Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Good Old Days

Nostalgia, most, if not all of us, experience it, whether only occasionally or as an almost constant underlying longing.  A return to the “good old days” seems to me to be the theme of the Republican campaign for president.  That message resonates with distinct groups of people, which isn’t altogether surprising during a time of economic uncertainty, high unemployment rates and an unpredictable future.  For many, what they imagine lies ahead and/or the future is not what they expected.  Certainly the current situation, not only in America, but around the world isn’t something most Americans have faced during their lifetimes.  What is happening in America today echoes, quite closely, the Great Depression.  That was a time that our parents, grandparents or even great grandparents lived through.  Most of us know little or nothing in any great detail about that time.

As a self-confessed political junkie, and someone who thought I had received an excellent education, I have recently learned much more about The Gilded Age and The Great Depression that followed it than I had ever learned in the past.  I’ve found that my education in this area was sorely lacking.   My parents grew up during The Great Depression, both of whom were born in 1915.  On the one hand, that seems like a very, very long time ago.  On the other, in the history of just the civilized world and recorded history alone, it was not much more than a blink of the eye.  Even so, life during that time for the majority of Americans is largely forgotten by people alive today.  One of the stories I heard about recently both horrified and amazed me.  You can read something of this story about The Bonus Army here:       

I did grow up with a strong admiration for FDR, mostly imparted by my parents.  At some point in the past I had learned of FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and carried its memory with me.  When the housing bubble burst (as I was certain it must, contrary to the opinions of experts) I told anyone who would listen that we needed another CCC.  If you aren’t familiar with this initiative, which helped preserve and expand our National Parks System, build bridges, roads and dams, among other things, you can find more here:  Not only did this program build much of America’s infrastructure, but it provided income for thousands upon thousands of families in desperate need and a sense of purpose for those who were employed in the CCC.      

But, I digress.  My original point, and the title of this article, has to do with “the good old days.”  To me, that simple, well known phrase sums up the difference between Republicans and Democrats in our current political climate.  One party, the Republicans, wants to turn back the clock to a nostalgic, “rosy” point in time referred to as “the good old days.”  They want to “take back America” and, in fact, take America back to another time.  Of course, their framing elicits a feeling in many of a time when things were simpler, easier to understand, and when “they” were happy and relatively carefree.  Those of us on the other side of the issues not only don’t want to go back but also realize that we can’t go back.  That just isn’t how life or time works.

I grew up in the 1950s, considered by most in powerful positions as an idyllic time in American history.  A large percentage of Americans were upwardly mobile, owning their first homes, making much more money than their parents ever dreamed of, and insuring that their children would do even better when they grew into adults.  The problem, as I see it, is that the ones calling for a return to this ideal of America is that they & I were children and life was simpler.  As children, the world should be a time of joy, few if no worries, and little or no fears.  However, as children, most of us lived in a protective bubble, shielded by our parents from the harsh realities of the rest of the real world.  What we didn’t know, contrary to the popular phrase, would and could hurt us.  During the 1950s, just like today, there was racial and gender inequality, war, rape,  pedophilia, incest,  wife battering, and all of the other horrors we see happening around us today.  And just like today there were unwed mothers – but they  were hidden away and shunned by the rest of society; homosexuality also existed with the vast majority of gays and lesbians forced by the morays of the times to live closeted lives; and adults had sex outside of marriage, many times cheating on their spouses. 

The world has always been like this, yet as children – if we were part of the fortunate group – we knew nothing of this.  Our parents kept us shielded from the ugliness and horrors existing in the world but, as adults, we have no one to shield us any longer from the ugliness of human nature.  The reality, however, is that we cannot “un-know” what we know.  Those images won’t go away, no matter how hard we try.  For those of you who love animals, think only of the photo of little Patrick, a young pit bull mix who was put into a trash bag and thrown down the garbage chute in a New Jersey apartment building.  You can go here to see the photo of him when he was rescued (WARNING – this photo is of a graphic nature):  Looking at that photo, it’s hard to believe that he was still alive.  Even harder to believe is that a human could do that to an innocent animal.  (NOTE:  Patrick is thriving due in large part to his great care at Garden State Veterinary Specialists in New Jersey)

My point is that there are no “good old days.”  Throughout history most  people lived in horrendous conditions, suffered greatly and died too young.  According to the World Bank, as of 2008, over 80% of the world’s population lives on less than $10 a day.  (You can find more statistics here:  The choice as I see it is whether or not you are willing to face the reality that is life and want to make the world a better place for everyone, or do you want to turn away and build a wall around your “world” and shut out everyone and everything else.  It’s a choice between reality and denial.  Which will you choose?  For myself, I choose compassion, justice and fairness for all beings with whom we share this planet.  My vote will go to those candidates who are most likely to make compassionate choices as well.  Clearly, none of my choices will be for a Republican candidate. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Well, I have lost two more of my fur babies, Courtney and Cordelia.  Obviously, it’s been a tough year and a half.  So many of my animals came into my home within a about a two year span of time.  I brought them in without a thought to the extra burden and cost of increasing the size of my herd.  To me, it was a matter of life and death for them and I simply couldn’t turn away. 

I euthanized Courtney on January 12th.  She had been given a diagnosis in December that limited how long she would survive.  Because of all of the ones that proceeded her, I didn’t take her to the vet when she started breathing noisily.  I initially thought it was an upper respiratory infection.  I used my go to remedy, the Vicks vaporizer.  It didn’t work.  She wasn’t sneezing, her eyes and nose weren’t runny.  Deep down I knew it was something else, something that I hadn’t encountered previously.  I took her to my vet and she was diagnosed with upper respiratory and given clavamox.  I told the vet I didn’t feel it was an upper respiratory infection, but that was the diagnosis.  I took her back a few week s later, having only succeeded in getting one dose down her.  She spent about a week at the vet’s office, being treated for a bad eye infection that was the result of her nasal area becoming seriously swollen.  She was also treated for an upper respiratory infection.  When I brought her home, the swelling had decreased a bit, her eye was better but the “snurfling/snoring” sound that had originally alerted me that there was a problem.  In a few weeks I took her to a specialist.  She was given a “CAT scan.”  The diagnosis was what I had expected all along – nasopharyngeal cancer.  There was nothing that could be done.  Since she was still eating, I took her home.  That was on December 29th.  On January 12th, she had seizures and I rushed her to my vet to put her down.  No doubt that the cancer had reached her brain and caused her seizures.  

 Courtney came into my life when I trapped her and her littermates, Chaz, Charlie and Charlise.  Her littermates tamed up pretty quickly and became little love muffins.  Courtney just wouldn’t come around.  I was pretty new to taming feral kittens and I didn’t always succeed.  I kept these kittens instead of taking them back to where they were trapped because I had trapped another sister earlier.  I got her spayed and returned her.  She died within a week.  I felt horribly guilty and didn’t want the same fate for these little ones.  When Chaz came down with something soon after I had fixed the entire litter, I took them to my vet.  The diagnosis was calicivirus.  Little did I know the far reaching effects of this disease.  After about a year, Courtney surprised me one day by rolling over on the bed and exposing her belly.  There is nothing more tempting to me than the soft tummy of a kitty.  She let me rub her belly, her soft, soft fur.  With no further ado, she was tame and for the rest of her life truly loved being petted and stroked.  She never became fond of being picked up and held, however.  In the last weeks of her life, however, she came to tolerate my holding her and seemed somewhat comforted by it.  Courtney would have been 13 this year. 

Cordelia crossed my path in 1998.  I was driving home from the hospital, having spent the night in the Sleep Disorder Clinic.  I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, having had electrodes stuck to my head.  As I drove down Orange Avenue I saw two dogs simply nonchalantly walking down the sidewalk.  It was around 7 AM and I knew traffic would pick up dramatically within an hour.  Cordelia was a tiny puppy, probably no more than 4 or 5 months old.  With her was a large dog who was marked like a Rottweiler but had long curly hair like a cocker spaniel.  He had a long linked chain that trailing behind him.  Needless to say, I pulled over and opened up the back of my Jeep.  I stepped on the chain to keep the larger dog from bolting and grabbed the puppy.  I put her in my car and she walked from the back to the front passenger seat and curled up on the pillow I had taken with me to the sleep clinic.  I picked up the other dog and put him in the car as well.  I already had two other dogs that I had rescued earlier at home.  We headed home and both dogs just chilled out as I drove.  Neither dog had any identification.  I tried to find the owner, placing an ad in the Found Classifieds in the paper, calling area vets and even talking to kids who lived in the neighborhood where I picked up both dogs.  No luck.  I felt certain that I could talk one of the rescue groups in Orlando to take them and find homes for them.  However, the large dog that I named Cuinn developed a cough.  When I took him to the vet, he was diagnosed with heartworms.  By the time I paid for his treatment and nursed him through it, I realized Cuinn was staying with me.  He and the puppy, whom I named Cordelia, were so bonded that I couldn’t stand the thought of separating them.  

This is Celia on the left & Cordelia on the right
Cordelia was named for a character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  That character was my least favorite character.  She was arrogant, nasty and downright mean.  My Cordelia had none of those characteristics, but she was a little devil dog.  She would constantly find a way to escape from the fence around the backyard.  And, it wasn’t just her.  She managed to bring everyone with her – Celie, Cuinn and even Caleb sometimes.  I live less than a block off Orange Avenue, which has really heavy traffic nearly 24/7.  Because she was an amazing escape artist, I decided to take her and her partner in crime, Celie, to obedience classes.  Cordelia was the best pupil.  She was the first to succeed at each training exercise.  I have had many dogs throughout my life who had varying degrees of intelligence, but Cordelia was, by far, the smartest dog I have ever known.  She outsmarted more times than I’d like to admit.  I don’t know her heritage, but it was pretty clear that she had pit bull in her.  Pitties have such a bad reputation.  Judging from Cordelia, that reputation is not deserved.  She loved everyone she met, she would take treats from me so gently and she was also gentle with the cats, often cleaning their ears or letting them groom her.  She was also one the silliest, goofiest dogs I’ve ever had.

Cordelia was diagnosed with lymphoma in November.  Unfortunately there was no way to treat this –neither surgery nor cancer treatment.  I had noticed lumps at the base of her lower jaw.  The vet found other masses in the other lymph nodes in her body.  We put her on pain meds and steroids, which helped somewhat.  In the last month it was obvious that she was going downhill.  Her energy level had diminished greatly and she wouldn’t finish her food each night.  The one thing she did look forward to was cleaning the cat bowls at dinner time.  I didn’t see any reason in prolonging this downhill slide and euthanized her on February 16th.  When I dropped her body off at the crematory, I picked up Courtney’s ashes.  Cordelia's spirit and joy for life will stay with me as will her strength of character.  She was certainly one of a kind. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

This was a popular phrase that my mother used frequently as I grew up.  Frankly, it annoyed the crap out of me.  If that was how it should be “done”, then why aren’t you doing it that way, Mom?  Of course, I would have had my mouth washed out with soap for talking back, so I never said it……but I sure as heck thought it. 

In the past month, this phrase has sprung to mind on several occasions.  To me this is the motto of hypocrites and there seem to be a bunch of them in the news lately.  We have a couple of poster boys and an institution that has been around for over 2000 years.  These folks are preaching Morality for the Masses, and telling us just how we should be living our lives.  And, by not following their mandates, we are stripping others of their Constitutional liberties, we are taking America in the wrong direction and we are being sacrilegious.  If you believe them, there is a war being waged against Religion.  Really?  Is that really what they think?  I have a bit of a different perspective. 

Before I begin, let me make a full disclosure.  As a child, I was raised Lutheran.  Although my parents only attended church on Easter and Christmas Eve, I attended a Lutheran kindergarten, Sunday School every week, confirmation classes for two years in preparation to being confirmed in the Lutheran church and then moving on to attending church services  instead of Sunday School.  I have read the Bible, and those two years of confirmation classes were weekly Bible studies.  Throughout this learning period, I questioned quite a bit and had many concerns about much of what I was being taught and what was in the Bible.  I left religion behind, permanently, when I discovered feminism in college.  I do, however, firmly believe in The Golden Rule and the ethic of care practiced by Jesus in the Bible.  And, I detest hypocrisy in all of its forms.  

Let me begin with Newton Leroy Gingrich, or as I prefer to call him, Newter.  

 At some point in his proselytizing he used the phrase “the sanctity of marriage.”  PLEASE, Newter!  You of all people who has pissed all over your marriage vows, not once but at least twice.  If there really was a god, you would have been struck by lightning when that phrase left your lips.  You who married one of your high school teachers, had her work to put you through grad school so you wouldn’t have to work.  Then, while she was in the hospital fighting cancer, you told her you wanted a divorce so that you could marry your lover.  Then, after marrying your second wife, you cheated on her for six years with the devout Catholic woman you would make your third wife.  And due to this devoutly religious woman, who had no problem having secret sexual relations with the husband of another woman, you converted to Catholicism.  So now that you have found god, you can champion the sanctity of marriage, but only between one man and one woman.  Something you, of course, didn’t practice in the past.  And now, you are against same sex marriage.  You claim our current president, also a professed Christian, is waging a war against religion. You call the president the Food Stamp president, you want to repeal the Affordable Health Care Plan, you are outraged that Catholic hospitals and universities will be required to include contraception without a co-pay in the insurance plans they choose for their employees.  Personally, I think your past affairs and disrespect for the vows of fidelity you freely took do more damage to religion than anything the president has done.  Not to mention your willingness to start even more wars – against Iran, Pakistan, et al – flies in the face of the sanctity of life and your profession for being a pro-life candidate.  Do you only respect “life” within the womb?  What about the viable lives outside the womb?  Then there is the food stamp question.  Actually it’s the SNAP Program now, Newter.  Who do you think is using this program?  Do you realize that it mostly benefits children living in poverty, the elderly, the disabled, the working poor and the unemployed?  While expressing outrage over “food stamps” you also want to eliminate ALL taxes on capital gains.  So, for you and your Christian values, the extremely wealthy need more money while those struggling in poverty don’t really need food.  Do I have that correct?  Not exactly my idea of “Christian charity.”  Well, if you are a good example of just what a good Christian looks, sounds and acts like, then I’m not buying into it. 

Then there is Mr. Social Values Candidate Supreme, Rick “Frothy” Santorum.   

Rick, whose wife Karen, lived with the doctor who delivered her, a man 40 years older than her and a doctor who performed abortions, without being married to him.  And, now the two of you are models of a good Christian married couple.  You have come into your own recently with the announcement that all employers, including the Catholic Church, must provide insurance for their employees that includes no co-pay prescriptions for contraception.  Apparently you aren’t aware that 28 states already require all employers that provide prescription benefits to include contraception in the coverage.  You can read more about this here:  If we believe you, this violates the First Amendment right to freedom of religion.  But you also think that states should make the sale and purchase of contraception illegal.  How is that not abridging the First Amendment rights of non-Catholics?  Isn’t that imposing Catholic doctrine on people of all faiths, or even those of no faith?  So, let’s make sure I have this correct.  Everyone should respect your belief system but you have no responsibility to respect the belief systems of others?  And for you, that’s Freedom of Religion?  Is that right? 

And then there is the Catholic Church, the bastion of morality for millions of people around the world.  And they have set such a stellar example for us all.  As an historian and recent convert, I’m certain – well, not really - that Newter has thoroughly studied the Church’s history of imposing morality across the planet.  We have the s0-called witch dunkings/drownings and burnings during the Dark Ages (mostly elderly, widowed midwives), the Crusades that waged war against Islam, the conquering of the New World that led to the massacre of indigenous peoples and, of course, the most recent moral crusade of ignoring, condoning, empowering the pedophiles within their ranks.  Ah yes, these are the guys that I’m going to look to for moral conduct and advice.  

Apparently all of these pious Christians missed this, which even I – the non-believer – remember quite well.  It’s John 8:7:  Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.   So, if you are wondering What Would Jesus Do, ponder that passage. Or maybe you could work on setting a better example by practicing what you preach - before you even preach it.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Recommendation

Well, I've been under the weather all week and simply don't have the stamina to rant, whine or otherwise comment on the state of the world.  Except for one thing:  The horrendous choice by the Susan G. Komen Foundation to stop funding breast cancer exams & referrals through Planned Parenthood.  Just two important points I want to make:
  1. I've worked for a non-profit since 1993.  Although grant-writing isn't part of my job, I do have personal knowledge of the grant process.  The granting institution chooses, most of the time, to fund a SPECIFIC program.  They can RESTRICT how the funds are spent.  They require, if they have a well defined grant process, a final DETAILED report on the program they've funded.
  2. In America, a person and/or business, is INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY.  Cliff Stearns, a anti-choice Republican from Florida, launched an investigation into Planned Parenthood in September, 2011.  He gave PP a short amount of time to produce the documents he requested.  They did, but he is sitting on them instead of proceeding with his "investigation."  This could have been cleared up last year.  Instead it's been used against PP and allowed Komen to have time to rewrite their guidelines for grants.  Collusion?  You decide.
Now my recommendation.  Read the extremely informative and intelligent blog, Skydancing.  Put it on your daily reading list.  It is a must read for any thinking person.  I can't get through my day without it.  I hope you will feel the same.  Skydancing