In Search of Clean Hands

Post World War II the United Nations proposed thirty rights that were universal necessities for every human around the world. In an effort to prevent the same cleansing actions that had been orchestrated by Hitler, the members tried to ensure that no matter which country of origin, all people could have quality of life. It was adopted by the United Nations in 1948. Even during WWII the Allies had adopted the Four Freedoms-freedom of speech, religion, from fear, and from want. So, why in 2016, even in the United States, a country that claims to be the most progressive, most democratic, most accommodating country in the world, do we still have to talk about fair treatment and opportunity for all?

February 15th 2008 the U.S. National Academy of Engineering announced the challenges for 21st century engineers. Experts from around the world met and revealed a list of improvements that could vastly improve the way the entire global community lives. These grand challenges follow: make solar energy economical; provide energy from fusion; develop carbon sequestration methods; manage the nitrogen cycle; provide access to clean water; restore and improve urban infrastructure; advance health informatics; engineer better medicine; reverse-engineer the brain; prevent nuclear terror secure cyberspace; enhance virtual reality; advance personalized learning; and engineer the tools of scientific discovery.

It is doubtful that the American representatives to the engineering conference could have predicted that within 8 years, the citizens of Flint, Michigan would need their help as badly as any developing country in the world. 100,000 people and their offspring have been made irrelevant for a few dollar’s savings. They have been exposed to lead poison because a decision was made to stop purchasing water from Detroit. There was documentation available indicating that the Flint River had 19 times the recommended level of lead presence. Three people have been indicted, with a promise of the attorney general that more people will be named. It is doubtful that watching these people go to trial is a real consolation to families who are worried about the future of their relatives.

These stories of greed and disregard for welfare of communities have been in the news before. By 1962, when Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, we knew that contaminating our water led to disastrous results. Erin Brockovich , was based on a real situation that was investigated in the early 90s. It was not just a movie starring Julia Roberts. There is a reason we don’t use lead based paints any more, and asbestos is used with great caution.

One quote from the engineering academy reports, sums up what I have been trying to say. It states, “A world divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and hunger, cannot long remain a stable place for civilization to thrive.”   If we are not altruistically driven to make the world more comfortable for the masses because it is a righteous thing to do, perhaps our personal survival and the lives of our own families might provide the impetus to challenge decision makers to not support any actions they would not deem safe and productive for their own children. Will we again allow a few people at the middle and lower rungs of the hierarchy to take the blame when the welfare of an entire community of 100,000 has been compromised? What happened to the buck stops here, Rick Snyder, and all the others in leadership positions?

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Is America’s Poor Held to a Higher Standard?

I had an interesting conversation with a parent almost two weeks ago. The discussion was why the scout troop was doing a fundraiser to buy shoes for children in another country when there are so many children in our country who do not have these necessities. This parent’s response was that even though her mother didn’t have wealth, she had the foresight to position her child in programs that would make it possible for her to have a brighter future. Basically, American children were blamed for their parent’s lack of vision and planning. My family did the same for me, but are the children, whose parents don’t provide those opportunities, to be denied help?

Americans often do missionary work in other countries—it is almost expected.   Yet, when asked why the charity doesn’t begin at home, the many chances available in the United States are sited, and those who have not availed themselves of those opportunities are viewed as parasites that are undeserving.

I remember my grandfather’s church raising money for mission work. The congregation was not a wealthy one, yet the members felt it their duty to help those in faraway places who were less fortunate. As we know by now, some of the people in the countries where the funds are shipped were not more impoverished, and in the 21st century, many are quite wealthy. The poor live among them, but quite often the successful neighbors don’t make it their responsibility to uplift the people in their own nations.

Even more striking, is no matter how poor Americans might be, the well to do in other countries don’t think they have a calling to help some of America’s poor. The thought is those in “the land of opportunity can help themselves” if they would but get with the program. The charity does not flow both ways across the oceans. I really came to grips with that way of thinking when I was in an African history seminar this past summer. In questioning African graduate students about their encounters with average Americans and poor people, the consistent response was that there were no regular interactions. The groups were not going out of their way to see how bad some conditions were in this country for themselves. They weren’t concerned, and we were in Michigan. They were here to acquire an education and that was the focus. The scholarships and opportunities that had been provided to them were not questioned, as the guests held onto the notion that those in the US who were not getting ahead were responsible for their fates. The person, who understood this thinking better, cleared up my concern and confusion about this perspective.

She is a coordinator for student teachers. In that capacity, she has the opportunity to see regular Americans, not just fellow graduate students and people who share her academic and economic status. The many people who come to this country for advanced degrees are here for a specific goal, and they rarely encounter the masses in their world that is centered on the ivy tower. Though some may have begun life poor, and are experiencing the chance of a lifetime, they are usually not necessarily concerned about the poor here because they are invisible.

After giving her list of experiences in the non-profit sector the scout mother and the leader continued to explain how important it was that the girls learn to help others. I could barely suppress my disappointment that they were perpetuating the myth that unfortunate Americans are that way because they failed to take advantage of opportunities, but those from other countries were more deserving because they hadn’t begun life here, so they are working hard for change. Not every person in every country we support with our donations, has maximized on every available opportunity, and in some places there are local people who could help, but don’t.   Not all people outside the US collaborate, and support each other in a fair and equitable way. Just looking at human trafficking and exploitation in the manufacturing sectors, and we know this.

So why are struggling Americans held to a different standard? If I could, I would try to ensure that every child has the opportunities listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights! Not one time was it mentioned in this document that the exception was Americans because they had better odds.   Having knowledge of America’s history, it is clear that this is not necessarily true. Our fortunes are still dependent upon a bit of luck—as in the luck of being born into one family or in one location versus another. Fortunes have shifted with economic ups and downs. Our kids deserve shoes too, and our children can learn to help by contributing to the local community too—not just abroad. These efforts will not be reciprocated by people who are invited to this country for upward mobility, because they too believe the stereotypes, and are indifferent to acquiring a different perspective.

 

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Proceeding with Caution

In some neighborhoods, there are signs asking drivers to drive as if their own children were in the vicinity.   I would ask us to consider this same advice when we speak about ”the other.”  No child picks their parents or the lifestyle they are going to experience before becoming an adult. Many of us are fortunate, and we are nurtured in not only loving environments, but also those in which the basic necessities are available.   Perhaps there is an occasional luxury or two along the way. We also know that we are incredibly influenced by our environments.

It is difficult enough to deal with the hand that is dealt without children being prejudged based upon ethnicity, religion or economic status. I don’t love paying bills for people I believe have made poor choices, but I would rather have the ability to pay than need help. On that, I feel so blessed. I am grateful that my precious grandchildren have what they need with so many loving arms to hold and lead them. They know they are special and they know we are eager to just listen.   If I could, I would give that to every child in the world.

I am afraid of terrorism, but I am not going to assume everyone from a certain religion is going to grow up to do me harm. I believe you should enter a country with the documentation required, just as I am required to do, but I am not sure how to solve the problem of the children who are already here. I do know, from a past situation, that if we want to make a political statement, we will change all kinds of situations. What comes to mind is the child from Cuba, whose mother drowned on a boat and the father was in Cuba. Instead of sending him right back to the other parent, which would have happened to an American child, the kid from an “enemy country,” was wined and dined unlike our poor children who are from this country—just to do an in your face to Cuba.

We have a hard time supporting our own poor, but when I see the faces of the escaping refugees from Syria, watching the reactions of the families who are standing right at the gate as it shuts leaving them still on the other side, is heart breaking. I want to harden my heart, and intellectually I can rationalize that I have to worry about my own, but if a person can just say, “Not my problem.”—Like the Tin Man, they should be off to see the Wizard.

I can’t change everyone’s situation, but I can refrain from making inflammatory remarks that could make “the others” feel badly about themselves. I need to resist placing all members of a group into one representative collection of characteristics, because I have stereotyped them. I can admit sometimes my discomfort with different cultures is because I know nothing about them. My ignorance is my problem, which I must resolve for myself—or not, but I can’t hold that new group responsible for making me feel warm and fuzzy.   Again, I must choose not to inflame situations by making my issues burdens for strangers.

For every unjust label that is put into the universe, some children will carry the burden of being perceived as unworthy, undeserving, and incapable. Words hurt, and the more we become connected with technology, the more different groups discover what we are saying. As we deal with our frustrations, please ask ourselves are we making statements about other children that we wouldn’t mind being made about our own family members, if not, let’s slow down and proceed with caution.

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Who Can represent us in Washington?

As I listen to the rhetoric shared during the current election season, I am once again perplexed about who would be my choice for president. I look at Hilary Clinton, and if I were going to vote on intellect and success as a professional in the legal field, she could be a choice. On the other hand, as I reflect back upon the negativity that surfaced as she began losing ground to President Obama in 2008, and the additional behaviors since that time, I have major doubts. I fear that Clinton determined long ago that she was going to be the first woman president, and she is so determined to reach that goal, that there is an air of entitlement that leaves me neutral if not slightly cold once again. I don’t know how Hilary Clinton would change the world, but I do observe that she seems to work well as an individual, but not so much as a leader/delegator. She doesn’t come across as a team player. Perhaps that is the lot of women in a man’s world, but I would hope in the 21st century a few women may have found a way around that very obvious obstacle.

I am tired of lies and provocative behavior.   Any woman can be just as dishonest, vengeful and calculating as a man. Women are capable of being self-serving. I don’t underestimate the variety and complexity of personality traits among female peers. I respect the diversity among the group, and I don’t expect “Pollyanna” behaviors from women tycoons. If I support equal treatment–which includes pay equity, and access to the most responsible jobs in the country–I also expect high ethical standards, and transparency from my “lady” leaders. I will not judge questionable behavior by a woman any less or more harshly than I would evaluate a man. I will not be voting for a woman simply because she is a woman, just as I didn’t vote for the current President because of his ethnicity.

With that in mind, I must remark about Sarah Palin. I questioned her intellect and abilities when she was McCain’s running mate.   Absolutely nothing has changed my opinion of her for the better. I was in Alaska and I certainly did not see Russia. I have nothing against hunters, but I want my leaders to be refined as well as assertive or adventurous. Making derogatory and inflammatory remarks can lead our country into more danger and division. Once again, a woman who just needs to return to the spotlight is scary, perhaps useful, but not leadership material.

I questioned the timing of S. P.’s run for vice president when her teens needed to be monitored. The daughter has birthed two children, by two different men and has never been married. That situation supports my belief that the priority in 2008 should probably have been keeping up with her children. Women can aspire to be whatever they want to be, but a responsible person keeps that in mind as she is making life choices.   Woman can do many things, but often not at the same time.

Bristol Palin became a “star” and representative for positive choices that she didn’t embrace herself. Having a baby at seventeen, which could happen to anyone, was not an example that other teens should copy. Had the Obama girls participated in the kinds of behaviors of the Palin children, there would have been a public outcry. Those poor children have been criticized for simply not smiling at an event.

The final straw was for the President to be blamed because Track Palin attacked his mate. Instead of spending the time at a forum endorsing Trump, she probably should have been seeking help for her son, the accused abuser, she claims is suffering from PTSD. The family has the resources and connections to seek help, and she should be using them. There was no public outcry from her when other veterans were in the same predicament.

I would really like to see a woman become the president of this country as well as many more women participating in other top leadership positions. I expect better behavior from the women, not because they have to perform better than men, but because the citizens deserve the best leadership possible.   The women know how tough this journey has been, and they must act accordingly. I don’t want champions of causes who are only concerned when issues hit home. In this diverse nation, the personal challenges vary, and a leader must try to consider how resources can be allocated to do the most good for the most people. I don’t care about individual lifelong dreams if the impact of the individual achieving those goals is not productive for the world in which we live. I am concerned that it is so difficult to participate in the elective process, and I am disappointed that there are so few viable choices, as the “woman most likely” has some major lapses in behaviors. Perhaps this is the best that can be expected of politics in America at this time, but I certainly hope this is not so.

Fondly submitted

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New Beginnings

I want to wish all a healthy, contented, and prosperous 2014. In reflecting upon the AAUW mission, I am reminded why I joined the organization in the first place. I like networking with bright articulate females, who are committed to progress and champion causes that impact our communities. Some of us are now in our senior years, but before we settle down in our rocking chairs or sit to the sidelines hoping others will carry the banner, there is still so much to be done. I want to remind my sisters that we are still knowledgeable, and bring a world view that younger people haven’t experienced. Individual branches still need to be viable organizations that foster involvement for the greater good. So, as we arrange for discussions about our most current reads, or partner up for our bridge games, let’s also look at the very long list of social issues that need to be addressed, and choose some that can be positively impacted by the talent within the group.
I learned a poem when I was in fifth grade that is as meaningful today as it was when I first learned it. I learned early on to let people know they were appreciated when the thought occurs, and I learned that I was expected to be a part of solutions rather than contributing to the problems.

Your Town
If you want to live in the kind of town,
Like the kind of a town you like,
You needn’t slip your clothes in a bag,
And start on a long, long hike.
You’ll only find what you left behind,
For there’s nothing really new,
When you blame the town you blame yourself
It isn’t your town-it’s you. …. (Author unknown)

A recent article reminded US citizens that little more than 500 people in Washington control much of our destiny. With more than 300,000,000 people in the United States, adults have the power to challenge decisions that are not in the best interest of our people. If talking fails, we have the ability through our vote to remove those who champion their own personal agendas over the greater good of the public. By remembering we are more alike than we are different, and all human beings need to have their basic necessities provided for, we can collaborate in ways that can empower our nation.
I have chosen my projects already. I can’t do everything, so I will concentrate on what I can do. I can champion education because that is my field, and I have benefited greatly from the opportunities mine has provided. A nation that fails its schools has doomed itself to mediocrity. I will not support rape as acceptable practice in the military. I must help returning soldiers get the care they need so they can transition back to their families and the community. I will react when a veteran and his wife indicate paying their rent this month will put them further behind economically because they have received a pay cut. I have no family in the military, so I am grateful to the people who serve. I can’t think of many in Washington who would be willing to live under the same conditions they create for others. I am now more committed to pushing for laws that require our representatives at the state and national level to live under the rules they create for the public—including raises, insurance, retirements, etc.
I trust the readers will discover their own projects and apply their own creativity and intellect in ways that make us stronger, because that is what AAUW women do!

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Take Nothing For Granted

One of the beauties of fall is one we cannot take for granted. The coloring of the leaves, the crops coming in are part of the eternal rhythm of the seasons. It will be a wildly beautiful autumn display or a soft and muted one, the crops will be bountiful or scant, but they will come. Election Day comes and is a seasonal rite, but it is one we cannot take for granted. Women, both women of color and white fought for Women’s Suffrage and the path was not a smooth one. In this season as we remember to exercise our right to vote let us not take it for granted. It was something our black and white sisters fought for and it is a right to be protected and treasured. I hope your Election Day was a good and productive one. Let us remember and give thankful thought to all the leaders of the suffrage movement, some of whom are written about in the article below.
African American Women and Suffrage

Many African American women were highly active in the woman suffrage movement. In the antebellum period, like Anglo women, many black women became active abolitionists and supporters of women’s rights. Sojourner Truth, a former slave, became famous as both an abolitionist and an advocate of woman suffrage. In 1851, she made her famous speech, “Ain’t I A Woman,” at a convention in Akron, Ohio. Other black women suffragists from this time period include Margaretta Forten, Harriet Forten Purvis, and Mary Ann Shadd Cary.
Black women participated in the American Equal Rights Association, and later in both the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association. Historian Rosalyn Terborg-Penn argues that black women were drawn more to the AWSA than the NWSA as the AWSA supported the enfranchisement of black men.
In the 1880s and 1890s, black women, like their white counterparts, began to form woman’s clubs. Many of these clubs included suffrage as one plank in their broader platform. In 1896, many of these clubs affiliated to form the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), with Mary Church Terrell as president. From its founding until the passage of the 19th Amendment, the NACW included a department that worked for the advancement of woman suffrage. The National Baptist Woman’s Convention, another focal point of black women’s organizational power, also consistently supported woman suffrage. In addition, black women founded clubs that worked exclusively for woman’s suffrage, such as the Alpha Suffrage Club of Chicago, founded by Ida B. Wells in 1913.
Despite this strong support for woman’s suffrage, black women sometimes faced discrimination within the suffrage movement itself. From the end of the Civil War onwards, some white suffragists argued that enfranchising women would serve to cancel out the “Negro” vote, as there would be more white women voters than black men and women voters combined. Although some black clubwomen participated actively in the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), the NAWSA did not always welcome them with open arms. In the 20th century, the NAWSA leadership sometimes discouraged black women’s clubs from attempting to affiliate with the NAWSA. Some Southern members of NAWSA argued for the enfranchisement of white women only. In addition, in the suffrage parade of 1913 organized by Alice Paul’s Congressional Union, black women were asked to march in a segregated unit. Ida B. Wells refused to do so, and slipped into her state’s delegation after the start of the parade.
When the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920, it legally enfranchised all women, white and black. However, within a decade, state laws and vigilante practices effectively disenfranchised most black women in the South. It would take another major movement for voting rights – the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s – before black women in the South would be effectively enfranchised.*

Leaders:
Sojourner Truth, Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, Mary Eliza Church Terrell, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Daisy Elizabeth Adams Lampkin*
*Copyright © 2007 National Women’s History Museum.

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In Support of All Women

I am not a fan of beauty (excuse me scholarship) pageants, because the emphasis is on physical rather than internal attributes, but I certainly was shocked that at a time when human trafficking is up, and females are disappearing off the street, some people are upset about the ethnicity of the 2014 Miss America. In 93 years of pageant history, there has been 1 winner who was Jewish, a few who were African American, one of Filipino heritage, and now a winner whose family originated in India. In an immigrant nation that claims to be the best destination for opportunity, a brown immigrant’s descendant should not claim the crown? It’s disheartening that in this country which has been occupied by brown people for over 20,000 years, there should be such response to a relatively insignificant event that is opened to the few who are thin, attractive, and perhaps somewhat talented. Though personally disinterested, I do realize that some females, who fit the requirements, see this as a way to achieve their goals. I would caution them to proceed with care, but I won’t criticize their choice.
That brings me to Miley Cyrus, the newest Disney graduate, who has been behaving badly. I am impressed that Sinead O’Connor, a veteran of the same industry, addressed this young lady’s situation by offering advice rather than condemning her.
“I am extremely concerned for you that those around you have led you to believe, or encouraged you in your own belief, that it is in any way ‘cool’ to be naked and licking sledgehammers in your videos,” Sinèad wrote. “It is in fact the case that you will obscure your talent by allowing yourself to be pimped, whether it’s the music business or yourself doing the pimping.” “The music business doesn’t give a sh*t about you, or any of us,” she continues. ……”They will prostitute you for all you are worth, and cleverly make you think it’s what YOU wanted… and when you end up in rehab as a result of being prostituted, ‘they’ will be sunning themselves on their yachts in Antigua, which they bought by selling your body and you will find yourself very alone.”
This was the kind of response that is needed when a sister witnesses another behaving in a detrimental way. I think Miley’s actions were appropriate for the context and content of Blurred Lines. Robin’s mother was quoted as being concerned about Miley’s actions and proximity to her son while on stage. Why wasn’t she concerned about the words her son co-wrote and sang? Nothing was mentioned about him calling women “b_____s” more than once in the song. A different publication stated, “The unrated music video for Blurred Lines features three topless models wearing flesh-colored thongs. They cavort next to Thicke, Pharrell Williams and rapper T.I. . . . . Some critics call the lyrics misogynistic as well.” The rhythm is fun, a good party and dance beat, but the message is disturbing. The song took less than an hour to create, as of July reached more than 242 million radio listeners, and the beat goes on.
Robin is 34, and Miley is 20. Once again, the male encouraging or participating in questionable behavior, walked away unscathed as the female participant became the scapegoat. We have got to raise our girls to love themselves. We need to hug them when they make mistakes along the way, and brainstorm with them about alternatives when poor choices might lead to their demise. This is much more important than heritage of Miss America. Maybe one day women won’t feel the need to cavort!

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