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Posts Tagged ‘Public Policy’

When I was a student at Sacred Heart School, I would sit with my hands folded on my desk per the nun’s orders, and stare out the window at the Cadillac dealership across the street. In between daydreams and catechism, I’d count the bricks on the wall of that monstrous building. The bricks were that siena color, formidable and cold. I couldn’t wait for the bell to ring, to rush outside and stand there on the sidewalk across from that brick wall, waiting for my school bus. For freedom.

Call it a fence, a barrier or a wall, call it whatever you like, our government has ground to a partial halt because of it.

When our children were young, my good friend’s husband returned from Germany with a piece of the Berlin Wall. His name was Gunther and he’d been born in Germany. To hear him tell it, there was a party in the street and pieces, chunks of crumbling cement were strewn all over the place. It represented so much more than an end to the Cold War.

The Wall was a metaphor for Rockwell’s four freedoms – “Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear.”

Taken from one of FDR’s speeches to gain public approval for our entry into WWII, Rockwell’s paintings were purely propaganda; they raised $133 Million dollars in war bonds. As I try to understand the Trumpeteers among us, the Freedom from Fear image resonates with today’s imagined crisis at our Southern border with Mexico. A white father stands in the foreground as his wife tucks their children into bed.

Fear is a totalitarian government’s bread and butter.

When Mr T tells his followers that rapists and gang members are setting up caravans to invade our country, they believe him. Today’s illustrator might paint the image of a white father in that same child’s bedroom, within a walled-off, gated community holding a rifle. After all, in the art of Mr T’s deal, it pays to keep his customers afraid.

Barriers, man-made and natural, can keep people in or out, depending on your perspective. Nomads and cowboys and cowgirls hate fences, farmers love ’em. I was surprised in Key West to see a small chicken coop behind a house in the historic district, after all, hundreds of colorful roosters and hens roam free in the Conch Republic.  Then Bob pointed out that not only was the chicken coop door wide open, so was the wall surrounding the yard.

I wondered aloud what keeps those chickens hanging around; and I wonder why all the other chickens haven’t invaded their coop?

We returned to a freezing Nashville this week where Winter Break is over and children have been heading back to school. Our grandchildren loved returning to school, where they needn’t sit still with hands clasped counting bricks. I can only hope that all those 8th Grade trips around this already great country to our nation’s Capital are NOT cancelled.

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It doesn’t matter who designs a border: Russia divided Berlin; the British carved up the Middle East and India; and we Americans decided that Texas would not become part of Mexico. Imperial powers have drawn lines based on ethnicity and/or religion for centuries, and bloodshed is the usual outcome. This past weekend, as we caught up with post-Thanksgiving errands and pre-Holiday shopping, migrants were tear gassed on our California border.

My immediate thought was “Kent State.”

And inbetween cyber-shopping with a bad head cold, I read that Russia thought this would be the perfect time to seize three Ukrainian ships! It seems that the ships were headed down the Kerch Strait, minding their own business, near the Russian-annexed waters of Crimea…ie Moscow crossed that border awhile ago. Vlad figures Nikki Haley has one foot out the door at the United Nations, and Mr T has his hands full with his paranoia and his “caravan,” so why not now?

I will often turn to poetry when the world is too much with me, and right now “The Waking” by Theodore Roethke fills the bill:

“I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.   
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.   
I learn by going where I have to go.”

And I look at the travel section of the BBC and dream about a great escape. My whole family would like to visit Iceland and I’m not sure why; certainly the stark, brilliant scenery is one thing, but like traveling itself, it’s the people who can delight and inspire you.

There is a certain philosophy in Iceland that is similar to Great Grandma Ada’s mantra, “It will all press out.” Of course you must say this in Yiddish, and since her father was a tailor from Minsk, it makes sense. Icelanders call this , “Betta Reddast” which means basically that everything will work out alright in the end! For a very cold nation, they are an optimistic bunch. http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20180603-the-unexpected-philosophy-icelanders-live-by

And although Iceland is not likely to start a war over a borderline, they do have a natural, geographical phenomenon that is pushing the country apart ever so slowly. Climate change is threatening to submerse major cities around the world, but the good news is that Iceland is growing… if you don’t mind a little earthquake here and there.

The country sits on the rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, and those plates are slowly moving apart, widening Iceland by about 3cm per year and causing an average of 500 small earthquakes every week.

Our beautiful new niece and her family crossed the North Carolina border to visit us Thanksgiving weekend, and I’m hoping my virus didn’t return the favor when they traveled back over the mountains. Can you see the Bat Building in the reflection?

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The circle of life was evident on Sunday when our Reform Jewish congregation wrapped the Torah around the sanctuary. We were there to welcome the latest students of Torah, over twenty First Graders are beginning their path toward Tikkun Olam – the tradition of repairing the world through acts of loving kindness. When I was studying Judaism, preparing to convert in 1978, I embraced this codified concept; it would become my “raison d’etre,” although I didn’t know it at the time.

” (Hebrew for “world repair”) has come to connote social action and the pursuit of social justice. The phrase has origins in classical rabbinic literature and in Lurianic kabbalah, a major strand of Jewish mysticism originating with the work of the 16th-century kabbalist Isaac Luria. The term “mipnei tikkun ha-olam” (perhaps best translated in this context as “in the interest of public policy”) is used in the Mishnah (the body of classical rabbinic teachings codified circa 200 C.E.). There, it refers to social policy legislation providing extra protection to those potentially at a disadvantage — governing, for example, just conditions for the writing of divorce decrees and for the freeing of slaves.

This was why my Temple’s committee was exchanging stuffed animals for toy guns at a peace fair.

Why I would find myself writing more and more to persuade politically in a newspaper column.

Why I dragged the Bride and my niece Lucia to a Planned Parenthood rally in DC.

We arrived early on Sunday when one of the older congregants opened the Temple door asking, “Are you here for the Consecration?

“Yes, as a matter of fact!” And as we unloaded Great Grandma Ada’s fire-engine red rollator and settled  Great Grandpa Hudson into his wheelchair, I noted there was only one policeman inside; no patrol cars outside, no armed guards, not even somebody directing traffic.

The day before, our country witnessed one of the cruelest acts of evil at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. A deranged gunman, shouting Anti-Semitic slurs, killed eleven elderly people and injured more, before being arrested. Yet again, media will ask why and how could this happen? And yet again I propose an answer – because of our beloved 2nd Amendment. There are more guns in our society than any other developed nation.

We don’t have more mental illness! We don’t have anymore Anti-Semitism either! Although if incidents of Anti-Semitism have increased by nearly 50% last year in the US, one could argue that our social climate has changed, that what was once whispered can now find a megaphone in platforms online and in the hate speech of certain politicians. If Mr T tells us there is evil on both sides, if he must be persuaded to speak out against Anti-Semitism by his Jewish daughter and son-in-law, and if his followers believe in fake news unless it’s on FOX, where can we turn?

There is a shift in the fabric of the universe.

Brazil has elected Jair Bolsonaro as President, an extreme Right Trump-like politician “His reckless plans to industrialize the Amazon in concert with Brazilian and international agribusiness and mining sectors will bring untold destruction to the planet’s largest rainforest and the communities who call it home, and spell disaster for the global climate,” Amazon Watch program director Christian Poirier said to CNN.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not run again for office in 2021, and speculation is that she may step down sooner. Saint Angela is paying the political price of keeping Germany’s borders open to migrants, stirring that nationalistic fervor, that spark that lead millions of Jews to their death in the last century. A cold chill went down my spine when I heard this news. Will Germany follow in the steps of Brazil, and the recent autocratic elections in Hungary? Will Germany elect a Trump?

While we were gathered in prayer this past Sunday, Mr T was playing the song “Happy” at a campaign rally in Indiana. He joked about his hair. There was one true thing he said, “We just don’t seem to learn from the past.” 

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The Flapper once told me that TV shows are written for the 12 year old brain. Watching TV, therefore, would warp my mind and keep my critical thinking skills at a minimum. Of course she couldn’t have factored in streaming sites, or HGTV for that matter, but still my Mother was one smart cookie. Like Lenin, she also told me that religion was for sheep, and did I want to lead the crowd or be led? What rebellious kid wants to go to church anyway, especially one who had just been kicked out of Camp St Joseph for Girls!

Lately, I feel like watching and listening and to some extent even reading the news out of Washington is like time traveling back to my pre-teenage years. Omarosa is roasting Mr T every day with a naughty bit of audio tape. The Queen of Soul dies and Mr T’s take is that she worked for him? And anyone who has anything to do with the Russia investigation better watch out, they might have their security clearance taken away – kinda like being unplugged!

Because we have a twelve year old payback president who calls the free press his enemy.

My 3 am TV channel was tuned to PBS last night, and I was pleasantly surprised by a documentary on what’s happening in Iran now. It followed a Western guy “Our Man in Tehran” who spoke perfect Persian and interviewed modern, middle-class Iranians, including a middle-aged Persian pop star in LA! It was so good and compelling I woke Bob to tell him that Persian sounds just like Hebrew!   https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/watch-how-the-internet-has-changed-iran-from-cappuccino-cafes-to-headscarf-protests/

Why, you might ask, was I awake at 3 am? Well, I found out I need to have a Mohs procedure done on my dominant hand thanks to sun damage. But in the middle of the night I thought about how alike we all are, how connected via the internet, even Iranians have Instagram. How it’s only the different myths we believe that separate us, as if any one country or culture owns God, even if she/he exists. It was almost a religious experience. And this morning, I give you the Dalai Lama on Twitter:

“I am one of the 7 billion human beings alive today. We each have a responsibility to think about humanity and the good of the world because it affects our own future. We weren’t born on this planet at this time to create problems but to bring about some benefit.” 

So are you a problem maker or a problem solver? Taking retribution against your “enemies” is pretty pathetic, so is tearing up the Iran nuclear deal and walking away from the rest of the whole damn world on climate change. Swinging tariffs around like a bully in the playground. It feels like we have a 12 year old steering the ship, this reality nightmare of a Congress that is 2018.

I was a senior in high school when Aretha sang “Respect.” She was a mighty warrior queen who gave my generation of women its anthem. I will pay it forward, not back, by redoubling my efforts to register young voters and support Planned Parenthood – the one and ONLY clinic left in TN to provide abortions. If we cannot control our own bodies, respect will become an empty noun.

ps, we voted early this month!

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“What you’re seeing is not happening…”

Well, I thought to myself, now THAT’s rich! Mr T was speaking to a group of veterans, he actually told them not to believe anything they see or read! Coming from our Serial-Liar-in-Chief, I could only hope my suspension of disbelief will hold out, at least until November. Because, “Winter is Coming.”

And who knows, in this Hall of Mirrors Presidency, if Putin is coming here with his cyber-security force, or Mr T is going there. But it feels as if we are stuck in a midsummer nightmare with indictments raining down and audio tapes stuck on rewind. And worst of all, the possible nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court, which would swing the pendulum to the right – I can only hope the federal appeals judge will face an extremely rough confirmation fight.

Because while Latin American countries and even Ireland have started to repeal their archaic laws banning abortion, the US has slowly and insidiously been restricting women’s rights for years. In the last decade 29 states have introduced laws restricting a woman’s access to an abortion, either by overt TRAP laws that make clinics close because they cannot comply with their regulations, or covert laws that make a woman view the untrasound and wait a certain number of days.

Read up on the anti-abortion zealot Judge Kavanaugh https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/brett-kavanaugh-roe-v-wade-697634/

I’m only in the middle of the first season of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but it seems that dressing up as a mix of the nuns at Sacred Heart School and St Joseph Camp for Girls and Little Red Riding Hood has become a thing! And it’s not just in the good ole USA to protest abortion restrictions in Ohio, or a visit to Philly by Vice President Pence.

Red-coated women are popping up all over the world to fight for our human rights.

The Handmaids are marching in Croatia, Northern Ireland, and England. They stand in silence in Poland and Argentina. Their white-bonnet heads are bowed in Italy, where abortion is legal but70% of doctors refuse to perform the procedure due to their Catholic faith. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-44965210

I wish I didn’t believe this MAGA movement, this dystopian disruption of everything we progressives hold dear. But when the GOP tells you who are they are, believe them. And since a bunch of conservative Republicans could impeach a president for pulling down his pants in the Oval Office, and then lying about it, what are they waiting for now? Mr T is a serial liar, only it’s not about sex mind you, or maybe it iskinda – it’s not all about payoffs to porn stars and knowledge of Russian help in the election; it’s about collusion and obstruction of justice.

The same conservative Cville blogger who left court this week yelling anti-Semetic epithets at reporters on Town Square, has filed a petition to hold another “Unite the Right” march in DC next month on the anniversary of Heather Heyer’s murder. A young woman who wanted to spread compassion and peace. A modern day martyr.

Next month is the Rocker’s birthday, and then Bob’s and the Love Bug

Next month the Great Grands will go on a Cumberland River cruise

Next month I will have a patch of squamous cell carcinoma dug out of my hand

And next month, I’m hoping this midsummer nightmare will end.

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When I was the Rocker’s mini-league soccer coach, my brother Mike told me that soccer will never take over American Football in popularity. Of course wrecking cranes were tearing down the Berlin Wall at the time, and nobody would have predicted that either. However, the 2018 World Cup fever was electrifying and made me wonder just how viewership compared with the Super Bowl.

My whole family was cheering for France to win, and when they did “Mon Dieu!”

Then I happened to see a clip of the Daily Show where Trevor Noah, who is South African, congratulated “Africa” on the World Cup. I thought it was pretty funny, which is the point, but Oh La La, that hit a nerve in France. The French ambassador to Washington, Gérard Araud, wrote to the network saying Mr Noah had “misunderstood” the cultural model of his country. Well, either that or Mr Araud has no sense of humor.

Immigrant or first generation, like Great Grandma Ada who was born in Brooklyn to parents fresh off a boat from Russia, when is it OK to identify oneself as an American, or a French man or woman for that matter? In light of Mr T’s latest ploy, reminiscent of McCarthy era tactics, to denaturalize American citizens, to eliminate birthright citizenship and ship these children off to their parents’ countries by executive order, it would seem to be a timely question.

Declaring a person stateless isn’t really new; it was initially how the Nazi government was formed by stripping “certain” people of their rights.

In 1922, Albert Einstein said in a speech in Paris: “If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare that I am a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German and Germany will declare that I am a Jew.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/23/world/europe/mesut-ozil-germany-soccer.html?module=WatchingPortal&region=c-column-middle-span-region&pgType=Homepage&action=click&mediaId=thumb_square&state=standard&contentPlacement=5&version=internal&contentCollection=www.nytimes.com&contentId=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2018%2F07%2F23%2Fworld%2Feurope%2Fmesut-ozil-germany-soccer.html&eventName=Watching-article-click

This morning I read about a German soccer player who quit his national team because of racism. Mesut Ozil had the bad judgement to pose for a picture with the Turkish leader, President Erdogan, and then performed poorly at the World Cup. He wrote on Twitter, “I’m a German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose.” Ozil was born in Germany.

Let’s not forget that Mr T got his start in the game of politics by questioning President Obama’s citizenship, and by fomenting fear of immigrants. He tweets absurdities about NFL players who choose to take a knee on their field of dreams.

My midsummer night’s dream is to register as many new voters as I can, naturalized or otherwise born in the USA, in order to reverse our country’s slide into the MAGA dustbin of history. Great Grandma Ada made this necklace with carved African totem beads, Russian amber, and turquoise from the American Southwest – our diversity can only enhance our politics, and our sports teams!

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We’re invited to a baby shower! My “Total eclipse of the sun” friend’s daughter, who happened to train at Vandy with the Bride, is having a baby. The new mama-to-be is a Pediatric Orthopedist who has gone on hunting trips with her father. I wonder if anyone is going to ask her how long her “confinement” will be?

That’s what Great Aunt Bertha wanted to know when I was waiting for the Bride to come into this world. And even today, in some cultures, cocooning the new mom/baby couple at home for the first month is de rigeur. A rite of passage when grandparents and aunties lived in the same village, or around the block.

While finally watching The Handmaid’s Tale on Netflix, I’ve found myself drawn to certain news stories about the myriad ways women have been constrained throughout herstory: binding the feet of high caste Chinese girls to resemble hooves; ever increasing chokers to lengthen the necks of African women; and the latest tortuous injustice in Nepal – banishing menstruating women to a small hut every month because of a superstition that they will bring bad luck to their families.

Young women have died from the cold, from a snakebite, from smoke inhalation. Last year Nepal passed a law criminalizing this practice, yet it is rarely enforced. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/19/world/asia/nepal-women-menstruation-period.html

  • In many world religions, women are seen as impure during their periods
  • They are restricted from entering places of worship and following religious rites
  • The chhaupadi tradition followed by Hindus in western Nepal is the most extreme version where women are banished outside during their monthly cycle
  • In India, women are not allowed to enter some Hindu temples and Muslim mosques while menstruating but there have been court cases to overturn this
  • In southern India, a girl reaching puberty is celebrated with a party and presents
  • In the Dogon tribe in Mali, women of the village also live in a hut during their periods

So this morning, as the world celebrates the rescue of all 12 pre-pubescent Thai boys and their soccer coach from a cave, I can’t help noticing that buried at the bottom of the NYT’s front page is a small piece about immigration. Today is the deadline imposed by a San Diego federal judge for the Trump administration to reunite all migrant families with their children who are less than 5 years of age.

The reunions will be carried out today for about HALF of the children under extreme secrecy with the Department of Homeland Security. As we look away, as we turn to Thailand, some South American families will be reunited and immediately deported. But what about the other children under 5, where are their parents? Where are they? What about the children over 6? The Love Bug will turn 6 this summer.

I never thought my country would break up families and put children in cages on our Southern border. And today, as this administration defies a court order of reunification because (insert some reason here for losing about 50 children and babies) I wonder what our legislators will do. Because doing nothing is no longer an option.

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