Monday, April 29, 2013

Obama is Not Jesus

I have a bumper sticker on my car it says. “Obama is not a dark skinned Socialist that gives away healthcare, you are thinking of Jesus”.  Evidently it didn’t sit well with someone at a recent soccer tournament. They left the following neatly penned response on my windshield:

“Nice bumper sticker, but please do not ever try to compare O Bummer to Jesus:

Would Jesus:

-Support abortion

-Work so hard to have the word “God” removed from government buildings and not allow it to be spoken the Democratic National Convention.

-Violate the Constitution just because the lame-stream media won’t hold him accountable.

-support Muslims

Try listening to some Christian radio shows.

NONE support Obama & his Marxist policies.

Vote for whomever you want, but he is a far cry from Jesus.”

There was so much that I wanted to say in response that I hardly knew where to start. Now that a week has past I think that I can organize my thoughts well enough to address them.

This sentiment was not made was not to compare President Obama to Jesus. It was made to make the point that Jesus might have believed that everyone is entitled to good, quality health care. Although I did not learn about Christianity and the teachings of Jesus from a radio station, the ministers and religious instructors that I had taught that Jesus cared for all people regardless of their socio-economic standing. It is said that he healed the sick. I’m pretty sure that he didn’t perform healings based on insurance coverage and I’m relatively certain that he didn’t accept Visa.

I don’t know if Jesus was a pro-lifer but I don’t really think that anyone is pro-abortion.  I think that those of us that support choice believe that abortions should be safe and legal. I don’t think that Jesus would have promoted hateful rhetoric or the killing of abortion doctors.

I cannot find one reliable source that indicates that Obama wants the word, “God” removed from government “ANYTHING”. I do know that The First Amendment to the United States Constitution written by our founding fathers mentions something about the separation of Church and State which would support the old adage “religion and politics do not mix”.

Regarding having “God” removed from the Democratic Convention?!?! This is an excerpt from  An Obama campaign official said President Obama personally requested that "God" be put back into the platform. "Why did they change that?" Obama said, according to the official, when he heard the word had been removed. 

Perhaps you would like to read the complete article it can be found here:

 Interestingly while researching those silly claims about Obama wanting God removed from government buildings I did find this silly article about Spooky Sightings of Black Eyed children. I think it is right up your alley.

You were vague about how Obama has violated the constitution. The problem with people who leave cowardly notes on cars instead of engaging in real conversation is that you don’t have the chance to qualify your ignorant remarks, sorry.

You mentioned supporting Muslims.  Now that is an issue that I know that Jesus could get behind. Again, I don’t get my facts about Christianity from scholarly sources like Christian radio as you suggest that I should but my understanding is that Christianity is based on the belief of love and unity. I am just about certain that Jesus would love all people, even Muslims. I want to be fair and loving like Jesus taught but that comment about Muslims, that was just stupid and bigoted. 

I was baptized as a Christian and attended Church regularly until I discovered this side of Christianity. Like my Mama always says, “If Christians like you represent Christianity then I would much rather be a Muslim”.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Senator Claire McCaskill Will Not Be Featured on Dancing With the Stars

Homecoming queen Claire McCaskill Dancing in 1970

My work as a English language trainer has given me an excuse to become less involved in local politics. I admit it. Short of voting in general elections, I have spent more time educating myself about world politics than I have local, state and US politics. I gave myself permission by rationalizing that if I can’t have a fairly knowledgeable conversation about what is going on in the world and more specifically in France, I probably won’t be taken very seriously professionally. The French like to remind me that the average American can’t locate France on a world map much less converse about French politics and given that I have a tremendously large ego, I could not allow them to define me with that generalization. I do have strong opinions about violence against women and gender equality but it wasn’t until a beloved friend and former local democratic volunteer coordinator reminded me that advocacy starts at the local level that I was bumped from my high horse and took another look at involvement.

On Friday I attended a National Women’s Political Caucus luncheon. Senator Claire McCaskill was the speaker and honestly, she rocked my world. In November of 2012, McCaskill was reelected to the US Senate winning  54% of the vote. Her opponent, Republican Todd Akin lost after the well-publicized remark, “Women who are victims of legitimate rape, rarely get pregnant”. Akin amazingly, got 39% of the vote. Libertarian, Jonathon Dine received 6% of the vote. McCaskill is currently one of only twenty female US senators, a groundbreaking high for the US.

Although I had a history of voting for Senator McCaskill  I honestly did not have a very personal connection to her. Frankly, I voted for her because she is a woman who represents my party and supports many of the same causes that I embrace. The woman that I saw speak is down to earth, witty, warm, dynamic and made me want to see her again and again. She has the ability to speak in a way which makes you feel connected, in a way which honestly, a man cannot speak to women. She speaks in a way that is genuine, intelligent and direct but strongly feminine. She is a woman that I respect. The women of the Kansas City NWPC refer to Senator McCaskill as “Claire” because they feel that she belongs to her constituents, and her constituents belong to “Claire”. After hearing her speak, I must say, she is also “my” Claire. I am a fan.

Claire spoke on the importance of women in the political process. She spoke candidly about her race against Todd Akin and the voter base in Missouri.  She said that in Missouri 20% of women are getting their news from sources such as MSNBC and 35% watch FOX news while the remainder watches Dancing With the Stars. Claire pushed my “Hot Button”. It has always been hard for me to understand why there are such a terrific number of women who are not more involved in legislation that affects their lives. I cannot comprehend the fact that women are so frequently the victims of violence and discrimination yet are not willing to take a stand in a meaningful way. I have serious issues with women, some of whom are my friends, who would rather get lost in mindless commercial television than invest their attention on the future. 

 After Claire’s speech she invited questions from the audience and called on me. This was my question:

The issue of violence against women is directly related to the issue of equality and in terms of women’s economic equality the US ranks #31 internationally. We are followed by Zimbabwe at #32.  How can we as women in the US truly have an opportunity for equality with this sort of ranking? 

Claire responded by saying that first we need affordable and dependable childcare.  Next she said that women need to learn to advocate for themselves professionally. They need to learn to ask for better salaries and raises. I was disappointed. I wanted something more. I wanted her to talk about the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. I wanted her to talk about women entrepreneurs and women in the boardroom. She didn’t.

Later that evening I thought about a conversation I had had earlier in the week. One of my learners is a former General in a branch of the French military. He told me a story that has haunted me all week. He said that at one time he worked on a Peacekeeping Mission in an unnamed country in Africa. They were preparing for the dangerous task of taking ground troops into a village where very young boys were armed and trained to kill. It was his job to prepare the soldiers for this emotionally dynamic situation. It was also his job to tell the soldiers that if a child drew a weapon they had no choice but to shoot the child and that neglecting to do so would not only risk the lives of fellow soldiers but of the success of their mission.  He concluded his story by saying that giving the soldiers permission to shoot eliminated all questions. Lack of clarity, he said, would weaken the self-confidence they needed to do their job efficiently. He said that in the end no weapons were fired, no lives were lost. He attributed this fact to the confidence with which the soldiers were armed.

I think that I can relate the story that the General told me to the advice that Claire offered, although I didn’t think about it at the time. I think that what Claire said was simple but true. Women need to ask for more and they need to expect more. Women need to identify what it is they want for themselves and create a mission. They need to empower themselves with facts and knowledge. Self-doubt and minimizing jeopardizes opportunity for others around them and puts the entire mission at risk. Arming themselves with the confidence is the trailhead to equality.

Senator McCaskill’s comment about watching Dancing With the Stars hit home. It was easy for me to point the finger at women who I think should be more focused on how politics effects their lives. Meanwhile I had become so fixated on big pictures that I’d overlooked the details. I can’t really stop the epidemic of violence against women in countries like Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh without acknowledging the problem in my own backyard.

For more information about the National Women’s Political Caucus please visit:

To learn more about violence against women in the US, please visit the following:
US Department of Justice Information on Violence Against Women:
The National Organization of Women:
US Department of Health and Human Services:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Legacy of Notes

I’m told that my grandmother was a trained concert pianist or maybe that is what I would like to remember that I heard. It explains a lot about my father whose love for music evoked a range of emotions from irritation to “awe” in his children. My father loved Opera and was compelled to listen to it much too loudly in the house on a Saturday morning when I would have preferred to have been sleeping or during dinner parties where his guest craned their necks to hear their dinner partners speak or worst of all in the car where I was captive audience in the back seat. My fondest memory however are those times when the music was not obnoxiously loud and I would see him with fingers laced behind his head, elbows out, legs extended straight in front of him, crossed at the ankles, sitting with his eyes closed and completely lost in a violin sonata.

I like to imagine that as a very young child he may have sat at his mother’s feet while she played the piano. I like to imagine her lanky body swaying to the music created by her fingers striking the keys that hit the piano strings that produced sweet music that floated about her Amsterdam flat. I like to imagine that it was there that my father first learned to transport himself into another consciousness watching his mother’s feet instinctively touch the piano pedals. At those moments, he at his mother’s feet, I’m certain that neither of them could imagine that at age 17 he would be held in a German prisoner of war camp. I also like to believe that on dark lonely nights during his imprisonment, he heard those melodies in his mind, and they soothed him.

My father’s memorial was void of scripture or promises of the kingdom of heaven. My father had already found his heaven in music and found proof of God I’m certain in the creative ability of composers. It was only natural therefore, that his memorial reflected that fact. Each of his four children eulogized him with our words and his favorite pieces of music played in his honor.

Although none of my father’s children are musicians, I think that we all have a love of music and understand and take part in its ability to transform us and our environment. Music serves as a wordless form of communication between me and my brothers. When at Christmas, one brother shares a CD of the Vienna Boys Choir, we don’t need to exchange words to say, “Remember the sweet voices that soared through our home singing, “Stille Nacht” each year during the holidays?”. We each know that it is an ode to our father. When I send my brothers a Youtube of Nina Simone singing, “I Loves You Porgy”, no words are needed. It takes us back to our old Kansas Farmhouse, where the unlikely music of Gershwin poured from the open windows swirling through the reaching branches of the trees and traveled to the ears of the curious barnyard animals. I like to think that for a moment they were silenced as they cocked their heads in wonderment. 

Needless to say, music is an essential part of my life. It has carried me through moments of darkness, and as it did for my father, transports me to another level of consciousness.  Every few weeks my husband and I visit a local bar owned my husband’s coworker where we have a few drinks and listen to live music. This bar, happens to be part of a circuit tour for some outstanding musicians. One of my most memorable evenings of music included an opening act named Otis, which consisted of 6 musicians who met at the Chicago Columbia School of Art. They were easily the youngest musicians that I had ever seen play this venue and they might well have been the quirkiest. The lead singer was a 24 year old young woman from Arkansas. Her brunette hair was pulled into a bun and she had a rather elegant look about her. She was also drop dead sexy. It seemed to be her habit to stare straight out into the audience at a fixed spot at the back of the bar. She was unaware of how a lingering glance at an occupied table might have increased the heart rates of the middle aged men or awakened the green eyed monster in their female companions, the very scenarios that fill the air with “atmosphere”. Her voice had great range and also the ability to capture her audience with throaty depth. She swayed her hips in a smooth movement that fell somewhere between restrained self-consciousness and innocent but sensual gyration. Meanwhile her fellow musicians all male, each her age or younger were rigid and so engaged in their instrument that one might have guessed that they were just outside the radar of autism spectrum, not once did they look out into the audience, much less make eye contact. Their sound was a sort of a funky jazz that had a level of sophistication that one would not expect of such a young group. Each musician was an artist who demonstrated tremendous potential though still in search of individual identity. They were a really good band. It was obvious that with more experience and confidence they will easily capture their audience and leave them with the lingering memory that one has after being touched by something of beauty.

The main act was a trio, a guitarist, a bassist and a drummer known as the Bel Airs. Each was old enough to be the father of each of the musicians in the opening act. The trio was “tight”. Their bluesy rock tunes had the audience on their feet and the dance floor was overflowing with movement. The trio played with the obvious familiarity of seasoned musicians and the young musicians looked on with the respect and intensity that only a truly dedicated student gives a classroom instructor. When the trio returned to the stage the young musicians began to dance together and their youthful vitality seemed to invigorate the audience. It was impossible not to be enchanted by their lithe movement and soon they were absorbed into a mass of more middle aged dancers. 

As the evening wore on the young saxophonist from the opening band took his instrument out of its case and approached the stage followed by the trumpet player. The trio made way for the young musicians who immediately fell into rhythm with the veteran performers who watched on like adoring fathers. It was nothing short of magical.

I doubt that my father would have appreciated the music of Otis or that of the Bel Airs but he would have loved the magic that took place that evening. More and more often I find myself wanting the answer to a question that only he could answer and this confirms my belief that our sense of loss for our deceased loved ones does not dim but evolves to something new. I am comforted by the strange realization that that he is such a large part of me and that finally, when I see some part of him looking back at me in the mirror, it is indeed a good thing.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


I realized recently that when I was a child, I was a thinker. I was also a worrier. Actually I was really just a plain old “scardy cat”. I was afraid of the musty cellar of our old farmhouse. I was afraid of the cool path that led behind the out-buildings and barn and overlooked the creek and valley behind our home. I was afraid that the creek might one day flood and enter into our house. I was afraid of the dark, actually I still am. I was obsessed with the fear that the neighbors afghan hounds who frequently barked at me when I rode my bike would get loose and come after me. I was afraid I’d contract tetanus after stepping on a rusty nail. I imagined my jaw joints locking and suddenly becoming unable to speak.  I was afraid of snakes and other crawly things. I could be playing happily, in the middle of the sunny garden and begin thinking a thought that made me dash to the house and to the safety of my mother or brother or whomever was closest. One of the thoughts that frightened me most was the enormity of the world and the fact that the earth is just a speck in an enormous universe.

My parents had come from far corners of the earth. My father had come from Holland which I associated with tulips, windmills and Hans Brinker. I understood that there were countries around the Netherlands like Germany, France and Belgium, each of whom had their own language and culture.  My mother had come from Indonesia which I knew was more remote. I associated it with tigers, exotic reptiles and endless jungles so dense that the sun could barely penetrate the vegetation. I knew that between me and Indonesia there were other countries I knew nothing about, with people who had various belief systems and skin colors. I knew that we were separated by mountains and deserts and vast, deep seas. It was the limitlessness of it all that frightened me. It was the understanding that the sea seemed so bottomless that if I dove into its surface I would run out of air before I could reach the sea floor. It was the idea that I could enter into a jungle and encounter life that I could never imagine existed and be lost forever. It made me feel tiny and insignificant.  It offered me the realization that my little life in rural Lawrence, Kansas was really inconsequential in the balance of life.

I suppose it’s safe to say that I am still a thinker and the thoughts that I had as a child have evolved but still cause me fear. Today I still think about the vastness of the ocean except now I think about the plastic bottles and caps that wash ashore. I think about the birds and water fowl that will ingest the garbage. I think about the plastic mess that has encroached on their surroundings. I think about those once abundant tigers hunting stealthily in the jungles so far away and the fact that those tigers are now so few that we can count them. I think about the magnificent and intelligent elephants that have been slaughtered for their ivory. I think about the imbalance of the delicate aquatic environment caused by the dumping of toxic chemicals and other garbage into the seas.  I think about the nuclear waste that has been stored in barrels and buried deep below the earth’s surface for future generations to deal with, if there will be future generations to deal with it.  I think about the earth’s riches that are harvested to sustain our addiction for “more and more”.   I think about droughts, earthquakes, hurricanes, sinkholes, tornadoes and quirky weather. I think about the epidemic of rape and violence against women. I think about inequality, racism and ethnic cleansing and I think about war and the way that it is justified. I think about children who are exploited.  I think about the world illustrated in the movie Mad Max and I find that my thoughts still frighten me.

Early in the morning of March 24th I looked out of my window at nearly 7 inches (17.78 cm) of snow on the ground. Normally during this time of year we might see green grass and even some flowers.  I’ve been annoying my husband with talk about the year without summer. This was a year in 1815 in which Mount Tambora, on the island of Sumbawa, Indonesia erupted. It was the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history. It created a phenomenon known as a volcanic winter. A volcanic winter in my limited perception, is a reduction in temperature caused by the presence of elements like ash and sulfuric acid in the atmosphere.  The year 1816 was also known as the Poverty Year. Because of the  eruption of Mount Tambora the prior year,  the global temperature decreased which resulted in what was called a “agricultural disaster” and thus a major food shortage across the northern hemisphere.  Clearly Mt. Tambora’s eruption had nothing to do with CO2 emissions nor was it the result of an environment taxed by human demand for Mother Earth’s natural resources. Mount Tambora’s fury erupted due to pressure built from the molten magma collecting under the earth’s surface.  As a mother, I am very familiar with that sensation.  I can’t help but wonder if given the demands made of her and the lack of reverence given to her, our mother earth isn’t getting just a little bit pissed off.

I do give reverence to human ingenuity. I am completely awe struck by the miraculousness of technology and the way that it enhances life.  I live a life in which my mobile phone and computer have become an extension of me. I might live well without my car for a day or two but on day three I would definitely begin to feel handicapped. However, on those occasions when I find myself in nature and can pretend for a few minutes that I am far civilization, I realize that the earth is truly perfect without people.

My son Eli has a soccer friend who lives on a tidy, little farm tucked into the countryside nearby. His friend’s parents have regular day jobs but manage to also have dogs, horses, a cat, guineafowl, a pair of turkey and about 20 chickens.  It isn’t unusual to find the boy’s mother, Sheriee, sitting on the ground holding a chicken in her lap, simply stroking the birds feathers or quietly speaking to it. On a couple of occasions when I’ve picked Eli up from playing, Sheriee will hand me a precious box of her cage free eggs.  On the following mornings Eli will ask me to forgo the homogenous white eggs from the Styrofoam package and cook “Sheriee’s “eggs.  As I cook, he picks up each precious egg and admires their various colors and sizes and I recognize that he is thinking about their origin, that sweet little farm and the tenderness that Sheriee exhibits to the animals that she raises.

I think that it is possible that the one single thing that can be done to save humankind, our environment, animal life and the earth that sustains us is really pretty clear cut. I think that it is just reverence. We have to take the time to marvel at the simple miraculousness with which we live. We have to learn to respect the tiniest and seemingly insignificant aspects of what is truly a perfect world. We have to respect our earth mother before our demands and negligence simply kills her.