Join Us on July 26th for a Global Kindness Revolution Event!
A wonderful story on the Huffington Post about the power of intent and the spirit of kindness.
Updates coming soon on my new book: The KindMind Techniques: Tips to Train Your Brain to Be Kind
When we woke up this morning at my sister’s condo near Clearwater Beach, my son, Brian, and I went out onto the balcony for our morning coffee. We saw a large mammal on the beach with a couple of people standing near it. It seemed to be dead but then there was a little flip of its tail. Little did we know we would be part of a real life Disney movie.
With binoculars, we couldn’t tell if it was a shark or a dolphin. Curious, I went down to join the growing crowd on the beach. Officials drove up in dune buggies and all were on their smart phones, getting instructions from their various local, state and federal agencies. Of course the growing crowd was all busy on their smart phones, taking pictures (I have a lot on my camera which I’ll send later.)
Soon officials in blue shirts were kneeling beside what was a juvenile dolphin, still alive, with no apparent wounds.
They distributed leaflets about stranded animals and what to do as the ones tending the dolphin smeared him with a white cream, zinc oxide I think, to keep it from sunburn, and oxygen from a portable tank was sprayed nearby to help his breathing (I’m assuming it was a male.) We waited for an hour and a half for the Clearwater Marine Rescue boat to arrive, but apparently they’d shifted to Plan B, which involved carrying him across the beach in a sling to a waiting specialized truck to take him to Sea World for “rehabilitation.”
While waiting, they took blood, gave him an injection to calm him, and four men held him still. One of the men holding him was black with a shaved head, and the sun was strong. One of the cops walked into the water, shoes and all, to give him a cap, a nice thing to see in the face of all of the bad news about cops this past year.
The crowd interacted with each other and I met some locals who said this was an unusual event. The children were awestruck. One neighbor from the tall condo next door, (where units start at $1 million) said a couple of weeks ago he’d watched a 400 pound loggerhead turtle move from the water up the beach to deposit her eggs there. The trip back and forth took two hours.
Finally the truck arrived, maneuvering through the many security fences, backing up, awaiting its VIP. Eight people carried it gently across the hot sand in a blue sling; some commented that they thought it weighed 300 pounds though I thought it was more like 200 pounds. The crowd followed like a group of mourners and we watched as he was gently lifted into the truck. I asked one of the guys carrying him what it felt like to touch him. He said his skin was soft and felt delicate to the touch and he seemed deeply moved by the contact. I asked him if he’d ever heard the theory some have that dolphins are extraterrestrials and he said no, he was surprised and mulled it over.
I asked one of the staff what they would have done if it had been a shark rather than a dolphin and she said she didn’t know as that was another agency.
I imagined they would no doubt tow it out to sea, maybe euthanize it and release it to Mother Nature for recycling, the Circle of Life. Before pulling away, they warned us to wash carefully if we’d touched him since they had no idea what was wrong with the dolphin and bacteria was probably released from its bodily fluids. As the truck pulled away, the sweating crowd breathed a collective sigh of relief.
A woman from a town further down the beach said that there are at least 5-6 injuries a day on her beach from Sting Rays; that people ignore warning signs and go into the water there anyway. She said she only goes into the water in winter months when they aren’t there.
I called my friend, Gale, who’d been here at my sister’ condo with me several years ago. I asked her if she remembered a pesky raven when we were on the beach; it kept trying to get at something in our beach bag. Finally she got so annoyed that she chased the bird down the beach with a large, floppy hat. I told her either the same bird was here or its grand-raven baby, for the same kind of bird was annoying people all over the beach, trying to steal things from bags. When the raven flew over our pool, small birds quickly zoomed around him, chasing him away as if they were security guards, every time. Of course Gale remembered the bird, for I’d written a poem about it.
Later I commented to Brian how back in our “real” lives I doubt if we’d even notice what was going on with the birds around us and how much we missed in our hectic pace. I also found myself wishing we could show as much gentle caring for the 60 million refugees struggling for survival in today’s psychotic world as is devoted to one ailing mammal. Before they left, the crowd asked how to find out how the dolphin was and they all felt it should be named “Summer” since the movie had been made about “A Winter’s Tale.”
I felt honored to have had such an experience.
Last year Time published an article appropriately titled: The Only Controversy About Birth Control is That We’re Still Fighting For It. The opening sentence strikes at the heart of the matter for many women concerned about the imposition of policy on their personal choices: Decisions about women’s health are being made, yet again, by judges and politicians who will never need to use birth control.
In my article “A Modest Proposal” I’m offering what I believe is a reasonable solution to the ongoing controversy that is birth control to even the playing field of personal responsibility:
Sperm Police, That’s What We Need!
Anti-choice radicals have it all wrong in the “Battle for Women’s Bodies” exemplified in the ongoing political kerfuffles about birth control and abortion called by some the War on Women. It doesn’t make sense to try to control women’s bodies when we usually have just one egg a month. Men average 500 million sperm per ejaculation. Assuming the national average of sex twice a week, that means that each month that tiny egg has a fight off at least 4 billion sperm—not very good odds of preventing pregnancy. Clearly the problem is all that sperm which must be kept away from impregnating that vulnerable egg.
Isn’t it odd that the leaders of the anti-choice movement are mostly older men, bringing their propensity toward guns and violence to the “cause”? How would these guys like laws to be passed to control the expression of their sperm? Or a law stating men had to receive rectal exams before being prescribed Viagra? It seems that our male politicians (and some male-identified females) want women to be breeders for the state. But sadly, the state wants nothing to do with the “crop,” the children, after they are born. Why else the mean-spirited legislation against programs serving the needs of women and children?
The issue isn’t really concerned for the “unborn.” The issue is controlling women’s sexuality. Anyone who enjoys heterosexual sex knows there are contraceptive failures.
This is an anti-women’s sexuality movement, not a “pro-life” movement, for if it was truly pro-life, there would be no children languishing in poverty, in foster homes and orphanages. If these folks really believed in the sanctity of the family, the biggest chunk of our national budget would go for women’s and children’s health and educational needs. We’d have Mother’s Wages like in Sweden for all childbearing women.
A while back, I was stopped in traffic by anti-choice demonstrators in front of a hospital that soon afterward would stop performing abortions because of political pressure from religious right extremists. I asked a man carrying a sign how many babies he’d adopted. Completely missing my point, he said proudly, “I’ve got five of my own.”(Oh that sperm, so determined!)
At my uncle’s funeral mass, the priest, no doubt intending to comfort the mourners, said, “The soul never dies.” Later in his sermon he launched into a diatribe against abortion. If the soul never dies, why all this fuss about fetuses? The church doesn’t require a funeral service for a miscarried fetus. At least not up to now. Fetus funerals would be a great publicity gimmicks as well as fresh occasions for the expression of abortion-war hysteria.
I know of a white, middle-class Catholic family who a couple of years ago adopted a newborn girl after years of waiting for a white baby. Both sides of the family were ecstatic and the newest member of the family was showered with gifts and attention. The nursery had been lovingly and carefully decorated according to the latest trends in the baby fashions. Her new grandfather, the judge, was especially delighted with her.
Two months later, the birth mother returned to the Catholic adoption agency and tearfully confessed that the baby’s father was African-American. The doting parents immediately gave their baby girl back to the agency, which placed her in a foster home. No one in either family mentions her. It’s as if she never existed, except deep in the darkness of the family shame they hopefully must all feel.
The agency immediately placed them at the top of the waiting list for a pure, white baby.
On television, Father Paul Marx of the International Right to Life Committee proudly acknowledged that members of the anti-choice movement in this country went to Ireland and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars influencing the vote that gave that country the most repressive anti-choice laws in the western world. Marx spoke with excitement about moving into Eastern Europe to influence the passage of equally repressive laws in those countries.
How does the Roman Catholic church get away without paying a dime in taxes at the same time it is so deeply involved in politics, attempting to govern sexual behavior of both Catholic and non-Catholic women? The Vatican says Catholic parents have a duty to pull their children from sex education programs that promote condoms to prevent pregnancy or AIDS. Ironically, Catholic women account for one third of the abortions in this country and 98% have at some point bucked the church’s rules and have used contraception. It seems cruel to oppose both abortion and birth control, forcing millions of woman into enslaved motherhood and millions of men into forced fatherhood. This does nothing to improve the status of male-female relationships or “strengthen the family.”
In a statement declaring its support for discrimination against gay people who are “against natural law, the Vatican said, “The Church has the responsibility to promote the public morality of the entire civil society on the basis of fundamental moral values.” Parents are advised to seek counseling for gay youth. The Vatican insists that gay Catholics remain celibate. We all know how that has turned out.
To publicly allow its followers to practice the birth control many of them use, the church would have to condone non-procreative sex and eventually allow priests to marry. But the church’s power is in numbers, regardless of the costs to Catholic as well as non-Catholic men and women. Leaders of other world religions, alarmed at global overpopulation, have publically asked the Roman Catholic Church to change its position on birth control. The answer once again is no, despite the recurring embarrassment to the church when so many priests are being charged with molesting children, an effect of its unnatural, repressive position on human sexuality.
What can be done to end this madness? Here are some “modest proposals” to bring the wars to an end:
- We could pass laws that men could only ejaculate with a consenting woman who wanted a child. The religious right should really get behind such a law with enthusiasm.
- Laws would require men to have their testicles weighed and checked daily to make sure they haven’t been ejaculating clandestinely. Offenders would be dealt with harshly, as would any doctors who helped them cover up by injecting saline solution or silicone into their testicles to make them bigger and fuller. This supervision would come under the newly created Department of Sperm Police, who would be women, of course. Repeat offenders would be sent to prison, maybe as sex offenders, having to register with police wherever they lived and worked upon release.
- Women could stop having sex with men until the men figure out how to nurture and support the fruit of their ejaculations. Women who want a child could go to a sperm bank, where business would quadruple due to all that sperm buildup.
- Women could turn all the children over to the men to raise for at least three generations. This could give men time to reorder their priorities, learn to nurture, give up guns and war, and become truly pro-life.
- Women who are ovulating and fertile could go to secret government supported hideaways where they can be protected from those men with determined sperm.
- Accidental pregnancies could be medically transferred to men’s bellies to grow and be delivered by caesarean section. The technology for this is right around the corner.
- The establishment of a bipartisan National Sperm Control Commission to set standards for research on male birth control, male pregnancy and ways to reduce male violence and epidemics of testosteronitis like the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and in our cities.
- Legislate that all male newborns get vasectomies, to be reversed by approval of the governments’ parental control commission when the boy is grown and choosing fatherhood with a consenting woman.
If these measures seem harsh or extreme to the reader, I offer these kinder, gentler solutions:
- We could let everyone, male or female, be responsibly in control of their own bodies without interference from the state. Birth control, including the abortion pill, would be freely available to those who choose it.
- We could shift out national priorities and become a truly child-centered culture where all babies of all colors and economic backgrounds would be wanted, loved, and given every opportunity to learn and grow with the support of all of our institutions.
- We could all choose to act respectfully, lovingly, and responsibly toward one another and get on with the business of becoming true planetary citizens, no longer at war with each other in the name of god and country.
- We could declare an end to the “Battles for Women’s Bodies” and firmly reestablish the separation of church and state that was the basis of the founding of this nation. As Supreme Court Judge Anthony M. Kennedy said, “The mother who carries a child to full term is subject to anxieties, to physical restraints, to pain that only she must bear…Her suffering is too intimate and personal for the state to insist, without more, upon its own vision of the woman’s role.” His former colleague, Sandra Day O’Conner agrees: “Our obligation is to define the liberty of all. We reaffirm the constitutionally protected liberty of women to obtain an abortion.”
- Perhaps we could draw on the teaching of Jesus, Mohammad, Abraham, Krishna or any number of spiritual teachers, who all said in one form or another, “LOVE ONE ANOTHER.”
This is an idea whose time has to come.
“I can’t imagine what it’s like to be white, even for one day,” my friend said wistfully after experiencing another in the series of both subtle and overt snubs clearly related to her dark skin-one of many that I have witnessed during our 30 years of friendship. Sometimes, when the actions of a rude clerk were impossible to ignore, I would chide the person, hand them a “Thank you for your kindness” card, and say, “You really need to be kinder to people” while I simmered with barely suppressed anger at what my friend-and all black people, regardless of stats-endures on a daily basis.
Is she another “angry black woman” with a chip on her shoulders braced for possible insults? You bet-but, more than that, she is scared. No matter what she says, teaches, or does, no matter the extent of her sacrifices for her family, she still cannot keep her sons protected, no matter if they are presidents or 12-year-olds; nor her daughters, for black women are the fastest growing segment of the prison population.
Aside from my friend’s many personal experiences with racism, here is one of the reasons why she is so chronically traumatized; when her 19-year-old son was a top student on scholarship at a small southern college, he was arrested for murder while walking down the street. It took her several weeks to raise the money for bail and to find a local lawyer who was able to prove her son’s innocence and get him out of jail.
Whatever happened to him in jail-God only knows-he was so scarred by being held behind bars for a crime he did not commit that he dropped out of school. Ever since, he has gone from job to job, self-medicating with alcohol and drugs for PTSD. This once promising young man seemingly is doomed by the experience of that incarceration. His mother, too, never has been the same-and never will be. It took years to pay back the thousands she had begged and borrowed to get him free.
Why are white people so afraid of black people, especially young black males? Is it some twisted psychosexual fear of them stealing white women as the number of whites in the population declines? Is it some primordial fear that with slavery, Jim Crow, and mass incarceration, on some level whites are afraid of retribution? Is it the media that profits on highlighting young blacks as criminals? Most whites-good, kind people-would be baffled and dismayed if it was pointed out to them that it is passive, unconscious racism bubbling just under the new national hobby of the frightened Americans, hating Pres. Barack Obama no matter what he does or says. They are ignorant of the daily land mines of oppression most blacks face, or that the laws and policies their politicians vote for harm people, who ironically are mostly white. How difficult it must be for black people to trust white people under ongoing oppressive laws and policies and the constant denigration and attacks, especially on young black males.
Many years ago, my family was friendly with a family from Barbados. Our kids were the same age, played together, had sleepovers at each other’s houses, and went on day trips-all piled into my station wagon. Their mother and I walked our five-year-old sons to the first day of half-day kindergarten with their new backpacks, shiny shoes, and excitement at finally going to school in Media, Pa., a town that prided itself on integration. At noon, we waited for the boys to come home. When they arrived, her dark-skinned son was in tears and my son looked confused. What had happened? The crying boy tearfully described how the other students in the class called him a N*****! Shocked, I turned to my boy and asked him what he had done. He shamefacedly admitted that he, too, had called his best friend the N word, a word he never had heard uttered at home-our home, where we once were honored to have Martin Luther King Jr. come for dinner. How could this be? My sweet, innocent boy did not even know the meaning of the word. Their tears were wiped away and hugs given to both boys. As they went off with a snack to play, their mother and I wept in each other’s arms.
I had to acknowledge that, despite what children are taught in the home, the racist culture had invaded their kindergarten class, and no doubt all classes in this mostly white, suburban American town. That culture and its peer pressure already had poisoned the minds of innocent children. Years later when my grown son and I discussed the incident, he had no memory of it. I doubt if his dark-skinned friend would, like my other friend’s son, ever be able to forget, learning at a tender age that whites could not be trusted to stand up for them when attacked by other whites.
This is at the core of our national psychosis which grew out of control after 9-11 and the resulting militarization of unchecked police forces now waging war against their citizens, especially young black males. The tragedy of this cultural fear was highlighted just recently in Texas-a video showing a black woman stopped by police while driving, handcuffed in front of her four young children for what turned out to be a “mistaken identity.” Imagine being stopped by police who, without explanation, handcuff you with guns drawn, ignoring your cries of concern for your children, who sat watching wide-eyed with fear, as men with weapons drawn approached the car. One of the children gets out, a boy, and holds his hands up in the manner of Ferguson’s Michael Brown, the “Don’t shoot!” posture that has become the symbol of cops gunning down unarmed black youth. Surely what these children and their mother endured will leave a lifetime mark on them.
Never once did I ever have this fear for any of my four sons; the one time they got in trouble, the police brought them home to their parents to discipline. I was scared, but grateful, that, unlike their black friends, they were not to be locked up. We all live in Ferguson, Mo., though not enough whites recognize the disparity of our unquestioned privilege and entitlement that is at the core of the issues facing black citizens. What has been happening in Ferguson and so many other places is not an anomaly.
Judith’s article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of USA Today magazine.