Saturday in the park salutations

Happy weekend. Saturday in the park is an idea worth considering. I will need to check with my better half regarding her thoughts for the day. Below are a few rambling thoughts to salute the news of the week.

Pakistan has selected a new leader, a very charismatic former cricket star named Imran Khan. He has promised to end corruption and offer better governance. I wish him well, but a reporter once said on NPR, the corruption is ingrained and corrupts the best of intentions. It should be noted his rivals are crying foul and want a new election.

Speaking of the best of intentions, Theresa May is trying to take Great Britain out of the EU with some semblance of a plan. It is surprising it has gotten this late in the game without more planning achieved. I still hold out hopes that the Brits will realize they screwed up and remain in the EU. Voters were not told of all the facts and I fault people like Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Vladimir Putin for their roles in deceiving folks. Decisions based on pride tend to lack prudence.

The now annual severe wildfires out west continue and are alarming. On the other end of the spectrum, stalled or slow moving weather patterns in the east are flooding various areas. In the middle of the country, severe heat is causing major concerns to drought areas. In 2011, a report put together by the largest pension trust managers in the world noted their financial concerns over not addressing climate change. They noted the increase in wildfires, concerns over severe droughts and stalled weather patterns as huge financial concerns. All of the above are a concern, but the fire and drought issues also shine a spotlight on our global water crisis, where certain areas around the world are in danger of diminishing access to fresh water. Yet, the leaders of our federal government are doing their best to avoid recognition or discussion of climate change action.

Another CEO, Les Moonves of CBS, has been accused of past sexual misconduct. It seems that men who lead (or are stars in) entertainment businesses that hire and promote attractive people cannot keep their hands and other body parts to themselves. Fox, NBC, Weinstein, and CBS have each had bad apples. But, as women know, this is a universal problem where men with power can impose their will on women in less senior roles. This is why the video of the waitress throwing the man, who felt up her fanny,  to the ground is so inspiring. He was held and charged with sexual battery.

Finally, the stand your ground law in Florida has caused yet one more death. A white man, who has taken it upon himself to accost people who park in handicap spaces, was shoved to the ground by a black man who took offense at his remarks. From the ground, the man is seen shooting (and killing) the shover. The man was not charged due to this law, which has caused a split on public opinion. Two questions – would opinion change if the races of the men were reversed?  Would a man be dead if a gun was not present?

Other news abounds, but I wanted to focus away from news that seems to suck all the oxygen out of the room.

 

 

Domestic violence has no place in religions

I listened to a troubling story on NPR about a female Baptist minister being a domestic violence victim. She gained the support of her father, who is the minister of a church, to seek a divorce from her abusive husband. But, the deacons of her church threatened to expel her if she did not recant the divorce.

I have shared before the story of a friend who went to her minister because her husband was beating her. The minister asked to see them both. To her surprise, the minister told her in front of her abusive husband that it was her fault. If she was a better wife, then she would not be beaten.

Both women found new churches. As a Christian, I am appalled that male religious leaders can justify the abuse of another human being from their scriptures. And, other religious leaders can find similar interpretations from wording in their religious texts. So, domestic violence and even honor killings are more acceptable in some cultures.

My response is quite simple. These are crimes. If a religious leader tells you it is OK that a male parent or husband can beat or assault a woman, find another church or religion. A perceived supreme being worth worshipping would not condone such violence, regardless of what the religious texts might be interpreted to say. Women “hold up half the sky” says the ancient Chinese proverb. And, women were very important in promulgating Christianity after Jesus left earth.

My thesis is straight forward. Religious texts were written, edited, interpreted and translated by imperfect men. Even if the words were divinely inspired, they were not dictated. Men wrote them down. Sometimes, they were written many decades after the event occurred. I mention the word “edited” as some chapters got cut from religious text that governs two religions.

Given the two words “imperfect and men,”  it is my view there is no way every word should be held up as true. In fact, gospel is short for “good news.” The news is the writer’s version of the truth, so each gospel or book will include their version of the story based on their male and human biases. If women penned these texts, they would read differently.

So, domestic violence simply should not be tolerated. It is a crime. If my friend had been later killed had she heeded that minister’s advice, he would be culpable in her murder. Again, let me say this boldly. No religious leader should condone domestic violence. He is abetting a criminal act. If yours does, please find another place of worship.

In my worship and charity work, I have met some wonderful religious leaders of many faiths. But, I have also met some whose imperfections are more apparent. Find a religious leader that respects you as a person. They are out there.

 

 

 

Keep on pushing forward ladies

Disillusioned by tribal politics and a President who has reduced civil discourse to a new low and untruthfulness to a new high, it was nice to get outdoors and participate in the second Women’s March in my city. My wife and I joined some friends and over 5,000 more marchers to hear important messages about pushing women and human issues forward.

I am very encouraged by the 26,000 women who have moved ahead with running for office. We need more women in all forms of government as they are woefully underrepresented. Some of the highlights from the speeches in addition to the above are as follows:

– while the push for equality was mentioned most, I was impressed by a Muslim American woman, Rose Hamid who spoke of equity, to value our differences in perspectives and not let fear of the unknown drive wedges between us. Hamid gained notoriety for sitting quietly in a Trump campaign event, until she was escorted out.

– I was appalled to hear a statistic that I had written about a couple of years ago continues to get worse – we have an increasing rate of maternal mortality around childbirth and our global ranking on this statistic is even more negative. A key driver is the lack of healthcare insurance access and education in too many areas of the country.

– I was troubled by the increasing statistics around domestic violence. Locally, the first four homicides of the year in my city were related to domestic violence. Men and women need to help women get out of relationships where signals are apparent. And, better education for boys and girls need to occur that violence is not the answer to relationship conflict.

– I am encouraged by the unifying voices from various fabrics of our culture regarding the need to treat everyone with dignity and respect. And, we must listen to each other and glean points of view. We are listening to respond, not hear.

– I am encouraged by the recognition to act and not just talk or tweet. One speaker said the quote, which may have been made by Rosa Parks, that “even the mighty oak tree was once a nut that stood its ground.” So, don’t worry if someone is calling you a nut.

I have often written about the tough-to-read book “Half the Sky,” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn about the plight of women and girls around the globe. The Chinese proverb is “women hold up half the sky.” Not only is it the right thing to do, but treating women with dignity, respect and equality is the economic best thing to do. Otherwise, a country or area is competing with only 1/2 of its intellectual capital.

As our country enters its 104 consecutive month of economic growth and closes out its seventh consecutive year of 2 million plus jobs added, we should celebrate our economic success, but it is not bearing fruit equitably for everyone. Our economic classes have become more disparate and women remain relatively underpaid. Plus, with significant pay disparity, women are subject to more sexual harassment to keep better paying jobs or get better work scheduling for their parental duties.

So, let’s applaud this push by women. We will all benefit with more female voices being heard and heeded. That sky is heavy without the extra half holding it up.

 

Tuesday afternoon

As I think of the fabulous Moody Blues’ song, let me share a few random musings on this cloudy Tuesday. Technically, it is morning here, but since Greenwich time is five hours ahead, the title has merit.

If we look at the US presidential election, what are the signals telling us? The Democrat candidate is being supported by major party leadership, some of whom are on the campaign trail. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who scares Republicans because of her history of fighting for those who have been screwed over, has joined with Hillary Clinton to advocate the message of helping the middle class and those in need with actual programs. There is no better advocate for the disenfranchised than Warren.

On the flip side, the Republican candidate has leaders bailing on him and hiding when he says his latest inane thing. Conservative columnist Michael Gerson has been against Donald Trump and what he represents from the outset and George Will just left the party because of Trump’s presumptive nomination. And, no living president supports his candidacy with the only foreign leaders who have advocated for him are Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un.

In Scotland, Trump noted what a good thing Brexit is, yet the financial markets, debt downgrading, and the lowest pound in over 30 years are giving many pause. Plus, he said this in Scotland who voted to remain and have started plans for another referendum to leave the UK and stay in the EU. This is supposed to be the candidate with the best business acumen, but yet again he shows little grasp of the issues, even financial ones. What the Remain camp failed to explain is the number of jobs created in the UK by being in the EU, with companies who have placed their European headquarters and plants there to have duty-free access to Europe.

The US Supreme Court handed down several important verdicts this week. The first one was a tie, but left standing a lower court ruling that President Obama went a bridge too far on his immigration executive orders after Congress failed to act for so long. Next, Affirmative Action was upheld in a Texas lawsuit that argued college admissions could no longer use race to determine acceptances of applicants. The Supreme Court said the colleges could continue to use race as a factor. A lesser publicized ruling noted that people who had been convicted of domestic violence crimes could be denied access to gun purchases in a state that said it was illegal. The court upheld Maine’s right to deny gun access.

But, the biggest ruling was against Texas 5 to 3 that overturned a lower court ruling on abortion clinic access. The Supreme Court ruled that what Texas did, which was use arguments for women’s health as a ruse to close down too many clinics. The data and examples of other less safe procedures that were allowed to go on in clinics revealed a purposeful attempt to severely limit women access. This was a huge win for women’s rights on allowing what to do with her body. Experts have noted this is the most important ruling on women’s right to abortion since 1992.

That is all for now. Have a great Tuesday.

 

 

A Path Appears – Women and Children need our help

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.

Only women bleed

If you were around in the 1970s, the name Alice Cooper conjures up a mental image of a hard rock star, who was one of the first performance artists. Yet, he also wrote and performed numerous hit songs. One of his more out of character songs is a poignant and troubling tribute to women who live a life they did not envision called “Only Women Bleed” which he wrote with Dick Wagner. Below are most of the lyrics, being shortened where he repeats the chorus.

Man’s got his woman to take his seed
He’s got the power – oh
She’s got the need
She spends her life through pleasing up her man
She feeds him dinner or anything she can

She cries alone at night too often
He smokes and drinks and don’t come home at all
Only women bleed
Only women bleed
Only women bleed

Man makes your hair gray
He’s your life’s mistake
All you’re really lookin’ for is an even break

He lies right at you
You know you hate this game
He slaps you once in a while and you live and love in pain

She cries alone at night too often
He smokes and drinks and don’t come home at all
Only women bleed
Only women bleed
Only women bleed (repeat)

Black eyes all of the time
Don’t spend a dime
Clean up this grime
And you there down on your knees begging me please come
Watch me bleed

Only women bleed
Only women bleed
Only women bleed (repeat)

I write this song today as the suspension of Ray Rice, the football player who decked his then fiancé and now wife, was overturned yesterday. I have written before that domestic violence happens far too often in our country (and world) and we look the other way. It starts as a control issue, where the man (almost always) exerts undue power and influence over his significant other. Eventually, it can lead to violence. And, it is not unusual for the woman to hide it from others, as she is ashamed. There is also an esteem issue, where victimized women feel they deserve this maltreatment.

The song’s lyrics speak to the lack of self-esteem. Women will continue in such a relationship, even when they end up bleeding or beaten black and blue. If you are in such a relationship, please get out now, especially if you have children. If you know or sense a friend or family member is in such a relationship, provide a voice and suggest where she can get help. He will not change. He will say he will, but he will not. He will eventually put you or your children in the hospital and could kill you. Please get out now, as that is the only antidote.

The agency I volunteer with for homeless families gets about 30% of its single female parent families as a result of domestic violence. They are referred to us from a domestic violence shelter for families. There are places that can help. I have shared the story of a friend who along with his siblings had no idea their brother-in-law was beating their sister until he killed her. He also beat the children. I have not shared that I had a neighbor who knocked on our door one night with her daughter, getting away from her husband who had beaten her for the last time.

Women, you deserve better than to be maltreated like this. Your children deserve better than to be maltreated like this. Get out. Get some help. And, if I have not convinced you, re-read Cooper and Wagner’s lyrics above. Only women bleed.

Domestic violence is nothing to play around with

The Ray Rice story is making the rounds the past twenty-four hours with his release from the Baltimore Ravens after a video showing him punching out his wife and then dragging her from an elevator. The National Football League denies having seen the video before, but now that it is in the public domain, moved quickly to suspend him. Rice’s wife Janay has blamed the media for causing her husband’s demise, which is unfortunate, but not unusual for the domestic violence victim to make excuses for her perpetrator. It is also not uncommon for the victim to blame themselves, because the perpetrator has told them such in an exercise to control. I feel for her and wish her friends will give her advice that I note below.

The sad truth is domestic violence is more than just the violent acts. It is one person controlling or dictating his power on another weaker person who lacks self-esteem. The violence tends to manifest itself at some point, but often it is demeaning put downs that are part and parcel with the equation. The victim’s esteem is so low, she blames herself and makes excuses for her perpetrator. If there are children around, they will normally be included in the violence. And, children who have experienced domestic violence will be prone to be involved in domestic violence as an adult, as a perpetrator or victim.

The other sad truth is the perpetrator will not be prone to change. He may say he will, but he will invariably fall back on bad habits. He may say he is sorry and he loves you, but that will be an echoing refrain each time. He is truly a powder keg waiting to explode. And, he will again and again. So, if you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation, get out or help them get out. He will not change.

Rather than cite statistics, let me repeat a story I have told before about a friend. He came from a big Catholic family of several brothers and sisters. None of the siblings including my friend had any idea one of their sisters was being beaten by her husband. None of them had any idea that the outings she missed were due to her wanting to save face for her family and hide her cuts, bruises and broken bones. None of them knew until one day the husband killed their sister. What they found out later is he also beat his children, often taking the boys and banging their heads into the ceiling when they misbehaved in his eyes.

I feel greatly for Janay Rice, but someone needs to tell her to get out. And, to repeat what I said before, if you are in such a relationship, get out. If you know someone is such a relationship, help them get out.

Two excellent posts about this issue can be found with the following links. The first is by Hugh Curtler on the NFL’s possible cover up of the issue. The other by Diatribes and Ovations on an open letter to Janay Rice.

http://hughcurtler.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/cover-up/

http://diatribesandovations.com/2014/09/09/diatribe-an-open-letter-to-janay-rice/