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Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights’

Hey Alabama, do you really know me? My generation didn’t discuss abortion, like we didn’t discuss cancer. It was 1967 and I was a budding feminist; I hated having my skirt length measured in high school, and couldn’t believe we had to wear skirts on the streets of Boston when I went off to college. Boys could always wear what they wanted, go wherever they wanted, and say or do anything. We girls had our reputations to think of, it seemed everyone was thinking about this. So many rules about our bodies.

I couldn’t wait to shed some of those rules – in the words of Henry Higgins, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”

When I walked into the UMass hospital with belly pain, I was shocked to find out I was pregnant. The word bereft comes to mind, why couldn’t the young doctor DO something? I almost think he felt sorry for me. So I did what many young girls did in that situation, I thought I’d better get married. After all, abortion was illegal in 1967.

But when I outlined my plan to marry some frat boy from MIT, my big sister had a better idea. She asked me if I really loved him, and that’s when I broke down crying in the stupid phone booth at the bottom of the stairs in my Beacon Street dorm. She told me to come to New York.  I had an abortion.

It’s true we don’t owe the world our abortion stories, because being able to control our bodies is an elemental human right. I was a teenager, a Freshman in college, I couldn’t support myself, let alone a child. I didn’t end up in a cult, or as Mrs. Frat Boy in a cul-de-sac in Colorado. Did I feel shame and guilt? You betcha.

That’s why I married somebody else pretty quickly;  my step-father had just died, I needed an anchor. I married a law student, because I was still bereft and unmoored, and my starter marriage lasted 4 years.

I’m pretty sure if you count all the women of my generation who had abortions, it would look more like 2 in 4, or maybe 3? We went to Puerto Rico, we went to Europe, we went to brownstones in NYC, and we went to back alleys in Boston – depending on our socio-economic status. We had bought into the idea of equality, until it was too late. The wealthy will always be able to get what they want, the poor will always suffer.

If you were the result of an unwanted pregnancy that turned into a wonderful adoption story, good on you. But you probably left a scar that never heals in your birth mother’s womb. If you were the result of an unwanted pregnancy, and you were raised by your teenage mom, and her mom probably, good on you. That was your mom’s choice. Some of you succeeded without a father, and some landed in the foster care program, which is where I landed as a baby in my Year of Living Dangerously.

Even though the Flapper always told me, “You’re the only child I ever planned,” I was born because of a lie. A doctor thought my father had lost the will to live, so he advised the Flapper to have baby number 6, me! I may have been wanted, but that didn’t change  our circumstances. My father was actually losing his brain to a glioblastoma, I was 7 months old when he died.

Women need reliable, comprehensive, reproductive healthcare. We don’t need a bunch of white men in Alabama telling us we could be imprisoned for a miscarriage… it’s no longer 1967. And I’m not sorry I postponed motherhood, it was my choice.

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“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations,”  Dr Mae Jemison, American physician and astronaut.     

Go to the Google Doodle today, you’ll be glad you did. https://www.google.com  Today is International Woman’s Day. Let’s see how far we’ve come, shall we? We know that menstruation can still end a girl’s education in some parts of the world, while in the 1960s it meant we could get out of gym class.

But did you know that so-called “honor killings” are still taking place around the globe?

Pressure group Human Rights Watch says the most common reasons are that the victim:

  • refused to enter into an arranged marriage
  • was the victim of a sexual assault or rape
  • had sexual relations outside marriage, even if only alleged

 

Five women are believed to have been killed by their families for clapping and singing at a wedding (where men were dancing) in Pakistan. Wearing the wrong clothes or acting in a “disrespectful” manner can also lead a father to kill his daughter. An Italian-Pakistani woman was lured back to her province and strangled when she refused to marry a Pakistani stranger just one year ago, her name was Sana Cheema, she was only 26 years old.

Activists believe there are approximately 1,000 dishonorable killings of women in Pakistan every year.

I wonder how many women have died from illegal abortions around the world?

“If other countries are a guide, abortion restrictions won’t reduce the number of abortions that take place: According to the Guttmacher Institute, abortion rates in countries where abortion is legal are similar to those in countries where it’s illegal. In parts of the world where abortion is illegal, botched abortions still cause about 8 to 11 percentof all maternal deaths, or about 30,000 each year.” https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/10/how-many-women-die-illegal-abortions/572638/

You might ask how can that be, the same number of women die whether the law prohibits abortion or not? Whether a doctor in El Salvador or Brazil reports an incomplete self-induced abortion to the government, or whether a woman dies of septic shock in the comfort of her Florida living room after a legal abortion?

Well, it’s because some so-called “legal” countries, like the US, are still trying to restrict a woman’s access to reproductive services – and when I say “woman” I mean a poor woman. Because we all know that wealthy women will always find a way to acquire a safe, medical or surgical abortion.

Our local Planned parenthood has stopped providing abortions, and so Nashville women are forced to travel to Memphis. Women here donate money to help make those travel arrangements happen.

Yesterday, the TN House voted to join Georgia in passing a “Heartbeat Bill” Bill 77. Two Democrats joined Republicans voting for this bill by a large majority, 65 -21. I am embarrassed and amazed to say a Democratic woman was left standing on the floor, with her hand raised, to introduce an amendment for the exception of rape and incest. She was IGNORED by the Republican ChairMAN.

Since a fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as 6 weeks, before a woman even realizes she may be pregnant, this restriction is perilous and punishing. In the future, will Southern women eventually have to develop an underground railroad, a network to help others travel North to the Democratic states that do NOT restrict access?

Today we celebrate our sisters, our mothers, grandmothers and daughters. My sister, who had to hide her daughter in order to work as a stewardess in the airline industry. My Grandmother, who wasn’t allowed to vote. My Mother who lost her home when my Father died. My Mother-in-Law, who received her doctorate at age 65 after a divorce. My Daughter-in-Love, who organizes and volunteers for Bernie. My Daughter, who helps women in pain every day she puts on her white coat.

And the Love Bug, who is currently learning how to tell time. Let’s not let our granddaughters down and fall back on our human rights. Our girls deserve a limitless future.

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You’d be hard pressed to find me talking tariffs, but here goes…

What I know about Economy 101 is simply the guns vs butter parable – a country who spends more on guns, spends less on feeding its people. I get that, the more we spend on prisons, the less we spend on schools. But today, tariffs are going to start again for Iran according to the Twitter fingers of Mr T, and maybe I should be worried but I’m kind of stuck on an overdrive of worry.

Why are those cave boys from Thailand becoming monks?

Why is Norway separating children from their parents?

What exactly won’t I be buying from Tehran?

And just when my feminist heart was melting because Saudi Arabia finally “allowed” its women to drive cars, I just read that Canada has decided to sanction Saudi Arabia on Human Rights violations.

Saudi authorities in 2018 continued to arbitrarily arrest, try, and convict peaceful dissidents. Dozens of human rights defenders and activists are serving long prison sentences for criticizing authorities or advocating political and rights reforms. Authorities systematically discriminate against women and religious minorities. In 2017, Saudi Arabia carried out 146 executions, 59 for non-violent drug crimes. A Saudi-led coalition continued an airstrike campaign against Houthi forces in Yemen that included the use of banned cluster munitions and apparently unlawful strikes that killed civilians.  https://www.hrw.org/middle-east/n-africa/saudi-arabia

CANADA mind you! Not us, no we just love strong rulers.

Remember how much Ivanka and her dad fawned over that new young Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman? The one who held up his relatives and 200 of the richest Saudis in an airport until they paid their taxes to the crown. Well, not to be outdone, the Prince has retaliated by: evicting the Canadian ambassador; stopped all commercial airline flights to Canada; ordered 16,000 Saudi students to come home; AND placed an immediate freeze on all investments and bilateral trade agreements between Saudi Arabia and Canada!

I guess Riyadh will have to buy maple syrup from Vermont?

This has me wondering if sanctions and tariffs actually work? Or are they just symbolic slaps on the wrist of an increasingly entitled corporate global structure that can shift easily between ruling oligarchs and demagogues, and princes. According to The Washington Post, some goods and services are better than others to sanction. Usually there’s a point at which the demand for something goes up, the price will come down, except for iPhones. But consider Veblen goods, they perform in a contradictory way like diamonds – the more demand we have the higher the price.

“Veblen goods are positional goods, in which demand increases along with price because the good is seen as a display of prestige. Veblen goods can explain why some countries choose to invest in aircraft carriers or space programs when they should be allocating scarce resources elsewhere.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/08/07/why-in-the-world-is-saudi-arabia-sanctioning-canada/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.26a5b146bfb2

Since most countries don’t have the resources to even impose sanctions on one another, the author posits that Prince bin Salman is showing the West his peacock plumage. He is arresting women activists while also letting them drive cars, so they know who is in charge. And he can throw out the Canadian Ambassador because he CAN, ratcheting up his prestige on the world stage…making tariffs and sanctions into a kind of Veblen good. Criticize Saudi Arabia at your peril!

Thorstein Veblen was an economist who coined the term “conspicuous consumption” in 1899. I wonder if he ever thought a Narcissistic real estate con-man who lived in a gilded tower in Manhattan could ever become President of these United States.

Patriotism, Veblen once said, was the only obstacle to peace among nations. Let that sink in.

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Don’t talk to me about your religious freedom. Mississippi and North Carolina, you will not get my vote, my money, or my sympathy. In fact, I can’t believe I must still fly into Charlotte in order to get anywhere from Central VA. I will purposely book flights through Atlanta in the future; at least Georgia’s governor had the decency to reject yet another “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.”

Let’s start with the whole public restroom issue. You want to be able to pee in a private stall? Great. You don’t want your daughter in the same bathroom with a transgender woman, what?

Believe me, a person who is born male, and feels like God played a trick on them because inside, in their soul, they feel female, that person is not going to violate your daughter’s bathroom stall. Remember, even in the men’s room there are separate stalls, with locks, so we can ostensibly sit on the pot. She (or he if you prefer, though whether or not they have gone through any surgery will hopefully NOT be a prerequisite for choosing a bathroom) will have spent most of their life being harassed and humiliated – unless it’s Caitlyn Jenner.

Wait, is that what you want at the women’s bathroom doors of Charlotte Airport – morality police? Like Iran, someone to make sure we women are acting and dressing accordingly; that we were born women? How will you check our femaleness? Maybe we should make transgender women wear a big “T” on their chest?

I have a revolutionary idea. Why not do what the rest of Europe has been doing for ages – put a big “WC” on every bathroom, short for “water closet,” and let the chips fall where they may! If you grew up female in the NY/NJ metro area, you never let a “Men’s Room” sign stop you from using it, since there was always a line to the Ladies! Yes, we Northeners are infidels aren’t we.

And marriage equality, still? Extreme religious groups are trying to pass bills in every state to chip away at the HUMAN rights of the LGBT community. Like the right to have an abortion if we so choose; first we saw TRAP laws to limit access to health care clinics that provide abortions, then “personhood bills.” Well guess what, the Supreme Court answered   that sticky question about abortion years ago, and the one about marriage equality? That happened last summer.

But hey, now it’s your religious right to not hire a gay person in MS because of HB1523, or sell condoms in your gas station, or use a bathroom without worrying who’s peeping through the stall! “Churches, religious charities and private business can use the law to legally not serve people whose lifestyles they disagree with. Governments must still provide services, but individual government employees can use the law to opt out.”  http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-35971038

Yes it is, only it’s not OK to pass a law saying we ALL have to agree with your religious beliefs, because in fact we don’t. The Law of the Land says we don’t!! You see your freedom is just another word for bigotry.

Once upon a time, women didn’t have the vote, and Black folk couldn’t sit wherever they wanted in theaters, buses, or public parks. Let’s remember that our country was founded on religious freedom – the freedom to NOT have any one specific religion make public policy – that is worth repeating since even Thomas Jefferson got this part, he built a LIBRARY in the middle of his academical village, and not a church!

We Americans have the freedom to NOT have any one specific religion make public policy ie we like to keep our church and state separate. Some of us don’t even go to church! This is not the New South I’ve come to love. Here is a picture I took at Cville’s Lee Park after the bill to relocate General Robert E Lee’s statue and rename the park was introduced. It’s time to pick sides America. IMG_4143

 

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IMG_0787Yesterday we got up early to wish our country a happy birthday. Like we’ve done so many times before, we headed up the mountain to Mr Jefferson’s home for the 52nd Naturalization Ceremony at Monticello. http://www.timesdispatch.com/news/state-regional/nearly-citizens-naturalized-at-monticello/article_33d59e48-03f4-11e4-af9a-0017a43b2370.html

Thousands always gather to watch our newest citizens swear an oath of allegiance to these United States; red and blue, right and left unite in our collective pride for once. And as Iraq was dissolving into tribal warfare, trying desperately to sustain its very early gestational stage of freedom, I thought about the bigger picture. How we didn’t achieve true independence in 1776, well not ALL of us did, IMG_0792

We had to fight our own bloody Civil War and then survive the tumultuous 60s, and we are still voting one state at a time for marriage equality in 2014.

And while the keynote speaker, David Rubenstein, co-founder and CEO of the Carlyle Group, read an amusing email he received from TJ himself, it was his list of famous immigrants that caught my attention; Albert Einstein, YoYoMa, Kissinger, Madeline Albright, etc and I couldn’t help but think about the buses of women and children that have faced angry mobs in California, and the refugee camps we’ve set up along border states.    IMG_0797

Still, what other country our size manages to allow and contain so much dissent, along with a free press? How will history tell this American immigration story? It turns out Mr Rubenstein graduated the same year as Bob from Duke University. I asked Bob if he thought he’d been a frat boy in 1970. The Yearbook that year was divided in two, one for the Greeks and one for the Geeks (Hippies).

And as I stood there with my little flag and my hand in its splint, I thought about the Supreme’s latest Hobby Lobby ruling. In 1967 when I was in college, doctors were not allowed to write prescriptions for that newfangled birth control pill if you were unmarried. And today, your boss can determine your reproductive destiny because SCOTUS has ruled in favor of corporations over women. And it has once again softened the line between church and state, and we know what Mr Jefferson would say about that! IMG_0783

http://classroom.monticello.org/teachers/resources/profile/6/Jefferson-and-the-Declaration-of-Independence/   ps why do I always look like some botched plastic surgery victim?

 

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I’m in love with two women. There, I said it. One is a widow, 83 years old, who studied  mathematics and worked at IBM, and the other is a single mom, 50 years old, who graduated from Harvard law School.

Largely because of Edith Windsor, the Rosa Parks in the fight for Marriage Equality, our nation is one step closer to that goal. It is already the law in France, and now California will have to re-legalize same-sex marriage.  Can Virginia be far behind? Windsor is a feisty senior citizen, who got a bill in the mail from the IRS that made her mad.

“Plaintiff Edith Windsor is an 83 year old resident of New York, who legally married her same-sex partner of over 40 years, Thea, in Canada in 2007. The State of New York recognized their marriage, but the United States government did not. Sadly, Edith’s wife, Thea, died in 2009. When Thea died, her estate was forced to pay $363,000 in estate taxes that would not have been assessed if Thea and Edith were not a lesbian couple.”  http://www.marriageequality.org/Federal-cases-DOMA

In United States v Windsor, SCOTUS struck down DOMA as you’ve probably heard, saying that it was unconstitutional to discriminate against one group of people because of the gender of their partner in marriage. I particularly liked this phrase: “…(DOMA’s) effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.” Then they turned around and threw out Prop 8 in California! Well done SCOTUS!

I’m thinking of a second career as a wedding planner in San Francisco. Hey, I managed to make the magic happen on a mountain in an apple orchard! Well, with a lot of help.

The second woman I’m in love with this morning is Sen Wendy Davis of TX. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/06/26/who-is-wendy-davis/

Because I’m on the Twittisphere, I followed along in real time on her filibuster in pink sneakers. The NYT called her a “Fashion icon” on the Hill, but she is so much more than a pretty face. What guts, what glory! I could not stand for nearly 13 hours without a potty break. The GOP in the lone star state, those anti-choice politicians so affectionately called “Gynoticians” because of their untiring need to legislate a woman’s body, were trying to sneak in a crippling blow of TRAP bills that would have closed most of the Planned Parenthood clinics in the state. Go ahead you idiot Govenor, try to reconvene and pass those bills. I’m sure there will be people spilling out all over your state house. We women love our bodies enough to fight for them.

We usually know when and how we get pregnant. We know what a rape kit does and does not do. We don’t like to undergo unnecessary and unwanted vaginal probes anywhere and at any time. And yes, we usually know who we love right from the start. Our knees get weak and our hearts start racing, and before you know it we’ve got a ring on our finger – or a brooch –  as Edith and Thea had to hide their relationship. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/26/edith-windsor-thea-spyer-doma

The government may stop disparaging and injuring women now.

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Photo by Bless Bless Productions

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I’ve had enough of the General failures – old men and their sexual peccadillos. Hamas and Gaza are in the news this morning. Could the fragile MidEast peace crumble; what would it look like, to have Israel and Palestine peacefully co-exist? I’m becoming more and more of a pacifist, deploring war of any kind and for any reason. I’ve followed the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt via Facebook. But yesterday comments turned ugly, anti-semitic diatribes quoting wikipedia articles about which tribe actually owns their sacred land. Luckily, this morning by way of an Atlantic article, I found a different Facebook page, “Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself.”
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Teach-me-how-to-drive-so-I-can-protect-myself/132205866854879?ref=ts&fref=ts

A 32 year old IT consultant, Manal al-Sharif, started this page after deciding she should be able to drive a car around her home country of Saudi Arabia. She posted a video of herself ranting away while driving about the utter ridiculousness of this ban on women drivers. She was arrested, then released. Her Facebook page had 12,000 fans, and now it has 8,019 – hmmm, I wonder who’s been censoring her readership? Although well educated women in Saudi Arabia are not finding any jobs, simply because of their gender, female lawyers have recently been allowed to practice in the kingdom. Change is coming, just not fast enough for some.
http://amanpour.blogs.cnn.com/2012/09/20/saudi-princess-opens-up-about-womens-right-in-saudi-arabia/

Here is a video about the freedom project in the Arab world. It is poignant, it is timely and it asks us to think about what choices we might have if we were born in Japan, or Mexico. The arbitrary nature of life on earth; we sometimes forget how our opinions have been formed over years of culture and family like a smooth stone. When old men send the young to war, over boundaries, over religion, over oil, what if we were all to stand strong and say, “No.” This is the existential crisis of our time. We women need to drive that conversation.

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