Saturday, March 29, 2008

I kid you not~

We're at the part in the social studies book where the thirteen colonies are forming, and Massachusetts Bay Colony, despite being formed by religious dissenters, allows no dissent among its residents.

Roger Williams was banished and has headed south to start a colony in present day Rhode Island with Anne Hutchison following on his heels. She has been speaking up as well, in Bible studies for women, later drawing in men.

The student book covers 100 years in four pages, so all the juicy details of Anne's "blasphemy" has been left out, but I paused at this part and opened a discussion about the way things were then-- Puritan women were subordinate to their husbands and were not to teach men, among other things.

The kids didn't seem indignant, or concerned, or in any way vested in the plight of Anne, or women in general in those days. But they were energized by a conversation about women and men today.

Ashley, an earnest student, and smart, raised her hand. It takes awhile for fifth graders to make their point, but hers ended with a question: "If women did men's jobs, who would do the grocery shopping?"

I kid you not.

One girl said, "We need each other. If it wasn't for women, there would be no more people."

This brought an indignant response from Matt who said, "Yeah, but you need men for that too, you know!"

I kid you not.

There was another exchange about ironing and who in the family did it. I mentioned that my husband did his own ironing.

I kid you not.

The consensus was that ironing was a cross gender activity, and I learned which fathers ironed.

The class was not able to listen and began to talk over each other. Lots of opinions got tossed in the ring, but no one wanted to hear anyone but himself, so I called off the discussion.

"That's it, I said. We need to be able to have some respect for the opinions of others. We need to listen before we respond. If you want more discussions, you'll have to have some self-control."

"Was this like a town meeting?" someone asked. I'd told the class how feisty those could get. I assured him it was similar.

After class Jen came to my desk and fumbled to express her thoughts. She hadn't liked it when someone said women should be able to do "men's jobs." She floundered, trying to express herself.

I helped her out. "Are you saying that if a woman doesn't want to do a man's job she shouldn't have to, but that the opportunity should be available to other women who might want to?"

She beamed. "That's it!" she said. "Exactly!" And she skipped off to lunch.
“One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings.”~Franklin Thomas

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Religion, race and politics . . .

I've thought deeply since I blogged the "Damn Mad" post where I swished my brushstroke of anger-- in response to another's rage-- and in the process I splattered Barack Obama and dripped on others by implication. The very act of doing so seems to have aroused equal passion in many, not a bad thing.

Anger festers, if not expressed. Like a dormant volcano, long-held anger catches us by surprise by its seemingly out of proportion explosion. Anyone who has been a recipient of an unexpected tirade can vouch for the "Where did that come from?" feeling. Rev. Wright's comments caught me blind.

Anger spawns anger; it elicits a defensive response, often expressed by an equal explosion of rage. Until the lava cools, neither side is capable of hearing the other, let alone understanding the anger's source. It's a chain reaction. Something lit Wright's fuse, and he lit mine.

Anger is a bi-product of hurt, misunderstanding. It's a cry of pain. A cry of self-preservation. A protective armor.

We all have our armor of course. Those who wear theirs daily, and perhaps sleep in it, carry a heavy load. So much energy is required to drag this coat of mail, that it becomes the first and foremost task of living: protection. Stay angry, stay safe.

My armor is the shield I held up to deflect Reverend Wright's broad-brush painting of white America. I'll lower it now and examine the spattered mess lying at my feet.

The volcano rumbles, still. The race issue needs careful release, lest it erupts in way's we've seen before. Way's that spawn more anger. Ways that kill. Ways that require heavier armor. Ways that perpetuate the divide.

Obama gave a level response. Some say he broad-brushed white Americans. Some wish for greater denunciation of his former pastor. Maybe so. But I'll put my armor down and listen to the message behind the message, that at least was delivered sans visible anger. We have to listen to understand, and understand to solve problems.

Someone asked me pointedly what I've done to help the situation.

Not a lot, but all I can: teaching tolerance to my students, making them aware of the different points of view we must use to view the past and present, raising my kids to not to hate or fear what's different, giving them an outlook that requires they walk a mile in another's shoes . . . it isn't much. We're sheltered here in small town America. But I like to think my small offering is added to those of millions across the country and across the world . . . and I share a dream.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Damn mad!

Forty-three years since the Civil Rights Act which outlawed segregation passed, with a tacked on and much debated gender protection clause, America has a woman and a black man running against each other for a spot on the Democrat ticket for president.

Pride and progress swell American hearts and minds. We have put both the race and gender divide behind us. Or, maybe not.

It appears that while I was comfortable in my church listening to sermons about loving my fellow man no matter what his skin color, and while my parents were raising me to be colorblind, there were, and still are, black churches preaching a decidedly less gracious view of whites in the USA-- or the "US of KKK A" as Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, raved from his pulpit in a Chicago church whose motto is "Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian."

I hesitate to discuss the issue, because I'm white. Whites, apparently, are held to a different version of what constitutes racism. Try attending a church whose motto is "Unashamedly White," (not that you'd want to). Al Sharpton would swoop in, and the ACLU would scream.

Do I sound racist? I'm not. But frankly, I'm angry.

Damn angry at the hate, racist language, and antisemitism, spewing from Wright's mouth. Say what you will about this being the culture of the Black church, it reeks of hypocrisy that blacks cry foul at far less incendiary comments from the mouths of whites, yet defend the right not only of this pastor to say "God damn America" while assigning centuries of unfair treatment of blacks to present day whites, but for our presidential candidate to have steeped in this racism for the twenty plus years he has attended Wright's church. Yes, racism!

That Barack Obama wouldn't salute the American flag months ago, that his wife says America is worse now than decades ago, says that because her husband is running for president, for the first time she is proud of America . . . She who went to Princeton, and Harvard, who became a lawyer, who has a husband running for President is just now becoming proud? This is something I ponder when I'm not caught up in the daily grind, and the issues raise a flag-- not the red white and blue one.

And it makes me angry.

How disappointing that while Americans of all races continue to strive to make America a place of equal rights and fair treatment for all, some blacks, who were born well past the separate but equal days, continue to hold the sins of the grandfathers against present day Americans.

It makes me mad. Damn mad!

At whom? Not all, and certainly not most Americans. But to those who continue to divide with hate speech and ugly rhetoric, come, let us reason together. Before, like Sisyphus, we slide back down the long hill it took years to climb.
“I hope that people will finally come to realize that there is only one 'race' - the human race - and that we are all members of it.” ~Margaret Atwood

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Silda's song~

"Stand by your man." Country singer Tammy Wynette crooned those words ages ago-- forty years, to be exact.

Feminists scorned the words, but Wynette said she meant that women overlook their husband's shortcomings in the name of love. Well, of course! That goes without saying.

Meanwhile a generation of women softly sang those words against the shoulders of young men, and no doubt felt them soak into their tender hearts as they danced in a darkened high school gymnasium.

Surely Silda Spitzer sang those words years ago. Today she's living them-- or acting them, anyway-- standing beside her husband, New York's governor Eliot Spitzer, as he apologizes for his involvement with prostitutes.

She looks like an automaton, eyes vacant, and not nearly deep enough to contain the hurt. Women see it. Women feel it. And women think: no way would I stand beside the podium while my husband issued his apology. Why should I? Why should I act supportive when I feel nothing of the sort?

Ignoring a beloved's faults is one thing; standing by the man who just stuck a knife in your back is another.

Time will tell for the Spitzers. They are not alone in this marital mess. Others have gone before, and others will follow. Maybe there will come a day when Silda will forgive, will put the betrayal behind her, and nurture a tendril of love that somehow remains in her heart.

Both men and women do sometimes forgive, choose to reconcile, choose to stand by each other.

But until that happens, I'd rather not see a woman stand beside her man, not until her heart is back in her breast, beating steadily again. If ever.

But if you love him you'll forgive him
Even though he's hard to understand
And if you love him
Oh be proud of him
Cause after all he's just a man.

(lyrics by T. Wynette)

Where is Silda's song. Who will sing that?
Sometimes it's hard to be a woman, giving all your love to just one man. You'll have bad times,
 and he'll have good times, 
doing things that you don't understand.
 ~Tammy Wynette

Monday, March 10, 2008

Like an early spring~

 Winter on the Cape~
I woke this morning with a reminder of the weekend. No, not a hangover-- a brightened spirit.

I spent the weekend "down the Cape" with two teacher friends.

It's the tail end of the off-season on The Cape: the quiet time prior to the surge of tourists and fair-weather residents who'll stream across the Cape Cod Canal after Memorial Day.

The three of us met on Saturday at Mashpee Commons, a shopping center with shops named, among other things: Illusions, Irresistibles, and Quintessentials.

It's well known among my friends that I'm not the quintessential shopper. They suffer no illusions that I will unearth my deeply buried shopper persona on these getaways, which always involve a trip to some irresistible store or other. We synchronize watches, set a meet-up time. They shop, and I wander in and out of stores to eventually settle in a bookstore until time's up. I have no problem with that.

Saturday, however, torrents of wind-whipped rain soaked us to the skin before the first shopping hour was up. We did the round robin cell phone thing and headed back to the cottage to read . . . and nap.

Later we went to dinner early enough to have drinks and an appetizer at the bar before our reservation time. Then dinner, dessert-- creme brulee-- and back to lounge on the couch and talk politics before bed.

In the night the clouds ran dry. Sunday was sunny, cold and windy. We woke to our own internal clocks, and started the day in our own way, mine being a walk with my camera along the beach at the end of the lane.
Then after a late breakfast and a scenic drive, we split to return to our real lives: one to continue the aborted shopping spree, one to the gym, and me to another beach for a long walk into the wind which gusted forty miles an hour.

Today, at school, we met before the kids arrived, and talked about how much fun we had, how tired we are, and how we'll do it again for sure.

It's amazing what a change of place-- and pace-- can do for the winter weary spirit. But more than that, it's the friendship that refreshes and warms the heart, that make the tail end of winter seem like an early spring.
The time must come when this coast will be a place of resort for those New-Englanders who really wish to visit the seaside.~Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Grab the nearest book~

In blogland there are memes-- fun, but a little like a chain email. Fun is relative, and I hesitate to impose it on others who experience fun differently.

But this, from Josie, is easy, interesting, and-- for me, anyway-- fun!


1. Grab the nearest book of 123 pages or more. 

2. Open it to page 123. 

3. Find the first 5 sentences and write them down. 

4. Then invite 5 friends to do the same.

I just finished reading Susan Wicklund's The Common Secret for a review to be published in The Internet Review of Books March 15. I was tempted to pull from that. But I've moved on to The Best American Nonrequired Reading, an eclectic collection of essays and other bits that "defy classification" as the promo says. Good stuff, all, and I'm enjoying it.

Page 123 happens to be smack in the middle of a section where The Edge Foundation ( posed its 2006 question to scientists:

What is your dangerous idea?

Ray Kurzwell, inventor and technologist, expounds in "The Near-Term Inevitability of Radical Life Extension and Expansion:"

On the other hand, if we factor in the doubling of the power of these technologies each year, the prospect of radical life extension is only a couple of decades away.

In addition to reprogramming biology, we will be able to go substantially beyond biology with nanotechnology, in the form of computerized nanobots in the bloodstream. If the idea of programmable devices the size of blood cells performing therapeutic functions in the bloodstream sounds like far-off science fiction, I would point out that we are doing this already in animals. One scientist cured type I diabetes in rats with blood-cell sized devices containing seven nanometer pores that let insulin out in a controlled fashion and that block antibodies. If we factor in exponential advances in computation and communication (price-performance multiplying by a factor of a billion in twenty-five years, while at the same time shrinking in size by a factor of thousands), these scenarios are highly realistic.

Dangerous ideas. Interesting thoughts. All the essays are interesting and provocative.

I have tried to think of my own version of a dangerous idea since reading. Stay tuned. If I think of one, I'll post.

I'm passing the meme torch to:




Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends. ~Dawn Adams