A Path appears – Women and Children need our help (a reprise for Women’s History Month)

The following post was written almost six years ago, but still holds relevance. On the good news side, more women are running for office and winning elections. And, the US just voted in its first female Vice-President. Yet, these three powerful books remain tough, but essential reads.

Our friend Debra (see link below) has written a review of the much-needed book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn called “Half the Sky.” This is one of the toughest reads you will ever take on as it discusses how women are maltreated around the globe. In addition to how awful it is to the women and children who are subject to this maltreatment including rape, sex slavery, genital mutilation, fistula due to births before the body is able, and domestic violence, it discusses the economic detriment to those communities. The book is based on the Chinese proverb that women hold up half the sky, so if you treat them poorly, you are devaluing your economy, competing with one arm tied behind your back in a world that will leave you behind.

https://debrabooks.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/who-cares-about-poor-women/

Kristof and WuDunn have followed up their first book with one called “A Path Appears,” which expands on these issues, but discusses how we can make a difference. We can find a path forward to help women, children and communities in need and how it will do the giver as much good as the receiver. Attached is a New York Times review which provides a review and summary of the book. I have yet to read this book, but have seen the two authors interviewed on PBS Newshour as they discuss how each of us can play a role in helping others.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/19/books/review/a-path-appears-by-nicholas-kristof-and-sheryl-wudunn.html?_r=0

An additional book worth reading on this subject is penned by former President Jimmy Carter called “A Call to Action.” It leverages further the work of Kristof and WuDunn, but brings the arguments home to America as well as speaking to the global problem. While we are only beginning to give notoriety to sexual abuse in the US military and on our college campuses after long ignoring the problems, while we are finally highlighting the impact and prevalence of domestic violence toward women that occurs in our society, we are still largely unaware that we have a non-inconsequential sex trafficking industry within America. We have sex slaves being brought in from other countries in addition to the women stolen from within our own communities.

I have read Carter’s book as well and find his arguments and anecdotes compelling. It is also a difficult, but must read. Carter has been one of the best ex-Presidents we have ever had. He has done more good for humanitarian causes and his voice is a powerful one and full of substance. We should heed his, Kristof and WuDunn’s messages and begin to better address the maltreatment of women.

Our world needs stronger positioning of women. We see the wonderful examples with Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, Christine LaGarde, Director of the International Monetary Fund, and Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Prime Minister of Denmark, to name only a few, but need more. When Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, while not the first female, she was the most widely known ambassador of the US and made a huge difference to the issue of helping women.

But, we cannot wait on more women to get in power. We all need to see the wisdom of treating women and children fairly and as we would want to be treated. We all need to see that if we devalue women, we are limiting idea creation, market opportunities and good governance in our country and communities. We all need to see that treating a human being like property is not in keeping with the overarching messages of religious texts or answering well the Christian question of WWJD? What would Jesus do? He would treat women like he would want to be treated.

Focus on doing your job, not keeping your job

I think many of us are tired of the gamesmanship that is going on in the halls of government. Both sides do it, but for a long while the former Republican Party has embraced untruths and even conspiracies as talking points. It used to be politicians would run off rhetoric, but govern more off facts. Now, facts are deemed less utile.

I want to say to people like Senator Ted Cruz or Lindsey Graham, it is OK for us to disagree on policy issues, but you are a Senator of the United States of America. I expect you to tell the truth, nothing less. You do disservice to our country when you do not and abet others who do the same.

Our problems are hard enough to solve when we deal with facts, but nigh impossible when Senators, Governors, Representatives just parrot BS, because someone told them they better. This is especially true when the one telling them to do so has such a fragile ego that painful truths must remain untold or white washed. Or, when truth tellers do share the truth, they need to be respected not vilified for not going along with party political messaging.

We need to hold our legislators (note I avoid the word leaders) to account to address problems and not political gain. We need these legislators to focus more on doing their job than keeping their job. The word leader applies to legislators that can do that and not those who see which way the political winds are blowing. And, it certainly does not apply to a person whose decisions try to protect a fragile, enormous ego.

Janis Ian – an original truth teller (a reprise)

About a dozen years ago, my wife and I got to see a concert where two old favorites regaled us for a wonderful night. I remember the evening to this day. Don McLean was the closing act and he is always worth the effort with songs that go well beyond “American Pie.” Yet, just as entertaining, was a tiny Jewish girl who came on stage by herself and mesmerized us – Janis Ian.

Many women (and men) within ten years of my age will know her immediately for her huge hit which told the unvarnished truth she learned “At Seventeen.” This song spoke to so many as most of us are not blessed with model like looks and effervescent charm. And, when you are not, you face a different set of challenges. Yet, the other part of this “truth” is even when you are born with looks and charm, you need to be able to find and be yourself, because looks don’t last forever, even with Botox. Here are a few lyrics, which ironically were penned by two men, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.

I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear-skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired

The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth

And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the phone

Who called to say, “Come dance with me”
And murmured vague obscenities
It isn’t all it seems at seventeen

…To those of us who knew the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball

It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
When dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling girls like me

Yet, if you download her body of work or purchase a greatest hits CD, you will find a number of enchanting songs. Once you do, pour yourself a glass of your favorite wine, light a few candles or stoke the fire and listen. Here is an excerpt from “Between the Lines” written by Janis which speaks to how people do not know what to say to each other after the games and banter end.

There’s never much to say between the moments of
Our games and repartee
There’s never much to read between the lines of
What we need and what we’ll take

There’s never much to talk about or say aloud
But say it anyway
Of holidays and yesterdays, and broken dreams
That somehow slipped away

In books and magazines of how to be and what to see
While you are being
Before and after photographs teach how to pass
From reaching to believing

Another one of her classics, is called “Jesse” by  Columbier and Michel Jean Pierre, about her loneliness over her lover Jesse’s departure. The pacing of this song is emblematic of her style. She is never in a hurry and she has a voice that soothes, as well as portrays her pain. So, you can find the words amid the tune.

Jesse, the floors and the boards
Recalling your step
And I remember, too
All the pictures are fading
And shaded in grey

But I still set a place
On the table at noon
And I’m leaving a light on the stairs
No I’m not scared – I wait for you

Hey Jesse, I’m lonely, come home

Many people likely do not know Janis Ian. My older brother was the first person who turned me onto Janis Ian. She followed in the tradition of similar singers like Joan Baez and Judy Collins and a contemporary Phoebe Snow. If I had to find a more current performer, I would liken her to Traci Chapman. But, I think her words and music resonate with people as she would never be considered a glamorous person. In fact, when she walked on stage with her guitar, she came in from one side and walked all the way to the other side and exited the stage. This shyness was characteristic of her and her music.

A link to Wikipdedia will help tell her tale. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janis_Ian

So, if you do not know her music, you are in for a treat. Every 17 year old girl (and boy for that matter) should listen to “At Seventeen.” If you know her, please use the opportunity to revisit her songs. And, remember the glass of wine and the candles.

Being caught lying used to be embarrassing

Few people outside of Arizona may know the name of Republican Senator Jon Kyl. He uttered one of my favorite lines when he was caught in a lie that reveals so much. After wrongfully saying that 90% of Planned Parenthood’s activities were abortions (it is actually 3%), he said the following when questioned.

Per the HuffPost, “so why did Kyl say 90 percent? CNN got a hold of him and relayed his response: apparently it wasnot intended to be a factual statement‘ and was supposed to merely illustrate that Planned Parenthood subsidizes abortions.” In essence, he is saying it is your fault for believing what he said.

This emboldened quote from the Senator is his legacy with me. When I think of Kyl, I think of his being untruthful. Yet, it did not bother him to lie. It was just modus operandi. I expect politicians to embellish and even lie, but I want them to at least be chagrin when they are confronted with proof they are lying. And, it is not just one party.

When I think of the seditious former president, it is hard to only think of his untruthfulness, but that is at the heart of who he is. He also bullies and denigrates people and throws them under the bus if they dare criticize him. But, he is a notorious and well-documented untruthful person. But, it does not seem to matter, as he has convinced his followers that everyone else is lying or just doesn’t like him, which is a toddler’s argument.

Because we live in a post-truth society, people who are untruthful can get away with an awful lot. That has been the seditious former president’s one great talent – muddy up all waters to make everyone look bad, so he is OK by comparison. And, his sycophants cover for him. They are being Kyl-like in their support and lack of shame.

His followers do not want to hear the truth. Then, they would have to consider if it is possibly true. If a MAGA follower was a good friend, you could ask if I knew you husband routinely lied to you, had cheated on you twice, once over eight months, who grabbed women by their private parts and then bragged on it, who had a person go around to people he affronted and pay them for their silence, and then berated and bullied anyone who dared criticize him, would you stay married to such a man? The person I just described is the former president.

Lies do matter. The former president’s legacy long before he was ever president would include the words bully, egomaniacal, and sexual misconduct, but make no mistake, the first word would be untruthful. Taking the former president at his word is a fool’s errand.

Not all Republicans are racist

The following is a comment I placed on our friend Jill’s post called “Republican Party – the party of bigots,” which can be linked below. She is referencing an editorial by columnist Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post.

To say all Republicans are bigots is a little unfair, but to not recognize those who are the most bigoted white people are tending to be in the Trump Party also misses the mark. The former president’s attorney/ fixer Michael Cohen said under oath to Congress, “Donald Trump is a racist, he is a con-artist and he is a cheat.” It meant something to me that Cohen, who has paid off many people to be silent about information damaging to the former president, used the words “Donald Trump is a racist” first.

There have been too many opportunities both missed and exploited by the former president to clearly say he is not a racist. The easiest example is Trump settling a court case on housing discrimination, then being taken back to court as he did not abide by the terms of the settlement (he lost again). Or, the Obama Birther story he perpetuated for several years, which helped jumpstart his political career.. Of course he is racist. Then, there is Charlottesville, where he doubled down on his racist remarks after being chastised the first time.

There is a subtle difference in two mantras that is important. The BLM movement is saying my rights are important while the white supremacists are saying my rights are more important than yours. That distinction speaks volumes. People who look the other way or cheer when a corrupt, deceitful and racist former president stokes fires of hatred are abetting his efforts. That may not make them racists, but it certainly does not make them anti-racist. 

Republican Party … The Party Of Bigots | Filosofa’s Word (jilldennison.com)

Republican Party ‘engulfed in lies and fear’ per another former Republican legislator

In an article this weekend called “Former GOP lawmaker: Republican Party ‘engulfed in lies and fear'” by Jonathan Easley of The Hill, yet another former lawmaker is sharing his concerns about how far his party has fallen. Here are a few paragraphs from the article, plus a link below.

“Former Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) argued in a pre-taped interview that ran Friday that the Republican Party has lost its way and become ‘engulfed in lies in fear.

Curbelo and former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) teamed up as part of the nonpartisan debate series IntelligenceSquared U.S. to argue that many within the GOP are knowingly pushing a lie that the election was stolen out of fear of retaliation from former President Trump.

In his opening remarks, Curbelo said that by embracing former President Trump’s election claims, which preceded the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the GOP had lost its credibility and damaged democracy.

‘Here we only have two [political parties] and in order for one to be able to hold the other accountable, it has to be viable. It has to have credibility. With a majority of the voters in the country, it has to be a reasonable choice for most people,’ Curbelo said. ‘And the problem we have today in our democracy is that the Republican Party is losing that position. Why? Because it has lost its way. Because it’s a party engulfed in lies and in fear.’

Curbelo, a moderate conservative, lost his South Florida swing district in 2018 by only about 4,000 votes in what was a big year for Democrats. He has emerged as a vocal critic of Trump and the direction of the GOP.

In the Intelligence Squared debate, he argued that many members of Congress know Trump’s election claims are false but that they lack the courage to stand up to him, knowing that it could cost them their seats.”

Let’s be clear. Fear has long been a tool of the untruthful and bullying former president. He even bragged to NBC’s Lestor Holt in an interview that is his modus operandi. That even led two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodward to entitle his book on the Trump White House “Fear,” based on 750 hours of interviews. But, lying is also a tool of the former president as he is well-documented from multiple sources and data points as routinely untruthful.

So, the fact the former president lied about rampant election fraud is not a surprise. If he is talking or tweeting, he is most likely lying. Or, as Thomas Wells, an attorney said about him in 2016, “Donald Trump lies every day even about things of no consequence.

What bothers me more is Republican legislators – Gaetz, Gohmert, McCarthy, Scalise, Jordan, Nunes, McConnell, Hawley, Cruz, Graham et all lying for this untruthful person. Too many continue to believe what Attorney General William Barr called “bulls**t” about the former president’s toddler-like election fraud claims.

To give the former president’s claims the appropriate reporting, use your best four year old voice and say “I didn’t lose. I won by a lot. It was stolen from me.” That is the veracity of the petulant and seditious former president’s claims. As his niece Mary said, her uncle will burn it all down to avoid losing. It should be noted that seven people are dead because of an insurrection he caused.

Former GOP lawmaker: Republican Party ‘engulfed in lies and fear’ (msn.com)

Another retail bankruptcy

Belk’s, the regional clothing retailer, has filed for bankruptcy, and will reopen with fewer stores. Retail stores have been in trouble for over ten years, well before the pandemic put the final knife in more than a few. There have been three principal causes over time that have overlapped and continue:

  • Retail malls were over built to the extent we have many thousands of unneeded malls just in this country. Rather than improve a mall, new ones were built, often cannibalizing on existing markets for the stores.
  • Walmart had a significant impact on retail stores, leading the way for the other discount retailers to eat away at margins for others. When Walmart came to town, other retailers went away.
  • Online ordering put brick and mortar stores on notice and many out of business. The ones who survived, blend online with in-store purchasing, better than others. Even Walmart was harmed by the online effort and had to react.

So, the pandemic comes along and those store franchises that were teetering, fell down. There will likely be more bankruptcies in the future. All stores must now compete against cheaper and easier online sales. Those store franchises with better customer service models stand a better chance at survival, but all are at risk, unless they can embrace online sales along with in-person sales. Nevertheless, COVID has put a damper on in-person sales and will continue to do so.

When I think of Belk’s, I think of my grandmother who worked there for years in a small town in Georgia. She worked for a local retail company that sold themselves to Belk’s. She ran the children’s department, then later ran the men’s clothing department. Many of her customers truly grew up with her.

Her favorite story was the day Mr. Belk came into the store. He toured the store and needed to borrow my grandmother’s pen, which he put in his pocket by mistake. My grandmother said, “Mr. Belk, that is my pen. My boss is to cheap to buy us pens, so if you want me to do my job, you need to give it back.” It should be noted her boss was standing right there.

My grandmother was all about relationship sales. Her customers would come back after college and ask for her to outfit them in new suits, since they trusted her. And, that is why retail stores do have a market when done right. Relationships. Trust. Customer first. Yet, if they don’t get the technology end right, it will be for naught.

A disgusting lack of leadership

The following are the views of a former Republican and now Independent voter. I did not vote for the former president either time and remain puzzled why people would vote for such a well-documented untruthful, egomaniacal bully.

On Friday, I read that Senator Mitch McConnell would support the seditious former president if he were the 2024 presidential nominee. Note, this is after McConnell denounced the former president for his role in the insurrection against a branch of government, which of course, put McConnell and his colleagues in danger. And, unsurprisingly, Mr. McConnell chose not to vote to convict the former president before he admitted said person was guilty.

This is a disgusting lack of leadership in a country that needs this party to help offer some form leadership. But, as of this writing, people who voted as leaders to impeach or convict the seditious former president, have been vilified, censured and threatened. Yet, these seventeen folks knew this going in and voted to impeach or convict anyway. That is leadership. What Messers. McConnell, Graham, Hawley, Paul, Cruz, McCarthy, Scalise, Gaetz, Gohmert, et al have done is cowardice and sycophancy to someone who almost caused their deaths.

Reading McConnell’s statement in support of a traitor is seditious in its own right, in my view. This former president planned and staged a big lie about rampant election fraud. And, too many Republican so-called leaders were silent. The former president set the stage for the insurrection through his lies, that even his Attorney General labeled as “bulls**t” before he was fired for so saying. Republican election officials and judges even pushed back on the former president’s lies, yet they also got death threats.

Our country needs two viable political parties or more. Yet, we need the people in leadership positions in these parties to be leaders and not sycophants. The seditious former president is the most corrupt and deceitful president in my lifetime including Richard Nixon. I have been pleading with Republican Senators for three years asking what will it take to hold this former president accountable. Apparently, even traitorism does not qualify.

The former president was right when he said he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and it would not matter. What he did not say is he would hand the gun to McConnell and blame him. Our country deserves better than this.

Those what if questions

As we age, we sometimes reflect on what might have transpired if something happened differently. It is an interesting exercise, but also makes you ponder what is important to you. With this in mind, here are a few what if questions.

  • What if the girl or boy you felt madly about reciprocated with the same fervor? If that happened, then you may not have met your wonderful spouse and had your terrific children
  • What if you turned down a drink invitation from someone who would become the most important person in your life?.
  • What if you got the job you desperately wanted in another town? Would your career path have dramatically changed?
  • What if you had not changed your mind about leaving a job and went to another employer? Would you have shortchanged yourself?
  • What if you had not said yes to joining a charity group to help people in need? Would you be less open minded about the plight of others?
  • What if you not said no to a road less traveled and did not veer off to explore some wonderful venues?
  • What if you did not mend a fence with an old friend or relative before it was too late?

We are the compilation of our life experiences. Some of those experiences were heart breaking and some were exhilarating. Yet, we benefit from the learning. We benefit from the relationship, even if it ended some time ago. We benefit from the reflection we could have handled something better than we did. We benefit from opportunities as they teach us so much.

We each have loved and lost. We each have had relationships with people who cared either more or less than we cared about them. That is one of time’s oldest stories. Relationships are hard work. Finding and keeping one where you are on the same path forward is also hard, but oh so very rewarding.

Freedom Summer Project – those who braved Mississippi burning (a reprise)

The following post is a reprise of one I wrote in the summer of 2014. I felt the story needed a new telling during Black History Month.

Fifty years ago this summer, over 700 students from across the country, joined in the Civil Rights battle in Mississippi, where African-Americans had been demonstratively and, at times, violently denied their basic civil rights, especially the right to vote. These students joined together with the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee (SNNC) under the guidance of Bob Moses, who had been slowly organizing SNNC since 1960. These students, were predominantly white, but included all races and ethnic groups.

The fact that many were white helped bring further attention to the ongoing tragedy going on Mississippi, perpetuated by those in power as the young students lived within the African-American community, taught through Freedom Schools young students about African-American history, literature and rights, items that had been absent from their curriculum. The Freedom Summer project can be viewed up close with an excellent documentary being shown on the PBS American Experience. A link is provided below.* I would encourage you to watch the two-hour film as it can tell a story that requires footages of violence, overt racism, and brave people who spoke up, like Moses, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rita Schwerner and countless others.

Hamer is the face of the effort as evidenced by her speaking passionately in front of the 1964 Democratic Convention committee about how she was arrested, beaten, and tormented when she and others tried to register vote. Schwerner is the widow of one the three Civil Rights workers, Michael Schwerner, who along with James Chaney and Andrew Goodman, were abducted and killed by the KKK who came to abet the efforts of those in power in Mississippi. The widow rightfully pointed out the fact that two of the abducted (at the time) were white, was the only reason people in America started paying attention. She noted it is a shame that many African-Americans had died or were injured merely trying to exercise their right as citizens. Before the 1965 Voting Rights Act, less than 7% of African-Americans in Mississippi were allowed to register due to ostracization, intimidation, and complex constitutional literacy tests.

Since I cannot begin to do justice to this subject, I encourage you to watch the documentary. It will make you ashamed that this could happen in America, while at the same time making you applaud the magnificent courage of all involved, especially those African-Americans who had lived and would continue to live in this Apartheid like state once the freedom summer students went home. Yet, it took the deaths of these three young folks to galvanize and empower people.

It also took the organization of a more representative Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party of whites and blacks that went to the national convention to unseat the representatives sent by the state party, who were all white. Since morality was on their side, they almost succeeded, but they ran into the politics of Lyndon B. Johnson, who used his power to squelch the effort for a greater good – he could not help in matters if he did not get elected and he saw this as a means to interfere with that mission, no matter how noble the cause. LBJ accomplished great things for African-Americans, but politics is an ugly thing to watch up close and he looks manipulative in the process.

While their efforts fell short at the convention, their efforts were huge contributors to the passage of the Voting Rights Act the next year. But, one of the young folks who went to the Freedom Schools and is now a PhD., noted that learning about their African-American culture and civil rights that had been denied them, may have been the greatest achievement. I applaud their efforts and bravery. We still have a way to go and are seeing some battles having to be refought with several states passing restrictive Voter ID Laws. Three states have had their new laws ruled unconstitutional, while others are in court now. Yet, just because our President is multi-racial does not mean we are there yet. So, let’s keep in mind the battles these brave folks fought and not let their civil rights be stepped on again, no matter how cleverly masked those efforts.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/freedomsummer/