JUST MUSING: “Babble, babble, babble”…

Babble:

This musing is about how some things change, but unexplainably remain the same.  I know…I know…I know, I have misstated the proverb, however, I promise to be a little clearer as I work through this musing; not necessarily more succinct – clearer.  The year was 1977 – affirmative action was before the Supreme Court (Bakke v. Regents of University of California) – not the current debate over affirmative action (Fisher v. University of Texas), but the initial challenge.  Bakke had just been argued (argued on October 12, 1977), and at a time the admission process at professional schools was underway.  The process began at the University of Houston Law Center in October 1977.  For the uninitiated the dictionary definition of affirmative action is not necessarily intellectually honest, “the practice of improving the educational and job opportunities of members of groups that have not been treated fairly in the past because of their race, sex, etc.”  The debate has always been about race, period.

The University’s Admissions Committee consisted of the following persons:  the Director of Admissions; four to five professors from the law center; three students, two of which were appointed by the Student Bar Association, and myself, appointed by the Black American Law Students Association (BALSA).  I was also assigned to represent the interest of the Women Law Students Association (WLSA) and the Chicano Law Student Association (CLSA) (don’t ask how this happened, a far longer story).  Some of the names I remember, others I do not.  Remember, some things change – in this context – memory; some things remain the same – race – a continuing debate – generations later.  Be clear, race is not why I muse, the admissions process is not why I muse; both however serve as vessels to convey my real concern.  Please bear with me.

I need to provide a bit more information first.  We, the students (Elaine Carpenter, Beatriz Gonzalez, and myself), conspired with Professor Yale Rosenberg to form a coalition (some of you will view this agreement as a conspiracy; I’m okay with the term).  For those of you who worry about such admissions, and find yourself standing yelling at me to remain quiet, please calm down and keep reading.  I have previously confessed my sins in a memoriam dedicated to Professor Rosenberg for the Houston Law Review in 2002.

Now back to our conspiracy:  we established a set of goals, including increasing the number of females in the incoming class.  We envisioned increasing the admission of females to at least fifty percent (of the incoming class), a heady goal at the time in that the female composition at the school was probably no greater than fifteen – twenty percent. We also had a goal of increasing the number of Hispanic and African American students for the incoming class.  In light of Bakke still pending, we were forced to tread lightly on issues of race.  The Supreme Court did not issue its decision in Bakke until June 27, 1978.

We, the Committee, were told that bonus points (the extra points increased these students chance for admission) were automatically given to applicants and graduates from certain institutions (The University of Texas, Rice University, any Ivy League school), but not to University of Houston graduates.  I questioned why the University would engage in such an act of self-hate.  Since I am doing a bad job of paraphrasing common expressions, let me try this one – “I didn’t know Jack Kennedy, however I grew up black.  I know self-hate and this particular policy was institutionalized self-hate.  I protested.  They ignored – turning, turning, turning in the other direction as if no one spoke, as if silence now constituted sound.  The preference remained; a perverse form of affirmative action, still a preference.  We also learned of another preference which was granted to certain, not all, alumnus’ children.

To admit a student under the discretionary process, five votes were needed; it should be noted the vast majority of students were admitted through the discretionary admission process.  My memory tells me the number was as high as ninety percent of the incoming class.  Our coalition conspired to vote in a bloc, which meant with our numbers we couldn’t get you in the law school, but we could keep you out.  I hope I am making sense – let me try explaining this differently – the other side needed at least one of us voting with them to admit their desired applicant.  Such was the setting – race still mattered, coalitions worked when implemented right, politics still was politics – even in making decisions on who would be admitted in an institution of higher learning.

The admissions process started in October 1977.  We did not fill the incoming class of 1978 until October/November 1978; six months after I had graduated from the law school; one month before starting practice in November 1978; four months after the Supreme Court had decided Bakke; a month and half after the new school year had started.  A contentious and prolonged process allowed us to meet our goal with regards to women admitted, the number of Hispanic students in the incoming class was the largest ever for the school, and we were a little off on the number of African American students admitted.  Our conspirators also were successful in admitting the University’s first openly transsexual applicant, whose application had been hidden from the rest of the Committee.  After discovery of the buried file (with a note attached admitting the applicant was qualified to be admitted on numbers alone), we shut the process down for at least two months.  The note identified the applicant as being transsexual and advised that the file should not be brought to the attention of the Committee.  You can imagine the discussion which followed:  threats of telling the world, including the applicant, the public.  Sugar plum fairies dancing in the heads of the Administrators? – No, no, absolutely not.  The Administrations instead agree to avoid a lawsuit, and the story which the press would have loved to have written.  The overly qualified transsexual applicant was admitted without fanfare.   There is a theme developing here:  sometime change is painful, dramatic, and eye opening; most times it is slow, incremental, seemingly intractable, and immovable.  There is a sub-theme also:  our activities as students meant the institution/administrators/law professors taught us well.   They had no one to blame but themselves for our appreciating the rule of law.

One last point in order to enhance an appreciation of time and place – The University of Houston Law Center was named Bates School of Law, then, not The University of Houston Law Center.  I believe Mr. Bates hadn’t yet been arrested.  A positive came out of Mr. Bates arrest?  The University probably showed other institutions how to react to such adverse publicity, particularly when a namesake discredits him/herself/ the institution – they pulled Mr. Bates’, and heirs, pictures down – immediately – removed his name from the building – post-haste – and spent little time debating changing the letterhead.  Little debate, far less in time in providing an explanation to the public, name gone, letterhead changed – done.  Oh, how I have digressed.

Babble, babble:

Indira Gandhi served as the Prime Minister of India from 1966 to 1977; Golda Meir served was the Prime Minister for Israel from 1969 to 1974; Benizar Bhutto was the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan, serving from 1971 to 1977.  Elisabeth Domitien served in her nation’s highest position (Central Africa Republic) from 1975-1976, Margaret Thatcher (Great Britain) from 1979 to 1990, Dame Eugenia Charles (Dominica), from 1980 to 1995. While chronicling, don’t ignore Luisa Diogo (Mozambique), 2004 to 2010, Portia Simpson-Miller (Jamaica), 2006 to 2007, and Han Myeong-sook (South Korea), 2006-2007.  Please, please don’t contend any of this is the relics of history.  History’s present day gifts reveal that some of the current female office holders include Angela Merkel (Germany) (11 years as Chancellor); Sheikh Hasina (Bangladesh) (7 years as Chancellor); Erna Solbert (Norway) (2 years as Prime Minister); Laimdota Straujuma (Latvia) (since 2014 as Prime Minister); Saara Kuugongelwa (Namibia) (since March 21, 2015); Beata Szydio (Poland) (since November 15, 2015, in the role of Prime Minister).  Currently there are roughly twenty six (26) women around the world sitting at apex of power in their governments.
Countries with Female Heads of State and Government
By Tentotwo [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Do the math – there have been roughly eighty four (84) elected or appointed heads of government who have been female; roughly ­­­eighty six (86)  who have been elected or appointed heads of state; zéro, zilch, zip, nil, nought, nada, nothing, nichts, diddly-squat, sero, and goong represents the number of females in the land of the brave, home of the free.  By any standard or analysis, even if I counted wrong, I think I got this one mathematical computation right.  The nations which have had female heads of state includes most of the countries in South America, a good portion of Asia, Canada, Australia, a representative sample of the countries situated in Africa and Europe – shame on us, shame on us.

Babble, babble, babble …

I muse because I fundamentally believe we have to conspire to elect a female as the head of our government, not in someone else’s lifetime, in our lifetime.  I believe this to the same extent as those conspirators who believed they could increase the numbers of females in the incoming classes in the professional schools in this country, holding strong, refusing to deviate from their blocs, no matter the argument, tradition, or creative reasoning of avoidance.

My belief in our failings is grounded in the same belief that our political system fails woefully when it comes to electing minority candidates, particularly the filling of judicial positions throughout the country.  Even when minority candidates seek to fill the void, the expected conspiracy of like-minds dissipates – turning, turning – turning in the other direction.  Creative arguments follow, challenges to qualification is a persistent argument, foes and friends join hands in opposition – even crossing party lines becomes acceptable behavior.

I muse not as a bitter, bitter man this time, even though I readily will accept any such misapplied label.  I muse not to discuss the plight of minorities in the political process.  My concern is the continual flight of logic, excuses, avoidance of our obligation – in assuring a robust participatory democracy, and obliterating our out-right sexism when it comes to addressing the void in the election of a woman to the highest office in land.  This bitter, bitter man willingly admits there has been progress, absolutely.  This bitter, bitter man still believes notwithstanding the admitted progress, zero still equals zero.

In the Friday, January 22, 2016, New York Times, columnist Paul Krugman [How Change Happens] wrote “There’s a sort of mini-dispute among Democrats over who can claim to be Mr. Obama’s true heir – Mr. Sanders or Mrs. Clinton?  But the answer is obvious:  Mr. Sanders is the heir to candidate Obama, but Mrs. Clinton is heir to President Obama.  (In fact, the health reform we got was basically her proposal, not his.).”  But it seems to me that none of this matters if we babble, babble, babble away.

My youngest child told me that when her oldest saw President Obama for the first time on television (he was a mere four years old then), he exulted, “He looks like me!”   We owe it to female young eyes the same exultation, the same conspiracy of like minds.  And if you think I muse because of Democratic and Republican politics – you’ve missed my point.   In recent history, we have elected a B-actor from Death Valley Days, who replaced a relatively unknown peanut farmer from Plains, and we even acquired a taste for the audaciousness of hope, electing a young, inexperienced, relatively unknown, Senator from Illinois, and before him we placed in the office a governor from a state with a population roughly one-third the size of the population of New York City, with land mass a little bit larger than some of the ranches in the southern part of Texas.  And, of course, I haven’t made any mention of Texas’ wonderful contributions to our imperfect union.  So don’t give me what we can’t do, or structure arguments based upon some undefined, unbending principle never applied to others – set aside the party politics argument for another generation.  We got to do what we got to do – collectively conspiring to change history.

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JUST MUSING: “You do tortillas?”…

After leaving Canino’s Farmer Market, I detoured to purchase a couple of clay comales.  Prior to proceeding, and for the uninformed, a comal is “a smooth, flat griddle typically used in Mexico and Central America to cook tortillas, toast spices, sear meat, and generally prepare food. Similar cookware is called a budare in South America.  Some comales are concave and made of “barro” (clay).  These are still made and used by the indigenous peoples of Mexico and Central America.  Comals are similar to the American griddle or the Indian tava, and are often used and named interchangeably with these.”   No … I had no intentions of purchasing comales when I started my journey.  The intended purpose of my trip was to purchase ingredients to make Oaxacan-style tamales.  The chef/cookbook writer, Patricia Quintana prefaced her recipe with the following description, “My grandmother Margarita considered Oaxacan-style tamales the most important offering for the altar on the Day of the Dead.  These tamales are different from others, since they are steamed in banana leaves rather than corn husks. They are commonly served with Mexican-styled coffee or hot atole.  If you cannot get banana leaves, you can use corn husks.”  Being true to my interest, I wasn’t going to disappoint grandmother Margarita and nothing other than being a slave to the recipe was my intent, banana leaves included.

The unplanned detour was just that – an anticipated minor deviation.  However, the unpredictability of life intruded instead.  The woman behind the counter took the comales, turned them over, then over again, then over again.  I had not switched the price tags and wondered why the delay; why the confusion?   Periodically, this stranger peered at me while she inspected.  She appeared to be of Central American origin, with indigenous cheeks, her skin tone was a wonderfully consistent brown – not like water for chocolate but the color of cocoa beans which was carried into Mexico by the Mayans.  She, the one holding hostage, stood no taller than four feet, ten inches, four eleven – surely I would be exaggerating if I attempted to impose upon her any greater height, or any other reasons for her real and imagined intimidation.

“These for tortillas.”

Sure my confusion begot a weak and timid smile, accompanied by limit words.  “I know.”  She then looked at me again, while holding onto the comales, repeating the same words – “these for tortillas” – as if language, and the cultural bridge, was too great.  I repeated, “I know.”  Apparently she didn’t believe I knew, immediately turning to signal two other women to come.  I didn’t understand what problem I had created; maybe these were not for sale, maybe they were display items only.  They talked, and talked, she still repeating, explaining – “He don’t understand!”

“Por favor, explique a él.”

One of the other women stepped around the sacks of corns, and bags of beans laying claim to the floor, repeating my kidnapper’s words, this time slower.  The silver brim on her tooth, located on the right side of her mouth, reflected in the morning sun, while in no way interfering with her words, and concerns.  “I know.”   “I know.”

“You do tortillas?”

“Yes, ma’am, I do tortillas.”

Those invisible bridges either disappeared or I told a wonderfully engrossing joke.  I didn’t know which.  They laughed.  They grinned.  They pointed at me as if I wasn’t there; as if I didn’t know they were pointing.  I became the proverbial piñata.  My original ninety five pound terrorist then told me what I owed her, smiling, chuckling; repeating her previous statement.  “You do tortillas, you do tortillas.”  I didn’t want to tell her I had no intentions of doing tortillas that day and that I had actually made the trip to purchase items for the contemplated pork and chicken tamales.  Something about our engaging encounter told me their constitution would not be able to stand any more contradictions.  I also understood my vocabulary was much too limited.  Time now conspired against me for deviating, detouring and ignoring Aunt Margarita’s specific ingredients and instructions.

“Gracias.”

My new found tormentors bestowed upon me a collective thank you – giggling, pointing – smiling.  I don’t know whether they thought I was the “lying Negro” (“Negro mentiroso”) or a brown bull visiting from a different pasture who had jumped the fence.

After my detour, I should have gone straight home.  I did not.  I continued on task, in search of additional ingredients for the tamales, and the accompaniment, black mole (Mole Negro De Santa Anna Chautempan).   I stopped at least two Fiesta Markets, the first Fiesta did not have any banana leaves; the second had a limited supply, with some not as fresh as I desired.  During the checking out process, I recognized that smile – this time I got ahead of the problem, “I know, making tamales.”  Before the cashier could summon her compatriots – I fled – running across the parking lot like the coward I am, refusing to look back to see their smiling and grinning faces accompanied with their pointing.  I could care less that they didn’t recognize my sprint was soul-saving.

Doubling and tripling the recipe caused me to see each one of the smiles I fled days earlier.  They were now laughing like hyenas in my head, walking in unison in the parade honoring the Dead, knowing full well I would not be able to do what I said I was going to do, knowing full well I did not know.   Of course, being true to my bull-headed ways, I had no intention of disappointing Aunt Margarita or any of the all souls.  No, I had never made tamales before, and was surprised by the many layered composition of a food I had taken for granted.  The more I labored I wanted so much to travel back in time to watch the first time those souls first discovered a tamale.  The accompaniment – mole – consisted of twenty three ingredients, enhanced my intimidation and bewilderment; the many souls who contributed to the ultimate composition and history of mole worked, and worked against my sense of self.  Celebration of the dead indeed! Margarita, Margarita, Margarita!!!

During the preparation process, I received a call from a friend/former client (a Mexican American woman, roughly fifteen years my senior).  “I will have to call you back Mary.  I am elbows deep in masa.”  After a brief explanation, Mary attempted to persuade me to flee, to abandon the road less travelled.  She too emitted a slight laugh, giggling at the thought.  The hyenas who haunted me earlier howled louder, seemingly snipping at my heels as I ran, laughing, preying.  Mary could be seen peering around the corner, as the other hyenas gave chase; she too unable to control her laughter.  “Why?  Darling, I will bring you some tamales when we (sisters, daughters) get together at Christmas.  You can’t do this by yourself.”   I refused her offer.  My refusal matters not – for tamales, Aunt Margarita, Patricia Quintana, All Souls Day or the Day of the Dead are not the reasons I muse.

The tamale jump of faith occurred years ago.  Oh sure, I completed the jumped, landed and realized I needed additional help when confusion reigned in the kitchen.  After my nerves settled, the project was completed.  My life lesson:  because of the complicated nature of preparation process, tamales are to be shared and enjoyed.  During this last Christmas respite, I considered engaging in the adventure again.  When I remembered the arduous road last time travelled – I decided to muse instead.  Let me explain.

We are currently engaged in a new presidential campaign in the United States.  As in most elections, the policies of the sitting administration become part and parcel of the debate.  Although elections require us to look forward, they also allow us to look backwards, questioning, examining while attempting to access the policies of the then existing administration. Some, no matter what, will never admit successes.  Others will support a given administration, no matter how misaligned a given policy, never disagreeing, while questioning the sanity of those who dare question and criticize.  I am probably trudging and infringing on both views with the present administration – me, the person who still believes we never elected a black president (“I’m dreaming”, “not in my lifetime”, “still don’t believe it”, “Oh Lord!”).  Let’s see – I fundamentally disagree with the current administration’s continuation of the assault of the Fourth Amendment (read this as NSA and privacy infringements).  I remain angered by the Obama’s enhancement of Bush/Cheney policies on the War on Terror.  From a constitutional standpoint, I still have a difficult time understanding how the past administration (Bush) and this current administration (Obama) can forever fight wars without congressional authorization.  It may be just me, and I am okay with that.  No matter where you stand, I have stated my position; feel free to take your shot.  Remember, while criticizing please understand this too is not why I muse.

I muse to say that one area which the Obama administration should be applauded is the continuation and expansion of the Performance at the White House.  Sure, the program has existed since 1978, formed under the Carter administration, but my impression is this President and First Lady’s love of music has helped create an appreciable expansion and presentation of the many flavors of American music.  When watching, it’s clear the artists can’t hide their delight at performing at the White House, others laugh audibly as if the setting differs from the dives of lives past.  Of course, the artists are preforming before an atypical audience, the nation’s elites, the powerful, the lettered, educated, those who have ready access to the fruits of our society – but I digress.  Whether the voice is that of Esperanza Spalding’s grounding, and improving jazz with her wonderful penance, or Keb Mo’s guile, visiting the voices of blues artists past and present, or Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDowell’s walking on stage providing wonderful voices and a presentation which invites us to experience the wonders of Broadway,  or even the inimitable Carole King’s smile, air and music, the different flavors work to enhance our appreciation of the arts.  This administration expansion of the America’s greatest export should be something we should insist future administrations continue to expand upon the support of the arts (including the restoration of past cuts, then implementation of increased funding for our schools).

When the State of New York had budgetary problems in 2010, its legislature went after the humanities programs. Arizona State University’s Project Humanities reported, “As much trouble as the education industry is in, every state continues to witness the dissolving of the very funds intended to help it.  Major cuts in education have been directed towards the arts and humanities where millions of students are being deprived of these subjects and outlets.  According to the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES), nearly 1.5 million elementary students are without music, nearly 4 million are without the visual arts and almost 100% of them, more than 23 million, are educated without dance and theatre.”  Be sure, the cuts affect more than music, humanities includes a wide array of subjects, music, art, literature, and language.  Absolutely, there is a debate why these cuts have taken place, with some contending the cuts have been because students are electing to major in other fields.  This argument seems a bit ridiculous to me when we have spent the last twenty-five to thirty years taking art and music out of the schools and devaluing the cross-cultural bridges in which art, literature and music provide.   The attacks on humanities works to make us a less literate society, increases our historical ignorance and persistent non-appreciation of differing tongues – it also undercuts our greatest imports – immigrants – those bearing gifts of language, food, talent and customs.

We all do tortillas, or stated differently, and to avoid any misinterpretation by some, we are all tamales – multi-layered, a mixture of many ingredients, layered with history and traditions, borrowing from the customs of many – not at all as simple as we appear to be.   And of course, the continued attack on humanities works to inhibit future wannabe cooks from exploring, prevents them from appreciating other Aunt Margarita(s), silences laughter in different tongues, and causes us to ignore the differing flavorings and enhancements existing on our planet – that is why I muse.

 

JUST MUSING: “Dangling, dangling, dangling, everywhere” …

One of the most persistent recycled stories in the mass media (included in this term is social media) is presenting pictures of women, particularly actresses, asking whether the subjects have aged well.  Of course the inference is they have not.  The writer or poster then steps backs to allow the masses to feed off the calculated frenzy, all to satisfy our prurient interest – looking with disdain at the fallen beauties, as if no longer worthy of our adulation.  The supposed progressive step forward has been the insertion of one, maybe two, men in the line-up – don’t be fooled – the focus is always the women.   When reading the pieces, something inside of me tells me that those writing and posting are either supremely comfortable with their own looks, or they themselves are not subjected to the same standards of beauty and aging, or that the writer/submitter/poster are following the age old truism and pattern of subjecting women to an impossible standard, never imposed upon men.

Currently, the newest version of Star Wars is in the process of breaking all box-office records and because of this phenomenon two of its past and present stars have been in the news.   One is Harrison Ford (Han Solo), with regards to his compensation; the other, is Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), with regards to whether she has aged well.   Carrie Fisher ultimately sickened by being placed in the proverbial digital box took to Twitter.

Carrie Fisher

✔@carrieffisher

Youth&BeautyR/NOT ACCOMPLISHMENTS,theyre theTEMPORARY happy/BiProducts/of Time&/or DNA/Dont Hold yourBreath4either/ifUmust holdAir/takeGarys

8:51 PM – 29 Dec 2015

I have a rough theory, that literature, advertising, and the written word have too long been dominated by men’s view of the world, particularly our obsession with our penises.  Okay, okay, okay, stop and think about this for a moment before you label me as being more of an idiotic fool than I am willing to admit or accept.  I muse because I also believe that a fundamental underlying tenet of oppressive behavior is to make the oppressor feel better about him/her/themselves.  With those two beliefs on the table, please indulge me and continue reading.

The dictionary definition of penile is defined as “of, relating to, or affecting the penis.”  Let me make clear what I am not musing about.  I am not concerned with all things penises – you know, penis as God.  I am not smart enough to solve what Eve did or did not do (no less Adam), or who dared to eat the apple. Two virgins, seventy two virgins, you got me – all past my intellectual capacity.   This muse also has nothing to do with Sigmund Freud’s theory of penis envy.  So that we are clear, I willingly reject Freud’s concept/theory/analysis of penis envy, that is, I find it difficult to accept that a woman’s psychological health is defined by her envy of something she does not possess.  Sure, I believe all of these concepts, and theories have molded us, particularly as related to concepts of beauty, and aging.  Simply stated, a full discussion of religion tenets and beliefs or psychiatric theories and theorems are far beyond the reach of this muse.  Before leaving Freud, I always envisioned Freud diddling with his thing before releasing his theory on the rest of us.  I’m sorry, I digressed.

Grady Paris, a law school friend and lawyer, use to complain loudly (after a difficult day of negotiating) that the negotiations were impeded by “dangling dicks” (read this as male egos, but be clear, dangling dicks were actually her words).   While she complained I envisioned a butcher’s work, with dangling sausages hanging from their hooks, all drying, dangling everywhere.  I ultimately catalogued Grady’s complaint as wonderful symbolism, identifying the challenges female lawyers face in a male-dominated profession (if not in numbers, in thought and clearly under any benefit analysis) (sorry for talking like a lawyer but no better way of explaining).

Sure, there were ways to test Grady’s premise, probably more reliable than Freud’s concept of women being jealous of our junk.   One can readily collect the raw number of women in the profession, examine the earning capacity of women versus men, or even look at positions, rank, and opportunities provided (partnerships in firms, faculty in the law schools, by way of example).  I admit, I simply agreed with Grady’s observation without subjecting it to any empirical testing (okay, the lawyer lingo now ceases, I promise).

Betty Wong, another friend who happens to be a lawyer, one day provided a wonderful metaphor for life.  At the time, we were traveling in the state of Florida to visit with clients.  The clients’ family member died after the commercial shrimp boat he was working exploded in the Gulf.  While crossing one of Florida’s impossibly long bridges, Betty stated, “You see a cow every day, in one form or another.”  I don’t know whether she had just seen a cow, whether she made the statement because it related to our far ranging discussions, or whether her statement was a Chinese thing.  Betty continued driving, while I continued my futile attempt to keep my eyes open.  During our two to three days of travel, I grew tired of her cows intruding.

“See.”  “See.”  “See.”

After our trip, I never sought to empirically test Betty’s statement.  I readily accepted the statement as having an inherent truth – all while we moved from urban, to coastal, to rural, and back to an urban setting.  The scope of her words included the shoes I wore, the bag I carried, the steering wheel I gripped – the milk I drank.  When I attempted to exclude her caveat (“in some form or the other”), I still was consumed by the grazing bovines piercing my thoughts and eyes.  I say all this to say – even though I may not be able to empirically test my theory (same as Betty’s theory on cows, or Grady’s theory of dangling peniles), I know what I know; I see what I see.

The actress (Maggie Gyllenhaal) complained of being rejected for a part because she was deemed too old (37) to play the mate of the male in the movie (55).  The fashion industry has been forced acknowledged they too long have engaged in the process of placing square women in round pegs and vice versa – the perfect breast, the ideal size, imposing arbitrary definitions of beauty.  Academics too have extensively researched and written on the subject, particularly the effect of same on women from cradle to grave.

Recently, I was visiting a former client’s shop for a facial (stop smiling and get over it).  Dr. Al-Haj, a trained surgeon and owner of the facility, provided the best grounding rationale for taking better care of ourselves.  She listened, nodded and refused to engage in my male-based rationale, and practiced dance of avoidance.  While writing, the good doctor looked up, explaining, “You are still a 1954 model and like most 1954 models, you have to change the oil more.”

I muse to our behavior affects all of us, but the bulls-eye will only continue to hit women when they remain the only target – “Oh, my, my, my, how she has aged” – in the storyline.  DNA is what it is – DNA.  The aging process is what it is – unavoidable.  No doubt, we can enhance, nip, tuck, cream, massage, dress, drape, exercise – and even admit to being convinced to have a regular facial.  But surely, we have to stop the insane process of allowing women to be hoisted on our petard and held to an impossible standard.  If I am wrong, send me just one article on that 1942 model (Harrison Ford) saying how horribly he has aged, or better yet, send me an article comparing the 1942 model to the 1956 model (Carrie Fisher) questioning which one has aged the worst.  Don’t bother, remember oppression doesn’t work that way.  Oppression can be direct, or subtle, doesn’t matter, because the underlying intent remains the same – to make the one not being oppressed feel better.  And for those who are disturbed by my penis theory – calm down.  In the movie, Rush Hour 2, Chris Tucker theorized crime can be best be solved by following “the rich white man”.  I think my theory is just as viable – empirically grounded, historically proven, and readily seen (sort of like Betty’s cows)… dangling, dangling, dangling everywhere, every day.

JUST MUSING: “THEY IS US, THEY IS US” …

I have always possessed a tormented relation with organized religion.  My feelings were openly discussed with my mother as early as middle school – in hindsight she provided incredible tolerance, understanding and guidance – her words were always accompanied by a smile and her blessings.  “You have been imbued with religion and the church, you will return.”  Because I am willing to admit my ambivalence, does not mean I swore against supporting others rights to worship.  Absolutely, I understood the importance of religion (a belief in something); this too was always part of the discussion. Sure, she always rolled her eyes when I started talking about the sun, moon and wind.  When contemplating a major in college, I considered a divinity degree; even the mere mentioned caused her to revisit the subject – the same guiding hand directing me elsewhere – “maybe not, maybe not” … “read, study, understand and appreciate … you have no intentions of using a divinity degree to provide for others….”   She was right again, I changed majors, continued studying, trying to understand – while always wanting never, ever, to infringe on another’s right to worship.

*          *          *

 David Savage worked for Los Angeles Times, and the last time I checked he still does.  His long-term assignment is reporting on matters before the United States Supreme Court.  Mr. Savage travelled to Galveston to meet the Doe clients, clients who sued under fictitious name(s) to protect their identities, anonymous.  Savage expressed he wanted to hear the clients’ story, and provide the Los Angeles Times’ audience, and reach, the backstory.  He related he understood the clients’ protecting their identities because of their living in a small town, still having school age children, and because of their concerns over the volatility of religion and faith.  For the uninformed, the Doe(s) were not conflicted with regards to organized religion.  They were not atheist, did not purport to be agnostic, questioning, questioning, questioning.  They were not of the belief that human existence just happened, with no explanation needed, nor did they assign human existence to luck, chance or magic.  The Doe families were of the Mormon and Catholic faiths.

Savage agreed to protect the clients’ identities, recognizing the Doe(s) had undertaken a challenge most would never undertake.  They challenged their local school district, and its board, for imposing religion in their public schools.  The school district, Sana Fe, is and remains a public school (meaning taxpayers dollars).  The dominant religion-sect was, and still remains, Southern Baptist.  Such was the setting, trying times, a challenge and one of our society’s most emotionally charged issues.  A challenge probably more aptly described by the venerable songstress, Roberta Flack, “Trying times what the world is talkin’ about.  You got confusion all over the land, yeah” – so it seemed.

Mr. Savage’s agreement to protect the clients’ identity however was with a caveat – he wanted the opportunity to ask them to make an exception for his paper and for him.  I explained that the Doe families had consistently refused others offers and that I didn’t believe their position was going to change.  With such an understanding, I agreed to allow the interview to happen.

The interview took place.  The Doe families, I believe enjoyed the interview, telling stories they were never able to tell the federal district judge (the backstory).  They got off their chest their understanding of the Constitution – there exists no religious test; that the public schools should stay out of religion and that they as parents should be allowed to provide their children religious training of their choice, not the school’s.  They were particularly galled the school district thought otherwise.  When the interview was drawing to a close, the reporter, of much repute, finally asked the question he wanted to ask early on but did not – “Whether they would trust him enough to expose their names to the public.”  Any sleep threatening my participation in the meeting disappeared at that point.  However, my awakening and anxieties were misplaced – the Doe parents well-understood how dangerous the issue was and with school-aged children, they were not about to expose their children to their decision to bring suit.  Their answer was the same, always a consistent one, “No.”

When Texas Monthly published a story indicating, inferring, artfully writing – that possibly one of the people they interviewed (and published pictures of in the story) was one of the Doe family members – the Doe(s) remained quiet, saying nothing.  I remember the family who appeared in Texas Monthly. The visited but abruptly fled when fear gripped them, compelling them to refuse to participate as plaintiffs.  After the lawsuit was filed, and won, the frustration of seeing their fifteen minutes of fame escape them was too much.

When the Hugh Hefner Foundation wanted to honor the Doe families for their courage, they had one stipulation – they, the Doe(s) had to reveal their identities. The Doe(s) settled instead for their principles, ignored the money and recognition and went back to raising their families.  The award was never forthcoming.  Television news shows, journals, and newspapers received the same consistent message – “no, thank you.” I have seen their children over the years and they have expressed to me their relief that their parents’ were able to protect them, while still protecting their faith – a message always delivered with a smile, a handshake – a hug.

I muse not because of the Doe families and surely not because of the results of the case.  The Supreme Court decided and hopefully the case will stand the test of time.  I muse because we as a society continue to make the same mistakes.  With the recent debate of religious-based admission into the United States, to the painting of an entire faith as terrorists, to candidates for public office forgetting they are seeking office in a Union formed without a religious-based test, to these same candidates fumbling over the tenets of their own faiths while condemning others, I can’t help but fume and still muse at the same time.

How dare them.  Yes, how dare them.  They can’t make the Constitution say Christians only – unless they rewrite it – or can they?   They wouldn’t dare repeal the Bill of Rights, or strip away our protections, the core of the document, prohibiting “Congress making no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” – they wouldn’t, couldn’t, do that, would they?  They wouldn’t dare pass laws providing for religious-based admissions into the United States – no, no, no – that’s not possible, is it?  Have these folks ever played dominoes? – “What goes around comes around!”  Wait, that’s not how it goes… “A count (points) ignored will always come back around!”  Wait, wait, wait… that is not a good analogy, please bear with me a little longer.

I muse because anything is possible.  We, as a society, are a resourceful people, capable of doing great things if done as a collective whole, meaning we, as a society, are also capable to doing collectively bad if the rest of us don’t recognize they is us and unless we fight to protect our/theirs/others individual freedoms, then we are doomed to allow them to do anything they wish.

When a local Mormon group came bearing their book of faith, after the Doe(s)’ victory, they extended an invitation to visit their house of worship – I waited for them to ask me to reveal who brought the lawsuit – they never did.  I visited, accepting the congratulations on behalf of the Doe(s) even though I well understood the Mormon’s historical view of blacks (a view now discarded).   When a local Muslim group came bearing their book of faith, no invitation to visit followed, just a profound thank you and a request I deliver their love and appreciation to my forever silent clients.  No, none of the Doe family members were Muslim, but they were (“I’m Muslim, but not”).  Only one of the families was of the Mormon faith, they too are Muslims, but not.  Both families probably remembered history’s tale, one time subjecting both faiths to the same frightening rhetoric as their Muslim brethren, exclusionary policies and hostilities, threatening their very existence, all coupled with potential and actual violence.  Their faiths are long past having to prove their humanity – why should Muslims be required to do so.

Hypocrisy is also what I protested as a child – something my mother did encourage, providing her blessings to my insanity.  So I muse – for holding any of us to an impossible standard is fundamentally unfair.  If we ignore these historical lessons – they (they, which the Constitution says is us) – do win.

A Happy New Year it is…