Saturday, May 27, 2017

On Memorial Day: Remind Your Children That Brave Patriots Died to Defend Freedom, Not the Cowards Right to Punch Someone Withwhom They Disagree

Well, society seems to continue to diminish itself in the era of Trump. Apparently, a republican candidate for Congress from Montana decided that he did not like the questions a reporter from The Guardian was asking him and decided to respond by body-slamming the reporter, and then proceeding to punch him once he was down on the ground. Our illustrious President responded the next day, when the criminally charged GOPer won his race, to congratulate him on his win without any mention of the felonious incident.

You could actually say that Trump's job as head of the Republican Party is to unify every GOPer and to promote those that win their House seats. On the other hand, he is also the head of the country and somehow it just seems disgusting that he did not mention the attack. It is immaterial that the republican apologized the next day. Of course he apologized, he is facing jail time. Hopefully he will spend some time in prison before heading to Capital Hill. On the other hand, if he thinks being a bully is how to get things done, then he is going to meet his match in Congress. In fact, I would hazard a guess that he is going to be a little bully in a very big bully pond.

Of course, a few days before the GOPer body-slamming show, the thugs who call themselves bodyguards of the President of Turkey, also attacked peaceful protestors outside the Turkish embassy and Trump also said and did nothing. In fact, he greeted Erdogan with aplomb and his State Department never even mentioned the incident or took action against Turkey. In most cases, the ambassador would have been brought it and given a dressing down or asked to remove himself from the country until there was an apology or financial compensation to the victims. I remind you that Turkey removed it's ambassador from Israel after the Mavi Marmara incident and refused to send him back until Israel paid compensation. That those on board were terrorists, or terror supporters, trying to break the blockade of Hamas controlled Gaza, didn't seem to matter much, not to Turkey or to the Obama administration. Israel, at the behest of the Obama administration, ended up paying compensation. Now we found out last month that one of those compensated was arrested on terrorism charges in the UK. So much for Israel being wrong in protecting it's boarder.

But the point of the matter is that there are international norms that should be followed and when someone steps outside those norms in another country, diplomatic immunity or not, there are ways for the offended nation to air it's grievance. But apparently the Trump administration feels it's just fine if peaceful US protestors are violently attacked, and if reporters, exercising their first amendment rights are assaulted as well.

But what does this mean for our children? How do we explain to our autistic children, who have issues with social norms to begin with, that someone elected to public office thinks it's ok to punch another person or that the President of the USA turns a blind eye, and that they are still in their offices, at their jobs, and people elected them despite their illegal actions.

As I have mentioned before, Trump is the example of DO NOT for our children. It is sad really when you think about it. The President is someone you are supposed to teach your child to respect. You don't have to agree with him, but you should respect him. Well if not him, at least the Office of the President of the United States. Unfortunately, even respecting that office is becoming a hard thing to do. That a Congressperson is a jerk, like the new one from Montana, isn't really going to effect anything. Congress has a 9% favorable rating at the moment. They really don't have much farther down to go.

Of course the real question is, after this incident, how did anyone actually vote for the  person with anger management issues? Heck, if you punched someone at your job, not only would they call the police, but you can bet, you would loose your position, not be given a raise. In fact, autistic children as young as 5, who assault people in school, have been arrested. Parents are taken into family court and even threatened with loosing custody of their children, if a child is such a miscreant that the police need to be called to school. So how does anyone in society vote a violent person into Congress?

One person actually answered ..."who hasn't made a mistake?" It brings to mind when Jesus asked, "who here is without sin, let them cast the first stone." Now to point out the obvious, but neither the newly elected congressman from Montana nor the jackass that voted for him are Jesus. In fact, I would actually have to think that Jesus might not have voted for the violent guy, but would have sought the more peaceful inner reflective person as his representative. But hey, I'm Jewish so what do I know?

The truth of the matter is that we need people in Congress who have the ability to negotiate, and deal with the press. We have a right to have the press give them a hard time. They do not have the right to skirt answers, refuse to comply, nor do they have a right to ignore the Bill of Rights. If those elected to Congress cannot function in the limelight to which they have aspired, then they have no right to that position.  No one asked that man to run. We do not need another jerk in Congress. But perhaps he is more emblematic of those that elected him, and that is why so much of what we hold dear in this country is in danger.

Whether it is the right or the left that is acting, violence seems to be the way most people are handling political discourse in today's day and age. Whether it is the Leftist students attacking speakers, as what happened in Middlebury College or the riots of the antiFa crowd at Berkley or during the Presidential inauguration,  regressive leftists have decided that they have a right to be violent if they are displeased. We also saw riots in Ferguson, Missouri, which people decided to excuse, rather than hold them up to the standard of MLK. (P.S. don't say that I don't support the concept of Black Lives Matter. I do. What I don't support is the violence, and the antisemitism of their platform. Moreover, the civil rights protestors of the 1960s had it unthinkably worse than today and they never devolved into violence. Those ignoble actions were left up to the race-haters. But riots (Watts, Detroit, DC) did occur and society did not excuse them. Society attempted to address the issues presented, but people were held to account for their actions.)

Now what did the world think was going to happen in the longrun when it excused the violent actions of the Regressive Left? Did they think that the Left was going to continue to attack people and that the Right was not going to do the same? Simply because you decide that you have a right to #punchnazis doesn't mean you do, and doesn't mean in the USA, with freedom of speech, that you have a right to curtail anyone else's speech. The way civilized nations behave, when faced with political challenge, is to argue, and debate. If you have the need to hit someone because of how they think, then you automatically loose by your actions. You never even have to say a word. And remember, we do not have laws in the US that prevent someone from speaking their mind, no matter how hateful or stupid. Freedom of speech is not for the coward nor for the light of heart. Stand by your convictions. Shout at the top of your lungs so others can hear you. That is how it is done. Being afraid of words and challenging those words is how you stop hate. Laws curtailing speech is not how to fight hate. When you send hate underground eventually it does rise to the top. The history of the 20th century is replete with those examples.

So what are we to do in a world that have both extremes deciding that they get to be violent? What do we do in a world where the President thinks its ok to behave like a fascist goon? What do we do in a world that has decided that those without any modicum of civility are the people to follow?

Honestly, on a worldwide scale, not very much. You can't control the actions of the world, you can only control what you do and what you teach your children. Teach your children to speak their mind. To stand by their convictions and above all, make certain they read the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

This Memorial Day remind your children that those that died, died to protect their right to speak their mind and to defend their convictions. Our American Patriots died for :

Freedom of religion
Freedom of speech
Right to assembly
Right to petition the government
Freedom of the press

No American patriot died so that the President or Congresspersons can attack these rights. Remind your children who they are and where they come from. Remind them of the sacrifices of past generations. Remind them that they owe it to the future, to ensure that democratic norms remain and that a leader who disdains decency is a blip on the radar, not a harbinger of the future.

Memorial Day

We sleep well at night because rough men [and women] stand ready to do violence in our name…George Orwell

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Anne with an E- The New Anne of Green Gables on @Netflix

Before I decided to watch the latest version of Anne of Green Gables, I had read some pretty nasty reviews of the Netflix version. Many of the critics here complain that this version is a darker unnecessary rendition. But I see it as true to life. Not everything is always peachy. There are trials and tribulations. Moreover, to have a life affirming story, reality does need to make it's way into your narrative.  To those reviewers I simply ask, "what was it that you watched? For I think this version is lovely."

For those who have never read the books, or have seen the original movie, Anne with an E is the story of an orphaned girl Anne Shirley who is bright, precocious, imaginative, and quite a challenge. Thrilled with every aspect of life, despite the hardships she has endured, Anne makes a wonderful first impression. Well at least to our modern sensibilities. Anne is not always welcome in the much more reserved, staid era of "children shall be seen and not heard, especially girl children."

But luckily for Anne she is sent to live with the Cuthberts. An aging sister and brother couple that actually had asked the orphanage to send a boy so he could help with the farm chores. Yes confusion ensues, but Anne being Anne, does her best to charm, cajole, and enamor the Cuthberts into allowing her to stay.

We not only fall in love with this version of Anne, but we also are drawn to the Cuthberts. They have their own story, which actually mirrors Anne's. The truth is that these three people desperately need each other, and over the episodes we witness the blossoming of a wonderful family. Some complain about the inability of the characters to deal with their emotions. But that is also the beauty of this version. These three people are able overtime, to come to trust each other, so that they are not afraid to be vulnerable.

Now as I wrote above, not everyone in the story loves Anne. In fact we are witness to the ignorance that abounded during the turn of the 20th century. Orphans were misbegotten. They were either see as farmed out servants, or na'er-do-wells. Descent society would turn their noses down at an adopted child. We see in an episode, even the minister is bigoted against Anne because of her status in life.

I will admit, the episode I ended up skipping was the one where Anne was bullied in school and the teacher allowed it. It was funny, because while I could deal with the stupidity of the adults in society, it was the cruelty of the schoolroom that truly upset me. Not that it isn't resolved happily in the end, but I simply could not watch it. Perhaps in some part of my world, it reminded me of things that were all too real for myself and my own children. Bullying is not a new problem by any stretch of the imagination.

One of the more interesting aspects of the show is how it presents life in rural Canada at this time as well. We, in the US, forget, that at the time that our ancestors were settling the West, as in Little House on the Prairie, much of Canada was being settled in the same way. Here we witness the life of those who lived in our neighbor to the North. For those who like historical fiction, this is truly a fun series.

In the end, Anne with an E, is an enjoyable retelling of the Anne of Green Gables story. It is not all mushy and gooshy. It has a real life quality about it that makes it an interesting and enterprising program. But this is also not a version for small children. It is best for preteens or older. There are some scenes with adult cruelty towards children, which are rather upsetting, and a coming of age episode where Anne gets her menstrual period.

I did binge watch most of it. And yes, it sets up an interesting cliff hanger. I am looking forward to season 2.

Thursday, May 11, 2017


It is important, that no matter what is happening in your world, to always take a moment to breathe.

Sweet new love song from Miley Cyrus. Listen I know she can be a little out there as far as behavior, but the girl can sing.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

@Speechless_ABC Revisits the "R" Word

Once again the ABC's Speechless showcases common advocacy issues championed by the disability community. The latest episode examined society's view of using the word "retarded" as a put down or self-deprecating insult. The interesting take on the issue though, did not involve J.J. directly, but Ray.

The show opens with Kenneth, J.J.'s aide, out to dinner with the DiMeo's and he overhears someone using the "r" word in conversation. He turns to the family and says," it's my turn." In other words, advocacy time, and a teachable moment for someone in society. Speechless being a comedy, Kenneth comes back slightly chastised, saying they were talking about "re tarring their driveway." Funny yes. And of course,  it sets up the rest of the episode. (Watch the episode HERE)

In this episode Ray finally was about to get to kiss the girl of his dreams. Someone he had had a crush on noticed him at the Prom, and wanted to go take him behind the bleachers. Well, all of us having grown up in the US, knows exactly what that means....kookookachoo.  But right before they began to kiss, the girl uses the 'r" word to describe her own mixup.

Ray is in a conundrum. He doesn't know what to do. Every male hormone in his body is telling him to kiss her anyway, but his brain and his heart is telling him that he needs to make this a teachable moment. So he turns to J.J. to ask permission to forget about advocating at the moment, and to simply be a teenage boy. J.J. being a good older brother, tells Ray to go for it. Kiss the girl! (See below *)

But there is a snag. Instead of her actually accepting the fact that she did something wrong, she argues with Ray how political correctness is tiresome and that since she didn't mean anything bad by using the word, he should not be upset. Now Ray's hormones wanting to forget that the entire incident occurred is momentarily taken along for the ride, until dignity gets the better of him.

Ray attempts to still teach her how hurtful using the "r" word is, yet she simply does not want to hear it. In the end, she decides to go kiss someone else. The upshot of the encounter is that the girl in question is not a flighty stereotypical teenage girl, but a bright, straight A student destined to go to an Ivy league and to enter the world of intellectual thought and accomplishments.

The audience's teachable moment is the reality that simply because someone is highly intelligent, and can make a cogent argument about Constitutional rights, it doesn't mean they are right, moral, or ethical. They also may not be someone you want to kiss either, no matter how "hot" they turn out to be. Sometimes the brain is better than the hormone when making a decision about with whom you want to associate.

It is important that within society, we also teach that simply because you have the right to do or say something, doesn't mean you should do or say these things. Words are powerful instruments of society. They need to be used carefully and with forethought.

Tolerance is important. Allowing others with different view points to speak is the hallmark of our republic. Now it doesn't mean we don't challenge these speakers. It doesn't mean what they say doesn't make us angry. But we are supposed to allow them to speak (unlike what is happening on college campuses in the US today if you are pro-Israel).  Honest, open debate is good for society. It is healthy. It helps us grow as a people.

But it is also important to understand when you use a word that someone finds deprives them of their humanity and their right to self-determination. When anyone in society uses the "r" word, it not only dehumanizes those with intellectual or developmental disabilities, it makes society less of a welcoming and an accepting place.

It is difficult enough for those with disabilities to find welcome in our world. That is why 85% of those with autism are either underemployed or unemployed. Understanding how language is a weapon in the war on disability rights is one of the first steps in gaining true civil rights for the disabled.

*Now another point in the story: When Ray asked J.J. for absolution if he went ahead and kissed the girl who used the "r" word. That was not cool. Not by a long shot. Taking responsibility for your own choices is what makes us grownups. Sartre said, "we are our choices." And he was right. The choices you make define who you are and what kind of person you will be. Seeking an "indulgence" to your own poor choices teaches a person absolutely nothing.

Moreover, sometimes society tends to think that every disabled person is the arbiter of what the disability community thinks, wants or needs. That is not so. Disabled people, as with everyone in the world, are individuals. They do not all agree on every cannon of thought or idea proposed by the grand poobahs of any movement. Can you believe that there actually is a variety of thought in the disability community about every topic, subject or controversy, except one: that those with disabilities are human beings and are deserving of being treated with respect.

Disabled people are people. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are kind. Some are miserable human beings. Some are people you would want to know and others you wouldn't want to be with under any circumstances. In other words, disabled people are human. But what they also do not need is someone looking to make themselves feel better by asking for a dispensation from doing the right thing.

The disabled person in your life is not the Pope. If you know it is wrong to do it, simply don't do it. Asking the disabled person in your life if it is ok to be an asshole when it comes to disability rights, is not ok. Even if you are a teenage boy with raging hormones. OK?

In the end, the part that I like best about Speecheless though, has very little to do with disability rights as opposed to showing the world that families with disabled members are simply that, families. Nothing special. Nothing more moral, ethical or inspirational. But simply people, trying to do their best on a day-to-day basis with the hand that they have been dealt.

Yes, it's nice if someone recognizes that there are extra needs at times for our families. But it would be nicer if instead of the pat on the head or telling us that "God only gives us what we can handle," is if someone asks us to lunch (or cup of coffee), to play a game of tennis (or squash, bridge, mahjong, or chess), or to join their book club and not read any books about disabled people at all (my personal favorites are spy novels especially the Gabriel Allon series).