Thursday, July 7, 2016

When it comes to ignorance, we are all victims

Can’t believe we are once again learning of not one, but two fatal shootings of black men by police in the last 48 hours. Americans are watching this because there are cameras everywhere, in the sky on news helicopters, surveillance cameras on every corner, citizen’s cell phones, and even police body cameras. You might think that would be a deterrent but instead these incidents seem to be on the rise while recorded to the devastation of the quickly forgotten victims and their loves ones.

RIP Alton Sterling
That’s right Philando Castile and Alton Sterling have mothers, children, brothers and sisters, girl friends, and friends who now have to grieve in a national spotlight as police deflect by releasing the victims arrest records that hardly justify a death sentence. They hope we care less about these human beings and doubt the clear video evidence of men in a position of power abusing it with deadly force.

What is wrong with people?!

RIP Philando Castile
What is causing this pervasive plague on our nation’s police departments?

Oh wait a second. Would it be that being openly racist has come back into vogue because the GOP is proudly running a candidate who appeals to the most basic fears of the least educated people in America? We fear what we don’t know and what we are taught to fear by people who don’t care.

Donald Trump is personally responsible for not decrying the hate that fuels his campaign. He needs to raise his tiny hand and make his people stop the madness. It is hurting us all and won’t go away
Image tweeted by Trump. Soldiers in the bottom right red
stripe are actually Nazi soldiers. Accident or subliminal?
when he isn’t elected president. We will be left with a wide spread plaque of ignorance as immune to reasoning as the army of zombies depicted on fictional television programs. Only this is real.

The victims of this ongoing tragedy starting with the loved ones of Castile and Sterling, go on to include all Americans who believe in equal social justice and the hundreds of thousands of police officers who do their jobs honorably every day without killing people.

I know many of these men and women personally and I know they are crushed every time their blue suit gets a stain they don’t deserve.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Enough already

This morning I took a drive over to Falmouth Hospital to see a cousin who I knew had some surgery but I had no idea how sick he had really become. I last saw him when I dropped him off at a detox facility excited for the possibility he would get clean and sober. The last thing I said was “I don’t judge you by your past, but I will hold you accountable for the future.”

He was happy to accept the challenge. But now that he has finally made a commitment to a future it seems tenuous. Seems that as he confronts the alcohol addiction that has ruled much of his life it is arguing for the last word.

In the hallway a nurse shook her head and said, "if you think this is bad you should see our Tribal babies being born with addiction."

In the lobby as I was leaving I found another cousin in need of a ride home after a night in the ER fighting similar demons. She was pecking at her phone trying to raise a cab. 

“I’m going that way,” I told her. 

We avoided downtown Falmouth road construction detours that make it easier to solve a Rubik’s Cube than get from Main Street to Mashpee and took the shore route. She tipped her face toward the sunlight drinking in the warmth that belied the chilly sea breeze.

“I love this route. It’s so beautiful,” she said, all melancholy. She lost her son last year. After realizing she couldn’t drink the pain away she went to detox and got clean - for a while.

“I’m gonna drink today,” she told me. “I know I shouldn’t.”

“I don’t judge,” I told her. “You’re the only one who knows how to tend to your wounds.”

We are all wounded. We have all lost someone. Lately it seems with such regularity that the funerals have become commonplace. Last week it was a young father soon to be wed. A much loved young man who seemed to have his whole life waiting for him.  

I have been fortunate that my own children have been able to avoid the alcohol and drug demons. Still the way that addiction has ravaged our Tribe touches me deeply. I want to do something but I feel like an outsider who has little to offer in this war that is snatching up our next generation with the ease of a herring net dipped in Mashpee River.

My cousin shook her head. The Tribe needs to turn some attention away from that damn casino and pay attention to what is happening. And the drug dealers, they need to be held accountable.

“Don’t know how they sleep at night,” she said.

They aren’t invisible, but they sure seem to be inured to the damage they are doing. And why not, as we protect them while they kill our kids.

I dropped her off and headed home still wondering what to do. Something has to be done. Don’t know what it is, but something.

We are all accountable for the future.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

As the Fourth Estate Crumbles

No more NBC morning soap opera for me. Sick to death of the Matt, Savannah and Trump love fest. 

After screwing up earlier this week and allowing “The Donald” to spew implausible excuses for his David Duke/KKK debacle on CNN last Sunday, this morning Savannah swallowed more of Trump’s lies without even engaging a gag reflex.

Savannah Gutherie, Trump's biggest fan.
The NBC pair was called out after placating to Trump on Monday and allowing him to pretend a “very bad earpiece” was to blame for his lack of admonishment of David Duke and his KKK amnesia. But the transcript of the CNN interview that both Matt and Savannah should have read before the interview proves that claim absurd. During the interview with Jake Trapper Trump repeats Duke’s name several times but still refuses to disavow the former KKK leader. Clearly Trump’s handlers were not on standby and the billionaire bully was desperately trying to preserve his national base of support among racists.

Today Savannah advanced the issue one more time but not as one might think, to hold Trump accountable for obviously misleading her earlier in the week, but to give him an opportunity to set the record straight. With no mention of a faulty earpiece Trump’s new excuse was that he never actually met David Duke in person and for that reason couldn’t speak to the credibility of the man.

Really?! Savannah, you just let that go? Then any hope I had of Matt jumping in to wave the flag of journalistic integrity faded as he sat back and watched the circus continue without a word.

Trump went on to claim the opportunity was not there to disavow the KKK because Trapper asked him about white supremacy groups. That is “groups” plural. So Trump suggested that naturally he couldn't just disavow a bunch of groups because while some might be nefarious there might be one that is okay.

Seriously?! We aren’t talking about bananas here. It was quite clear that Trapper was referring to hate groups. Hate groups that are the foundation of Trump’s support.

The politically unschooled GOP frontrunner who quotes the Italian fascist Benito Mussolini unwittingly exposed his covert connection to a racist Twitter account in January retweeting an @whitegenocide post with a meme of a homeless looking Jeb Bush holding a sign for Trump in front of Trump Towers.

And still Savannah has no problem smiling sweetly at Trump and promising to put the issue to rest now that he has disavowed Duke for an eleventy-twelfth time on national television.

Trump disavowed Duke before the CNN interview, more than a decade ago, and then again after the interview, I’m sure at the urging of his handlers. But the real Donald Trump, the one who painted every Muslim in the country with a broad stroke of get the hell out, the one who calls Mexicans lazy, rapists and otherwise criminals, the one who disrespects women and mocks people with disabilities, the one who attacks anyone who disagrees with him with the intellect of a school yard punk, that was the man who spoke candidly on CNN last Sunday. 

Wake up Savannah and Matt. But it won’t be with me. I have already changed the channel. #NotToday

Monday, February 29, 2016

Feelin' the Bern, but standing by my girl

Putting the GOP circus aside for a minute, this primary certainly has given me a lot to consider. With Super Tuesday just hours away I found myself still weighting the pros and cons of each of the democratic front-runners.

I have donated to both Hillary and Bernie. They are close on so many issues including women’s rights to equal pay, abortion, same sex marriage, affordable higher education, climate change, social justice, and the economy.

Hillary is more conservative when it comes to defense and international issues but also has more international exposure, which can be interpreted as both good and bad thing.

They differ on things like Wall Street reform and ObamaCare but not divisively. It’s Bernie’s soft stance on gun control that gives me a bit of pause for doubt.

They agree on campaign finance reform even as Hillary enjoys more deep pocketed support. Yeah, I feel the Bern when I see the percentage of super PAC donations to her campaign. I guess it is something she would need to give up if she had to run for a second term.

At the end of the day I want to back a candidate with integrity who can muster a broad base of liberal support to go up against whatever this Republican lunacy churns out. To be honest, it could be either of them. There is a dilemma the GOP would love to have.

Bernie has the young progressives in a virtual lock. Hillary draws strong support from women and minority voters.

Both Hillary and Bernie have vulnerabilities that can be exploited, but the one thing I am confident in is that at the end of this primary season the Democratic Party will not cannibalize itself the way Republicans have.

So tomorrow Hillary will get my vote by a virtual coin toss of my liberal sensibilities. Which speaks to the relative decorum democrats have exhibited during this primary season.

Lets hope it lasts.

I can only hope that who ever ultimately gets the Democratic nomination can run a solidly sane campaign right through the middle of the GOP clowns to victory in November.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Save the Prouty Garden

A pearl in the oyster that is Boston Children's Hospital

"In many ways Prouty Garden saved us."

The Children’s Hospital in Boston will always be a special place for my family and me. The facility itself, the wonderful caring nurses and staff, dedicated doctors and residents are simply amazing. My daughter was treated there from the time she was six months old until she aged out at 22.

We were such regular visitors to the orthopedic clinic the nurses and doctors knew us all by name and the rotation of residents by reputation. Among the many procedures my daughter endured was a nine-hour surgery that enabled her to run, not fast, but steady. She spent weeks in the hospital.

Then when she became chronically ill as a teenager we spent the entire month of November at the hospital - even Thanksgiving Day - her favorite holiday. And like most parents of children who have to endure a hospital stay I was right there with her day and night.

Needless to say I became pretty well acclimated to the Longwood medical campus and all it has to offer from fast food to shops and galleries. Within the hospital I found the family lounge on every floor, the kitchen for a midnight snack, and the door to the stairwell for my daily cardio exercise running up and down nine or ten floors instead of taking the elevator.

But by far the greatest discovery I made was the day I found the Prouty Garden wandering in search of a family library. The halls that interconnect old and new sections of the hospital are well lit but still cavernous so when I saw sunlight splashing into the hall ahead of me I was intrigued.  The light led to a small but significant park encased in the concrete walls of the medical mecca. In the center a huge tree reached for the open sky as its web of roots clung to the earth. There were benches and a fountain, flowers and grass so inviting I removed my shoes and walked barefoot as if I were back at home in my own yard. There was sun on my face for the first time in days and I recovered a sense of calm lost amid the flashing lights, tweets and buzzing, and piercing alarms of a medical floor. It was indeed an oasis.

Established in 1956 by Olive Higgins Prouty in memory of two children she lost, the Prouty garden has been since dedicated as a memorial to all the children who have unfortunately died at the hospital. But it is so much more than that. It is a place as well for the living.

Trust me there is nothing more challenging in life than seeing your child suffer. It takes so much out of you both physically and emotionally. Finding that garden was like finding a little piece of heaven in my daily hell. I could hardly wait for my daughter to be well enough to leave her room so I could bring her there. While I can’t say enough about the great work of the medical staff, in many ways the Prouty Garden saved us, gave us medicine you can’t get from an IV bag or dispensed in pill form. To smell the flowers and fresh cut grass, to see birds and squirrels, feel the breeze and the warmth of the sun gave us a little peace in our daily battle. I remember thinking what an amazing gift it was.

So when I learned the administration has plans to bulldoze it to build an addition to hospital I could hardly believe it was true. Could they actually be so short sighted?! Historically, environmentally, and spiritually Prouty Garden is profoundly significant and should be preserved at all costs. It is the pearl in the oyster that is the Children’s Hospital in Boston.

So for what it’s worth I add my voice to the countless patients and parents, doctors and nurses, and families who lost children at that hospital, please don’t kill the one thing that gave me hope even in the darkest of times. Please keep the Prouty Garden.

*To learn more please go to and make a donation and please sign the online petition

Monday, January 18, 2016

Shedding some light on MLK Day

Was the Civil Rights Movement just a dream Baby Boomers like me have never woken up from? After getting into an inadvertent philosophical debate with my daughter, I had to pinch myself.

Yesterday I sent my daughter, a college junior, a link to a multi racial a cappella performance of “Shed a Little Light” in honor of Martin Luther King Day. The video made me nostalgic for the days when my children were young. Every year on the King holiday I would read to them from his letters, sermons and his epic “I Have a Dream” speech.

Sending the link was my way of connecting with my little girl over the miles that separate us on what I consider a pretty significant day.

“Thanks momma,” she texted me back as millennials do.

Then she went on to tell me, “. . . let's not forget that there's a reason this is MLK day and not Malcolm X day!! Mainstream America loves Martin Luther King because his activism was respectable (ie. palatable to middle class liberal white ppl) and fairly conservative. By all means take tomorrow to honor a man who did so much work to mobilize and empower black people but don't blindly accept him as the face of the civil rights movement.”

Then she added, “In conclusion, stay woke.”

Huh? Did I just get schooled by my 21-year-old?

Not so fast little girl.

“One raised consciousness with militancy, the other moved mountains with consciousness,” I answered her, “What would the world tolerate today?”

I grew up in Philadelphia just north of the Mason Dixon line in the 1960s where as a young girl I experienced a kind of racism my children will never know. There were stores and restaurants we simply couldn’t go to. There were children I wasn’t allowed to play with, names I was called that still hurt me to this day. Evaluating my daughter’s assertion through my lens of life experience I can assure you there was nothing palatable about King’s activism. More Gandhi than Genghis Khan, King was no less a warrior for social justice. I’m afraid this generation may never understand the kind of courage it took to wage the Birmingham campaign in the face of the most entrenched and defiant pool of racists in the country. But they might listen more openly to Malcolm X.

Both King and Malcolm X took a courageous stand against racial segregation and for social justice at great personal sacrifice and risk. And yes both men paid the ultimate price at the hands of an assassin.

The charismatic leader of the Nation of Islam began his campaign rejecting King’s nonviolence stance and featuring hateful rhetoric against the white race, Jews and even blacks that didn’t agree with him. Especially those who questioned whether black supremacy was a responsible answer to the Ku Klux Klan. He was, in a word, divisive.

But he was also a seeker of truth and unafraid to alter his thought process when he found it, even if that truth was in conflict with what he believed in before. His brilliance could not be contained in a place, a time or an ideology vulnerable to extinction. He grew to embrace multiculturalism as the answer to the racial woes of this nation and the world. He was indeed a great warrior for justice and deserves to be recognized.

Sadly, what the nation remembers of Malcolm X is his militancy, which was probably the biggest hurdle to a proposed act of Congress in 1993 to establish a national holiday in his name.

But in San Francisco, San Jose and Berkley in California they have marked the Malcolm X holiday each year on May 19 since 1979. Observances including conferences and heritage festivals are held throughout the country and at the Malcolm X Elementary School in Washington DC where the day is recognized as an annual day of peace.

I am awake now Savannah, and while you won’t likely convince me that MLK is any less worthy of this day, let us turn our thoughts today to Malcolm X.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

In The Bag

Hard to believe he has been gone 24 years. That is nearly half the time I had my older brother Steven in my life. He set the bar high on all kinds of things like fashion, art, activism, and personal integrity. Highly opinionated he held nothing back and apologized infrequently. Didn’t need to. He was either right or the collateral damage was best ignored.

He still has a huge impact on me.

Like yesterday morning when pulling myself together to go out into the world. Got three appointments before noon yet I throw on a pair of Capri sweats, a powwow T-shirt and sneakers. I roll the elastic bottom of the sweat pants to just under my knees for the knicker effect exposing leg scratches I got chasing the dogs through the brush over the weekend. Three long red rips of broken skin are glossed with a coat of Neosporin but there will definitely be scars.

“You got that frumpy, don’t give a shit look down,” his voice in my head tells me.

I ignore him because he is right. I don’t give a shit.

“I tried,” he sighs.

He is right again.

When I was 17 he invited me to the big city for a makeover. With all the confidence of Versace, the flair of a runway model and the determination to climb Mt. Everest (which aptly equated his task) Steven marched his hick sister up the steps at 234 Berkley Street in the Back Bay of Boston. The historic building had been the city’s original Museum of Natural History and a landmark for its architecturally astounding stone and brick features and grandiose windows. The current tenant was the upscale retailer Bonwit Teller. That meant little to me at the time but I will never forget the experience.

I skipped every other step trying desperately to keep up with Steven’s long stride. Lucky for me I was wearing my high top Pro Keds sneakers. Steven insisted I remove the jingle bell looped into the laces, a short lived fad adopted by girls at my high school meant to announce the coming of the cool chicks. It was admittedly pretty annoying and eventually dictated school policy banning the dreaded “jingle bell.”

The sneakers were blue and quite by accident matched my farmer’s style bib overalls under which I wore a brightly colored tube top, a wardrobe staple in the 1970s it was essentially a band of elastic fabric wide enough to contain our lady parts and extended generally down to mid waist level depending on our cup size. Needless to say these garments were highly prone to wardrobe malfunction.

Quite honestly it never occurred to me to feel out of place until we stood inside the great hall of Bonwit Teller. The three story skeletal dinosaur remains that once filled the space would have been far less intimidating than the chicness of the pencil thin, haughty clientele and giddy sales clerks bustling all around us like we were invisible.

I was sure neither my intellect or bank account entitled me to stand in the throng three ladies deep at the make-up counter until my brother raised one hand over his head, snapped his fingers and got the attention of a woman behind the counter who immediately recognized him.

We easily pushed through the half starved socialites and I hopped up onto a padded stool where the woman looked at me and said, “oh my.”

The two of them busied themselves with my face and hair for about half an hour until I looked like a young Lena Horne about to go muck the stalls.

Steven picked this and that, lipstick, foundation, eye shadows, and blush and paid the woman what I thought was more money than all of it was worth but for the bag. Our purchase was neatly packed in a Bonwit Teller paper bag with looped handles at the top and the trademark pink stripes that matched the awnings on the front of the building.

I learned to use the makeup, but I cherished the bag. It became a container for all sorts of things I collected over the years until it finally shredded beyond functionality.

I loved that bag.
I loved my brother.
They are both, sadly, gone.