The following minute mouth-off monologues are stand-alones
(not from any play), and will be added to regularly. They are fragments of conversation,
brief character sketches, ideas generated from a blog comment or a line or two
in a newspaper-- the sort of thing writers usually jot down in their notebooks.
Some may eventually find their way into a play, but for now I've shaped them into
monologues that challenge performers to fill in the missing details from their
own imaginations: who, what, where, when, why, how?
you can listen to this mouthoff. Click on the headphones to come back to the player,
then look for the opening words in the list.
As a middle school guidance counselor I have a front row seat at the decline of American Civilization. In the privacy of their bedrooms, where parents imagine they are playing something like Pac-Man or using Wikipedia to do their homework, 11 and 12 year old children are morphing into pseudo-sophisticated sex and attention addicts. The criminal cluelessness of parents-- think about the images in TV advertisements and the sordid crime shows and raunchy comedies you watch, and imagine their effect on your 9 year old, can't you?-- yeah, I blame parents. But mostly I blame the pornography industry. Even worse is the media, who have sold porn as glamorous, injecting it into the mainstream. "Pornofication" damages everyone. But while the boys who are encouraging their classmates to pose and flirt and sell themselves as porn stars may face unsatisfying relationships and unhealthy sex lives as adults, it's the girls who are being manipulated into presenting themselves as consumable objects to be exploited, abused, and raped--- and putting the documentation on the Internet for eternity. Their future employers, fellow workers and voters, spouses, children and grandchildren will be able to see these images, read or hear their words. If they react with disgust or rejection, that's a personal tragedy for the women. But if kiddie porn has by then become the norm? That's not personal. That's Civilization collapsed.
I felt embarrassed when I heard the protesters in Cairo say that they wanted a democracy like ours. The Egyptians have been fooled, too! We don't have a democracy. The majority of Americans have given up on being citizens. We've sunk into the passivity of Spectators and Consumers. What we have is a lot like what Egypt and Angola have: Corruption. Cronyism. A Military/Corporate state that lies and spies and works against the welfare of its own people, in secret. A government justifies its attacks on human rights in the name of a Security Emergency. We now live in a nation where the Supreme Court has ruled that buying votes is legal. How can we live with that shame? Probably because TV has numbed us. Hundreds of channels, every one of them under the control of a corporation, with no accountability for the facts and fictions that shape the muddle of wants and resentments and brand loyalties that citizens bring into the voting booth-- if they even bother to vote! In Egypt, the people knew they were oppressed, and they knew the state-run TV was pure propaganda. Once they started talking to each other, talking past the differences of jobs and gender and class and age and religion, they realized that the corrupt and cynical are wrong: people united can change their lives for the better.
I found my Masha at our local shelter. I went looking for a small dog, but there she was, 50 pounds of mixed Lab and mutt, and still growing. She was sweet, just so soulful and sweet. The shelter worker said, "She's smart, too. I don't think you'll regret it." Regret it? She chased my cat, destroyed my plants, and pulled everything that wasn't sewn, glued or nailed down onto the floor and chewed it. Plus, she kept me awake for a week straight, barking to be let in to sleep on my bed. But I solved all these problems! I re-arranged my life so that Masha can do what she wants. When she's not being a chaos machine, she's pure unadulterated love. It's embarrassing how much she loves me: I'm not worthy. But it's not just me. Masha makes friends with just about every human who crosses her path, always begging for a belly rub. Except-- late one September afternoon she went ballistic in our back yard: fierce growls and snarls and barks I'd never heard before. Two guys were climbing over our fence! Masha charged, and they scrambled back over and ran like hell. But one of them dropped his backpack full of stuff he'd robbed -- plus his driver's license! When the police came, Masha greeted them like old friends: belly rub, please? The shelter worker was right. Masha's one smart dog.
I'm only a sophomore in high school, so I've got some time to figure out what I'm gonna do. My older brother Jason's finishing college, following our parents' degree-career-house-in-the-suburbs map. But it looks like the job he expected to get is being outsourced. Jason's really got to find something where the pay's good: he's got a mountain of student loans. But maybe my parents' kind of American Dream isn't possible any more. I've been talking to kids my brother's age and older-- the ones who hang out at coffee bars and farmer's markets and bike shops? They act like Jason's old map is Over. They don't have cars, or careers. They work at health care jobs, or do some kind of hands-on thing like plumbing or cabinet-making. They don't just reject the system-- a bunch of them even refuse to have cell phones! They'd rather hang out and talk about Thoreau, or 19th century athletes, or Steam Punk inventors, or -- old Hippy gurus! You know, that got me thinking: was my Mom's Mom a Hippy? Anyway, these guys don't watch TV, or buy stuff, except organic vegetables and high end fixed-gear track bikes. Looks good to me! But I'll have a hard time explaining this to my family... maybe Gram? Maybe I'll have a talk with Gram.…
I'm 23 years old, and two years ago I graduated from a great university where I majored in something I actually liked - English. I'm about to go on my fourth internship. It's unpaid, and so were two of the other three. Internship: That's the new entry-level job! Certainly in my field, and from what I hear it's happening practically everywhere. I've had more than a dozen interviews-- which shows you how good my resume must be, because most of my friends get eliminated by phone screen. If they got a real live interview they'd invite me over to celebrate! So far the interviews haven't resulted in a single offer. I have done a bunch of temp work, advertise as a computer tutor, and take on any old kind of writing assignment. Including "helping" high school and college students write papers. I stay afloat, barely-- living with my mother. Who is doing the exact same thing! It's not just "kids," people. Mom and I and a frightening number of our friends and relatives ALL need work; and no one is finding it. I don't know how any of us will make it if the economy doesn't turn around.
My mother was a hoarder when I was growing up. Then she was forced to move, and under the pressure she threw out all her "collectibles"-- dishes and knick-knacks that could have been sold on E-Bay for thousands of dollars. At least Mom kept the irreplaceable lace and needlework pieces I'd designed and made for her-- well, she did until she fell sick and friends who helped her move into a nursing home threw my handiwork into the dumpster along with the rest of her accumulated junk. It's true that some people "hoard junk", and others "save valuables". But what makes you so sure you can tell them apart? My first husband used to throw stuff out in a righteous purge. My Stuff! Mail before I even had a chance to open it. Food I had stored in cupboards or the refrigerator. Because it wasn't food he liked! If I hadn't divorced him, I'm sure he'd throw out my antique embroidery collection and the carved wood chest I store it in. I don't use it in daily life, it doesn't interest him or add to his comfort or prosperity: why should I be permitted to keep it?
I used to have a lot of stuff-- things I cherished. I loved walking into my home and seeing my shelves full of books that were like old friends and all the beautiful objects that held precious memories. When visitors admired a vase or a picture and I got to tell the story of how I came to have it and what it meant to me, I felt a deep pleasure in that web of connection. GHow did I lose everything? In the 2007 meltdown. That wasn't a sudden knockout blow, like a fire, but a slow diminishment as unemployment and my own financial losses and cost me my house and everything that could be sold to buy food and shelter. Finally I was stripped of everything that wouldn't fit in a knapsack or a couple of cubic feet of storage locker. I lost my car; my furniture, dishes and cookware, some of it custom designed and hand made for me, the rest antiques inherited from my mother; 20 years of collected art and painting; about 50 pairs of shoes, and--well, the list goes on and on! My piano! I'm a musician who played every single day during the forty comfortable years of my life: I've now gone 3 years without access to an instrument. It hurts. Like an amputation. I saved my laptop with my finished novel and about 70 stories and sketches and a couple of copies of the book of my stories that was published in the 80s. Plus 2 sets of "professional" clothes. If there were any job interviews coming up, I'd have something to wear to them.
I've got some bad news: Obama and his party are sink sink sinking-- and Obama was America's last hope. We're all going down with the ship. When Ronald Reagan and Bush First and Bush Second were jacking up our national debt to destroy the middle class, Republicans proclaimed: "Deficits don't matter! Got to keep up a military bigger than the rest of the world added together, bribe and corrupt half the leaders on the planet!" So long as the spending makes the rich richer, don't consider whether it's stupid or evil. Then, just when the economy's crashing, nominate a has-been Hero and a know-nothing Bimbo to throw the election to Democrats. The Other Party inherits the mess and takes the blame. Now the Opposition, Republicans have a religious conversion: behold, they are deficit hawks! Stop spending, start praying. If Democrats are trying to steer the ship of state out of whirlpool the Republicans drifted into, the Senate won't even sign off on money for a tug boat. As we're going down, throw Captain Obama over the side; and then the rich will abandon ship and paddle to the Cayman Islands in their Golden lifeboats.
I hear a lot of people talking about young people as if we were all self-indulgent slackers, too lazy to get a "real" job. They assume we're living at home because we'd rather sponge off our parents for room and board and maid service. Maybe that's how it looks, from the outside. But what if it's unemployed parents, who rely on their live-in adult children? I'm doing that, and so are five of my friends! Three of us are staying at home and supporting parents and younger brothers or sisters. Another friend is sleeping on the sofa of his apartment, after moving his divorced disabled Dad into the bedroom. My friend does all the cooking and cleaning and nursing besides his own demanding job. Another friend emptied her savings account to keep her parents' home out of foreclosure. And my nephew works full time and gives most of his salary to pay for his older brother's tuition. He says he'll be paid back when his brother gets a good job-- like, never. Where's all the praise for these young people, maybe ruining their own futures to help out their families in need?
Obama did me a big favor. He woke me up from my fantasy. He proved to me once and for all that voting for an intelligent well-meaning Democrat does nothing to stop paid-for politicians funneling all our tax money to their business cronies. Both parties are out to suck us dry. Election campaigns are a fake "reality" show. The contestants are going to do and say what ever it takes to get their show picked up for the next season. Who do you think writes the script? The voters aren't even the point: it's all about the sponsors! If you think who the candidate is matters, you're probably a big fan of professional wrestling. There too, the thrill is booing the bad guys and cheering for your hero. Your guy fights as dirty as the other guy, but you can tell which one to cheer for cause the costumes and the trash talk push your buttons. Watch it, buy the beer or whatever other crap they're advertising, and the show will be back next season. No more watching, no more voting for me. I quit. I'd just like to know: what are they gonna do when they've got it all? When it's not 17% of us on the skids, but 70? Will the show still go on then?
I work for a small service business that used to have more than 100 employees. When the bottom dropped out of the economy the owner cut the work force to 25, just to stay alive. That was tough, but we all worked really hard and now business has picked up a bit. But the boss doesn't want to add anybody! The workload is crazy, and there's no sign of a pay raise, or a bonus, or even the boss coming round to say "thank you." We can't keep up this pace forever! There's nobody to cover if one of us gets sick, so people show up in the office with rashes or coughs and sneeze all over the place. Please! Just a few new hires-- or even some temps! There's a technical position that three years ago paid 50k. My boss said he'd only pay 35 for it now. OK, plenty of applicants at that rate, -- but the guy who was picked didn't last a month. One day he was just gone. I'm doing his work as well as mine, putting in 70 hours week after week, at the same salary I was making for 40 hours in 2004. I don't get enough sleep or exercise, and now I have a low-running fever. But why have the doctor run a bunch of expensive tests and tell me I should take better care of myself? My health insurance deductible has tripled, and the co-pay's through the roof. When the business was dying and the boss was obviously all stressed out, I felt sorry for him. But now? He's on his third vacation, and just got himself a new Mercedes. Frankly, I'd like to see him drive that Mercedes right over a cliff.
I hate the way my generation glorifies thinness and a certain kind of "All-American" look -- and tries to get it through starvation and surgery. I've watched far too many of my friends flirt with death. Three of them went to the hospital, and two came so close to dying that it's a miracle they pulled back. The valedictorian my senior year? It was a girl who shared her catastrophic brush with anorexia. You could have heard a pin drop when she said: "You don't know what love is until your boyfriend is helping you put your feeding tube back in." I told her afterwards, "Your honesty saved lives today." I meant that. A cousin of mine was obsessed with being perfect. She got a nose job and had her breasts enlarged and was doing botox. In her twenties! She died from complications of bulimia, four months after she married her Prince Charming-- so proud at the altar in a size zero wedding dress! Another cousin will never have children: same reason. There's nothing pretty about the Beauty Myth. It's a killer.
Gangsters in three piece suits say they are "entitled" to their millions. They "deserve" to be rich; they "earn" all that money. "Earn", how? They skim it, as sure as coin-clippers nip off gold from minted money. They rip it off the ignorant or the innocent, the ones who can't read fine print and never imagine that a respectable member of the elite would set out to their destroy them. Franklin Roosevelt said, "No American citizen ought to have an income, after he has paid his taxes, of more than $25,000 a year." That's maybe $300,000 today's. The U.S. of A had what was in effect a maximum wage from 1942-1980. You know what? Communists didn't take over, inventors and investors didn't flee the country for a haven across the seas. In fact, we all did pretty well. Sorry, you millionaire CEOs, bankers, lawyers, talk show hosts and whoever else makes up in the top 1%: your work is not worth 100 times more than that of the average citizen. If you disagree, feel free to move elsewhere ... right after we seize any assets you got by ripping us off. But take what ever's left with you to Dubai or the Caymans. You'll love the neighborhood!
My sister Sally swore on the Bible that she'd call me if she felt suicidal. Mom was worried about her too, but she was sure Sally would stay alive for her children. My sister had a girl, 8, and a boy, 5. Just the sweetest kids, and everybody could see they were the center of her world. But she sent them to their dad on "vacation", and told mom and me she was going on a cruise. I found her body a week after she overdosed. Sally had left a note asking Mom to adopt her dog, but though Muffin was still breathing when I got her to the vet, she had to be put to sleep. Sally's kids were almost the ones to walk into this. It was just luck that I checked the apartment when Sally didn't call. If the kids had seen what I saw---. How could she do it? She promised me! But when you are hanging on by your fingernails, it's just you and Eternal Rest. If Sally could have phoned, she would. She hung on as long as she could, and then she just had to let go.
I love my two cats. I send pics of them to my friends on Facebook, and I even put a video up on YouTube. I buy treats for Poozy, who dotes on treats; for Zipps, who can only eat Iams? To make up for not getting treats I let him sleep with me. But when my girlfriend broke up with me a month ago my love for those cats-- for Everything-- just dried up. I'd only been dating Gemma for three months, but I knew I wanted to spend my whole life with her. I made the mistake of saying that, and scared her away. When things are bad I just start drinking, and drink until I hit bottom. I'm in law school, and I've barely managed to study and not miss any exams, which is a miracle. This has been the worst month of my life! Tomorrow is my last exam and I'm packing up my cats to go live with my family in Kentucky and dry out. Giving up my internship -- it doesn't pay anyway. When I get back on my feet, I'm going to quit drinking. I know that if I don't I'll be dead in five years and I'm not ready to die. Even if sometimes I feel like I want to. Statistics say that I'll probably fail and end up dead anyway. But at least I've got to try.
My brother doesn't believe in the doctors' magic pill to cure depression. The family tried that early on, and Tom just got worse and worse. Since he's been out on his own, my brother's been a Seeker. He journeys toward whatever helps him. He's tried different diets and exercises, different cultures and climates. He hangs out with people who like him, and avoids people who don't. It's not easy for him, or for those who love him-- we see a lot of "crazy" behavior. But I believe he's right to go his own way. The biggest advantage my brother has over other people who suffer is that he doesn't have to hold down a job. Tom has money money left him by our grandmother. He's found a community: people who deal with their disabilities on their own. No drugs, no "professionals". I admire my brother: His courage. His openness. After many years of being alone, this year he met a special woman. Now he's in a steady-- if rather eccentric-- relationship. I was sort of scared to meet this woman: what kind of person would commit to my crazy brother? But she's great! Seeing them so happy has given me hope. I'm smiling just thinking about it.
I grew up in a family where there was some abuse, and a whole lot of chaos and depression. My worst was in my early teens. When I began to feel better, I started taking classes in a community college. Now I've made it on to nursing school! I promised somebody: God? Buddha? My dead grandmother? -- that as I healed myself, I would become a channel for healing to reach others. That's how I can forgive myself. I'm burning off a whole bunch of bad family karma. One thing I do to reach a state of grace is to take a walk every day and admire the sky. After I've done that, I look down for at least one block and pick up the trash, recycling it if possible. Another grace-full thing I do is go to the animal shelter and walk and "socialize" some abandoned dogs. Mostly, that's just talk softly and pet them. A simple thing, but if everyone would change just a few little things for the better, the world would change a lot. Each of us has God within us, and each of us has the strength to say "I will not be part of this world's ugliness. I will do what I can."
I have an office in Pasadena, California, and I outsource to India. I do all my business within the laws of the USA. I pay taxes. I admire Obama and I support him-- as far as I can without being a citizen. You, you who are citizens? All you do is complain. Take action at the ballot box or in the streets! You'll see: all these corporations you complain about will fall into line. An Englishman once told me that Europeans, when they get bored they start a revolution; Americans, when they get bored, they go shoppin! I think you went shopping for far too long. Why did you elect representatives who cost you your standard of living? My guess is, ignorance. You want to know the truth? The school system here sucks. The United States does have the best colleges, but what good does that do you if your children are too ignorant to get in? Or can't graduate if they do get in? Sadly, you will be competing more fiercely than ever with us from the third world, now. Who do you think is going to get the next job opening at Microsoft, or Apple? Yes, Apple outsources too! I know liberals want to believe that their beloved Macintosh is not the Devil's fruit. Well, I'm a liberal too, and I give you this free advice: wake up. Fix your schools and get corruption out of your elections.
I just spent 8 days in the hospital for what was finally diagnosed as "a cardiovascular event". They punched, stuck, pinched, rubbed, X-Rayed, scanned, and medicated. They did most everything you can do to a body, except cure it. Now I'm supposed to take five prescriptions, change my diet and excercise, and be "watched carefully" -- but who'll do that? I can't afford any more of these important professionals who bill at 100s of dollars an hour. My insurance paid a large amount of the over $100,000, but I still have to pay 20%. With what, I ask? I'm not working, so how can I pay? With checks? They'll bounce! With a credit card, at 23 % interest? With my first-born? Or maybe pay the way my grandparents did: with flowers and vegetables from my garden. But to do that I'd have to keep paying the mortgage, which doesn't look as if it's going to be possible. What would the hospital and doctors accept? Oh, I know. Monopoly money! Little pink and green dollars! I'd like to pay. I mean, I like the idea of being a responsible person. When the collection agencies call, I pretend to be upset because they call so early in the morning or so late at night. But it doesn't matter when they call. I don't have it.
All these corporations tell us that businessmen need low taxes because they create jobs. I hear this a lot -- especially on TV. "Rich people create jobs." Of course, rich people may even believe it-- because it makes them feel good. But where's the evidence? Cutting jobs and awarding themselves bonuses for doing that has been Standard Operating Procedure for some time, now. One of these days, voters are going to figure out that saying it doesn't make it true. If business leaders were really interested in job growth and the health of the economy, they would be pushing for a return to the 90% tax rate we had under Eisenhower. High taxes were what kept the money in the businesses so the businesses could grow and pay a living wage, instead of handing out the profits to the owners. Some patriots do support an increase. A married couple we know, both doctors, went door to door for Obama. They told me their taxes would go up if Obama was elected and they thought that was a good thing-- because every day they were seeing patients who couldn't afford the medicine and treatments they prescribed.
My right wing sister called me Sunday in a panic, trying to convince me the sky is falling. I am going to see a "huge tax increase" under Obama's plan. Why? See, she knows I own my own business, and she figures that I pay myself over $250 thou a year. Where the heck she got that idea is a mystery. Certainly not from me! Sure, I take in that much-- but that's sales, not net! I pay myself a little more than a school teacher or book keeper. The truth is, in my little corner of Oklahoma, I don't personally know a single business owner who makes more than $250.000. Sure, I know a few folks who are doing really well. And there may be some couples-- my doc and his lawyer wife, probably-- who make enough between them to be over the limit and see their taxes go up. But they can afford it. Their taxes went down before, didn't they? As far as this being some radical rip-off that's going to ruin the economy? That's insane.
I go to this stupid school in Nowhere, Texas, where they make you take "Abstinence" instead of sex ed. I can't stand it. It is so full of crap. My mom said, "You don't have to put up with that nonsense. Call them on it!" So I do. My classmates act like I'm gonna get expelled, or hit by a bolt of lightening, but every time the text book has those made-up statistics, or the multiple choice test has a "right answer" that's a flat out lie, I raise my hand and say "That's bull!" I say, "THIS is the truth", and I have articles from newspapers and the Internet to prove it. I say "Condoms work a heck of a lot better than nothing. 96 percent is still greater than zero, last time I checked" -- stuff like that. Out loud. In front of all the other kids. And outside I sell them condoms from Planned Parenthood, for 20 cents each. Best investment in your future happiness you'll ever make!
Encouraging little kids to idolize the person who can run the fastest or jump the highest or rock out the hardest is a really bad idea. Talent and achievement in one area of life often comes at the cost of more important things-- not to mention the effect on those around the "star". My little brother admires a certain guitar player, and spends so much time practicing or listening to music he is flunking out of middle school. One of our friends is totally into basketball, and only pays enough attention in class to keep from being disqualified from the team. He cheats on tests and papers, too! Coaches say that playing sports builds character, but how do they explain the champion athlete who murders his wife, beats up his girlfriends, takes performance-enhancing or recreational drugs, orders up hookers or groupies and thinks dog fighting and pornography are norml passtimes? They don't explain it. As far as the "winner take all" philosophy is concerned, the end justifies the means. Anything goes-- unless you get caught.
When I think about maybe having a kid, Big Brother-- I mean Child Protective Services-- is my nightmare. Not “What if it's born with birth defects? Or catches a crippling disease?” Not “What if I do a terrible job and it hates me forever?” or even “How will I ever afford the hundred plus thousands of dollars it takes to raise one?” Nope. My main fear is that I will do something like let my 9 year old go across the street to the park! All alone! Without a nanny or a chaperone! The way I did and my Mom did and my Grandpa's grandma! Nowadays do that, and the police will take the child away and social workers will put it in a foster home and doom parent and child to total guilt and abandonment. In a couple of decades we've gone from letting kids run wild because every adult in the neighborhood was assumed to be watching out for them-- but would never dream of calling the cops!-- to one where any nervous Nellie can drop a dime on a parent who isn't parenting in the exact way Nellie approves of . Leaving a 10 year old in a car in the drug store parking lot for 5 minutes while Mom runs inside to pick up the baby's prescription-- that's a crime, now! When I was a kid mothers lined up their baby carriages outside the grocery, with a 13 year old like me to sort of keep an eye on them, and everybody thought that was just the way it should be. Well, it WAS the way it should be! The level of fear now is insane.
Hey! Not everyone is hung up on the idea that physical contact has to be part of some big emotional commitment. Those "free hugs" people? The ones you see at a ComicCon? Wearing their "free hugs" t-shirts? Now I'm the kind of person who hardly ever hugs even my own family-- and I certainly won’t hug strangers. Well-- there was one time at an office Christmas party. Somebody pointed me out as the Geek who fought off the hack attack? And 3 or 4 tipsy Users converged and slobbered on me. Anyway: I just don’t understand the impulse to hug people you don’t have any particular reason to hug. But I don't understand the impulse to eat turnip greens, either. It's not my thing. That doesn’t mean the people who eat turnip greens or hug strangers are trying to prove something or exploit somebody or running some kind of scam. Not at all. They’re just happy to do their thing and hug people who want to be hugged. Same thing with sex. There are some people who don’t necessarily associate a huge amount of emotion with sex. They just enjoy having sex with people who want to have sex with them. And if one of them were to come on to me? Why is there anything wrong with that?
When I was a child, my brothers and I ranged far and wide, playing in the woods and yards and riding our bicycles as far down any road as we chose-- just as long as we could make it back before bedtime. During summer vacation, I swear, my mother would send us outside and lock the door behind us! But as I got to be a teenager, my parents suddenly started freaking out about all the trouble I might get into. My brothers got into plenty of trouble! But I was the one who was a prisoner under lock and key. I was forbidden to talk to my best friend, I couldn’t go to the movies except with my parents-- not even with a classmate and HER parents! All this time I was pure as the driven snow - I didn’t drink, do drugs, smoke cigarettes-- between the age of 13 and 17 I was kissed exactly once! The day after I turned 18, in predictable rebellion, I moved out of the house. I got a job, got a boyfriend, got pregnant and got married. Luckily for all concerned the boy I picked turned out to be a good husband and father, and we're all doing fine. But I can promise you, when my daughter's a teen I'm going to treat her like a person who deserves respect. If I were to suspect she had a problem with drugs or alcohol? I'd try to get her in treatment, not lock her up and try to get the police to arrest her friends.
When I was in high school, my mom and I had a game. If I wanted to stay out past curfew, I'd tell her I was staying over at a friend's house. Most times I didn’t even know who that was going to be before I got to the party and checked my friends out. Who was drinking too much? Who was planning to spend the night with her boyfriend? I'd call before 10 to give her the name and address of where I was staying. My Mom and I pretended that my friends were sending the boys home and going to bed at 10:30 or so-- but at some level she knew better. She trusted me. If the party got too rowdy and there was nobody safe and sober to go home with, I'd go out to my car and roll up in the sleeping bag I kept in the back seat, just in case.
I didn't go home late, because I knew that if Mom was expecting me to come in at 11 or 12, she just couldn't get to sleep. She went to bed, but she was listening for my key in the lock. Not because she didn't trust me and was going to come down and ground me or read me a lecture! No, she needed to know I was safe. As soon as she heard me come in, she could sleep -- or she could sleep peacefully from 10 o'clock on, secure in the thought that I was staying with of the nice girls she'd met, the ones she knew as my friends.
All my money has suddenly gone down a sink hole. It was there yesterday, but it's not here today. It just vanished. Was it never real? Ever? I thought I knew what money is, how it represents products and labor and so it can be exchanged. People all agreed that money can be earned, saved, invested, inherited; spent, wasted, stolen: but vanished? I don't understand. So, I'm looking for someone to blame! And there are plenty plenty of places to look, plenty of people who have been unmasked as crooks and liars. Rage and shock and tears and nausea pour through me in waves as it all unravels. But didn't we have an agreement about keeping faith with each other? When the regulators, the CEOs, the realtors, the loan officers-- and yes, those borrowers who had a suspicion that the loan they were offered might be more than they could repay-- when all these people decided to grab as much as they could and the hell with everybody else?-- Is that what caused a rip in the 4th dimension to open up? To swallow all my savings? Along with all of our hopes for the future!
If you're open-minded but not politicly active now, how do you expect to age? By getting frail, timid, and cranky? Complaining about your aches and pains, and condemning every new idea as a change for the worse? Or by becoming a lot bolder-- because by then there's nothing left to lose! Who will you need to impress? Who will you be hoping to hook up with? What's the worst that can happen if you piss somebody off? Maybe what you will want the most as a Senior Citizen is to make the world a better or more beautiful place.
My Grandma is in her early seventies. She speaks up now in a way that she never would have even a few years ago, while Grandpa was still alive. I think she worried about embarrassing him. She's certainly not worried about embarrassing Mom! On the environment, abortion choice, gay marriage-- Gram's a firecracker! With a lot of life experience to back her opinions up. So, thanks to her, I associate gray hair and wrinkles with fearlessness and a spurt of energy. Grandma's planting trees, and planting ideas, hoping they'll flourish in the world she leaves behind. She knows her time is getting short: Taking Action Right Now is the only way. And Mom and I say, "You go, girl!".
A young woman was at my house last week, just bursting to tell me her latest epiphany. So eager to share this nugget of wisdom, this flash of enlightenment, that had come to her in an instant but was clearly meant for all the world-- or at least the female half. So she told me. A week later, I can't remember what it was. But not to worry-- it was merely words, and she'll have another epiphany in a day or two.
Real insight leads to real change: how many people manage to do that? Of the ones who do, how many regress once they are under stress? I've met a lot of alleged feminists who can go on for hours about their wrongs, but don't seem to practice any of their "rights".
The women who were my role models could change a flat tire and scale a cliff and bake a crumb-crust apple pie.
I fixed a neighbor girl's bike yesterday, and I asked, since I was in front of her house, "Do you have a Phillips head screwdriver?" She said, "What's that?". Girls aren't locked in the kitchen today: what's her excuse for being that helpless? It's as important for a woman to know how to use screwdrivers as it is for a man to run the dryer or make coffee.
I grew up on a farm. When I was 12, my parents took in a friend of theirs who needed a place to stay. They'd known him since I was a toddler, I think: I'd always called him "Uncle John", though I knew he wasn't actually related. Anyay, no sooner had Uncle John settled in than he started coming into my room at like 3am and molesting me. I screamed and tried to fight him off, but he was really strong, and he came at me with threats and crap about telling. Which I sort of believed, because why didn't my parents come and rescue me? I was screaming! Were they drunk? Did he drug them? I can't explain it to this day. Anyway, I got the idea to draw dirty pictures of what he was doing, and tuck them where it would look like I was hiding them but I knew my parents would find them. Mom did, and she went ballistic! She waved the pictures in my face and "forced" me to confess this horrible stuff was happening. She swore she was going to kill him, and she meant it. She had her own 22 to use against snakes and varmints. She stormed into Uncle John's room, put 3 bullets into the pair of pants he had hanging on the closet door, and gave him 20 minutes to get out. She called the cops but they do anything until he came back while we were in church the next morning and stole all the guns in the house. The police never caught him.
Want to talk about economics? Here’s mine: My mother worked full-time before I was born, and after. She's supposedly retired but she still works, because her Social Security isn’t enough to live on. My father, her ex? After he left Mom had full custody and the use of the family house, but he was always a deadbeat on child support. What was she gonna do, put him in jail? As soon as my sister and I were grown he got a smart lawyer and took the house away from her. Mom was left with her 2 sick parents, herself, and a grandchild to support. Me? I'm in my 30s, and I can pay for rent and food; but I know I'll never be able to afford a house, and I certainly can’t afford children. Friends of mine who foolishly thought they could afford them are forclosed and bankrupt and homeless, now. I recently ran the numbers: if I work every day for the next 35 years, I still won't be able to save enough to support myself more than 3 years after I start collecting what's left of post-Boomer Social Security. I need to die by 73 or be broke and homeless. And that's optimistic. That's if I'm never fired, and my bank doesn't fail. Do the math, and count yourself lucky if your budgeting is more positive. I know so many people my age with abilities, skills, and advanced educations being forced to realize that the American dream is just that, a dream. A fantasy. Like hitting the lottery.
I'm standing at the sink washing out the tomato tins to ready them for the recycling bin, and my thoughts are not pleasant ones. We just got mandatory recycling in our town. Whoo-eee, now! We're cool and green! But! The requirements they put on us for what they’ll accept? The condition it has to be in? Adds up to a not-inconsiderable amount of extra housework. OK. Fine. Yes, I was the one of the Greenies who've been agitating for curbside recycling. So I should be glad. But! I can't believe the hectoring, guilt-inducing tone of all the town's communications on the subject. It fills me with rage! How dare they talk to me like that! Oh, yes, I take it personally. All of these communications are clearly directed at the Woman of the House. Great! Being female, from now on it’s my personal duty to save the planet. Failure to rip my cardboard boxes into exactly 12 x 16 pieces and tie them up with town approved twine before laying them flat in the proper bin will lead to fines and ecocide and brand me as a lousy wife and mother! Meanwhile, our local plastic plant continues to dump crap into the river, manufacturers continue to package their food and cosmetics in un-recyclable containers, and our dump only takes certain kinds of plastic packaging and not others. Which kinds? Well, you have to have 20-20 vision and a degree in iconology to tell the legal from the rejects! And where are the rejects supposed to go? The town is going to start random inspections, snooping through our bins to check whether we’re following the rules! Criminals will be remanded to the chain gang; or set in the stocks, branded with a scarlet A.
Loneliness is a big factor in my involvement in church. I don't have much in the way of family. I don’t drink or enjoy clubbing. I’ve never had enough money to take part in things like sailing or golf, or tennis or skiing. I’ve lived in 8 different states in 14 years. Even if I weren't shy and inclined to stay unobtrusive and out of other people's way, it would be hard for me to build up a network of friends when my job moves me around so much. Nothing feels lonelier than being surrounded by people I have no connection with. Consumer culture emphasizes satisfaction through buying stuff, inserting itself into human interactions in a way that substitutes objects for connections. We're supposed to feel secure and affirmed because we're wearing the same fashions, drinking the same brand of beer. Doesn't work, for me. When I was unchurched I'd go home from work on Friday night and literally not speak to another human being until I got back to work on Monday morning. But once I was part of a congregation, I not only had a place to go, I had people who want me to be there with them. They care. We've come to that place to work at caring for each other. When my job takes me away, there's a church of my denomination in the new city, ready to welcome me. I've never found that kind of community anywhere else.
I am old. My perspective is different. My family in Appalachia had no money, no car, no TV. They never owned a house. But they had excellent educations, and saw to it we children did, too. Our educations were affordable. There were no spoken foreign languages available in my time, but we did have Latin: a real gift that the education system snatched away from us poorer folk after my high school days. They also watered down our knowledge of history and geography - substituting something called "social studies". The emphasis became more and more on training for occupations - no philosophy, music or art. My mind has not been deprived of ideas. I love to read and did study music, which I love above all. I follow what is going on in the world and am sorry to say that the country is going to the dogs, due to tragic choices concerning wars and the seeking of treasure everywhere. People's home environment is increasingly chaotic - full of cell phones and sound systems and gaming devices which become obsolete overnight - filling dump sites. I prefer books. Happily, I see young people who, though their education is not stellar, still have curiosity. They will travel, and discover that young people in other countries know more and look down at us because of our ignorant arrogance. They will return and demand that our country wake up and do better.
Financial security : that's what marriage is about for women. Sexual attraction is what motivates men, and a man being the provider and protector is what makes a woman want to be a man's wife. I’m not suggesting that a woman should behave like a gold digger, or be irresponsible with the money her husband provides for his family--but financial compatibility is more important than chemistry or hobbies. My husband and I are facing these issues from a different perspective now, because we have a 20 year old daughter. We've raised her to have traditional Family Values. She's a young woman who wants to be an adoring wife and mother, skilled in managing a house and caring for her husband and children. She is lovely and charming, and would be a "perfect 10" except that she doesn’t have a Playboy centerfold body. Lots of men want to take her out and try to pressure her into sex, even though she makes it clear that she's only interested potential life partners. She is still virtuous-- and these dates with men who aren't serious but just after sex are wasting her valuable time! She's eager to provide a loving spouse and a beautiful home for the lucky man who wins her. But we'll have to address perfect body thing with surgery, because she’s going to be an EXPENSIVE wife. She’s MY daughter, after all! Still, it was really hard to tell her the truth about that. Men are shallow. Successful men will want their wife to be a best friend, a support system, a super mother,-- but also to be a trophy to show off, to be the envy of their friends.
I talk to the American People on the phone every day as part of my job, and I can tell you -- they're dumb. And petulant. And worse than 5-year olds. Are they dumber than they used to be? Hell, yes! How else do you explain two terms of George Dubya? Worst president, ever! I don't suppose you could say this is the dumbest country on the planet. There are worse, I'm sure. But the other countries have excuses: famine, war, oppression, plague. We did it to ourselves! My co-workers are college graduates. Those under the age of 30 have the vocabularies of 4th graders. If I had a dollar for every "like" "you know" "I mean" and "awesome" that comes out of their mouths, I could vacation in Reykjavik. Or in some other interesting city whose name Americans can't spell and about whose geography and history they haven't a clue. And let's not even discuss their writing skills. It's like dealing with foreigners who have learned individual English words but who can't yet put them together into sentences. What's the point? Everybody's connected to their iPod, surfing porn, getting down, being cool.... Dumb's #1!
After growing up in my parent's secular household, my sister converted to fundamentalist Christianity. I’ve spent the last 15 years trying to figure out why. The life-after-death thing is only part of it, I think. Other religions offer that too, and some of them wrap it up in a much more beautiful package than fundamentalism does. I think what appeals to my sister is the clear cut rules. Do A, B, and C, and you are a good person. You will be loved! My parents always told us, "Whatever you want to do with your life is okay with us. As long as you’re happy." My sister couldn't deal with that. Too much freedom! That can be scary., for some people. My sister sort of floundered around, not settling in to a career or a relationship, until the church stepped in and said: "Live your life by these rules, and you’ll be happy". That was a big relief for her. Freedom means the possibility of failure. She married a Believer, and now she prays and obeys and the rest is her husband's problem. Or God's. Never underestimate the fear of failure. Never underestimate the appeal of something that offers to take away that fear and replace it with easy answers.
As a college professor on the verge of retirement, I can tell you that the majority of students I am getting can't spell, or punctuate, or construct a paper that makes sense -- and I teach juniors and seniors, in nursing! Our students have had two years of regular core University courses before being admitted into the College of Nursing. They have 3.2 GPA's or higher. The writing skills they lack, I know my parents already had in high school-- and so did I. Even my grandmother could write a well-organized essay for our local paper, or to send to the School Board -- and she left school in the 6th grade to help out on the farm! Probably the decline of writing began with the invention of the telephone, and radio and TV and virtual reality games have just made it worse. Communicating via the written word is no longer a natural part of growing up for an American. My daughter can write excellent papers: but then she spent three years in an International School in Europe. I suppose that in some areas like technology, today's kids may be better educated. But I think on balance Americans know less of what is relevant to being rational, ethical, independent citizens of a democracy. They've been bombarded with so much of those emotion-laded visuals-- pop culture entertainment and commercial "messages"-- that their mental filters are either clogged or burned out.
On April Fool’s Day I was playing soccer on the baseball field in the park at the end of our street when I broke my ankle. A compound fracture. It hurt, but not as bad as when I broke my wrist falling out of a tree when I was eight. Back then, Mom drove me to Dr. Lieber's office, who put on a cast and gave me pain pills. This time, I got taken to the emergency room. It wasn't fun waiting my turn to have the bones set, but they did a good job, I guess. It healed pretty well. My ankle doesn't hurt. But what does hurt, and is going to hurt not just me but my whole family for years to come, is the bill. $17,000. Dad lost his job last year, so no insurance. My parents had some hope for a while that we could sue the city or the high school or something But it wasn't an official game: just kids practicing soccer, and on a baseball field at that. Can't when it's my own fault. So, there goes my college education. Which is kind of funny, since I signed up for high school soccer so I would look well-rounded on my application! The wrist I broke in third grade cost less than $200, Mom says. Who'd guess an ankle could cost so much? My grandpa must be spinning in his grave. All those years he paid into my college fund, and I blew it in one day at the hospital. April fool!
I had a stroke about 4 years ago. I'm young, and with a full recovery should have many good years ahead of me. I thought it was a miracle, and I was praising my neurologist like he was a saint for giving me life back, when he said to me: "Not so fast. You may feel as good as new. But this is on your record now, which means many things in your life are going to be changed. And not for the better." I didn't understand. I had to ask him what he meant. He said, "You're going to be tagged as a risk by all the insurance companies, and most employers will blackball you-- and there will be nothing you can do about it." I couldn't believe this, not at the time. But how right he was! Profit based healthcare means that because I've been sick, I'm uninsurable. My life is in jeopardy-- right now. Four years without a job has used up all my savings, but the state says I don't qualify for disability because I'm medically able to work. Damn right I'm able! But I can't even get an interview, much less a job. I suspect “they” have illegal access to my health records. My "Pre-existing condition". I can't afford my medicine, can't pay my rent. What is somebody like me supposed to do?
I bought into Ownership Society dream back in 2000, just as the housing market took off. So I'm not going to lose money on my older house unless prices drop another 50%. But I was a cock-eyed optimist, and borrowed against my equity to remodel. I have a beautiful hickory floor, which I love. I really do love it. I'm not being sarcastic-- just... realistic. Cause now I'm in debt up to my eyeballs! My house still has a 1983 kitchen that needs to be ripped out and replaced, and I'm tapped out. There's a lesson here: prioritize. Still, I'm a lot better off than some of my friends. Two years ago, at the market peak, I advised them not to buy. Warned them, BEGGED them not to buy! For my efforts I got called a wack-job, a fruitcake, a "downer" -- I was even advised to seek medical help for my Clinical Depression. And now? They're the ones struggling to make $4000 a month house payments, on an upside-down Adjustable Rate Mortgage. "I told you so" doesn't make me feel better. I'd rather have been proven wrong and my friends not in danger of losing their houses. What they are going through is hell, and it doesn't look as if it's going to get better anytime soon.
Flag-waving hero-worship won't help the men who are crushed by the crimes they had to commit. Remember the stories about soldiers who were spit on when they came back from Vietnam? Not true, factually. Didn't happen. But metaphorically, the story is right on. My Dad says there were Veterans who felt like a righteous person would spit on them, and he understood that. He didn't want a parade, either. What he wanted was to spit on the pathetic Americans who went on with their lives like nothing had happened. One day the soldiers are in a war zone shooting and getting blown up, and the next day back in the USA-- and nobody really gives a damn. My Mom worked in a VA hospital in the 1980's with Vietnam Vets, and saw how they were treated. I work there now, and see the ones from Iraq. I'm about to quit. I can't stand stand the conditions we expect our patients to put up with. I'll be replaced, of course. By foreigners, who don't have any foolish ideas about how Americans ought to be treated. What I want to know is, why don't people stop their shopping and watching TV and get out in the streets and protest? As long as they won't, I spit on them.
Frankly, I think anyone who voted for Bush twice should recuse themselves from voting from now on. People like that don't have the common sense to vote for the Common Good. How do you pick who you want to run the most powerful country in the World? Well, it's certainly not who you'd like to drink a beer with! And weren't you paying attention? You couldn't ever have a friendly beer with Bush-- and not just cause he's always been rich and you aren't. Till he was forty, he was a nasty drunk. Now he doesn't dare drink at all-- think about that, as you belly up to the bar! I'm sick of fools who say "We were misled"! Funny, I never was. If you bought the crap Bush & Company shoveled out on the campaign trail, you probably have 3 maxed out credit cards and a house in foreclosure, too. Congratulations, chump. You have handed the neo con men all your worldly goods- including your children and their future. Too bad you had to hand them mine, too.
Blue collar workers perform functions which are both essential and deserving of respect. The houses or apartments where you and everybody else live? Those are built, for the most part, by people who never graduated from high school. Sometimes by men who can't even read and write. If all the architects and all the lawyers and all the garbagemen went on strike, who do you think we'd miss first? You bet: the garbagemen! I know two brothers in my town. One went to college and law school, and became a district attorney. The other went into their Dad's plumbing business right out of high school, and financially he's done just as well. The plumbing guy told me once that he makes the all money he does because he was willing to stick his hands into other people’s shit. He deserves his good pay, and he deserves respect, too. Today I picked up a shovel and cleaned out a blocked conveyor belt at the concrete plant I run. That's not beneath my dignity. I’m more educated than the other workers at the plant, and I make more money. But I’m no better than any of the other guys who come to work every day, whether it’s 95º in July or 5º in January, and do their jobs with pride. Any job well done is a good job.
Part of the deal women make in order to gain power is silence. Never complain about how women are treated-- at least, not in mixed company. It's naive, sure: and it's also dangerous. Male backlash is not a myth, and when it hits you don't be surprised that your fellow females will rush to desert you. They're afraid the backlash will damage them, too. Look at what's happening to Hillary Clinton! A perfect example. People put words in her mouth and if they are the kind of words that men resent, no women will speak up publicly to defend her. But in the privacy of the voting booth they may vote their approval! The fact is that the political conversation that occurs in public is led and critiqued by men, who still make up more than 80 percent of Congress, newspaper columnists, editors, Tv writers and producers, writers, political talk-show guests, and so forth. The women who are "allowed" onto the public stage have to please these male gatekeepers. That said, it doesn't mean that the "silent majority" of women don't have opinions or the ability to articulate them when with close personal friends or in all-female groups. Instead of a public conversation, they have an ongoing conversation with other women, in private, where they feel they can speak freely without fear of being penalized for saying what they actually think. Their opinions may not show up in the polls. They may not even have the nerve to cast a ballot for one of their own. They realize all too well what a woman leader will be up against.
Why are women are so afraid of being pro-woman? Being called girly or dumb? They're always saying things like “Of course I’d never vote for a woman just because she’s a woman”. But everyone, male or female, black or white is allowed to say "Vote for Obama because we need a African-American in office to show our best face to the world”. Why can’t a women’s face be “our Best”? I say it is pure misogyny. That's why women are afraid. The minute men get the sense that a woman is supporting another woman against a man, the misogynists gang up on her to warn other women not to get out of line. Some warnings are subtle, like when the men pat the girls on the head and tell them Hillary will mobilize the truly vicious woman-haters among the Republicans, so voting to nominate Hillary is doing what the Devil WANTS them to do. It’s the same nonsense about her “crying” It’s daring you to believe your own eyes when a woman reacts like a normally sensitive human being. If it is Hillary, she must be either a whining narcissist or a manipulative bitch-- she’s faking it. Women aren't really people to these people. Why on earth do women take their arguments seriously? Fifty-one percent of the population does not constitute a special interest group. Voting women's interests means voting for the interests majority of the country. "Women and children first!" is good policy, and a clear repudiation of the greed and aggression that has run roughshod over humane policies and institutions.
Bush loves to talk with soldiers as his background, or strut around taking salutes as “commander in Chief”. He pretends to be a veteran, a pilot-- but he never showed up for his "duty". This is a fact. I know that you all have been led into thinking Bush actually did serve. But my husband was in the National Guard at the same time Bush was supposed to be, and I know Bush was awol. I always wondered why I was ironing that uniform, when Bush was out playing around. His partying, his hanging out with rich Republican donors, made the newspaper. It didn't seem right to me back then, and it still doesn't. Bush was an alcoholic until age 40, and I’ve talked to people who said they saw him using cocaine. As the son of an important man he got away with things when anyone who was less well connected would have done serious jail time. He and his cronies. They laugh at people like you and me. Hard-working middle-class citizens? We’re chumps. We vote for these guys, even as they make it harder for us to own a home, pay for college, buy and operate a car. Politicians "act" so concerned about you paying $3.00 a gallon for gas. while smoking a cigar in the back of the V-8 Town Car provided by their Big Oil Lobbyist.
My mother knows people who've been on diets for most of their adult lives. When we go out to a restaurant or she invites them over, they have a whole set of food taboos-- usually a whole different set from the taboos they had the last time we got together. I have relatives who rub away at their stomachs as if that will take off an inch or two, and friends who are as thin as they can be even though they stuff themselves with greasy fast food. As far as I can see, they all get sick at just about the same rate. They all will eventually die. What do they think, there's some kind of food magic that will let them live forever? My opinion: you want the secret to long life, eat bland horrible foods. You might not actually live longer, but it will sure seem like it. If you want the secret to a happy life? Eat what you enjoy, and enjoy what you eat. Enjoy the body you were born with. Don't punish it like it's an enemy.
The latest generation is shocked-- shocked! Blathering on about mercenaries and warfare. My stars and garters!-- have you read any history? Private wars, rich guys raising their own troops, soldiers bribed to fight, or invited to loot as their pay? To the victors belong the spoils! You think this is new? Remember slavery? The Civil War? Remember rich guys who hired poor guys to fight for them? Remember Army recruiters who dragged immigrants off ships, slapped a uniform on them and packed them off to be killed with Custer? Remember the Maine? We lied! Remember the Alamo? We stole Texas! Remember bounty money for Indian scalps and runaway slaves? Dirty fighting and dirty money is everywhere in history, and the U.S. is no exception.
Thanks to decades spent destroying public education in the name of reform, the American public has been lulled into submission. Looting America isn't enough; the thieves have gone on to loot other countries in the name of Democracy and Freedom. The people are cowed and confused, shut out of the process of power as our representative government is replaced by a military and corporate cabal that is most accurately described as "fascism". Jefferson wrote, 'The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.' We are expending the blood of our honor half a world away, in a war that will damage our economy for generations, and our ideals and morals for far longer. What is to be done? Overcome the corporate thought police, rise up and hang the traitorous felons from the lampposts of history! Reclaim America, by and for Americans...while there's still some semblance of an America left to reclaim.
The people who financed and encouraged the 'Islamofascists' back in the eighties? -- trying to bankrupt the Soviet Union with the war in Afghanistan? -- they created the monster we're fighting now! This tragic 'dance of death' is proof of the saying "you become what you fight". Ruthlessness on both sides, justified by religion on both sides. I don't see any of the 3 million plus Muslims that live right here in our own country, holding a gun to people's heads, saying "convert to Islam". I am not saying that there are no extremists, but extremists exist in all religions. The fact is we are not going to win hearts and minds by killing innocents, using "shock and awe" weapons, and bringing chaos to distant countries. The United States is the major manufacturer of all the weapons used in the world. If we would just stop producing weapons, that alone would be a big step toward peace.
When I was in high school, the Catholic school in my neighborhood assigned their kids to write letters to the editor of our weekly paper about how Planned Parenthood is evil and shouldn't be allowed to operate in our town. I wrote a letter, too-- defending the clinic. Planned Parenthood helps people, I said. Every child should be a wanted child. No kid should have to grow up without loving parents who are able to provide a good home and an education. Christians trashed me! Not just Catholics writing letters. Fundamentalists of all denominations called my parents on the telephone to tell them what a sinner I was. People drove by and threw toilet paper and condoms on our lawn. I got death threats. Why? It just boggles my mind. These people seem to think that if they're harassing somebody, that proves they're better than their targets. Also, that hating "bad" people scores you as many points with God as being "good" yourself. Where does that come from? These God-fearing believers don't want to help people. They want to punish them. Punish laziness or stupidity with starvation. Punish sex with pain. Every way people can suffer is imagined as punishment. Do they think the way to Heaven is to turn life on earth into Hell?
I've been battling cancer for a dozen years now. Not much has changed about treatment, but the system is definitely getting worse. More and more Americans are in a position where the combination of McJob wages and shrinking health insurance benefits puts good health care out of
their reach. People are frightened to go get the tests they need, or they put them off because they have a high deductible. Cancer isn't feared just because it means dealing with pain and death. A
diagnosis means financial ruin. I know people who were being treated for cancer and the pressure is just too much. And these are the "lucky" ones! The ones who had some sort of insurance so that they were able to get started with treatment in the first place. It takes every bit of energy a person has just to fight the disease. When the hounding starts from the collection agencies? Some will just withdraw from the world. They tell their friends they are out of town, or too busy to see them. They don't answer the phone. They stop opening their mail. Once they give up, the disease eats them alive.
I've always loved sports, and what I love most about sports is that all you have to do is play the game and show your stuff. No spin, no politics. A home run is a home run; a basket is a basket; a goal's a goal. But even then, it's not a level playing field. I kept being told "Gee, you're good. You could play on the Team, if you weren't a girl." In a pickup softball game in the park? I'd take my position at shortstop only to have a guy come by and stand in front of me. I say, "Excuse me, but I'm playing here." He gets mad, cusses me out and calls me "dyke"; stalks off to play for the other team. I've had guys get mad at me personally because I was the woman on a team that beat them. Like we're so inferior, losing to a woman is an insult! Even when they "let us play", the guys want to put us "where you can't hurt anything" - or can't do much good, either! The last straw was when I went to work for a sports magazine-- yeah, That sports magazine. I was automatically assigned the "soft" sports, even though that was the area where I had the least experience. When I'd make suggestions for stories, they'd be rejected: but the same suggestion is greeted as a great idea when some guy brings it up. Men think they own sports-- like they own government and the military.
My stepsister is a lot younger than I am -- not yet 14. She's beautiful and smart and funny and kind. But you know what's the most important thing in her life? To be "hot." Thank you, Lindsay Lohan. Thank you, Britney Spears. Your marketing machine has convinced my brilliant sister that her worth is her sexuality. That a girl's best hope of happiness or power is through looks. Through pleasing men. Some of this is biology, of course. It's how we're programmed. But what's happening goes way beyond that. All those industries and their advertising? Fashion, cosmetics, jewelry, magazines, movies, television; weight loss, hair care, hygeine, cosmetic surgery; of course, porn! Even Spring Break, for heaven's sake! It breaks my heart to see Tara buying into the lies. Can't she look around at the real world? See that true power comes from competence? For the huge majority of women as well as men, competence is what puts bread on the table. But my sister thinks shopping for the right clothes is more important than studying. All good things will come to her, if only she can be "hot."
I started on the clarinet when I was in second grade. By the time I got to junior high I was so deep into music I asked my Mom to let me apply to the Arts Magnet School. That way I could play wind ensembles and jazz as well as band and orchestra. Mom had her doubts. The school's in the "bad" part of town. But the teacher who gave me clarinet lessons was on the faculty, and he told Mom that I'd get a good education. I'd learn a lot, musically; and learn to get along with kids from different backgrounds. That'd be good, because the real world wasn't like our neighborhood. Boy, was Mr. Yee right about that! The first day Mom drove me to school, we passed stuff I'd only seen on TV. Graffitti, and garbage. Abandoned cars missing wheelsand fenders. I saw huddled bodies, too: wrapped in rags and blankets, sleeping in the doorways and under the bridges. And rats! Running across the street and into the garbage. I was really freaked out-- though I didn't say so to Mom. Were we still in America? How could people live like that? But when I got to the school a lot of the kids were Chinese like my clarinet teacher, so I calmed down. Turns out the other kids are ok too, once I got over being scared. Some I like, some I don't-- but I have more in common with the kids in the jazz band here, than with the soccer team at Reagan Junior. But I still don't understand how Americans can live in doorways. Doesn't anybody care?
My girlfriend's cousin came out to her when they were both juniors in high school.
She says she was shocked, sick to her stomach. She'd been carrying homophobia
around for years without even thinking about it, and in her misery she cried herself
to sleep. When she woke up the next morning those feelings were just gone-- changed
overnight. Her cousin is the same great kid he's always been. She loves him. So
gay must be ok. I think this is what usually happens: a close friend or relative
who comes out is what flips people. But the other thing happening is the change
in the way homosexuals are portrayed on tv. When I was little, there were no openly
gay characters, period. We're not quite to the point where there has to be one
in every sitcom, but kids and teenagers get the idea that same sex attraction
is common. Of course, that's the reason the fundamentalists are freaking out.
They know they're losing on this. The taboo against coming out made it possible
to preach hatred against good people-- because who knew? My Dad would swear to
you that he's never been close to a homosexual. No family, no friends. Meaning--
he never once suspected that his aunt was a lesbian! This despite the fact that
she lived with her "friend from nursing school" for more than fifty
years. My great-aunt made no bones about living with her partner. But they never
used the word "lesbian", and anything they said about their relationship that
could be interpreted as platonic, if that was what you were wanted to believe.
So my father was able to love his aunt and hate homosexuality without being forced
to realize the contradiction.
My uncle, who is a Naval Reservist, was called to duty and is now in Iraq. He
has two young kids from his second marriage. He's 43 years old! The military needs
more warm bodies, and I guess they're getting desperate-- they don't seem to care
how old the bodies are any more. Naval and Air Force personnel are being retrained
in places like Camp Shelby Mississippi, that have the mock up towns built Iraqi
style. They trained my uncle to drive some big convoy escort vehicle, and sent
him away from his family. Fortunately, when he got to Iraq they learned that he
knows how to pour concrete, so that's what he's doing now. I'm not sure whether
it's at The World's Biggest Baddest Embassy, or one of those huge permanent bases
we're building, but this is a "good berth" for him because it's not as dangerous
as the convoys. Still, even with this massive effort of surging, our supply lines
can be disrupted and some times our troops need to ration food. Plus the Green
Zone itself is getting shelled. ÊGood thing for the Iraqi "government" that most
of them have apartments in London's West End! My younger uncle-- on my mother's
side? He's decided to leave the Navy as soon as his enlistment's up. After 12
years of service. He says he didn't join the Navy to be in the Army! Or in somebody
else's Civil War! A lot of sailors and airmen are coming to agree.
You're on the wrong side! Don't you know who'll be the ones who suffer, if
Al-Qaeda wins? Women are worse than nothing to them; we aren't even human. Do
you want to live under a law that sews you up in a bag, imprisons you in your
own kitchen, stones you to death if you want to choose your own husband? Here
a woman can run for president. There they plant bombs inside the Huda Girls' School
-- timed to go off when all the girls are inside-- and they would have killed
and maimed every one of them, if the U.S. military hadn't discovered the detonators!
No education, girls of thirteen given to diseased men of fifty to settle a debt--
this is what they plan for us, too! Even their heaven-- 72 virgins, the prize
of each holy sainted martyr of a murdering bomber?-- is a heaven that is hell
for females! But why think about that since to them women have no souls? Is this
what you want? This will be the fate of your daughters unless we stop them. They'll
fight until they force Islam on the entire world.
You can bet your butt I want my country back, but I'm not counting on getting
it. What ever happened to vacations? To Mom having a choice as to whether she
worked or stayed home with the kids? This gang began their takeover in Texas,
in the early 70's. Corrupt oil men financed the Christian right in a ruthless
drive to control the Texas Republican party-- and eventually the national party,
driving moderates away and pushing traditional Democrats to the right, Democrats
today are like 70's Republicans: there's not a real progressive left in either
party! The coup d'etat of the 2000 election was a long time coming, and the current
Democrat leadership was complicit in it. They're all the Money Party. The Power
Party. Anyone who thinks putting what passes for a Moderate in the White House
in 2008 will restore sanity to this country is sadly mistaken. I ask you, would
you want Rudy running the government that King George has twisted beyond all recognition?
Mitt? Maverick McCain? How about Hillary? Richardson? I want King George's torture
laws and spy network and all his unconstitutional unitary executive crap rolled
back and the war ended in Iraq before we let anyone in the White House door. Can
we petition the United Nations for an interim government? We desperately need
a full housecleaning-- but the odds are against us.
President Bush has the intell! He knows the real situation! There will be
dire consequences if we pull out before the Iraqi government is able to defend
itself. Americans like you who want us to immediately pull out of Iraq either
can't fathom these consequences, or you just don't care. Consider the consequences.
If we pull out prematurely, there will come a day that all of you will complain:
"Why didn't President Bush do more to prevent "this" from happening?" "This" being
IEDs, car bombs, suiciders in planes; chlorine gas, anthrax or bird flu, or even
dirty nukes, in a neighborhood near you! Obviously, not pulling out now and fighting
on won't guarantee that "this" will never happen. But allow the Islamic extremists
to have a moral victory? Much less a military one? Their sympathizers all over
the world will rejoice and take up the gun to follow them to further victories.
It's the gate to Armageddon!
Hands up! Who's proud of our "Mission Accomplished?" In a mere 4
years we've turned a functioning if oppressive State into a collection of sects
and tribes at war with each other and destabilized the whole of the Middle East.
Good work! Did it on the cheap too- only half a trillion bucks and a few thousand
dead Americans. None of those dead folks are big campaign donors though. They
don't count for much, except when someone tries to point out the illegal, ignorant,
arrogant and entirely unjustifiable nature of the this war . Then it's "We
have to honor the sacrifice of those brave men and women who gave their lives
for freedom! Backing down now will mean they've died in vain." Rhetoric tops
reality. The Dems are cautious cause they don't want to blow it-- that sort of
makes me laugh. In 2001 or 2, caution and restraint were what was called for.
That was the time to think hard about means and ends. Before we struck out blindly.
We did pretty much the opposite. Now, bold and risky action is called for, to
try and begin to undo the damage before it turns into forever after... and now
we're dithering around.
I'm Timothy, and I have to talk, though if the brass hears about it, my ass
is grass. I've been in that Armpit of the Earth. I interacted with Iraqis every
day. Those freaking Hajis are subhuman; they're filthy, superstitious, liars who
ass kiss everybody over them and treat anybody lower like dirt. But they're good
at killing and hating. They hate us-- and they should! Any of you think this is
a Good War? That it will come out all right if we just hang in there? You're wrong.
As wrong as it is possible to be and still have enough brains to walk upright.
We're fucking Invaders. No nation has ever won over or changed another-- not if
the occupied have the cohesion to form a Guerilla Force. We can't win this goddamn
war. The Terrorists or "Insurgents" or Al Queda or whatever we're calling them
don't see themselves as the "Bad Guys". They see themselves as----now hold on
to your PJs--- patriots. They're an Army Of Resistance, fighting for their country's
Freedom. Sure, Saddam was a bad guy---but he was Their bad guy. If they'd been
fed up with him, they'd have thrown him out. We came crashing in, toppled Saddam,
and made their lives a living hell. We've killed more innocent, everyday, mean
no harm, just want to live their lives Iraqis than Saddam ever did----and they
hate us for it. The real choice is get the hell out or f-ing nuke 'em all-- cause
they're never gonna sit still and be pacified.
Have you people thought this through? If you really provoke a crisis, with
the populace on one side and the machinery of the executive and the justice department
on the other, what's to keep them from herding us into concentration camps? Your
state's National Guard has been Federalized and sent overseas. Our neighbors,
who signed up to defend us from foreign invasion, or to rescue old ladies in natural
disasters, are off on a new kind of service. They're prison guards and plantation
overseers. They shoot at warriors who aren't in uniform, and at civilians, too
-- because an old lady may hide a bomb under her burqua. Think, too, about the
billions of dollars from our national defense going to our leaders' private army
of mercenaries: Blackwater, Haliburton- which incidentally is being relocated
to Dubai. Maybe the surge isn't a mistake. Maybe it's a deliberate attempt to
break the will of the people-- by breaking the people's armed forces. Look at
their faces, these men who have 12%, 28% approval polls. Impatience, sneers, veiled
threats. They won't negotiate. Anyone who isn't 100% with them is the enemy, and
that includes the people's elected representatives. I've had a charmed life, myself.
White, upper-middle class, I rode out Katrina protected by money and mobility
and good connections, with insurance to cover my losses. But during Katrina I
witnessed plenty of how our rulers operate. I know who law enforcement will chose
to serve and protect when the poop hits the fan. I'm just saying: these malefactors
deserve whatever you throw at them. Up to their necks in their own dirt. But when
you've hit them hard enough to get their attention, what's the plan?
You can't expect women to stop the war or lead a revolution. They may have
the brains, or even the hearts, but they are used to being helpless and useless.
There are women alive who have never worked a day: not a day! My mother, for instance.
Stay at home mom to two kids she never paid much attention to, she had household
help, went to the country club, lived on her husband's earnings till he died and
left her with all the stocks and insurance and a life membership in a senior condo
complex where she can play bridge all day and never have to lift a finger. She's
90 now, and determined to live till she's spent her last penny. God forbid the
government should get some! Never worked, and her widow's Social Security pays
more than mine will after working all my life! Never even learned to drive, can
you believe it? Her retirement palace has a van and driver. Still- the "Mommy
War" between women who have jobs and those who stay home with the kids is the
wrong war. It's not money and earning that matter. It's repairing the world. Greed
and power grabs can take over everywhere-- home, school, factories, even churches
and universities. What counts is people who act to balance that. The woman who
holds her neighborhood together, who helps and heals, raises kids-- her own or
other people's-- who raises them to want to contribute. Anyone who does that is
a heroine! Whether she lives on her father's or her husband's money or earns her
own. Or is a celibate nun, on an allowance from the coffers of the papacy. That's
the kind of work I've done, and will continue to do. One thing, most of my friends
now can't drive at night. If there's an evening meeting or fund-raiser or rally,
I'm the designated night driver. I've got a van that'll carry 8 -- 9 if some of
them are skinny. The only excuse for having a gas guzzler is to haul the shock
troops to the front lines. You know, my mother is so selfish, she trashes the
environment on purpose! Absolutely refuses to recycle. Not a penny, not an ounce
of effort, if it's not for her personal benefit.
I marched before the war started, and did weekly vigils for a time.Then as
the administration claimed the power to "detain" just anyone, no trial,
no habeas corpus, and congress and the supreme court just allowed that? I got
fearful. I marched in the first anniversary protest parade-- my sign said "Support
Our Troops. Bring them Home!" But I skipped the last two for fear of ending
up on some traitor list. I don't want the police breaking down my door in the
middle of the night! Dragging me off to a camp. I'm not in the least apathetic.
I've always voted, voted in every election since I was old enough. I even participated
in the state Democratic party's nominating convention in 2004. But Bush won! Everyone
I knew despised him, the polls said he was sure to lose-- and yet he won. Either
his people have figured out how to steal elections, or I don't live in an America
I understand any more. I've been in shock, I guess. Too depressed to even read
the papers. But lately, I've begun to feel a little hopeful. Florida and Ohio
seem to be straightening out, putting in paper ballots and rules about fair elections.
In March I walked in the anniversary parade, even braving that awful sleet to
do it. I've volunteered to be a poll judge next time, doing my bit to keep the
process honest. I guess that means I believe our country will pull out of this
mess. Got knows i'm praying for it.
I don't support the troops. Let the insurgents kill them all. If the jackbooted
torturers who wear our country's uniforms escape being tried as war criminals,
I'll call on all patriotic citizens to join me in shunning them when they come
home. Anyone who participates in an illegal war of conquest? Who commits crimes
against humanity, against women and children? They should pay. Even if you were
poor and couldn't get a job, even if you joined to get money to support your disabled
old mother-- you should still know the difference between right and wrong! There's
no excuse for going to the dark side. Why should I feel sympathy for the US military
when they act like Stormtroopers? The Commander in Chief is dismembering the US
Constitution, and he has turned our troops into a fascist force. I love the America
I grew up in, sweet land of liberty and justice for all. But I'd die in one of
this criminal regime's torture cells before I'd pledge allegiance to the affront
to decency that America has become.
Don't talk to me about "those crazy hippies"! I was there in 1960. I became
a hippy because the "adults" were talking gibberish. All the hippies I knew were
very serious people. Being serious sometimes means recognizing that the society
around you is either insane, or flat out evil. Now America's 60-year effort to
secure our oil supply by propping up foreign dictators has stopped working. We've
brought down elected governments for 60 years (except Cuba's-- and that wasn't
for lack of trying!) , and now our leaders complain that democracy hasn't spread!
The religious right has conned about a third of the country into thinking that
angels are in our midst, ready to trumpet the Rapture tomorrow-- and they're complaining
about insane fanatical 'jihadists' who are intent on worldwide destruction! Frankly,
we're once again in a time when being serious means recognizing what evil and
insanity we're up against-- at home as well as abroad. If things continue as they
are, we're doomed.
I'm amazed to see the way people can change overnight. A student of mine?
She became a radical the day she met Lt. Watada-- you've heard of him? The conscientious
objector who refused to follow orders to return for a second tour of duty in Iraq?
My student asked the lieutenant how he found the courage to refuse, and he said
he was inspired when he saw students walking out of class! Ordinary students,
like her! She was completely blown away. Young people know something about the
'60s, but it's either a legendary glamour, or a drug-crazed kids go wild thing,
the version favored by the media. What they don't know, that many of us who were
there do know, is that protest works. She and her friends thought it was history,
meaning in the past, over. But now she's found her voice! She can rally a crowd,
move hundreds of people to march, organize a teach-in that contradicts what Fox
News is saying. She's just getting started, gathering steam, but all across this
country young people are on fire to make a difference, to turn this into a nation
they can be proud of.
The only journalism I'd done is helping the kids in Reform School put out a
student newspaper. I was their substitute teacher. But when I got the notion of
going to Baghdad? To see the war for myself and report in a blog? Write a column
for my local weekly? That weekly got me a press pass. Turned out, my age and inexperience
weren't the problem. I couldn't report the real story cause they wouldn't let
me out of the Green Zone! Still, even confined to the vicinity of the Iraqi government
and the U.S. embassy, I found some Iraqis who spoke English-- especially women--
and they told me things Americans never learn from the professional press. I was
proud to be writing about these things. But the Green Zone is essentially a fortress
under siege, and the longer a siege goes on the cleverer the attackers get at
finding weaknesses. Bombs and rockets are getting through. I had lunch in the
cafeteria the day before it was bombed. Suddenly I felt it was time to go home
and see my grandchildren. I'm back teaching now--even though I can live on my
social security, I'll need the extra money for whatever notion I come up with
next. It's my personal mission: "afflict the comfortable". Did you hear about
the time I served George Bush with an eviction notice? I said he had no right
to live at the White House-- he was never elected! Chances are you didn't hear
about it, because back then I didn't have any friends in the press. My Baghdad
reporting put me in touch with some, so expect to hear about my next stunt. But
I have to be sure it's something that when people hear, they'll say "Good!
I wish I'd done that!"
Our health care system is terrible. It is destructive beyond belief, and I
think everyone is beginning to feel the fear. We used to assume that terrible
things only happen to the "unfortunate", the unemployed or the poor damaged souls
who can't work and depend on charity. But my family, with top of the line insurance,
felt the chill of it recently. It was from something that was almost minor in
itself, but it opened up an abyss. My 6 year old son was in school, in a classroom,
when he was stuck with a violent spasm of vomiting. He tore his esophagus from
the strain, and passed out in a pool of blood. His teacher called an ambulance
that took him to the hospital a mile or two away, and during this time he lost
a great deal of blood. He spent 3 days in the hospital, a few hours of it in Intensive
Care. He looked so pale, we were so frightened, partly because we had no idea
what was happening. But I couldn't focus on his condition! My boy might have been
dying, but I kept thinking about stupid stuff like -- is this hospital on our
plan? Are all these specialists covered? Afterwards, when the statements came
in, it was my worst fears -- thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars!
The ambulance alone cost $1500! And the insurance isn't paying! Negotiations brought
it down, and in fact most of it turned out to be covered. As I said, our insurance
is top of the line. But what if it wasn't? Or what if it hadn't been just an emergency
for my son, but the beginning of a long chronic illness? We'd be bankrupt, all
our lives in ruins. Ours is the only civilized country in the world where this
is what a citizen goes through when caught up in a so-called "health system".
We are terrorized!
Every day, female MP's go out to Iraqi police stations. They patrol and take
fire and risk being blown up, right beside the Iraqi police officers. We're a
team, with the Americans the team leaders. These Iraqis are the guys we're supposed
to be training to take over and maintain order and protect their fellow citizens.
Everyone. Male, female, Shiite, Sunni, Kurd. That's how democracy works-- the
people with the guns are supposed to be upholding the rule of law. They're there
to serve and protect. That's what we're fighting for in Iraq, isn't it? And every
day, our women soldiers have to be on combat-alert with these troops we're "training"--
ready to aim weapons at the Iraqis to keep them from groping and pawing. When
we call out one of these policemen and ask him what he thinks he's doing, he says:
"What's the big deal? There're just women. Aren't they here for sex with us?"
Claim on behalf of Iraqi IS46552M by father. IS46552M, a shepherd, was tending
his sheep 1,000 meters from a site where Coalition Forces detonated a stockpile
of old regime ammunition. The detonation resulted in shrapnel, some of which hit
and killed IS46552M. Finding: denied due to combat exception. "Detonation of ammunition"
is under the definition of a combat activity. Claim filed on behalf of AF7403C
by mother. AF7403C, a 7 year old child, was hit by a US Humvee while crossing
the road. AF7403C was hospitalized for three weeks before dying of her injuries.
Finding: negligence; Compensation: $1,500 US. Claim on behalf of Iraqi IS51006F
by husband. Husband, wife, and children were returning home from a party when
they were fired on by Coalition Forces . An RPG had been previously fired at Coalition
Forces, who were returning fire when they struck and killed IS51006F. The vehicle
was also damaged by gunfire. A condolence payment of $4,000 US total ($2,500 for
death and $1,500 for damage) is made and justified as follows: "Making this condolence
payment ensures the family and community recognize the regret for the unfortunate
occurrence. Support will positively influence both the community and local Iraqi
Am I afraid of men? Yes. Absolutely. Women are. Not a few, not some. All. We
all have heard secret stories of harassment, of assault and rape, told to us in
confidence by women we know. When we see the public stories of women beaten and
killed on TV or in the papers, they are just echoes of the secret ones -- echoes
that ring loud enough to make us cautious in ways you would never consider. For
instance, I never approach my car without checking the far side where a man may
be hiding. I never get in without making sure the back seat is empty. If I am
walking alone, I never listen to my headphones. I do my best to keep my hands
free, unless I'm carrying something that can be used as a weapon. When I'm carrying
groceries, a single heavy item I can swing goes into my right hand--a gallon of
milk, a plastic bag of cans. My left hand is ready to drop whatever it is holding
so I can run. If there's a strange noise in my apartment at night, I grab a can
of insect spray in one hand and in the other I have my cell phone with the speed
dial set to 911. I have never been raped. I have never even had a threatening
letter, phone call or email. But I was once stalked by an ex-boyfriend, and I
have been groped by strangers on a bus, flashed by nut cases in the library, and
cat-called and cursed on the street. I know that the men who do these things are
only a small subset of males generally-- but there is no way to know which of
the men around me is one of the ones who might attack. Eternal vigilance is the
price of my freedom.
The gay-haters in my high school were horrible. A kid my age was the target--
always insults and taunting. Probably he was gay, though I didn't know him well
enough to tell. He wasn't in any of my classes. I'd heard nasty stuff from other
kids, but from all I'd seen of him he was just a nice kid: good looking and slender
but sort of pale. When all of us sophomores went on a school-sponsored trip to
an amusement park, a bunch of jocks surrounded this kid and started chanting "fag."
Some of the girls joined in, too, and it looked as if the guys might do something
worse if a teacher hadn't come and broken it up. The boy laughed and tried to
act like it didn't bother him but I saw the look on his face. He'd turned from
pale to white as a sheet. I asked the teacher if the school was going to do something,
but he said it was better to just ignore it. Making a big deal would spread it
from the kids to the town and humiliate his whole family. I was shocked. A few
days later the boy went home, got his dad's shotgun and put it in his mouth.When
his death was announced over the intercom the next morning during homeroom, one
of the kids said, "Good, that's one less faggot." Some kids even laughed. I just
lost it! I screamed and cried and yelled at them. How could they? Aren't they
ashamed? A human life destroyed, and it was our fault! I couldn't wait to move
away from that town, and I'm never going back.
I'm sick and tired and full of red hot rage about this "Housework is Her Business"
business! I have a full-time job with an hour-long commute. Plus I'm taking 2
courses that add more than 20 hours a week of class and homework. I do all the
shopping and cooking. Supposedly my live in boyfriend helps out with this-- but
he doesn't. When I go on strike, he orders pizza! He says he takes out the trash--
when he remembers-- and does the laundry-- by which he means he takes the clothes
out and brings them back, not that he throws his dirty clothes in the hamper or
ever puts the clean stuff away. Gary has a job, yes. Like mine, but with a shorter
commute. He pays half the rent. Like that's his share! I beg him: deal with your
mail-- get it off the kitchen table, at least. Get your dirty socks out of the
living room! Our landlord showed up unannounced last week to change our smoke
detectors. I had taken the afternoon off to study for an exam, and was sitting
in the middle of all the accumulated clutter with my books and papers. How does
this look to the landlord? What's he thinking? There's about a week's build up
of dishes, laundry, trash, beer bottles... He's thinking I'm a slob! He's thinking
all this is my fault! Because either a woman should do it all herself or it's
her job to nag "her" man into civilized behavior. So this barbaric trash heap
of slovenliness is my problem, my failure, my f-ing fault! The landlord never
said anything: I never defended myself. I just sat there overwhelmed with embarrassment.
Now I'm into the anger phase: I want to rip up Gary's clothes, throw his beer
bottles out the window, set him on fire the next time he falls asleep in front
of Spike TV! I won't, of course. I'm civilized. But maybe once I get that promotion
I should live alone.
Can we please wake up and admit that our drug policies are evil? Not just mistaken
and ineffective, but out and out wrong? We have more people in jail here for drugs
than Europe has for all crime put together. A huge portion of our population,
especially people of color, have had their lives ruined. But even more are lucky
and get away with it. Clearly, the laws aren't fair. They're enforced selectively.
Everybody has a friend or family member who uses-- cops and prosecutors too--
but we don't think of them as criminals. They are people with weaknesses, like
smokers or drinkers. We'd never turn them in to the police. The rich or the well-connected
can "get help". Celebrities' pictures are on TV, checking in and out of rehab.
No wonder kids think they can experiment without getting caught. But some will
be caught, and charged-- far more blacks or hispanics than whites, though they
use about equally. And far far more who are poor will go to jail. Barak Obama,
like Bill Clinton, admits that when he was young he broke the drug laws. But Obama
and Clinton were lucky: they weren't caught. Not so a 50 year old dance teacher
who is the uncle of a friend of mine. He was just convicted for possession. My
friend told me her uncle used marijuana for back pain. Now he's a "criminal".
He'll even lose his right to vote! Please, people who still can vote? Vote against
these unjust laws. My outrage isn't personal. I'm drug-phobic, allergic to alcohol,
and such a compulsive law-abider that I've never even had a parking ticket! But
I know this War on Drugs is a travesty. It must end, and if Obama's "confession"
means he'll work to end it, then I'm going to work hard for his election.
My biggest problem lately is my mother-in-law. She keeps calling my 5 year
old daughter "Fatty". Gina's not fat! She's 3 feet tall and maybe 6o pounds soaking
wet. But even if she was a little chubby, what's up with her Grandma calling her
"Fatty"? I'm telling you, the next time she does it, I'm maybe gonna lose it!
I'm tempted to say to Gina, "Sweetie, the next time Grandma calls you 'Fatty',
you call her 'Toothless' or 'Baldy' and see how she likes it!" It's the truth
-- my mother-in-law lost her front teeth in a car crash-- she wears a plate. It
shifts sometimes when she's eating-- you have to look away from her, it's so gross!
And she has this biggish bald spot, right on top. She does! Which she probably
doesn't even know, since it's in the back and she wouldn't see it looking in the
mirror. So how would she feel if Gina or I pointed it out to make fun of her?
Maybe then she'd realize that a little 5-year-old kid can't help being a fatty--
any more she can help being a toothless balding old witch. I mean, we're family.
Gina's our kid. If we're not on her side, who is? Love her or leave her alone.
What we have today isn't Politics. Politics is the election by informed citizens
of representatives who will make informed decisions. Decisions based on debate
about what is in the best interests of the people as a whole. What should our
society's rules be? How should we divvy up our financial and intellectual resources?
What we have now is politicians pretending that they do that. But there's no real
debate. Decisions are made in the dark, by lobbyists and lawyers and the rich
cronies of the incumbents. Really, what our celebrities-pretending-to-be-statesmen
do is run for office. It's an industry. How much money do the networks and TV
stations make? The newspapers? Media consultants and poll takers and the horse
race handicapping pundits? Writers and directors and actors and techies who make
and run the ads? Hotels and halls for rallies and conventions? Airlines that fly
people around to them? Money circulates like the life blood of a Vampire that
has sucked all the vitality out of public life, leaving nothing but an empty shell
of Spectacle behind. Bread for the Election Industry, Circuses for the Electorate,
and starvation for the political process we call Democracy.
I sort of understand how financial problems can put strains on a relationship.
Comfort, status, your future: there's a lot at stake. We live in a time when money
or the lack of it makes a huge difference. But I don't understand how couples
can fight about such things. Don't they realize that you can't always control
your circumstances? What you can control, is how you feel about them. Where does
this nonsense assumption that the numbers that are on your paycheck are evidence
of how hard you work come from? Who determines how much each is "allowed" to spend?
Marriage partners should be equal in love and law. That's common sense-- the tables
could turn at any time! Respect the other person's judgment and dignity, especially
when one is in a rough patch and the other is doing well. Certainly it's not the
job of better-off partner to be the other one's watchdog! When my husband and
I met, he made more money than I did. He never treated me like a less important
person because of it. He trusted me to make good financial decisions with our
money. Now I make more than he does, and give him the same respect as he gave
me: it is our money, our checking account. We both work hard and appreciate the
other's efforts. You know, I'd be very hesitant to get involved with somebody
who'd have an ego problem if his wife made more than he does. I bet he's the kind
of man who expects to dominate-- who thinks that's right and "natural".
I bought my 5 room house seven years ago. Two years later the hot-water heater
burst. I couldn't afford to replace it at the time, so I did without hot water.
No big deal. Another two years, my refrigerator died. I couldn't replace that
either. My wages weren't going up. Paying the mortgage is about all I can manage.
So I eat mostly cereal and canned stuff. Last winter I got a leak in the pipes
that run to the bath and kitchen. I got a book on plumbing from the library, but
I couldn't fix the leak. Had to turn off the water where it comes into the house.
Every day I open a valve in the basement and carry up buckets for the sink and
the tub. And buckets to flush the toilet. Let me tell you, in some ways it's worse
than camping out. Live like our pioneer ancestors? At least they had the experience
and the tools for doing without modern conveniences. I never invite anybody over.
The truth is, I'm ashamed of how I live. But at least I have a roof over my head.
I'm not starving, even if what I have to eat is really boring. Thursdays and Fridays?
I make a couple of extra peanut butter sandwiches to take for a skinny little
girl who works my shift. Paying weekly rent out of an $7/hr paycheck, long about
Thursdays she's run out of food. Sharing those sandwiches is the high point of
I'm making plans to leave this country: the land of my birth; the land that
I've always loved. Just get the heck out of here, before the country's fallen
apart to the point that getting out's no longer possible. America is becoming
toxic-- at least for people like me. I work construction-- mostly drywall. It
used to be a good living. But my friends and I are still getting paid what we
were paid 15 years ago, while the cost of housing, food, gas and electricity has
gone through the roof. Health care costs have gone up so far that they're just
out of sight: we all just do without. So-- I'm going to start by selling my house.
Even with the market declining, I think I'll end up with about 200 thou. after
paying off what's left on the mortgage. The mortgage is the only debt I have,
thank God. I'm going to invest in foreign currencies, then travel around looking
for a good place to live. It seems to me that this country is in a downward spiral.
Culturally, politically, economically. So is the rest of the world, of course.
Between Global Warming and the expanding wars, we're in for a bumpy ride. I figure,
if the manure really hits the fan, it'd be better to be living among people who
are used to making do. People who know how to work the land. Places like that,
where they don't depend on factory farming and food that is shipped halfway around
the world? They'll have some advantages in the crunch. Cultures like this may
even stay sane in a world-wide depression. They won't be looking for scapegoats,
or joining bandit gangs to rip off their neighbors. An agricultural region in
a friendly developing nation-- I figure that might not be a bad place to be. So-what
if I'm wrong? What if I go where they'll kill me? That still seems better than
what I think's going to happen here.
I've moved back in with my mom. It's the house I grew up in, my parents' Dream
House. Where the mortgage was paid off before I was even born. No-- I'm not in
the room I had as a kid. I'm in a little suite built on for Nana after Gramps
died. Thing is, Mom doesn't charge me rent. She pretends that since Dad's gone
it's a big relief to her to have someone in the house. She says I'm "protection
and company". Truth is, Mom got along fine when I was at college. The real reason
is, she's trying to make it easier for me to pay off my student loans. At least
now I can pay the minimum. Cover the interest. At least the debt's not growing,
the way it was when I was living on my own. Every month I could see myself slipping
further into the hole. Thing I can't get my mind around is: I had a big fat scholarship.
Paid only about a third of the usual RSDI tuition; got subsidized room and board.
What do people who take out loans for the whole thing do? After they graduate
and discover the situation? Jobs are scarce. Jobs pay peanuts. I got hired for
what most people with an arts degree would consider a good job. Working as an
animator. My friends were all envious-- but I hated that gig with a passion. It'd
take too long to explain why, so just take my word. Animation sucks. So now, my
friends feel sorry for me because I'm living with my Mom and doing freelance web
design and working part time at a copy shop. They point out that that's what I
was doing in high school. What can I say? I was happy in high school.
I voted for the Democrats in November because I thought they would end this
disastrous war. Isn't that what they led us to believe they would do? They didn't
have the guts to oppose the invasion in 2003. They just went along with it. Now
they're doing it again! No guts. They have the power of the purse. They could
cut off the funding and end this madness. But they're afraid. Of political fallout?
It's time for them to show half the guts our troops show in Iraq every day. Stop
playing around. What the use of non-binding resolutions? Symbolism? Those aren't
symbolic Americans dying over there. They're real. Jusk ask their families. Every
time a soldier dies, his blood is on the hands of the leaders who took us into
this unjust war. But it's also on the hands of those who are doing nothing to
stop it. If the Democrats wonder why their party is seen as a bunch of wimps,
now's the time to look in the mirror. Speaker Pelosi takes impeachment off the
table? Announces the Democrats aren't going to cut the funding? Tell me: Is
it too late to take Pelosi off the table, and reset the table with a Democratic
Speaker who'd stand up and fight?
Mom just told my dad that she wants a divorce. I'm upset, of course. But my
dad? Dad's in shock. He's reacting like it's just some wild bolt out of the blue.
Where has he been? Does he even live here? Hasn't he noticed that for years Mom's
been asking him to pick up his underwear? Help with the cooking, do some dishes?
Drive me and my sister to school? Go out to see friends or take her to a movie?
Or just for God's sake at least take out the trash? As long as I can remember
it's supposed to be Dad's job to take out the trash. One time I said "Raise my
allowance and I'll do it." But Dad said, "No, that's my job!" So then-- why doesn't
he do it? Every week Mom reminds him. Politely. Or sometimes she asks Jen or me
to remind him. And every week he puts it off until she either yells at him or
gives up and takes it out herself. If he acted that way about his job at the bank,
he'd have been fired years ago. I know we kids do stuff like that-- but we're
kids! Mom expects we'll grow up and grow out of it! So I can sort of understand
how she may feel. Next year Jen and I will both be away at college. So why not
be free of all this be-my-servant-and-wait-on-me stuff, finally? At which her
husband really is the worst. Dad sits watching TV and sees Mom walk toward the
kitchen carrying a load of laundry? Thinks nothing of asking her to bring him
a beer and a sandwich. But now, he's absolutely baffled. It makes no sense to
him. It's literally unthinkable. "What did I do?", he asks me. "Why would
your mother ever want to leave me?"
I hate this war. I'm opposed to this war. So are my family, my friends, my
neighbors, church, my co-workers-- practically everybody I know. But none of us
are going to a war march. I'll write letters to the newspaper and to my congressman.
I'll send money to anti-war candidates. I'll put a bumper sticker on my car. I'll
keep my kids away from military recruiters until this fiasco is over. But although
I'm not a fan of George Bush or his war, I'm not fond a' Jane Fonda, either. I
am a pretty normal American that way, I think. I believe that traitors like Jane
Fonda and some of those other grandstanding ranters are no help what so ever to
the cause of peace. If millions like me don't march in protest, it's because we
believe there are more productive ways to fight it. Shouting in the street doesn't
change things. It feels good to vent your frustrations? Maybe. But even to people
who support the cause, you look silly doing it on TV. The reporters take pictures
of nitwit kids in face paint, acting demented. They get scary guys with foreign
accents to say something stupid into the microphone. How is this good publicity?
Will normal people identify? Who the heck hangs around on the Washington mall
on a Saturday morning, anyway? Bush is watching Fox. Congress has gone home. Are
you trying to impress the homeless? If our governing idiots try to restart the
draft, my neighbors and I will march-- we'll march until we shut this country
down. But till then, stay home and work against the war with some dignity.
I guess we are all experts on war. I've heard all I want to hear from armchair
commanders, whether they are congressmen or the guy who flips my burgers down
at the diner. I'm only listening to Veterans at this point. They have plenty to
say. Some are those against the war, and some are for it. A lot of soldiers believed
that joining the Guard, or Reserves, was a way to improve their quality of life.
A little extra money now, some future help with education. Should we blame the
Commander because he's deploying them as soldiers? They didn't join the Peace
Corps. There will always be objections to any war. Even the Good War, World War
Two, had opponents. They weren't all pacifists back then either: some though we
were on the wrong side! The GI's I talk to today have different opinions about
why we're in this fight. Some think it is self-defense, some think it's politics.
Some say it's about Oil. If it is about oil, the least you can do when you tuck
your children into bed is to say a little prayer of thanks. American kids are
over there fighting so you can have heat. When you run your own kids to their
soccer game in your SUV, be grateful that there is gas for that car. The fact
is that we Americans can't function without Middle Eastern oil. As long as War
and American Business As Usual are as woven together as they are now in Iraq,
we're pretty much doing what we have to do. That, or give up and leave our shut
down factories to sit in our dark houses and freeze.
Could we just brush up on history, please? Remember that the Soviet Union spent
ten years trying to crush an Islamic insurgence in Afghanistan? That really ended
well for them, didn't it? So, our Deciders think it will end up better for us
because -- of what, exactly? When you consider that the USA supported the Taliban
in Afghanistan to the tune of more than 1 billion dollars when they were fighting
Russia, do you want bet that Russia's not providing them a little under the table
help, now that they are shooting at us? What goes around comes around. Afghanistan
and Iraq are a slippery slope to disaster for anybody foolish enough to attack
them. The US military can't even protect their own troops inside their own bases,
and now they want to go house to house helping one sect of Shiia kill another
sect? When we can't tell a Shia from a Sunni? Let alone one Shia from another!
This civil war is going to take us down with it. The "New Way Forward" is just
another name for deeper into the quagmire. Where's the leader who can get us out
of there, before it's too late?
I grew up wanting to be a dancer, taking classes and practicing all the time.
I was told I didn't have a ballerina's body type quite early, certainly by age
9 or 10. But even knowing my body was "wrong", I couldn't give up dancing. I loved
the way my body felt when it was moving to music. But thanks to ballet school,
with a perfectly normal body, I was "too fat". Objectively, I knew better.
I was strong and healthy and my weight was what the nurse's chart said it should
be. But the ballet teachers looked at us "fatties" with disapproval. I remember
at about age 11, a girl at school asked me if I wanted to be a dancer when I grew
up. I told her, "Yes, but I can't be in ballet. I'm too fat". I remember
the look on her face - she thought I was crazy. But my friend from dance class
agreed, saying, "Jenny and I are way too fat - you just don't understand."
I dieted throughout my school years, but without much success-- the truth is,
I love food. I just wish I didn't have this sylph-like ideal in my head, making
me unhappy. No amount of dieting or exercise will ever make me look like that!
I resent that ballet did that to me, planting all these body issues when I was
too young to resist. Now, I can't even stand to see ballerinas in pictures! All
the other kinds of dance, I still love. I take classes in jazz, and in clubs I
dance salsa and swing. For fun. For me. Just the way I am. And I can see attraction
in my partner's eyes. I can sense admiration from the crowd. I may not be that
sylph, but I'm a Dancer!
I know somebody high up in Big Oil pretty well. Well enough to get his perspective.
According to my friend, Bush the Second is the greatest American President in
history. Everything Dubya promised his supporters in the oil business he has delivered,
one hundred percent. Those guys are driving around in $150,000 cars, sailing million
dollar yachts, and bouncing between multimillion dollar homes and fancy hotels.
The tax cuts really worked for them. They love Dubya. On a personal level he's
a nice enough man, but his view of the public is like theirs -- he's a fellow
aristocrat. These people think of themselves as natural rulers: everybody else
is "the help". Wealth belongs to aristocrats out of Divine Right, or Social Darwinism.
Sometimes they claim they deserve the money because thanks to them it trickles
down; but they do their best to slow that trickle to the merest drop. You see,
they believe that the economy is a function of their wise manipulations. To them,
money isn't just the best measure of personal worth. It's the only measure. They
have nothing but contempt for anyone who isn't rich. Really. These are the people
who are running America, and I'm sorry to have to report that they are as cold
and ruthless as you always suspected they were. Bush and his buddies may call
themselves Christian, but when it comes to loving their neighbors...? Well, let's
just say that they can sleep well in a world where their aristocratic one percent
owns 90 percent of everything. The rest of us poor peasants are lucky if they
allow us to work for them. At whatever wage they condescend to pay.
I learned something really important after my mother died from cancer and I
had to deal with my father. At first I was angry with him. Murderously angry.
Why should Dad get off so easy? Mom died in terrible pain, after a life made miserable
by Dad's bad temper. By his lying and cheating and drinking. By his complete lack
of sensitivity or tenderness. I wanted to punish him for all that, for what he
did to her, and me-- and I did. I won't go into the phone calls or the nasty notes,
or the way I'd snarl and walk away from him at family gatherings. Believe me,
I made him miserable, and myself too. But after a year or so I began to realize
how this anger was eating at me. What was the point? I decided I'd just-- let
it go. It was just one day, just-- just suddenly, I was able to see him differently.
Dad wasn't an ogre. He was a sad, lonely, broken man; who had needed my mother
and who now needed me. He'd been damaged by the hard knocks life dealt him, that's
all. Starting with the death of his own mother when he was six. When life presented
challenges, the couldn't handle them. That's why he'd lash out or let people down.
Pain and pressure made him crazy. From that moment a few years ago until he died
in February, I did my best to make his life better. Getting to know my dad, really
talking, was so good for me. Just incredibly liberating. I only wish I had done
it sooner. If I had been better to him, he might have been able to be better to
my mother. Now that he's gone, I miss him terribly.
So far, I am untouched by this war. My family was profoundly touched by earlier
wars. My great uncle was killed in World War Two. Not in combat, in a training
accident while he was still in his teens. A cousin of mine was killed when his
helicopter was shot down in Vietnam. I've run my fingers across his name on the
Veteran's monument in DC. My family felt as if they had to go there and do that.
Make peace with it. Arguments over the Vietnam War caused permanent rifts in our
family. One cousin was even a draft dodger: he fled to Canada. His father never
let anybody mention his name. Now, this Iraq war has been going on longer than
the US part in World War Two did-- but I have no friends or family in the military.
More than that-- none of my friends have any friends or family in the military!
I live in a nice secure bubble. I work in an industry where business is booming,
thanks to military contracts. Every year brings me a raise and a bonus. I enjoy
a lifestyle filled with luxuries my great uncle couldn't even dream of-- luxuries
he wouldn't have been able to buy even if he had lived to come home from the war
and earn as much money as I do. Back then, the tax rate on incomes like mine was
90%. Thanks, Reagan and Bush I and II! Frankly, in so far as it affects me at
all, this war has been very good to me. Still, I see it as a series of mistakes.
Intellectually, I consider our entire enterprise in the Middle East to be futile
at best; and at worst, harmful to our country and the world. So? The result is
a troubled ambivalence. As long as nothing is asked of me personally, I'll continue
to support this war-- by my passive acquiescence. The moment a sacrifice is asked
of me? I will turn actively against it. By sacrifice I mean ANYTHING. One extra
dime in taxes, one mandated gas rationing, one hint that a cousin might be drafted?--
ANYTHING would be too much. I'd be out of here.
The women in my family are apple shaped. Like my Mom and Grandma and my aunts,
I carry whatever little extra weight I have right in front - in the belly. I'm
not fat, not according to what I weigh for my height. But because I have a round
tummy and no real hips I guess to some people I look pregnant. Three times last
month somebody asked about my "pregnancy"! Talk about embarrassment! I don't even
have a boyfriend. One person who asked was an intern in the office where I work.
She said to me, "When are you due?" I think she may have confused me with an older
woman in the office who actually is pregnant, but still..... Even if I were, how
could she be so rude and nosey? Then last week a man, a complete stranger, came
up to me on the street and told me I should quit smoking-- for my baby's sake!
Who raised these people? Don't they realize that if their assumption is wrong,
it's humiliating? I was, like, numb with shock. I just stared at this guy, speechless.
The man I was walking with was shocked, too. But he was able to say, "My friend
is not pregnant, and I think you owe her an apology!" The rude guy just looked
confused, as if he didn't understand why I was upset. The he said-- and I couldn't
believe this was happening: how could he make it worse? -- "When I see a young
woman with a big belly, I think she's pregnant." For a minute I thought my friend
was going to sock him. But no-- my friend took my arm and started walking me away.
By then I was wishing I'd socked the guy myself.
When I was a kid I never gave in to other people's opinions about how I should
look or how much I should weigh. Dieting was for weaklings. I felt superior to
kids who were always talking about their weight and how little they ate. If a
girl turned down dessert for fear of getting fat, I'd roll my eyes and order the
hot biggest fudge sundae on the menu. I never got on a scale, because I felt fine
the way I was. Some people referred to me as chubby: I didn't care. But when my
cousin got married and asked me to be in the wedding, I had to be fitted for a
bridesmaid dress. I'd always hated shopping. I wore whatever my mother got for
me. With elastic waistbands. Now I had to face a mirror, and the fact that I was
a size 16. The biggest size the bridal store sold! I got a scale, weighed myself,
and found I was what the chart called "obese". I went on the South Beach
Diet. I gave up sugar and started obsessing about food and weight, including noticing
other people's weight and judging them on it! I'd never that done before. I was
really strict, and lost nearly 2 pounds a week for six months-- until I had some
kind of breakdown. I was depressed and faint and went on crying jags-- just like
those dieting weaklings I used to feel superior to in seventh grade! Now I've
gained back half of what I'd lost, but I think I'll be all right. Even though
I'm not strict any more, some of the better eating habits-- more vegetables, more
protein, less pasta and sugar-- have settled in.
I'm a veteran teacher in what used to be a good school, and I can tell you
dozens of horror stories about how education has changed for the worse since "No
Child Left Behind". Sure, it would be great if teachers got together and took
a stand. But there's not much chance of that. Teachers, and especially the teachers'
unions, have been under attack for so long that all the fight has gone out of
us. We're breadwinners, most of us. We have children of our own and we need our
jobs. I have two master's degrees plus some psychology, and I know how to diagnose
learning disabilities and how to help all different types of learners--- but it
just doesn't matter any more. Our students are tested every month in both reading
and math- - and our monthly teachers' meetings are totally focused on how to raise
the test scores and keep the school's superior rating. I can't reach the students
I need to reach, because it is all about the scores. I hope the public wakes up
soon. We're losing a whole generation of young minds.
From outside the field of education, "No Child Left Behind" seems like a great
program, one that will force America to live up to its ideal: a free and equal
education for everyone. We will train good citizens and productive workers, no
matter where they live or what the economic status of their parents. But I can
personally attest to the fact that this program has stunted children's growth.
It created unrealistic and underfunded goals. From elementary school up to our
universities, the "No Child Left Behind" focuses on frequent testing and punitive
sanctions. This combined with budget slashing shortchanges students-- on every
level. The saddest thing of all is that so many parents have been led to believe
that rote memorization of facts to get the "right answers" is education! They
think the tests will help their children be successful. They don't realize the
kind of "success" kids who learn this way will have: The "success" of performing
boring meaningless work for low wages. Good jobs require creativity and critical
thinking, both of which are being pushed out of the public schools. Poor children
who don't do well on standard tests feel as if they will never be good enough.
They may have an abundance of talent and skill, but in areas the tests don't measure.
I see this all the time -- I'm a teacher. Politicians who send their children
to private schools and create tax breaks for wealthy business people who send
their kids to private schools have no stake in the improvement of public education.
Middle class parents are now working 70 hour weeks to pay for their kids to go
to private school, because they can see that public education is being re-designed
to create an obedient working class of ill-educated graduates. That, plus an unemployable
underclass of the less obedient who are pushed into dropping out.
You're all upset that the voters of one of the United States have sent a Muslim
to congress? You say Islam is a terror cult, not a "real" religion? You say you've
never heard of a religion where devotees carry weapons and have "hit squads"?
Read history! War gods who favor the tribe that worships them are the most popular
form of religion, historically. Most of the Old Testament is a "My God can beat
up your god" story. Capturing and torturing and sacrificing enemies was the main
form of worship in Mayan and Aztec cultures. Ever hear of the Assassins? Of Ninjas?
The Catholic Church burned an entire town of 7,000 people, saying "Kill them all,
God will sort out the innocents from the guilty Heretics". Nobody around was keeping
count, of course, but many historians think that more people have been killed
by Christians than any other religion. I believe this is true, although I am personally
a Christian and try to follow Christ's teaching of "turn the other cheek". The
issue of this Islamic politician shouldn't upset you. If the people don't like
him, they won't vote for him again in two years. It's that simple. If you want
something to be upset about, why not the fact that this Administration is putting
in place an override of constitutional democracy? They are closing the borders.
They are monitoring the phones and computers of people who disagree with them.
Free speech and assembly, habeas corpus, trial by jury -- all slated for extinction.
If you understand from History that "Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely",
you will recognize this as the first stage of tyranny. Forget about a lone Islamic
legislator. What about the right to elect legislators, and to expect that the
laws they pass will be faithfully executed?
With "No Child Left Behind", more and more young people will have no choice
but to 'volunteer' for military service. Social Darwinists don't want the disadvantaged
to pull themselves up. Their goal is to keep them under control, ready to serve
in the trenches. That's the reason I took my kids out of public school. My son
was in fifth grade and had huge loads of take -home material to wade through.
He got no help or guidance, and lost all enthusiasm for learning. To make matters
worse, the math teaching was terrible. The teacher barely spoke English, and allowed
calculators to be used in tests. Supposedly the students were learning theoretical
concepts, but my son couldn't understand basic math, let alone the advanced stuff,
even with tutoring from me. Testing was nearly constant and the stress was making
him sick. And this was a top school, considered one of the best public schools
in the state! Now, my eleven year old son is in a Friends school. My son learns
science outdoors, exploring the pond and woods near the school, and brings specimens
back to the school lab. He's learning how to write, how to research and understand
things for himself. Math is based on real-world problems that the students work
out in teams. The teachers know my son, they relate his lessons to his interests
and guide him into art and music and games that will make him a rounded, grounded,
adult. He's got back interest and self-confidence.
Oh, I do love Christmas. The best part starts with putting up the tree, listening
to seasonal music while we drink egg nogs and munch on popcorn. The ornaments
we put on include ones my sister and I made back in elementary school, but the
oldest are a set of painted gingerbread boys that my mother made for her parents'
tree before she married Dad. Places of honor go to the bedraggled survivors of
the flock of all-too-realistic birds that our family cat thought were her particular
playthings. There's a picture of Tigress with her mouth full of feathers and a
mangled birdie-lump between her paws in our Christmas photo album. We have annual
snapshots of our family around the tree, going all the way back to before the
advent of color film. You can see the changes from year to year, the friends and
family members that have come and gone. One year we all caught the flu: we woke
up, threw up, went back to bed, and celebrated Christmas a few days late, once
we all felt a bit better. There's a "before" and "after" picture of that memorable
occasion. But I don't really need pictures-- the smells and the sounds and the
decorations bring it all back. It's the layers of shared experience that make
I loved Christmas when I was a kid, but these days I just can't stand the
relentless materialism. The obnoxious ads that equate money spent on consumer
goods with "love" make me sick to my stomach. I'm not giving you the Puritan rant
about plastic Santas and American kids who gobble sugary junk and have too many
toys. I'm not against pleasure. But somehow we have to face the cost to everyone
else on the globe of this "richness", this "freedom", this "generosity". There's
a link between global suffering and exploitation and the way mammoth corporations
like Target and Walmart operate. It's not enough for Americans to drop a few dollars
in the Salvation Army kettle before they sit down to unwrap gifts made by poverty-stricken
children and their overworked mothers and fathers-- gifts made from materials
that poison the workers who make them. If every American could see the process
that results in that designer outfit, that diamond ring or electronic gizmo, I
think people would realize that the world would be better if it had never been
made. We're not only buying in to this destructive system, though our movies and
music and TV and the Internet we're advertising our free, rich, wasteful life
as a standard for the rest of the world to follow. Once everyone wants it and
works for it there will be no saving our earth. We will all die in the trash heap
we are making of it.
Is there a "War on Christmas"? I don't believe it! What's the matter with
"Happy Holidays"? People said "Happy Holidays" when I was little. Nobody
got all hostile about it. After all, Christmas and New Year are two holidays,
aren't they? You want to wish people happy for both-- or happy whatever they celebrate.
My atheist aunt celebrates Christmas. So does my atheist Chinese boss and my Jewish
girlfriend. A Muslim coworker always gives me a Christmas present. "Holiday" sales
are what stores are supposed to have! Are they going to tell people that they're
not allowed to buy for Kwanzaa or Hanukkah? Spring Break or Summer Solstice? Why
not, if that's they want to spend their money on? Or should stores to sell only
to Christians? Is that even legal? People are so ready to take offense. The fundamentalists
get offended if you don't say "Merry Christmas", while other people get freaked
if you even mention the word. I read about some carolers who were turned away
from an ice rink where skater Sacha Cohen was going to perform, for fear that
their Christian songs would offend her. If they're going to send away carolers
for the sake of a single person, how about at least asking that person if carols
upset her? Maybe, like my Jewish girlfriend, she's a big fan of Christmas.
The Mexican Guest Worker plan is a great idea. It will give lower class guys
like me the opportunity to spend the rest of our lives without working-- or at
least without a regular paycheck. Why not replace us all with people who will
work for five bucks an hour and sleep ten in a room? We just waste the money we
earn anyway. Buying ridiculous stuff like shoes and food. I had a seasonal job
in Death Valley a while back-- the hotels ran a little short of Mexicans that
year-- and I was amazed at the number of Europeans vacationing . They come to
the Valley for warmth, side trip to Las Vegas and Disneyland, see the redwoods
and Hollywood, relax for a solid month. I figured they must be bankers or real
estate agents or something, but they told me that they were just ordinary workers:
butchers and bakers. I couldn't believe it when they told me that this was the
European standard-- everybody, even the janitors, gets at least a month of vacation!
And the workers take it, too-- they aren't stuck at home because they have to
show up on time for a second job. I realized then that for the people I know,
vacations aren't part of our lives any more. If I'm lucky a relative will put
me up when I get laid off, and I can hang out at the beach or the bowling alley
until I find the next job. But it's getting harder and harder to find the next
job, and I'm running out of relatives who'll put up with me. But hey, it's not
hard times for everyone. If you're a CEO you've probably seen a triple digit increase.
But probably you don't get a vacation, either. What if while you were gone somebody
got a good look at the books?
Having been raised in The Heartland by strict conservative parents, I have
some personal experience with how religion can crush the Spirit. The God of my
childhood demanded that I be a submissive daughter, and I was supposed to grow
up to be someone's submissive wife. According to those standards, I've been quite
the sinner. But as a single mom living in "wicked" New York City, I can tell you
that I have a closer relationship to God now than I ever did growing up - even
though I haven't set foot in a church in years! I currently have no problem submitting
to something greater than my own self will -- I learned that during the process
of childbirth. And I make choices to "do the right thing" every day, out of love
for my beautiful daughter. There's a big difference between behaving well out
of love, and giving in to powerful people who bully and humiliate you. Today,
I give thanks to God that my daughter and I are alive and healthy. It's a genuine
feeling of gratitude. I'm not tempted to do things that are forbidden or self-destructive
any more-- but not out of fear. In fact, I'm certain now that God doesn't want
to be feared-- because the closer I feel to God the more fearless I become!
Christmas three years ago I gave my brother-in-law a wallet as a gift. He and
my sister were having a rough time that year-- he lost his job, their baby needed
an operation-- so I put some cash in the wallet to help them out. This year at
our family Christmas get together, I opened a box from my brother-in-law and I
found --the same wallet! I kept a straight face and thanked him casually without
saying anything. Then I walked into the dining room and checked the inner compartment.
My 800 bucks was still in there! I could have really thanked him-- and had a Christmas
blow-out with the cash! But they still needed money more than I did, so I called
my sister out of the family room and gave her the $800. You should have seen her
face! She laughed so hard she finally had to tell everybody what her husband had
done, so they could laugh too. I guess I'd advise that that if you are going to
re-gift something, at least take a good look at what it is you were given.
My dream? You'd never guess, to look at me. But when I was a little kid? I
spent summers on a farm. My Dad's grandparents'. Till I was six. When I was seven
my parents divorced, and the summers stopped. My Great-Grands passed away not
very long after. I don't remember much about it, really. Except that I was happy.
I fed the chickens and rode a pony. And I remember smells: the country air. Sometimes,
now, a fresh rain on grass in the park? Takes me right back. Anyway, that's my
dream: to own a farm. A small one, where I can grow my own food, and ride a horse.
Maybe grow some fancy stuff for gourmet restaurants? Asparagus and herbs and free
range chickens. A couple of big old brown-eyed milk cows. I want an old fashioned
wood barn-- I love that smell: a wood barn filled with hay and animals. I want
plenty of trees, a brook with a pond, some mountains in the distance. I dream
about it day and night. I calm myself looking at seed catalogs. Or I sketch out
designs for my farm house. I search through the real estate photos, looking for
just the right place: far, far away from the city noise, and from the stink. Be
best if my nearest neighbor is out of sight. Thing is, I've had enough of people.
And I wouldn't be surprised if they've had enough of me.
When did it become a rule that "bought new" gifts are the only ones acceptable?
That handmade gifts, or things once owned and loved by the giver, are "tacky"?
All I can think is that the stores' barrage of "Buy, buy, buy! advertising has
discombobulated people's brains. When the kids were too young to shop, they drew
me a picture or made lumpy ceramics. I loved these gifts. I keep them on display
in my kitchen, and whenever I see them, I smile. I love the home made fruitcake
my sister bakes for me every year-- despite all the dumb fruitcake jokes, she
knows my taste exactly. Even that I prefer pecans to walnuts and rum flavor to
brandy. "It's the thought that counts", isn't it? Decades ago, when shopping and
cooking became difficult for her, the family stopped gathering at my great aunt's
house for holidays. Aunt Sarah was sad because she no longer had a use for her
table- setting treasures. I told my great aunt that I would be delighted to be
given as a Christmas present anything she was ready to part with. By the time
Sarah died at age 86, I had candlesticks and lace tablecloths, glassware and antique
platters. Every time I set a festive table it is beautiful with her things, and
with the memories of my aunt and our happy times. These are what I treasure--
not the drawers full of gloves and scarves and necklaces bought by my cousins