous friends tomorrow. We will go to Boston. We will do what we can to be really safe and secure.

But we WILL stand up for our Black/gay/Jewish/Muslim/Asian/Latino/trans/disabled/fill-in-the-blank neighbors and fellow citizens.

Honestly, we don’t actually have that much of a choice.

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A Time To March


I’m horrified, shocked, furious about the terrorist attack in Charlottesville this weekend. White Nationalists, whatever the hell that means, marched supposedly to protect the statue of a man who committed treason 150 years ago and then lost a war.

How to pick a winner, right?

They wore Nazi insignia. They gave the Nazi salute. They chanted about the Jews “replacing” them.

Their true goal, obviously, was not to stand up for old dead Robert E. Lee. It was to provoke a fight with all those awful people who they believe are trying to take away their white male role as masters of the continent.

They succeeded. There was fighting. There was death.

They got their headlines.

Now these radical deplorables are planning to march on Boston. The capital of the state where I live. They want to chant their pathetic racist drivel on the streets where Sam Adams rallied patriots to action in the 1770’s.

So what should I do?

I don’t want to drive my 61 year old self into the city. I don’t want to march on a nice late summer day. I don’t want to risk being hit, or shot, or run over. I don’t want to give these pitiful bullies so much of my attention.

But.

My first job as an adult was interpreting from Russian to English and back again for Jewish immigrants who were arriving here from the Soviet Union. I helped them find housing, took them to the doctor, took them shopping.

I heard their stories.

I saw the numbers tattooed on their arms. I touched those tattoos.

How can I NOT march to stand up for the old Russian woman who told me how she had run away from the invading Nazi’s? She was 7 months pregnant, and had a two year old in her arms. The Nazi’s came to her village and she ran into the woods. The soldiers shot, and she was hit in the face. Still she ran. She got as deep into the forest as she could go before she collapsed.

When I knew this woman, her face was creased with an ugly red scar. Her speech was slurred by the path the bullet had taken across the roof of her mouth.

How do I not march for her?

And what kind of person would I be if I didn’t march against the rise of fascism, knowing the stories from the siege of Leningrad, when the Nazis blockaded the city? I remember a Russian Jewish woman with wide blue eyes. She could no longer see when I took her to the doctor in Boston, but those eyes were filled with sorrow when she told me the story of her father walking the streets in search of food and coming home with part of a dead dog to feed his children.

She talked about her mother cooking their shoes to get some protein out of the leather.

My father fought the Nazis. He was only 18 when he enlisted in the army. He was at the Nuremburg Trials.

I lived through the civil rights era right here in the US, too. I remember seeing the marches, the violence, the struggles. I remember the day that Martin Luther King was murdered.

Are we really going to let the clock go back, Americans? Are we going to embrace the slave owning and race baiting past of the country?

Are we going to sit back and let the Nazis come in here and take our country? Are we going to allow our President to get away with condoning their violence?

Personally, I think I’ll have to go and walk the streets of Boston and stay as safe as I can while making my voice heard.

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Sad!


I love politics, as sickening as it is. I generally spend a fair amount of time reading about policy, and about legislation.

I’ve been deeply immersed in the insanity that has unfolded in this country over the past year. I have written about it on LiberalAmerica and here in this blog. I’ve talked, argued, debated, read, shed a lot of tears.

Almost thirty years ago, with my baby girl in my arms, I watched most of the Iran-Contra hearings. I was riveted.

Last week, I watched every single minute of the Comey hearing. It was moving, interesting, powerful.

Now I’m trying, to the best of my ability (cough, cough), to watch the “testimony” of our current Attorney General and for the very first time in my 61 years of life, I must tell you that I am in complete despair for our government and the country.

What I am watching is a room full of people who have been elected to take care of US, to guide the laws of OUR COUNTRY. They are all, Democrat and Republican, sitting in that room because people trusted them to look out for our best interests.

Instead, every one of them is trying to achieve their own agendas.

To watch adults, professionals, highly paid officials, living off of our tax money, engaging in this kind of name calling, finger pointing, griping, sniping and flat out lying is beyond disgusting.

I can’t remember the last time I was this disheartened about the country that my grandparents sacrificed so much to join. I am so sad to see the self-serving arrogance on display from the leaders of this nation that was born out of such high hopes.

I know that the Constitution was written during the age of enlightenment, when educated people believed in the best instincts of man. That Constitution opened with these moving words:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Nobody involved in this mess seems to be working toward any kind of union, much less a more perfect union. None of them seem to want to insure domestic tranquility or promote our general welfare. I sure as hell don’t see anybody in this hearing room who is thinking about the blessings of liberty for our kids and grandkids.

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Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr.

What I see is one giant clusterfuck of a mess. We are watching hours and hours and millions of dollars being spent on people who are still arguing about Hillary Goddamn Clinton, who LOST the election. We are watching grown men and women who are only interested in making themselves and their team look better than the other team.

This hearing was designed to get to the truth about the FACT that the Russian government attacked us.

But that fact hasn’t even been fully acknowledged by the whining little fool of an Attorney General who seems to have a worse memory than my 87 year old mother.

I am so sad for the United States. I am so worried for my children and my grandchildren.

This country is done. Cooked. Stick a fork in us.

If we can’t find a way to form at least three or five new political parties, we’re going to find ourselves mired in more of this knee-deep bullshit.

Meanwhile, in case anyone is interested, our health insurance system is about to be blown up. The world is getting hotter, but we’re not going to do a single thing about it. And our hard earned tax dollars are flowing by the billions to Saudi Arabia so they can continue to drop bombs on Yemeni families who are busy dying of cholera.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be drunk under the back deck.

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I think we’re missing the point…


If you have followed this blog at all, or if you know me, you will no doubt realize that I watched the entire James Comey testimony today.

In fact, I also watched the pre-event coverage, the ongoing coverage, the follow up coverage. And as I listened and watched, I clicked back and forth between Twitter and Facebook.

I am a very nimble multi-tasking lefty Nonni political junkie.

But as the evening comes on, and I sit here trying to put it into some perspective, I’m left with a few questions and a few impressions that I’m not seeing on the (cough, cough) “Main stream media”.

My first “Huh” moment came when I realized that the freakin’ RUSSIANS attacked our national election. And this is NOT what we’re talking about!!!! As we used to say back when I was a Soviet Studies major “што такое???”

As in, “What the hell???”

I mean, we have been informed that the country that has been our key adversary since 1945 has attacked the very fabric of our democracy, attempting to influence our election and weaken our self-determination.

And we’re spending our time fighting about what the words “I hope” really mean????

UM. Who’s on top of the whole “we-have-to-protect-our-electoral-process” problem?

And my second thought is this one. We just heard the former FBI director state in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee that the President of the United States is a big, fat liar.

In what universe would this NOT be a huge, outrageous, earth shattering revelation?

Well, in this one. In the world where the vast majority of Americans know that the President lies every damn day. Where the entire Republican Party simply accepts that he lies and doesn’t really object to that fact.

The. President. Was. Called. A. Liar. On. National. TV.

And that’s not the headline????

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And finally, I am left with this question.

What in God’s name are we supposed to tell our children when they ask about America, and about our democratic system? How are we supposed to explain to them that the Russian could mess up our election, that our President could be widely known to be a liar, and that our government is completely wrapped up in pointing fingers instead of circling the wagons and trying to get the DAMN RUSSIANS out of our elections.

Sigh.

This overwhelmed Nonni doesn’t even know where to begin with this crap.

(Featured image by Thierry Ehermann via Flickr.)

So, yeah, Rand Paul…why SHOULD you pay for my pregnancy coverage?


Those Libertarians. They get me every time with their “small government” thinking. They say things that seem to sort of, kind of, make sense.

For example, a lot of people who are leaning Libertarian are asking, “If I’m a single man, why should I have to buy health insurance that covers pregnancy and childbirth?”

Seems like a good question at first glance, right? I mean, why in the world should old single Uncle Gus have to pay into the fund that covers these services he will never, ever use?

What if we had an insurance plan that let people like old Uncle Gus opt out of paying for those baby things? Would that be good?

Um.

Well. See, it occurs to me that I will never, under any circumstances, ever get prostate cancer. Can I opt out of paying for that coverage?

Also, I don’t smoke. I’ve never smoked. I want a plan that allows me to not pay for lung cancer coverage.

I’m not into drugs. I refuse to pay for rehab for people addicted to opioids. OK, sure. So I have had more than one close relative and many friends who have had to deal with this. Still. I don’t use. My kids don’t use. Why should I have to pay for that treatment?

Oh, and did I mention that there is no diabetes in my family? I am a careful eater. I have low blood sugar. Why should I have to pay for people with diabetes?

And let’s just for a moment step away from health care, and look at other taxes. Shall we, Rand Paul?

If I don’t own a car, should I really have to pay the taxes that keep the roads paved and plowed? I say, no.

I also live in a town with well water. Why should I pay for clean water for other people in my state? Why should I pay to clean up EPA superfund sites, if I am not sitting on one?

Why?

So. I’ll tell you why. I’ll tell you why my tax dollars should pay to support my local schools even though my kids are all grown up. I’ll tell you why some of my tax money should go to pay for meal on wheels for my elderly neighbors. And why I should pay for prostate cancer and why you should pay for pregnancy, childbirth and early education.

Because we are a society. We are not hundreds of millions of isolated individuals.

I almost never take the train, but I don’t object to supporting Amtrak. Maybe one day I’ll want to take the train to San Francisco.

Or maybe I won’t but YOU will. You are part of my community. And I want to live in a healthy community. I deserve to live in a community that meets the needs of its members.

And, honey, that means that we ALL chip in to provide the best life for ALL of us.

 

I will never, ever, ever have testicular cancer. But I don’t mind paying for your treatment, if it helps to keep you alive.

 

Thank you, President Trump


I know, that headline made you a little sick to your stomach. I get it.

Can you imagine how hard that was for me to type?

But you see, I am channeling my inner optimist. Who is hiding these days. Hiding really, really well.

My inner optimist is hiding behind the evidence that points to us having elected a mentally ill, out of control despot.

It’s hiding behind the realization that our Congressional leaders don’t really care that the guy with his finger on the trigger is out of his mind. They’re too busy fighting the traditional Democrat-Republican game of “YOU’RE A DOODY PANTS” to try saving us all from nuclear holocaust.

So.

I’m trying to look on the bright side.

For example, I might as well eat that dish of ice cream since we’ll most likely be incinerated before I can die of heart disease. Also, if we go into a long nightmare of civil war and the grid goes down, its probably the fat people who will live the longest.

Also, there’s this little fact.

Whenever I get anxious, I clean things. When my kids were little, Paul used to be able to judge how well the day had gone based on how the house looked when he got home. If every surface was sparkling and there was a smell of Clorox in the air, he knew that one of the kids had gotten on my last nerve. He’d open the door, sniff, and ask, “Oh, oh. Who is it this time?”

He’s a therapist, so he explained to me that my desire to clean the house was a reflection of my feelings of helplessness. When my life felt out of control, I asserted my superiority over dust and grime.

If that’s true, then I really have to thank President Trump.

Over the last few weeks, I have found myself unconsciously organizing closets, sorting through old clothes and scrubbing things I didn’t even know I owned.

My granddaughter is 18 months old. This morning the two of us scrubbed the floors in every room of this house. I buy her all kinds of art supplies and books and toys in my effort to be a wonderful Nonni, but we spent an hour with me sweeping and her using the wet swiffer.

She seemed to enjoy it.

But honestly, I didn’t realize just how anxious our new administration was making me until tonight.

I found myself vacuuming the garage with a glass of wine in one hand.

Thanks, Mr. President!

When the mushroom cloud appears overhead, at least my house will look fabulous in that last eerie glow.

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Life with my Muslim family: A sick day


When I was only 17, I was a very healthy and hearty young woman. I was lean, but not skinny. I was rarely sick.

My body had some adjusting to do, though, when I left Massachusetts and flew to Kairouan, Tunisia, to spend the summer as an exchange student. The dryness of the air so near the desert was hard for me. I remember how I used to dream of drinking ice cold water. The water in our home and around the city was safe, but it was warmer than ours at home, and it always had a slightly salty taste to me. My skin was dry, my hair was dry, even my eyes felt dry.

My Tunisian family showed me how to treat my skin and my hair with olive oil, which was abundant in that olive growing land. They noticed my craving for water, and kept a supply of small, sweet watermelons on hand.

The food that we ate that summer was incredibly delicious. We ate a lot of chicken, of fish, and a lot of mutton. I love lamb and discovered that I love the rich taste of mutton even more. We ate loaves of dense, chewy bread that came in round loves with a crisp crust. We got it from the market every morning, fresh and incredibly delicious. In the very dry air of Tunisia, any leftover bread was very dry by its second day. Almost too hard to eat, unless we covered it with honey from the huge jar on our kitchen shelf, letting the sweetness seep into the bread for a few minutes before we ate it.

What a delicious memory!

The one problem that I had with the food, though, was that even for an Italian American like me, it was very, very spicy. I once roasted and peeled hot peppers with my Tunisian sisters, and even though we coated our fingers with olive oil, we all had blisters when we were finished.

The result of all that spice was that after three or four weeks in Kairouan, I was suffering from a bad bout of stomach distress. I wasn’t sick, really, but I had stomach pain and I spent a LOT of time in the bathroom.

One hot morning I was feeling the distress of what I’d eaten the day before. I don’t know if I complained, or if I just ate less breakfast than usual. In either case, I was sitting in our family’s living room with a book when Maman came in with a glass in her hand. It was filled with something brown and thick. There was ice in there.

Truthfully, it didn’t look great. But she held it out to me, and said in her lovely French, “This is wheat. It will make your stomach better. Drink it, my daughter.”

I took it with thanks, and then gave myself a tiny, tentative sip.

Even now, almost 40 years later, I can conjure up the taste. Honey, wheat, nuttiness, the cold, cold ice cubes.  I drank it all down, and felt better almost at once.

I don’t know what was in that glass, but it made me feel so much better. I’m sure that some of my relief came from the love and care that went into the mixing of that magic elixir.

Maman Barrak is gone now, and I’m not sure that I ever told her how wonderful that moment was. I hope that she knew then how much it meant to me. I hope that she knows it now.

My Tunisian Mom, my beautiful Muslim Mom, was a blessing to me in so many ways. This story is only one of those ways.

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When I lived with Muslims


I was only 17 years old, completely naive and completely sheltered. I signed up for the American Field Service exchange program, figuring that I’d spend a summer in Ireland or Austria or somewhere else that was fairly familiar.

When my acceptance and placement package arrived with the news that I would be moving in with the Barrak family of Kairouan, Tunisia, my reaction was a mix of panic and disbelief.

Where the hell was Tunisia? What would I be doing in a place like that? What were the people like? The food? The weather?

Luckily for me, AFS didn’t give me much time to back out. I read all that I could about the country, feeling somewhat calmed down when I saw that it was hot and dry in the summer, and that the beaches were gorgeous.

The Barrak family sent me letters, some in French and some in English. They were warm, welcoming, excited to meet me. I saw pictures of all of their beautiful, smiling faces and realized that I’d be moving in with a happy, healthy family. In fact, they sounded a lot like my own Italian American family. We had six kids, they had five. They were all fluent in three languages, which was way more than I could say with only my English and my shaky high school French.

I got my shots (OUCH) and packed my bags and off I flew to another world.

I spent 12 weeks with my Tunisian family. I discovered that hard working, family loving Muslims are just like hard working, family loving Catholics. I learned that sometimes the teenagers rebelled against the parents’ limits, just like we did. I learned that when I didn’t feel well, my Tunisian Maman made me special foods and came to check on me, just like my American Mom did.

I discovered that olive trees are gorgeous, that couscous with lamb is beyond delicious, and that it feels cozy and safe to wear a sefsari when you walk around a city.

My summer in Tunisia changed my life. I am still in contact with the Barrak family, through the magic of Facebook. They are still upbeat, warm, loving and still stylishly beautiful (that’s where we have parted ways!)

The ban on Muslim immigration breaks my heart. It is wrong on so many levels. It is the most unAmerican thing that I can even begin to imagine.

I want to write about my time with my Tunisian family. I want to share some of my stories about being a naive American who landed in the middle of a Muslim country way back in 1973, when war was raging between Israel and Egypt and when terrorism hadn’t yet made us fear the world around us.

Stay tuned, please.

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This is NOT the behavior of a rational adult.


 

I am unable to tear my eyes away from Donald Trump’s Twitter vomiting.

Its like seeing a terrible natural disaster;  you are horrified. You are filled with disbelief.

And yet.

You cannot look away.

I log on in the morning, and I cringe. I see the kind of vindictive, petty, immature ego stroking bullshit that the President-elect sends out to the world.

To be honest, if I had a 14 year old who spent his time tweeting nasty lies about other people just to make himself feel good, I’d take away his devices and get him into therapy.

Things like this:

I mean…I am a student of American history. I understand the vital importance of a free press in a democratic society. So that whole “dishonest media” line scares me.

Then there is the obvious lunacy of referring to a non-existent wall between us and our Mexican neighbors as “The Great Wall.” All you can think when you see this is, “Seriously, dude? You are comparing your proposed, unplanned, maybe its only a metaphor, border wall, or fence, or something to one of the great achievements of human history?”

The mind boggles.

I decided today that I should look at the tweets of other world leaders. You know, just to see if any of them are as…I don’t know….creepy as the ones from Trump.

I started with Obama. I scrolled through about 8 weeks of his tweets. This one pretty much sums him up:

It gets his point across, and it certainly supports his political aspirations, but when you compare it to Trump’s. Well. It looks so professional.

Next I went to Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. I wondered what he was tweeting these days.

How about these:

I tried, I did! I tried to find something self-serving, something snarky, something mean spirited or vindictive. Nothing. Rien. And may I add that Mr. Trudeau tweets in both English and French…

Then I went to Germany. Surely Angela Merkel would have something as inane and self focused as our own Big Orange Menace.

That was interesting. Mostly the German Chancellor retweets other people. When she does send her own tweets, they mostly look like this:

It says, “Thank you for your trust! Chancellor of Germany.”

Not exactly the same level of self serving ego stroking that we are seeing from Mr. Trump.

So.

OK.

Surely Vladimir Putin is just as obnoxious as his neon-headed puppet. I checked his Twitter feed, too.

This one caught my eye pretty quickly.

But this one was in there, too.

I spent a lot of time on Putin’s feed. I couldn’t find one single tweet that called any of his opponents nasty names. I couldn’t find one that made it look like Putin was responsible for everything good in the world.

I tried.

I did. I tried to find one single world leader who was as immature, as self-absorbed, as mentally unstable as Donald Trump. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t find anyone in the role of world leader who came close to the obvious personality disorder that we see in Donald Trump.

So here is my question:  Who can take center stage to name the very deep mental illness that our future President is exhibiting? There are no psychologists or psychiatrists on Capitol Hill (I checked.) But can’t someone point out the obvious?

This guy is sick. He is NOT rational. He is clearly NOT able to put the needs of the United States before his pathological need to be admired.

There must be someone in the mental health field who can step onto the national stage and call a spade a spade. Whether the issue is Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder or something else, the truth is obvious.

Mentally healthy adults do NOT use Twitter to attack those who disagree with them. Mentally healthy adults to NOT use Twitter or other social media outlets to continually point out their own successes and attributes.

They just don’t.

The United States of America is about to swear in a delusional, mentally ill President.

Who is going to save us?

 

Aw, what’s a little pneumonia anyway?


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A New England Autumn

It’s funny. I was just sitting here, feeling the nice cool autumn breeze. So refreshing!

For some unfathomable reason, I started to think about that time a few years ago. I had been fighting asthma for a few weeks, and no matter what I did, it seemed to just keep getting worse. I was a fifth grade teacher at the time, and I had to talk all day. I had to talk over 25  happy ten year olds. I had to talk over the sound of the kids in the hallway and the kids in the cafeteria.

My throat was always sore and I was hoarse. And the asthma was making me short of breath and a little dizzy.

I remember that I was on two different inhalers, an antihistamine by day and a different one by night, a nose spray and some herbal things.

That cough just kept building up on me. But you know what? I was a typical working woman. I just kept plugging along. I didn’t miss one day of school.

Finally, though, I did break down and go the doctor. He told me that I had a fairly serious case of bronchitis and was “well on the way” to pneumonia.  He changed one of my inhalers, added prednisone and a strong antibiotic.

He suggested that I take a few days to recuperate.

But I was a fifth grade teacher, with 25 kids depending on me. Plus, it was the week of our annual three day camping adventure in the woods of New Hampshire. I tried to drink extra water and eat well. I went to bed early when I could.

I didn’t stay home, though. I didn’t go to bed.

Actually, I packed my bag and grabbed all my medicines. Then I got on the big yellow bus and took 75 fifth graders on a camping trip in the cold rain.

You know why?

Because I’m a woman. I just didn’t think a little pneumonia would be that big a deal.

Ya know?