After School and the Bullies

She
Was Small
And filled with
Doubt.      Dread
Filled         Time in
Classes         Where she
Watched           Learned about
Why she               Felt so different
From the                 Other children who
Played with              Dolls, makeup and boys
While she                      Read about Asia and war
She stitched                     Herself into a painting
Dressed in                        Red laughing at the camera
Her book                                Children who Shared and went
Hungry                                     And while the playground ran then
Emptied until                            Only bullies were left to invite her upon
The slide                                           And they tipped her over the side to lay
Mocked. Waking                                 to the Dark, as they walked away laughing,

Formless and bloody in a puddle, next to the slide.

Please help in the fight against bullying on our playgrounds, in our schools and on the internet. Take a stand for those who are different. Thanks.

Poisonous Political Concepts and the Common Man

I have difficulty dealing with the concept that compassion and charity are a sign of weakness. Watching the pundits play with the future of the American public has given me no small amount of distress. It isn’t the first time in US history that this has happened. Our government tends to work while holding onto the pendulum of widely varying public opinion. This pendulum keeps swaying back and forth, back and forth, until someday it will stop. Stopping will be at a median point on the swing. Being in the middle without the influence of left or right will mean that the public no longer cares.

Voting is a privilige and a right in the US. But rights are being disregarded by those who spout conservatism, wealth acquisition, bullying, lying, et al. No one seems to care that libel is committed every day. We have libel laws. We have laws against sedition. They aren’t being enforced. Remember “truth in advertising?” They made the Keebler Cookie Factory change its commercial because cookies can’t be made in a tree, they have to be made in a real factory.

There is a deep dissatisfaction these days. Everything seems tainted by cruelty. People rally so that they can control others. Insurance companies have a tightly held fist on making sure they are first in line for profits, and last in line for protecting the rights of humans. There are loopholes for everything. News reports flood the airwaves with non-essential cute news stories alternating with the current murders. Rarely an in-depth researched piece on economics from an impartial source. Foreign news lacks. We are Euro focused if anything and even that is rare, unless you wanted the cute robe that Harry’s young son modeled for Mr. and Mrs. Obama. The Middle-East news is carefully screened so that the watcher won’t be offended. And Asia, what is going on in Asia. Poor VP Biden with all of his hope for the improvement of the world. He works well with Kerry. We only get the complaints about what they are doing.

Bernie Sanders was subjected to a Facebook whiteout. So many trolls got on the site and spammed that the sites were temporarily blocked. Even when the administration of Facebook reviewed what had happened, those doing the spamming weren’t punished for hacking a feed. People are being hired just to be mean on the internet. GoldmanSachs is feeling oh so good about the increase in profits they are going to get. Trump will fire Congress (someone should tell him it doesn’t work that way.) Cruz will step all over the work the LGBT community has put forward. Fear of going to the bathroom reigns in North Carolina. “A safety issue” is proclaimed about which bathroom a transgender person should use. “We need our privacy” is shouted. My answer to that is, “SHUT THE PARTITION DOOR.” Yes, I yelled it. We stand in line for hours at women’s bathrooms all over the US. The doors to the toilets give some privacy, that is if you shut them. I don’t know how someone transgender could be a danger while washing his/her hands. People seem to just want to hate. Hate travels. The brain likes stimulus, and some people like the rush they get from fear or hating or blaming. They feed off of it. They consume it like chocolate, and then blame some more.

I don’t know how to fix this problem. As long as people are interested in anything other than the overall health of this nation, it’s going to get worse. Simple compassion, sharing, helping life others, ending the blame game and facing issues head on are so important to us as a nation. Ben Franklin must be spinning in his grave. John Adams would blink and ask if you read that document that the Great Little Madison composed. You might remember it as the Constitution of the United States. I’ve read every word of it. There is nothing about using public office to push a religious agenda. In fact, it’s the first amendment for a reason. Separation of church and state allow for individuals to believe in their form of religion without being dictated to by the government or other religions. Madison was governor of Virginia, the first of the states to push through a non-discrimination bill. He had married Dolly Madison, a Quaker. They were from different religions and under the old colonial law, they would have been fined a hefty amount and faced jail time. They even reigned in their own son when he put profit ahead of public service. A town named Woodbridge grew where that bridge that he charged hefty tolls to cross. Your only other option was to hire a ferry across.

Washington’s genius was in getting people to work together. Diverse people whom he respected. He established US 1 as the first highway, found money for canals, stopped armed insurrection with his ability to speak to the common man as an equal. Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln, Adams Jr, the Roosevelts, Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, Clinton, and yes, Obama all have one thing in common. When they acted, they were doing their best so that people like me could grow, be safe, be involved, and have the moral fortitude to say, “Enough is Enough.”

Enough IS Enough.

When enough people get hurt by the actions of our politicians, maybe they will do what Jefferson recommended. “A little bit of revolution” can be a good thing. That revolution needs to happen on a national scale in the voting box. Our voting needs to be  changed back to the inclusive rules that we fought for throughout the history of the country. Affirmative action isn’t a bad thing at all. The right to get to the point where you can stand out needs to be returned, instead of dumping debt on people who went to school to become better at dealing with life. Our children have personal debt. To scream and shout that they should have known their place is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Oh, hard science majors are in demand again. But those in the so-called soft sciences or administrative area are still suffering from under-employment.

If we could only be paid like pro-athletes, and have the power of judicial review returned on the same time table as they use in baseball games. Wishful thinking. Someone needs to get that candidate for Supreme Court up and running. To hold us hostage is criminal.

 

Well, I Never!

I never thought I’d see the day that teachers would ask parents in approved letters from school administrations to keep the news from children because it would cause  discipline charges. If anything, when I taught I wanted my students to watch the news and look for elements of who, what, where, when and why. A short article written to summarize the important news of the day that could be used to teach how the correspondence of knowledge, application and discovery shaped our worlds was a positive thing. Of course, there were problems with discovering what was important and what was simply to incite a feeling that wouldn’t be allowed in polite society. But these days, I’d make sure my children didn’t watch the news when politics are highlighted. Running for the highest office in our land must show figures who, with integrity, have a positive regard for our country, the office, and the outcomes of public service. At least that is what I believed would occur, right up until this year.

This year I am embarrassed to be known as a voter. I’ll be even more embarrassed if I don’t vote. What are my choices? A bully pulpit like Theodore Roosevelt? A moralist? A preacher’s pet? A shrill voice shouting, “Mememe” without room for punctuation? How can these people be taken seriously? If I choose one, whose message is not only consistent but in my best interests to speak about, am I guilty if I promote my opinion about him?
I have never seen such a snarl of childlike behavior coming out of grown men and women. I get emails asking for money multiple times a day as the sky is falling. Watching the skies, I have seen the heaven’s holding in their assigned place, clouds up where they belong, and the wind sweeping up after their parade. Watching the television, I have see a grown man inciting to riot, to violence and then blaming it on anyone but himself. He’s a front runner. I have seen a woman portray herself as one of the people but taking the very money from sources that she had urged her presidential husband to veto during his turn. I have seen an older man criticized because he is over 70 and in good health. How can that be a disability? I have a disability. He’s been at work for over 55 years and now they want a physical before they let him run? Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t have a physical first and he had heart issues as well as suffered from the effects of polio in his life. Edward Kennedy came out in opposition to forces within our society that were actively seeking to control our every waking moment. He was against racism, poverty, organized crime and intellectually destroying movements who wanted to commercialize our foreign policy. And  Humphrey, poor man, struck down by cancer when all he wanted was to make the world a better place for all of us. Jimmy Carter has done more good, and set a better example, after he left the office of president. When he was President, the congress refused to act positively on his proposals. Now the man has not only a sterling reputation for fairness, concern and compassion, but his cancer is in remission because of presidential funding of research.

We pay athletes millions of dollars. A man or woman, working blue collar jobs, will make in their entire lifetimes less than these young men make in a single year. Those who can take time to have a social life, vacation and go to concerts in addition to their occupations will live much longer than those of us who try to exist from paycheck to paycheck. The oil industries, gas industries, and coal industries treat their employees as expendable while they put profits in the pockets of their blue suits (or black suits or even a leisure shirt from Hawaii) and don’t use it to update and safeguard their resources. Then they turn around and swear that prices are so low for the public that it will ruin the economy. Word folks, the people who work to do all of the menial jobs in this country were very appreciative when prices fell. But do the bottom and middle of society not count?
There are people who work for others; teachers, nurses, firefighters and yes, even the police who continue to do their jobs just because they are needed. Bad apples aside, shouldn’t they have healthcare? No, not insurance, yet another bloated industry. HEALTHCARE. You bet they should.

I’ve seen HOAs who work for their communities turn right around and hire management groups who work against them. The management groups are turning quite a profit and neighborhoods become less neighborly as a result. Mine will charge you a 36% fine if you are late by even a day. 36% is about the beginning of title loans, which capture families who have little and are about to have even less. Food is not a luxury. Clean water is not a luxury. We have in Michigan a governor who encouraged Flint to use water they knew was unpalatable and downright poisonous. Can’t we on the bottom pay for a dollar a bottle? How come we don’t have those resources, now that industry moved away and jobs are found at the dollar store?
I’m angry that somehow the spirit of the United States that advocated “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense,  promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America” has been swept aside and replaced with “We the masses have the right to be prosecuted and detained because of the color of our skin or our income levels or sexual preference  to the point of execution that needs no justification and has no limits, to be given fearful messages by leaders that ensure compliance to new legislative whims, to starve, freeze and die of illnesses before our time, to become the least educated country in this world, to have militant organizations terrorize our own people, to destroy our natural resources, to bully and insight to riot whenever it is possible the subjects who live within our borders, to keep out any and all compassion towards the rest of the world, to profit from all moneys taken and abused and misused by the rich…” I’m angry.

I have a right to be angry. I served in the US Army, even though women were given treatment I wouldn’t inflict on a stray possum. I taught in this country’s public schools. I taught in a school system that the newer residents who were wealthier got new schools and the best equipment and opportunities. I also taught on the poor side of town.  I taught school children in buildings that were old, worn, and dangerous. I taught where there weren’t enough text books to give each student one, and certainly they were not current textbooks with newly learned science and technology lessons. I put my personal money into buying books for students to read, to learn from, and I was glad to do so.  I stayed every day, subjected to every illness that a child brings to school on the hands or in their sneezes when they should have been home safely in bed. I contracted an auto-immune disease. Perhaps the sneezes were part of that, perhaps not. But I want, I DEMAND, that I and every other person on the face of these states that banded together in brotherhood and sisterhood to create a nation that would rise to be a star at the top of the global factions called countries because of its policies that would eradicate poverty, racism, violence, hatred, bigotry, disease, religious zealotry and more. Those who target the poor and middle-income in an effort to increase the divide between the classes need to be put on notice that their moment of greed is at an end and that we as a people will be entitled to live our lives productively, happily and able to share in those “Blessings of Liberty” and tolerance that we were promised.

I remember the 1960s when JFK spoke about working together, when the Peace Corps was a way to serve the world, when Martin Luther King Jr used the teachings of Gandhi to mandate a peaceful reproach and civil disobedience in the face of wrong doing so that the wrong doing would end. I remember Robert Kennedy speaking and the enthusiasm of his voice proclaiming that the time had come for things to start becoming open to humanity and its needs. I was watching the TV as a child when John, Martin and Robert were murdered. I watched my parents who were numb after all of the violence. I wanted the “Blessing of Liberty.” I still do.

Staring into the Abyss

You left me for work, you say, screaming as you went out the door. Your words are filled with hate, confusion, disgust. The throwing ceases with the door slamming shut, and now it’s only a matter of time. The phone will ring, and you will cry, “I didn’t mean it. I’m so sorry. You know I love you. I’ve always loved you. I’m so sorry.”

My part of the conversation will go as usual, “Hello? It’s all right. It’s all fine. You have to stop yelling now. Stop it. Take some deep breaths. It’s not so bad. Calm down, I’ll see you in the morning. Everything will be just fine.”

Everything I dreamed falling in love would be is only a pipe dream. They say only fools fall in love, and it is true. I was a cute little blond full of energy, wanting someone to love me. I was a first class fool.

Our marriage started with you drunk and disorderly. It started with my denying there was a problem. I was fine at work, where the guys would tease and try to cop a feel. I could out dance, sing and play them into the ground. You could come home from work, cursing that the road was wrong and you couldn’t pay for the apartment we lived in. You didn’t make enough. I was pregnant before we knew it. You told me that someone was trying to kill us. I lost my job, the apartment upstairs where the MP dropped only one shoe a night, and my dreams. I couldn’t go home, and the throwing started then. The door did hit my face.

That day you called me from the payphone. “Honey, I’m so sorry. I’m so very sorry.”

I ignored the pain, used the powder, and looked into your eyes trying to see my dream. Dad would have killed you, but I couldn’t go home to hear about what foolish childish dreams I had had. No, my mother would have been too much to bear.

In part, my mother modeled this for me. My father yelled. He split the kitchen table in half with a butcher knife. He yelled as he threw her across the room for having loved him. I couldn’t go home there. I pick up the phone, “Hi mom, I need to go back to school. There are no jobs for me here. Tell Dad I love him.”

It was something not spoken of in polite society. Your mother let us move to her home. It lasted a whole month. You smoked, lied, drank and ignored your mother who was ailing from having teenagers at home. She was as polite as you, “Get the fuck out of my house.” So I did.

We didn’t have food to eat. When the baby came, I walked to the social service’s office five miles away. You stayed home and drank. I had the baby. I had only enough bus fare to take the bus one way. They belittled me. Everything must me my fault. Ignorant woman that I was to have gotten pregnant so early. They thought I was a teenager, but I outgrew you by four days. On the way home, I hawked my wedding ring so that we would have a bit of cash. Thirty dollars for a cigar band. On the way home, I stopped to buy food for us. Orange juice, frozen pizza, formula, salad: these were for us both. I was starving. You ate the pizza while I showered and put the baby down for a nap. I drank the juice.

You took care of the baby while I found a job. Minimum wage to fold household goods. The manager told me I had one month to fix the department. I finished in one day. Everything tagged, Everything in its own place. He offered me a management job if I could move to Tennessee. Our car was dead. The company closed at the end of the month. Your parents blamed me for our poverty. How could such an educated woman live in squalor? You were expunged from the US Army’s roll call.

My aunt and uncle tried to straighten you out. They fixed me. I could smile at their house. I cleaned, worked for my aunt, and the second baby arrived. They gave us up.

We separated. I was to return to the Army, but they told me I had to give my children up for adoption. That wasn’t going to happen. I worked at a bank of hopelessness. It didn’t cover our rent or childcare. You drank and slept while the baby slept on your chest.

I pulled us together. I set rules, worked my way through a graduate degree, got a teaching job. Your son failed first grade. He called his classmates, “You little shit birds.” You got detention from his teacher, a minister’s wife. Your daughter had large eyes, a timid nature, and fear.

You got a job, and all turned into sunshine. Your boy worried us to death, your daughter fought at school. She swore like her brother. I took care of the swearing. I had power.

Then like a fool, I broke. My brain fried. I had trouble walking. I would sleep through teaching. Your mother told me to slow down. Your father drank. Your mother cried, and I bled for her. It was too much for her. She died. He drank.

You stayed sober, but despaired. Everything I did wrong, you looked at me with leaden eyes. I kept telling you I loved you. Tonight was the last.

After you called tonight, I went to the park and looked across the Potomac. As the sun went down, I did the only thing I could do to let you know how much I loved you. The water was cold.

Haunting Memories of Life

Waking up in with a mouthful of mulch and blood wasn’t the way Lois had thought her girl scout picnic would end. She glanced up at the slide, remembering giggling and playing for the first time as if she weren’t the weirdo in her neighborhood. It had been to much to believe that the other girls had finally accepted her after three years.

The blood slipped out of her chin, down her neck and soiled the uniform blouse that she had been taught would make her part of a group of friends. No, dirty hands moving up to hold her chin, which suddenly and painfully had made her aware of what had happened. No, she should have known better. She should have sat on the sidelines and watched the other girls play.

“Push her, push her!” The laughter of the girls when she had fallen the eight feet to the ground. She remembered that now, just as she remembered them calling her a baby and telling her she was faking when she hadn’t gotten up. She didn’t remember anything else until the taste of blood and mulch had woken her.

If she could find someone…Lois staggered away toward the picnic shelter where dinner was supposed to happen. It was empty except for her mother and father. “Where have you been? Mrs. Johnson called us, she said you had disappeared.” Lois took her hands away from her chin and passed out.

“Grandma, wake up, wake up. You’re dreaming again.”

“Damn it.”

Her eyes closed heavily again. Sleep returned but so did the dreams. Four months after her chin had been broken and she had been accused of lying about being pushed, even her parents had not believed her, applying a bandage and ignoring her pain. She’d kept her mouth shut, and didn’t argue. There was no sense to it.

Her birthday, she remembered. It had been her birthday. All of the girl scouts had been invited. She had worn a pretty dress, handmade by her mother. She loathed it. The other girls had heckled her since second grade. “You’re poor. Haha, your parents can’t even afford to buy you decent clothes. You’re poor.” The party went better than she had expected. No one came.

Her parents were furious, starting to believe that the scouts weren’t as scoutlike as they should have been.

“Grandma, wake up. You’re crying.”

She didn’t open her eyes. There was high school. The winter king and queen were to be crowned and her name had appeared on the ballot. She had even made it to the final round, not realizing that it was a huge joke. Another put down from a crowd of hateful girls and their all to compliant boyfriends. She should have known better.

She rolled onto her side. Another spook of the past appearing before her. Then another and another. She was a fool. How did she manage to keep believing that she would some day find a place to fit in and be welcome? It would be better if she died. The memories were too much for her. She was aware of tears, and voices.

“Come on, Grammy dear, keep breathing. The ambulance is on the way.”

“Grandma, don’t leave us. We need you.”

Her last thought was, “No, you don’t.”