Progress


I am finding it difficult not to jump up and dance when I see the actions and words of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and some of her colleagues. I find myself smiling behind my hand when I read her tweets about her introduction to Congress. 

I love her posts that show the hypocrisy and the nepotism and the overt money grubbing that goes on the hallowed halls of our most esteemed centers of power.

But more than anything else, you know what has me doing the happy dance these days?

It’s the number of women who will now be representing our national interests in Congress.

I am ecstatic when I see all of those female warriors lining up to take the reigns of power.

You see, I am the mother of a woman. I am the mother who watched CNN relentlessly during the Iran-Contra hearing way back in 1988. I can remember it so clearly and so perfectly. 

I was a young mother of one little girl. We lived in an old rented house that needed quite a bit of work. I remember the day when I was removing old paint from the bannisters that lead from our first floor up to our second. I remember that the TV was on, and that my little girl was sitting beside me with a paint scraper in her hand as the hearings were shown.

The talking heads were opining about the seriousness of the events. The camera panned across the hearing room. My little girl saw the people who were assembled, knowing that they were our national leaders.

I will never forget the moment when she looked up at me with her deep brown eyes, a frown on her innocent face. “Mommy”, she asked, “where are all the ladies?”

In that moment, I had no answer for her. I didn’t know where all the “ladies” were. I didn’t know what to tell my girl about the powers that ruled our country, our lives, our world.

Now that little girl is a woman. She is a teacher, an activist, and a mother of her own little girl.

A little girl who I love more with every breath I take. 

And that is why, when I see the incoming freshmen in Congress, and note the rows of powerful young women, I have to rejoice. I have to stand up, raise my arms, sing praises to the goddess and to all of the powerful women figures who have lead us to this moment.

This time, when I sit with a little girl and watch the actions of the Congress of the United States, I rejoice in the fact that I will not be asked, “Where are all the ladies?”

HERE are all the ladies. At last.

 

If A, Then B


As we all squirm, worry and heart palpitate our way through today’s national vote count, I have a few questions for my conservative friends and family.

I just can’t quite figure out the logic behind some of conservative, GOP talking points. I’m trying to use simple, basic reasoning to make sense of some things.

For example, I don’t understand the sudden panicked hysteria about immigration. As some on the right keep screaming, “Illegal immigrants are ruining the country! They are stealing jobs!!!!”

But, if that’s true, how can they also be boasting about the fabulous economy and very low unemployment numbers? If A is true, B can’t be true at the same time.

I can’t figure out the fixation on voter fraud, either. I mean, Trump and the GOP have been ranting about the “rigged” election since before it happened. They keep trying to convince us that millions of people voted fraudulently.

I mean, OK. So the election was somehow completely inaccurate, false, rigged, tainted.

If that’s true, then wasn’t the WINNER of the election the beneficiary of those failures? Then why do those on the right keep claiming that it is the Democrats who refuse to accept the legitimacy of the Presidency? You’ve heard those claims, I’m sure. “The Dems just refuse to accept that they lost!”

But it’s the R’s who keep telling us that the election was a mess, full of illegal votes.

If A, then not B.

I just don’t get it.

Anyone care to explain?

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Those Marching Migrants


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I’ve been thinking a lot about the people who are walking from Central America to the US-Mexico border.

I’m really fascinated by the way they are being described. I know that words have power. Words shape our beliefs and our opinions.

Words can be weapons, and words can speak truth.

Are the people walking across Mexico a caravan intent upon invading our country? Or are they desperately poor families making a nearly hopeless attempt to save their children from violence and starvation?

Are they criminals with evil intentions, some of whom have arrived inexplicably in Honduras from the Middle East? Or are they completely innocent, loving, kind families with beautiful babies who need us?

Let’s see if we can find some actual facts to help us figure out what is actually taking place to our South.

According to the Heritage Foundation, Honduras is the second poorest country in Central America, and has one of the world’s highest homicide rates. The government is unstable and corrupt, and often works in tandem with drug dealers and gangs.

The same foundation reports that Guatemala is in equally poor shape economically and politically. It, too, suffers from an unstable government, poor infrastructure and low quality education and health care. Drug trafficking is rampant there, as it is in Honduras.

So it is a fact that many families in these two countries are living in poverty, with little hope of improvement. There are few educational opportunities and therefore little hope of improved economic conditions. Got it.

Are some of them criminals? This one is a little tricky to fact check. I can find lots of information on news sites that have their own political agenda. Fox News assures us that there are loads of gang members and criminals in there. They say that this information comes from our own Department of Homeland Security, although there are no real specifics in the DOH report.

Other sites focus on individuals within the migrant group, exposing their stories of suffering and fear. One Nicaraguan family was highlighted by US News & World Report. The story is powerful, gripping and incredibly sad.

There are hundreds of photos of children from the migrant group. Those photos will break your heart, no matter who you are. Little babies crying from hunger, toddlers crossing flooded rivers in the arms of their parents. We know that there are in fact truly desperate people in the migrant group.

So.

Where does this leave us?

We know that there is a group of human beings of various ages walking all the way from the southernmost border of Mexico to it’s northern border with the United States. We know for sure that some of them are true refugees who want to seek asylum. We know that some are kids. We know that a lot of them just want jobs, any jobs, here in the land of relative safety and decent education.

We are told that some are criminals. I haven’t seen any actual factual information on this, like a story that gives locations, ages, names, histories. But you know what?

I’m willing to admit that it is very likely that SOME of the migrants coming our way have criminal histories. It seems to make sense to me, that if you have a large group of adult humans in one place, some of them will have criminal tendencies.

But does that mean that ALL of them should be stopped, kicked out, lumped together as a group of bad guys because of the company they keep? Some people (like Sen. Chuck Grassley) seem to think so.

I’m not so sure.

I mean, yeesh. If every group of people in our country had to be held to the lowest standard, what would happen? If every teacher was judged by the few who dressed up as a wall for Halloween? If every doctor was judged by the few who steal drugs? Where would we be if every religious leader was judged by the actions of Catholic Priests?

Yikes.

And….well….what would happen if every member of Congress was thrown out because some of them have been convicted of crimes???

Welp.

We’d pretty much be ruling ourselves, wouldn’t we?

#AnthonyWeiner #TomDelay #JohnEdwards #MikeCrapo #JesseJacksonJr #TreyRadel

 

 

Shalom


Peace.

Peace be upon you and upon all you love.

Salaam.

Peace.

I don’t know what to write today, so I’m going to simply wish you peace. Soft words, soft landings, safe spaces.

Peace in your hearts. Peace in your angry, saddened souls.

Peace to all of us who mourn for more lost lives, more unspeakable gun violence.  Peace to all who fear for the future of our country.

Wishing peace and calm to all who ask themselves “How could we have come to this place? How could we be letting these things happen?” Peace to all of us who have begun to fear each other. And peace to those who are feared.

Shalom to all who have already been through this kind of awful, ugly, ignorant, hateful terror and lived to tell us your stories. Salaam to those who have already gotten away from this kind of hatred and violence and have come to us as a safe haven.

Peace.

Peace.

Peace.

Tomorrow, smile at someone who wears different clothing than you do. Say hello to someone who has skin of a different tone than yours. Give a helping hand to someone who is speaking a language you can’t understand.

Peace.

Shalom.

Salaam.

We need it so much right now.

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Who Is At Fault?


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I used to be a teacher. For many years, I was one of those people charged with keeping our children educated, safe, confident and skilled. One of the many charges that I took so seriously during those years was the charge to prevent children from bullying each other.

I was a fifth grade teacher. My students were ten and eleven years old. I was told that if they bullied each other, part of the fault was mine.

I understood. My classroom spent time every single day talking about how to interact with civility, with kindness, with generosity. I remember talking to them about the fact that they did NOT have to be friends. They did NOT have to like each other.

“But, here’s the thing,” I would tell them, “You are all members of this very same classroom community. You must treat each other with respect and care. If you don’t, our entire community will suffer. We will not achieve our goal of learning what we are supposed to learn if you are mean to each other and if you fail to support each other.”

And I taught them that if anyone of them became a bully, they all had a moral obligation to stand up to that bully and to protect the victim. I taught them not to be bystanders. I taught them not to let the bully get away with intimidating the weaker members of our community.

Those children understood what I taught. More importantly, they carried out those lessons every single day. To quote one of my students, some five years after he had left my classroom: “We learned that we were all really friends. In Karen’s classroom, everyone stood up for each other.”

So here I am. Four years after my retirement. Wondering how it is that we expect ten year olds to understand and carry out lessons that our actual highly paid, internationally renowned leaders fail to grasp.

How is it that we ask our fifth graders to stop being bullies, to stop intimidating each other, to stop calling each other names, but we let the most powerful people in the country do exactly that? How is it that we expect our youngest children to act in ways that we don’t demand of our so called “leaders”?

When Donald Trump calls his adversaries names, when he labels them as “enemies”, when he asks his followers to attack them, he is behaving in all of the ways that we won’t allow our children to do. He is the absolute epitome of the ignorant, hateful bully on the playground.

The bully that every public school teacher is expected to stop in his tracks.

So.

Where is Congress in this current bullying situation? Where are the leaders of the GOP? Where are the people who we expect to protect us from the ignorant, hateful bully on the national stage?

Why are they acting as bystanders, those silent observers who encourage the bully by not stepping in?

If we can demand that our public school teachers stop bullies, we can damn well demand that our members of Congress do the same. We can demand that our nation’s governors stand up the bully. We can demand that our media outlets stand up to that bully, and that they label his lies as lies.

If you all can ask the average classroom teacher to do it, then you better be absolutely sure that on Nov 6 you will be voting for people who will do the very same thing in Washington.

Bullying is wrong. It’s wrong on the elementary school playground and it’s wrong when it happens on the national stage in front of hundreds of people at a political rally.

Our leaders should be held, at the very least, to the same standards as our public school employees.

 

 

So Just to Sum Up


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Feelin’ like a crab.

Here we are, in 2018, in the United States of America.

We have a President who got elected in spite of bragging about sexually assaulting women. He has been married three times, and cheated on a pregnant wife with a porn star. He has made fun of a woman who came forward to state that she’d been sexually assaulted.

As a woman, this doesn’t make me feel particularly protected.

We have a Congress that is made up of people who are only worried about getting reelected. Other than possibly Heidi Heitkamp, they don’t care about who did what to whom, who supports equal rights for the Americans who actually pay their salaries, or who is totally biased against half of us.

Appoint an accused sexual predator to the Supreme Court, even though he just went on national TV to scream about his promise to strike back against half of the country and half of Congress? No worries. As long as you get reelected, who cares?

As a woman, this doesn’t make me feel particularly protected.

And now we have a Supreme Court that includes not one but TWO credibly accused sexual predators.

Awesome.

As a woman, this doesn’t make me feel particularly protected.

In fact, as a grandmother who has lived through my own widely accepted and lightly dismissed sexual harassment, I’m pissed.

As the mother of a young woman who escaped rape only because she wasn’t at the bar alone when her drink was poisoned, I am beyond outraged.

As the grandmother of a beautiful little girl who has had to learn at the tender age of three to say, “Don’t play with my braids. It’s my body and I get to choose,” I am enraged. I am furious. I am disgusted.

But what is worse is that I have lost what little bit of faith I had left in my country and in my government.

No matter what happens, I will never ever ever believe that the Supreme Court has an unbiased view of the cases before it. I will never ever ever believe that my members of Congress have my needs or my protections in view.

And until the current President, the man who is so proud of his sexual predator past, is taken away and replaced by someone with a shred of integrity, I will not be able to believe that the Executive Branch of this country has the interests of any women in mind.

I am not only not feeling patriotic tonight, I am feeling an absolute disgust in my government. I am not proud of my country. I am not happy to be an American.

In fact, if some other country would take me and mine, I’d be there tomorrow.

 

 

I’ll Cook My Way Back to Sanity


We are living in horrible times. We are witnessing the destruction of all that two generations of women have worked to achieve.

As far as I am concerned, we are seeing the complete collapse of the two party system in the US. I’m pretty sure that 90% of us would vote of “None of the above” if they were on any ballot.

So.

What’s a sad, angry, anxious old Italian lady to do?

Yup.

I’ll cook my way to relative sanity. l have bone broth on the stove. There’s a nice sourdough starter on my counter. I have canned tomatoes for sauce and locally sourced ground beef and pork for the meatballs.

I can’t make Mitch McConnell go up in a puff of smoke for his hypocritical bullshit. I can’t save the Supreme Court of the US from becoming infected with a total and complete lack of impartiality.

I can’t make Mueller hurry the freak up and get that awful, ugly, ignorant, hateful, nasty egomaniac out of office.

I can make ravioli and roasted peppers and maybe a nice ricotta pie.

If there is a Heaven, I will still be at least relatively sane when this insanity comes to its inevitable end.

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Not So Blind Justice


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I thought that the Supreme Court was made of lifetime appointees because avoiding the need to be elected or re-elected would them to be impartial.

Aren’t judges supposed to interpret the law without political bias? Aren’t they supposed to be free of political influence and political pressure?

Wouldn’t you want all judges to approach their jobs with an open mind?

Now, I’m not completely naive. I understand that we all have our core beliefs and that we all come to our work with our own personal histories and experiences.

But.

A person who expects to be appointed to a lifetime position on the highest court in the  United States of American had better be able to demonstrate that open mind in public. He damn well better show his impartiality to the duly elected men and women who will be doing the hiring.

Read these words from the opening statement of Judge Brett Kavanaugh in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

As I told this Committee the last time I appeared before you, a federal judge must be independent, not swayed by public or political pressure.

I agree with him.

Now read his testimony in front of that very Committee:

This confirmation process has become a national disgrace. The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process, but you have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy.

Since my nomination in July, there’s been a frenzy on the left to come up with something, anything to block my confirmation. Shortly after I was nominated, the Democratic Senate leader said he would, quote, “oppose me with everything he’s got.” A Democratic senator on this committee publicly — publicly referred to me as evil — evil. Think about that word. It’s said that those who supported me were, quote, “complicit in evil.” Another Democratic senator on this committee said, quote, “Judge Kavanaugh is your worst nightmare.” A former head of the Democratic National Committee said, quote, “Judge Kavanaugh will threaten the lives of millions of Americans for decades to come.”

You sowed the wind for decades to come. I fear that the whole country will reap the whirlwind.

The behavior of several of the Democratic members of this committee at my hearing a few weeks ago was an embarrassment. But at least it was just a good old-fashioned attempt at Borking.

Those efforts didn’t work. When I did at least OK enough at the hearings that it looked like I might actually get confirmed, a new tactic was needed.

Some of you were lying in wait and had it ready. This first allegation was held in secret for weeks by a Democratic member of this committee, and by staff. It would be needed only if you couldn’t take me out on the merits.

When it was needed, this allegation was unleashed and publicly deployed over Dr. Ford’s wishes. And then — and then as no doubt was expected — if not planned — came a long series of false last-minute smears designed to scare me and drive me out of the process before any hearing occurred.

This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election. Fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record. Revenge on behalf of the Clintons. and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.

The man has shown his extreme bias.

He isn’t open minded or impartial.

He is unfit to serve on the US Supreme Court.

Whether or not he was a high school drunk, whether or not he sexually assaulted a young woman, this man is NOT FIT TO SERVE AT ANY LEVEL ON THE FEDERAL BENCH.

The end.

He spoke the words above after taking an oath to tell the truth. Let’s believe him.

 

Happy Labor Day


I have to admit. I have not always been a big supporter of labor unions. At one point in my life, I served on my local School Committee and was charged with negotiating a new contract with our education union.

I admit it. I was frustrated by the union, even though at the time I was a teacher myself. I thought that sometimes they were more focused on themselves than the kids. It made me angry.

But a couple of years after that experience, I took a class on the Industrial Revolution. We went to a bunch of mills, tenements, factories. We read a lot of first hand accounts of the young men and women who worked in these places. We learned about the originally altruistic intentions of the factory owners.

And we learned what happened when competition began to make it harder and harder for the owners to maintain those rich life styles. We learned about the increasingly long hours that were required from each worker, and of the decreasing salaries.

I was surprised to learn that when it became too expensive to pay local workers, the factory owners turned to immigrants to fill those jobs. At the turn of the 20th century, millions of desperately poor immigrants flooded into the United States. Legally. All were welcomed, because they were hungry enough to provide the endless hours of working hands that the new factories required.

Men willingly went to work gutting fish, shucking oysters, canning fish. Women and men signed on for 90 hour work weeks in the textile mills, spinning, weaving, cutting cloth. And children went to work, picking berries, harvesting potatoes, working in the mills and factories of the newly affluent United States.

Our class looked at photos of those immigrants working in our new industries. I saw these.

And I thought about how I would feel if my children were forced to work as these little ones were, just so that our family could survive.

I was shocked. I was brought to tears. This could have been my child. My Italian child. Instead of snuggling in my arms and reading books, or going to kindergarten to learn how to share, my child could have been in this field.

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When I learned all of this, when I found out what had happened in my country just around the time that my family arrived from Italy, I was overwhelmed with anger and sorrow.

How could this have happened? How could children and desperate mothers be forced to work in such terrible conditions? How could this be the story of my country?

Luckily for me, our class went on to study the labor movement. We read “Bread and Roses” and “Triangle“. We learned about corporate greed and about desperate workers. We read letters and news reports and books and stories.

We learned about the people who stood up for their basic human rights.

We were taught the story of the American Labor Movement. And I was able to shake off my grief and embrace the power of united workers, united and supportive average Americans.

The professor taught us about the first Labor Day, and the significance of it’s recognition.

So.

I no longer feel frustrated when teachers demand a quiet place to work and plan. I no longer think that unions are simply self-serving.

Now I know that in the absence of workers’ unions, we would not have a forty hour work week, or mandated weekends. We wouldn’t have sick time, or vacations, or health insurance.

We would have no child labor laws. Can you even imagine?

Now I know that on Labor Day, we need to look at the tender faces of those little children working endless hours in terrible places. I know that we need to pull up the images of five and six year olds facing a life of physical labor, with no hope of education or betterment or a happy and healthy future.

Happy Labor Day.

I hope that on this Labor Day you will enjoy your cheeseburgers and your families and your ice cold beers. But I also hope that you’ll take a minute to think about the 146 young workers who died in the Triangle Fire. I hope that you’ll spare a thought for the thousands of little children who labored in our textile factories and our fish canneries and our berry farms.

I hope that you will raise a glass to the Union movement and that you will give a silent salute to those workers who fought and suffered and sacrificed so that we could have a weekend like this one.

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Lunch With Donald Trump


I’ve been trying to dabble a bit in fiction writing.  I’m not real good at creating the old “story arc”, but I do OK with dialogue.

I was just watching the President on TV.  And I got to thinking.

What if I had been Donnie Trump’s fifth grade teacher? I wonder what the conversation would have sounded like at his lunch table. I think it would be something like this:

Jack: That essay was really hard.

Donnie: Not for me. I wrote the best essay ever written. It was incredible, believe me.

Jack: Dude, you finished it in five minutes.

Donnie: Because I’m fast. I’m the fastest. That’s why the teacher loves me so much.

Dylan: (snickering) She hates you.

Donnie: She loves me, believe me. Many kids are saying it. She says nice things about me. The nicest.

Suzie: Actually, I heard her talking to the Principal, and they were both saying you’re a pain. They said you’re “challenging” and we all know what that means.

Donnie: The Principal is very low IQ, very low. He’s not smart like me. Many kids are saying, and I’ve been saying it for a while. 

Suzie: Then why did you tell us yesterday that you’re going to win the Principal’s award this year, because he’s such a good judge of intelligence?

Donnie: I’ve never trusted him. Never. He’s a disaster. I’ve been saying it. People have been saying it. 

Jack: Well, the teacher hates you, too.

Donnie: She’s a real lowlife, that one. Nobody likes her.

Jack: We do!

Donnie: Believe me, nobody does. Nobody. She’s slime. Scum. The worst. 

Jack: You’re an idiot.

Donnie: This is a witch hunt!

The kids all get up and move to another table, leaving Donnie alone with his soggy fries.

Donnie: (muttering to himself): They’ll see. They’ll all see. I’m a genius and they’re all gonna pay. They’re all my enemies.

The lunch bell rings and the kids crowd toward the door. Donnie drops his trash on the floor and shoves a first grader out of his way so he can be at the front of the line. She cries, but he ignores her. Head held high, he swaggers out the door and onto the recess field.

Walking over to a group of giggling girls, he yanks the hair of one and pokes his finger into the ribs of another. As they yell at him to stop, he grins.

Donnie: (to no one in particular) The babes love me.

I can’t help it. Every time the President of the United States of America opens his mouth, I feel like I am right back in an elementary school classroom, trying to figure out the best way to deal with a “challenging kid.”

And, for the record, I have never, EVER met a kid anywhere near as “challenging” as this one.

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Don’t be fooled by the innocent look.