Dangerous Times

Dangerous Times

Things need said that most people don’t want to hear, particularly about the state of the USA right now. Actually, better put would be the DSA, as in Divided States of America. Since January 2017, particularly, January 20, 2017, the country has been divided like such not seen since the 1800s. The rift is getting even larger the longer Dolt 45 is in office and the GOP is in power.

The rift is not simply a liberal versus conservative one. It is a racial one. It is a religious one. It is an economic one. It is an educational one. One can even go as far to say it is a moral one.

America was founded with an ideal of equality for all people. Sure, at the actual founding, the likely view was wealthy, white, male landowners. However, up until a year ago, it came to include women, children, people of all religions and races, and people of all economic classes.

The election of 2016 bought a radical and dangerous change to the USA. A candidate who pandered to a racist, xenophobic, and populist agenda somehow won the Electoral College. While it is likely due to heavy interference from Russia, it brought out an element of American society that most people hoped had gone away. That element is the ultra-conservative, nationalist, white supremacist, racist one. A dangerous turn that the world has seen before in the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and other dictators.

Now, many who voted for Dolt 45 will claim they are not racist. After all, they have friends who are not white.

They’ll claim they are not homophobic, because they have friends who are part of the LGBTQIA community.

They’ll claim they love all people, yet say they want refugees and immigrants—ones much like their own ancestors—to be denied entry into the country or be deported from it.

They’ll even claim to be religious or for religious freedom, but what they fail to say is that their parameters for that religious freedom must be their own narrow interpretation of it.

They say they want people to work for a living, yet many of them don’t. Some even have the audacity to live off the kindness of the same people they villify. Those liberals, they say.

Those who support Dolt 45 and his party are nothing more than accomplices in the crimes against their fellow countrymen and humanity that are being perpetrated by the current Administration. In their hearts, all they are about is that the “mean black guy” who wanted equality for all and a healthy relationship with other countries is no longer in office and the woman who won the popular vote isn’t in office because of her emails.

They are nothing more than people like those who stood silent while Hitler and the Nazis took over Germany in the 1930s. Even those who survived The Holocaust agree. They are seeing history repeat itself. They have and do continue to warn us, but very few seem to be listening.

These are very dangerous times and they look to get more dangerous for humankind both in the USA and out of it.

Yet One More: A poem for Parkland et al

Yet One More

Yet one more shooting
Followed by more thoughts and prayers
To be followed by more rhetoric
With no action anywhere.

Blame guns
Blame the politicians
Blame the NRA
Blame the parents
Blame the system
Blame and blame away.

Refuse to speak of it
Refuse to see the cause
Refuse to take an action
Refuse to take a pause.

Say we need more God
Say we need more guns
Say we need more safety
Say we need more done.

Our words, they hold no meaning
Our words fall empty at our feet
Our words are simply worthless
Our words, they have no meat.

More lives lost through inaction
More lives lost whilst we debate
More lives lost through no reaction
How many more must meet that fate?

We must awaken once again
When tomorrow’s sun breaks the plane
We must rise up and do something now
Or be forced to mourn again.

Speech/Letter To A School Board about Abstinence-Only Education

I come to you this evening as a former teacher, parent, and concerned community member to speak against the present sex education curriculum that emphasizes abstinence only. To put it simply, it does not work. While there is nothing wrong with abstinence, it needs to be seen as a tool for preventing the spread of STDs and unwanted pregnancies and not as the only tool we give to our children. You wouldn’t try to build a house with only a screwdriver, so why would you teach a student that the only way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and STDs is only through abstinence? It makes no sense.
I am a former teacher of both English and health in the states of Florida and South Carolina. I taught at both the middle school and high school levels. In both of those states, abstinence only education is the norm. I personally taught students, 7th and 8th graders in particular, who already had one or two children of their own by the time they reached my classroom. At the high school level, I witnessed the same pattern. Part of this was due to the educational system failing them by only offering abstinence as a way of avoiding getting pregnant. While abstinence is the only way to absolutely guarantee not getting pregnant, it is not the only way. When I saw groups such as the one that comes into our schools come into schools where I taught, it was cringeworthy to say the least.
For one, they painted the girls as the cause for abstinence failure while leaving the boys off the hook. Much like the recent gum demonstration by the group within our schools, female students were painted as promiscuous seductresses who lead boys into having sex as they had sex with one boy, but saw no reason why they should not have sex with another. The males are somehow always seen as the victims. This is not only misogyny, but also mixes in fundamentalist Old Testament blame for the fall of man due to women. Last I checked, it takes both genders to have sex that can possibly result in pregnancy.
Second, as mammals and primates, we humans are naturally curious about our bodies and those of others around us. Teenagers have been experimenting with their sexuality most likely since the dawn of the human race. Many times, it starts as self-exploration, but it can evolve into exploring it with someone else. When and if that occurs, we owe it to our children to give them the tools aside from abstinence to practice safe sex. This means to tell them about contraceptive methods and, if possible, make them easily available for them to obtain. If we do not, they will not know about them or, if they do happen to learn about them, will be too scared to obtain them. In doing so, they will place themselves at risk for an unplanned pregnancy and possibly STDs.
Third, one of the most ludicrous things that the program presently being used suggests is the idea of “reclaimed virginity”. Hate to break it to you, but that is not possible. Once an individual has sexual intercourse, he or she is no longer a virgin. He or she cannot become a virgin again. Maybe celibate, but not a virgin. A girl’s hymen does not miraculously regrown nor does the semen somehow re-enter the boy. An amusing anecdote to this is a conversation I overheard two of my 7th graders having one day. It was shortly after the group there had performed their “education” for the students. One girl told her friend that she was no longer a virgin. The other asked who she had sex with. The first girl responded that she hadn’t had sex, but simply used a tampon, so she was no longer a virgin. They looked up and saw that I was standing behind them. Having built a rapport with my students, I asked them to remain after class. I called in a female teacher from an adjoining room and we explained to them that virginity could only be lost through having sexual intercourse. While I haven’t heard the claim made by the local group, it is made by some. That type of misinformation, aside from being misinformation, can also cause harm to a student psychologically and possibly even socially. Can you imagine if it had gone around a school of 1500 that someone was no longer a virgin when that was not the case?
Fourth, that brings me to the whole shaming that the abstinence only education produces. Making students sign a pledge to remain abstinent and even going as far as encouraging purity rings sets many students up for failure and ridicule from their peers. Well, at least the female students. Male students still get away with breaking them under the whole “boys will be boys” excuse malarkey. Girls face the brunt of the shaming when it comes to this area between self-talk if she should engage in sex to the social gossip that goes on within our schools. The teenage years are painful enough without adding shame to them. An article in Psychology Today from September 2017 brings up the practice of “slut shaming” that is prevalent in these abstinence only programs. One example they gave was one that I personally witnessed as a teacher where the group presenting had each student write whether or not she or he were a virgin. No names were given. The presenter made a similar comment made in the article by saying that “all the students who were not virgins likely had STDs and wouldn’t finish high school”. Seriously?!? The students I mentioned at the beginning of my talk all graduated or earned their GEDs, by the way.
Fifth, these abstinence only programs ignore that there may be some students who are sexually active already and, thus, in doing so, do not give them access to contraceptive methods or ways to prevent STDs. That was also backed up by the article from Psychology Today.
Many students cannot rely on their parent(s)/guardian(s) to educate them about sex or contraception. It is up to the schools to do this. Abstinence only education fails to do this and, by failing to do this, it fails our children. We cannot have groups like the one being used to teach our children. It would be much better to have the local health department send someone to do this or even reach out to the Education, Biology or Medical programs in local universities like Syracuse, LeMoyne, or SUNY Upstate to send in professionals to teach our youth. Theology and religious based programs do not belong in the public schools. If parents want them, then the parents should either have their children in private religious schools or arrange for their faith leaders to teach them and exempt them from science-based sex education. That is what this all boils down to after all. Yes, abstinence is the only sure fire way to prevent pregnancy and reduce the chances of students developing and STD or STI. However, it is not the only way and our students deserve all the tools they may need rather than just a screwdriver.
Thank you.

Works Cited

Mintz, Laurie. “Abstinence-Only Sex Ed: Harmful? Unethical?”. Psychology Today. September 5, 2017. .

The Need for Touch

The Need for Touch

“Hand over hand
Doesn’t seem so much
Hand over hand
Is the strength of the common touch”-Rush

Humankind needs touch. Not simply in a sexual manner, but in general as well. It helps us connect with one another and the world. Touch is energy. When we touch, we share energy that permeates all nature. That’s why there is so much more to massage, hugs, and other forms of touch that bring energy and even healing to us. The ancients knew this, but modern society has forgotten. We could heal so much of the pain and suffering in the world if we would simply touch more.

We, in the West, have become more fearful of touch. We’ve even come to the point where we believe all touch either has a sexual component to it or is simply bad It’s not, expect when that touch is forced or coerced. Rather, touch is necessary. Humanity cannot survive without touch. Psychological studies have shown what the lack of touch does to a sentient being. Take, for example, the baby monkeys used in psychologist Harry Harlow’s experiments.

In his experiments, he separated rhesus monkey babies from their mothers shortly after birth. He gave them a choice of a “mother” made of bare wire and one of the same bare wire covered with a soft cloth. His experiment first found “that monkeys who had a choice of mothers spent far more time clinging to the terry cloth surrogates, even when their physical nourishment came from bottles mounted on the bare wire mothers”(Herman). He went so far as to make it so that both types of surrogates provided milk, but still noticed that the “Monkeys who had soft, tactile contact behaved quite differently than monkeys whose mothers were made out of cold, hard wire”(Herman). Taking it further, he introduced “strange, loud objects, such as teddy bears beating drums” and found that the “monkeys raised by terry cloth surrogates made bodily contact with their mothers, rubbed against them, and eventually calmed down”, while those raised by the bare wire ones “threw themselves on the floor, clutched themselves, rocked back and forth, and screamed in terror”(Herman). It was the touch that made the difference. A soft, caring touch created a calming and stable effect on the monkeys. He tied the results of these experiments to children in adoption situations versus those in institutionalized situations (Herman).

This was not lost on the Chinese as in many of their orphanages they have connected them to senior living establishments to facilitate touch between the babies and the elderly knowing that both will benefit from touch. While not ideal, it still has a positive effect on babies when it comes to their later adjustment when adopted from the orphanages.

We date, pair with someone or with multiple partners, and marry to experience touch on an intimate level. Without it, relationships and marriages suffer. While the leading cause of divorce is attributed to financial reasons, I’d hazard to guess that lack of intimacy is either second or an underlying reason. Perhaps one reason for premarital sex is the need for touch with someone aside from family members. In teens, it may be to simply connect with someone who is going through similar changes and explore touch in ways that will help them understand their future mates. It is obvious that self-touch occurs often as a way of exploring what feels good, so it would follow that sharing touch with another person flows from that.

We need touch. A relatively recent therapy, Cuddle Therapy, shows this need is rising. In it, people pay a professional cuddler to simply hold them for a certain time frame. There is no sex and both the cuddler and person being cuddled are fully clothed. It is simply being touched and held that matters. Ada Lippin, CEO and co-founder of Cuddlist, puts it this way:

“We’re touch-deprived, and most of us don’t know it consciously. All we know is that there’s loneliness and stress and a deep sense of missing out. We feel this because there’s a biochemical yearning for something that is missing in our lives. And there is something missing: touch and the connection with others that it fosters”(Cuddlist).

Biblically, the numerous accounts of Jesus healing others came through touching them. There is even an instance where he was unable to go to the person needing healed and simply sent his healing energy to the person and healed them.

There is an energy within touch or even the proximity of someone touching us that can heal us. This is the basis of a form of massage called Reiki wherein the both the person and the practitioner are fully clothed. The practitioner places his or her hands either on the patient or just above the patient and allows the energy of touch to help heal the body naturally. It needs noted that most responsible practitioners of Reiki also know when modern medicine is necessary and consider their form of help to be used in conjunction with modern medicine. Yet, there is a certain power in the simple hand positions used in Reiki that helps both the patient and the healer feel better.

Touch can heal the world. Touch is very powerful. Touch is what the world needs more of to heal us all.

Works Cited

Cuddlist. Https://cuddlist.com

“Hand over Fist Lyrics.” Lyrics.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2018. Web. Feb. 2018. .

Herman, Ellen. Harry F. Harlow, Monkey Love Experiments. The Adoption History Project. University of Oregon. 24 February 2012. http://pages.uoregon.edu/adoption/studies/HarlowMLE.htm. 7 February 2018.

The People vs Big Pharma

People vs Big Pharma

There is a large outcry from the American public when it comes to the healthcare crisis in the country. One of the largest contributing factors is the cost of medications. The cost of medicines in the US is on the increase and the vast majority are only partially covered by insurance, if even that. Most people are familiar with the story of the Epipen that went from a cost of $100 for two pens in 2007 to a cost of $600 for those same two pens in 2016. Yet, that is simply the tip of the pharmaceutical iceberg. What about other common medicines prescribed for everyday use in order to keep people alive? They are also increasing at an alarming rate all pretty much due to the companies that make them placing profit over people.

A friend of mine is a diabetic. In December 2016, she paid $250 for a bottle of insulin which she goes through in about a week. A couple of days ago, that same bottle cost her $305. That’s a 22 percent increase in 5 months. Simply do the math on this. There are 52 weeks in each year. At $250 per week, that’s $13,000 a year. At $305 per week, that increases to $15,860. This is for medicine that keeps my friend and countless others alive, and that’s just for the medicine and with her having insurance. In total, she say it costs her over $2,000 a month for supplies. $24,000 a year. While the cost of insulin in the U.S. varies depending on brand and type from a low of $24 for a 10ml bottle of Novolin N (GoodRx.com) to a high of $688 for 5 solostar pens of Soliqua 100/33 (GoodRx.com), that still makes for an average price of $356 to keep someone alive, plus the costs of other supplies needed. If that is a weekly cost, that is $18,512 per week just for insulin and that’s only an average. Head to Canada and the average cost ranges from $0 to $3,427 per year for everything (healthydebate.ca).

Take a closer look at that comparison using my friend’s estimates per month. It costs her over $24,000 a year while someone in Canada could pay $3,427 per year for the same or similar treatment. That’s almost a 700% difference in cost. Just to stay alive.

So, why isn’t the cost coming down in the U.S.? Free market dictates cost or, as my friend relates from her pharmacist, “…the drug companies can charge what they want because they know desperate people will pay what they ask.”

Since when should people have to choose between staying alive or not due to their having a medical condition that was genetic?

Since the idea of higher profits exceeded the call to help others. I’d hazard to guess the average pay of the CEOs of the big pharmaceutical companies hasn’t dropped and that it likely increased as the price of the medications increased.

Why? Ask your elected official who received a big donation from a big pharmaceutical company why. The government has the ability to regulate the cost of medications, especially life sustaining or life saving ones. They choose not to in order to cater to their donors. This is not simply wrong, it is immoral.

Speaking of the morality of healthcare, some GOP politicians have even said that if people led better lives or were more religious, then they wouldn’t have a medical condition. It doesn’t take a physician to say that their way of thinking is bogus. Yet, it is far more than bogus as it is sinister. Genetic conditions happen. It’s no fault of a person that he or she develops diabetes or leukemia or cystic fibrosis or any other disease that has been shown to be genetic.

People need to stand up against this immorality! Healthcare and affordable medications are a right, not a privilege to extend to only a select few who have the means to afford it. There is no reason why any developed country in the 21st Century should have people who have to choose between paying bills and affording medical care.

I have lost friends due to lack of healthcare and have many more who are ill and faced with financial burdens that they should not be facing in a country of such wealth.

Call, write, email, or visit (or all of the above) your elected officials, especially your Senators as they work to revise the horrible Trumpcare bill that was passed by the House of Representatives. Do the same with the pharmaceutical companies. Let them know that we demand that they make medications affordable for all people. We can make a difference, but we have to speak out to do so! Silence will not enact change, only actively seeking and demanding change will.

Democracy in Crisis

Democracy in Crisis

Wake up, America! Our democracy is in a state of crisis!

The news has reported that our elected officials have had people arrested for asking them questions about policy. There have been people jailed for free speech. There have been two people fired for investigating the ties between Russia and the current administration. There have been members of the current administration who claim that it is wrong to question the actions of the president or any elected or appointed leader of our country. There have been threats against reporters and other members of the media who question or comment on the wrongdoings of the current administration.

This is not how a democracy is supposed to work, but rather it’s how dictatorships work. The United States of America is not a dictatorship!

It is time, past time actually, that We, the People of the United States of America, for us to rise up and protest in a persistent, peaceful manner to get answers to the questions that are not being answered. We know that Russia tampered with the last election in order to get their preferred candidate into office. There is no longer any doubt about that. However, how deep does the deception of our last election run? That hasn’t been answered and, if the current administration has its way, it will not be answered.

If the current administration is innocent, why are the constantly trying to keep an investigation from occurring? Anyone with an ounce of common sense would realize that the fastest way to clear any doubt is to have an independent and thorough investigation that brings out the truth. Yet, every time an investigation gets close to revealing that truth, the current administration acts in such a way as to stop or delay the outcome of the investigation.

That simply smacks of illegal collusion and treasonous actions on their part!

To put it more simply, if innocent of any wrongdoing, then let an independent investigation be done to prove it. It is obvious through all the delays and mis-directions being given that there is guilt. That guilt does nothing but disgrace our country and, with it, the current administration.

Elected officials are supposed to represent us, whether we voted for them or not. In their refusal to listen to the will of the People, they are in dereliction of their duty to serve us! We must not allow them to continue to ignore us. We must demand justice and demand it now! The time for complacency is long past. Now, is the time for action from the People!

I will never advocate for violence, as I feel it is the absolute last resort of a civilized society to use violence as the means to an end. We are a democracy where civilized discussion of the issues should be encouraged and exhausted before any thought of an uprising should even be remotely considered. Yet, we are seeing our rights being torn from us by people who have lost sight of who they represent. If our elected officials no longer represent us, then we need to demand that they do or remove them from office as provided within our rights guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States of America.

No one in our country is above the law! Not the President, not Congress, and not any elected official. I have heard and read comments from people outside of our country who cannot fathom why we are not actively protesting in the streets daily about the actions of our leaders. It is unfathomable that so many of us are sitting around in complacency while our rights are being stripped away, while our elected officials act in ways contrary to what is best for ourselves and our fellow countrymen, while there is action taken against our fellow humankind, and while there is proof that a foreign power has stolen our highest elected office. They cannot understand why we do not act.

Have we become so lazy to allow our elected officials to run roughshod against us?

Have we become so self-absorbed that as long as it does not affect us personally that we are willing to sit by idly and, therefore, become accomplices in the wrongs that are being perpetrated?

Have we become so ignorant that we refuse to seek the truth and rather believe whatever we hear without question?

Dammit, America, wake up before it’s too late!

We must act NOW!

We must Stand Up and be Heard!

We cannot afford to let the people elected to office simply do so without our input and if they act in contrary to what we want, to not demand they change or be removed from office!

It’s never inappropriate for reporters or even citizens to ask for answers and get them from our elected officials!

Our country was founded upon the belief that government should be of, by, and for the People!

Our Democracy is in Crisis and it is time for us to work together to get it out of that state of being. If we do not, then we are guilty of its demise and, with it, our own demise.

For the sake of all that is good and decent, please Wake up and take action to save our country Now!

Of Qu’rans and hijabs

Of Qu’rans and Hijabs

I recently made a deliberate study of aspects of Islam, namely the Qu’ran and the wearing of the hijab. I did this to get a better sense of the religion that is often demonized and ridiculed in the West. Much of the prejudices about Islam come from a lack of knowledge aside from sensationalized newscasts and misrepresentations of the religion based on a few people who hide behind Islam and commit acts of atrocity, acts which are against the teachings of the Islamic faith.

Now, as I’ve stated before in one of my earlier posts, Islam is a cousin to both Christianity and Judaism. In Islam, Jesus (pbuh) is seen as a prophet and the Messiah, but not as God. Islam’s respect of Jesus (pbuh) is evident in the phrase “peace be upon him” that is mentioned or written in abbreviated form of pbuh after mention of his name, like I have done here in this article. All three religions trace their lineage back to Abraham of the Torah/Old Testament with the Jewish and Christian religions basing theirs on Isaac and Islam basing theirs on his stepbrother Ishmael. I will not go further into their similarities at this point due to both having written about them before as well as that not being the topic of this article.

Instead, I wish to focus on two other aspects about Islam which are often brought up in an attempt to show the religion as being hostile, intolerant, and sexist: the Qu’ran and the wearing of the hijab.

I have spent time reading the Qu’ran. In fact, I made it a point to read a verse or a surah (chapter) from it each day during the Lenten season. From this and other readings I have done of the Qu’ran, I find it to be no more violent than the Torah/Old Testament of the Bible. There are mentions of attacking non-believers who attack first. Yet, there are also admonishments to not compel belief in anyone. That is, to put it another way, no one is forced to believe in the Islamic faith, unlike the door-to-door proselytizing that occurs with some sects of the Christian church. In fact, there are many verses that sound much like the Bible and seek to convey the same incidents.

When some individuals or groups state that the Qu’ran is filled with violence and calls for violence against non-Muslims, they seem to forget places within the Old Testament/Torah where there are calls for the Israelites to do the same, such as admonishments to kill entire cities in the name of Jehovah. The calls to violence in both the Torah/Old Testament and the Qu’ran are contextual to the time wherein they were written. They are not to be taken as modern day admonishments for believers.

Instead, the practices of Islam are based on what are known as the Five Pillars of Islam: The Profession of Faith (Shahadah), Daily Prayers (Salat), Almsgiving (Zakat), Fasting during Ramadan (Saum), and Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj). These bear resemblance to Judeo-Christian practices of reciting articles of faith, such as the Apostles Creed or Nicaean Creed; daily prayers or even the hours of prayer once used in the Catholic Church; works of charity; fasting during the 40 days of Lent; and the former practice of Christians who used to make pilgrimages to holy places or as many Jews do now to the Eastern Wall.

But what about the Islamic practice of jihad? What about it? Jihad simply means “the spiritual struggle within oneself against sin”. While some groups have used the term to engage in violence against others, that is not the true meaning nor is it sanctioned by the vast majority of Muslims. Muslims engage in personal jihad every day as they struggle to not commit sins against their faith. This is much like pretty much any religious person does as he or she strives to remain true to the tenets of his or her faith. So, there goes that argument.

The Qu’ran is filled with lovely sections that praise the Creator and the works the Creator has made, much like the Torah and the Bible are filled with similar sections.

My other topic is the hijab or scarf worn by some women who are Muslim. Many believe this is required by the Qu’ran, but it isn’t in the sense that many believe it is. The hijab or other head coverings are simply part of the Islamic faith for women to maintain a sense of modesty in dress. It is not that different from nuns who wear habits or Amish/Mennonites who wear bonnets. While there are some countries who impose the wearing of head coverings or full body coverings for women, they do not do this because it is required by the Qu’ran, but by their own set of moral or legal codes.

Women, particularly those living in the West, wear the hijab or other head coverings (shayla, khimar, chador, niqab, or burqa) for various reasons from believing their faith calls them to do so to a way to visibly express their faith to expressing their cultural identity or even to challenge the prevailing thought in the West that women who wear the hijab are somehow oppressed or silenced. There are also Muslim women who do not wear a head covering, but maintain their modesty in other ways. It’s a personal choice for the woman far more than a religious one. By the way, some Muslim men also wear had coverings for the same reasons, although they are not like the hijab. Even this is somewhat like the reason why some Jewish men wear yarmulkes or hats.

I hope this serves to enlighten my readers a bit about both the Qu’ran and the wearing of a hijab. If you have further questions, I suggest you contact your local mosque with a open mind and simply ask. Many mosques also hold open houses for non-Muslims to learn more about their Muslim neighbors.

The greatest defense against ignorance, prejudice, and fear is education. If more people take the time to learn about other religions and cultures, then the better our world becomes. Humankind has far more similarities than differences once you reach out and learn more about one another.

Peace-Salaam-Shalom