Medical Marijuana and the LDS Church

Medical marjiuana.jpg

On Friday, February 5, 2016 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints opposed a bill in the Utah legislature brought forth by Senator Mark Madsen that would make Utah the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana. citing unintended consequences that could come with use of the drug.

And I am angry.

I grew up being taught that the LDS church was politically neutral. Every election season a letter is read over the pulpit in every Ward in the United States written by the First Presidency emphatically stating that the church keeps out of politics.

However, this past legislative session in Utah has proven that the church’s long-claimed stance of political neutrality is false. Most people outside the state don’t understand how one religion, no matter how prominent, can have such an effect on state policies. But it does. Most of the state legislators identify as LDS and as any LDS person will tell you, when the prophet speaks, you listen, and you do as you are told. Obedience above conscious.

The reason for opposing medical marijuana?

Unintended consequences.

You mean like people suffering from chronic, debilitating, and painful diseases getting relief?

You mean like people who do suffer those painful diseases not becoming addicted to the opioids their doctors prescribe because that’s all doctors can do legally?

You mean like people being high all the time on THC? NEWFLASH – these same people are high all the time. On opioids.

And because they are having to ever increase their opioid use with no legal proven alternative available, it is leading to some patients becoming addicted. Utah has an insanely high opioid usage rate as well as heroin rate. The Utah Department of Health has noted that Utah has an experienced a more than 400% increase in prescription drug use injuries and death in the last decade. An average of 21 Utahns die a month due to prescription drug overdoses. Utah ranks 8th highest in prescription drug overdose deaths in the United States.

Marijuana isn’t the drug you should be worried about, LDS church.

Heavy opioid use for chronic pain also leads to liver damage, digestive difficulties like not being able to keep food down and chronic, and bowel damaging, constipation.

I’m sure the LDS church leaders believe this is a moral issue, so I have to ask…

What’s so moral about letting people suffer?

No one has ever overdosed on Marijuana.

I could see if this were legalizing recreational marijuana use why the LDS church would be opposed to that and taking a strong stance against it.

But this is about medicinal use in oil form. Mormons love their medicinal oils. I’m sure if doTerra was pushing this, all the prominent MLM owning Mormons would jump at having it legalized.

Luckily Senator Madsen is not kowtowing to the incredible and inappropriate overreach of the LDS church into state politics. He has proposed 8 amendments to the law that he hopes will alleviate concerns to the Bill.

Anecdotally, when my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer in August 2007. She opted for chemotherapy treatments to extend her life and it was awful. She threw up constantly. She couldn’t keep any food down, thereby becoming dehydrated. She was in constant pain. Her doctor prescribed for her Marinol to help increase her appetite and deal with the nausea chemotherapy caused. Marinol is one of the cannabinoids.

I wish I could sit down with the leaders of the LDS church and describe to them what it was like to watch my mom suffer an absolute nightmarish hell during her last 3 months on this earth. I wish I could tell them what it was like to sit with her in her hospital room watching her writhe in pain, wake up and look at me with panic-stricken eyes that reminded me of a wounded animal, and beg me, BEG ME, her second daughter, someone she called “girl baby” and nursed at her breast until I was 15 months old, BEG ME to go find someone to kill her. Please tell me how you would feel to have your mother, a light and sunshine to everyone she knew, be suffering so much she begged you to find someone to take her life.

You know that scene in Terms of Endearment when Debra Winger is in the hospital dying of cancer and her mother, Shirley MacClaine, goes and screams at the nurses and demands they relieve the suffering of her dying daughter? Yeah, that was me.

Please tell where the dignity is in letting dying people suffer when oil from a plant…A PLANT that God planted in the ground.. can alleviate suffering? Why are those who aren’t suffering constantly asking others to do it when they have no idea the pain that is involved?

On another anecdotal note, I’m old enough now to have several friends who suffer from various chronic, painful diseases:  Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, Anxiety, Erytohmelalgia (or Mitchell’s syndrome), and numerous other autoimmune disorders. THC has been proven to alleviate the pain and other symptoms that these debilitating and painful diseases cause. Prescribing people who are suffering ever-increasing amounts of opioids is unconscionable, and I would argue, ammoral.

So I’m begging the leaders of the LDS church to do the right thing. I was always taught growing up in church to do the right thing and let the consequences follow. I was taught to be honest in my dealings. I was taught to put the pain and suffering of others above my own comfort. Please LDS church, practice what you preach. Again I ask,

What’s so moral about letting people suffer?

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How I really feel…

As a child my mother worked very hard to teach me to be an independent person. She came from the era that women couldn’t rent an apartment, buy a house, hold a credit card or bank account in their name without a father or husband’s consent. She wanted her children to be able to take care of themselves once they left her home. My mother and father both had childhoods where they had to work hard and they both grew up with a good worth ethic. They never wanted to have children who were helpless.

It was because of this I learned that when it comes to my actions, my thoughts, my words…I am responsible for myself.

It’s because of this belief that I’m really tired of the lie that gets told in (mostly) religious cultures that says men are so base, vile, and corrupt that they cannot control themselves when it comes to their sexual passions. And because of this we women must cover ourselves up so as to not excite these men because they can’t help themselves. And if they do help themselves, it must be the woman’s fault, right? Wrong.

This idea isn’t new. The Victorians were so proper, a glimpse of an ankle was provocative. In some Muslim countries women are forced to be covered all over with burquas. Apparently in American religious contemporary society, a picture of a teenage girl not wearing a bra on Facebook is so shocking a mother has to write a shaming post about it telling these girls to keep away from her sons. The subtext being these sons are in no way capable of moderating their own reactions and mommy must do it for them.

Am I crazy to think that men are human beings and, therefore, capable of controlling themselves? Millions of men walk around this planet every day who are able to restrain their sexual passions and not act out on every sexual impulse that invades their brain. You’ll have to excuse me for not thinking that all men are just potential rapists waiting for the right trigger. The reason why I give men so much credit is because I know too many wonderful ones who are able to control themselves.

I think there comes a time in all of our lives when we realize that the only person we can control is ourselves. We can’t make people dress or act in the way we want them to. We can’t make them cater to our desires. We can’t make women cover up so as to not entice heterosexual men. Heterosexual men are going to be attracted to women that they are attracted to no matter what they wear. And, if I might add, how very self-centered of anyone to think that everyone else should cater to them.

I hope, with all sincerity that if a mother of teenage sons sees a girl on Facebook posting a “selfie” she finds provocative, she teaches her sons to control their own passions. Once they leave her home they are responsible for themselves. They need to be able to conduct themselves around women with propriety and respect. The way she does this is by teaching her sons that girls are human beings. Like Nate Pyle says, they need to be able to “see” women as human beings regardless of what they’re wearing.

The world doesn’t revolve around one single person (no matter how much Donald Trump wished it did) and we can’t expect people to be perfect and never make mistakes. I’m bothered by anyone who states that someone doesn’t get a second chance with them and then proclaims to be a Christian. I’m so grateful for the people who have given me a second chance. I  know that there are some people who will never give me a second chance, and that’s fine. That’s their loss. But I want everyone to know, you’ll always have a second chance with me. (Unless you continue to try to hurt me or someone I love. I do have boundaries).

“Jesus wasn’t about perfection. He was all about redemption. He said that he didn’t come to save the righteous, but the fallen. He gathered around him the prostitutes, tax collectors, and other ‘broken’ members of society and delighted in their company, not in the company of the self-righteous pharisees who stood on street corners exhibiting to the world how ‘perfectly’ they kept the letter of the law.” -Lorian Franklin Dunlop (someone I’m lucky to call a friend)

There might be people in this world who look at teenagers on social media and judge them as not worth their time based on a “selfie” they posted. They might decide that their sons or daughters shouldn’t be allowed to interact with these people any more. They might decide that these kids don’t ever deserve a second chance. They might feel superior to these kids because “they’re so perfect.” I’d like to remind them of my friend’s Lorian’s words and know that how you treat “the least of these” is a reflection of your character, not theirs.

That’s right, teenage girls who were shamed on the internet this week for daring to take a picture of yourself with pouty duck lips, what anyone has said or written about you is a reflection of their character, not yours.

And so I leave you with this, as my children go out into this world I want them to know that they are only in control of themselves. And if someone can’t get past the way their body looks enough to see the person behind the body, (their sparkling personalities, their wicked senses of humor, the kindness they show to others) and only seeks to make a sexual object out of them, that sin is not on their heads. There is no way that they dress or act that can cause someone else to sin. None. They are only the guardians of their own virtue, not anyone else’s.

Because Jesus.

sunset friends

Like a Girl

I’m really, really tired of the fact that being called a girl or a woman is the worst insult you can throw at a boy or a man. There is nothing shameful about being a girl and a woman, so why is it so insulting to be called one?

I was thinking about this recently when I was watching “The Sandlot” with my kids. I triple love that movie and part of it was filmed in my hometown. I’ve loved that movie for 20 years, but there is one part that has always bothered me. When Ham is trading insults back and forth with the rival baseball team his penultimate insult is to tell the other player that, “you play ball like a girl!” Everyone is shocked! How dare he go there? THAT WAS THE WORST DIS IN THE HISTORY OF TIME!!!

What does that even mean? This movie is set in the 1950s during a time where America had a professional girl’s baseball team. Shouldn’t playing ball like a girl be a compliment since back then there were professional female ball players and they were just kids in a sandlot?

There is a company in Salt Lake called Pick n’ Pull and they have rather annoying radio commercials. In one of their commercials the two guys in the ad are arguing over telling each other’s secrets. One of them shouts out at the end the other guy used to ride a girl’s bicycle that was pink. So what? What about him riding a “girl’s” bicycle as a child should be embarrassing or shaming? He got to ride a bike as a child. Congratulations, you’re richer than 90% of the world’s population.

Speaking of bikes, my son rode his sister’s bike to school the 2nd day of school because his scooter is broken and he didn’t want to walk. He was mercilessly teased on the way home. He came home bawling his face off because people were so mean to him about riding a “girl’s” bike. My daughter’s bike is black and just has a tiny butterfly sticker on it. Why the hell does it matter so much what bike he rode to school? Why is supposed to be so humiliating for a boy to ride or have anything remotely feminine? The sickening thing was that the child who teased him the most was a girl. It makes me sad that at a young age she is internalized the message that being a girl is wrong and shameful and she should attempt to humiliate any boy who does anything remotely feminine. It makes me so angry.

I’m still trying to figure out what “like a girl” even means! One time this kid told me I ran like a girl. My response? “Good because I AM a girl, dumbass.” Why was this kid trying to insult me by saying that something I was doing was feminine? What is so wrong with being feminine? What is wrong with being a girl? What is wrong with being a woman?

NOTHING!!!!

So, dear culture at large: stop trying to insult boys and men by saying they are girls. It’s not an insult to be a girl. Stop calling them names like the p-word that rhymes with wussy and all the other “delightful” euphemisms for female reproductive parts.  There is NOTHING wrong with being a girl. There is nothing wrong with being feminine. There is nothing weak about being a girl. There is nothing shameful about being a girl. There is nothing wrong with having a vagina and the ability to bring forth life. That, my dear, is the very essence of strength. (Pop 4 kids out of your reproductive parts and we’ll talk about whether you can use the p-word as another word for being weak, bucko).

So boys and men, next time you’re insulted by being called a girl or a woman, think about why. Think about it. Sit with it for a minute.  Is it because our culture has sold you the lie that it is shameful to be feminine? That it is shameful to be a woman? The culture is wrong. The culture is misogynistic and hates women, otherwise being called one wouldn’t be such an insult to you. Just like being a more masculine woman is not insulting. One gender is not better than the other (I’m totally aware of intersexed and transsexual people, but I’m talking generally here and I could write a whole other post about why transwomen are more likely to be killed and/or hurt because of transitioning to a female).

Next time someone tries to insult you by saying you’re “like a girl” in some respect, turn around and say “thank you!’ Because there it nothing wrong with being a girl. Nothing. And I refuse to let my children grow up in a world where being half the population is considered an insult.

 

 

I am a Welfare Queen

I didn’t want to weigh in on the Mitt Romney 47%-of-the-country-is-a-bunch-of-government-dependent-lazy-good-for-nothings controversy but I just can’t bite my tongue any longer.  This post isn’t directed at Mitt Romney or about what Mitt Romney said or even about Mitt Romney.  It’s about the people who believe him and are now posting socio-economic discriminatory things on Facebook/blogs that really have me steaming.  And I just have to say

It is completely hypocritical for you to complain about those taking some form of Government Assistance when you have yourself!

I write this after someone I know who is on Medicaid, because they have medical issues and are self-employed, complained that those they deem as “welfare queens” should only receive temporary aid from the government and we should institute a system that helps people become self-sufficient instead of dependent.  Well, I agree with them but the ironic thing is we already have that.  What they think of as “welfare” is called TEMPORARY Assistance for Needy Families.  Yeah, that’s right…it’s right in it’s name…temporary.  Federally, those receiving TANF can only access it for 5 years total for their entire lifetime.  However, it varies state to state and each state can decide how to distribute that.  I live in Utah where TANF can only be accessed for 3 years total in a person’s lifetime.

I invite anyone who doesn’t understand welfare and more importantly the welfare reform that took place 16 years ago in this country to do more research on the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.  To get started you can view this cursory outline of it on Wikipedia.  And why do I know so much about this Act?  Besides being a social worker, I spent an entire semester researching this policy for my Policy Class a few years ago (and this policy has not changed in those 6 years), specifically the TANF portion.  Forgive me if I believe I might know more about this than the average person spouting off about “welfare queens” on Facebook.

So what’s up with the title of my post, right?  Surely Risa is not a “welfare queen.”  No, she and her husband both have good jobs, make more money than the average middle class family, live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, and don’t appear to have any wants or needs.  And that is true.  Now.  But let’s rewind seven years ago.  And Risa and the hubs were working crappy full-time jobs that barely kept a rented roof over their heads.  Daycare costs were high, working back breaking jobs weren’t getting them anywhere, and they often borrowed money from Risa’s parents just to have milk in the fridge.  Then the hubs got a new job that made more money than the two of them combined had before and Risa and the hubs decided that since she was only 2 years away from having her BA in Social Work to send her back to school.  So Risa decided to quit her full-time job and go back to school full-time until she finished (Risa likes to say God decided because she received a very clear and direct prompting on this matter…if you believe those sorts of things like Risa does).  And Risa and the hubs, GASP!, took government money in the form of Pell grants to pay for her tuition.  During this time, Risa and the hubs’ children qualified for reduced school lunch.  Another government program!  And they took it, because they could afford a 40 cent lunch but not $1.50 lunch every day.  And once Risa graduated from college, the Pell grants ended.  And once the hubs started moving up in his company and making more money their children no longer qualified for reduced school lunch and Risa and the hubs started having to pay full-price, which was a great blessing to them that they had the money to do so.  (Okay, all this talking in the third person has gotten very annoying).  Let me assure you, all of this aid was very, very temporary and allowed us to better ourselves and our situations to become, dun dun dun, self-sufficient!  Wow, wasn’t that the goal of these programs?  The Pell grants allowed me to finish my education so I could better myself and my family’s situation and the reduced school lunch program helped our children eat lunch during school hours without breaking the bank.  And now that we’re in a better situation, we don’t need these programs anymore.  They were temporary.

And because of this, I will never, ever criticize someone for utilizing a government program because, a) I’m not an expert in their lives and I don’t know their specific situations or their specific needs, b) you can’t judge someone from their appearance and just because they don’t look like what we stereotypically view as a “welfare queen” doesn’t mean they don’t really need those services provided, and c) it would be completely and totally hypocritical of me to complain about the person in line in front of me at the grocery store using food stamps, or the new mother receiving WIC, or the pregnant woman accessing pregnancy Medicaid, or the recently laid off person accepting unemployment insurance, or the disabled person accessing Social Security to that they can, you know, live, or the elderly couple living on a fixed income of Social Security (which, by the way they paid into their entire lives and I resent it being called an entitlement when it should be called an earned benefit), because me, myself, and I at one time benefited from a government program.  However, that hasn’t stopped a lot of people I know who have accepted public assistance at one time complaining about others who do.   I know what it’s like to struggle and sheepishly fill out the conspicuous pink form that enables your children to received reduced school lunch, and I will never, NEVER, fight against or try to deny or complain about a fellow citizen who might need help in a different way.

The funny thing about Mitt’s statement about the 47% is that many, many young BYU and/or Mormon families accept some sort of government aid so that they can go to school while raising families.  Because not all of these families can just sell stock, like Mitt, to pay for their educations and families at the same time.

This article at Addicting Info pretty much sums up how I feel about those who demonize the poor.  However, there are a lot of swears that are not suitable for those with delicate sensibilities.  

Book Review – Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

ZeitounZeitoun by Dave Eggers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers is a true story account of one family’s experience and devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun lived and worked in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit.  Abdulrahman (known as Zeitoun) is a Syrian immigrant and the Zeitouns are practicing Muslims.  The Zeitouns have weathered many hurricanes during their time in New Orleans and at first the family is not concerned about the storm.  After repeated warnings, Kathy evacuates to Baton Rouge with their four children while Zeitoun insists on staying behind to take care of their painting/contracting business and rental properties.  Zeitoun weathers the storm and the eventual breaching of levees and flooding of the city.  Zeitoun bought a used canoe years ago and is now able to put it to good use by helping some of his neighbors and abandoned dogs.  After a few days with fewer people to help and the city becoming increasingly polluted and dangerous, Zeitoun beings to plan to leave and join Kathy and the kids in Phoenix (where she eventually ended up).  That is, until Zeitoun is arrested in his own home for looting and is put in prison for 23 days without being given access to his Constitutional right of one phone call.  They won’t even tell him what the charges are against him, but he does have a few guards tell him that he’s Taliban, or a terrorist.

For the most part I very much enjoyed this book.  It is a fast read and I read it within three days.  I read the first 100 pages within a couple of hours.  I enjoyed reading about Zeitoun’s early life in Syria and how he came to live in America.  I also enjoyed reading about Kathy’s history of growing up in a large Christian family and eventually converting to Islam.  Kathy’s journey to conversion helped me understand the Muslim religion in a ways I had not thought about before.

I liked how this novel focused both on Zeitoun’s experience in the city and also in jail juxtaposed against Kathy’s experience fleeing the storm, keeping connected with and worrying about her husband, and the absolute torment she went through when she hadn’t heard from him in two weeks and feared that he was dead.

Mostly I was outraged reading this book.  Knowing that a jail was built within a couple of days of the storm when all of that man power and resources could have been used to rescue people trapped in their attics, under freeway passes, and at the Superdome made me sick.  The jailees had access to toilets and food but not those trapped in the Superdome?  Where were the priorities of those in charge?  I was also outraged that a man could be arrested for and jailed for 23 days without any proof of a crime being committed (he was on his own property when he was arrested!) and denied a phone call or medical attention.  And he was lucky because others who were falsely accused were jailed for months by FEMA.  Heck of a job, Brownie?  I think not.  You think that can’t happen to you as a citizen of the United States, but oh yes, it can.  Reading this book brought me back to the outrage I experienced seven years ago watching all these tragedies, travesties, and injustices happening in the United States of America in the 21st Century because of incompetent government officials and agencies.

The only thing I disliked about the book was all of the descriptions in chapters of Zeitoun’s hero brother that really had nothing to do with the story.  I kept skipping over them because they were boring. I wanted to get back to the action of the book.

Eggers wrote about the Zeitoun family in a book called Voices from the Storm, but felt that their story was so compelling that it deserved an entire book.  The book ends in 2008 with an update on how the family is doing now, but a lot can change in four years.  Once lauded as a Katrina hero, Zeitoun is now anything but.  He is currently in jail for domestic assault against is now ex-wife Kathy and just recently he has been accused of trying to solicit someone to kill Kathy, her new boyfriend, and her son from her first marriage.  Finding this out just a few days after finishing this book really put a damper on the hope I held for the Zeitoun family and their future.  At the end of Zeitoun Kathy talks about Zeitoun becoming increasingly more religious and fanatic and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.  What he went through in those 23 days of jail after Katrina has irreparably harmed his mental state and his family forever.

The story of the Zeitoun family is about one of the country’s greatest tragedy’s and failings, which in my opinion, lead to a very tragic end to a once stable and happy family.

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Women of the Civil Rights Movement

Ella Baker.

Fannie Lou Hamer.

Septima Poinsette Clark.

Coretta Scott King.

Ruby Bridges.

Diane Nash.

Do you know these names?  They are a few of the integral women of the American Civil Rights Movements.

When I was a sophomore in college, in one of my English classes the major project for the quarter was to write a research paper on any subject of our choosing.  We had to submit three topics to our professor, defend our top subject, and then she decided what we should write about.

I only had one subject:  The women of the Civil Rights movement.

My argument:  We frequently hear about the men of the Civil Rights Movement, like Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, etc.  But so often the only female name you hear from the Civil Rights movement is Rosa Parks.  And yes, she was an integral part of the Civil Rights Movement, especially being the catalyst for a lot of change in Birmingham, Alabama, but who are these other women?  I want to know the women.

My subject was immediately approved by my teacher.  She asked me why I was so interested in the Civil Rights Movement.  I guess all she saw of me was a 19 year old little white Mormon girl from Utah.  Why should I care about the Civil Rights movement, right?  Ahem.  I explained that my mother lived in Washington, D.C from 1960 to 1973.  She lived the Civil Rights Movement.  She would often tell us stories about driving home to Silver Spring, MD from her job at the USDA in D.C. and both sides of the beltway would be burning.  She hated the 60s because it was so scary.  That’s why I’m interested.  This is my history, and my heritage, and it doesn’t matter where you’re from in America or your race or ethnicity, we ALL should be interested in the civil rights of our fellow human beings.

(I was pretty assertive as a 19 year old, for those of you who are wondering if I was always like this…)

So who are the women I listed above?  I was delighted to find out so much about these names I had never heard of before.  This paper began to mean so much more to me than just a research project I had to do for an English class.  I can’t find my paper now.  It was written in 1997.  But I remember their names.

Ella Baker

Ella began working for the NAACP in 1938 and her work with the Civil Rights movement spanned 5 decades.  She worked with the prominent leaders of the movement, like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Thurgood Marshall.  She was involved in Montgomery Bus Boycott, was a staffer for the Crusade for Citizenship (a voter registration camp), worked for student de-segregation with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and helped organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.  She died in 1986, but was honored with a US Postage Stamp in 2009.  One of Ms. Baker’s most famous quotes:  “Remember, we are not fighting for the freedom of the Negro alone, but for the freedom of the human spirit, a larger freedom that encompasses all mankind.”





Fannie Lou Hamer

Fannie’s activism started in the 50s organizing the Mississippi Freedom Summer and became the Vice-Chair of the Mississippi Democratic Freedom Party.  Fannie was deeply religious and soft-spoken and often used Bible verses in her speeches.  She ran for Congress in 1964 and 1965.  She worked at a grassroots level as well, and helped start Head Start, the Freedom Farm Cooperative, and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Poor People’s Campaign.  Fannie died of breast cancer in 1977.  Ms. Hamer’s most famous quote is: “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Septima Poinsette Clark

Septima was born in 1898 and was an educator as well as a civil rights activist.  Her father was born a slave and after the Civil War he worked as a caterer. Her mother refused to let Septima become a domestic for a white family.  Instead, Septima graduated from high school and became an educator without a college education at that time.  In 1919, Septima taught at Avery Normal Institute, in Charleston, S.C., a private academy in for black children.  It was here Septima started her work with the NAACP.  She then went on to earn her Bachelors and Masters degrees and worked with noted Civil Rights Activist, W.E.B. Du Bois.  Septima is most known for starting Citizenship Schools which taught black adults in the Deep South how to read.  Septima worked with many health organizations.  In 1979, President Carter award Septima with a Living Legacy Award.  Septima died in 1987.  Her most famous quote:  “I have a great belief in the fact that whenever there is chaos, it creates wonderful thinking.  I consider chaos a gift.”

Coretta Scott King

Coretta was the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr. and helped lead the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.  Coretta was part of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped pass the Voting Rights Act in 1964.  Her most prominent role in the movement was after her husband was murdered as she continued his work and his legacy as the new leader of the movement.  As a new leader of the movement she founded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change and broadened her focus to include women’s issues, LGBT rights, economic issues, world peace, racism, poverty, and war.  Coretta was a published author and educator.  In the 1980s Coretta worked to end apartheid in South Africa.  Ms. King died in 2006 and was eulogized by former President Jimmy Carter.  My most favorite Coretta Scott King quote:  “Freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience.  I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.”

Ruby Bridges

Ruby was born in 1954 in New Orleans.  In 1960, Ruby’s parents answered the call from the NAACP and volunteered to have Ruby integrated in the New Orleans school system.  She is known as the first African American child at an all-white elementary school in the South.  Ruby walked to school every day despite protests from parents, citizens, and backlash the landed her father jobless and her share-cropper grandparents turned off their land.  Can you imagine how brave Ruby must have been?  Can you imagine that courage of that 6 year old girl?  I can’t think of Ms. Bridges without tears coming to my eyes.  Ruby currently lives in New Orleans and there have been many books written about her and movies created about her life.  My favorite Ruby Bridges quote:  “I now know that experience comes to us for a purpose, and if we follow the guidance of the spirit within us, we will probably find that the purpose is a good one.”

(edited to add…)

Diane Nash


Diane was born in Chicago and attended Howard University.  She was a part of the most successful act of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement – The Freedom Rides.  As a college student, Diane was successful in desegregating lunch counters in Nashville, TN.  Her activism did not stop there.  When the Freedom Riders decided to cut their rides short (because of outrageous violence and deaths), Diane, and other Nashville college students, promptly decided they would finish the trip.  Her courageous act caught national attention.  Robert F. Kennedy, himself, begged her to stop (fearing more violence and deaths).  Her response was to say everyone who was going on the Freedom Rides had signed their last Will and Testament the night before.  Diane was also integral in the Selma Campaign (a non-violent Army to combat church bombings), the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and has been the subject of two books and numerous documentaries.  Diane continues to advocate for the civil rights, the rights of the poor and impoverished, and for the rights of children.  My most favorite quote of Ms. Nash’s is:  “Every time I participated in segregation, like going into a ‘colored’s only’ bathroom, I felt like I was agreeing that I was inferior.  And I’m not inferior.”

To find out more about these remarkable women, click the links on their names above, or check out this article.

That Tuesday Morning

Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

It has become my generation’s, “where were you when?”
Where was I? Sicker than I’ve ever been in my life. I had the worst kidney infection that week than I’ve ever had before or since. Monday I started feeling the pain in my kidneys, but knew I had to work for the next two days. I thought I could just take some Ibuprofen and deal. That night I passed out in the shower and my husband called my boss at home (she was a close friend) and told her what had happened. Being my boss she forbade me to work and ordered me to go to the doctor that morning.
Tuesday morning. I should have gone to the emergency room the night before, but I didn’t. We waited until the urgent care clinic opened at 9:00 a.m. We didn’t turn on the TV. We didn’t turn on the radio. Our daughter was 3 months old. We walked into the clinic and saw everyone, literally all the patients, nurses, doctors, receptionists, gathered around the TV. I was annoyed. I didn’t know what was going on. I wanted the receptionist back behind the desk so I could check in and see a doctor as quickly as possible and seek some pain relief.
I was in so much pain, what happened next is pretty much dreamlike. From watching TV the hubs could pretty much figure out what was going on. I was in too much pain to ascertain anything of reality around me. Pain can be transcendent like that. The doctor diagnosed me with the worst kidney infection he’d ever seen. I had a high, high fever and they gave me Cipro (and antibiotic given to those who’ve been exposed to anthrax). I wasn’t allowed to nurse my daughter while taking it. They said I could pump my milk and discard it. I could barley sit upright…you expect me to pump for 10 days?
I remember waking up on my couch at home. The TV was on…the disaster being played over and over again on every channel. I had taken Tylenol to break my fever. I woke up covered in sweat and milk. The Lortab eased my pain but made me nauseas. I couldn’t even hold my baby. Once most of the pain was gone I began to understand what was happening. The reality of the situation hit me in an instant.
I was scared.
My best friend had just moved to New York City exactly a year before.
My heart was racing. My best friend. I befriended her when she was the new kid in 6th grade. She knew all my secrets. She knew all my faults and loved me anyway. She hated all my boyfriends. We spent hours giggling together until our sides ached. We endured high school together at different high schools. We experienced college together on opposite sides of the country. She’s been there for me through it all. She was my maid of honor at my wedding. She was my baby’s Godmother.
I wouldn’t allow my mind to embrace the possibility that she could be dead. I knew she lived in Queens and worked in Manhattan. Where in Manhattan? It’s so big. Please don’t let it be in the Financial district. I couldn’t imagine my best friend running for her life while the towers crashed around her. I saw the people jump from the buildings. It was the most awful thing I’ve ever witnessed. Please, don’t let that be her.
In the afternoon her mother called. The minute she said, “Marisa, this is Jessica’s mother. She’s okay,” I burst into tears. She told me that Jessica worked in Midtown, several miles away. Her cell service was sketchy. The first phone call she made was to her mother. She appointed her mother as the caller to every one she knew letting them know she was okay. The subway trains were not running. The buses were called home to their depots. She had to walk home to Queens.
She had no idea what would await her when she got home. Her roommate had a job interview at the Windows on the World restaurant that morning. It was at the top of one of the towers at the World Trade Center. She walked all the way home to Queens thinking her roommate was dead, praying that she somehow got out alive. Her roommate was home when she got there. Her alarm hadn’t gone off and she missed the interview. A few weeks later her roommate was in downtown Manhattan where she saw a Jewish lady screaming, “It smells like Auschwitz!” She had to move to LA she was so traumatized. She should have died. A broken alarm clock saved her life.
That whole week was a fog of pain pills, antibiotics, sweating, and watching the disaster unfold every single day. All the channels were running the story. There was nothing else to watch. It seemed vulgar to even think about watching a romantic comedy to escape the non-stop disaster-athon on the Television.
Major Giuliani said that we all became New Yorkers that Tuesday. I know I did.
Monday, March 15, 2003
I am standing at the gate overlooking Ground Zero. It is bigger than I can ever imagine. There are signs on the gate detailing the disaster. I read the signs and tears stream down my face. I remember what that Tuesday morning was like. I take pictures. I want to remember how I feel. It feels profane to do so. Grief hangs in the air. It is heavy. It is quiet like a graveyard. All of a sudden I hear singing. I look over my shoulder. There is a group of high school aged girls standing in a circle with their arms around each other. They are singing, “Amazing Grace.” They sound like a choir of angels. My tears come quicker and faster. I grab my best friend’s hand. We smile at each other as we look at the wreckage. We know how close we were to losing each other. There is a big hole in the ground where people used to live and work. Three thousand people died on this spot. How scary were their last moments? I saw them jump out of the buildings on TV. It was better than burning alive. Over the last 18 months I have heard story after story of people’s loved ones dying, or heroic acts of bravery. It is so real in this moment. It feels like we will never recover. Later, we take the Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty. She is like a beacon of hope calling to me. We will survive. We always have.
Two days later we dropped bombs in Iraq.
Friday, July 2, 2010
Jessica and I just got off the Liberty Harbor cruise. It was a very romantic sojourn. Too bad our respective significant others couldn’t have shared it with us. We walk around Battery Park. There’s a piano just sitting there asking to be played. Literally, there’s a sign on the piano that says, “Please Play Me.” A couple stand at the piano. They turn around and ask us if either one of us can sight read Chopin. Jessica immediately outs me as the piano player. I try Chopin. He’s too hard. They have Bach. I can sight read Bach. I played “Ave Maria” at my mother’s funeral. Bach and I are peeps. Another couple comes and wants to show off their jazz playing abilities. We clap at their first song, but when it’s obvious they intend to put on a performance, we leave.
We walk out of Battery park. We walk along the edge of Manhattan. Jessica lives along the East River way uptown. She never comes this far downtown, she says. I take pictures of the cool buildings. We start walking toward the financial district. The architecture of the buildings takes my breath away. Everything is closed. People have gone home for the weekend. Not even a restaurant or a cafe is open. And I am hungry. Without even realizing it, we walk closer to Ground Zero.
I can feel it.
I can feel the panic.
I can feel the fear.
I can feel what the people who worked down here felt on that Tuesday morning. I imagine these almost vacant streets full of people running for their lives. Confused, scared, horrified. I feel it all. We round the corner and I see the church. The church that survived the imploding of the towers while all the other buildings surrounding the area were damaged. We can’t help it. We walk closer to Ground Zero.
There it is.
It’s massive still. Not much progress as been made since I was standing at this same spot 7 years earlier. We walk past the fire station and next to the World Trade Center museum. We round the corner and there is a memorial on the side of the fire station. A picture hangs there with all the faces of police officers and fire fighters who gave their lives that Tuesday morning. It is overwhelming. I tell Jessica it’s okay to cry. She’s not much of a crier. She’s working on it. We walk around the entire site before we find the entrance to the subway we want. The air is still thick with grief. But the grief is lighter. We will never forget but we are healing. I take Jessica’s hand. We’ve been here before.
Life has gone on, and we are healing.