Category Archives: politics

Why do the buildings keep falling down?

That was the question that 18 years later I can still clearly hear my 4 year-old son asking me. Nearly two decades later, I still don’t have a good answer.

It was my second week of school teaching in a new district. A vendor with whom I had a scheduled appointment was late and explained as he arrived that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I pictured some yahoo in a small private  plane somehow making a horrific mistake.

My library’s television wasn’t on, but I did have a computer. The sales rep and I sat down and watched as the second plane hit the tower. I initially thought it was a repeating loop of the first plane, not being able to conceive of two different planes hitting this symbol of New York City. It was unimaginable.

A teacher who taught Participation in Government brought his class down to watch the library’s television and for the first time I heard the name Osama bin Laden. I had no idea who that was, but that teacher became a dear friend from whom I’ve since learned many additional things.

School closed early and faculty and students filed out of the building in a remarkably quiet fashion. Under the bluest of blues skies I drove to pick up my children from their daycare, eager to have them in my arms.

In the days which followed the sky continued to shine inexplicably blue. I drove the NYS thruway west to work as tractor trailers headed south laden with huge generators to provide power to those seeking survivors and recovering bodies of those lost.

In the weeks that followed, people were kinder to one another, voices were softer. There was a sense of appreciation for the heroism displayed by the police and fire fighters who risked their lives. Our country, while broken, was whole. We were United States.

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Filed under musings, NYC, Observations, politics

America is not the greatest country in the world

I’m first generation American, a position that gives me, I think, an interesting perspective on this country. I was bilingual until kindergarten when I came home from my half day of school and informed my mother that “this is America and we speak English here.” After that, I no longer was willing to speak German, a genuine loss when I visit my family in the Black Forest where most of them still reside.

Speaking a second language was not considered an asset in this country which arrogantly calls itself “America,” despite the fact that that is the name of two entire continents of which we are only one single country. In contrast, my mother spoke 3 languages while living in Europe, learning her fourth, English, upon arriving here in the mid-60s.

Growing up, we were encouraged to work hard in school because my mother saw education as the only means available to create a life better than the one into which we were born. My brother is a doctor and I hold an advanced degree. We own homes, have retirement accounts, travel, and generally have comfortable lives. In spite of childhoods consisting of a single parent home, Medicaid, and the shame of food stamps and free lunch, we made it.

Through hard work and social programs, my brother and I achieved what in many regards is considered the American Dream. So, why aren’t I more of a believer in the claim that America is the greatest country in the world? Well, it seems like there are quite a few reasons.

The income gap in the United States is outrageous. I don’t know about you, but I will never be convinced that a CEO is entitled to receive a salary that is on average 361 times the salary of the average worker. I’m not suggesting that the rest of the world is perfect, but America really excels in compensating executives at a more outrageous level than any where else in the world.

Do you have any idea how much our country spends on the military? How does the number $649 BILLION sound to you? It’s an amount comparable to the spending of the next eight countries – combined. Granted, this amount is less than what is budgeted for K-12 education,  but it remains an incredibly large number.

Speaking of education, when I was in Greece last month, I spoke with a couple from Scotland and asked them how college “worked” in their country. How much does it cost? Who pays for it? Their response – tuition is free and students are only responsible for related expenses such as room, board and books. The cost of those items can be met with loans, which essentially have an interest rate close to zero with repayment of the loans not beginning until the borrower reaches a certain level of income. Doesn’t that sound a lot more fair and reasonable than our government, which is the largest lender to students, earning interest off citizens trying to improve their lives?

During my travels I’ve been struck by the price of groceries (low) and the quality of public transportation (high) in the European countries which I’ve visited. Access to health care, while not perfect, does not seem to bankrupt families in the way I’ve observed it occurring in this country.

Solar and wind energy seem much more common in Europe and vehicles are more compact and fuel efficient than those found in America. Homes are smaller, not requiring the same resources to maintain, heat and cool. Vacation time is more generous, as are family leave policies when it comes to child rearing, with tax incentives available to soften the blow of losing an income while a parent stays home to raise a child.

America has been good to my family, but it is not the greatest country in the world and we need to recognize that. While it once may have been a true beacon of freedom and opportunity for all, that time has passed. A country which separates families seeking asylum, fails to provide preventative healthcare to the poor and the underemployed and has different justice and education systems for people depending upon the color of their skin really doesn’t sound all that great to me.

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Filed under Education, Europe, ideas, musings, Observations, politics, Rant, travel

Hearing voices

Driving in my car the other day, I caught WAMC’s Joe Donahue conducting an interview with a woman whose name I didn’t catch, having tuned in mid broadcast. As I listened to the conversation I realized the woman’s voice was familiar…it was my friend, Sally, who works for the University. How cool! I turned up the volume and enjoyed listening to the smart and compassionate conversation about important things impacting college students today, like food insecurity, stress and mental health.

From what Sally said, there are many resources available to assist the population with which she works. The Campus Center seems to be the hub for where students can physically access this support and I hope the various programs in place are able to work to their capacity. They’re doing good work.

I imagine the two perpetrators of last weekend’s mass shootings were each of the age the resources of Purple Pantry and related services are designed to aid. If they weren’t currently students, there were probably community programs to assist with mental health issues available to both young men. I know, from a meeting I sort of* attended at the Savoy last month, that the city of Albany offers referrals to numerous low cost or free counseling and other support systems for those in need and I would think most communities offer something along these lines, right?

Let’s just argue, though, for the sake of arguing, because that’s what we do when we’re afraid and hesitant to make hard decisions, and say that there was no possibility for either of these cold blooded killers to access any resources which might have improved their lives, and potentially avoided the taking of dozens of innocent lives.

Ok, if that is indeed the case, why in the world were either of these two young men permitted to purchase weapons and ammunition that would allow them murder people at a rate of approximately one every 8 seconds? Why are the laws in place so inadequate that a man who caused his high school to be placed on lock down, because of his threats to classmates via lists of whom he wanted to kill or rape, is permitted a few short years later, to purchase guns capable of wreaking that kind of carnage?

I’m starting hear more and more people coming to the same devastating conclusion – this is who we are. This is America, land of the free, home of the gun. If an arguably not for profit organization, like the NRA, and its demands trump the expectation that our children, siblings, parents, lovers and friends should be able to conduct lives in schools and stores and offices and concert venues and festivals and places of worship and not be gunned down…well, I guess it’s time to either own it or fix it. Because next time it just might be you or yours.

A last anecdote – a friend, who owns a local food business and vends at many markets, shared the following:

You can bet that’s my new Starbucks’ name.

 

*The room was packed and I couldn’t get in to the meeting. Closed circuit tv allowed for viewing from the bar.

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Filed under Albany, Local, musings, News, Observations, politics, Rant, Schools

Don’t worry about a thing

Wednesday evening when Stephen Marley sang that lyric I wanted to go there with him to a place where there are no worries. Releasing the weight of worry sounds amazing. All that energy previously occupied with fretting about things beyond one’s own control can be put to use so much more productively. Instead of creating scenarios of doom, our brains could be creating something beautiful. God, that would be such a nice change from beginning the morning with the latest shit Twitter storm and then being consumed with the responses and breaking news for the remainder of the day.

The Right and the Left, along with the Socialists when they’re able to participate in the war of  opinion overload, are producing so much information that it feels like an assault, a mental and emotional injury almost. It hurts.

Turn it off, you say? How does one do that? It feels to me like we’re living a reality that we’ve read about in history books, very pre-WWII. I stay connected to media because I don’t want my grandchildren to ever ask me what I did during these dark and divided days only for me to respond with “I ignored it.” Digesting, processing and trying to understand news and information these days is an excruciating job, but as invested humans we have to make an effort.

I looked around the Plaza and saw so many different and unique looking people, all together enjoying great music on a beautiful summer night. As you might imagine, “Every little thing is gonna be alright,”* is certainly a statement in which I’d like to believe. Maybe I’m focusing on the “wrong” things, universal health care, access to quality education, the acknowledgement of everyone’s equal civil rights, instead of the unemployment rate and the performance of my 403B.

Is it me or are you worried too?

*Confession: I inserted “once Trump and his ilk are gone” after every verse.

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Filed under aging, Albany, concerts, Events, musings, News, Observations, politics, stress, Uncategorized, upstate New York

I want my country back

Nearly every day there’s another anxiety inducing situation or remark delivered courtesy of the incompetent and corrupt Trump administration. There is no end in sight and I’m growing increasingly concerned about the state of our country and what the future may hold. To be perfectly blunt – shit is scary and I find myself frequently on the edge obsessing over the direction in which the President seems to be leading us. It is really bad.

As a librarian, I was trained to evaluate information and seek multiple perspectives on topics and I try to apply those skills in my personal media consumption. I sometimes listen to conservative radio when I’m in the car and have made a point of checking Fox and other media outlets to get the “other side” of the story because I really want to understand their position. I truly don’t want to only absorb opinions that match my own, but when I listen to right wing commentators I feel my heart start to race. How are we interpreting the same actions in such radically different ways?

My only explanation for our divergent viewpoints is differing motivations and priorities. Personally, I’m not particularly motivated to accumulate money, so the purported tax break doesn’t impress me. I’d be much happier having any reduction of my tax burden being redistributed to people who need it more than I. The popular technique of demonizing refugees and other people seeking safety and opportunity isn’t very effective either. I’m not afraid of people who don’t look like me or who have skin of a different color. I’d like to think that I’m evolved enough to recognize that if fear of “other” was compelling me to behave in a particular way towards certain people, I would know that it was a deficit in myself, and not them.

The things in life that are most important to me, my priorities, are things like clean water, breathable air, a stable home, and access to food, education and health care. I’m not interested in building walls. Instead, I want to know why in a country as rich in resources as ours, there are people who do not have their most basic needs met. Why are there families who have to choose between food and medicine? How do low and middle income families ever get ahead? Hard work no longer reliably gets rewarded in our society. How many people do you know who work their asses off 40 or 50 hours a week to, at best, barely hang on to basic necessities?

Speaking of bare necessities, we can agree that these include a place to safely sleep, essential hygiene products like a toothbrush, and linens suited to the environment are essential, can’t we? I’m disgusted to know that employees of the federal government are in a position in which they must either:

A. seriously argue that a blanket is not a required item for a child sleeping on a concrete floor or 

B. actually resist that avenue of thinking and, perhaps, even decry the kind of fucked up logic that is currently being put forth by the Whitehouse and refuse the task.

I’ve always refused to allow fear to be the reason behind the choices I make and resent the Republican game which makes this emotion such a central part of their playbook. I have to admit, though, that I am afraid. Our government is becoming something I’ve never before seen in our country and there does not seem to be a bottom to our fall. I’m tired of hearing about the economy and I don’t care how well anyone’s portfolio is doing. It doesn’t mean anything to me if unemployment is at historically low rates, either. You see, those highs and lows mean nothing if our souls are bankrupt and the expectations for our elected representatives are satisfied by the quality of the people currently in those positions. It’s time to get involved and resist. I want my country back.

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Alabama getaway

I am so tired of the abortion debate. Not like too exhausted to continue to fight for women to have control of their own reproductive choices. No, that isn’t it at all. I mean, like so weary of having to argue with people who believe that they have the authority to dictate what any woman can do with her body. The kind of tired that makes a person angry and liable to snap. Like hangry on a massive dose of steroids. Yeah, like that.

Circa 1982

 

 

To me, taking responsibility for an unintended pregnancy as a teenager meant terminating because I knew I wasn’t responsible enough to care for a child. I had no education, no career and no partner with whom I wanted to raise a child. My life style then was far less moderate than my current one and the pregnancy, as I said, was unplanned. That eventual child would not have been provided with its best start and caring for a infant, with potential birth defects, certainly would have been far beyond my capabilities as a high school student. My choice was the best one in my situation.

It was no body’s* business but my own, and only my soul, if there’s such a thing, will bear the scars of my choice. Just like it’s my body, it’s my karma or damnation. It has nothing to do with you, so don’t try to make it your business.

It’s not about YOU or God. Not everything is.

I’ve never claimed to not wonder, or think, about what that embryo may have grown to become. I’ve always been convinced that the aborted baby was a girl and, after being fortunate enough to birth three sons, I’m ok with the universe fucking with me like that. That being said, I have zero regret about my decision and I truly believe that the energy that was gathering cells together within my body, went somewhere else in the universe. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I have a close female friend who is essentially the same age my child would be and I appreciate that her own mother was in a position to welcome her into the world in a way that I could not. She is a gift.

So, while I’m more than tired of hypocritical politicians, men who seek to exert control over a woman’s reproductive decisions and people who care more about the life of an unborn child than they do of one that is living in horrendous conditions, I will not ever rest on this issue. Promise.

*get it? MY body

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Filed under girlhood, News, Observations, politics, Rant, secrets

Keeping Christ in Christmas

As in “Jesus Christ, are you kidding me?” Let’s talk for a moment about babies and Christians and Christmas songs and greetings and how the upcoming holiday has become a battleground instead of a celebration and why reasonable human beings are allowing that to happen.

To begin, babies. Big confession here…I don’t find babies to be very interesting. When I say I didn’t even like my own babies all that much until I had my third, I am being completely honest. My lack of enthusiasm for infants, however, doesn’t prevent me from feeling incredibly sad for children who are separated from their families or born into situations which fail to provide opportunity or stability. You know, like Jesus – and all the children who continue to live in tents apart from their families in a state of imprisonment. How people who claim the mantle of “Christian” can fail to see the parallels between their savior and those babies is truly one of the wonders of Christmas to me.

“Baby, It’s Cold Out” is not a date rape song in my head or heart. They’re flirting, he’s cajoling her to stay and she’s finding lame ass excuses blaming everyone but herself for not being able to stay. That’s my read at least and I’m entitled to it. I refuse to feel icky about this song, but you can feel free to rail against it if you must. I’m not buying in to that craziness and I’m not taking that song off my holiday season playlist.

The phrase “Merry Christmas” should be received by non-Christmas celebrants in the same way “Happy Hump Day is. Maybe neither are your holiday, but it’s ok to acknowledge that they’re both important days to those who choose to celebrate. If someone wishes you the “wrong” sentiment, do you really get offended by their greeting? Isn’t there so much more to take offense from in our world? You know, like children in cages? As for me, I’m just going to keep saying “Merry Christmas.”

Migrants and other seekers of asylum and the chance for a better life, should be more compassionately dealt with, particularly by those who like to claim religion as their justification for how they approach the world. Please don’t talk to me about the miracle of a savior’s birth in a manger if you’re unwilling to recognize the efforts being made by contemporary families to achieve a similarly blessed life for their own child(ren).

I’m all about remembering the reason for the season, but, Jesus Christ, can’t we do a better job honoring him?

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Filed under Christmas, holidays, Music, musings, Observations, politics, Uncategorized