Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Story Behind 'Frida'

Frida Kahlo

Thank you to Salma Hayek for her courageous telling of the story behind one of my favorite films, Frida, directed by Julie Taymor in 2002.

"Harvey Weinstein Is My Monster, Too" she explains in an opinion piece in the NY Times.  Monster is the operative word here.  

It's a wonder that Frida was ever made or shown in theaters rather than released as a video or received two Oscars.  He did his best to kill it.  He did his best to force her into sexual acts as the price for being allowed to make the film.

I have new respect for women who direct films after hearing Salma's story.  The barriers are just incredible.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Clean words for rape and murder

"'Ethnic cleansing' and even 'genocide' are antiseptic and abstract terms," writes Nicholas Kristof in the Sunday Review of the New York Times, Dec. 17, 2017.

These words cover up the details, such as "They grabbed my baby and threw her into the fire" or "They locked a woman and her 15-year-old daughter in a hut, raped them, and set the hut on fire." 

Thank you to Kristof for interviewing seven survivors of a village, Tula Toli, in Myanmar and reporting in his column "Did Genocide Destroy This Village?" on Dec. 17.

What can we do?

1) Push the House and Senate to pass legislation imposing sanctions on Myanmar officials.  Kristof says the proposed legislation is stuck and won't be approved anytime soon.

2) Support one of the organizations helping the refugees:
BRAC International
Doctors Without Borders
Save the Children
Hope Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh

"The world can't just stand idly by and be witness to the atrocities," said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

"But I fear that is exactly what is happening," writes Kristof. International sanctions are needed to pressure Myanmar's generals.  

The recent visit of Pope Francis hasn't helped, so far.

Aung San Suu Kyi is ignoring and excusing the atrocities.

Would the US response be different if we had a strong and compassionate president?

Kristof lauds the resilience and courage of survivors such as Hasina Begum, age 21:

“They killed my family members, and they killed my world,” she told me. “When I tell my story, I feel terrible, and afterward I go cry to myself. But we need justice, and maybe this will help.”

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Roy Moore and the word "evangelical"

Peter Wehner is no longer proud to be a life-long Republican.

In his opinion piece, "Why I Can No Longer Call Myself an Evangelical Republican," he explains how Roy Moore's evangelicalism and dt's co-opting of Republicans has soured him on those two identifiers.

Thank God, I never claimed to be a Republican.  But I can relate to Wehner on the dirtying of a perfectly good Greek workd eu-angelion.  Good news.

I threw out the word evangelical in about 2003 when men claiming to be evangelicals were trying to convert Muslims in Baghdad.  

"Witnessing" is good--but Americans talking about Jesus right after bombing the city?  

And trying to convert people for whom changing religions could be a death sentence?

But my friend Virginia Ramey Mollenkott convinced me to take the word back.  Here reasoning: if all of us who cherish the good news of God's intervention in human affairs through Jesus the Messiah give up the word, we leave it to the misguided and blind.

Thank God, it's clear to nearly everyone that Roy Moore was a poor excuse for a Christian, much less a Bible-believing Christian.

See NAE's definition of the word: https://www.nae.net/what-is-an-evangelical/

But let's be more precise about the term. Some white evangelicals support Trump and Moore, but there's a fair number of progressive evangelicals. 

And don't forget the black evangelicals--who mostly vote Democratic.  

See this report on NPR: "Are You an Evangelical?"

Monday, December 18, 2017

Yes or No? A Gendered Decision

Saying 'yes' when I don't have the assertiveness to say 'no'--Jessica Bennett describes a situation I recognize, a 'yes' I say nearly every day. 

Thank you to the New York Times for printing her news analysis, "When 'Yes' Is Easier Than 'No.'" She has been managing coverage of the Me Too movement as gender editor of the NYT and is also the author of Feminist Fight Club.

For me, this "Yes" occurs not in sexual encounters but in thousands of other interactions.

"Would you like to go to a movie?"  "Yes" I say compliantly, even if don't want to go.  It's my husband, and we haven't had a date night recently.  Actually I want to spend the evening at my desk, checking email or working on Christmas cards.

"Would you like a doughnut/cup of wine/coupon?" No, but in certain situations I will say "Yes" to be polite.

"Would you like to meet me for coffee?"  "Yes, it would be nice to see you."  I generally comply with a friend I don't really want to see.

The phone rings, and caller ID tells me it's a person I don't want to talk to, but if I've refused the call five or six times already, I pick up the phone.  "Yes?"

A pan handler sticks a cup in my face as I enter the grocery store.  Darn it, can't I run a simple errand without facing an ethical decision?  Sometimes I walk on by with a "No," but other days I muster up a grudging "Yes" and fish out a dollar bill.

Over 45 years I've said yes to my husband sexually when I didn't want to, but now my "No" is firm.

Before marrying, I can think of only once when I said yes in a sexual encounter that I didn't want. On a date, Bob unzipped his jeans and wanted me to feel his hard-on through his underwear.  He seemed to think this was something every woman wanted to do, but I was disgusted.  I didn't tell him to bug off.  Instead, I was nice.

Jessica Bennett discusses women's conditioning to say 'Yes':

  • "that we must be 'nice' and 'quiet' and 'polite."
  • "That we must protect others' feelings before our own."
  • "That we are there for others' pleasure."
  • "that our bodies exist for male sexual pleasure,"
  • "that our 'power' is in attracting male desire."

Girls and women are trained to "see their role in sexual encounters as being 'desirable' rather than assertive," notes Peggy Orenstein in her book Girls & Sex.

After 69 years of conditioning and saying "Yes," it's hard for me to pause, check my impulse to be nice, and say 'No' if 'No' is my inner truth.

But I'm working on it.

See also Rachel Simmons, Enough As She Is.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Feminist Milestones as Women Speak Out

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

Thanks to Gail Collins for her column, "Donald Trump's Gift to Women" in today's New York Times.

She assesses the history of women's rights and uprisings in the USA since 1920, when women got the right to vote, pointing out that the election of 45 has jump-started the battle for equal rights.

Women are now asserting the right not to be raped, groped, or sexually harassed in any way.

Here's a mini-timeline begun with some of the milestones she points out:

1920-- Women in the US gain the right to vote.  

1964-- Margaret Chase Smith seeks the Republican nomination for president, getting much ridicule.

1991-- Anita Hill's testimony of sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas is not believed.  The Senate confirms him as a justice on the Supreme Court.  Anger over this travesty leads to 1992...

1992--"The Year of the Woman"--four women are elected to the US Senate, joining the two already there.  Six women in the Senate was considered progress.

2006--Tarana Burke started the #metoo hashtag movement.

2016--The US elects a Predator-in-Chief, despite Access Hollywood confessions. The qualified woman nominee of the Democratic Party is not elected.

2017 Jan.--Women march to protest the inauguration of an admitted sexual predator.

2017 Oct.--#MeToo movement rises; prominent predators are fired or resign.

2017 Nov.--Survivors speak out against Alabama nutcase who molested teen girls.  POTUS endorses him publicly, believes his denials. 

2017 Dec. 8 Fri.--Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR) calls on dt to resign

2017 Dec. 9 Sat.--Sen. Cory Booker (NJ) calls on dt to resign.

2017 Dec. 11 Mon.--Senators Ron Wyden (OR) and Kirsten Gillibrand (MN) call on dt to resign.

2017 Dec. Tues.--Alabama voters reject sexual predator, electing Doug Jones, a Democrat, as senator. POTUS tweets suggestive slur against Gillibrand, igniting an even greater movement against him for his own sexual aggression.  He does not attack Merkley or Widen.  Sen. Maizie Hirono (HI) calls on dt to resign.

2017 Dec. Wed.--Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) calls on dt to resign, making a total of six senators.

2017 Dec. Thurs.--Gail Collins and Lindy West publish columns on NYT Op-Ed page against dt's tweet, Gail citing feminist timeline, Lindy using humor.

The pace quickens.  

Last May I predicted that dt would be impeached by the end of November.  

It didn't happen by then, but the wheels are in motion, both in the Mueller investigation and in this uprising against sexual predators.

dt will leave the White House in 2018, one way or another.

A Week for the Bible--and Women

The Gutenberg Bible, 1455

The Bible has had a tough week.

It was held aloft by sexual predator Roy Moore before and after he lost race for US Senator in Alabama.

It was scrutinized by US Senators and Representatives to the House on Tuesday, seeking guidance on how to lead this nation through perilous times.  Kirsten Gillibrand was at that Bible study--while our poor-excuse-for-a-president was tweeting a suggestive slur against her.

It was waved by supporters of gun control laws on the 5-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook murders of 21 kids and 5 teachers.  "Put away your sword," said Jesus to a follower just seeking to use it in defense.  WWJD with the manufacture, sale, and use of guns in the US today?

Over 2,500 years the Bible has been used to hold back women--but also to advance our equal rights. Its meaning has been in the eye of the beholder.  See All We're Meant To Be: Biblical Feminism for Today by Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Nancy Hardesty (1974). 

Thank you to Gail Collins for noting the presence of Gillibrand at the Bible study while dt was tweeting-- in her great column in today's NY Times.


See also:
Gillian Thomas - "Trump's Shameless Slur Against Kirsten Gillibrand."

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Fear among Senators and Congressmen

Maureen Dowd has fun with the fear among US Senators and Representatives in Congress in her column "Roadkill on Capitol Hill."

She quotes a worried Alan Simpson who in 1991 had sympathy for poor Clarence Thomas, whose reputation was being bombarded by a woman who had "come out of the night like a missile" revealing his past sexual conduct.

Yes, it's sad that Nancy Pelosi's instinct was to protect poor old John Conyers.  We want to be nice to old black gentlemen, right, even if they are sexual predators?

Dowd applauds Kirsten Gillibrand's calling a spade a spade with regard to Bill Clinton, in spite of his years of affairs and predator behavior.  I agree with Dowd and Gillibrand.  I ended my support of Bill as soon as the revelations came out detailing his use of Monica Lewinsky as a sex toy.

It's sad that Hillary Rodham Clinton's survival instinct led her to defend her husband and defame his prey. 

It's sad that she still stayed with him after the Lewinsky mess.

It's sad that she still wanted Harvey Weinstein's money, even though Lena Dunham and Tina Brown informed her staff that "Harvey's a rapist."

I refuse to condemn her, however, the way Maureen Dowd does with these words: "The muddled message of Hillary campaigning as a feminist while being a key cog in Weinstein's complicity machine..."

Hillary was a true feminist in each of those instances, and her choices--however wrong they may seem in our currently somewhat changed culture--were those of a woman who wanted to get ahead, who wanted to become president.

Eleanor Smeal, Nancy Pelosi, and other bona fide feminists made similar choices at the time.

Probably all of our presidents made unsavory alliances to work their way to the nation's highest office: JFK and the Mafia, LBJ and the war in Vietnam, Nixon and the Watergate break-in...

I want a woman president, and if in 2016 she took money from an asshole, I don't care.  

In 2018 candidates for office will be more cautious--unless they are like dt and Roy Moore, so far gone that they refuse to take responsibility even for their own law-breaking actions.   

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Frank, Diana, and the End Times

Diana Butler Bass

"For many evangelicals, Jerusalem is about prophecy, not politics," writes Diana Butler Bass in an opinion piece for the CNN website yesterday.


"Jerusalem was our prophetic bellwether. God's plan hung on its fate. Whenever Israel gained more political territory, whenever Israel extended its boundaries, it was God's will, the end-times unfolding on the evening news," she writes.

Thank you to Diana for this article explaining how end-times prophecy in Revelations has been distorted to support Zionist and right-wing policies today.

Thanks also to Frank Schaeffer for appearing on MSNBC's AM Joy show today to explain the same thing and to point out the big donors to whom #45 is playing with his unilateral declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, ignoring the Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Why wasn't Bill Clinton removed from office?

Monica Lewinsky

Bill Clinton should have resigned but didn't. 

Therefore, the Senate should have removed him from office after his impeachment by the House of Representatives for lying.

He used his power as president to seduce his young intern Monica.  That was not appropriate behavior.

Thank you to Kirsten Gillibrand and Barbara Ehrenreich for coming out this week against the general amnesty he received in spite of his sexual misconduct.  (Barbara was public in her denunciation of him in 1998.)


In the late 1997-99, I was disgusted by Bill's behavior.  I resented his exposing my teenage daughters to the salacious reports in the news every day.

I was angry to see Eleanor Smeal, the National Organization for Women, and 55 senators give Bill Clinton a pass on his behavior.

And why did Lewinsky's superiors transfer her away from the White House in April 1996, without reporting that there was a problem? After all, they knew that "she was spending too much time around the president." 


Senators who voted "not guilty" include Barbara Boxer, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Patty Murray, Barbara Mikulski, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lambert Lincoln, Joe Biden, Evan Bayh, Tom Daschle, John Edwards (we know why), Ted Kennedy (same reason), Arlen Spector, Charles Schumer, Daniel Moynihan, and others.

Voting guilty were Kay Bailey Hutchison, Connie Mack, John McCain, Jeff Sessions, and others.

I am grateful that now in November 2017 Senator Gillibrand and a few other Democrats are convinced that Bill Clinton should have been held responsible for his behavior.

I didn't understand why Hillary Rodham Clinton stuck with Bill after his betrayal.  Gradually her gamble became clear: she was planning to use him as a prop for her campaign for senator and then for president.  

It made sense that his popularity would help Hillary to be elected--but in the long run, his popularity waned.  A lot of people hated him more than they hated Hillary.

He became a weight dragging down her chances of getting elected. 

His hubris was one of the many factors that led to her defeat on November 8, 2016.  

From Wikipedia:
All of the Democrats in the Senate voted for acquittal on both the perjury and the obstruction of justice charges. Ten Republicans voted for acquittal for perjury: John Chafee (Rhode Island), Susan Collins (Maine), Slade Gorton (Washington), Jim Jeffords (Vermont), Richard Shelby (Alabama), Olympia Snowe (Maine), Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania), Ted Stevens (Alaska), Fred Thompson (Tennessee), and John Warner (Virginia). Five Republicans voted for acquittal for obstruction of justice: Chafee, Collins, Jeffords, Snowe, and Specter.
President Clinton was thereby acquitted of all charges and remained in office. There were attempts to censure the president by the House of Representatives, but those attempts failed.

What Blase Bonpane is thankful for...

Are you feeling a little down about the state of the nation and the world?

Is is hard to summon up the right mix of thankfulness and patriotism that Thanksgiving seems to require?

Let Blase Bonpane, the antiwar and anti-imperialism radio commentator, help you.

Here's part of his list of what he's thankful for this week, taken from my notes during today's broadcast "World Focus" (aired weekly on Sunday by Pacifica and other independent radio stations).

This former Maryknoll priest is thankful:

~~That the Roman Catholic Church is no longer enslaving and killing in the name of God, as was done for many centuries.

~~That the LA Times ran an editorial today about "The nuclear code football." But Blase goes further, asking the US to join China and India in supporting No First Use (NFU) at all.  See "In Defense of a Nuclear No-First-Use Policy" in The Atlantic, September 2016.  Blase points out that handcuffing the president would still leave nations like North Korea nervous about a congressionally-declared first strike.  Thus they might justify their own defensive first strike against the US Coalition

~~That some US general have declared that they "would never obey an illegal order..." i.e. an order to start nuclear war on a whim.

~~That some Americans are aware of the hellish wealth inequality in this country... and that they know about the distributive justice called for by the Bible.

~~That the UN has warned that 7 million people will die of famine in Yemen if the Saudi-led and US-backed blockade against humanitarian aid is not lifted.  We know, so we can demand that this blockade end.  See opinion piece in the NY Times "How War Created the Cholera Epidemic in Yemen."

~~That Bill Moyers' video series No Choice launched Nov. 13 to air the personal stories of women who sought abortion prior to 1972.  http://billmoyers.com/story/no-choice/

~~That Mark Twain opposed American imperialism and helped to found the Anti-Imperialism League

See?  You too have a lot to be thankful for--including the good work of Bill Moyers, Blase Bonpane, and Mark Twain.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Martyr: Sr. Leonelia Sgorbati

Sr. Leonelia Sgorbati 1940-2006

dt isn't the only leader whose careless words have incited violence.

Pope Benedict XVI was endangering lives long before 45 came onto the scene.

In a speech at the University of Regensburg, Germany, in September 2006, this pope found it necessary to illustrate a lecture on faith and reason with a quotation from Byzantine emperor Michael II Paleologus criticizing Islam. 

The quote that caused the furor followed: “He turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words: ‘Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached,'” the pope said, emphasizing that he was quoting the emperor.

Because Michael II was living in the 14th century, the Crusades were still fresh in everyone's minds.  Anti-Muslim feeling was widespread in Europe.

But Benedict XVI is living in the 21st century.  Words spoken in Germany echo around the world, even to Kenya and Somalia.  

Sister Leonelia Sgorbati and the Muslim bodyguard she was traveling with were killed a few days later as protests to the speech mounted.

Well, this week Pope Francis officially declared Sr. Leonelia to be a martyr.  Thus she passed one of the milestones on the way to gaining full sainthood.

Clearly she was a saint, but getting official recognition as a saint is another matter.  It can take years.

Her driver, Mohamed Osman Mahamud, was a saint too, but the Roman Catholic Church is not likely to recognize him as such any time soon.


Another not-to-be declared martyr this year is Heather Heyer, the woman killed by a car mowing down demonstrators in Charlottesville on August 13.  

In her case, it was the US president whose inflammatory rhetoric egged on her killer.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Transgender Victories

H. Adam Ackley

Congratulations to Danica Roem (VA state legislature) and Althea Garrison (Minneapolis city council), transgender women elected to public office this week. 

Godspeed to all trans pioneers, such as H. Adam Ackley, dismissed from teaching theology at Azusa Pacific U in 2013. 

Since then he has done adjunct teaching at the University of Redlands and UC Irvine.

I've met Adam--a man of courage and faith.


Heath Adam Ackley, Ph.D. is Director of Training & Curriculum at the U.S.-Canadian peer support non-profit Trans Lifeline and semi-retired professor of Religious Studies and of Gender and Sexuality Studies (University of Redlands, University of California at Irvine, Azusa Pacific University). He is the author of Women, Music and Faith in Central Appalachia (2001) and of chapters in Women of the Mountain South: Identity, Work, & Activism (2015), Manning Up: Transsexual Men on Finding Brotherhood, Family and Themselves (2014), The Encyclopedia of Appalachia (2006), and Creation and The Environment: An Anabaptist Perspective on a Sustainable World (2000).


Human Flow -- Must See

Today I saw Human Flow, the documentary by Ai Weiwei. 
Hard to say what was more amazing: the photography, personal interviews, 40 refugee camps visited, 30 translators, statistics, or poetry quoted. Music too.
"The right to migrate is a human right," says one person toward the end--in Spanish.  "Derecho migrar es derecho humano."
I expect it to win Best Documentary next year.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Lady Blip--waste of time

What a waste of time: Lady Bird written and directed by Greta Gerwig.

All cliches, no plot. 
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl - photo by Alan Light

The California heroine about 18 yrs. old is dying to leave Sacramento and go away to a prestigious East coast college.  Lo and behold, she finally gets in.  (Not true to life, by the way.)

Her mother is more evil than Cinderella's step-mother--and she's a marriage & family therapist.

The whole boring film screams "of, by, and for millennials."  And it turns out, the writer/director was born in 1983.  The film is largely autobiographical.

No real crisis--a shooting or drug overdose or sexual abuse. No gender surprises.  No critique of the Catholic high school, the main setting.

I had suggested seeing the documentary Human Flow, but my spouse scanned the LA Times and said this piece of crap had the best reviews.

Oh well...

At least we ran into Sheila Kuehl and her friend (partner?) in the Westside Pavillion lobby on the way out.  

I guess she had to see it because of the subplot: heroine hates Sacramento but by the end she loves the burg.  Inspiring.

Another feature:  I was wearing my Hillary sweatpants, and a man at the film was wearing a Trump t-shirt and then a Trump sweatshirt.

Is this the best Hollywood can do?

November 1917 -- 2016 -- 2017...

Women's suffrage march in NYC in 1917  (Wikipedia)

Each day in November 2017 is a painful reminder of the corresponding day in November 2016.

Friday, Oct. 28 -- Comey released letter to Congress saying "OMG, I found emails on Anthony Weiner's laptop!"

Nine days later, Sunday, Nov. 6: "Never mind...."

Forty hours later voting at polling places began on Nov. 8 -- not counting the voting done by mail with that misinformation.

We didn't know the extent of Trump's Russian collusion.

We didn't know about the thousands of Russian bots posting on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube...

The election was stolen.

2017 has been a year of suffering with a deceitful and mentally impaired president.

But on November 3, 2016, women were excited about wearing white--the color of women's suffrage fighters--to go to the polls.

How naive we were.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

How Memes Empower Tyrants

Memes are lot of fun--except when they take over our elections and our perceptions about dt, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and others.

Amanda Hess nails it [insert meme here] with her video essay "The Dark Art of Political Memes" in today's New York Times.


Memes replay our candidates' most likeable moments--and most embarrassing moments--endlessly.  Amanda plays countless examples.

But she concludes, "Memes make [insert someone like dt or others] immune to criticism and less accountable to us."

Memes--a new formula for disaster.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Vagina Dialogue: Eve Ensler & Anne Lamott

Two of the biggest names in second-wave women’s culture—Eve Ensler and Anne Lamott—shared the stage at Royce Hall, UCLA, on October 29, 2017.
            2017, with the end of 2016, marked the worst year US women ages 40-80 have ever endured.
            October 28 tolled a year since FBI Director James Comey ended the election campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton by alerting Congress to “new emails” and a re-opened FBI investigation—only to say “Never mind” within hours of election day.
            Yet Eve Ensler and Anne Lamott were asked the question “Where do you find hope?” 
            “I want to write a book called Doomed: A Book of Hope,” joked Anne.  “But I do radical self-care.  And I help the poor.”  
            “At first my friends and I were like bees bitterly bumping into glass,” she confessed.  “Then there was a tiny little change.  And now I’m kind of better.”
            “Women are rising up and breaking out of the confines of patriarchy!” declared Eve. 
            To get to hope, she explained, “I begin with something dark and painful”—such as the suffering of “comfort women” in the Philippines, used as sexual slaves by Japanese during World War II.
 “They couldn’t afford not to hope.  You have to hope,” she said.  As co-founder of the One Billion Rising protest movement to end rape and sexual violence against women, she has listened to personal stories of these now elderly women.  One billion refers to the statistic that one in three women world-wide will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.
Anne turned to listening and writing as a means of healing the world, citing “Telling Is Listening” by Ursula Le Guin in her book The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination (2004).
When Anne’s life was at its lowest point, she said, “I was given salvation—the way you’re given salvation in Christ—by the women’s movement.  I say something.  Others say ‘Me too.’ Then we start laughing, sharing, recognition.”
Eve added, “I would be in a mental hospital without writing.  I wrote myself out of a catastrophic childhood.  Write or die of mental illness, explode.  It was a compulsion.”
Back to the present, Anne noted the “lack of language” in the President’s statements about building a wall, banning travel, imprisoning people.  “We need to be people listening and watching with empathy.”
“Look at everything that’s being done and do the opposite,” said Eve. When they make laws based on gender, we can support “gender-fluid, flowing sexuality.”
“I will not let them take my joy away,” Anne declared, adding a line from Wendell Berry’s essay “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”: “Be joyful though you’ve considered all the facts.”  Laugh, dance.
“Don’t engage the orange virus, or you’ll be poisoned by it,” warned Eve.  “I’ve never seen the Predator-in-Chief have a feeling.”
“You had to write yourself out of where you were,” interrupted Meryl Friedman, moderator of the conversation, who curates Spoken Word at UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance.  “How did you write yourself into a future?  Many of us feel obligated to have a certain kind of future—a job, iPhone, data plan—but you have stayed on the writer path.”
“In the 60s, 70s, the American dream was melting away,” answered Eve.  “There were civil rights marches, women’s protests, antiwar demonstrations.  I didn’t want to be in the system.  You have to listen to what’s inside you—not to the ‘win, compete, have it, get it’ voices.  Bill O’Reillys don’t matter when you’re on the path.” 
“My dad wrote hell or high water,” said Anne.  “He got up every morning and did it.  He wrote eight books and had three kids.  All dreams are based on discipline: you just do it.  You write 2-3 or 4-5 hours a day.”
Then she described a woman at her church whose son was in prison.  “But she never lost faith—as a decision. ‘I know my change is going to come,’ she said.”
“Do the one thing you know you can do,” Anne stressed.  “Do the one-inch picture frame.  Otherwise you’ll become overwhelmed and paralyzed.  Just take the action.”
“Our change is going to come,” echoed Eve.  “Struggle is the highest form of song.  Writing is learning to struggle.  You get worn down in the struggle, but I will work until I am nothing when I leave here.”
“We’re all insane, every single person,” she laughed.  “I’m okay with that.  You decide on the brand of insanity you want your life to be.  There are broken places in everyone.  There isn’t anyone in the world who isn’t traumatized.  We’re all damaged—no one has a clue.  Socrates wrote, ‘The one thing I know is that I don’t know anything.’”
“As Terry Richey wrote, the point is not to try harder,” added Anne.  “It’s to release, to try less.  That’s been healing for me and for other sober women.”
“Seeing what you see, feeling what you feel” is the key to recovery, Eve observed.  “Instead of ‘I can’t ever talk about that,’ it may be exactly where you need to go.”
When Meryl asked about their writing habits, Eve said she writes every day. 
“I write five days a week, not weekends,” admitted Anne.  “But I’m always gathering.  I have a Dr. Seuss inside me, a rag-bag guy.  I write it down.  You’ve got to waste more time, wasting paper.”
“Yes, I’m always gathering ideas, hunting,” agreed Eve.  “One book leads to another book.  But when I’m working on something, everything else stops happening.  It’s deeply lonely work; the hardest thing is the loneliness.  I use a candle, music to keep the aloneness flamed and fluid.”
A last question from Meryl: “Do you ever feel overwhelmed by what people expect of you?” 
“When I was a young mother writing a book, I felt ‘I have two kids, and the one I feed wins,” said Anne, adding that “Now I just have two dogs, but there’s always ‘KFUK radio’ inside my head.”  When someone says Anne has done good work, that radio in her head says, “You are a fraud.” 
“You have to tell yourself encouraging things, nurture yourself,” she continued.  “People are always branding you, saying that’s who you are.  My father is always there in my mind, but I don’t know who I’m going to be next.  I don’t know who I am today.”
“Don’t freeze into one identity,” Eve explained.  “Seven years ago I was diagnosed with stage 3 or 4 cancer.  I morphed into a new person.  Expand, don’t brand.”
“We’re frightened, but we get up,” Anne said.  “It’s like Mr. Rogers’ mother, who used to tell her son ‘Look for the helpers’ when you feel flattened.  I’m, like, a really cranky optimist.  You think X was a bad thing, but often it turns out that it was the very best thing.”
Eve gave an illustration.  During this difficult time of the Trump presidency, “Many people are finding each other.  We found ways to stop the Muslim ban; now we’re working to help women mend.”
This conversation between Eve and Anne came after a week in which each day another actress came out with accusations against Harvey Weinstein: Zelda Perkins on Monday, Brit Marling on Tuesday, Mimi Haleyi and Dominique Huett on Wednesday,  Natassia Malthe on Thursday, Daryl Hannah on Friday, Rose McGowan on Saturday.
“Each of us needs to know that what has happened to us, has happened before,” said Eve.  “We have to be unleashed, too.  As Hitler gained power, no one took him seriously.  He was just a narcissistic clown with a domineering father; the bourgeoisie didn’t want to give up their comforts.  We need to go into the street!"
“And we need to encourage men who are with us,” noted Anne. “Men at the women’s marches.  We all need a softening of the heart, becoming tender.  Movements begin in truth, justice, freedom, and a few crazy people.”
“Also you need courage,” chimed in Meryl, the moderator.  “You two have en-couraged us.”
“And we need forgiveness, mercy—like the Amish town who urged the mother of the killer not to move away; instead they offered her forgiveness, the mercy of God,” added Anne.
“We are in an emergency, so we are emerging,” declared Eve.  “There are 850 million people living in hunger in the world.  We cannot be alone right now.  We are all profoundly traumatized right now.  We need a new paradigm—not hierarchy and a big leader.”
The finale of the evening was a reading by each of the speakers.
“Every person’s story is important,” said Anne and began to read a story she had posted on her son’s website, Hello Humans, just a month earlier.
 “Six years and one month ago, I stood on the street… holding a sharp pencil,” she confessed, “… to stab my enemy in the throat, if necessary….  the enemy was my grown child….”  Use this link to read her story of freaking out over her son’s drug addiction.
Eve then delivered a thundering rendition of her signature piece, “I’m Over It,” an update of which had appeared on the Huffington Post a week earlier, October 18.
“I am over rape,” she began.  “I am over rape culture…  I’m over thinking about rape every day of my life since I was five years old.”
The evening ended with Eve’s call to rise up, followed by a riot of applause.
“There are approximately one billion women on the planet who have been violated.  Can we rise together?  Can we rebirth the culture because we know that when women are free, safe, equal and allowed to be alive in all their intensity, the whole story will finally change?”
Helga, Suzy, and I rose to applaud and to congratulate each other and everyone else for being present for such an empowering evening.  During these hours in Royce Hall we had felt the same energy and joy we’d had a year earlier, just a week away from electing the first woman president. 
That victory had been stolen, and the credulity-stretching year of 2017 in politics was getting worse each day as more disgusting pedophilia, rape, and sexual harassment by famous men was revealed and hashed over in the news.
But Eve Ensler and Anne Lamott had given us hope.  Each of the three of us is working on a book about our own life journey, having met in a memoir class led by Shawna Kenney, author of I Was a Teenage Dominatrix.  We walked out of Royce Hall surrounded by others whose lives had been energized by these two women. 
Words are events, they do things, change things,” as Ursula Le Guin put it.  “They transform both speaker and hearer; they feed energy back and forth and amplify it.”

Monday, October 23, 2017

To Agree or Disagree--a Question

Disagreeing is a lost art, said Bret Stephens at the Lowy Media Institute Award dinner in Sydney, Australia, on Sept. 23.

But it's more important than ever.

To listen and understand; to question and disagree; to treat no proposition as sacred and no objection as impious; to be willing to entertain unpopular ideas and cultivate the habits of an open mind — this is what I was encouraged to do by my teachers at the University of Chicago.

It’s what used to be called a liberal education.

The University of Chicago showed us something else: that every great idea is really just a spectacular disagreement with some other great idea.

Some of the great disagree-rs include:

Galileo and Darwin; Mandela, Havel, and Liu Xiaobo; Rosa Parks and Natan Sharansky.

May we have the courage to disagree with each other without killing each other or collapsing our democracy.

Read the full speech and enjoy the graphic at: 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Trump happened.

No one could say it better--as in S _ _ _ happens.

Thank you, LA Times.

Myeshia Johnson lost her husband La David Johnson in an ambush in Niger.

12 days later dt had not yet commented on the deaths of the four soldiers in that attack.

When asked by reporters, he claimed letters had been written.  And would be sent.  Signed by him.  He told a few lies--that other presidents such as Obama didn't make calls.  But dt would. 

Then he rushed to call the families of the four soldiers.

His chief of staff, former General John Kelly, advised him not to call--but then coached him.

When dt called Myeshia Johnson, she was in the car with her mother-in-law and her friend, Congresswoman Frederika Wilson of Florida, who had known her son.  She chose to put the president's call on speaker phone.

dt also had others listening to his call--Kelly and at least one other person.

He blew the call.  He didn't know how to convey compassion or sympathy.  He forgot the name of the fallen soldier, Army Sergeant La David T. Johnson, in both the call and his later defense of the call.

He said something along the lines of  "he knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt." 

When Kelly later said similar words, they were clearly filled with patriotism and compassion.

But Trump's words caused the widow more pain.  Soon after she arrived at Miami International Airport and met the coffin of her husband.  She wept (photo above).

Rep. Wilson chastised dt in a tweet and speaking to reporters.

When Trump responded, he referred to Myesha Johnson as "that woman" and "the wife."  He didn't even use the word widow.

He has memory problems--probably Alzheimer's.  

We need to remove him from office before he breaks the hearts of any more Americans.


Keeping Track of Fallen Men

We need a timeline to follow all the steps that have led to women saying NO to sexual harassment.

Thank you to Meredith Blake for her comprehensive report leading back to Anita Hill's revelations about her ex-boss, Clarence Hill.  It's titled "Despite outrage, we've been here before."

The headline on the jump to p. A10 is "Fissures appear in a culture of silence."


Thank you to the LA Times for featuring this report on the front page of today's print edition.  Of course, finding it online is difficult--the headline is changed to "Everyone is outraged over sexual harassment, but will this moment bring real change?" without Meredith's byline, and it's stored in the category of Television.

Anyway, the history begins with the film "Nine to Five" in 1980, soon followed by Anita Hill speaking out about Clarence Thomas--to no avail.  

The LA Times also provides an online slide show of 27 accused abusers as of Oct. 18:

Here's the timeline I culled from Meredith Blake's report today:

1980 "Nine to Five" -- comedy about inappropriate boss

1985 -- Gilbert Gauthe admits to abusing 37 boys, gets 10 yrs; Fr. Thomas Doyle warns of sexual abuse problem--ignored by bishops.

1986 -- Supreme Court ruling that sexual harassment violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964

1991 -- Anita Hill outs Clarence Thomas "first big a-ha on sexual harassment" says Fran Sepler
1991 -- Tailhook scandal, US Navy, Las Vegas Hilton

1996 --  Aberdeen scandal, US Army, Maryland
1997-87 -- Paula Jones vs. Bill Clinton, then Monica Lewinsky

2002 --Boston Globe team uncovers sexual abuse by Fr. John Geoghan and other priests; Cardinal Bernard Law resigns because of protecting Geoghan.  (Spotlight film, Best Picture, 2016)

2003 --  US Air Force Academy sexual assault scandal

2007 March -- Women vets of Iraq War report PTSD, sexual assault

2010 -- Oksana Grigorieva vs. Mel Gibson
2011 --  Jerry Sandusky, football coach for U. Penn.
2013 -- Corey Feldman and Corey Haim vs. Charlie Sheen
2014 -- Dylan Farrow vs. Woody Allen

2016 January -- National Park Service sexual harassment in report by Dept. of Interior   

2016 Feb. 29 -- Spotlight film wins Oscar for Best Picture

2016 -- Gretchen Carlson outs Roger Ailes in July

2016 September -- Access Hollywood tape shows Donald Trump boasting of abuse

2016 December -- Roy Price cancels Good Girls Revolt, new drama about fight for equality and against inappropriate bosses 

2017 Feb. -- HBO's Girls, lead character confronts older male sexual assaulter
2017 April 19 -- Fox News Bill O'Reilly fired
2017 April -- Choate Preparatory School, CT
2017 May --  L.A. Reid, Epic Records vs. accusers
2017 June 26 -- Silicon Valley exec Justin Caldbeck resigns from Binary Capital
2017 July 3--  Silicon Valley exec Dave McClure resigns from 500 Startups
2017 August -- R. Kelly vs. several accusers
2017 September 9 --  Eric Bolling, Fox News host fired for sexual harassment
2017 Sept. 11 -- In One Mississippi show by Tig Notaro, producer masturbates in front of woman

2017 October --  Harvey Weinstein, accused and fired
2017 October -- NBC's Great News shows Tina Fey as network exec doing harassment to win a multi-million exit settlement "like Ailes or O'Reilly"
2017 Oct. 17  --  Roy Price, Amazon Studios chief fired
2017 Oct. 18 -- Gymnast McKayla Maroney vs. Dr. Lawrence G. Nasser

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Gen. Kelly: "When women were sacred..."

General John Kelly, born in 1950 

I keep the news on during the day while I'm doing the dishes or skimming email.  If any news breaks, I give it my full attention.

Today when I heard General John Kelly speaking earnestly about the loss of his son Robert in 2010 in Afghanistan, I sat down to watch.

But suddenly I couldn't believe my ears:

I thought at least that was sacred. You know, when I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That’s obviously not the case anymore as we see from recent cases. Life — the dignity of life — is sacred. That’s gone. Religion, that seems to be gone as well.
Gold Star families, I think that left in the convention over the summer. But I just thought — the selfless devotion that brings a man or woman to die on the battlefield, I just thought that that might be sacred.
(Thank you to the New York Times for printing the transcript of Kelly's words.)

 Gen. John Kelly, chief of staff for Donald Trump, was telling me that in the 1950s and 1960s, "women were sacred."

What does that mean?  They weren't raped or sexually harrassed?  They were respected in some abstract way, though they couldn't get into law school or medical school?  

When Sandra Day O'Connor  graduated from Stanford Law school:
"at least forty law firms refused to interview her for a position as an attorney because she was a woman.[20] She eventually found employment as a deputy county attorney in San Mateo, California after she offered to work for no salary and without an office, sharing space with a secretary.[20]" (Wikipedia)

I'm two years older than Kelly.  I too lived through those years when my mother couldn't buy a carpet for the house because she didn't have my father's signature.

What kind of "great honor" is it when you can't get a job?  When you can't get the same pay for your job as a man doing that job?

What Kelly meant was, "In the good ol' days, we kept women on a pedestal and out of public life."

I don't want to be "sacred."  I want to be equal.

Next: what does he mean by "recent cases"?  Last week's news of sexual harrassment and rape by Harvey Weinstein?  And by his boss, Donald Trump?  If General Kelly cares about treating women with "great honor," why did he support Donald and choose to work for him?

Why does he think the "dignity of life" is gone?  Because of the shooting in Las Vegas?  Or because abortion is legal?  99% of Americans live with dignity and consider human life sacred--not to mention animal life and forests and other forms of life.  To jump from shootings or abortions to the idea that "the dignity of life" is completely gone--that's not rational.  It's an emotional rant.

And "Religion--that seems to be gone as well"???  

Psychiatrists call that statement catastrophizing.  Logicians call it jumping from a few facts to an unbelievably broad conclusion.

All Americans who went to church last Sunday, who pray for their nation and their leaders, must have been surprised to hear that religion is gone.  I don't believe that for one second.  I know.  I was sitting in a pew of the First Church of the Nazarene, Pasadena, listening to a wonderful sermon by a woman, Pastor Tara Beth Leach.

You know, I had been starting to like General Kelly.  He and General H. R. McMaster and General James Mattis seem to be protecting us from this deranged president.

But today I am reminded that Kelly is out of touch with the real world.  He thinks women are worse off now than in the 1950s.  He thinks life is not respected.  He thinks religion is "gone."

I can only conclude that we need to get this whole crowd of cultural dinosaurs and disrespecters of women out of the White House as soon as possible.