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My Thoughts on the Aurora Tragedy July 20, 2012

Posted by frrobins in Uncategorized.
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I was horrified when I learned about the shootings at the premier of The Dark Knight Rises. I’ve been to premiers before. I’m sure that once the baby is older I will again. The wonderful thing about premiers is that you’re with a group of people you feel safe and comfortable with, even if you’re all strangers. When you’re a geek, you feel alienated from society as a whole. When everyone around you is lining up to see a certain movie, you’re all united just by that love of the movie. And that someone would shatter that with death and violence makes my stomach churn.

A lot of the reactions I’ve heard to the event includes something along the lines of “I don’t under stand how…” The statement is understandable, and believe me, I’ve spent hours wondering why people would commit such atrocities. What I realized today is that I don’t want to understand. I don’t want to understand that type of thinking. And I think it’s a good thing that the overwhelming majority of people in this world cannot understand that type of thinking. It’s a sign that our moral compass is intact.

The other thought struck me when I read that the suspect was calling himself “The Joker.” In Batman, Bruce Wayne has to take a stand against the bad guys because the police sure as hell can’t. In real life, the police nabbed the bad guy. He didn’t escape. They’ve evacuated his apartment building and the surrounding ones. They took wounded people to hospitals in squad cars. Sadly, 12 people died, and around 50 were wounded. But the police cannot be everywhere, nor do we want to live in a world where they are everywhere.

My point in all this was that their quick arrival and effective response saved lives and lead to the immediate arrest of the suspect. This villain will not go on to hurt innocent people for days, months, years, etc. There was not one hero there, but many, from the people who made the 911 calls to those who started going to other theaters to tell people to evacuate, to the police and paramedics and doctors. There was one villain, and dozens of heroes. Just something for me to think about when I start despairing of humanity.

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The Problems With Natural Family Planning March 13, 2012

Posted by frrobins in Uncategorized.
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Self-control. Self-restraint. Keep your legs closed. Abstinence. Those are things I hear from people who want women to shut up about getting easy, cheap access to birth control. As if every woman who wants to use birth control is some sort of nymphomaniac who simply cannot control herself.

I’ve seen Catholics advocate natural family planning, saying that abstaining for a week is good for the marriage and we should just exercise self control.

One of the many problems I have with this is that for most married couples, there is a problem with sexual activity, but it’s not too much. It’s too little.

Life is busy and stressful. Jobs, kids, housework, juggling friend and family. For a lot of married couples, sex becomes another chore. I’ve seen many married couples complain to me about the lack of sexual activity going on in their life and non who are complaining (or bragging) that they get too much. I’m sure one or two exists somewhere, but they are the exception to the rule.

So, suppose tired, overworked couples using Natural Family Planning and, in the mist of all of the day to day stress and hassles, becomes surprised to find that they are both in the mood at the same time. Until they realize it is during the wife’s fertile period. The next time they get around to fooling around could very well be next month. For couples who desperately need to reconnect or who are trying to work on improving their intimacy, this becomes a huge obstacle.

If hypothetical family wants to use NFP, that’s fine. The thing is, it is not a good solution for the majority of families. For one thing, it’s not something that only one partner can commit to. Both partners have to sign on. If the wife wants to use NFP but the husband doesn’t and neither want a pregnancy, well, hello strain to the relationship. It also ignores the reality that we still live in a culture where some people believe a wife does not have the right to refuse the sexual advances of her husband.

A lot of work also goes into NFP. When it was originally conceived, advocates believed that women were consistently fertile for only one week of the month. The problem is that this fertile period varies greatly. To track when the fertile period occurs requires daily monitoring of the bodies’ vitals. A lot of people don’t have the time. A lot of people don’t want to think about their fertility every day. And ask any couple going through infertility what constantly having to monitor their fertility does to their relationship. It causes a lot of strain.

I’m tired of the assumption that engaging in consensual sexual activity is somehow irresponsible or shows a lack of self control. I’m tired of people who are against birth control forgetting that married couples use birth control. And I’m tired of the idea that somehow taking steps to ensure that an unwanted pregnancy does not occur means that a woman is irresponsible.

Women who use birth control are not nymphomaniacs who need to reign in their lusts. They’re the women you and I know, struggling to juggle intimacy with everything else on their plates. For some, the cost of birth control is prohibitive. It won’t fix everything, but it will take another worry off her shoulders.

Yes, Women Are Being Arrested for Having Miscarriages October 13, 2011

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Regarding my previous post about the Personhood Amendment, some people would say that I’m blowing the consequences of it way out of proprtion. They say women won’t be prosecuted for having miscarriages. Then why is there legislation in Georgia pending that would require women to prove that their miscarriages happened naturally? Or why did Utah try to pass a law that would charge women with homicide if they miscarry?

So. Women who suffer miscarriages are guilty before proven innocent. This is a complete reversal of a fundamental principle of our justice system: that people are innocent before proven guilty.

Pretend that you’ve desperately wanted a baby. After months of trying you finally get that positive pregnancy test. You’re over the moon! You tell your spouse who is thrilled. You tell your parents who are dancing on the roof. You tell family and friends, all of whom are excited and happy. Everything is going fine. Until one morning a few weeks later when you start bleeding. You rush to the emergency room and hear the worst: a miscarriage is happening and there is nothing you can do.

You’re heartbroken. You realize that in 7 to 8 months time you will not be taking your beautiful baby home from the hospital. Your grief threatens to overwhelm you. You start wondering how you are going to tell your family and friends this devastating news when a police officer comes in and says he needs to take a report.

He inquires about every aspect of your private life. What you eat. What you drink. What drugs, legal or illegal, you take. What toxins you are exposed to. Without thinking you mention that you drink unpasteurized dairy products.

Before you know it you are charged with a felony. There’s no evidence that you caused the miscarriage by drinking unpasteurized dairy products, but there’s no evidence that you didn’t either. Sure, 60% of miscarriages are cause by chromosomal abnormalities. Sure, most of the rest of that 40% are caused by deformities in the uterus, fibroids, hormonal imbalance, severe mineral deficiency, but you can’t prove that any of those were the cause of this miscarriage. You’re seized with guilt, wondering if it was the milk.

You go to court, where the prosecutor paints a picture about how you never wanted to be a mother, you just wanted the attention a pregnancy draws without the responsibility, so you deliberately drank unpasteurized milk to cause a miscarriage. Your defense bring out family and friends who say you wanted the baby but the prosecutor says it was all an attention bid. You cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you wanted the baby. You cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you did not cause your miscarriage.

Think I’m blowing things out of proportion? Ask the woman in Iowa who was arrested for falling down the stairs while pregnant if I am.

Every woman who has suffered a miscarriage should be in an uproar over this. Every woman who plans to get pregnant should be fighting this tooth and nail. Every man who loves the women in his life should stand with her. Every women who does not plan on having children should fight this for the women in her life that she does love.

Here are the cases I’ve found where a woman has been charged with having a miscarriage or attempting to cause one, and this is just the tip of the ice berg. In South Carolina alone, an estimated 300 women have been arrested for actions taken during pregnancy. Still think this is not happening?

Christine Taylor of Iowa found herself arrested and sent to jail after she fell down the stairs while pregnant.

South Carolina’s Regina McKnight was sentenced to 20 years for having a stillbirth.

Rennie Gibbs of Mississippi age 15 faces life in jail after a miscarriage, Bei Bei Shuai of Indiana has been charged with foeticide and sits in jail without parole, and Amanda Kimborough of Alabama, mother of 3, faces 10 years behind bars if convicted of causing her miscarriage…and her three children risk losing their mother.

And for those saying Shuai deserves it because she tried to kill herself, may be you should read her story before being so damn judgmental.

Related:

Lynn Paltrow, heroine of our movement! Defender of the rights of women who have been charged with having miscarriages. It’s sad though that there are enough cases that a lawyer specializes in it!

So yes, women are being arrested for having miscarriages. This is an established fact, not a slippery slope argument.

Next up: If these personhood laws are so women and child family, then why are their effects so damaging? A thorough examination of the harm these laws will cause. And what would help women who are addicted to drugs or attempt suicide while pregnant? It’s certainly not jail time!

Lawmakers: Stay Out of My Uterus! October 11, 2011

Posted by frrobins in abortion, activism, Current Events, health, Politics, privacy.
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I am very concerned about something going in Mississippi, where lawmakers are trying to pass an amendment that would give a fertilized egg the same rights as a human being. This is something that should send chills through every woman and man. The consequences would included criminalizing abortion and BIRTH CONTROL! This could pave the way for criminalizing taking the pill as it prevents a fertilized egg from becoming implanted in the uterus. This bill will require criminal investigations when a woman suffers a miscarriage.

For those who say that people are blowing the consequences of this bill out of the water, women are already being criminalized for having a miscarriage or still birth.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, the causes for most miscarriages ARE UNKNOWN! In most causes, CHROMOSOMAL ABNORMALITIES are most likely to blame. Meaning that there is nothing that the mother did or did not do to cause it! So, we’re going to put women who have suffered the emotional trauma of a miscarriage under investigation?

Last year, I was pregnant. Considering I have PCOS and was at a higher risk of miscarriage I was nervous all the time about it happening. Most women in the early stage of pregnancy are in the same worry boat. They worry about that one glass of wine they had before they knew they were pregnant. They worry that the pollutants they are exposed to at work will harm their baby. They worry that the tumble they took caused permanent damage. When a miscarriage does occur, some women feel intense guilt for something they probably did not contribute to! How is subjecting them to an investigation going to assuage that guilt? It is going to make them think of EVERY THING THAT THEY DID OR DID NOT DO THAT MIGHT HAVE CAUSED THAT MISCARRIAGE!

Moment of truth. I did not do everything “right” during my pregnancy. I had shrimp the week before I found out I was pregnant. Eating shrimp could have given my son listeria and killed him. It didn’t. When I was three months pregnant I was so sick and nauseous that everything I ate came right back up. I lost 20 pounds during my 3rd month of pregnancy. I stopped eating because even the thought of food made me sick. I lived off water, ginger ale, and a little bit of rice and mashed potatoes. I hate ginger ale but I drank it because it was the only thing that helped with the nausea. Ginger ale is not healthy and even contains a minimal amount of alcohol. I was definitely not getting the nutrients that I or my baby needed that month.

Later I petted and played with a stray kitten. I worried and worried afterwords that the kitten might have had some parasite and that I might have passed it on to my baby. I worried when the place I worked in was found to have mold. I worried during the weeks I was too nauseous to exercise. I took Tylenol for the mother of all headaches. I took benadryl to control a bad allergy attack. I worried.

I dare you to find the pregnant woman who went for 9 months without having one drink, went without eating shrimp/lunchmeat/things containing raw eggs such as Caesar salad dressing, never went into an area where there was dangerous fumes such as a freshly painted nursery, ate a perfectly balanced diet every day for 9 months, exercise moderately every day, never smoked, never used drugs (legal or illegal), never cleaned a cat litter box, never got a bit reckless and took a tumble, etc. People are not perfect. While you won’t find someone who did ALL of those things, most pregnant woman would have done one of those things at some point in their pregnancy.

So, what should we do? Put pregnant women in a bubble? What if they have a drink before they realize they are pregnant? Put all women of childbearing age in a bubble? I read an article once by someone advocating that every sexually active woman of childbearing age should take folic acid even if she’s not planning on having a baby. So, should every sexually active woman of child bearing age act as though they are pregnant when they aren’t? Can you see how ridiculous this gets?

What about cases where it is the health of the mother vs the embryo/fetus? Anti-abortion activists live in a world where women never die from complications related to pregnancy or birth. This is a fantasy world. In the US, 2 to 3 women die every day as a result of complications from pregnancy or childbirth! I went to a panel discussion on medically necessary abortions headed by an OB-GYN who told stories of women who desperately wanted children but encountered some severe health problem that would kill the woman, the child or both. What to do in such tragic cases should be a private decision between the woman and her doctor. The government should stay the hell out of it!

Need an example? Here. There are medical reasons for abortions! And for those who say that you should always hold out hope for a miracle, that’s YOUR choice to make for you, not them. And in their case, it would have been a wrong choice. No miracle happened. Their baby is dead.

With regards to abortions for non-medical reasons, I say I want to see the abortion rate decreased. Abortion is not a desired thing. Which is why we need to focus on preventing unplanned pregnancies. And the best way to do this is through birth control.

Telling people not to have sex if they don’t want to get pregnant does not work. And in countries such as Romania where birth control was outlawed they have a problem with unwanted children being put on the street. Do lawmakers REALLY want to see something similar happen in the US?

Further, there are medical reasons for using birth control. I was put on the pill before I was sexually active to control my PCOS. What right do legislatures have to say what medicine I can or can’t take to control a medical condition I have because it might prevent a fertilized egg from becoming implanted?

So, to prevent any harm from happening to potential fertilized eggs, should sexually active women of child bearing age be prevented from taking medicines that could harm/terminate an embryo? We wouldn’t want a woman taking medicine that could harm a “person” before she realizes she’s pregnant after all. Is this something that we really want to see?

Think. Really think. This isn’t about protecting fertilized eggs or embryos. This is about controlling every aspect of a woman’s reproductive self. This is something that the government should stay the hell out of.

I know that there is a lot of energy directed at the economic woes that our country is facing, and that needs to happen. However, I don’t want to see this very important issue swept under the rug as a result. We need to make noise over this issue, and we need to do it now.

The Guilty One Who Went Free July 6, 2011

Posted by frrobins in Casey Anthony, Caylee Anthony, Current Events, Justice System.
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There’s a saying that I think sums up my feelings about the Caylee Anthony case. Better 100 guilty (wo)men go free than one innocent suffer. Unfortunately in our country, too many innocent people have served time in jail or been put to death for crimes they did not commit. This is so common that organizations such as The Innocence Project are needed to overturn wrongful convictions.

There are numerous reasons why people are wrongfully convicted. Just the fact that someone has been charged of a crimes biases a jury into thinking that s/he must have done something wrong, for instance. The heavy use of eye witness testimony which has been proven to be alarmingly unreliable is another. Then there is a sort of group think that occurs when detectives and other crime workers focus on a suspect. They start to hone in only on the evidence that confirms their suspicions rather than stuff that does not.

I have often thought that our courts need to reform to counteract those measures. I look at it from the viewpoint of someone who has been wrongly accused. The evidence, in my mind, needs to be water tight. Unfortunately, the consequence is that some people who are guilty will get away. Yet if it is a choice between that or an innocent person being wrongfully convicted, I’ll take the former.

This is what happened with the Casey Anthony trial. I believe that Casey was involved in her daughter’s death, but I cannot prove it. And neither could the state.

They could not even say for sure how Caylee died. And even now I’m completely at a loss for how events played out. The prosecution could not offer a firm scenario. A lot of stuff just doesn’t make sense.

Was Caylee buried in the Anthony’s backyard for a period of time or not? If she was, then why was she moved? And if her mother had murdered her, then why drive around with her daughter’s corpse in the back seat of her car for a few days before throwing her body in a field that is just down the street from her parents’ house? If you had murdered someone, would you drive around with the evidence of your crime in the trunk of your car for a few days? But then, if your child was missing, would you wait a month to call the police?

None of it makes sense. I’ve perused internet forums to try to piece together some logical way that events went down and have just become more and more baffled (this is the one thing that leads me to think it might have been an accident that spiraled out of control).

A lot of people are mad at the jury right now. A lot of people have been insulting their intelligence. The truth of the matter was, Casey Anthony was up for the death penalty, and the prosecution did not have a strong enough case to warrant such a drastic punishment.

I know a lot of people will say that I’m ignoring poor Caylee in this, who lost her life. It is truly tragic and I do feel for her. When I heard about how her grandmother found her favorite doll in the front seat of Casey’s car it stabbed my heart. Convicting her mother will not bring her back to life. Caylee is dead and, sadly, has no needs now. And while I wish there had been enough evidence left to firmly point the finger at her murderer, there isn’t. In the past, in our rush for justice, we have too often lynched the wrong person.

Most likely, a guilty woman walked free. Our justice system is run by imperfect humans after all. And at least, it was not in the direction of punishing the innocent.

Why I Don’t Say the Pledge July 3, 2011

Posted by frrobins in activism, atheism, Christianity, Church and State, critical thinking, Current Events, Memories, Personal, Pledge, Politics, Religion.
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I don’t say The Pledge of Allegiance. I haven’t since I was in junior high school. One day I’m hoping I will get the guts to not stand during it. Why? Because I find saying the Pledge rather anti-patriotic. I feel that to be an active participant in a democracy you have to think critically and keep yourself informed on issues. Patriotism is not a passive process for me but an active one. Saying someone someone else wrote does not employ critical thinking nor does it illuminate one on important issues facing our country. In fact, I think it discourages critical thinking by inducing everyone to say the same words without thinking about what they are saying.

And since most of us started saying the Pledge in elementary school, this just reinforces the idea to me that it is a rote habit rather than something we are thinking about.

I was probably five or six when my parents explained to me that while they would say the Pledge, they would be silent during the “under God” part. We are atheists and don’t believe in God, and feel that saying “under God” violates our conscience. So for awhile I would say the Pledge and stay quiet during “under God.” Until the third grade when other kids found out I was an atheist and teased me for it. Until then it never occurred to me that I would be teased for not believing in one less god than everyone else, and it never occurred to me that my religious convictions were something to be hidden. Yet when I started a new school having people find out I was an atheist was something that terrified me.

So then I was caught in a trap. I know a lot of people would say that I should have just said “under God” and shut up about it. Yet I have always been driven by the need to live my life truthfully. Even as people around me rejected me, I could never stop being who I was without causing myself extreme mental anguish. So on the one hand I was terrified that if I didn’t say “under God” people at my new school would notice and ask why, yet if I said it I felt that I was being dishonest. It was a horrendous dilemma for an elementary school student to find herself in.

Sometimes I’d say “under God” other times I wouldn’t. One time I even noticed another kid nervously refrain from saying “under God”. I remember wanting to ask him so badly if he believed the same way I did but was too scared to.

Then one day, I’m not sure when, I just stopped saying it. Some days I would, others I wouldn’t. I would always stand so as not to draw too much attention to myself, yet I was quiet the whole time. By the time I finished junior high it was a habit. By the time I was in high school, I’d even stopped putting my hand over my heart.

I’ll make no bones that it started out as a way out of my dilemma and that it is now, as an adult, that I rationally justify my actions. And the reason is that no one should be compelled to say something they don’t believe in. This is America, after all, where we have the freedom to worship one God, or one Goddess, or many Gods and Goddesses, or none at all. This is America where we have freedom of speech, which includes the freedom to not be compelled to spout views you don’t agree with. Yet every morning we compel children to recite words as if they are automatons.

And it’s not just atheists who have moral dilemmas concerning the Pledge. Jehovah’s Witnesses and other Christian groups experience a conflict because their beliefs prevent them from pledging allegiance to anyone other than God.

My questions to people who support forcing others to say the Pledge is, how is democracy served by forcing people to say a pre-written pledge? What do schoolchildren learn about being active participants in a democracy by saying the Pledge? How are we teaching kids to think critically when we are forcing them to spout words unthinkingly from their mouths? How does saying the Pledge foster patriotism? What is gained by forcing people to say things they don’t agree with? Seems to me like it’s just a good way to incite them to rebel.

And to those who say you can just say quiet while everyone else says it, I will point to my above experiences. Staying quiet while everyone else says the Pledge is a good way to paint a target on yourself in school. Kids should not be put in the position between following their conscience and fear of being bullied for being different. Period.

If you want to say the Pledge every morning, go ahead. I won’t stop you. If you want your kids to say it, then say it with them in the morning before they leave for school. Yet everyone else should not be forced to say the Pledge if they are not amenable, and I for one am not.

Guilty Until proven Innocent? Where Do We Draw the Line? June 29, 2011

Posted by frrobins in Airport Screenings, Current Events, Drug Screenings, Politics, privacy, Terrorism, Uncategorized.
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Freedom of speech has been something I’ve closely guarded. Like a lot of Americans, I’ve been less diligent about my privacy. I’ve had no qualms whatsoever about peeing in a cup for a drug screening required for employment. And I’ve thought a lot of the brouhaha over airport screenings overblown. Something that happened to a co-worker has caused me to reconsider that complacency.

“Gina” went in for a job interview. They were interested in hiring her and sent her off for a drug screening. Gina didn’t think much of it until she got there. During the screening, the nurse asked her to lift up her shirt to her bra and then to remove her pants and underwear…in front of the nurse. The nurse then proceeded to do a cavity search on her. Once that was completed, Gina was asked to pee in a cup in front of the nurse, with the nurse standing very close by at eye level with her hips.

I was shocked and horrified when Gina told me about this, as was another co-worker who was there. Gina was treated like a criminal. She’s never been in jail, never been charged with drug possession, and here they are treating her as though she is untrustworthy and making her prove her innocence.

Innocence is difficult to prove conclusively. Sure, Gina’s never been in jail for drug possession, but may be that’s because she’s never been caught. Sure, she tested negative, but may be she stopped for a few months to beat the system. Sure, she’s never acted like she’s under the influence of an illegal substance, but may be she’s really good at hiding it. That is why the burden of proof is on the person making the accusation of guilt.

The thing is, more and more we live in a society where innocent people are expected to prove that they are innocent. We undergo background searches and urine tests to get jobs. We get body pats or full body scans at the airport. An old lady with cancer has to remove her adult diaper to board a plane. A 6 year old is given a pat down before being allowed to board a plane. A young mother is bullied for asking that her pumped breastmilk not go through the scanners, per regulations.

And now to get a job, a young woman has to have a cavity search and pee in front of a nurse.

I used to think that people who argued against drug screenings and pat downs were privacy nuts arguing at the top of a slippery slope. Now I’m thinking that I was wrong. I’m starting to see that we’re moving to a world where people are presumed guilty until proven otherwise, and it’s not one that I want to live in.

Where I’m stuck on is how to change it. We live in a country where the nightly news feeds Americans a diet of fear. We give up our rights because we’re scared to do otherwise. How do we change the tide?

The Choices We Make: Mother’s Day and College May 6, 2011

Posted by frrobins in Memories, Parenting, Personal.
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Today someone on Facebook posted about how she was ticked off about Mother’s Day and wanted childless college grads to get a day. The conversation on her comment progressed and several people criticized mothers for not being responsible and getting college degrees and merely popping out kids.

Ummmm…I’m a mother AND I have a Masters degree. I got my college education out of the way before I became a mother. For the record, the person complaining has a bachelors.

I was bothered by this for several reasons. For one it seems like some stupid extension of the working mom vs stay-at-home mom debate. This time it’s women who have kids vs women who don’t. Really folks? Really?

I have always been very outspoken in my belief that a woman can have a very fulfilling life without having a husband and without having children. I know plenty of women who have chosen this path and who are very satisfied with their lives. I would never criticize them for not having children.

So why should I get criticized for having one?

The other side of this is that it pits people with college degrees against those who don’t have them. When I was a recent college grad and was just starting out in the career world, I was very proud of my degree and disillusioned by how little it meant in the real world when you didn’t have the work experience to go with it. In my first interview out of college I was asked if I ever had to meet a deadline at work. Considering my past work had been retail experience and I didn’t have actual work experience with deadlines, I found as close of a situation to it as I could. I said that when I was in college I often had project deadlines and that if I didn’t meet them I wouldn’t pass. One of the women interviewing me was very satisfied with my response. The other snarkily said, “But no REAL work experience.”

I was a bit taken aback by the tone of her voice. And so was the other woman interviewing me. It was my first experience with the college degree vs non degree divide. Frankly, a lot of people without college degrees are very defense about it. And after working with some people who do have degrees and who lord it over those who don’t, I can see why.

The thing is, it isn’t helpful.

I worked hard in college. It was not easy. I have a learning disability and had to work hard for every grade I made. Getting a degree is an accomplishment of mine that should be recognized and lauded.

Just as the person who has worked hard at a job should be lauded. Just because s/he wasn’t working hard getting a degree doesn’t mean s/he wasn’t working hard doing something else.

I chose to wait to have children until I had all of the education I felt I needed under my belt. Other women would rather have children younger and get their education later. And others find themselves with an unexpected pregnancy and make the choice to keep the baby.

I’m not going to criticize any woman over the timing she chooses to have kids, not even the ones with unexpected pregnancies. I was fortunate enough to have the knowledge and resources to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. I also went through my twenties during the backlash against the idea that parenting would be the most fulfilling and wonderful experience in a persons’ life, so I went into motherhood knowing it would be hard, back breaking work. I have adjusted to life as a mother rather smoothly and I thank my lucky stars that I could do it when I was ready.

I cannot imagine being thrown into this unprepared. And a lot of women are.

I see so many people criticize them for getting pregnant when they’re not ready. Yet I don’t see people recognizing them for doing their best to take care of their children. Nope, they’re not perfect. But then I’m not the perfect parent either. Like most people, these women are doing the best with the choices they made.

Some people choose to go to college. Others don’t. Some people choose to have kids. Others don’t. Most people work hard and try to do the right thing. With the exception of able bodied people who never move out of their parents’ house and get a job and those who abuse their kids, most people do the best they have with their lot in life.

I know a lot of people would criticize me for saying we should recognize and appreciate people for doing the right thing. We have this belief in our society that we should just do the right thing because it is right and therefore no accolades should be given. As a behavioral counselor, let me say something is very wrong with this view. People do need support and praise for doing the right thing, because doing it is so hard. And people like to feel appreciated. That’s nothing to be criticized for. It’s a basic human need.

I worked my butt off as a college student. And I got a day to celebrate my achievement. It was called Graduation Day. The thing about college is that once it is over, it’s over. I don’t see the need every year to have a day to celebrate the fact that I got a degree.

I’m working my butt off raising my son. I’m not going to say that it is harder than being a student, nor that it is easier. They simply don’t compare. Needless to say, I’m not just sitting on my ass everyday while young women everywhere else study hard to earn their degrees. I have pretty much broken my back raising this kid (well, almost. I pulled a muscle in my shoulder and strained my lower back by carrying him and rocking him so much). I was a college student once, and now I’m not. I’m a mother now and I will never stop being his mother.

My college graduation day was a fairly big affair with a ceremony and a party. A once in a lifetime celebration that marked the closing of a chapter in my life. Mother’s Day will be much more simple. Some gestures of appreciation for something that will be ongoing in my life. I don’t see the harm in having it every year.

And to those who would criticize my choices, may be you should get comfortable with the ones you made in life and not focus so much on mine.

Smarter Activism March 18, 2011

Posted by frrobins in activism, communication, critical thinking, Current Events, iraq, Memories, Personal, Politics, Schools.
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It might seem ironic that I went through a crisis of faith as a college student. That’s the best way my husband and I could describe it. I went through this even though I was and am an atheist. Born and raised. Yet while some atheists run away in fear from the word ‘faith’ there are things I did and still do have faith in. For me this came from my Humanistic philosophy. I believe that people are mostly good and will do the right thing. And this was where the crisis in faith came in.

The invasion of Iraq and subsequent re-election of Bush were what caused it. I knew that we had no valid reason for invading Iraq. I felt it was morally wrong. And I could not believe so many people supported it. I protested, wrote letters, pestered my acquaintances with anti-war rhetoric. I did the stuff that reformers before me did that lead to progress. No one ever told me that those reformers experienced more failures than successes in their life. While Susan B. Anthony secured some property rights for women, she fell way short of her big goal of earning the right to vote. And the setback were numerous.

It was bad enough that Iraq was invaded. It was worst that Bush was actually re-elected. I wore my CD player out with Green Day’s American Idiot and went through a period of several years where I gave up on activism all together. People were idiots and it was useless trying to reason with them. It was a small comfort that shortly after his re-election people woke up to their mistake, and that long term Iraq has been considered a fiasco. It doesn’t change the fact that many have died unnecessarily and that things are worse now.

Eventually I got back into activism, though not the way I did before. I hope I’m doing it smarter. How? Well, trying to figure out how to repackage my message.

This is hard. Studies have shown that when people are entrenched in a position, reading evidence against their position only strengthens their previously held beliefs. Then there is the confirmation bias, where people seek out information that confirms their beliefs. Making it unlikely they’d even read what I have to say anyway.

So, how to reach across the aisle and convince people of the validity of my viewpoint? This isn’t an “I’m smart and right, you’re an idiot and wrong’ thing. For instance, I really don’t care about your religious beliefs, so long as you don’t try to impose those beliefs on me. What I’m talking about is stuff that does affect me. Such as global warming. The evidence supports that it is occurring and we need to do something about it. This affects me. How do I make people see the reality of the threat here and, more importantly, get them to see the importance of eco-friendly planning? Fear mongering works. People are irrational creatures. Rather than think rationally we think with our emotions. Even the most logical person will think irrationally in the throes of fear and anger. Hence, how we found ourselves in Iraq.

I don’t like fear mongering. I respect its power and I don’t like it. I don’t want to scare people into making decisions…it tends to lead them into making the wrong ones. I want people to look at the evidence rationally and make informed decisions.

So people don’t make decisions about important things rationally. I’m against using irrational means to spread information even if it benefits my cause. How do I get around this? I know! Teach kids critical thinking skills while they’re young!

Consider that a lot of people don’t know how to make informed decisions because they were never taught how. I’m going to use Shirley Sherrod as an example. An edited video came out showing that Sherrod, a black woman, discriminated against a white farmer. Or did it? When the full video was seen, it was obvious that Sherrod had done no such thing. By that time it was too late. Her reputation was damaged and she had lost her job.

What if, rather than judging Sherrod by a few video clips, people had watched the full tape from the beginning? It is ridiculously easy to manipulate sound bites or take written words out of context. What if people looked up the original source of a quote/video/sound bites, etc?

All of this can be taught. It’s not difficult to learn. Kids can learn it in history class. What if, instead of memorizing dates of events they will forget during summer break, we teach kids skills that historians use to determine what happened in the past? What if we explain the difference between a primary and secondary source and have kids find examples of each. What if we show how information can be corrupted, either intentionally or unintentionally?

Marie Antoinette never said, “Let them eat cake.” In Antonia Frasier’s biography of this infamous queen, she details how this quote had been attributed to many an unpopular queen through history, and how with Marie Antoinette it stuck. This misinformation pervades our past, present, and will be out there in our future. How do we inoculate our kids against it?

What if we showed how words and information can be manipulated by governments and other groups of people and taught children how to check their facts, think critically, and question what they see and read?

Of course, this would require a major overhaul of how we see education in America. It would require letting go of our standardized testing fetish and introducing a more difficult curriculum into the classroom. It would mean teaching kids that may be our government wasn’t always all good. And I live in a state that wants to use history class as a propaganda machine for saying that the reason the south succeeded was a state’s rights issue that had nothing to do with slavery *sighs*.

So how to reform the schools to teach critical thinking? How to convince people that this is needed? Especially when giving out harmful standardized tests is a big money maker for some people and the current broken system benefits some politicians? I can already hear cries of liberals wanting to brain wash children into godlessness, when in reality I could care less about their religious beliefs and just want people to think critically about issues that affect us all (we’re not on this rock alone). Heck, critical thinking is the opposite of brainwashing. I use it even with sources I trust or things I want to believe.

For instance, Jon Stewart once made the comment that Sarah Palin made rape victims pay for their rape kits. Alarmed, I went the check and found that while her chief of police did this, whether or not Palin supported it is undetermined. Now, I dislike Palin. I think she is harmful to the women’s movement and like to collect ammunition against her. But if I start passing around misinformation, then I look like a fool.

So, to get people to think critically about issues we need to teach these skills in school, which means reforming an educational system that favors rote teaching and blind acceptance, which means convincing people that changing it to teach critical thinking is a worthy goal without using fear mongering. Whew! So ladies and gents, how do I pull that off? Well, if you have any ideas I’d love to hear them. Because I haven’t figured it out yet.

Gambatte, Nihon! (Hang In There, Japan!) March 15, 2011

Posted by frrobins in Current Events, Uncategorized.
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The earthquake in Japan has shaken me more than any other natural disaster in my lifetime. I have never been to Japan, though I very much hope to one day. Yet for nearly ten years I have explored its culture, listened to its music and studied its language. Anime, manga, J-pop, and learning Japanese are passions that unite my husband and I in an interfaith marriage. I feel a connection to Japanese culture that is stronger than any other place hit by a major natural disaster in my lifetime.

What throws me is the lack of empathy I occasionally run into. I wasn’t surprised to see it. It rears its ugly head in every natural disaster. It goes like this: We shouldn’t feel sorry for those in Haiti or New Orleans because they’re poor and black. We shouldn’t feel sorry for those hit by the Indian Tsunami because they’re heathens. We shouldn’t feel sorry for those in Japan because they’re not Americans. Wow. I may have a bleeding heart, but it’s better than having no heart.

One piece of venom I see thrown around is that the US should not give foreign aid to other countries because no one gives us foreign aid during times of disaster. This sentiment is usually followed by some rather inflammatory remarks about the country in question and shouts to American supremacy. Well, the statement that no one helps us is wrong. During Hurricane Katrina plenty of nations gave us financial aid, medical assistance, and supplies. This stuff makes me wish people would look up what they say before spreading it around as truth.

The other thing is, black, white, red, or brown, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, or atheist, rich, poor, or middle class, the people affected by these disasters are human. They have hopes, wishes, and dreams. They have families and loved ones. They have feelings. They had the bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is something that could happen to any of us.

Mother Nature is cruel. She does not care if you are a young baby or an old woman when she strikes. She does not care if you are struggling to make ends meet or have cash to spare when she attacks. She does not care about your color or creed. She moves in a way that is often random and still predominately unpredictable to humans. And the next person she could strike could be you or someone in your family.

I appreciate the view that we should not send financial assistance to other countries when we’re in so much dept. I can respect that you’d much rather do other things with your money than donate it to relief efforts. But to make disparaging remarks about a group of people down on their luck? Well, it’s not the lowest of the low but it doesn’t make you someone I’d want to associate with.

And fortunately, there are plenty of people in the world who are better than that. They are the ones on the fandom boards who are holding auctions to help the survivors. They are the ones donating time or money to help. They are the ones helping people get word about friends, family, and loved ones in Japan to people who live outside of it. And, should your luck turn and you find yourself in the wake of a natural disaster, they could be the ones helping you out.