Sunday, April 22, 2012

It's All About Respect

I've been listening to all the events surrounding Earth Day today:  planting parties, gardening parties, concerts, barbeques. You name it, we do it to celebrate Earth Day. I question why we need Earth Day at all.

I grew up in Southern California when dirt was young and the sky was brown. I didn't know until I was mid-way through grade school that were there mountains to the north of where I lived. I'd never seen them. Why? Because the sky was smog-brown.

California passed really strict clean air laws governing auto emissions. We complained, because these damned new catalytic converters made cars more expensive. By the time I went to college, seeing the mountains north of where I lived was a daily event.

California didn't have Earth Day, but it had a respect for the planet we live on, the air we breathe, the water we drink. The rest of our country didn't catch on right away. Eventually, government began more regulations to save the earth from us.  People complained. Corporations complained. "Overturn the regulations and let us be responsible." That didn't work before. I'm not sure it will work today.

I looked at the small part of Planet Earth where I live. We have so much work to do to respect our world. In two weeks I'll take part in our local Clean Up Smith Mountain Lake weekend. Last year we took out more than 160 tons of trash in two days:  tree snags, refrigerators, a bowling ball, plastic water bottles, plastic chairs, plastic shopping sacks. Plastic, plastic, plastic.

Three weeks ago I gleaned three miles of roadside leading into our housing development. I filled six giant garbage bags, sorted for recycling, in three hours. I could do it again today and get the same results. People still throw trash out car windows. Trash flies out of the back of pickup trucks. Either way, it finds its way onto our roadsides, our waterway, our lakes.

If each of us did our small part to reduce, reuse, and recycle, if we didn't use the planet as our personal trash pit, if we respected our planet, every day would be Earth Day. Every day we would make our planet a cleaner, safer place to live. If we ignore the problems, regulations or not, we stand too good a chance of destroying our world. And there will be no "beam me up, Scotty" to a different planet.

Good bye for now. I'm going outside to dance in the rain and thank the gods for today.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bra Burning

I wonder if television realizes how great a debt it owes to the women's movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Back in those less than good old days, women had the vote, received less pay for equal work, and kept our mouths shut about society's dirty little secrets. When we found our voice through activism, and our anthem thanks to Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman," we brought a lot of secrets out of the closet.

Until women started standing up for themselves and speaking out about the unspeakable, media paid little if any attention to domestic violence, rape and child abuse. Those were secrets best kept in the closet and handled "within the family." When a woman spoke out, she was ridiculed and disbelieved.

Much has changed. Much hasn't. But when we came out and said, "I was raped by my father/stepfather/date," we found freedom in voicing the unspeakable. Society could no longer ignore its dark side. We made sure it was out in the sunlight. I stood with a group of rape victims in graduate school. We told our stories. We weren't proud of what had been done to us, even though some tried to make us believe rape, incest and abuse were our faults. We were proud to stand up and say what happened.

We wouldn't have battered women's shelters and homes for abused children if we hadn't burned our bras and shouted for attention.

Television has benefited from our bravery. Where would Law and Order: SVU be without the ground breakers who dared ridicule and ostracism for speaking the truth. We wouldn't have the police focused on these horrible crimes. We wouldn't be able to keep attention on what's really going on in the dark. Turning the bad into entertainment may not be everyone's favorite way of getting a point across, but it works.

Think about all the movies in the past several decades that talked about abuse. Kramer vs. Kramer. War of the Roses. Add your own titles. You can come up with a dozen without trying. Through the lens, we learned how our actions affect our children. We've seen how abused women (and men) lack self-esteem and would do anything to hide what's happening to them.

We have a lot of work to do to eradicate these menaces, but our voices will not be silenced. Yes, I burned my bra. Yes, I marched for women's equality. Yes, I sang our anthem. Yes, I stood with my sisters when we spoke out. More women than men pelted us with tomatoes and eggs for telling the truth. Still, I stood up for myself. I'm proud of what I did. I can't take back what happened. And I won't be marginalized and shoved back into the closet.

I was raped.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


I recently read an article in The New Yorker where "aggressive medievalism" popped up. Those of you who know me have to realize I can't put this phrase out of my mind. The article focused on one religious group that wanted its principles to be the laws of the land. Right now, I can think of three situations where aggressive medievalism fits. There are countless others, but three will make my point.

The article discussed the rise of ultra-Judaism in Israel. One plank of ultra-Jews is the role of women in society.  They wear wigs as a sign of modesty. They cover their hair in public. Ultra-Jews would take all rights away from women, including the right to vote, to right to speak your mind, the right to control what happens to your body. Your husband is all-powerful. To live in that society under the religious rules of this group, women would not be much more than property.

Look at radical Islam in Afghanistan. Women must cover themselves from head to toe when out of the house. They must travel, even to shops, with a male relative going with them. They should not go to school, hold jobs, do anything but keep their husbands happy and bear sons. Radical Islam would not allow women to get educated, vote, move about freely. Or so we read in newspapers and magazines.

Radical Christianity isn't far behind. Some in our country would like to take women's control over our bodies and families away. Some would like health care to require women bear children resulting from rape or incest, as well as from loving relations. Some would like women to return to "traditional" roles.

No one has defined traditional roles other than through health care. Do they include wives being chattel? Being pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen? Voting the way their husbands or fathers tell them? Stop working? 

My gut tells me that the latter is not part of aggressive medievalism. If we weren't two (or more) income families, many more would live in poverty. If we are forced to bear unwanted children, we push more families deeper into poverty. If we are forced to care for disabled or seriously ill children without some insurance umbrella, we drive families into depression, despair -- possibly violence.

Women need to roar against aggressive medievalism. Strength in numbers can change thinking. It can at least force people to think before they open their mouths. Or not.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Guilty Pleasures

I don't know if this post belongs on this blog or not. It certainly doesn't belong on my writing blog. Either way, I want to talk about guilty pleasures. You know, those things that make us feel good, but we may not necessarily talk about them. Like really good dark chocolate. Like a rare find of a terrific red wine. Like returning to a single malt Scotch to celebrate some secret victory.

Like seeing the Moody Blues one more time in concert.

Last night, my husband Terry took me to see the Moody Blues again. The tickets were my Christmas present, one I had no trouble waiting to use. We were very close to the front of the Salem (VA) Civic Center, so we could see every drop of sweat.

I've seen the Moodies probably a dozen times, both before and after Red Rock. Before, the show was all about a rock and roll band with a song book I know by heart. After Red Rock, it was about that same band and song book but added the dimension of orchestral music. I love both renditions of the band. Last night, it was the band. Three guys, plus four back up performers, playing their hearts out for an adoring audience.

Graeme Edge still plays drums like a maniac. At 71 (on March 30), he acts like he doesn't know what age is. John Lodge on bass guitar has lost weight but still looks terrific in his late sixties. And Justin Hayward, the 65-year-old baby of the group, reminds us with every chord why the Moodies are still touring and drawing huge crowds. That man hasn't aged much, except to put on maybe ten pounds. Must weigh about 150. At 6'2" he's still skinny as hell. Ray Thomas, the flute player, retired in 2002 and is missed, but the girl who plays flute now is wonderful.

I couldn't help contrasting this concert with previous ones. The civic center filled with cheering fans, all much grayer than at earlier concerts. The first time I saw the Moodies, my hair was brown. Now it's gray. I was a size six. Now, I', not a size six. I remembered all the words to the song book then and still do. When the civic center filled with smoke from dry ice machines, I remembered how different earlier concerts were, when the smoke was marijuana and hashish. And when we stood for "Nights in White Satin," we no longer lit our Bic lighters. I used my Zippo app on my smart phone. Some things do change.

As I left the concert, I heard groups talking about "Sojourn," and "Children's Children," and "Threshold." They were debating their favorite albums. I wore the same tee shirt to this concert I've been wearing for 17 years. It's "On the Threshold of a Dream" and gorgeous. I only wear it to Moody Blues concerts or when I'm in a Moodies frame of mind. It may have gone to its last concert.

After every earlier concert, I always thought, "I can't wait to see them again. I wonder where it will be."

Not this time. I may have seen my last Moody Blues concert. It's a bittersweet thought.