An Open Letter

Dear Duggar daughters –

I am not here to chide you, or your family. I am not here to pass judgement on what anyone should or shouldn’t have done in regards to what your brother did.

I am here to tell you that I’m sorry. For everything.

I’m sorry he touched you, in the manner he did, without your permission. Regardless of how you dismiss or rationalize it, he should have never invaded your body like that.

I’m sorry that the adults in your life failed you. They failed to protect you, and they failed to right the wrong, after you were violated.

I’m sorry that it happened to you. I’m sorry you had to feel the confusion and shame afterwards. And I’m sorry that you’ve had to deal with all your feelings, while trying to put up a united front on TV cameras.

I am truly, truly sorry.

I say all this, as someone who’s been there, minus the TV cameras. Someone who was supposed to love and protect me as a parent, did not. And convinced me it was my fault. This person violated me as well, many times, while I was awake, and aware, and scarred me to this day. He gave me nightmares until my adult years. Because of his actions, I was unable to trust any adult male in my life for a very long time. I thought all men were going to try and treat me as a sexual object as well, even my male teachers.

Like you, I told one day. I’m not sure of the reaction your parents gave you, but the reaction I was given by my adults was not positive. I was called a “lying  little bitch” by a member of his family, who again, said they loved me. This was quite traumatic for 12 year old me. However, instead of my perpetrator being shipped away, I was sent to stay with a family friend for the summer. I went home just before school started.
And like you, it started again.
I told again, but this time the police were involved. But even they questioned me, and pointed out that I was going to “ruin his life”.

Never mind that he had already almost ruined mine.

I was 30 before I started to feel better about myself. I do hope that the therapy your family says they gave you will allow you to have a normal relationship with someone of the opposite sex before I was able to.

I’m rambling, I know. You’re telling yourself that nothing bad happened. It’s not like he raped you, or you were even aware of it. I’m sorry you’ve rationalized things to that point. There are no degrees of this. He violated your space, your body, and your trust.

So in closing, as the story dies from the media,  I just want to say that I hope things are better for you. I hope you’re not harboring any negative feelings about yourself, or what you could have done to stop it. I hope that you don’t occasionally still cower from the men in your life, (husbands/partners included) despite how much you love them. Above all else, you deserve to have a happy, whole life, away from the fear to sleep these feelings cause.

Yours ever sincerely,
Samantha Regina Imperiatrix

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Overcoming Through Forgiveness?

We shall overcome.
We shall overcome.
We shall overcome some day.

 

I always loved that song as a child. I believed it, too. My family is what my son calls a “patchwork quilt”…a little of everything. Growing up, I surrounded myself with all kinds of people, because people are people to me. We all bleed red, right? The idea people were people informed my entire young life. Aging came with knowledge and awareness that my child’s brain could not process. I’ve learned, through experience, that color blindness is a slogan. It’s also a weakness.

The recent events in a South Carolina church are possibly a result of that weakness.

For those unfamiliar with me, I am a fellow traveler through life who happened to be born with ovaries and not quite white skin. By not quite white, I mean dark -VERY dark- skin. I am a black woman. Yes, black! No hyphenated American here. Move along. Those travelling alongside me are as diverse and colorful as a rainbow. There is one who holds my hand, nudges me forward, and even carries me some days. He is a wonderful man who happened to be born with not quite dark skin. Not quite meaning as white as a cloud, but he’s MY cloud, and I love the caring person that he is underneath the not quite dark skin. With him, I share four of Heaven’s sweetest angels. Speaking of Heaven and angels, yes, I believe in a High Power.

And that brings me to my question. Every headline I’ve read lately has zeroed in on the fact that the families of the victims have forgiven the terrorist who killed their loved ones. Yes, I said terrorist! If you don’t recognize racism as an ideology rife with terroristic tendencies and methods, read a book. But back to my question. Is immediate forgiveness the answer?

On one hand, I applaud -admire even- these families. They have experienced a tragedy the likes of which I can not fathom. Forgiving the terrorist may be a crucial part of their grieving process, and I pray comfort and peace over them, however that’s accomplished. As a fellow believer, I know that love, compassion, and forgiveness are expected. Likewise, I know that truth and justice are required in any truly free and equal society.

On the other hand, I wonder if it is healthy for us, as a nation, to focus on the forgiveness of a killer without much care for the conditions that lead to such forgiveness-needing acts?

I don’t think it is. As it is, in order to be heard, black Americans must react in a certain (submissive?) way to events involving race. We must make the disclaimer that we know all white people aren’t racist. We must exude grace through our pain. We must speak softly. We must condemn ‘black on black’ crime in Chicago and openly plea for less fatherless homes. We must criticize Al Sharpton. We must march, sing, and quote Dr. Martin Luther King. We must do any and everything except…

BE ANGRY. Even after this most horrible and OBVIOUS racially motivated hate crime, we must not show anger. We should forgive immediately? A hate-filled terrorist slaughtered people who welcomed him with open arms, literally responding to an olive branch with a gun, and shows no remorse should be immediately forgiven? He asked not for forgiveness, but for a living witness to what he hoped would be the beginning of a race war…and this is the conversation we’re having? This is after the conversation about motivation, because saying “I’m here to shoot black people” has SO many meanings.

My faith is strong, but I’m not at Forgiveness Avenue yet. I am angry. I am sorrowful. I am angry. I am filled with worry over the state of the nation my children have to live in. I am weary of our cowardice in regards to repairing race relations. Did I mention how mad I am? I wanted to look around and see that others were as disgusted as I was. That everyone was as disgusted as I was.

I’m comforted that I saw some of that. Thank God for good people! I saw other things, too. I saw that far too many of us would rather keep sweeping shit into a corner and spraying Febreeze than to go on and deal with the busted sewage pipe. I saw that far too many of us still don’t recognize the power of language (thug vs mentally ill) and symbols (heritage vs symbol of oppression). Thank you, South Carolina for recognizing that some divisions are bigger than a flag. I saw that in 2015, far too many of my fellow Americans ignore the reality hundreds of years worth of bigotry created, and expect me to forgive in order to overcome.

Someday.

 

 

The Struggle You Don’t See

Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto.
(I am human, I consider nothing human foreign/alien to me.)
Publius Terentius Afer: The Self-Tormentor;” Act I, Scene 1, line 25 (77)

In 2001, I find myself at the top of a skyscraper. It is windy this high up. The city is lovely, the air is crisp and autumnal. And I catch myself thinking something that scares me. I immediately leave the balcony, take the elevator to the ground floor, and sit on a bench. I cannot cry. I wish I could. I don’t care that I’m in public. I am terrified of myself. .  

I am a college senior. I am severely depressed. And I have just had my first suicidal thoughts. 

Yes. I do believe, when we’re brutally honest with ourselves, something along the lines of “I wish I were dead” or “they’d be better off if I died” drifts through our minds when we find ourselves in a really unpleasant situation.

But the thoughts in 2001 weren’t like that. This was not a fleeting thought. I was seriously contemplating…

My thoughts were focused on planning. The how-to’s. And you will hopefully note, I am not going into detail of that planning. 

Later that week, I went to a mall, just to watch people and attempt to distract myself. That ended up pretty much the same way. I had a GREAT plan in place for that mall. 

Alas, I over-think things. I couldn’t do that to my family. Or the people at the mall. Or….the possibilities of many people I felt I owed my continuing existence, even if I wasn’t fully convinced I was right and they’d get over it. 

Again, I left. I blinked back some tears this time. I safely drove back to my dorm and called my parents. They were and are amazingly supportive. I assured them I was not going to do anything to hurt myself, but I told them that I was scaring myself. (I think my mom said something along the lines of, “I don’t think you will hurt yourself, we believe in you, but I do appreciate you telling us this.”)  Lucky for me, a fall break for school fell on the very next weekend.My parents arranged for me to come home and see a new psychiatrist. 

I was diagnosed with “treatment resistant depression.”  This means, simply, that I can be on anti-depressants and I’ll sometimes need to “jump start” the uptake of serotonin and all those other incredibly neurological chemicals with a new medication. I did start an additional medicine, and in a short time (less than 2 weeks), I was felt–well, not depressed. More like a person who enjoyed things in life, rather than going through motions so as not to stand out. I started cognitive behavior therapy, which trains me to recognize and deal with the dark thoughts when they bubble up.

I’ve found, over the years, I’m quicker at picking up when the black dog approaches, and take appropriate steps, thanks to kind support networks of family and friends. They hug me. They don’t always accept “fine” as an answer to “How are you?”   

They sit with me in silence. We share stories. They invite me to lunch or tea (and as I heal, it becomes a happy habit.) We laugh (yes, people with depression do laugh on occasion.) We listen. Serious, hardcore listening.

In essence, they accept that I have a chemical imbalance that benefits from medicine, like many forms of diabetes. Only my chemical imbalance doesn’t occur in my pancreas, but in my brain.

I really do not talk about it online. For starters, it by no means defines me. Yes, it is a part of me, but I am more. True friends know this. They know, for example, about that time I misspoke and said “promiscuity” in a course when I meant to say “potential” …

You get the idea.  

So while the US invaded Afghanistan, I threw myself into reading about Japanese war crimes in WWII. By no means is this a happy or even “meh” topic. It’s sickening. But I had read a book (prior to the depression reoccurance) about Hiroshima. So I threw myself into my school work, and when that was done, educated myself about Japan during WWII. 

This, I realized, is how I cope. I throw myself into academics. I can distance myself from my self. It works for me.

When I learned of Robin Williams death yesterday, I was sad. 
When I learned the death may have been a suicide, I was further saddened. 

But I saw people posting things on facebook and twitter that, quite frankly, frustrated me.

Take, for example, Friend Z. Friend Z knows about my depression, but their response when I confided in them was, “You have nothing in your life to be sad about. Just cheer up and stop thinking about it.” 

Um….thanks. I cannot imagine why no one told me that before, and I also had no idea Friend Z knew everything in my life.  

So Friend Z is posting about how we need to treat depression as a real illness (agreed, because it IS). But the justification from Friend Z was something along the lines of “because we lost someone famous.”

What am I then, Friend who tells me to just cheer up or “be happy?” What are we non-famous people who suffer from depression? And yes, it’s truly suffering. What are those who have/has or are suffering from depression supposed to make of that? We’re not as important? We should just, in Z’s words to me a while back, “be happy?”

Now–to switch gears a tad, let’s fast-forward a few years. I am in a long-term committed relationship, and the person starts having delusions and psychotic breaks. I find myself on the “other side” of mental illness, and it’s really hard. It’s trying for us both personally, but I’m not leaving because of many reasons. Love is a strong bond. Staying by this person’s side and talking them through an episode is trying, but essential–at least to me. 

I’ve been asked by people why I didn’t leave at the first break. Again, love. But also…the opening quote. “I AM HUMAN….” 

Now, there is no shame is acknowledging that you don’t understand whatever the illness is; there is no shame in admitting you have an illness!

But fully, 100% deserting someone you know is suffering–I cannot fathom that. I understand being fearful of unusual behavior, changes in behavior; call a helpline FOR yourself, do not assume the person who appears ill will call just because you gave them the number. It’s a good thing to do, but calling yourself can help equip you with tools for yourself and the person. 

Sure, I don’t understand it, but I get that you’re afraid and I will hold you tight and talk you through this, or just reassure you I’m here, you’re real. And I will help you get help, whatever form that help may be. 

I think, by my own nature, I would do this for anyone. Maybe it’s selfish on my part? I don’t want anyone dying or hurting themselves or feeling alone when I could have possibly stopped it. You will not scare me away. And if I am scared, I will gather a team of people I trust, who know and understand mental illness, to help me help that person.

We are all in this life together, and we can make it better or worse for someone hurting from a wound not visible to the eye.

I understand the frustration from not understanding an illness you cannot see. I cannot claim that I was always as sympathetic as I am advocating now. Live and learn?

If Williams’ death is ruled officially as a suicide, then let’s continue to live, and let’s learn from this tragedy.

Research. Learn that mental illnesses are biochemical and what the person is experiencing may be absolutely terrifying to them. 
Reach out. You may be turned away, but keep reaching out. “Let’s have lunch at X at noon on Friday.”

I could go on, but these are just my opinion/thoughts. 

I highly recommend the National Alliance on Mental Health’s website as a starting point for more  information on mental illnesses, the politics of it, symptoms, support (for everyone affected, family members, etc.), and advocacy. 

Addendum: An attempt at suicide should not, in my opinion, be viewed as a mere cry for help or attention. It should be taken as exactly what it is: an attempt at ending your own life. 

[Crap, it’s 2014 and I have to write that?]

If you’re struggling, if you have struggled, if you’ve supported someone who’s struggled with mental illness…I send you big hugs. Nothing is alien to me. If you need help getting treatment, check out NAMI’s state chapters, your parish or county’s public health options, etc. 

The most dangerous thing is to not address this. Please, let’s keep this dialogue open and flowing. 

Getting Real

First of all, I’d like to apologize to those of you who decided to follow me trusting I would provide you a relatively steady diet of food for thought. In this I have failed all of us.

It has been a while since I shared my thoughts with you, and even longer since I shared my life. But, well, sometimes things happen that push us to do that which we are loathe to do.

I know that some who know me will not agree with what I am about to do, because you will consider it a commission of one of the deadliest of sins: the airing of one’s dirty laundry. I don’t see it that way. Regardless of outward appearances, I long ago came to the conclusion that my most likely mission in life is to be a warning to others: the quintessential “Ms. Don’t Bee.”  I have accepted – and even embraced – this as my lot in life.

You see, I have a son. I have a troubled son. And the only thing that keeps me from being 100% angry at myself right now is that he is adopted, and I did not birth him into this screwed up world that has no use for him past making itself feel better at his expense.

I could give you a lot of reasons for his being “troubled.” I could – and most likely would, were it not for my therapist – tell you that my son is troubled because I failed to be SuperMom. But the fact of the matter is that my son – my adopted son – was probably doomed from the start. He is the biological offspring of a veteran of the first Gulf War. He is the product of a toxic gestational environment: a  toxic environment created by the United States government. However, because of his demographic profile, it’s just easier to “Blame it on the Boogie.”  Because we all know that adopted babies are throw-aways, and African American adopted babies are the worst throw-aways of all. By definition, they have to be drug babies. Imperfect people. A drag on society. Pariahs.

It became apparent fairly early on that all was not right with Quen. He simply would not settle in. He was fussy and needy and had a persistent case of thrush and endless ear infections. And then the seizures started. And after the seizures, the medication to control the seizures turned him into an entirely different child.

I could recount all of our troubles in painstaking detail, but that would do no good. Suffice it to say that his toxic gestational environment has significantly impacted his central nervous system: a fact that the Veterans’ Administration refuses to acknowledge, my pretty expensive healthcare insurance refuses to address (or authorize treatment for), and the penal and mental health systems refuse to pursue. I can only commend them on their freedom to choose.

I could tell you, like I tell myself several times each hour of every single day, that Quen’s problems are my fault. I failed to be an adequate mother and advocate. But, realistically, no matter how hard and often I try to convince him that he should go right, I cannot over-ride his lying, damaged central nervous system telling him every minute of every hour of every day that he really does want to go left. And that liar has finally won out.

As I write this, my baby is sitting in the El Paso, TX County Jail. It’s not the first time he’s been there, but I fully intend for it to be his last. On November 12, 2013 he was sentenced to 30 days for evading arrest/detention. That’s it. And the worse part of it: he was arrested a full three days after he had been released from the same jail for other offenses.

I won’t post the copy of the the complaint here, because it’s not my place to disclose his private information. But I can tell you that the arresting officer claimed  he chased my son through a number of yards and over a number of fences because, while he was in search of an armed robbery suspect, he saw my son jay walk. Yup. My son ran across a street, outside of a designated pedestrian crosswalk, and that prompted a law enforcement officer to abandon his search for an aggravated armed robbery suspect to draw both his fire arm and his taser on my 5’9″, 150lb. son. Nothing but the Grace of God prevented that asshole from killing my boy.  And you know what the kicker is??? The only charge my son faced was evading arrest. You would think RoboCop would have at least had the presence of mind to write him up for jaywalking. And you would think the judge would have had sufficient presence of mind to question the entire situation. But no. Because, you see, ever since the people of America had the unmitigated gall to elect a black man as president, the national war on Black Men that had been previously partially underground went  all the way live. And since that fateful night in 2008, every person with brown skin has been made to pay the price in one way or another. And I, for one, am sick to death of it. Because, you see, if all of these ill-read, ill-bred buttheads had any awareness of the true history of this country which they so adamantly claim as their exclusive dominion, they would realize that the primary reason these United State of America is anything other than a barren wasteland is due solely to the exploitation of peoples of color. Europeans, inarguably, stole the land from the initial inhabitants, and then used the stolen and uncompensated labor of other people of color to improve that land. In fact, our current tenuous economic status continues to rely heavily on the  exploited labor of less-than-fully-documented people of color.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not racist by nature. I am, in fact, probably one of the whitest black people you will ever meet … with the possible exception of my children. But when I read that my child had a police officer’s weapon and taser drawn on him because he jay walked  over 1,700 miles away from me, I – as a 40% disabled veteran – have no choice but to ask WTF???!!! Where is the thanks for my service, or  – for that matter – his sacrifice? Where is the dignity that is implicitly guaranteed him as a U.S. citizen  as a part of his inalienable rights of  “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness?” And, as long as I’m ranting, where is the logic in a Texas Hispanic law enforcement officer, whose ancestors have suffered centuries of indignities and discrimination, acting in the same, despicable manner … which I can only see as an excuse for those oppressors to further justify their past and continuing transgressions? I fail to comprehend how a country that vehemently declares itself to be a Christian nation consistently fails so miserable to adhere to one of the most basic and simplistic teachings of Jesus Christ, that being “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?”  While I have never been a large champion of the whole “turn the other cheek” mentality, I do believe that those of us in this country who have been subject to generational oppression have an obligation to – when afforded the opportunity – prove that “we are better than that.”  In my mind, when we find ourselves in  positions of power and opt to act with vengeance vice integrity, we only reinforce the wrong-minded mindset of our former oppressors that we were deserving of the treatment to which our ancestors were subjected.

Hopefully, my son will be on his way out of El Paso soon. Hopefully, he will realize that no good will come to him there; that the people he calls “friends” are not, and that them being Hispanic in a majority Hispanic town give them an advantage over him that not even true friendship could counterbalance.  I want him far away from there, where he can find some measure of self-respect and self-worth. Where he can escape the vicious cycle of hopelessness and helplessness in which he now lives. I want him to be able to hold his head high, knowing that he is a responsible, productive member of society, who has been endowed by his Creator with the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I want him to understand that he, too, has a right to claim the American Dream, because his American-ness has been bought and paid for several times over with the blood, sweat, and tears of his ancestors and is not something that others can deny him or that he should thoughtlessly relinquish.

Yes, dystopian literature appeals to me…here’s why

I admit it. This non-teenager is obsessed with the Hunger Games trilogy. I can hardly wait to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire the weekend after Thanksgiving. This sequel to The Hunger Games opens tonight.

I’ve read the series multiple times since receiving the box set last Christmas. I also purchased the DVD of The Hunger Games. One may ask in disbelief, or perhaps disgust, “Why would anyone, especially a woman, be interested in reading about children fighting each other to the death?” That’s a valid question. Following are some answers.

The setting is Panem, a future America pretty much destroyed by war and environmental destruction. Panem is the country where the Hunger Games take place and is run by the Capitol, whose citizens live in luxury. Here with plenty of food, comfortable homes, and all the necessities of life, residents have become frivolous in their priorities, clownish in their appearance, and callous to the plight of their fellow citizens struggling for survival and suffering hardships—starvation, rudimentary medical care, etc.—out in the districts.

Dystopian literature, in particular The Hunger Games, resonates with me because I see it as a warning of a future in which the accumulation of wealth and power in the hands of a few come at great expense to the masses. Wait, that sounds vaguely familiar. It is already happening. Today, many people in the United States and around the globe are hungry and lack medical care. Inequality has always existed and likely always will to some degree. So I can envision an America similar to Panem as the wealth inequality gap in our country grows ever wider, although I pray future generations will be spared the cruelty of the ruling class portrayed in The Hunger Games. However, it is in societies such as this that heroes are born.

Cover of "The Hunger Games"

Cover of The Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins inserts into her tale a young girl, Katniss Everdeen—and I love that the protagonist is a girl. Katniss is a reluctant hero who, after winning the 74th Hunger Games, becomes the symbol of the rebellion, unbeknownst to her. The victor of the games is rewarded with riches for the remainder of their lives, and their district benefits from the victor’s prosperity for the next year as abundant supplies of food arrive each month.

Before winning the Hunger Games, Katniss spent most of her childhood providing for her mother and sister. After her father’s death, Katniss’s mother had a mental breakdown and it was up to Katniss to make sure none of them starved because her mother was incapable of caring for her children, much less herself. Katniss knew how to hunt; her father had taught her well. She became a survivor, embodying independence, resourcefulness, adaptability, and resilience—characteristics I see in myself and admire in others.

The Hunger Games is at its core a story of overcoming oppression and confronting the rich and powerful who have enriched themselves while impoverishing the districts and extracting and hoarding their natural resources. The struggle to right this brutal world appeals to me because it is about achieving equality, justice, and the chance for a better life. The basic ideas of justice and equality of opportunity are at the very core of who I am, so yes, the series resonates with me.

Lastly, there is the entertainment factor. It is a character-driven story; even the Capitol is a character. As an actor, this excites my imagination. I can experience a world vastly different from the one in which I exist. When cast in a role, I most enjoy bringing to life deeply flawed characters. All actors enjoy exploring the dark side—at least I’ve not met one who hasn’t. Why? Because it is boring to always play characters similar to oneself, there is no challenge in it. Even when playing the most repulsive character, an actor searches for redeeming qualities to create a multi-dimensional role. All human beings possess light and dark sides although one or the other dominates. In these disturbing dystopian worlds our imaginations can run wild. It can be a thrilling adventure to live vicariously through these characters in the safety of my environment. Some people may find it unsettling, yet who are we to judge the interests of others? Of course, most of us frequently judge others’ tastes, myself included.

The Hunger Games and other dystopian works won’t appeal to everyone. Nonfiction is my preferred genre, but reading these fantasy-filled books provides a break from the seriousness of the policy-related and current events topics that occupy most of my reading time. Dystopian literature fascinates me, especially when good conquers evil and the oppressed are freed from their bondage.

The Divergent trilogy is what I am currently reading, and a co-worker told me about Maze Runner, so my dystopian literature well will be filled for a while. I was telling my mother about The Hunger Games a while back. She asked, “And why would you enjoy reading that?” I laughed because it does sound pretty awful, but I gave her the above explanation, in fewer words. Many scenes in the books are violent, and yes, there are some very creative and distrubing ways of killing detailed in them. Still, I am excited to see Catching Fire and am not ashamed to admit it. Let the 75th Hunger Games begin!

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Who Wrote This?

Many of you may not know this, but one of my sons has Asperger’s Syndrome.  After many years of trying to force public schools to meet his needs, my husband and I decided to school him from home.  Public schools, and how they educate pupils with special needs, deserves a post of its own.  Wait for it, it is coming.  But that is not what I want to discuss today.

Virginia utilizes a “Virginia Studies” course for fourth grade students.  The curriculum mandates instruction and retention of information about the state’s history, ranging from Jamestown to the Civil War.  Naturally, there is no way to not include the plight of the Native peoples and Africans.  My child noticed right away how the language used, in an official textbook, didn’t describe events, as they truly happened.

(Him)  Wow!  This book is really not accurate, Mom. 

(Me)  Well, no, son.  It does not tell the whole story.

He saw right through the book’s attempt to force the Natives into the role of aggressors.

(Him)  How can the English really be called pioneers?  Pioneers settle land that hasn’t been settled before.  This land was settled.  And how come my book calls them savages?  And why weren’t they (the settlers) nicer to the tribes that taught them how to survive?  This book is not good!  Who wrote this thing?

He laughed at how the enslaved Africans were portrayed.

(Him)  Everybody knows that the slaves wouldn’t be laughing and dancing after all the work was done.  Slavery was not fun!  This book is stupid.

He is nine years old.

In all fairness, Aspies tend to have highly focused interests in certain topics.  The Powhatan tribes are one of his “things”.  But what of those children who trust what is written in their textbooks?  What message are we sending when Native peoples are seen as wild things who just needed to be tamed?  And the atrocity that is slavery is made out to be just a job, with singing and dancing at night?

Then, I was reminded of the fight in Texas.

In recent years, board members have been locked in an ideological battle between a block of conservatives who question Darwin’s theory of evolution and believe the Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles, and a handful of Democrats and moderate Republicans who have fought to preserve the teaching of Darwinism and the separation of church and state.

And this, in Louisiana.

Really?  Dinosaurs and humans?  The KKK a decent organization?  Slave masters and the Great Depression were not so bad.  Really?  Because math is too hard and we have good reason to doubt climate change.  No use fighting the rapture, ..excuse me..,  globalization.

Is it really a surprise that our children are falling through the cracks?

Look.  I get it.  We are Americans.  We want our children to be proud of their country.  We want them to recognize that America is one hell of a great place to live.  We, Americans, feel exceptional.

Recently, we were reminded of the dangers of exceptionalism.  Our newest BFF, Vladimir Putin, had this to say:

It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

Many of us are leaping to the defense of our new friend.  But keep in mind, he has also said this:

We will not allow someone to impose their will on us, because we have our own will! It has helped us to conquer! We are a victorious people! It is in our genes, in our genetic code!

This is all to remind you that every country feels it is exceptional.  History and facts are not ours to change, shape, and mold.  Our children deserve to know what happened, as it actually happened.  They deserve to hear many sides of the same story.  What we have been giving them, and seemingly want to continue to give to them, is propaganda.

Adam did not ride the back of Brontosaurus.  Slavery was not a club.  Natives were not savages.  The KKK and the Great Depression were horrible.  There is a separation between church and state.  Climate change is real.

Our children truly are our future.  Pride in our country is all fine and dandy.  I just don’t want to hear my grandchildren asking, about their textbooks, …Who wrote this thing?

On Labor Day.

Some of you are working today. Some of you have the day off from work.

It’s time to reflect on what Labor Day was intended to be and what is has become–and where we can take it, what we can make it.

Via:

Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

This movement shortened the hours per day worked (from up to 16!! to 8), mandatory breaks, promoted safety legislation, and–as the bumper sticker brags–gave us the weekend (or days off).

But it seems we’ve lost some steam as a country making our labor better. More work doesn’t equal efficiency. Other countries take better care of their workers and are more effective in production and that fleeting thing known as “quality of life” and “happiness.” The bottom line is once again the most important in many industries, and there are deadly accidents in the workplace. Yes, the bottom line is no doubt important, but it shouldn’t come at a severe human cost, physically and emotionally draining and killing us.

Other Labor Day thoughts:

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I’ve spent the last few years studying medieval Europe, and in part, reading about feudalism and the class based systems. The serfs, or peasants had almost no hope of rising above their station and were bound to the same land for the majority of their lives. Six days a week, sun up to sun down, no sick days, no weekends. It would take hundreds of years before people would begin to rise up and change the system. Because of these people, the Labour movement, we now have the rights to fair working conditions, days off, benefits, et al. Because handfuls of brave people stood up and fought for these rights which we take for granted. However, our labour system today is far from perfect today. Groups of people are bent on rolling back some of these rights in the name “capitalism” and the “fair market”. I’m far from an expert on economics, but I believe that keeping these rights will not kill our nations economy, as it hasn’t for the last 200 years. As a matter of fact, these rights should be expanded. Why is the US the only developed country without universal healthcare? Or paid maternity leave? These benefits have not killed the economy of Europe and they will not kill ours. So while we’ve come a long way from the days of serfdom, we still have quite a ways to go.

Edit: While the medieval peasant had an extremely hard life, it seems thanks to the mandated church holidays and feast days, they had *more* time off every year than the American worker. Read more here.

And still, neither have decent healthcare.

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What is labor? And what is its relationship to capital? I believe President Lincoln spoke for me when he said…

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not existed. Labor is superior to capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

The simple truth is that labor has provided us with all the rights we enjoy today. Children are no longer gainfully employed before hitting puberty. Nor are we working 6 or 7 days a week for pennies. We enjoy a regular work week, holidays, FMLA, a minimum wage.

Now, that is not to say that the war has been won. No, no, no. A minimum wage is not equivalent to a decent minimum wage. College graduates working low wage jobs is not acceptable. Only hiring part-time workers to avoid paying for health insurance is not winning. The way handicapped/mentally ill persons are treated is not winning. Unemployed veterans..also, not a win. Equal pay for equal work is not yet a reality.

I could go on and on. So, the fight must go on. In today’s economy, the fight is more important than ever. Corporate entities seem determined to return us to a feudal society. We need to remain equally determined to stop them.

Why do we need a strong labor movement?

“Capital organizes and therefore labor must organize.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

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As I sit here contemplating whether to fire up the grill or just bake some fish, I realize that Labor Day, like almost every other holiday we celebrate, has pretty much lost its meaning. Anymore, it is just an extra day off – hopefully with pay – or if you have to work, a day with extra pay. For most, it’s a good excuse to sleep late, drink a few extra adult beverages, and add to our arterial plaque collection.

But we need to think about what this day means. It is about the people who worked hard, often under dangerous conditions and for obscenely low pay, to build this country we now enjoy. The ones who worked from “can see to can’t” yet never seemed to be able to get ahead.

Too many of us think that was in the “old days” and doesn’t happen anymore. Unfortunately, that’s incorrect. The ranks of the working poor are growing, not shrinking. People who perform functions that continue to be the backbone of this country (surprise! information workers do not form the backbone of this country!!!). Service workers who don’t make minimum wage because their wages are to be off-set by tips…which they sometimes have to share with management. Agricultural workers with unclear immigration status who work and live in deplorable conditions, getting bottom dollar for their labor but paying top dollar for pretty much everything else, especially their substandard housing. Minimum wage workers who struggle to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads as their labor further enriches the super-rich corporate moguls. And even though we don’t like to think about it, all those off-shore workers who have absolutely no protections, but whose labor keeps us looking spiffy and bargain prices.
For many, every day is Labor Day. Hard Labor Day. Maybe we need to change the name to Workers’ Day. Have marches and speeches instead of naps and backyard barbecues. Because we are all brothers and sisters. And when one suffers, we all do, whether we feel it or not.