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15 posts from May 2008

Searching for Empathy in the Written Word

I'm the kind of person who looks to literature to make sense of life, so when I learned that my daughter was deaf and had cerebral palsy, I sobbed for a while and then I logged onto Amazon.com. I was looking for deep and sustaining stories to guide me on the long path ahead, and while I found many cheery volumes offering hope and inspiration, that wasn't exactly what I wanted. I needed to know that others had felt the same kind of pain, fear, and anger that I was feeling, and I wanted a better idea of how my daughter's disability would affect my marriage, my son, my work, and other aspects of our lives. The best novels, short stories, and memoirs can pull us into the lives of their characters and provide a deeper understanding of others, while poetry can distill and illuminate moments that longer essays gloss over. Read more →


Caring for Souls in Need

The environmental movement gave birth to the slogan "Think globally, act locally." What's true for the natural environment is true also for the human environment: what we do in our little part of the world, multiplied by the world's population, can become a transformative force. If we undertake small acts of personal kindness and compassion in our own neighborhoods and communities, and if our neighbors do likewise, and if our neighborly acts spread throughout the village or city, across the country, and beyond in the wider world, we then are acting at the crucial point of a global movement of kindness and compassion. By caring for the soul next door, the soul who sleeps in an alleyway, the soul who stands beside a freeway exit ramp with a sign, we are caring for the soul of the world. Read more →


There Will Be Drought

Recent food riots and the fear that climate chaos will result in famine are just the tip of the proverbial (melting) iceberg. Rising prices and falling grain stockpiles are a warning of things to come. We are, perhaps sooner than we'd hoped, facing one of humanity's most serious and recurrent challenges: how to maintain sufficient food production under conditions of massive ecological and social instability. Global warming will make droughts worse. The weather that crops depend on will become ever more unpredictable. But are hunger and famine the inevitable result? Read more →


Link Roundup: CA Marriage, Keeping Up With Nan Mooney

As E. J. Graff points out in this New Republic article, last week’s decision in California giving marriage rights to same-sex couples offers a lot to be excited about, and not as much for the Democrats to worry about as... Read more →


Economic Inequality is Squeezing the Middle Class

What am I doing wrong? In writing Not Keeping Up With Our Parents, I heard this question over and over again. It was the same question I’d been asking myself. I was a successful freelance writer, working on my third book. I typically held down one to two additional jobs — at the time I taught writing and worked as a receptionist at a yoga studio. I was single and relatively unencumbered. But I could barely manage to pay the rent for my shared apartment in Harlem each month. The prospect of having a child or moving to a smaller, more manageable city — surely not unreasonable expectations — both seemed like financial pie in the sky. I’d done everything I was supposed to do. I’d gone to college, worked hard, spent sensibly. So why couldn’t I afford any of the trappings of that middle class lifestyle I was supposed to embody? Read more →


California, The Sky Will Not Fall

California, we are so happy to have you join us. It’s hardly a "from sea to shining sea moment" of marriage equality, but now Massachusetts and California have shown the country that equal marriage is fundamental to freedom and liberty. The threats to the marriage equality movement in California will probably continue, just as they have in Massachusetts. But oh, for this moment, our country feels like a "sweet land of liberty." All these patriotic refrains keep running through my head! Read more →


The Petrification of John McCain

The Religious Right has successfully spent the last thirty years putting the fear of God into Republican presidential candidates. Those who deviate from the evangelical political liturgy are threatened with the special purgatory of corporate golf games and Viagra ads reserved for unsuccessful Republican nominees. And of all the hymns aspirants are required to memorize, none is more sacred than "A Mighty Fortress Are Strict Constructionists." Read more →


On the Road with Mary Oliver

Several weeks ago, in the midst of National Poetry Month, I made an impulsive decision to drive out from Boston to Syracuse, New York, for a poetry reading. Mary Oliver was scheduled to fly from Logan for that reading, but I thought if I offered to intercept her on the connection from Provincetown and drive, it would give us some precious hours to talk and allow me the rare treat of hearing Mary read—an opportunity one should never pass up. Mary graciously accepted the offer of a ride and, as luck almost never has it, it was a beautiful early spring day when we set out for our five hour road trip. Read more →


Link Roundup: Immigration, High Food Prices, Loving Memorial

David Bacon, author of the forthcoming Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants , sent these pictures from Oakland in the wake of last week's raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) near schools in Oakland and Berkeley.... Read more →


Who's Your Mama?

You'd think Mother's Day among lesbian moms would be an awesome, Doublemint occasion – double your pleasure, double your fun. After all, Mother's Day is not even a Judeo-Christian/Hallmark creation. It actually was birthed in the US some 150 years ago by Appalachian mom Ann Jarvis, who wanted to raise awareness of the poor health conditions in her community. She called it "Mother's Work Day." So for those vernal equinox lesbians more inclined to celebrate the cycles of the moon than the Old or New Testament, Mother's Day is perfect. It's pro-mom, pro-woman, pro-justice. Read more →


The Porning of Miley Cyrus

Talk about teachable moments. Two days before the "topless Miley" stories broke all over television and online, my class and I were discussing the young star of the Disney show, Hannah Montana. My endlessly digressing American Studies class, fifteen young women and one lonely fellow, saw a connection between the subject and period we were studying—the representation of women in Cold War-era popular culture—and the current phenomenon of young female stars being offered up onto the altar of a lecherous public consumption. Read more →


A Global Perspective on Mother’s Day

When I came to the US from England in the 1960s, I suffered a good deal from culture shock. In the first place, in contrast with my British undergraduate classmates who rarely mentioned their parents, my Freud-indoctrinated American graduate school classmates, despite being older and, one might have assumed, already well out of the nest, were obsessed with theirs, especially with their mothers. Trading tales of psychological abuse was a favorite pastime. But for all this tension and ambivalence, they still celebrated Mother's Day. In England at that time we had Mothering Sunday on the fourth Sunday of Lent, an Anglican Church festival that was generally ignored. The four per cent of the population who went to church on that particular late winter Sunday thanked God for the care and attention they'd received from their mothers, who were only marginally involved in this thanksgiving. In contrast, Mother's Day in America was a federally-sanctified celebration, a deification of the internalized torturer/seductress, which even in the sixties was poised to out-strip the commercial excesses of Christmas. Read more →


In 2006, Mexico experienced profound social turmoil. Dramatic political and economic conflicts uprooted and displaced thousands of families, forcing many to consider leaving home. Teachers struck in Oaxaca, and after their demonstrations were tear-gassed, a virtual insurrection paralyzed the state capitol for months. Read more →


Monday Link Roundup: Fresh Food, Seeds, Bulbs and more

The Seattle-Post Intelligencer ran a feature last week about poor access to fresh, healthy food in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. The article quotes Mark Winne, author of Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty: "Unless cities... Read more →