Wednesday, July 4, 2018

4th of July

The flag was weaponized for me back in the 60's.

The whole "My country, love it or leave it",
was wrapped in a flag and hurled at anyone who disagreed 
with an immoral war in Southeast Asia;
it changed my perception of this symbol forever.

It's the prime reason why I haven't enjoyed the 4th of July
since then.

It's especially hard 
when your government has kidnapped children and is holding them hostage.
I live in a small town;
one that celebrates the day with a parade, carnival 
and elevating all the virtues of living in a primarily white bubble to a high art.
And, at the risk of being run out of town, I hate it.

Instead of focusing on all that's hypocritical and objectionable about this day,
I'll focus instead on the March for Families that occurred this past weekend.
It felt fabulous to take a stand
and say, "Hell No; not in my name.
The government may NOT kidnap infants and children from their parents
and send them across the country in some bizarre flexing of patriotic muscle."
It was nice to be part of 'the tribe' again.
I was proud to represent with a friend from work.

If only it hadn't been 100 degrees!
I was doing alright until 3 hours in ...
then I had to find a tree, some shade and take a break
until the stars started to clear.
It was a great morning.

Lady Liberty may be down
but she'll be back!

Monday, June 25, 2018


The first 34 years of my career were spent on the front lines of child abuse in a pediatric hospital.
 I covered both the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and the Emergency room.

I was frequently the first person to whom a child disclosed abuse.
I've seen the range of expression a child's pain can take -
from being rendered incoherent with inarticulate moans and whimpers 
to being completely shut down emotionally, 
with clinically detached renditions of horrendous abuse
with absolutely no corresponding emotional expressions 
to match the details being provided.

For the past 3 years, I've coordinated a clinic for children in foster care; 
a clinic which tracks and follows children as they traverse the maze of the foster care system, 
with its multiple placements, ever changing caseworkers and hit or miss health care
In the 3 years the clinic has been in operation, we've seen over 1600 children. 
Because children enter foster care at a faster rate than they leave, 
we're still following almost 1200 and the numbers continue to rise.

Trust me, 
I know exactly how complicated a task it can be to follow children in foster care - 
and it's complicated even when the vast majority of children, staff and alternative caregivers 
speak the same language; 
its complicated even with licensing guidelines, inspection and oversight 
established for the facilities 
and caregivers entrusted with caring for these children.

It doesn't begin to cover the difficulties of monitoring secret shelters, 
shut off from regulations and monitoring by recognized child protection agencies.

What are the staff/child ratios?
Have all the providers had background checks
 to make sure staff caring for these kids at secret facilities don't have child abuse convictions?
Have these kids received medical care?
Are they getting mental health assessments?
Did someone speak to their parents long enough to obtain past medical histories?

I have seen first hand the toll that separation from biological families 
takes on a child's psyche and their physical well being - 
even when they are removed for their own safety 
due to an imminent risk of harm from their parents. 
Children love their parents - 
even if that attachments comes with the potential of a life threatening event.

All that past work experience and knowledge 
makes the situation playing itself out on our southern border 
feel like a sucker punch to the gut; 
it leaves me sick and breathless.

There's a sense of urgency to act - to do something -
to mitigate the damage being done to these children 
because I KNOW that this administration is inflicting lifelong damage 
under the guise of keeping us safe.

I don't need to be protected from a 2yr old child, a breastfeeding infant or even a 10 yr old.

(And for the love of God, can someone shut the President up when talking about MS13?
It's NOT a Mexican gang. It started in the 1980's in Los Angeles - and it is still smaller than the Crips, the Bloods and the Latin Kings. Of the hundreds of thousands of 'unaccompanied minors' coming  to the US since 2012, only 56 have been suspected of being tied, in any way, to MS13.)

The medical community has known for decades the impact of adverse childhood experiences 
upon a child's developing brain and body. 

Kaiser Permanente has developed and field tested a conceptual framework of measuring and quantifying the cumulative effect of childhood trauma.
 (Anyone interested in knowing more can go the the Center for Disease Control website 
and look at the ACES study).

Long story short - 
our government is doing irreparable damage to children - 
and this damage will last a lifetime.

I used to have a recurring nightmare that I had 'cleared' some child to go home from the ED
only to have that child re-victimized, raped or murdered 
by the same people to whom I released him/her. 

That nightmare has now been supplanted by the vision of a young, pre-verbal child
who, after weeks or months of traveling at night under harrowing conditions, 
with no consistent routine of sleeping and eating, 
arrives in a strange place, 
where no one speaks in a language they can understand, 
being torn away from their parents, 
placed in a cage where they are surrounded by other children 
screaming and crying 
or curled up silently in a fetal position; 
with no one smiling, touching, comforting or offering any type of solace.

What kind of world are we living in?
How can we allow this to go on in our name?
How is the government allowed to kidnap over 2000 children?
How are they allowed to transport them across state lines without parental consent?

It's human trafficking.
It's abduction.
It's state sponsored child abuse.
 It is morally reprehensible.

I don't understand why everyone isn't shouting on a daily basis.


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Life goes on ...

despite all the political nonsense which can consume any given day,
life goes on.

The endless cycle of working, talking to loved ones,
planning visits, enjoying beauty, meeting friends for dinner,
as well as the general upkeep that goes along with aging -
going to the doctors, taking medication, 
getting xrays, going to physical therapy,
paying bills, 
calling the tree man when a huge branch of your giant pin oak 
threatens to come crashing down on a neighbors house ...
oh wait, maybe that's just me.

I've been doing all the usual, 
as well as taking my first trip of the summer back to Rosebud;
 working for a week with friends 
who are committed to being present and being of service;
learning from people whose lives have been so different from ours
and yet, in every respect that matters, exactly the same.
It's a long way there
but the drive gives me plenty of time to reflect and look back
while moving forward ...
a fine way to pass the time.
I appreciate that folks on either coast think of this as 'flyover land'.
Frankly, they don't know what they're missing.
 I see beauty, 
no matter what the view.
 The sky is as much a part of the topography out there as any 'land feature'.

I could spend hours watching different cloud formations and fronts move through.
Admit it.
You don't exactly think 'water falls' when you think of Nebraska.

(to give you an idea of scale).
It wasn't all a walk in nature.
We did some building.
 We entertained royalty.
 Little Miss Rodeo.

We listened to our Elders.
We looked for beauty in the simple things.
 We did some deconstructing.
 It was, as usual, a great week.
Can't wait to go back in August!

Although, home has its attractions too.
 18 months, 
going on 5!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Spit it out

Before going on about where I've been and where I'm going next,
I'm gonna have to just lay it out on the table;
otherwise it's ignoring the elephant in the room.
I do it as much to remind myself as to remind any of you ...
 what we're experiencing in our national life is not normal.
It is not normal for the government to kidnap over 2000 indigenous children
and hide them in secret 'shelters' spread across the country,
with no plans whatsoever to reunite them with their families.
Yes, I suspect I know, more than most, that it's been done before;
when Native children were sent to boarding schools that were designed
"to kill the Indian in order to save the child".
(A cup that was found among my great grandmothers possessions when she died in 1958)
The fact that evil was previously done in our name
in no way mitigates the pain and horror of it being done again.
We're supposed to be evolving, people;
not giving in to our basest instincts and fears.
It is not normal to have a leader with co-morbid conditions of
 malignant narcissism, pathological inability to tell the truth and galloping capriciousness.
 It is not normal for said leader to create and provoke an international crisis
with an equally insecure, immature and stunted political leader
with nuclear weapons
 and then expect prizes when a staged photo op reportedly 'ends'
all the trash talk.
It is not normal that we have a First Lady who blatantly admits not caring 
about her role or any interest beyond her own family.
As disturbing as it is,
some of us wish her husband would be equally as honest.
 It is not normal to have a government
that steals money from the majority of its citizens
 in order to benefit the 1%.
It is not normal for the government to propose abolishing child labor laws
and combining the Departments of Education and Labor.
Maybe I should clarify;
it is not normal for a functioning, participatory democracy 
to have any of those conditions;
it's perfectly consistent, however, for a declining democracy
that is rapidly sinking into a fascist state.
It is not normal to have so many citizens
blinded by what's happening in our country.
It is not normal to feel such despair about the irreversible damage
being done to our country and the people who inhabit it,
the ones who are woke
and the ones who are not.

Nothing about our current national life is 'normal' in any sense of the word.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Taking a stand - and taking faith to the streets

There are times to organize,
write letters and contact elected officials.
There are times to gather as community and,
with your bodily presence, 
say I am here.
This is what I believe.
Knowing that the church, 
through its silence,
was complicit as the Nazis gained power in pre-WWII Germany, 
there has been a growing push
for history NOT to repeat itself.

'Elders' from various faith traditions gathered during Lent
and crafted a declaration

This statement SO resonated with me that I knew
 when people of faith gathered in Washington DC,
I would be among them.

And I was.
As I was sitting in the pew waiting for the service to begin,
I felt surrounded by my tribe.
A priest from the Diocese of Newark (my childhood home diocese);
a single woman, a retired banker,
who flew in from CA because, she too had been moved by the declaration;
a young attorney who had grown up in St Louis,
now working for the Federal Reserve in DC;
her friend, a physician
who was on extended personal leave from her government job
"because I can't work for a fascist".

Everyone was eager to speak with each other,
everyone was excited for the opportunity
to be counted and,
by their presence say that the biblical distortions
being touted by so many so-called  'Christians'
does not represent what we believe to be the central message of Jesus's teachings,
which is love.

The planning and execution seemed to be flawless;
at least as far as the congregation could determine.
I suspect that behind the scenes it might have been different, 
but the program went off without a hitch.

We listened to impassioned speakers including
Father Richard Rohr

Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann
Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry and the Rev. Jim Wallis.

We were inspired and moved by the music provided by the Howard Gospel choir.

And then we walked;
in silence.

2500 people moving en masse quietly.
For a city used to loud protests, shouting slogans and disruptive participants,
we were an anomaly.
People came out of buildings, stood on balconies, 
in front of restaurants, got out of cars - 
all curious about what we were about -
and we kept moving...
until we reached our destination.
Then, after the elders read the declaration,
on the sidewalk in front of the White House,
we were all asked to pray aloud,
in our own words, in our own voices,
in our own languages.
We were asked to give voice to our concerns for the world
and for our country.

The next few moments,
were as close to 'Pentecost' and the Tower of Babel
as I'm ever likely to experience.

Immediately surrounding me were 9 different languages,
by speakers of various ages,
with different vocal tones;
all of us praing,
 trying to add our light to the darkness that surrounds us.
 It was a powerful experience.

Walking away and returning to our hotels, cars and individual lives was hard.

There IS strength in numbers
and, with an Administration that prides itself on fostering division,
it's more important than ever that we remember
we are NOT alone.