Our World

Sleepless with My Cellphone

 

Trees outside my window
Trees outside my window

I might not have a man in bed with me, but, boy, is my bed ever crowded. Nightly, I get into bed, ready to read literature—right after I catch-up on my phone-reading of the newest sputtering from / or mockery of t- and his horrific administration, and the r’s and their persistent betrayal of the basic norms of decency that I might have missed in the previous update, an hour ago. I exhaust myself with 30 minutes, okay, an hour, of being a witness to the unrelenting ignominies. Then, determined to maintain my commitment to reading about something other than the destruction of American Democracy and people’s persistence to not be thwarted by their elected officials, I charge my phone and finally open my book. But within minutes I start nodding off.

Why is outrage “easier” to read than a novel?

Perhaps it’s the immediacy: the shock that dystopian fiction is coming to life, the fear of where it will lead, and the need to be alert to the latest treachery and its real-life implications. To be a witness. To be prepared to resist.

A few hours after I fall asleep, I wake. The requisite trip to the bathroom is not enough to ease me back to sleep. I try looking at the trees outside my window. I try emptying my mind. I try closing my eyes and unclenching my jaw. But thoughts settle in for the night unbidden. I don’t want to relive my day or the outrages that seep in. I want to go back to the oblivion of sleep. Once up, though, it won’t happen. Surely, I am a lousy meditator since I barely give myself five minutes to attempt to ease into my breath and the now. I have hours to go before I re-sleep.

Staying like that, thinking about the thoughts and conversations of my day, inevitably leads to some level of disappointment. It’s like watching repeats of programs that weren’t very interesting the first time around. And if I add to that thinking about our reality, my jaw re-fuses.

Stupidly, I take to my phone. A form of self-flagellation. There’s nothing new, for the writers and analysts are asleep, attempting their severance before starting all over again in the morning. Still, I seek out commentary I may have missed. By now, my mind is both numb and abuzz, and my frustration with myself and the world cannot be soothed simply by putting the phone down. So I turn on the radio which plays BBC after midnight. I go in and out of sleep for hours, getting updated on what’s happening around the world, hearing in-depth analyses of all sorts of problems I didn’t know existed. There is pain all around. Hearing artists and writers speak for a few moments of calm. Finally shutting it off when soccer scores come on. Will a new pillow help?

I wake when the grey sky outside my west facing window signals that morning has finally come. I take a few minutes to be in the moment, often succeeding in resisting the phone. Daybreak, savoring the moment: the calls of the birds, the sky in its grayish blue hue, the brightening leaves on the trees, the sensation of air on my body.

And then it is time to get up and face what I may have missed in the past hour or so.

 


Balancing Act

Morning on Naples Beach  July 2017

 

It’s been a while since I’ve written, and it’s been a longer while since I’ve written anything other than from a solid core of disgust, anger, and disappointment. I’ve been trying to figure out how to function in this early-stage dystopian world that is pulling us down, but I haven’t succeeded—perhaps because I refuse to concede that this is our future. Still, it’s impossible to look away (even for two days at the beach in Naples, Florida), to pause in the cycle of read, react, watch, rant. But I’m finally getting to the point when I must let other thoughts and ideas develop and be sustained. It is not an abdication of my duty as a citizen. Rather, it will enable me to continue the drumbeat of resistance without being drawn into the silence of despair and inertia.

I’m doing my part, getting involved as much as I can within the limitations of my personality. I tried stretching myself, but there’s just so much elasticity in desire. Still, I am trying to rise to the horrible occasion of so much self-serving dishonesty and greed, and a monochromatic palette of hatreds. I know I don’t have to explain anything to anyone, but I feel I must, especially since my writing mind generally veers into the personal, the contemplation of my life to understand myself and my world, and to, hopefully, help others along their contemplative paths. Since my guiding understanding has always been that if something interests me, concerns me, fascinates me, other people have those same curiosities; therefore, I feel I must state that just because my writing is not an endless howl at the pile-on of treacheries, that is not to say that I have acquiesced to acceptance. I am becoming the actions and voices that will enable me to resist and persist.

Alligator at rest


Marching to Save the Climate on a Hot April Day in DC

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The Sign was not in the signs

So insightful, humorous, painful, so

Purposeful and planned.

The moment that transcended

Sharpies, poster board, and paint

Rolled up Pennsylvania Avenue

In our voices: our voice.

Conviction is a sound.

The boom and cry that is the voice

That connects each heart.

It came up the street like a movement of air

Pulsing through the thousands.

Connecting each to each.

 

The beat of Mother Earth in our souls.

 

Moments later, at two o’clock,

We were told to sit and

Make the sound of a beating heart.

clap-clap-CLAP, clap-clap-CLAP.

But we had already lived it through our howl

That flowed like a river from the Capitol to

The White House (empty, he could never

Feel that force anyway),

Before we lived it through our hands.

 

We Protectors of Justice,

Creators of Sanctuary

Builders of Democracy

Guardians of the Future

Defenders of Truth

Keepers of the Faith

Reshapers of Power

Strugglers for Our Home

Given a moment of beauty,

within the connective web

That unites our hearts with the wind.

 

Commitment is a sound:

A joy-

ous movement;

A por-

ous moment.

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Ordinary Day in Extraordinary Times

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It’s split personality time: half of me is doing my work and keeping the stove and washing machine busy, while the other half remains obsessed with the news and the latest outrages. It’s darn exhausting, but the groundedness means that I can’t get too overwhelmed, and that I don’t lose my connection to optimism, however tenuous. That optimism comes from the unshakeable belief that nevertheless, she persisted is a positive trait within enough of us to push back against the obscene absence of basic humanity in t- and the repubs who push the papers around that punish people for not being them.

Not being them. I fundamentally reject the attempt to reinforce the superiority of one group of people over the diversity within each of us. The insidious drive to undermine the independence and equality of the other never seems to be quelled, quieted perhaps, but not permanently conquered. What is it within man that finds it so difficult to share and try things at the neighborhood pot luck?

Yes, I admit, it’s scary to realize that there are situations wherein you are not the expert, and you are not in charge. It’s called maturing and, perhaps, developing compassion, a backbone, and experience that, if contemplated, can morph into wisdom. Is it really so hard to comprehend that some people have different customs and habits than you, and that that’s okay? You would think that it’s a natural part of growing up. These guys seem to have heard FDR’s statement that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” as a call to give in to your fears, rather than to conquer them.

How hard is it to look someone in the eye who doesn’t look like you? That shouldn’t be on the fear scale, that should be on the hospitality scale.

I’m trying to understand fear that has long ago morphed into ugly hatred because what else can be at the core of their incessant campaign to cut away the rights of any other. But maybe I need to stop doing that. Maybe I need to stop giving hate space in my mind, and focus instead on the encouraging enlightenment that the resisters demonstrate. Let me switch my focus from those who prefer to deprive sustenance to those who thrive on providing succor. Let me remember the faces flush with promise at the Women’s March and not the berating scowls from behind podiums of testiness.

This in no way means that I will ignore the unfolding horrors, because I turn on the news and read the news, but I will rejoice in the emails of petitions and meetings to collaborate because we have our guiding sentiment: “Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have” (Margaret Mead). Caring cannot be debased into supporting corporations over people and the earth, nor the already supremely entitled to have even more entitlements on the backs of those who are burdened.

This call to action that so many have answered is the valid response of the compassionate; it will not be debased by commenting that people won’t accept the outcome of the election. As we call out at rallies: “This is what Democracy looks like.” It is not disgruntled; it is enlivened by the lives of this and future generations, not the transitory glee in defeating those who have already been pushed down. It is, isn’t it, the all too present battle of the haves and the have nots, the survival of the fittest, the law of the jungle. It is those jabbing the jugular vs. those living heart-to-heart. It is those who know all the answers vs. those who cannot know until they have heard, seen, felt, and learned.

At this time we each need to act, to not be bystanders who either know not what they stand for or are unwilling to defend or protect those beliefs, because silence is easily perceived as acquiescence, and the world that is thundering in threatens to still far too many of us.


Dress Like a Woman

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 Dress like a woman. The head reels from the insults of the little man in the White House. It should be hard to believe that a man still feels he can tell women to wear skirts and dresses, but we’re talking about a man who’s friends with guys who want to forcefully put an ultrasound wand up our formerly private parts and he wants to go there without a wand—and he’s buds with guys who think a rapist has more rights than the woman he raped. We’re talking about a man and his guys who know better than us weak women what to wear and what to do with our own bodies. What’s with the insatiable need to control people? Can they all be so very insecure and consumed with their own importance that they can’t give a woman a smidgen of respect?

UGH.

This rant is on a loop.

Dress like a woman. The images in Twitter of female scientists, astronauts, doctors, soldiers, Supreme Court justices, and simply women walking are inspiring. Ah, the biting humor. Reminds me of the Women’s March on Washington two weeks ago, and those signs, which, clearly, didn’t have an impact on the small-handed/minded man. Or maybe it did. Maybe he needs to lash out to make sure that at least he can control the women in his little sphere, because outside of the White House (which, by the way, is ours) none of us is putting on panty hose or spanx for him. (Maybe he wants to wear them himself?)

Dress like a woman. Growing up I had to wear dresses all the time. Dressing like a girl back in the 60s and 70s. How I hated tights and the suffocating feeling of my body being encased in plastic. Dresses just made me uncomfortable; I’m naturally of the Pantsuit Nation. Is it that a woman appears to be submissive when she wears a dress? Or is it that she’s conforming to a norm? Enough already. Its 2017. Conformity has taken a hit.

Dress like a man. What’s with mean man telling the men who work for him that they need to wear a uniform: solid color suits and ties, and (this must be a rule too) white shirts. (Are brown shirts next?) Is no one allowed to be an individual around him? Does he need to subvert all sense of self to himself?

Dress like a woman. Which is doublespeak (finally America has an official second language) for act like a woman. Why? What’s in it for me? I was married to a man who knew he was smarter than me and was always trying to tell me what to do. (I thought we had discussions; I was delusional.) When I couldn’t take it anymore and finally said NO, he was stunned. But the mutual shock of that moment flipped the order of things. I was in control (okay, I won’t exaggerate four years of agony after that moment), but it stopped the fall of my self-esteem. This is our NO moment. We have taken it for far too long to back down now. There is no place to go back to. It’s not safe there because it led us to here. Only ahead, into the future we create may we each find what we need. We tried to play the game, we played nice, too nice, but we have been stymied at every turn—and that last glass ceiling that’s been cracked and artificially held in place, that’s temporary.

Dress like a woman. I have a friend who wears the tiniest of thongs. I’m partial to cotton briefs. Is she more of a woman than me?

Dress like a woman. When you figure out that women are individuals intent on being their own selves and not a prop for your ego, you can find me in my hot pink sweats.

I know there are other offenses that have been tweeted, spoken, and signed this past week, but this insult to women is such a button to me. The verbal appeasement of Vlad and the throwing under the bus of every American who has tried to protect this country is so astonishing that it’s hard to figure out what to grasp onto other than: this man is his ego, and that’s not a solid thing. For all his bluster, we must be relentless—until he begs us to take him to the place where they have a nice pair of solid-color fuzzy pajamas with very long sleeves waiting for him.

 


Just Let Us Be

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I am sick of seeing the bland, pasty faces of middle-aged white men making seething-red decisions for us women. This has got to stop.

I know we marched, and we’re energized and mobilized, but underneath that power is the sickening, demoralizing sentiment seen in some signs at the Women’s March: “I can’t believe we’re still protesting this sh*t.”

Right now, after seeing the scotus pick, I need to howl and howl and howl, and howl some more until these boys without b*lls turn and look into the eyes of us women.

How I wish we could mean nothing to them so they would just leave us alone. I don’t want to be an object of desire and projection, I don’t need protection by / from them, just let me be.

We don’t need you. Deal with it.

Stop the pandering, the pampering, the patronizing.

Just stay in your boys’ club doing boy things and let us be. Let us get on with our lives and I promise we won’t make jokes about, well, you know.


I Marched for Women in DC

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"Hello 1955? Please hold for the Republicans." 

What a day of celebrating women, especially our feistiness! You’ve got to love the creators of the clever signs and hot pink pussy hats that turned the streets of DC Amazonian. Ladylike subtly had no place on those streets that reverberated with pent up frustrations of women of all ages, and the men who respect us. We might have burst out in smiles and humor and camaraderie against the sexists we’re fed up, but underlying it all was the giving and taking of support and understanding for what we have put up with to reach this point. We are fed up and fired up! Our votes weren’t enough, so now it will be our actions, starting today, as so many of the speakers stressed.

At 8:00 Saturday morning when a good friend and I met up with a woman I worked with this summer to register voters in Northern Virginia and a close friend of hers, we were two pairs of friends. Six hours later, when we hugged goodbye at the same Metro station where our day had begun, we were March Friends who stuck together through the chill, the confusion, the crowds, and the certainty that this was an historic moment we were proud to be part of.

At various times through the day, one of us was cold and needed to sit, tired of standing in one spot and needed to walk, wanted to get closer to the speakers to hear clearly, and just wanted to go home. We were a team that took care of each other, balancing our needs so that we each had the march we needed. It wasn’t just being nice, it was true womanly solidarity, and it came from how we helped each other, and how everyone around us supported each other too. There were hands to help us climb over barricades when we couldn’t enter into the mass of people in Independence Avenue and there were shared cheers that helped momentarily expel the gnawing shame and pain of the new president. Those cheers! Apparently, I have quite the voice to be heard, as my newest friend in the group noted during one early rising wave of cheers that rolled down the avenue. I heard no beginning and no end. It kept rolling.

When it was time to go home, we walked quite a bit (making it another part of the march) to find an open Metro station. But just as we were about to go down the stilled escalator, a Metro rep said that the station had just been closed. A woman called out to ask him what was happening and when would it open again. No response. He was mute, taping away on his phone. Then, when a man called out and asked the same question, there was a response. It could have been the timing, and it could also have been the fact that the officer's ears were attuned to hearing a man’s voice and answering it. The woman who had asked, all of us women, was having none of his dismissiveness—not on our day! Feet away from a march for women and the same ole was happening. We know why we march!

It’s funny in a sad, way-of-the-world sigh that as I sit here thinking about the day, I realize that there wasn’t a moment when I felt unsafe walking around the march area or when I felt that I couldn’t look directly into a person’s eyes without being assessed, ranked, rated, catalogued. My goodness, it was ennobling not to have to look down or away after meeting someone’s eyes. We could meet and be met heart-to-heart.

My first realization of this insight came when we stood jammed on the street waiting to go down to the Metro. I said aloud, to understanding nods, that I didn’t have to worry (about being groped or pushed against—we all knew what I was talking about) with so many women crowded together as I would have been if there were more men around. So that’s what men must feel every single day: unintimidated and unsexualized. A feeling that all women deserve to experience every single day. A powerful reason to march and keep on marching!

The march certainly was in stark contrast to what we’re fighting against, which was pretty darn clear in the signs: a misogynist, p*ssy grabber who would have us go back to the 1950s when white men ruled the roost, from home to House. But we are not going back there! Didn’t you see us march around the world in protest to that!

We March Friends, the four of us and beyond, will not be divided from our mission. Our hopes for our first woman president were stolen from us. We see that we have each other to depend on—and we need to act on that, and reach out to the women who could not envision what a positive thing a sea of pink could be. And you know what they say about women: their place is in the House and Senate, and White House too!

Onward, marching to action.


Women's March on Washington

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I'm going to the Women's March on Washington on January 21, the day after the inauguration, to proclaim that I will not stand idly by as my rights, and the rights of other women and men, no matter who they are, are imperiled by this administration. 

For more information on the march go the Women's March page, and for information on marches across the country and world go to the sister marches page


Done with Make-up

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About a month ago, I stopped wearing make-up. It wasn’t as if I threw away an array of bottles and tubes, and then rethought my look and retooled my morning routine. Nope, I threw out one tube of mascara, one blush compact, one eye shadow compact with eight shades of brown and beige, and one green eye shadow compact. It wasn’t even done as a protest against make-up (kind of obvious with the number of items I had; anyway, I had already made that protest in my teens) and how we women are made to think that we cannot be without adjustments and alterations. My act was to prevent even more chemicals seeping into my body. In the month since that act, I have become surprisingly relaxed and comfortable about my appearance—and this from a woman who had already been pretty relaxed. (What a joy to be middle-aged!)

I’ve stopped leaning into the mirror to critique myself. I’m not looking to find what needs to be hidden (except the “occasional” chin hair to be plucked), even with my minimal tools, or to declare the dullness of my looks, casting a pall upon my mood even before my day has started. Nope. I’m not looking for—and, of course, finding—signs of age, stress, lackluster features, a general discontent reflected back at me. Getting rid of make-up has helped me to stop worrying about interpreting my visual self and then to, seamlessly, infuriatingly, depressingly, impute that upon my internal, unseen self. And, if I’m not worrying about how I look, then I’m not worrying about what other people think about how I look, and so I can simply prepare myself for my day.

That ease has transferred to my clothing. As my make-up was utilitarian, so too are the clothes in my closet. Thinking back on this past month, I find that I have focused more on how I want to feel, and, logically, the weather, rather than on how I want to present myself. I’ve cut myself loose from external guidelines and expectations, and it’s been darn good. It’s as if I’m living my internal life externally.

Perhaps this has been my reaction to the election: my discomfort with the world and this pervasive sense of doom and uncertainty have led me to strip away the non-essentials. Perhaps a world that seems focused on the external, the barely thought, the quick assessment and denigration of others, is one in which I can protest simply by centering within and honoring myself, and use that as a deep base from which to face those perceptions. Perhaps this is a way to not allow the ugliness in; to protect myself from words and demeanors that degrade. Perhaps this non-compliance with a norm is a step in undermining its weight—I will not allow external entities to evaluate me.

This is the way forward.

This protective action that, for me, seems to be a proclamation against the misogynists and people who “simply” think men are more/better than women. I continue to stand against their misguided interpretation of strength, independence, interdependence, and what it means to be beautiful.

And I call out to women and men to join me. Each woman should take a step in/out that affirms that she will not be defined or sidelined. And each man should look in/out for echoes of thoughts and actions that belie a paternalistic interpretation.

It’s absurd that we’re still at a point where pernicious, belittling attitudes toward women hold sway. It’s absurd that men still let themselves be bridled by a confidence that is not theirs, but on which they ride.

It’s time to cast aside prohibitive stereotypes and embrace feminism, for it seems that our well-being and that of our world depends on it.

Yes, all that from not wearing make-up. 


Hanukkah, or Defying a Government that Oppresses You

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Potato latkes and jelly donuts might be the oil-soaked foods of Hanukkah celebrations with a hefty side of chicken soup and brisket, and dreidel may be the game of choice (who doesn’t want to win chocolate gelt), but in essence this festival of lights (WOOHOO!, the oil lasted eight days instead of one which enabled the temple desecrated by the Romans to be rededicated nice and pure again) is another Jewish holiday that celebrates the Jews surviving an attempt to suppress us and our religion, and if that didn’t work, well, then, let’s try to kill all the Jews. It’s a We Survived holiday!

At around 168 BCE, the Jews survived this onslaught brought about by the Syrian-Greeks and their Roman overlords.

And then there’s Purim, when we survived the ancient Persians. Let’s send gifts of food, eat hat- or ear-shaped cookies to celebrate the defeat of a very bad bad-guy, Haman (noisemaker noises here), and drink too much in celebration of surviving!

And there’s Passover, when we survived the ancient Egyptians. Let’s recount the miraculous slavery-to-freedom story and then eat plain matzah, matzah balls, and fried matzah for eight days in celebration of getting out!

Then there are the non-celebrated cycles of expulsions and pogroms from here, there, and everywhere. Existence itself is the bittersweet celebration. Thank goodness for heavy post-survival recipes from pre-assault days to dull the memories!

We live. We suffer. We pray. We rebel, we refuse, we relocate. We survive. We thank God. We eat.

It’s a horrible cycle that had seemed as if it was coming to an end. It seemed that, somehow, people had risen above the visceral hatreds—after the ultimate display of hatred—that stoke the dank recesses of the soul. Yeah, no.

But I’m not thinking only about antisemitism now, now in this time of rising anger against any “other” (including, of course, why not, the Jews) but rather of the stokers who live to incite and reap (what? what do they reap?). I’m thinking of how we can heed history as it has been forced upon Jews and how we can help understand how not to be crushed by history.

Emperor. King. Pharaoh. President. Sovereign. Tsar.

They have all taken power from us, the hands that feed them. We, the human trampoline, from which they yield so much fun fun fun in the guise of power and property.

Can we Jews be a lesson to the world about the everlasting survival from—and, unfortunately, of—Fear and Hate in their tightly wound package that explodes to suppress all resistance to the complacent uniformity it demands so as to filter out and renounce respect and compassion—and with it the hope for something more than timorous survival. Because that’s what I see here: the rise to power of those who serve no one but the self, as opposed to those who find power within the communion of people for the good of all. This Them versus Us is the rise of I KNOWers versus We THINKers.

Why can’t the lesson from the cycle be to try to prevent the pain of survival? Why not try with all our concerted efforts to prevent the destruction from which, we pray, survive?

I refuse to cede mind or future to people whose passion is acquisition of control and usurpation of rights. This is not tikkun olam, improving/repairing the world, this is destroying the world—what entity could sanction or reward that? They want to take away education, healthcare, financial security, clean air and water, freedom of speech and religion, a woman’s sovereignty over her body. This is not disagreement, this is attempting to supplant my right to live—to breathe freely (physically and psychically). We must try to prevent the need to rise up from the ashes; we need to thrust against plans and ideas that mangle bodies and souls. We must be the true majority: the People who believe in and live with compassion. We need to call on and out all supposed leaders, demanding that they refuse to compromise or placate or play the politics game on our backs. This is not wait and see, this is learning from history that rulers do not share unless forced to.

I don’t want a special treat (I envision, though, a long-cooking stew with a dollop of bitter cream and a garnish of crumbled Bugles) and game (find the hidden treasure, only to find it composed of things the other players took from you and each other during previous rounds) to celebrate survival. No, I want our voices rising and our votes cast from now until this travesty has been declared an impotent failure and a sign of all that is wrong, and then to keep calling out until we are the government that is of, for, and by we, the people whose concerns are for each of us and not the feigned righteousness of a few.

The Woman’s March on Washington on January 21 is a start. I’m going and will be helping out. I hope to see you there: Women's March on Washington. And if you can’t make it to DC, think about joining a local march. Voices rising!


Sharers and Shearers

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I have no plan; it seems, though, that this is the time to join with others who are planning to resist and resist and resist. I will sign petitions and send emails. I will gather to stand for our rights not to be trampled under the feet of the arrogant. I will be part of wells of justice that counter walls of hatred. I will not be undermined by wallets stacked with bills of perversion. I will share what comes from my place of strength. These are my intentions.

In the middle of the night I awaken with my jaws clenched. I am trying to understand, but I ache and cry tears of fear and disgust.

These are my pronouncements.

I am proud to be a woman who cares about other women and their ability to support themselves, and take care of themselves and their children.

I am proud to be Jewish, raised on a foundation of working to make the world better and safer for Jews and all oppressed people.

I am proud to have come from New York City, where we respect each other and understand that we have bonds that join us and create interdependence even if they are forged in the steamy subways of summer.

I am proud to be part of the tide that has turned Northern Virginia from red to blue—still—and where the immigrant population has made this a restaurant haven where we appreciate new flavors and ways of interpreting the world.

I am proud to teach in a school were students generally see differences, not as dividing lines between people but as something to respect and be curious about.

Call me a bleeding-heart liberal. Call me an out-of-touch coaster.

SO

I feel for people with no plans or prospects.

I feel for people who want the past to be the present.

I feel for people who agonize over the choices women make for their bodies.

I feel for people who are discomforted by same-sex love and gender fluidity.

I feel for people who rage over their lost foothold on the societal totem pole.

SO

It’s hard to care when in return your ideals get trammeled.

BUT

Right now I have no desire to understand or excuse people who live lives distorted by anger, shame, demands, or bitterness and won’t accept another person’s reality. It should not be you or me, there should be an overlapping space of compassion where support is understood to be better than destruction.

Perhaps I cannot accept a worldview in which people are only concerned about themselves.

I don’t want to comfort myself by saying this seems to be a battle in the eternal war between the sharers and the shearers (together with those who serve the shearers even when they themselves are being sheared).

This is my call and cry to myself, to those who sing in my choir, and to those who have not heeded our songs.

No to hindering and bullying. No to oppression and suppression.

This is my constructive call to action to honor each person’s desire for fulfillment and purpose. This is my plan.


Pins, Shields, and Smiles

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I speak for myself.

My thoughts are mine.

My rants are mine.

My interpretations are mine.

Long may they remain so.

I am still too upset to listen to other people’s verbal rants; I can only focus on hearing my anguish anger mortification. This election is beyond my capacity to make positive assumptions about someone else’s mind and experiences. There is no pass into sympathy or understanding for people who would prefer that millions of us would shrivel, body and mind, and vanish from this country (earth?) to make it more pleasant for themselves. Those who voted for tboy are terrorists since their goal is to scare people with their insults, chants, messages, symbols, and acts of hate and intolerance. –

I must breathe and think, and act.

I’m still hopeful that each vote cast will count and Hillary will become president.

I’m not sure what to do.

It’s as though time stands still. How is it that the election was almost a month ago? How is it that I have learned of so many self-serving hypocrites intent on harming so many people in such a short amount of time from their lofty perches atop piles of our money? 

I’m unable to focus my contemplations on my singular life. There is no safety and comfort in keeping to myself—there is the maw of history that must be confronted and shut so we are not swallowed into yet another evil cycle of death by discrimination. Had we really thought that we finally transcended this historical cycle?

The day after the election a student wrote “Rape Won.”

Three weeks after the election and the rape she referred to—the rape of women’s bodies by a misogynist who has never suffered the consequences of his actions—has expanded to feel as if the world we are stepping into is one suffused with the violence of attack and invasion. Rape of body and soul and hope.

But it must not be so. We must resist and fight and light the paths around us. But what of the prevalence of date rape: of people we know attacking us, taking advantage of us, abusing us, violating all that we are. How do we get them to hear our cries if they were so easily tantalized by the slick poison of tboy?

How is it that people are talking about the economy?

How does that matter?

How does your wallet matter when people are carelessly, brazenly demeaned and treated with disdain, as if their bodies and minds are not worthy of concern and care?

When we learn of the reasons for World War II, we can understand the economic pressures, but not when we learn of the Holocaust. There is no explaining the ravages of ancestral hate.

When people try to understand terrorism they like to point out the paucity of hope and means that shapes people. But enough studies have been done to show that to be a lie. Perhaps there is always this battle of good and evil because the scales of fear (of losing what one has/is/perceives) are easier to tilt than it is to uphold the weight of compassion. Yet that is where action needs to take place—not against those intent on holding our heads under water, but to support those dog paddling alongside us in the same pool of bile.

It is a fight for, by going against.

I will wear my Jewish star (which in Hebrew means David’s shield) to show that I will not censor myself nor will I be intimidated so easily. I will also wear my safety pin (which I got from a bowl on a stone fence—inviting people to take so that they can announce themselves as safe spaces), and my Statue of Liberty pin (which I received at a synagogue, to indicate my welcome to immigrants, as our ancestors had once been immigrants). But I will probably forget to move them from on jacket to another. I know, though, that a pin is metal; it is not my heart. What I need to do is look into people’s eyes, and nod, and say hello. This is time to find and give comfort in reaching out to others who fear for their present and future, and not just retreat inward.

Now is the time to say lalalalalalalala over hate and the haters, and to say hello to those who may be fearful or anxious—again, still, or for the first time. A step. An action. No sign-up or donation required (but those too). It seems like a start. It should have been a continuation, but aren’t we always learning. Connection is the antidote to derision.

 


Allergies and Analogies

Ball in tree

 

I can finally open my right eye, but little pustules keep appearing on my arms, while the weeping ones give me hope that this plant v. Laura battle will eventually end. My face feels like a mask of dry, itchy skin pressing down, suppressing the breathing of my pores, sealing me in. Time and steroids and lotions and ice packs and antihistimines are doing their work, and it has only been four days, but this feeling of being incased within myself is haunting, disturbing. There are layers of me, but this outer layer presses down and in so doing takes control. There is no escaping the discomfort of feeling so aware of my irritated skin.

 

And while I focus on battling this invasion of poison ivy, I think about racism, poisonous racism, and I wonder if hate is a person’s poisoned outer layer or is it his interior, awash with receptors to toxins that permeate the outer layer.

 

We are told that we are not born with hate, that it is something learned, then why are we so darned good at hating—as if we are born to it? Perhaps there is a gene that enables us to transition from hate-free to hate-full. What could there possibly be within the supple limbs of a child, the contours of a lock of hair, the radiance of a smile that makes hate natural? Is hate a lack of spirit? Is someone who hates a person who is afraid of anything new, different, not the norm that he was raised within? Is it not so much a taught capacity, a learning, but rather a reflection of fear, an inability to survive—to trust—anything outside the known boundaries?

 

Is hate a poison that is always within, waiting to protect the self with a shell that scratches at those who come near? Are too many of us too innately the survivalist dependent on the tribal, afraid, innately, to test the self against / to present the self to the unknowns of people who are not like me? Do they need guns and weapons and manifestos because looking into someone’s heart might profoundly reveal that there was never a reason to stand separate.

 

My face feels unfamiliar to me. The skin that I obsessively moisturize is bumpy and tingles with an itchy dryness that cannot be moisturized away. I press ice to it, numbing the irritation.

 

The battle of good and evil.

 

The clash between love and hate.

 

This interminable space that separates fear from acceptance.

 

Summer. Another season.

 

Last night there was a pounding storm. Now there is oppressive sun and heat. And still my skin. And still to contemplate hate.

 

It must be deep inside: the sand that an oyster uses to create a pearl must be for us a switch that turns the self into a representation, a weapon. Could it be that in the interior of self we are so far removed from any degree of intelligence that we are only that ancient instinct for survival and all that does not mirror us is a danger? Is that a place where rationality dissolves and we seep back into the past beyond memory?

 

Perhaps hate, racial hate, hate of the other, anti-Semitism, actually shows that we humans have progressed from the dawn of pre-time because there are those among us who don’t differentiate and label and shun and pummel. Maybe the only thing positive about a murderous racial rampage is that the murderers and their apologists are over there, in the thicket of instincts, but there are those of us who cry in pain and sorrow and deep regret that we could not reach into that shell of hate to help them see that other is another word for neighbor. 


Alone Is a Plateau

Poops Dec 2014

Poops

It’s not as if I walk around naked all the time (though I could since the cemetery across the way is full of lonely people and its neighboring church seems to advocate extremely part-time practice) nor do I only have empties (of potato chip bags, that is) in the garbage, but not worrying about how someone else views my habits or needing to mesh mine with someone else’s has become my definition of contentment. Sure, I miss the opportunity to flesh out the anxieties of the day with someone and I miss seeing someone light up when I come home, but my mother, who lives in Florida, can usually listen for a few minutes before going back to herself, and Poops exuberantly welcomes me home, every single time I walk through the door. So I have backup.

 

It’s been about a year and a half since younger daughter went to college, which began my living alone stage that initially felt far more lonely than lovely. Before that there was home with mother, father, brother; then there were roommates in various configurations; and then there was husband and daughters; then, five and a half years ago (two years after the divorce) the house finally sold and older daughter went to college, so there was younger daughter on her custody schedule; then daughter and boyfriend; then daughter full-time since another great romantic story didn’t work out and boyfriend left, and my ex disappeared; and now there’s me. Well, me and Poops. It took a while to overcome the feeling that I should be tending to someone, that I am a failure for having failed at all my important relationships (when you’re down, your daughters going far far away to college reflects on you negatively), and to finally settle down into me and not being apologetic or ashamed of that. What is a “should” home configuration anyway?

 

At work my days are spent tending to others. I calculated that each work day I interact with at least 100 people, where some pay attention to every single thing I say, and others only notice the oh-no’s that slip when you talk for a living. That’s a lot of watching my mind-mouth interaction. And what I read in my spare time is generally about how abysmal our world is and has been, or about the people who try to make sense of that abysmal world record, or about the people who try to make it less abysmal, so I’ve got a weight on me that never leaves.

 

What does it mean to be alone? It doesn’t mean lonely because I don’t feel isolated (except on Saturday nights when I’m in bed by nine and fully awake at midnight, and maybe, too, on Sunday mornings when I would love to eat breakfast at a diner but even I will not expose myself that much because what could possibly say lonely more than eating breakfast alone while all around you are couples and families?). It does mean that I have the opportunity to live in the undulating rhythm of my mind and needs. It means that I can care about what I care about. But it also means that I have no one to blame for not accomplishing what I thought I should accomplish. There is no blame-game safety net. That isn’t such a bad thing because it also means that I force myself to whittle down into realistic goals, both lofty and nappy (as in napping).

 

To be alone is not to be without people because that is a decision to be made on an on-going basis, but it does mean that I need to be satisfied with myself since I cannot fill my mind with the la-la-la-la of other people’s doings and thinkings. No meals to anticipate other people wanting. No soothing of disjointed egos and moods. No driving to be done. No coordinating and planning and scheduling. It is to live in the moment gauging only what I need, and that is liberating and unnerving because there is still a part of me that finds fulfillment in being a carpet to walk upon.

 

Alone. It means to recognize another aspect of my identity. I am a woman, mother, writer, teacher: I am Jewish, a New Yorker, Virginian, American, Israeli; I am alone.

 

It has taken a while, but I feel strength in that designation. It is a sign of being a cope-er.

 

Alone is a plateau. One that stretches in an undulating path of self-directed wanderings.


The Heart of an Irrelevant Lady

Palm Springs, November 2014

Palm Springs, Thanksgiving 2014

While the country roils from murderous racism and white impunity, and around the world anti-Semitism becomes de rigueur for the open-hearted and those who would cut out those open hearts from the core of their own murderous racism, and as increasingly thicker catalogs for clothes and make-up arrive for younger daughter, I’m spending my time in high-chat mode. Since no one’s calling my friends and me to solve the problems of the world, we might as well contemplate the meaning of our little lives.

 

One friend wonders what will fulfill her now that her sons are heading off to college and she’s heading into far too many years at the same organization; another friend grasps out and in for tools to make her and her fiancé’s relationship a success rather than a contentious prequel to divorce two; another friend has begun to resemble Don Quixote as she battles to be recognized beyond the gates of nepotism; while another is within the gates, but battling the whiny wall of bureaucracy and the entitled student.

 

Amidst that cacophony there are the illnesses that have crept in. There is the friend, the woman who less than a year ago I envied for her large, lovely home; successful, devoted husband; adoring sons still at home; international travel with family and friends; a retirement full of purpose; who has been laid very, very low by cancer. There is the woman who told me that her husband, the successful engineer, now spends his time at home unable to make a cup of coffee, with a Keurig, because of early on-set Alzheimer’s. And there is the student whose depression has created a hollow-seeming child.

 

Oh, woe woe woe.

 

But woe is not me in the sense that I suffer within my situational pain, rather woe is within my chain of connection, and that is an essential link in the chain of self, especially since I have uncovered that within my singleness there is the almost teenage connection to friends, but I am in a post-boy phase and so can focus on what is being told without demanding to be heard.

 

Is there always a cycle of pain, where we each have our turn at the wheel while others wait patiently for their turn?

 

It’s a sad thing to know that the prick is always felt by someone.

 

I am not an “it’s for a reason” or an “it will make you stronger” person. There is no flip side, rather there is the undulating movement of lives that rise and fall. There is no repose, there is the appreciation of what was, what is, what will be, never knowing what is better or best, just going through the cycle of self because that is the story to be lived.

 

Amidst the essential pain within each small life, the violent tragedies that stun and subdue appear so purposeless, so petty. How can hate be of more value than a morning kiss? Why does one person’s mind get to conquer another’s body? Why does the arrogance that quells get the upper hand on the respect that fosters?

 

Questions that have no answer in history, which, I guess, is the answer.

 

Pebbles of compassion.

 

Who I am and who I am and who I am needs to push past the never-ending truth of a world built on greed and power, and simply commit to its own spiral that threads together concern for and encouragement of friends, and that spark of dignity that drills beneath the layers of resentment and commits to believing in the undergirding of humanity wherein my circle is limitless and where my powerlessness is a power. The power of living a life pretending that it is more than mine, that it is part of an “ours” that can change the trajectory of imposed tragedies. A real life of pretend, where the illusion is that no one is irrelevant, and the message is that despair is solitary while empathy is communal.

 

Sitting around the table talking our little talks will not quell the seeping hatred, but it will quiet the fear that I huddle alone in my horror and dismay, and that is no insignificant feat. Within that comfort is the power to resist passivity and to propel my pebble of self into the ocean, creating the barest of ripples, which, at the most basic level, is a barrier. As a barrier protects, it also pushes against. These friendships are a force on the tiniest of scales and the most impactful. There is nothing small about talk that protects and emboldens.  


On Being Jewish in Virginia on November 16, 2014

Since May and the killing of four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium it seems that everything I’ve read has been about antisemitism somewhere, everywhere, in the world. Except here, but I won’t be surprised if it arrives. Well, that’s not quite true since it did arrive a few years ago in the form of a swastika drawn onto a desk in my classroom as well as the memorable phrase, “F- this Jew.” So, no, I won’t be surprised when it arrives. I will be horrified and dismayed, again.

 

There was also the shocking tableau in school a few years ago of an Asian girl calling her Asian friend a Jew because she bent down to pick up a coin that was on the ground. Why not pick it up?

 

And then there was the one-date guy whose memorable comment about Jews needing to atone for killing Jesus was definitely a here-now comment. Come to think of it, just a couple of weeks ago a friend of a friend, upon hearing about the relationship-ending comment, said, “Well, they did.” Yes, here. Yet, when I told that to younger daughter, she said that a friend’s sister who went to a Catholic high school in this area was taught that it’s not true. So here and not here.

 

But, honestly, reading about antisemitism was so much “nicer” when it was just in my historical reading, and not my newspaper reading.

 

It makes you—me—wonder, what’s wrong with the world that it needs to hate people who didn’t take your guy as their guy? Do we really all have to accept the same truths? And even their guys don’t have the same guys and truths, so, really, what’s a person to do? What have we Jews done except survive (minus those who, horrifically, didn’t survive) the laws and restrictions that were placed in front of us? Could someone please give us the most well-deserved medal for putting up with the tantrums of tyrants and not coming out with hatred on our breath, but still, unbelievably, committed to improving the world (tikkun olam). Still hoping, impressively, that the world would become a moral and ethical place, putting to an end the constant spark-less spark to stab and shoot and run over Jews, and then blame the Jews themselves because they exist(ed).

 

Ugh.

 

It’s so hard to think about this rationally, when there are people who accept as acceptable blank hatred or institutional hatred or taught hatred or systemic hatred. That hatred creates spaces where Jews are not allowed to breathe, never mind utter a sacred word.

 

What is it that perpetuates insanity?

 

Did Adam and Eve leave Eden so that the theory of perpetual hatred could be tested? Could we just say that yes, hate is as ingrained in the human soul as the need for approval, and move on to discover, let’s say, the healing power of a compassionate smile?

 

Or maybe we really do need to put all young men on a few islands, with no social media devices, preventing their wise elders from teaching them to the test of hate, and then we all could continue on our merry way to save the earth from our much too big footsteps.

 

A gloom has seeped into me, relentless in its hold, pushing me to consider what I can do to push back. At the same time, I still need to live life as if my job and my maintenance of self and home are all that matters.

 

That was a few days ago.

 

The last couple of days gave me a moment’s reprieve from the closed circle of hate and despair.

 

A student I had a few years ago came by to tell me how well he’s doing in his current English class, and to thank me for having taught him. That student is Palestinian.

 

And a Muslim student who is from the same area of New York that I am from, and who is covered except for her face, smiled with appreciation when I spoke a few words in Hebrew at the prompting of some of her classmates.

 

That is the cycle as it should be.

 

The eternal shame of humanity is that we are only human when we break bread with one another, for when we are in a group we come into the mass that becomes the mob, and within that momentum we lose the remembrance of ever having a heart that beat for a friend’s pain or our own. That mob mentality can take hold of us even when we are staring out the window in solitude. But maybe I am wrong. Maybe venomous hate supersedes all other emotions in its pull on the heart and mind. Maybe the irrationality of the seemingly ever-present antisemitism is in my trying to understand it as if it is a research question to be answered and, once answered, shelved. But it is not.

 

Perhaps the real shame is that elders abuse their young by teaching hatred so intensely as to stultify generations.

 

Perhaps the shame is that it’s so easy to manipulate people to hate.

 

Perhaps it is thinking that there is a purpose beyond breaking bread.

 

A conundrum.

 

Why are we born with hearts that constantly need to be filled with something?

 

Why do we want to look in the mirror as we walk down the street?

 

As I sit here hour upon hour, with thoughts that feel at times like the prayer of the non-practioner, I go in and out of hot flashes. One moment my sweatshirt is zipped up and the next the heat rises, uncontrolled and intense, and I unzip, and then just as suddenly it leaves, and I zip up again. It is a crazy way to be. I know how I should feel, but that doesn’t mean anything when the hot flash takes over.

 

Is that what it feels like to hate: to have your innards taken over, to lose control of yourself to something beyond yourself? Is there something tempting in the totality of loss and gain in that process that enables people to prefer the heat of self-denial to the preservation of self?

 

At some point in the next few years my hot flashes will end, and I will (hopefully) regain control of my thermostat. What can I say of hate? Let it burn up like the crumbs at the bottom of an oven: the cinder all that is left to represent the harm of hate, and the uselessness of preserving it as if it has a value other than to darken and embitter.  


The Elegance of Falling

Red Hook Brooklyn

Red Hook, Brooklyn. A gritty/dangerous to gritty/semi-gentrified neighborhood. (IKEA to the left)

It turns out that I broke my shoulder going to the bathroom. A friend said that I need a better story, but I’m sticking to it. As I told him, it’s in the banality of life that I find what to write about; thus, this fall fits right in.

I landed so hard on my left shoulder that, as the doctor put it, “There’s a break where the ice cream part of the shoulder meets the cone part.” A less metaphorical friend said, “It’s the socket.” I need to be in a sling for a few weeks, with limited use of my left arm. Luckily, I’m ambidextrous and my writing these days is done with a keyboard and not with a pen tensely held in my left hand. Luckily, too, I use my right hand to write on the board, so systems are somewhat ready for school days. The orthopedist told that my threshold for pain is high, which, ridiculously, feels like an accomplishment. It is not bad, as things go.

I’m using this down time effectively, in a balanced way. On the negative side: making myself feel bad about my lack of summer accomplishments and how my weight has stabilized at too high a number (according to the scale at the doctor’s office and pants shopping) even after drastically cutting down (home-based) carbs. On the positive side: reading. You would think that a writer and English teacher would let herself relax into reading, terming it an accomplishment and a worthy activity, but I don’t; the exception being if the book brings to life a dark moment in history. I’m on a roll with novels about children during World War II. So that works. Now that the end of summer is fast approaching, I’m letting in a little yearning to read about yearning before it’s too late. (When I was in New York, my sister-in-law showed me the trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey and breathlessly explained the story, thinking that it would entice me. It didn’t.)

I’m also balancing the inner reflection part of summer by watching Robin Williams clips and reading about Gaza, Israel, anti-Semitism, Yezidis, Iraq, Syria, Michael Brown, Ferguson, Ebola, and thinking about the deaths of my three acquaintances. My, how this summer has just breezed along! Are summers always so intense, so tragic? As Shakespeare put it:

The day is hot, the [Capulets] are abroad.

And if we meet we shall not 'scape a brawl,

For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.

(Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, scene 1, lines 2-4)

Why is it so hard to overcome evil, sweat or not?

For years I have been reading about anti-Semitism, striving to understand it. But how do you comprehend incessant, violent hatred even if it masquerades as something intellectual or religious or economic or racial? It seems to me that it persists as proof that evil exists and will always need to be fought and defeated. It is not for one generation to create a golden brick road for all of us to prance upon; no, each generation needs to determine if theirs is a generation that will skip along caring or at least tolerating each other, or will their generation tug at that war of good and evil, or will theirs let the evil spill and spread like oil on water.

At a certain point the unendingness of anti-Semitism and oppression and attempts at genocide, of one group being so offended by the existence of another group that it seeks its destruction, is too hard to process. But there is no alternative. If anything, this summer has taught me that we all live with so much pain that perhaps it is this personal-power that can contend with the dehumanizing group-power of hate. From pain surely comes hate, but so, too, may it be the source of empathy, of seeing that we are tied to others by more commonalities than we were aware.

This summer I fell and broke a bone. I don’t devalue my pain compared to other people’s (well, not too much); it does give me a point of partnership. But did I really need it? What does it take to be a good person in a world that constantly veers toward evil? In a car you can adjust the alignment. If only it were so simple.

During a class at the Holocaust Museum a few years ago I learned the concept of the four types of people: victim, perpetrator, rescuer, and bystander. The bystander has been vilified as letting the evil of the world roll on and on. But I wonder if the bystander should be so negatively interpreted. Do I, a seemingly passive person, not act to propel the positive forces of my understanding of life? Do I not live, in my teeny footsteps, as if I am part of a wave that strives for whirled peas (world peace)?

I remember reading that some Holocaust survivors said that they thought their mental rebellions counted as just that, rebellion. I also read about inmates in labor camps de-bombing the bombs they were supposed to be making for Nazi Germany. I wonder if the force of internal resistance is more than we think, and if believing in it, we end up doing more active resistance and insistence. Aren’t we more motivated to push ourselves, to be ourselves, when we aren’t cowering in self-doubt? Isn’t it better to be underwhelmed and, thus, capable, than overwhelmed and non-propelled?

Years ago my daughters laughed at me for being the bag lady when I went to the supermarket. Now I save 5 cents with each bag I bring. I used to have to search for Fair Trade coffee, now it’s available in Costco.

The anguish felt when witnessing pain is the core strength within humanity that has any chance at defeating, even momentarily, the ever-burgeoning cancer of hate. It is not to feel that my pain is not serious enough, my input is not worthy enough, my giving is not valuable enough; it is to live knowing that my compassion is to be trusted as a guide propelling me from pain, into pain, to attempt to banish pain.   


The Thickness of Life

Fuzzy pink plant detail

The thickness of life is overwhelming in how it integrates itself into the thinness of life. As I sit, perpetually vacillating between my sense of purpose that compels me to focus on doing something of worth and my summer vacation slant toward reading for pleasure, I read about the deaths of Israelis and Palestinians, and I read condemnations of Israelis and Palestinians, and I listen to speeches about the destruction of neighborhoods and the destruction of the world, leaving myself little room to escape into any semblance of soothing isolation.

Instead of making a decision, I call my mother to book plane tickets for her visit here next week. During the call she recounts her latest troubles with a friend. I don’t discount her as I generally do, but accept that people, at all phases of organizational structure, don’t always get along: one may try and one may be trying, one may push and one may stop yielding.

A few minutes after we hang up, she emails, telling me that her friend’s daughter (who has been in a hospice for weeks) just passed away. The cycle of violence reverts to the cycle of life. She is the third person I know or know of who has died in the past two months, two from cancer and one by choking. They were in their 40s and 50s. Two daughters and a son. Two mothers and a father.

All deaths are tangible; all life is tangible.

Tears roll down my face as I think of this woman, these acquaintances. Then, in a transition unnecessary of explanation, I think of my daughters.

There is such a sadness that accompanies life that it’s hard to believe there’s a purpose, and it’s hard not to believe there’s a purpose. One foot goes in front of the other whether we are full of pain or joy. One person battles cancer, another battles a spouse. One perches amidst challenges, another retreats from challengers. It’s all the same. There is the forest and there are the trees. There is spring and there is fall. What ties each generation to our floating castle in the sky? What do I fear and what do I cherish—at this moment?

The reality beyond the infinitesimal turning of the wheel makes me realize that so much of life feels that it is lived while held under water. Life as a paddle wheel. Is there ever enough laughter before submersion into pain (of self or empathy)?

But as I live through this cycle time-beyond-counting, I realize that its value is in understanding that we are not alone. At each moment of experience we can psychically wave to someone in the midst of a parallel experience, perhaps endlessly waving. This comfort is not in numbers, but in compassion that goes out and comes in, providing shelter sturdier than walls. Is that the point? To value the connections we cannot see, to live as though each experience is a shared experience, to trust that our hearts beat for each other. To believe that compassion is the true world order and to live as if it was in spite of the push downward. 

Fuzzy pink plant


Prayer and Powerlessness

One World Trade Center

One World Trade Center

I finally realized why people close their eyes, quiet their nerves, still themselves, and pray. It’s not that I didn’t understand that people pray to ask/plead for something tangible; you know, just say the word “get” and you have a full prayer session. As in: get good grades, get a job, get a raise, get rich, get well, get married, get pregnant, get whatever it is that is craved—at that moment. That has never appealed to me as a concept or activity. I cannot imagine a God who is so concerned with the minutiae of my life to listen to my pleas and heed them. Besides, wouldn’t the positive answer to my pleading result in someone else losing out? Every day people get sick, some are cured and some are not. So who gets which lottery-prayer ticket? My interpretation of the big guy, and this can come from a minute of reading the obituary page, is not that he has his heart set on granting our wishes, but that he’s a hands-off kind of guy. We live, we die. It is our job to use the time and capacities that we have to lead a life that does not lead to a sorrowful soliloquy in the end.

But it hit me today that praying is wishful thinking done while supplicating the self, thinking that a bit of humility can go a long way.

Prayer is an activity for the helpless who acknowledge that they are helpless. We see winds and waters and wars befell them/us, and there is nothing we can to do stop their descent. We are helpless in the face of force and forces. But it is too painful to live knowing that your life only fills your stomach, that it cannot protect someone from the onslaught, that the power of our deeds cannot stop aggressions and nature’s movements. The horror of being one person is to be aware of being one person. There are many quotes, though, that claim we all have the capability to change the world, but how many of us go out and become the change we want to see? So what do we have left? We have the cries of our hearts, the tears of minds, the sorrow of our souls. We have our humanity expressed. We have our thoughts meditations prayers.

May each person be granted the ability to live a life unobstructed.

May hate dissipate and reconfigure into respect.

May there be peace.

---

I used to think that the one action we, the helpless, have is study. Instead of giving in or mouthing words of desire, you learn, seeking to unearth and understand meanings beneath actions. But is knowledge power? Or at least knowledge that is unaccessed, with no outlet except lamentations of the mind? How does it help to know that you are still stymied—that you are endlessly a heart that beats but has no engine to run but the self? Ah, knowledge can spawn the imagination, but it can also defeat the imagination when it expands without a vessel to receive it.

--- 

In 2001, a year after we returned from Israel, and four months after I lost my job because the high-tech company that relocated us from Israel to Virginia went bust, I began my master’s program in Conflict Studies. It was a way of learning and, I thought, to become more than a citizen, more than a person who tearfully reads the newspaper, but has some input, some value. Alas, I am still an idle sitter. I have even less strength than a person who prays, because I have become complacent in my inactivity. What is a person’s worth if she unvalues herself?

As I have evaluated my sitting over the years, I have cursed my personality, but that no longer soothes my guilt, my sense of weakness. I am determined to be more than a vessel of words wishing in the void, I am determined to find a beat to my heart that is outside of myself. A beat that validates, to myself, the breaths I take. For as I wonder about the existence of the great judge in the sky, I know that the judge within me receives no prayers, only the consensus of fulfillment in purpose.


This Week in the War on Women: July 12, 2014

This is cross posted at Daily Kos: This Week in the War on Women.

 

SCOTUS, Hobby Lobby, and the Push for “Not My Boss’s Business” Act

Senators Mark Udall and Patty Murray's bill, “The Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act,” clarifies that the law the Supreme Court based their decision on — The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) — cannot be used to allow for-profit corporations to limit any legal health care service.”

“The men and women who went to work for Hobby Lobby signed up to work at a craft store, not a religious organization,” Udall said.”

http://www.coloradoindependent.com/148213/udall-talks-not-my-bosss-business-act

 

Senators Speak Out: Now Let’s Hope There’s Action

“It is a horrible decision,” Reid said, adding that he was “disappointed” in Chief Justice John Roberts and felt the justice had “misdirected” senators during his confirmation hearings about whether he supported constitutional privacy rights.”

“As the author of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, I can say with absolute certainty the Supreme Court got the Hobby Lobby case dead wrong,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY). The point of the law was to protect the religious freedoms of individuals from government interference, Schumer said, and people who are born into or convert to a religion are nothing like for-profit corporations that form voluntarily and benefit from the marketplace under U.S. laws.”

“Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) called Hobby Lobby a “direct violation” of the right to privacy granted by the Griswold v. Connecticut decision, which struck down laws prohibiting the sale of birth control.”

http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/07/10/reid-hobby-lobby-bill-taken-next-week/

 

All You Wish You Didn’t Need to Know about the Hobby Lobby Case

Think about It: “Until Hobby Lobby, religious liberty was a shield, not a sword. It protected minority religious practices from majority tyranny. Hobby Lobby, however, has opened the door to companies opting out of all kinds of laws: anti-discrimination laws, the Affordable Care Act, you name it.”

http://lilith.org/blog/2014/07/your-guide-to-the-hobby-lobby-case-and-its-crushing-consequences/

A HL Quote Roundup

Including: "Since the Supreme Court decided it will not protect women's access to health care, I will." -- Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on the elegantly referred to “Not My Boss’s Business” Act

http://go.nationalpartnership.org/site/News2?abbr=daily2_&page=NewsArticle&id=45005

 

They’re Not Done: Next Term the Boys of SCOTUS Will Decide how Pregnant Women Work

“The Court will consider the case of Peggy Young, a part-time delivery driver for UPS whose discrimination claim puts a spotlight on the vulnerabilities many workers face if they become pregnant.”

“Three-quarters of women entering the labor force will be pregnant on the job at some point in their lives, and issues of workplace accommodations for pregnant workers increasingly affect low-wage women workers. So this is a big case, and one that no matter the ruling will have a wide reach. It’s also a case that wades into issues of gender stereotyping, gender-neutral leave policies, and cultural assumptions about mothers’ and fathers’ “differential attachments to the labor force” including the way a cultural reverence for pregnancy and new mothers contributes to instances of pregnancy discrimination. These are murky waters for the conservatives on the Roberts Court.”

http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/07/07/roberts-court-takes-issue-accommodating-pregnant-workers/

 

ENDA (Employment Protection Bill) Suffers from Right’s Rights to more Rights

“A number of high profile LGBT rights groups have announced they cannot support the current version of the employment protection bill known as ENDA. Why are they doing this, and where do we go from here?”

“The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force was among the first groups to announce it was formally dropping its support for the bill. ENDA (the Employment Non Discrimination Act) was originally was designed to end anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace. ENDA legislation passed the US Senate in November last year but it came with a major compromise. Chiefly, the language appears to allow broad religious exemptions that would mean businesses who claim to have sincerely held religious beliefs could still discriminate against LGBT employees and make hiring, firing and promotion decisions solely on the basis of sexual orientation.”

“Many groups had already raised serious concerns about this aspect of the legislation, and then came the Supreme Court “Hobby Lobby” decision. While that case dealt narrowly with an exemption based upon religious beliefs, the Religious Right has seized upon it as a window of opportunity for carving out exemptions from LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination laws and ordinances. The Task Force seems to think the ENDA loophole, teamed with this appetite to undermine civil rights laws, creates a similarly dangerous precedent.”

http://www.care2.com/causes/lgbt-groups-are-turning-their-backs-on-enda-but-why.html#ixzz37GO1M3k0

 

Can Bubble Zones Protect a Woman’s Right to Healthcare?

“In many states and municipalities court challenges are being initiated against the zones, but in others the cities themselves have made the decision just to fend off potential lawsuits. That isn’t working, however, and the mass of litigation, even where it is unnecessary, and the threats of even more lawsuits in the face of new proposals makes it clear that with one victory behind them, anti-abortion activists intend to use their clout as a group to ensure no new protections are put in place.”

“The reason for both of these facts are the same. Religious Right legal teams that step forward to offer to represent the states that pass unconstitutional bills also represent the anti-abortion activists that challenge what few protections patients do receive when they try to access a clinic. By virtue of their endless legal battles, they essentially frighten challengers out of litigation with the threat of crippling legal costs.”

“In other words, the end of abortion access may just come about not via overturning Roe v. Wade, but at the hands of hundreds of expensive lawsuits.”

http://www.care2.com/causes/how-abortion-opponents-plan-to-stop-new-buffer-zones.html#ixzz37G4pW0yZ

“Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, protesters stepping into the buffer zones may already be scaring patients away from their appointments. Since the ruling, one Planned Parenthood clinic in Massachusetts told the Los Angeles Times that the clinic had "more no-shows for the week than usual."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/09/abortion-clinic-buffer-zo_n_5571516.html

 

Women as Built-in Healthcare Providers

“At the beginning of July, 26-year-old Mallory Loyola gave birth to a baby girl. Two days later, the state of Tennessee charged her with assault. Loyola is the first woman to be arrested under a new law in Tennessee that allows the state to criminally charge mothers for potentially causing harm to their fetuses by using drugs.”

“This view of pregnant women essentially means that as soon as you’re carrying a fertilized egg, you’ve lost your medical privacy and your right to make medical decisions,” Paltrow pointed out. “But all matters concerning pregnancy are health care matters. Pregnancy, like other health issues, should be addressed through the public health system and not through the criminal punishment system or the civil child welfare system.”

http://www.care2.com/causes/tennessee-arrests-first-mother-under-its-new-pregnancy-criminalization-law.html#ixzz37GHTUTpN

 

State’s Rights?

“A new law just took effect in Georgia that bans coverage of abortion in health plans purchased in the state health insurance marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). These health insurance policies can now only cover abortion "in the case of medical emergency,"but not in cases of incest or rape.”

http://www.feminist.org/news/newsbyte/uswirestory.asp?id=15075

 

Retro while Pretending to Be Hip

“Tech behemoth Apple has had a few run-ins with casual sexism over the past few years. After Siri was introduced, it soon became clear that the software had trouble finding abortion clinics, but was very capable of finding escort services. A writer at Jezebel noted that her iPhone will not autocorrect a misspelling of "vagina," no matter how clear it is that that’s the word she intended. Now it’s come to light that Apple will not engrave the words “clit” or “vagina” on their products. (But don’t worry, bros. “Dick” and “penis” are still A-OK.)”

“Apple’s policy against engraving “vagina” and “clit” but it’s apparent ease with words like “dick” and “penis” are an extension of this attitude. The lesson here is that men’s sexuality is normal and should be celebrated while women’s sexuality is abnormal and shameful. Apple’s engraving policy may not seem like a big deal, but it’s a symptom of one of the biggest battles we have to fight.”

http://www.care2.com/causes/apples-vagina-ban-is-a-bigger-deal-than-you-think.html#ixzz37Fp5a6uB

 

Rape: For Goodness’s Sake, Teach Your Sons to Just Say NO!

A Young Victim of Drugging and Rape Speaks Out

Enough already with the drugging of girls and raping them. What the heck is going on. Is it so hard to raise a boy to be respectful of women? I don’t know what is a starker example of the War on Women than the drugging, raping, and media-harassing of young women. What a pitiful group of people we have in our midst.

“In an incident that shares several elements with the infamous Steubenville rape case that made national headlines last year, a 16-year-old girl from Texas says that photos of her unconscious body went viral online after she was drugged and raped at a party with her fellow high schoolers. But the victim isn’t backing down. She’s speaking out about what happened to her, telling her story to local press and asking to be identified as Jada.”

http://thinkprogress.org/health/2014/07/10/3458564/rape-viral-social-media-jada/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/online-trolls-target-alleged-rape-victim-jada-by-copying-how-she-appeared-in-video-of-attack-9601525.html

 

Schools and Colleges: Let’s Make them Safe Places

I don’t have many memories of high school (I’ve blocked out the isolation and boredom), but I do remember a history teacher saying, during class, that he would like to have sex with me, on a pretty regular basis. I didn’t say anything to anyone at school or to my parents. Who expected anyone to do anything back in the day? But that day really needs to come to an end.  

“The American Association of University Women had already documented the problem of harassment for teens. Fifty six percent of middle- and high-school female teens were sexual harassed during the previous year, found a 2011 report by the Washington-based group. In an earlier study it found that 83 percent of female teens faced harassment throughout their teen years at school and only 9 percent of young women reported harassment to school faculty.”

“More than half of students surveyed in the American Association of University Women's 2011 report want a system put in place where they can report sexual harassment incidents anonymously, the study also found.”

“Most students are afraid to report sexual harassment because they fear that they will experience further bullying, said Narcisse in a phone interview. "Most people think their life is going to be in danger. People that get harassed by kids in school think that if they say something they're going to get bullied or beat up."

http://womensenews.org/story/education/140708/teens-say-school-sex-harassment-goes-unpunished#.U8EzgpRdWSo

 

Harvard Stands Up for Women, Sort of

“Harvard should be praised for its new sexual assault policy. Released last week, the policy stands as the death knell of the Campus SaVE Act, a federal law enacted last year that weakens Title IX, the 1970s law that guarantees women safe and equal access to education.”

“Harvard will apply a "preponderance of the evidence" standard when determining whether an incident occurred. In the past, students reporting sexual assault faced a much more demanding standard of "clear and convincing evidence," which devalued women's worth on campus by declaring a credible victim's word inherently insufficient to merit sanctions against an offender. Under the new rule, the word of a woman will properly be accorded the same value as that of any student reporting or defending against any type of civil rights violence or harassment on campus.”

“Harvard will also define violence against women in accordance with civil rights laws that use terms such as "unwelcome" and "offensive."

The question now is, which school will do Harvard one-step better? Which school will be bold enough to assume bragging rights as the first school in the nation to embrace an iron-clad prohibition on violence against women with explicit directives guaranteeing fully equitable substantive AND procedural redress of gender-based civil-rights violations – at the exact same table of justice with victims of civil rights violations based on race and national origin? It's a once in a lifetime opportunity for a lower-tiered school to truthfully declare itself a "better" school than Harvard. Let the bragging-rights war begin!

http://womensenews.org/story/law/140708/sexual-assault-harvard-takes-big-step-forward#.U8Ezh5RdWSo

 

The Cycle of Invisibility Continues

“The nominees for the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards were announced on Thursday and women were 26 percent of the nominees. Out of a total 1406 nominated across 72 non-performance categories, women were nominated 369 times, while men were nominated 1037 times.”

http://www.womensmediacenter.com/blog/entry/women-make-up-only-26-of-nominees-for-66th-primetime-emmy-awards

But, Laverne Cox was the first openly-transgender actress to be nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of Sophia Burset in Orange Is the New Black.

http://samuel-warde.com/2014/07/laverne-cox-first-openly-transgender-actress-nominated-emmy/

 

Pushing Back: Saying No to Our Bosses

Planned Parenthood Action

I dissent. Religious freedom means that every person should be allowed to follow her own conscience, whether she owns a company or works for an hourly wage. Women earn health care coverage the same way they earn a paycheck -- and they shouldn't have it taken away because of the personal views of their employers.

http://www.plannedparenthood.org/

Mom’s Rising: Tell Congress to Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference! 

http://action.momsrising.org/sign/HobbyLobbyFix/?akid=5604.2023200.y6dLpV&rd=1&t=4

And, most critically: VOTE IN NOVEMBER! Let’s bring government to the people and not keep handing it to the corporations.