Mothers and Daughters; Myth and Meaning

copyright © 2006 Betsy L. Angert

Author and Linguist Deborah Tannen recently released a book titled, “You’re Wearing That?  Understanding Mothers and Daughters In Conversation.” In an interview with journalist, Terrence McNally, Ms. Tannen was asked of the unique relationship between mothers and daughters; the author responded as one might expect.  Tannen spoke of what most consider conventional patterns of communication between the two.  As I read, I realized, I could not relate.

Year ago I was an avid reader of Ms. Tannen’s work; I inhaled her every word.  I still think her research is infinitely valid and valuable; however, only for a select few.  The few may be the majority; they are just not I.  I suspect my own sisters might connect to the conclusions Linguist Tannen offers on the subject of mother daughter interactions.  Still, I do not.

Much of my life experience differs greatly.  Perhaps, my experience is not contrary, it may merely be my perception, and understanding of these that conflicts with what is thought customary.

Tannen suggests that “Mothers see their job as being helpful, taking care of us, being protective, but anything you do in that vein always implies criticism.  If you weren’t doing something wrong, you wouldn’t need that advice, help or protection.”  This theory clashes with everything my Mom ever said of her approach and philosophy to parenting.  It varies with all that she practiced.  That is, if you are asking me and not my siblings.

When I was five years old, a new neighbor, Cheryl moved in.  She had one of these mothers.  I would go to her house and observe the interactions between my now friend and her mother.  It was like watching television.  I thought; I want a mother like this.  I even told my Mom about Mrs. Sheldon and how wonderful she was.  Mrs. Sheldon was the exact the opposite of my Mom.  I wondered aloud, why was this.

Mrs. Sheldon cooked and cleaned for her husband and children.  The other family members needed to do nothing.  In the Sheldon family the mother picked out the clothes the family would wear.  She combed Cheryl’s hair, her son Allen’s too.  She bought and served Wonder?¢ bread.  Oh, how I hungered for that.  At my house, it was brand X or even worse homemade breads.

Cheryl’s Mom was always looking in on Cheryl and Allen.  They did not have much alone time.  In my house, private time  was often on the menu.  I spent much time playing, reading, rearranging furniture, and drawing on my own.  Opportunities to contemplate the world were ample.  In those early years, I thought, this “too much.”  I wanted a mom as attentive as Cheryl’s, or so I believed until I was eight.

At the age of eight, while over at Cheryl’s house I realized Mrs. Sheldon was telling Cheryl what to think, say, do, feel, and who to be most of the time.  My Mom never did that.  Berenice was always consistent; she practiced, as she believed.  Unlike Mrs. Sheldon, or the mother Dr. Deborah Tannen describes, my mother offered very little, if any, visible signs of protection.

Invisible criticisms were nonexistent in my mind.  Advice was scarce, so scarce I recall none addressing a specific incident or decision.  I would seek it and always receive the same response.  “Do what ever makes you happy as long as it does not hurt anyone.”  If I bothered to probe, further I would hear these words, a philosophy my Mom lived by “No one has the right to tell you what you should think, say, do, feel, or be.”  Thus, she never did.

My Mom shared her opinions openly on religion, sex, politics, and all the subjects others think taboo.  She never told me that I needed to believe as she does.  Actually, she encouraged my exploring for myself.  If I disagreed with her views, I felt very safe saying so.  We would discuss our differences eternally. Dialogue was promoted.  Barbara Ruth believed “Question everything,” even authority, whatever that is.  She offered infinite opportunities to do so.

Long before my birth, a magazine rack was placed near the toilet in every bathroom.  Many members of my family spent a good amount of time on the bowl.  Within these stands were biology books written for a very young audience.  There were also natural science texts for the adults.  In each, the topic of reproduction was covered.  Periodically, my Mom would casually “quiz” me on my understanding of these materials.  By the age of five, she felt I was fluent.  Finally, those talks ended.

At six, while at school or camp I would hear my peers telling “dirty jokes.”  I thought these are so silly.  These people are totally uniformed.  In my home, there were three hardbound “dirty joke” manuscripts, also in the lavatory.  These were funnier than any playground puns.  These volumes often played with the visual.  Drawings of how a short man’s body fit so tightly into the profile of a taller busty woman’s were a vivid treat for me.

My Mother never worried of my appearance.  She trusted I knew what was best for me.  Berenice Barbara always believed you raise your children to be autonomous.  That was her intent and her custom.  By an early age, I had learned to iron.  I cannot remember a time in early childhood when she would not explain how to determine the quality of a fabric, whether we were buying towels or clothing. She would think aloud and I would learn why she preferred one purchase or another.

My Mom never told me what to buy or wear.  She let me experiment.  As a teen, another close friend, Dawn, was given a dollar amount to spend on her fall wardrobe.  Though it seemed she was free to shop, she was not.  Every purchase had to be approved by her parents.  I could not imagine such a restriction.

The interesting thing is I was never wild, rebellious, or resentful.  I had no reason for dissent.  I think because we spoke of everything, because I had the freedom to error, I felt no compulsion to do so.

My parents politics were quite radical, our life style never was.  It was very conservative.  There were principles.  These were made known, though not presented as limitations.  The rational was offered, conversations were continual, and life was consistent.  What was said would be done.  If there was reason to vary, that too was discussed.  I think this gave me a sense of security, self, and a feeling of conviction that could not be compared.

In my middle schools years, I was purposely exposed to a world where sex, drugs, and violence were easily accessible.  Though I hung-out with the “cool kids,” when they engaged in these follies, I chose to leave.  None of these seemed interesting to me.  I always felt that my Mom knew she could be sure of my decisions and me.  In truth, for decades, she trusted me when I did not trust myself!

Now if you ask at least one of my sisters of her relationship with our mother, you will hear a different tale, the specifics may or may not match.  Nevertheless, the reverence will be lost.  A few years ago, this sibling mentioned her feelings about our mother.  She said, “I never liked Mommy.”  She inquired, did I?  I quietly laughed to myself.  I thought she knew; actually, I always imagined this was among the reasons she and I were not closer.  “I like and love Mommy.”  Were she not my mother I would absolutely choose to know her; she is infinitely interesting to me.

I also think people change constantly.  My Mom had me at a much later age.  She had evolved as a person and made conscious decisions about her parenting preferences.  Who my Mom is to me is not who she was to my siblings.  She grew.

My sisters are their own beings.  Their history, background, and experiences are unique to them, as is their analysis of such.  I think this true for all of us.

As I assess the extreme differences of opinion between my sister and myself, I observe as my Mom often espoused, “You get what you expect.”  I think more often then not, it is not our gender that guides our encounters, nor is it our title, mother, daughter, father, or son.  It is what we experience individually; it is how we internalize the events of our lives.  The unique emotions evoked during an exchange have more power than any given encounter.  We can label these, generalize these, look for those that validate our beliefs, still, we create the space that a person, place or entity occupies in our mind.

In the “Art of Loving” by Erich Fromm, I recall reading descriptions of mothers and fathers.  Fromm spoke of mothers as the nurturing parent, the person that offered unconditional love, or at least that was my interpretation of his words.  Perhaps, I read, as I believe, because it more closely parallels my own experience.  Erich Fromm was among my Mom’s favorites.  This too many have influenced my understanding.

I treasure my Mom.  A close friend of ours once observed he knew many mothers and their daughters, though some were friends, there always seemed a hidden sense of obligation.  He noted, with my Mom and I it was clear, we just like each other.

I wish to share this, the first paragraph in a letter I wrote to Berenice, my Mom years ago; I wanted her to know how special she was and is to me.  I thank you Deborah Tannen for giving me reason to reflect.  Ms. Tannen, I read of how much your Mother meant much to you, in that we are the same.  Only our relationships differed.

I love you Mommy . . .

This letter may have been written, attempted, and mailed many times in the past, but there is still so much I want you to know about my great thanks for you being you and allowing me to be me.  There is so much I want to learn from you.  I want to hear your stories. I want to see life from your view!  I never seem to get enough of all that you are, all that you offer, all that you say, and all that you do!  I miss you even when I am with you because thanks to you, my appetite for learning is unlimited!  There is so much in your mind, in your actions, in your life, your thoughts, your feelings, that I miss the nuances; once is never enough.  Others laugh and understand the unique quality of our exchanges . . . Mom, I do too.

Relating To References  . . .

  • Deborah Tannen
  • “You’re Wearing That?  Understanding Mothers and Daughters In Conversation.” By Deborah Tannen
  • The Struggle Between Mothers and Daughters, By Terrence McNally, AlterNet. June 29, 2006
  • Deborah Tannen References
  • Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood, By William Pollack, Ph.D. Henry Holt and Company
  • Genderlect Styles of Deborah Tannen April 7, 1999
  • Erich Fromm, By C. George Boeree. Personality Theories
  • Isolation. Insulation. The Go-Go Garage Society and Its Islands ©

    copyright © 2006 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink. or BeThink.org

    Originally Published on Monday June 26, 2006 at 10:00:00 AM EDT

    Days ago I was scanning My Left Wing and saw a diary that drew me in, “I Look at All the Lonely People.”  The author, Eugene, stated “I’ve never been one to have many close friends . . . I am very, very choosy with who I care to spend my time with, who I open up to.”  I thought, “Me too!”  I have been very selective all of my life and it has served me well.  Eugene’s words peeked my curiosity; thus, I continued.

    As his article expanded, I discovered that he was discussing a recently released study, “Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks over Two Decades.”  This report revealed people in America no longer have the close ties they once did.  A quarter of the population has no one they confide in.  Most persons are fortunate to have one close friend, perhaps two.  Intimacies within families are not what they once were, or at least they are not as they were once believed to be.  People in America feel alone and isolated.  Interesting; now, I am among the “norm” and yet, simultaneously, still far from it.

    • People have a smaller number of confidants in 2004 than they had in 1985.
    • In 1985, most persons claimed to have three close friends; now they have two or less.
    • Twenty-five percent of the respondents said there was no one that they would turn to in times of trouble.

    I think of myself as a loner.  I have very close friendships, many have lasted a lifetime. I am interested in people, anyone, and everyone.  Still, I am discriminating.  I want a genuine closeness or I want none.  I am extremely independent, autonomous, and some say I am a free spirit. I need no one.  I am not a leader; nor am I a follower.  I believe in communities; yet, I do not seek them.  I accept that I am a part of a universal village.  I am I; I think that is best or at least it is best for me.

    However, social scientists and authors of this recently released study might disagree and they have reason to, Professors, Lynn Smith-Lovin, Miller McPherson, and Matthew E. Brashears are concerned that Americans no longer have a sense of community, neighborhood, or kinship.  We have become fragmented.  These sociologists state a lack inclusion hurts our social and psychological well-being.  I agree with this creed.

    Still, I prefer my dichotomy of an existence, a separation between seeking support for emotional matters and not for physical.  I recognize that each is necessary.  I acknowledge community and connections are vital, even if, at times, I do not engage as completely as I might.  Communities provide in ways that nothing else can.  I share my story to illustrate this belief.

    Throughout my life, whether, I had someone to support me when I had a physical need or not, I would not ask for assistance.  As I stated, during times of emotional crisis, I would turn everywhere.  I absolutely will engage when I am feeling confused.  Fortunately, I have cultivated true friends for such occasions.  However, physically, I prefer taking care of myself.

    Twice in my life, I experienced an injury.  On each occasion, I needed the assistance of others.  This was difficult for me.  I rather not ask for help; nor do I wish to accept it.

    I do not believe in accidents.  I think everything happens for a reason. At the time of these incidents, I chose to accept that I needed to learn from these experiences of asking for and receiving help.  I thought I had, at least a little; however, it took months for me to assess the rationale for this next event.

    Years ago, I moved into a condominium.  It was my first experience of “home ownership.”  I could not afford much and I wanted to stay in the community I loved.  I had lived in an apartment in Irvine, California for eight and one half years.  I purchased my new home exactly one mile down the road.  Prices are high in Orange County, California, particularly in a desirable city such as Irvine.  The place I purchased did not have a garage.  In this garage-society, I wanted one.  Still, I knew, for a time sacrifices must be made.

    Shortly after I moved in the Association passed out a poll; it asked whether we, as residents wanted a garage and what would we pay for it.  Thirty-nine percent indicated they did want more than the pre-existing carports and the price proposed seemed reasonable.  I was among these, the minority.  Fifty one percent said no and they had their reasons.

    Among my nearest neighbors, most of whom had lived there for well over a decade, the vote was no.  We were told that in three years, we would be polled again.  Aesthetically, the carports were ugly; nonetheless, I grew to love these.  Each day, accidentally, and on purpose, those in the neighborhood would met and greet each other in the carports.

    Many of us were on similar schedules.  Mike would sit curbside and have a smoke throughout the day.  Our homes were on walking paths and did not face a street per se.  Therefore, it was natural to use the door closest to the car as an entrance or exit way.  Children did this; they brought their friends in through the back door.  Neighbor did the same.  If they wanted to share a thought, converse of the day, or borrow a cup of sugar, they approached from the rear.  The alleyway was a busy thoroughfare.

    It did not take long before I appreciated being garage-less.  Though I never felt truly close to my neighbors in those first two years, we were far more than cordial.

    Then, while less than a mile from home, I was hit hard.  I was in a very serious car accident.  The Great-Gray-Girl, what some think of as an automobile lost her life, as she worked to save mine.  [Oh, the tears flow.  She was truly my friend and we were connected.]  I was badly injured.  I broke my sternum, four ribs, and I reluctantly say there was great damage to my heel.  I will not share the details.  I do not want that thought to be part of my reality.

    What is part of my reality is, I am among the 44 to 50 million, depending on whose numbers you prefer, that does not have health insurance.  Nevertheless, I spent days in the hospital.  This was an experience in itself and though I was eventually released, I was told I would not be allowed to walk for approximately six months.

    Those that know me recognize that my lying in bed was not likely.  Still I could not apply any weight to my foot, leg, or heel, and crutches gave me no stability.  With the abdominal injuries, the pain was too great.  I elected to crawl.

    I was housebound and extremely restricted.  I lived alone.  My father did fly out from the Midwest to help me; however, he could only give me a few days.  We wondered; what would I do.

    For those not familiar with California, particularly in the megalopolis that is Southern California, people are known for being impersonal.  Neighbors do not know those living adjacent to them.  I recall at work one day co-workers mused, the only time they saw their neighbors was during an obligatory Christmas gathering.  I knew that my experience was different, though I never expected what occurred.

    While still in the hospital I contacted a friend of mine.  We swam together, almost daily for years; I knew she would miss me if I did not show at the pool.  She visited me in the hospital and offered her help.  She was more than there for me.  Helen took me to the doctors, did all my food shopping, as a retired nurse she was able to teach me to walk again when I was more able.  She did so much to assist me in my recovery.  However, I would never ask her to play nursemaid in my every waking moment.

    My father worried, how would I care for myself?  Who would make my meals, feed the kitties, change the litter, just help me to make my life work.  One day, just before he needed to return to his home, he was out in the carport.  He was on his way to run an errand.  My father was entering his car when my neighbor Laura approached him.  She asked of me.  She knew something was wrong.

    While I was in the hospital, Laura noticed friends of mine had come to feed the kitties.  My car was gone.  She saw me return to the house and observed I was not in the best of conditions.  My vehicle never returned; my father stayed, she was concerned and expressed this to my Dad.

    My father shared the situation and voiced his fear for my being home alone once he left.  Laura said to fear not.  She immediately contacted all my neighbors and drew up a plan.  The entire block coalesced.  For the first month someone fed me breakfast, another lunch, a third gave me dinner.  Laura sat with me for hours every evening so that I might bathe safely.

    I need to add; I do not eat processed food, none at all.  Therefore, preparing meals for me was more than dashing off to McDonald’s.  People cooked, cleaned fruit and vegetables.  They worked.  Laura’s daughter gathered my mail and emptied my trash.  Others did other tasks.  Each day was an event, a never-ending chain of care.  By the second month, I could prepare some meals though not all; dinner was too complex.  Mike a noteworthy chef was there to create gourmet delicacies, just for me.  Laura retained her post at bath time for three and one half months.  Evening time with her family was devoted to me.  Heels do not heal quickly.

    During my time of need, many of my friends and neighbors did much to help me.  They were there for me each and every day in ways I never imagined. Their giving of themselves meant and still means so much!  There are no words to express how significant and magnificent this was and is to me.  Again, the tears flow.

    My father flew in every five or six weeks to assist and relieve others temporarily.  There was no money exchanged.  Actually for a short time, I tutored Laura’s daughter in math so that I might earn money.  I was unable to walk or drive for five months.  For all that time, people assisted me.  There was never a complaint.  Years later, the neighbor experienced another grief.  A young man passed; it was unexpected.  Again, we all reached out and were there for each other.

    I discovered as this study concludes, when people are more connected, as a whole, they feel safer and more secure.  Oddly, coming from me, a person can receive comfort without loosing one’s independence.  You can still say, yes, please help me, or no, I need to do this myself.

    People enjoy helping others, they do not necessarily feel a need to overpower or overwhelm another.  From my experience, we all want to give and receive help; however, we may not know how.  As society changes, we have fewer exemplars to teach us.

    Since 1985, the number of family members in the paid labor force has increased.  Women are working in larger numbers.  Many children are also employed.  So much time is spent away from home; there are few opportunities to form genuine, true, and life long relationships even with family members.

    Familial togetherness seems to be a thing of the past.  Divorce is pervasive.  Children are shipped from one household to another.  They do not have a single bed to call their own.  Bedtimes and even siblings may vary from week to week.  “True” friendships are viable on screens. This takes a toll on the psyche of a young mind.  It would weigh heavily on me at any age.

    The concept of dinnertime is antiquated.  Families no longer feast together daily; some are not even doing a weekly meal in the company of their kin.  Rarely do we witness a once traditional pattern, parents, and siblings sitting together while enjoying a meal and each other’s company.  This is sad and troublesome.  Much can be learned from our relatives when we slowly dine and discuss life together.  We glean a sense of who they are; trust grows.

    Meals are now eaten on the run, at work, at a desk, while driving; often people eat alone, not necessarily because they want to, but because they feel so alone.  Gone are the days when a meal was cooked at home, many sharing in the preparation.  Even when a family shares a space and a time for dinner, the menu differs for each individual. Unity is lost.  It may seem a little nuance; however, I wonder if it is a reflection of a broader issue.

    The character of conversations has changed and this might be another reason Americans perceive a distance between themselves, their blood relatives, and their neighbors.  Cell phones, e-mails, and the Internet dominate, in this culture of connectedness.  Yet, these might contribute to the disconnect we experience. Tête-à-tête are chatty.  Substance is missing.  People have little to no time or experience for genuine friendships.  They are flying from one situation to another.

    Parents are working.  It takes two or more incomes to survive.  Thriving is rarely a consideration in today’s workforce.  Jobs are at a premium; they are hard to find, and it is a challenge to keep them.  Your neighbor or your associate is no longer a friend or a confidant.  They are the person that might “steal” your not too well-cemented position at the company.  For the most part, be it in friendships, within our families, or even at work, Americans do not have a sense of security or stability.  All they know is an overscheduled life style.

    We, as Americans sense a need for something.  We search.  We seek; rarely do we stop long enough to discover, what we longed for all along was there, right in our backyard.

  • I am so conflicted; I want to share the names of all those that helped me.  Yet, I was hesitant to verbalize the names that I did offer.  There are so many of you that gave months of your life to me.  I cannot begin to thank you enough!!!  I love you all.  You are very special beings.

    The Initial Inspirations For This Writing . .

    Listen to an Interview with co-author of the study, Lynn Smith-Lovin of Duke University…

  • Social Isolation: Americans Have Fewer Close Confidantes, Debbie Elliott All Things Considered, National Public Radio. June 24, 2006
  • Read One of My Personal Favorite Writings on Balancing Work and Family…

  • My Family Leave Act. [Op-Ed] Robert B. Reich. New York Times. November 8, 1996
  • References For Reflection. . . .

    Balance is Best, Robert Reich

    In my mind, balance is best.  Many work to achieve it; yet few do.  There are priorities; these take precedence.


    Often what is our truest concern is left behind.  It is easy to negate the necessity we all crave, a connection to loved ones.  We think first of our finances.  We need food, shelter, and clothing.  These require cash and a commitment to earning it.

    We can forego time with family, friends, and familiars, or so we believe.  However, when we do, we hurt ourselves and harm our relationships.

    We believe there is time; we will attend to those we love later.  While we work diligently we do not consider the oft-heard narrative; “on our deathbed we will not wish we had spent more time at work.  We will wonder why we did not take time for friends, family, and those we are fond of.”  Nevertheless, we do not.

    “The middle path is the way to wisdom.”

    ~ Mevlana Rumi [philosopher and mystic]


    “Awareness without love is too cold.  Love without awareness is too hot.

    The middle way is slowly showing itself as we wear out all our extremes from having had the nerve to experiment.”


    ~ Osho [Indian spiritual teacher.]

    Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich realized this when he was at what some might have thought the peak of his career.

    My Family Leave Act. [Op-Ed] By Robert B. Reich.

    For several years now, I’ve been trying to find a better balance between work and family, and failing miserably. I’ve only just understood why. It’s the word ”balance” that threw me. I’ve always assumed that a better balance meant more of what you really want to do and less of what you don’t. For me, and perhaps many others, that’s just not possible.

    Sure, I’ve met lots of people who’ve found a better balance through doing less work and gaining more family. That may be hard to achieve economically, but for some it’s at least possible. Live cheaper, scale back, give up the rat race.

    I’ve even met a few people who’ve done the reverse. For them, a better balance means more work and less family. They love their job and find the world of spouse and kids harder to manage. So they’ve hired a baby sitter, gratefully sent the kids off to college or got a divorce. Now their energies are happily focused on work.

    I know someone who found balance by cutting back on both. She simply needed more time for herself. She had had it with a boss who kept piling it on and a family that relied on her to do everything for them. Finding her balance required setting some firm limits.

    All these people found a better balance between work and family by devoting more time and energy to what they really value and less to what they don’t.

    But what if you’re like me and, I suspect, many others? You love your job and you love your family, and you desperately want more of both. You’re doubly blessed, in a way. Whatever you get of either should be a delight. How dare complain? But here’s the rub: There’s no way of getting work and family into better balance. You’re inevitably shortchanging one or the other, or both. You’re never able to do enough of what you truly value.

    Don’t tell me to improve my time-management skills. I’ve done that, and I’m scheduled to the teeth. Teen- age boys don’t need you on schedule. A spouse doesn’t share intimacies on command. Work doesn’t always present new opportunities or crises just when you block out time for them.

    Throw in a boss who has a good idea every two minutes and you can forget the schedule for good. In the end, you simply can’t do more of both. There’s no room for better ”balance.” The metaphor is all wrong. You have to make a painful choice.

    Just the other day, I spoke with a former colleague who had faced the same dilemma. He had a wonderful job, which he couldn’t get enough of. Every night when he left work, he kicked himself that he didn’t have more time to devote to it. But he also was deeply attached to his family. His oldest daughter was two years shy of college, and my colleague wanted time to be with her. So what did he do? He quit that wonderful job. He’s still deeply pained by the decision. But now he tells me he should have quit even earlier. His daughter has left the nest, and two years wasn’t nearly enough.

    One night last week, I planned to be home to say good night to my two boys. I hadn’t been home in almost a week. When I phoned Sam, the younger of the two, to tell him that I might not make it in time for bed, he said that was O.K. ”But will you wake me up when you come in, Dad?” he asked.

    I explained that it might be early in the morning and he needed his sleep. ”I’d like it if you’d wake me,” he responded. ”I just want to know you’re here with us.”

    I have the best job I’ve ever had and probably ever will. No topping it. Can’t get enough of it. I also have the best family I’ll ever have, and I can’t get enough of them. Finding a better balance? I’ve been kidding myself into thinking there is one. The metaphor doesn’t fit. I had to choose.

    I told the boss I’ll be leaving, and explained why. Don’t know quite what I’ll do next. He understands. He has the same dilemma, and will for at least the next four years.

    Robert B. Reich Resigns . . .

    Robert Reich References . . .

    This Could Be You! Homeless in America ©

    June 20, 2006, was World Refugee Day.  Upon realizing this,  I was guilt ridden.  I did not know that there was a day in which we honored expatriates, persons in exile, or people that were without a home, a community, adequate food, shelter, or homeless.  I wrote of this in World Refugee Day.  What Does This Mean To U.S.?  ©.  In this tome, I briefly  spoke of our homeless in America; however, my focus was on those that live in far off lands.

    Some readers were ready to read my underlying message, others glossed over it.  People responded; yet, they did not.  I realize it is easier to see what is external to our selves.  Looking at our own “stuff” can be far more stressful than dissecting what is happening to others.  Nevertheless, I think we must discuss what is occurring in our own backyards.

    There are millions of homeless persons in American.

    I see them each day on streets near my home.  Over the years, I have spoken to quite a few, though not enough.  My interactions with these individuals were invaluable; they and their stories have become part of me. I will share anecdotes in this treatise.

    In retrospect, I fear the ample coverage of problems aboard overwhelmed me.  I think it the reporting was vital, though as my missive on World Refugees, incomplete.  I need to correct my error.  I want to be more expansive and open.  I need to place the mirror where we can all peer into it.  I invite you to reflect with me.

    Currently, according to by the Urban Institute approximately 3.5 million persons in America have been homeless for a significant period.

    This number equates to one percent of the population.  Among these are 1.35 million children.  In New York City alone, more than 37,000 of these homeless individuals stay in shelters each evening.  Of these sixteen thousand [16,000] are children.

    The National Alliance to End Homelessness states

    Homelessness does not discriminate.  Families with children, single adults, teenagers, and elderly individuals of all races can be found struggling with the devastating effects of homelessness.

    The primary cause of homelessness is a lack of affordable housing.  Over 5 million low-income households have serious housing problems due to high housing costs, substandard housing conditions, or both.

    The Economic Policy Institute offers more sobering facts.

    • Twelve [12] million adults in the United States currently are or have been homeless at some point in their lives [National Coalition for the Homeless].
    • One of the largest and fastest growing groups of homeless folks are families with children.  They are approximately 40% of the homeless population, mostly with single mothers as the head of the household.

    • On average, a homeless family has 2.2 children [Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD].
    • Anywhere from 25% to 38% of homeless people are children [National Coalition for the Homeless, Urban Institute].
    • 33% of homeless men are veterans [HUD].

    It is likely, these numbers are inaccurate.  They may be very low.  The actual figures are probably higher.  Homeless people, even those only on the verge, anticipating what might come, tend to hide.  They do not feel safe.

    Paranoia can set in when people shun you, when they look away at the sight of you.  When the majority, of individuals within a “civilized” society, consider you disgraceful, and they say this to your face, you are not likely to feel free when you are among them.  Few homeless persons have any desire to be noticed or counted.  The gathering of statistics does not serve the dispossessed and destitute.  Numbers collected and stored in databases do not provide for the needs of the needy.  People living on the streets realize no benefit from tallies.  In truth, there are plenty of repercussions.

    I know this from experience.  I cannot recount my life as a homeless person; I hope I will never be able to, though I fear, as I think many quietly do when considering the topic, “That could be me.”

    Years ago I was distressed by what I saw as a growing situation.  It seemed to me that more people were down-and-out.  I lived in the area of the country known for its wealth, Orange County, California.  Yet, everywhere I turned there were homeless people.  Some were asking for a handout, others were looking for a helping hand.  Most were offering to work.  A few were working for whatever change might be given.

    I found this disquieting by what I saw as the greater depression.  I was a student at the time and realized I could create a project that documented what I saw as the “Greater Depression.”  I set out to interview the indigent population in my area.  I planned to videotape, audiotape, and photograph individuals as I interviewed them.  I first approached a man I saw on a busy highway, Brookhurst Street.  He held a sign asking for work; I requested an interview.

    A friend of mine was with me holding a very small video camera.  As he saw us move toward him, he smiled.  Once he noticed the camera, he covered his face.  I spoke to him of my project and requested his permission to document our conversation.  This gentleman assured me, he was open to the dialogue; however, he wanted no recording of this.  He expressed his fear that his daughter, thousands of miles away, living in New Jersey might discover his plight.  He had been homeless for years; yet, he never told her.  He was discomfited enough without her knowing.

    The soft-spoken man, a human being of greatness, spoke of his loving wife.  In year’s prior, he had been a successful man, a person of prominence and position.  He owned a home, right there in Orange County.  In this moment I do not recall whether it was in Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, or another suburb close by.  I remember his face, his story, and the sorrow with which he shared these, more vividly than that detail.

    His wife became ill.  It was cancer.  She was sick for quite some time and needed care.  He wanted to be by her side, to help her.  Years passed, bills mounted, insurance did not cover all the expenses.  Finally, after a long and hard-fought battle, her body left this Earth.  He missed her.  He lost much, his love, his lifeline, his home, and his own health.  Now, he was only seeking hope.  I sigh as I recall this man, his misery, and his kindness.  I am grateful that he spoke with me.

    I walked on.  I went to Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley.  There I stumbled upon two gentlemen, lying in the grass.  They did allow some photographs to be taken though none came out well.  We discussed their situation.  Fountain Valley had been good to them.  What they found in trash-bins was worthy.  The park was pleasant.  They too had their hardships.  They had lost hope and found comfort in the life they had.  For years, they had sought work.  Bathing, being presentable, finding transportation, all were barriers to their success.  They spoke of how people assume drugs or alcohol were the cause for homelessness.  As they recounted their stories they assured me, for them, nothing was further from the truth.

    Then I went to downtown Santa Ana, just outside of the courthouse.  A woman quickly drew near.  She feared for my safety.  She too was indigent.  She wanted me to know as she knew, this was no place for a white woman with a camera, even a male accompaniment could not save her if the situation got tough.

    My friend and I roamed the streets.  Most allowed us to photograph them.  Some were too sleepy to engage us.  Others offered their anecdotes.  All were very kind.  Most were  sick and tired; the time without creature comforts took a toll.

    Some of you may have read of my more recent experience with a homeless man and how he helped me to remember the importance of man’s humanity to man.  I fear too often we forget.  We do not want to see, hear, or experience what we create, ghettos, slums, and places unfit for survival.

    Since earliest childhood, I theorized this is why, in America, we build freeways.  We do not wish to see our inner cities.  The general-public does not want to know how those on the other side of the tracks live.  Citizens in this, the richest country in the world, prefer to hide the poor, the impoverished, the ill, and the homeless behind walls of concrete where they will not be seen or heard from.

    Americans have hidden what they prefer not to see since early in our history.  The industrial revolution gave rise to a greater acceptance of blight; as cities grew, so too did man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.  However, the damage caused by the Industrial Revolution is nothing in comparison to that done during the Regan Revolution and beyond.

    Former President Ronald Reagan was a man known for fantasy.  Author Gary Wills wrote of this in his all too obscure biography, Reagan’s America.  Reagan imagined his childhood, youth, and service to his country to be the ideal it was not.  Ronald Reagan, single handedly created a homeless population that was never seen or imagined before.

    Carol Fennelly, Director of Hope House in Washington says,

    In fact many homeless rights activists say the single most devastating thing Reagan did to create homelessness was when he cut the budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development by three-quarters, from $32 billion in 1981 to $7.5 billion by 1988.  The department was the main governmental supporter of subsidized housing for the poor.  Add this to Reagan’s overhaul of tax codes to reduce incentives for private developers to create low-income homes and you had a major crisis for low-income families and individuals.  Under Reagan, the number of people living beneath the federal poverty line rose from 24.5 million in 1978 to 32.5 million in 1988.

    And the number of homeless people went from something so little it wasn’t even written about widely in the late 1970s to more than 2 million when Reagan left office.

    As the rich got richer under Reagan, the poor became increasingly poorer.  The mentally ill did not fare well under the Reagan Administration.  Social Services funding was cut.  After Reagan, left office little improved.  When speaking of the then dire dilemma of homelessness, George Herbert Walker Bush declared the budget was tight, the deficit deep, and “We will turn to the only resource we have that in times of need always grows–the goodness and the courage of the American people.”

    The American people were not ready, willing, or able to cope with their own circumstances, let alone help the homeless.  Corporations had other priorities, their profits.  Nothing trickled down.  The situation worsened.  Under Clinton, the economy improved; funding for programs to help homeless increased.  There were great strides.  Still, once people slid into the abyss and suffered.  Recovery is slow,  living on the streets takes a toll..

    Under George W. Bush, the bludgeoning began again; the destitute took a severe beating.  The National Coalition for the Homeless offered this report Bush Budget Leaves No Millionaire Behind As He Proposes Massive Cuts To Programs For Homeless and Low-Income People, stating,

    On February 6th, 2006, President Bush sent his proposed $2.77 trillion FY2007 budget to Congress.  His proposals would cut $600 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a 1.8% decrease from the FY06 appropriations; and funding for Health and Human Services (HHS) discretionary programs would decline by $1.6 billion.

    While the President’s proposed budget does increase funding in some areas, the Homeless Assistance Grants increased by $209 million and Housing for People with AIDS (HOPWA) saw a $14 million increase, it makes these increases by making reductions in other programs for low-income people, not by finding new resources.

    The homeless situation is subverted easily. American society tends to blame and  shames the victims.  they feel no responsibility for their plight.  Then and now, people think the homeless are strong single males that simply do not wish to work.  They believe these individuals are strung out on drugs or booze.  They think them hapless, helpless, and of little value.  Most Americans look away when they encounter the dispossessed or down-and-out.  They do not move towards these people.

    Few citizens within the United States know the destitute are as they are.  They are our mothers, fathers, sons, and  daughters.  Many have served this nation well.  They have protected us during times of war.  Some are afflicted with a mental illness.  They all need our help.

    As people, we love lending a helping handsome will raise a barn for our neighbors, as long as we know them or feel as though we might.  Katrina brought some movement.  When we saw our neighbors in New Orleans destitute, we were devastated.  We acted on their distress for days

    Popular television programs such as NBCs The Today Show, invited Habitat for Humanity to build houses on their sets.  Donations poured in from people across the states.  The Red Cross was flooded with contributions.  Sadly, little help reached the people.  However, once the limelight dimmed and these people became as other homeless were, out of the public eye, everything went back to the status quo out of mind out of sight.

    The public no longer saw the need of their neighbors; they saw the scruffy, unkempt, and disheveled standing there with their hands out.  The news changed.  Talk of larceny, theft, aggravated burglary filled the airwaves, and once again, the poor were the source of “our” pain.

    Americans are often heard to say, “God or man, helps people that help themselves.”  In the minds of many of our countrymen, people must appear “presentable,” “respectable,” and “savvy” before they are willing to assist them further.  We want our neighbors to look like us.  The homeless may have at one time; however, when we encounter them, they do not.  Therefore, we look away when we are in their company.

    Instead, we like to speak of  refugees abroad and feel badly.  We express a desire to reach out, some  actually do work to assist those in other nations.  However rarely, do we help those residing in our own house, the dispossessed in America.

    We do not want to look in the mirror; we fear seeing what we could become.  Many of us live from paycheck to paycheck.  A small catastrophe could wipe us out, physically, emotionally, or financially.  Intellectually, we know this; however facing this scares us.  We rather not and therefore, we don’t.

    When we observe a homeless person on the street, most of us will look away.  We do not wish to think about what we accept in America; nor do we wish to see what we create.  It is too painful.  If we focus on refugees in lands far from our own, we will not have to ponder what we know to be true, “That could be me!”

    I invite you to look, to learn, to listen, and speak with a homeless person in your neighborhood.  Get to know them as people, as individuals.  Let them tell you their story and realize, that you can make a difference.  Together we, as a society can change this situation.  If we choose, we can, again, care for our neighbors.  We as a nation can and “ought” to establish policies that prompt man’s humanity to man.  After all, our forefathers wrote “the Government ought to be instituted for the common benefit, protection and security of the people.”  Let us do as the founders proposed.  Let us secure “the enjoyment of life” for all of our citizens.

    Organizations That Help The Homeless . . .

    Stand And Be Counted! American Homeless Society
    Commission on Homelessness & Poverty, American Bar Association
    Homeless, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
    National Health Care for the Homeless Council
    Homeless.org, Affiliated with Grassroots.org
    Community Partnership for Homeless
    Help the Homeless Program Fannie Mae Foundation

    References That Touch The Topic of Homelessness . . .

    Homeless In America Incorporated
    World Refugee Day.  What Does This Mean To U.S.?  ©. By Betsy L. Angert. Be-Think June 20, 2006
    Florida Homeless People Find their Voice CNN News. Aired January 6, 2001
    Why is Homelessness an Important Issue?  National Alliance to End Homelessness
    Economic Policy Institute
    Homeless in America Washington ProFile
    ‘Talk to America’ Looks at the Plight of the Homeless, Voice of America
    Florida Homeless Beating Caught on Videotape By Eric Weiner.  Day to Day, National Public Radio. January 13, 2006

    Who is Homeless?, National Coalition for the Homeless
    Homeless Children: America’s New Outcasts. The National Center on Family Homelessness.
    Homeless in America, By Raven Tyler. NewsHour Extra December 11, 2002
    Homeless in America, By Bernice Powell Jackson. Witness for Justice. May 13, 2002
    A Day in the Life of the Homeless in America, By Sharon Cohen. The Associated Press. Truthout. Sunday 27 February 2005
    National Alliance to End Homelessness
    Reagan and the Homeless Epidemic in America, By Carol Fennelly. Democracy Now. Friday, June 11, 2004
    The Reagan Legacy, The Nation. June 10, 2004
    Reagan in Truth and Fiction, By Alexander Cockburn. The Nation. June 10, 2004

    Reagan: man of contradictions? By Andrea Mitchell. NBC News. June 8, 2004
    Celebrating Reagan the man, not the myth, By Joan Vennochi. Boston.com News. June 8, 2004
    Reagan’s America, By Garry Wills
    Ronald Reagan and the Commitment of the Mentally Ill: Capital, Interest Groups, and the Eclipse of Social Policy, By Alexandar R Thomas. Electronic Journal of Sociology [1998]
    Inaugural Address of George Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush. January 20, 1989
    Millions Still Face Homelessness in a Booming Economy, The Urban Institute February 01, 2000
    Scapegoating rent control: Masking the Causes of Homelessness, By Richard P. Appelbaum, Michael Dolny, Peter Dreier, John I. Gilderbloom. The Economic Policy Institute. October 1989
    Bill Clinton on Welfare & Poverty On The Issues. September 6, 2000
    Bush Budget Leaves No Millionaires Behind as He Proposes Massive Cuts To Programs For Homeless and Low-Income People The National Coalition for the Homeless. February 2006
    Helping America’s Homeless, By Martha Burt, Laudan Y. Aron, and Edgar Lee, with Jesse Valente. Urban Institute Press
    Most Americans Misunderstand Homelessness – Poll The National Alliance to End Homelessness. May 24, 2006
    Press Secretary Tony Snow Cried. He and I Touched Humanity. © By Betsy L. Angert. Be-Think May 24, 2006
    Back from Iraq – and suddenly out on the streets, By Alexandra Marks. The Christian Science Monitor. February 08, 2005
    ‘Heart of America’ to ‘Make a Difference’ NBC News. October 19, 2005
    NBC News “Today,” Habitat for Humanity International and Warner Music Group are joining forces. Habitat for Humanity International. September 20, 2006
    Red Cross Gets Surge in Katrina Volunteers, By Russ Bynum. Associated Press.
    Fraudulent Katrina and Rita Claims Top $1 Billion, By Larry Margasak. Associated Press. Washington Post. Wednesday, June 14, 2006
    `We all need to treat the homeless a little better’ By Michael Mayo. Sun-Sentinel. May 21, 2006

    Cheney, “The Stomach for this Fight.” Reality is Perception. [Third In A Series]


    copyright © 2006 Betsy L. Angert

    This is the third in a series,  Reality is Perception.

    I offer the quotes, and you decide.  Is this reality or perception?

    Today, Thursday, June 22, 2006, Cable News Network aired an interview with Vice President Richard B. Cheney.  CNN’s Chief National Correspondent,  John King and the vitriolic Dick Cheney sat together and spoke of the Iraq war.  They discussed the Senate Democrats proposal to withdraw the troops.

    Mr. Cheney stated a pullout would be a huge mistake.  An action such as this would signal the United States was not willing to stand its ground in the war on terror.  He suggested America would look weak and meek.  It is not the position a superpower should adopt.  Cheney objects to what some call a cut-and-run policy.  He believes, measures such as these would “embolden terrorists and leave the United States and its allies vulnerable to new attacks.”

    All that is good and well. However, these words have been expressed before.  They were as background noise for me.  Then I heard it.

    Vice President Cheney said, “No matter how you carve it — you can call it anything you want — but basically, it is packing it in, going home, persuading and convincing and validating the theory that the Americans don’t have the stomach for this fight.”

    This sentiment came from the mouth of a man that requested and received five deferments during the Vietnam War, a man that has never seen battle from the fronts or the fields.  This hawk chose not to serve his country because he was busy attending school.

    As a student at Yale, he was suffering for this nation.  On four occasions, this was his excuse; he could not go to the front lines.  He needed to study so that he might better prepare himself for an alternative service, later.  Even in college, Cheney was plodding and planning.  Perhaps he knew a political career was his proper station.  Possibly, fatherhood would be his future.

    The fifth deferment was awarded because this loving warmonger of a man became a papa.  Apparently, Cheney and the Defense Department were concerned, if his future were in danger, who would care for his newborn child.

    I ask, reality or perception; did Dick Cheney have the stomach for war?  Did he have the “guts” to fight?

    As an extreme pacifist, I think battles belie a desire for peace.  Therefore, I am not the person to answer this question.  Perhaps you have the appetite for such destruction and can answer this query more objectively than I might.  Please tell me what is reality and does Cheney know truth?

    Continue Choking on Cheney. References . . .

  • Interview of the Vice President by John King, CNN. Complete Text. Office of the Vice President. June 22, 2006
  • Cheney’s Five Draft Deferments During the Vietnam Era Emerge as a Campaign Issue, By Katharine Q. Seelye. New York Times. May 1, 2004
  • Cheney: Iraq pullout ‘worst possible thing we could do’ CNN News. Thursday, June 22, 2006
  • Senate reject calls for withdrawal from Iraq CNN News. Thursday, June 22, 2006
  • Be-Think
  • Dick Cheney, Early political career Wikipedia
  • World Refugee Day. What Does This Mean To U.S.?

    (I offer my sincerest apologizes. This month has been full of the unexpected, accidental, and unintentional. Much learning has occurred during this time of opportunity. The Old Soul [who for most is a computer] and I are only beginning to return to our preferred state, being one with each other.

    On this World Refugee Day, there is much to discuss. Perhaps, the State of many unions is indeed worse than it was a year ago. I was hoping to express my most recent concerns. However, the Sweetness has had access to tools for but a few moments.

    As I say this, I think how silly the contrast. I am sitting in my cozy home while refugees are struggling to survive. Many are no longer alive. Live is challenging when you are a person in exile.

    I present an article published a year ago in homage to those expatriates who live large in my heart.

    – promoted by Betsy L. Angert)

    copyright © 2006 Betsy L. Angert

    Yesterday morning I awoke to news that I wish I had known earlier.  “Today, June 20, 2006, is World Refugee Day.”  I found my own lack of awareness for the date troubling.  I pondered further; I wondered of our collective consciousness.

    Currently, there are fifteen to twenty million refugees.  There may be more.  There are millions of persons without a home, a community, a family, or any real belongings.  These individuals have experienced violence that few of us in the can imagine.  We sit in our safe havens, and occasionally, we watch the misery on television.  We read of their lives, and the plight these people suffer.  At times, some American citizens acknowledge that the refugees have lost their homes and their health.  Their existence has been threatened.  We know something; yet, we understand little.  Our lives in the U.S. are so separate from those that were banished from their homeland.  It is beyond sad.

    As I reflect on the homeless in distant lands, I remember, there are those here in the United States that are also without permanent shelter.

    During and immediately after Katrina and Rita, America’s poor and homeless were exposed to the elements; many still are.  The storms gave light to those less fortunate within our borders; however, only, temporarily.

    Some of these persons were seen by the masses; nevertheless, the focus was fleeting.  Not long after the hurricanes America’s impoverished, injured, and ill citizens were once again hidden.  These refugees joined the millions of American citizens who were without shelter before the squalls.  The numbers are staggering.  We may never have an accurate count for what we prefer to ignore.

    Whether the life of a dispossessed American is as brutal as that of a refugee in distant lands, I know not with certainty.  Personal perspectives will differ.  I only know that I admit my own ignorance and this disturbs me.  I am bothered by my own complacency.

    The breath and scope of this situation is tragic.  Words such as Darfur, Sudan, and Rwanda are bandied about.  We discuss the unspeakable rapes in the Congo.  Yet, I suspect we do not relate, really.

    We sound so very informed; I think, truly we know nothing.  Few can fully imagine what life is like in these areas of the world.

    Citizens in the States say New Orleans is this nation’s lesson.  However, there is no real evidence that we are learning.

    We in the United States think ourselves benevolent; we promise much.  However, we contribute little to assist those most in need.  We spend money at home and yes, even abroad.  Billions go to promoting war.  Peace and people, we pay lip service to that investment.  I trust that is not our intent.  I know personally, it is not mine.

    Just as Morris Dees, founder of Southern Poverty Law Center advocates, I think it is vital, we must “Teach Tolerance.”  Yet, today I realized, I, and most of us in this affluent nation, are “too” tolerant.  We accept genocide, ethnic cleansing, racism, rampant and malicious rapes, and conditions we cannot imagine.  We endure these here at home in a moderate or muffled form and allow worse elsewhere.  We avoid knowing what we know.

    I acknowledge that I am guilty of this.  For years, I have admitted such, and been embarrassed by my confession.  I believe in a global community.  I advocate this with my every breath; still, I attend to what is within my home country.  I feel so powerless.  I can barely effectuate change in the United States; how can I begin to broach an evolution elsewhere.

    In this moment, I offer my words and resources.  I invite  each of us to investigate further and to take action.  I hope this information will advance awareness and eventually prompt a progression.  May we move from ignorance or tolerance to action.  Ultimately, let us end all oppression.  May people be free, healthy, and happy throughout the world.  May expatriates be a thing of the past.

    Many may wonder who qualifies as a refugee.  Where are these persons from and where do they now live.  What issues do they face and how are we, as a planet, planning for their future.  I refer you to Humans Rights Watch.  This organization attempts to answer our questions.

    Refugees International is also making an effort to inform.  This organization answers the traditional questions of “where we are” and “what we do.”  They also offer options for action.

    Reuters reports of the situation in an article titled, “From Flight To Hope: The Compromised Existence of Refugees. U.S. and World communities Must Act Now.” In this essay, Janis D. Shields of American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) – USA discusses the problems facing “more than 20 million refugees, asylum-seekers, internally displaced persons, stateless persons and others throughout the world.”  She speaks of the deaths hey have witnessed, the family members they have lost, the destruction of communities, and identities lost.  Ms. Shields makes mention of the physical, mental and psychological violence these individuals have experienced and asks us all to help.

    Ashoka is another organization interested in saving the world from itself.  Their “mission is to shape a citizen sector that is entrepreneurial, productive and globally integrated.”  Their goal is “to develop the profession of social entrepreneurship around the world.”  This group may also inspire any of us to act.

    We hear of the conflict in Darfur; we might even read of the genocide.  As quoted from “Darfur: The Genocide We Can Stop” I offer this explanation. 

    The Sudanese Government, using Arab “Janjaweed” militias, its air force, and organized starvation, is systematically killing the black Sudanese of Darfur. Over two and a half million people, driven from their homes, now face death from starvation and disease as the Government and militias attempt to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching them.

    While this may say much, it might also leave some of us wondering.  We want to know and understand more.  We have questions.  The British Broadcasting Corporation offers some answers.  Please read, Q&A: Sudan’s Darfur conflict.

    Cable News Network Senior Africa Correspondent Jeff Koinange writes of refuges in a brilliant exposé.  In an article titled, “No end in sight for Africa’s suffering masses, Mr. Koinange offers a unique perspective.”  His writing is personal and provides insights beyond those typically found in a news report.  I offer a short portion of his missive so that you, dear reader, may taste the life of a refugee.

    Editor’s note: CNN’s Jeff Koinange has spent years covering events from Africa, including visiting war and disaster zones and following the lives of refugees forced from their homes. Here are his reflections on the U.N.’s World Refugee Day.

    ENTEBBE, Uganda (CNN) — Just imagine for a moment that everything you own — from your hard-earned money to your home to your car to little mementos like pictures on the wall — has just been taken from you by a group of people who don’t like the way you look or the shade of your skin or the shape of your nose. Everything gone except, perhaps, the clothes on your back.

    You’ve been forced to flee, probably separated from your family and end up on the run with a bunch of people you’ve never met, but with whom you now share a common goal — staying alive.

    Many hours or even days later, you arrive at a shelter run by an international nongovernmental organization.

    You’re tired, exhausted, sick to your stomach and scared to death. You end up sharing a tent with 40 to 60 other strangers where your bathroom, bedroom and kitchen combined have all been reduced to little more than the size of a normal bed.

    And this will be your home for the next few months, perhaps years, and in some cases, decades. This is what it’s like for a person fleeing persecution, war, civil strife, genocide.

    Imagine living like this for years if not decades, raising your family in a refugee camp because you can’t go home. Even if you do manage to go home, you learn someone else has taken over your land, your home, your life.

    I’ve seen that person many times, that face that says, “I too once had it all but one day lost it all.” Faces of refugees across the Africa I’ve been traversing for the past decade and a half, from Liberia and Sierra Leone in West Africa, from Congo to Tanzania in the center of the continent and from Somalia to Sudan in the East.

    Their stories are as heartbreaking as they are gut-wrenching, lives turned upside down in the blink of an eye.

    Another CNN reporter, Christiane Amanpour covers the refugee story as the CNN Chief International Correspondent.  Her viewpoint is also informative.  Ms. Amanpour shares her own story as a refugee.  She was an Iranian citizen and now lives in exile.  Ms Amanpour speaks of “The shocking truth about covering refugees.”

    Editor’s note: CNN’s Christiane Amanpour has reported on refugee crises from many of the world’s conflict zones including Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda, the Balkans and Iraq. Here are her reflections on the U.N.’s World Refugee Day.

    LONDON, England (CNN) — I suppose I am most attuned to the plight and particular circumstances of refugees, because I am one myself. When the Islamic Revolution swept Iran, my homeland, back in 1979, I left the country and came West. I ended up at a university and later at CNN in the United States.

    I think this experience has helped me in my work as I have spent the past 16 years on the road covering war, crisis, poverty and famine. Their inevitable byproduct is refugees.

    In 1991, shortly after the United States and its allies declared victory in the first Gulf War, I found myself covering the Iraqi Kurds — nearly 2 million of them, according to U.N. officials — who fled to neighboring Turkey and Iran and became refugees. They had followed a not-so-veiled suggestion by then-President George H.W. Bush to rise up against Saddam Hussein. A violent crackdown by Saddam killed many and forced the rest to flee. They came back only when the United States and its allies created a protected no-fly zone for them in northern Iraq.

    Just a few months later began the Balkan revolving-refugee crisis, ethnic cleansing and genocide that consumed the 1990s. I witnessed that war for all those years and watched in horror as millions of men, women and children walked, ran or drove away from their killers and tormentors, to end up homeless, friendless and rootless in strange countries far from home. I’ll never forget the sad, lost, tear-stained little faces pressed against the rain-streaked windows of the buses they were packed in. They wanted to believe they would be leaving for only a short time, but they ended up staying away for years. About 650,000 have never returned 10 years after the war ended, U.N. refugee officials say, but the good news is that more than 2.5 million have come back.

    There is much to be said.  This situation affects millions, though billions are avoiding it.  I only offer a glimpse into the world of refugees.  Further exploration must be yours, or mine. I can no longer put the refugees out of my mind.  They are not as the refuse I place at the curb for the trash man to take away. they are people, no different in make-up than you or I.  On World Refugee Day we honor the displaced, may we do this each and every day.  May we unite and begin being as we believe is best.

    Please Plunge into Awareness.  Peruse the references offered below.

  • CNN Dedicates Programming to World Refugee Day Coverage CNN News. June 19, 2006
  • Keeping the Flame of Hope Alive United Nations Refugee Agency
  • Millions mark World Refugee Day, Reuters AlertNet. Source: United Nations Refugee Agency. June 20, 2006
  • ReliefWeb
  • Katrina’s Refugees, By Carol Rust, Staci Semrad and Dirk Johnson. Newsweek August 31, 2005
  • New Orleans after Katrina: Back to Stone Age Associated Press. China Daily September 7, 2005
  • Homeless in America By Raven Tyler. NewsHour. December 11, 2002
  • Picturing the Homeless, on Their Terms By Jennifer Ludden. All Things Considered, National Public Radio.  October 24, 2004
  • Katrina & Recovery National Public Radio.
  • Morris Dees, Center founder and chief trial counsel. Southern Poverty Law Center
  • Teaching Tolerance, Pioneering Anti-Bias Education Southern Poverty Law Center
  • Southern Poverty Law Center
  • Senate Approves $66 Billion for War Efforts, By David Welna. National Public Radio. Morning Edition. June 15, 2006
  • Sudan: Promises and Plans AfricaFocus Bulletin. April 27, 2005
  • The Triumph of Evil Frontline. Public Broadcasting Services
  • World Refugee Day Ashoka.
  • United Nations Refugee Agency
  • Humans Rights Watch.
  • Refugees International
  • Welcome to Refugees International’s Action Center.
  • Q&A: Sudan’s Darfur conflict.
  • Activists in US Rally for Peace in Darfur as Analysts Discuss Roadblocks, By Catherine Maddux. Voice Of America. June 20, 2006
  • “Darfur: The Genocide We Can Stop”
  • Ashoka’s Mission
  • Rape, brutality ignored to aid Congo peace, By Jeff Koinange. CNN News. Friday, May 26, 2006
  • “From Flight To Hope: The Compromised Existence of Refugees. U.S. and World communities Must Act Now.” By Janis D. Shields. Reuters. June 20, 2006
  • No end in sight for Africa’s suffering masses, By Jeff Koinange. CNN News. Tuesday, June 20, 2006
  • Jeff Koinange Jeff Koinange, CNN’s Africa Correspondent
  • “The shocking truth about covering refugees.” By Christiane Amanpour. CNN News. Tuesday, June 20, 2006
  • Christiane Amanpour CNN’s Chief International Correspondent
  • Failing Children, Accountability and Testing [FCAT]

    © copyright 2006 Betsy L. Angert

    Dear reader, as you review this treatise, please consider, the parallels.  Pedagogy and poverty are poignant concerns in Florida and throughout the United States.

    The results were announced; Florida students overwhelmingly failed the science portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test [FCAT].  More than two thirds of the population tested below grade level.  Science instructors are looking at the recent test results as an opportunity.  They have a chance to improve their curriculum.  The Science studies departments are planning more hands-on instruction.  They intend to attend seminars on how to best prepare students in the summer.

    J.P. Keener, the supervisor of secondary science education for Broward County promotes the positive.  This official says, ????we’re in a good position to line everything up to attack this exam seriously.”  Then, the administrator adds, “Now, the last part is the kids, and that’s the unpredictable part.”

    The Broward County Director stresses the science test is not and will not be tied to graduation.  He extrapolates; students will have little incentive to excel.  However, even when an assessment test is attached to the ultimate reward, students in Florida still fail repeatedly.  Pupils that were unable to pass the mandatory FCAT high school exit exam after one or two trials are allowed to take the exam again.  Reports reveal that even when students have taken the tests on multiple occasions; a large number do not demonstrate mastery.

    The Miami Herald reports, “Only a small and shrinking fraction of students who retook the state’s graduation test managed to pass.” 

    Statewide, about 11,600 students — 8 percent of the state’s seniors — are expected to miss out on a diploma solely because of failing the exam, according to Education Commissioner John Winn.  Last year, that number was about 7 percent.

    Just 12 percent of seniors and 14 percent of juniors passed the reading test in Miami-Dade County, continuing a steady decline.  In Broward County, 13 percent of seniors, and 19 percent of juniors passed.

    Results on the math test were slightly higher, with passing rates ranging from 20 percent to 35 percent in South Florida.


    Danielle Boyer, Chairwoman of the Social Studies Department at Miami’s Edison Senior High suggested, ????they’re worried a lot and stressed a lot.”  In her school, there is a large foreign-born population.

    Ms. Boyer spoke of how they struggle.  She said, “They want to obtain their high school diploma; they understand its vital importance.”  Nevertheless, these students still are unable to pass a test they have taken before.  Chairwoman Boyer then offered, ??many students in the high-poverty Little Haiti neighborhood must work or care for siblings, which cuts into their studying.’

    However, I wonder if all those that fail are new immigrants.  I have personally observed and experienced many new émigrés excel.  Education is important to them and they see this as a path towards prosperity.  I offer this recent New York Times article as evidence of my contention.

  • Immigration Math: It’s a Long Story, By Daniel Altman.  June 18, 2006

    Within the text David Card, a Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley says, “You can expect a child of immigrants whose parents have 10 years of education to do a lot better than a child of natives whose parents have 10 years of education.”  Card continues, being a child of immigrants, “sort of boosts your drive.”

    My suspicion is the country of origin may play a role however, as Professor Card and others note the structure of the family definitely influences what will come.  Experts contend, as I too experience and believe, a more important factor is poverty.

    Currently, nineteen percent of the children in Florida live below the poverty line.  They have not seen prosperity in their personal lives, and many struggle to imagine that it could be real.  Approximately ten percent of Florida families are defined as poverty stricken.  Close to five percent of married couples are at or below the poverty line.  Life in Florida can be grim.

    I have lived in this state for seven months, and sadly, the results of these tests do not surprise me.  I had reason to spend time in some of the schools and on each occasion, I was astounded.  Granted, thus far, I have only been in the public schools and a large portion of the population in this South Eastern state receives their training in private institutions; nevertheless, there is an attitude here that seems pervasive.  I will identify it by quoting the oft-heard statement, “Welcome to Florida.”

    Each time I struggle to locate a product or a person to assist me in completing a project this declaration is uttered.  This sentence is rarely recounted with a sense of sincerity; it is delivered sarcastically.  People here accept that if you need a service, supply, or a solution to any problem, you are not likely to find these here in Florida.

    In schools, from what I have witnessed, there is an assumption among many students, “school is just” a stomping ground, a weigh station; it holds no real worth or value.  Pupils empathically assure me, “kids will be kids.”  Learners I spoke with assured me they have no interest in being treated as wise and thinking individuals; they rather be thought of as “children.”  They say aloud, there is far less responsibility if others think of you as a youngster, a teenager, or an adolescent.  Few have serious expectations for them selves.  They do not want others to “require” “too much” of them.

    Within the framework that is their life, they cannot truly imagine more than what is.

    “I am still young,” is an oft-heard mantra.  The inference is I will have time to learn later, “maybe when I am in my thirties,” said one student.

    A few students discussed their education with me; the consensus was it is not that important in their lives.  Many learners expressed a lack of opportunity.  Others wanted none.  They majority assumed they would work in a trade.  Few aspired to attend college.  A four-year degree was unthinkable.  Numerous pupils were surprised when I broached the subject.  Among those planning to enroll in a University, there was an amazing pre-occupation for play.  They said college and academics would come later.  For now, it seems, class lessons are not to be taken seriously, little is.  The future is too distant to consider.

    Fortunately, I did meet a lovely high school student on the Tri-Rail.  She was planning for her career and looking forward to college; she knew exactly where she wanted to go.  However, she was not as I typically encountered in this state.  Interestingly, she is among the masses that attend a private school here.  I strongly suspect the private pupil is another class of student.  Still, I worry.  Was the FCAT test given statewide; were private and public school students included in the results.  This possibility troubles me and I would hope it troubles those residing within this state.  I have spoken to a few and again I am told, “Welcome to Florida.”  Florida seems to think itself different and in some ways, it is.  However, I fear that it is not.

    In Florida, poverty and apathy may be more insidious, more obvious; yet, no less invasive than it might be elsewhere.

    Florida, with its triple “A” [AAA] credit rating is among the poorest states in the country.  The state has mega-money; the people living here do not.  This, I believe is among the many reasons that students in Florida struggle.

    According to A Research Report by Bruce Nissen and Jen Wolfe Borum, titled Working Poverty: Low Wage Workers in Florida,

    Florida is a low wage state and many in Florida are working full-time and still poor.  Women, minorities, and immigrants are all more likely to work and still not escape poverty.  Florida has an unusually high percentage of low-wage jobs, due to its tourist-related economy.  Even more children live in poverty. Fully 19% of Florida children lived in officially-defined poverty in the year 2003.

    The overall poverty rate for persons in Florida as measured in the 2000 Census was 12.5 percent.  This rate is slightly lower than in 1990 when 12.7 percent of the state’s residents lived in poverty.

    Despite a decline in the poverty rate, the number of persons living in poverty increased by nearly 22 percent during the decade and totaled just under 2 million persons in 2000.  The number living in poverty in 1990 was 1.6 million persons.

    Poverty rates varied greatly by age and by family composition.  While nearly one out of every five children in Florida lived in poverty in 1999 (17.6 percent), less than 1 in 10 of Florida’s 65 and older population had income below the poverty threshold (9.1 percent).  Older children, ages 5 through 17, had a poverty rate of 17.2 percent in 1999–lower than Florida’s youngest children but substantially higher than the elderly population.

    Poverty rates vary greatly by race.  Individuals who reported that their race was black alone were more likely to be living below the poverty level at all ages.  Black rates ranged from 2.3 times the white rate at ages 18-64 up to 3.6 times the white rate at ages 65-74.  Poverty rates for persons of all other races (including individuals who reported more than one race) fell between the rates for whites and blacks.

    “Florida has performed badly for quite some time.”  This from a report titled “Is Florida’s Economy Underperforming?” by Dr. Bruce Nissen of Florida International University, Center for Labor Research and Studies

    In March 2004, Nissen wrote

    It [Florida] is a low wage state by any standard.  Depending on the measure used (hourly wage, annual wage, median wage for a family of four, and so on) the state pays wages somewhere between 85% and 95% of national averages.  This usually places the state somewhere in the thirties out of the fifty states.

    Money in Florida is a beguiling dynamic.  There are those that have ample amounts of dough and those that do not.  The disparity is astounding.  Eighty-percent of workers are employed in low income, service jobs.  Twenty percent do much better.  Many of the wealthiest persons, nation-wide retire here; yet they do not have school age children and therefore may demonstrate little interest in education issues/funding.

    If a student comes from money, they receive more.  Money buys.  A pupil marinating in poverty will drown in it.  The rich will receive a richer education.  The poor will plunge further into oblivion.

    In Florida, in inner cities nation-wide, and other poverty-stricken areas educators are distressed; however, in Florida, the accepted and expected apathy looms larger.  Many have given up, students among these.

    Still, experts do as they do.  They evaluate the system and the science scores from a pedagogical point of view.  They look at the superficial, the tally, and teaching solutions.  Some of this talk is good and necessary.  I agree; we, as educators must look at the validity of standardized testing and teaching to the tests.  We must assess the systems within Florida.


    Academicians must study the notion that says, providing students with a two-tiered testing system is optimal.  We must wonder whether Florida is the model it is purported to be by those that support uniform testing.  Are two types of testing, low and high stakes examinations enhancing understanding; do they advance test-taking skills.  Is teaching to these [silly] tests worthwhile?  Are students learning lessons that will last a lifetime if curriculum is rote?

    Educators must continue to promote creative curriculums.  Obviously, those that are not imaginative, inspired, and inventive are not working.  Still, I think the science scores must be evaluated more broadly.  we as a society must be honest with ourselves.  Education does not begin or end in our schools.  What happens in our nation’s homes does matter.  Parents and poverty teach more than professional educators might.  To be truly effective, I think we, as a society must evaluate education as a whole.  What an individual learns at home, on the streets, from proprietors, and from social order teaches more than we might think. Florida’s culture teaches its students to not expect much.  What happens in the students’ world cannot be separated.  The sum is far greater than the parts.

    Plunge Into Pedagogy and Poverty . . .

  • My Lessons, Angst, and Challenges ©

    “It is time to go to school,” mother calls gently.  “No, I don’t wanna!”  I scream.  I continue, “You can’t make me.”  “Oh yes, I can!” she exclaims.  Now she is getting angry.  I start calling her names and then I decide to play the martyr.  I say sobbingly, “You don’t love me anymore.”  Finally, I resort to lecturing her on the finer points of how to best raise a child.  I speak to her of what it means to be part of a loving family.  I cite chapter and verse, for surely she does not understand.  If she loved me, she would let me be.

    She defends herself against my barbarous claims.  She attempts to provide examples.  I rant; I rage.  Who does she think she is?  She does not own me.  I am autonomous.  I know what is best for me.  We battle, we argue, and reluctantly, I trudge off to school.

    For me, school is a calm place.  I excel in this environment.

    I study, I learn, I am rarely challenged.  My teachers love me.  The other students think I am the best, the brightest, and I am.  Students, staff, faculty, and administrators admire me.  They appreciate my evenhandedness, and my peaceful approach to life.  They consider me a facilitator, a comrade, and a friend.  Though I am still a student, I have been given ample responsibilities.

    In school, I am one of many, though I am acknowledged as an authority.  Teachers never question my statements, for I repeat what they have taught me.  On occasion, I may argue a position that they present, though the exchange is civil.  We are discussing only “facts.”  There are no personal attacks.  For me, classroom training is tranquil.  I may struggle to succeed on a test; projects might be problematic, still no one is importuning my truth.

    Then why did I quarrel with my Mom about attending school?  Might it be because she “gets me where I live?”  When Mom or any mentor questions my reality, I feel ill at ease.  I am content knowing what I know, being as I am, and posturing in a manner that is “acceptable.”  I want no one to “rock my world” with a jolt and if they do, I will slam them and damn them.  I will work to eliminate their presence.

    Does this story sound familiar?  Do the events parallel those that you experience?

    Parents, patriarchs, matriarchs, and the majority of us are rarely trained in communication.  We speak and think this means we will be understood.  When we are not we want to explain; however, often we are feeling defensive.  Those that do not wish to absorb our words have their own reasons, resentments, and umbrage.  They take these out on us.  We challenge their truth and they, in turn, test our tolerance.

    What was meant to be informative, an opportunity to discuss becomes a vicious battle.  Many are left wounded.  They walk, they talk, and they lay dead among us.

    I have been witness to recent rallies.  Now, I feel compelled to share my sad cries.  In my own sphere, I have attempted to speak to all of those participating in futile fights.  I wrote, in hopes of advancing peace.  For the most part, my words were ignored, avoided, or absorbed only by those ready to be released from what they once thought was reality.

    Some learn lessons gracefully, willingly; there are those that want to.  Others would rather not accept a challenge.  Perhaps the adrenalin that anger supplies was the rush they preferred.  Possibly, the familiar is easier for these persons to accept.  I know not.  I only know that I am very sad for our shared loses.

    At some time may we walk together, down a path of peace.  May we open our heart to those that have hurt us deeply, and may those warriors of conventional wisdom evolve.  May those that know what they know discover a place where they feel safe and wish to consider more.

    I offer no links, how unlike me.  I trust you dear reader, know how to find these.  Possibly, you participated in weaving a wicked tapestry.  If you need my assistance in locating resources, please ask, and you shall receive.

    I hope you agree; this tale is a telling one.  It speaks to a ubiquitous theme.  People present their stories, their truth and it rattles us.  Their words might feel as attacks; their manner may be aggressive.  We engage; however we are enraged and it is evident.  Attacks on each side became personal.  Facts are used as fuel.  They wound us, as bullets do.

    Exchanges and experiences such as those mentioned in this missive are not unique to a situation.  They surround us.  Sadly, misunderstandings flourish everywhere. In every home, in personal relationships, in business, and even on the streets, people speak and their words are considered weapons.  We are societies of the walking wounded.

    I use this narrative to share a story that is familiar to all of us; it is our life.  I hope that you will choose to reflect and become more conscious of what you, I, we create.  We can choose, chaos or calm.

    You Do Not Understand! Communities and Communication ©

    This was intended to be a short statement, a response to a discussion.  I was writing a missive on the subject, similar in scope, though not in tone.  My intention was to offer a well thought out essay.  I was going to present political posturing as evidence for what we as humans do.  However, once the comment was complete I concluded the personal might be more effective.

    I wrote more than I thought I might and realized, as an observation tucked neatly within a thread few would read this.  I think this treatise addresses more than what takes place at My Left Wing.  It speaks to an archetype.  This essay looks at communities and communication within these.  My experience and sharing is likely applicable to world politics and to national interests.  This tome is about life, yours, mine, and ours.  It discusses what we do to destroy the connections we as living, breathing, and loving beings crave.

    I invite you to share your stories, your thoughts, the lessons you learned.  Teach me; I am your student.

    I wrote more than I thought I might and realized, as an observation tucked neatly within a thread few would read this.  I think this treatise addresses more than what takes place at My Left Wing.  It speaks to an archetype.  This essay looks at communities and communication within these.  My experience and sharing is likely applicable to world politics and to national interests.  This tome is about life, yours, mine, and ours.  It discusses what we do to destroy the connections we as living, breathing, and loving beings crave.

    I invite you to share your stories, your thoughts, the lessons you learned.  Teach me; I am your student.

    Originally, Dear gottlieb, my mentor, teacher, and inspiration . . .

    I know I have said this to you before, still, it bears repeating.  I love you.

    This salutation has now been extended to include all of you.

    Dear humans, sponges that absorb, spatter, and then . . .

    Until this morning, I truly had no idea of the depth of what was going on.  I tend to live in la-la land.  I am naïve and proud of it.  More than a decade ago I realized my impression of the utopia that exists on Earth was incorrect.  I truly thought the only one hurt, or less-than-perfect was I.

    I have since discovered that we live in a world of walking wounded.  I still tend to gravitate to my belief that all are perfect and that I am the only one that is not; however, that is another story and a personal evolution.  My path is an important one, some say instructive, and I will share some of it in a future missive. Actually, that treatise is beginning now.

    This thread and other occurances took me away from my writing.  That is good.  I experience we need to be open to what comes, for whether we want to believe this or not, we are all part of a community.  It is not a choice; it is life.  Look out your window; you have neighbors.  No matter how far removed you might physically be from them, they are there and they will be part of your life.  These other individuals are your teachers and your students.  We learn from each other.  That is the best.

    When we accept the void of what is in our own mind we know very little.  People will never perceive life as we do; they cannot.  They are not we, me, or us.  Our experiences vary.  Our interpretations of these are unique.  The way in which we internalize is individual.  What another says of our opinions is not to be taken personally; it is their observation and interpretation.  Their own history influences their reality as does ours; that is important to recognize.

    If we are to learn, we must explore what we do not yet know.  We must reflect, without mirroring what we disdain.

    After reading Sunday’s thread, I was very confused.  I asked of yesterday’s discussion, the Meta, what Meta? Myleftasscheek kindly gave me a referral to Saturday’s thread.  This morning I began reading the discourse.  I was told the Saturday massacre was settled; however, I knew from my reading on Sunday it was not.

    Myleftasscheek who I love deeply, in the Saturday discussion wrote a thought or two that took me to a place.  “I try not to be outright nasty to ANYONE unless they have thoroughly pissed me off.  Take me as I am.”  Tony Seybert and I had been discussing similar thoughts the day before.  Tony and I wrote of anger and peace.

    It is so sad to me.  People, as part of the animal kingdom are like all animals, gregarious.  They crave community and yet they do everything to destroy it.  Years ago, I was in the weirdest relationship; it was so strange I did not know I was in one.  Might the word “strained” be a better assessment of this connection.  His words and actions hurt me deeply!  I reacted.  With each of my rejoinders, he would retort in kind, in opposition.  We each continually inflicted pain on the other, mostly through our words or the lack of these.

    This man was not from a world I have never known; nor had I imagined such a station.  He was the black to my white; he saw unhappiness where I saw joy.  Yes, he is a Republican and I am proudly, left of left.  [Interestingly, when we discussed politics, it was fun; neither of us took those talks personally.]  Within days of meeting this man, I realized he was my mirror [opposite].

    Our perception of the world could not be more different; yet, we were the same, reversed.  We expressed our insecurities in very different manners.  He presented ego strength, or the appearance of it.  At that time, I did not know I was strong; I only knew that I trusted my beliefs and feelings and shared these openly.

    Ultimately, loving this man so much and wanting to understand what I had never experienced, I read.  I learned a greater empathy.  I grew to understand that we all are very fragile souls and we must honor this.  No one can anger me; it is my perception of where they are and what they are doing that causes me pain.

    I need to ask them of their intent.  I need to work to understand who they are and where they are.  Where they were and how that has affected them is important.  What are they hearing, feeling, thinking?  Without that information, I know nothing other than the void of my own mind.

    If I speak of what I know, my feelings, thoughts, and observations, and share these with love, and a sincere desire to understand all is different.  After much learning, I acknowledged that I must not be intent on attacking and rarely did another person mean to hurt me.  If I feel upset because of what they say or do, that is within me.

    They cannot “take me as I am,” for as close as we may be, they do not know me, my core!  No one does truly, not even me.  I know not of others, I only comprehend that I am extremely introspective.  In every moment, I learn more about me.

    That is what learning is.  You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way. – Doris Lessing [Persian (Iranian)-born British writer.  Concerned with people caught in the social and political upheavals of the 20th century.]

    My parents after three decades of marriage experience the same.  They are still learning of the other.  My cousins have been together for sixty years; they too are continually discovering what they never imaged of the other.

    With this man, as I changed, all else changed.  At one point, he, a man known for his aloofness, said to me, “I am really fucked up.”  We all are in our own ways.  When we witness others, we are looking within ourselves.  Do we like what we see?

    We are here together.  We will get what we give.  When someone seems to be intentionally hurting us, I think we must recognize, that is our feeling, our perception, and our reality.  Thank you G-man.

    I have learned that those in pain pour it out onto others.  For me, this is so sad.  I have done this a zillion times.  When I was in pain, I would pour it out.  That brought me greater angst.  It alienated me from those I love.

    Now, I work to recognize that those that habitually cause heartache are doing as is familiar to them.  Anguish is the life they know.  They are doing what was done to them.  They do not understand how to do otherwise.  Please recognize you, whoever you are, are their teacher.  If you want them to learn of love, you must share with them lovingly.

    I could go on, though I have said too much, probably without saying anything at all.  Please tell me of you.  Where might my thoughts have taken you?  What are you thinking, feeling, what would you wish to say or do?  We are a part of a community.  I ask that we communicate as such.

    Instruction begins when you, the teacher, learn from the learner; put yourself in his place so that you may understand . . . what he learns and the way he understands it.  – Soren Kierkegaard [1813 – 1855, Danish Writer during the “golden age.”]

    The Daily Rant By Gottlieb. My Left Wing. June 12, 2006
    My Left Wing.
    Daily Rant for Sunday, By ScottinSoCal. My Left Wing. June 11, 2006
    Daily Rant for Saturday, ScottinSoCal. My Left Wing. June 10, 2006
    Intraspecific Relations: Cooperation and Competition By J. Stein Carter. National Science Teachers Association
    The Relationship; We Meet. © [Chapter One]

    Please puruse . . .

    The Art of Loving, Part 1. By Erich Fromm
    Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most By Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen, Roger Fisher
    About the book Difficult Conversations Triad Consulting Group
    Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ By Daniel Goleman
    Working with Emotional Intelligence Written By Daniel Goleman

    Identity Theft, All Servicemen and Woman Are Affected ©

    There was much talk in the news of lost or stolen veteran files.  The mainstream media began flooding the airwaves with justifiable concerns for identity theft in May.  At the time, citizens were told only veterans were affected.  This week we learn millions of active duty soldiers are also impacted.

    This initial report was released on May 22.  The robbery occurred on May 3, 2006.  A Veterans Affairs employee’s home was burglarized.  Among the items taken was a computer disk.  Supposedly, pertinent and personal records of millions of military veterans were imprinted on the compact disk.  Now we know that was not true, there was more.

    Much of what was revealed in May was inaccurate.  Information was withheld and incomplete.  No reason was given for the delay in reporting.  Apparently, officials were hoping for a speedy recovery; however, that did not happen.

    A reprimand was promised, though, the practice of taking files home had been going on for years.  According to George J. Opfer, the Veterans Affairs Department Inspector General, the employee involved “routinely took such data home to work on it, and had been doing so since 2003.”

    The story entered the public’s sphere and seemed to again disappear.  I trust those not affected were not worried, all would be resolved satisfactorily.  Those uncertain whether their files were among the stolen, likely sat, awaiting any special event.  Perhaps, the bill Senator Tom Harkin proposed will help, until then wonder and worry are daily deeds. Comfortably, most of America went on without regard for the breath and scope of this situation.

    Then it occurred.  For me it came in an electronic mailing, for others the news came quietly.  Last weekend, on a day of relaxation and little news, Veterans Affairs Secretary, Jim Nicholson said, the May disclosure was incomplete.

    Nicholson offered this correction, “up to 50,000 Navy and National Guard personnel were among the 26.5 million veterans whose names, birthdates, and Social Security numbers were stolen on May 3.”  Their personal files are now available, somewhere to sources that are still unknown.

    Days later, the public discovered, this too proved inaccurate.  On June 6, 2006, the agency reluctantly announced

    In fact, names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of as many as 1.1 million active-duty personnel from all the armed forces, along with 430,000 members of the National Guard, and 645,000 members of the Reserves, may have been included.

    The number of stolen records first reported was erroneous.  The pilfering was greater than what was initially revealed.  The correction was also wrong.  Apparently, millions of active and inactive military personnel are effected by an agency’s policy and the practices of  single employee.  The affect on their lives may be physically and emotionally devastating.

    Military men and women fighting on the fields in distant lands, have little means for monitoring their records.  ‘No worries,’ they are told.  Rest assured “The VA remains committed to providing updates on this incident as new information is learned,” or so says Secretary Nicholson.

    I feel certain I am not alone in wondering, how do our soldiers or we trust an agency, or an administration, that lies and has done so on multiple occasions?

    Joe Davis, a spokesman for Veterans of Foreign Wars, ponders the same.  Outraged by this latest revelation, Davis declared the Veterans Affairs agency must be more transparent.  He proclaimed “this debacle” as troubling, to say the least.

    Men and women in battle, separate from their families and any sense of stability, now discover their personal information has been confiscated and compromised by persons unknown.  Officials living in safety, with thanks to these soldiers, reassure the troops all will be well.  How can that be?

    With disgust Veteran Davis offered, “This confirms the Veterans of Foreign Wars [VFW’s] worst fear from day one, that the loss of data encompasses every single person who did wear the uniform and does wear the uniform today.”

    Davis is not alone in expressing his concerns or contempt.  Five veterans groups filed a lawsuit this Tuesday, June 6, 2006.  They are demanding full disclosure.  The veterans insist that the Veterans Affairs agency reveal which military personnel are effected by the theft.  They want damages to be paid in the amount of $1,000 per person.  These complainants are requesting a court order prohibiting any Veterans Affairs employees from using sensitive data until independent experts determine proper safeguards have been put in place.

    A representative for the veterans stated, the “VA arrogantly compounded its disregard for veterans’ privacy rights by recklessly failing to make even the most rudimentary effort to safeguard this trove of the personally identifiable information from unauthorized disclosure.”

    This situation is dire.  The lives of soldiers are threatened in the fields and now, on the home front.  For many of us, this is merely a story, separate from our selves.  For the troops, active and discharged, this is their life.  There is more to fear than mortars.  This reported event, a burglary, in the suburbs of America has hurt many a soldier.  These wounds are less visible; however, no less painful.

    I wish to extend my thanks to Paul Rieckhoff and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.  Were it not for their service and active commitment to sharing, much would be lost and no, I am not speaking specifically of physical battles.  I offer an email I received.  This message caused me to take note of this ever-expanding story.

    June 7, 2006

    Statement from Paul Rieckhoff on the

    Theft of Active-Duty Troops’ Personal Data

    NEW YORK – The executive director of the nation’s largest organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan released the following statement today on the newly disclosed theft of millions of active-duty Troops’ personal information.

    “We’ve known for weeks that millions of veterans have had their personal information stolen, so why has the VA hidden the fact that millions of active-duty service members have also had their information compromised,” asked Paul Rieckhoff, an Iraq War veteran and the executive director of IAVA, the nation’s largest organization representing veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. (www.iava.org)

    “In a time of war, our men and women in uniform don’t have the time or ability to monitor their credit and protect themselves from fraud. Therefore the VA must fully disclose what information was lost, and how it plans to protect those members of the military who are now vulnerable to identity theft fraud,” Rieckhoff said. “We need immediate action from the President to demonstrate a real commitment to those Troops and Veterans who selflessly answered the call to serve.”

    “It is an unfortunate irony that the agency tasked with protecting our veterans is now responsible for having put so many of them, and also so many active Troops, at risk,” Rieckhoff said. “The agency must now redeem itself by releasing a comprehensive plan to both protect those who’ve had their information stolen, and also ensure that such a breach in security never happens again.”

    I concur.  Why is this massive identity theft not more than a moment in the news?  Why was the information not released in a timely manner; nor was the disclosure complete or accurate?  Why is an investigation not moving more rapidly, and pray tell, what are we doing to protect those that protect us?  I can only assume.  Conjecture is your option, dear reader.  I offer reports.  Please share your thoughts, opinions, and beliefs.  Our discussion can only help to clear the air.

    The Truth About Veterans Affairs . . .

    Active-Duty Troops’ Data Stolen From VA, By Hope Yen. Associated Press. Tuesday, June 6, 2006
    Vast Data Cache About Veterans Is Stolen, By David Stout and Tom Zeller Jr. New York Times. May 23, 2006
    Agency Delayed Reporting Theft of Veterans’ Data, By David Stout and Tom Zeller Jr. New York Times. May 24, 2006
    Veteran Data Was Removed Routinely, Official Says, By David Stout. New York Times. May 26, 2006
    Stolen data on vets include addresses, phone numbers, By Tom Vanden Brook. USA Today June 1, 2006
    Active-duty troops’ data stolen from VA USA Today. June 6, 2006
    Latest Information on Veterans Affairs Data Security FirstGov.gov U.S. government’s official web portal
    Harkin Pushes Legislation to Protect Veterans From Identity Theft official Web site of Senator Tom Harkin
    Profile: Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson ABC News
    Size of Military Data Theft Grows to Affect Millions of Troops. New York Times. June 7, 2006
    Department of Veterans Affairs
    George J. Opfer, Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
    Staff, Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director and Founder
    About 2.2 million soldiers at risk for identity theft Associated Press, ABC News. June 7, 2006
    ‘Active Duty’ Alerts Help Protect Military Personnel from Identity Theft Federal Trade Commission
    Data on 2.2M active troops stolen from VA, By Hope Yen. Associated Press and Boston Globe. June 6, 2006
    Veteran Affairs Says 2.2 Million, Not 50,000 Active-Duty Troops’ Records Were Stolen Fox News. Wednesday, June 07, 2006