Monday, December 25, 2006

Justice Too Long Delayed is Justice Denied, Martin Luther King, Jr.

The following is my Letter to the Editor printed in my local newspaper, The Newport (R.I.) Daily News for the December 23-24, 2006 edition on page A-10.

Native Americans again betrayed by government

It is time for admitting the injustices that we as a nation and a state have done and still do to the Americans who were here first.

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down the request of the Narragansett Indian Tribe to consider overturning the lower court ruling against them with the state of Rhode Island. Apparently according to a treaty the Indian Tribe signed – their land legally is not sovereign land, as other Indians’ lands are. The history of broken treaties with the Indians and the United States government, from the beginning to this day is appalling. When the treaties were broken – it ALWAYS fell in the favor of the government and never the Indians.

The Indians have been betrayed repeatedly by a government built on land stolen from them. The Declaration of Independence states “the inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an indistinguished Destruction of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions” imposes an unjustifiable description of the natives who were forced to fight to protect their established ways of life AND their land. Genocide of the Indians was authorized by those that came to this land as immigrants. Do you suppose the Indians wished they had united and built a fence to keep out immigrants? Injustice is a one-word sum total of the treatment of the Indians by the government.

A class-action lawsuit, Cobell v. Norton was filed on June 10, 1996, in U.S. District Court to force the federal government to account for billions of dollars belonging to approximately 500,000 American Indians and their heirs, and held in trust since the late 19th century. This money is missing. The money has been lost by the very federal agencies that were responsible to care for the funds belonging to Indians. Through document discovery and courtroom testimony, the case has revealed mismanagement, ineptness, dishonesty and delay by federal officials. Leading U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth declared their conduct "fiscal and governmental irresponsibility in its purest form”. This case has not been resolved to this day.

Putting myself in the shoes of the Indians, I would feel betrayed by a government that stands on the values expressed in the Declaration: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal …with certain unalienable Rights . . .” History would indicate that the reason the treaty between the State of Rhode Island and the Tribe, in regard to Narragansett Indians’ Smoke Shop, was upheld in court and NOT broken - is because to do so, favored the government and NOT the Indians.

I propose that the strength of a country is evidenced by the willingness to face and acknowledge the errors of its ways. It is time for admitting the injustices that we as a nation and a state have done and still do to the Americans who were here first. It would provide a turning point where the healing could begin. The Indians should not continue to be held hostage by racism institutionalized by law.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Family And Strangers

Women in refugee camp in Chad

Darfuri child with gunshot wound

Al Geer Camp for displaced persons bulldozed by Sudan government

Refugees in Menawashi Darfur refugee camp where 7,000 family members came within a few days

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Today, family members hurt me by simple betrayal behaviors while a person, no relation, made me feel special.

I thought about this throughout the day. The Family effect: Mostly, about the hurt, the anger, that moved from disbelief to rational acceptance of “that’s who THEY are” and how to handle it. Then I struggled with: Is this something to write in this public forum? I don’t really need to blog out my personal life to get things straight in my heart and mind, because I have written a private journal for the last 34 years. This thing with my “growing up” family today felt personal and private. But mostly because this was something that included someone in my life that I have so far chosen NOT to speak about on any of my blogs. I did ask his permission last night to talk about him here and he gave it to me, but still I’m not ready to cross that threshold today. So suffice it to say, I choose to share the part that I feel okay with in this public forum. The things I choose to share here have to pass some tests in my mind:
Is it my truth?
Am I okay with the people I talk about possibly “hearing” my words?
Would it maybe help someone else by hearing me say it?

The “no relation person” effect: This actually should have balanced out my day, but somehow the family stuff is always tougher to get a grip on. . . and get back my balance. I have a talk therapist, who is female, striking, smart and has been around the block enough to have some life experience wisdom - who validated my puzzling feelings about the family behaviors shaking my emotional stability. She put it this way, “they jerk the rug you’re standing on”. After hearing that, I had her repeat it – then thought yes, that’s what it feels like.

The person, no relation, was Dr. Nomate Kpea, my dermatologist. This doctor takes 3 and 4 months in advance to get an appointment. The thing is – he’s that special – so I do it. So do others. I don’t normally like doctors. But Dr. Kpea is lovable. He lives here in Rhode Island, but still goes back to his home country in Africa to perform his Chiefly duties, since his father passed away. He and I talk politics. His view is so international, not tunnel vision, and so well-informed. Today, he told me he recently spoke at the United Nations and has been asked to return to talk about the oil companies who irresponsibly go into Nigeria, do their extraction of oil and leave pollution behind.

When Dr. K walks in the room, he makes you feel good just with his wonderful exuberant personality. He knows of my activism work for Rwanda, Darfur, Chad. He walked in this morning, greeting me with “Have you talked to your African friends lately?” “How is it going saving the world, one person at a time?” When he left the room, he was telling everyone on his staff that I was saving the world one person at a time. When he wrote a generous check for fund raisers that I threw last summer for a women’s center in Nyamata, Rwanda, he wrote on the check “To Help Save the World”. And a personal note enclosed read “ May God be with you in the work to save the world in a small way. Love, Dr. Kpea”.

How is it that people met by chance in my life, see something in me, welcome it and make me feel blessed, humbled and special all at once and those who are family make me feel alienated and small?

I know I’m not unique in this.

I Thank the Universe for the Kindness of Strangers in my life.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

BROTHERS AND SISTERS "Little" Sister AND How We Are Accepted Inside Our Family

I lo-ove the TV show, Brothers and Sisters on ABC, that airs Sunday nights at 10:00 p.m.

This entry is my reaction to fans of the show over at abc.go.com since the episode of “Light the Lights”.


How We Are Accepted Inside Our Family

“Light the Lights” episode of Brothers and Sisters aired on Dec 10, 2006

Here is my response to the bloggers who felt the writing of Paige was too emotional, maudlin and where this takes my thinking.

How we respond to anything has as much to do with what WE bring to the “scene” as what the “scene” brings TO us. Children aren’t all the same, they are individuals, just like adolescents, young adults and the rest of us . . . children, in grown-up bodies. I disagree with objections by some bloggers’ claims. These include the criticism of maudlin and overly sweet scene writing with Paige, Paige’s acting and the too-much-time spent on a child within the context of Brothers and Sisters’ TV family. The Walker family obviously treat the Walker real-age children as equals in relation to the “importance” meter. My thinking is that children need to be allowed to be themselves . . . anything they feel is right . . . feelings can’t be wrong. At abc.go.com, Brothers and Sisters writers’ blog, a few fans have been outspoken with their dissatisfaction and here I would like to give my extended thoughts. Maybe, the criticisms might be valid if family could exist without children of children-age-children as a part of the whole family. But in truth, children and grandchildren are a part of this thing – family. And how we treat them inside the family says a lot about who we are. Are we, the viewers, so controlling and narcissistic that we demand a sterile portrayal of the Walker family of only adult Brothers and Sisters?

And creativity must be given room to be or it dies. The effect of fans picking apart bits and pieces of a creative production is more self-serving than positive. Do we really want the creators, writers and producers of this REALLY Good Show to have to second guess themselves as they work on these wonderful character developments and story lines? Not all fans agree with one another, so which ones are we asking “those in control” to take to heart? Creativity doesn’t do well while feeling controlled and stifled. You must feel free to be able to create. You can’t clip the metaphorical wings of a creative person and then ask them to soar. I’m thinking maybe, we the fans, could find a more realistic perspective on what we ask of this show to do for us.

Back to the Paige issues . . .

Children can be a diverse mix of characteristics and gifts. They can be precocious, wise be beyond their years, sophisticated or not and a host of other things that we all carry into our adult years. But one thing they are better at, than we are, is to be close to who they REALLY ARE, less pretentious and closer to the truth. Their truth. They are closer to their REAL feelings. And they can admit they don’t know something and pose questions openly IF they are lucky enough to have that welcomed within the context of family. That is where they learn that it is right and it is okay to be fully who they are. That is where we all learn that it is safe to be ourselves, OR NOT. Children will and do ask simple and to-the-point questions such as “Why am I a child who was given diabetes?” Didn’t any of us – adult children – ever ask these kinds of questions as we were developing our identity? If you are a child who knows you are gay, today, do you ever ask the question, “Why me?” Or do you go right to accepting it and being bold to put yourself out there? I doubt that happens a lot. I can only imagine, being that I am straight, but my intuition feels there probably is a lot of questioning,confusion and anxiety going on. Would anyone like to speak to this?

As a child, I had my own crosses to bear. And I had simple but heart-wrenching questions. I cried through them. I stuffed them. And I had no mother, father, grandmother, sister, brother, uncle or any other person who provided me with the safe place to pose these questions. It was painful. And it didn’t have to be so painful. But when we don’t have people in our lives who are at the ready to give us that wonderful place of comfort and space to breathe freely enough to have our concerns attended to – it can be lonely, empty, cold, painful and dangerously insular.

I would think that anyone who has to grow up feeling different in any way would have the capacity to understand and feel empathy for a child with questions, no matter how maudlin or flat it is to us – “the old children”.

I didn’t find Paige, anything, other than Paige. She is a sweet, thoughtful and a somewhat witty little girl. Personally, I think she holds her own quite well among the established and adult actors on Brothers and Sisters. She is a child. Are we asking her to be an adult in a child’s character? And the protectiveness and overreaction of Grandma Nora was okay for my believability range.

I simply don’t agree with the fuss over the treatment of Paige’s character, role and the amount of time spent on the window into her mind, her questioning and her spirit. As well, I don’t object to the attention given to Kevin’s situation, having to grow up and know he was gay as a child. I welcome thinking about how difficult it was for him. Being a child. Knowing he wasn’t the boy that fit the mold expected by the rest of the family, his world, as well as his broader world at school and all else. And in the same vein, I welcome the child of Paige and her search for her truth whether it be about her Jewish knowledge or her acceptance of a lifetime illness of diabetes. Children shouldn’t be required to be what we need them to be. They simply should be allowed to be. Who she or he is. Without imposing upon them our needs for what they should be.

For me, when I was a little girl, I was never encouraged to be me. . . with all of my colorful colors. I felt suffocated. When I told my brother that once, well into my adult years, he was surprised that I felt this and said that he had also felt suffocated. As a young child, adolescent and beyond, I was and have been told what to think, what to say, how to act toward others, what to believe, when I am wrong according to someone else’s belief standards – and very poignantly given the message that my role was to be invisible and be the source of happiness for ____________. This is quite a public forum. My name is not on this blog but is easily found out in webspace. So it takes a lot to open up like this. My intent is not to hurt my family members by opening up and being truthful in these blog entries. But I decided within this last year of my life to live fully in my truth. The mantra that I created for myself is:

Live in the light of truth

Truth is your strength

Living in your truth is your integrity

Anxiety can’t live where truth is your guide.

I love your strength

I love your truth

I love your integrity.

I got tired of being me without the total freedom to be all of me.

I found the only way to have peace and get rid of the anxiety created in me - from always waiting to be accepted by my family - was to be willing to live in my truth. . . Whether it lined up with my family members’ code of expectations of me or not. And I knew where this “living in my own truth” is – it is in the or not.

It isn’t easy being a kid. It gets harder every single year. Kids today have so much to deal with. Things that I didn’t have to deal with when I was a kid. This means they have more to handle and more pressures than my generation without the advantage of time-worn skills honed from years of the Education of Life. I just don’t get why a child’s confusion and questioning of what is eating them shouldn’t be given the level of importance that Paige’s was in the episode “Light the Lights”.

Having taught tens of thousands of kids from age 5 – 13 years old in the public schools, I had a variety of situations and personalities that crossed my path. Children from abusive homes, foster children who believed they were at fault for their parents’ failures to parent them and who parented their own parents out of necessity, children left alone for days, children who came to school every day after being molested by a brother, and then the children who were catered to and given way too much, as well as the emotionally healthy children AND all those children who tried to ACT like they were one of the emotionally healthy children, but they carried secrets in their hearts.

None of us should be required to carry secrets. It is carrying the secret that can kill us. And yet so many families require children to keep the family secrets. My family’s secret is that we can’t talk to one another about feelings, if they are feelings to do with one another. There it is. This is brave of me to say here. Because my family is supposed to look perfect. But it is broken. I made a conscious decision in August of this year to be honest. I felt it was time to step out of the shadow of my family’s secret. And it set me free. I love my life now because I live that decision out. I imagine it is, in a small way, like a gay person coming out of the closet. I am out of my closeted life. I had the talk with the-main-family-person that stood in my way of fully being me and though it was tough and raw and I received ugly words – I left free. I walked away believing I did the best I could expressing my feelings. I had my self-respect. I said my truth without meanness or malice and though it was not received in the way intended, I knew that I did the part that I had control over and the rest was not mine to own. It has liberated me like nothing else has ever done.

I hope you who read this have found or will find your way to your freedom. Having lived through dark periods in my personal life, I now walk with a light step, with a smile on my face all the time and when someone asks me that question that never really wants a truthful pouring-out-of-the-heart answer, the question of “How are you?” I quickly, impulsively, truthfully, answer, “I’m just great!” And I mean it. There was a period of time that I dreaded when people asked me that question. I have never been more at peace or happy or so “at home” in myself. Truthfulness and peacefulness come only with the other.

When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown,
faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen:

Either you will be given something to stand on


You will be taught to fly.

Edward Teller

When you stand

Stand in your truth

And you will fly.

No blog entry of mine can go by without mentioning Matthew Rhys. I love every scene that he is in as Kevin Walker. And I do miss Luke MacFarlane as Scotty Wandell and Kevin’s lover.

If you want to know more about my musings and affections for Matthew as Kevin and Luke as Scotty, go over to my blog at tvguide.com as ilovemylife.