Archived Post January 2010

January 2010

Surviving Matters

“But in the field the man finds the girl who is engaged, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lies with her shall die.  But you shall do nothing to the girl; there is no sin in the girl worthy of death.  For just as a man rises against his neighbor and murders him, so is this case.  When he found her in the field, the engaged girl cried out, but there was no one to save.”

Deuteronomy 22: 25-27


            This past week, Kate and I bravely took on the job of cleaning out the filing cabinet, in the garage.  It is a great filing cabinet, made out of the wood, from the 1940’s, which use to be painted army green.  I like thinking it must have, at one time, played some small role in World War II.  Going through the many forgotten files, I found an accordion file marked old phone books, which I took out and began to flip through nostalgically.

Lately, we have been having that million dollar conversation. (No, we have not won the lottery, as we do not play.) You know that fantasy that begins with what would I do if I had a million dollars?  I guess in today’s economy it is more like ten million or a hundred million; but nevertheless, if you were suddenly flush with cash what would you do?

When I think about what I would do there are few things which quickly come to mind, like paying off the bills of the people that I love, and making sure everyone has a new car, house, and something akin to trip around the world.  Then what?

I have my pet dream projects which include building a Bible and Liberal Arts College in Cuba, which would honor my parents and their love of knowledge, Cuba, and God.  Kate and I have also talked about how wonderful it would be to provide adult foster care for young people who are released from the foster care system at eighteen, and left to fend for themselves.  Would it not be nice to establish a network of people who would bring such young people into their families, and help those former foster children receive an education and start a career?

Perhaps, I am up to needing more than a hundred million dollars.  But as I was thinking about whom I would share my make believe millions with, I started to think back to the many groups which Kate and I have volunteered our time with over the years; and then where we have found help, when we needed it.  The first list was very long, the latter had only one name, and I wondered if I could even find them anymore.  Oddly, looking through the phone books, in the file, I found a very beaten up, small blue book with gold trim; turning the pages, between Rio Hondo College and Sarah Richardson I saw the Rape Center Hotline, in Long Beach, California.  Apparently, the number has not changed:  (562) 597-2002.

I still remember that phone call, on a Thursday afternoon, in the autumn of 1988.  Two weeks before, on a Friday evening Kate and I had gone to see the Kelly McGillis and Jodie Foster movie, The Accused.  Once in the theater, I had been suddenly overcome with a need to be anywhere other than in the theater; but I stayed though Kate suggested that we could leave.  As I sat through the movie, I began to cry.  When it finished, I quickly made my way to the ladies room, feeling humiliated, angry, victimized, stupid, dirty and powerless.  In truth, I had been crying for a long time, but I had not wanted to name to the source of my tears.

I loathed the notion of being a victim, something which seemed weak and helpless; and I hated the fact that someone else had power over me – still had power over me.  That night, when we came home I knew I needed to act.  I knew I needed help.  My journal notes that evening spoke of dealing with the ghost in my closet.  I concluded that I either had to clean out my closet, and deal with my past, or burn down the house; because I could not continue with things as they were.

During those next two weeks I called the Rape Center Hotline and hung up the phone several times, before finally finding the courage to speak to Amy, who took my name and number and said someone would call me back.  Three people tried to call me, but I could not answer the phone.  Finally, a full month since I had first seen the movie, during which I read Robin Warshaw’s book, I Never Called It Rape, and everything else I could find on rape and violence against women, I picked up Lisa’s phone call.  Lisa and I spoke for a few minutes, and set up an appointment for the following Monday.

I did not sleep the night before my meeting with Lisa; I did come up with at least a dozen reasons to cancel the appointment.  The only thing Lisa had asked of me was to make sure I called to cancel, if I decided not to come.  At ten minutes till eleven, I decided I was not going.  I looked around for the paper I had written Lisa’s contact information on, and could not find it.  Luckily, Amy had called, and left a message with Kate, including a phone number, to remind me of my appointment.  I called the number and heard Lisa’s voice.  It would have been so easy to cancel the appointment, but instead I heard myself telling Lisa that I had lost the address, and that I was late.  She gave me the address again, and told me not to worry, that she would be waiting for me when I got there, which she was.

I know that there seems to be no end to the truly disturbing news of late.  The death toll in Haiti in said to be well over 200,000 people, with the exact number killed unknown.  I am pleased to write that the only person that we personally knew, in Haiti, is said to be well and looking for a way to come home.  This good news in no way impacts the sorrow of so much loss.  Among the many stories being reported from Haiti, I read the following the headline: “Women’s movement mourns death of 3 Haitian leaders” Anne Marie Coriolan, Magalie Marcelin, and Myriam Merlet, were all killed in the earthquake.  Each of these accomplished women and activist had worked tirelessly to improve the quality of Haitian women’s lives and each had focused her efforts on ending violence against women.  These were self-empowered women who chose to make their life matter by helping those who were less fortunate and fighting back against a system which had tried to deny women the right to peacefully coexist – their loss to Haiti seems unbearable.  Who will rise up to stand in their stead?\

The above mentioned article states that before 2005, in Haiti, rape was simply considered a crime of passion; and that 72 percent of Haitian women had been raped, while 40 percent were victims of domestic violence.  It is almost impossible to fathom such numbers.  If the Haitian population is around nine million people, and half are women, that would mean over three million women have been raped, which is fifteen times as many victims, as those killed by the earthquake – in case you are wondering, in the United States, approximately 600 women are raped a day, one woman every two minutes.,

On October 24, 2009 as many as twenty people watched or actively and viciously raped, beat, brutalized and robbed a 15 year old girl during her prom night, in Richmond, California.  Thus far, seven boys and men, between the ages of 15 to 43 have been arrested for this crime.  Those arrested include Jose Carolos Montano, Cody Ray Smith, Ari Abadallah Morles, Marcelles James Peter, Manuel Ortega, Salvadore Rodriguez, and John Crane Jr., who only this week surrendered to the police.  The charges attached to the crime include rape, rape in concert with force, rape with a foreign object, robbery, and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury; with a special enhancement requesting life in prison. The victim, or survivor, was airlifted to the hospital in critical condition, when police finally found her semi-conscious and partially nude, after more than two hours of torture.  She was not released from the hospital until five days later.  Justice is pending.,2933,583415,00.html?test=latestnews,,2933,583415,00.html?test=latestnews

I will never forget walking out of Lisa’s office that day, approaching my car trembling, but for once it was joy which had overtaken me.  I felt giddy, though I truly did not know why.  I had simply begun the first steps in a very long journey, but I suddenly no longer felt hopeless.  I had named the skeleton in my closet.  I had been raped, but I had also survived.

Surviving does matter.  In the midst of so much grief, the loss of Anne Marie Coriolan, Magalie Marcelin, and Myriam Merlet, the rape of a 15 year old on her prom night, news that a 13 year old Saudi girl has not only been sentenced to two months in prison, but will also be flogged 90 times, in front of her classmates, for bringing a cell phone to class, word that Uzbekistan systematically rapes and tortures women, in custody, news of the women raped in Iranian custody, and all of the women still being raped and assaulted by domestic partners and family members we must not only survive, but thrive. The battle for women’s justice is not over, we have not won this global war, but we cannot give up the fight, because lives do depend on us.  That is all for now.–sentenced-90-lashes-took-mobile-phone-school.html,

~ M ~

January 2010

Mark McGwire



“Now that I have become the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, I have the chance to do something that I wish I was able to do five years ago.  I never knew when, but I always knew this day would come. It’s time for me to talk about the past and to confirm what people have suspected.  I used steroids during my playing career and I apologize. I remember trying steroids very briefly in the 1989/1990 off season and then after I was injured in 1993, I used steroids again. I used them on occasion throughout the ’90s, including during the 1998 season. . . . After all this time, I want to come clean.  I was not in a position to do that five years ago in my congressional testimony, but now I feel an obligation to discuss this and to answer questions about it.  I’ll do that, and then I just want to help my team.”

~ Mark McGwire ~

There is a man named Tony in my neighborhood, who walks everyday.  He survived a heart attack, and his doctor recommended exercise.  Tony is from New York, and has that unmistakable New York quality, in a good way.  When Tony is walking, there are two things which are unavoidable.  One is that he often walks smoking a cigar, and the other is that just as often he carries an old radio, tuned to the ballgame which keeps him company as he follows the scores.

Whether being defined as the American pastime, which some may argue it no longer is, or a field of dreams where families gather together to root for their home team, share a perfect hot dog and roasted peanuts, as they sing Take Me Out to Ball Game, during the seventh inning stretch, or perhaps cynically as a multimillion dollar business enterprise where the boys of summer wait for their shot at the fall classic, baseball is many different things to many different people; but it is also always about the numbers.

In 1961, the American League expanded with the addition of the Los Angles Angeles, and the Minnesota Twins, formerly the Washington Senators that were replaced by a new team, bearing the same name.  The league also extended the number of games played from 154 to 162.  As the season progressed, it became clear that Roger Maris might break Babe Ruth’s record of the most home runs in a single-season.  Maris’ efforts caused then baseball commissioner, Ford Frick, to announce that if Maris did not break Ruth’s 34 year record within the first 154 games, both records would stand, with a notation of the number of games played to achieve the milestones.  Without the deserved accolades or support Maris toppled Ruth with 61 home runs on October 1, 1961, in the 162nd game of the season.

The major news story this week is undoubtedly the devastation in Haiti, which has caused unknown loss of life and unimaginable suffering.  I encourage you to keep the Haitian people in your prayers and to make whatever contribution you can to assist in the recovery.  There is also continuing coverage about unemployment, health care reform, a sluggish economy, which is not improving as quickly as hoped for, terrorism, the on going wars and of course the debate over who should host The Tonight Show.  Yet, as the week comes to a close, I am still thinking about how it began with Mark McGwire finally admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs, to shatter Roger Maris 37 year record.

In 1998, after several dismal years, baseball was given what was then perceived as a blessing.  Just as Roger Maris had a friendly rivalry with Mickey Mantle, in 1961, when both men began the season with a chance of overtaking Ruth’s record; Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa ignited the imagination of the American public, as they both began to hit an increasing number of home runs, creeping up to Maris’ 61.  Suddenly, stadiums that had been emptied were filled, and grumbling over the strike which had previously caused the cancellation of the 1994 World Series was forgotten.  There was a season long race and America was reengaged with baseball.

It was a wonderful season to watch, and yes I rooted for both men.  There is something very American about supporting what we perceive to be even slightly noble efforts.  Americans have traditionally cheered everyone from athletes, to actors, to beauty queens and politicians as they tried to set records, win awards, titles, and positions of power.  We believe in dreams and the notion of the hard fought fight and the victory, with spoils, which follows.  Olympic coverage is never just about the race between the fields of players.  There is always a nice pleasant sportscaster who reminds the audience of the hours spent in practice, the enormous sacrifice made by families, the monies involved in reaching the point where the athlete can even hope to compete – Americans like the back story.  We also like fairytales, heroes, and happy endings.

In 1991, baseball commissioner Fay Vincent had finally formalized Major League Baseball policy regarding the use of illegal steroids, when he sent a memo to all teams stating that baseball would not tolerate the use of the drugs.  As the 1998, season progressed there were questions about human growth hormones and other performance enhancing drugs; all of which were brushed aside, as Mark McGwire not only topped Roger Maris’ 61 home runs in a single-season, but ended the year with 70 home runs to Sammy Sosa’s 66, and a true need for baseball to find a new way of dealing with its numbers.  No longer was baseball simply dealing with questions regarding the advantage or disadvantage of eight additional games; but rather how do you compare the men who played this game without performance enhancing drugs to those who chose to break the law and lie to the American public by using drugs?

McGwire has a new job, and thus has now admitted that he began to use the drugs in 1989, and continued to do so, off and on, for the next ten years.  He has also tried to excuse his illegal, unmoral, and reprehensible behavior by stating that when he initially began to use the drugs they were not illegal in baseball, that he used them to recover from injuries, and that he has been gifted, by God, with talent that drugs could not and did not enhance.

One of my earliest childhood memories involves my father taking us to see a baseball game at Yankee Stadium, in New York.  We arrived before the game started, and went down to the field, where my father spoke with men clad in pinstripes as if they were all old friends.  I doubt he knew anyone that he interacted with that day, but it did not stop him from introducing me to various men, who removed their caps and bent down to, shake my hand or pat me on my head.  It was shortly after we had returned from having spent three years in Puerto Rico, I spoke little to no English and cannot honestly say that I remember any verbal exchange.  I do remember being very excited by the entire affair and feeling rather privileged to be able to play in my father’s world.  He loved baseball, and I loved watching baseball with him.

Wherever we lived, he managed to take us to games and to always make us feel like he was intimately connected with the action on the field, which I suppose is one of the gifts baseball gives to its fans.  How could we not want to see the Cleveland Indians play when Bob Hope owned the team, well a piece of the team?   When we finally settled in Los Angeles, I became a Dodger’s fan, which I think he somehow respected, as it was my home team; and they of course only played the Yankee’s in World Series match ups.

I have continued to love baseball, but I must say it has not been easy.  The repeated allegations and admissions of drug use by professional baseball players have, in my opinion, all but destroyed the very essence of the glory and honor of the game.  I am not naive or uniformed.  Any endeavor involving mankind lends itself to our imperfect nature; and baseball has certainly known its share of scandals; but I have found it difficult to understand why people who claim to love the sport have chosen to do it so much harm?  Can McGwire and his many cohorts really feel any sense of accomplishment when they know that the records they now hold were achieved through such unsportsmanlike behavior?

When Kate and I moved from California to Maine, we found ourselves in a state of homelessness.  Oddly, we have spent a lot of time homeless or houseless, with our possessions locked away in storage.  On this particular occasion, in mid-October, we were waiting for a house we rented to become available, on the first of November.  With time on our hands, and no where to stay, I suggested that we visit Cooperstown and, the National Baseball Hall of Fame; and as so often happens Kate agreed.  In our little red truck which carried us for miles without a complaint, and our two dogs we headed to upper state New York, with little money and a lot enthusiasm.  I will never forget touring Cooperstown and marveling at the collected history of America which it represented.

I felt lucky that day, as I so often do when I get to see America and her many wonders.  Baseball is suppose to capture the best of America.  We were a nation where ordinary citizen could enjoy the leisure of spectator sports, which was no small feat in a world, where with rare exception, most people toiled from sun up to sun down, just to provide their families with bare necessities.  America was also a nation of rules and regulations which were agreed to by the majority, and respected by those who were outvoted.  We were also a nation were talent, hard work, and determination were valued and rewarded; and where stereotypes and bigotry could be overcome.  Baseball captured all of this and so much more.

I am hurt by Mr. McGwire and his fellow players who did not believe that honor mattered in baseball or life.  I do not think he is fit to coach batting or bunting.  I do not think it is okay for him to make a weak statement that is more an excuse of his behavior than an apology and for everyone to say it is over and all is forgiven.  He has hurt baseball, and he has hurt America.  That is all for now.

~ M ~

January 2010

A Belated Happy New Year

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”
~ Reinhold Niebuhr ~

       I would like the clamor to stop for a few minutes.  I want simply to hear the low humming of the fan, my constant companion, the rattling of the screens, as the wind pushes them to and fro; and my dog purring ever so gently, as if she were a cat, which she sometimes seems to believe.  I suppose the clocks are also ticking in the background, but I only hear that noise when I stop typing.  I am tired of rushing about with the mundane, I want it to stop.  We have had a hard time coming to a place of rest.  Even obligations that bring pleasure have begun to feel like a debt, which must be paid.  That is not how I want to live my life.  I do not want my wishes to be belated.

As the clock strikes midnight, on December 31, we begin a new year and earn a fresh start, much like going around the Monopoly board and earning two hundred dollars simply for passing Go!  It is a nice idea, a fresh start.  We get a chance to try again.  What shall we do differently?

When I was a freshman or sophomore in high school, my best friend, Sarah, gave me a copy of the above prayer.  She had created a lovely, calligraphied copy in an art class, and after admiring her work, Sarah suggested I keep it.  I believe it is still somewhere in our garage, rolled into an old poster tube.  At the time, I did not know that the prayer was part of the Alcoholics Anonymous mantra, which I now suspect is how the words are best known – originally, they were the end of a sermon; and I can well understand the command of the few simple lines.

Learning to pick your battles is perhaps one of the hardest lessons which life tries to teach us, if we are willing to learn.  There are things which cannot be changed, and must be accepted.  Oddly, what most comes to mind, for me, are other people’s actions.  I am constantly befuddled, by obdurate behavior which I find illogical or destructive, and continually exhausted by trying to help grown adults who would much prefer that I left them alone.  I know that it is I who must change.  Being grieved by my perception of other’s poor choices is foolish.  Yet, time and again these are losing battles to which I surrender my time and energy.

However, just as I am not giving up coffee or chocolate, I am not letting go of my expectations.  Kate says that I am so often hurt by people because I expect them to do the right thing; which they rarely do.  She may be correct, but I do not care.  Expecting people to do the right thing, first presumes that there are standards which can or should be met – that there is a right thing to do; and that some said individual, like me, gets to decide what is right and what is wrong.  I do not know why we have shied away from the notions of right and wrong or good and evil, when debating our role in society, our responsibility to one another, and our expectations for each other.  Nor do I understand the general disdain displayed by so many, when it comes to engaging in debate which involves ethics and values.  I fear for a civilization which is unable to take stands based on core beliefs.  I should be able to set expectations based on what I believe is right and wrong; and while I cannot make anyone do the right thing, according to me, I do not have to succumb to the wrong thing, nor do I have to pretend to be unbothered by the wrong thing.  You are free to disagree with my concept of right and wrong, but your disagreement does not nullify my feelings or beliefs.

Yes, you should wish the people in your life a Happy Birthday!  I do not care that you do not do the whole birthday thing – you are wrong!  Also, we should wish people a Happy Birthday on time!  I hate that I have become a late happy birthday wisher.  At the very least, in 2010, we should all be able to manage a simple phone call, an email, or a card – two for a dollar, at the Dollar Store, if you are not a fan of Hallmark stores, which I love.  It is nice to be wished well, especially on our birthday; and we all enjoy feeling special for at least one day a year – unless of course the people we most love and care for decide not to bother to wish us well, which then leaves us feeling sad and unloved!

By the way, we should also say Thank You!  If someone does something nice for us, they deserve to be thanked.  One of the nicest cards we received this last month was from Kendra and Ashlyn, to thank us for some very small gifts which we took them before Christmas.  Their note was personal, thoughtful, and included a drawing of Kate and I, which we shall treasure for years to come.  If children, younger than ten years old can manage a thank you note, what is wrong with the rest of us?  Why have we fallen away from simple civility?  Gifts should be acknowledged, especially those which are sent to us, as the giver should know the gift arrived; but so should acts of kindness.  Again, I am guilty of late notes or the absolutely deplorable act of saying it does not matter, as the other party never says thank you, and thus must not care.

No, I am not going to write about cell phone etiquette, televisions which are never turned off, and people who can never dress up (my compliments and gratitude to Nabil for wearing a suit and tie on Christmas Eve), though I have strong opinions on all of these topics and more; but I am going to emphatically state that we have the right to our expectations.  Not only should we expect our friends and families to do the right thing, but we should also expect those in power to honor their commitments and keep their promises.  We should expect our politicians to do the job they have been elected to do, and we should feel free to express ourselves when they fail to meet our expectations.  The same is true for those with whom we interact professionally.  It is not wrong to expect our doctors to see us in a timely manner, our teachers to instruct our children, or our waitresses to refill our water glasses.  We should receive what we have paid for, and not simply settle for what we are given.  At some point, we must decide that we are worth more than simple mediocrity and indifference, even if this is what the majority is willing to settle for – the majority is not always right, sometimes they are simply apathetic; and we must choose to be a majority of one.

I do not want to wish you a Happy Birthday or thank you for your kindness out of obligation.  I want the pleasure of acknowledging you without the pressures of life, which make such acts feel like an item on a “to do list”, which must be checked off.  However, if I must write your name on a “to do list”, in order to do the right thing, then write your name I shall.  I shall also continue to expect that you too will do the right thing, and I shall be disappointed when you fail to think that my right thing should be done.  But, believing that extending mercy to those we love is also the right thing, I shall continue to forgive you, and to seek your forgiveness when we both fail to do the right thing. That is all for now.

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