Saturday, February 25, 2017

Lies, damned Lies: Defamation of Character Grounds for Lawsuits?

Here are some definitions of defamation of character that I looked up online. It seems to me there are grounds for defamation lawsuits against tRump and his regime in the White House and Congress. 

Defamation is an act of communication that causes someone to be shamed, ridiculed, held in contempt, lowered in the estimation of the community, or to lose employment status or earnings or otherwise suffer a damaged reputation. Such defamation is couched in 'defamatory language'. Libel and slander are subcategories of defamation. Defamation is primarily covered under state law, but is subject to First Amendment guarantees of free speech. The scope of constitutional protection extends to statements of opinion on matters of public concern that do not contain or imply a provable factual assertion.

Slander is the oral communication of false statements that are harmful to a person's reputation and causes someone to be shamed, ridiculed, held in contempt, lowered in the estimation of the community, or to lose employment status or earnings or otherwise suffer a damaged reputation. Slander is a subcategory of defamation.

Libel is published material that is defamatory either on its face or indirectly;  the defamatory statement is about someone who is identifiable to one or more persons; the material is distributed to someone other than the offended party; i.e. published, as distinguished from slander. Publication may consist of a writing, printing, picture, effigy, or other fixed representation to the eye, which is communicated to another. There is an exception for certain privileged communications, such as those contained in answers to interrogatories, in affidavits, or judicial or legislative proceedings.

Under any of these definitions of defamation, slander, and libel, aren't there plenty of legal cases to be made against tRump/Bannon, McConnell/Ryan,  and other Republicans who stretch the truth to slander and libel opponents?  Aren't "alternative facts" defamation?

Doesn't Hillary have a case against tRump/kellyannspicer/fox/breatbart/Comey and the alt-right and alternative news sources who dehumanized and demonized her beyond recognition? Lied and made up stories? How about McConnell/Ryan obstructing president Obama and attacking him unmercifully for 8 years, and sitting on a Supreme Court nominee out of pure hatred and racism?

Are tRump's tweets and lies grounds for defamation and libel law suits?

Is deliberately undermining a candidate, as FBI Comey did at the end of the campaign, grounds for a defamation lawsuit?

How about the defamation of  a whole religious group identified in Trump's first executive order written by Bannon and Steve Miller, now in the Courts?

We are inundated with lies, damned lies, every day, compounded with the "alternative facts" and made up stories of the alt-right press and it's followers, including tRump. We have Jeffrey Lord and other tRump surrogates (who I can hardly name without cringing) on CNN and FOX spouting one deception after another. We have a guy in the White House who just kicked out some news media he didn't like from a press briefing, an attack on truth and freedom of the press.

We have lies propagated by Russia to interfere with and destabilize our election and in fact our government and our democracy.  It's actually similar to what Putin did in Crimea as he was preparing to invade and occupy Ukrainian land. Hr's gotten away with murder.

Aren't there grounds in any of these written and spoken words and actions for defamation suits?

Monday, February 13, 2017

TIFF Celebrates India's Magic Realism and New Zealand's Majesty

Pari takes her brother Chotu's hand as they begin their journey across the desert to
find the great Bollywood actor Shah Ruch Kahn,who is filming in Jaisalmer 
 and encouraging people to give their eyes so new surgery can restore the sight of the blind.   
The second night of the Toledo International Film Festival (TIFF) featured the films Dharak, (Rainbow in Hindiby Indian filmmaker Nagesh Kukunoor (2014), and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, directed by New Zealander Taika Waititi (2016). They were enchanting movies, beautifully crafted. They opened our eyes to new worlds and illuminated TIFF's purpose to explore and celebrate cultural diversity and promote international understanding.

Both films tell the stories of young children without parents who are on their own paths to find their dreams and their sense of self in the larger world of relationships and place, fantasy and reality. Both films were shot in spectacular settings with stunning cinematography.  Dharak was filmed  in the great Thar desert of Rajasthan state in northern India, home of the fairy tale city of Jaisalmer, while Wilderpeople was shot in the lush green rainforests of North Island, New Zealand, near Auckland.

The stories unfold against sweeping vistas in perpetual motion, tan and yellow rolling dunes and ridges and wild vegetation in every shade of green swaying on mountain tops. These spectacular backdrops lend an almost other-worldly quality to the heroic treks and down-to-earth struggles of resilient and resourceful children in search of hope. Will Pari and Chotu, the kids in Dhanak, make it across the harsh, arid desert? Will Ricky and Hec, the "wilderpeople" in Waititi's film, survive the entangling bush?

Dharak is the story of an orphaned sister and brother, 10-year-old Pari, ever ebullient, and 8-year-old Chotu, who live in a small desert village with a wicked aunt and neer-do-well uncle. Chotu, played by Krish Chhabria, lost his eyesight in an accident when he was four years old, but he is a happy and precocious kid. Pari, played with wonderful effect by Hetal Gatta, had promised her brother that he would regain his eyesight before his ninth birthday, and that birthday is coming up in a few months. When Pari spots a poster announcing that her Bollywood idol Shah Rukh Khan is filming in Jaisalmer and that he is encouraging people to donate their eyes for special surgery there, she believes her hero will help her fulfill her promise.

Thus Pari and Chotu, hand in hand, walk the panoramic desert to Jaisalmer. It's truly a journey across the culture and history of Rajesthan as I remember it when a traveler in the late 1980s. Nagesh Kukunoor's India is full of light and sound and saturated color, sacred temples and profane places, and a lively cast of  cool and crazy characters, literally and figuratively. There is the fake fortune teller in heavy makeup and gaudy red costume; the stereotypical American hitchhiker walking the globe for peace, guitar in hand. There's the kidnapper out for no good and the kindly merchants who help with food, water and transportation. There's the stunning bandita dressed in the finest sari and adorned with beautiful jewelry holding a huge fake or real gun.  And there's the eccentric man who lost his family, went mad, and walks the desert with a steering wheel in his hands, going nowhere it seems. A magic realism combined with gritty reality defines the essence of the Indian spirit, and the filmmaker and the actors capture it beautifully.

The Great Brahmin temple in Pushkar, a holy Hindu city. Our
 driver Mr. Gupta took us there from Jaipur, another beautiful city
I perked up every time Chotu said his parents had lived in Pushkar, hoping for a shot of this beautiful white city. Instead, a deep blue lake surrounded by ghats and whitewashed temples rose up in my memory. I met a Hindu man there who took me by the hand as I was coming out of the great Brahmin Temple. He walked to the lake with me as he talked about being a holy man in India. I listened, enraptured.

When I told him I had to leave to join friends at the bazaar near the Temple, where I had seen a profusion of marigold garlands to buy for the gods, he held out his hand. I hesitated, looked at him, and gave him 20 rupees, not knowing if I had talked to a priest or a beggar.  That's when I learned that in India one never knows for sure, and it doesn't matter. And so it was in Dhanak the movie.

From India, following a taste of wonderful food from the Pan Asian Grill and a fluid and  powerful drumming dance performance by Kaze No Daichi Taiko Drum Ensemble, we traveled to New Zealand for the second film. I was again transported into a long-ago travel adventure that introduced me to the magnificent landscapes, diverse cultures, and wonderfully friendly peoples of New Zealand's North and South Islands, including the history and culture of the Maori.
Ricky and Hec in the New Zealand bush, wild and funny at times, learning
from and about each other, with an undercurrent of loss and abandonment.
Ricky the Maori warrior in mudface, ready to battle his demons.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a fascinating adventure drama about the lives of lost kids of all ages who are looking for close relationships and love. Ricky Baker, whose mother abandoned him, is "a city kid raised on hip hop and foster care" (program notes). He is played with great spirit by Julian Dennison. Ricky gets a fresh start in the New Zealand countryside when his zealous social worker Paula and her lackadaisical policeman sidekick Andy drop a jaded Ricky off at the ramshackle home of Bella, played with great warmth by Rima Te Wiata, and her husband Hector (Hec), played in a low key by Sam Neill, New Zealand's gift to cinema.  Hec is distant and self-absorbed, but Bella is able to soften Ricky's defenses with her amazing hunting skills (a wow moment) and the gift of a dog, which Ricky names Tupac, after his hip hop idol Tupac Shakur. Ricky has some pretty good moves, too, and a nice voice.  The happy birthday scene, Bella making up a song and Ricky joining in, is wonderful.

When Bella dies suddenly, and Ricky learns he'll be sent back to foster care, he decides to run away.  A city kid in the bush is pretty helpless,so it's a good thing Hec hunts him down and joins him on the run. Rumors spread that Ricky is with a molester, which starts a wild and crazy national manhunt that spreads like wild fire. It's a comedy of errors and close calls, along with meeting up with some wacky folks like Crazy Sam. Ricky and Hec become folk heroes, while Paula the social worker is given a grand canvas for her over-the-top enthusiastic pursuit of justice.

The film is tops in all categories, a fantastic cast, an up-and-coming director who also wrote the screenplay based on a Barry Crumb novel; and awesome cinematography and music.  I love the bush scenes in winter and spring, so verdant and stunning. Hec, who is illiterate, calls them "majestical."  And they are.

The beauty of the New Zealand Bush.  "Majestical" Hec called it.
"Majestic," Ricky corrected, but he was fine with "majestical," and it fit.
A hilarious car and helicopter chase looks to be the blazing end for our heroes, a sort of Thelma and Louise ending. But wait, that's not really the ending afterall. The end turns out to be a new beginning: the beginning of the blossoming of Hec, who is learning to read; the growing maturity of Ricky, with a new foster family who wants to get close; and the start of a real father-son relationship. It doesn't get any better than that. Ricky and Hec return to the bush, this time not to run away, but to be together, to photograph a beautiful bird, a huia, once thought to be extinct. They have found their calling. Love is not extinct, and hope springs eternal.
NZ Huia bird, sacred to the Maori.
I found it interesting that these birds
find a loving partner for life. Love birds, a
hidden & fitting symbol for this film.
                                                                            * * * *

Saturday, February 18, Last night of the Film Festival 
5:00 pm  Who Is Dayani Cristal? (Mexico/USA)
8:00 pm  Ixcanul/Volcano (Guatemala)

TIFF is a collaborative project of the Lucas County Commissioners' Welcome Toledo-Lucas County (TLC), President Pete Gerken and Commissioners Carol Contrada and Tina Skeldon Wozniak; the Ohio Theatre and Event Center; and United North, a community development corporation in Toledo's Old North End.

Thanks to TIFF's community partners: Zonta Club of Toledo, NAAP (Network of Arab American Professionals), Toledo/Lucas County Public Library, BGSU Department of Theatre & Film, Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center, World Affairs Councils of America, BGSU School of Cultural and Critical Studies, Leadership Toledo, Glass City Rollers, ABLE (Advocates for Basic Equality), La Conexion de Wood County, Toledo/Lucas County Sustainability Commission, BGSU Global Village, MultiFaith Council of Northwest Ohio, Adelante.

Sponsors include: Toledo Sister Cities International, Lucas County, The Fair Housing Center, S&G, Toledo/Lucas County Public Library, Manos Greek Restaurant, the Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo, and Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

3rd Toledo International Film Festival: Celebrating Diversity in a Time of Uncertainty

Photo collage: 3rd Annual Toledo International Film Festival program booklet and friends Teddy, Rosemary and Rey at the Ohio Theatre. Small photos at top: Lucas County Commissioner Peter Ujvagi, a founder and major fan of the Film Festival and a photo of a proposed renovation of the historic Ohio Theatre on LaGrange, a neighborhood noted for its immigrant past and its present diversity.

During this time of chaos and intolerance, emanating shockingly from the top of our federal government, a ray of hope shone brightly at the historic Ohio Theatre with the opening of the 3rd International Film Festival last night, 4 February 2017.  

Mariam, played by Oulaya Amamra, and her best friend Fatimata, 
played by Soumaye Bocoum, fabulous actresses new to most of us. 
The father, le pere, was also excellent, played by French actor Ahmed Haiene.

The opening film, Mariam (2016), by Saudi director Faiza Ambah, centers around a teen's search for her own identity and her decision to wear the hijab, the traditional head scarf, to school after a summer pilgrimage to Mecca with her grandmother. "I loved how it made me if God really existed," she tells her best friend. 

Mariam was born in France to Arab parents, her father a secular Muslim and hardworking man serious about his daughter's education. Mariam is equally serious about wearing the veil. Thus the film explores intergenerational themes and issues of social pressures faced by Muslims after France passed a law in 2004 banning the wearing of 'religious symbols' in public schools. Mariam's choice is between wearing the hijab or being expelled from school. The film was awarded a Special Jury Prize at the 2015 Dubai Film Festival.  The subject is thoughtful and timely.

America's present politics under a new regime of right-wing extremists inevitably intruded. After all, the current residents of the White House had recently issued an Executive Order banning people from coming to America from seven Muslim-majority countries, including refugees who are among the most vetted immigrants of all. It also prevented people who had legal VISAs, and it gave priority to Christians. The indiscriminate executive order was promulgated without appropriate consultations, without real knowledge of the nature and diversity of the Muslim world or the sources and causes of terrorism, without regard for context and shifting realities and alliances, without regard for Rule of Law. This order, its Constitutionality questioned, had just been overturned by the Courts, and it was on everyone's minds. 

     Toledoans rally against the Trump/Bannon Executive Order on Feb. 4, 2017, 
the day the International Film Festival opened. 

Toledo is known for its immigrant past, which it honors to this day.  It is a compassionate city, welcoming newcomers from all over the world; the Film Festival is a testament to that. The Toledo area and neighboring Detroit have contemporary immigrant communities rooted in earlier historic migration stories from Europe and also the Middle East.  

I remember the Lebanese community in the late 1960s and 1970s, which gave Toledo great restaurants like the Beirut, featuring Lebanese and Middle Eastern cuisine, as well as talented teachers, doctors, judges and city officials, I worked on a family violence prevention project with Judge Charles Abood, whose contributions to our city knew no bounds. Our family doctors have been from Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq, among other Muslim countries.  

The Muslim community and diaspora has since become larger and more diverse. Now we have lots of restaurants, shops, and events.  The established residents are well integrated into Toledo's socio-economic life, and the newcomers, including Afghan and Syrian refugees, are working together and with the City and County to make a new place home. Through volunteering with Water for Ishmael's "conversation partners" program I've met many new refugees whose stories are truly painful and astonishing. I wish everyone heard them, especially those in power now.  A literature teacher told my daughter Elissa and me of the incredible hardships in Syria, death and destruction everywhere, and how hard but how urgent it was to get his family to America and begin a new life free from war.

With this historic and contemporary backdrop, Mariam lit up the big screen and helped illuminate critical contemporary issues. The lively and thoughtful teenager Mariam sticks with her values and principles to the end, through joy and angst, her best friend at her side. In the end, Miriam creates a clever compromise that keeps her in school and maintains her developing identity as a French Muslim woman.  The message for today is heartwarming and hopeful. 

Upcoming Schedule: 
Sat. Feb. 11 
5;00pm Dhanak (India)
8:00pm Hunt for the Wilderpeople (New Zealand)

Sat. Feb. 18
5:00pm Who is Dayani Cristal (Mexico/USA) 
8:00pm Ixcanul/Volcano (Guatemala)  

Thanks to the Lucas County Commissioners and the Welcome TLC initiative, a collaboration of community partners working to build a welcoming and inclusive community for immigrants, refugees, and people of diverse cultures. Thanks to the historic Ohio Theatre, 3114 Lagrange Street, and Sarah Allan, Brittany Ford, Kim Sanchez and lots of dedicated workers and volunteers who plan and organize the annual film festival program.  Kudos to the designer/creators of the great program brochure for this 3rd festival! 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Seize the Day, Seize the Good News/Carpe diem, Carpe bonam

Orwell had a fear of totalitarian
Communism in mind, but his dystopia
applies as well to totalitarianism
on the extreme right. It's the message
that resonates. 
The news coming out of the Twitter-in-Chief, as a fellow resister calls him, and the "alternative facts" spewing forth from his ugly surrogates, were affecting my mood. Coming off the high of the Women's March in Washington, so full of hope, exuberant, I found myself stewing, feeling blue. I went to bed full of anger and continuing disbelief at the Orwellian world in which we find ourselves. Damn, how will we survive this nightmare?

That's why I was surprised that I actually spent the night with my unconscious self having a good dream, a happy dream. Where did that come from?

I woke up mulling this over, remembering it, going over the details so as not to forget it. It wasn't my usual anxiety dream. I was with my family of origin and we were having a wonderful time being together. We were at my sister's house on a lake, and I jumped into the clear blue water spontaneously and splashed around with gay abandon, smiling and waving. I wouldn't normally do that.

As I was congratulating myself on the power of positive thinking, another thought immediately came to me:  You need to avoid the bad news. Seize the day. Seize the good news coming out in reputable media outlets, and ignore the rest. We need hope. We need what my dearest brother Loren called "lifelines" to keep us going, to keep us strong, to keep us resisting.

I made coffee and sat at the computer to glance at the news.  Yep, I only glance.  I turn my head kind of sideways to my screen to get the gist of what's coming out there, the horrible, no-good news of the day, about censorship, shutting down agencies, building a wall, having $12 billion for the wall but nothing for social safety nets, leaving the UN, resuming waterboarding, taking credit when it is not due, saying hateful things, lying, outright lying. If I happen to alight on a photo of tRump, kellylyingannspicer, McConnell, Ryan or Pence, my stomach turns, and I quickly look away.

I just need to stay informed, I tell myself, not immersed.  Informed enough to contact my Senators, Sherrod Brown (D, OH) and Rob Portman (alt-right R funded by the Koch brothers), and my representative in the House, Marcy Kaptur (D, Toledo, OH), a quiet but stalwart fighter on whom we can count.
Klima (climate change) image by

So, mornin' joe in hand, my dream made conscious, I saw the bad news out of the corner of my eye.  Then just as fast I spotted the good news, on which I lingered. "U.S. government scientists go 'rogue' in defiance of trump" 
(Steven Gorman, Reuters, January 26, 2017). Yes!  "Employees from more than a dozen U.S. government agencies have established a network of unofficial "rogue" Twitter feeds in defiance of what they see as attempts by President Donald Trump to muzzle federal climate change research and other science./ Seizing on Trump's favorite mode of discourse, scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA and other bureaus have privately launched Twitter accounts - borrowing names and logos of their agencies - to protest restrictions they view as censorship and provide unfettered platforms for information the new administration has curtailed. "Can't wait for President Trump to call us FAKE NEWS," one anonymous National Park Service employee posted on the newly opened Twitter account @AltNatParkService. "You can take our official twitter, but you'll never take our free time!""

I also spotted this good news.  The Hill reported that "Scientists are planning their own March on Washington" (  More protests.  More honesty.  Especially uplifting to learn that federal employees will not be stifled and silenced without a fight.  That is fabulous news, because I'm sure more will follow. I'm sure resistance will rise inside as well as outside of the government.  Maybe I'll have to go back to Washington to march!

Since I'm especially interested in knowing more about tRump's conflicts of interest and Russian ties, and those of his billionaire oil, gas, and corporate cronies who will make up his cabinet, I savor any news about ongoing and new lawsuits and investigations. An article about the ACLU filing suit to get information about tRump's conflicts of interest under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) made my day.

So did the news that the House Intelligence Committee will investigate these issues and the question of interference in our election, and that it will call on the six intelligence agencies that are doing the same thing to provide information and report to the Committee.  The Twitter-in Chief won't be able to escape the truth, won't be able to twist the facts.  Not for long.  Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Ranking member Adam Schiff (D, CA), in a joint statement, promised a full investigation, "no matter where the facts lead, including, among other things, allegations of collusion."  (
breaking-house-intel-committee-will-investigate-trump-camps-russia-ties/ by Tommy Christopher, 25 January 2017)

We absolutely need this kind of news to keep us going. Forget the bad news about what the White House and Congress are doing.  It will all implode in time. Forget the propaganda, the stupifying self-aggrandizement, the self-promoting twitters, the "alternative facts" that are simply another name for lies. Seize the day. Seize the real news, news of protest and resistance, news that questions the false narratives spun by the White House propagandists and their Congressional alt-right allies, the "fake" news and lies from fake outlets like Breitbart. Carpe diem, Carpe bonam.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Women Make America Great:The Women's March, January 21, 2017

Women's March, Jan.21, 2017, Washington, DC.  Scenes from the March, great signs, DC landmarks, crowds roar. Also, welcoming Rep. John Lewis as he came off a flight from Atlanta into a crowded National airport. The crowd burst into applause and loud shouts of thanks. Lucky my plane was late!
What a March! A women's march. An awesome experience of a lifetime. These old bones may be sore, because I put more miles on them than I have in years, all for one massive effort of protest, but my spirit was lifted up, way up! Women's voices united.

Suz marching, looking around to
make sure I was still with her.
I marched with friends Suz, an ethicist, and Virginia, a public health nurse, dedicated justice fighters, knowledgeable, savvy, thoughtful. Suz prepared a nice bag lunch for us, with bagels, fruit and water, and off we went.
Suz and me.
The streets of DC, where I had lived and worked for over 15 years for an agency marked for extinction, the National Endowment for the Humanities, overflowed with tens of thousands of women and supporters of all ages, races, nationalities, sexual identities. Diversity was its hallmark.

Lots of women I knew were here. Friends from across the US and from Sylvania, Ohio, my hometown; Peace Corps friends; old friends from my DC days, all here, all marching. I would love to have seen them, reconnected, but it was impossible to meet up.Too many people. Massive crowds so tightly packed in places as to make marching almost impossible. More people than I've ever seen at a protest in DC. I knew my friends were in the crowd somewhere, knew my sister Andy and brother Loren, my children and grandchildren were with me in spirit, too, and I found comfort in that. And what noise we made! Women's diverse voices raised to the strongest chorus America has heard in a long time.

A sea of pink hats, pussy hats, flooded the nation's capital with powerful messages: Women's rights are human rights. This takeover of our government by alt-right extremists, bought and paid for by billionaires, will not be tolerated. We are no longer accepting the things we cannot change; we are changing the things we cannot accept. Women deserve respect. We are resilient. We will resist all efforts to put us down and deny our rights, and we will support all efforts that promote harmony and real progress.We believe in the common good. We are stronger together.

And here's something I found amazing: The Women's March was largely a mob. That is, there were no obvious leaders to lead the crowds, no one directing the marchers, no big names leading the charge ahead of us, no banners marking off states or organizations, no signposts about the route, no monitors along the way to assure us we were on the right path or to offer help. We were just an overwhelming mass of humanity that walked and walked, shouted out slogans, chanted, held up the best signs I've ever seen at any march. We roared. Protested loud and clear. A peaceful mob. Women will have our say. We had our say.

I haven't walked this much in years. To and from the Adams Morgan rowhouse where I stayed, thanks to a kind stranger who offered a room; to and from the Dupont Circle Metro; to and from the long March. This old body was not about to stop me.
Virginia,our marching buddy.
. Looks like she's in front of tRump's hotel. Really, Virginia?

Suz, Virginia and I got to about 7th Street and jostled with a thousand and more people. "This is what democracy looks like," a few women on top of some fences shouted into the teeming masses, who picked up the chant. "This is what democracy looks like!" We joined them and walked to about 14th and Constitution, along the Mall, stopped in the Smithsonian castle (as beautiful as ever), walked past the the new National Museum of African-American History and Culture (interesting architecture and I was happy to see it for the first time), up to 17th and past the Old Executive Office Building toward the White House, where the March was supposed to end, where the marchers would join together with our messages to the current occupant.

But then we learned that the route had changed. Pennsylvania Avenue was blocked off by police. No marchers allowed. Police were adamant. No way. Marchers, though disappointed, remained peaceful, and resolute.

We looked at the White House, shrouded in grey mist, a house of terror to us now, a house of hate. Barack Obama,his family and dedicated staff were gone. It was occupied by a president and his cronies determined to undo Obama's legacy, and with more conflicts of interest than you could shake a stick at, more conflicts than ever before in our history. A president who denigrates women and promotes disunity and hate. It was heartbreaking.

The immense crowd paused, shouted slogans, waved fists, and wondered why, why had the route changed? Suz and Virginia were among those who argued with the police blocking the way. Others joined them.The police said the stands and stuff in front of the White House for the inauguration hadn't been taken down. It looked rather empty to us. A low platform lay on the street, but we could have marched over that. Suspicions grew.

The crowd hesitated, then kept going. Virginia, Suz and I, and the folks around us, had a theory: the trumpsters didn't want to see marchers in front of the White House vastly outnumbering the people who had been at the inauguration the day before. We knew instinctively that numbers really mattered to them. We knew it would lead to infantile tweets as well as "alternative facts."

Our instincts were right, but then we learned that the March organizers (whom we never saw, not a one!) had been sending texts to whomever they could in the sea of resisters to change the route, because there were too many of us, way too many people. We couldn't all fit in front of the White House. Close to a million, some said. That's when the marchers took off in any direction possible, to streets not even blocked off, into traffic that was kept waiting probably for hours. Determined. Peaceful. No violence, no outbursts.
Suz in pink.

I found myself in a group of several thousand heading North, away from the White House, away from the Mall, away from Pennsylvania, up 17th Street toward Adams Morgan. Good lord! I asked a few folks next to me where they thought they were going "Don't know," they shrugged, "we just keep walking!" That's when I decided to keep on walking straight to my room on Seaton Place, NW. It was almost 5:00. I was not far from Dupont Circle. I felt confident the crowd would find its way. I felt as if I was leaving new friends behind, saying goodbye to kindred spirits. A few marchers waved and I waved back, fighting back tears. Somehow I knew in my heart that the battle had been joined, and we would win the war, whatever it took, however long it took. I barely made it to my room, my hips throbbing, my knees, ankles and feet killing me, but it didn't matter. All that mattered was that I had been on the Women's March, one of the biggest protests for truth, equality and justice ever seen in America. The women of America stepped up and had their say, joined by people all over the USA and abroad. We were the majority, no doubt about it. We were the wave of the future.
I don't know who designed this
beautiful poster, but it sure
resonated with me.
The next day, Sunday, I could hardly move. I took hot showers, rested and read. Thank goodness a little cafe, once visited by President Obama and his daughters, was nearby so I could get coffee and snacks. My Peace Corps friend Jud invited me for dinner at his beautiful condo next to Van Ness Metro. I didn't think I could make the walk to Dupont Metro and back, but I pumped myself up and went for it. It was wonderful to see Jud again after some 5 years. I also had the pleasure of meeting his lovely and informed activist friends Bruce and Jan, down from Maine, where Jud had once lived. A great vegetarian meal and lively conversation, plus peach tea in the beautiful tea pot I remember Jud buying at the Istanbul Bazaar! I got on the Metro and walked to Adams Morgan, slowly, step by step, exhausted but exhilarated.

On Monday I was ready to go home, back to Sylvania, Ohio, via Detroit airport where my daughter Elissa would pick me up. I walked to Dupont Circle one last time, the heels of my feet sore as hell. I took the metro from the Red line to the Yellow line to Washington National Airport. It was a cold, grey, rainy day. The wind blew ominously. It almost blew my umbrella inside out and me away with it. The streets seemed silent, but somehow not the same. Some energy had risen, and I needed it. I made it to the airport and collapsed at the first seat available near my gate.

The airport was jam packed, as if those crowds diverted from Pennsylvania Ave had found their way here. I learned that a storm, a 'noreaster, was wrecking havoc along the East coast, and that dozens of flights had been cancelled the night before. Weary marchers were still waiting to get home, plopping wherever they could. Not surprisingly my flight to Detroit was delayed, too.
John Lewis comes off a plane from 
Atlanta, into an adoring and loud crowd.
 Photo by Monica of Texas.  
I was just about at the end of my rope, my almost 77-year-old body complaining, when I heard the crowd stir. A murmur, then a roar. We were shoulder to shoulder near the Atlanta gates, which apparently bore the brunt of the delays. Another roar went up. What the heck? Then I saw: Rep. John Lewis had just stepped off an Atlanta flight, returning to DC for a busy week ahead in the U.S. Congress.Yes! John Lewis.There he was! OMG.The airport burst into applause, shouts and chants. The marchers had continued from the streets of DC to the airport. I looked John Lewis in the eye, struggling to get a photo as people surrounded him for selfies. I wished that I had a real smart phone, dammit. I couldn't get close, but I shouted, "We will carry on the fight, we won't give up! Ohio is with you!" He gave me a high five, and a big smile. Oh what a smile! My heart swelled with respect, so honored to be in this great man's presence.

What a perfect ending to the Women's March.

An hour or so later, energized, feeling blessed, I moved toward my gate to catch my flight. Then, another wonderful surprise. Walking towards me off that Detroit flight was my own U.S. Representative from Toledo, Ohio, Marcy Kaptur! She saw me and we shared a big hug and a few words, enough to know we were on the same page. We would be fighting together.
Looking at the crowd on the Mall,
through the graceful door of the Smithsonian Castle.

If my plane had been on time, not over three hours late, I thought to myself, I would have missed out on these wonderful serendipitous crossings. How amazing to be at the right place at the right time, to enjoy the moment. No matter how exhausted I was, I could not have been happier, could not have felt more hopeful. We, the women of America and the world, the doves of peace, the diverse warriors of justice all over the world, we are with you John Lewis and Marcy Kaptur, with all our Senators and representatives who will resist the onslaught, with all people of knowledge and discernment, and all activists who resist tyranny and fight for justice. We are the wind beneath your wings. We are indeed stronger together.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Freedom to Enslave Yourself

"There is a quote (often misattributed to Sinclair Lewis) that states, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”' No matter who said it, to me this perfectly describes Mike Pence, head of the transition team selecting cabinet posts and agency heads with billionaires who oppose their mission and programs.  "While the actual quote seems to be a condensed meme of a collection of prognostications from the 1930’s as Hitler came to power, it is very true of where we find ourselves headed in the 21st century here in the United States." Trump embodies the substance and style of fascism,a know-nothing  infantile demagogue.  Quotes from article by Manny Schewitz@  
White Nationalists' Nazi salute trump.
Photo: Daniel Lombroso, The Atlantic.

The poor "suppressed" white minority who couldn't say the N word in public or shout out racist obscenities because of libtard "political correctness," aka "human decency," are released. The misunderstood suppressed alts, who suffered under eight years of Obama, can feel free to say what they want in public. 

yahoo public image.
You can say Merry Christmas again, and wave the Confederate flag. You can wear clothes featuring Nazi symbols and AK15s, and parade them in the streets. You can gleefully give the Nazi salute. You can put on your hoods and burn crosses on lawns. Feel free to embrace Putin's Russia and forget about the illegal occupation of Ukraine and the genocide in Aleppo. You can embrace the multinational corporations like Exxon that love pipelines and oil and and gas deals all over the planet, and for sure you do not have to worry about Native lands or public lands.

Now you are free to deny climate change and advocate the end of social safety nets, Medicare and Social Security.  You can climb on the Pence/McConnell/Ryan Tea Party bandwagon of destruction to end the departments of education, health and human services, environmental protection.  You can enjoy the purges of agencies dealing with women's rights and gay rights.  Sure you're scared of people of color, Muslims, Mexicans, new immigrants, "foreigners," and you're free to advocate their deportation or internment in special camps, like those camps for the Japanese during WWII. You can yell at them in stores, too, tell them to "go back where they belong." Say what you think to whomever you want, whenever you want. Let your anger be heard. No more "political correctness." No more civil discourse.You are free to hate and to act on that hate.  

Welcome to Trump's America.

   Follow Mike Pence, head of the transition team selecting all those billionaire alt-rightist to lead agencies whose missions they oppose.  "We truly do believe our president-elect has secured a mandate for leadership,” Mike Pence said Tuesday evening during a Heritage Foundation event at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C."  Really?
    "To understand how such movements take over a democracy, one only has to watch the Republican Party today. These movements play on all the fears, vanities, ambitions and insecurities that make up the human psyche. In democracies, at least for politicians, the only thing that matters is what the voters say they want — vox populi vox Dei. A mass political movement....when controlled and directed by a single leader, can be aimed at whomever the leader chooses. If someone criticizes or opposes the leader, it doesn’t matter how popular or admired that person has been. He might be a famous war hero, but if the leader derides and ridicules his heroism, the followers laugh and jeer. He might be the highest-ranking elected guardian of the party’s most cherished principles. But if he hesitates to support the leader, he faces political death."

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Putin wants Mariupol, but Mariupol doesn't want Putin

The Battle of Mariupol, almost 2 years ago. Death and destruction, which the world ignored. 
Mariupol at peace. Luba and Starobelsk friends took me to Berdyansk, just down the road from Mariupol, for a great holiday on the Sea of Azov. I argued to PC headquarters that this trip away from my site was for "cultural immersion," and it really was that.
"...Mariupol is a tempting target for the leaderships of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk ‘people’s republics’. . . .seizing Mariupol would be an important step to make a frozen separatist-occupied Donbas economically viable. Mariupol is the port through which much of the steel and other industrial products of the Donbas are exported. Mariupol is also key if the Russians desire a land bridge to Crimea. While taking the land bridge would be doable for the Russian army, holding it would prove costly. It would mean occupying a strip of territory 300 kilometers long, territory that has not shown great sympathy for the separatists or the idea of ‘Novorossiya.’ The Russian army would have to garrison the territory to fend off almost certain partisan attacks." Brookings Institute, March 2015
Loyal to Ukraine, Mariupol continues to protest
 Russian aggression. The war's taken its toll..
Mariupol is back in the news, though the ongoing war in Ukraine, the ongoing killing and destruction, the every day battles and skirmages, the daily death toll, have been on the media back burner for a while now. Putin's war no longer makes the headlines, unless the story has to do with the Trump campaign and traitors like Paul Manafort helping Putin take over Crimea and the Donbas. Ukraine is suffering, mightily, weeping in pain, and the world seems not to care.

Back to Mariupol on the Sea of Azov and access to the strategic Black Sea. Back to Russia's unmitigated and unstopped war in Ukraine, a country now encircled by heavily armed Russian troops that can strike anywhere, anytime, and do. The Minsk agreement is a sham and has been a sham from the beginning, with the obscene and brutal destruction of Debaltseve, the strategic link between Lugansk and Donetsk.  The western nations talk a lot, but actions speak louder than words, and no action makes any words meaningless.

Unless there is a will and a way to stop Putin's aggression, there is no end in sight. It's a sad commentary on international uselessness and helplessness in the face of illegal aggression that breaks accepted international treaties and the sanctity of international borders.

Battle of Mariupol. War photos
from Yahoo images,

 and they are disturbing.
The Brookings Institute predicted that if Mariupol came under renewed Russian attack, sanctions would not only continue but increase.  I hope so. A meeting with Putin is taking place now, in Crimea of all places. The image sickens me. So far nothing has halted Putin's sending in more mercenaries, arms, and heavy weapons of destruction.  How does this illegal aggression continue? Why isn't Putin arrested and tried before a Hague tribunal? If Putin was stopped, the war would stop. The destruction, the mass graves, the laying waste to human lives and human habitats, is all Putin's responsibility.  Supplying the BUK that took down MH-17 is his responsibility.  It's his war.

The Battle of Mariupol. Senseless destruction, and a gruesome mass grave. 
That photo shocked me. I don't think the world was paying much attention, 
unaware of how invasive and tragic this battle was (yahoo images).
Mariupol has put up brave resistance, and will continue to do so.  But how can it stop the Russian military giant? It's David and Goliath.  It doesn't matter if the war drums beat loudly or softly, if the Russian forces are in attack mode or about to be in attack mode, if Putin changes his mind or not.  The presence of so many troops and weapons, the threats of violence, are ever-present, ever-unsettling. Imagine living under these threats day in and day out.

The people of Mariupol remain loyal to Ukraine, and they let that be known time and again.  It's hard to think that a crooked referendum could install a Russian- backed regime there, a regime that knows only how to be at war, not how to govern, as demonstrated in the Donbas.  Mariupol does not want and will never welcome the Russian-supported brutal anarchy, the break down of civil society, that now dominate southern Lugansk and Donetsk oblasts.

Olga at Starobelsk war protest
"Every day you hear that a soldier(s) was killed, and if you imagine that that soldier was given just one life and was also somebody's son, father, uncle, husband, friend, it is becoming so hard to bear," wrote my dear friend Marat, who lives in Kiev. "So the war is near even though the fighting is far, and it affects all aspects of our lives."

How can we allow such violence to continue, the killing fields of eastern Ukraine? How can we succumb to Putin's manipulation, lies and stealth? I hope the US and EU nations will not allow or sanction further aggression into other parts of Ukraine, and that includes Starobelsk, the village where I served with the Peace Corps and have friends living under the same threats as the brave citizens of Mariupol.  "The stress is unbearable at times," my friend Olga writes, echoing Marat's sadness. "We do all we can to live normally, one day at a time. We are proud Ukrainians, and we are strong. But our hearts are broken; we weep in fear and in silence. Does anyone hear our cries?"

Just looking at a map, with the great Russian bear dominating that part of the world, and the tiny eastern European countries like Ukraine on its western border, makes you wonder how Putin can view Ukraine or any former Soviet republic as a threat. No country wants to attack Russia, no country threatens its borders. NATO is scared to death to start a war with Russia, so is the US and EU nations.  There might be a little saber-rattling, even a lot of noise, but no one wants war with Russia. And no eastern European country has the military might of the Russian giant. The war in Ukraine is all about Putin's aggression and war games, with disatrous consequences for the world.  

It's the little guys vs. the big guys, an underdog against a superpower, David vs. Goliath.  It took a while to get here, to descend to this level of  war and destruction. Donbas destroyed. Crimea occupied. Rule of Law toppled.  This CNN graph tells the story. It's a few years old, but not much has changed. It makes me weep.