Glad I Saw It: Mr. Rogers’ Version of Heaven


(I’m convinced this was inspiration for LOST.)

We can get overwhelmed by news, events, horrors, anger, emotion. It’s difficult to realize that in the course of human history, we’re actually doing pretty well right now. Well, maybe except for the climate stuff.

But we see so much and surround ourselves in real time with accidents and hate and desperation and callousness and tragedy — and many of us feel compelled to act and respond and try to change it for the better. It will wear you down, my friend. And in that time, I ask you to stop and look for the helpers. Give time and attention to those who reach out to do Good.

And then take a deep breath and think about all the people in your life who have helped you along and held you up. The haters get far too much attention, don’t you think?

And if you’re really bad off, maybe look up an episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, make a nice cup of tea or hot chocolate, put away the phone and iPad and laptop, and just immerse yourself in cardigans, feeding the fish, The Land of Make Believe, and unconditional acceptance. Do it as part of a Mental Health Day, or just because.

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Her Fear and His Goading: The Sandra Bland Arrest

sandra-blandMy reaction while watching the video of Sandra Bland’s arrest caught me by surprise. I wept. Ugly wept. I suppose I’ve been thinking about weeping like that since first hearing about her story and seeing hashtags like #IfIDieInPoliceCustody scroll by on my screen.

You should watch it. You can do so here.

I started weeping when Sandra Bland made the choice (which wasn’t a choice) to leave her car. I recognized her voice and words and body language as someone who was scared for her life but trying to maintain her dignity in the face of a police officer who was trying to maintain his pride after being challenged. You can hear it in Sandra Bland’s repeated “for a fucking traffic ticket.” And you can hear it in the police officer’s “This right here says a warning. *YOU* started creating the problems.” Hopelessness versus Defensiveness. Helplessness versus Power.

When I worked as a Dean of Security, I was called a lot of things that attacked my gender, race, (what students thought was) my religion, and my body type. I had a lot of irritated teenagers (and teachers) talk to me with a lack of respect. I was threatened, glared at, stomped at, and there were a lot of eyes rolled and teeth sucked in my direction. Over five years as a Dean of Security in a Brooklyn high school, I lost my temper once with a student. But I didn’t put my hands on her.

Watching the full video of Sandra Bland’s arrest, I recognized the escalation. I can identify  several times where the police officer goaded Sandra Bland into reacting. I can hear the fear in Sandra Bland’s voice come out as anger and rebellion. I can hear the despair in her voice. And the fear. So much fear.

As teachers we had to take the high road despite being taunted and dared because we were professionals. And human. It helped to have empathy for our students. It helped to know something about their lives and their dreams. But it wasn’t easy. And not all of the teachers or fellow Deans of Security were successful at finding that high road. It doesn’t feel good to be challenged or to have your plan for an organized and calm day to be disrupted by someone else’s behavior. We all have our lives and stresses and bad days and illnesses and crappy spouses and children and neighbors. But that’s living in a world with other people. That’s life.

Police officers have even more of a calling to take the high road. For one thing, they are armed. For another, they — quite literally — have the law on their side. The medical community’s mantra of “Do No Harm” must apply to officers of the law ten-fold. When it doesn’t, the personal biases and prejudices and hatreds and resentments cost lives and harm us all. This is not an issue that happens to someone else. If it happens to one, it is happening to us all. (And let’s not pretend this is only in Texas.)

We need to get past the point where Pushing the Envelope is demanding that people are treated as human beings. And that’s going to take those of us with privilege to stand up and risk some discomfort and strife. It’s going to take some in the police force and emergency services to stand up and speak out. If we say we believe everyone should be treated as a human being, there can be no tiered belief system. And we all have to swallow some pride and drop the defensiveness if we hope to move forward.

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Glad I Saw It: No Whining

FullSizeRenderGreat fundraising idea, Watchung Deli! Combine it with a swear jar, like the one I just saw at the Groov Cafe on Valley, and we may just have a solution to high taxes. (Not kidding.)

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Rhiannon Giddens: Speak Up, Be Loud

speakupbeloud Rhiannon Giddens has had a wide and varied career, and her response to the Charleston murders shows that there is still more talent to explore. She’ll be in Brooklyn on Saturday. I found this video via NPR Music’s First Watch. Please take a few minutes to watch it. The imagery and symbolism and message are appropriately heavy-handed; this is no time for subtlety. And I appreciate the final message — literally spelled out for her audience. Know Your History. Know Your Mind. Speak Up. Be Loud.  Because guess what? It’s been four weeks — just four weeks — since nine people were gunned down in their church. And while it seems like a lot has happened with flags symbolizing institutionalized hate and a President singing “Amazing Grace” and the illumination of a ridiculously irresponsible policy regarding background checks for firearms, our country is still awash in guns and scores of people are shot and killed every day. It’s been only two months since a teacher and mother was gunned down in front of her home by the father of her child. It’s also been only three months since 15-year old Armoni Sexton was shot and killed. He loved basketball. It’s been only four months since a store owner was shot and killed as he tried to help a girl move to safety during a gang fight. It’s been only five months since a son was shot and killed at his father’s liquor store. It was 4 PM on a Sunday. It’s been only six months since New Jersey’s first gun-related domestic violence murder of 2015. And then we’re into last year. And these were just a few of New Jersey’s gun deaths. And that’s from a state with the 5th LOWEST gun death rate in the USA.  This list also doesn’t touch on things like an unarmed man shot by police or the mother of nine who made almost two dozen domestic violence calls over years before being shot to death by her still on active duty ex-husband. All this to say that Rhiannon Giddens’ call to action in her response to the Charleston murders is clear. And yes, Know your History. Know your Mind. Speak Up. Be Loud. Refuse to look away from the Ugly, and learn to appreciate Hope when it makes itself available. Honor those lost with Action. Stay Horrified. Stay Angry. Stay Inspired.

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Guns and Domestic Violence Don’t Mix: NJ State Legislation Edition

Domestic_violence_and_gunsReal Life is not a Hallmark Film. It’s not a Hollywood action blockbuster. It’s not even a daydream in which you get to be the hero. We know that, right?

And yet, there is a persistent fantasy, wholly unconnected to data or the cycle of abuse, that putting a firearm in the hands of a woman in the midst of a domestic violence situation will make her safer. The gunslinging fantasy of the liberated and angry woman having her say before kicking her abuser in the balls and then shooting him dead is just that: a fantasy. (A fantasy with jail and children in state care, by the way.) Sure, we can spend lots of time getting red in the face with anecdotals and what-ifs, but the data won’t change: When a gun is present in a domestic violence situation, women are more likely to be killed. We see evidence of this all too often, including when the gun belongs to the victim.

New Jersey’s Governor Christie recently directed his Attorney General to file a new regulation expediting permits for firearms to victims of domestic violence and other violent crimes. I am certain that this candidate for POTUS did NOT consult with any legitimate domestic violence advocates on this directive. As a friend who works in a shelter said, this is “toxic to the safety” of those in domestic violence situations. And it shows a complete ignorance of the financial, privacy, and grooming reality in which most victims live.

So there’s that. But Governor Christie has YET to sign legislation on his desk that takes a more sensible approach by adding a layer of safety. Assembly Bill 4218, which passed the State Assembly and Senate with bi-partisan support, is waiting for a signature. It makes sense. It makes sense. IT MAKES SENSE!

Among other provisions, the bill (A-4218) would:

  • Require domestic abusers to surrender their firearms while a domestic violence restraining order is in effect, or when they are convicted of a domestic violence crime or offense;
  • Require an abuser’s firearms purchaser identification cards and permits to purchase a handgun to be suspended during domestic violence restraining orders;
  • Require an abuser’s firearms purchaser identification cards and permits to purchase a handgun to be revoked if the individual is convicted of a domestic violence crime or offense; and
  • Require cross-referencing of records to assist in determining whether an alleged domestic abuser owns a firearm in order to assist law enforcement’s ability to ensure that an abuser does not have access to firearms.

Those who claim the process is already in place, have a(n incomplete) point. New Jersey has some solid laws in place regarding firearms and domestic violence. However, as we see time and again, it’s not enough.

This bill, A4218, can help victims of domestic violence feel safer and be safer while not infringing on law-abiding citizens. So why did the NRA and its New Jersey lobbying arm send representatives to testify AGAINST this bill, even as they called domestic violence complaints “annoyances”? More importantly, why hasn’t Governor Christie already signed this bill? He has time to attempt to (some would say un-state-Constitutionally) loosen the gun laws in a state with some of the LOWEST gun deaths in the United States. Surely he can find time, even while on the road, to sign a bill supported by domestic violence advocates, law enforcement, and both sides of the aisle in the State Legislature.

For other posts related to this topic:


Domestic Violence and Guns: Not Just for Married Couples

Support Organizations the Fight Domestic Violence

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War is Hell: Remembering Lidice

War is Hell, no matter how we commemorate the anniversaries. Read about one horrific and sad anniversary here before we celebrate the birthday of the United States of America in two days. Lidice children sculpture massacre 5 Click on the image to view the entirety of a moving, haunting sculpture that Marie Uchytilová created to commemorate the children of Lidice, a small village in what was then Czechoslovakia, lost to World War II in 1942.

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Glad I Saw It: Miel con Nueces

miel con nuecesNow that the Montclair Farmers Market is back in full swing, the crowds are back and the vendors have their complete selection of wares on display. It’s always a thrill to see Tassot Apiaries with their honey sticks and beeswax candles. But my favorite item from Tassot is the raw honey with walnuts. Just seeing the jars brings me back 15 years to traveling in Spain, in Las Alpujarras. At many of the turn-offs to small villages in the mountains, you could stop and buy jars filled with honey and walnuts.

If you couldn’t resist the wait, you might sit on a rock looking out over the view and scoop out the golden, gooey nuggets with your fingers, not caring about the mess or gluttony.las alpujarras view

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Lift Ev’ry Voice and Shout: 150th Juneteenth

JuneteenthLearn so you can act with conviction, knowledge, passion, confidence, and positivity. Please leave more positive links about Juneteenth in comments.

History of Juneteenth via Texas State Historical Association.

More history of Juneteenth via Talking Points Memo.

An idea of how to honor Juneteenth this year via Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic.

Celebration via PBS: Each year, JUNETEENTH JAMBOREE highlights local vignettes that resonate with the idea of freedom.

Inspiration from a young entrepreneur via Financial Juneteenth.

Importance of remembering Juneteenth via Thrive Detroit.

More reasons why we should all celebrate Juneteenth via Jamelle Bouie at Slate.

Why one Texan won’t be celebrating Juneteenth this year via Chantel L. Jones at The Texas Observer.

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Asking the impossible: respond with anger, hope, justice — Love

635702127807678895-APTOPIX-Charleston-Sh-KellThe only emotion I refuse to feel in reference to the horrific murders at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC is hopelessness. I refuse to give up and give in. Hopelessness would be an affront to the nine people killed with bullets of hate in their house of worship. It would be allowing that hate to win. I’ll allow a moment of helplessness, but no hopelessness.

And that’s so very difficult. It’s so very difficult when we see scenes like last night’s tragedy replayed with minor variation, when our society and our legislators and our culture refuse to respond with conviction and care for our lives, when we listen to our President say, again, “I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times.”

It’s completely natural and necessary to ask WHY, which can lead to assumptions and conclusions and beliefs fueled by both best intentions and the worst prejudices. Some have pointed out the obvious race hatred and supremacist philosophy the murderer displayed in various venues. Others have mentioned that State Senator Pinckney, also a Reverend at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, had recently introduced gun reform legislation just weeks ago.

But there is also the HOW, which is usually easier to comprehend than the WHY. The gun that was (presumably) used in this tragic massacre was a recent birthday gift. Despite having an arrest record for drug-related charges and trespassing, the murderer could have purchased a gun in South Carolina without a permit, license, or training. And apparently, his father thought it was a good idea to give his son (with an arrest record and overtly racist enthusiasm) a .45 caliber handgun. There’s the HOW of getting the gun.

In the aftermath of tragedies like this, I try to remain quiet so I can listen. I listen with the consciousness that I have the privilege and space to be able to remain quiet for a time and listen.

I listen to hear the sounds of Hope. The sounds of a forward quest for Justice. I listen for the sounds of Love. Because without them, Anger, despite its initial release, will only create more Anger and Violence and Hate. Anger can only be fruitful when guided by Love and Hope and Justice.

This time, in the midst of many other thoughtful and hopeful responses, I came across the Charleston response statement from King Center CEO Bernice A. King. Please read it in its entirety here.

“We must interrupt business as usual and change the trajectory of our nation. And, as my father shared in his eulogy for the four little girls killed in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing, “…We must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers.

We must choose to be concerned about the system, the way of life and the philosophy which produced the Charleston gunman. It is critical that we are concerned, for our concern reflects our attention to our ultimate choice between “nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.” We must choose Nonviolence 365.”

How each of us responds is a choice. And it will be different for everyone in our own time. But we must all respond in some way. Don’t ignore it because it doesn’t directly affect you. Don’t dismiss it because it happens so often. Don’t turn away because the problem is too big. Get Angry. Get more Angry. Scream for Justice. Whisper for Justice. Educate for Justice.  Search for Hope. Reach for Love. Wrap it up in a motivation that begins and ends and thrives with Love.

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Glad I Saw It: New Jersey’s State House


If you haven’t been since a 4th grade class trip, or ever, try to make a visit. Trenton could use the love. This photo is of part of the rotunda, filled with portraits of New Jersey leaders I still need to learn about.

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