Friday, December 11, 2015

Go, Sheila!

Many times I have attended the Santa Monica City Council meeting to speak my 2 minutes on one topic or another.

Here's a night when a local nutcase spouting off against Syrian refugees was shut down by Sheila Kuehl, the coolest council person ever:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Suicide Love at First Sight

Yes, as I suspected, both Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik shopped online for a spouse who would join in a suicidal terrorist attack.

Also they got a loan online for the money to carry out their attack.

Ah, the world-wide web--we are all now stuck in this web being used both for good and for evil.

150 Years Today

"In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free." 

With those words, President Abraham Lincoln marked the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery--on December 9, 1865.  

Today President Obama used those words to begin his brief speech to Congress marking 150 since that ratification.

"The scars of our nation's original sin are with us still today," he continued.

He didn't need to recite a list: police shootings of young black men, the arrest and death of Sandra Bland, #blacklivesmatter, etc.

He also urged Americans to "push back against bigotry in all its forms."  That comment needed no explanation either.  I refuse to use the t-word in this blog.

I thank and praise God for this president and for our slow progress toward equality.

Injustice in the House of Representatives

How is it possible that Republicans refuse to allow a vote on whether terrorists should be allowed to buy guns and explosives?

All day yesterday and again today, these NRA-owned old men refuse to stand up and vote or to let anyone else vote.  For example, there's Dana Rohrabacher in Costa Mesa, where I used to live.

Thanks a bunch, guys.

May you rot in Hell.

Hooray for Rep. Mike Thompson of St. Helena, who led some of the efforts.

My hero is Rep. Jackie Speier, who was shot five times in the Jonestown Massacre in 1978 as part of a team led by Rep. Leo Ryan to investigate a cult led by a nut called Jim Jones.  Ryan was killed.

If Jackie Speier says we need to vote on whether people on the FBI terrorist watch list should be allowed to buy guns, we should listen.  

She knows what she's talking about.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Wife with a Secret

FBI photo courtesy of Associated Press
Tashfeen Malik was a wife with a secret.

Forget the girl with a pearl earring.  Contemplate this heavily veiled wife with the red bra.

After the shoot-out with police, her body lay exposed in a street.

"It appears to be the body of a woman," a television news reporter announced. "She's wearing a red bra."

The sexy, head-to-toe veiled gunwoman--right?

Her face, finally unveiled in an FBI photo, shows a slight smirk.

Growing up in Saudi Arabia, Tashfeen was taught to live behind a veil.  She had to cover her face and her body, not just her hair.

What does it do to a woman to live with your whole identity concealed?

Perhaps it teaches duplicity: you have one identity behind the walls of your home, another in public.

Tashfeen's family members were immigrants from Pakistan.  Some immigrants enthusiastically adopt the culture of the new country in an attempt to win acceptance.

Her father had separated from his brothers and birth family over property and religious disputes, even leaving the country.  Tashfeen learned anger and family feuding.

Even in Pakistan, however, her educated, politically influential family was described as "having some extremist credentials."

If you lived in a nation that had been invented just fifty years earlier by other nations, then wrapping up a world war, you too might lean toward extremism.

Britain, other Europeans and the US contributed to the creation of  Pakistan and Bangladesh in 1947 as a solution to Hindu-Muslim rivalry and violence.  Mohandas Gandhi opposed the creation of separate states: "I find no parallel in history for a body of converts and their descendants claiming to be a nation apart from the parent stock."

In addition to her dual background in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Tashfeen was ambitious and well-educated.  Where does that take you if your religion opposes women working outside the home and even driving?  What avenues for achievement do you have?

She had been an excellent student of pharmacology at Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan, southern Pakistan.  Starting with Taliban attacks in 2007, the area dealt with "notoriety as centers of radical sectarian activity," reports Declan Walsh in the New York Times.

But in Pakistan, she was clearly Saudi, "a classic product of the conservatizing influence that Saudi Arabia has brought to bear on countries like Pakistan," writes Walsh.  German vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel noted on Sunday the Saudi export of extremism.  ISIS fighters, Al-Qaeda founders--many can be traced to Saudi roots.

This quiet, covered apparently submissive woman was planning a terrorist attack.  She would become famous for being a gunwoman, but her own brother-in-law and sister-in-law had no inking of her ambitions.

While in university, she also briefly attended a religious school for women, Al Huda, accused of teaching that  ‘Muslims are destined to lead the world’ and ‘the corrupt West must be confronted.’

In any case, Tashfeen Malik achieved her goals.  She and her husband killed 14 people, wounded 21 others, and created a sensation beginning with her Facebook-posted allegiance to an ISIS leader as the attack began.

Her history appears to present a recipe for how to make a female suicide terrorist.


Here's Wikipedia on women's rights in Saudi Arabia:
hijab is a traditional Islamic norm whereby women are required "to draw their outer garments around them (when they go out or are among men)" and dress in a modest manner.[58] Saudi Arabia is different from many Islamic societies in the extent of the covering that it considers Islamically correct hijab (everything except the hands and eyes) and the fact that covering is enforced by Mutaween or religious police.
Among non-mahram men, women must cover the parts of the body that are awrah (not meant to be exposed). In much of Islam, a women's face is not considered awrah. In Saudi Arabia and some other Arab states, all of the body is considered awrah except the hands and eyes. Accordingly, most women are expected to wear the hijab (head covering), a full black cloak called an abaya, and a face-veil called niqab. Many historians and Islamic scholars hold that the custom, if not requirement, of the veil predates Islam in parts of the region. They argue that the Quran was interpreted to require the veil as part of adapting it to tribal traditions.[59] [60][61][62]
Traditionally, women's clothing must not reveal anything about her body. It is supposed to be thick, opaque, and loose. It should not resemble the clothing of men (or non-Muslims).[63]

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Father

We think our actions don't have consequences.

Syed Farook, father of Syed Rizwan Farook, was so violent when his children were young that his Muslim wife eventually filed for divorce.

His two sons and daughter had to defend their mother from him.  He moved to Corona and lived quietly there, unaware that the seeds of violence planted in one son were growing.

Now living in Corona, he described his reaction when he first saw this son with a gun: "I became angry. In 45 years in the United States, I yelled, 'I have never had a weapon.' 

He thought that the line he had drawn--violence but without guns--would be observed by his sons.

His anger and yelling confirm the portrait drawn in his wife's divorce documents.

While we are looking for ways to stop mass shootings, we have to start with parents and children, with domestic violence.  

Killers have to be groomed and taught.  

If you are trying to learn ways to be patient with children, to manage your own moments of anger, you are taking steps to prevent killing.

See this excellent book by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish:

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Mother

"Farook's mother lived with the couple, staying mainly upstairs.  Farook liked to tinker in his garage."

With these words, Los Angeles Times reporters told us as much as they knew about Rafia Farook, beyond the divorce papers filed in 2006 from a violently abusive, often drunk husband.

Presumably investigators know more, having questioned her for seven hours.

The big question: how could this mother not know something was afoot?

There were Christmas lights found in the two-story townhouse, used to rig up detonation for pipe bombs.

Did Rafia see the strings of lights?  Wouldn't she ask why in Allah's name they were in the house?

Did she come downstairs for her meals?  No part of that huge arsenal was in the kitchen or living room, no empty containers in the trash?

When her son and his wife left the baby with her, she didn't notice an odd calmness, a clenched jaw?  She didn't call a family member or the police.

Perhaps Rafia knew that one wrong move on her part, and they would execute her. 

Perhaps she had suspicions but felt helpless to do anything, a hostage in her son's home.

Perhaps she had no job, no way of moving out and supporting herself.

Having already been a battered wife for many years, perhaps she did not have the strength to challenge what she saw or heard.

Perhaps the killers couldn't shoot her or the baby--a noise would alert neighbors and endanger their plans.

Another possibility is that she suspected and protected her son's activity.  She was an "active member" of the Islamic Circle of North America, described as having "ties to a radical Pakistani political group, Jamaat-e-Islami, according to the Daily Caller."

In fact, Anwar al-Alwaki had spoken at an ICNA event in 2002.  The US Army major who killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009 had exchanged emails with al-Awlaki.

In any case, this mother lost her son and her self-respect on December 2.  Her granddaughter is with Child Protective Services.

Rafia Farook will live with regrets: a failed marriage, a dead son, and failure as a mother, the omnipresent blame all mothers fear if their children fail to thrive.  

This sad mother, my age or a little younger, will live her remaining years in shame.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

"The Gun Epidemic"--An Editorial First

Succinct and dramatic--the editorial on the front page of today's New York Times.

"The Gun Epidemic."

Thank you, editors, for this statement.  

No newspaper has ever before run an editorial on the front page as far as I know.

"Certain kinds of weapons, like the slightly modified combat rifles used in California, and certain kinds of ammunition must be outlawed for civilian ownership."

From the previous day's editorial:

While the nation suffered through the shock of another bloody massacre, on Thursday every Senate Republican except Mark Kirk of Illinois voted against legislation to prevent people on the F.B.I.’s consolidated terrorist watchlist from purchasing guns or explosives.
The measure has been introduced repeatedly since 2007. 

See also:

 "How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment":

"The Price We Pay for Liberty?"

"Tough Talk and a Cowardly Vote on Terrorism"

"America Remains Top Arms Seller to the World"

"Meet the 45 Senators Who Blocked Background Checks"

Coalition to End Gun Violence

Friday, December 4, 2015

Soft Targets

As I entered the gym this morning for my Pilates class, I thought of how easily someone could shoot up the place.

I feel secure in my own home, but as soon as I arrive at a place where many people gather, thoughts of possible shooters enter my mind.

These two young residents of Redlands have succeeded in planting terror.

At 11 am I arrived at the DMV to renew my driver's license, wondering if any irate person might select this government office as a target.  It is certainly soft: open doors, 100-200 people standing in lines and sitting in chairs.

When I saw two babies being pushed in strollers, the baby left with her grandmother in San Bernardino came to mind.  How do you kiss a baby goodbye and pick up an AR-15 assault rifle?

A few weeks ago in Telluride, after the shooting in Paris, I had joked, "Well, at least we're safe here.  No terrorist would select this area as a target."  

Today, I'm not so sure.  No one would have predicted the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino as a place to watch out for violence.  Disrupting ski tourism seems a more likely event than killing at that unknown building filled with county offices.

I lived in San Bernardino for a year and gave birth in the Redlands Community Hospital.  Was that where the gunwoman had her baby?

Two and a half years ago, the same assault rifle was used to kill seven people in Santa Monica, at the college a half-block from my house.

In 2003 Santa Monica hosted the driving-error killing of ten people by an 86-year-old who stepped on the wrong pedal of his Buick LeSabre.

All these places are what we now call soft targets.  No care had been taken to insure killers would not enter, whether armed with guns or with an automobile.

Do we need guards at the door of every gym, football field, and state or county government office?  (Federal buildings now have armed security guards and gun detectors.)

It's not hard to plant terror.  It's hard to grow peace.

Background Checks? Who Needs Them?

How can anybody be against background checks?  

Except criminals.

Why does the National Rifle Association oppose them?

The US Senate voted against background checks three times today.

I can't believe it.  Thank you, NRA and the Republican Party.

1)  Senator John Cornyn of Texas--a Republican--introduced a bill (or maybe amendment?) to "delay firearms sales to suspected terrorists for up to 72 hours."  Senators voted for it 55 to 44, but it needed 60 votes to pass.  

Hell, we sure wouldn't want to delay anybody's purchase of a gun for three days.  Give those terrorists fast service!

2)  Senator Dianne Feinstein of California--my senator--introduced a bill to "make it harder for people the government suspects of being terrorists" to purchase firearms.  That failed with 54 votes against, 45 in favor.  She'd already introduced this one earlier this year.

Keep it easy for terrorists to get their guns!

3)  Then a bipartisan proposal to" require background checks for all gun purchases online and at gun shows" was introduced as an amendment to a bill being voted on.  Republican Senator Patrick Toomey (Pennsylvania) and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin (West Virginia) introduced it, as they had lasts March when it was proposed an an amendment to the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act but voted down 54 to 46.

Gun shows will remain a free for all--no background checks.  And of course, people buying guns online need to do that free of government interference.  

Thank you to Mother Jones for printing the names of all 45 senators who voted against background checks.

May they be swiftly voted out of office.  

May the NRA money that elected them be written on their tombstones.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Baby

The shooters handed their six-month old baby to her grandmother before beginning their massacre.

That fact stops me in my tracks.

Hearing about her on the news this morning, I keep returning to that moment all day today.

On the one hand, they did not shoot their baby as part of their preparations, but they might as well have.

She will grow up to learn what her parents did.

Did they love her but loved their mission more?

Did they withhold love from her, using her as cover for their deadly plans?

Apparently the young man witnessed violence and abuse by his father in his home.  He had to protect his mother.  He was quiet and withdrawn in high school.

Who knows what violence the young woman witnessed in Pakistan or in her home?

He shopped for a wife who would be a suicide bomber.  He found one.  Perhaps she did the same.

After reading how the ISIS fighters in Syria are allowed to marry but not to have children, I fear that this couple allowed the pregnancy only as a way to look normal and cover their plans.

How do you turn off feelings for a baby?

When in the evolution of primates did they begin to kill each other?  Was it food and territory that they fought over?

Is this couple fighting for territory in some sense?  Give space to Islam.  Respect Islam--or fear Islam.

Every mass killer has a message:  I exist.  Notice me.  Listen to me.

These two killers left a mixed message: death to many, life to our child.

But what a life.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Helping Endangered Women in Iraq

Yanar Mohammed could be living safely and quietly in Toronto.  That's the dream of so many refugees from Syria and Iraq.

But Yanar returned to Iraq to organize safe homes for women who flee honor killings, rape, forced marriage, and other evils.

Today in Iraq the 12th-century Shari'ah legal system is being enforced.

She notes that women's voices have been ignored by the UN Security Council in making decisions about Iraq.

“For me, the Islamist groups on the ground are like the Ku Klux Klan in the U.S., or the Nazis in Germany,” she said on the phone from Toronto this week.

Here are two websites related to her work:

Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq

Women on the Frontline

May her work be blessed and supported.

Pro-Life Killers

Thinking about the lives lost in Colorado Springs...

People believe that they can shout and wave signs outside a Planned Parenthood clinic and still be innocent when blood is shed at that location by a crazy man.

These people and the gunman are "pro-life."

The gunman showed his commitment to the lives of fertilized eggs by killing adults on the street and at a health clinic.

These demonstrators vent their fury and unknowingly fan the flames of violence.  

To try another metaphor, their emotions and words ferment in the brains of fringe lunatics, sometimes resulting in mayhem.

“There are protests of varying sizes outside that building probably six days a week,” said one person who was interviewed. Sometimes the protests attract as many as 200 people, but “most days there are a dozen people there,” he added.

May this clinic reopen in peace and no longer be plagued by violence.

Turning Away Refugees

It's hard to believe a Democratic in the House of Representatives, a person who once attended the same church as I, would vote against the Syrian refugees.

But it's true.  She and seven other CA Democrats voted for HR 4038, "legislation that would effectively halt the resettlement of refugees from Syria and Iraq to the United States."

Julia Brownley got elected to the school board in Santa Monica, where she didn't even answer my email when I had a problem with Santa Monica High School.  In 2003 my daughter Marie had a truly dismal teacher for US History, but the school wouldn't let Marie move to another classroom.

We fought for two months until finally the Supervisor of the district met with John and me and Marie and the principal, and Marie was allowed to change to a class with a decent teacher.  Two years later the incompetent teacher's contract was not renewed.  The wheels of justice turn slowly.  

In that case, justice came about with no help from Julia Brownley, who somehow became a member of the Assembly in California and then, moving to Ventura County, was elected to the House, where she still appears to be either without compassion or more interested in getting reelected than in helping victims of the war in Syria who need to relocate to another country.  

I'm guilty of contributing $25 to her campaigns once or twice.  I'm sorry.

Philanthropist Blake Byrne feels the same regret on a larger scale; he wrote to Brownley and seven others like her, as well as to the the LA Times.

"...Reelection at the expense of the Syrian refugees is not worth reelection, " he wrote.

If you live in Thousand Oaks or anywhere in Dictrict 26, contact Julia and ask her to rethink her position on the Syrian refugees.

See also this website, which lists the 92 places where the Bible tells us to welcome the stranger/sojourner/refugee ("ger" in Hebrew).

"For the LORD your God is God of gods... who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing" (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).  

"There shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you" (Exodus 12:49).

If you live in the districts of Scott Peters (San Diego), Pete Aguilar (Redlands), Ami Bera (Elk Grove), Jim Costa (Fresno), John Garamendi (Walnut Grove), Janice Hahn (Los Angeles), or Raul Ruiz (Palm Desert), please contact them and urge them to rethink their position in light of the Bible's teaching.

Strangers were not usually welcomed in Bible times.  This teaching is counter-intuitive but compassionate.  

Let's do the right thing as a nation.  We took part in the destabilization of the Middle East that has turned patriotic Syrians into refugees.

It's our duty to allow these people to resettle here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

No longer "The Honorable"

Woodrow Wilson has been exposed for the racist, self-obsessed, mediocre man he was.

Thank you to Joyce Carol Oates for her historical fiction The Accursed, in which Wilson plays a major role and comes across as a pathetic narcissist.

Thank you to the students of Princeton University for protesting publicly because their School of Public and International Affairs still bears the name of this man.

Thank you to the New York Times for publishing an editorial, "The Case Against Woodrow Wilson," supporting the renaming of this school.

Oates spent nearly thirty years researching, writing, setting aside, and writing again for this fictionalized account of racists including Wilson in the early 1900s at Princton Seminary, 

As James Russell Lowell once wrote, in a poem that is now a hymn:

Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,—
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

In other words, truth will out.

"Once to Every Man and Nation" on YouTube

Monday, November 23, 2015

Discarded Women

How disheartening to hear how Syrian women are tricked, coerced, and used by ISIS... and then discarded.

These three women eventually escaped to Turkey, but first they were coerced into marriages with ISIS foreigners who turned out to be suicide bombers.  

The men were not allowed to become fathers, lest they abandon their mission.  So the "wives" were not allowed to get pregnant.

One day their husbands disappeared and soon men came to inform them that they were widows.

Soon thereafter they were again coerced to marry new ISIS warriors...but these three escaped across the border into Turkey to tell their stories.

And now the US is urging Turkey to close 100 km of its border with Syria?

How will refugees escape?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Bombs Don't Bring Peace

Thank you to Senator Bernie Sanders for speaking the truth about the Middle East as much of the world rushes to war.

It was the US bombing of Baghdad that destabilized the Middle East and led to the formation of the so-called Islamic State.

More bombing is not going to solve anything unless it is a unified effort planned by the United Nations.

What we need to do is assist the young immigrants and children of immigrants in Europe and the US to find meaningful lives, so they will not be desperate enough to become suicide bombers and terrorists.

Thank you to President Obama for not rushing to war in Syria in the past few years as most Republican presidents would have done.

These are Sanders' words:

I voted against the war in Iraq, and knew it was the right vote then, and most people recognize it was the right vote today. The only mission President Bush and his neo-conservative friends accomplished was to destabilize an entire region, and create the environment for al-Qaeda and ISIS to flourish.
While we must be relentless in combating terrorists who would do us harm, we cannot and should not be policeman of the world, nor bear the burden of fighting terrorism alone. The United States should be part of an international coalition, led and sustained by nations in the region that have the means to protect themselves. That is the only way to defeat ISIS and to begin the process of creating the conditions for a lasting peace in the region.”– Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Cheers for RBG and Gloria Steinem

Three cheers for feminist leaders in their 80s--Gloria Steinem (b. 1934), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (b. 1933), Virginia Ramey Mollenkott (b. 1932), and Letha Dawson Scanzoni (b. 1935), for starters.

Read the great interview with Gloria and Ruth, who have been friends since the 1970s.

In the 1950s, the Harvard Law School dean met with the 9 women in a class of 500 beginning law students (including RBG) and asked them, "How do you justify taking a spot from a qualified man?"

Gloria Steinem, meanwhile, was interviewing Saul Bellow for an article when Gay Talese, also present, commented, "Every year a pretty girl comes to New York and pretends to be a writer.  This year, it's Gloria."

"The Fights of Their Lives" is the title of this fascinating interview by Philip Galanes.  Photo by Hilary Swift, taken in RBG's private chambers at the Supreme Court.  

Here are seven striking  quotations taken from the interview:

Gloria's new memoir, My Life on the Road (Random House), prompted this interview.  See this review by Ann Friedman:

Friedman faults GS for three things: not valuing online dialogue enough, including only her professional and intellectual life in the memoir, and not explaining her current decision to focus on nesting as well as traveling.

The charge about not including her emotional and relational life is not fair.  GS has already written seven other books, including Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1983) and Doing Sixty and Seventy (2006).  When one sets out to write a memoir, one has to choose what to include and what to leave out.  The current book is already 276 pages, without her personal life.  

Is Friedman wishing the book were twice as long?  Of course the love/family vs. career conflict is a prime topic in most women's lives today, and we would like to know what suffering GS encountered in the choices she made.

However, that's not what she chose to write about.  The central metaphor of this book is the road--a life centered on travel.  Let's respect her choice--choice--and not demand discussion of the home vs. work issue that men are rarely asked about, until they decide to retire "for family reasons."

As for not explaining her decision to seek a balance between nesting and travel in her eighties, please!  The woman is 81 years old.  She has already addressed the subject of aging in her previous book, Doing Sixty and Seventy.

Perhaps Friedman's core quibble here is that GS "assures readers that we don't have to give up the journey in order to have a home, and vice versa." I will have to read the memoir to find out whether I agree that GS asks too much of women in a you-can-do-it-all-have-it-all mode.

That problem--not being able to balance work and home adequately--is the subject of the memoir I am working on.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

In Memoriam: Faith Sand

Faith Annette Sand lived a life of courage as well as faith.

She served as a missionary in Brazil for fifteen years, adopting eight children while she was there.  

She had the courage to publish my pro-choice abortion book in 1994, when women's clinics were being bombed and attacked.

In the last years of her life she fought metastatic melanoma with faith and courage.
I met her through Evangelical Women's Caucus, a feminist group founded in 1974. 
Born in Minneapolis in 1939, she died on August 5, 2015.  A family gathering was held shortly after.
Her public memorial service was celebrated on November 7, 2015, at the Cathedral Center of St. Paul in Los Angeles.
Faith attended Hampden DuBose Academy and graduated from Wheaton College in 1961.
After serving in Brazil, she returned to the US and earned an MA in Missiology from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1982.
She founded Hope Publishing House, published many books and wrote three books, Travels of FaithAdventures of Faith, and Prayers of Faith.
She leaves her husband, the Reverend Albert Gleaves Cohen; two daughters from her first marriage, Heather Pidcoke-Krause and Heidi Pidcoke; and her Brazilian children.
Members of the Southwest chapter of EEWC-CFT will remember Faith for hosting their annual Epiphany party in her beautiful home for many years.
Faith and Albert supported the placement of this stained-glass portrait of St. Teresa of Avila in St. Athanasius Church at the Cathedral Center of St. Paul.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Dying for Peace in Israel

Richard Lakin gave his life for peace in Israel.

He attended peace activist events and gave his Facebook page a theme of Palestinian-Israeli friendship.

See the NY Times article, Oct. 29.

But haters responded with threats of violence on FB.

A few days ago he boarded a bus that was attacked. He was knifed and shot. He became another Jesus, giving his life for others.

We must tell FB to block posts that promote and teach violence against others, especially Jews. Richard's family has filed a suit against FB.

We must all work for peace.

Friday, October 16, 2015

To Watch or Not to Watch

Eclipsed may not be my cup of tea.  It's the drama about women's suffering during the Liberian civil war that eventually ousted dictator Charles Taylor.

Written by Danai Gurira, this show opened two days ago on Broadway in New York City, but I'm thankful that it hasn't arrived in Los Angeles yet.  I don't have to make a decision about whether to see it.

Rape, sexual slavery, brutalization, and dehumanization are important problems to address in wars that include these practices, but I'm not sure that I can sit down in a theatre and become a witness as part of an evening of entertainment.

Lupita Nyong'o, Oscar winner for her supporting role in Twelve Years a Slave, is one of the stars, but her vivid portrayal of suffering may be too much for me.

Just watching the violence of The Suffragette last month was jarring enough, and those events took place one hundred years ago.

Thank you to Charles Isherwood for his review, but this is one I may have to pass up.

Demystifying the King James Bible

The King James Bible, published in 1611, is routinely used to oppress women and LGBT people.

Now a researcher in England has unearthed a draft of two books of the Apocrypha that show an individual translator working with Greek, Latin, and Hebrew texts to translate 1 Esdras and The Wisdom of Solomon into English.

This man is working alone in order to contribute his work to the group effort of some 48 individuals.

This evidence contradicts the "mythos" surrounding the King James translation: "that it was a collaborative project through and through," reports Jennifer Schuessler for the New York Times.

The rest of the mythos is that the KJV is divinely inspired and no translators made any errors or wrong judgments.  Therefore, believers today should read no translation except the KJV, preferably one with the words of Jesus printed in red.

For example, where the Hebrew reads ezer (help--often used for God's help) "appropriate" for the needs of the first human (ha-adam), the KJV translators introduced a new word helpmeet that has been used to reduce the presence of woman in the newly divided pair ish and isha (male and female) to the level of an assistant to the male (Genesis 2:18).

This translation of two words into one helpmeet is still being used to oppress women today.

Likewise, the KJV use of the word sodomite to refer to various idolatrous sexual practices mentioned in the Hebrew Bible has caused much oppression against LGBT persons over the last four hundred years.  The Hebrew word should probably be translated cult prostitute. (See Deut. 23:17, 1 Kings 14:24, 15:12, 22:46 and 2 Kings 23:7.)

Letha Dawson Scnzoni and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott quote John Boswell to analyze this problem in their book Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? (1978; rev. 1994).  

"Pointing out that this idea arises from a mistranslation of a word meaning simply 'cult prostitute,' historian John Boswell states that 'there is no reason to assume such prostitutes serviced persons of their own sex.... almost no theologians invoked these passages as condemnations of homosexual behavior until after the mistranslation of the words into English'" (p. 63).

Thus the special aura of "divine inspiration" surrounding this human translation needs to be challenged.  

Hooray for the work of researcher Jeffrey Alan Miller in discovering the very human work done alone by one man in translating parts of the Hebrew Bible (the Apocrypha) that didn't even make it into the King James Bible.

May everyone take notice that God's Word is divinely inspired but not necessarily all the subsequent translations of that Word.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Baby Steps

Of course the first step toward ordaining women as priests in the Roman Catholic Church is to ordain them as deacons.

At least that is getting some attention...

By 2050, women will be ordained as priests, regularly, in the RCC.  

That's my prediction and I'm sticking to it!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Sister Death

What a blessing to give a mentally competent, terminally ill person the right to take pills that will end life in a painless but certain way.

Thank you to the California legislators who made this happen and to Governor Jerry Brown for not becoming a last-minute hold-out.

This legislation will reduce the number of persons who, in desperation, blow their brains out.

In older cultures, most deaths were not prolonged and drawn out in the way they are for many people today as a result of our greater medical resources.

The personal stories associated with California's newly passed and signed legislation are very moving.

St. Francis on his deathbed coined the phrase "Sister Death" to welcome the transition once it had become inevitable.

May we all come to that kind of acceptance, and may we die peacefully.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

50 Shades of Insanity

What's worse, killings by one crazy man or organized killings by the US military bombing a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, for an hour?

I can understand one man going beserk, especially if he has Asperger's syndrome and is being treated with lithium.  I'm not surprised; I can fit this event into my world view and work to increase gun laws and better work with mental illness.

Its's the insanity of war that troubles me more.  My tax dollars support the military who make these decisions about where and when to bomb.  I feel more responsible for these deaths.

Let me go on record:  I don't support US military intervention anywhere.  

I watched in horror as Bush 2 moved closer and closer to bombing Baghdad in March 2003. That bombing was a display of bravado after the September 11 attacks on the US, but Iraq as a target made no sense.  Our government just wanted to bomb someone somewhere in the Middle East.

If the United Nations vote to carry out military intervention somewhere, I might support it.

But I've seen too much "fog of war" decision-making in the last 14 years to support any war anywhere.  

Then there was the US mistreatment of prisoners--the water-boarding and other acts of torture.  

I don't want to be part of a nation that does these things.  

What do I have to do, move to Canada or Norway?

Let's be People without Borders

Down with all border fences and laws!

It is unconscionable that 13 young men have died since June trying to get from France to England via the Eurotunnel in Calais.

Why can't we in the wealthier nations share our resources?

If we add up deaths on the US-Mexico border, the Hungarian borders, the tunnel at Calais, and all other borders in the world, how many would-be migrants have lost their lives in 2015 because they had the hope for a better life?

Students in a classroom in Oregon... doctors and patients in a hospital in Kunduz... young men trying to walk through the tunnel at Calais.

Only one of these disasters was caused by a crazy man. 

The other two were perpetrated by us--the voters and citizens of the US and other nations who approve of US bombing in Afghanistan and approve of the idea that some migrants have legal status, while others have to stay where they were born or lose their lives trying to migrate illegally.  

Doctors Without Borders lost their lives in the Kunduz bombing, probably by the US.  

Let's start a new organization: People Without Borders.

Saturday, October 3, 2015


A new term to me this week: self-compassion.

"You're hard on yourself," my therapist says.  "You need to work on self-compassion."

When I told my daughter about this idea, she said there's a website for it.

Therefore, I present the website:

Check it out--learn the exercises to increase your self-compassion.

Oregon Sheriff Meets Reality

When it happened at Sandy Hook, John Hanlin, sheriff of Douglas County in Oregon, thought maybe it was fake.

Maybe the federal government had staged the killing with actors, as perhaps it had staged the attacks of September 11, 2001, in order to take away people's guns.

Three days before that letter was released, Mr. Hanlin shared a link on his personal Facebook page to a YouTube video, which suggested that the shootings at Sandy Hook — and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — might have been staged by the federal government to provide a pretext for “disarming the public” through gun control legislation.

Yeah, right.

Now that an undisputably real shooting has occurred on his own turf, Sheriff Hanlin blames the media.  The shooter was aiming for publicity, and the media always cooperate by revealing the killer's name and identity.  

No media, no killings--easy.

The difficult job of assessing and rewriting US laws on gun ownership and mental illness needs to be tackled, but for many people it will be easier just to live in a fantasy world where government and media are the real culprits.

Meeting my students

Each fall and spring for many years, I have met two or three classrooms of students, just as Lawrence Levine met his students this week at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.

Some drop out, some work hard and become the stars of the class.

Sometimes there is a deaf student in my class, requiring an interpreter.

Sometimes there is a student with spina bifida or some other serious physical disability.  She may arrive each day in a wheel chair and need someone else to take notes for her.  

Often there are students with various types of learning disabilities who require special conditions for testing at a different location.

Always there are students with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.  

There are students who speak almost no English, with perhaps Russian and Persian as their first and second languages.  

There are veterans who have served in the Middle East and have PTSD. 

There are students with anger issues who provoke other students.  Once there was a pushing and shoving match between two women in the classroom.

Each group of students is a unique challenge.

Increasingly in the US there is a student in a classroom who decides to bring guns to campus and shoot his classmates and teacher.

Lawrence Levine was killed by his student two days ago.  Sixty-seven years old, like me, and an adjunct professor teaching English, writing skills--a part-timer, like me.  

Gone because of a student with mental illness and easy access to an unlimited number of guns.

May Levine rest in peace.

May none of us rest in peace until gun laws are changed to prevent sales to men with mental illness and/or criminal records.

Someone else will be called in to finish teaching the course, Introduction to Expository Writing, one that students take who need some practice before they take college-level writing courses.  I've taught that course many times.

The first assignment for the students in Levine's class was to write "an essay where students had to choose a subject and support an argument with evidence and reason," according to the NYT Times.

Apparently this killer couldn't write an essay on his favorite subject, guns.  He used bullets instead of words.  Argument and reason were beyond him.

Some students remaining in the course, and others across the US, will write an essay on gun control this fall.  They will marshal arguments for greater limits on access to guns and bullets, or perhaps they will write against any changes in our gun laws.

It's up to all of us who can write letters and essays to take up the cause.  

We must donate our time and money to gun control organizations in memory of Lawrence Levine, his students, the students of Sandy Hook (2012) and Santa Monica College (2013) and Virginia Tech (2007) and so many others.

David Gregory's Faith

Thank you to my friend Diane H. for alerting me to this book by David Gregory: How's Your Faith?

What an interesting spiritual journey--child of a Catholic and alcoholic mother and Jewish father, now coming into his own faith.

I find it odd that Gregory's spiritual journey was begun by George Bush posing that question to him.  

Not everyone is all bad, nor is anyone all good.  Even Bush 2 has done a few good things in his life, in addition to his historic crime of using the US military to bomb Baghdad in 2003.


There's a new term I've noticed on NPR: microaggressions.

They are "small daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities."

Apparently this term is used mostly in cultural settings that might involve racial minorities or other marginalized groups, but I think it occurs in all human interactions, such as in the family.

They are the cuts and slurs that we all endure and many of us inflict, often as jokes.  

But they hurt.  

At least now there's a name for them--and like other previously unnamed behaviors, say sexual harassment, once named, they can be tamed.

Guns and Psychopaths

Maybe people who take lithium--an antimanic drug--should not have the right to own 14 guns.  

Maybe owning a gun should be a privilege, not a right.

Maybe Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, and others did not foresee the invention of small handguns.

Maybe they thought that "a well-regulated militia" would always be interpreted as part of "the security of a free state"--not as words to be ignored in order to defend the last fourteen words of the Second Amendment.

In United States v. Cruikshank (1876), the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that, "The right to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence" and limited the applicability of the Second Amendment to the federal government.[9] In United States v. Miller (1939), the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government and the states could limit any weapon types not having a "reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia".[10][11] -- from Wikipedia

Maybe it's time to challenge the current interpretation of this amendment.

Apparently the killer in Roseburg, Oregon, had Asperger's syndrome.

If we look at the killer in Sandy Hook or the killer who entered the Century 16 Multiplex in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012, we young men with mental illness such as depression.

Why are these men allowed to purchase guns legally?

Here's an analysis on today's New York Times website:

We need to prevent men with mental illness from having legal access to guns.  If they had to buy guns illegally, they would at least need the social skills to accomplish such a purchase.

Does the National Rifle Association defend the right of psychopaths to obtain guns?

I don't know, but the time for flagrant, wanton toleration of "the right to bear arms" independent of any militia is over.

For the rest of my life I will donate at least $50 per year to three groups that advocate reasonable control of guns in the USA:

Gabby Giffords - Americans for Responsible Solutions

Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence

Coalition To Stop Gun Violence

I will donate this $150 per year even if I don't have money to eat.  I will write the letters and take the activist action these groups recommend.

To do less is to say with Jeb Bush, "Look, stuff happens."  We are impotent.  We will let the gun lobby rule the US Congress.  We will continue to let psychopaths murder innocents.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Being Nice to the Women

Hallelujah, the Catholic Church's inquisition against its American nuns is over!

Pope Francis made a point of praising these women in his speech at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York
City on September 24.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious is officially off the hook and publicly praised.

But really, not much has changed.  The Women's Ordination Conference was not praised or mentioned.

Earlier this week Fr. Jack McClure was removed from ministry for speaking at the Women's Ordination Worldwide conference in Philadelphia on the weekend of Sept. 20-21.  He is the fourth priest to be sanctioned for supporting the ordination of women.

Francis is correcting the error of his most recent predecessor, but he has not yet crossed the big line of changing women's second-class status in the church.

Words are cheap.  Ending the mistaken oppression of of women by Pope Benedict XVI is a no-brainer.

If these are preliminary steps to actual change for Catholic women, I will applaud Pope Francis.

But if he is just being nice to women without substantive change down the road, may he have a road-to-Damascus event like St. Paul.

May he hear the voice of God and be blinded--so that his eyes may be opened.

Dorothy Day & Pope Francis

Dorothy Day and Pope Francis are definitely kindred spirits.  

How perfect for him to cite her while speaking to our Republican-dominated House of Representatives!

Here's a sample quote from Day archives, courtesy of the Washington Post:

"We need to change the system," Day wrote in 1956. "We need to overthrow, not the government, as the authorities are always accusing the Communists 'of conspiring to teach [us] to do,' but this rotten, decadent, putrid industrial capitalist system which breeds such suffering in the whited sepulcher of New York."

Take that, you anti-Obama care capitalists!

It's interesting that her having a child while unmarried did not deter him from speaking of her with admiration.  Would he have done so if she had had an abortion?

While speaking at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, he praised the US Catholic nuns who endured an inquisition under his predecessor (who is still living--wonder what he thinks of all this!

Perhaps praising the Catholic nuns and citing Dorothy Day is the Pope's easy way of gaining ground with women, while doing nothing about women's ordination.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Long View of Immigration

Thank you to Jonathan Portes of the UK's National Institute of Economic and Social Research for his report on the ancient and honorable human practice of migration into already-inhabited parts of the world, such as the British Isles.

"How did we get here? A short and unreliable account of immigration to the UK" is the title.

The Celts – who arrived in the first millenium BC – are believed to have originated on the Russian steppes, and so the language(s) spoken here have long been part of the Indo-European family, derived from Sanskrit and which includes Hindu and Punjabi as well as French and Greek. 

After the Celts, there were Angles, Saxons, Danes, and Franks/Normans, who spoke French.  

William, the Norman Conqueror, invited in Jews for their financial services, but two centuries later Edward I expelled them.

The reason was of course economic; unlike Christians, Jews were not debarred from usury (moneylending) and were thus able to provide important financial services to the King and ruling elite. 

The next major waves of immigration were related to religious persecution, both of Dutch to England and Puritan English to Holland and to North America.  There were even refugee processing centers set up for the Dutch arriving in England.

From the 18th century through the present, there has been immigration from various parts of the British Empire and then the Commonwealth.

Recent immigration is caused by globalization, free movement of labor in the European Union, and asylum-seekers fleeing armed conflict and persecution.  

Portes concludes that:
Britain has benefited considerably, in both economic and cultural terms, as a result. In retrospect, those benefits are widely accepted... However, those benefits were rarely recognized at the time.

My question:  When will the nations of world accept immigration as a fact of life and stop using national borders as an excuse for rejecting newcomers?