Profundity of Peace on Earth


copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or

This year, Christmas and New Years Days were days of intense reflection.  Perchance, that is true every year and for every individual.  I cannot know what is true for others.  I am only certain that on each of these dates I was immersed in a rigorous course of study.   My gifts or the curriculum came wrapped in a routine event.

The lessons covered were Empathy and Education, although perhaps these were presented in reverse order.  Possibly, the truer program was entropy  and encouragement.  Each edifies.  I wonder; on each of the two days these topics were intertwined.  In my attempt to analyze and understand what I needed to learn or did, I invite your assessments.  Please indulge me as I share the story.

Each was a sunny Saturday.  On neither of the dates, December 25, 2010 or January 1, 2011, was I locked in a classroom.  Nor did I enter a library, a lecture hall, or school.  Indeed, no walls surrounded me.  I was as I am every Saturday of the year, with one exception, at the “Peace Corner.”  The name was given to the intersection of two major highways in my local community years ago.  Then, people came out weekly to stand vigil for global harmony.  That time was long ago, and far, far, far away.  

In the last thirteen months or so, more often than not, I appear at the crossroads alone.  My constant companions are my thoughts and signs.  One sign is but the index and middle fingers held high in a gesture of peace.  The other is  a single poster that reads “Love! Not War. Love!”

On occasion, one or two other persons also grace the Peace Corner.  However, if either of these individuals appears, they and I do not stand together. Hence, regardless of the Saturday, I place me, myself, and I on the Northwest side of the streets.  I have no desire to engage in conversation with another activist.  I only wish to connect with passer-bys.  Eye contact with drivers and walkers is all I need.  

At times, someone approaches me from the street.  Others offer opportunities to share as they travel down the sidewalk.  I am open to learn from these chance encounters.  Admittedly, I cannot be sure what will be said, done, thought, before or after an exchange.  I can only accept that I will be touched, intrigued, quiz, and question for myself, what does it all mean.  

Christmas Day, or the date customarily adopted in America as the holy day, gave gifts I have yet to comprehend.  In 2010, the streets were bare.  Nary an automobile was in site.  Egrets were everywhere.  I pondered.  Might these lovely white birds anxiously await the celebration each December.  The quiet calm truly captured my attention and theirs.  The lovely herons swooped and dove gracefully through the air.  When an occasional automobile appeared on the scene, stopped as required by a red directional signal, uncharacteristically, the two-legged winged animals perched themselves atop the metallic being for the minutes of immobility.

I have never seen the Egrets more enthusiast, energetic, and serene.  The dance these creatures did was well orchestrated, I felt as though I had been given front-row seats to a theatre production meant only for the privileged few.  That is, until the silence was broken.  

On this Christmas Saturday, as pious people prayed in churches, or gathered together with loved ones a man sped through the intersection.  Upon seeing my signs, or the little person I am, he screamed.  “F**k You!”  Yes.  Whilst the religious recognized a devout devotion to the deity donned the Lord, this grateful gent appreciated the chance to vent.  I can only speculate.  In what way did my presence, my message or I, offend his sensibility.  What was stirred within him?  Likely, I will never know.

A pedestrian, a far gentler soul voiced his view of the occurrence.  With a knowing smile, the man who stood within inches of me moments later said of the other, “He’s just stu**d.”  Since I think no one can be characterized in such a manner, this answer did not satisfy my curiosity.  Nor did it suffice.  However, I cannot imagine that I might be granted an opening to ask the aggressor what disturbed him so.  I do not envision a day when we might meet.  I have faith divine intervention is a possibility.  I will not hold my breath.  

The day went on.  Once this person passed the tranquility of the day returned.  Fascinating to me, people were less receptive to my presence than they are normally, on every other Saturday.  In a time thought to define “Peace on Earth” and “Goodwill to all men,” there was little shown to my signs or me.  Having been at the Peace Corner for sooooooooo many years, I thought this was truly odd.  Why might it be that more kindness and care is shown on days that do not honor Christ’s birth?  Entropy?  I have my theories, although I rather hear yours.

If you would, please consider what I think might be a lesson presented in tandem.  Today.

New Years Day 2011, was equally, actually more unusual.  In the last decade, never have people been so very responsive to my message or me.  I would have imagined that with increased traffic, a focus on shopping and sales, a fervent desire to dash hither and yon, a far less consecrated day would deliver far fewer acknowledgements of peace.  Yet, the opposite was true.  Everywhere I turned, and I do face the oncoming traffic, be it going North, South, East, and West, people smiled.  Countless placed their fingers in a sign of peace.  Car horns honked constantly and not at other vehicles.  Drivers made certain that I knew these toots were meant for me.  Car loads of persons young, old, and all ages in-between waved to me.  Hands were held high in a sign of accord.  Out of many a window, from each side of a car, fingers flew in a gesture that mirrored my own.

Suddenly, near the end of my hour at the crossroads, a late model, newly washed burgundy Sports Utility Vehicle approached.  A nicely dressed woman drove nearer.  She wore a black print dress and a huge smile.  Her raven colored hair was long, lush, and curly.  In the passenger seat, nearer to me, sat a nice-looking man.  His shirt was well-pressed, long sleeved, and as white as his bright grin.  Each seemed excited to see my.  I thought perhaps they were lost and hoped I was a local who would provide directions.

That turned out not to be the case.  Elatedly, the woman spoke.  She said, “I see you here every week.”  Breathlessly, she continued.  “About a month ago, I decided to buy a book for you.”  More animated with each word she uttered, she said, “I have looked for you every Saturday since. ”  I assured her, I was there every week, even on the most recent Saturday passed, Christmas Day.  I thought possibly she came by before or after I left in earlier weeks.  I did not have time to inquire.  Impatient with glee and happy to finally connect, the sweet stranger presented me with the tome.  Grateful for the expression of kindness, I quickly read the large type, “An Endless Falling in Love.”  

Unfamiliar with the title, I thanked her and thought of how special it is.  My mere presence inspired her to think thoughts of love.  The pair said “God bless.” Each thanked me for doing as I do.  Then, as traffic whizzed by, the vehicle merged into the flow.  In an instant they were out of sight.  

Curious, I tried to scan the cover.  Yet, I did not wish to neglect what for me is my priority while at The Peace Corner, the people as they pass.  I tucked the paperback behind my poster and continued to receive the endless warm welcome acknowledgements.  For many minutes more, the air was filled with  friendly exchanges.  When it was time for me to be with me and  continue the day, I read on.  I discovered the manuscript was more religious than spiritual.  The woman had handwritten a somewhat personal or practical note.  She shared her name and the name of the church she is affiliated with.

While I am not a follower of a religious faith, for doctrines do not fill me with delight, I am nonetheless extremely touched.  As one who believes that we each have a profound effect on all others, I am grateful for the recognition.  The couple’s choice to come close to me, to grace me with goodwill, and bestow benevolence in the form of a book and bequest . . . this is special to me.  Encouragement.  I think it is Part Two of an intensive study I trust has not ended.

The lessons I learned thus far from the woman I will call Donna and the aggressive distressed man whom I met on Christmas Day taught me. Empathy and Education come at us from every direction.  Entropy and encouragement are also encountered.  These qualities greet us on each avenue. Compassion, connections, and  a chance to comprehend find us on street corners.  Often we do not understand the messages or do not relate to the thoughts in a manner consistent with their intent.  Still, unexpectedly, we are edified.

Mostly, we never know what another hopes to teach us.  Nonetheless, I have no doubt, we learn from and with each other.  Be it a holiday, a holy day, a hump day, or just a day, we gain knowledge.  Please tell me, what did you learn from my story, or your own.  Whatever it is, I feel certain that your experience, interpretation, and mine, will be wondrous, for each of us is a glorious Teacher.


How Much Money is Too Much?

Recent reports reveal a reality that invites further questions.  If money can’t buy me love, can it buy me happiness?   “When has having more money made you less happy?” asks The Take Away, America’s Conversation News Program.  I share my answers.

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.

From birth to the ripe old age of near nine, I was very well-off, and yet, not very happy.  Later, after having been extremely poor and ecstatic, I became well off again.  The two experiences of being with and without wealth were as dissimilar as can be.  Bliss, I learned, is not a by-product of affluence.  I share the story.

I was born into a wealthy family.  My natural father and Mom made much of their lives.  Together they started a business.  The firm, with my natural father at the head, grew.   The person who was never emotionally, ‘Dear Old Dad’ to me, was skilled at what he knew.  He knew how to calculate the numbers and create great wealth; however, not necessarily ethically.  As much as this troubled my Mom, who had stopped working with him almost from the first, for twenty years and ten days, she stood by his side.  For her, the last eight and a half were a struggle.  The reason; I was born.

You see I was an unexpected and unplanned birth.  My parents did not want another baby.  My sisters were older and could be left with sitters.  My natural father had come to love the social scene.  Mommy, years earlier, realized that her husband was not the man she had hoped he would be.  The thought of having his child . . . Well, let me just say, this possibility did not appeal to her.

Nevertheless, the two brought me into this Earthly sphere.  However, neither spent time with me.  A woman was hired to raise me.  Kind as she was, Mary was not Mom or a semblance of a Dad.  All the material goods I could ever want, and more were bestowed upon me.  After all, the man I might have wanted to call “Daddy” had big bucks.   Perhaps, this papa figure thought he could buy love.  I know not with certainly.  We barely ever spoke.

Thankfully, Mommy divorced the person who never was my Dad.  She refused all child support and alimony.  Mommy said the “money was dirty.”  She wanted none of it and took nothing.  We moved far away and were extremely poor.  Ultimately, my Mom married again.  At the time my true Dad, the person who cared for me and chose to live and act as a caregiver to me, was a student.  Neither he, nor my Mom made enough money for a single person to survive; let alone a family.

We grew our own fruits and vegetables.  Mommy cooked and baked every meal from scratch.  We purchased food fare when whatever we needed was on sale.  Bulk prices were the best bargains for us.  Mommy, Daddy, and I ate all our dinners together.  Conversation flowed freely.  We traveled to State and local parks for entertainment.  The company was good.  The quality of life was better.  

Years passed.  Each parent finished graduate degrees and went on to earn large sums.  Life remained glorious.  I realized the difference between the” good life” and greater is not found in dollars and cents; it is in dignity and sense.  Daddy had the ethics that my natural father did not.  Mommy never lost her moral principles and honorable practices.  Their values and habits were ones I consciously adopted. Thankfully, these have served me well.  I hope, as my parents taught me to appreciate and act on, I have served others.

Related Research and Reports . . .

Dalliance Defined


copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

For me, it all began near a week ago.  There was no word of it on the Nightly News.  Nightline offered no interviews.  Articles did not appear in popular, or prized periodicals.  Even the National Enquirer had no exclusive accounts.  Bloggers did not blast me with rumors of what might have been.  The story, while sensational, did warrant banner headlines.  After all, neither person was as widely known as former Presidential aspirant John Edwards is.  The woman may or may not have had a history that would titillate many a reader.  I know not whether this thirty or forty-ish female was the mother of what the media would wish to label a “love child.”  I feel certain that her name is not Rielle Hunter or Lisa Druck.  She is not the fictional character, Alison Poole.  She was but a real person looking for love, as was he, in a parking lot.

I am not sure whether this is the first time, I have seen this particular pair.  Often, over many years, before or after my daily swim in a public pool, I gaze upon a couple of cars positioned far on the fringe of the city acreage.  The automobiles are not always the ones I saw days earlier.  However, the coupes are consistently stationed at the farthest edge of the property.  Each vehicle is expensive, a late model sedan, sports car, chassis, or coach, and always, the two will occupy spaces adjacent to the other.  This time, the cars were identifiable; perhaps because, I was closer to the area reserved for lovers.  

On this hot summer day, when I initially arrived at the commons, I sought shade for the “Silver Sweetness,” or what others might think of as my vehicle.  My swim is long.  I thought it would be nice if my metal friend could be to be cool and comfortable as I stroked through the water.  After, my dip in the pool, I returned to the parking lot.  It was time to travel back home.  As I approached my automobile, and saw the man and woman outside what, in that moment I thought might be their respective automobiles, I could not help but think they did not desire as I had.  Noticeably, the pair had other priorities.  

Unlike on other occasions over the many years, when cars were tightly closed as they sat alone on the edge of the lot, on this day no single car steamed from within.  The windows in each of the two ostensibly joined vehicles were dry and clear.  On this day, I observed the automobiles parked in “the spot” did not appear to be unoccupied for hours.  Instead of the usual sight, cryptic cars, I witnessed people “in love.”

They couple cooed, and warmly chortled in a public parking lot.  The duet may have defined dalliance.  The two whose cars sat empty, embraced as they leaned up against the side of what I later learned was the fellow’s top-of-the-line BMW.  Bavarian Motor Works can craft quite a coupe and this chap, apparently, had crafted quite a practice, medical I assume as I considered his attire.  I think the automobile may have been an M6 convertible.  If it was a lower priced model, the vehicle was certainly not near the bottom of the product-line.  The sleek, streamline steel blue frame and navy canvas top were truly fine, speaking as one, who, as a child was a connoisseur of cars.

The gent, who wore hospital scrubs, and the woman, well-coiffed, in her casual and professionally tailored clothing, wanted more of their moment than I did of mine.  I craved only protection from a blistering sun, for my metal companion.  I sought a place to park and a swim, nothing more.   It seemed my desires were far less significant than those of the twosome.  

Bodily thirst and secrecy appeared to be their priority; at least that is what I surmised.  Dalliance, in that moment was delicious.  I could think of no other reason for two, so completely entangled, to escape the sanctity of home, or office and meet in a parking lot.

They had not come to swim.  Bathing suits were not worn or stored in bags visible at their side.  The two did not stroll.  Nor did they travel away from the automobiles intent that they might swing rackets in the nearby tennis court.  As I walked to the Silver Sweetness, and tried not to watch, I realized I was distracted, less so with their “actions” than my reaction.

I wondered; was this encounter a celebration of love.  When people experience each other fully, hugs and kisses can be quite delightful.  Was this one of these special, spontaneous, moments?  It did not seem as such.  

The flirtatious energy did not suggest that the two were formally intertwined forever.  The playfulness did not express itself as familiarity frequently does; or at least what I witnessed was not as my experience when in a solid, secure, stable, and serene relationship.  I felt a sense of ambiguity, awkwardness, or anxiety in the motions of this man and woman.  Perchance, I interpreted what I saw incorrectly.  I am willing to be wrong and admittedly, frequently, what I assume is in error.

Hence, I was haunted by the questions I felt a need to ask, but knew I could not.  Were the two married or even emotionally, intimately involved?  Perchance.  Was this a tryst, an affair, an adventure, or excitement for those who yearned for exuberant enthusiasm in at least one avenue of life?  I knew not, and did not dwell on what might be for either of these individuals.  What I observed reminded me of times when I was infatuated, involved, or otherwise engaged.  

The chestnut-haired woman smiled ever so broadly.  She gazed into his eyes longingly, and held on to his body tightly.  The long and lean man looked at the voluptuous frame of his female friend and visibly responded to her buxom body.  The fellow looked into her face.  Yet, he appeared to focus more on what he felt.  He cupped her buttocks in his hands.  Even from a distance, I could see his eyes darted to and from her ample bosom.  The two laughed as they caressed each other’s bulk.

As minutes passed, and I came closer, I pondered.  Why would a couple comfortable in their relationship come to a public park only to stand together, smile, and smack lips, or rumps?  I could think of no reason for such an adventure.  Nonetheless, I acknowledge the truth of the adage, ‘Different strokes for different folks.’  I trust I cannot quarrel with what entertains another.  

I looked away content in the knowledge that I could never know what is real for this couple or any persons.  We are all so unique.  I struggle to grasp what is within me, let alone presume to know what might be true for these two.

I continued on to my car.  I chose to enjoy the day and my own doings, just as this duo did.  Soon after, I had the sense the “friends,” or “lovers” saw me.  I felt four eyes upon me.  I tried not to notice their glare.  Yet, I recognized the energy had changed.

The mirth melted.  The time for enchantment faded.  The satisfaction expressed in smiles and soft giggles fell into silence.  I had not meant to disturb them.  Perhaps, their now evident need to dash had nothing to do with me.  The time for afternoon-delights may have naturally come to an end.  I know not.  I was only certain I did not wish to intrude or be the cause of an abrupt closure.

I entered the Silver Sweetness and started the engine.  I hoped that my anticipated exit might settle the minds of the two who now seemed hurried.  As I placed the car [oh, how I hate to use that word when I describe the metal baby that has been so good to me] in gear, I looked out the windshield and saw that my move to leave had not eased the minds of this duet.

I reminded myself, what they do is not my choice.  I cannot please, appease, affect, or alter individuals that I do not communicate with.  I must accept that their actions are separate from me, although I felt a need to apologize.  I did not wish to disturb.  I could not say “I am sorry.”  That would have been more odd than any engagement they or I imagined.

Nonetheless.  Through the corner of my eye, I observed the woman quickly slip into her Lexus roadster.  Once snug in the single front seat of her pearl white luxury automobile, she placed the vehicle in gear and backed out.  She drove a few feet to where her beau stood, and thoughtfully spoke a swift good-bye.  Then, she sped off.

I decided not to follow her lead, and left more slowly.  I did not wish to travel too near or flee too soon.  I felt a strange need to give the woman her space.  I placed a bottle of water to my mouth, and drank a bit.  After, I departed.  As I drove away, I wondered would the fellow follow.

The road from the community park to the main avenue is a long one.  It may be half a mile long.  As I turned onto the back boulevard, I saw the pearl-white Lexus coupe was long gone.  Far off into the distance, I saw the woman was about to enter the main street.  The chap never appeared in my rear-view mirror.  Only thoughts of what had occurred were visible.

I thought of the times in my life when I was immersed in infatuation.  Thoughts of another could fill an entire day, weeks, months and even years.  I recall how I might do what I did not desire or delay more meaningful activities.  More than once, in retrospect, I pondered what might have been if my head and heart were one.  

How many hours had I wasted as I sought love and settled for lust?  As I journeyed home, my mind was filled with the folly of intimacy and how often, when in a whirlwind relationship, people to do not really relate.  They take no time to meditate.  Most couples barely deliberate.  Sincere discussions can be a distraction when individuals just want to do it!

Often, I realize depth in a love liaison is void.  Conversation can be vacuous.  Veracity is too often vacant.  The vigor and vitality felt is vast, more so than any authenticity.  What passes for passion is frequently fantasy.  The illusion is fantastic, and the involvement is just for fun.  

I think of what I have heard from men and women alike when they speak of past loves, or even those they bed in the present.  So often, in retrospect, a man once intent on an adventure such as I observed, will muse.

“When she wasn’t out at nightclubs, she was taking acting classes.  We dated for only a few months, but in that period, I spent a lot of time with her and her friends, whose behavior intrigued and appalled me to such an extent that I ended up basing a novel on the experience,” [he] recalled.

Indeed, only today a chap I am acquainted with described the woman he once hugged, kissed, and met away from the office, or his home as “an ostensibly jaded, cocaine-addled, sexually voracious 20 [30-40-50 . . .] year-old.”  As he spoke, I wondered of his former female friend.  I wondered; what might this lovely lady have said of him?  Would she say of the man who stood before me, “He is a cute and conservative chap whose . . .

idea of wild is argyle socks.  [The once wondrous woman could also soundly state]  But it’s okay, I like straight guys, I’d never go out with anybody who’s as irresponsible as me.  Most of the guys I know have really high-powered jobs and make up for lost time when they’re not in the office.  The Beserk After Work Club.  I seem to attract them in a big way, all these boys in Paul Stuart suits with six-figure salaries and hellfire on a dimmer switch in their eyes.”

Perhaps, the inamorata, who many would define as traditional, a conventional sort might conclude when with friends she trusts, “Men.  I’ve never met any.  They’re all boys.  I wish I didn’t want them so much . . . I hate being alone, but when I wake up in some guy’s bed  . . . and he’s snoring like a garbage truck, I go – let me out of here.”

Each of us can only imagine of others, and consider our own truths.  What motivates us, moves us, and what is in the minds of those of us whose story does not appear on the Nightly News.  When we dash towards and dither in a relationship that takes more time than it might be worth, what are our thoughts.  

My own experience tells me, in each of my close encounters, I avoided, as much, if not more than I approached.  Sex was perhaps easier than a cherished connection.  In serious conversations with many, I have discovered my interactions and I are not as rare as people may wish to propend.  Dalliance is not quite the dream we would wish it to be.

A gent is often more comfortable with a sweetie he can spoon, than one who he might wish to wed.  Gals may prefer to engage with men they rather not marry.  For some the excitement entices; for others convenience is cool.  A few express concern they cannot find the one and only.  These individuals sing, “If you cannot be with the one you love, love the one you are with.”

No matter what those of us who do not make the news say or do, I suspect each of us can wonder; what might an observer say of our escapades, our affairs, the excursions we make to the park, the hotel room, or any of the other out of the way places we go.  Our exploits are yet to be exploited.  Might we inquire, could we take the scrutiny we often impose upon others.  I know I could not.  In truth, as I observed the couple in my community, I could think only of me.  What had my “love” life been and why?

The Power of Passion Perused . . .

Misogyny; Women We Love or Hate

Women in Film

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

There are many wondrous women.  Females are loved and lovely.  The face of the “fairer sex” is photographed, fondled, treasured, and cherished.  The being that brings life to us all is beloved and beautiful.  I am a woman.  As such, the idea of misogyny infuriates me.

Yet, with few exceptions, men are not the persons who cause me to fume.  At times, a male in defense of a scorned spouse will use define another fellow as a woman-hater.  However, it seems to me, a gent will offer this proclamation when the lady he appreciates is not acknowledged in the manner that he thinks just.  I realize, more often than not, when my fellow females use the term, and I am exasperated.  In all of my life, I have never felt as though a person whose gender differs from my own treated me, feminine as I may be, with disdain.

Indubitably, many a man I have meet openly proclaims an undying devotion to women.  Countless chaps cherish those of the opposite sex, in word and in deed.  Men, I associate with admire what they consider the stronger sex, females.  Still, women scorned, shriek “misogyny,” and I inquire where.

I am well aware of income inequities. I abhor the practice that devastates millions of women, particularly those without a man in their lives.  However, as I read the research it seems to me, those without a legal life partner no matter the gender, are shown greater contempt than persons of one sex or another might be.

The Lake Research Partners study, commissioned by Women’s Voices Women Vote, found unmarried women earn only 56 cents for every dollar a married man earns.  In terms of personal earnings, unmarried women live on only $37,264 per year, which is nearly $6,000 less than unmarried men ($42,843) and nearly $30,000 less than married men ($66,646) earn.

Bachelors bring in 64 cents for every hundred pennies a conjugal chap nets.  Perhaps, we are marriage misanthropes or is it the reverse?  Men or women without a band, or a state sanctioned bond, do not garner the greenbacks they might.  Possibly, singles struggle regardless of their identity.  Matrimony may move millions to the good life, or money may move people to wed.  

Wages, as reported, may best explain the adage “wedded bliss.”  The statistics may indicate Americans accept a legal union.  The data, I believe does not validate that misogyny is alive and well.  

A man of means may realize, the woman behind him helped him to secure a substantial salary.  Perchance, the phrase was coined for few misogynists walk down the aisle.  I know not.  I do not recall a time when misogyny was listed as a reason for divorce.  Might we ask whether nuptials necessitate bliss or benefits?  I struggle to understand how a man who says, “I do” does not like women.

Even single males seem to search for the one.  Each year 2.2 million males exchange vows with females.  Yet, stereotypical standards have been sustained.  Conventional wisdom claims women suffer in the workplace; although, many women are extremely successful.  Only tonight, I spoke with one, a stranger to me before today.

Mary mentioned, “superiors” in the business world did not wish to stop her rise.  None tried.  The woman now in her fifties mused, she excelled and was esteemed.  Mary stated she never felt pressure to perform less well.  Nor was she stifled by those in the corporate hierarchy were thought to be above her.  Indeed, this highly educated scholar soared without hindrance.  

The Miss I met this evening expressed her surprise when a peer told her others looked upon her as the “person to beat.”  Mary marveled, apparently she was a threat to those akin to her.  Misogyny was not her experience.  Competitiveness amongst colleagues was the only source of sorrow that affected her climb.  Mary consistently reminded me, the subtle antagonism did not have an effect on her career at all.  She revealed she never felt she must marry.  I was startled.  I had not considered the connection.  For Mary, women have long been free to be.  Perhaps that is true.  I ponder.

Too successful for a mate?

By Kris Frieswick

MSN Money

The majority of my most successful, good-looking, educated, talented girlfriends are still single.

If they had Y-chromosomes, they would have been married a decade ago.  Instead, like successful single women all over the country, they trek into their mid- to late 30s on their own – experiencing fabulous professional success, buying real estate and making savvy investments for the future, without much going on in the relationship department.

What gives?

Carolyn Kaufman, 33, has a doctorate in clinical psychology and teaches college in Columbus, Ohio.  She is a perfect example of a woman who has everything except a date.  “I have this crazy belief that I have the right to expect my potential partner to be at least as successful as I am, and to have as many things to offer as I do,” she says.

Good luck, Carolyn.  With more women than men earning advanced degrees — 61% of master’s degrees conferred in 2007 will be to women – those kinds of men are going to become harder and harder to find . . .

Then there’s the issue of time.  Most highly successful people work crazy hours, which makes it even more difficult to meet a suitable match.  Christine Mohr, director of marketing and community relations for the YMCA in Washington, D.C., is out nearly every night of the week at fund-raisers, benefits, and business dinners.  “The person I’m trying to find is just as busy as I am,” says Mohr, 29.  “If we’re both that busy, when is the time when we’re going to meet?”  She says the men she does meet at these events are usually married.

Of course, you have heard all these excuses before, from women both successful and not – I’m too busy, there are no good men left, they’re all married or gay, etc.  But there’s another factor at work for women at the top of their game: They’re intimidating to men.  No matter how enlightened most men claim they are, few are ready to pair up with a woman who is more successful, better paid and better educated — not to mention better traveled, more connected and more socially savvy than they are.

Women are not weak.  They are strong.  That may trouble a man, or another Eve.  Who we are as a unique being breeds contempt or compassion, a connection or a crack.  Fissures and fractures in a relationship with a female are not indicative of the organs within.  Nor do men generally define all those of the “fairer sex” by the mannerisms and makeup of one, at least no more than a woman might when she declares with disregard, “Men!”

An individual woman, or man, might threaten the ego strength of a mate, or a person of the opposite gender.  The men that might not choose a particular woman do not hate the sex.  They fear intimidation, just as a women might.  I believe love or loathing is reserved for individuals of one gender or another, not for the inherent sex of a person.

Sex may not stimulate revulsion.  However, I experience race and religion give rise to repulsion.  There are those who hate a particular “clan,” or rage against a creed.  I have yet to meet a misogynist.  

Might we ask, were women hung from trees for beauty that was skin deep?  Do men burn crosses on the lawns of females whose pious beliefs or practices they despise?  Has any chap said, “I do not want one of them to live in my neighborhood” as he looked at the females that grace every enclave.  When fathers fondly envision a family, do they forbid their sons to engage with a feminine friend?  Has Papa pledged never to allow his male offspring to associate with one of them, women?  I do not recall such scenarios.

Men and women differ biologically, they may disagree on occasion.  Still, organically the genders are equivalent.  I am an advocate of equal rights.  I have been for as long as I remember.  Glass ceilings, when or if they exist, I believe, must be broken.  As I study, I understand as Mary states; many have been shattered.  I trust any obstructions can and will continue to crumble.  I wonder how many limits were placed in a desire to love, not destroy.  

I understand; there are women who feel as though they are less valued.  However, I often reflect upon what I observe.  The “gentler sex” is more esteemed.  We need only consider the contrast; Mother’s Day is observed with lack of restraint.  Dad does not fare as well.  Perchance, the women in the world are revered.  Females are given grand respect and hence the most significant responsibility.  Moms, misses, matriarchs are afforded an honor that few imagine.  They are frequently cared for and given the opportunity to teach the children.  Many a mother, a mentor, a nursemaid, holds mankind’s future in her hands.

Cross-sectional studies usually have supported the idea that the higher the husband’s income, the lower is the labor force participation rate of his wife.  This relationship is just what the theory of the backward-bending supply curve would predict-a strong inverse relationship, other things being equal, between husbands’ income and women’s participation rate.  A wife’s freedom from the labor market is looked at as a normal good.  So, accordingly, only “poor” women work out of economic necessity.  

Husbands with higher incomes would tend to have a smaller proportion of wives in the labor force, because they could afford the luxury of stay-at-home wives and the wives could be relieved of the stress of contributing to the family income.  However, considering the rise in real income that, in general, has taken place over time, the increase in labor force participation of wives in recent years generates some doubt about the presumptive relationship.

The need for money to help make ends meet seems to be one of the most popular explanations of wives working, but that can hardly be the reason for the rapid rise in married women’s participation rate, because wives stayed home in earlier decades, when their husbands were earning less.  Needing money seems to be a universal and constant factor and thus cannot explain the increasing labor force participation of women.

Illumination may be found in freedom.  Women have much liberty to think, say, do, feel, and be as they think best.  This may be more true now or less.  As a society, we cannot be certain.  Have the times changed or do the predominate preferences of the past no longer prevail?

Many of us have heard, “When Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy.”  Might it be that Mom, a Miss, or a Madame no longer loves what she once did.  Have women wandered into a world they did not imagine decades ago, or has the opportunity to choose evolved over the centuries.  Is there more or less misogyny or is there more to consider?

I am intensely cognizant of my desire to be me!  I have no interest in being similar to the males of my species.  I do not wish to be approached as though I am identical to a mister.  I believe gents are not gals, and a guy does not receive greater gratification.  Nor does a man hate a woman simply because she is a female.

Granted, at times, monetarily there may be a modicum of difference.  Yes, that does need to change.  Nonetheless, for me, the hatred of women is not the reason for the discrepancy.  Men who despise a woman do not detest her sex; they disdain an individual for whatever reason.  She may be a menace, a martyr, a manipulator, or just like the men he has met, who also are a source of misery.

I experience women as people are not hated.  Misogyny does not mar an existence.  Females who feel slighted might wish to wonder why is he [or she] not fond of me.  Might the lovelies look at the image that appears in the mirror and meditate.  Ponder the beauty that is reflected back and sense what is not seen.  The love or hate others express is not as easily explained as misogyny.

Annals for Misogyny or Misology . . .

April 15; From Learning to Love, To Loving to Learn

Dearest Gary . . .

Once again, it is time to speak of the past, to reflect on the present, and to acknowledge a future that would have never been without you.

Today is tax day.  This date is looked upon with doom and gloom.  On April 15 many in America are reminded of what for them is a burdensome task.  In 1947, as the calendar page turned for the fifteenth time in the fourth month of the year, Jackie Robinson put on his first Brooklyn Dodgers uniform.  Color lines were broken in professional sports.  Centuries earlier, in 1743, the Revolutionary War ended on this date.  The Continental Congress ratified articles of peace.  The sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln was assasinated in 1865.  John Wilkes Booth did the deed in the Ford Theatre.  In the twentieth century, the Titanic sank and my cousin Alexander was born.  I too  came alive on this date.  For me, April 15 is the first day of the Renaissance.

Years have passed since my conception began.  The act that consummated my being was but a moment in world history.  It remains barely visible by those throughout the globe.  History books do not document my emergence.  Birth certificates were not filed.  Indeed, at the time of my nativity I was considered an adult, fully developed, and, by most standards mature.  Yet, I was but a neophyte, barely an embryo.  On April fifteen, Gary, you walked into my life and everything changed.

You too may recall the day, the evening, the hours, and minutes of conversation.  Perchance you too still marvel at how two persons who are infinitely different politically, whose professions, are starkly dissimilar could come together as one, and enjoy the company of the other with an intensity that is unimaginable.  I can only trust this was as true for you as it was for me.

They say actions tell a tale.  The four hours of verbal engagement, followed by your call minutes after we departed, for me, speaks volumes.  The force of what ensued was enthusiastic and loud.  Most every moment with you was extremely passionate.  I never knew what to expect.  However, I was always certain I would learn.  What I did not, could not understand at the time was how much my friends, family, familiars, and even those I only encounter for seconds on the street in my daily life might glean from our meeting.

Our engagement, estrangement, push, pull, approach, avoidance, affection, and abhorrence of what was or would not be apparently was infinitely instructive to those I knew and those I was yet to meet.  At the time, no one might have predicted what has since become a spoken truth.  Humans who hurt us do not mean to cause us harm.  They too struggle to survive.  When any of us is in pain, invisible as the injuries may be, we lash out as a wounded animal might.  We work to protect our hearts and souls.  In doing so, we each die inside.  What we fear becomes our future, and will forever be if we do not work through what we thought was and yet, may not have been.  Feelings do not fade away.  Emotions are edifying.

Those close to me tired of the constant confusion that was our relationship.  People in my life were bored with talk of the battle that existed within me as I traveled through the “tunnel of love.”  Many mused, “move on; he is not good for you.”  Yet, I knew you were my mirror, the darkness to my light.  I did not recognize that the enlightenment I experienced would illuminate the path for others.

Only yesterday, as on most days, two of the individuals that walked with me through the pain, persons that love me enough to let me be me, mentioned how helpful my insights, with thanks to my knowledge of you are.

Gary, I thank you for being open with me.  I greatly appreciate the trust you bestowed upon me.  When you shared what is truth for you, I was able to glean that the world for others is never as we might perceive, or believe it to be.  

For you, people are, or were when we last spoke, negative and unhappy.  In your life, there was reason to believe that people who presumably love you have agendas.  Those we adore or wish to be intimate with manipulate.  I recall when you offered, in your family, a celebration of your birth was an occasion to gratify those who organized an event.  Gifts were not presents to you; people gave as pleased them.

I remember your heart and the hurts that scarred what is the most exquisite of organs.  Gary, your spirit is more special than you will ever know.  Sadly, the bruised beauty that beats within you expels a bitter blood.  The sour fluid that fills your being spills out onto those you meet.  Through you, I discovered antipathy averts empathy.  People are easily wounded.  We are all fragile beings.

When our history teaches us that we cannot trust even those who say they love us, we learn to act just as those who harmed us deeply did.  People who have experienced constant criticism come to expect that even a compliment is a cut.  Words meant to express kindness are thought to be tools used to wedge or whittle a way into a person heart.  The “perceived” schema is to probe.  Once a person achieves a position of import, if our past tells us people cannot be trusted with our heart, we feel certain they will become too powerful.  A beaten being will sense anyone too close will pounce, be punitive, and punish us for being vulnerable.

Through my association with you Gary, I found me.  I realized our wounds are reversed, as is our approach to life is.  In my life, compliments pierced my flesh for I could not possibly live up to the potential others thought I had.  Benevolence was but a thoughtfulness that I thought was the essence of every being.  I could not trust wondrous words bequeathed upon me.  I had no faith that I might be a beautiful being inside and out.  I truly believed the best, was anyone but me.

Nevertheless, in my attempt to understand you, I acquired an acceptance that I was not the only imperfect being.  Indeed, we are all flawed and that is the finest find.  If we are to grow, we must be open to opportunities that abound.

You Gary used to tease, “Right and correct are synonymous.”  I now know neither construct exists.  What is “right” is our relationship with self and others.  If we are to connect “comfortably,” we must not impose our beliefs, our personal philosophies, or standards on others.  We must act on authentic principles, not on perceptions.

I have come to believe that the only absolutes are love and peace.  These will not be realized if we do not acknowledge our history, and how it has affected us.  On this day, April 15, 2008, Gary, I kiss your sweet soul, as do all those in my life who have learned through our story.  Gary, you have taught many the value of vulnerability.  Openness may be the most misunderstood notion.  If we are to ever have peace of mind and harmony throughout the globe, we must seize the strength that is born through sincerity.

Gary, I came to realize when I shared myself with you fully, when I offered my earnest apprehensions, when I exposed all my wounds and worries you did not destroy me.  Indeed, when I was most real, so too were you in return.  My awareness likely came too late for us.  Too much damage was done.  It takes two to heal a union.  Insert whatever cliché seems apt.

The lesson remains.  Love blooms when we work to empathize, sympathize, and have compassion.  We can never know what is not communicated.  Hence, again, on this anniversary of my birth into being, I share myself with you.  It was, and will forever be time to speak of the past, to reflect on the present, and to acknowledge a future that would have never been without you.

With love, trust, and care . . .

Spockette [Betsy]

April 15, The  History of Hurt Hearts . . .

‘A More Perfect Union;’ Barack Obama Inquires, Do We Wish to Stand Divided

Obama Speech: ‘A More Perfect Union’

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

On March 18, 2008, Presidential hopeful Barack Obama stood before us, citizens of the United States of America.  This gentle man gave each of us the strength to believe in change.  The Senator from Illinois spoke of what Americans think is taboo; yet, the truth of this issue is obvious and observable in every aspect of our lives.  Racism is rampant.  Bigotry destroys bridges.  Our choice not to attend to the prejudices that play a part in our daily lives divides us.  Barack Obama invited us to consider the chasm we help to create and perpetuate.

As a child born to a white woman from Kansas and a Black man from Kenya, Barack Obama experienced what many young persons have, and do not speak of in public.  His own Grandmother who he loves dearly articulated words that might have wounded the sweet soul of an African-American lad.  His mentor, a man who he admires also voiced expressions that could have shattered the heart of an individual half-Anglo.  These hurtful asides did not diminish the worth that is Barack Obama.  They informed him.

While most would rather discuss race relations euphemistically, after weeks of wrangling Barack Obama concluded it was time, past time to address the attitudes that divide us.  The man who breathes the audacity of hope, Barack Obama broached what affects those who skin is Black, Brown, Red, Yellow, or White.  He eloquently introduced an issue we each grapple with.  He inspired us to think, to feel, to be better than we were.  

I am reminded of his name.  “Barack” means blessed, and so are we to have a potential President in him.  Hugs and kisses on your glorious being Barack Obama.  I offer the man who exemplifies hope, in his own words.  

Barack Obama’s Speech on Race

March 18, 2008

Transcript . . .

The following is the text as prepared for delivery of Senator Barack Obama’s speech on race in Philadelphia, as provided by his presidential campaign.

“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution –  a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk – to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough.” We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way.

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth –  by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild.”

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination – where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs – to the larger aspirations of all Americans — the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man who’s been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know — what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination – and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past – are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina – or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

“I’m here because of Ashley.” By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

May we walk together, as beautiful beings one and all.  May we hold each others hand and say thank you brother for believing in me, and in us.  Let us work together and create a more perfect union.  We are Americans.  Black, Brown, Yellow, Red, White, we are all wonderful; we are created equal. Let us act as one.  United we will stand.

Homage to Lawrence King. Teach Tolerance To Adults and Children

Love Not Hate

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

“The opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference.

The opposite of art is not ugliness; it’s indifference.

The opposite of faith is not heresy; it’s indifference.

And the opposite of life is not death; it’s indifference.”

~ Elie Wiesel

It was February 14, 2008, Valentine’s Day.  Love was in the air.  However, the expressions of appreciation offered were mournful.  Doctors informed the family and his friends, Lawrence King, 15, was removed from life support.  Two days earlier, young Larry was in the computer lab at E. O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, California.  He sat with 24 other students when Brandon McInerney walked into the room with a gun.  The armed classmate, fourteen-years of age, approached Lawrence with intent.  Brandon aimed his weapon, pulled the trigger, and shot Lawrence in the head.  Without hesitation, the shooter ran from the building.  Circumstances led observers and police officers to conclude the act was intentional, calculated, and a conscious choice.  Brandon committed what is commonly defined as a “hate crime.”

Students were locked in classrooms.  Grief and disbelief filled the air.  Adults tried to calm the children.  Teens tried to cope.  Peers were befuddled.  Pupils sought information and shared what they knew.  After the event, fingers flew across cellular telephone keypads.  Text messages were sent and received from schoolroom to schoolroom.  The words were, “Brandon McInerney did the deed.”  ‘Not Brandon McInerney, No way.’

“Brandon wouldn’t do this,” eighth-grader Jessica Lee remembers thinking. “He’s a good kid. It can’t be Brandon.”

But some at the Oxnard junior high school had seen Larry, 15, teased by students in the weeks before the shooting for being gay and wearing high-heeled boots and makeup. Some witnessed confrontations between Larry and Brandon, with Larry teasing Brandon and saying he liked him.

Family members and friends described Larry as a sweet, artistic boy who loved to sing and didn’t understand why people reacted negatively to him.

Brandon, 14, a tall, athletic eighth-grader, was described by friends and acquaintances as a mellow, focused kid, but one who wouldn’t back down in a confrontation.

Brandon had learned his lessons well.  He learned to feel deeply.  Indifference was not part of his repertoire, intolerance was.  Perhaps from within the womb, he began his education.  Those who in an act of love came together to give birth to Brandon, apparently knew nothing more than volatile loathing.  Perchance, Brandon’s mother, Kendra and his father, William were raised to love or hate, but not tolerate.

We can be certain that baby Brandon did as all infants do  after birth, he absorbed all the messages that surrounded him. .  Education is not an isolated entity.  Knowledge is not gained only in a classroom.  Our first school is called home.  Structured lessons may inform us; however, these are never internalized as deeply as the wisdom we acquire at the knees of our Mom and Dad.  Parents have a profound influence on a child.  Those we love most have the power to teach us more.  Definitely, the occurrence taught Brandon what to do when he felt troubled.

Kendra McInerney, Brandon’s mother, claimed a night of partying in 1993 ended in a fight and William shooting her in the elbow, breaking it in several places, according to court records. Still, they married later that year, and Brandon was born in January 1994.

The fighting didn’t stop, and sometimes it was witnessed by Brandon and his two older half-brothers, according to court records. In 2000, William pleaded no contest to a domestic battery charge against Kendra. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail and ordered to attend domestic violence classes. The couple separated in August 2000.

Love, or familiarity can breed contempt.  Even when someone no longer shares a physical space with the person that causes him or her distress that individual remains intimately connected in the heart.  Parting is not a sweet sorrow.  Indeed, it is often the source of more pain.  Indifference is rarely evident once an emotional bond is formed.  

For Kendra and William McInerney, separation did nothing to alleviate the angst they felt or expressed. , Nor, did living apart make life more livable for  the children.  Drinking, drugs, and violence were daily transgressions in Brandon’s life.  The stories are stark.  Yet, fortunately, it appeared Brandon survived.  Indeed, some would say he thrived.

Through all the family turmoil, Brandon got involved in activities outside the home, including martial arts and lifeguard training. He seemed to want something more than just the status quo of Silver Strand, Crave said.

“He didn’t want to be involved in that whole thing,” Crave said, gesturing at friends drinking a few beers nearby after getting off work.

Brandon joined the Young Marines – the Marine Corps’ equivalent of a JROTC program – several years ago and became a leader in the group, which disbanded last summer.

“Brandon was a young man that I would never have figured something like this would happen to,” said Mel Otte, his commanding officer.

Otte said he never witnessed Brandon showing a short temper and that he would have been kicked out of the group if he had bullied other kids.

“He was an outstanding young man,” Otte said.  “What happened since I left, I have no idea.”

What occurred did not take place in a instant.  The image of restraint did not transcend an earlier reality.  Change did not come on in a flash.  Often calm is a facade for the chaos that lay beneath the surface of a boy [girl, woman, or man] who battles emotional upheavals.  What was real for Brandon is true for each of us.  We learn and live what we believe is customary.  

Even those of us who “know better,” or are exposed to impressive amounts of information, organized to challenge unhealthy conventions, do as we have seen done, or was done to us.  Some escape the affects of sensory overload for a time.  Few abandon family traditions until long they have repeatedly fallen from grace.  Only an individual forced to face his or her “demons” day in and day out thinks to learn new habits.  

We all love easily.  We loathe with less effort.  What we do not do well is authentically accept others.  Few beings bother to have compassion, to learn from those who look, think, feel, or act differently.  Without empathy, everyone is a possible enemy.

Hate, or fear, of what we do not understand, motivates many a mind to react aggressively.  Apprehension and anxiety are not logical.  None of our emotions are.  Nevertheless, all too often humans, prideful of an intellectual capacity, are galvanized by feelings.  We are threatened by what we feel terrorizes us.  

For Brandon it was a boy who thought him fine.  For adults it may be a secret admirer, or an individual who has authority over us.   The neighbor who was unkind could seem a danger.  Mature men or women may believe the man in the automobile in front of them is a menace.  Even a small girl, on the corner, with her fingers out-stretched in a sign of peace could seem a hazard if our habit is to adopt an angry stance when we feel annoyed.  

People are familiar with what deeply disturbs them.  They know all too well how to demonstrate love and hate. Indifference is doable, as long as an n individual does not see or hear those outside their sphere.  Benevolence, perhaps that is the reaction, the action we do not learn from birth.

We all crave a connection.  Humans have needs.  Individuals long to be included, intimately involved; we wish to feel as though we have the right and power to make decisions for ourselves.  Men, women, and children are not indifferent.  Hence the dilemma.

When it seems we are unable to manage our world, humans freak.  Each of us responds differently, understandably.  Intellectually, people may recognize they cannot control the universe.  However, when stressed, we discover the habits we hold dear remain intact.  Our reactions are not innate, just well studied.  Brandon McInerney was not a bad boy.  He is a human being.  He reacted as he had learned to do.  Barely fourteen years of age, Brandon expressed his deep disdain for a situation and someone he could not control.

Chaos abounds.  Nonetheless, we try.  Too often, we fail.  A senseless murder, and what assassination is not absurd, illustrates what occurs when someone does not feel fulfilled and knows not what to do.  People in physical or psychological pain lash out in the ways they know how.

Brandon McInerney was baffled, no terrified, by the actions of another boy.  Lawrence did not cause bodily harm to his peer.  He did no verbal damage, at least not intentionally.  Paradoxically, when Larry spoke of Brandon, he articulated his sincere admiration.  That is what bothered the young boy Brandon.  Love, especially when expressed unconventionally, caused Brandon’s heart and mind to break.  The young lad, now passed, Larry, did not bully Brandon or his buddies.  Indeed, the other boys hassled Lawrence prior to his final day.

In recent weeks, the victim, Lawrence King, 15, had said publicly that he was gay, classmates said, enduring harassment from a group of schoolmates, including the 14-year-old boy charged in his death.

McInerney, now in custody, refuses to speak of what motivated him.  His lawyer offers the fourteen year old is too young to fully understand his actions.  Perhaps all people are too immature to rationalize the unreasonable, revulsion, repulsion, and feelings of repugnance.

What is hate?  Certainly, it is an emotion, as inexplicable as fondness.  Each can be voiced to the extreme.  Neither is inconsequential.  Perhaps, when humans feel adoration or antipathy they lose all perspective.  The chemistry we feel when we connect intensely is uncontrollable.  If only people could capture the energy and place it in a bottle before they pop.

Assemblyman Mike Eng (Democrat, Monterey Park), chairman of the Assembly Select Committee on Hate Crimes, said we would, with a bit of money directed towards teaching diversity, be able to stop crimes against people based on race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

“My bill is focusing on [hate crime] prevention,” Eng said after a news conference at his El Monte district office. “We already have bills on the books about proper punishment; mine will focus on dealing with hatred in a school setting.”

Eng hopes to create a pilot program by allocating up to $150,000 to establish a diversity and sensitivity curriculum at a few school districts.  The pilot program would serve as a model to be used to develop lesson plans statewide.

Others in the community believe the proposed program only serves to comfort parents and Principals, adults, and not adolescents.  Countless argue that similar programs such as D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), are ineffective.  These simplistic strategies always were nothing more than slogans used to appease anxious adults.  Although these agendas survive, they do not strengthen the will or the character of the young persons they serve.  At times, instruction is as indifference.  If you do not know what to do,  or say about an open wound, look for an easy answer.  Apply salve, and walk away.  Most of us truly believe the sore will eventually heal by itself.

Here’s a news flash: “Just Say No” is not an effective anti-drug message. And neither are Barney-style self-esteem mantras . . .

DARE, which is taught by friendly policemen in 75 percent of the nation’s school districts, has been plagued by image problems from the beginning, when it first latched on to Nancy Reagan’s relentlessly sunny and perversely simplistic “Just say No” campaign.  The program’s goals include teaching kids creative ways to say “no” to drugs, while simultaneously bolstering their self-esteem (which DARE founders insist is related to lower rates of drug use). . . .

According to an article published in the August 1999 issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, DARE not only did not affect teenagers’ rate of experimentation with drugs, but may also have actually lowered their self-esteem. . . .

The findings were grim: 20-year-olds who’d had DARE classes were no less likely to have smoked marijuana or cigarettes, drunk alcohol, used “illicit” drugs like cocaine or heroin, or caved in to peer pressure than kids who’d never been exposed to DARE.  But that wasn’t all. “Surprisingly,” the article states, “DARE status in the sixth grade was negatively related to self-esteem at age 20, indicating that individuals who were exposed to DARE in the sixth grade had lower levels of self-esteem 10 years later.”  Another study, performed at the University of Illinois, suggests some high school seniors who’d been in DARE classes were more likely to use drugs than their non-DARE peers.

Still, Americans, intent on straightforward solutions, quick fixes, and immediate gratification, forget that life is not so simple. The family teaches children from birth.  The lessons we learn in our youngest years are internalized deeply.  In infancy, each day we encounter our mother, father, or guardian, the people we need most, and most want to love us.  As toddlers, we are intimately involved with our caregivers, even if they do not seem to care for us.  When we are children, the only choice that we have, the only option that gives us a sense of control, is to cling to those who help us survive.  Moms and Dads are our first and best, teachers, if only because they are there in whatever capacity.

However, sadly, for some of us, such as Brandon McInerney our mentors did not teach us well.  Schools try to suffice.  Teachers with ten, twenty forty to a class try to create a relationship with each student.  As educators teach Math, Science, Reading, and English, they work to provide a sense of self-worth to each and every young scholar.  For a few hours, five days a week, a troubled youngster can call his or her classroom home.  

For young people such as Larry, school may have been a place to blossom, somewhere where he felt safe, or for both the boys an educational institution may have been the place where lessons begun at birth were reinforced.  Each was teased, bullied, and verbally battered.  Each had friends.  However, they may not have felt they achieved an authentic intimate connection with anyone.  Even acquaintances can say . . .

“He had a character that was bubbly,” Marissa said. “We would just laugh together. He would smile, then I would smile, and then we couldn’t stop.”

An ally in life does more than smile or laugh.  Larry King may have felt he had few real supporters, in a school he attended for only months.  How close can two people be when they see each other only for hours and then each returns to their own abode.  One may return to the place they consider “Home Sweet Home,” the other may reside in an institution, far from those who are “supposed” to love him.

For several months before to the shooting, Larry had been living at Casa Pacifica, a residential center for troubled youths in Camarillo.

Lawrence’s parents are alive and well, as are his four siblings, a younger brother, two older brothers, and an older sister.  While the family spoke lovingly of the dearly departed, they dared not speak of why the lad no longer lived with them.  Many children today are placed in treatment agencies.  The numbers are staggering.  The reasons are astounding.  Yet, when people know not how to love well, and are not indifferent, they do what they may hate to do.

The number of children placed in residential treatment centers (or RTCs) (1) is growing exponentially.(2) These modern-day orphanages now house more than 50,000 children nationwide.(3)  Children are packed off to RTCs, often sent by officials they have never met, who have probably never spoken to their parents, teachers or social workers.(4) Once placed, these kids may have no meaningful contact with their families or friends for up to two years.(5) And, despite many documented cases of neglect and physical and sexual abuse, monitoring is inadequate to ensure that children are safe, healthy and receiving proper services in RTCs.(6) By funneling children with mental illnesses into the RTC system, states fail-at enormous cost-to provide more effective community-based mental health services.(7)

RTC placements are often inappropriate.

RTCs are among the most restrictive mental health services and, as such, should be reserved for children whose dangerous behavior cannot be controlled except in a secure setting.(8) Too often, however, child-serving bureaucracies hastily place children in RTCs because they have not made more appropriate community-based services available.(9) Parents who are desperate to meet their kids’ needs often turn to RTCs because they lack viable alternatives.(10)

To make placement decisions, families in crisis and overburdened social workers rely on the institutions’ glossy flyers and professional websites with testimonials of saved children.(11)  But all RTCs are not alike.(12)  Local, state and national exposés and litigation “regarding the quality of care in residential treatment centers have shown that some programs promise high-quality treatment but deliver low-quality custodial care.”(13) As a result, parents and state officials play a dangerous game of Russian roulette as they decide where to place children, because little public information is available about the RTCs, which are under-regulated and under-supervised.

Yet, parents and community services agencies take those who are perhaps most vulnerable, our young and troubled teens, and place them in Residential Treatment Centers not able to provide minimal care.  When we, as a culture consider other options, and other means for childcare, we cannot but think of poor Brandon and how he suffered at the hands of his mother and father.  We are reminded that Brandon, the tormented shooter, lived in a location he called home.  We might wonder; which situation was better, worse, or can we even compare the traumas each child in this story suffered.

Brandon and Larry are not anomalies.  They are not alone.  Children throughout our country are taught to express love in a violent manner.  The little ones watch adults they admire model cruelty.  The young are trained to demonstrate their contempt similarly.  Sadistic reactive behaviors rule in our society.  Listen to people ruthlessly scream in the marketplace.  Consider the abundance of “hate crimes” in America.  Turn on the television.  Tune into the radio.  Read the “literature.”  Hostile conduct is commended and condoned.

For too many of our offspring, aggression in their daily existence is the norm.  They hear it in their homes; see their parent bludgeon each other.  As toddlers, tots, children, or teens our youth feel the bruises on their back, and remember the bones broken by those they love most.  Ponder the statistics.

During FFY 2005, an estimated 899,000 children in the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico were determined to be victims of abuse or neglect.
  • Children in the age group of birth to 3 years had the highest rate of victimization at 16.5 per 1,000 children of the same age group in the national population;
  • More than one-half of the victims were 7 years old or younger (54.5%)
  • More than one-half of the child victims were girls (50.7%) and 47.3 percent were boys; and
  • Approximately one-half of all victims were White (49.7%); one-quarter (23.1%) were African-American; and 17.4 percent were Hispanic.

Gender preference did not determine maltreatment when infants and the very young among were involved.  Specific biases are learned as we “mature.”  While many wish to focus on Larry’s identification with the gay community as reason for such a horrific reaction, the cause for Brandon’s response goes far deeper. Scorn is rarely selective.  Disparagement is an equal opportunity employer.

Abusive behaviors are rooted in our personal history.  We cannot dismiss the fact that as a society, our past performances towards those we disdain are deplorable.  As a culture, emotional beings that we are, we embrace love and hate, and ignore indifference.

We must ask ourselves, what are we doing to our offspring from the day they enter this world, and why.  Answers offered after the fact, solutions that do not address the broader question will not stop the violence we see in schools.  Nor will it quash the mayhem or reduce the murders we see on our streets.  Hate crimes are born at home.  Mothers and fathers motivate much that occurs.  Moms and Dads often do what was done to them.

Children ‘learn violence from parents’

Children who witness domestic violence are at an increased risk of having abusive relationships as adults, researchers have found.

Being abused as a child and having behavioural problems also increases the risk of being violent as adults.  Receiving excessive punishment is another risk factor.  US researchers from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and the New York State Psychiatric Institute followed 540 children for 20 years from 1975 . . .

If a pattern of violent behaviour towards a partner has been established, it is difficult to change say the researchers. . . .

If a child was hit by their parents, they were much more likely to see violence as a way of resolving problems as adults, the researchers found.

But seeing violence perpetuated between parents was found the be the greatest risk factor for being the victim of a violent partner as an adult.

Both men and women who witnessed domestic violence were likely to grow up to abuse their partners . . .

“This acceptance of coercive, power-based norms as ways of regulating conflict may have direct implications for young adults’ means of conflict resolution with partners, independent of a disruptive behaviour disorder.”

For too many of our young persons a forceful hand, a furious face, and a vicious voice are identified with those they are most fond of.  Children are confused.  In too many lives, love does not come easily.  Little ones do not know what authentic affection looks like.  As “mature” beings, some people seek the wisdom they did not acquire in their family homes.  They wish to learn of what could not have been fully integrated in a school curriculum.  Grown-up persons harmed by habits that debilitate a mind, body, heart, and soul know to their core, habits die hard.  Adult classes meant to teach as Assemblyman Eng proposed exist at West Virginia University an older person can study How To Communicate Love.  Learners are instructed, “Love comes from within.”  Students are advised to appreciate themselves.

Learning to love yourself will help create your personal appearance of love. If you do not know how to love yourself, you will not be able to love others. Loving yourself also means that you have a loving attitude in your actions and responses toward others; that you look for opportunities to help rather than be helped; that you communicate a loving appreciation of others with “thank you” and “please” as part of your vocabulary; that you forgive others and do not hold a grudge; and that you help people in need without thought of reward or recognition.

However, ultimately pupils are reminded of what Lawrence and Brandon have helped us realize.

How we communicate love to others is learned; we are not born with the ability to communicate love.

Nor are we born with the ability to hate.  Each of us, every man, woman, and child is well-trained.  If we are to truly end the violence that exists in schools, we must eliminate the hostility in our homes.  Assemblyman Eng, perhaps a program in parenting, one instituted in every community throughout the globe might be more effective than any instruction in a school.  If we are to truly teach forbearance to our progeny we must acknowledge parents, adults in every avenue are our life teachers.   Let us not speak of how best to teach the children tolerance.  We, their elders must learn how to love first.  Perhaps, if the elders begin to appreciate each other without brutality, next Valentine’s Day Cupid will not shoot arrow.  He will bestow gentle kisses on each of us.

“God knit Larry together and made him wonderfully complex.

Larry was a masterpiece.”

~ Reverend Dan Birchfield, Westminster Presbyterian Church

Sources, Societal Scars, Scabs . . .

Fragrances and Food; The Way to a Heart is Through the Stomach and Nose

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

We met in December.  The year was 2007.  He was a friend of my cousin’s.  The two were best of buds; they still are.  Cousin Paul has known James for decades.  Jim moved to my hometown only months earlier.  He felt alone.  James longed for a friend, locally.  Paul introduced us on the Internet.  After my relative played the mediator, the man in the middle, the means for a message, he asked if he might share our electronic mail addresses.  James and I each consented, and from then on, we exchanged epistles directly.  

In letters, we liked each other.  Admittedly, for us, the electronic medium was limited.  We decided to share a drink together; although I let him know, I only imbibe water.  James said that was not a problem.  We arranged to get together at Starbucks.  The coffee shop was near to his home and mine.  Neither of us wished to share where we lived exactly.  We were hesitant, cautious, or just not willing to chance the unknown.

Today, speed dates are popular.  For some, a minute or two is more than enough to determine whether he or she is the “one.”  Some believe in love at first sight.  They know immediately when Miss or Mister Right walks through the door.  From across a crowded room eyes meet, sparks fly; for many providence steps in.  Cupid’s arrows are manifest destiny.  

A gallant gent may meet a genteel girl and the two will gallivant forever.  If a lady were to encounter a extraordinary lad in the last month of the year, by Valentine’s Day, perchance the two would be wed.  That is unless she eats garlic onions, or spicy foods.  

James enjoyed our first encounter.  He took pleasure in our later luncheon.  My cousin’s best friend looked forward to our every conversation.  The more we chatted the more he longed to converse, connect, and commune in every way possible.  This fine fellow spoke of copulation often.  While he had been with others at the time of our introduction, he did not feel as close to them as he did to me.  James spoke of our shared energy, enthusiasm, interests, and the excitement he felt in my presence.  Nonetheless, one day, as he readied to rally at my home he decided he could not do it.

The smell of my well-seasoned skin was just too much for this lovable man.  James diet is bland in comparison to mine.  He did not wish to tell me I could not dine as I do.  He did not wish to end our relationship per se; James just needed to create a physical distance.  All the while, he reminded me of how much he loved me and always will.  Certain he did not want to think of a time when we would not be emotionally together, James concluded, at least for a time, he needed to occupy a separate physical space.  Perhaps, we could see each other and just not share a repast.

In the Twenty-First Century, the dynamics of dating are more complex.  People are sensitive.  The personal preferences of one person may offend another.  Individuals are vocal.

Sharing meals has always been an important courtship ritual and a metaphor for love.  But in an age when many people define themselves by what they will eat and what they won’t, dietary differences can put a strain on a romantic relationship.  The culinary camps have become so balkanized that some factions consider interdietary dating taboo.

No-holds-barred carnivores, for example, may share the view of Anthony Bourdain, who wrote in his book “Kitchen Confidential” that “vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans … are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit.”

Returning the compliment, many vegetarians say they cannot date anyone who eats meat.  Vegans, who avoid eating not just animals but animal-derived products, take it further, shivering at the thought of kissing someone who has even sipped honey-sweetened tea.

Ben Abdalla, 42, a real estate agent in Boca Raton, Fla., said he preferred to date fellow vegetarians because meat eaters smell bad and have low energy.

No matter how delightful a mate may be, if she eats meat, or finds a meal of fish repugnant a male suitor may not pursue her.  If a woman thinks a man prefers a menu that is ethically loathsome, she will say so.  Even those trained to understand, may not empathize at all.

Lisa Romano, 31, a vegan and school psychologist in Belleville, N.Y., said she recently ended a relationship with a man who enjoyed backyard grilling.  He had no problem searing her vegan burgers alongside his beef patties, but she found the practice unenlightened and disturbing.

Her disapproval “would have become an issue later even if it wasn’t in the beginning,” Ms. Romano said.  “I need someone who is ethically on the same page.”

While some eaters may elevate morality above hedonism, others are suspicious of anyone who does not give in to the pleasure principle.


James did not quibble with my decision to avoid caffeine or alcohol.  He did not question my desire to shun sugars.  It made sense to this sweet man that I do not dine on meat, fish, chicken, or potatoes.  James did not find fault with my wish to preclude processed foods from my diet.  I did not consider his choices flawed.  For me, people eat as they do.  I delight in my entrees and worry not of what others consume.  I understand change comes from within.  I have no desire to transform another; nor do I wish to be converted.  

As with other differences couples face, tolerance and compromise are essential at the dinner table, marital therapists said.  “If you can’t allow your partner to have latitude in what he or she eats, then maybe your problem isn’t about food,” said Susan Jaffe, a psychiatrist in Manhattan.

Dynise Balcavage, 42, an associate creative director at an advertising agency and vegan who lives in Philadelphia, said she has been happily married to her omnivorous husband, John Gatti, 53, for seven years.

“We have this little dance we’ve choreographed in the kitchen,” she said.  She prepares vegan meals and averts her eyes when he adds anchovies or cheese.  And she does not show disapproval when he orders meat in a restaurant.

“I’m not a vegangelical,” she said.  “He’s an adult and I respect his choices just as he respects mine.”

In a former relationship, Eric and I were as Dynise Balcavage and John Gatti are.  Never once was food an issue.  I cooked meat for Eric with little hesitation.  Admittedly, I would pay more for chicken parts.  I could not bring myself to cut into the flesh and bone of one of G-d’s creatures.  When liver was prepared, I could not season the slices.  In truth, my eyes could not gaze upon the bloody organ.  Eric would place the animal protein in the bag I prepared with flour and spices.  Then, he would lay the organ into the heated pan.  Only after the meat was seared, could I continue to cook the “delicacy.”

However, while I do not define myself by what I eat, I can no longer look at animal flesh on a plate and feel  the same emotional distance I once did.  While I still do not struggle with what another ingests, I do not believe that I would be so willing to bake, broil, or boil a bird, cook or carve a piece of beef, slice or dice a chop of pork.  Perhaps, I have changed, even if ever so slightly.

I cannot be certain whether trends transform a person, age alters an individual, or if experience hardens hearts.  Perhaps, ancient hurts hinder us.  In an era where divorce defines the population, people have become more discriminating. James was married twice.  I am the daughter of divorced parents.  In America today, our experiences are common and likely shape us.  The subtle nuances of companionship possibly affect the stomach and the nose..

Children watch Mom and Dad coo, only to see them separate.  The pain of parents parting can cause a stomachache.  Teens remember when their parents were romantic, rather than full of rage when together.  As an adolescent reflects on unity he or she ponders, ‘This stinks!’  Adults cannot forget the one who broke his or her spirit.  Habits of lover were appreciated.  Slowly, but surely, all that seemed beautiful left a lover nauseous.  The scent of one who was adorned becomes a reminder of all that was lost.  Closeness can be sickening.  Smells and tastes are no longer savored.

Nonetheless, people wish to believe passion is pure, adoration is in the air, and that special someone is just around the corner.  Hence, we look, and look, and hope to find our Valentine.  Restaurateurs rely on the human desire to love and be loved.

Valentine’s Day ranks second only to Mother’s Day at restaurants.

“It’s something that restaurants all over the country . . . look forward to,” said Steve Chucri, president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association.

Thirty-five percent of Americans dine out on Valentine’s Day, close to the 38 percent on Mother’s Day.

Of those who dine out, 80 percent pay an average bill of $62. The remaining 20 percent spent more than $100 in 2006, the most recent year for which figures are available, according to Sherry Gillespie, the association’s marketing manager.

Those spending $62 are paying $20 or $25 more than usual, Chucri said.

“I think people go out and spend more because they enjoy the day,” he said. “They might get that bottle of wine instead of a glass of wine. Or they might get an appetizer and a dessert.”

Pleasure or the want of it can be blissful.  James and I experienced that from the first.  The conversation, started and stayed interesting.  We were authentically animated.  He thinks I am saucy and sweet, but perhaps a bit too spicy.  Like or unlike millions, James does not revel in the smell of natural seasoning.  At one point he explained, “I think you are great.  I enjoy your company. I yearn to be with you and would be if only  you would stop eating garlic, onions, and spicy foods for three days.”  

While intellectually James does not object to my nutritional regime or my being as I am, his stomach and nose struggle to follow his fondness.  Delicate scents do not disguise the aroma of peppers.  A bouquet of cologne does not cover the odor of onions.  From food to fragrances, friendships are fragile.

Perfume has long been an aphrodisiac decanted sparingly from an iconic glass bottle.  But for Leslie Ware, a fashion editor at a quarterly magazine in Huntsville, Ala., fragrance has worked its magic in the opposite direction, as a romantic deal breaker.

Several years ago, Ms. Ware was engaged to a gentleman who did not like Trish McEvoy 9, the fruity vanilla blend she had been wearing for seven years.

“He thought I smelled like a traveling carnival, the kind where they sell corn dogs, because I guess the smell was reminiscent of cotton candy,” Ms. Ware, 28, said. “This was the demise of Trish No. 9.”

It was a bad omen.

Soon after, Ms. Ware said she broke up with the perfume-averse boyfriend. She has not worn fragrance since.

A more recent boyfriend fared no better after he bought Ms. Ware what she called “an old-lady perfume” against her wishes.

“It made me mad,” she said. “I told him not to bother buying me fragrance since I am picky, and now I have a $125 bottle of perfume sitting in a closet.”

Just as stomachs lead many men, and women, noses help navigate these same individuals through the maze of ardor.  When we wish to give to one we love, money is no object.  The cost of the gift does not deter a admirer.  Nor does the price impress the person who receives a present.  There is much to love, and more to learn if we wish to create a bond that lasts.

This Valentine’s eve women will not douse themselves in fragrances and men will be reminded not to buy perfumes as they did in the past.  Colognes and toilette water are not collected as they were years ago.

[M]ore women are forgoing scent altogether.  Last year, about 15 percent of women said they did not wear fragrance, up from 13 percent in 2003, according to a survey of 9,800 women conducted by NPD.

“That may sound like a small number, but nationally that translates into two million more women who are saying ‘I don’t wear fragrance,’ ” said Karen Grant, the senior beauty industry analyst at NPD. “Eighty-five percent of women are still buying fragrance, but an increasing number tell us they are wearing fewer scents, less frequently or not at all.”

Fragrance fatigue is probably inevitable, with heavily fruited scents wafting out of everything from dishwashing liquids to hotel linens to candle displays at the mall. But perfume aversion seems to be tapping into a larger societal phenomenon that may have its origins in bans on cellphones and cigarettes: the idea that the collective demands of the public space trump one’s personal space.

“People are shying away from fragrances not for the traditional reasons that you’d expect, that it is too expensive or that they are wearing alternative products like body sprays or lotions,” Ms. Grant said. “Many people said it bothers them that fragrance has an effect on other people, that they are trying to be considerate by not overcoming others with scent.”

Indeed, Rochelle R. Bloom, the president of the Fragrance Foundation, an industry trade group, said that people who worry that their fragrance may offend others simply may be wearing perfume improperly.

It is not difficult to hurt the feelings of another. People are sensitive souls.  Stomachs ache.  Noses run.  Hearts hurt.  Cupid’s arrows are curved; however, they can be straightened.

But sometimes couples can reach olfactory accord.  Last fall, Robert Flood, a retired technology platform tester in Allen, Tex., worried how to tell his wife of 25 years, Amy, that he could not abide her new perfume, Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion.

“It was very atrocious, at least to me,” Mr. Flood, 52, said in a phone interview last week.

The couple later worked out a compromise so that he would not be discomfited should her scent again stray into his air space. Henceforth, each will choose a fragrance for the other to wear.

“On Valentine’s Day, we will go to one of her favorite stores and she will buy me English Leather and I will buy her Jean Naté, which is the fragrance she was wearing when we had just met and she was 17 going on 18,” Mr. Flood said. “We are not smelling the perfume so much as the memories.”

Indeed, for the Floods, fragrance brings with it the Proustian power of recall. One could argue that those who forgo perfume now may inadvertently diminish at some future date the textural memories of relationships past.

Perchance, passion is more than a perfume or a pound of flesh.  Spice may not be the cumin poured into the curried dish.  The flavors that create true fondness are not found in the pantry or the powder room.  The zest and zing that brings zeal into a relationship does not originate during a meal.  A scent will not make heartstrings sing.  

If two are to enjoy as one they must be responsive and receptive to what is not visible to the eye or smelled by the snout. Memories made and remembered satiate more than a stomach and flood more than a muzzle.  This Valentine’s Day may be the time to steam sweet nothings and sniff a bit of fresh air.  Hugs, kisses, and Happy Valentine’s Day.

Sweetness and Spice Sources . . .  

In Life and Death We Trust

© copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

They say, “Only the good die young.”  Perhaps, that is true.  My Mom took her last breathe on Earth twenty years earlier than many of her relatives.  You may recall that only weeks ago, a dear departed from my life.  Phillip passed just more than a month after his fifty-fifth birthday.  Days ago, the nation was told that a fifty-seven year young Elizabeth Edwards has an incurable cancer.  Might she too perish before she has had time to truly live.  Each day we lose our younger generation to war.  Drugs take too many lives.  Anna Nicole Smith and her offspring Daniel left G-d’s green Earth very recently.  Today we learn that Tony Snow, White House Press Secretary has a lesion on his liver the outlook is not good.  Might the purely partisan Progressives ponder, ‘Is this man among the splendid.’

I believe we all are divine.  Our politics, or our lifestyles do not determine our worth.  We are all equally revered in the eyes of any Lord.  Science makes no distinction.  However, I do wonder, does a holy being decide whether one must pass, when, or why. 

Does Free Will play a more important role?  What of those deaths that are caused by another?  Is human insanity the stronger influence?

As I reflect on cancer, I continually conclude, much of it is environmental.  I do not know why some are more susceptible.  Theories abound.  Living close to electrical wires, near freeways, on the banks of polluted waterways seem to have an effect.

Habits can be killers.  Smoking might take a life; then again, it might not.  Imbibing alcoholic beverages does damage.  Yet, not all “drinkers” die from this “dis”-ease.  Food sustains life and destroys it.  Illnesses such as diabetes are often the result of overindulgence.

Another adage states everything happens for a reason.  Is the rationale for our passing plausible? 

When we lose a parent, particularly at an early age, is there some lesson to be learned?  If a mother and father depart, each before we are adults, the heart often becomes hardened.  People often become protective.  An individual that shuts out pain, or attempts to, usually creates greater heartaches for themselves and others.  Yet, fear of being alone or abandoned, left behind again, often causes us to hurt ourselves.

I believe much of what we do gives rise to our own agony.  It seems to me, so much of what kills comes from within.  Perchance, that too is as it must be.  We know not why we feel as we do.  Our lessons loom large.  They can be painful, and all consuming. 

At times, we drastically decide to take our own lives.  Numerous individuals think suicide does not make sense.  I can only surmise that those that journey into jeopardy are led there for reasons that remain a mystery to most of us.

On many occasions what cause us to cease, to exist no more as Earthlings is not within our control, even when we think it is.  Thus, I ask again, ‘Why must we leave this life before we think we are done?’

I personally must believe in Karma.  I do not think life is the luck of the draw.  Actually, I do not think luck is a valid determinate of much, if anything.  I trust that we are goodness.  When we share that quality with all others, when we care, sincerely, when we give to all others equally, and when grace is our guide time and again, then the powers that be honor us.

We may depart from this planet sooner than we wish to.  We may leave loved ones behind.  However, unbeknownst to us, our work is done here.  We have achieved what we could not imagine.  Destiny calls us.  There are other lessons to learn. 

I believe that we may have to live on Earth again.  Our bodily presence may differ.  Perchance we will encounter those we met in this life in our next, perhaps not.  Those others may have completed this path.  Their trail may deviate from ours.  Nevertheless, they will always be with us. 

People are our foundation in this existence and though our physical memory of them may fade as we enter the next generation, they are our history.  Mentors, muses, and mystical influences come in many and every shape and form.

I believe that we must have faith.  Those that pass are good.  They have come into our sphere for good.  We are changed for the better to have known them, even if we disagree with their politics or lifestyles.  We need not stay silent when people perform, postulate, or practice in ways that we think inhumane; actually, we must not.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
~ Martin Luther King Junior

Let us speak of the taboos . . . sex, religion, and politics.  Please discuss what disgusts you . . . abuse of drugs, alcohol, or power.  Chat about life and death.  Learn what you can while you live.  For if you believe, as I do, what you do not garner in this human form now, will have to be found in a later experience.  The next may not be as pleasant. 

Nirvana, the attainment of enlightenment comes when we know to our core what is correct.  For me, love and peace are the only absolutes.  I ask that we work towards these.

Elizabeth Edwards, Tony Snow, my thoughts are with you.  I trust that you are traveling down the path that is best for you.  In this human form I cannot know where you will go.  I only hope that we will meet again in a wondrous world filled with love and peace.

Peace and Passing . . .

  • “Death Ends a Life, Not a Relationship.” In Memory of . . . By Betsy L. Angert.  March 11, 2007
  • Tests Show Snow’s Cancer Has Returned, By Peter Baker.  Washington Post. Tuesday, March 27, 2007; 11:34 AM
  • pdf Tests Show Snow’s Cancer Has Returned, By Peter Baker.  Washington Post. Tuesday, March 27, 2007; 11:34 AM
  • White House Spokesman Snow has Recurrence of Cancer (Update6), By Roger Runningen.  Bloomberg. March 27, 2007
  • The Elizabeth Effect. By Chris Cillizza.  Washington Post. Tuesday, March 27, 2007
  • Edwards: Wife’s cancer returns, campaign goes on. Cable News Network. March 23, 2007
  • Reality TV star Anna Nicole Smith dies at 39.  Cable News Network. February 9, 2007
  • Inquest Into Death of Anna Nicole Smith’s Son, Daniel, Begins.  Fox News. Tuesday, March 27, 2007
  • “Death Ends a Life, Not a Relationship.” In Memory of . . .

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    In the last sixteen years, I have only used the word in my writing.  It just does not seem apt for me anymore.  In 1991, my Grandpa passed, or as some say, he died, although he never did.  I am reminded of this today for someone I knew from afar for many decades, and met face-to-face only a year ago on this same date, took his last breath this afternoon. 

    It is a somber day; yet beautiful.  Phillip, is gentle man, a giant.  His heart is, to coin an expression, more golden than gold.  His spirit is softer than the yellow metal is in its purest form.  Phillip’s goodness is great.  You may think it odd that I presume to know so much about this man.  After all, we only spoke on a few occasions in the past year.  However, I am closely acquainted with Phillip’s family.  I have, by extension been apart of this loving circle for generations.

    On March 11, 2006, I spent hours chatting with Phillip.  We discovered all that was between us.  Until then, we never understood that we were truly connected.  Without communication, there is much conjecture.  When we open our hearts and minds much is realized, at least Phillip and I thought so.

    Our conversation was deep; it went on throughout the day and into the evening.  We spent hours relating to what was, is, would be, and could be.  I never felt so safe, so sane, as fortunate to be part of his, my, or our family as I did on this date a year ago.  Strangely enough, when we first spoke Phillip was sitting in a sacred chair.  It is my Mom’s favorite chair.  Mommy settled into that seat for years.  She read, smoked, smiled, and laughed, all from that chair.  I felt certain she was sharing the wooden bench with Phillip as he and I chatted.

    No one sits in that maple structure anymore and has not since Mommy took her last breath.  My father gently looks over at the white and wood construction often throughout the day and every evening.  He has for years.  He discusses the day with Mommy as he sits across from her.  Fresh flowers are neatly positioned in front of her fixture regularly.  Father always buys her favorite blossoms and talks to her about his choices.

    When Mommy’s body, in a physical sense was here on Earth, each morning my parents would brew their first cup of tea and walk through the garden examining every new shoot on each beautiful plant as the tea steeped.  They kept a pictorial log of the gardens growth.  They mounted photographs on a rolling file so that they might flip through these, as if watching the transformation through time-lapse photography.

    Mommy and the love of her life were both avid readers.  They frequently exchanged books and articles.  They still do today, although Mommy sends her circuitously.  Nevertheless, my parents still share.

    I too share with Mommy.  She is so very much a part of whom I am, what I think, say, do and feel.  She is forever with me.  Now, she and Phillip are sharing or so I imagine.  Perhaps, when he sat there in her chair with her, she and he knew.  It was time, time for them to meet and be one.  Phillip is my father’s younger brother. Yet, Mommy and Phillip  had never met.  Families do some not so funny things in the name of love, caring, concern, or knowing what is best.

    I suspect, as I think about the life after this Earthly existence, those of us bound by the properties of this planet rarely imagine what is most important, love and peace.

    After I learned Phillip was lost to my physical touch, I looked around me.  I examined all my possessions and wondered were any of these truly valuable.  Did my clothing, my car, even my home have any actual worth.  Were these assets or distractions?  I pondered whether life itself was significant.  What is the meaning of it all?  I could think to leave this planet, for I do inquire what is the point.  Yet, I think that decision would not be wise.

    I have to believe there is some reason I am here.  My Grandpa taught me so much.  He gave me reason for living.  Grandpa taught we to be open, honest, curious, and concerned.  Grandpa, born more than a century ago was, is, in fact a peacenik.  Grandpa regularly recited . . .

    Hearts, like doors, will open with ease,
    With two very, very little keys.
    And don’t you know the two of these
    Are “Thank you, Sir” and “If you please.”
    Grandfather Mitchell memorized . . .
    “Two wrongs do not make a right.”
    Grandpa felt deeply, ‘Love always endures.’  What seems like centuries ago, I yearned to visit a beau.  This magnificent man lived states away from where I resided.  Roundtrip airfare was two hundred and eighty nine dollars.  I certainly did not have dollars to cast to the wind, only to watch them fly across the country.  To this day, I do not know when I mentioned the subject to my Grandpa.  Surely, I never expected, nor did I ask him to pay the price of such a costly ticket.  Without hesitation, he did.  If you knew how extremely frugal my family is, you would trust, this was weird, wonderful; ye still bizarre!  Nevertheless, it happened.

    I could not get over such a gesture!  I thanked Grandpa over and over again.  I was and to this day, am grateful for the gifts he gave me, this one and the less tangible treasures.  Grandpa turned to me one day and said, “Betsy; No one does anything they do not really want to do.”  He assured me he offered me the opportunity to travel for that was what he really wanted to do.  While he appreciated my expressions of gratitude, I need not thank him again.  My going and enjoying was his pleasure.  For Grandpa facilitating growth was love and love was the reason for living.  Sharing love brings peace.

    Grandfather Mitchell taught my Mom the same.  Love and peace were forever his lessons.  The scientific method was his preferred tool for instruction.  Grandpa gave Mommy the freedom to think and to be who she was naturally.  My Mom is, was interested in every entity.  She was a scientist, just like her father.  He was a Chemist, a Pharmacist, and a lover of people.  She was a Social Scientist, a little lessen enamored with human foibles.  As a child, Mommy saw too much pain.  It hurt her heart.  She longed for love and peace and worked to create it.  She did.

    Observation, examination, and experience were my Mom’s mentors.  Mommy embraced learning easily.  Her father, my Grand encouraged little Berenice Barbara to explore and share her discoveries.  The two chatted often.  They were, they are, two great minds with millions of thoughts, each inspirational.  They imagined all the people, sharing all the world, and living in harmony.  I trust they still do.  I suspect now that Phillip has found his peace, he has joined them.  The three are together giving rise to greater love.

    The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.
    ~ Morrie Schwartz [Sociology Professor]

    My Mom wanted me to learn as she had.  Curiosity continued to be the teaching method of choice; love and peace were still the curriculum.  Berenice Barbara the parent had two overriding principles.

    “Do whatever makes you happy, as long as it does not hurt anyone.”
    “No one has the right to tell you what to think, say, do, feel or be.”
    Mommy never did.  If I asked for her advice, and on occasion, I did, I would hear the previously stated philosophy.  Oh, if only I knew what made me happy.  If only I was certain what was wise.  I find no joy in their departures; although I have never felt they left me.  I am in some ways more with my Grandpa and Mom now then I was in life.  I feel their presence. Rarely, if ever do I speak of them in past tense.  I definitely do not say; nor do I believe they “died.”  I feel their love and I am at peace.

    This is exactly what I was saying to Phillip little over a month before he passed.  Phillip expressed his deepest fear.  The doctors had expected him to exit Earth months ago.  Physically, by all accounts, Phillip was ready to pass.  However, he stayed.  When asked why he lingered, Phillip shared he did not wish to leave his two daughters alone.  He, with help from his wife’s spirit, raised them since they were very young children.  Becky passed on Mother’s Day decades earlier.  The girls are in their early twenties now, still so young. To be without a mother and a father, Phillip did not wish to do that to them. 

    I was visiting at the time he made this statement, though I was a room away.  Upon hearing his reflection, I knew I must speak with Phillip.  I entered his hospice room.  I proceeded to his bedside, walking right past his mother and sister.  I put my face to his and began to tell my tale.

    I said, for as long as I could recall, my worse fear was I would loss my Mom.  I missed her even when I was in the same room with her.  She was [is] so alive, infinitely interesting, open, brilliant, and vibrant.  I had hoped to pass before her.  Surely, without her I would fall apart.  How would I live? Who would teach me as she had. 

    I was close to my grandfather and feared his demise; however, it was different.  To this day, I am unsure how, for my Grandpa engaged me for hours daily in my younger years.  I even lived with him for a couple of months when I was eleven years old.  Perchance, I had accepted the convention that Grandfather’s pass, since my paternal Grandparents were never on Earth in my lifetime.  I know not.  I did understand that though Grandpa’s body was not visible.  He still lives large in my life.  Only last evening I quoted him on a blog.  I attributed his words to him.  Grandpa lives!

    Nevertheless, without Mommy, I knew I would not function.  As I attempted to tell Phillip this, I cried uncontrollably.  Finally, gasping for air, I quoted Morrie Schwartz of Tuesday’s With Morrie fame.  Professor Schwartz told his former student, author Mitch Albom,

    “Death ends a life, not a relationship.”
    Tearfully, I told Phillip my Mom never left me.  She is so much a part of who I am in every moment.  Berenice Barbara is within me.  I am as close to her as ever.  She still teaches me.  I also share the lessons I learn from her with others.  I assured Phillip as best as I was able, he was not leaving his daughters or other members of his family.  He was only changing the way in which he would be with them.

    After I spoke, a hug festival ensued.  Love and peace filled the room.  Grandpa and Mommy were there with us all.  The two are still teaching.  Yet, much remained unsettled.  It is challenging to grasp the unknown.  Yet, I must trust that ultimately Phillip has.  Today he decided to take his last breath as he held his daughter’s hand.  I hope she too was [is] able to understand he is not gone. Only his appearance differs.  Amy and Stacy, I love you so.  Your Dad does too.  He will continue to be there for you.  He will teach you now as he was when you were younger, as he did while working through his own rite of passage.

    Another relative of mine, Nicholas has been ill for years.  He too is young, still in his fifties.  His son has not yet graduated from High School.  I wonder if Nicholas might also want to be there for his family.  Might he muse that though his body may wither away, he will not.  If only we knew to our core, that death is not our undoing.  We live in and through all those that we touch.

    I kiss your sweet face Phillip.  I would ask you to say hello to Mommy and Grandpa were I not able to do so myself.  It is almost midnight and I must sleep.  I was never able to slumber well unless I said “Pleasant dreams” to those I love before I went off to bed.  Thus, I wish you “pleasant dreams!”  May we all live and rest in peace.

  • Tuesday’s With Morrie By Mitch Albom