Tuesday, November 3, 2020

States' "rights". That's "right".

Been doing some thinking – always a dangerous thing – about “states’ rights”. Why in quotes? Because you only ever hear of certain states braying about them…the red states. “States’ rights” have become code for suppressing rights: the right of women to reproductive freedom; and the right of everyone to personal safety.

States were originally allowed autonomy because it was recognized that they differed in their needs, i.e., urban versus rural; economies based on farming versus industry versus tourism versus mining, minerals, and timber; mountainous versus flat; coastal versus inland. But there’s absolutely no difference between a woman wanting an abortion in a coastal versus an inland, or a mountainous versus a flat state. Neither is the way the state’s people make a living related in any wise to reproductive rights.

The same applies to personal safety: When a state enacts gun laws, those laws don’t affect that state’s citizens only; they affect visitors from other states. I have just as much right to personal safety in Kansas or Alaska as I do in New York or California, do I not? For that matter, so do visitors from other countries.

I understand that the farming-based states need a lower age for getting a driver’s license; and states certainly should issue their own hunting and fishing permits. But reproductive rights and personal safety? Every human being is entitled thereto; they should not differ from state to state.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Covid competition? Why not?

 I just read an article about how across Europe, where nightclubs have been shuttered since June, illegal raves have been taking place outside cities…and subsequently, the covid numbers are rising. My initial reaction? I confess: schadenfreude: See? We’re not the only ones screwing things up royally. We love to blame our gormless leaders, who’re caving to their respective right-wing fundy populations, but the rest of us haven’t been paragons either.

While I’m not in the “masks are decoration” camp, I’m not strict about wearing one either: Over the holidays I had a few people in my house, and none of us masked. Likewise, I visited one other home, and didn’t mask, as didn’t the residents. These weren’t parties or gatherings – they were simply meetings lasting around 15 minutes, but still: Strictly speaking, I, at least, should’ve masked, as I do whenever I enter a retail establishment (I don’t go anywhere else during lockdown).

We have to face it: The only countries that are keeping their numbers down are the Asian countries, where the citizens mask consistently, nearly without exception. Then I recalled a podcast about DMV workers getting drivers to sign up for organ donor cards. The DMV in Michigan organized a competition among DMV teams, rewarding teams with the highest monthly numbers of donor cards signed with prizes.

Maybe that’s what’s needed regarding covid: Make it a competition! Award prizes to all residents of locales with the lowest numbers in the state, province, or country, whichever makes sense. Post the rankings online in real time. Pump everyone up, get everyone into the spirit of the thing. Dorky idea? Does anyone have a better one? The stick hasn’t worked. Why not try the carrot?

Friday, May 1, 2020

Pandemic Pause? Or reset?

Here we all are, emerging from lockdowns of various degrees of stringency, at varying rates of easements. We’re climbing out of the hole, “babes in the blinkin’ sun”*. We gave the planet a two-month reprieve. We saw the dramatic decrease in air pollution. Our various fauna made pilgrimages to their ancestral habitats, aka our cities. Will those compelling images compel us to make the oh-so-needed changes?

Last week I made my first foray into town in six weeks. While driving in, a service vehicle in the oncoming lane belched black exhaust. Alone in my vehicle, I shook my fist and cursed him (it?) aloud: “You idiot! See what you’re doing?! Stop trashing the planet!” I was mad. And pretty powerless. What was I going to do? Had the vehicle been in front of me, I’d’ve memorized the license plate number and tracked it to report it. But we were traveling in opposite directions, at high speed. Thus, this post. I lost the black smoke belcher, but there’s still something(s) I/we can do to heal the Earth.

Pre-pandemic, our Earth was suffocating under disposables. Now it – and we – face a tsunami of latex gloves, antiseptic wipes, and surgical masks, on top of the crud that was already here…not there…here. Since the Industrial Revolution, and accelerating since WWII, we in the West have pursued an inconvenience-free life, the centerpiece of which was and still is…disposables. We love our disposables. Of course we do. But unfortunately, they’re a scourge that we’ve imperiously dumped upon the Earth. I am asking each of us to transition:

·        Reusable diapers – These are the scourge of the 20th century. The argument that we use water to launder them doesn’t hold up. Water is a manageable, conservable, and – if we treat the Earth right – renewable resource. Chemical beads and plastic don’t break down. Human feces seeping into our soil and groundwater can be neither removed nor disinfected. Cloth diapering systems have come a long way since last century’s foldables. They nearly match the convenience of disposables; I’d say an “8” on a scale of “10”. Will you take “2-point convenience hit” for the Earth? Please?

·        Baby wipes – When my eldest was born, before releasing us from the hospital, a nurse admonished me to use nothing on her skin except water for the first six months. She explained that the skin cells are still shedding and renewing. I followed her advice. I kept a squeeze bottle of water and a bag of cotton (not balls, but the single long piece that you pull pieces off of) on the changing table. Outcome: Eldest is now approaching 30; no known dermatological issues.

·        Feminine hygiene products – Save tons of $$$ and relieve the Earth’s suffering: We now have Earth-friendly alternatives in the form of reusable pads and menstrual cups. Another 2-point convenience hit. It’s worth it to leave a cleaner planet for our children, is it not?

·        Reusable panty liners – I bought three six-packs on eBay last summer. They’ve already paid for themselves (I’m a high-use gal). Do they stay put like disposables? No, not quite. But I give them a “9” out of 10 on the comfort scale. I’ll take a 1-point hit for the Earth.

·        Tissues – Consider cutting up old t-shirts for use when at home. This eliminates at least some manufacturing-packaging-transit in the supply chain.

·        Cow’s milk – Consider soy, rice, oat, and other bevs, at least partially. Hey. I love cow’s milk. Nothing like it in my coffee. A 10 for taste and consistency, no doubt about it. I switched to soy. I’ll take a hit for the planet. And most recipes that call for milk work just fine with the aforementioned bevs. Ditto for coconut oil subbing for butter. At least give it a try.

·        Eggs – I know: Nothing substitutes 100% for that fluffy, egg-induced texture. I know folks who sub chickpea flour to make an omelet, and the Insta results of course look exquisite; can’t vouch for mortals. What I can swear to is that in most baked goods, applesauce, banana, or flax seed can sub for eggs without compromising on flavor. Yes, the texture’s not as fluffy, but again: Take a 2-point hit for the Earth? I surmise that if we’d all been raised on eggless baking, the flatter texture would seem normal to us. As long as chocolate’s involved, who cares?

·        Straws – I bought myself a few stainless steel reusable straws on eBay for a few dollars. The first time I remembered to tell waitstaff to hold the straw and used one of my own…I forgot it at the restaurant. Then I realized: Why do we need straws at all? I surmise that sometime around WWII, someone decided that there was something less-than-sanitary about touching one’s mouth to the beverage glass at a restaurant or the bottle or can of cola (how come beer is never drunk through a straw? Are beer bottles exempt from germs?). Or maybe someone decided that straws are festive, add flair? And then convinced us all thereof? Well, the 10-point convenience scale is officially out the window for straws: They offer zero convenience or protection, and kill wildlife. Let’s just take straws off the table, both literally and figuratively, OK?

Look. Most of us are not going to go full-on vegan-and-reusables. I’m just asking you to consider one or more of the above transitions. We most of us live unimaginably comfortable lives. We can take a hit for our planet.

* “Babes in the blinkin’ sun…Mama, we shall overcome” – Laura Nyro

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Hillary the gender traitor...they believe

OK, so I’m late to the analysis game, but just recently was I able to articulate my theory of why conservative women refused to vote for Hillary Clinton: Because they perceive her to be a gender traitor [credit to Margaret Atwood]; she had the audacity not to “do gender” as non-feminists view it, i.e., a woman whose husband has been outed as having messed around with his intern should get kicked to the curb, or, if that’s not possible, take their child and leave, and install herself in a condo or townhouse that she makes him pay for, and settle into comfortable obscurity.

Instead, Clinton was ambitious, and her ambitions overrode her husband’s philandering. Unlike many wives of public figures who are outed on any number of charges, not only did she “stick by him”, but she had the audacity to remain in the Executive branch and maintain a high profile regardless of him. “Benghazi” and “e-mails” were nothing but distractions or red herrings. Women who voted for Trump were more willing to vote for a man who had been outed for groping, as he was at least “doing gender” correctly according to these women’s assessment; Clinton, however was not, and was therefore to be abhorred. As far as I can see, there’s no other earthly explanation: Clinton rocked the boat of gender and how spouses “should” behave, and conservative women simply couldn’t abide it. They found it less threatening to vote for an admitted groper than to vote for “her”.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

“We’re apolitical”…not! "אנחנו לא פוליטיים"... עלק!

עברית למטה
Recently Haaretz ran a piece on film director Sigal Avin’s short films on sexual harassment. I was cheering until I reached this quote: “It was important to ensure that the films…were not political.” Say what? Avin is likely too young to have heard that “the personal is political”, but beyond that, her statement is unfortunately, and exasperatingly, representative of a disturbing phenomenon: the Israeli rush to be “apolitical”, my exasperation at which is twofold:

First of all, when an organization (or in Avin’s case, individual endeavor) claims to be apolitical, it’s misusing the word: What Israeli non-profits and movements mean when they rush to declare themselves apolitical is that they’re non-partisan or non-sectarian…as if anyone would mistake a non-profit that provides support services to the disabled, or at-risk youth, or battered women, for a political party. I can understand why an organization called Catholic Charities or Jewish Family Services feels an obligation to state explicitly that they’re non-sectarian, but environmental action groups? Organizations that feed the hungry? Groups that advocate for road safety? Really? They’re afraid of being identified as political?

Then there’s the other side: organizations that are political, but claim they’re not: I’ll begin with the Masortì [Conservative] movement, in whose youth movement my kids were active. The Masorti movement has a wing called Al haMishmár that monitors church-and-state legislation in the Knesset. What could be more political? Another example: Women Wage Peace. What could be more political than a peace agreement? In order to reach one, we need to engage politically, not dodge politics.

It’s even curiouser why Israelis feel this need to rush to declare “We’re not political!”, as Israelis are some of the most outspoken folks you’ll meet: Unlike Americans, Israelis will unabashedly argue with an officer who’s ticketing them for speeding, or a clerk at City Hall issuing (or withholding) permits to close in a balcony, just to name a few stereotypical examples. And of course our parliament is infamous for its members’ uncivilized and downright disrespectful exchanges. Why, then, are Israelis so loath to be political?

Especially as we all know quite well what “political” is code for: Are you for, or against, trading land for peace? Are you for, or against, the settlements? Because God forbid anyone should identify feeding the hungry or helping battered women as supporting or opposing the settlements / occupation. And therein lies the sad part: that those who are doing the most important work of all – tikkún olám [repairing the world] – are terrified that their work could be construed as political. How twisted is that?

לאחרונה פורסמה כתבה ב"הארץ" על הסרטונים שהעלתהבמאית הקולנוע סיגל אבין בנוגע להטרדה מינית. אני התלהבתי עד שהגעתי לציטוט: "היה חשוב שהסרטונים... לא יהיו פוליטיים". וואלה? אבין היא כנראה צעירה מדי ולא שמעה ש"האישי הוא פוליטי", אולם מעבר לכך, למרבה הצער והרוגז, הכרזתה מייצגת תופעה מעצבנת: הישראלים ממהרים להכריז על עצמם כ"לא פוליטיים", והרוגז שלי על כך כפול:

ראשית, כאשר ארגון (או במקרה של אבין, השתדלות אישית) טוען שהוא לא-פוליטי, זה שימוש שגוי במונח: מה שעמותות ותנועות ישראליות בעצם מתכוונות כשהן ממהרות להכריז על עצמן כלא-פוליטיות, הוא שהן בלתי-מפלגתיות או בלתי-עדתיות... כאילו שמישהו בכלל יטעה לחשוב שעמותה המעניקה שירותי תמיכה לנכים, או לנוער במצוקה, או לנשים מוכות היא מפלגה פוליטית. אני יכולה להבין מדוע חשוב לארגון הקרוי "צדקה קתולית" או "שירותי משפחה יהודיים" להצהיר חד-משמעית שהוא בלתי-עדתי, אבל לקבוצות של פעילי הגנה על הסביבה? לארגונים המאכילים את הרעבים? לעמותות למען בטיחות בכבישים? באמת? הן מחוששות להיות מזוהות כפוליטיות?

וישנו גם הצד השני: ארגונים שהם אמנם פוליטיים, אך טוענים שאינם כאלה: אתחיל עם הזרם המסורתי שבנותיי היו פעילות בתנועת הנוער שלו: לזרם המסורתי ישנה זרוע הקרויה "על המשמר", שמנטרת חקיקת דת ומדינה בכנסת. מה יכול להיות יותר פוליטי מזה? דוגמא נוספת: תנועת "נשים עושות שלום". מה יכול להיות יותר פוליטי מהסכם שלום? כדי להשיג הסכם כזה, יש צורך להיות מעורבים פוליטית, לא להתנער מפוליטיקה.

אפילו יותר מסקרנת מתמיה היא השאלה מדוע ישראלים חשים צורך למהר ולהכריז, "אנחנו לא פוליטיים!", שהרי הישראלים ידועים במוכנותם להביע את דעתם בראש חוצות. בניגוד לבני לאום אחרים, ישראלים לא יהססו להתווכח עם שוטר הרושם להם דו"ח על נהיגה במהירות מופרזת, או עם פקיד בעיריה המוציא (או מסרב להוציא) אישורים לסגירת מרפסת, ואלו רק דוגמאות אופייניות אחדות. וכמובן שהכנסת  ידועה לשימצה בשל חילופי הדברים הבלתי-תרבותים וחסרי הכבוד בין חבריה. למה, אם כן, נרתע הישראלי כל כך מלהיות פוליטי?

בייחוד בהתחשב בכך שכולנו יודעים הייטב מה צפון במילה "פוליטי": האם אתה בעד או נגד מסירת שטחים תמורת שלום? האם את בעד או נגד ההתנחלויות? כי חס וחלילה, מישהו עלול לזהות מתן אוכל לרעבים או עזרה לנשים מוכות כעמדת תמיכה או התנגדות להתנחלויות / לכיבוש. ופה טמונה האמת העצובה: שאלו העוסקים במלאכה החשובה מכל – תיקון עולם – חוששים שפועלם המבורך עלול להתפרש כפוליטי. איזו מציאות עקומה היא זו?
תרגם באדיבות: עמי ארגמן

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Where are the Caucasians with gunshot wounds?

Recently I was involved in two conversations with fellow Caucasians that veered uncomfortably toward bigotry. The first was with a former admissions or guidance counselor (can’t recall which) at Heritage College, a now-defunct for-profit career college whose enrollment was predominantly black.

The former counselor told me how, after spelling out the rules and regulations, students would invariably tell her, “Well, that’s not how I roll” and / or “Hey. I’m a grown-a_s woman!” I was stunned that someone would generalize this way, but didn’t say anything. Whatever I would think of to say would come out sounding like I was accusing her of lying; after all, she was a credible person, and she was there; I wasn’t. So I said nothing.

Then I listened to another account, this one from the mother of a resident working in the ER of a city hospital serving a predominantly black area. She said her daughter, a physician, had told her that she saw several cases of gunshot wounds nightly, most of the patients with police records.
She said that after one patient that they’d tried to save had died, his family members almost rioted and she was compelled to ask for a security escort her to her car at the end of her shift. Another gunshot patient came in at 4 a.m. After treating him, she asked him, “What are you doing out this time of night? You know this is a rough neighborhood. Stay indoors.” Again: She was there; I wasn’t. I said nothing.

But I couldn’t let these two conversations go. I just didn’t like the direction they headed in and their subtext about blacks and the black community. Then I finally arrived at what might be an answer, what I wish I’d said: “Somewhere, there’s a career college serving a mostly poor white population, and you might hear the same things out of the mouths of the students there. Somewhere, there’s an ER serving a mostly poor white population, where the staff sees gunshot wounds [or hunting injuries?] on a regular basis. Like some of the black wound patients, some of them might even wear their wounds as a badge of pride." Of course that’s f_cked up. The difference is:

We don’t see poor whites – or any whites – as a group to be commentated on, analyzed, and / or victim-blamed. We don’t see poor whites as a threatening group with its own culture and codes, or as losers unable to extricate themselves from the cycle of poverty. We aren’t instantly suspicious of young poor white men. We don’t talk about white-on-white violence, or the alcohol abuse and teen pregnancy (that invariably results in poor mom-headed households on public assistance) that pervades poor white communities. Quite simply, we don’t see a "poor white problem", and we certainly don’t attribute these ills to their being white.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

No problem: Put me in Business Class אין בעיה: תנו לי לעבור למחלקת עסקים

Hi everyone. Back after a long hiatus. So, many of you have no doubt heard about the airplane seat-switching controversy involving ultra-Orthodox men and non-Orthodox women passengers. But instead of just getting riled up over the ultra-Orthodox attempt to control not only our lives on the ground, but airborne as well, let’s look at the phenomenon as part of a larger, meta-phenomenon that I call tiptoe-ing around, placating, and pretending to the Orthodox.

I know of at least three funerals where Orthodox people – either themselves mourners, or members of the Chevra Kadisha [burial society] – compelled the primary mourners to engage in / refrain from engaging in, certain practices. In one case, everyone in attendance was compelled to engage in a strange ritual that originated generations back in some neck of the Diaspora woods with which none of them identified, much less had ever heard of. In another, distant Orthodox relatives of the deceased showed up and jogged behind the hearse, loudly chanting psalms in a way that, I found out later, horrified the children of the deceased. At another funeral, the deceased’s children, being daughters only, only began reciting kaddish after a male relative began doing so.

In addition, it calls to mind a recent bar mitzva I attended where the host edited her speech at the Shabbat dinner that mentioned the bar mitzva boy’s grandmothers having aliyas the following morning in shul, so as not to offend an Orthodox relative who wasn’t even going to be at the ceremony.

What do all three of these situations have in common? They all involve heightened anxiety, impatience, and being invested in everything going smoothly: a trifecta, or “perfect storm” if you wish, for the Orthodox individuals to exploit the non-Orthodox individuals’ (the stakeholders) vulnerability to compel the latter to accede to the will of the former. After all, boarding a plane, we all have the same goal: For the accursed thing to take off. Not having buried a parent, I’m assuming that the goal at a funeral is to just get through it intact and start the shiva. And as for the bar mitzva, I know how stressful it can be to host an event of that scope: You want so badly for it to go off without a hitch, and are thus willing to skirt anything that has even the slightest potential to “become a thing”, or what everyone’s going to remember about the event in which you and your child have invested so much.

Regarding the funeral and bar mitzva examples, since every case differs, it would be impossible to suggest a blanket policy. But you can be sure that if I’m ever asked to change seats pre-flight, I’ve got my answer ready: “Sure. I’d be happy to either upgrade to Business or higher; or get a voucher for a free round-trip flight of equal distance on this airline.” That way, I’m not holding up takeoff, but I obtain what I believe to be fair compensation for my inconvenience.

I actually don’t agree that the seat change request is anti-woman; I simply believe it to be pure chutzpa. Maybe if we all gave my suggested answer, the airlines would start printing on their ticketing conditions and posting signs at check-in (i.e., before passengers hand over their luggage) to the effect that no seat change requests will be honored beyond this point, we can make this chutzpa go away. How about it?