“something in common?” edwards and madoff

Children is what they had in common, Elizabeth Edwards and Bernie Madoff. Beyond that, very little it would seem. Edwards, a mom who couldn’t give enough of herself to her offspring; Madoff,  whose son Mark hung himself with a dog’s leash today, his young son sleeping nearby. Edwards, whose children “led the way;” Madoff, whose sons “trailed behind.” Edwards, who would have crawled into Wade’s grave offering maternal comfort; Madoff, alive, his needs met, his son dangling lifeless, no parent offering comfort.

When I hear of children’s lives gone awry, I always imagine them as “clean slates” upon which we adults pen the first pages. It’s hard for me to fathom the responsibility. We don’t come to the task empty-handed. We bring an arsenal of “tools,” gathered in our own journey from childhood to adulthood.  What manner of “tools” these are, is dependent upon the words that were inscribed upon our “slates.” “Unless you walk in someonelse’s shoes…” is another image that readily comes to mind, stopping me short of passing judgment.

Rather than dwelling upon Madoff and his sins against his fellow-man, not the least of whom are his wife and sons, I prefer to focus upon Elizabeth Edwards and the legacy she has left. She showed us how to make “lemonade” of the “lemons” she was served, a son who died at 16, an unfaithful husband who fathered his mistress’s child, and a disease that stole her from her 3 remaining children.  Praise for this selfless mother as she was laid to rest today, diminished any news of Wall Street tycoon, Bernie Madoff, except for word of his son’s suicide.

As she ended the eulogy to her mom, Kate Edwards, the eldest daughter, spoke of the children’s running “game” of one upsmanship with Elizabeth. Back and forth, they assured one another “I love you more.” And as would be expected, their mom always had the last say. So in conclusion, Kate said to Elizabeth “I’m proud to be able to say, I love you more, mom,” which, of course, brought me to tears, as I’m sure it did the attending congregation.

Perhaps Elizabeth Edwards was on hand to comfort Mark Madoff, when he passed from this life.

a lesson for all…hugmamma.

two housewives, “founders of tea party movement”

I’d always wondered whether or not ordinary housewives could run the country. Looks like last night’s election proved that they can. Evidently we can do the extraordinary, when we decide to put our passion and energies behind a task. I’m sure all women will agree that’s a “no-brainer.” When wives and moms decide to do something, they do it, like Margaret Whitman, creator of the multi-billion dollar business, E-Bay.

Sarah Palin’s first brush with the media was as a beauty queen. Setting her sights on politics, she became mayor of little known Wasila, and then governor of Alaska, and then GOP candidate for VP. While she and McCain lost the presidential election, Palin landed back in front of the cameras. While she may not have been the media’s darling then, mainstream reporters seem to be back pedaling now. This morning on CNN, the political spin-meisters spoke of her as a force with which to be reckoned, especially in the 2012 election. OMG, I thought! Talk about going the “way the wind blows.”

I’m a liberal, too compassionate to turn my back on those needing a “hand-up.” My husband and I, both from large families, 12 and 9 siblings, respectively, are inclined to “give back,” and “pay it forward.” But I do understand the frustration of those on the unemployment lines, those who are barely making “ends meet,” those whose homes are “under water” because of foreclosures next door, those whose businesses are struggling, those who want a balanced budget, those who want less government, and those of us on Main Street who are fed up with the millionaires on Wall Street. Might I just add here, why are we still making millionaires of athletes, and celebrities, and doctors “playing” the Medicare system? I’d just as soon take all the money we’re pouring into these peoples’ pockets, and help the homeless, the abused, those unable to get health insurance.

While I may disagree with conservative efforts to take the country backwards, I have to applaud Amy Kremer and Jenny Beth Martin, Atlanta housewives who are the geniuses behind the Tea Party movement. According to the Wall Street Journal’s  “Birth of a Movement-Tea Party Arose from Conservatives Steeped in Crisis,” on 10/29, both women “were 30-something suburbanites…frustrated by recession, dismayed by the election of Barack Obama and waiting for the next chapter of their lives.” Quitting her career as a Delta flight attendant to raise her daughter, Kremer turned to blogging after becoming an empty-nester, “one on gardening, one on politics. ‘I had this empty space in my life’… Ms. Martin, a software manager by training and part-time blogger, was cleaning houses to help pay the bills after her husband’s temporary-staffing business collapsed. They were in danger of losing their home.” Martin was enraged after Senator Saxby Chambliss, in whose campaign she had been a volunteer, voted in favor of President Bush’s bail out of Wall Street banks. In her estimation, ” ‘Sometimes it stinks when your business goes bad. But it’s part of our system….The government doesn’t need to come in and hold a business up and keep it from failing.’ ”

In the span of a few weeks in February and March 2009, the two women met on a conference call and helped found the first major national organization in the tea-party movement. Within months, they became two of the central figures in the most dynamic force in U.S. politics this year.

Ms. Kremer, 39, currently chairs the political action committee known as the Tea Party Express. It has raised millions of dollars for upstart candidates and engineered the campaign that threatens Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Once shy about public speaking, today she crisscrosses the country addressing thousands at a time. ‘Are you ready to fire Harry Reid?’ Ms. Kremer bellowed to a crowd of 2,000 in Reno, Nev., this month.

Ms. Martin, 40, is national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, an umbrella group claiming affiliation with nearly 3,000 local groups around the U.S. Leaving her young son and daughter at home, she is on a 30-city tour, revving up activists for the victory she is counting on next Tuesday.

‘This was something I had to do,’ Ms. Martin says. ‘There were just so many of us who were fed up with the Republican Party.’

 Comprised mostly of middle-aged, middle-class citizens with little political experience, “a braid of many strands of discontent and passion, ranging from opposition to illegal immigration and a national sales tax to support for gun rights. A vocal faction questioning Mr. Obama’s legal eligibility to be president provided another source of grassroots fuel.” If John McCain’s campaign was a “babe” in the internet “woods,” the Tea Party political machine seems hell-bent on giving Obama’s proven internet savvy a “run for its money” in 2012.

Many conservatives felt Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign had never fully exploited the Internet to raise money and unite disparate activists. The Obama team had proven deft at harnessing technology.

And so the TEA PARTY MOVEMENT was born online, in the internet universe.

  • Michael Patrick Leahy, a Nashville technology consultant,  built a network of like-minded activists
  • Eric Odom, among the above, compiled a large list of activists “through a group working to lift the offshore-drilling ban”
  • Stacy Mott, started a blog for conservative women, “Smart Girl  Politics,” launching a website by the same name which drew in Kremer and Martin from Atlanta
  • Keli Carender, arranged the first protest, drawing 120 like-minded activists, after it was broadcast on a local talk-radio show and written up online by Fox news consultant Michelle Malkin
  •  On 2/19/09, in response to the $75 billion dollar bailout for homeowners unable to pay their mortgages, CNBC financial commentator Rick   Santanelli  started the “rant” when, broadcasting live from the Chicago Board of Trade, exclaimed ‘This is America! …How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills?’ To the cheers of traders behind him, he continued ‘We’re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July’… “The rant went viral.”
  • After massive internet organizing among all of the above parties, 50 rallies occurred simultaneously nationwide. Within a year, 2,000 local tea party groups were formed around the country.
  • Wealthy interests threw their support behind the movement, like Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, “groups born from a conservative think tank formed in the 1980s by members of the Koch family, who run oil-and-gas conglomerate Koch Industries Inc.”
  •  On 4/12/10, Kremer said she wasn’t boasting in claiming ‘I started this’ when she began a social-networking website called “Tea Party Patriots,” the name her husband recommended.
  • Enter the media. Fox TV’s Glenn Beck “launched his own initiative, the 9/12 project,” as well as touted the Tea Party’s 4/15 rallies, as did Sean  Hannity, and blogger Malkin.
  • Hundreds of thousands of “tea partiers” “gathered in city halls, at post offices, at town squares, parks, and along busy streets.
  • The “Tea Party Express” was formed when Sal Russo, Reagan’s adviser in the 60s and 70s, re-energized a 2008 political action committee, Our Country Deserves Better, as a “tea-party-themed group.” With Joe Wierzbicki, a colleague, they spread the word on a cross-country bus tour. In 2 years the newly christened group raised more than $7 million.
  • Tea Party Patriots, among them Kremer and Martin, maintained a nonpartisanship stance, preferring to stand for issues, and not endorsing specific candidates. On the other hand, Tea Party Express “wanted to raise money for candidates and engineer campaigns.”

The break between the two factions of the Tea Party movement, found its momentun when Obama pushed for massive, health-care reform.

  • FreedomWorks, in its “Healthcare Freedom Action Kit,” suggested ways to omit socialized medicine from the budget.
  • A Patriot coached members on how to “Rock-the-boat…’Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge’ the representative. ‘The goal is to rattle him.’
  • The Patriots, except for Kremer, declined to participate in the Express’  first bus tour, since the groups had different philosophies.
  • Taking part in the D.C. rally organized by Beck’s “9 1/2 Project,” which drew 75,000, Kremer returned home ” ‘a changed person…I didn’t need to stand in the shadows of Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler (activist and Grass Valley, California Internet marketer and attorney)…I felt good about myself.’ “
  • Prominent Florida physician and tea-party activist David McKalip whipped up a storm when he Googled “a doctored image of Mr. Obama as a a tribal witch doctor with a bone through his nose…” In an email to the Wall Street Journal, he publicly apologized. Kremer defended him, to the dismay of other Patriots. ” ‘David, we all support you fully and are here for you…I can assure you of one thing and that is we will protect our own. We all have your back, my friend.’ “
  • In August 2009, the Tea Party incorporated with a 4 person board, Ms. Martin, Ms. Kremer, Mr. Meckler and Rob Neppell, a conservative blogger. “But relations quickly deteriorated…Ms. Kremer indicated she had hired her own lawyers and might try to claim ownership of the group’s intellectual property, according to an affidavit from Ms. Martin. A few weeks later, she was voted off the board.”
  • Kremer shifted to the Tea Party Express, urging it to back Scott Brown, for the Senate seat vacated by Edward Kennedy.
and as they say…”the rest is history”…hugmamma.
 
 
 
 
 

 

children, “clean slates”

A favorite saying has been that “Children are clean slates, upon which adults leave their chalk-mark.” Although babies are most likely born with individual personalities, it’s also very likely that adults influence their development to a great degree. Our passions and prejudices are passed along directly, or through osmosis. We are human, so it’s impossible to guarantee perfection when raising children. Nonetheless, we should make a concerted effort to guard against leaving a legacy of negativism to future generations. Easier said than done.

Change is inevitable; life isn’t stagnant. But while we can’t stop change, we can  control its direction. Viewing life through a baby’s eyes, it would seem only natural that he or she would want a pleasant environment in which to grow and  flourish. It’s not far-fetched to think that adults would agree.

Unfortunately, life has had a head start, our world seems already “set in stone.” War is waging all around us. Battles are being fought on every front: rich vs. poor, liberals vs. conservatives, Wall Street vs. Main Street, blacks vs. whites, Muslims vs. Christians, U.S. citizens vs. illegal immigrants; big businesses vs. small businesses. On the front line fighting are the stockholders, politicians, consumers, lobbyists, NAACP, Ku Klux Klan, “skinheads,” religious fanatics, families, farmers, pharmaceuticals, health insurance companies.

The fallout from our self-inflicted war is its negative impact upon our society, particularly our children. Many fear they will be saddled with our trillion-dollar national debt; I fear they’re already saddled with a psyche of distrust and dislike for anyone and anything, alien to the world in which they’ve been raised.

Children are “killing” children, as in the case of Tyler Clementi’s suicide brought about because his college roommate and a friend posted pictures on YouTube, revealing that Clementi was gay. Obviously the instigators grew up with a certain mind-set, and felt certain their revelation would be well received by millions having the same mind-set. That way of thinking, “us against them,” has been generations in the making, passed along without thought of the consequences to the most vulnerable among us, our children.

When we become adults I wish we could remember how it was growing up as children. Rose, a black girl at the orphanage where my mom worked, was forever picked on because she was mentally slow, stuttered, and built like an Amazon. With nowhere to go when she graduated from high school, my mom brought Rose into our home for a couple of years, to share what little we had. Another orphan, Fuji, was teased because he was slightly built and had effeminate tendencies. And I can remember telling “white lies” in elementary school to cover up being poor, wanting desperately to be accepted by others. How did we children know that being black, disabled, gay and poor were qualities that set us apart, like lepers, like outcasts? Why did our perpetrators know they could victimize us, and not be punished by the adults? It’s no wonder we grow up doing what was done to us, or by us, as children. Can the cycle ever be broken? I hope so.

I’m still trying to “wrap my brain around” the Human Rights Campaign. While I can’t identify with gays in their perception of life, I know in my gut that they are human beings deserving of the same respect that I demand for myself. Knowing several gay men, I’m aware of their incredible talent for business, and commitment to doing their utmost in their positions, most of them in management. Perhaps because they feel they have to prove their worth above and beyond their straight peers, gays are sensitive to their surroundings and those who cohabit them. Granted, there are those who are jerks, just like there are straights who are jerks. I avoid both, not because they’re gay or straight, but because their personalities don’t coalesce with mine. Period.

Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is not an easy undertaking, not because it CAN’T be done, but because of society’s pervasive mind-set. Get rid of the mind-set, and I don’t see a problem. As children, weren’t we told to “get along with others?” I don’t remember being told only to play with “straight” boys and girls.

One of my best childhood guy friends, Michael, was very fashion conscious, seemed like one of the girls during sleepovers, eagerly joined in learning new dance steps, and was as heartbroken as me when my boyfriend and I broke up. My brothers referred to Michael as a “mahu,” (Hawaiian for “gay”), but that didn’t deter me from having him as a close friend. My mom thought he was a great friend, my girlfriends liked him, and my other guy friends, sports jocks, liked him as well. In fact Michael wasn’t gay for he had a serious crush on a mutual friend, who felt badly that she couldn’t return his feelings.

I couldn’t imagine the world without the gay men I know, and about whom I care. They’re like me in all the ways that matter. They love, they feel, they bleed. Why wouldn’t I let them defend me by serving our country? Their sexual preference seems to be the only obstacle to military duty. Delete that, and it seems a “no-brainer.” But eliminating historical prejudices, especially ones based upon subjective interpretations of the Bible, seems an impossibility. My one voice can’t “move mountains,” but as Gandhi said “Everything you do in life will be insignificant, but it’s important you do it anyway, because no onelse will.”

For me, those discussed in Eve Conant’s Newsweek article “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,”  are the faces of the Human Rights Campaign, gays who want to serve and, perhaps, die for our country.

Joseph Rocha had always wanted to be in the military. He enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday, trained to become a handler working with explosive-sniffing dogs, and found himself part of a small, specialized unit in Bahrain. Banned by law from discussing his sexual orientation, he had a hard time explaining to his peers why he didn’t party with them, or even join their bawdy conversations. He became an outcast. Fellow sailors ridiculed him for being gay. At one point they locked him in a dog kennel. Another time they forced him to eat dog food. In 2007 he was discharged after signing a document admitting his homosexuality. But if “don’t ask, don’t tell” is repealed–as many expect will happen in the coming year–Rocha says he wants to serve again. “You never lose that sense of duty and service and love for country,” says the second-generation Mexican-American from Sacramento, Calif., who will graduate from the University of San Diego this spring. “It’s a unique and beautiful thing most of us feel we were robbed of and would take the first chance to have it back.” …

Lissa Young, 48,…A West Point grad from a military family–her father was a fighter pilot–Young had an exceptional 16-year military career before she was outed in 2002. At that time, she was a Chinook pilot and West Point instructor who had just been selected for promotion to lieutenant colonel. …

To fly commercial planes, Young needed new training, but her financial security–including her retirement benefits–disappeared the day she was discharged. She was in her 40s with $50,000 to her name and no job experience outside the military. … she was hired by Raytheon as a salesperson for air traffic-control systems in the Middle East. But she felt awkward in the corporate world. …She…made her way to Harvard.

Now Young is on the verge of getting her doctorate in education, still hoping to teach at West Point as a civilian if she can’t rejoin the military. As a cadet at West Point, she was the first female to serve as a deputy brigade commander, and she returned later becoming a full-fledged instructor. ‘I’m a product of West Point,’ she says ‘They molded me, I took an oath to dedicate my life to leading soldiers.’ …being in the Army and serving isn’t what I do, it’s who I am.’ She would love to fly again, and if allowed back in, wants to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. …

Bleu Copas, 34, joined the Army after the attacks of September 11. ‘I thought it was the honorable thing to do,’ says the native of Johnson City, Tenn. But after almost four years in the service, the then-sergeant–and fluent Arabic speaker–was anonymously outed. …He accepted an honorable discharge. ‘My commander told me he didn’t want to do this, that I was one of his best leaders,’ …Despite what happened, he says he wants to return ‘for the same reason I signed up in the first place: to serve my country.’

The Army invested a lot of time and money in Copas before it dumped him. He spent 18 months in intensive Arabic training in Monterey, Calif., and had top-secret clearance for handling sensitive documents. These days he works a desk job at the Department of Veterans Affairs back home, helping soldiers transition to civilian life. He doesn’t feel comfortable in a suit and tie, and he’s forgetting his Arabic. ‘It’s very rusty now; I don’t have a lot of use for it in northeast Tennessee.’ He says he’s not bitter, but it’s clear he’d like a change. ‘I’ve been told I’m too forgiving; maybe that plays a role. But if there are new opportunities, I just want to take them.’

After 9/11 ousted gay vets felt hopeful they would be recalled to service. ‘These were high-performing people who knew the nation was in need and couldn’t imagine the military wouldn’t want them,’ says Bridget Wilson, a San Diego lawyer who has represented gay and lesbian soldiers for decades. Yet pilots, linguists, and trained gunners watched from the sidelines as the military loosened restrictions on high-school dropouts and former drug users to boost recruitment for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. ‘It really made us crazy when they waived convicted felons into service,’ Wilson recalls.” 

If my daughter were to go to war, I’d want her fighting alongside soldiers who are the best in their fields. But I don’t anticipate having to worry about my child going to combat, so I’ll leave it to the parents of children who might one day decide to enlist. Would it be better that they be caught in a hailstorm of fire with trained soldiers, gays and “straights?” Or all “straights,” some having been drug addicts or felons before joining? I’m not saying they can’t change, but what’s their proven track record? 

just my opinion…hugmamma.