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In the wake of yet another scandal involving a powerful man using women by threatening their careers, hearing people say, “Why didn’t she come forward sooner? Why did she smile in those photos?” makes my blood boil. These are questions men never face, because the power differential still tilts heavily towards the masculine. Women have smiled long enough for our place at the table.

— blogger Carole Reardon

This is what Not Pretty or Thin Enough looked like circa 1980

I have a Facebook friend in the great state of Texas Our Texas named Carole Reardon who blogs at “Southern-Fried Californian: broodings of a barbecued beach baby.”

The name of the blog tells you right off that the woman’s got some snap, crackle and pop.

I love the way she identifies herself at the blog:

    Raised on the Left Coast, transplanted to Texas, and now to the Deep South, I am a cock-eyed optimist with a darkly sarcastic streak a mile wide. I am ever grateful to a merciful God for waiting to inflict me upon an unsuspecting world until the existence of indoor plumbing, air-conditioning, and nail polish. I’ve never been accused of not having an opinion, and am ever so thankful to all those nerds in Silicon Valley who invented a place for me to put them where they can’t hurt anybody. I read, write, and have taken up photography.

    Beyond This Point Thar Be Dragons, or all my ramblings on Life, the Universe, and Everything, along with photos of food, my pets, and anything that strikes me as entertaining, unusual, or beautiful.

    Don’t say you weren’t warned.

As colorful as her writing can be, she had something to serious to say at her blog about the fallout over the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

She says it so well–and as only a woman with her experience could–that she gave me permission to share it in full below. Or better yet you can click here to see the original post and check out her other musings at Southern-Fried Californian.

Read it and think…..

The Harvey Weinstein revelations this week have been a particularly loathsome example of the hurdles women still face professionally but for me, it hit rather surprisingly close to home. It brought up a memory I guess I’d have to say I repressed, as it was days in before I realized, standing in my kitchen and listening to one of the accounts, that my visceral reaction was more than just my increasingly ardent feminism being offended. An incident I hadn’t necessarily forgotten, but had minimized in the way women do to these things, returned in glorious technicolor.

The memory returned, whole, connected, and with all the original revulsion, rather than the pale fragments I had allowed at the surface consciousness level for the intervening years. That I would only ken the wrongness, the vileness of an event thirty-odd years later speaks, I believe, to how endemic misogyny still is in our society and why women are 100% over being told to “Smile”.

I was 18 – literally, I had turned 18 years old the proceeding week – when I was asked to meet with the head of the modeling agency I’d signed with. He was the owner of the agency and at least forty years my senior.

He told me how pretty I was, though not pretty enough for high-end, cosmetics company work. “The girls who get those jobs are perfect,” he said and while pretty, I was not “perfect”. At 5′ 7″ I was too short for cat-walk, but ideal for catalog or calendar work. They didn’t mind “curvy” girls, he said, though losing a few pounds would only help me. Thanks to existing on one salad a day, I weighed 115 pounds at the time.

The bottom line was he had the power to give me a career. He found me attractive enough that, despite my obvious deficits of imperfection and 115 pounds distributed over a 5′ 7″ frame, he’d happily further my career if I’d sleep with him. He could provide cocaine, if that sweetened the deal.

I would like to say I didn’t think about it at all, that my morals were such I turned on my heel and left in high dudgeon, but I’d be lying.

What I did think, for a maybe a nanosecond was, It would make everything so much easier. How bad could it be?

But then, completely unbidden by me and surely born by the voices of what President Abraham Lincoln referred to as “our better angels” came a solitary thought: but then I’ll never know. I made some lame excuse about not thinking of him in that way, but more like my Uncle Harry, and (of course smiling!) uh, thanks for the offer… and I beat feet out of the office. I never went back. Thus ended my modeling career.

There are concepts it is difficult for even an intelligent teenager to fully comprehend. On one hand, I could sleep with an old, ugly, and clearly immoral man and have a lucrative career. On the other, I’d never know if the career was earned or given as payment. With the black and white thinking of most teenagers, I thought accepting his offer would confer upon me a particular label: Prostitute. It never occurred to me to label him: Predator. I did know I had little power in this exchange, that my attractiveness to him was currency with a definitive expiration date, the date the next barely-legal girl he wanted to sleep with arrived.

Like most women I took the guilt upon myself, thinking that to sleep with this troll would make me a whore, rather than the truth, which was that offering young women cocaine and a career to sleep with him, made him an exploitative libertine, a predator, and morally reprehensible. It was his moral character on trial, not mine. And lest anyone take the mistaken notion that I condemn the women who made different decisions, let me refute that right here and now. It is always the predator who is in the wrong.

It is so endemic in our society that I had almost forgotten the entire, slimy episode. Oh, through the years people have occasionally asked why I hadn’t pursued the career, and I tell the more or less true story that my parents moved out of state and I chose to stay in California, and waiting tables was more immediately lucrative than hoping for a career in modeling to catch fire. Even through the many years since, I told few people about the meeting with the agency owner because then as now, who would believe me?

My life has not been glamorous or wealthy, but it has been rich. I have not known fame or fortune, but I have known love, friendship, loss, joy, motherhood, so many things, good and bad, that make an excellent life.

But, in the wake of yet another scandal involving a powerful man using women by threatening their careers, hearing people say, “Why didn’t she come forward sooner? Why did she smile in those photos?” makes my blood boil. These are questions men never face, because the power differential still tilts heavily towards the masculine. Women have smiled long enough for our place at the table.

For every Rose McGowan or Gwyneth Paltrow, I expect there are at least 100 other women, standing in their suburban kitchens recalling similar circumstances that left them remembering either a choice to walk away and the loss, personal and/or financial of that decision, or remembering an event that left her feeling dirty and used, and questioning her own talent and ability. This extends far beyond Hollywood. I had subsequent, uncomfortable episodes with male employers in Corporate America, just nothing so egregious as the modeling agency. I know I am far from alone. I have legions of sister-company.

To my sisters I say: it isn’t us who are dirty, we are not responsible for the immorality and predatory behavior of others. Let us support each other, vocally, and remove the conspiracy of silence once and for all. Let us embrace our sisters as they come forward, let us form a protective circle around them, let us assure our daughters they will be believed and we are their advocates. Finally, let us shout a collective, ENOUGH!

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Former Judge Roy Moore Jr. of the always reliably backward state of Alabama could be a United States Senator soon. This man is the poster boy for Trumpianity, that god-awful perversion of Christianity that is a plague on the United States.

The conquest of the United States by fanatical fundamentalist (not) Christians — who are homophobic, racist liars, crooks and thieves — becomes more frightening by the day.

October is the season of the witch and all things scary, though, what with Halloween upon us.

* * *

An overwhelming number of of these crackpots, who take the Bible and everything in it literally, hold all the power in the White House, Congress, statehouses, and many local councils and school boards.

People like the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for example, from the always reliably backward state of Alabama.

And then there are the likes of Jerry Falwell Jr. and Pat Robertson (with whom the POTUS sat down for a TV interview recently), and the ayatollah preacher of First Baptist in Dallas, and the pistol-waving “Christian” crackpot Judge Roy Moore of Alabama.

The infamous former (twice disgraced by his judicial peers in Alabama) Judge Moore will probably be Roy Moore the United States Senator soon. This in spite of a damning report by The Washington Post. Moore has attacked the Post, of course, but hasn’t denied the corrupt acts that the Post exposed. See here for more.

The disgraced judge and wannabe U.S. Senator is so ignorant of the issues in this country that during his primary campaign for Senate, he was asked what his position on DACA and the so-called “Dreamers” is in a radio interview in Alabama.

Unbelievably, Roy Moore the presumed next Senator from Alabama had never heard of DACA or the Dreamers.

If it’s not about putting prayer back in school and hating on them funny people who want to get married who ain’t real men and wimmin and all, Roy Moore ain’t interested.

The Moores, the Falwells, the Robertsons and others of their perverted Christian faith are the so-called “Christians” whom the godless POTUS celebrates as “such amazing great people.”

Of course, Trump supported the other Alabama fundamentalist who ran against Roy Moore, who was supported by the oily white supremecist Steve Bannon, who, never forget, put Trump in the White House and who would make a model fascist or is he more of a Nazi.

People actually have legitimate debates about which of the two horrible camps Steve Bannon (and, for that matter, Donald Trump) falls in.

* * *

Roy Moore’s win in Alabama is yet another manifestation of Trumpianity. (See here for my definition of that.)

Trumpianity (see also here, as I’ve written often about it) is as frightening to me as the threat of fanatical terrorist groups and dictators in places like North Korea.

* * *

I was raised by wonderful Christian parents, two prayerful people who loved God and their Methodist Church. But it was always understood in my home and hometown church that God and the Bible were more about mystery than literalism.

My parents knew instinctively what the great Methodist writer and theologian Joseph Campbell meant when he wrote this, with my italics for emphasis:

    “The virgin birth has nothing to do with a biological accident. (It’s about) the awakening of spiritual life in the human animal. It’s a mythic symbol. It should not be read, finally, as historical fact.

    “All mythology is misread when it is read as referring to historical events or geographical places. The Promised Land is not a piece of land to be conquered by military might; it is a condition of the heart.”

The Bible contains the Truth and the true God — and endures and will endure — not because it is a literal take on God, but because it’s not . It’s a book of myths and great poetry and songs (all of the Psalms are songs that were sung, not read) and wise but fictitious narratives and short stories.

But because it contains so much fiction does not mean that that the Bible is not true, or that Jesus (a real historical figure who changed the world forever) is not the Truth and God’s only real Truth.

The two greatest American novels ever written in my view are To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huck Finn.

These novels and the stories within them reveal more to us about love and hate and justice and injustice and the entire human condition than any amount of great reporters and scholarly historians could ever reveal.

The two novels are fictions, and yet they are as true as true can be.

And how interesting is it in the Year of our Lord 2017 that both of these old, beloved great American novels reveal so much truth about slavery, racism and social injustice in America?

The Bible, like classic literature, is timely and fresh in every new era.

* * *

Trumpianity is a national plague and an assault God, the Bible and the Christian tradition.

And oh by the way, did I mention that Harper Lee, the great American novelist of the great state of Alabama who exposed her beloved state’s backward ways better than any reporter or historian ever could, was a devout, lifelong United Methodist and churchgoer till the day she and her devout Methodist sister died?

Don’t let them take your minds.

Pour out the Kool-Aid.

Vaya con Dios. (Go with God.)

HT: Limping to Jerusalem

That’s all, folks. For now.


News occurs at such warped speed every day now, you can be forgiven if you missed this small but rather good news story that broke late last week as reported in USA Today.

    U.S.-backed Iraqi forces announced Thursday they have retaken one of the Islamic State’s remaining strongholds after about 1,000 militants surrendered amid fresh signs the terror group is collapsing and unable to defend its territory.

    An Iraqi soldier helps carry a woman who fled from the the fight to oust the Islamic State group from Hawija southeast of Kirkuk, Iraq. (Photo: Marwan Ibrahim, AFP/Getty Images)

    “They’re giving up,” said Lt. Gen. Paul Funk, who commands the coalition task force fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. “Their leaders are abandoning them.”*

Wow, we’re talking about ISIS terrorists, who have always fought to the death rather than give up.

But they’re giving up.

Furthermore, after umpteen years of Iraq’s U.S.-backed military failing to stand up and defend itself, Iraq’s military in the last couple of years has actually been standing up and defending itself. While nobody was looking, it evolved — finally! — into a capable and disciplined army.

Maybe in another umpteen years we won’t have to keep propping Iraq up with our military forces and tax dollars.

* * *

That said, I was taken aback by what one of the many ISIS killers prisoners told the New York Times in an interview:

    He said he was from Hawija and had joined the Islamic State because he believed in its cause, because his elder brother had, and because the $100 a month pay was better than anything else around.”

Right. He believed in the cause so much that he just followed his Big Brother’s example and oh by the way — $100 a month was enough pay for him to slit throats.

People stuck in life down in Poordom, anywhere in this big wide world — with no hope whatsoever for an opportunity to make a good, honest living for themselves and their families — will resort to any kind of destructive and self-destructive behavior imaginable.

The only real hell is hell on earth, and poverty has a way of making life a hell for all of us.*

——
*The full USA Today story is here.
*More on “Life Down in Poordom” here.

Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness.

“It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life…

“It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear…

“Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: “You are accepted.”

— Paul Tillich

The chief medical examiner for the state of New Hampshire, who has seen so much death from drug abuse, is giving up his first career for a second career in United Methodist ministry. PHOTO BY: Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Here is the sort of story that makes you go “Wow!” in a depressing way — and yet “Wow!” in an inspired-by-it way.

The New York Times has a typically wonderful profile today about a medical examiner in New Hampshire — ground zero for the national opioids epidemic — who at age 60 is giving up the morgue to go into United Methodist ministry.

Dr. Thomas Andrew, the chief medical examiner of New Hampshire, retired after 20 years last month to enter seminary and seek ordination as a deacon.

An aside: I, like Dr. Andrew, was 60 when I entered seminary as the first step to the grueling journey to ordination as a United Methodist deacon. So I can relate a good bit to something he told The Times.

    After seeing thousands of sudden, unexpected or violent deaths, I have found it impossible not to ponder the spiritual dimension of these events for both the deceased and especially those left behind.”

That’s very much like my own story. I was called to ministry as a second career after years of work as a reporter who saw up-close-and-personal the aftermath of thousands of unexpected deaths, murders, and general mayhem. It became impossible for me also “not to ponder the spiritual dimension” of it all.

Dr. Andrew’s unique story, though, stems from his alarm over the overwhelming, mind-boggling drug overdoses he saw every day in his first career as a pathologist.

It’s hard for me to grasp the cold, hard fact that overdoses, mostly of the drug fentanyl, are now the leading causes of deaths of Americans under age 50. It’s beginning to affect the statistical life expectancy of Americans.

America saw 64,000 such deaths last year alone — a 22 percent spike over the previous years. The crisis is overwhelming the former colleagues of the now-retired Dr. Andrew, according to this excerpt from Times article:

    Some medical examiners, especially in hard-hit Ohio, have had to store their corpses in cold-storage trailers in their parking lots. In Manatee County, Fla., Dr. Russell Vega, the chief medical examiner, said that when he reaches “overflow” conditions, he relies on a private body transport service to store the bodies elsewhere until his office can catch up.

    In Milwaukee, Dr. Brian L. Peterson, the chief medical examiner, said that apart from the “tsunami” of bodies — his autopsy volume is up 12 percent from last year — the national drug crisis has led to staff burnout, drained budgets and threats to the accreditation of many offices because they have to perform more autopsies than industry standards allow.

    At the same time, severe staff shortages unrelated to the drug crisis are crippling the profession, said Dr. Peterson, who is president of the National Association of Medical Examiners, which oversees accreditation. Few people go into forensic pathology in the first place, he said, largely because of low salaries, and as more forensic pathologists retire, fewer are replenishing the supply.

    The result, Dr. Peterson said, is a national crisis that has already cost at least four offices their accreditation, which can undermine public confidence and lead to court challenges over a medical examiner’s findings.

    For Dr. Andrew in New Hampshire, where a backlog of autopsies has put the state at risk of losing accreditation, that prospect is particularly distressing. He spent the first eight of his 20 years here professionalizing the office and earning its accreditation. Despite the caseload, the office has one of the most timely and transparent surveillance and reporting systems in the country.

When I was about 55 years old, in 1995, I was coping with an enormous number of overwhelming personal issues, like watching my mother lying brain dead in a coma from a stroke for two, agonizing weeks before her heart finally stopped.

The doctor had told us after her massive stroke that my mother, who never wanted to be kept alive on life support (nor do I, kids) would be dead in no less than 48 hours. Being in the hospital room looking at her lifeless body with here already dead, but not legally dead, for two full weeks — it felt like two years.

Around the same year 1995 at age 55 I was finding it harder to cope with all the aforementioned violence and mayhem I witnessed as a reporter, one who covered a kazillion violent crimes, criminal court cases, and disasters both natural and not natural.

Gone were my younger days when I was an adrenaline junkie and thrived on compartmentalizing the pain — which isn’t to say reporters don’t deeply feel the pain of suffering people — in order to get the story and it by deadline.

So, again, I can relate to this excerpt about why Dr. Andrews was called to ministry:

    Back in the morgue, Dr. Andrew said he had learned to cope in this job, and its full immersion in death, by compartmentalizing what he sees and “locking it away.”

    Every day, he said, a pathologist faces the fleeting nature of mortality. The people on his examining table could have lived a lot longer “but for a few millimeters of cholesterol in the wrong blood vessel, a second of inattention by the driver of a car or the lethal potency of a drug obtained on the street.”

    And after a while, he said, one is bound to ask, “What’s all this about?”

    His plan is to become an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church, with two goals: to serve as a chaplain for the Boy Scouts of America, and to join the Appalachian Trail Chaplaincy of the United Methodist Church so he can minister to troubled hikers, at least on the 161 miles of the storied trail that cross New Hampshire and its White Mountains.

    Dr. Andrew said he developed an appreciation for the essence of life by seeing its fragility. Most of the nearly 5,800 people he has examined on his stainless steel autopsy table, he said, “woke the day they died oblivious to the fact that it would be their last on earth.”

What’s it all about?

As I see it, it’s all about us who live on filling that empty, God-size hole within each and every one of us. The hole that we all try to fill by all manner of things and idolatries other than God that don’t work: drugs, alcohol, sex, over-consumption, seeking the Almighty Dollar, storing up earthly treasures we can’t take with us, and so on and so forth.

It so happens that I’ve been revisiting the theology of the great 20th century theologian Paul Tillich, who said that we as free persons misuse and abuse our freedom to create false absolutes. He held up what he called “the Protestant principle,”* which repudiates all the false idols and idolatries we create as finite beings as substitutes for the one true thing that is infinite.

Therefore, we suffer from constant anxiety and fear and all the effects of “existential alienation” which include: self-elevation (hubris), unbelief, sin, irrationality, and concupiscence (i.e., lust and sex in overdrive).*

You may have noticed that these effects — hubris, unbelief, lust, etc. — are driving an enormous amount of alarming news these days.

We have a critical drug-abuse problem that is in the news and it’s mightily alarming, as Dr. Andrew reports.

But as the good doctor and minister-wannabe who will benefit from so much life experience also suggested, we have an underlying, critical problem with alienation from God.

The Lord be with him in spreading the Good News.
———
*(Here’s the link to the Times article and the Times generally allows a few free reads of articles per month for non-subscribers. I hope you can read it in full.)
*Tillich was as Protestant as any theologian who ever lived, but he’s respected and widely read and studied by Catholic clergy and seminarians.
*By no means am I suggesting that drug and alcohol abusers are special sinners who deserve what they get if they overdose and die, although some people actually believe that. Graceless people believe all kinds of graceless things nowadays.


For those who don’t follow me on Facebook, here’s my take that I posted there:

I like guns.

I like to shoot.

I want the right to buy a gun for sport or protection and I’m perfectly willing to wait and get checked out as thoroughly as authorities can check me out.

All I oppose is the ability for anybody to so easily build a one-man armory of weapons and ammo and devices made for killing as many people as possible in the shortest time possible.

We won’t ever stop all sick people from obtaining some weapons and finding others ways to kill and terrorize. Not any time soon.

But we don’t have to keeping greasing the wheels for domestic terrorists among us in this great, free country to keep slaughtering innocent Americans with weapons and devices not made for sport or protection.

They aren’t even guns as I see them. They are slaughter machines.

They are weapons and devices of mass destruction.

I refuse to accept this latest atrocity in Vegas as “the price of freedom.”

There’s no such thing as unlimited, unrestricted freedom where people’s safety is concerned.

And the freedom to own a slaughter machine is not a God-given right, as an astounding number of misguided politicians and Christians believe—Christians who are so adamantly “pro-life.”

I’m pro-life too and this is a pro-life issue.

Lord God be with the victims and their families in Las Vegas and be with us all.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.

And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

— Romans 8: 26-27

Thank God the Spirit is at all times praying in us and for us when we feel weak.

Every time another tragedy like the horror in Vegas occurs it’s easy to become discouraged to the point of not knowing how or what to pray — and for hope to falter.

But we can be encouraged in our weakness and doubts by the Spirit’s intercession for us.

We can be encouraged to keep praying for the victims and their loved ones in Las Vegas even if we in our moment of weakness feel our prayer words are inadequate or imperfect.

Our prayers don’t have to be perfect. God doesn’t grade our prayers.

In times like these I pray this a lot:

    Lord, please accept the poverty of these prayers of mine as I grapple for words in the wake of this evil catastrophe.

Amen.