Posts Tagged ‘society’

I’ve noticed that news travels slowly in the South. Maybe it’s the history of cool, early evening  breezes on a front porch, where neighbors would catch up with the news of the day, or maybe it’s just the culture. Everything is slower here, and I’ve come to expect it and actually I’ve come to like it. A little banter before a business transaction never hurt anyone, and in fact it helps keep us human.

Well, it’s not often that my husband says he hasn’t heard about a drug. He is a walking encyclopedia of drugs – their generic and brand names and what they say they can do for one of his patients. I used to quiz the Bride on a shoe box full of flash cards filled with a pharmocopia of drug information that she had to commit to memory in order to practice the art of medicine. Brand and generic name on one side, its prescribed use and complications on the other.

But my brilliant hubby never heard of “Molly.” We just figured this illegal drug hadn’t made its way to our sleepy central VA town. Two people died over the past weekend at a concert in NY, and one died in Boston from a new “club/designer/street” drug named Molly. When we heard this news, I said it must be a type of Ecstasy, and I guessed right.

“Molly is classified as a Schedule One drug by the federal government. That means they believe it has “no currently accepted medical use” and “a high potential for abuse.” So now we know it a very pure form of the club drug MDMA , and when taken with other drugs, including alcohol, it can be fatal. http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/mdma-ecstasy-abuse/what-does-mdma-do-to-brain

And yesterday, we found out that one of our own, Shelley Goldsmith a 19 year old second year UVA student, may have died last Saturday after taking Molly at a rave club in DC.

“Shelley Goldsmith had a full scholarship to U.Va., where she was beginning her sophomore year. She was a Jefferson Scholar and a member of the Alpha Phi sorority. Students remembered their friend by painting the Beta Bridge near campus with the message “Shelley our Shooting Star.”

Her autopsy results haven’t been published yet, but statements from her friends, the people who accompanied her by bus to DC, are becoming public. It may take awhile, even in this digital age, for news to travel, but I hope our kids are listening. My condolences and prayers to her family.



Picture from her sorority’s tumblr page

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Let’s talk about race. Or actually, let’s just watch a woman who came from nothing, who admitted to suffering from agoraphobia after her husband left her with two sons to raise, a woman who presumably learned her lesson about lying to the public after keeping her diagnosis of diabetes a secret for three years… let’s all just watch her fall from grace, because she told the truth in a legal deposition, and say nothing.

I’ve lived in the South now for almost ten years. I’ve attended a wedding at a “plantation” in Georgia. It was one of our Big Chill friend’s daughter, who lives outside of Atlanta. I admit I was a little surprised at the name, but the name referred to the location, not its history of slavery. It was a beautiful reception, at a pretty farm, with no hint of racism.

I toured Monticello many times since moving South, every time a relative or friend came to visit. And I watched the docents change their usual speech about the “servants” in the house, to “slaves, to “enslaved people.” They are now refurbishing Mulberry Row, the slave quarters near the house, so this historical site will include an accurate representation of its past.

I’ve dressed up in hoop skirts for the Pilgrimmage at my sibling’s antebellum home in MS. I stayed in the upstairs hall, directing tourists, pointing to Faulkner books, and explaining where Mrs Julia Grant slept; telling the curious which Georgian column the Confederate soldiers hid in. 8571_10200106904211622_1011069772_n

I’ve toured the Civil War cemetery, and watched as re-enacters pitched their tents all over the property. In other words, I’ve been immersed in Southern history, the good and the bad. And hearing that Paula Deen admitted to using that hateful word – a word by the way that African American musicians and comedians use whenever they like – privately, to her husband after being robbed, did not surprise me. What does surprise me is the outrage.

Our generation grew up hearing that word and other bigoted, racial slurs. Don’t deny it. Why do you think we in the North had Gentile and Jewish country clubs? Why did one beach club on the Jersey Shore become almost wholly made up of Catholics, mostly Irish Catholics? Because some places were off limits for certain ethnicities. Oh, we in the North had our own ways of discrimination, more subtle maybe. Since these were private institutions, nothing could be done…like women being denied membership at private golf courses. We didn’t have “White Only” water fountains or train cars, but we knew which neighborhoods had the best public schools; so the “urban” school became a colloquial way of institutionalizing  racism. We Northerners put a fence around public housing and called them “the Projects,” which was a nicer term I suppose than Elvis singing about “The Ghetto.”

Twenty-five years ago, my child had to ride home on a school bus in NJ where a bully had drawn a swastika in the window of her seat.

Because I felt deeply how that kind of symbolism can affect my child, I know what flying the Confederate flag means to a Black person. There is really no excuse for using the N word today. Most of my generation vowed we would not continue using the hateful terminology that was a subtext to our parents’ generation. But, and this is a BIG but, casting stones on Deen accomplishes nothing.  She admitted the truth, she even apologized a few times on YouTube. I like to think she’s grown since her butter slathering everything days. She grew up in a very different South, 60 years ago. And I’m tired of hearing pompous Northern (and Southern) talking heads rant about her racism…let’s talk about the prison system, and our public schools.

Let’s really talk about racism today. Or we could listen to Whoopi tell a joke. It’s the third in a series of bird jokes.

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Remember those first cell phones? Clunky things you had to charge in your car. We had a friend, an orthopedist in Monmouth County, NJ, who would pace along the Sea Bright beach each summer over 20 years ago talking on his gigantic cell phone. The long antennae would wave at us in the sea breeze. We all thought he must be hugely important. When did we go from doctors trading in their pagers, to plumbers to housewives and now kids carrying their lives around in their hands? At our Seder on Monday night, a 90+ year old gentleman named Gene, a family friend forever who still goes into his office every day, fielded two cell phone calls in the midst of songs and Haggadah. I guess no one told him about cell etiquette, although we were all taking pictures with our cells.

Traveling back to the Blue Ridge, Bob and I were listening with one ear to some of SCOTUS’ arguments in the car about same-sex marriage. BTW, I so wish they would place cameras in the Supreme Court. The phrase that caught my ear and eye was Justice Samuel Alito saying, “Same-sex marriage is younger than cell phones or the Internet.” Well yes but…, the internet is even older than that, and we all know how old sex is, straight, gay or even slightly crooked. It’s about as old as the oldest profession. What’s new is trying to separate our civil society from biblical or religious laws of any kind. In fact, that’s about as new as our country!

Only ex-Solicitor General and conservative thinker Teddy Olson seemed to make any sense of it yesterday saying, “You could have said [of interracial marriage] — you can’t get married, but you can have an interracial union. Everyone would know that that was wrong.” Which begs the question, how is a same-sex legal union different from a marriage? Is a label really that important? Olson compares Prop 8 and all same-sex marriage laws to the civil rights struggle. After all, Lincoln DID free the slaves, but it wasn’t until we saw dogs attacking people on a bridge in Selma that America got the message – so saying one thing IS fundamentally different from doing another. And in my mind, saying California was wrong in imposing Prop 8, the ban on gay marriage, does not go far enough

“Homosexuality, Olson maintains, is much like race. It is not a matter of choice. ‘We are what we are,’ he says. Indeed, he likens the Proposition 8 case to Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 case in which the Supreme Court unanimously struck down a law that made interracial marriage a crime.” http://www.npr.org/2010/12/06/131792296/ted-olson-gay-marriage-s-unlikely-legal-warrior

1967, the first year of college for me in Boston. 1968, the year I marched down Commonwealth Avenue in protest after Martin Luther King was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN. We all know what basic human rights are – the right to love and marry anyone we choose – someone of a different race, religion, clan or even sex is a fundamental right in this country, is it not? Do we have a Taliban telling us what to wear? Do our parents arrange our marriages? We can walk into a town hall or a church or a “chapel” in Vegas and walk out married. Half of us can choose to divorce, we have the right to try that wedding gown on again and again. I watched my step-father, a judge, marry people in our parlor! Love is Love and we are who we are. Cell phones have evolved, and so must we.

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This may be hard for our Western minds to grasp, but in order to find our bliss we need to abandon hope. I know, it’s not very intuitive, not even very Obama-friendly, but this is what Pema Chodron, a famous American Buddhist nun has to say about it:

“Hope and fear is a feeling with two sides. As long as there’s one, there’s always the other. This is the root of our pain. In the world of hope and fear, we always have to change the channel, change the temperature, change the music, because something is getting uneasy, something is getting restless, something is beginning to hurt, and we keep looking for alternatives.”

This was the place I was stuck in for a year between the births of my two children. I experienced 3 miscarriages in 1 year, the last after 20 weeks. There is no real way to explain it, the feeling that your world has shifted, that your body can’t be trusted. I was adrift in a world of hope for a new baby, and the fear that I would lose another. I stopped driving over bridges.

Let me step back and explain. The Bride’s friend from medical school, married a woman who then decided to enter medical school; they are a lovely young couple with a new baby just a couple of month’s younger than the Bug. Anna started blogging about being a new mom in medical school, about her decision to start a family in order to get the jump on fertility. It’s a lively and compelling read. http://annainmedschool.com She was recently published in the New York Times – bravo Anna!

Now Anna has written about her friend Julie. Julie has also experienced 3 miscarriages, she writes eloquently about her decision to adopt here http://julienapearphotography.com/blog/?p=1126. She and her husband are sending the word out into the universe and I was humbled by her proactive and personal blog post:

They were told “…that the most successful way adoptive parents are matched with birth mothers is through word of mouth. So today’s post is my plea to you: please help us grow our family! We have been through hell, and have come back from it stronger and more capable than ever. Erik and I are madly in love (together eight years this month!), we have supportive families and friends, a beautiful home to grow in, and we’ve learned through brutal experience that we can make it through a crisis without completely falling apart.”

Between hope and fear is resilience, is never giving up. Julie has stepped bravely into that space. They will make wonderful parents one day. If you know of a woman who may be looking for a loving home for her unborn child, here is Julie’s contact info: erikandjulieadopt@gmail.com

My rabbi told me to imagine that I was a trapeze artist, and God was my net. He helped me to let go and abandon fear.

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Let’s be clear. We’ve had this debate before, and it just leaves us with bad feelings. What is the future of feminism? Why do we women always want to be so darn likable?

The latest slant to this round of “Pin the blame on the woman,” comes from Sheryl Sandberg in her new book, Lean In. Granted she is speaking to a certain class of women; those on their way up the business school food chain, graduates of the Ivy League with plenty of support and mentorship. She wants little girls who were previously called “bossy” in preschool, to be acclaimed for leadership skills instead. I get that. The Bride’s preschool teacher pulled me aside one day and gently asked me to talk with her about her tendency to “lean over” to her seatmate’s art work and offer help and criticism. She was supposed to adhere to the rules, only care about her own work. Harumph.

What was i supposed to do when her Grandma Ada offered her money whenever the elementary teacher checked the box that read something like, “Always raising her hand, too talkative.” Don’t you know children were to be seen and not heard, that being quiet and still was the goal? Things hadn’t changed much from my Sacred Heart days of carefully folded hands on the desk in fear of a smack to the knuckles. Sandberg stresses the importance of choosing the right life partner, and wants you to ask, “What would I do if I weren’t afraid?”

I was talking to Grandma Ada about this and she said “Oy.” The day before she had attended a lecture with a man talking about his philanthropic work and his travels around the world. Ada was sitting next to his wife, and asked her the loaded, mind-boogling question of the century – “Do you work?” Now my MIL received her PhD at age 65 and is still counseling patients at age 88. Softening the question she added “outside the home” and the young woman (who was my age) turned to her and said. “No.” She took care of the children and the home so that Mr Wonderful could do what he did…well she didn’t phrase it that way exactly.

Let’s be clear. I graduated high school 3 years after Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique. She too was criticized for speaking to the well-educated, suburban woman. Men had returned from WWII and women went back into their homes and felt something was missing. This growing discontent sparked the second wave of feminism, after all we had the vote, what more could we want? Young women today are surprised to learn that we couldn’t wear pants on the streets of Boston, that we had to get a credit card in our husband’s name, that we were asked how fast we could type at every job interview. That we couldn’t even get a prescription for the new wonder drug…the birth control pill, unless we were married. We wanted our daughters to have it all, and now that they can, some are just saying, “No Thanks!”

Along with the increase in pay, they may not want to sacrifice time with their families. Many of the Bride’s Duke alums have opted to stay-at-home with their children, for now. Lucky for them, they can afford to do this. When my daughter was considering her medical specialty, the ability to have more time at home for her future family was a factor. I wonder how many men consider this when they choose a speciality? And just why is this a crime, leaning out for awhile? These women with a full-time 24/7 staff at home (nanny,cook,maid), a loving husband who does laundry, should not be saying to our daughters, “Look at me, I went back to the office 2 weeks after my baby was born.” Well la dee (expletive) da!

It’s about time for feminism’s third wave. Equal pay for equal work, it’s not really too much to ask. If working women, from the cleaning staff, to hospital corridors, from teachers to the board room keep pushing the envelope, if they learn how to negotiate for family leave along with pay hikes, if they keep raising their hands that glass ceiling will be shattering all over this country.

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My news sabbatical is over. While nursing this cold I’ve taken to watching CNN in the morning with my oatmeal, tylenol and Vicks scented tissues. And somehow I thought that maybe everything on a Facebook news feed wasn’t necessarily true. Yet there it was, a story I’d merely glanced at online because it made my stomache churn, was now being reported as fact on morning TV: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/01/04/justice/ohio-rape-online-video/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

This story hits all the wrong notes – the high school football team of Steubenville, Ohio is somehow implicated in a gang rape of an unconscious 16 year old girl. Two 16 year old football players are identified and charged with rape, but the real question is was the town and its police force trying to cover this up since it happened in August? And what sets this rape apart from any other is the evidence; it’s not just he said, she said. A hacking activist group called Anonymous has posted video of a drunken boy boasting about the crime, along with pictures of the girl…which is why I saw it online before national media picked it up.

Now juxtapose these two images: CNN reporters interviewing Steubenville shopkeepers about how we mustn’t judge the whole town by the actions of a few, with the protests from India. A 23 year old medical student died after being brutally gang raped on a bus in New Delhi on December 16th. There have been daily protests in the streets since that day calling for justice and the men to be hanged. Five, possibly six men have been charged with “… murder, kidnapping and rape… voluntarily causing harm during a robbery, armed robbery with murder, and destruction of evidence.” http://edition.cnn.com/2013/01/03/world/asia/india-rape-case/index.html?hpt=wo_c2

I know our legislators have much to do after their first day back on the Hill. They must keep kicking the can down the road of fiscal temerity; they must agree with some form of realistic gun control; they have to pass a budget, and oh BTW, thanks for that last minute Super Storm Sandy pass…on the heels of your humiliating first vote. And it saddens me that Congress could not reauthorize the 2012 version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). It seems the GOP balked when language was added to include “…expanded provisions to protect victims even if they’re gay, illegal immigrants or Native Americans living in tribal jurisdictions.” Rumor has it that R-VA Eric Cantor balked at the LGBT provisions, but a rape is a rape is a rape, no matter who you are or where you live. I am hopeful that the increasing number of women in the new 113th Congress can make this happen.


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