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Archive for the ‘Public Policy’ Category

Bob’s car died the other day. Luckily, he was downtown and not on a highway, but we took it as a sign, time to give up the ghost. His Acura has served him pretty well for over 300,030 miles! Our one-car family was about to become whole again, it was time to start car shopping. Imagine that, a new car with all sorts of driver-assist doo-dads.

I have to admit, I’m getting a rush. It’s like that Handmaid said in the very first episode of the Handmaid’s Tale, their ice cream was better than sex. “Real sex.”

Oh, yes last night I finally gave in and signed up for Hulu, just to watch my favorite author’s dystopian nightmare about a land that could treat women like baby-making religious robots. I just had to watch Elizabeth Moss as Offred, after hearing about Justice Kennedy.

You see, for an old school feminist like me, all the latest SCOTUS rulings chipping away at our human rights in favor of some religious zealot’s right was a bit much. Throwing me over the edge was Kennedy’s decision yesterday to retire now,  this summer. Granted he is a Conservative, but he voted like a real “compassionate conservative.” Remember them?

Bob kept telling me not to download Hulu; “It’s going to depress you,” he said. But I subscribe to that other Kennedy motto, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I wanted the thrill of something just a bit subversive, I needed the dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, it’s the middle manager in our brain that helps move electrical impulses from one neuron to another – dopamine rules that synapse, that space, that rewards our pleasure centers.

Like ice cream.

Like subscribing to The New York Times, or Hulu.

Like buying a new car.

I guess it’s called self-care. In the midst of our current all too real reality Trumpworld show, it’s important not to let despair win. It’s important to do all we can to register new voters, and encourage them to show up this November for midterms. In TN we have until July 3rd to register in order to vote in the midterms, and it’s easy. You just fill out a form and mail it in – every library in the state has them. And I’ve deposited quite a few in our local coffee shop.

So keep your chin up and don’t even bite that hook about civility. If bakers can refuse to serve an LGBTQ couple, and pharmacists can refuse to fill an Rx to terminate a nonviable pregnancy, than We The People can throw the lying press secretary out on her tone deaf ear. Terrorists are killing reporters now, something quite common in an authoritarian state.

It’s happening faster than I ever could have imagined, so support the free press and not Trump entertainment network, where Milo Yiannopoulos can say he was “only kidding” about gunning down journalists.

Get a natural shot of dopamine folks whenever and wherever you can, before abortion becomes criminalized. We’re gonna need to get tough. Here are some badass young scientists from back in their med school days. Let’s get out the VOTE!

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“The other interesting thing that’s happened [in contemporary Christianity] is this splitting of church into two types of services: the smaller devotional congregations and then the arena entertainment-based congregations, which are much more outgoing and communal, like Abundant Life. And I would not presume to say that one is better than the other because I’m sure there’s good Christians in both, but my preference is certainly for the devotional side. If I’m going to go to a Taylor Swift concert or see a football game, I’ll do that. I won’t go to church.”

If you want to get anywhere fast in the South, travel on Sunday morning. That’s because most people go to church and the roads are empty mid-morning, unless you’re trying to cross the Cumberland River where a huge TV mega-church is located and traffic can back up for miles. As a full-fledged lapsed Catholic, I could never understand the pull of a church service over say breakfast in bed with a Bloody Mary on the side. I figure Sacred Heart School and St Joseph’s Camp for Girls just squeezed the religious life out of me for good!

Now that Great Grandma Ada has moved to Nashville, she’s met FIVE ministers! Imagine that, in the course of one week she has managed to get right with God because we know that she married a reformed minister herself. And I mean “reformed” as in an ex-Baptist Missionary Minister who spread the good word and built wells and hospitals in Ghana – that is, until he saw the light and recreated himself as a pastoral counselor back home. Then he mostly just married people and tried fixing their marriages later; when he wasn’t carving totem poles.

When I asked Great Grandpa Hudson what religion he wanted to be affiliated with, he said, “Orthodox Judaism!”

Well we all burst out laughing! Anyone who knows Hudson knows he was kidding. Orthodoxy, fanaticism of any kind is abhorrent to him. And just as modern Christians have split themselves into two camps – one being the extreme-Trump-show where anything goes, including separating families at our borders while quoting Bible verses, and the other being more reasonable, ie “devotional,” we Americans are splitting apart too. While Mr T dismantles and disrupts democracy from within, God-fearing Christians make excuses because all the while he’s appointing federal judges to advance their agenda. You know the drill:

You don’t want to bake a cake for a gay wedding, because hey, it’s your religious right!

You want that tiny embryo to be declared a person, and criminalize abortion.

You love your AR 15s and want to buy as many as you possibly can, just because.

If you are a fanatical Christian, an evangelical holier-than-thou holy roller, let’s face it, you’re probably not reading this post. You’re watching Fox Entertainment “News” or listening to one of its subsidiaries. The one time I got into social media trouble was after posting an article calling out Mr T as a faux Christian…because when someone is “born again” everything can be forgiven. Everything.

And the Irish in me can’t always forgive. I was all ready to applaud our current First Lady for visiting a detention center for separated refugee children in Texas, until I saw her cheap jacket emblazoned with “I really don’t care. Do U?” graffiti on her back. I had an ounce of pity for her before, because I saw her hasty hand-swipe, and understood that she didn’t ask for all this attention. But she has become a fashion icon and would never don a piece of clothing like that, evah!

Her “Let them eat cake” moment was supposed to show us her softer side. And I must admit, I HATE it when the news cycle picks up on her clothing and not her words – did she really think these children could call, let alone find their parents? I can’t wait to see who will portray her on a future Netflix docu-drama. Meanwhile, a film you don’t want to miss is:

“First Reformed,” Paul Schrader’s austere, intense portrait of a Protestant minister coming undone in upstate New York. The movie, starring Ethan Hawke as the Rev. Ernst Toller, explores themes that viewers versed in Mr. Schrader’s more than four-decade body of work — which includes “American Gigolo” and “Light Sleeper” (as director) and “Taxi Driver” (as screenwriter) and the critical study “Transcendental Style in Film” — will surely recognize. This is not the first time he has delved into the existential torment of a man’s soul… https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/20/movies/first-reformed-paul-schrader.

Tonight we’ll escort Great Grandma Ada to the Temple for some Jewish levity, or irony, or sanity in the South. We’ll re-introduce her to her tribe in the Reform Jewish tradition, which means I never had to promise to keep Kosher. Thank God! From one snowflake, an avalanche.

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I promise I’ll get to Roseanne.

Lately, I’ve been telling myself we’re getting back to normal. Ms Bean is back to daylight savings time (our evening shift emergency vet tech pet sitter had her gleefully staying up all night). Now our senior dog is back to playing with her neighbor in the spotty sunshine, a delightful Lab-mix named Hodor, in the Quad.

Bob and I are heading back to the gym, reacquainting our muscles with some resistance and weights. Everyone in Nashville is complaining about Summer having appeared too soon – but we experienced two Springs, in TN and NJ, so we’re not feeling cheated. Oh, and my hubby has started flying a small plane again and picking up garbage.

You know about the once a year historic neighborhood Spring Cleanathon, but did you know that every month Bob joins a bunch of his fellow neat freaks with a bag and a grabber as they canvass our streets picking up trash? He’s made a few friends and they always end their excursion with free pizza at a local sports bar!

Did you know the author David Sedaris can spend up to eight hours a day picking up trash on the roads of his neighborhood in the English countryside? Last night I was left blissfully alone while Bob attended a monthly private pilot’s meeting, so I tried to multi-task – meaning I was reading a book AND listening to the radio/Sonos. Eventually, Terry Gross’ interview with Sedaris won out. The humorist talked about picking up garbage as an antidote to his OCD, and what he prefers to write about…

Instead, Sedaris prefers to write about “bad behavior” — both his own and others’. “Is it my fault that the good times turn to nothing while the bad burns forever bright?” he asks. http://wboi.org/post/forget-good-times-david-sedaris-far-more-interested-bad-behavior#stream/0

This morning, in my “damage report” over coffee, Bob told me we may have finally turned a corner as a country. He was referring to Roseanne’s Twitter feed and CBS’ swift response; she apologized for her “joke,” but like bad behavior this little mix of words may just follow her to her grave, and beyond.

It’s as if we’ve been adrift in a hurricane of political dirty tricks, with a president alone at the helm of his amoral leadership. He is a prevaricator, zigging and zagging around our allies and our enemies. Nikki Haley considers his unpredictable outbursts as leverage at the UN. But really, could Roseanne be the straw that saves our republic? Even Fox news is condemning her Twitter talk.

America just may have had enough of this new Mr T normal – this anti-intellectual, crude, narcissistic, bigoted free-for-all.  I couldn’t watch his speech last night in Nashville, we call BS. There is no place in our city for your childish outbursts.

But we did find a splash park for the Grands with ALL the Grands on hand. And that was nothing like normal, it was fabulous!

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Reddit bans guns sales. YouTube kicks gun fanatics off its site. Florida legislators have raised the age to 21 for buying your first gun, and on and on. Why is this different in our country’s national debate over common sense gun reform? It’s the messengers.

Teenagers have reframed the question; it’s not some esoteric debate about Second Amendment rights, they are simply asking not to be shot in their 5th period Chem class. And if you remember what it felt like to be 16, they actually think they can change the world!

I was 15 when JFK was shot. I was playing field hockey on a grassy high school lot when the milk man stopped to tell our gym teacher what happened; it’s forever embedded in my memory, even though there’s a Walgreens on that site today. We were all in shock, our parents and teachers were grieving. We didn’t see his brother Bobby and MLK’s assassinations in our future.

We didn’t know our generation was about to change the entire American culture with the Civil Rights and Women’s Liberation Movements. We didn’t even know about Vietnam, yet.

We walked out of high school over a dress code.

Today teens are digital natives. And Parkland students are leading the charge on Twitter, Facebook, SnapChat and Instagram to point out hypocrisy in all its many nuanced layers. The latest Associated Press poll tells us 7 out of 10 Americans want stricter gun controls. And look what happened just a few days ago, right after the Bride and her colleagues wrote a certain letter to the editor! http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/379563-republicans-agree-to-clarify-that-cdc-can-research-gun-violence

Republicans agree to clarify that CDC can research gun violence

And so it begins, your grand daddy’s rifle is NOT the same as an AR-15. #ENOUGH is enough and after tomorrow’s March For Our Lives in DC, I believe the momentum will continue. Country music fans and elementary students didn’t stand a chance. But high school students around the country are weaponizing social media, for the good of us all. If Facebook fueled the Arab Spring, imagine what this will do.

Maybe we should put these kids in charge of the Russian hacking problem? I have no doubt they would tell Putin a thing or two!   image

 

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Who gets to define you? My first step into studying Buddhism asked this very question in a different way – how would you describe yourself? Easier maybe than a definition. I’m a nana and mother, a writer, a wife, stringer etc…easy. These are the simple ways, stating what you DO in the world rather than who you are!

An old friend from high school was visiting this weekend, and though our hair has turned a pale blondish white, we stood out in high school because we were both redheads. Being a “Redhead” has a certain cache. But when I was little I hated my hair, I wanted to be like everyone else, I wanted to fit in and belong. I wanted black hair like Snow White!

Edie and I were also both raised as the one and “Only” child in our families. Does that define us?

I woke up this morning to National Geographic’s special edition on Race through an Instagram video. They contend that science defines us by our DNA, but the environment, our culture defines us by the color of our skin. Their mission is to make us re-examine that paradigm; their example was a pair of fraternal twin girls, about ten years old.

The April edition of the magazine, The Race Issue, features a pair of black and white fraternal twin sisters from the United Kingdom, Marcia and Millie Biggs, on the cover (more here). The Biggs twins on the cover are a catalyst for readers to rethink what they know about race. The full issue is available now at natgeo.com/TheRaceIssue.

Now you know, and I know my DNA because I spit in a tube and sent my sample to Ancestry. Although I really didn’t need to know I was almost 100% Irish, because the priest at Sacred Heart School always told me I had the map of Ireland on my face! And I was mortified whenever he picked me out in class, although I’m sure it was meant as a compliment.

When our L’il Pumpkin was born with my exact shade of flaming strawberry blonde hair I was determined to help him feel proud about his carrot top. Well either that or ignore it altogether. But how will his ghostly white skin affect his journey through life? Will his schoolmates tease him when he’s putting on sunscreen before playing baseball? Will he yearn to have brown skin like some of his friends?

I remember when we visited Duke on the Bride’s college tour, and the Rocker, only 13 at the time, watched a group of African students walk by in colorful traditional dress. He thought it was so cool. Isn’t this what we want for our children, to enlarge their cultural influences, to expand their minds beyond a neighborhood of white privilege.

With our nation so divided – by political party, by religion, by geography – I wonder if we can turn inward to see what in fact we all share. Has Mr T unleashed this underbelly of white-neo-nazi terror in order to make us choose sides? Can we reject that? I choose to embrace our common sense of decency and civility, our humanity. We ALL want better schools for our children, schools without guns and active shooter drills. We ALL deserve comprehensive healthcare.

America, in our many shades of white/beige/brown/black, is at a tipping point. On the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King’s murder, I remember marching in the streets of Boston with my black armband. I was a college student then, and I would have defined myself as a “Dancer!”

Here is our superhero Spiderman. I can’t wait until he’s old enough to see Black Panther.

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This morning the sun is out and the temperature should be going above freezing. Underneath our coating of snow, crocus are beginning to awaken and cardinals are singing. For the first time, in a long year, I’m feeling hopeful.

Last night Bob and I attended the first in a series of USN Evening Classes. All the proceeds from ticket sales help to sponsor their need-based scholarships. First night always features a celebrity lecture, and this year did not disappoint with a third grader’s dad on the ticket. I’ve heard Jon Meacham speak before at Monticello, so I was looking forward to his insight on the state of this so-called presidency.

“We’re still here!” Meacham exclaimed, to the room of muffled laughs.

This Pulitzer Prize winner and presidential biographer went on, without notes mind you,  to remind us of his love for Andrew Jackson, “I like genocidal maniacs with a heart of gold.” More tentative laughter… Meacham dismisses Mr T’s comparison to Jackson, a fabrication of Bannon’s doing, telling us he is a simple “real estate impresario.” However, we must not dismiss his followers.

In May of 2016 he interviewed candidate Trump in his tower. Meacham arrived early and was standing alone in the huge gilded lobby on Fifth Avenue, when a family of four came through the door. They were tourists, all-middle-American folks. The young boy looked up at his dad and said, “Do you think he comes through this same door?” That beatific look of wonder, as if they were visiting a holy place, was the reason he was elected.

Mr T, like a carnival barker, managed to sell his “MAGA” movement to the forgotten middle class of the rust belt. For a family of four to live a normal middle class life in our country, they must earn at least $130,000 a year. Meacham told us that would allow them the minimum benefits of owning a home and a car and taking one vacation a year. However, the median middle class income for that same family today is around $55,000 – and the reason Mr T won lies in the difference.

Trump offered his followers the American Dream, the “Right to Rise,” as Lincoln said. Only his nationalism is a leftover from our post-WWII prosperity, with women in the kitchen and people of color knowing their “place,” and his tactics are closing our country’s borders figuratively and literally. That last part is my opinion, and part of the reason I’m marching with women on Saturday. Again.

The rest of Meacham’s speech was filled with enlightening, little-known anecdotes to illustrate his Four Characteristics of a Successful President:

  1. Curiosity – Jefferson’s insatiable intelligence
  2. Humility – JFK reaching out to Eisenhower during the Cuban missile crisis
  3. Candor – Churchill reported all the facts, he was a straight shooter
  4. Empathy – Poppy Bush, Gorbachev and the Berlin Wall

Meacham ended by reading a poignant letter that George HW Bush had sent to his mother about the loss of his three year old daughter, Robin, to leukemia. “If you want to know someone’s heart, you have to break it.”

I walked away last night wanting to read “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush.”  My step, on the icy parking lot last night, wasn’t hesitant; it was as light as a feather, and my heart was full. The voter registration forms I left in our local coffee shop are almost gone.

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Hallelujah! Star Wars the Last Jedi has finally opened on this side of the pond; Bob and I started our Friday morning by buying tickets online for the megaplex outside of town. Out of 21 theaters in the art deco masterpiece, 12 were featuring Star Wars! We opted to go after lunch, thinking other times might be sold out, plus first we had a date with the Little Pumpkin!

The Festival of Lights is in full swing and the Temple Preschool invited parents and grands to a Hanukkah Shabbat service. The sanctuary was shimmering in sunlight as the Rabbi strolled in wearing a dreidel on her head! Children played, the Cantor sang and we all laughed and watched an amazing juggler. Pop Bob even had a few latkes, with apple sauce. I remembered why I liked this religion so much.

As our tiny red head sat on the Bride’s lap, clapping and singing, time was suspended for a moment of pure joy.

Now I don’t want to ruin the new Star Wars movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but we all know it’s about an epic fight between good and evil – the Light Last Jedi side vs the Dark Conflicted Kylo Ren side. Returning to its existential roots, the latest film in the series does not disappoint, and seeing General Leia (always the princess to me) was bittersweet to the point of tears. I only wish the latest villain, General Hux, wasn’t a red head…

Returning to “reality-based” villains, maybe Alabama turning Blue was the last straw for Mr T? Because I awoke today to this little tidbit of news from the esteemed Washington Post on my phone:

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”  

The analysts were naturally skeptical, they thought maybe this was a joke? I thought it must be an Onion satire when I first read about our government banning words from official documents. After all, HHS has already archived information on LGBT rights; isn’t it better NOT to relay critical methods used to stop HIV infections in certain communities? It would seem we are slipping into the Dark Ages, where climate change is challenged, evolution can be debunked, creationism taught, and women senators humiliated via Twitter at the puny hands of our Groper-in-Chief.

After a thrilling Friday, my morning is sunny and bleak. We gave our Little Pumpkin a Star Wars super duper light saber kit for Hanukkah. His sister had painted his nails black and we sat outside looking for “mean guys.” We must do better with this next generation, and teach them to put the earth and science above myth and money. It’s time for every American to choose the Light or the Dark side.

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