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Archive for April, 2015

Today is National Honesty Day, no joke. But it is ironic that the person who invented this “holiday” was the Press Secretary for an ex-Governor of Maryland, M Hirsh Goldberg. Just when Baltimore is looking for some answers from its police force and its mayor, we are forced to listen to the “truthiness” of political spin in the wake of Freddie Gray’s murder in police custody. And tomorrow won’t deliver any more answers. Makes you long for that French policeman after that German co-pilot plunged his jet into a mountain.

We couldn’t believe it, he was giving us the facts, and talking to us like adults.

But what if politicians did just start saying what they really thought? And then they needn’t apologize for it; today, Hillary and Jeb, tell us what you really think about the criminal justice system in our country. Explain to us why 98% of Black males in New York between the ages of 18 and 20 can expect some sort of interaction with the criminal justice system.

I’ve talked about UVA’s Miller Center before, but this latest American Forum titled “Arresting Citizenship: Consequences of American Crime Control” happened before Baltimore. http://millercenter.org/events/2015/arresting-citizenship-consequences-of-american-crime-control-rebroadcast

Yale University Assistant Prof of Political Science and African American Studies, Vesla M Weaver, spoke quite candidly about the decline of our democratic process in poor urban areas of the country. About how once misdemeanors a few decades ago have become felonies. About how people in these blighted neighborhoods have learned not to drive with more than two other Blacks in the car, since they will most likely be stopped by police. About how they must learn to avoid walking through certain streets since they may be targeted by police. About how they live day to day fenced inbetween a police station, a courthouse and a jail; a Bermuda triangle of poverty.

Weaver wrote a book that should be on the nightstand of every big city Mayor, and every Presidential candidate  – “Arresting Citizenship: The Democratic Consequences of American Crime Control,” it explores the effects of increasing punishment and surveillance in America on democratic inclusion, particularly for the black urban poor.”

And every single person we interviewed in the book, their earliest encounter with the state, with the criminal justice state, was before the age of 15. Ok? So what they revealed to us what that maybe sometimes later on in their youth was that they had something more serious. But early on they’re coming to know the criminal justice system in a way that white suburban youth are not. You know, they’re going to basketball games, they’re going to high school. They’re not being stopped by police. Um so there’s been this disassociation between criminal population and the custodial population and it’s important to make that disaggregation because it’s very easy to say well you know they’ve done bad things right? Um many people in their adolescence, and if you go back to this longitudinal study that I mentioned 50% of the population reports doing something that could have landed them a misdemeanor or even a felony. Right? But a very small percentage of that group is actually having criminal justice contact.

When I saw the empty seats for the Baltimore Orioles baseball game, all I could think was, if you build a prison they will come. Speaking honestly just about breaks your heart   Unknown

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What does the number six, a pen and Salman Rushdie have in common? Easy, they are all trending on Twitter.

And the reason is one of America’s highest literary awards, PEN’s Freedom of Expression Courage Award, was given to the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, and consequently, in protest for the seemingly “gleeful” way the mag treats Muslims, six authors are boycotting the big gala. Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Peter Carey, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner, and Tayie Selasi will not be present next week at the big fete, and Salman Rushdie has just one message for them:

“This is a clear cut issue,” he wrote. “The Charlie Hebdo artists were executed in cold blood for drawing satirical cartoons, which is an entirely legitimate activity. It is quite right that PEN should honour their sacrifice and condemn their murder without these disgusting ‘buts’.”

The Hebdo killings, Rushdie wrote, is a “hate crime, just as the anti-Semitic attacks sweeping Europe and almost entirely carried out by Muslims are hate crimes. This issue has nothing to do with an oppressed and disadvantaged minority. It has everything to do with the battle against fanatical Islam, which is highly organised, well funded, and which seeks to terrify us all, Muslims as well as non-Muslims, into a cowed silence.”     http://scroll.in/article/723627/salman-rushdie-slams-fellow-writers-for-boycotting-ceremony-to-honour-charlie-hebdo

It seems absurd to me that an award in the field of journalism, for speaking the truth, for freedom of expression and not being restricted by a country’s government, would create such a controversy at this prestigious American institution.

A Washington Post journalist, Jason Rezaian, has been languishing in an Iranian jail for over nine months. President Obama put his name on the national news cycle at the Correspondent’s Dinner. Gathering information as part of your job should not result in jail time, should not put you on a fatwa list, and should not get you gunned down in your office.

Yesterday I saw the Helen Mirren movie with a friend, Woman in Gold. The atrocities of Nazi Germany were portrayed in flashbacks. The Austrians never thought this could happen to them, and yet we saw sane, seemingly normal people standing by, silent, while Jewish people were humiliated in the street, had their stores closed and their artwork confiscated. In fact, Nazi soldiers were welcomed as they invaded their country. Silence and indifference.

When we start to restrict freedom of expression, we begin to silence freedom.

IMG_2504

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The Bride's Prom

The Bride’s Prom

It’s that time of year again. Limos full of teens will be dashing around town, hair and nail salons will be booked far in advance. Some girls will go in a posse, some will ask a boy to go with them, some will wait to be asked. Oh, the humanity; it’s Prom time!

A friend of ours sent his youngest off with a hail and farewell. It was touch and go for awhile, should she get highlights? Would anybody actually show up? Because we all know it’s not the Prom itself that’s the draw, it’s the After-Prom Party.

And the party for the White House Correspondents Association dinner is this weekend. Lovingly called the Nerd Prom, it’s a place where the POTUS can get gently roasted, and the press, legislators, big business and Hollywood types get to bask in the glow of some jolly good fun at their own expense. I would love to be a fly on the wall this week in DC. And I love that for just the second time in history, a woman comedian, Cecily Strong, will host the dinner.

The daughter of a journalist herself, she made her name on SNL with this sketch character, “Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party,” and she is an improv veteran which should stand her in good stead. Maybe she will read this Salon article and hit up some of the big money to donate to the scholarship programs for budding journalists. Although being in journalism today can be tricky, and even deadly.

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/04/white-house-correspondents-dinner-117287.html#.VTpTRaa4k1g

Some of you may know that Great Grandma Ada saved my Prom picture with her son. Our group was the lunch table of future engineers, doctors, lawyers, brokers and yes journalists, aka nerds. We had no idea what the 60s would bring to each of us. I married in Boston, Bob went to Woodstock. But in 1966, we drove a convertible to the Jersey Shore for the night, never knowing we’d later – much later – marry and live in Rumson. Then send our daughter off to her Prom. Sometimes life really is stranger than fiction.

Our Prom 1966

Our Prom 1966

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Happy Earth Day everyone! It’s a blustery, sunny morning on the Blue Ridge, and life is almost back to normal. Bob left late for the hospital, so we had lots of time to discuss that five year old boy, you know the one. The parents “allowed” him to identify as a boy since the ripe old age of two, even though biologically he’s a girl. Mia or Jacob, you decide. It seems we have different opinions on that one, but I’ll just let you guess. Because I hate judging parents, I really really do.

Then before I had a chance to head outdoors and plant a rhododendron, the Bride sent me this Salon article because all her friends were talking about it: “What a Horrible Mother” by Kim Brooks:

http://www.salon.com/2015/04/19/what_a_horrible_mother_moms_arrested_for_leaving_their_kids_in_the_car/

So many touchy issues here. First of all,, I don’t believe this is an absolutist argument. There are many shades of grey, so if you’re of the opinion that one should never, and I mean ever, leave a kid in the car, you should stop reading. Same goes for those of you who believe, like the Scandinavians, you can always just plop your child alone, in public, while you run into a coffee house. Grandma Ada’s generation believed that fresh air was essential for a child, so they parked the pram on the porch and went about their housework every single day.

Today, if you run into the dry cleaners and leave your sleeping, sick child in his carseat, windows cracked open, parked and locked in the shade for a few minutes, on a 50-60 degree day, you may come back to your car and find yourself arrested!

For Dawn, a young mother in New England, it was the same: a moment of convenience followed by one of shock. She had just picked up her daughter from daycare when she remembered she was out of toilet paper. Her daughter, worn out after the day, was strapped into her car seat and busily enjoying what was her first ever Happy Meal to boot. Dawn pulled up in front of a Rite Aid, locked the doors, and sprinted inside. By the time she returned to the vehicle, three minutes later, a woman was standing by the window, beside Dawn’s daughter, who was still waiting comfortably.

“You’re disgusting,” the stranger said. “What a horrible mother. I’ve called the police on you. I have your license plate number. I’m waiting here to make sure they arrest you.”

There is a kind of moral vigilantism that has resulted from our “See something, say something” culture of fear. Perfectly normal, educated women are being arrested for a judgement call. The kind of thing I, and my generation, did all the time. Yes, I left my babies sleeping in the car in the garage when we got home from a long morning. The garage door was open and i could see them through the family room and hear when they started to stir awake. I’m pretty sure I left them in a locked car for a few minutes while running into a store, in fact it was such a commonplace thing, we didn’t think twice about it.

I remember feeling good that I had never actually locked the keys inside the car with the baby, something a few of my friends did. But when that happened to them, bystanders would help pop the lock, not call 911.

This was over 30 years ago, and in New England. But have stranger kidnappings increased since then, NO – only sensational media stories of car-jackings, and sleep-deprived parents forgetting their child in the car while they spent the day at work. Yes, we hear about the parent who walks into Walmart, leaving the baby in a car that quickly heats up over 100 degrees, resulting in death. That is ignorance, that is depravity, and it is a crime. Just like the parent who leaves guns around for that toddler to pick up…these are not accidents. I can get pretty judgmental about it.

Instead of pointing a finger, I would hope that I would react more like the woman at the end of the article. The one who helps a young mom empty her cart and plays peek-a-boo. Because the oceans are rising and mother earth needs all the help she can get, here are some free Earth Day games for your children. http://www.primarygames.com/holidays/earth_day/earthday.php

Be kind to each other.  IMG_2489

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Last week my half-brother Brian was buried in Germany. He was laid to rest on Yom Ha’Shoah, the day Israel honors the victims of the Holocaust. Unlike the rest of the world, surviving European Jewish people were living with the grief of their systematic slaughter by Nazis every day and every night after WWII. It was a nightmare that came true with each new dawn. So they chose a different way to remember this evil; not by calling it International Remembrance Day, on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, but by placing it on the Jewish calendar, in the month of Nisan, a week after Passover.

“Holocaust and Heorism Remembrance Day” was chosen to commemorate, to honor the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Since the early 1960’s, the sound of a siren on Yom Hashoah stops traffic and pedestrians throughout the State of Israel for two minutes of silent devotion. The siren blows at sundown and once again at 11:00 A.M. on this date. All radio and television programs during this day are connected in one way or another with the Jewish destiny in World War II, including personal interviews with survivors. Even the musical programs are adapted to the atmosphere of Yom Hashoah. There is no public entertainment on Yom Hashoah, as theaters, cinemas, pubs, and other public venues are closed throughout Israel.

My brother Brian married a wonderful German woman, Hildegarde. He adopted her family as his own, and although I know nothing about her, I can assume she was touched by the War. Was her first husband or father killed for resisting, or were they collaborators? I know she loved my brother very much, and that she was an excellent cook. She never really learned to speak English so that the two times I met her, I had the feeling she understood more than she could say. I never visited them in Germany primarily because Bob had no wish to go there.

Brian was almost 20 years older than the Flapper’s sixth child (me). Even if our family hadn’t been torn apart in our Year of Living Dangerously, I probably would not have known him well. But he was the one who got me to question the Catholic Church, because I have a vague memory of him asking me if I thought it was fair that only Catholics went to heaven. When my widowed Mother married a Jew, my status as a lapsed Catholic was complete at age 16. Remember, at that age we think we know everything, and certainly I did. But my ideas about faith, redemption and heaven have changed over the years.

This morning I was reminded that a great theologian left the safety and security of the US to return to Germany. Seventy years ago In April, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged by the Nazis at a concentration camp. He was a Lutheran pastor, a Nazi dissident and a true Christian martyr – a spy for the German resistance. A pacifist at heart, he nonetheless helped plot to kill Hitler, while the other Christian churches had opted to collaborate with his evil plan.

And I wondered what would I do. Would I have sent my children off to Hitler youth meetings? Of course not, we would have been rounded up and sent to our deaths. I like to think that church and state should forever be separate, but at that time of pure evil, should we not have seen more morally righteous pastors standing up for the Jews, the handicapped and homosexuals? What did they preach on their pulpits?

When evil looms, what would you do? CCIytTJWIAAUV78

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What do you do when you’re sick? Take to your bed and yell for “Mommy,” or ignore it and go about your business? Well when you’re married to an Emergency Physician, and you’ve given birth to another, your response to an illness pretty much doesn’t matter. After all, you are NOT dying, so it’s not a true emergency – like say, anaphylaxsis, septecemia, or a gun shot wound to the belly.

It’s only a virus. Antibiotics won’t help. In fact, my doctors rant about how other doctors overprescribe antibiotics, which is why we are in a drug-resistant pickle. You’ll be better in a few days. So you’d best go about your business; take Tylenol every four hours, force fluids and try to rest. Because as Daniel Tiger says, “Rest is Best.”

When I was young and caught a cold, Nell would rub my chest with Vick’s. Then she’d wrap some sort of gauze around me and tuck me into bed. In hindsight, she grew up when a small splinter could turn into an infection and kill you. Penicillin wasn’t invented until just before I was born. Growing up in the first half of the twentieth century meant you were isolated when you were sick, people took a cold seriously. As Adelaide would say in her Lament, a person can develop a cold, or La Grippe, La post-nasal drip…with the wheezes, and the sneezes, and the sinuses really a pip!
In other words,

Just from worrying whether the wedding is on or off,
A person can develop a cough.
You can feed her all day with the Vitamin A and the Bromo fizz,
But the medicine never get’s anywhere near where the trouble is.
If she’s getting a kind of a name for herself, and the name ain’t his,
A person can develop a cough.
Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/actors-broadway/guys-and-dolls

But I digress. Back to the 50s, once an illness had passed, Nell would make me an eggnog. I know, sounds disgusting, but it was so good. Guess she didn’t know about salmonella in raw eggs? Oh and to keep me healthy, she would shove a teaspoon of cod liver oil into my mouth every morning, followed by a chaser of orange juice. It took me many years to like the taste of orange juice.

Still, this spring cold is a bad one, it starts off deceptively simple enough – a headache followed by a runny nose. You are lulled into thinking you’ll be fine by the third day. Then your larynx closes up and you can barely croak, a fever sets in and after awhile your eyes get all gucky. If you have children in preschool, or you have a spouse that is routinely seeing infectious disease every day they go to work, then it’s likely you’ll catch  it. In other words, “You can spray her wherever you figure the streptococci lurk,
You can give her a shot for whatever she’s got, but it just won’t work.” The cough will linger, you’ll want your Mommy, and someone to bring you chicken soup.

On my way home I listened to the TED Radio Hour “Believers and Doubters.” http://www.npr.org/2013/11/18/245949211/believers-and-doubters

And I thought about the time I nearly died from septicemia after a miscarriage. Lying in a hospital bed in the Berkshires, I prayed the rosary with my Polish room mate because she asked me if I would in broken English. I found her beads in her bag, and the words came back, they flowed through me like a salve. It was like being wrapped in a warm blanket and tucked into bed.    CLR in Bathrobe

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Driving in:

IMG_2413Flying Kites with Mama:  IMG_2431

Finding a Tree Castle:  IMG_2467Porch Sitting with Nana:  IMG_2483Building forts with clothes pins:   IMG_2445

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