“God Bless Texas”

For the past couple of days, I have written about the looming issue of teen rape allegations that have been leveled against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh by Dr. Christine Basley Ford.

It has roiled emotions in me that as a 65-year-old woman you wouldn’t think would still be so tender.

But I have always been a deeply reflective person, admittedly with a bit of the drama queen thrown in.  Hopefully it makes what I write a little more worth reading than it might otherwise be.

I just read a “Washington Post” article by a writer named Elizabeth Bruenig that I wish I could lay claim to – except she deserves every accolade she receives for having written it so beautifully.

It is the story of a teen rape that occurred in her high school and how justice was never obtained by the victim, even though she reported it in a timely manner.

But mostly it is about the cruelties of high school and small, insular communities and how people come angrily together in their denial to harm a victim even more.

And it is how the gentlest, most vulnerable among us are easy prey for hunters who can kill us with harmful acts and deadly lies as easily as if they shot us.

This story took me back to my own teen years and school experiences. As it takes place in Texas, it also makes me wonder about what one of my nieces may have experienced that has led her to a life outcome I desperately didn’t want for her.

Some things I know.  But a great deal I am sure I – or maybe anyone – know nothing about.

She doesn’t know how much I still love her and ache for her to turn her life around.  She doesn’t know this because we don’t speak any more.

That is on me.  Because there comes a point when you have held out your hand to help someone, and they continually slap it away, you just stop.  There comes a time when they do something that – while you can forgive it – you can’t stand by and quietly observe it any more.

Because maybe what they did hits a little too close to a raw childhood nerve that never heals. Even when you are 65-years-old.

Ours is a family dominated by a matriarch who was never my mother, not in a daily sense, as she didn’t raise me.

But her imprint was stamped on me at birth and repeatedly pointed out to me by the parents who did raise me, my grandfather and his second wife. Down to a “sneer” I didn’t know I possessed and a physical resemblance I am constantly told of by my sisters.

As I came to know her as an adult, we searched out the similarities in each other, from the exact same outfits hanging in our closets to our shared love of reading and doing crosswords.

Although I don’t think she graduated high school, as she was 16 when I was born, she was a smart cookie, my mother.

I am a smart cookie too. Except we both had terrible taste in men. In fact, except for my youngest sister, none of us has had much luck on that score.

It’s generational, it seems, touching my niece’s life in very dramatic ways.

Which is a round about way of getting back to the main issue. How, in a society supposedly as advanced as is our own, are women still prey and men the hunters?

What are the biological and psychological imperatives that drive that dynamic so that it cannot be educated out of us? Even at the “highest “ levels of our society?

If we are, indeed, created in God’s image, what does that make God? Why ever would the angels envy us, as my Catholic religion teaches, we creatures with one foot in the material and the other in the spiritual world?

No, I am not blaming God for our fallen choices.  Just for knowing in advance that we would make them. And knowing that his dying on the Cross to expiate their sin wouldn’t make living any less painful for us all.

I have always questioned what purgatory really means, if it really exists.  Perhaps this is it: knowing some of us are prey, and others hunters.

And screaming #MeToo doesn’t seem to change it very much at all.

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Death in A Newsroom

Yesterday’s story about the deaths of five journalists for the Annapolis “Capital Gazette” made anger tear through me like the bullets that claimed their lives.

I am angry at the gunman, angry about yet another senseless mass shooting and angry that we have a President so dismissive about the enshrined Constitutional protections of a free press that he dares to call it “the enemy of the people.”

If the media is the people’s enemy, why in their wisdom did the Founding Fathers consider it one of the first things in need of protection?

Perhaps because they envisioned a day when someone would repress it in ways beyond the excessive taxation of newsprint itself.

I got my start in journalism in a newsroom probably very similar to that of the “Capital Gazette.”

Then called “The Five Cities Times-Press-Recorder,” (TPR for short), I started my reporting days there via a college internship program that turned into a full-time employment opportunity.

Though we only published twice per week, we did our best to provide the same comprehensive coverage as the county daily. This meant putting in 80 hour weeks that began on Monday and ended at noon on Friday after that week’s last edition was “put out.”

It meant scrambling all day to write features on agriculture, education and Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant only to spend the evenings attending harbor commission, city council and boards of education meetings.  Then I would leave some of those meetings at midnight to have to be back at 6 am on a Wednesday or Friday morning to write stories that had to be turned in by 9 am for a noon publication.

I often did this with my then toddler son in tow, sleeping nestled in blankets under my desk as I typed away until it was time to wake him, feed him, drive him to day care and return to the story waiting in my IBM Selectric for its final touches.

Had I been in that routine in today’s media environment, my son could have been a victim to this senseless violence.

Newsrooms, you see, are places of intimacy where colleagues quickly become families as well as competitors for stories once called “above the fold.”

In few other workplaces could I, as a single parent, combine my responsibilities of motherhood and reporter.

I remember the people and their names to this day: Mary, who would go on to become my roommate and remains a dear friend, an “aunt” figure to my son; Jerry, whose acerbic wit and critical eye on my stories made me improve my reporting of them; John, the diligent editor who made my copy better (and infinitely shorter); Rosemary, our social pages editor and Tom, who filled two pages of sports each edition; Dick, the publisher and owner of a small town California paper with a national news story I was responsible for covering in his own backyard.

And God help you if you got scooped on that story by the county daily or the national press.  This was “our story” in our “territory,” not theirs.

Every time Trump refers to the “dishonest” media, I want to scream because his is the true dishonesty – taking a broad brush that paints an inaccurate label over an entire industry of people who work insufferably hard for pay that is often not commensurate with the hours, education and dedication required to do the job.

Meanwhile those community papers that struggle to hold on in the digital era are fewer and fewer in existence.  Something has been leeched from our sense of community as a result.

The last thing they need is to be caught in the cross hairs of Trump’s dishonest rhetoric because he can’t stand the fact Jeff Bezos has more money and owns “The Washington Post,” or that Jeff Zucker at CNN doesn’t show Trump enough fealty for putting in a good word at his hiring.

Because that is the source of Trump’s true ire at a press he simultaneously castigates and secretly courts because he covets its praise.

Trump’s neediness for adulation will be the death not only of these journalists, but of our nation as well.

For as Thomas Jefferson so simply said, “The only security of all is in a free press.”

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“The Post”

Tonight I enjoyed watching “The Post,” a thoroughly riveting movie about the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 by the now deceased Katherine Graham, then publisher of The Washington Post, and Ben Bradlee, its editor.

In 1971, I was a high school senior in a rural town in Indiana and the rice paddies of Vietnam were very remote to my thinking at the time.  I was more stressed about affording college than I was about a war that made little dent in the populace among which I lived.

My cognizance would shift a bit when I briefly fell for a Vietnam vet with whom I rode back and forth to the IU-Purdue campus in Fort Wayne. But the war was not something he cared to discuss, and I had stars in my eyes and a willingness to hear whatever he wished on whatever subject he cared to talk about.

When I ended up joining the Navy for the G.I. Bill so I could afford college, Vietnam was still not a part of my every day reality. For the most part I served as admin support at the school which comprised the first training phase for nuclear reactor operators, both officer and enlisted. Most of these men were submariners, and many had not yet seen duty of any sort.

Once again I had stars in my eyes for someone, and my romantic soul defined my days far more than world events or even military life.  The latter was a means to an end to me, although I am proud to have served my country while also securing my college future.

It was that college life that took me into journalism and finally into the larger world of politics and issues ranging from crop yield to scholastic achievement among students  to the place of nuclear power as an energy source.

There are moments I regret ever leaving that world for a better paying P.R. job.  But I was a single mother with a child to support.  And I didn’t believe in my talents enough to think I could make it to the New York Times.

So my gaze turned back more toward the personal in life and the professional of the companies for which I worked. The larger discourse was lost to me again.

Then came Donald Trump. If he can be credited with anything, it is for snapping those of us lulled into every day stupor out of it and into the reality of how completely ill-equipped this man was (is) to lead this country for every possible reason.

He is a rubber stamp for the GOP agenda.  Nothing more.  Nothing less. It is the only reason he is tolerated by the Paul Ryans and Mitch McConnells of the world.

“The Post” is a reminder that the freedom of the press is a powerful tool to hold Trump accountable in his Presidency.  That is why -except for the state endorsed Fox News- he fights so relentlessly against the press. He of all people knows the power of the media to blow down his house of cards and expose it for the hollowness it is.

So keep it up, both professional and citizen journalists! And remember these words from Associate Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black quoted in the movie on the view held by the Founding Fathers: “The Press was to serve the governed, not the governors.”