Wednesday, April 30, 2003

I once had a deftly unkind colleague who had made it her life’s work to run screaming from the outer suburbs. Genuinely repelled by mission brown awnings, the prospect of PTA meetings and, indeed, crochet of any kind, she had fled triple fronted brick veneer the very millisecond she could. Suspicious of shagpile and eternally paranoid that she should ever be confused for someone without a Zip Code that Mattered, she developed a talent for scorn. Anxious to mark her difference from the world that had created her, she became an enviably gifted Bitch.
Although faintly appalled by this nastiness, I cultivated a certain liking for her cruel and daily observations. Hausfrau in gabardine at Twelve O’clock, she would mutter over lunch. In the city to exchange her Mother’s Day gift which was, of course, an Epi-lady. Her entire reality frame would melt should local Pizza Hut franchise run out of cheese. Tonight, invigorated by her brush with a flag-ship department store, she will tie Chuck to his JC Penney faux-Shaker bed posts with Wizard Wipes and ride him as though he were the pony of her adolescent longing.
Stop! No, please, I would beg, unsure whether to giggle or give my colleague the name of a good therapist. Ninety per cent of the time, her critique was just too brittle for my tastes. As a half-hearted suburban escapee at the time, however, I would occasionally mine some gems from the dark shaft of her self-loathing.
In particular, I recall one mid-nineties luncheon staffed by under-cooked salmon and deca-litres of Balsamic, she pointed her fish knife at some young temptress and pronounced, ‘Tracksuit Fairy’s coming’.
The Tracksuit Fairy, according to my colleague, was the only means by which the sudden change from Babe to leisure-suit could be explained. Had I not noted how in the course of days an elastic and fashionably clad young female suburbanite might metamorphose into a fleece-lined sack just WAITING to free-base Hormone Replacement Therapy? Honestly, she continued, sometimes it can happen in hours. One day, you’re in a size 8 Prada knock off, the next BAM: Tracksuit Fairy.
Malicious as were her reflections on strip-mall apparel, I had to concur: (a) some women, and indeed men, did embrace tracksuits quickly and inexplicably and (b) in a better world, this amorphous clothing would never be worn out of doors. I vowed then and there never to wear a tracksuit in any public place other than a jogging track. I swore to outrun the Tracksuit Fairy.
What am I and those countless others who have solemnly taken the Tracksuit Fairy Oath, to make of recent fashion week displays? Apparently, Trackie Dacks are the last word in chic. And not just any track suit: the really ‘hip’ ones are wrought from velour! Hello? Am I the only sentient being who perceives this double felony for what it is? I lived through the seventies, baby, and I was unwillingly clad in textured forest green velour track suits with brown trim and I ain’t going back.
Let me just repeat: consumers are being urged to wear TRACK SUITS made from VELOUR.
Couturiers Karl Lagerfeld and Valentino each own one. Gwyneth, Madonna and J Lo, who are each old enough to know better, are regularly seen in them. Catherine Zeta Jones swans about in one. One would think that her frail husband, Michael Douglas, observed enough of seventies excess to make her see reason.
The Velour Tracksuit, as some global fashion commentators would have it, is the new Pashmina Shawl.
I am tempted to trace my former colleague to see if she has ordered one of the new Juicy Couture suits. It is my fervent hope that she has refrained and is now quipping: if Velour is the New Pashmina then velveeta is the new sashimi, the ford pinto is the new Porsche and cheese-cloth tops are back. Oh wait…..

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Five-thirty Monday thru Friday. Always open.

The part of my day that I must honestly say I approach with dread, will be upon me within a half-hour. It is the time when the man comes home.

Don’t mistake me and assume that I am complaining about my husband, his arrival, or being with him. That isn’t the case. What I dread is the transition time. I have trouble adjusting. I’m an outwardly easygoing, ready-for-anything, roll-with-the-changes-REO-speedwagon kind of person. Nothing fazes me to the casual observer. I’ve worked long and hard on cultivating that ability of mine to appear to the outside world as one who is never surprised. But inwardly? Transitions are tough for me.

My days, on the days I don’t work at the general store, are bisected by that approximately 5:30-ish E.T.A. When my husband pulls up in the gravel driveway adjacent our little gray-green, brown-roofed bungalow; steps out of the maroon 1988 Honda Civic that is our umbilical cord to the outside world in this small town non-public-transportating place where we live; and enters our dwelling place sporting dirt-laden clothing from his day at the nursery and expectation as to what tonight’s dinner might bring. As often as not lately, my uninspired answer is “pick which can of soup you want to open and heat it.”

Sometimes, when he gets home, I am morose, dejected. Full of remorse at books that went uncracked, writing that stagnated in my brain and fell into cerebral cracks where they may not be rescued for many moons. If ever. Dusting that went undusted. Clothes to be ironed, mounded in heaps all over the bedroom floor, a rocky wrinkled landscape testifying to sheer domestic failure.

During a recent conversation about family, children, in-laws and marital expectations, I wailed, “I don’t feel like a wife.” Which brought down the house with uninterpretable laughter from his mouth, his mind. “What makes you think you’re supposed to be...a wife??”

“What do you mean by THAT?”

“I don’t know.” More laughter.

I think he meant, he didn’t understand what it was that I was lamenting, lacking at, feeling that I’d failed at or wasn’t trying hard enough to be.

When I was growing up, my mom did everything. EVERYTHING. That there was to be done to ensure that our household (apartmenthold) ran smoothly. ALL of the washing, ALL of the cooking, ALL of the ironing. ALL of the vacuuming and toilet-scrubbing and mending and dishwashing. (Although, she never really dusted. Our house was always dusty. Other Filipinos out there? Did you experience this as well? Or was my mom “special” in her lack of attention to wiping up dust motes?)

My father participated in domestic duties not one iota, save for a handful of culinary items that he relished preparing. These included Korean moonshine, chop chae, kalbee, and the Thanksgiving turkey with all the trimmings, every year. He never did dishes, never washed, folded or ironed his own clothes. Half the time his dishes, after eating in front of the TV set, never even made it to the kitchen. I was usually the one to find and pick them up. My mother basically enslaved herself, and willingly, to the care and feeding and cleaning of the living space of him and their two children.

My Filipino grandma thought my sister and I were spoiled brats. My mom did nothing different to please Nanay when she came from the Philippines to live with us. I remember time and time again, Mom telling me gravely, “You leave these things to me. You have homework. You concentrate on your studies. You practice your piano. You have to think of your future.” All this time, she was working 40 hours a week and more as a registered nurse. Most of the time I was growing up, she was an E.R. nurse. The workload she carried was in sharp contrast to that of the bulk of the moms of the kids with whom I attended school. Mainly Irish-American homemakers who, yes, cared for broods of 8 to a dozen kids in most cases, but who didn’t work outside the home for a living. And, whose kids were fully expected to pitch in at home.

Flash forward to today. Me, at age 35. One year younger than my mom was when she birthed me. No kids, no full time job, and a husband who works 40 hours and more a week. And completely pathetic, decrepit, even, at the most basic of household tasks.

Today I did a modicum of cleaning. Laundry, mostly M’s dirt-encrusted work clothes. Vacuuming but no sweeping because I am averse to push a broom. Some trash removal, some sorting of small piles of crap into one large pile. It looks better in here, and I didn’t die in the process like you would think I would expect to, the way that I avoid chores of all kinds. Spoiled brat, I feel my Nanay looking down on me with disapproving eyes. I do feel badly, I do feel ashamed, I do also know that I will never change.

I will try harder on some days, and my house is for the most part, presentable. But I will never change. I don’t want to make the sacrifices that my mom did. That she still does. I don’t want to give up my time for reading and for writing, to immerse myself in scrubbing walls and toilet bowls and removing dust bunnies. Not any more than I have to.

I am lucky right now. I realize this from the pit of my being. One day, maybe I will be a mother. It’s not out of the question. And one day, maybe I will work a great deal more than I do now. And not have this luxury. Of time, open and unfolding in front of me, day after day. To do with it as I see fit. As only I dictate.

The car door has slammed. The man is home. I savor the last few sips of my margarita. I hope he doesn’t mind that there’s no more tequila.

[cross-posted at cocokat in slumberland.]

Friday, April 25, 2003

The Chicks Bear to Bare.

On the eve of their U.S. tour, the Dixie Chicks -- who raised a ruckus last month with lead singer Natalie Maines' comments about President Bush and the war in Iraq -- have blasted back with both barrels, CNN reports.

I missed their interview with Diane Sawyer last night because I got a free last-minute $176 ticket to the Eton John-Billy Joel "Face to Face" concert. Couldn’t miss that and didn’t have time to set my VCR.

When you’re as comely as the Dixie Chicks are, it doesn’t take much guts to bare your body on the cover of Entertainment Weekly (as they are doing, with a variety of epithets stamped over unstrategic body parts.)

Given the conservative politics of the many of the country music fans who are their bread and butter, however, I give them credit for having the courage to publicly affirm their opposition to the war. (Bruce Springsteen said it right on his site.) Actually, doing so might even work to their career advantage, bringing what they offer the music world more into the awareness of those who don’t share the politics of their traditional fans. And exposing their only slightly compromised positions on a magazine cover can’t hurt either.

I was a big fan of country music in high school -- hung around with a bunch of friends who had a country-western band -- learned to play three cords on a guitar and loved Kitty Wells ("It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels"). Obviously, my taste in music had broadened considerably, but I still can't get into Rap. Maybe it's my age, but lyrical introspective story-teller/poets/musicians like Billy Joel remain my preference. As a side note, it was not surprising for me to note that 99% of the audience at the "Face to Face" concert was white, middle-aged, and very self-controlled.
(double posted)

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Hermann Goering:
Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

quote verified at

From Wisdom Quotes ~ Peace

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

It could be worse.

But this is pretty bad. In an interview yesterday with the Associated Press, Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, the third-highest-ranking individual in the Republican party, said:
I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts. As I would with acts of other, what I would consider to be, acts outside of traditional heterosexual relationships. And that includes a variety of different acts, not just homosexual. I have nothing, absolutely nothing against anyone who's homosexual. If that's their orientation, then I accept that. And I have no problem with someone who has other orientations. The question is, do you act upon those orientations?

While we're posing questions, Senator, I have one for you: Do we ask people to repress who they are, who they love? You seem to suggest that it is fair and tolerant to acknowledge the existence of homosexuality while outlawing the practice thereof. Senator Santorum thought that he hadn't stuck his foot deep enough into his mouth, so he continued:
We have laws in states, like the one at the Supreme Court right now, that has sodomy laws and they were there for a purpose. Because, again, I would argue, they undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family. And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does.

Uh-oh, Senator. You clearly mean business. I may be interpreting your backwards statements incorrectly, but I'm pretty sure you just declared homosexuality to be anti-family, insinuated that it "undermines the fabric of our society," and equated it with bigamy, polygamy, incest, and adultery. How can you make any sort of parallel between healthy, consensual relationships and immoral, inequal, and often dishonest relationships? I know you're busy, Senator. You must have things to do other than digging yourself a tidy political (and moral) grave. Unfortunately for me and tragically for you, you still have more to say:
It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution, this right that was created, it was created in Griswold -- Griswold was the contraceptive case -- and abortion. And now we're just extending it out. And the further you extend it out, the more you -- this freedom actually intervenes and affects the family. You say, well, it's my individual freedom. Yes, but it destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that's antithetical to strong healthy families. Whether it's polygamy, whether it's adultery, where it's sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family.

If we wanted to run with the foot-in-mouth metaphor, I'd say that Senator Santorum is pretty much feeling his toes against the back of his throat right now. He audaciously contests the validity of abortion rights, of contraceptive rights, and of personal privacy.

It is scary when conservative values are used as justifications for legislative actions. Just ask the Right, whose very own Cybercast News Service insisted that gay rights groups owe Santorum an apology for chastising him for his belief in the Bible.

They're missing the point. Senator Santorum can believe in the Bible all he wants for all I care. He can be a strict Catholic, or even a priest, if that suits him. But he's not allowed to let that guide his policy decisions. He is a member of our federal government, a government whose founding principle it was to separate church and state. If he wants to be a decent representative of Pennsylvania's citizens (whose population includes 21,000 same-sex households), he'll think with his head and not his Bible.

Shame on you, Senator.

(cross-posted at Fire & Ice)


In which I over generalize female male relationship problems

I was talking to my son recently. He is 35. We were having one of those discussions that you finally get to have with your children once you both start to lower role barriers. I was trying to explain why women tend to feel inferior to men.

In the course of the discussion I learned a few things. First, he was surprised to hear that I could not buy a house when I left his Father in 1969. He found it difficult to believe that it was legal for financial institutions to discriminate in lending based on gender.

As we discussed other mile stones in the 20th century advances in women’s rights he still resisted accepting how I might have felt when at 13 my seventh grade teacher (male – science – coach ) informed me that I should not pursue my interest in physics because the field was “not for girls”. He explained that while the teacher was wrong to tell me that, I should have not accepted his judgment.

When I tried to point out how the bible puts women in a second class state, how historically women were treated as property, how women had to pose as males to get their writings published, or how women had their writings stolen by prominent male authors, he continued to resist the idea that women have been and continue to be oppressed in the world or in American society.

He just does not buy it. The “legal” equality of men and women is his reality. However, what he sees is that women always seem to have the upper hand when it comes to relationships. He sees the women’s liberation movement as a problem instead of a solution. In many ways it was evident to me that he feels he is in a bind when it comes to relationships with women. The objective facts of continuing wage disparity, the corporate glass ceiling, and inadequate child care for example are not important to his frame of reference.

I also have an internet acquaintance. He is in his early twenties and searching for a mate. He basically says the same thing. He has perpetual complaints about how he feels used and abused emotionally by women that he is interested in.

This started me thinking about why this is.

In nature females are more valuable than males. Only females have the equipment to actually produce offspring. In animal species males live pretty hard lives where most die early and few even mate much less pass on their genes to a new generation. I understand the concept of the selfish gene. While I appreciate what Dawkins presented in his theory I really think that he was putting too much emphasis on the reproductive angle of it. For me, nature is much more messy, random, and chaotic. Things that are messy, random, and chaotic more frequently end up with useful mutations.

Perhaps I missed something but I doubt that this phenomenon has intention built in. Animals for the most part wish to copulate more than they wish to be involved with offspring. This is biological. If males did not rush to copulate with any willing female they can find, the continuation of their species might be in doubt. This is clearly evident in animal species and I think that it is also true (as a generalization) in human species as well.

Men of course, make dynamite Fathers. The question of whether this is biological or our ascendancy over our biology is unknown. Women too, can overcome their feelings of inadequacy, or of being incomplete males.

It seems intuitive to me that monogamy benefits males more than females. A male choosing to permanently associate himself with a female provides himself with copulation opportunity. Serial monogamy is even more perfect to provide more copulation opportunities.

In this desire for sex, the human male has it worst of all. He can come to see himself as just a repository for sperm with a nice delivery system or someone who is perpetually denied his reason for being. This extends to all social systems in some way. And instead of fixing what is wrong with our society he will turn on the one thing in his life he wishes that he had some control over.

He has been led to believe that women are to blame for all the troubles in the world. The bible tells him so for example. It was Adam’s sin to choose his wife’s advice over God’s. (And Eve probably thought that after all Adam did not have to eat that silly apple.) If he is not Christian, he has some other rationale for the myth of superiority. And this really does get at something profound in the way that we see each other as oppressors. How ironic. Of course this is not a conscious decision for we are tied to our mythology more than we are willing to admit.

Women do manipulate men. We sometimes turn on those men that we love as representative of the elite structures that contribute to our ‘lot’ in life. We demean our lovers, thrust them away when we know they need closeness, and deliberately bewilder them with excuses for our erratic behavior as having to do with ‘our cycles’, which men can not experience and are therefore never knowable. Do we do this in part because of denied political and economic power? I am not certain but someone must have thought that sometime.

Payback for males is to question our ability to reason because everyone knows that women are emotional. I always felt amused that in debates with male friends they often would claim that I simply was not logical when they were losing an argument. None of them had ever taken a class in logic while I had several under my belt. Men tend to think that logic is inherent and beyond the ability of any woman to appreciate. No wonder we feel patronized much of the time. We are frequently reminded that our observations of history or politics are somehow illegitimate.

And this is why the women’s movement is attacked at all levels. Men simply do not see that this in any way helps liberate them not just us. They tend to see it as a struggle for supremacy. Any victory that women make is seen as male loss. It does not matter how it is explained. There is a barrier erected that prevents even looking at the arguments.

Will we ever be able to value, honor, and respect each other for our unique gender qualities? The older I get the less hope I have.


I asked my friend who I mention in the article to read it and comment. Here are his words verbatim.

"Educating a beautiful woman is like pouring honey into a fine Swiss watch: everything stops."
- Kurt Vonnegut

Women are inferior. Women have strength in reproduction, but are ultimately weaker.
They whine, bleat and look pretty. They attempt to assert control through manipulation.

They are sacred, essential to the continuation of the race.

There in lies the problem. They are a desired commodity, and so we can not trust that they will remain faithful.

Women are sacred, but always doubted.

I don’t know about education, but attempting to make men and women "equal" is like pouring honey into the social dynamic of society, everything stops.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

"Human Beings Are Not Meant to Live Alone!"

So say countless, countless people who are either married/engaged/happily ensconced in a relationship/on the hunt for a partner.

I totally agree with that statement.

But I disagree with the implication of that statement. The implied meaning is: "Being single is unnatural. Get yourself a Significant Other!"

In my humble opinion, that statement should mean exactly what it means: that we should not be alone but living together with other people. The "other people" not being restricted to Significant Others. The "other people" should mean family and friends. When I say "family", I mean family members who do give a damn about you and want/do the best for you. When I say "friends", I mean real honest-to-goodness friends who will stick by you, not acquaintances or drinking mates.

You see, I've arrived at a startling realisation yesterday: A full five-or-so months after having been dumped, I am pretty much a happy singleton because I'm working on my cookbook with a bunch of really wonderful people, I have some wonderful friends who were there for me all through my annus horribilis, The Noisy Neighbour fiasco and the various crises I've had to deal with, my mother has finally settled into realising that she can't order me around forever, and I am pretty much rediscovering my Chinese side with the help of my wonderful classmates and tutors at the Chinese departments.

And finally, I've decided that I don't really want children after all. I used to think that I wanted them--FOUR girls, no less--but lately I've been thinking that given how much my parents have screwed up with me, I don't think I have the right to screw up somebody else's life.

Yeah, yeah--I can hear some of you thinking: "Nah, she'll meet some guy some day and want to have his babies!"

Answer: Given that the only guy at the moment whose babies I might want to have is Orlando Bloom, I don't think so.

Besides, I am currently idly thinking that tying my tubes might be the way to go if I am still single/not married by age 35. Laugh all you want, dear Readers, but I have a strong feeling that if I do find my Other Half or if I do get married, it won't be until I've hit my mid-to-late 30s and that feeling is growing as time goes by and the line of Unsuitable Men that troop by gets longer and longer. Oh, no doubt I'll probably have a few more failed relationships and unsatisfying love affairs along the way. Another reason why children are not an option.

Last week, I ran into a college mate I haven't seen for ages and since she's almost 10 years older than me and single, we got talking about growing into an older singleton and what that does to one's expectations in a relationship.

Me: I find that as I grow older and remain single, I get more selfish. I don't want to share my space with anyone and I just can't suffer fools as much as I used to.
She: It's not being selfish. It's knowing what you want in a mate. If you meet the right one, you'll be able to happily share your life.
Me: Well, at this point, I know what I don't want in a guy.
She: My point exactly!

My grandmother did say that if I got anymore choosy, I would end up like my three unmarried aunts who are in their 40s and have decided to remain single.

But that's the point: I like quality goods, quality entertainment, and I am working on becoming a classy lady. Why shouldn't I be equally fussy about the quality of the men I date? For far too long I have settled for a guy. From now on, I won't. And the best way to ensure that is simply to learn how to be happy single and to be happy with myself.

Now that's a full-time project in itself.

And that's my two cents on the state of growing into an older singleton.

For more edification on this subject, see:

1. Jennifer Balderama's post on Who Needs Parents When You Have The Paint Guy.

2. The inimitable Ryan McGee on Men and the Dating World.


3. Barbara Ellen's pieces on Selfish Singletons and fighting your relationship weight in In the Red Corner....

Cross-posted at Mindscapes, Heartstrings and Soul-searching

Monday, April 21, 2003

Earth Day 2003: Celebrate and Protect the Planet!

This can be a valuable day for do-gooding, but let's start with a reality check:
Earth Day 2003 – A Time for Mourning, Not Craft Fairs
By Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D.

“Where have all the flowers gone? Long time passing. Where have all the flowers gone? Long time ago. Where have all the flowers gone? Young girls picked them, every one. Oh, when will they ever learn? Oh, when will they ever learn” -- Pete Seeger

"Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too." -- Frederick Buechner

The list of events planned around the US for Earth Day 2003 is chilling. While deadly pollution harms US soldiers, the people, and environment of Iraq and the surrounding countries, while the Baghdad zoo has been ransacked and the animals either killed, let loose, or stolen, while innocent Iraqi children suffer from US-inflicted injuries, and while tens of thousands of people worldwide die from soil, air, and water poisoned with pesticides and scores of toxic chemicals, Earth Day craft fairs, discussion groups, and lectures will be held. Lost is the passion and sense of urgency that heralded the first Earth Day 33 years ago.

The 33rd Earth Day this year will mark an unprecedented time of resource consumption and environmental violence against the Earth and our health.

On Earth Day this year, while speeches, conversations and trinket sales take place:

603 people worldwide will die from exposure to pesticides and countless more will suffer serious health threats from chronic exposure.

5,400 to 11,000 children will die from diarrhea from polluted drinking water.

27,000 children will die from curable infectious diseases.

164 babies will be born that are effected by mercury poisoning because their mothers ate contaminated fish, while government agencies recommend that pregnant women eat several servings of fish each week.

Over 103,000 animals will be killed for fur coats.

Nearly 2 million gallons of engine oil will be poured down the drain and will enter our nation’s waterways.

Over 41 million pounds of trash will be dumped at sea worldwide. About 77 percent of all ship waste comes from cruise ships.

Over 3 million pounds of hydrocarbons will be released into the atmosphere just from jet skis, lawn mowers, boat engines, and other 2-cycle motors.

At least 1,200 gallons of oil and fuel will leak from aging and malfunctioning pipelines in the US, polluting groundwater, lakes, rivers, oceans and soil.

313 million gallons of fuel - enough to drain 26 tractor-trailer trucks every minute – will be used in the US

18 million tons of raw materials will be taken from US soil.

Miscarriages will continue to take place among women of the Shoalwater Bay Tribe in Washington State, possibly from pesticide contamination in cranberry bogs. Earth Day has become a time when the right wing corporate, industrial, and political leaders probably rejoice in the passivity of the population. Of course, there are exceptions and a number of groups throughout the nation will be mindful of the significance of the day.
See the rest of Jackie Alan Giuliano's piece here.

Want to be part of the exceptional? Today's Earth Day. What are you going to do about it?

The EarthDay Network has lots of suggestions.

Be a responsible parent and a good steward of the planet: Share the holiday with your kids. Here's a coloring book with an enviromental focus; the wee ones will love it and learn much. They'll dig the Kids' Domain site too.

This Earth Day, go on an energy fast.

Spend some time with Envirolink, the online environmental community.

And focus on the theme for the 2003 observance: Water for Life. The theme comes at a time when the global water situation demands our attention.

One really good thing to do for the enviroment: REGISTER TO VOTE!

Final suggestion: Make every day Earth Day!


[This is an article from my blog that I posted last Monday after the White Hose pushed through legislation the Friday night before to allow drilling for more oil in America's crown jewel, the Wildlife Refuge on Alaska's northern edge. Future posts will follow.]

These are members of the Porcupine Herd. Once upon a time, they used to number in the millions. Now, depending on who you talk to, they count between 100,000 and 150,000. Their numbers dropped significantly after the pipeline was built and are just recently (30 years later) getting back to a position of stability. Remember the movie "Never Cry Wolf"? That's what the wise ones blamed the lower population on--very hungry wolves that evidently could eat many thousand times their body weight in caribou. Emergency legislature was passed, authorizing the offering of a bounty to catch the little varmints, which was just recently clipped because the wolves had almost been hunted to extinction.

Caribou need to range free (migrate) for many hundreds of miles through Canada and Alaska to the north coastal plain because they need to eat, give birth, and run into the water during summer when the flies and mosquitoes literally threaten their lives and their sanity. They have this all figured out already. The animals and plants all used the last million years to figure out everything they need to survive, creating a perfect, symbiotic, ecological balance--and without any help from us. This is why their calving grounds were protected by law and named: The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Then, oil was discovered. *cue Beverly Hillbillies music*

So when Alaska Senator Ted Stevens says the animals can just "go around" the drilling aparatus, and that it won't bother them, I think it shows his hard-headed ignorance.
When Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski bangs his fist on the podium in his peculiar mini-filibusters where the veins on his neck pop out, demanding the passage of drilling in ANWR, I think he wreaks of desperation from outside pressure.
When Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton flips from being an ok conservationist to a yes-woman, saying that drilling won't hurt the animals, it's because she's feeling pressure from her boss who is feeling pressure from the oil industry to get a move on.

Back Door Men
In an article dated April 7, 2003, by the Natural Resources Defense Council it explains the results of a 12-year government study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey on the harmful effects drilling will cause. The caribou are 'particularly senstive' to disturbances in their environment and would "most likely avoid roads and pipelines." So, the Back Door Men and his cronies said they would do their own study. "They didn't like the results of the 12-year study, so they ordered a seven-day rush job to get the results they really wanted," said Chuck Clusen, NRDC's director of Alaska projects.

The Union of Concerned Scientists writes: "Drilling pristine Alaskan lands is a short-sighted and ineffective strategy tantamount to placing a band-aid over a compound fracture." In the year 2000, "the U.S. imported 54% of its oil production sending $180,000 overseas each minute." On their pie chart, the biggest piece goes to transportation at 67%. Yet, Bush and Co. keeps voting down even a paltry 5% decrease in emissions, tax breaks for consumers trying to buy hybrid engines, and stalling any effective research and development on alternative energy sources. Note: "alternative" means: NOT oil. Bush has a legacy tied to oil that is common knowledge. This is a no-brainer.

The Dance of the Seven Veils
I'm not proud of it, but there were times when I took employment as a stripper. Usually forced by economic reasons, my dancing job would commence after my day job ended. I would already be tired when I got there. Then these horn dog losers would follow me around for eight hours and the conversation would go something like this:
"Will you go out with me?" "No." "I'll take you where ever you want." "No." "I'll spend all my money on you." "No." "I want to take you out, when should I pick you up?" "Never." "Where do you live?" "I'm homeless right now." "You could come live with me." "My boyfriend wouldn't like it." "He wouldn't have to know." "No." "You're a stuck-up bitch. Whatr ya, a lezzie?"...for eight hours. I wasn't a hooker, or looking for love, or looking for a date. I was just looking for those single dollar bills to make ends meet, that's all.

Bush is dancing for those Bills, too:
I want to drill for oil up there in Alasky . Everybody: No. Bush: But I want to, I promise the animals will be safe! Everybody: No they won't. Bush: But it will end our dependence on foreign oil. Everybody: No it won't. Bush: But we'll get a whole bunch of crud outta there! Everybody: No we won't. Bush: Stuck up. I'm not playing with you anymore.

And he sulks off to whisper behind his hand to get these frickin' bills passed BEFORE next year when he has to start campaigning all over again.

From, Terry McCarthy writes: "How Bush gets his way on the environment. With the nation distracted by terrorism and the economy, the president has quietly maneuvered to challenge limits on drilling, mining, logging and power generation," rolling back "three decades of environmental policies." His strategies boggle the mind with his use of sleight of hand. He also uses jedi mind control techniques, telling everyone over and over how sincere he is, how concerned he is for the environmental causes while appointing lieutenants from those same energy corporations the laws were made to protect us from. They take their place on the dais with a pre-conceived list of regulations they need softened and successfully chase down loopholes in the legislature. He instructs the Republican party members to refer to themselves as "conservationists." It's just a mind dance, behind smoke-colored veils.

When the Interior's assistant secretary for land and minerals management, Rebecca Watson, delivered a speech to a pro-energy group, she "decried America's low-energy I.Q. as hampering any discussion of the role of the [Arctic Refuge] in contributing to our domestic energy supply." In other words, we're too stupid to know that ripping up the North Slope will solve all our problems.

The amount of available oil has been (generously) estimated at between 16-19 billlion barrels of oil, but usable oil? maybe 3.2 billion barrels, spread across 30 small deposits that will require a vast network of roads and pipelines macrame-ing hundreds of thousands of acres to reach and connect them all. And estimated time for blastoff of the crude orgasm? Not until the year 2010.

And now to help out here come the Mighty Teamster's, smelling lucrative government contracts and full benefits, jumping on the bandwagon with their hefty powers of persuasion to help lobby the passing of this legislature, because gosh darn it! that's the kinda guys they are. (Note to self: don't feed dog tonight.)

As thirsty America sucks down 20 million barrels a day, even if we could use all that was drilled in the Arctic Refuge, it would be less than six months' worth, although oil industry puts that estimate much longer, of course, used in combination with imports--to several years' worth. But by that time, the flora and fauna would have suffered irreversible, irreparable damage. And there is more oil than that off the Florida coast. (Oh wait. That's where the "other" Bush lives. Never mind. He probably wouldn't want to look out his window at oil derricks.)

It's not just that the caribou herds will suffer and may be deccimated entirely, and that several Native tribes have lived on those herds for thousands of years, no; there is a world teeming with life in the aptly named Wildlife Refuge (see the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for descriptions and pictures) of: rare plants, slow-growing tundra, 160 species of birds, Arctic wolves, Arctic fox, grizzlies and polar bears, even a survivor from the last Ice Age, though endangered now--the shaggy musk ox, distant cousin to the wooley mammoth, Wooley Booley.

So....if you're the President and you want all those kickbacks promised to you by the oil industry, and everybody keeps telling you do you get to those dollar bills?

You start a war, silly.

I was just wondering how I can delete away this blog fr. my blogger?

Sunday, April 20, 2003

As Expected

This is why I don't align myself with narrow-acting groups who claim to speak for women. They don't speak for me. They don't speak for many women, I'm assuming not even for some feminists. Groups that form strictly to influence politics, more often than not, become politically motivated, lose connections with the people they were formed to support, and even more often they morph into some unrecognizable coalition that fits the cause of the moment. To me, that makes them ultimately politically, not humanly, motivated.

Wouldn't have been a pleasure to see NOW come down on the side of Laci Peterson, who grew this baby for more than 7 months and quite obviously wasn't thinking of aborting him when she was murdered, rather than acting in haste to oppose the double-murder charge because of what a ruling could mean to NOW's side of the abortion battle.

Shame on you, Now.

Friday, April 18, 2003

In Praise of my Local Library

I love this place. I started going to this library – the downtown, main branch in 1988 when I moved to my little university town to attend grad school. I had discovered, somehow – and I forget how – about books-on-tape. And since I was sharing a studio with four other fiber grad students I couldn’t just blare my radio and disrupt their concentration so I knew I had to fall back on my walk-man. Although at that time I wasn’t a Muslim so I did listen to music, I had found that during the labor-intensive parts of my artmaking it was more interesting to listen to someone read rather then music.

I suppose music had a way of boring me after awhile whereas the literature keep my mind working while my hands were busy. Necessary, that, for me. True, when I was involved in a particularly difficult passage of a piece I would not listen to a book as it took too much concentration and I’d be distracted, but for many times of art making, it was the perfect combination.

Anyhow, nearly 15 years later – to the day (May 1, 1988, that is, when I first moved to this town) - I’m still a books-on-tape listener and regular patron of my local library. Except now I am a matronly Muslim mama with three little kids in tow rather then the hip, slightly disaffected, self-declared sophisticate feminist artist that I was in 1988.

How times do change.


But my library doesn’t change. If anything, it’s gotten cooler over time, and cleaner, brighter and better organized – having won some big, national library award in 1999 or something like that. But I still love the place, with its increasing diversity and selections. I much prefer it to any bookstore, (because I can have anything I want, here – almost – and the taint of overt commercialism is gone – which I really got sick of when I worked in one of those mega-places). Although really – like the other super-bookstores in town – it should have a coffee shop. One that has sippy cups available for little kids. And good, cheap decaf coffee.

But I digress (as usual, I know).

So, my two oldest kidlets were playing on the computer in the cheery, spacious children’s section, and my youngest was sleeping, crammed into the back of my heavily used double stroller (what WOULD I do without that thing, I really don’t know). So, I take a few minutes to quickly go check out my piles of wonderfully borrow-able loot. There was no line, so I went to the nearest librarian-check-out-lady who was an aging hippie that my sweet university town has a plethora of and I started loading up her desk. I pile books on the high counter in a jumble – videocassettes, my book-on-tape selections, and about 20 kid’s books of all descriptions. I offered to pay my fine (which I seem to have about every 2 months or so, try as I might) and she good heartedly took off a buck or so, for whatever reason that I could not figure out. Then she proceeded to survey my selections while scanning each one.

“OOOOHHHH, THIS is a good one!” She says as she checks out The Archivists by Martha Cooley, which I’ve checked out again.

“Yes, it seems to be.” I say. “I started listening to it, but then there was this war and I listened to NPR so much that I didn’t get a chance to listen to the tape. Now I’m going to try to listen to the end.”

“I understand,” she said. “I had to really limit myself, too. Now I just listen to the BBC for one hour at night now, and then I force myself to turn it off.”

Then she leaned closer to me, over the brown Formica-wood counter and my stacks of books. She gazed at me conspiratorially and quietly said, “So, have you heard any more about Syria today?” her voice heavy with condemnation, thick with concern, touched with a little sarcasm.

I assure her that I haven’t but I go away loving this library, this city, and the fact that my little university hometown voted against the Crusades, I mean the American war on Iraq. I leave my library loving that far, far more residents here support peace and Muslims in general then support any kind of aggression. I go from my library thinking that although I wish I could live in a Muslim country, I can’t (for about 15 really solid, immovable reasons). And since I have to stay in the US (at least right now) I’m sure glad I can live in this little place, thank God. Here – where the librarians don’t look at my black niqab and see a terrorist, but where, instead, they see someone who shares many of their same views. Here, where many of the residents look past my veil and see, maybe, a friend.

Crossposted at A Portrait of the Artist as a Muslim Woman

Howard Dean, social liberal and fiscal conservative, talks about getting past "The Bush Doctrine"

I was so filled with hope after reading this op-ed today. If you are hoping to find a Presidential candidate worth supporting, I urge you to check this out. Just a few excerpts:

Dean on Bush's foreign policy: "The President who campaigned on a platform of a humble foreign policy has instead begun implementing a foreign policy characterized by dominance, arrogance and intimidation. The tidal wave of support and goodwill that engulfed us after the tragedy of 9/11 has dried up and been replaced by undercurrents of distrust, skepticism and hostility by many who had been among our closest allies. This unilateral approach to foreign policy is a disaster...."

Dean on his own domestic goals" "I want to restore a sense of community in this country – where it’s not enough to worry whether your own kids have health care, but whether your neighbors’ kids have health care. I want to go to the South and talk about race. White southerners have been flocking to the Republican Party in recent years, but I want to offer them hope that their children will benefit from better schools and affordable health care, too. The Republican Party has done nothing for working people, black or white, and we need to remind Southern white folks that the only hope for better schools, and better job opportunities, and health care that is affordable is a Democratic President."

Dean on fiscal responsibility: "I am what is commonly referred to as a social liberal and a fiscal conservative. I am proud of the fact that as Governor I routinely balanced the budget – which I was not required to do by Vermont’s constitution – and paid down our state debt by nearly a quarter. I had to make tough decisions, and I will admit that some of them did not make the progressive community happy. But I made those decisions because I have a guiding principle that social justice must rest upon a foundation of fiscal discipline. Because of that approach to governance, Vermont today is not cutting education and is not cutting Medicaid despite the perilous economic times brought on by the Bush fiscal policies."

Honoring Private Lori

Squaw Peak in Arizona has been officially renamed to honor Private Lori Piestewa, a Hopi, and the first Native American woman to have died in combat as a U.S. soldier.

More on this over at Distracted.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

New sister :-)

Hi everyone... I wanted to take a moment to greet everyone and introduce myself... my name's Dawn from Chicago, Illinois... I'm a 30-something pulling-my-hair-out single mom of three (including two teenagers)... and I really enjoy escaping to my blog to let off steam... and a nice, tall, cold beer on the weekends when the kids are out of town... I deserve it. ;-) I'm glad to be a part of this wonderful group of women - I've been lurking here for quite some time now. :-)

Resounding cheers of victory...and then?

After weeks of saturation of the airwaves suddenly there seems to be no Iraq any more. Is it because we are burned out and the media fears loosing our interest? Somehow I doubt it.

The lack of news now is as worrying to me as the complete overkill and ignoring of any other issues was a couple of weeks ago.

Can't the media learn to find a happy medium in it's levels of coverage?

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

huggin and hopin

There is a handful of remarkable souls in the world so untainted, generous and loving that I am made to feel truly crap. Certainly, we all revere the Teresas, Mahatmas and sundry human shields of our planet. Yet there is none amongst us plainer mortals who has not momentarily resented the bejesus out of such kind souls for making us feel like relative cosmic waste. Come on! You expect me to believe that you’ve NEVER thought begrudgingly of the Dalai Lama, just once? Personally and publicly I will admit to having many uncharitable thoughts about the charitable. While I am very glad that the selfless stalk the earth clad only in modest robes and munificence, just occasionally a girl might think: could you puh-lease put your sandals up, lay off the Good Works for a reincarnation or so and let the rest of us ordinary folk catch up.
Currently preparing for a visit to Australia is one of those rare and good people who serve both to better the world and cause the less self-assured to remember that we haven’t done anything really nice for anyone in at least a decade. Mata Amritanandamayi, or Amma to her mates, is an untiring healer who charges little or nothing to administer her message of purest love.
Surviving on the merest sleep, Amma is noted worldwide for the blessings she dispenses and her inspirational teachings that come by way of profound affection and faultless example. Admirably, she regards all faiths and people as equal and administers her healing embrace to all within her orbit. She is widely regarded as Saintly and, there is no evidence that she ever whines, pouts or has unreasonable backstage demands for deli-platters and the like at her various public appearances.
In preparation for Amma’s nationwide tour in the first half of May, I thought, perhaps, that I would purge myself of unkind and jealous thoughts. I resolved that I would not judge my own litany of failures in relation to Amma’s remarkable résumé. Such irrational comparison would only end in tears. To wit: Amma was just awarded the Ghandi-King Award for Non-Violence at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva. My most recent certificate, if I don’t count the Sex Cheque a smutty mate gave me for my last birthday, (redeemable for an “all night shag”) was a 25 metre swimming diploma.
Not only would I set aside envy and general cynical guffaws, I decided, but I would actually attempt to follow her rousing and model behaviour.
Amma’s main gig is delivering a healing hug. Noted. Despite a distaste for hugging, particularly at Art Gallery Openings, I elected to follow suit. I would hug people. Anyone. Even those to whom I would not consider giving a sex cheque.
Amma has been hugging people for thirty years. In that time, it is estimated; she has hugged in excess of 20 Million people. Obviously, I had my work cut out for me. So, I determined to devote just one hour to reckless, public embrace.
Now, if I was to replicate Amma’s hug rate, calculations were in order. Roughly, 20 million cuddles over 30 years, allowing for two hours sleep, one hour ablutions and eating time and, say the odd average half hour here and there for international travel, award ceremonies etc, equals around 100 hugs to be provided to anyone within my radius per hour. Tender, lingering hugs
With best intentions, I nominated a site for my hug-frenzy. Taking Amma’s cue, I acknowledged the equality of all persons and, indeed, venues. It did not seem untoward that I chose my most regular drinking hole as the site for my enlightenment.
And so, I trod to the place of my karmic improvement. No matter that The Ramones blared rather than raga. No matter that the air was more weighted with cigarettes, bourbon and sweat than incense. No matter that my initial hugging subject answered my tender and lingering embrace with, ‘come back later when I’ve sunk more piss, love.’
Thirty minutes into my experiment and I had only copped three hugs. Only one of which approximated ‘lingering’. And that, it must be said, was not in the least bit tender. Furthermore, it actually came at the price of (a) my dignity and (b) a Double Seabreeze.
Amma is now famed as a hugger. Yet, surely, it was not always so. There was a time when she too must have confronted suspicion and incredulity when snuggling up to the unsuspecting. But she did not quit. I downed tools at the 45 minute mark.
I have resigned as a hugger. But I will not, it is vital to admit, ever resume my scorn for those who do good. Being nice is a hard gig. Props and peace to you, Amma.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Only about one in fifteen moms are "hot."

I received some joyful news today. Some ego-boosting, click-your-heels worthy, throw-your-hands-in-the-air-and-wave-‘em-like-you-just-don’t-care news. The news came while I was working at my job, cashiering at the salvage grocery store where I work a few days a week.
Apparently, 15 year-old boys think I’m HOT.
I have this information on good authority. From one of the 15 year-old sources himself.
I mean, holy crap. Do you think this information did not put me over the freaking moon? Well, it did. And then some. I mean, talk about an instant beauty treatment better than any (not that I need, or would ever consider getting a) facelift. Or deep-pore cleansing or French manicure or Brazilian wax.

Repeating this just for the chance to crow about it, because, really, how often does this happen to you? (and if the answer is “often” then hats off to you and congratulations. You bitch. Just kidding.) It’s just that, considering that the standard icons of female hotness to a 15 year-old boy, in my mind, are Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera and other teen hotties whose names I don’t even know. I certainly don’t resemble any of them (and thank goodness), not even close.

Today was my first time working alone without J., the other cashier. Just me and D., my 15 year-old stockboy bagboy carry-the-boxes-out-to-the-car helper. Because the store is only open 2 days a week, Fridays and Saturdays, Friday mornings are insane there. People line up outside the door just for the chance to get in and be the first to snag all the dollar boxes of cereal and cheap paper products we carry, like diapers. The afternoon, in contrast, is slow and mellow. Sometimes steady, but often with generous lags between sales. D. and I were shooting the shit today during these times. Him, regaling me with tales of his friend who snorted Pixy Stix. And then saying how it would be funny to take some strawberry Kool-Aid drink mix and put some lines of it on the conveyor belt there at the cash register and snort it like coke. (These nutty kids! I tell you. What will they think of next?) And I would say, with a world-weary grin and back-and-forth shake of the head, “Oh, D. You are so WILD.”

I can’t help but encourage him a little. He’s such a smart kid, and he’s so all over the place. Full of that famous hormonal energy produced by puberty. You know. We all remember it, don’t we? Sort of constantly crazed, everything you’re feeling just bubbling up to the surface at all times. Unless you’re feeling sullen, and then you bury all your feelings under a bitter crust. (Wait a minute. I STILL do that.)

So, how did I find out that D. - and also B., another young coworker - think I am so hot? In the course of conversation, I don’t quite remember how we got there, D. wants to know how old I am. Before I can answer, he says, “I know, I know that’s like, a REALLY rude question and you’re not, like, supposed to ask women that and everything. So how old ARE you?” I am standing in the juice aisle, facing out the dented cans of coffee, and he is sitting at my chair at the register. (The reason being that he had ‘stolen’ my chair and when I told him I wanted it back, he replied, “Okay, but only if you sit on my lap.” And I said that I didn’t think so and I was going to go and face drinks.) I laugh and say “Okay. Just because it’s you asking, I’ll tell you. I’m 35.”

Well, apparently this news has just rocked his little high school world. And he lets loose with a barrage of excited responses, unable to let up, I guess because he is just so flat-out in disbelief. This includes the following loudly proclaimed statements:

“You’re old enough to be my MOM!”
“You would be like, a totally HOT mom!”
“It’s hard to come by a hot mom.” (moms out there??? how do you like that!)
“Only about, one in 15 moms are hot.” (pretty specific stat....has he done fieldwork in this area?)
“I can’t believe you’re 35!!!” said SEVERAL times. “I thought you were like, 26.”
“You would get hit on by SO many college guys.” (hey. where the hell were all these guys back when I was actually IN college???)
“You came and started working at the store, and I was like, ‘hey! cute college girl!!!’“
“Wait until B. finds out how OLD you are!!” (the other 15 year-old Christian home-schooled high school kid with whom I work. And, emphasis on OLD with a capital “O.”)

D. is cute and slight-bodied and constantly moving and talking and has pimples on his face and is just, so, young young young. I forgot what it was like to be so young. And now, I’m thinking about it and remembering. Remembering the pain and the excruciating happiness. The first flush of romance that stains your cheeks. The sting of rejection. The feeling that the eyes of the world, all those you come in contact with, friends/neighbors/teachers/clergymen/the cashier at the grocery store -- are all upon you. Watching your every move. Passing judgement on you and waiting for you to fuck up. And remembering the feeling of wanting, and the feeling of promise and the knowing that your whole life is ahead of you.

D. is up at the register saying, “I can’t even IMAGINE being 35. 35 is really, really old.”
“Thanks!!” I say back. Next, offering, “ know, Sheryl Crow says that 40 is the new 20,”. Thinking Sheryl Crow is a pop culture reference that he’ll recognize, and that she’s pretty hot herself, and that maybe this will open his mind up a little, knowing that such a hot rock star babe as herself is over 40 and does she seem old?
“I don’t really like Sheryl Crow,” he says.
“Okay,” I want to say. “How about...Mrs. Robinson, then?” But I don’t. I don’t want to take things in that particular direction, and I doubt he’s ever seen the Graduate, anyway.

We spend the rest of the afternoon with D. basically nonstop almost chanting a mantra, “You are so hot. You are so hot. You are so....old. But you are so hot.” Well, hell, I’m not going to argue with the boy. I don’t mind being called old by a lusting young teenager, you know? Considering I only get paid 6 dollars an hour to work at this place, it’s a blessing to have a coworker who dotes on you like a love-starved puppy. Makes the time go by faster, really.

And I do like these kids. D. and B. I feel happy being around them. I like that jagged energy they give off. Sometimes I am filled with this urge to go up to one or the other of them and take their young faces between my hands. And say, looking directly into their eager eyes, “Look. When you finish high school, I want you to do something for me. I want you to pack your bags and leave this town. Go wherever you want. Even if it’s just to...Madison. Go to school. Go to work. Pick one of your dreams and follow it. Get out of this small town. Put yourself out there in the world and let the world see what you can do. Figure out how you can make things better, make yourself happy, see what that will take. Do it all and don’t come back here until you do.”

I guess I love boys because I don’t understand them. I never had brothers. I never got to date any 15 year-old boys....because I wasn’t allowed to. Which is a story (and the central drama of my life? perhaps. one of them) for another post. I went to an all-girls’ Catholic high school and lived a sheltered, over-protected life. Boys fascinated me. Maybe that’s why I’m such a big flirt today. I’m thinking now, though, I’m suddenly aware of what a huge influence I could have over these 2 kids’ lives. As the, you know, hot-woman-we-work-with-who’s-old-enough-to-be-our-mom. That influence strikes me as a rather grave responsibility. And I want it to be a good one.

“Hey, D.” I say, still straightening out the coffee cans. “How old are you?”
“Freshman,” comes the reply.
I stop and turn towards him. “NO.” Widening my eyes in mock surprise. “You are not. Get out.”
“Yeah, really,” he says.
“Well, when I first met you I was sure you were a sophomore, or even a junior,” I say. He is so thrown I can almost see waves bouncing off his body.
“You DID. Awwwwwww, man, that is SO COOL!” he says and goes on about it for about another 5 minutes.
“Yeah,” I say, "I was really fooled." And turn back to the shelves. A warm feeling spreading all over me.
I think I love this kid.
[cross-posted at cocokat in slumberland.]

A song for mothers, daughters, wives

Words & music by Judy Small

The first time it was fathers the last time it was sons
And in between your husbands marched away with drums and guns
And you never thought to question you just went on with your lives
'Cause all they'd taught you who to be was mothers, daughters, wives

You can only just remember the tears your mothers shed
As they sat and read the papers through the lists and lists of dead
And the gold frames held the photographs that mothers kissed each night
And the doorframes held the shocked and silent strangers from the fight

And it was twenty-one years later with children of your own
The trumpet sounded once again and the soldier boys were gone
And you drove their trucks and made their guns and tended to their wounds
And at night you kissed their photographs and prayed for safe returns

And after it was over you had to learn again
To be just wives and mothers when you'd done the work of men
So you worked to help the needy and you never trod on toes
And the photos on the pianos struck a happy family pose

Then your daughters grew to women and your little boys to men
And you prayed that you were dreaming when the call-up came again
But you proudly smiled and held your tears as they bravely waved goodbye
But the photos on the mantelpieces always made you cry

And now you're growing older and in time the photos fade
And in widowhood you sit back and reflect on the parade
Of the passing of your memories as your daughters change their lives
Seeing more to our existence than just mothers, daughters, wives

And you believed them

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Boring Techie Notice

Hello from Blog Sisters Tech Support. If you've noticed any funkiness on the home page here, hopefully I've now been able to fix it. It seems that some versions of Internet Explorer were displaying the posts way down at the bottom of the page, after all the stuff in the side bar. As far as I've been able to tell, this is simply due to a bug in IE that I've been able to work around. If you're still having problems viewing this page correctly, please feel free to email me (roceal at jngm dot net).

I've also heard reports that some people are having problems viewing the RSS feed. I think this may be due to the fact that some posts have "curly quotes." Curly quotes are likely to show up when someone pastes their post in from a Word document, for example. The curly quotes are special characters that some RSS readers may not accept. This is only a guess, as I haven't been able to verify the problems with the RSS feed. Again, if you have any problems with the Blog Sisters web site of a technical nature, please drop me a line!

Regarding The True Clash of Civilizations

If you were to take the average Muslim and ask that person, “What are the laws you should follow as an individual and as a state?” that person probably would answer: “The laws of the Qur’an and the ways of Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him” (also known as the Sunnah, in Arabic).

This having been said, there is not one Muslim country on this earth that actually follows all these laws as they were outlined in the sacred Islamic texts and further, most Muslims would say that they personally make mistakes regarding these laws. Because of this fact, women are ignored and/or abused – as just one example out of many related to the failures in Muslim societies. If, instead, the Qur’an and the Sunnah were followed in Islamic societies, individuals would have profound rights:Women in Islam Versus Women in the Judaeo-Christian Tradition: The Myth & The Reality . It is true that in Islam, and therefore in Muslim countries, there is no line between “mosque and state” – rather the two are inexorably intertwined in the soul of the Muslim. The problem for the Muslim countries has not been a lack of democracy – rather it has been the failure of the Muslim countries to follow their own Islamic laws. Corrupt, self-seeking leaders have taken power – and the Muslims have allowed this to happen.

This aside, I fail to see why Western society cannot accept other countries following their own ways if they choose something besides democracy. While democracy has it’s good points, certainly, those good points are rarely followed in actuality. One only has to look at the erosion of a multitude of personal freedoms in America to see that. Nonetheless, it seems that the American government wants simply to have countries turning into little clones of itself – albeit clones without military power of any significant sort. I sincerely doubt that Washington is going to be very supportive if the Iraqi people rise up together and announce that they want a strict Islamic government – even though as a “democratic” government America should support the right of people to determine their own path. It’s a case of “you can be anything you want, as long as we approve.”

I found this article arrogant and misinformed to say the least. Blanket statements such as, “Thus, the people of the Muslim world overwhelmingly want democracy, but democracy may not be sustainable in their societies…” left me almost laughing in wonder. Did the author take a poll of all Muslims? Of all Muslim countries? Exactly which references or sources did this author use?

In the article The True Clash of Civilizations Turkey is held up as a shining example of a secularized Muslim country that has something like a democracy. But did the author look at the toll it has taken in Turkish society? A fascinating article about the result of democracy in Muslim countries like Turkey is FREEDOM IS MY DAUGHTERS NAME.

My question is this: why should Western cultures be so self important as to assume that they have the right to tell other countries how to govern themselves or how individuals within those countries should live their lives?

Cross posted at A Portrait of the Artist as a Muslim Woman

Friday, April 11, 2003

The True Clash of Civilizations

This is an interesting viewpoint on why democracy has taken a poor hold on Muslim countries, but I don't think this explanation is completely "true". Culturally based intolerance may play a role, but democracy in the United States did not establish because of this reason. It was only until the 20th century that women were allowed to vote and people became more liberal on views about race and sexual orientation.

But is infusing Western culture really the answer? I don't believe that any culture is inherently better than any other. I think (and I may be wrong--sociology and political experts please correct me) that the problem may lie in the basic concept of a separation between church and state. In the west, there is this understanding that religion should not meddle with politics although lately one wonders if the blurry line between the two even exists anymore. In the Middle East, there was never a line to begin with.

And if one side is firmly entrenched in the other, exactly how easy is it to uproot that side and strip it of its powers? People don't like giving up power.

(Also posted at Syaffolee.)

America's True Flag

America has an official “United States Civil Flag of Peacetime” that history has forgotten and it’s time to bring back.

Go here to read how it came about and how it fell into disuse. You can even get the correct dimensions in case you want to make one of your own to display. It sounds like it’s just the right time to do that and spread the word about our civilian (in contrast to the military version that we have been told to think is our one-true symbol) flag.

According to that website:
Through usage and custom, horizontal stripes had become adopted for use over military posts, and vertical stripes adopted for use over civilian establishments. The Civil Flag, intended for peacetime usage in custom house civilian settings, had vertical stripes with blue stars on a white field. By the Law of the Flag, this design denoted civil jurisdiction under the Constitution and common law as opposed to military jurisdiction under admiralty/military law.

Such has been the path that has brought us under the Law of the Military Flag. This should have raised serious questions from many citizens long ago, but we've been educated to listen and believe what we are told, not to ask questions, or think for ourselves and search for the truth.

(Thanks to theonetruebix for pointing me to this. Please feel free to copy the image and post it on your site.)

Wednesday, April 09, 2003


For those who grieve
and for those grieved
by those same dark hearts;

for those who lose
and those lost
from this grave dark age

this dark page
this lost time
this grieving heart.


The images they choose, and choose to ignore

I wanted to pass along this excellent piece:

By Robert Jensen, forElectronic Iraq
It was the picture of the day -- the toppling of a Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad -- and may end up being the picture of the war, the single image that comes to define the conflict. The message will be clear: The U.S. liberated the Iraqi people; the U.S. invasion of Iraq was just.

On Wednesday morning television networks kept cameras trained on the statue near the Palestine Hotel. Iraqis threw ropes over the head and tried to pull it down before attacking the base with a sledgehammer. Finally a U.S. armored vehicle pulled it down, to the cheers of the crowdIt was an inspiring moment of celebration at the apparent end of a brutal dictator's reign. But as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has pointed out at other times, no one image tells the whole story. Questions arise about what is, and isn't, shown.

One obvious question: During live coverage, viewers saw a U.S. soldier drape over the face of Hussein a U.S. flag, which was quickly removed and replaced with an Iraqi flag. Commanders know that the displaying the U.S. flag suggests occupation and domination, not liberation. NBC's Tom Brokaw reported that the Arab network Al Jazeera was "making a big deal" out of the incident with the American flag, implying that U.S. television would -- and should -- downplay that part of the scene. Which choice tells the more complete truth?

Another difference between television in the U.S. and elsewhere has been coverage of Iraqi casualties. Despite constant discussion of "precision bombing," the U.S. invasion has produced so many dead and wounded that Iraqi hospitals stopped trying to count. Red Cross officials have labeled the level of casualties "incredible," describing "dozens of totally dismembered dead bodies of women and children" delivered by truck to hospitals. Cluster bombs, one of the most indiscriminate weapons in the modern arsenal, have been used by U.S. and U.K. forces, with the British defense minister explaining that mothers of Iraqi children killed would one day thank Britain for their use.

U.S. viewers see little of these consequences of war, which are common on television around the world and widely available to anyone with Internet access. Why does U.S. television have a different standard? CNN's Aaron Brown said the decisions are not based on politics. He acknowledged that such images accurately show the violence of war, but defended decisions to not air them; it's a matter of "taste," he said. Again, which choice tells the more complete truth?

Finally, just as important as decisions about what images to use are questions about what facts and analysis -- for which there may be no dramatic pictures available -- to broadcast to help people understand the pictures. The presence of U.S. troops in the streets of Baghdad means the end of the shooting war is near, for which virtually everyone in Iraq will be grateful. It also means the end of a dozen years of harsh U.S.-led economic sanctions that have impoverished the majority of Iraqis and killed as many as a half million children, according to U.N. studies, another reason for Iraqi celebration. And no doubt the vast majority of Iraqis are glad to be rid of Hussein, even if they remember that it was U.S. support for Hussein throughout the 1980s that allowed his regime to consolidate power despite a disastrous invasion of Iran.

But that does not mean all Iraqis will be happy about the ongoing presence of U.S. troops. Perhaps they are aware of how little the U.S. government has cared about democracy or the welfare of Iraqis in the past. Perhaps they watch Afghanistan and see how quickly U.S. policymakers abandoned the commitment to "not walk away" from the suffering of the Afghan people. Perhaps we should be cautious about what we infer from the pictures of celebration that we are seeing; joy over the removal of Hussein does not mean joy over an American occupation.

There is no simple way to get dramatic video of these complex political realities. But they remain realities, whether or not U.S. viewers find a full discussion of them on television.

Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and author of "Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream." He can be reached at

Really Great Tips +1

This is my first post here. I love what I'm reading, but don't feel quite ready to write something from the heart. I hope this gives you a chuckle -- and some good ideas as well.

Really good tips (source unknown):

1) Flies or bees bothering you? Spray them with hairspray and they will take a quick dive.

2) Sealed envelope - Put in the freezer for a few hours, then slide a knife under the flap. The envelope can then be resealed. (hmmm...)

3) Use empty toilet paper roll to store appliance cords. It keeps them neat and you can write on the roll what appliance it belongs to.

4) For icy doorsteps in freezing temperatures: get warm water and put Dawn dish washing liquid in it. Pour it all over the steps. They won't refreeze. (Wish I had known this for the last 60 years)!

5) Crayon marks on walls? This worked wonderfully! A damp rag dipped in baking soda. Comes off with little effort (elbow grease that is)!

6) Permanent marker on appliances/counter tops (like store receipt BLUE)! Rubbing alcohol on paper towel.

7) Whenever I purchase a box of SOS Pads, I immediately take a pair of scissors and cut each pad into halves. After years of having to throw away rusted and unused and smelly pads, I finally decided that this would be much more economical. And now a box of SOS pads lasts me indefinitely! In fact, I have noticed that the scissors get sharpened this way!

8) Opening brand new jars can be a feat in itself. Well, I have found a way to make it the easiest thing to do. Instead of banging a jar of jam, pickles, etc., with a knife until it loosens up, simply reach into the drawer and pull out the handy nutcracker. It adjusts to the size of the jar and I simply give it a good twist and off pops the lid!

9) Blood stains on clothes? Not to worry! Just pour a little peroxide on cloth and proceed to wipe off every drop of blood. Works every time!

10) Use vertical strokes when washing windows outside and horizontal for inside windows. This way you can tell which side has the streaks. Straight vinegar will get outside windows really clean. Don't wash windows on sunny day. They will dry too quickly and will probably streak.

11) Spray a bit of perfume on the light bulb in any room to create a lovely light scent in each room when the light is turned on.

12) Place fabric softener sheets in dresser drawers and your clothes will smell freshly washed for weeks to come. You can also do this with towels and linen.

13) Candles will last a lot longer if placed in the freezer for at least 3 hours prior to burning.

14) To clean artificial flowers, pour some salt into a paper bag and add the flowers. Shake vigorously as the salt will absorb all the dust and dirt and leave your artificial flowers looking like new! Works like a charm!

15) To easily remove burnt on food from your skillet, simply add a drop or two of dish soap and enough water to cover bottom of pan, and bring to a boil on stovetop.

16) Spray your Tupperware with nonstick cooking spray before pouring in tomato based sauces and there won't be any stains.

17) When a cake recipe calls for flouring the baking pan, use a bit of the dry cake mix instead and there won't be any white mess on the outside of the cake.

18) Wrap celery in aluminum foil when putting in the refrigerator and it will keep for weeks.

19) When boiling corn on the cob, add a pinch of sugar to help bring out the corn's natural sweetness.

20) Cure for headaches: Take a lime, cut it in half and rub it on your forehead. The throbbing will go away.

21) Don't throw out all that leftover wine: Freeze into ice cubes for future use in casseroles and sauces.

22) To get rid of itch from mosquito bites, try applying soap on the area and you will experience instant relief.

23) Ants, ants, ants everywhere ... Well, they are said to never cross a chalk line. So get your chalk out and draw a line on the floor or wherever ants tend to march. See for yourself.

24) Use air-freshener to clean mirrors. It does a good job and better still, leaves a lovely smell to the shine.

25) When you get a splinter, reach for the scotch tape before resorting to tweezers or a needle. Simply put the scotch tape over the splinter, and then pull it off. Scotch tape removes most splinters painlessly and easily.


These are great tips. I just have one thing to add --

For flies, bees and ants - Windex!
For envelopes, steps, crayons and markers - Windex!
For blood stains, windows, mirrors and lightbulbs - Windex!
For candles, flowers, skillets and Tupperware - Windex!
For headaches, not lime - Windex!
For sos pads - cut in half, then Windex!
For cords - store in tubes, then Windex!
For jars - use nutcracker, then...ah. Yeah.
For cakes, celery, corn and wine - No Windex. :sigh:
For pimples, burns, and daughters who marry Non-Greeks - Windex!

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Virgin Blew

In the instant I reserve a commercial flight seat, I make my peace with death. Long before I attempt the doleful drive to the airport, confront the ashen mask-of-death that is the check in attendant or hobble down the passenger bridge with fear-moistened boarding pass in hand, I Just Know I Am Going To Die.
I see others gape at aircraft, or Birds of Certain Death as I prefer to know them, and I am acquainted with their anguish. Their bloodless faces demand: How will 100,000 kilograms of hydraulics, metal and pure faith stay in the air? Is fuselage Old French for fiery death? Why do they call this building a ‘terminal’? All, as far as this passenger is concerned, resolutely reasonable questions.
There is little that can appease the nervous flier. The jagged edge of panic cuts through mini-Gins. Lessons in aeronautical theory, adamant air-safety statistics and yogic breathing will not blunt the fear. When you know in your gut that the undercarriage strut will fall, the afterburner will melt and jam acceleration will deliver you shortly right into the blistering maw of hell, even prescription sedatives refuse to work.
In the squall of mile-high torture, however, I can sometimes find a nook of hope. If there is a legitimately senior flight attendant aboard wearing foundation garments and wielding Safety Procedures Card as though it were a teething ring, I can be pacified. With an unsmiling face that plainly conveys reassuring concepts like Contingency Plan and Best Practice, only she can soothe. And when, like a chaste Greek Goddess, she commandeers a humourless Safety Demonstration, my fists, for a moment, unclench.
This is not to say, of course, that I do not spend the duration of a flight thinking about my own scorching casualty. However, if a grim and artful Safety Demonstration is performed, then, just for an instant, my unwell fantasies of death can retreat. Instead of instant mortality, I can picture the uniformed matriarch saving me as I lurch down a tattered safety chute. Inevitably, I then see a desert isle future where the burly flight attendant strangles me with an oxygen mask and then eats my remains with plastic cutlery. But that’s ok. Those beggared by airline disaster can’t be choosers, you know.
Qantas, as it happens, has surly attendants and sombre Safety Demonstrations to spare. And so, despite the food and service being, at best, unremarkable, it is my preferred carrier. You can, then, imagine my vexation when a recent obligation found me flying Virgin Blue.
Richard Branson appears to have the attention span of a Koi carp. Further, he keeps trying to fly about in a Hot Air balloon. I do not regard concentration deficiency and aeronautical risk-taking as suitable qualities for the CEO of an airline. However, as I was broke and powerless, I waited in line at Virgin Blue.
Before me was a handsome couple in their early thirties. One half of the couple asked the attendant the approximate boarding time. ‘Thirty minutes’ trilled the chipper hunk behind the desk. ‘Just long enough for a quickie!’. Two members of Virgin Blue’s Dirty Weekend target market giggled. I Just Knew I Was Going To Die.
Aboard the Death Craft, I flipped through the inflight magazine. On occasion, the poor literary standard of airline literature can take my mind from incineration. I looked for something temperate. Perhaps an article on inflight dental hygiene. No. Just pictures of Richard Branson wearing garlands of near naked ladies. I Just Knew I Was Going To Die.
I looked about desperately for reassurance. None of the air’s true stewards, gay men and older ladies, were to be seen. And amid my confusion and a blaze of canned break beats, I had missed the beginning of the Safety Demonstration.
More like a Spice Girls video than aviation safety, the young lady bumped, ground and giggled her way through a mockery of my Certain Death. She sucked on the oxygen mask as though it were amyl nitrate, caressed the safety card much in the manner of a pole dancer and indicated the safety exits as though they were the doors to Gomorrah.
The acme of her tease unfurled as she took the ‘safety’ whistle to her full lips and breathed ‘use the whistle to attract attention. Of the opposite sex!’.
The Dirty Weekenders screamed with laughter. I Just Knew I Was Going To Die.

Magical images from childhood

Can you remember pictures from your childhood, images that made you feel happy or peaceful or just plain giggly? I recently rediscovered the Garth Williams paintings that once filled my imagination with elves and fairies.

Proposal to Honor Those in Pain

I like this "proposal to honor those in pain", posted by Cowboy Kahill:

I'd like to propose something else to bloggers who respect life, I don't care what your political persuasion. For the innocent of Iraq, for the journalists who've died, for all the dead soldiers, I propose that we make Thursday a day of silence in the blogosphere. No posts. No comments. Perhaps a memorial message to whoever you wish, posted as a final post the night before.

There are thousands hurting, thousands mourning and thousands still at risk. Can't we demonstrate something else important to the world about us besides our capacity to war well?

Spread the word. Let's post a memorial on Wednesday night and go "dark" on Thursday.

Wish we could clone her!

My former boss (New York State Deputy Commissioner for Cultural Education) was featured in a brief profile in our local paper, and I've posted about it on my own weblog.

But I want to repeat this part of my post:
I’ve referred to her management style in many previous posts on Blog Sisters, since, to me, she’s the model for what a truly participatory and democratic manager and strong leader should be. She delegates wisely and doesn’t second-guess her staff (unless, of course, they do something really politically suicidal). On top of that, she battles on the state and national level to support intellectual freedom and the responsibility of libraries to provide free services and protect the privacy of their patrons.

Being a high-level female manager in a predominantly male-run government agency (the State Education Department) is hard enough; having to negotiate the surrounding political currents is even worse. But she does it. And she does it with integrity, compassion, intelligence, and style. (I’m retired now, so I can say these things about her and not look like I’m looking for a raise!)

The world needs more leaders and managers like her.

Monday, April 07, 2003

A Letter to Grandpa

Way before there was blogging, I was a member of Wild Wolf Women of the Web, and we communicated via a listserv. I still get emails from one of the other former members. In the last one was a link to the following. It's a letter from a fifty-year olf woman to her dead grandfather. I think that it's worth sharing here.

Dear Grandpa,
I have been thinking about you a lot, lately, and so I decided to come by and sit at your grave. I know that you aren't in there; it's just a patch of dirt covering up some bones. But I have been wanting to talk to you, and this seemed as good a place as any. I'm sure that you will recognize me and come near.

I don't know for certain, but I wonder if you keep up on what is happening in this world? If you do, then you know that our country has gone to war.

War is a terrible thing, I don't know anyone who would disagree with that. You saw four wars in your lifetime, and you served in One. We never talked about that. I didn't even know that, until after you were gone.

I suppose it isn't unique at all, that a family might be divided about something so big and awful, yet I am confused by a couple of things. Two of my cousins served in Vietnam. I talked to one who told me, "This war is wrong!" He muttered something about how it is dishonorable, and an affront to his fellow veterans who served in Southeast Asia. He was afraid for the soldiers being exposed to more of our government's toxic chemicals, and about their loss of benefits when they return
I talked to the other cousin, and he said, "This war is necessary. And I am still a marine." (As if it was the explanation.) He muttered something about the protesters who dishonored the Vietnam vets in the 'sixties. It seemed like he was more angry with the ones who are against this war, than he was concerned about the war itself.

I know someone who participated in the demonstrations at Berkeley. She has told me about being tear-gassed and beaten, and chased by police on horseback. Protesting has always been a dangerous business, I suppose. It was in 1776.

I don't think I have much right to judge about Vietnam. I was just a teenager when it finally ended, and except for the horrible images on the evening news, and the "CARE" packages we made for the boys at Christmas, I wasn't very much affected by it. I remember how upset my mother was, when my brother's number was drawn third in the draft lottery. (He joined the National Guard.)

There were no protest demonstrations in our little town, except the secret wordless one, when somebody put a charge of dynamite under the draft board office one night. A lot of people snickered about it, and I don't think the crime was ever solved. Nobody got hurt, and the office never re-opened. Back then, they called it "mischief". Today, we call it "terrorism".

I was glad when the guys came home. I don't remember feeling anything but proud of them for their courage, and sad for the sadness that would never be far from their eyes.

I married two ex-marines who had each been wounded in Vietnam. A lot of the scars didn't show on their skin. Neither of them spoke to me about it much. Nobody wanted to talk about that war. Everyone seemed angry about it. I have read some things since then, and talked to others that were there -- but that isn't the same as being there, I realize. People are comparing that war to this one. I don't see very much similarity.

I got mail from a military wife, the other day. (She did not know I am opposed to this war.) Her post suggested that anyone who protests ought to be beaten until they change their attitudes. (We hear a lot of talk like that, nowadays.)

I wondered if those are the values she is teaching her children? That if someone has a different opinion than your own, you should "continue to punch them in the nose until they come 'round to your point of view"? I think this lady would be appalled if some kid brought a gun to her children's school and started shooting people (this happens from time-to-time, nowadays). And yet by the logic of her letter, the person with the biggest artillery is the true authority. "Might makes right."

I replied that I didn't agree with her opinion, and I thought it inexcusable that someone should advocate violence against other Americans -- their countrymen -- for voicing their opinions.

The lady wrote back to say that it's very hard, with her husband being in the military and "seeing so many people standing against them", while they are fighting to protect our freedom.

I told her that we who are opposed to this war are not by-and-large "opposed to the troops". Most people I know, regardless of their position on the war, do hold our servicemen and women in high regard. (There are women in all branches and occupations of the military, now, Grandpa. I bet that makes your eyes get wide!) We all know our troops are doing what they are trained to do, and what they are instructed to do.

Unlike the conscripts who were drafted and forced to serve in Vietnam, these soldiers are all paid volunteers. I suspect that a lot of these young people signed up after September 11, 2001, amid the wave of patriotism that washed over our country and united us all, then.

I understand that many who are serving now sincerely believe that what this country is doing in Iraq is "justice" --or vengeance -- for that single act of terrorism. What they don't seem to know, and their leaders are not telling them, is that this really has nothing to do with that. It seems to me that idea has been contorted to fit the schemes of our leadership. (We have a president who was not elected by the majority, now, Gramps.)

The soldiers are told that they are fighting to preserve our freedom. (Except, perhaps, our freedom to object to government actions we may believe are wrong, corrupt, or just plain stupid.) I don't know that I want to shatter their illusions. I do remember that about Vietnam: the sense of betrayal the veterans shared. Nobody talks about the insurrections among our troops then. Military secret. Maybe that's it, then? One cousin blames the government, while the other blames the protesters and the press which caused them to lose the respect of the American public?

I wonder if the new soldiers hear the news from home? Do they see that while they're "fighting for our freedom", that self-same thing is being stripped away? (They are building new internment camps, dear Grandpa, to keep dissenters in. Immigrants are being rounded up and detained without warrants. Anyone's vehicle may be searched without just cause. Yesterday, the president signed another bill that will make it acceptable to force people into quarantine. In your life, I'm sure you saw quarantines; malaria, influenza, maybe even the dreaded smallpox that our scientists wiped out, but now manufacture in laboratories to use against whole civilizations. Did anyone in your time ever have to be arrested to keep them isolated?)

People who support this war say that those of us who don't agree are betraying our country and "abusing" our freedom of speech. Not long ago, such accusations were pretty much reserved for hate groups like the KKK. (Most people of my generation have outgrown racism, mysogeny, and homophobia, Grandpa. That "radical", Dr. Martin Luther King, who was "stirring up the coloreds in the South" became a national hero. He changed the face of this nation with his brave speeches, and strong example of passive resistance. He was killed for doing that. Dissent is dangerous. Sometimes, deadly. I know you were a product of your generation, and perhaps held some of those beliefs, too -- You saw the restriction of Native Americans to squalid "reservations", and the "internment" of Japanese Americans -- and yet, I know you were a man of integrity, who never spoke ill of anyone. You were a citizen of both Canada and the United States, you spoke Mexican Spanish and Basque Spanish fluently, and probably some French, because you worked with people from those countries. I never heard you suggest superiority over anyone because of their race or creed. --Not even the Mormons, whose customs you found endlessly amusing.)

We have a new and wondrous "vehicle", now, Grandpa. It's called the Internet. It makes it easy for people all over the world to talk to one another. I have never been overseas, but I have friends in many countries. You won't be surprised to hear this, but a lot of us have discovered that most people, regardless of where they live, or the culture they come from, all want pretty much the same things. They want to be able to feed their families, and to have a few things that make their lives easier.

(I consider myself very fortunate to have been a witness to these changes in our country. You wouldn't imagine this, Grandpa, but your little "chiquita cucenero" is nearly fifty! It is already more than a quarter of a century since you went away. A lot of things have changed. Until about a month ago, I was proud to be a citizen.)

I had a chat with your daughter recently, Grandpa. (She is seventy, now, and a great grandmother.) I was upset, and I was talking about my sense of betrayal that all my life I have been told that my vote counts, and that everyone in this country has a voice in how the people are governed. Her response was a resounding GUFFAW! -- as if to say, "Silly girl! Has it really taken you this long to figure that out?" (That's the way it is here in the West, now, Grandpa. I was away for quite a while, and I didn't realize what was happening. People here have known for a long time that their votes are always overridden by states with more people and more money. You were a man of the earth, and I think you would be amazed to discover that now, people of the earth are not allowed to work their stock and trades, because other people who claim to be the real people of the earth have more power, and more influence ... and they think they know what is best for our land. They always win, Gramps. It's surprising that anyone here even bothers to go to the polls. You wouldn't recognize Nevada, now. Except for in the casino-driven border towns, the only jobs left are for the government. Your heart would break, I know.)

It bothers me a great deal that the decision to invade a country far away was made by a few men in Washington. They ignored the protests of the people, and by our trusted allies. (People here are refusing to buy things made in countries that disagreed with the decision of our leaders. Former friends abroad are refusing to buy American goods. You wouldn't recognize this country, Grandpa. We used to feed the world. Now, we produce almost nothing but "information" and weapons, and withhold food from hungry children in order to punish their governments.)

Grandpa, I don't know what it was that I was hoping to learn from talking with you, today. I keep thinking that it was you who instilled in me this wildly independent way of thinking... although I don't remember any specific conversations. Somewhere, way back in my memory, though, there are words and phrases -- important values I can't quite get a hold on -- and warnings to keep a vigilant watch upon those who govern this nation. Caution to not let McCarthy -- or Hitler -- return to power. (And maybe a conspiracy theory, or two .. and some skills and notions that would be labeled "radical survivalist", in these times.)

And love! Where you were, Grandpa, there was always love, and laughter, and kindness. You loved life, and the wide-open spaces, and people. You loved us -- my mother, whom you took to raise as your own, and those of us who issued from her. You loved fiddle music, whiskey in moderation, and good horses. And you loved freedom. I wonder what you would think about what this world has come to? I don't know whether you can let me know what to do, if there is anything that I can do to stop the world from imploding. I guess that I just felt a need to return to a long-ago time when my world was safe, and one of Grandpa's hugs was all it took to fix anything that was wrong.

Thanks for listening, Grandpa. I love you always.
Your "CC"

What to do with teenagers when roller skating gets old? SkyZone!

As the mother of a teenage daughter, figuring out activities that give ME a break, are nearby, don't involve computers and cell phones...