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The X(Y) Factor I’m Not Ignoring

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An Immodest Proposal   [1]

In the history of the fight for women’s reproductive rights there have been several proposals, by activists, publications and public figures, for both famous and unknown (as in, non-celebrity) women to state that they have had an abortion. Ms. Magazine made history when, during its inaugural issue in 1972,

… it published the names of 53 women admitting to having had abortions when the procedure was still illegal in most of the United States. Notable signatories included Billie Jean King, Judy Collins, Anaïs Nin, Gloria Steinem, Susan Sontag, and Nora Ephron.   The petition noted that roughly one in four American women had had an abortion, in spite of it being illegal in most of the country at the time….. the Ms. petition was inspired by the Manifesto of the 343 that had been published the previous year in which 343 French women publicly declared that they had had an abortion….
(Ms. Magazine, Wikipedia)

Ms. magazine is releasing its fall issue next week with a cover story titled “We Had Abortions,” accompanied by the names of thousands of women nationwide who signed a petition making that declaration.
(“Ms. Magazine names women who had abortions,” NBC news 10-5-2006 )

“…nearly 50 years ago, the actress Catherine Deneuve… joined…more than 300 women in signing Simone de Beauvoir’s Manifesto of the 343, a petition for France to legalize abortion…. In doing so, they not only began being referred to as one of “the 343 salopes,” the French word for “slut,” but also risked facing criminal prosecution; abortion was illegal at the time that they came forward to share that they were among the women in France—at that point, one million each year—who’d had the procedure.”
(From the article, “The Celebrities Who Have come Forward About their Abortions, and Why,” re actor and talk show host Busy Philipps’ recent Tweet urging women who’ve had abortions to share their stories: “many people think they don’t know someone who has, but #youknowme.”    (wwd magazine,  5-17-19)

The call for women to “out” themselves re abortion is strategically analogous to the tactic used by gay rights advocates in the 1970s-80s who began insisting that gays must come out of the closet  [2]   in order to claim their civil rights. The idea – which proved to be correct – was that anti-gay stereotypes would not only continue to exist but would flourish as long as a majority of heterosexuals could say, “Gee, I personally don’t know any gay people, so maybe what they (the religious right and other homophobic fear-mongers) say about the homosexual agenda is true.”   It is much more difficult to malign and/or discriminate against your colleague, your friend, your neighbor, your cousin’s son, your own daughter, than against those amorphous gay people – who are apparently out there, somewhere – whom you (think you) don’t know. 

In wake of the antediluvian legislative shit-show of the past few weeks (e.g. Alabama and other backwater states passing abortion laws to start the judicial crawl toward SCOTUS ), many reproductive rights advocates are once again calling for women who have had abortions to say so publicly (or, at least, to their own family and friends).

Moiself disagrees with this call. I don’t think it’s a bad thing;
rather, I think it doesn’t go far enough….

I am so very tired of beating my head against the wall re this issue.

The call for women to go public about their abortions ignores, once again and completely, what is arguably the most vital factor in the abortion equation.

Why is it so easy for our legislative bodies – and the grown-ass men and women who want to criminalize abortion – to ignore the XY Factor: the fact that girls and women don’t get pregnant by themselves? Aside from pregnancies terminated for medical reasons… [3]

Every Unwanted/Unplanned Pregnancy – Every Single One – Is Caused By
A Male’s Ejaculation Into A Female’s Vagina.

 

 

Thus, I propose the ICAPT! Movement.
(y’all can pronounce it Aye, Captain! for that certain, Star Trek or nautical vibe).

ICAPT! = I Caused A Pregnancy Termination!:

Every man whose wife/girlfriend/partner(s) have ever had an abortion due to an unwanted pregnancy should out themselves as having caused that abortion.

Gentlemen, your country needs you to enlist in ICAPT!

CALLING ALL MENFOLK

 

Men we gotta man up now!
She got pregnant, we know how!
Sound off, one two
Sound off, three four
One, two three, four
Won’t deny it – NO MORE!

 

But wait – there’s more! If you’re feeling particularly realistic courageous, every man who has had unprotected PIV   [4]   intercourse with a woman, wherein his intent was not to get her pregnant, should out himself – if only to himself – as having had the potential to cause an abortion.

Trust me, guys, y’all will find strength in numbers…and, moiself hopes, in the simple yet profound act of Doing The Right Thing ® and no longer letting women shoulder this burden alone.  You may know it as that quaint practice called, Telling The Truth.

Speaking of which, part two of my proposal is addressed to women who are considering going public in the latest We Had Abortions/YouKnowMe calls for action. This is going to be controversial, but moiself thinks it’s long overdue, especially since the likelihood of menfolk doing the right thing with respect to this issue is…like…zero.

Sorry, dudes, but y’all don’t have a good track record here. Maybe this’ll help you along:

CALLING ALL WOMENFOLK WOMEN WHO HAVE HAD ABORTIONS
AND ARE CONSIDERING SO DECLARING:

Name yourself if you must, but do not say, You Know Me unless you also say, OhYeahAndYouKnowHimToo. In other words,
name the man who fathered your pregnancy.   [5]

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [6]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:
Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook (9th edition © 1950), by…well…by Betty, of course.

I keep this cookbook in my collection for sentimental and cultural reasons.

Sentimental: the book is signed “To mother from Gwen.” The book was a gift to my maternal grandmother, Edna Gertrude Moran Hole, from her second daughter (and my middle name namesake), my aunt Gwen.

Cultural:  As George Takei might say….

 

From the book’s intro blurbs…

(“…let’s go into the gay Polka Dot Kitchen where appliances are tested….”

…to its illustrations

My culinary vibe is so inspiring, my stove vomits with anticipation when it sees me waltz into the kitchen!

 

…to its “nutrition” ahem and meal-planning tips

(hint: butter and margarine get their own Food Group)…

…to its inspirational prose

The poem below…expresses beautifully just what we would like to say…. [7]

An ancient rite, as old as life is old:
A woman baking bread above a flame…
wholesome as the summer sun
That has lit and warmed the fields that men might eat….

…to the recipes their presentation suggestions, such as this, from the section advocating serving appetizers before a meal

“The entire atmosphere brightens when food appears. It may be the simplest fruit juice cocktail – for a tired husband just home from work….”

…this book is a cultural artifact more (much, much more) than a cookbook.

The stated aim of my Epicurean Excursion ® is to make at least one recipe as-is (sans alternations/substitutions) from each of my cookbooks, each week.  As I declared when embarking on this excursion, I was not intending to write reviews, but would merely list the book’s name and author, the recipe(s) I made and the rating(s) I assigned to them.  But, here was the dilemma moiself faced after thumbing through every page of Betty’s book – I saw nothing I wanted to cook, much less eat.

In the book’s “Supper Dishes” chapter there is a recipe for Kaedjere, which Betty describes as an “American Indian version of a fish-and-rice dish from far-away India.” One of the recipe ingredients is a 7 oz can of tuna. Because, you know, cans of tuna and Indians, both near and far-away….  How many examples do you need?

 

 

I briefly toyed with the idea of making, Rum Tum Tiddy (“Often served in the Boston Athletic Club…this is a nice easy Sunday supper dish for busy mothers”), if only because then I could say I made a Rum Tum Tiddy.  Upon further reflection, it sounds to moiself like a term parents might use to get their reluctant toddler through toilet training: (“Ok, buddy, if you make a rum tum tiddy in the potty, Mommy will give you an M & M!”).

I went through the book a second time: yep, still nothing that looked remotely appealing to plant-eating pescetarians such as moiself who do not think butter deserves its own food group.   [8]   Vegetables?  According to Betty, you boil ’em (then slather in butter) – her main concern is which meats they go with. Seafood – bake or fry with mo’ butter. Oh, look, it’s a lovely (read: not) Salmon au gratin, sprinkled with grated cheese and then topped with WHEATIES (yes, in all caps).

Still. It’s a cookbook, in my collection. So, for my excursion, I’m going to make…

YIKES!  I’ve made it all the way through a third time, and I still can’t pick one recipe which I could make as-is (without substituting for the things I don’t or won’t eat).

Here’s one recipe I’m really not making. Translation: I’ll threaten MH with it, if he gets too cheeky (he took great delight in teasing me about my Betty CrockerEpicurean dilemma).  It is called, Wedgies.

Really; that’s its name (page 50, appetizers section). The recipe, in its entirety:

“Spread 4 slices of large bologna or minced ham with softened cream cheese seasoned with onions or chives and mustard, place slices together (like a layer cake). Spread cheese over top and sides, decorate with sliced olives. Chill. Cut into wedges. Now go kill yourself.

Okay; so there may have been an editorial comment inserted (ahem) at the end.

Recipes:  None. I didn’t make a damn one. Nevertheless, my rating:

 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher   [9]

         *   *   *

Department Of What A Difference An o Makes

Posthumously, or post-hummusly?

I’d take the former, because, really, is there life (worth living) after hummus? And guess what the Betty Crocker cookbook does *not* have a recipe for?   [10]

*   *   *

May you stop urging women to tell their truths unless you are willing to tell yours;
May you never serve your (nor anyone else’s) husband a fruit juice cocktail;
May you find your own excuse to enjoy Betty Crocker’s Wedgies;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] With apologies to Jonathan Swift.

[2] And sometimes, controversially, outed their closeted gay peers who were reluctant to do so themselves.

[3] Pregnancies that, in many if not most cases, were planned and wanted by the mother and father involved, and the reasons for termination include but are not limited to saving the life of the mother and fetal anomolies that are not compatible with life.

[4] penis-in-vagina.

[5] IF it is safe for you to do so. I do NOT wish to burden the already burdened – rape/incest/abuse survivors (some of which do not know the name of their abuser). I also I realize my proposal gets into the tricky area of telling another person’s secrets, along the lines of people who outed closet days without the gay person’s consent (a tactic which is still contentious).

[6] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[7] Betty Crocker’s “signature” is beneath this intro to the poem.

[8] Looks like 1950s Betty has not heard of olive oil – the lone butter alternative is bacon or other animal fat.

[9] Recipe Ratings:

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (as character from The Office, who would eat anything) would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[10] And if Betty C. did have a hummus recipe, she’d somehow find a way to add butter to it.

The Two-Faced, Sanctimonious, Festering Turd-Of-Hypocrisy I’m Not Strangling

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The real reason behind the total ban on abortion in Alabama and other backward misogynist shithole legislatures states, or so political strategists on both sides of the aisle tell us, is to set up a challenge in SCOTUS for Roe v. Wade. State legislators know their draconian laws will be struck down by state judges as unconstitutional; thus, the hoped-for trip to up the judicial ladder to SCOTUS chambers.

But so-called real reasons often leave real people and their real stories in the dustbin of history.   I will share some of those stories in this post: a series of vignettes, in no particular chronological order, from my time working in women’s reproductive health care. The stories I have from those years are legion; I’ll attempt both restraint and discretion in relating a just few of them.  [1]

The last one still blows my mind, all these years later. If I were to write it up as a short story I’m sure literary journals would reject it (“Contrived plot,” the editor’s notes might read), but trust me, I’m not a skilled enough writer to have made it up. Once again, reality trumps fiction.

TheBackground

 

From the early 1980s – 90’s I worked for a Planned Parenthood (“PP”) clinic in a SoCal county, a private OB-GYN practice in the Bay Area, and Planned Parenthood clinics in a Bay Area county.

PP clinics provided services determined by geographic need.  Example: because there were several other clinics in the county which performed abortions, the SoCal PP clinic provided a range of health care but referred patients seeking an abortion to those other clinics. Because there were few options in that same county for women needing colposcopy exams,  [2] that PP set up a colposcopy clinic, the patients mainly coming via referrals from the county public health system.

The Doctor (“Doc”) at the OB-GYN office where I worked (“The Practice”) shared the practice with a nurse practitioner (“NP”). Their patients ranged from Silicon Valley execs to welfare recipients (but skewed toward the higher end of the economic spectrum). Doc infrequently performed first trimester abortions (~ four per year), at an offsite day surgery center (he was aware that many more of his patients had abortions, but went elsewhere for the procedure). He told me he didn’t like performing them (“It’s a sad situation, all around”), but what he didn’t like even more was the idea of abandoning his patients when they needed help.

The Bay Area county PP had four clinics in the county, three of which offered abortions services, one to three mornings per week. I worked initially at the main site’s STD screening clinic,  [3]  then at their abortion (AB) clinics.

 

 

The Stories

We (The Practice’s Doc, NP, and I) developed a personal relationship  [4]  and had many interesting conversations on issues re women’s health care. Doc and NP were both staunchly pro-choice, Doc in particular due to his knowledge of what things were like before Roe v. Wade.  He told me stories about The Bad Old Days, about how (surprise!) the rich could always get safe care, no matter what. Back in the late 50s – 60s when abortion was illegal, a Japanese airline had a clandestine (but procurable, if you knew the right people) package deal: the fare included flights to and from Tokyo from West Coast airports, overnight lodging in a Tokyo hotel, and the fee for an abortion performed by a Japanese doctor. Sympathetic American doctors whose desperate patients had no safe local alternatives would refer their patients to someone, who would refer them to someone else, who would refer them to….   [5]

One of The Practice’s OB patients, after a routine exam, asked Doc if he ever performed abortions. Although it was none of her %&!$ business (and moiself wanted him to tell her so) he answered honestly, while tactfully letting her know that he would not be steered down the anti-abortion harangue road she was heading for.  After she’d left, Doc signaled to me to follow him to the office’s back room, where old/inactive patient files were kept.

As Doc searched through the files he told me about a former patient of his who’d sought an abortion, back when the procedure was illegal except for “medical reasons.” This woman had to go before a (male, of course) judge to get approval to have an abortion. Her physicians had to testify as to her mental and physical well-being, and they had lots of material: she had chronic health problems; was depressed to the point of suicide; her husband had left her and their three children…. She’d wanted to get her tubes tied after birthing her second child but could not find a doctor to do so – as per the standards of the time, hospitals would not book a sterilization surgery for a woman unless she met this weird algorithm (criteria included her age, the number of children she had, and other factors I can’t recall).  She also needed her husband’s permission for the surgery, which he’d refused.   [6]

The woman won her petition. At this point in the story Doc had found the patient’s chart, and showed me the transcript from her day in court. He snorted with disgust as he recalled how a grown-ass adult woman had to grovel and reveal highly personal information to male strangers who held power over her life.  Doc re-filed the chart, the ever-present twinkle in his eyes absent as he said, “Don’t ever let it go back to that.”

 

*   *   *

The R- PP clinic site (Bay Area) performed abortions on Friday mornings. The R-PP had two recurrent anti-abortion protesters who hung out on the sidewalk by the clinic parking lot. They were an odd pair: an older woman with an imperious air, always impeccably dressed in a woolen suit, designer handbag matching her designer pumps, her chin-length white hair sprayed into a Doris Bay-type bob, and a tall, lanky young man with wild eyes and a shock of Conan O’Brien-ish, unruly red hair. I called them Snow White and Big Red.

Dateline: A Friday am; the clinic had just opened, patients were in the waiting room filling out forms. One of the four clinic aides motioned for me and the other aides to follow her down the hallway. Looking out the clinic’s rear window, we saw “Consuela” outside, approaching Big Red.

Consuela, a native Mexican married to an American, was R-PP’s AB clinic manager. She was committed to providing reproductive care for Latinas, even as she admitted struggling with her work, due to her harsh Catholic upbringing. Consuela was kind and sweet-tempered, admired by PP’s staff and beloved by PP’s Latina patients, about whom she would tolerantly (but never patronizingly) educate us “white girl” clinic aides. She told us about the vagaries of the male-dominated culture Latina women had to endure, and the stories of her patients who’d had a horrifyingly experience common to impoverished Latinas entering the US were truly heartbreaking. The template: a woman’s husband summoned her to join him in the US after he’d found a job. He’d wired money to pay a coyote  [7] to escort her across the border, and during the journey the coyote raped her. Coyotes often assaulted women and girls with impunity and threatened their lives, knowing they’d be too frightened to tell the authorities or their husbands (sadly, Consuela said, even loving husbands were steeped in their culture’s machismo code, which cast a wife’s rape as a stain upon her husband’s honor…or as a cover for an affair).

Consuela would be in a certain mood I learned to identify – anger muted by melancholy – after working with a woman impregnated by coyote-rape. I often saw her, as her patient was leaving the clinic, slip the patient some money (“For bus fare,” Consuela would whisper in Spanish).   [8]

Back to the sidewalk: Sweet, warm Consuela was also very, very shy. Thus, we (her fellow clinicians, staring out the window) were amazed to see her approach Big Red, speak to him for a few minutes, return to the clinic…and holy crap, Big Red is leaving the parking lot! When the clinic was finished (~ 1 pm) Consuela told me what she’d said to him (paraphrased here):

I know you are here because you think you are doing good, but there is something you need to know. Three weeks ago, there was a no-show at our clinic – that older Latina woman you thought you had talked out of having an abortion. Actually, she left when you confronted her because she was afraid of you; she speaks only a little English, and didn’t understand everything you had to say, only that you were a stranger, who knew nothing about her, trying to intimidate her into not having an abortion.  She returned last week and had the procedure.

She may be poor and illiterate, but she is not stupid. When a woman makes such an important decision she considers all her options, and when she makes up her mind she is going to do whatever it takes.  All you did was make her wait another two weeks; she had to be sick and stressed and distraught for another two weeks. That may not have been your intention, but that is what happened. You caused even more grief for her.

For several weeks after Consuela spoke to Big Red, Snow White was the lone protester outside the R-PP clinic.

*   *   *

I’m glad those days (when abortion was illegal) are passed. But I fear the younger generations have no memories of what happened and take their rights for granted, and those of us who lived in those times are dying out, and our stories will die with us.
(paraphrased, from a conversation with Samuel Greenberg, M.D., PP-M physician)

Dr. Greenberg was an older gentleman, retired from his longtime OB-GYN practice, who worked several days a week at the PP main site (“PP-M”). “Dr. G” was the doctor I most often worked with at PP, and I came to admire his expertise, experience, humor, and compassion.

We talked often; Dr. G was concerned that when he and his peers died there’d be no one left to tell about The Bad Old Days, and that people might forget….  Sound familiar? Like many Jews of his age, he’d lost loved ones to the WWII concentration camps. His family’s experiences as Jews in non-Jewish cultures was one of the reasons, he said, he felt so strongly about his work at PP  –– he knew first-hand what can happen when people have their rights abridged by those of differing beliefs.

When Dr. G was a young doctor in the 1950s, doing his OB-GYN residency rotations in two different urban Catholic hospitals, he saw and treated many women who showed up in a the hospitals’ ERs, gravely ill and/or dying from botched illegal or self-induced abortions. Yet he never *once* saw the attending physicians list complications from illegal abortion as the cause of death for a patient who had indeed died from that.  On one such occasion, when Dr. G had the unhappy task of writing the “cause of death” on the patient’s chart, he challenged the doctor in charge who’d instructed Dr. G to write that the patient died of sepsis from an incomplete miscarriage. But, that’s a lie! Dr. G protested. – How can we, as doctors, lie about such a thing – people need to know, and the public health statistics will never reflect the reality…

Dr. G’s boss grabbed Dr. G by the elbow and steered him to the ER waiting room, pointing toward a sofa where the dead patient’s bereft husband and children sat.  He then led Dr. G to an empty hallway and spoke to him, privately and sternly, about the hospital’s non-official policy re reporting abortion-related deaths:  This is a Catholic hospital, with a mostly Catholic clientele. The truth will only bring further anguish, and shame, to a grieving family; also, since abortion is illegal, the police will have to be notified, and the hospital does not want its staff to get dragged into criminal investigations….

I will never forget the patience and kindness Dr. G showed toward all of the women we saw in the clinic, but in particular, to one recovering heroin addict.  Like most addicts, she was hypersensitive to pain, and howled as if she’d been stabbed when I did a simple finger prick blood test to check her iron level. She’d asked for additional analgesics for her procedure, which less than 5% of patients requested and which the doctor had to approve and then administer intravenously. Due to her years of junkiedom, Dr. G couldn’t find a usable vein to inject the medication.  I waited with an impatience I tried not to show, thinking thoughts for which I was later ashamed (What a whining wimp – suck it up lady, this is all from your own doing… you’ll be out of here in 10 minutes, and nobody else begs for drugs….), while Dr. G searched and searched, and searched again, and finally found a usable spot between her toes. After her surgery Dr. G spent additional time with her, holding her hand and encouraging her not to get down on herself or let this be another setback on her road to healing and sobriety.

*   *   *

In the PP clinics I saw a variety of women, from a wealthy Señora from Guadalajara whose IUD “slipped” while she and he husband were vacationing in the US, to a mother of four, in her late 40s and going through a bitter divorce (who’d had been told by a doctor that she’d gone through early menopause and couldn’t get pregnant), to the proverbial teenage girls who seem as if they can get pregnant just by standing downwind from a boy.

As per the coyote story,  rape/incest victims were the saddest cases to see. Those included a preteen holding onto her mother with one hand and her stuffed animal with her other hand (accompanied by a police escort, to retrieve “evidence’ of the assault, evidence they hoped to use to prosecute the family member who’d raped the girl); a woman forcibly impregnated by her estranged, abusive husband (she was told  [9] by a police officer that she couldn’t press rape charges because she was still married to her rapist), girls abused by their brothers/cousins/stepfathers/mom’s “new friend”/youth pastors….

And then there were those who’d been assaulted by non-related acquaintances – scenarios given a term I despise for its downplaying of the trauma it inflicts:  Date rape.

During a patient’s intake procedure we reviewed her medical history, and one of the questions we asked was, What kind of contraception were you using when you became pregnant? That question was not posed to known rape victims, and was a particularly cutting one to hear for sexual assault victims who’d not yet told anyone what had happened to them.  One patient, her tough chick attitude failing to mask her nervousness, threw her hands up in the air and laughed bitterly when I asked that question. Nothing; I was using nothing!  Can you believe that the guy my friend set me up with, the guy who choked me until I passed out, didn’t have the decency to put on a condom before he raped me?!   [10] 

*   *   *

Big Bad Wolves are not always so obvious, Little Red Riding Hood.

 

She was not my patient; I’d finished my first intake and was on my way to place my patient’s chart in the surgical queue. She stood in the hallway outside the clinic’s bathroom, holding her urine sample cup, fidgeting in a way I’d come to recognize as a woman trying to convince herself to pee when she didn’t have to go. She was dressed like a 1950s secretary, with a pleated plaid skirt and a faded, rose red cardigan sweater. She looked sweetly anachronistic, nervous, and shy.

“Let me guess,” I pointed toward the empty cup she held.  “It seems like you have to go every five minutes, then when you need to go, you can’t?”

Exactly!  She flashed me a puppy-eyed look of gratitude. Kelly, my, uh, intake lady, left me here; she needed to talk with a nurse or something.  It might take awhile before I can… she looked askance at the empty cup in her hand. I shouldn’t have gone at my mom’s, before we came here.

I offered to get her a glass of water, and as I walked her back to her intake room she told me how out of place she felt.  I can tell I’m the oldest girl here. It’s so embarrassing. She lowered her voice. I’m twenty-seven.

“I’m thirty-one,” I said. “I win!”

She blushed, and told me she hadn’t meant the age of the staff, but rather “the girls” she’s seen in the waiting room, whom she assumed were, like her, there for an abortion, but unlike her, were probably not virgins… I mean, were virgins, until….

I stopped before entering the intake room, where her mother sat.  Sweet Twenty-Seven-Year-Old-Former-Virgin looked at me imploringly. Can you come in and talk with me?

I said I’d love to, and asked if it would be okay to talk in front of her mother.  She assured me it was.  I sat down with the two of them, and STSYOFV began to spill her guts. 

STSYOFV had flown out from Kentucky, where she’d gone to college and where she lived now. Her mother was helping out, paying for the abortion –  STSYOFV didn’t want to have it done where she lived, in case any of her friends and especially her church friends found out…well, I  really don’t have any friends besides church friends…

As STSYOFV told it, her  life revolved around an evangelical church where she was a member of the choir. STSYOFV ‘s mother discretely shook her head and gave me a look.

STSYOFV said she loved choral music; her church choir met for practice several times a week…and what they would think of me, if they knew where I was now.  I know what I’m doing is wrong in their sight, but my they’d disown me if I was pregnant out of wedlock and I know all my options and everyone here is so nice about reminding me but I wish they’d stop asking I don’t need adoption or pregnancy referrals I know what I’m doing and I can’t bear being pregnant it would destroy me and how could I be was so stupid and ignorant and naïve to stay a virgin until 27 and then get pregnant the first and only time…I feel felt guilty but I’m going to do it anyways, I tried a few home remedies, even thought if I threw myself down the stairs…

My eyes widened at the remark, and STSYOFV’s mother gasped. STSYOFV assured us both that she’d chickened out; I made her laugh when I told her that a miscarriage caused by falling down the stairs only happens in the movies.

Lawdy, Miss Scarlett!

 

My eyes flitted back and forth, from STSYOFV to her mother, who mostly remained silent while her daughter talked.  The mother’s unwavering love for STSYOFV was evident to me, as was her disapproval of the church her daughter had gotten involved with.

STSYOFV said she hadn’t even intended to have sex… I hope god will forgive me but I am going to do this, or if he can’t forgive me, at least I hope he won’t hate me.   If they only knew…they all think I’m a nice person….

“Then that’s one thing they’re right about – you are a nice person.” I placed my hand over STSYOFV’s. She grasped my hand with both of hers, her eyes moist with gratitude. Although a (closeted, at that time) non-believer, I attended a liberal Christian church, and knew what STSYOFV needed to hear. I assured her that her god, that no one, could ever hate her.

STSYOFV smiled at me through her tears. I wish you would be doing my intake, and be with me during the procedure. Kelly is nice, but she’s so young.

Actually, Kelly is 26, I thought to myself.  I also thought about how STSYOFV, with her gentle, desperate naivete and high voice, seems like a 12 year-old in a 27 year-old’s body.

I told STSYOFV I had another patient to help, but promised I’d check on her after her procedure. She hugged me, and said she’d like that.

STSYOFV was the last patient to see the doctor, and when she was out of the recovery room she, her mother and I had a heartfelt conversation before they left the clinic. I assured STSYOFV re how much she had going for her – she was young, strong- spirited and good-hearted, with a wonderful mother who loved and supported her…

She is the best. STSYOFV gazed lovingly at her mother. And she says she won’t let me pay her back, for lending me money for the plane tickets and everything.

“Speaking of which…” I hesitated. “What about the guy who got you pregnant? Why isn’t he helping you with this, or at least paying?”

Oh, no, that would ruin him. STSYOFV shook her head, sadly yet vehemently.  While her mother’s mama bear eyes blazed with rage on behalf of her daughter, STSYOFV told me that the man who’d seduced her was her choir director. He was older, married and with children, and active in the church’s pro-life demonstrations. When she went to him with news of her pregnancy he warned her to not to tell anyone, and told her to “take care of it,” and so STSYOFV had swallowed her pride and telephoned her mother….

*   *   *

Department Of This One Takes The Cake
Aka If I Hadn’t Seen It With My Own Eyes….

I lost track of how many times an AB clinic patient laughed and said, “Until it happened to me, I was against abortion. That” – the patient would indicate the clinic’s entrance, referring to the protesters outside – “might have been me a couple of months ago.” I’d smile, say, “We hear that a lot,” and do my best not to reveal that I didn’t find her admission – that she’d have supported taking away other women’s autonomy until “it” happened to her –  to be amusing.

PP-M had a semi-regular group of protesters who demonstrated outside the clinic’s front entrance. (I never saw them; I parked in the employee lot at the back of the clinic and entered and left through the back door.) Other PP-M employees became quite familiar with the protesters, who were part of some Catholic group led by a perky blond in her mid-thirties. The Vice President (“Veep”) of PP-M went out of her way to befriend the protesters. Veep was an ex-Catholic, and would go outside and chat with the protesters during her coffee breaks, sometimes joining them in reciting The Rosary. On sweltering summer days Veep carried cups of water out to the protesters – one day she even brought them lemonade – and on more than one cold winter morning I heard a fellow clinic aide good-naturedly grouse about how She ( meaning, Veep) is out there, serving them hot cocoa, can you believe it?

Dateline: one memorable Monday, ~ 8 am, at the PP-M AB clinic. As I reached for the first chart in the intake pile, “Cindy,” the clinic’s assistant manager, whisked the chart out of my hand. “I don’t believe this,” Cindy hissed. She motioned for me to follow her to the reception office, where she and the receptionist stared through the  bullet-and-sound-proof plate glass window to the waiting room, and traded incredulous remarks back and forth:

I don’t believe it – can you believe it? That can’t be her…no, it is her…this is got to be a joke…a plant…a set up…no – look at the chart, it is!….

I asked, What’s up? Cindy told me that Perky Blonde Anti-Abortion Protest Leader was in the waiting area, with her 15 year old daughter, whom she’d brought in for an abortion.

I am doing this intake,” Cindy announced. As her WTF ?!?!  expression morphed into that of Compassionate Health Care Worker, she opened the door to the waiting area and called PBAAPL and her daughter back to an intake room.

It was a busy morning; I didn’t get to talk with Cindy until after the clinic was over, when all four of us clinic aides gathered around Cindy to ask, What the heck….?  Cindy told us that she’d started the intake as usual – she led PBAAPLW and her daughter back to a private intake room, then asked the daughter to give a urine specimen. While the daughter was in the bathroom, Cindy introduced herself to PBAAPL, and the following conversation (paraphrased) ensued:

Cindy: I need to tell you something. I recognize you, from the protesters outside. If this makes you or your daughter uncomfortable, you can request another…

PBAAPL:  Oh no; thank you. You’ll be fine.

Cindy: Okay. Uh…now I’m speaking for me, personally, not on behalf of Planned Parenthood.  I can’t help but wonder, what are you doing here?

PBAAPL:  Well, my daughter got in trouble, you know?  And you people here are all so nice, I knew you’d take good care of her.

Imagine, if you will, the sound of four jaws simultaneously dropping to the clinic’s tile floor.

PBAAPL skipped the protests for the next two weeks (there were a few demonstrators who showed up, and only for one day, during PBAAPL’s absence). After she brought her daughter in for the girl’s post surgery exam, PBAAPL returned to leading the protests, trying to deny other women’s daughters the “good care” she’d sought for her own.

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [11]

 The excursion returns next week, having been temporarily grounded this week, due to the appetite-quashing political upheavals which prompted this post.

*   *   *

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1]  We didn’t have HIPAA laws then; still, I’ve altered all names and a few geographical details for privacy’s sake.

[2] A colposcopy is a procedure to closely examine a woman’s cervix for signs of disease, using a special instrument (colposcope). The procedure is most often done due to the woman having an abnormal pap smear, and may be followed by a cervical biopsy.

[3] I worked primarily at two PP clinics  in the county, and twice at a third PP clinic.

[4] Which continued after I left the practice and which exists to this day.

[5] I later heard about this same service from another doctor who was Doc’s age.

[6] Yep, that’s right – he knocked her up a third time, and then abandoned her and their children.

[7] A coyote is a man who makes a living smuggling migrants across the US-Mexico border.

[8] Consuela and her husband ( who was still in college) were far from wealthy, and had two children of their own to support. It probably violated some kind of clinic policy to give money, even your own, voluntarily, to patients; I always saw her look around furtively when she did so.

[9] Erroneously, I believe, although I don’t know the status of the marital rape laws in California at that time.

[10] I stopped the intake immediately and got the patient to speak with someone from PP’s counseling/education department. She was over 18; we couldn’t force her to go to the police, and she refused our advice to do so (she said she’d known someone that had the same thing happen and “was raped again by the cops” (i.e. they didn’t believe her ). After her procedure we set her up with referrals for individual counseling and a rape crisis center…I have no idea if she ever followed through with those contacts.

[11] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

The Wrong Number I’m Not Answering

2 Comments

Department Of First Things First

Innumerable thanks to friend MB for sending me this cartoon by the immeasurably spot-on Roz Chast, under the subject of Happy Mother’s Day/Unappreciated Author’s Day:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Wait A Minute – Did He Just Sing That?

One advantage of occasionally listening to an oldies station is occasionally having reminders of how much I loathed the songs of Gary Puckett And The Union Gap.

In the songs GP & TUG which were most known for – “Young Girl,” “Lady Willpower,” and “Woman, Woman” –  lead singer GP expresses a recurrent and overriding concern: girls and women should have sex with him.

 

There’s nothing like pastel, faux-Civil War uniforms to put the ladies in the mood.

 

In Lady Willpower he’s frustrated that Lady W won’t sleep with him. He promises he’ll be nice to her if she does, but warns their relationship will end if she doesn’t.  By Young Girl he’s been so successful in his entreaties that the ladies apparently want them some GP lovin,’ but one in particular…well…he doesn’t want to go to jail for statutory rape. In the power ballad  Woman Woman, GP has gotten at least one woman to sleep with him, only it’s not going the way he planned – he suspects she’s checking out her other options.  Woman Woman‘s claim to The Equal Rights Hall of Shame ® is its third verse, arguably one of the more patronizing misogynist set of lyrics of its time (and that’s saying a lot):

 A woman wears a certain look
when she is on the move
and the man can always tell
what’s on her mind
(lyrics from Woman, Woman , written by Jim Glaser and Jimmy Payne,
recorded by Gary Puckett & The Union Gap)

Of course, the years those songs were popular (late 60’s – early 70’s) was a time when rock music – and just as important, rock radio – was experiencing a new freedom in terms of what bands could sing and DJs could play on the air. Translation: a lot of sexuality, implied and overt, was being expressed – and a lot of it was really good.  Remember subversive delight of listening to the Kink’s Lolaand figuring out what was between the lines, so to speak (and celebrating the face that the Kinks had snuck one past your parents, the radio censors – The Establishment in general)?  In fact, gems like Lola  (along with the saucy dialog from early movies, from Mae West to the Marx Brothers) are one reason I’m in favor of something admittedly controversial – not censorship per se, but certain general “decency” guidelines for art. I truly believe that such lines-not-to-be-crossed inspires or even forces  artists to greater heights of creativity, in that they must  find ways to cross those lines and cleverly imply what they cannot overtly say or show….

Which is a subject worthy of its own day/post.  Digression over. Returning to subject:

GP & TUG were not the only ick offenders;  it (lovelorn/horny guy trying to get his girl to have sex with him) was a popular topic of the times.  Even a group like Bread, known for its soft rock hits (“If,” “Baby I’m-a-Want You,”  [1]  “Everything I Own,”Sweet Surrender,” “Guitar Man”) had a song called “Let Your Love Go,” their all-but-forgotten early hit, which I liked at the time (and still do   [2] ), as its melody and catchy rhythm outweighed (for moiself) the leering silliness of its girl-you-need-to-have-sex-with-me-right-now-trust-me-it’ll-be-good-for-you lyrics. 

 

 

Moiself is aware of the pitfalls judging the art of yesterday by the standards of today, but that’s not what I’m doing here: I strongly remember thinking the GP & TUG songs ick-creepy at the time of their release, no matter what my peers thought.   [3]  Don’t take my word for it, look up the GP & TUG sons yourself, if you have no life the time and are curious. They are unintentionally hilarious in a way that transcends time and social norms. Also, the band’s costumes are just plain goof-worthy.

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of My Favorite Wrong Number

I answered our home phone other day and it was a wrong number…which almost never happens anymore. What with the various forms of telephone screening available, I bet that rarely happens to you, either.

Moiself (almost) never picks up the phone if I don’t recognize the number/if caller ID doesn’t tell me who it is. The Other Day ® was one of those occasions that puts the almost in almost never: I was expecting a call from someone and didn’t know how their business might be identified.  Usually when I make that kind of exception – answer the phone even though caller ID can provide no specific information – it turns out to be or one of those annoying sales or political robocalls which somehow managed to attach themselves to a legitimate business number.  [4]   

But the call I received The Other Day ® was an actual wrong number!! Dialed by a Real Live Person ® !!  Whom I got to inform (after asking the number they’d intended to dial) that this was indeed a wrong number as they had transposed two digits in the number they’d intended to dial!!  And for some reason, this made me happy!!

And for some reason translation:  This Brain of Mine ®  reacted to the event by recalling the story of My Favorite Wrong Number.   [5]

 

Please, do tell.

 

One evening, a long time in a galaxy far, far away, [6]  I answered the telephone in the rental house I shared with two other women.  The caller, whose voice indicated she was an elderly woman with a black urban/southern accent, asked to speak with Raymond.  “I’m sorry,” I told her, “There’s no one named Raymond here. You must have dialed a wrong number.”

Instead of apologizing for her misdial, the woman insisted that I put Raymond on the phone. I told her there was no one in the house named Raymond; she refused to believe me.  She had dialed Raymond’s number and wanted to speak with him. This back and forth continued for about four rounds of There is no Raymond here/you dialed the wrong number from me, and This is not the wrong number and I want to speak with Raymond from her. Why did I keep the exchange going? I’m not sure – I do remember getting some petty pleasure from her obstinate refusal to concede her error…or perhaps I just didn’t want to hang up on an old lady. Finally, my amusement faded to annoyance, and the approximate conversation took place:

Moiself:  Okay. Why don’t you tell me the number you meant to dial?

Caller: I know I dialed 415-8671!

Moiself:  Ah, here’s the problem: our number is 415-8617. You transposed the last two digits.

Caller (huffing with indignation): I did no such thing! I’ve been dialing that number for years.

Moiself:  Well, tonight you dialed it wrong.

Neither of us spoke for several seconds, during which I anticipated a sheepish apology followed by a quick hang up from the caller.

Caller (after a dramatic pause): If this is a wrong number, then why did you answer?

For a moment there, she stunned me into silence by the sheer existential WTF-ness of her accusation-framed-as-question.  Yeah…so…why did I answer a wrong number?

Moiself (sputtering with astonishment): Look, lady, you called me!?!?!?

 

*   *   *

Department Of Is CBD A BFD?

Is it just my imagination, or is it inevitable that every store in Oregon,  [7] from those selling hair gels to orthotic shoe inserts, will soon be offering CBD products for sale?

 

 

Nope; looks like it’s not just me:

The flood of CBD products has become so overwhelming that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently stepped into the fray.
The agency has whipped out a flurry of warning letters to companies marketing CBD products, telling them to stop making unfounded health claims for the substance.
Companies have falsely claimed CBD can stop cancer cells, slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, ease nerve pain and fibromyalgia, and curb withdrawal symptoms for people undergoing substance abuse treatment, the FDA letters state.
(The Controversy Over CBD Oil Health Claims, Newsmax Health)

Across the nation there are growing concerns re the overblown claims of the health or medical benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) – which, BTW, due to what medical school professor Marcel-Bonn Miller calls “the legally murky status of marijuana,” is produced without regulation as to strength or quality.  (“It really is the Wild West,” Bonn-Miller said. “Joe Bob who starts up a CBD company could say whatever the hell he wants on a label and sell it to people.”)

When it comes to marijuana-related products there is much exaggeration from all sides, and it is hard to weed out (sorry) the possible help from the probable hype…but most of what I’ve read and seen has raised my instinctive, “miracle cure” antenna. This happened most recently on Tuesday, when I was driving past a pet shop in downtown Hillsboro whose signboard suggested pet owners stop in and check out their “CBD oil for pet pain relief.”

“Say what?”

 

For a moment, I was tempted to delay my errand, park my car, enter the store, point to the signboard and ask the clerk if their CBD oil would work for reptiles in distress.  You see, RuPaul, my red-tailed boa constrictor, appears to be in pain from an abcessed tooth.  I would wait for the inevitable, “Oh, of course…” sales pitch, which I would interrupt with,

“So, you’re saying you have no qualms about selling me snake oil?”

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [8]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

 At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen by Amy Chaplin

Recipes:

* Creamy Cauliflower and Celery Root Soup With Roasted Shitakes
* Steamed Greens with Zesty Flax Seed Dressing

My ratings:

For the soup: I liked it enough to give it the standard two thumbs up, but the recipe’s addition of a topping of roasted sliced shitakes elevates the rating to:

 

 

For the greens:

 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

 

Recipe Rating Refresher   [9

          

*   *   *

Department Of Remember This?

Aka Department Of You Can’t Make Up This Shit

Headlines along the lines of, Prolife Congressman Resigns In Disgrace After Revelations He Asked Mistress To Abort Pregnancy had their 15 minutes of media attention ~ 18 months ago, when Pennsylvania Republican congressman Tim Murphy’s text messages with his extramarital lover were leaked, revealing that he’d asked her to “take care of” her pregnancy by him.

A politician actively working to block all women’s access to a medical procedure while he covertly suggests his illicit lover seek out the same procedure? Imagine that.

 

 

Rep. Murphy gave the customary weasel-worded, non-apology resignation statement (my emphases):

“After discussions with my family and staff, I have come to the decision that I will not seek reelection to Congress at the end of my current term.  In the coming weeks I will take personal time to seek help as my family and I continue to work through our personal difficulties and seek healing. I ask you to respect our privacy during this time.”

 

 

I know, I know.

Holy crap – bickering five year olds on the schoolyard playground know the rules. Gee, Congressman Murphy Pecksniff,   [10] let’s make a deal: we’ll respect yours if you’ll respect ours.

How does this lying, cheating, turdsack of hypocrisy have the shriveling oblivious cojones to ask for privacy for himself, when he supports the government having the right to stick its nose in a woman’s uterus very personal healthcare decisions?

I was thinking of the Congressman Murphy stinkbomb as per what’s going on those inbred backwater shithole states – yeah, Alabama, excuse me, TALIBAMA, I’m talkin’ to you –  whose legislatures are working to restrict or ban outright abortion.  This is as much as I have the stomach for right now.  There will be more, yes, much more about this, in next week’s blog.

*   *   *

May you be WTF wary and check the FAQ about the OMG claims of CBD;
May you have a Favorite Wrong Number story (and if you do, share it with moiself);
May our paths never cross at a Gary Puckett and The Union Gap Karaoke Fest;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] I’m a what?

[2] It’s on my Fun Songs playlist.

[3] One male friend said he thought the GP & TUG songs “romantic.”

[4] The most recent one I received, which turned out to be a partisan political survey, was identified on my caller ID as “Hillsboro Clean Water Services,” which is an actual city service.

[5] Real phone numbers disguised to protect…something.

[6] Palo Alto, CA, circa 1987

[7] and the other 29 states which have legalized either recreational or medical marijuana products.

[8] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[9]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (a character from The Office who would eat anything) would like this.  

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[10] A slang term for a hypocrite. Is that a great word, or what?

The After-Life I’m Not Discounting

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Dateline: Sunday, May 5. A gusty but magnificent spring afternoon in the Bay Area, on the grounds of the stunning Filoli Gardens . In a gathering which mutual friend MM as so accurately described as “heartbreakingly beautiful,” friends, family, and colleagues gathered to pay tribute Dr. Sarah Elizabeth Hawley.

Heartbreakingly beautifuljust like our memories of Sarah, I thought later.

Sarah is whom I wrote about earlier this year – the “…remarkable young woman whose life was recently and unexpectedly cut short .”   [1]   Iin several posts (including here, here, and here) I mentioned the horror, grief, overwhelming shock, and gob-smacked confusion felt by her friends and family when Sarah was murdered on January 27.

As is my usual policy re this blog, I do not use the full names of people who have not chosen to live their lives in the public eye (e.g., politicians or celebrities).  In previous posts I referred to Sarah using her initials. I will use her name now, because her name and her life – the way Sarah lived, not the way (or the fact that) she died –  deserve to be known.

Filoli Gardens near Woodside, CA

It was difficult to find the right words to compliment Sarah’s family on the memorial gathering they organized for her. Certainly, one’s ability to host any kind of funeral/celebration of life gathering for your loved one is a skill no one wants to employ. Still, it was gracious and lovely event, and a moving tribute to Sarah (as well as, I imagine, an emotionally exhausting – and yet necessary – milestone for her family to have passed).

We gathered to honor and remember Sarah’s life.  The tributes to her, from childhood buddies to medical school friends and colleagues (even the Dean of admissions of her medical school!) were articulate, heartfelt, inspiring, filled with warmth and good humor…and also mind-boggling (for moiself at least), in that they made me consider how Sarah, in her way-too-short lifespan, managed to amass such a large and brilliant group of people who cared so much about her.

Sarah, like her family and mine,   [2] was inspired to do good and walk joyously in this life because of life itself – her worldview was humanity/humanely-based, and religion-free. Sarah believed in living and loving and doing what you can to make life better for others in the here and now, and few people have done it better.  Whether or not you hold ideas/beliefs “going to heaven” or other mythological/supernatural/post-mortality destinations which no one has seen or proved to exist, there is one afterlife we’ve all experienced, whether or not we recognize it as such: how we remember those we know, after they die.

For someone as spirited and beloved as Sarah was – as she IS – her words and deeds live on to impress, refresh, and inspire our lives, and will continue to do so.  Welcome to the after-life, Sarah.

As Sarah herself might have said, with the heel-clicking, jump-in-the-air enthusiasm she was known for…

 

  

Dr. Sarah Hawley was a strong supporter of women’s rights, particularly with regard to health care and reproductive choices. If you’d like to honor Sarah’s life and legacy please consider donating in her memory to the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, here.

The University of Utah, home of Sarah’s medical residency, has established a memorial fund focusing on Sarah’s interests of women’s health, pediatric care, and wilderness medicine. Donations to the Dr. Sarah Hawley Memorial Fund can be made here.

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [3]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

Artisan Vegan Cheese, by Miyoko Skinner

 Recipes:

* Meltable Mozzarella
* Eggplant Parmesan (with homemade vegan mozzarella)

Interesting in having to first make a key ingredient (the plant-based mozzarella, to use for the second recipe) several days ahead. 

My rating(s):

For the cheese: taste was good, but texture…(it never quite “jelled.”).  I had to substitute for a main ingredient, which may have been the bugagoo.

 

For the main dish:

 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher   [4]

           *   *   *

Department Of Way Too Cool

Dateline: Tacoma, Wednesday and Thursday, visiting daughter Belle, who works at the newly opened McMenamin’s Elk’s Temple. A whirlwind, last minute visit (Wed-Thurs are Belle’s “weekend”), but after the weekend’s memorial trip…I just wanted to see my daughter, you know?

Trust me, y’all gotta get y’alls selves up/down/over/under, whatever direction works for you, and visit this place.  As with all McMenamin’s hotels it is a beautifully restored historical property with the McM magic touch, including at this location a Spanish tapas bar and cafe, a “secret” vault bar, a game room (with pinball!), an amazing ballroom (for concerts – there is music nightly), a doc’s bar, and…wait for it…a tiki bar to die for.  [5]

A much classier venue than the Disney attraction, and you won’t leave it singing
that damned song (unless, of course, you’ve had too many mai tais).

 

*   *   *

May you, again and always, remember to love ’em while you got ’em;
May you persist in making the fun recipe even after you’ve mucked up a key ingredient;
May you remember that there are (arguably) never “too many” mai tais;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] She was twenty-seven when she died.

[2] As in, the “immediate” family consisting of moiself, MH, Belle and K.  My and MH’s our extended families have religious believers  as well as and those who are religion-free among their numbers.

[3] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

 [4]

 * Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (a character from The Office, who would eat anything) would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[5] Just ask the bar’s stuffed cobra and mongoose and hyena, who apparently did so.

The Letter I’m Not Sending

Comments Off on The Letter I’m Not Sending

That letter would be to orthopedic surgeon and Oregon State representative Knute Buehler (R-Bend), the Republican party’s candidate in the Oregon governor’s race.  [1] The subject matter of the letter would be the why behind the fact that although there are reasons I might consider voting for him, I cannot vote for him.

And the reasons have nothing to do with the fact that Oregon has elected only one Republican governor in the past 43 years.

I gotta have some respect for a Republican who receives the following critiques:

…Buehler frequently found himself getting into hot water with party activists who didn’t think he was conservative enough. They particularly criticized him for refusing to embrace President Donald Trump and for describing himself as pro-choice on abortion. Buehler’s recent vote in favor of a gun-control bill related to domestic abuse also rankled many gun-rights activists.
(“Republican Buehler Nominated To Face Brown
In Oregon Governor’s Race,” OPB 5-18-18)

After reading about some of Buehler’s positions on various issues, MH wondered aloud, something along the lines of, How/why is this man was even a Republican?

 

 

confusedspock

I have no logical answer at this moment.

 

 

 

I have found the incumbent governor who is running for reelection, Democrat Kate Brown, to be…. mostly acceptable. What I find unacceptable is her campaign’s advertising campaign  [2] against Buehler.  I am particularly disappointed with the way the Democrats are trying to smear Buehler re his claims of being prochoice, despite his repeated public proclamations as such.

“I’m going to vote for you, but I sure wish you were pro-life,” (a Republican voter tells Buehler at the Oregon state fair).
(The Republican voter) says he finds abortion offensive and posits that Buehler’s position is just an appeal to the liberal western portion of the state. Buehler sympathizes with his perspective, but confirms he supports abortion rights. Efforts should be made to make abortion as rare as possible, Buehler says, but the decision to have an abortion should be between a woman and her doctor.
(“Buehler’s ‘pro-choice’ stance: Disliked by conservatives, discredited by Democrats,”
Salem Statesman Journal 9-6-18)

That seems straightforward to me, and expresses sentiments similar to those I’ve heard from both prochoice conservatives and liberals. But many Oregon Democrats don’t like the fact that Buehler disagrees with them on related issues – “it’s my way or the highway” seems to be the attitude they are taking. He must agree with every issue they, or the Oregon chapters of NARAL or Planned Parenthood – organizations which I support, both philosophically and financially – deem to be related to abortion and/or reproductive health care, or they feel entitled to take away his prochoice label.

Example: there was an Oregon House Bill, signed last year by Gov. Brown, which required insurance companies to cover abortions and other reproductive health services at no cost to the patient. (I favored that bill, BTW). Buehler opposed the bill because he considered it “fiscally irresponsible to fund a new program as others were losing funding.” So, Those Who Think They Own The Label ® declare he “really isn’t pro choice.”  Which means I am seeing and hearing political ads featuring Concerned Women ®  saying, “We just can’t trust Knute Buehler,”  and implying that Buehler would somehow do away with women’s rights. And that just frosts my butt.

 

 

slothpeekaboo

While this picture is in no way illustrative of the issue addressed in the previous paragraph, wouldn’’ you rather see a cute sloth than the writer’s frosty butt?

 

 

 

In 1969, Oregon was one of the first states to legalize abortion, even before Roe v. Wade hit the law books. “Our policies are borne out of Oregon exceptionalism,” says (the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon). “We are progressive and libertarian. Voters on the east side of the Cascades may or may not agree with a woman’s right to access abortion, but they sure as heck agree that the government has no place in that decision.”
(“Why Oregon is the Only State that Doesn’t Limit Legal Access to Abortion,”
Portland Monthly)

Oregon’s long record as a prochoice state makes us the envy of many other states; thus, the issue of abortion in this particular political race is not a “biggie” for a staunch prochoice advocate such as moiself. And although he crosses his party’s line in his prochoice stance, I know there are other issues about which Buehler likely toes the Republican party line. But he is willing to tackle what is one of the most important state political issues for me, and one that the Democrats have repeatedly failed to address: the fact that Oregon’s growing public pension obligations are crowding out the rest of the state budget – what the NY Times refers to as a severe, “self-inflicted crisis.”

Oregon…is caught in a fiscal squeeze of its own making. Its economy is growing, but the cost of its state-run pension system is growing faster. … its spiraling costs are notable in part because Oregon enjoys a reputation for fiscal discipline. Its experience shows how faulty financial decisions by states can eventually swamp local communities….
Oregon’s costs are inflated by the way in which it calculates pension benefits for public employees. Some of the pensions include income that employees earned on the side. Other retirees benefit from long-ago stock market rallies that inflated the current value of their payouts.
The bill is borne by taxpayers. Oregon’s Public Employees Retirement System has told cities, counties, school districts and other local entities to contribute more to keep the system afloat. They can neither negotiate nor raise local taxes fast enough to keep up. As a result, pensions are crowding out other spending. Essential services are slashed.
 (“A $76,000 Monthly Pension: Why States and Cities Are Short on Cash,”
NY Times, 4-14-18)

I like Buehler’s willingness to address Oregon’s need for PERS ( Public Employees Retirement System) reform. The PERS as it stands, IMHO as well as the opinions of financially astute people on all sides of the political aisles, is a disaster in the making. The system is unsustainable as currently calculated and implemented, and yessiree Bob, it will be a complicated and a “dirty” fight to reform it.  The spineless Democrats haven’t done a @#$?! thing about it, except to criticize Buehler (or anyone who has a plan to reform PERS), as being anti ____ (teacher, firefighter, or other public employees    [3]  ).  Thus, every four years when it’s time to elect a governor, here come the ads showing Concerned Teachers ® – mostly female, from what I’ve seen – talking about how ____ (insert name of non-Democratic candidate…this year, it’s Buehler) is “against” them.

My butt grows frostier by the minute.

 

 

slothbucket

Oh, no! Don’t worry; we’ll save you from the pictorial representation of her wrath.

 

 

No no no no no – and did I say, no? Teacher Ma’am, those who point out that your purse is leaking dollar bills and that you need to either get a new purse or fix the existing one – or at least stop walking down the street with your purse hanging upside down – are not “against” you, or your profession. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Someone who is trying to save you from inevitable bankruptcy is not out to get you (boys and girls, can you ask your economics teacher to explain what happened in Detroit, or Greece ?). But the critics of those who offer PERS reform, time and time again, year after year, offer nothing substantial in response, except for the occasional mealy mouthed admission that “something” needs to be done…eventually…by someone….

Buehler has proposed a sound beginning approach to PERS reform, and the response is ad homimen criticism from Democrats and teachers’ unions: “Why does Buehler hate teachers/public employees!?!?!?  Their distract-from-the-real-issue hysteria reminds me of the rabid, irrational criticism from conservatives leveled at football players who take a knee to protest racial injustice. Instead of actually listening to and considering the grievances which inspired the players’ actions, it’s,  WHY DO YOU DISRESPECT OUR FLAG AND OUR SOLDIERS ?!?!?!?!?

 

 

cowfish

But everyone respects a picture of a lovely cowfish, so let’s all take a deep breath and think before we yell.

 

 

 

There is a sad truth I am getting back to, in the letter I am currently not sending to you, Rep. Buehler. Despite just having expressed disgust with the black/white, you-must-agree-with-me-on-every-thing-or-you’re-against-me attitude and despite admiring you for your ideas on an issue that is of paramount importance to all Oregonians, I cannot seriously consider voting for you as long as you are willing to remain affiliated with the Republican party.

People who know most of my political positions probably assume I usually vote “for the Democrat,” and that is (usually) correct. For most of my voting life  [4] I have been registered as independent or decline to state for political party affiliation.  [5]  I have, at times, temporarily registered  in a variety of parties – mostly in the two “biggies” (Democrat or Republican), depending on how I wanted to vote in a primary election (or in a couple of cases due to my curiosity as to what kind of political mailers I would receive by being on, say, the Peace and Freedom Party’s membership roll  [6]).  In each case, after the primary election was over, I left skidmarks switching my status back to Independent.

I have never felt a strong affiliation for a political party, in any personal or “loyalty oath” kind of way, and have always loathed (what I view as) the kneejerk, no-thought required tendency of many people to always vote for their party’s candidates, no matter what.  I have voted for Republican candidates who, like you, Mr. Buehler, seemed willing to tackle difficult issues in a meaningful way and “reach across the aisle” to do so. But, as I have previously stated in this space, I will never vote for a Republican again, as long as your party continues to support/does nothing to oust #45.  [7] 

Now, you may point out that the governorship to which you aspire is a state office, not Federal.  It doesn’t matter; I will not vote for a Republican for any political office. If you claim the party affiliation, you share that affiliation with those who support the affront to human decency and civilization that is The Current Occupant of The White House. Your Republican brethren at the top seem impervious to criticism from the top, so I’m holding all of y’all down the totem pole responsible.

I’m sorry, Mr. Buehler, because you seem like a thoughtful, intelligent, just plain good person in many ways, and one who is trying to do his best for the state he loves. But the continued presence of #45 shows, to me, that those who support him have turned a blind eye to their country and their humanity – as particularly and abhorrently illustrated by the events of recent weeks  [8]  – which leaves me ethically unable to support anyone at any governmental level who is willing to remain on the Republican team.

 

 

 

ladyliberty

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Possible Exception To The Previous Proclamation

I could vote for a Republican who was actively and publicly working to remove #45 from office via impeachment or by invoking the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Oh And One More Thing

The above political cartoon, by Bruce MacKinnon for The Halifax Chronicle Herald, should be a shoo-in, IMHO, for the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning.

*   *   *

 

 

May you carefully weigh the costs of your affiliations;
May you accept my thanks for abiding with me through one-issue rants posts;
May pictures of sloths warm your frosty butts;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Notice I did not use the term, Gubernatorial, and when you’re around me, please don’t you use it, either. I find the word offensive, as in unnecessarily fancy…and just plain nasty.

[2] An objectionable political advertising campaign – what a surprise!

[3] Which include some OHSU physicians and Oregon University football coaches, some drawing grotesquely inflated pensions of more than $76,000…per MONTH.

[4] Since I register to vote at age 18 I’ve never missed an election for which I was qualified to vote.

[5] The label has varied from state and county, etc.

[6] The mailers were never as interesting – or out and out loony tunes – as I’d hoped they’d be.

[7] Whose name is not spoken in my house.

[8] I of course refer to the SCOTUS nomination and confirmation of Judge “I love beer so much I can’t remember the women I tried to rape when I was drunk but I love beer don’t you love beer and nothing’s gonna happen to privileged white preppie boys like me, boy ya gotta love beer!” Kavanaugh.

The Boat I’m Not Floating

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Halloween; The Nun;  Predator;  Hereditary; The First Purge….. There have been a lot of horror movies released in 2018, and also two Stephen King books.  But arguably one of the scariest stories of the year comes from the real life experiences of Linda Kay Klein’s book, Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free.  

This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. We’re going to talk about the evangelical sexual purity movement, its insistence on sexual abstinence before marriage and the impact the movement has had on women who were brought up in it, women like my guest, Linda Kay Klein. She says the movement has traumatized many girls and maturing women who are haunted by sexual and gender-based anxiety, fear and shame. Her new book, “Pure,” is part memoir, including the story of how she left the movement. The book also draws on the interviews she did with other women in their 20s, 30s and 40s,…about how the evangelical purity movement has affected their sense of identity and their sex lives.

The purity movement grew in the 1980s during the Reagan administration, which funded abstinence-only programs for community organizations, schools and health departments. A whole industry of purity-related products developed around the movement, including purity rings, T-shirts, mugs, even a purity Bible. Klein describes the purity movement as conveying the expectation that all unmarried girls and women must maintain a sexless body, mind and heart to be pure. Klein is also the founder of Break Free Together, which tries to help people escape the sexual shame they were raised with.

 

 

fear

 

 

 

Listen, if you dare, to the rest Fresh Air interview about Klein being raised in and breaking free from the Evangelical “Purity Movement“, but keep the lights – this is scary shit.

Like many if not most horror stories, there is somewhat of a happy ending.  However, like many horror stories, the monster is not ultimately killed – it just, IMHO, assumes a different, more benign-seeming form.

Translation: the author still calls herself a Christian.  At least now she (thinks) she is practicing her faith on her own terms. Still, her answer to the host’s question about her relationship with her parents – it just about broke my heart, listening to that.  [1]

GROSS: It was your mother who brought you into evangelical Christianity. When you left the evangelical church, was your mother upset? And if she was, did you feel guilty about making her upset by following your new thinking and leaving the church?

KLEIN: My mom was heartbroken when I left and moreover, I think, scared. You know, for my mom, the fact that I was a Christian was her very favorite thing about me. She literally told me that, as did my father. On separate occasions, they both told me their favorite thing about me was my Christianity when I was younger. And so, you know, when I left, I lost my parents’ favorite thing about me.

If you haven’t heard of the Christian Purity Movement and you have a strong stomach and are curious, put on your sterile gloves – nitrile, for those of you with a latex allergy – and Google away.

It is unlikely I will be reading Klein’s book, for same reason I do not watch the Hulu series, The Handmaid’s Tale.  Although I “enjoyed”   [2]   the Margaret Atwood book upon which the series is based, I rarely find depictions of misogynistic, joy-sucking dystopias to be sufficient diversionary or amusing forms of entertainment.

 

 

puritygif

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Crimes I Don’t Understand

On March 18, 1990, 13 works of art valued at a combined total of $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston…. Despite efforts by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and multiple probes around the world, no arrests have been made and no works have been recovered.
(Wikipedia entry on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft)

I just don’t “get’ art heist – the theft of famous works of art. What good is it, to the thief, to steal a painting valued at $25 million? It’s not like you can take it to the local pawn shop, fence it at the flea market, or put a notice on Craig’s List:

 

thescream

Moving sale, Scandinavian picture, good condition, only two previous owners, $20 million OBO

 

 

The point of most thievery, as moiself understands it, is to sell (or barter) what you steal. You can’t turn around and sell a famous painting – anyone who would be interested in it or who would or who would be able to afford to buy it would know it’s stolen.

The second, less common motivation for theft is a desire to acquire that which you want but do not have and are unable and/or unwilling to acquire honestly and/or legally (for example, when a grade school friend of mine swiped my mini spy camera). [3]   Simply put, you take something because you want it for yourself.

So, you’re a passionate art lover, and you somehow are able to filch the Mona Lisa. The work of genius is yours, at last! And now you have…a masterpiece millstone, around your neck. What can you do with it? Hang it on your wall and admire it…all by yourself…forever? You can’t ever have guests or family over because, once again, anyone who sees it will  eventually figure out that it’s stolen.   [4]

Perhaps the real crime I’m thinking of is one of mislabeling: art theft really isn’t theft, it’s essentially kidnapping. The permanent acquisition of the object is not the point; the ransom is what the Renior robber is after. The thief negotiates via intermediary to return the art to the museum for a payment, with both parties grudgingly agreeing to a charade of sorts (“Look what fell off the back of my cousin’s girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend’s truck!”). If investigations by The Proper Authorities ® are going nowhere the museum agrees to this; the board of directors and curators just want their “priceless” object returned and are willing to pay a pittance of its estimated value to do so (which will still likely be a pretty penny for the thief).

 

 

steal

I wonder, did Hoffman receive any royalties (or ransom?) for this?

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Just Wondering

Dateline: Wednesday morning, 8 am. I am walking around the grounds of the Kaiser Permanente Medical center in Hillsboro, where I have taken a friend for an appointment. It is a brisk-cool-melting into sunny, gorgeous autumn day, and so naturally I start wondering about the medical center’s name.

Kaiser Permanente.  I know – or assume – where the Kaiser part of the moniker comes from: a doctor and/or founder/benefactor of the HMO.   [5]   But, whence Permanente, and what does it mean?   Were the Kaiser founders unsure, all those years ago when the idea of managed care was rather unique, that their institution would survive, and thus they named it optimistically: “It’s not Kaiser Temporaria or Kaiser What-the-hell-it-just-might-work-out, it’s Kaiser Permanente!

 

 

confusedspock

I find that explanation highly unlikely…but whatever floats your boat.

 

 

 

I decided to ask the staff people I was encountering on the footpaths around the center’s grounds –friendly, smiling employees on their way to and from the various clinic buildings, who sported Kaiser name badges.  I gave up after three tries; I’d begun to feel  rather guilty to be the cause of the seemingly perpetually beaming faces slumping into confused, Why are you asking/is this a trick question? expressions.

Never mind. I suppose I could Google it….  But…sometimes…I just like to wonder. After all, knowing the answer to everything would, as the Monty Python sketch put it, “take all the mystery out of life.”

 

 

NehalemAug2012

It’s my boat, and it’s floating. Now what?

 

*   *   *

May you never stop walking and wondering;
May your boat always float;
May you bitch-slap-until-they-soil-themselves those cretins who try to teach children
that “purity” has anything to do with sexuality;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] What a monstrous worldview, that causes a mother to fear that, as Klein later states in the interview, her child “…would no longer be with her in heaven, that she would have to spend eternity without me and that she would look down and see me in eternal damnation and know that there was nothing she could do to save me.”  Yikes.

[2] Wrong word…but don’t know how to describe my reaction. It was excellent, well done, but depressing/ chilling.

[3] Which I had purchased – “redeemed” was the term, I believe – from the makers of Bazooka bubble gum, for fifty cents and a whole bunch of Bazooka gum wrappers. My friend had admired the teeny camera and tried to pressure me into trading for it, but I refused. One day she came home with me after school to play at my house, and after she left I noticed my camera was missing. The next day I went to her house to play, and when she was called to the kitchen by her mother for some reason, I snooped in her room and found my camera in a box on her dresser. She had peeled off some of the decorative paper on the camera’s body, no doubt in an effort to “disguise” it.  I quickly pocketed the camera and made up some excuse why I had to go home. I never confronted her about it; she had a sad family situation, and I felt sorry for her.

[4] The “Oh, it’s just a print” cover story will only work so long.

[5] “Kaiser Permanente is an American integrated managed care consortium, based in Oakland, California, United States, founded in 1945 by industrialist Henry J. Kaiser and physician Sidney Garfield.” – from Wikipedia entry.

The Lot I’m Not Accepting

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Department Of At Last, An Honest Answering Device

Last week I was gob smacked by the picture MH sent me of our answering machine’s display of a caller ID (for the phone call he missed):

 

 

ID

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Just Where My Mind Goes

My first thought upon reading the following review  [1] excerpt: The film isn’t circumcised?

New York Times Critics’ Pick!
An uncut gem of a movie…..

*   *   *
Department Of No, I Can’t Just Leave It Alone

Whaddya mean, I’ve never told you my favorite circumcision jokes?

Q. What did the receptionist say to the patient waiting in the circumcisionist’s office?
A. “It won’t be long now.”

Q. How much does a circumcisionist earn?
A. One hundred dollars an hour, plus tips.

 

CAMEL

 

 

 

Speaking of unkind cuts…what a convenient segue to

 

 

Department Of Name Dropping And Saint Shaming

Mother Teresa’s work was part of a global enterprise for the alleviation of bourgeois guilt, rather than a genuine challenge to those forces that produce and maintain poverty.
(“Mother Teresa as the Mirror of Bourgeois Guilt,”
Indian journalist/historian Vijay Prashad )

The following rant thoughtful explication was prompted by a recent comment I overheard, which I list in the paragraph after the warning.

(Consider yourself warned.)

Should you ever attempted to deflect a commendation (within earshot of moiself ) regarding an act of generosity or kindness on your part  by using the intended-to-be humble qualifier, “Well, I’m no Mother Teresa…”, brace yourself for my rejoinder:

“Yes, but Mother Teresa was, in fact, ‘no Mother Teresa.’ ”   [2]

The first time I recall doing this was at least fifteen years ago, during the book study group I attended at a UCC church (where we the still-closeted atheists – MH and I – were active members). I cannot recall the book under discussion nor the particular comment which elicited a fellow book group member’s poorly-timed, Well, I’m no Mother Teresa….

“Poorly-timed” translation:  I’d been reading up on Mother Teresa, having come across criticism from liberal Catholics regarding MT’s entry into what amounted to the RC church’s “Ten Items or Fewer” saint checkout line.  [3]  In doing so I’d encountered a surprising number of informed and rational voices – from British journalist Christopher Hitchens to Australian academic and social critic Germaine Greer [4] to Indian physicians and activists and others. These voices had dared to question –  and more importantly, to examine – MT’s previously unexamined reputation as a humble, selfless humanitarian devoted to the poor.  And I began to share some of my “encounters” with the book group.

Pity that unfortunate I’m-no-Mother-Teresa comment-dude…. I did later apologize to him   [5]  for getting the group “off track.” (And the always tolerant and circumspect book group leader practically left skidmarks getting us “back to the subject at hand.”)

 

weinterrupt

 

As per the name-dropping: In October 2007 I attended the Freedom From Religion Foundation‘s annual convention, held that year in Madison, WI. Christopher Hitchens, one of the featured speakers, gave a rousing speech for his acceptance of the FFRF’s The Emperor Has No Clothes Award   [6].  Later that evening, a New Friend I Met At The Convention ® and I went to the hotel bar/cafe, to discuss the day’s events over wine and a tasty hummus platter.   [7]  There were no tables available, so NFIMATV and I took a seat at the bar.  NFIMATV noticed that Mr. Hitchens was seated at the end of the bar, a mere six barstools down from us, and decided we should commend him re his speech.

Although never averse to chatting up strangers, I was reluctant to “pester” someone who was…well, a celebrity of sorts.  I reminded NFIMATV of Hitchens’ reputation for not suffering fools;  [8]  also, he’d just spoken in front of hundreds of people and might want to simply unwind and sip his drink….

NFIMATV would have none of my protestations. “He came to a crowded, public place! If he wanted to be left alone he’d have gone up to his suite and ordered room service.” She grabbed my arm and literally dragged me down to the end of the bar.

NFIMATV briefly introduced herself and I to Hitch, and complimented him on his speech. Moiself said WTF to moiself, and then aloud to Hitch: “I thought you might appreciate knowing that you’ve been quoted…uh, by me…in a church book study group, when someone said the usual obsequious nonsense about Mother Teresa.”

Hitch winked at me, replied, “Indeed,” and raised his whiskey glass in a toast. Then it was my turn to be the arm-grabber as I led NFIMATV back to our end of the bar.

This ends the name-dropping portion of our programming.

 

 

reliefjpg

 

 

“I just thought that this myth [re Mother Teresa and the Catholic charities providing compassionate care in the slums of India] had to be challenged”….
Over hundreds of hours of research, much of it cataloged in a book he published in 2003, Dr. Chatterjee said he found a “cult of suffering” in homes run by Mother Teresa’s organization, the Missionaries of Charity, with children tied to beds and little to comfort dying patients but aspirin.
He and others said that Mother Teresa took her adherence to frugality and simplicity in her work to extremes, allowing practices like the reuse of hypodermic needles and tolerating primitive facilities that required patients to defecate in front of one another.
(from “A Critic’s Lonely Quest: Revealing the Whole Truth About Mother Teresa,
NY Times profile of Dr. Aroup Chaterjee )

It is highly likely that what you “know,” and what most people think they know, about MT comes from a book about her  [9] – and the media coverage about the celebrity visits to MT’s clinics, which followed publication of the book – written by Malcolm Muggeridge.  Muggeridge, a zealous Roman Catholic convert and conservative British social commenter, was derided by  Christopher Hitchens as “that old fraud and mountebank.” Hitchens largely credited Muggeridge for providing the propaganda tool which spawned MT’s becoming “the focus of a fawning cult who used the suffering of the poor for her own political and ideological ends.”

 

 

Mother

 

 

Christopher Hitchens was MT’s most vocal – but by no means only –  detractor.  He described her as a “thieving, fanatical Albanian dwarf,” and charged that the missions she ran in Calcutta were humanitarian humbugs serving as a masquerade for her “cult of death and suffering.”  What Hitch did by investigating MT and her work is what any good journalist – and citizen – should do, and yet because he was one of the first to do so he was considered radical and contrarian when he was in fact being sensible and straightforward: he judged Mother Theresa‘s reputation by her words and actions.  What was being promoted by the myth makers, saint manufacturers was the opposite – they wanted you to judge MT’s words and actions by her reputation.

Okay, perspective timeout. If you’re interested in this subject, or just perplexed because this is the first time you’ve heard about the MT controversy, you can find much more information than the crumbs I offer in this space.  There have been books, articles, even a documentary  [10] on the subject, by writers and investigators far more experienced and eloquent then moiself.  If you find your defensive hackles rising at the mere thought of criticizine a “saint”–  if you prefer the PR to reality – it’s likely you won’t be convinced by the evidence, no matter the source.

Evidence – and her own words – show that Mother Teresa was not so much a “champion of the poor” but a religious fanatic who took pleasure in their suffering. Not only did she refuse to alleviate the pain of her patients but she gloried in it. As she herself said: “I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people.”
(“Mother Teresa ‘a friend of poverty, not of the poor,” Carol Hunt, independent.ie)

Here’s the main point, which I think cannot be overemphasized:  Mother Teresa did not love the poor and the afflicted; she was in love with poverty and affliction. The difference is astronomically crucial, particularly in understanding her motivation – which is most adamantly not an excuse – for the way she treated her patients and ran her organization.

Did she see the Calcutta slum dwellers for who and what they were, and respect them as (non-Catholic) individuals? Or did she see them as mere objects sharing a “lot” she considered to be some kind of blessed condition bestowed by her deity?

People who are in fact poor and genuinely suffering do not idealize their misery. The destitute want to rise out of poverty, and the afflicted want to get well. To think (and act) otherwise about their situations is patronizing, not compassionate.

 

pajamasloth

Is it time for some kind of cute picture to relieve the tension?

 

A summary of the reality behind the Mother Teresa mythos:

* Critics have pointed out a host of ways in which MT’s mission of mercy was not all that it seemed, including but not limited to her shady ways of caring for the sick, her problematic political contacts, her irregular management of the vast sums of money she received, and her harsh, dogmatic views on social and cultural issues.  Examples include:

* Doctors and journalists who visited MT’s clinics accused her of perpetuating the suffering of destitute patients by not giving them easily obtainable painkillers and by having the dying spend their final weeks on wooden pallets in communal dormitories, fed only on boiled rice and water;

* Families who took their loved ones to MT’s clinics to receive care for, e.g., a broken leg, complained that their loved ones were treated as if they were dying (i.e., given only hospice-type care and not transferred or referred to another, actual medical clinic) and thus did die, from lack of treatment of totally non-lethal, treatable ailments.  [11]  Meanwhile, MT herself traveled out of the country to California clinics when she got sick and required treatment.

* Several visitors who traveled to see MT’s Calcutta clinic, impressed by the mission to help the poor but appalled by the clinic’s primitive conditions and lack of supplies, made substantial donations to MT’s order (“The Sisters of Charity”) for the express purpose of updating and supplying the clinic. When these donors returned months or years later to see what their monies had wrought, they were shocked to find the clinic was as rundown as it had always been (and MT’s order refused to publish any audit of its funds).  Meanwhile, MT’s order was opening religious schools around the world – by MT’s own claim she opened 500 convents in more than one hundred countries – most of them bearing her name.  [12]

* Germaine Greer called MT a “religious imperialist” bent on evangelism,” and Indian human rights activists accused MT of a covert agenda – trying to convert the poor to Christianity, under the guise of treating the sick. Witnesses observed MT and her staff performing the Catholic rite of baptism upon dying and delusional non-Christian patients while pretending to cool the patients’ heads with wet cloths.

* MT accepted donations from – and provided photo ops for – sleazy public figures who gave her donations –  including the brutal Haitian dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier (whom she praised in return), the disgraced British publisher Robert Maxwell, and the thieving American banker, Charles Keating (remember the S & Loan crisis?) – while refusing to comment upon (or claiming ignorance about) their atrocious human rights violations.

This last * is particularly galling to me, because if you can for some reason excuse the other criticisms of MT, how can you justify, other than for brazen $$ interests, her cozying up to such horrible people and regimes? Do you know about her astonishing personal involvement in the prosecution of Charles Keating?

MT wrote a letter, on behalf of Keating to the judge who tried Keating’s case, asking for mercy and leniency in Keaton’s sentencing…despite claiming in the letter to know nothing about his business nor the criminal charges levied against him. The Deputy DA who worked on the prosecution of Keating wrote an eloquent letter back to MT, detailing the charges against Keating and the sources of the money that Keating had donated to MT, thus providing, as Hitchens put it, the “clearest and best-documented proof against the customary apologies about (MT’s supposed) innocence and unworldliness.”

The DA was so appalled by MT’s efforts on behalf of her benefactor  – and her seeming lack of concern for those Keating had swindled – that he allowed Hitchens to print his response to MT in its entirety, in Hitchen’s MT expose, The Missionary Position.  An excerpt from his letter:

“The victims of Mr. Keating’s fraud come from a wide spectrum of society. Some were wealthy and well-educated. Most were people of modest means and unfamiliar with high finance. One was, indeed, a poor carpenter who did not speak English and had his life saving’s stolen by Mr. Keating’s fraud….

You urged (the judge) to look into his heart – as he sentences Charles Keating – and do what Jesus would do. I submit the same challenge to you. Ask yourself what Jesus would do if he were given the fruits of a crime; what Jesus would do if he were in possession of money that had been stolen; what Jesus would do if he were being exploited by a thief to ease his conscience?

I submit that Jesus would promptly and unhesitatingly return the stolen property to its rightful owners. You should do the same. You have been given money by Keating that he has been convicted of stealing by fraud. Do not permit him the “indulgence”  [13]  he desires. Do not keep the money. Return it to those who worked for it and earned it.

If you contact me I will put you indirect contact with the rightful owners of the property now in your possession.”

Mother Teresa neither replied to the letter nor returned the money.

*   *   *

May you always judge the reputation by the deeds, and not vice-versa;
May you always be able to provide an accounting;
May you know (at least as per circumcision jokes) when to leave it alone;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

 

[1] for the movie, We the Animals.

[2] And be relieved if I stop at the mere rejoinder and do not go into full lecture mode. 

[3] Bypassing traditional procedures for canonization, a move by Pope John Paul II which bothered many Catholics.

[4] Greer was once on the same airplane flight as MT, and noted that while she (Greer) rode in economy class, MT, who had taken a vow of poverty, rode in first class.  Greer had critiqued  MT and the Catholic charitable orders and their policies and politics before and after that plane ride, and infamously referred to MT as the “glamour girl of poverty” and MT’s Missionary order as an “order of clones.”

[5] And he later thanked me for bringing up a hitherto unknown (to him) perspective.

[6] An award bestowed by the FFRF, for public figures who use “plain speaking” on the shortcomings of religion.

[7]  We had to settle for stale pretzels. But the wine was nice.

[8] Which had been fully on display that evening during a Q & A session after his speech, when “Hitch” calmly, wittily, and effectively verbally eviscerated those who were less than prepared/articulate in framing their questions.

[9] Something Beautiful For God.

[10] “Hell’s Angel,” produced by Hitchens and journalist Tariq Ali. Hitchen’s research for this film, which first ran as a BBC television program in 1994, spurred him to write the book, The Missionary Position.

[11] And these poor families (who later spoke with journalists) told of how when they complained to the local  authorities, they were either disbelieved or hushed up, due to MT’s reputation.

[12] So much for her claims of modesty and humility.

[13] The purchase of “indulgences” (i.e.. buying one’s way to forgiveness)  was once an acceptable method of seeking forgiveness in the Catholic church. It was one of the theological abominations cited by Martin Luther which led to The Protestant reformation.

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