Letter to the editor – concerns over attacks on others

I sent the following brief letter to my newspaper this weekend. It will likely go unprinted, but I want to share it with you in case you would like to modify and use. Maybe it will get printed somewhere.

Reading about the increase in verbal and physical attacks on LGBTQ+ citizens or the denigration of the rights of women or people of color concern me. This is especially troubling when it comes from people who espouse the teachings of Jesus. When he said treat others like you want to be treated, he offered no caveats. Full stop. If we would only follow that one rule, which is so important it is called “golden” and also appears in in other religious texts, we would be in a much better place with our civility. We have two ears and one mouth, we should use them in that proportion. We all deserve such treatment.

People died for our country to preserve the freedoms for all its citizens. That guy Jesus chose to spend most of his time speaking to and hanging out with the disenfranchised people in his time. We should remind ourselves why would they choose to do that. Our country has had fits and starts of trying to live up to our ideals. Yet, we should never stop trying to be the best version of ourselves.

Quiet resolve equals strength

The following poem is called “Strength in silence and sweetness: ROAR” by our blogging friend Cindy Georgakas. A link to her post is below. Following her poem, is an amended comment I made regarding my thoughts on its veracity.

“There is strength in silence, behind my sweetness;

Hear me Roar!

If you cross me, don’t be fooled
by my demure ensemble.

Cover your ears and run for the hills because I’ve hired my entourage to find you.

If you thought you could pull a fast one, think again.

Hear me Roar!

Life was made for making things right and putting an end to the injustices rendered.

Whipping cream is sweet it’s true, but if you’ve run amuck,
pucker up and deal with what life hands you, served on a silver platter.

Hear me Roar!

We gather in the name of God, where sweetness cuts to the chase.

That’s right…NEVER underestimate the silence and power of a woman,
wrapped in whipping cream clouds that smile.

We are woman;

Hear us roar!”

Copyright © 2022 Cindy Georgakas

Allow me to just focus on Cindy’s opening sentence – “There is strength in silence, behind my sweetness;” I have often quoted an old line “do not mistake kindness as weakness.” False bravado means fake bravery. Beating on one’s chest is usually reserved to someone who does not want to fight. The one to worry about most has always been the quiet, pensive one. Think Ukraine President Zelenskyy standing up to an untruthful bully in Putin.

To the point of Cindy’s poem, I am reminded of a true story from one of the most difficult books I have ever read, “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn. It is about the maltreatment of women around the globe and the title is based on the Chinese proverb that women hold up half the sky.

The example is a tribe was left to defend itself with the women and children left in the village. They were housing some injured male warriors. When the enemy came to find them, the women who commanded a lot of respect told the enemy to go on about their business and let them be. And, the enemy did. They were so steadfast in their resolve it intimidated the enemy men.

We should never forget a huge example during the 2016 GOP presidential primary. When Meghan Kelly of Fox asked the future president some tough questions in one debate, he refused to do future debates if Ms. Kelly was one of the interviewers. He was scared of her. What we learned later, he was fed questions by someone at Fox and Ms. Kelly happened to ask him questions about his maltreatment of women that were not fed to him in advance and he did not like it one bit. And, this would not be the first or last time the former president quivered when faced with a female reporter armed with good questions.*

Finally, it should be noted the election in Australia last week where conservatives were swept out was said to be due to a large voting bloc of women who were concerned about climate change action, child care funding, Medicare strengthening and integrity, rather than contrived and overstated issues to cause fear. Women can make a difference and I hope they do. If we do not think this is so, remember what happened in the United States in 2018, when the Women’s March fueled many women winning elections and a changeover in the majority in the House.

*Per Robert Mackey of The Intercept om May 12, 2020: “WHEN AN ACTUAL press conference threatened to break out in the Rose Garden on Monday, as two White House correspondents refused to let Donald Trump silence them, and a third declined his request to change the subject by asking a new question, the president abruptly turned and walked away.” Note the first two reporters were female.

Letter to the editor – Australian election should be a wake up call for the US conservatives

I sent the following letter to the editor of my newspaper. It may not get printed, but I wanted others to see it and adapt and use it if they like it.

Seeing Australian voters sweep out conservatives after nine years and three prime ministers is telling. A large bloc of women voters grew tired of relative inaction on climate change, lack of assuring soundness of their Medicare and child care, and overall lack of integrity in its elected leaders.

Here in the states, my former Republican party is turning a blind eye to more action on climate change, better gun governance, growing fascism and shoring up the ACA and are attacking voting rights and civil rights. At the same time, overstated and even contrived issues are getting the air time to garner votes from their base.

As conservative pundit Michael Gerson says the “Republican Party is in decay.” I agree. We need a viable Conservative party, but what we have is not on the right path. The truth matters. And, a party that vilifies its truth tellers while glorifying its liars does not have the needed veritas to be considered seriously. I can disagree with the Democrats on policy, but with Republicans I find myself having to argue what is true. That is telling to this independent and former Republican and Democrat voter.

Documentary on Sheryl Crow is worth the watch

Latifah Muhammed in “Billboard Magazine” wrote the following summary piece about the excellent new documentary from Showtime about the life and career of singer/ songwriter and producer Sheryl Crow.

  • Sheryl CrowSheryl CrowAmerican musician, singer, songwriter, and actress

“Directed by Amy Scott, Sheryl, features a mix of new interviews with Crow, behind-the-scenes footage on the road and in her studio and never before seen archival footage spanning 20 years of touring along with appearances from Keith Richards, Laura Dern, Joe Walsh, Emmylou Harris, Brandi Carlile and more.

From battling sexism to depression, perfectionism, cancer, and the price of fame, Sheryl pulls back the curtain on the Grammy-winner incredibly story. The documentary made its world premiere at SXSW in March.”

Her story is one of persistence and perseverance. She kept knocking on doors until someone finally gave her a chance. And, once she got there, she had to persevere to keep her records and performances at a high level, while battling the other life challenges many face as well as few of her own due to being in front of cameras and microphones.

Not to give too much away, Crow and others are quite candid about some of the mistakes and hardships she faced. She also is open about how her albums and songs got produced, tapping resources she met along the way. For example, I was unaware she was on tour with Michael Jackson as his co-singer during the infamous Pepsi tour. There she met her best friend and manager Scooter Weintraub, who would be by her side on her future journey.

She tells us of her bouts with sexual harassment, where she was advised to grin and bear it, she tells of how difficult it is and was for a woman to get produced, she tells of backlash by using a poor choice of words in an interview with David Letterman, she tells of how she battled depression and even suicidal thoughts, she tells of her bouts with cancer, and she tells of her mother’s encouragement to adopt two young boys (Levi and Wyatt) to start a family.

The most powerful part of the story is when she speaks of hitting rock bottom with her depression. She notes she DOES NOT remember penning or recording this song called “The Weather Channel,” which she included on an album. She performed it in the documentary with just her acoustic guitar. She notes she must have written it as she included Winston Churchill’s reference of “black dog” to his depression. Here are the first few lines.

“Sunny morning
You can hear it
Siren’s warning
There is weather on both sides
And I know it’s coming
Just like before
There’s a black dog
That scratches my door
He’s been growling my name saying
You better get to running”

Her songs are milestones for many women (and men), even young ones who were born after some of the songs were penned. She was stunned that young girls and boys knew her songs word for word at concerts. Her hits are many, but a quick list of the top ones includes:

“All I wanna do” – Her first hit based on a poem by Wyn Cooper

“Soak up the sun” – written on a plane by her friend Jeff Trott

“My favorite mistake”

“If it makes you happy” – an anthem which builds to a huge audience chorus

“Strong enough” – she sings a duet with Stevie Nicks in the documentary which is excellent

“Leaving Las Vegas” – in a nervous interview, she did not give credit to the primary author of this song and she got backlash for it

“A change would do you good”

Crow still inspires many today. The interviews with stars, producers, family and friends reveal how well she is thought of. Give it a watch, even if not a huge fan. It is worth the effort to see someone speak so candidly about her ups and downs.

Saturday in the park – great day for a walkabout

Spring has definitely sprung. The flowers have blossomed and the green leaves have returned. It is a good day for a walk in the forest. Especially, now that I have taken my antihistamine for the pollen.

As I walk, I will likely think of the news of the day and time. In no particular order, I might chew on the following thoughts.

I saw where a mother and daughter were sentenced for their role in the January 6 insurrection. As their roles were less violent, they were given 36-month sentences where they need not go to prison. Yet, the thought continues to occur to me, how many people have to be convicted of crimes for people to realize that doing what the former president wants is not a good thing?

In this same vein, the ever flip-flopping minority House leader Kevin McCarthy has been revealed in a recording to blame the former president for the insurrection saying he would ask for him to resign. This is not a surprise as he was critical of the former president on the floor of the chambers shortly after the insurrection. That was, of course, before he was called to Mar-o-Lago to bow before the king and repent. Now, his flip-flopping is back in the limelight and the former president denies telling McCarthy he had some culpability.

Russia is flexing more muscle in Ukraine with more troops and attacks. This is a bolder step to save face and may prove difficult for Ukraine. It is hard to filter through the noise to find out the truth. I feel sorry for the people of Ukraine who are props standing in the way of a malevolent bully. Too many have died and will die, as civilians do not matter in the eyes of this autocrat. I see some offer of settlement where Russia can claim some part of Ukraine in the future. It is sad that this bully must be rewarded for his invasion, while the Ukraine and Russian civilians must bear the brunt of the pain.

I see Boris Johnson is taking a page out of the Richard Nixon playbook. When things are tough at home, go on the road. Nixon did his best work in China while being investigated for the Watergate break-in. Speaking of Nixon, there is a new miniseries out called “The First Lady” which goes back and forth looking at three first ladies – Betty Ford, Michelle Obama and Eleanor Roosevelt. Ford was hoping to retire to Florida when her Gerald got asked to replace the convicted Vice President Spiro Agnew (that was an omen). Then, Gerald became President when Nixon resigned before he could be impeached and convicted. Betty was none too happy with this turn of events, but made of the best of it.

The governor of Florida has decided to punish DisneyWorld for daring to be critical of his “Don’t say gay” law. He led an effort to abolish a state tax break the amusement empire was getting. This is not the first and won’t be the last time the governor has been petty. He is taking a page out of the playbook of the aforementioned Mar-o-Lago resident. Ironically, since the famous resident sees the governor as a huge threat to his possible campaign, he has already started dissing the governor. I am sure they both will go pretty low in their back and forth – as they just cannot help themselves.

I just realized this post includes a host of folks who will go down infamy, rightfully so. At least I mentioned a few first ladies with good reputations to salve these wounds.

Thursday throwdown – a trip to Asheville

My wife and I just got back from a couple of days in the mountains in the very eclectic town of Asheville. I am not sure if the people watching or the mountain viewing was more enjoyable. We did walk in the North Carolina Arboretum which is a lovely spot, so the views of the flora, statues and mountains did take the prize. What is nice is we met folks from Kansas, Minnesota, Michigan, South Carolina, Iowa, etc. who were visiting or had moved.

We went to see the wonderful performer and actor Cindy Williams, of “Laverne and Shirley” and “American Graffiti” fame tell stories about her career and explain behind the scenes stuff with various footage she cared to show. With the help of a “stage-hand” actor, she regaled us for ninety minutes. The stage-hand offered comic relief and helped punctuate the story telling. Williams’ self-deprecating humor charmed us, but when she got too full of herself, the stage-hand would help bring her back to earth. It was funny how they planned that.

We watched some of “Laverne and Shirley” growing up, but it was amazing to see the physical comedy they brought to the table. Penny Marshall, who has passed away, would rival Lucille Ball in that arena, but she was ably supported by Williams. One of the crowd asked in the Q&A if either of them ever got hurt, and she shared that Marshall did suffer a severe sprained ankle. She said the rehearsal prepared them for the acts. I did like that she said if something did not make them laugh in rehearsal, they improved or scrapped it.

It was truly nice to get away on one of our small trips. We love taking day trips and over-night trips reasonably close by. We stayed in a marvelous bed and breakfast, which is our wont, and enjoyed speaking with the guests and staff, who suggested a couple of restaurants. If you do go to Asheville, the Biltmore House (and gardens) is its most famous tourist attraction, but there a number of other places – spas, waterfalls, hiking, golfing, canoeing, antiquing, etc. that might peak your interest along with the eclectic downtown.

What are some places that you like to visit nearby? Are the places in the Carolinas that you frequent?

Critical Race Theory – letter to the editor

My newspaper printed my letter to the editor today. Here it is for your review, comment and use. Please feel free to edit, but note my newspaper has a 150 word limit. Yours might be different.

“It has become apparent that one party has decided to use anti-critical race theory as its new bumper-sticker slogan, akin to Build That Wall.

So, should we not talk about the Birmingham church bombing, Greensboro Four, Edmund Pettus bridge, Wilmington coup, Emmett Till’s horrible murder, Tulsa massacre, slavery, red-lining, voter suppression, genocide of Native Americans, and more?

If we do not teach and learn from our history, especially the bad parts, we are destined to repeat them. Our history is one of imperfect people sometimes failing to live up to our ideals.

We should know what, when and why things happened, especially if it is ugly.”

You Don’t Own Me – an encore of Lesley Gore’s anthem for women

The following post was written in 2013, so it preceded the US Supreme Court ruling that same sex marriages were allowable and during a major revelation of the largely unchecked and unprosecuted rapes in the US military. During Women’s History month it is good to repeat this post.

Being the father of a teenage daughter, my wife and I try to raise our young lady to be self-sufficient and to not let anyone take advantage of her. Fortunately, she has a great sense of humor and can use it to diffuse people who are overbearing towards her or who may want to take advantage of a situation. With that context, recently we were watching one of those retro-look shows which focused on female singers from the 1960s. Lesley Gore had a couple of huge hits “It’s My Party” and “Judy’s Turn to Cry” which are more the standard fare for teenage girls. Yet, amid those songs, she sang “You Don’t Own Me” which is extremely powerful whose words resonate for all women.

Ironically, the song was written by two men – John Madara and David White – but when these terrific words are sung hauntingly by Gore, it becomes her song. Here are the lyrics which are very straightforward.

You don’t own me, I’m not just one of your many toys
You don’t own me, don’t say I can’t go with other boys

And don’t tell me what to do
And don’t tell me what to say
And please, when I go out with you
Don’t put me on display, ’cause

You don’t own me, don’t try to change me in any way
You don’t own me, don’t tie me down ’cause I’d never stay

Oh, I don’t tell you what to say
I don’t tell you what to do
So just let me be myself
That’s all I ask of you

I’m young and I love to be young
I’m free and I love to be free
To live my life the way I want
To say and do whatever I please

A-a-a-nd don’t tell me what to do
Oh-h-h-h don’t tell me what to say
And please, when I go out with you
Don’t put me on display

I don’t tell you what to say
Oh-h-h-h don’t tell you what to do
So just let me be myself
That’s all I ask of you

I’m young and I love to be young
I’m free and I love to be free
To live my life the way I want

Since her version needs to be heard, I have included a link to enable you to do that.

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=you+don+t+own+me+lyrics&mid=1A608AD222A0926A03DB1A608AD222A0926A03DB&view=detail&FORM=VIRE3

The song did resonate with many and was included in the movies “The Big Chill” and “Dirty Dancing.” Yet, it may have been heard by fewer people (than it should have) as Gore actually turned her back on stardom to go to college limiting her career and notoriety. She was born in 1946 as Lesley Sue Goldstein and sang “It’s My Party” in 1963 at the age of 16, the same age as my daughter is now. She turned down major contracts and eventually went on to Sarah Lawrence College in New York. To me, she may have been living the words to this anthem – “you don’t own me” and if I want to go to college, then that is my choice.

Having written earlier about Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s “Half the Sky” about the maltreatment of women around the world, this song had additional meaning. A link to this post is https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/half-the-sky-turning-oppression-into-opportunity-for-women-worldwide/.  I am not naive, so I know that women who are treated like chattel in some parts of the world would be killed or severely beaten if they uttered these words.That is the purpose of “Half the Sky” to tell these stories, highlight the bravery of the local champions who have rebelled against maltreatment and collectively give women a voice to say “you don’t own me.” Or, at a very minimum, I will not tolerate you treating me this way.

Yet, even in more gender egalitarian countries, the same words could be said. In the US, there seems to be a new onslaught to limit women’s reproductive rights, forty years after this issue was supposedly resolved. Here in the US, we have had over 26,000 women (and men) who have been sexually assaulted in our military ranks just last year, but only 3,400 of these sexual assaults came to trial. And, the solution presented yesterday is only a good first step, but will not solve the problem (listen to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand folks) https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/the-invisible-war-kirsten-gillibrand-has-it-right/. Here in the US, women still need the deserved opportunity to lead, be it in business or government. Here in the US, we still have insufficient protection for domestic violence victims, which is more about control and ownership. Here in the US, it should be OK to marry your Lesbian partner anywhere in the country. I could go on.

If you know this song, please relive it with me and share with others. If you don’t know it, give it a listen and, if you like it, share it as well. If you have not read “Half the Sky,” you should, but know this; it will be one of the hardest books you will ever read. If you don’t want to go down that path, at least click on the link above to my earlier post.

You don’t own me. Powerful words. Thanks Ms.Gore and Messrs. Madara and White.

The Lavender Scare (a repeat post dedicated to the Florida legislature)

Seeing the legislation passed in my home state of Florida, I am embarrassed that legislators could not think of anything better to do than limit discussion about various topics including the rights and challenges of LGBTQ+ people. I wrote the following post about a true event in US history that gets painfully little historical discussion. My mother was a teacher in Florida, so I wonder how she would feel with people ready to report her if she said the wrong thing.

My wife and I watched an informative documentary on PBS last night called “The Lavender Scare.” This show documents a lengthy period of US government sanctioned discrimination against homosexuals that lasted from the early 1950s to mid 1990s.

The scare evolved directly from the efforts of Senator Joseph McCarthy who led the “red scare” as he carried out communist witch hunts. He turned his eye toward homosexuals saying (without data) those who worked in the government were susceptible to communist blackmailers. Yet, unlike his communist witch hunt publicly dying due to his “lack of decency,” as an attorney to the Secretary of the Army called McCarthy under oath, the Lavender Scare gained footing.

To my chagrin, I learned former General Dwight Eisenhower campaigned for President on this issue and signed an executive order in 1953 to identify and expel homosexuals from government positions. This saddens me because of the obvious discrimination, but also because the former General said earlier the UK team led by Alan Turing that broke the Nazi Enigma code saved 750,000 lives and shortened WWII by two years. Turing had to hide that he was gay, so Ike’s executive order in 1953 would have kicked Turing out of employment had he been his boss in WWII – what would have happened if Turing would not have been around to impact the war?

The fact this government sanctioned discrimination lasted until it was ceased by President Bill Clinton is a shame, as well. Multiple tens of thousands of excellent public servants were kicked out of jobs they loved and did well. And, many could not get good employment in the private sector due to their FBI file. One of those was an astronomer named Dr. Frank Kameny.

Yet, Kameny did not sit still. He became an advocate for gay rights pushing a ball uphill. He wrote letters to Congress members, some of which were caustically responded to giving variations of the same harsh response. He organized protests and would help those who lost jobs. And, he was able to save some jobs, one who spoke five languages and was later decorated for service to the NSA. Kameny was awarded the “Medal of Freedom” by President Barack Obama for being the grandfather of the gay advocacy movement.

Sadly, there is a movement today led by some exclusionary religious leaders to condemn gays and foment their discrimination. My thinking is this is a backlash to the US Supreme Court approving same-sex marriage a few years ago. But, it goes deeper than that with a president who has laid the groundwork for divisiveness to occur with impunity. He did not invent divisiveness, but is not preventing it either.

Let me be frank. We are the land of freedoms and civil rights. Unless someone is harming you, you have “no standing” to deny the rights of others. I personally am offended by bigotry in the pulpit as I see this as a grievous dereliction of duty. Yet, that person has a right to say what he wants – provided he is not inciting violence or hate crimes. If the latter is true, then that is not a protected right.

Please watch this informative documentary. And, let’s do our best to avoid going back to this dark period. There was one gay postal worker who was to be expelled in the 1950s, but his boss stood up for him saying I know this, it does not bother me and he does a good job. The gay employee kept his job. We need more of that in our country and less of the hate speech

Sidebar: Disney Corporation, a major employer in Florida, has announced the removal of political funding in Florida as a result of this legislation.

Failing to teach history

The following is a letter I sent into my newspaper. Let’s see if it will get published. But, please feel free to adapt and use with your newspapers.

It troubles me that so many state legislatures have passed laws to restrict public school teachers from teaching our bad actions in history under the premise it is bothersome. Slavery of African-Americans and its persecuting brother the Jim Crow era did happen. Genocide of Native Americans and stealing their land did happen. Firing gays and lesbians who worked in government jobs under the Lavender Scare did happen. Blackballing so-called Communists under the McCarthy witch hunts did happen. And, we did detain Japanese Americans in camps.

We may not have had a Holocaust in the US where 6 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis, but Jews did get persecuted here, too. We must know these lessons. If we fail to learn history, we are destined to repeat it. And, that concerns me