Yes and No

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November 15, 2017, Prescott-

A fellow blogger posted, this afternoon, that no one is entitled to rights, by decree.  Yes, and no:  Yes, a child has the right to a healthy diet, a safe and warm place to live, a solid, fundamental education and above all, loving adults by whom to be raised.  No, one does not have the automatic right to a mate, a good paying job, a full refrigerator and pantry or a large contingent of friends.  Those are things one earns by dint of character and hard work.

I was raised to know that my parents were  there for me, that I had responsibilities that went with being part of a family, that boys and girls were equal in the sight of God, and that didn’t go away when we reached adulthood.  As much as my immature, flawed self disliked it, I had to wait, a long time, to meet the love of my life.  My mature, flawed self does not regret the wait.

Sometimes, the price of the good in our lives is paid up front- through suffering and seemingly innumerable setbacks  Other times, the good comes first, and, as with the Biblical Job, torments and sorrows follow.  I have learned, especially from my Native American ancestors, that hard times make one stronger and good times make one secure enough to withstand the next set of hard times.  After 600-800 years of collective difficulty, Native Americans are still here.  After 500 years of oppression and distrust, African-Americans are still here.  Woman, collectively, has endured millennia of being regarded as a subordinate being.  She is more present than ever.

Those who say each individual must earn certain rights and prerogatives are correct, to a point.  Let them also, however, consider what rights each man, woman and child has already earned, by dint of character, suffering and, yes, hard work.  To dismiss this, is to affirm the claim of the tyrant, the supremacist.

The A-Team

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May 17, 2017, Prescott-

In my twelve years of public education, 1956-1968, there were mostly competent educators, a few misfits and twelve stand-up, top flight professionals, who either were my teachers of record or served as mentors beyond the immediate classroom.

One, Miss Bernis Hanlon, passed on, over the weekend.  She was my fifth grade teacher, and one of two at the Felton School, Saugus, MA, who went above and beyond, when it came to building character.  It was largely Miss Hanlon’s influence that brought me out of my shell, had me at least approach a modicum of competence in a few sports and join the Boy Scouts.  She taught us that boys and girls, working together, accomplish three times as much, as the genders working separately.  She taught me that having a  then little-known disability (mild autism) was never an excuse for not doing one’s level best.  She built on the framework which my third grade teacher, the then Miss Joanne Nugent, had started.

Fast forward, to 1966-67, my Junior Year at Saugus High School.  I had survived junior high school, the awkwardness, the quirky behaviour, which had generated taunts from otherwise good people, and the fires of our eighth grade year.   Only the stalwart protection of Mr. Paul O’Brien, who died earlier this year, and Mr. Ron Ahern,  and the character education of the late Miss Gladys Fox,kept me on an even keel.  I had endured inept teachers, in three of my freshman classes.   I had mastered grammar and punctuation, with the guidance of Miss Miriam Kochakian, as a Sophomore. It was the junior year that brought Mr. John Quinlan and understanding of Algebra,  Mr. Bernard Hussey and a stellar United States History class, Mrs. Lillian Pittard Bisbee, and love of prose, and the renewed mentorship of Miss Hanlon, by then a colleague of Mrs. Bisbee and a full-on enthusiast of poetry and drama.   The two ladies set the stage for Mrs. Katherine Vande and the best creative writing instruction I have ever had (Senior English).

Miss Hanlon was an integral part of that A-Team of mine, and I can’t imagine how my life would have played out, without her presence.  I know she is smiling down on all of us whom she loved, with that reassuring, infectious Irish grin.

Not Like Animals

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April 6, 2017, Prescott-

On the television series, Chicago PD, Intelligence Sergeant Hank Voigt loves his people- family annd fellow detectives alike.  The show frequently addresses misuse of power, both by police and by miscreants.  Among the latter group’s most common misuses of power is rape.  Last night’s episode addressed the neurotic means to power, of the rapist.  As Sergeant Voigt inferred, his people don’t act like animals.

While it was playing, on network TV, seventy five of us, at the main campus of Yavapai College, were gathered to hear the testimony of a dozen women, and one man, who had suffered sexual assault and domestic violence.  They suffered at the hands of those whom they should have been able to trust:  Their fathers, husbands, siblings’ friends, step-parents.  Some got no support from their mothers, siblings, “close friends”, even counselors.

I have, as many of you know, been a counselor, at three different schools in this state.  I have seen all manner of human brutality, and have seen the best of human kindness. Strong women and girls have come to me for assistance,I believe them-then and now, and I have had their backs.  Caring boys and men have pitched in, and helped.  Then, there are the depraved, of both genders, whom I have helped put away.  One case, in particular, stands out: A well-connected individual violated a child, was arrested, and got some of his friends and neighbours to try to impugn my character.  He was tried and convicted, his friends found themselves dispersed, by the government agency which employed them (through no action on my part, by the way), and I continued to work at the school for several more years.

The thing is, as a good friend said recently, men and women need each other.  I have many women friends, of all ages, ethnicities, physical characteristics and marital statuses.  To my mind and in my heart, they, and the men who love them most, are family.  If anything happens to them, their husbands/boyfriends, children or grandchildren, it’s as if it has happened to one of my biological family members.  This goes double for my schoolchildren, but that is a whole other ball of wax, given the protocol under which I work.

People who beat others, devalue others, torment others, have a mindset in which control is paramount.  Co-operation, in their twisted view, exists only for the purpose of accomplishing their agenda.  This is largely the province of men, though I know of several women who have followed the same path.  Little by little, case by case, their victims are stepping forward.  They are learning strength, they are learning to speak out, to walk away and to heal.

In this heart, and in many others, they are loved.

The Road to 65, Mile 311: Role Models

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October 4, 2015, Prescott-  I went to view the film, “The Martian”, this evening, it being one of three offerings that pique my interest, among the films being shown at our local Picture Show Cinema.  I like that theater, because of the $5 Senior tickets.  It is always crowded, as the General tickets are also economical.

“The Martian” focuses on Matt Damon’s character, and his solitude on Mars.  An equally interesting backflow is the depiction of two strong women astronauts- the Commander (Jessica Chastain- always a force of nature) and the Engineer (Kate Mara).  The men on the crew, including Damon’s character, look upon these two as equals, if not superiors.

I’ll not say anything further about the film.  It’s too much worth seeing on your own.  The thoughts it generated in me were that we have finally reached the time, as a species, when gender should have nothing to do with limiting who is a role model for whom.  A strong woman is vital to the self-concept of young girls, AND there is much that boys can take away from her example.  This shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.  Girls have looked up to men, as character models and teachers, for hundreds of years.

When I was at Hope Fest, yesterday, the Security Team was led by a young woman, who stood 5’1″.  She had gravitas, a very strong sense of command.  This is the sort of presence that will, over time, serve to erase sexism and misogyny.  I have written, previously, of a time when my 50-year-old self worked under the supervision of an 18-year-old woman, who simply had deep knowledge of the particular situation, and was worthy of every ounce of respect I mustered.  I would not have done well in that situation, without her leadership.

We are entering  a fine New Age.