Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:
What kind of conversations are ya’ll having?
Setting: Driving in the car, running errands with my youngest child.
“What’s a bank?” asked the preschooler.
“It’s a place that keeps our money safe, and I was thinking that after we finish saving money for the Disney Cruise, we should save for a pool! What do you think?”
“A pool in the house?” she asked.
“No, a pool in the back yard.”
“Oh, cause I was going to save for another house.”
“What? Our house is fabulous. I love that house. What is wrong with OUR house?”
“Wwweeelll, it’s just not the colors of a rainbow and I want my friends to swim at a rainbow house and ours is just brown.”
“A rainbow house? You want our house painted the colors of a rainbow? Do you have any idea how expensive that would be? To have each plank hand painted in a different color? One blue, one pink, one yellow, one red…..I mean it would cost a fortune and Mama is just too broke for all that.”
“Well, what if we just paid for three colors, like pink, purple and yellow, is Mama too broke for that?”
Affordable Rainbow Housing
North Carolina’s elected officials made the national news again this week but not for their usual civil rights violation stunts. This time they added censorship to their antics. National Banned Book Week is usually a time when readers and literary supporters share in the responsibility of maintaining the freedom to seek and to express ideas in literature even when they are considered unorthodox. The Randolph County School Board did not recognize the oxymoron in the week’s title because they voted 5-2 to ban Ralph Ellison’s undisputed autobiographical masterpiece, Invisible Man from school libraries due to its “lack of literary merit”.
I wonder how the county will celebrate over this latest anti-intellectual victory? Maybe creating a “Book Burning Pit” where students toss required reading texts in to flames while parents circle the fire chanting about preserving their children’s innocence. Oh, but that sounds a bit too Harry Potter/Hunger Games/Where The Wild Things Are satanic doesn’t it? Maybe they could include a banning book segment to their county fair? But they do risk fair goers getting all Alice in Wonderland/The Wonderful Wizard of Oz/ Charlotte’s Web freaky. No they will likely sponsor a “Drown the Underpaid English Teacher” dunking booth on campus and just hope that it doesn’t cause any Animal Farm/Grapes of Wrath/Uncle Tom’s Cabin political hysteria. They could host a celebratory town dance as long as it doesn’t become a sexually explicit Lady Chatterley’s Lover/Madame Bovary/Anne Frank rave. But, knowing their chaste they will likely turn to religious texts for comfort, which is fine as long as it’s not The New Testament/Koran/Torah. Naturally ours is not the only government led by leaders that value mass ignorance, it is practically Avant- garde with dictators.
North Carolina’s reputation for literary achievement lost some of its glory this week. But just how far elected officials will go to culturally devastate our State will be left to those that vote without using their brains.
TOP 10 MOST CHALLENGED AUTHORS FROM 1990 – 2004
- Alvin Schwartz
- Judy Blume
- Robert Cormier
- J.K. Rowling
- Michael Willhoite
- Katherine Paterson
- Stephen King
- Maya Angelou
- R.L. Stine
- John Steinbeck
List of the most challenged books that also contain “no literary value” in 2012.
- ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
- The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
- The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence
- My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
- Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint
- Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit
- What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit
- Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit
- To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee Reasons: offensive language; racism
According to the Children’s Defense Fund every thirty minutes a child or teen dies from a gun in America. Children here are 17 times more likely to die by gunfire than in other developed countries and firearms are the most common method of suicide among the youth. Clearly, these are not the statistics of a country with family values.
North Carolina ranks 15th worst in the country for gun violence and yet, during the 2013 legislative session the Republican led General Assembly voted to allow concealed weapons on playgrounds. Coming this Fall, our tiniest citizens will run, wrestle, swing, skip, climb, trip and use their outside voices among adults too frightened, paranoid or hunted to leave their loaded guns at home. Concealed weapon holders can also legally enter bars, bike greenways and hike public trails. In addition, concealed guns will be available in cars on the parking lots of public schools and universities. Concealed weapon holders carry guns for defense from potential threats, like George Zimmerman felt against an unarmed black teenager or the woman who accidentally shot her own hand at a Raleigh Staples while protecting her child from shooting himself with her unlocked concealed weapon. Fantastically they believe a loaded gun will protect them from the big, bad world but in reality, guns are far more likely to kill the innocent than protect them. One might ask why they did not join the police force or the US military where their video game like dexterity might be better utilized? Yet, soon after every mass shooting those self perceived vigilantes rise to the occasion by claiming that if just one person had a gun then it never would have happened. Their logic avoids the more complicated issues of legal semi-automatic weapons and gaps in our mental health system. If urban gun owners spent more time arming themselves with knowledge instead of ammunition maybe they could lobby the Justice Department to prosecute people who commit background check fraud and vote to fully fund The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) so they can then hold States accountable to reporting felony and mental health information to them. Can a person who passes a background check from an organization that is under funded and ill-informed really be trusted enough to carry a concealed weapon on the carousel horse next to my child?
The fact is playgrounds belong to our children and are not places for adults who wax poetic about gun heroism. It is the responsibility of an educated populace to vote for legislators that protect the imaginations of children before the fantasies of contrived super heroes. Next election cycle, vote to protect our children from the very real big, bad dangerous world of GOP leadership.
My Mother wanted to be an astronaut. She admitted to me once that although she did not believe in God, she knew for a fact aliens existed. As a child she would walk among the cotton rows, praying up to the Carolina sky a spaceship might come to take her away. In Mama’s young life, humans had been a huge disappointment.
Born to a barely 15-year-old girl, Mama was the second of seven. Her vivacious mother, uneducated and lacking reproductive self-determination had more babies than she was able to feed. Mama’s controlling daddy believed that the only way to hold on to his young, ambitious wife was to keep her perpetually with child. His plan worked for nearly ten years. Then one Sunday after church, when my Grandmother was 23 years old she rustled her little children to the front porch of a sharecroppers rental and announced she was “leaving to become a bluegrass singer and wouldn’t be coming back”. She stained each one of their cheeks with scarlet red lipstick and kept her promise.
Left with the children and not the woman, Mama’s Daddy proved to be an abusive man, unworthy of the love those tiny abandoned babies tried so desperately to earn from him. Mama’s childhood was beset with the kind of Southern pride that holds off charity and allows poverty to starve opportunity.
When she turned 18, she left our small east coast town to go “be somebody” in California. She was back in 4 months. Too naïve to know that dreams can only find strength from a reservoir of love. Soon she was pregnant and although she wasn’t ready for me, abortion was illegal. Daddy jokes me that “I am lucky to be alive” and I am glad she did not take the back alley to an abortion but not to save my life, to save hers.
Until the day my Mama died, Daddy and I did our best to give her the love she’d been denied but we were powerless to stop her life’s dreams from succumbing to the wounds of a forsaken child. I do not thank my Mama for not aborting me anymore than I blame her for the miscarriage she had when I was in the 2nd grade. Another healthy baby girl joined our family years after and she has our Mama’s eyes.
I am now a mother too and with safe and legal family planning I have been able to alter my family’s legacy. I use my reproductive freedom the way I imagine my Grandmother and my Mama would want me, giving my daughters the love they deserve to reach for the stars.
Growing up in Elizabeth City was like being held hostage in a painter’s landscape. From the lone methodical red tractor to the peaceful watery edges, Elizabeth City could be a Zen retreat if it wasn’t for the ugliness of its politics. Like cancer cells the citizens divide into region, color, gender, religion, class, accent, hobbies and Chevy vs. Ford to create the illusion of uniqueness by exclusion.
The Republican board of elections orchestrating a blatantly illegal injunction on an Elizabeth City State University’s student’s right to run for public office is not an entirely racist move. It might be based on age, education and cronyism as well. But that is not something that the national press will flesh out. They are here to spotlight the racial divide and their presence will serve to deepen our divisive wounds. Clear to anyone living in Elizabeth City, racism is thriving on every single street. But also clear is that many of the elected officials have undermined integrity and fueled racial distrust. I have come home and watched city council meetings with my Dad and these are not the assemblies of a healthy citizenship.
If apathy is your bailiwick you might want to check in with the city you pay taxes, raise children, purchase commodities, find employment or take your boat out because your indifference is sinking the town faster than the sea levels. It will take awaken dedication from the folks on all sides of town to reach out and be the kind of neighbors that when cast into national spotlight don’t come off looking like backward fools to the city’s children. At some point the people in this county are going to have to realize that the beauty inside it does not belong to the right type of person. Everyone has the right to reach their potential without being pigeon holed in to obscurity. No doubt if alliances are not formed then the Queen’s city will fall, and so will its undeniable beautiful soul.
One thing volunteering as an escort at a reproductive clinic has taught me is that anti-choicers have A LOT of time to oversee the reproductive lives of their neighbors. I would suggest they look in to that secular voyeurism, but as we all know, they might kill me. So instead I try to intervene against their unholy provocation by meeting patients at their vehicles and offering to shield them with my big rainbow umbrella to the front door. Too often women and girls are subjected to this sort of domestic terrorism when they exercise self-determination. Because if there is one thing an anti-women’s health terrorist abhors more than abortion, it is a free woman.
I made the mistake of walking up to a car with two anti- reproductive folks this morning and one of the women got out and righteously proclaimed she was “not one of us, nononononononononono, she was on the side of the Lord.” I looked at her for a good long time and I pondered whether the Lord would claim her. I mean technically, she is saying that the Lord is the kind of guy who would spend his down time shouting, criticizing and generally scaring the hell out of people. It would seem that the Lord would be busy on the other side of those women’s choices, the side that ensures children do not go hungry, employment does not get lost, housing choices are affordable and sexual violence prosecuted. Surely she is aware that I would not be there intervening in these women’s privacy at all, if it wasn’t for her desire to torment them.
So here is what working on the side of the Lord looks like to people who protest at abortion clinics. They stop cars from parking by acting official, as if they might be working for the clinic. When the unsuspecting person rolls down the window, propaganda is shoved at them that contains not one shred of scientific fact. For instance, they include a picture of a stillborn baby despite the reality that nearly every single abortion in this country occurs on or before the 8th week. The clinic escort must intercede so the patient can arrive on time for their scheduled appointment because the protestor’s aim is to make them miss it. Once the patients proceed to the front door, the protesters start yelling at them about the “trauma” they will suffer afterwards, their impending status as a “selfish baby-killer” and the many “resources” available to them that they are not utilizing. Today one of the women yelled back “Resources? What resources? You mean welfare?” The male protestors tried to assure her they meant the resources that come from “loving Jesus.” There is a less aggressive group of protestors that arrange pictures of Jesus to face the clinic and while holding rosaries sing hymns about hell and damnation. They are the “good” ones because they do not seem motivated to physically harm any of us. Then there are the ones like the one who specifically addressed her allegiance with the Lord; they greet the incoming cars as if in a funeral procession holding signs that read “Your Mother Kept You”. The protestors stand out there until the last patient arrives and then they pack up. It is not known whether Jesus is proud of them for their stamina to harass or disappointed with them for their failure to shame. Either way they will return next week, ever seeking the Holy Grail of religious intolerance.
The police do not get called because the protestors are not breaking any laws. Of course, neither are the girls and women who are entering the clinic. Yet, their legal rights are at the mercy of fanatics who use deception, violence, cruelty, judgment, intolerance and moral superiority to scar the lives of people they have never met. Now, I can’t say whether the Lord would approve of these followers or not, but I know damn well Satan would.
When I moved to Johnston County I needed a closer gynecologist so I stopped off at the one nearest to my job. While I was waiting for the nurse to get off the phone I noticed an open binder on the table next to the counter. Curious, I read the headline “Studies Show Abortion Increases Chances of Breast Cancer by 50%”. Having a mother diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, I was astounded for two reasons, one at the righteous indignation of this doctor and two for the irresponsible omission of the “studies”. Having sunk the last ten years of my life researching the causes and cures of breast cancer in the vain attempt to save my mother, I was already aware this link was a part of the rhetoric of the anti -choice movement. I flipped to the next page and the headline read “Breast Cancer Linked to Frequent Air Travel for Women”. How that black binder of bull stayed put and did not land across the room, I credit to my Southern upbringing but when the nurse got off the phone and asked if she could help me, I responded, “No one deserves this kind of help.”
Of all the damaging things Governor Pat McCrory allowed to happen to North Carolina children and educators, SB 132 is one of the worse. It requires 7th grade science teachers to teach that abortion causes preterm birth in subsequent pregnancies. The claim is not supported with valid scientific studies, but it seems that McCrory has ingratiated himself among those that believe evidence is optional and enforced morality is mandatory. Throughout humankind anti-science factions have blocked the messengers of change and the followers of knowledge with violence and spreading ignorance to the masses. In reality the anti-family planning movement is a deeply religious one, but that does not stop it from hiding religious indoctrination within laws, schools, crisis pregnancy centers and beyond.
Anti- family planning people are comfortable using their personal religious beliefs to confuse girls and women with unproven and inaccurate scientific or medically supported evidence. And apparently, so is our governor. But now he is mandating complicity from North Carolina public school teachers. Haven’t we seen this before? Galileo, Sappho, Jesus? The Christian Crusades, Witch-Hunting, the Inquisition, Slavery? The anti-family planning movement may not rely on history or honesty, but shouldn’t we demand that the people running our State do? I plan to remember the dubious moves of our General Assembly for the next two years and vote those men and women back to the wrong side of history. Because as we know “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.
I am a regular at Moral Mondays. Dressed in 89% pink 10% purple and 1% other, sequestered in the shade and respectfully attentive to the impassioned voices of our community leaders. It is awe-inspiring to be a part of this historical moment in NC history, not because our government snuffed our State’s flame of greatness, but because there are so many of us united in the battle to reignite it.
But I was hesitant to go inside the Legislative Building until one sweltering afternoon the allure of cold air and fresh water overcame me. With my history of issues with authority, I assumed that I might be arrested just for my contemptuous gait to the water fountain so I nervously typed up a dramatic text to my husband.
“I’m going in.” I said.
Immediately he responded:
“Do not get arrested. No money for bail. If go to jail, will tell girls their mother is courageous.”
I read that and started to weep, not because my husband had just told me he was going to leave me in a jail cell all night, but because he recognized that it took courage for me to stand up. Every time I have ever stood up to an injustice, I was consumed with fear. I wish having courage looked like it did in the movies, but in reality courage is a rapid heartbeat, untethered tears, barely contained rage, a touch of Tourette’s and a sucked in belly. The reward is that courage always trumps regret. I hope to teach my children, it is never easy being courageous, but it is the only way to fully grasp the reverence for life.
I was respectful and nothing happened to me while I was inside the General Assembly, except the realization that there is nothing to fear about entering into the people’s house unless of course I was being respectful on the first floor. Then I would be going to jail for the evening.
Later that night when I returned home both of my children were standing at the top of the stairs, freshly bathed and presumably ready for their bedtime stories. The oldest looked at me with surprise and a touch of despair.
“Mama, I thought you were going to jail?” she asked.
Sensing a teachable moment I said. “No darling, mama is not going to jail, but she is going to stand up for the rights of the people in this State. For women to have the right to their own body, for the citizens to have the right to vote and for educators to have the right to a living wage.”
For a moment both girls looked down at me with quiet desperation.
Then the little one looked up at her forlorn older sister and sighed the words.
“I guess this means we can’t watch TV now.”
So as I embark on my last Moral Monday, I pay respects for those arrested and vow to keep the light of justice ablaze and the glare of Spongebob Squarepants very, very dark.
My youngest was looking at old pictures of me the other day and asked “Where me at?” I told her that she was not there because these were pictures of me before I had children. And she asked “but why I not there?” and I told her the truth, because of “reproductive freedom”.
Until I met my husband, I had not dated one single man I wanted as the father of my children. Not one. Sometimes I knew within seconds of meeting them, others painfully longer, but one thing is for sure I have no regrets. I was lucky enough that when I did decide to have children, two healthy pregnancies ensued and three weeks past their due dates, babies safely arrived. This is reproductive freedom in action. I do not have to explain my choices to you and you do not have to approve of them for me.
But at 8:00 last night I watched as Republican legislators gleefully seized on the lives of the girls and women of North Carolina with useless platitudes and no grasp of reality. Naturally, if legislators were sincerely concerned for women they would have been able to present factual and quantitative reasoning to back their bill, but instead they used duplicity, religious indoctrination and scare tactics. Of course, we all know this is not about protecting women anyway, it is about controlling them.
Last night dangerously ignorant and pious lawmakers inserted themselves in to the narratives of my children’s future, twisting their fates and limiting their sovereignty.
I do not intend to teach my children to seek approval from their government on reproductive decisions. Their personal and private futures will be given back to them.
Because nothing can protect those gum smacking, chair swiveling, smug grinning legislators from their role in the most unethical and cruelest legislative session in the history of North Carolina. This is a fact they can hang their concern on.