It’s Our Nation: Please Pay Attention

The New York Times wants to hear from women about the whole Kavanaugh debacle, and my first thought, after all those days in front of the TV for the Supreme Court hearings was, what’s the point? The time to hear from us (and the many, many good men who stand with us) is Nov. 6 and dear God, do I hope we make our voices heard then. We need to overwhelm the ballot boxes from one end of the country to the other because we simply cannot continue in this direction much longer. It’s more than a matter of showing our displeasure; it’s to save our democracy.

 

How Dare You!

The images have been haunting from the start of our current government’s outrageous treatment of asylum seekers. And you knew it was only get worse.

There was, of course, the one that landed on the cover of TIME and gained worldwide notoriety (and lampooning) — the wailing toddler standing at the knees of her manacled mother, the armed border agent alongside. It was gratifying to learn later that mother and child were reunited and safe. But what about all the other images that slid across my consciousness and vanished? I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time scrolling in vain through online photo archives for the images that remain forever lodged in my mind.

For me, it was one of two very small boys walking hand-in-hand alone between two rows of men’s knees in what was obviously some kind of waiting facility. The children were vulnerability personified. I hope there was a parent nearby; I hope everyone is safe.

And then there was the photo of a small clutch of girls walking with a chaperone on a dark New York City street toward a shelter. The caption noted they’d just landed from a flight halfway across the country. The mother in me wanted to scream (and maybe I did) “How dare you put my child into an airplane for what could well have been her first plane ride? How dare you!”

Or now that children and parents are beginning to be reunited, what about the heartbreaking video of a mother trying to embrace her little boy who kept breaking loose from her arms and running off? “What is wrong with my son?” the shocked mother shouted. And I wanted to shout along with her, “What have you done to him? How dare you!”

Except for being stuck in my mind, these images are unavailable for me. But today, and before I lose it, is a front page story in the Los Angeles Times about a Guatemalan family’s reaction to the changes they see in the 12-year-old boy returned to them after four months.  While in detention, the boy was hospitalized and treated for depression. Among his belongings, the family found a powerful prescription medication used to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. They knew about his hospitalization but had never given permission for him to be administered medication. Again the parent in me wants to shout, “How dare you!”

We’re just at the start of this horror, you know. If our inept officials manage to put every child together with every family and allow asylum petitions to resume, there will still be the matter of long-term psychological harm that was inflicted on the children. Whose responsibility is that? And, not to be crass, but what about the money families scraped together to finance what is an internationally legal undertaking just to be sent back to the dangers they were trying to escape?

How dare we?

It’s Been 17 Years

World Trade Center

Photo: theatlantic.com

Last night on MSNBC’s “11th Hour,” Brian Williams mentioned that incoming college freshmen today have no memory of 9/11. That startling fact sent me back to my past posts to see what I wrote and wonder how I could commemorate the date this year. Others have observed that 9/11 held in our time the same significance as Pearl Harbor did in our parents’ time.

I trust those college freshmen will have the opportunity in their lifetimes to visit the various commemorative installations that have been established in New York City, at the Pentagon and today, in Shanksville PA, along with others in this country and abroad. They are poignant reminders of the sacrifices of individuals made in the face of unspeakable evil.

But the most significant 9/11 reminder I read today was an op-ed piece in The New York Times by Joe Quinn, an Army veteran whose brother’s death on the 102nd floor of the World Trade Center spurred him to military service and tours twice in Iraq and once in Afghanistan. It took him 17 years to be able to face the realization, he wrote, that our country is doing just what Osama bin Laden strategized: “to embroil the United States in a never-ending conflict to ultimately bankrupt the country …(and) to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note.”

 

Forking Over Some Facts

Pasadena fork (new)It’s something I usually do not have time for – it’s all I can do to get a couple of posts up per month – but today’s daily word prompt from WordPress was irresistible: Fork.

First thought: Pasadena’s 18-foot wood fork in the road, erected on a traffic island in the dead of one night in 2009 as a gag birthday gift between two friends. It was subsequently taken down and then approved by all the proper authorities including the state transportation department whose land it sits on. (When that happened, the Los Angeles Times headline read “A Fork Whose Tine Has Come.” No end to the puns here.) Today Pasadena’s fork warrants mention and directions on travel sites such as roadsideamerica.com and atlasobscura.com, and provides the setting for food and toy drives, as well as special events like a visit from a touring 6-ton potato belonging to the Idaho Potato Commission.

Since my husband Ed and I are at the stage of life where visits to medical facilities tend to overwhelm our social calendar and since many of those facilities are in Pasadena, we pass the fork frequently. It always makes me smile.

yogi berraIt also reminds me of another fork in the road, this one up the street from the home we moved away from in Montclair, New Jersey 11 years ago. That home was up the street from the now late, always great Yogi Berra whose malapropisms delighted baseball fans and everyone else throughout his life. Hearing him say, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it,” they’d smile and say, “Oh that Yogi,” but what many didn’t realize is that a lot of Yogi’s supposed malapropisms contained much truth. That was certainly true of the fork-in-the-road comment, made while giving someone directions to his home on our street. It was reached by traveling up a hill on a road that divided – a fork – that led either way to Yogi’s (and our) street.

(Our younger daughter trudged up that street every day after fourth grade, muttering curses under her breath toward her parents and their penchant for living on hills. It was just that year, after which came middle school and buses, followed by high school and cars. After college and graduate school where presumably some walking was involved, she moved to Los Angeles and never had to walk again unless she really wanted to.)

Is It Over Yet?

Masochist that I am, I watched every single candidates debate so far in this already interminably long presidential campaign. Both parties. Even those featuring the so-called undercard or which Rachel Maddow snarkily and delightfully refers to as “the kids’ table.” Strangely enough, those candidates, whose low poll numbers had relegated them to that position, seemed to make more sense than the ones on center stage. Not that I’m going to vote for any of the Republicans but still, it makes you wonder why many with the most experience and apparent decent judgment are the ones being forced to drop out. If they didn’t know it before, the rest of the world must think we’re crazy.

So the voting begins with the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1. And then there will be more debates and more voting and finally 313 days from now, on Nov. 8, there will be a general election and the United States will have a new president. And poor, beleaguered Barack Obama will be able to take the gray hair we all gave him off to a well-earned retirement.

Happy New Year!

Lost in Conflation

brian williamsPoor Brian Williams. The NBC newsman is being pummeled for having said he was aboard a military helicopter when it was shot down in Iraq in 2003. He has apologized, saying he had been in a different helicopter, behind the one that had been fired upon and, as The New York Times reported, had inadvertently “conflated” the two. The paper wrote, “The explanation earned him not only widespread criticism on radio and TV talk shows, but widespread ridicule on Twitter, under the hashtag ‘#BrianWilliamsMisremembers.’

Similarly, Hilary Clinton was ridiculed after she acknowledged having “misspoken” when she described running across a tarmac to avoid sniper fire upon landing in Bosnia when she was first lady in 1996.hilary clinton

I like Brian Williams and not just because he grew up in New Jersey as I did. And I like Hilary Clinton. I sympathize with both of them for finding themselves lost in conflation. I understand how it can happen. You’re close by a scary event, you realize it could have been you experiencing it and not the people who actually did experience it, and over time you internalize the details so that it becomes, in your mind, something that really happened to you. That’s not the same as lying. As a public figure, you’d have to know that other people were there, and if you were lying, they’d know it. Why would you put yourself in that position?

After more than half a century together, Ed and I share many stories of things we experienced jointly. Frequently, he “misremembers” the details of one event or another. Sometimes I correct him and sometimes I let it go. What difference does it make? And I’m sure he does the same with me when I “misremember” things.

The difference with Brian Williams and Hilary Clinton and other public figures is just that: They are public figures. And they have staffs. Were their staff members so cowed that one could not have taken the boss aside and pointed out the “misremembering” before it became fodder for late night comics?

The last time we were together with both our daughters and their husbands, our older daughter told a story of how she had been destined to be left-handed but that I, being left-handed myself, was determined to try to prevent that, placing items in her right hand and not the left. I had to tell that daughter that that story was not hers; it was her sister’s. I did indeed try to encourage both daughters to have an easier time in life by being right-handed. And the older daughter went along with it. But every time I placed an item in her younger sister’s hand, she’d move it to her left. After many months of this, I gave up. But the older daughter, having heard that story her entire life, had conflated it to be about her. No big deal; it happens. “I’m sorry,” I told that daughter, “but I was there and that’s what I remember.”

But who knows. Maybe I’m the one who “misremembered.”