Shame, Shame, Shame – The Buck Stops Where?

[[This essay appeared in a slightly different form as a Letter to the Editor in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on 5/9/2004]]

Harry Truman would be spinning in his grave over our current administration’s inability to take responsibility for anything. No apologies, no explanations (well, it’s someone else’s fault, of course, probably those private contractors…)

I haven’t been so ashamed to be an American since Iran Contra during the Reagan administration. We’re supposed to be helping the Iraqis understand that the rule of law matters! All we’re showing them is that power corrupts; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness continue to be meaningless constructs in Iraq (and in many other places in the world)

We ought to all be ashamed of ourselves that we have a government which behaves so abominably against the citizens of another country.

Our Tax Dollars at Work...

Our Tax Dollars at Work…

The Memory Hole has many depressing photos. Albarah.Net has some even worse ones (though since I can’t believe what I hear from our government about Iraq, I’m still not ready to believe all of some Arabic group’s propaganda…yet, anyway…).

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There and Back Again

Thursday morning, I left for Massachusetts. I’ve done that drive solo a number of times. It takes about 10 hours, and when the weather is nice, it’s a pleasant drive. I like listening to books on tape, so I finished up listening to Stephen King’s Bag of Bones. It’s a fairly pedestrian “small town has a secret and they’re all in on it” sort of horror story, but there’s a pair of love stories involving the protagonist that are really very sweet.

Friday, my parents and I drove up to Vermont to attend my uncle’s funeral. Uncle Winslow had lived in Montpelier most of his adult life, having spent his career working for the state. As Montpelier is the smallest state capital, and the church was all of about five blocks from the state office buildings, the church was completely full of old friends and co-workers.

I want to give kudos to my cousins Anne and Mardie, who gave a very moving talk about their father, and to the minister who had the intelligence to admit that he didn’t know Uncle Winslow, but gave a great eulogy anyway (the minister had just come to the church a few months before, my uncle had been in Texas part of the time, then moved in with Anne a few months before he died).

I really love the recent funeral tradition of displaying photos at the reception. I saw a family photo I’d loved as a child and hadn’t seen in nearly 30 years:

Trask Family, Rochester, VT, Circa 1930

Trask Family, Rochester, VT, Circa 1930: (more or less clockwise) John Crawford (Sr.), John Crawford (Jr.), George, Bill, Nellie, Winslow and Caroline Trask

Between my brother’s wedding last fall and my uncle’s funeral, I remet many cousins I hadn’t seen in years. I hadn’t seen Mardie, Alan or Pam since my wedding, almost 27 years ago. It was one of those odd timing things – a bunch of my cousins got married when I was living in Pennsylvania or Ohio and had no money to travel. Some of the aunts and uncles (Alan’s parents, Anne and Mardie’s mother) died at times when work was quite insane and I just couldn’t get away. So it was good to reconnect with them, even if the situation wasn’t ideal.

After the funeral, I went up to Burlington and visited Anne and Mardie. Spending a night in Burlington was a little odd – I spent a few nights there in February, 1957 as I was born in Burlington but I don’t think I spent a night there since then.

Anne Forcier, Mardie Sorensen, Laurie Mann, April 30, 2004

Anne Forcier, Mardie Sorensen, Laurie Mann, April 30, 2004

We spent a long time up on the widow’s walk, watching the sun set over Lake Champlain. I enjoyed meeting Anne’s in-laws, the Forciers.

The next morning, I took my mother’s cousin Alice Bassett, out to breakfast. She’s probably the relative I’m most like – she’s very politically and musically active. She’s at least 78 and still sings in no fewer than three groups. She was a state legislator for a few years, and used to commute to Montpelier with Howard Dean in his pick-up truck!

The drive back to Pittsburgh was a little trickier. I’d had a migraine overnight, so I was very tired. It was cloudy and windy taking the Charlotte ferry across Lake Champlain. There wasn’t much traffic or many cops on 87 going south through New York, but I did have to stop briefly when a border patrol road block (some two hours south of the Canadian border) was checking cars for illegal aliens. I have mixed feelings about that sort of operation, honestly, but I got through quickly and continued on my way home.

While I made a few brief stops, I drove for over 12 solid hours. While Burlington, Vermont is a little further west than West Boylston, Massachusetts, it’s somewhat further north. So that was the longest solo drive I’d ever done.

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Some More Thoughts on the March for Women’s Lives

On assorted boards in, some of the anti-choice folks have decided to decry any actor or actress who dares to be publicly pro-choice. I got a little tired of this, so I posted the following:

I think both Mel Gibson and Jim Caveziel have gone way overboard on The Passion. It’s not a movie I will ever see (well, at least it’s a movie I will ever pay to see). But will I broadly condemn every action the two do? Of course not.

Vanessa Redgrave walked way over the line with her unwavering support of the Palestinians (there’s plenty of blame for the ongoing mess in the Middle East, and all sides are parts of the problem). But I know she’s a talented actress. While I don’t agree with her politics, I respect her enormously as an actress.

I respect Julianne and Whoopi and Ashley and the 800,000 other people who were with me in DC last weekend. The 200-300 anti-abortion folks who counter-demonstrated our march are entitled to their opinion. I’m entitled to ignore them. This is still a “free” country.

There was a great political cartoon in today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about this very issue (unfortunately, it’s not online yet). In one panel, George Bush is pointing at a member of Al Queda and says “The Problem with You Is You Hate Freedom.” In the second panel, he’s pointing at a Pro-Choice Marcher, and he says “The Problem With You Is You Love Freedom.”

I avoid telling people what to believe. In fact, my daughter identifies herself as a pro-life person. However, we both very strongly believe in sex education and birth control. The current administration is taking the hard line against sharing birth control and abortion information. Due to its refusal, hundreds of thousands of women, mostly in Africa, are dying. But, the pro-life people don’t seem to give a damn about the people dying from AIDS, childbirth complications and botched abortions.

The March for Women’s Lives wasn’t just about abortion. If you listened to the speakers, it was about promoting sex education. Of all kinds.

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need abortion clinics. We’d have birth control that worked all the time. No woman would ever be raped. Women who became dangerously ill during their pregnancies could have abortions to save their lives without being made to feel a criminal. But this isn’t an ideal world.

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A Death in the Family and a Weekend With Almost a Million

I was out of town over the weekend, and came home to find out that my Uncle Winslow had died. It was not completely unexpected – he’d had cancer for a number of years, and had been having good months and bad months. We shared an interest in genealogy. I’ll miss him.

Winslow, Bill and George Trask, Spring 1992

Winslow, Bill and George Trask, Spring 1992 — At my father’s (Bill’s) retirement party

Winslow, Bill and George Trask, October 2003

Winslow, Bill and George Trask, October 2003 — At my brother Terry’s wedding

I spent the weekend in DC, partially to visit my brother Jeff and his fiance Rachel, and partially to attend the March for Women’s Lives. This was the fifth time since 1978 that I’d been to a protest on the Mall in Washington, and it was substantially larger than any previous protest I’d been to. We probably had somewhere near 800,000 people there, meaning it was the biggest national rally ever in DC (yup, even bigger than “The Million Man March”).

April 26 March:  Posters Including - If You Aren't Outraged, You Aren't Paying Attention

April 26 March: Posters Including – If You Aren’t Outraged, You Aren’t Paying Attention

I have been paying attention. And while I was one of the liberals who counseled “patience” at the beginning of the Bush administration, I am more outraged about the tactics of the administration every day. Just today, representatives from NASA were forbidden from making any comment to the media on an upcoming science fiction movie (The Day After Tomorrow) on global warning. Is there anything they aren’t going to gag?

At the March, I was working with Jeanne Clark, who was the lead PR person for the March and one of its organizers. I ran errands and moved people around, and was also put in charge of getting the lead banners assembled:

April 26 March:  Laurie Mann, Bannerer

April 26 March: Laurie Mann, Bannerer

The mall was unbelievably crowded, particularly before and after the March:

April 26 March:  Post March Rally

April 26 March: Post March Rally

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An Athlete Who Was an Actual Role Model – Pat Tillman

While I have mixed feelings about our government’s promotion and conduct of the war in Iraq, I think most of us who’d rather not see our military over there don’t believe in condemning the people who’ve chosen to serve. And so, I find the death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan this week particularly sad. [[And it was that much sadder to learn later that his death was due to “friendly fire.”]]

Until the Viet Nam War, it wasn’t that uncommon for public figures to join the military. Look at the hundreds of athletes, actors and musicians who fought for their country in World War II. You can’t say the same about recent wars. The rich and the famous avoid military service because it’s a volunteer military and they don’t “have” to go.

Despite this, both Tillman and his brother chose to go into the Army to become Rangers. Pat Tillman gave up a multi-million dollar football contract to go fight for his country. Even more extraordinary – he graduated from college summa cum laude in three and a half years. How many professional athletes can you name who not only graduated from college but graduated with honors?

I hope we remember Pat Tillman. I don’t think we’re going to see other young and famous and rich men go to war.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics.

Politics, Politics and the Unrelated Joys of Rebuilding Your Domain…

This week, I read two contemporary books that were curiously related:

Reading Lolita in Tehran is a literary look at surviving in Iran as your options grow increasingly limited. It’s looking at Iran from the inside out over the last 25 years and how horrible it is, particularly for women. As much as I hate to think of any government as “evil,” the Iranian government (no matter who’s in charge) continues to be evil.

Against All Enemies is a very interesting book. Clarke’s retelling of his time in the White House is quite engrossing, particularly his story of what it was like to be in the White House on 9/11. I don’t normally buy the “scandal of the minute” book, but unless you’re a worshipper of Dubya and his friends (unlikely if you’re reading this site) you’ll see all the bits that went into that mess of a sausage in September 2001 and the years since.

Now to get off of politics for a minute…

On April 10, 2004, my Web and mail server failed at Interland. When the folks at Interland couldn’t figure out how to bring the server back by April 13, I moved all of my sites from Pair Networks. Eventually, the domain will work, but it won’t be until I can straighten out a problem I’m having with Internet Solutions. Thank goodness for Pair Networks here in Pittsburgh, my new Web host.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics.

When Will Lady Liberty Reopen?

September 11 was over two and a half years ago. The main architectural symbol of our country’s liberty, the Statue of Liberty, remains closed. It is going to be at least another four months before the country determines that enough changes have been made to it to be “safe” enough to enter.

I can certainly understand why the statue was closed in September of 2001, but it’s not clear why the statue has stayed closed for so long.

September 11 was over two and a half years ago. The main legal symbol of our country’s liberty, the Constitution, remains under attack by the current administration. It’s going to be at least another year before a more rational Federal government can throw out the “Patriot” Act. It’s going to be at least another year before a lot of people, a number of whom did nothing more than be in the wrong place at the wrong time, can fight for their freedom to return home.

I could understand why it was important to pick up any would-be terrorists. But, as an American, the “Patriot” Act is contrary to our Constitution. The single biggest attack to America since 9/11 has been from our own government. Pity that.

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Reclaiming Another “F” Word…

During the ’80s, a word many of us used proudly in the ’70s practically became practically a swear in the mouths of right-wing extremists. So non-right wing extremists often stopped using the word. Or some people apologized for using it.

No, Peter Jackson, that “f” word isn’t “fantasy” — it’s the word “feminist.”

I’ve been an ardent feminist since before I even knew there was such a word. In the early ’60s, when I was just in kindergarten, I just felt that girls and boys were treated differently. It probably didn’t help that I was hardly a typical ’60s little girl – I was pretty argumentative, got low marks on “following directions,” had dreadful printing and liked to read. Despite these “impediments,” I generally got along pretty well with my teachers because they saw I was bright and liked to learn.

Feminists, to a point, have been pushed back into various closets over the last 15 years or so. The first closet was to stop using the word as a positive self-identifier. The second closet was to pretend that feminism isn’t important. The 2000 election and its aftermath should demonstrate that feminism is very important.

Under “pro-life” people like George Bush, tens of thousands of poor women around the world have died or been maimed by back alley abortions or bad birth control since family “planning” agencies are restricted about talking about these issues if they received money from the US government. Hundreds of thousands of poor women have died from childbirth (more than did previously) because our government thinks appeasing the “religious right” is more important than passing out condoms.

I’m a feminist, and I’m going to be one of several hundred thousand feminists to rally in favor of family planning, both in the US and around the world in Washington on April 25. The global gag order has got to stop. The only way it’s going to stop is to elect John Kerry.

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I heard Richard Clarke say something yesterday that people from our government never say:

     We failed you…I failed you…

Politicians and government officials, particularly in this administration, are notorious about saying

     Mistakes were made…the government isn’t working

But it’s very rare to hear people admit their mistakes. I don’t blame 9/11 on Richard Clarke (there’s plenty of blame to go around); I’m not convinced that terrorists can always be stopped. However, in order to have any hope of stopping terrorists, everyone needs to be more careful.

Most importantly, the branches of the government need to cooperate. When government agencies were cooperating during the run-up to the Millennium, the government foiled at least two different foreign terrorist attacks. People were being careful; they took the possibility of attack seriously. We didn’t need a civil-liberties-inhibiting Patriot Act to track down real terrorists. But once the year 2000 was ushered in safely, people went back to being on auto-pilot.

I normally don’t run out and buy the latest “government scandal” book, but I probably will go out and buy Richard Clarke’s book, Against All Enemies, on his time in the Bush administration.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics.