Tag Archives | Tea Party

Whose Family Values Are They, Anyway? Happy Adoption Day!

I wrote this post almost four years ago. In that four-year time, gay marriage has become law in almost half the states in the Union and yesterday Tylenol ran a new ad that celebrated all the different types of families you can imagine — including some that look like mine.  To celebrate #HowWeFamily, here’s this post again…

My extended family will officially, legally, extend by one more person today, August 29.

My brother is going to become a father.

It’s very exciting and my mom has gone out west to join him for the big day.  They’ll meet at the courthouse where the papers will be finalized and then they’ll go out to lunch: my brother, my mom, my now-official nephew, his mother, and a few assorted other relatives.

It’s an event that would make Michelle Bachmann’s well-groomed toes curl in horror and make all of Rick Perry’s hair stand up straight (Michelle’s would stand up straight, too, except she uses too much hairspray. Come to think of it, maybe Rick does too).  In fact, my brother is pissing off the entire cohort of the Far Right today, with one simple action.

My single gay brother is legally adopting his biological offspring, the result of a single woman’s trip to a sperm bank some fifteen years ago. Continue Reading →

Continue Reading · on June 23, 2015 in birth, Children, family, Feminism, Gender, Politics

changes in the heart(land)

Camp Grandma convened this summer at Grandma’s new house in Illinois, just one state over from Indiana, where she used to live. You would be forgiven if you got confused between which state is which, if you were driving on one of the many small farm roads that criss-cross these states: lots of corn and soybeans, the occasional picturesque silo, a cow or two.  I grew up in Illinois and consider my mother’s time in Indiana a minor aberration; in family lore we credit her doorbell ringing and phone-banking with why Indy went blue for Obama in ’08; it went for Romney in ’12, as mom was getting ready to move out of state.

These states are flyover country, as those on the coasts like to call it, or sometimes “the heartland,” usually by a politician trolling for votes or a CEO announcing more manufacturing plant closures.  Why this part of the country is still called “the heartland” I’m not sure. Does America like to pretend it’s still an agrarian country, even though according to the 2010 census, more than 80% of the population lives in cities?  Does it mean that this flown-over swath of land is somehow the pulse of the country?  If so, that means the pulse of the country–my mother’s efforts notwithstanding–beats red: the heartland went mostly Republican in 2012 (although Iowa and Illinois went for Obama).

And I guess the election maps don’t lie: the heartland is home to a host of people who seem hell-bent on out-TeaPartying each other: consider Michelle Bachman, although don’t think too hard about her or your head will explode; or Ohio’s John Kasich, who just signed some of the most restrictive reproductive rights laws in the country; or John Thune from Nebraska, who says that the family is the most basic unit of government (and is against gay marriage, natch). The heart of the country, it seems, beats red with fear of People Who Are Different.

“Different” in this context of course means “people who aren’t exactly like I am and thus must be weird and dangerous and somehow controlled, patrolled, quarantined.”

Sometimes, then, it’s a grim exercise to read the local newspaper out here (although let’s face it, reading any newspaper anywhere these days feels like a pretty grim exercise). Almost daily I think that the world is going to hell in a handbag–and not even a designer handbag, but a cheap handbag, some faux-leather knockoff.

But visiting my mom this time, I’ve seen a tiny glimmer of hope, in a rather unexpected place.

Water balloons.

The other day, out here in Americana-ville, where the trees are big and green and fluffy, and the hiss of the sprinklers competes only with the sounds of birds, my kids dragged a plastic wagon filled with water balloons out to the front yard.  My stepfather, an African American (who voted for Hilary, god love him, in the 2008 primary), orchestrated a massive water balloon battle with my two kids, who call my stepfather Grandpa (and whose biological grandparents come from Chicago…and Karachi and Manila) and the two boys next door, whose gay fathers adopted them from Guatamala, and the six-year old girl across the street whose hair is so short that Caleb spent the entire afternoon thinking that she was a boy.

They played for hours, these kids, moving to hoses and water guns when the water balloon supply ran out; they played without thinking about who had what kind of parent or whose skin was dark brown or light brown or white with freckles; they screamed and laughed and slipped on the wet grass, and they were at home in the heartland.



Continue Reading · on July 18, 2013 in family, Kids, Parenting, Politics, Travel

nuns on a bus

The pitch: So there are these nuns, right, maybe a Sandra Bullock type and an Amy Adams type, who decide it’s time to challenge corporate bigwigs and oh yeah, maybe also the Pope, about their misplaced priorities.

Hollywood Muckety-muck: Uh, nuns? The last big box office we had about nuns involved Whoopi Goldberg, gangsters, and a lot of singing. How about aliens? Could you do alien nuns?

The pitch: No, really, these nuns are great. They outfit this big bus and are going from town to town talking about the real mission of the church, you know, all that loving thy neighbor as thyself and stuff.

HM-M: Kinky. Like “Big Love” meets “Sister Wives” or something? Or could we go with maybe there’s a bomb on the bus? Or terrorists?

The pitch: No, just…nuns.But really radical nuns.

HM-M: Radical? But you said there aren’t any bombs or terrorists. Do they do any second-story work, any rappelling down buildings, maybe we could set the story in Dubai or Morocco, maybe a sand-storm?

The pitch: Well, Wisconsin has been kind of a battleground lately…

HM-M: Nah. We’ll pass. Just nuns? On a bus? Bor-ring. Snoozeville, babe. Never gonna sell.


As usual, Hollywood gets it wrong. There are nuns on a bus. In Wisconsin. And if I were in Wisconsin I would be following them around, a Nunnish groupie, applauding them at every stop.

Go, nuns, go.

I don’t know from nuns, really. I’m not Catholic, never been Catholic, and although I taught at a Catholic college for fifteen years, there weren’t many nuns on the faculty, probably because they knew to be wary of the Christian Brothers who ran the school (me, a non-Catholic, didn’t realize this fact until it was way too late). Let’s put it this way: a friend of mine (a lapsed Catholic) said the Christian Brothers were comprised mostly of men who couldn’t cut it as priests or Jesuits.  snap!

The Vatican – home of the Popety Pope and his Popers – issued a report that said yeah, nuns are doing good work with the poor but that those good works don’t matter as much as the Nunnly silence on Really Important Issues: abortion and gay marriage. Apparently speaking out against gay marriage is waaaay more important than, you know, helping the needy.  Even worse, nuns have been arguing with their  male superiors (which in Catholic-land I think means pretty much any dude in a black dress with a white collar – so Coco Chanel, don’t you think?) about things like the all-male priesthood and celibacy.

Who knew nuns had such balls?

So these ballsy nuns on the bus? They’re riding through nine states between Wisconsin and Virginia to protest budget cuts in programs that support families and children; they have said that the budget cuts are immoral. And when a nun says you’re being immoral, I dunno but that you should probably pay attention.

Seems to me that these nuns have taken a truly radical position: they want to help the people who no one else wants to help. I’m not a particularly God-oriented person, but in my limited knowledge of the Bible, I thought one of the Big Commandments, right up there in the top five, was “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Last time I checked “love” doesn’t mean fire your neighbor’s ass, cut off his unemployment benefits, deny his health insurance claims, and then scold him for going on welfare.  That’s not “loving,” that’s “screwing,” and not in the fun recreational sense of that word. (Bill McKibben has a great essay about loving thy neighbor, which you can read here.)

My pretend Hollywood muckety-muck gets it wrong. I think Nuns on a Bus will be a blockbuster and I hope they’ll be budget-busters, too, because the Ryan budget is immoral and all the more so because it comes from the political party in the U.S. that likes to tout its religious bona fides.  More money for guns and the military, less for food stamps and health care, more tax cuts for the uber-wealthy? Hmm. The religious text the GOP seems to be following is the one about the Pharisees in the temple – but the GOP sees the Pharisees as the good guys.

Here’s the thing that Ryan and all his friends at the Tea Party might want to think about when they ask “what would Jesus do?”

I don’t have a direct line to the Big Guy, but my hunch is that Jesus? He’d get on the bus with the nuns, and ride, ride, ride.


Continue Reading · on June 15, 2012 in Education, Feminism, Politics, religion

standing together in the dark

It started last night. A “ding-ding-ding,” like someone’s phone was ringing, or like the sound you hear in department store elevators announcing that the next stop is ladies lingerie.

I stomped out of bed to ask Husband why the hell he hadn’t turned off his phone only to see him standing by the front door listening intently to a recorded voice echoing in the hallway:  “A fire has been reported in the building. Please stand by for further instructions.”

We stood there for a while in the dim light wondering if we should ignore the recording and go back to bed, or call someone (who?) or just…stand by.

So we stood by until someone started banging on doors: smoke on a lower floor, time to evacuate, don’t use the elevators.

That means wake up sleeping boys (it’s a school night!), gather up phone and wallet, begin the long trek down from the 37th floor.

Somewhere around floor 24, I looked at my phone: 12:01. September 11, 2011.

Down and down we went, Caleb clinging to my hand, Liam bounding ahead, more and more people joining us in the staircase as we went down.  We smelled a little smoke—more like burning rubber than anything else—but never enough to make us cough.  In fact, we only saw one incident of respiratory distress, and that was our upstairs neighbor’s twelve-year-old dog, who was crouched in the corner somewhere around the 14th floor, gasping and wheezing.

What would it have been like, I wondered, as we went down and down, to go down for ninety floors, or a hundred, while the stairwell filled with smoke and the building echoed with rumbles and crashes and screams.

We got to the bottom floor and tumbled out into the heat of the night. Somehow it gets more humid here at night rather than less, and the breeze off the Gulf that blows in during the late afternoon disappears completely in the late evening. Not heat like you get from a fire, just The Heat, that crouches here in the summer like a live thing, smothering you as you round the corner, suffocating you as you cross the street.

Residents of our building–almost all of the university community of students, faculty, and administrators–stood in front of a mosque angled at the far side of the parking lot. The college students larked about singing (someone had brought down his guitar), others crouched desperately over laptops, cramming notes for today’s classes (which were, ultimately, cancelled).  Students in abayas chatted with friends in shorts and flip-flops; boys in turbans talked to professors in kippahs.

Rumors swirled: it was just a small stove fire; it was something in the garbage chute; it was a false alarm. Fire trucks came, an ambulance pulled up, men in uniforms wandered around importantly (in their own minds, if nowhere else).

One hour crept into a second hour; some of us sat on the floor of the air-conditioned lobby of a nearby building and then someone had the brilliant idea of going to a hotel across the street.   We booked all the empty rooms in the hotel for the older people in our maybe-it-is-maybe-it-isn’t burning building and for people with kids (yay! for having had the foresight to have children eleven years ago! yay for hotel rooms!) An  Emerati woman in a jeweled abaya checking into the hotel at the same time must have been muttering under her niqab about these crazy Westerners: half-dressed, some of us in pajamas, barefooted children clutching stuffed animals wandering around aimlessly.

Liam and Caleb attempted to order themselves hot chocolates in the café while we were waiting to be assigned a room—nice try guys—but Mean Mommy surfaced just in time to prevent them from ingesting chocolate crack at 230 in the morning.

We woke up this morning, discombobulated and tired, but safe.  It turns out a generator in the machine room on the 34th floor had been sending out sparks—not burning, exactly, but creating enough smoke to set off the alarms.  Nothing was damaged, although there’s a faint scent of smoke in the elevators, and no one (not even the wheezing dog) was hurt. Alhumdullelah, right?

It’s 9/11 today. Ten years after That Day.

On That Day, I was teaching in Westchester, was just about to start my early morning class when a student announced that her mom had called to say a plane flew into the World Trade Tower.  We all shook our heads in disbelief—how could a plane fly into a tower!—and went into the radio silence of class-time.  At the beginning of the next class, a security guard came into the room and announced that there’d been a bomb in Manhattan; the bridges and tunnels were shut down; and that the city was effectively closed. Kids in my class with parents who worked in the city burst into tears; the security guard refused to answer any questions and stalked out of the room, and so began my own little piece of the nightmare, although my nightmare had a happy ending: all my people–Husband, baby Liam, friends, family, colleagues–were fine. Others, of course, had their worlds collapse along with the towers.

Last night’s adventure had moments of worry—what if there had been a big fire? what if we’d not heard the alarm? Even now the “what ifs” are still bouncing around in my very tired brain. (I’m way too old to function on only three hours of sleep, in a bed shared with a seven-year-old who sleeps in the shape of an “X.”) I can’t imagine the pain of those for whom, on 9/11 and the weeks following, the “what ifs” came true.  Today (and always) we remember those people, their families, the courage of those who went up the stairs to help others get down.

Last night the men running up the stairs were Abu Dhabi rescue workers—maybe Pakistani, maybe Indian, maybe Arabs, I couldn’t tell. Last night we all gathered in front of a mosque—you know, one of those scary buildings that terrify the Tea Party (which seems to be afraid of most everything these days, near as I can tell).

Now, in the light of day, last night’s “emergency” qualifies mostly as a big fat inconvenience, albeit an inconvenience with the uncanny echo of a tragedy.  Last night, standing in front of the mosque under a full moon, watching whatever was going to happen, happen, we were all in it together, just as we were on 9/11–a unity that has been fractured, squandered, drifted away like smoke on a hot night.

Standing in front of the mosque, watching rescue trucks with Arabic writing pull up, I wondered if that unity were lost forever. I wondered if we might ever stop being afraid of our differences, if we will ever stop worrying about who worships what where and in what kind of building.  I wondered if we would ever be able to find common ground again, stand together again, all of us.

Continue Reading · on September 11, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, expat, NYC, NYUAD, Politics, UAE

Balancing the Federal Checkbook: Planes, yes; Plans, no.

There was a great chart in Sunday’s New York Times that listed the problems facing various Pentagon building projects: boats with aluminum superstructures that will burn like kleenex if they’re bombed; big ships that would be sitting ducks to flying attacks; the list goes on and on.  And the price tags? On this chart, which is far from exhaustive, the lowest price tag is $30 billion dollars. Billion, not million. (Notice me not saying anything about how most of these egregiously over-budget and under-thought projects were initiated during Dubya’s tenure. See? Not saying it.)

Should we even think–even dabble our toes for a minute in the water of “what if”–about what thirty billion dollars could do to the federal budget? The budget for the Head Start program, for example, is 8 billion dollars. And the Republicans want to trim $2 billion from that amount. One of the budget-cutting champions is Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a state that’s really against federal funding, most of the time (but that’s a bridge we’ll cross later). Alaska’s Head Start program praised Murkowski a while back as a long-time supporter of Head Start. I guess Murkowski has changed her definition of “support” to mean something closer to “gut.”

And then today, in a report about the approaching budget stand-off in Congress, Representative Jim Jordon, a whippersnapper from Ohio who is going to snap that budget into shape yessiree, is quoted as saying that “we need to stop sending taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood and we need to defund Obamacare.”

Hmm. Planned Parenthood gets about $75 million from the federal government. In Pentagon terms, $75 million is not quite enough to buy a windshield for one airplane.

I’m not the first one to make this point, god knows, but it seems like a point worth repeating: why is it that the budget needs to be “balanced” on the backs of the poor? Eric Cantor, House Majority Leader, and one of the leaders in the “take no prisoners” school of budget cuts, makes an estimated salary of almost $200,000. In New York City, that’s almost four teacher salaries.

Now, it’s true, I’m an English professor by training and math is not my forte, god knows.  But even I know that if we’re dealing with a budget deficit of $1.4 trillion, trimming $75 million ain’t gonna get you much. A proverbial drop in the proverbial leaky bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza.  But what would cutting the Ballistic Missile Defense program get you?

$135 billion dollars. That, my friends, is some coin.

Congress just approved a three-week spending stopgap measure that sidesteps a government shutdown, but one of those Hard Right newbies in Congress, who congratulates himself on being “independent minded,” says that he can’t in good conscience approve a budget with monies in it for Planned Parenthood. He says his job is to “vote for America’s best interest” and “to protect America from bankruptcy.”

$75 million will bankrupt a budget but $135 billion won’t?

That’s the kind of addition that earned me a D in high school math.

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Continue Reading · on March 15, 2011 in Education, NaBloPoMo, Politics

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