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Playlist: Roe v. Wade and the Shaming of Women Part 1

Compiled By: Susan J. Cook

In 1996,  the National Democratic Convention support for Rie v. Wade Credit: New York Times
Image by: New York Times 
In 1996, the National Democratic Convention support for Rie v. Wade

Essays decrying the cancellation of Roe v. Wade

The Texas Abortion Ban, Vigilante Justice and Frankie Valli's Love for Human Connection

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 08:17

The Supreme Court decision to ignore the inhumane aspects of the Texas Abortion law reminds us to look to the places where human connection is valued.

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The Texas Abortion Ban, Vigilante Justice and Frankie Valli's Love for Human Connection

 

-Susan Cook-

 

"Jersey Boys", the emotionally sensuous, tender musical journey of the 1960's-era Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons is now the one remaining 2021 production of Maine State Musical Theater shown to vaccination proving/ masked audiences only.

 

Opening night coincided with the US Supreme Court 5-4 decision to not review the Texas abortion law which appoints and allows citizens to seek vigilante justice against a medical provider or insurance company who is "suspected" to have supported or enabled a woman to terminate a pregnancy. A Vigilante Justice mindset toward women who support or act on Reproductive Choice is not new. Social media "shaming", "outing" if not outright harassment have become commonplace, fostered by Vigilante Justice -types- those who have seized on anti-abortion stands as a chance to fan the moral crevices of their narcissism through anonymous Facebook or other social media posts. That has yet to become a prosecutable crime so it is not surprising that women's privacy again is seen as fair game for assault if not rape.

 

The music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons was and is a mirror for the moral narcissism of their time. The libido-driven romance of – yes- men and women (adolescents and adults) reckoning with the quest for deep human connection- heterosexually- it seemed- carrying on the myth of "The One" while the fifties and sixties culture around them minimized any of the psychological or physical trauma of the time. The unwanted pregnancies, some terminated by inner city abortionists, the deaths that followed from physical consequences or suicide, the closeted men and women invisible in the cultural edification of heterosexuality, the dismissiveness toward date rape, incest, domestic violence, wife and child battering, the lack of any safe and sound child care options so latch-key children were left as caretakers, 9 years old left to caretake  5 year olds.

 

The Four Season's second big hit, "Big Girls Don't Cry" perfectly mirrors the time's trivilialzation of deep emotional pain:

 

"...told my girl we had to break up

...maybe I was cru-you-el...

Shame on you, your Mama said...

Shame on you you're crying in your bed...

Shame on you you told me lies...

Big Girls Do Cry...

 

Any number of teenage women whose disclosure of an unwanted pregnancy or incest or rape or sexual intercourse were met with (still often are) physical assault, face slapping, shunned exile or abandonment by mothers, fathers, relatives, the circles they might have reached toward. Collectively, the woman's emotional pain became invisible. The shame that Facebook and other social media now profit from in their anonymous posting options allow the Vigilante Justice-types a new means for public shaming through privacy rape. Many Frankie Valli-era teenagers and young women died from the shaming that fueled their drug or alcohol addiction or promiscuity or suicidality. Big girls don't cry.

 

Shame is precisely the emotion that the Senior Legislative Aide of Texas Right to Life, Rebecca Parma attempts to generate in an NPR interview when she offers the false equivalence that terminating the pregnancy of a zygote, embryo or fetus which is non-viable outside of the mother's uterus is equivalent to killing a child that even rape or incest do not justify.The 30 or 40-something Rebecca Parma now endorsing Privacy rape by forcing providers to disclose private medical information is as exploitive as the Frankie Valli-era exploitation of privacy then dismissing as "private" incest, date rape, domestic violence and in the case of unidentified paternity, fathers whose signatures and names were left off birth certificates of infants born to single mothers, later left and ignored in foster homes, foundling homes or orphanages. Ancestry.com has now filled in many of those blank signatures. Ms. Parma may not know of any suicided pregnant women or backroom abortion recipients or incested or physically assaulted children. The Texas Abortion law renders them as invisible to her as the privacy rape victims the law targets. A case in point is the non-acknowledgement to her Republican colleagues of the profound impact being born into poverty carries. As early as 1980, the Maine Children's Death Study documented the strongest correlate of child death before the age of 18 as the child's household's eligibility for Food Stamps.

 

Tragedy came Frankie Valli's way, too. His 22 year old daughter Francie died of a drug overdose, alcoholism ended his marriage , likely more human suffering than Jersey Boys reveals. But his lyricists and songwriters brought their creative longings to the moral underpinnings of true love: that it could be good, whole and true. In 1967 "You're Just Too Good to Be True" came just six years before Roe Vs. Wade began to unpack the cultural truth around him, in all its human suffering, walkup abortionists and suiciding 20- somethings. Roe vs. Wade began to prevent what had always belonged to women to bear: the ignored suffering of children after birth . Frankie Valli's devoted musical reverence for the deep nourishment of a healthy life-enhancing human connection did not and could not succeed in bringing those to fruition in the ways that Roe vs. Wade has- in far far more ways than Ms. Parma could ever know, despite the Texas license giving her and anyone else permission to invade privacy at whatever cost.

Compassion and Its Blindspots: Women's Turn for No Compassion in Alabama

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 08:09

A Buddhist teacher talking about Compassion told the story of the leader ripping open his vein to feed a starving stranger. Bodily acts coming out of compassion to prevent suffering are found in many spiritual traditions. The blindspots in compassion in this society it appears may now prevent recognition of the decision to end a pregnancy as one of those acts.

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Compassion and Its Blindspots: Finding A New Dedication to Merit

 

I heard a Buddhist teacher talk recently about Compassion, he born in Bhutan. In Bhutan, wealth is measured by Gross National Happiness, not a Gross National Product. There is no military. Hatred, anger and suffering the teacher said are dispelled by compassion. He explained the origin of a Buddhist liturgy that like in any other tradition people will repeat without really understanding its significance. The liturgy recited after a lengthy practice session or teaching goes like this,

 

By this merit may all obtain omniscience,

May it defeat the enemy wrongdoing,

From stormy waves of birth, old age, sickness and death,

from the ocean of samsara may I free all beings

 

A variation of this liturgy says,

By the confidence of the golden sun of the Great East

May the lotus garden of the rigdens' wisdom bloom

May the dark ignorance of sensient being be dispelled.

May we all obtain profound brilliant glory.

 

The merit , he explained, comes from an example set by the ruler of a mythical and beatific country where establishing compassion was the standard by which everyone lived. Some very dark evil carnivorous beings came who had no compassion and because this was a country where killing to eat was not tolerated, they had nothing to eat. They came to the ruler, starving and on the verge of death and asked him to given them food. And the ruler ripped open his vein and gave them blood to save them and from this he created the Dedication of Merit.

 

From the beginning of time, war and conflict between men (largely) has been the source of blood sacrifice that is considered noble, patriotic, beyond question as an act of valor. Compassion rarely comes from that. Rather, we are more familiar with body strewn images of the Civil War, World War I and II, the Vietnam War, any war that comes to mind. and the misery of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder so closely associated with those who survive the horrors of war. Somewhere along the line, the ripping open of the veins to feed the starving as an act of compassion to end suffering has been subverted: the patriotic encouraging the blood shed unaccompanied by compassionate intent.

 

This brings us to the current vitriol surrounding the termination of pregnancies. There is much more beyond conception to creation of compassionate care for the breathing born 40 weeks or less later. This is not a secret. Women know what is not available to the unborn, the deprivations of the unborn in utero that psychological and emotional despair, poor nutrition, poverty, alcohol and opiod use, and abuse of the body of the woman carrying the child creates. Who bears the deprivation of care most significantly, if the infant survives to a breathing birth, is the child.

 

 

The decision to terminate a pregnancy is the ripping open of the vein like the king in the Dedication of Merit origin- a choice to bear the suffering oneself rather than 40 weeks later pass the deprivation, the abuse, the harm onto a being only able to breath on their own at birth.

Like the leader, it is an act of compassion in which one bears the consequence ones self. It is only in white Western elite societies that sophisticated medical technology allows survival of some infants after birth that in third world countries without medical sophistication do not never survive.

 

The "merit" that Donald Trump know endorses as a criteria for immigration to this country reifies the White Western elitism seen in births that survive because of sophisticated medical technology and the absence of that "merit" in third world countries.

 

There is no license granted in any spiritual tradition to my knowledge to reserve bodily sacrifice for the War dead. The ruler ripping open his vein to feed those filled with hatred and contempt as an act of compassion is not unlike those ending a pregnancy who openly acknowledge their own inability to provide compassionate care because no mystery here- society or family do not or will not provide the care either. The deprivation of care after birth is passed on after a 40 week gestation period- if a breathing being endures the deprivations. Many do not feel entitled to make the zygote, the embryo, the fetus bear the suffering of the deprivation. Like the Buddhist leader who chose to bear it himself, they choose to bear it themselves and terminate the pregnancy.

There is a spiritual blindspot in the pronouncements of the Alabama and Missouri governors who pass legislation to ban termination of all pregnancies because- this is no mystery either- they fail to acknowledge "the life" they alledgely are saving needs much much more to survive to a live birth let alone grow to and through a healthy childhood. In keeping with the Dedication of Merit, we could establish a new merit rating for each for these states that pretend to glorify life by assessing these qualities:

-availability of free birth control to all conception-eligible women to prevent unwanted pregnancy

-provision of housing, food, medical care and employment at a living wage scale for women during pregnancy

- provision of safe, reliable, well monitored child care immediately after birth

-Medicaid and Medicare for all

- Food stamps distributed without shaming or race-baiting

-psychological and psychotherapy intervention widely available 

-healthy, safe foster care if a mother cannot provide care

Men or family may well not be willing or able to provide care. In the United States,society is not- no surprise- our extended family. And for the woman who is victimized, incested, raped, shunned, broke, abandoned, partner-less, or damaged in body, mind and spirit, ripping open the vein, terminating a pregnancy may be the only act of compassion available and she chooses it.

 

As American as Apple Pie: Domestic Violence and The Abuse of Power to Tarnish Victims' Credibility

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 09:31

A new exhibit at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center in Maine called "Finding Our Voices: Ending the Silence of Domestic Abuse" opened just before Domestic Violence Awareness month. From the halls of the US Senate to a poetry reading, readiness to silence the credibility of the accuser persists.

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As American as Apple Pie:  Domestic Violence and The Abuse of Power to Tarnish Victims' Credibility
-Susan Cook-

The other day on a radio call-in program, Susan Collins, Maine's Senator, justified her vote for Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court because (she said this) even though she thought something awful happened to PhD Holder and Academic Scholar Christine Blasey-Ford, Susan Collins didn't think it was Brett Kavanaugh who did it. In other words, Susan Collins just can't bring herself to grant Dr Ford credibility. Playing both ends against the middle, this time with Dr Ford's credibility, like she has in the US Senate. At the same time, Susan Collins said that to believe Dr. Ford threatens the entire judicial standard of innocent until proven guilty. What she didn't say is that by automatically granting credibility to a Job Applicant over his accusing victim, she replicates an abuse of power that keeps victims silent.

Two of the most agonizing moments for assault victims are when it happens and when the victim discloses. For women, credibility is immediately questioned- with or without professional accomplishment, with or without the scrutiny of a large audience.

On men's side, and on the side of Susan Collins who has gained longevity by playing the middle against both ends, is Power and the fact that men require less Proof to back up their statements than women do. We have seen the backwash from men finally held accountable for their abuse of power in the #Me too movement. Many of those men remain "miffed" or staunch in their refusal to take responsibility for the abuse of that discrepancy - financially, culturally, physically, in professional hierarchies ( 80.7 cents for women for every dollar men make). Indeed, many fall back on their reverence for "Power" to justify the reluctance to continue to fight #Me too.

The Public Radio host whose host public radio organization distanced themselves rapidly finally published his NOT "Mea Culpa" column, advising the reader to "look what happened to me" over a "harmless flirtation". Discrepancy of power places whoever was on the receiving end of the "harmless flirtation", in a subjugated position. Power interferes with saying "No", further undermined when, as the Pubic Radio host said, "she worked for me but it never happened in the office." He called upon his concern for the powerlessness of children in the NOT "Mea Culpa" piece to explain how he has managed to water down his anger toward #Me too which remember "Look what it did" to him. A negligent out not unlike Susan Collins claiming herself the better judge of what happened to Christine Blasey Ford. The magnitude of the discrepancy in physical power of adolescent boys and adolescent girls is not that hard to fathom.

This call-in program preceded the opening of an exhibit called "Finding Our Voices: Breaking the Silence of Domestic Abuse" at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center in Maine, encouraged by Patrisha Mclean, the ex-wife of the singer Don McLean of "Bye, bye, Miss American Pie". He was convicted 3 years ago of domestic violence criminal threatening, criminal mischief and criminal restraint.

One of the women in the exhibit, the wife of a man named "Charlie" who took out a gun and threatened to shoot her after she told him she had almost suicided, did not speak for years of the domestic abuse in her marriage. She left, still not disclosing until two years after she left, at 65, 43 years into the marriage. Had she disclosed before, her credibility would be on the line.

Many years ago, I was a colleague of the man who physically assaulted his wife for those 43 years. With 3 other Professors, we flew to a northern Maine University to teach graduate students. I taught life span development, always including sections on childhood sexual abuse, abusive relationships and abusive parenting. Those were topics that I had a deep commitment to, and still do. In one of the videos I always showed in the class, the victim said "Sexual abuse is about power. The abuse of power." Thirty three years ago, the reality of incest was not broadly acknowledged. Nor was wife battering or domestic violence. Or child abuse. Or parents who gave themselves license to terrorize or abuse. The college where I taught was sexist. I complained about the job inequities of assigning me to teach 4 courses I had never taught before and The "Dean" clearly made a mental checkmark against me for speaking out about that.

No one would have guessed that this quiet man had his own private target when his power was challenged. His wife. And to this day, abuse of power to keep victims quiet persists. The Edna St Vincent Millay Poetry and Arts Festival began a day or so after Susan Collins' radio appearance. It included a Poetry Slam and reading held at night at a local bar. The organizers felt compelled to include a Caveat to poets and artists taking part.

"Please be advised. As participants will include people of all ages, please be sensitive to content and language that might be of concern, scare children or trigger trauma."

No one wants to scare children or trigger trauma. The accusatory nature of the statement was inflated and not necessary in this context. Even when that was pointed out, the organizer still would not take it off the website.

And with it, the perpetrating "Charlies" and the adolescent "Kavanaughs" go about exercising their power. Yet, one more time, those who have experienced trauma will question if they have the power to speak about it or will say it "right" or won't "upset" anyone. Even at a Poetry and Arts Festival. The contributions to the power that diminishes women's credibility are many and varied. From the US Senate, to the dimly lit bar at night, credibility of the victim takes second place to the protective tidings of the powerful. I noticed that a person featured in that video many years ago had signed up for the poetry slam. I made the decision not to take part. I don't know if the person who appeared in the video 33 years ago did.

Privacy Assault: Reproductive Rights, Privacy Rape and Minimizing Anti Choice Violence

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 08:49

A conviction of a protester outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic brings up the question: when will the severity of the violence that follows from the invasion of medical privacy and women's control over their own bodies be acknowledged?

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In my letter to Maine's largest newspaper about a jury's conviction for civil rights violations of an abortion protester outside a Planned Parenthood clinic, the editor removed  my phrase "privacy rape" . 


I wrote to ask that "privacy rape" be returned to the online version.  There was a time , remember, when the words "date rape" were not used to describe sexual assault. There was a time when the words "marital rape" were not used to describe forced sexual acts  by a married partner.  Allegedly, the familiarity between victim and assailant neutralized the perpetrator's assault, leveraged to ignore the victim's injury.  Finally,  in 1975, American feminist Susan Brownmiller in the book "Against our Will: Men, Women and Rape" used the phrase "date rape". Knowing the identity of the assailant does not make the crime less violent. 


Reproductive Rights  are an exercise of women's will  over their own bodies. Planned Parenthood clinics are easily perceived as enemies by those who prefer female subjugation to the will of others or some "higher power" they choose to align themselves with.   Freedom of speech becomes a decoy for Planned Parenthood protesters, a camouflage for their intentional violence toward  women exercising their will. Everybody knows you can say what you want in this country- and where they place themselves as they shout their anti-abortion  statements allegedly neutralizes the invasion of the crime and its intent to subjugate.  Familiarity has always been a decoy for crimes against women, the protesters , like Mr. Ingalls,  making no effort to conceal their identities, despite the aggressive invasion of medical privacy.  That is very similar to the historical leveraging of  "knowing the other person" in date rape or marital rape to minimize the violence; "She knew that could happen", "It was  after all a 'date'"  or "They are -after all -"married". Victims of planned Parenthood abortion protesters- the  intended violence of privacy rape still is minimized.  


Susan Brownmiller's  use of  the words  "date rape"changed  things.  Words that convey the violence of targeting  the medical privacy of abortion still are not widely used.The essential privacy of pregnancy termination, includes the  reasons for the termination, equally protected by the Health Insurance and Portability Privacy Act.  But current billing information for patients who have  Medicaid or United Healthcare insurance,  demands explicit description of the reason the pregnancy is terminated on the electronic billing form - the HCFA-1500 form- every medical practitioner must use to receive payment. The form is approved by the National Uniform Claim Committee.  he form  targets abortion  procedures and childbearing-age women in particular. 


In a dropdown menu, on the electronic HCFA-1500 form,  in Section 10D, a list requires  the billing party to "click on " the circumstance:

"Abortion performed due to rape

Abortion performed due to incest

Abortion performed due to serious fetal genetic, deformity or abnormality

Abortion performed due to a life endangering physical condition that is caused by, arising from or exacerbated by the pregnancy itself

Abortion performed due to physical health of the mother that is not life endangering

Abortion performed due to emotional/psychological health of the mother

Abortion performed due to social or economic reasons 

Elective abortion

Sterilization"


If the medical procedure code billed in Section 24D  of the HCFA-1500 is termination of a pregnancy, not filling in Section 10D likely means the bill is rejected. It is not at all clear that the information in  Section 10D is HIPPA- protected  just because it is included on the HCFA-1500.  


On a recent Fresh Air episode, an uninformed New York Times reporter discussed  recent Supreme Court cases potentially effecting Roe V. Wade, one being the Court's decision to let stand a lower court decision overturning a law that said a woman " can't have an abortion if [she's] doing it for a bad reason. And among those reasons were that the fetus has a disability or you wanted to choose the sex of a child. " Terry Gross asked the important question:  "The law that said that a woman can't decide to have an abortion based on choosing what gender she wanted to have or deciding to have an abortion because the fetus was diagnosed as having Down syndrome or another, you know, serious illness or abnormality - if a woman says, I'm having an abortion just 'cause I want to, who's to say that she's having it because she's choosing the gender? Who's to say she's having it because the fetus was diagnosed with Down syndrome? I mean, how can you know what's in a woman's heart when she decides to have an abortion? "


The New York Times reporter replied, about the laws "They're symbolic, in a way. They'd be very, very hard to police. What woman is going to announce that - in the face of such a law, that she's aborting a fetus because of Down syndrome? It's also a curious law that says, sure, you can have an abortion on a whim. You just can't have it for an expressed reason that a lot of people might think was a sound reason. " But clearly,  he had not researched the current reality that "the reason" for the termination of a pregnancy is  already collected and mandatory on the required HCFA-1500 billing electronic form when a termination is performed. No provider gets paid through Medicaid or United Healthcare (or its subsidiaries) without Section 10D and Section 24D completed. That is not argued out in the Supreme Court. It is now determined at the form scanner of a billing specialist. That information ca be subpoenaed, is certainly available to the insurer and Medicaid, and to the government committee designing the form. 


Planned Parenthood protesters, editors who shy away from using the word "privacy rape" or the HCFA-1500 committee isolating reasons for having an abortion,all attempt to subjugate women's will to choose.  An old act of violence, still  minimized, still justified by familiarity.






Speaking As If They Know, Part Two: Reproductive Choice, Provider Trust and Billing Specialists

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:47

When women exercise reproductive choice, are her reasons for doing so protected as a private communication between a provider and a patient?

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Speaking  As If They Know, Part Two:

Reproductive Choice, Provider Trust and Billing Specialists

 

The moral responsibility of reproductive choice is frequently reduced to the slickest "messaging" for those on either side of the political divide. The paucity of knowledge among those asserting viability of a zygote, embryo or fetus becomes quickly apparent when the complete dependence on the mother's mental or physical wellbeing is ignored. If a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy, reasons for the termination should remain as private as every other aspect of medical intervention, equally protected by the Health Insurance and Portability Privacy Act.

 

The reason women terminate a pregnancy is documented in the electronic billing forms every medical practitioner must use for payment after an abortion procedure, when the patient's health insurance is either Medicaid or a United Healthcare insurer. Approved by the National Uniform Claim Committee, the form itself is frequently revised. Childbearing-age women are targetted.

 

In a dropdown menu, on the electronic HCFA-1500 form, in Section 10D, a list requires the billing party to "click on " the circumstance:

"Abortion performed due to rape

Abortion performed due to incest

Abortion performed due to serious fetal genetic, deformity or abnormalty

Abortion performed due to a life endangering physical condition that is caused by, arising from or excerbated by the pregnancy itself

Abortion performed due to physical health of the mother that is not life endangering

Abortion performed due to emotional/psychological health of the mother

Abortion performed due to social or economic reasons

Elective abortion

Sterilization"

 

If the medical procedure code billed in Section 24D of the HCFA-1500 is termination of a pregnancy, not filling in Section 10D likely means the bill is rejected. It is not at all clear that the information in Section 10D is HIPPA- protected just because it is included on the HCFA-1500.

 

On a recent Fresh Air episode, a New York Times reporter described recent Supreme Court cases potentially effecting Roe V. Wade, one being the Court's decision to let stand a lower court decision overturning a law that said a woman " can't have an abortion if [she's] doing it for a bad reason. And among those reasons were that the fetus has a disability or you wanted to choose the sex of a child". Terry Gross asked the important question:  "The law that said that a woman can't decide to have an abortion based on choosing what gender she wanted to have or deciding to have an abortion because the fetus was diagnosed as having Down syndrome or another, you know, serious illness or abnormality - if a woman says, I'm having an abortion just 'cause I want to, who's to say that she's having it because she's choosing the gender? Who's to say she's having it because the fetus was diagnosed with Down syndrome? I mean, how can you know what's in a woman's heart when she decides to have an abortion? "

 

In response the New York Times reporter said about the laws "They're symbolic, in a way. They'd be very, very hard to police. What woman is going to announce that - in the face of such a law, that she's aborting a fetus because of Down syndrome? It's also a curious law that says, sure, you can have an abortion on a whim. You just can't have it for an expressed reason that a lot of people might think was a sound reason. "

 

The New York Times reporter may be unaware that "the reason" for the termination of a pregnancy is already collected and mandatory on the required HCFA-1500 billing electronic form when a termination is performed. No provider gets paid through Medicaid or United Healthcare (or its subsidiaries) without Section 10D and Section 24D completed. That is not argued out in the Supreme Court. It is now determined at the form scanner of a billing specialist.

 

There is nothing trivial about the collection of that information deemed important by the National Uniform Claim  Committee of Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services . Even HIPPA-protected information can be subpoened through law enforcement. That data potentially provides the answer to Terry Gross' question and the New York Times reporter's uninformed response. There is nothing symbolic about data from millions of HCFA-1500 forms at risk of disclosure to partisan groups who deny the critical dependence on the mother of the developing blastocyst, zygote, embryo or fetus and create law holding that termination reasons are subject to their approval.

 

Any reporting on the fate of Roe v. Wade must be closely attuned to the ground-level tactics that invade the privacy and trust level between a patient and a provider and the vulnerability of that breech to the partisan co-option of a woman's body and reproductive choice.

Where Have All the Women Gone: Forgetting How She Got to Where She's Gotten

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:03

Riding on the train to the Democratic National Convention one year, I had the good fortune to talk with a former president of N.O.W. For young twenty-something women, that stands for the National Organization for Women, the 1970’s political machine that galvanized women’s rights. As we talked, I mentioned my state’s US Senate race and my support for the bright, articulate, ethical woman on the ballot- and that her opposition- a wealthy independent former Governor -would be difficult to overcome.

‘It’s ok, though,’ she said. ‘If he wins, he’ll vote with the Democrats.’

We now come to 2016 and Hillary Clinton ‘s womanhood threatened with invisibility in her 2016 Presidential race. In New Hampshire, she came in second by 20 points, losing to a kindly liberal 70-something man. Where have all the women gone- Is the grand opportunity to validate women like never before by electing an ethical woman as President an after thought?

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Where Have All the Women Have Gone: Forgotting How She Got to Where She's Gotten

-Susan Cook-

 

Riding on the train to the Democratic National Convention one year, I had the good fortune to talk with a former president of N.O.W. For young twenty-something women, that stands for the National Organization for Women, the 1970’s political machine that galvanized women’s rights. As we talked, I mentioned my state’s US Senate race and my support for the bright, articulate, ethical woman on the ballot- and that her opposition- a wealthy independent former Governor -would be difficult to overcome.

‘It’s ok, though,’ she said. ‘If he wins, he’ll vote with the Democrats.’

At that point, my inner 108,000 prostrations - Buddhist-style- to a former President of an organization that I see as giving women opportunity beyond the kitchen- and the bedroom- went on hold.

That the honest, skilled, ethical candidate is a woman was not a minor matter. Let alone that she was running against a former Governor who had profited financially- or seen the opportunity to profit - at every turn- from his public service. The media had scrupulously avoided any mention of the turning-his-own-dollar decisions he had made. So I later did-. In a lengthy- but accurate re-write to a familiar patriotic tune whose refrain I changed to ‘Oh Beautiful for Spacious Me‘. The lyrics recalled the former male Governor purchasing a waterfront property at bargain basement prices after the state agreed to sell it to him. The song spoke of his receipt of TARP funds - he a multi-millionaire- for his wind power business,. Then there was the memorable money the state of Maine paid for improvements to his primary residence because he didn’t want to live in the official Governor’s residence. The media put all that on the back burner. And the fact that my candidate was an ethical, not-a-go-along-to -get- along- self-serving woman, was put of course on the back seat too- and casually by a former President of NOW.

We now come to 2016 and Hillary Clinton ‘s womanhood threatened with invisibility in her 2016 Presidential race. In New Hampshire, she came in second by 20 points, losing to a kindly liberal 70-something man. Where have all the women gone- Is the grand opportunity to validate women like never before by electing an ethical woman as President an after thought?

Who is doing the invalidating? Not men. ‘Don’t diss her because she’s a girl’ may be one of the enduring NOW lessons. That leaves one other gender- female. The ones who are ignoring Hillary’s womanhood - appear to be young females. Most of them voted for the 70-something genial progressive male. So maybe it’s because Hillary has downplayed her womanhood herself in achievement after achievement. Or maybe it’s because- as any woman who lives in this time knows- yes- women turn on each other. Sisterhood is not equivalent to unconditional loyalty. All the passive aggressive techniques are the fallback- the ones women used to survive prior to NOW. You know what passive aggression is- anonymous, behind-the-scenes, almost invisible- but aggressive actions- undermining, smearing, stealing reputation and the golden apple- of course- credibility. The ancient code words for woman as threat- readily recognizable to men- controlling, aggressive and of course- flighty and unpredictable are there in a pinch.

The voice and stature women have now was not easily acquired. Like non-cancer producing birth control , affordable, it took years and tears and years. Election of an ethical woman President would not be a minor accomplishment- it would turn the validation N.O.W sought into an accomplishment never seen before.

The Nutritional Requirements of Hatred: Food Stamps and Reproductive Rights

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:32

In my state the Governor has decided that any childless adult who owns more than $5000 in cash or leisure vehicle assets cannot receive food stamps. Who he is targeting is difficult to say. Many pregnant women in this state eat because they receive food stamps. Previously, he has made every effort to drive away asylum seekers who cannot work for six months after applying for asylum. Then there are the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, and unemployed women who then become pregnant. This Governor refusing to allow any single pregnant woman who has put away more than $5000 in assets from keeping it, if she wants to feed herself and her unborn child is a withholding that is yet another example of hatred, now accepted as a political fuse in this country. If you read what a pregnant woman needs to eat- to bath the baby- once born- in love and health, you'll see that the nutritional requirements of hatred are not enough and never have been.

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The Nutritional Requirements of Hatred: Food Stamps and Reproductive Rights

 

In my state the Governor has decided that any childless adult who owns more than $5000 in cash or leisure vehicle assets cannot receive food stamps. Who he is targeting is difficult to say. Many pregnant women in this state eat because they receive food stamps. Previously, he has made every effort to drive asylum seekers who cannot work for six months after applying for asylum, away. Then there are the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, unemployed women who then become pregnant.

Actions that withhold can carry as much hatred as any other. But this policy is yet another example of the permission politicians in our country have to infuse policy discourse with hatred. Many of this Governor’s actions have gone hand in hand with hatred - public shaming by insisting people have photos on their food stamp cards- and now a kind of public strip search - If a childless person has more than $5000 worth of anything this Governor will make the person remove it or lose food stamps.

But hatred is now a nationally accepted political fuse, can come from both the far right and far left. To see hatred in political discourse, one does not need to travel too much farther - in my state- than the weekly free community newspapers . In one local free community newspaper, there is one columnist who every time she writes about abortion and reproductive control, laces her remarks with accusatory, demeaning , insulting a hateful tone. Then there are the protesters jeering and insulting women entering Planned Parenthood clinics. Hatred fused by what another human being is afraid to do, cannot do, or refuses to do is now accepted as just another part of the political discussion around reproductive rights and pregnancy.

Of course, when political debate about reproductive rights and abortion is laced with hatred its louder message to childbearing age women is that the prospect of the birth of a child is not  bathed in love and nurturance. Women have always been the target of whatever hatred has existed around unwanted pregnancy- shaming, physical abuse, anonymous sequestering until a child is born only to lose any identity connected with the child after birth. In fact recognition of hatred around unwanted pregnancy since Margaret Sanger’s time (and before) has always been a driving force behind the Reproductive Rights and Choice movement.

All that hatred attached to reproductive rights does nothing to address unwanted pregnancy as a social problem that must be addressed. Which brings us back to this Governor refusing to allow any single pregnant woman who has put away more than $5000 in assets from keeping it, if she wants to feed herself and her unborn child. If that withholding doesn’t make clear how hatred is now accepted as a political fuse, then please get out your Human Development books and read what a pregnant woman needs to eat- to bath the baby- once born- in love of health. The nutritional requirements of hatred are not enough and never have been.

The Nepal Earthquake and An American Mothers Day Dime

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:55

Not long before the earthquake in Nepal, I drove by yet another SUV with the bumper sticker “No child left a dime.” Then, as now, I am reminded again of the deceitfulness of that slogan. It is simply not true that we do not have enough money in this country to take care of people and it is certainly not true that it will bankrupt us.

But, the slogan brings to mind how enormous a United States dime is in Nepal. I know this because for some time, I sponsored Buddhist’s child education, I never for one single minute thought it was some grand act of generosity because I knew it wasn’t. Money is very very easy to come by in my country for many, many people and a dime-is almost negligible. I will tell you that the waves of appreciation from Sonam, the boy, who’s now an adult, and the drawings of the yaks, the prayer flags, the stupas (a Buddhist monument), the lotuses, he’s sent me over the years put my American Buddhist teaching that it’s not about me to the maximum test. On Mothers Day, it tells me there are many ways to mother.

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The Nepal Earthquake and an American Mothers Day Dime
-Susan Cook-
Not long before the earthquake in Nepal, I drove by yet another SUV with the bumper sticker “No child left a dime.”Then, as now,  I am reminded of the deceitfulness of that slogan. It is simply not true that we do not have enough money in this country to take care of people and it is certainly not true that it will bankrupt us.
But, the slogan brings  to mind how enormous a United States dime is in Nepal. In my state, Maine, many Maine Buddhists, myself included, know just how far a US dime goes to feed, cloth, shelter  and educate children and adults in Nepal. We have  had the good fortune to be taught by Thrangu Rinpoche, a genial seventy-something  modern Tibetan Buddhist meditation master  who visited to teach here for 12 years. Buddhism teaches how to generate human compassion and put on hold Me, Me and Me. 
After fleeing Tibet in the 1950’s, Thrangu Rinpoche built his religious centers in the Kathmandu valley. They have  become survival centers of sorts for Dharma teachings. There, monastics  practice Tibetan Buddhism. At a Kathmandu private school, Buddhist children from the northwestern Himalayas in Nepal whose families are ethnically Tibetan  are educated in the Buddhist ritual and liturgy. 
In the wake of the Nepal earthquake, the school in Boudanath, the monastic retreat center at Namo Buddha close to the epicenter , the nunnery in Swyambunath and the Thrangu Rinpoche Monastery in Tibet have been severely damaged or destroyed. Google Earth gives you a good idea of what these places looked like before the earthquake. 
Many Buddhists in Maine have done exactly as I have  and sponsored a child’s education or the care of a nun or monk. The sponsoring has taught us  it takes a very small amount of American money to change a life in Nepal. The cost of one SUV’s 3000-mile oil change, here, keeps a child fed, clothed, sheltered and taught at Thrangu Rinpoche’s school for one month. After the earthquake, the economy of scale- as it’s called- remains the same. It has taken and will of course continue to take much, much, much more money. 
In sponsoring a Buddhist’s child education, I never for one single minute thought it was some grand act of generosity because I knew it wasn’t. Money is very very easy to come by in my country for many, many people and a dime- to get back to the bumper sticker- is almost negligible. I will tell you that the waves of appreciation from Sonam, the boy, who’s now an adult, and the drawings of the yaks, the prayer flags, the stupas (a Buddhist monument), the lotuses, he’s sent me over the years put my American Buddhist teaching that it’s not about me to the test.  Then there are his letters.


Dear Susan Cook,
Tashi Delek! Hi!  …My percentage is 61-82%. In this year, I had participated in dance competition and also in football team… I have got lots of friend as well as learned many things till now. This is all because of you. I will never forget you in my life. I will pray for your long life. Your loving son, Sonam. Always keep smile.
As he became a teenager: 
My motivation is to become a successful man where I want to make feel proud [of] my dear Mom, help some sufferers overcome the needy ones it is facing, where I do achieve  in category of science field where there is lack of health facilities and not proper knowledge of health in my village.
And, writing about what he missed most about his village:
I always remember my first and most beautiful day when the water fall were falling from the between of two snowcapped mountains and beside them the beautiful garden which is full of different flowers with the farmers working in the fields.
I do not know where Sonam is now- if he is in his village or is a monastic in a dharma center or elsewhere. I do know that an American dime- to get back to the bumper sticker- is very very valuable in Nepal. And we all know, we have more and more and then billions more after that to go around. And we know that after giving, there will be plenty dimes left over after that for Americans.

A Citizen's Guide to Political Amnesia

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 04:30

Political amnesia comes on when political polarization begins as it has with President Obama’s recent executive order about immigration. So, President Obama reminded everyone that changing Immigration policy has been on the table for many, many years and Congress, has preferred to dicker rather than pass a bill. So, the President chose to use Presidential authority, to selectively decide which undocumented immigrants will or will not be the focus of deportation. He has been met with arrogant partisan finger-pointing and bullying which we all now have to listen to.

Here’s where the political amnesia comes in. According to the New York Times, the venerable Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to selectively not deport about 3 million then 100,000 more undocumented immigrants by executive order. In 1990, George Bush granted amnesty to 40% of the undocumented immigrants in this country by executive order. President Obama’s action gives safety to 45% of the undocumented immigrants here. So, what’s with the political amnesia that makes his executive amnesty a target of arrogant Republican bullying?

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Citizen’s Guide to Political Amnesia
-Susan Cook-
Political amnesia comes on when political polarization  begins as it has with President Obama’s recent executive order about immigration. So, President Obama reminded everyone that changing Immigration policy has been on the table for many, many years and Congress, has preferred to dicker rather than pass a bill. So, the President chose to use Presidential authority, to selectively decide which undocumented immigrants will or will not be the focus of deportation. He has been met with arrogant partisan finger-pointing and bullying which we all now have to listen to. 
Here’s where the political amnesia comes in. According to the New Yor k Times, the venerable Ronald Reagan granted amnesty  to selectively not deport about 3 million then by executive order 100,000 more undocumented immigrants. In 1990, George Bush granted amnesty to 40% of the undocumented immigrants in this country by executive order. President Obama’s action gives safety to 45% of the undocumented immigrants here. So, what’s with the political amnesia that makes his executive amnesty a target of arrogant Republican bullying?
Political amnesia only exists when we the public let it, by, um, not saying anything. And it exists at all levels of the political structure.
I almost fell off my leftist perch when I read in the newspaper that the newly elected chair of one of my state’s political party’s said he would return the party to is progressive grass roots. Political amnesia raised its sad  head when he banked  on everyone forgetting  the actions of the same party during the Iraq War. Wars bring anti-war activists back into the mainstream political party folds in the hopes that someone will do something, like end the war.
Political amnesia has set in because what has been forgotten is that the cream of the progressive, intelligent anti-war activists were unceremoniously gutted from their committee memberships just a few short years ago. They had dared- remember they didn’t like the Iraq War- to collect signatures to put an anti-Iraq War candidate on the ballot for a Congressional seat. After years of Democrats trying to convince the Green Party that really the Democrats were their proper place, the Green party founder who had given this political party a good try- and the national field representative for the most progressive Presidential candidate in years were both publicly and summarily thrown off the leadership committee. 
There was political amnesia big time then. But it is now, with this new vision of inclusion that political amnesia brings on forgetting what was all too recently done away with. Political amnesia is not the same as “gotcha” in politics because in “gotcha” everything that can possibly be remembered is. It really does fall to the public to speak- I suppose you can call it speaking truth to power- to ask and announce if need be. Don’t you remember what your predecessor did ? The Ronald Reagan, the George Bush, the party chair publicly creating what you now have to imagine never happened  and by virtue of that undoing  the profound good already done about immigration and undoing the profound ridiculousness of ousting a Green Party founder and a progressive leader  who just may not now have political amnesia or crave it quite as  badly as you do at this moment. 

A Citizen's Guide to Silence

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 10:07

Legislative ethics exist to put the brakes on political gamesmanship- whether it’s trading votes to pass a bill, get a fat salaried new Federal job, or for financial gain, all placed ahead of making good governance. But they didn’t work in this case. Congress is at its lowest public approval rating ever. Congressional candidates flaunt “working across the aisle” as a goal. But really they mean “political gamesmanship.” This is not a mystery buried right next to the Gnostic Gospels beside the Tigris River. Just read the daily newspaper.

What is the price of political gamesmanship by legislators and Congressional Representatives and Senators? Five years ago, I - one person- tried to engage legislators in finding proof that a rural asphalt plant would harm the migratory bird population- and the environment because of the noise and pollutants it creates. Let us- now 5 years later - go the migratory bird site. It does not take many years before migrating birds go elsewhere or die because they can‘t find another place. Birds must hear each other to breed and survive. This is why the music of birdsong evolved. It kept them alive. Without them, and citizens who can voice their concern, there is silence. Here is one citizen's guide to that silence.

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A Citizen’s Guide to Silence
Just five years ago, I woke up to hear industrial- size noise, out in the woods where a factory to create such noise had never before been. The noise was louder than I’d ever heard outside a city. But this was a rural pristine place, a  destination for migratory birds. My first thought was for the birds. It was far too noisy for them.  My next thought was to call the local legislator and ask for help with this environmental problem.
You would think that legislators know each voter has one vote cast one vote at a time. But I don’t think they do. Maybe this legislator didn’t like people bothering him at home by calling. The local populace had been intimidated away from calling a long time.  
In my state, there are “Legislative Ethics”, the morays of being a legislator, kind of a “What To Do When A Constituent Asks You To Address A Legislative Issue” booklet. ”Do not  intimidate the constituent” is implicit and actually explicit in these ethics. Do not do anything to make the constituent think or believe or feel that it is unacceptable to call, write, ask or seek relief through the legislative process. 
These legislative ethics might as well be ancient Gnostic gospels written on pretty much illegible papyrus left  by the Tigris River. I don’t think many legislators read them. When I tried to present the issue of a factory (an asphalt plant inside a gravel pit) that had multiple exemptions from the Department of Environmental Protection for violations of  air, water, noise, federal marsh protection, I received either no reply or a reply months later. The Mining Coordinator 300 hundred miles away who approved the factory called 6 months later. He had never- never been to the destination migratory bird site he approved for destruction. 
The DEP field visitor told me  he had been there many times and only later told the local newspaper he hadn’t been there at all. 
The area DEP coordinator was “indignant” that I complained at all.  The DEP commissioner did nothing. The environmental advocacy group director did not reply.
When I brought up the asphalt factory in the gravel pit to the Chair of the Committee overseeing Natural Resources, the legislator said “Well, that won’t make me popular with the gravel pit owners.” 
Two years later, after multiple times saying in many venues and  2 different public hearings that the legislator intimidated constituents from voicing their complaints and taking part in the legislative process through his lets-just-say  “telephone” approach,  I once again- out loud- said that constituents were being intimidated. Many of the other legislators’ eyebrows  raised so high stuck to the napes of their necks.  How could she say such a thing? At a legislative hearing?  That a legislator is intimidating constituents so they have no safe way to protest ? 
Now before I raise the ancient Gnostic gospel- I mean the Legislative Ethics- that make intimidation of constituents a concern, please find a good solid chair with a strong back and strong arm rests, this so you won’t fall off it.
The other legislators decided to publicly demand that I give “proof” that the legislator was using techniques when constituents called that intimidated them . Nobody demanded proof from the out-of-state multi-million dollar asphalt plant owner, or from the statewide mining coordinator or from the Department of Environmental coordinator or field rep or commissioner that the environment was being harmed but, they demanded proof from me that this public office holder was intimidating constituents. The other legislators contacted  editorial page writers to publicly demand that I give proof. They knew full well the whole thing started because I raised an environmental issue that I hoped would be addressed in the   Legislature.
So the editorials or shall I say “Intimidate-orials” ran quoting the legislators demanding my “proof”. I did not get out the ancient Legislative Ethics or ask my friends to share their experience of  intimidation.   I said nothing because I told the truth.
Some of these legislators even got the idea that the next best place to ply their governing gifts is- hang onto that chair- Congress.
Legislative ethics exist to put the brakes on political gamesmanship- whether it’s trading votes to pass a bill, get a fat federal job, or for  financial gain placed ahead of making good governance. But they didn’t work in this case.
Congress is at its lowest public approval rating ever. Congressional candidates flaunt “working across the aisle” as a goal. But really they mean “political gamesmanship.” This is not a mystery buried beside the Tigris River. Just read the daily newspaper.
What is the price of political gamesmanship by legislators and Congressional Representatives and Senators?  Let us- now 5 years later go the migratory bird site. It does not take many years before migrating birds go elsewhere or die because they can‘t find another place. Birds must hear each other to breed and survive. This  is why the music of birdsong evolved. It kept them alive. 
There is no longer an early morning cacophony of bird songs in the woods there that used to be so loud - with windows open- alarm clocks weren’t necessary. There are no loons on the lake. The migratory bird population is not very visible or audible .  
Five years later, that’s the way it is. This aside from the changes in the nearby lake’s ground water table that a hydro-geologist could identify, the emission of toxic heavy metals into the air and water, the damage to marsh life .
I tried very hard to find a legislator who would ask for proof that the environment wouldn’t be damaged, that the 4 jobs created and the multi-million dollar out-of-state company that built it were not more important than political gamesmanship.  That - without a second thought- recognized how intimidation of constituents shuts down voice. But instead the public message was do not- do not- criticize how legislators play their gamesmanship or we will take you out and publicly demand proof so all your young just-learning-about-civics relatives see it in newspaper editorials-  along with the rest of the citizenry. The message to citizens ? Take part in the legislative process and we’ll intimidate you too.
Five years later, what has happened ? The long view? Less and less trust that the public’s voice is more important than political gamesmanship by legislators in Congress or at home.  That  'proof' of no environmental impact from an asphalt plant owner or the DEP is of low priority. That citizen intimidation is just political gamesmanship. And no bird songs or sounds That is also called silence. 

Civil Liberties for Sexists: The Purity Ball and Prostitution Laws

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:45

Recently, a man convicted of aiding the prostitution of a young woman who was exploited by over 150 men, was given a 3 week sentence. This sentence from a female judge, on her toes not to appear you-know-what, invites men to pimp. Like the right wing conservative Family Research Council director who promotes "Purity Balls" where fathers sign virginity protection clauses with their daughters, the pimp's sentence devalues women's sexuality and their worth. Women, with all their glorious advancement, are still there for the dirtying, still there for male credibility to prevail when big decisions must be made, that is defining what a women is really worth and whether she can credibly make her own decisions, about her body or anything else.

For many women, in the world, in this country and in this state, their worth still lies not when they lean in, but when they lean back.

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Civil Liberties for Sexists: 
The Purity Ball and Prostitution Laws
There is such a thing as a "Purity Ball", an event where fathers sign a pledge to protect their daughters' virginity and then throw a  tuxedo/fancy ball gown event to announce it, tuxedo/fancy ball gown events being a grand way to exclude, discriminate and promenade superiority. A field director for the extreme right-wing conservative Christian group Family Research  Council, is a  Purity Ball promoter. The How-To Purity Ball packet costs $90. According to the New York Times, 3 of the man's daughters have written a book called "Pure Women".
Before you begin to swell with humanitarian, card-carrying ACLU  pride because you immediately recognize a sexist double- standard, put down your copy of the Bill of Rights. Remember? The amendment to bar discrimination based on gender failed to be ratified. 
The double standard for men and women reverberates, if not  thrives, in the legal system, or at least in the case referred to here. There are pure women and there are dirty women and men the most eligible to determine who fits which designation and who will carry a label or consequence for the "dirtying", or a better word, the "traumatizing". Please bear in mind that the childhood sexual abuse of females by men is estimated to effect 2 in 5 women. A  signature psychological consequence for  the victim is a sense of being irreparably made "dirty".
Here in Maine, Mark Strong the pimp who financially supported and viewed through a webcam in his office,  over 150 men sexually exploiting a young woman, was given a jail sentence of less than 3 weeks for his promotion of prostitution. 
The newspapers speculate that the young woman, who was sexually exploited by over 150 men, who was physically and emotionally traumatized by being penetrated over 150 times, has now struck a plea bargain. She will spend close to 1 year in jail,  because there are also  the absolutely non-negotiable income tax evasion charges.
This is what Mr. Strong's sentence from a female judge, on her toes not to appear you-know-what,  means. It is an open invitation to men to pimp. It is a confirmation of what groups like the extreme right wing conservative Family Research Council endorse, all be it from the other end of the "sexuality and women’s value “ continuum.
Women, with all their glorious advancement in the work place and six figure salaries and opportunity to compete with men in every arena, are still there for the dirtying, still there for male credibility  to prevail when big decisions must be made, that is defining what a women is really worth and whether she can credibly make her own decisions, about her body or anything else.
For many women, in the world, in this country and in this state, their worth still lies not when they lean in, but when they lean back.

Emotionally Shallow Waters: Drowning In Two Inches of Water

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 02:31

We wade into emotionally shallow waters when we look at the media's recent coverage of the important consequences of the Penn State revelation that sexual assaults of children by their sports administrators were visually observed. And nothing done to prevent future incidents by the perpetrator (or any others) or treat the damage to the children.

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Emotionally Shallow Waters: Drowning in Two Inches of Water
-Susan Cook-
We wade into emotionally shallow waters when we look at the media's recent coverage  of the "important consequences" of the Penn State revelation that sexual assaults of children by their sports administrators were visually observed. And nothing  done to prevent future incidents by the perpetrator (or any others) or treat the damage to the children. 
Let's start with  David Brooks' New York Times commentary "Let's Feel Superior", calling us out on our tendency for self-importance . He  glibly cites study-after-study of  urban residents ignoring  those who need help.  Because they're afraid the guy will turn on them? Because they thought someone was making a movie?  Who knows. Self-importance has many justifications.
It could be you or me, Mr. Brooks says. So, let's take a hard look at the  Self-Importance now floating to the top- ours- as we judge the many authorities  at Penn State who by the way didn't need weapons to protect themselves- just  human decency and a telephone to recognize atrocity when it hit them in the eye. Atrocity , according to Mr. Brooks, depends on which rung of the moral hierarchical ladder you happen to be standing on when it happens: the higher the rung, the more self-importance that goes with it, hence the downward glance now on those who did not report these incidents. Sounds like the same justification the Big Men at Penn State might use to explain  their own failure to report these atrocities. 
Mine is still here. It is the emotional shallowness of the water in which Penn State administrators stand that keeps them and all those who just keep on playing football oblivious to the  ravages and psychological damage of sexual abuse. Atrocity is always in the eye of the beholder and it is my eye- or yours or yours or yours - no matter how low or high your  rung on the moral ladder-  and that’s what keeps us and will always help us see how children can drown in just two inches of water. 

Speaking As If They Know: Legislators and Reproductive Rights

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:09

Legislators in Maine and across the country debate now bills to limit Reproductive Rights. Their limited or completely absent knowledge of the dependence on the pregnant woman's prenatal mental and physical health of the zygote, embryo or fetus becomes clearer and clearer.

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Speaking As If They Know: Legislators and Reproductive Rights

I have watched the Nova Program "The Miracle of Life" at least 25 times. I always showed it when I taught Human Growth and Development ("Erection to Resurrection" as a Republican friend called it), Life Span Development and Child Development (at minimum wage as an adjunct or fixed length professor paid half of what the male Chair of the Business Department at the same university was paid).

All of my viewings of this film did not unteach me what I learned as an intern observer for one year in one of the first Neonatal Intensive Care Units in a research study of neonates of 28 weeks gestational age. The focus was the impact of this intense 24-hour illuminated environment on their physiology, state and responsivity. From the point of conception to the moment after a live birth, independent of the life of a breathing, living mother, very complex medical intervention is required for possible survival of the nenonate. In the 40 years, since I completed that internship, the earliest gestational age at which a neonate can survive outside of the uterus - with the aid of the most sophisticated medical technology in the world- has decreased by about 2 weeks. The 2015 New England Journal of Medicine study of 5000 premature neonates emphasizes that survival outside of the womb after a live birth remains  precarious.

Now here is Maine's State Senator Stacy Guerin commenting after voting against a bill LD 1312 which the Maine Senate passed to allow advanced nurse practitioners, physician assistants and midwives to perform some procedures to end a pregnancy.

"Sonograms clearly show a beautiful little human, not just a blob of tissue," she said.

What Ms. Guerin does not know is that the beautiful human she is referring to - we do not know what gestational age she refers to when she makes these statements- may very well not survive outside of the the uterus without a healthy mother's prenatal experience and extremely complex medical intervention. 
We also do not know how well the ethical code is enforced for Ultrasound technicians who may well give factually inaccurate and misleading remarks when sonograms are made about the presence of "heartbeat". The fact remains that survival outside of the womb is only possible-again with complex medical intervention- many gestational weeks after conception or a prenatal sonogram. As the Maine legislature considers the bill to expand which practitioners can provide gynecologic intervention, the licensing board that licenses ultrasound technicians must also be rigorous in sanctioning ultrasound technicians who distort information given to pregnant women in the privacy of the examining room.

And here is another Maine legislator State Senator Scott Cyrway (R- Albion) who voted against the bill. "What would be the difference of us voting for a veterinary to do it? I'm saying that we are looking at life and we need to take this more seriously." Again, we confront the lack of knowledge of legislators who have not read the rigourous licensing and educational and professional standards nurse practioners, midwives and physicians assistants must meet for licensure and how they differ from veterinarians.

The debate about terminating a pregnancy frequently excludes any mention about the complete dependence after the point of conception with the mother's life. If the zygote, the embryo or the fetus does not survive during pregnancy, the mother will live. The reverse is very often not true.

You would not know that listening to the debate- largely along partisan lines- about reproductive choice. You also would not know that based on the bills- along partisan lines- in Maine in the last 8 years- to deny workers a living wage, to make sure that food stamp recipients- pregnant mothers too- were not allowed to keep more than $5000 in assets. That amount is a two month security deposit on an apartment, an emergency fund or just enough for a used reliable functioning car. You would not know that based on the refusal- along partisan lines- to expand Medicaid to young child-bearing age youth- who instead- left with no insurance- have no access to reliable birth control, mental health care to prevent suicide or self-harm or self-medication with drugs or alcohol.

The complete interdependence of the mother's life during the pregnancy with the developing zygote, embryo or fetus is left out in discussions of the "miracle of life" by people who are uneducated about what happens after conception that 40 weeks later leads to a live breathing birth. Without knowledge, discussion of the termination of a pregnancy is reduced to misleading, distorted information from white men, politicians, unethical ultrasound technicians, anti-abortion and religious groups who are silent after a neonate arrives. There is instead ample room for shaming and humiliation- however they can manage it- toward women who see reproductive choice as a moral responsibility, who know this society is not waiting to sustain after a live birth the breathing infant. In Maine, underfunding of Child Protective Services led to complete negligence in overseeing care of at-risk children and deaths of several foster care children. There was- then- limited concern for pregnant women- similar to Alabama's historic lack of compassion toward people of color, now brought to pregnant women.

The Indifference Diaries, Part Four: Adventures in the Skin Trade and Child Maltreatment

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:17

The murders of four children at the hands of caretakers were adjudicated by Maine's court system recently. As the last days of a child whose grandfather's girlfriend is on trial for her murder, the question is raised. What factors influence the caretakers of children who are abused, neglected or abandoned.

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The Indifference Dairies, Part Four: Adventures in the Skin Trade and Child Maltreatment

 

-Susan Cook-

 

In "Adventures in the Skin Trade", Dylan Thomas writes of a boy lying in a summer corn field, dozing off to dream of a young woman who captivates him. "I'll have a baby on every hill,"she tells him, love and romance re-draped over childbirth, the reality receding that love alone does not create competent childrearing, the consequences of parenting failures left for the child to bear.

 

In Maine, the minute details of that failing came under public scrutiny during the trial of a woman who, as the foster caretaker of her boyfriend's son's child, murdered the child. The child was one of 4 child deaths adjudicated by the Maine legal system during a recent one year period.

 

Maine's Child Protective Services removed the child from the biological parents. Child Protective services never returned to assess the safety of the child or the adequacy of the new caretakers.

 

The testimony of the medical examiner about the child's injuries, offered in intricate detail and reported by the local The Wiscasset Newspaper, is bone chilling, explicating "the early signs of dying during a slow dying process" . The caretakers ignored them. DHHS or the child's biological parents were nowhere to be found.

 

I spent several years studying parents' conceptions of children, childrearing and parental influence for my Masters' Thesis, later published in a peer reviewed journal. The research included Maine samples of parents with a history of abuse and neglect as well as parents with no such history.

 

"The human potentials realized in the parental role are often reduced to the singular notion that it is the capacity to love which provides the motivation, resilience, and understanding to nurture a child. Yet, loving parents can understand and treat their children in very different ways. Studies of family violence suggest that the emotional investments of parenthood remain highly vulnerable to the stresses and demands of childrearing." (Newberger and Cook, Am. J.of Orthopsychiatry, 53 (3), July 1983, p. 512)

 

The town where the child lived announces itself on a road sign as "the prettiest village in Maine". The spots within its boundaries - poor people frequent- The Family Dollar store where one cashier noticed bruises on the child and considered calling Child Protective Services is in a non-descript strip mall. The locally-owned flourishing discount store which sells low-priced surplus, overstocked and fire-damaged goods serves many who live in poverty. There, the adult shoppers with their developmental disabilities and lost capabilities accompanied by their group home staff, peruse items. Maybe the child was brought there or given one of the low priced toy or children's books. The reporter noted that the foster caretakers eventually stopped taking the child out in public "because of her bruises."

 

Romanticized proprietary childbearing fantasies or accidental conception did not save this child from dying any more than the dreamer in the Dylan Thomas story brought a baby born on each hill who was not abused.

 

I visited Wiscasset and the local discount store days during the trial. The cashiers at the The Family Dollar are a stanchion for the abused and vulnerable. Still, Family Dollar treats their employees poorly- exponentially increasing their own life stress. I don't know if the cashier was the same one who noticed the child's bruises because these no-benefit, low-paying jobs have high turnover. The local discount store was eerily quiet- hardly any developmentally disabled adults and their group home staff there that day.

 

Both the prosecutor's expert witness who examined the child's multiple injuries and the defense attorney's expert witness agreed that the child died of child abuse- deliberately inflicted injury rendered by an adult or adults.

 

Parental Conceptions have been studied and replicated as a risk factor- in other research- prospectively, most notably by Egelund and Brunquell. Parents at risk of child abandonment and abuse see their children as either empty vessels who absorb and mimic the environment "poured" into them or if the child is resistant- a carrier of some defect that defies outside influence. Discipline is solely to hold power and control over the child, the parent shaping the child in the parent's image. The unique perspective of this child - the vulnerability, pain, distress, is foreign to them.

 

Thought influences mood and behavior. Parental Conceptions effect - likely not exclusively- how parents act. Trusting or not trusting one's own parental adequacy or potential adequacy is often not considered in childbearing decisions. The pressure to not terminate a pregnancy - and the visible demonizing and shaming of women who believe reproductive choice is a human responsibility- leads to decisions further removed from the pregnant woman and her belief that she or her partner do not have the capacity or will to prevent abuse, neglect or child abandonment. Right-to-Life proponents, protesters who stand outside of Planned Parenthood Clinics with pictures of in-utero fetuses did not and still have not rallied to insure that Maine's Child Protective Services keep children safe. It is almost as if Dylan Thomas is at it again- romanticizing - over and over- this time- the pro-Life crowd who want to cut services that cost money- at the cost of a child's life. And then are nowhere to be found.

Privacy Rape, the Right to Be Free from Exploitation and Facebook

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:28

A recent Fresh Air interview with Heidi Schreck about the Supreme Court recognition of privacy as the premise for a woman's right to control her own body reminds me of a word I've been thinking about. "Privacy Rape".

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Privacy Rape, Facebook and the Right to Be Free From Exploitation
-Susan Cook-

 

I was listening to Heidi Schreck, the playwright whose Broadway production "What the Constitution Means To Me" discusses  "How Women Have Been Profoundly Left Out of the Constitution", as the Fresh Air Heading says. Ms. Schreck talked us through the long arduous constitutional journey from the 1965 Supreme Court Ruling that finally legalized birth control for married women, to legalization of birth control for unmarried women to legalization of abortion in Roe vs. Wade. All 3 of those, decided by Supreme Court justices, all white men, whose premise is that the Constitution protects Privacy.

 

Ms. Schrek brought to mind a term I have been thinking about for some time. "Privacy Rape".

 

It's very clear that the public still doesn't get or perhaps laws and the Constitution still fail to protect Privacy: privacy of personal information, the privacy of the person, the privacy of what people do in their lives.

 

The casual oblivion to matters of privacy was exemplified in a message posted on Facebook by an Executive Director of a major political party directed to a significantly influential political organizer who previously was single-handedly responsible for the election and re-election of hundreds of Democrats from the largest Legislative district to the state Legislation. "We noticed you signed up to volunteer for GOTV. As you know, we've asked you not to volunteer with us anymore. That has not changed. Please don't come into our offices for GOTV." This a post ignoring Privacy violation to publicly shame let alone damage Reputation by an Executive Director giving herself permission to communicate using Facebook.

 

Privacy is and has been better acknowledged by other politicians, Senator Ted Kennedy in particular. He significantly influenced passage of the Health Insurance Privacy and Portability Act which insures that patients are told about the limitations of information sharing, when the patient has not signed a Consent to Release. HIPPA specifically states that psychotherapy notes are off-limits to those seeking to access HIPPA-protected information, their exclusion hopefully the strength of Kevlar.

 

But the use of Facebook to casually exploit privacy (and abuse) is reflected in ongoing public permission to minimize privacy. The platform, after all, has repeatedly failed to legitimize complaints from users about personal abuses and the intrusions Facebook used to capitalize on private material as revenue.

 

Date Rape only became fully acknowledged form of sexual assault after it was given a name. The familiar, the seemingly socially solicitious becoming the sexual perpetrator. The guise of innocence is similarly postured by Facebook users who go onto engage in Privacy Rape or stand passively by as others engage in it too.

 

On Frontline recently, the Vice-President of Social Good at Facebook Naomi Gleit repeated the company's mission in the wake of the company now beginning to own up to the abuse and violence the platform's unique chemical mixture of anonymity and mathmatical exponents. "Bringing the world closer together" by doing good, she said, is the company's mission. Is it all in the past?

 

The quest for closeness through sharing information and listening to others is a human magnet for psychological intimacy. It is a magnet that can spiral into voyeurism and Privacy Rape much as physical touch can descend into Date Rape.

 

That Mark Zuckerberg's team, the company's beatific Vice President of Social Good and others did not consider that something called Privacy Rape could evolve out of anonymous , mathematical exponent-driven information sharing perplexes. History explains that human exploitation is preceded by social shaming, stigma creation and anonymous permission to ostracize. The isolation of Jews in pograms and ghettos came after generations of social stigmata, all of which gave way to exportation to concentration camps. The same could be said of Native Americans and their forced emigration to Reservations . Well-educated, privileged Facebook executives did not- and probably still don't grasp that their mission to create human connection does not undo the power of anonymity and math exponents. as lubricants of abuse.

 

Like generations before the Supreme Court privacy rulings, Facebook has ignored how their users posts might- and have evolved into- Privacy Rape. Their many, many "This post does not reach the level of abuse" automated replies to complaints echo- the sanctioning of violations of women's privacy- violations of a woman's bodies- violation of the right to privacy.

 

Despite repeated legal volleys- the Supreme Court has not backtracked on the Constitutional right to privacy. The surreptitious succoring of private information that Facebook freely engaged - like generations before them- says the temptations to transgress in secrecy - abusively- persists among the most privileged and innovative. And in the Facebook users who passively stand by as Privacy Rape continues without posting one word to stop it.

The Indifference Diaries, Part 3. Using Good To Create Evil, Seizing the Parent/Child Bond to Punish

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 08:57

Being of the wrong lineage, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, now carries devastating consequences for the children of parents caught crossing the US border illegally. Separation from attachment figures has been documented by generations of developmental scientists as carrying grave consequences for children. Attorney General Sessions now justifies its use as a tool to punish asylum seekers.

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The Indifference Diaries, Part 3. Using Good To Create Evil, Seizing the Parent/Child Bond to Punish

The Pope  now prevails upon the world to believe that Reproductive Rights- including termination of an unwanted or unsafe pregnancy- are the equivalent of Nazi-era eugenics. His effort to sanctify bearing children by placing it under the umbrella of church doctrine stands  in direct contrast to Attorney General Jeff Session's policy of seizing children who cross the border illegally with their parents. Children as contraband that the government can take away because the parent has sought freedom certainly bears many of  the hallmarks  of eugenics. The suffering created for these children because government has deemed them an object for punitive purposes suggests a selective identification like eugenics-  not because the child is in danger but because the government has chosen to  because the government doesn't like the parent's judgment in seeking illegal entry into this country. Yes, there are connections between separation of parent and child and death, as the work of Swiss psychiatrist Rene Spitz first documented in 1945.

Of course, Sessions selectively  parses which parental judgement is  a problem. That's  similar to the selective exclusion of  poor parental judgement we have witnessed here in Maine under Governor  Paul Lepage.  In Maine, since December 2017, the media has reported  arrests, sentencing and criminal prosecution in the deaths of 5 children murdered by 5 caretakers. Each death was preceded by multiple reports to Maine's Department of Health and Human Services  now ineffective because of underfunding by conservative lawmakers thus  allowing  attribution of their selective inattention to high case loads. 

Yes, the legal system and judges exploit the parent/child bond, too,  now used as a point of contention- much like shared financial assets are -  in high conflict divorces where attorneys fill their pockets as divorcing parents  repeatedly litigate child custody. There is little or no acknowledgement of the pain inflicted on children by separation from their primary attachment figure let alone the disruption to children's daily lives ("Where's my soccer uniform/ homework/ snow pants? Oh, they're at Dad's ") .  Brangelina now anoint high conflict divorce as high social dilemma because Brad Pitt seeks to take on shared equal physical custody of their children with  Angelina Jolie.

Generations of child psychologists and child psychiatrists have documented the extraordinary consequence of parent/child separation and the level of trauma disruption inflicts. Swiss child psychiatrist Rene Spitz first described anaclitic depression in infants in his 1945 article "Hospitalism: The Inquiry into the Genesis of Psychiatric Conditions in Early Childhood." (The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, v. 1,  Ed. Anna Freud et al)


He specified " the evil effect of institutional care on infants, placed in institutions from an early age, particularly from the psychiatric point of view." His research was  especially concerned with the effect of continuous institutional care of infants under one year of age, "for reasons other than sickness."  One of his most influential studies compared the developmental status of children in 4 different conditions, including one prison: 3 where children were with their mothers or a significant sole attachment figure, one a foundling home where multiple staff members  kept the children  under hygienic conditions,  carefully maintained, in individual cubicles, "adequate food excellently prepared and individualized according to the needs of each child".  In the foundling home, the temperature of the room is appropriate, he wrote,  with "pastel-colored dresses and blankets" for each child. Physicians visited the children once a day. One head nurse and 5 assistant nurses tended to 45 babies, a few by their mothers. By a few months of age,  all of them were removed to isolated cubicles. 

The developmental status of the foundling home children became  substantially and significantly lower than children in the 3 other groups over their first 12 months-  beginning with a precipitous decline at 4 months.  This happened despite the fact that the "Foundling" home children begin with developmental scores equivalent to the 3 other groups. 

Spitz documented that the withdrawal, refusal to eat, failure to thrive, retardation of development, insomnia fit a syndrome which he called "anaclitic depression provoked by separation from their love object."  In fact, despite the  hygienic conditions and asepsis, availability of medical care and food, the mortality of foundling children "was inordinately high" of life.  Thirty four of the 91 foundling home died within the first 2 years.

Spitz first published this work in 1945. Urie Bronfenbrenner republished it in 1972. The work spurred generations of studies of  attachment  which amplify its central significance as a  vital fluid in  human development. Bessel VanderKoerk now proposes separation from primary attachment figures as "developmental trauma" equivalent to post-traumatic stress disorder.  

There were no Pokemon posters on the walls of the  circa 1945 foundling home like there are in the former Walmart supercenter where Jeff Sessions now houses  some of the close to 2000 children seized from their parents who chose to seek safety for them here. He claims cleanliness, food, clothing and toys are adequate substitutes for the physical presence of their attachment figures.  Spitz  and legions of developmental specialists prove that is simply not the case .

The Society for Research in Child Development has chosen to not violate their 501-c3 status by openly condemning a political policy but is publicizing  the developmental science  about the danger of separation of children from attachment figures "that speaks for itself". The high mortality rate of the children separated from their "love object"  that Spitz- and others- have documented tells us that separating children from their parents is a kind of passive eugenics. Passive because  the US  Senators and Congressional representatives allowing the policy to continue won't see its impact but eugenics just the same. A child of the wrong lineage, in the wrong place at the wrong time.






How To Be Invisible: Love Alone Does Not Prevent Child Maltreatment

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:50

We know in 2018 that invisibility of the child places the child at very high risk for maltreatment. The more invisible the child, the more likely danger to the child will be ignored. That can also be said of unwanted pregnancies forced to continue when a 9 month gestation period of safety depends completely on the mother's health, sobriety, medical care, nutritional adequacy and self-care. Without a healthy gestational period, a fetus is at very high risk . If the fetus survives to a live birth, the child 100 percent bears the consequence of the negligence and the politicization of neglect and prenatal abuse that only the woman whose body carries the zygote, the embryo, the fetus knows took place. In 2015, Maine's governor and the DHHS Commissioner ruled that any childless adult who owns more than $5000 in assets cannot receive food stamps.  That’s not enough to buy a reliable vehicle or a down payment on a home. The Governor refuses food stamps to all the child bearing age women who receive food stamps and the zygote, the embryo or the fetus she carries. Currently, Medicaid funding for females of child bearing age has been denied by Maine's fiscally conservative.

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How to be Invisible: When love doesn't make children visible

Since December of 2017, the caretakers of 5 children in Maine have been sentenced  for murder or charged with their murder. The cause of death of two of the children  was changed to homicide. These children only became visible after they died. They were all age 10 and under  Two of the children lived in the District of  the very fiscally conservative State Senate President who now is running in the primary for Governor. The prior  Health and Human Services Commissioner who has drastically cut Maine's Child Protective budget is also in the Governor's primary race.

None of the candidates have acknowledged the damage cutting Child Protective services brings. The Child Maltreatment annual summary by federal DHHS reports that children screened into the Child Protective system waited on average 90 days, in 2016.

Three million dollars a year would provide weekly home visits to the 700+ children "screened in" by Child Protective. The child's other lifelines:  teachers, health care professionals, neighbors and relatives who care, would also be checked-in with.

Love fails as a child's lifeline- more than we acknowledge. And it is no guarantee that the parents will place the child's safety and well-being above all else. Rage, greed, ego and pure negligence  can easily take priority. We only need to observe "high conflict"  divorces or those high in "intimate partner violence" to see this. The legal system, judges, attorneys and Guardian Ad Litem- who are paid to assess the child's best interest with little or no formal training among those who are attorneys to do so- often collude in ignoring the significance of safe love to the child- to the safe attachment figure. They advocate for divvying  the child up like daily newspaper deliveries. Sometimes no visits for one parent whose ex-spouse has more money to hire lawyers. Often other household members are not even evaluated. The journal Pediatrics observed that children in homes with  a parent's partner who is not-biologically related to the child are 50 times more likely to die of inflicted injuries.  Passing a background check bears no influence on that fact- unless there's a prior conviction. HIgh conflict divorce is an emotional travesty for another day.

Maine's  5 child murders come during the ongoing politicization of birth control and termination of an unwanted pregnancy.  An unwanted pregnancy, as even Donald Trump  made sure was addressed in his hush agreement with a former sexual partner, leads to an unwanted birth. Adoption in no way guarantees that the prenatal care of a fetus- abstinence from drugs, cocaine, opiods, alcohol, proper nutrition and mother's self care- will be adequate.   Nothing even the power of love- guarantees to change that. Foster care is- as Maine's DHHS currently affirms, is grossly inadequate.  One of the 5 murders was at the hands of foster parents.  Two at the hands of non-biological partners of a parent. Four of the children were ignored by Maine's DHHS despite repeated calls to the Child Abuse Hotline about them. Of the 8392 calls annually made, less than 10 % are screened in. They wait an average of 90 days receive services.

In 1979, in a  Masters' thesis, I first wrote about parent characteristics related to the abuse or neglect of a child. In the 1983 article later published, the first sentence which I wrote said love is not enough to prevent abuse and neglect.

We now know in 2018 that invisibility of the child- is a very high risk in child maltreatment. The more invisible the child, the more likely danger to the child will be ignored. That can also be said of unwanted pregnancies forced to continue when a 9 month gestation period of safety depends completely on the mother's health, sobriety, medical care, nutritional adequacy and self-care. Without a healthy gestational period, a fetus is at very high risk .  If the fetus survives to a live birth, the child 100 percent bears the consequence of the negligence and the politicization of neglect and prenatal abuse that only the woman whose body carries the zygote, the embryo, the fetus knows took place. In 2015, Maine's governor and the DHHS Commissioner ruled that any childless adult who owns more than $5000 in assets cannot receive food stamps.  That’s not enough to buy a reliable vehicle or a down payment on a home but to insure that those without know they are truly without. He refuses food to all the child bearing age women and the zygote, the embryo or the fetus she carries.  Medicaid funding for females of child bearing age has been denied by Maine's fiscally conservative.

Love does not insure that children after they are born  will be visible to caretakers, to the agencies funded to protect them, to the parents who conceive them, in order for someone to be accountable for the impact of their care on the child or on an embryo, a zygote, a fetus.  We  live in a society where children are invisible. Five of them were murdered by caretakers in Maine.

How to Be Invisible, Part 2: Preventing Maltreatment By Listening to Someone Else

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 09:50

Our society has systematically discredited women's ability to know themselves, their bodies and their ability to parent. Child maltreatment, Harvey Weinstein's victimization and Ireland's long permission to invade women's private medical decisions are consequences of that discrediting.

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How to Be Invisible, Part 2: Preventing Child Maltreatment by
Listening to Someone Else

-Susan Cook-

 

I was driving to the local farmer's market the other day, in the rain. Not torrential, but still, rain. I passed a man walking by the roadside with a ma-a-y-be 4 or 5 month old baby in a baby carrier backpack, the child facing forward. No hat. Legs and arms completely bare and exposed. The child's, that is. I thought for about 3 seconds and I slowed and rolled the window and said to the father (I assume), "Your baby's head is getting wet." Father had his hat and rain jacket, on. He nodded and pointed generally down the road. I rolled the window back up and started to drive. Then, I thought about another 3 seconds, rolled down the window and said "You know little kids get hypothermia a lot quicker than adults do."

"Thanks for the help," he said, "[Expletive] ... off."

 

I continued driving , thought about Child Protective's 1-800- line, the local police and continued to drive. Child Protective in Maine has now been documented as negligent following release of a vague "investigation" of 2 child deaths by caretakers since December 2017. Three other events linked to the deaths of 3 other children at the hands of caretakers also took place. That's 5 children killed by caretakers since December. Largely uninvestigated. It is after all, the time of fertilizing political egos. Election season.

 

Child Protective will take a long time to be "on their game" enough to investigate a baby who "might" get hypothermia from bare skin completely exposed to rain.

 

I once told a father of a similarly small baby that he should not take the child in his canoe on a lake that becomes quickly rough during a canoe race. Oh, he had already placed the child in the canoe, the child with a life preserver on. Let's be clear- the life preserver was not the father's good judgement. I did call Child Protective that time.

 

Ego is inextricably bound to parenting. Every chicken speck of ego fragility, every blurring of the absolutely necessary distinction between what is safe for children and what is safe for adults- after a live birth- gets tossed into the more powerful, more dominant current of a parent's ego. Parenting means putting your own needs on hold- whether it means missing the farmer's market closing or abandoning your addiction.

 

"My kids are the ones that look like me," I heard a mother call out to someone recently.

 

Ego is not just about vanity. It's about when parents won't acknowledge the impact of their actions on their children. Ego can make a parent's conscience as opposite as the perspective of the child sitting behind the father in the baby carrier. And it contributes to child maltreatment. (See Parental Awareness and Child Abuse and Neglect, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, July 1983).

 

I told one of the fiercer peace advocates I know about this event later in the day. "I've done that and you pay for it."

She's right about that. I wrote a letter to the newspaper about the 4 Maine child maltreatment deaths since December. An immediate comment from a Republican said "She's a political operative who accused the Republican State Senate President of "tapping" her phone." The comment reflects the same sloppiness of detail the then- yes- Republican Governor and DHHS commissioner brought to reviewing the 5 child deaths. No effort to be accurate in response to the many calls to Child protective about these children that were dismissed.

 

The "[Expletive]... off" comment came on the same day that Irish women were celebrating the successful referendum to remove the abortion ban from Irish law. It comes the day after Harvey Weinstein was charged, arrested and lead off in handcuffs for rape and sexual assault of two of the many women he victimized. Both in their own way speak to the permission to discredit women- pregnant or not- who know best what their own bodies have experienced, their own suitability and ability to parent, and the suitability and ability of the fertilizing male to parent a baby born after that long period of incubation. It's not about the threat to the father's ego called on to support the woman's ego. When one unmarried, single woman who bravely and independently fended off society's then rampant familial shaming and humiliation to give birth to the child, called the emotionally disengaged father from her hospital bed to announce the child's birth, he hung up.

 

Emotionally, the immediate defense against shaming is a wish for invisibility. Fear of shaming- and its explotation- made Harvey Weinstein's accusers invisibile. Successful shaming leads to real invisibility. Irish women (and Americans) for generations were sequestered in 'homes for unwed mothers", their infants ripped from them and, a Maine newspaper recently reported, sold by the Catholic church to those willing to make donations.

 

The zygote, the newly fertilized ova, the embryo are now medically visible to pregnant women, as they have never been before. The physical and emotional needs of the developing fetus, for nutrition, medical care, substance- free, psychotropic- medication free, mothers whose emotional bearings are free from abuse and yes, shaming, remain the same. Very often unacknowledged and ignored. Maine's then Governor and then DHHS head banned child-bearing age women from receiving food stamps if they held over $5000 in assets- a reliable vehicle, a motor home, a savings account. They opposed Medicaid for poor childbearing age women.

 

The people who knows best what her body has experienced, much as Harvey Weinstein's victims know best what he did to their bodies, much as Irish Women know best their own invisibility to the physical intrusiveness of Ireland's government and the church, are the women themselves. Any politician's effort to suggest they know better than the woman replicates and breeds the theft of credibility, like that of Harvey Weinstein's victims. Like that of women sequestered in Irish homes for unwed women.

 

Unconditional credibility for women begins to end shaming as the tool that pries a woman off her own body's instinct to speak up or acknowledge what it knows and makes her gut invisible to herself.

 

This brings us to the Gag rule Congress now reviews to prohibit Planned Parenthood clinics from telling women about options for termination of a pregnancy. It is another version of the discrediting of Weinstein's victims, the practice of sequestering of unwed, pregnant women and yes, the hip young dad telling me to "[Expletive]... off". Child maltreatment is, as ever, put on the backseat made invisible egocentrically, by shaming, humiliating and discrediting. Just saying, "[Expletive]... off" if someone happens to notice it.

The Indifference Diaries, Part 2: Giving Three Million Dollars to Corporations While Maltreated Children Wait

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:52

Maine's children receive grossly inadequate services from Child Protective Services. Three have been murdered or had a perpetrator convicted in Maine since December. The Legislature has prioritized giving 3 million dollars to the subsidiary of the largest weapons making corporation in the world. Protection for children tagged as maltreated remains underfunded all the same.

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The Indifference Diaries: Part 2 Prioritizing Corporations Over Maltreated Children

-Susan Cook-

 

In December of 2017, a 4 year old child was murdered by the partner of her grandfather, after Maine's Child Protective Services placed her in their foster care. She is one of 3 children murdered or whose perpetrator was sentenced for murder in Maine since December. The living situations of these children were not investigated by Child Protective despite multiple reports. Maine funding for Child Protective has been substantially reduced. One example: 2.2 million dollars for Community Partnerships for Protecting Children will end in September.

 

In December, local legislators not far from where the 4 year old lived were carefully catered to the BIW Vice President Jon Fitzgerald grooming them to sponsor a 3 million tax cut bill for the local subsidiary of the fifth largest weapons maker in the world. State Senator Dana Dow of Wiscasset, the town where the 4 year old lived in an under-investigated foster home, has spoken loudly about the need for that 3 million dollar a year tax cut.

 

There is not enough money for both good services for maltreated children and 3 million for BIW managment in the state budget. If there were, children who have been screened in as likely child maltreatment cases would not have to wait an average of 99 days for services.

 

Then there's the ten year old in Stockton Springs who died in February after being beaten daily, multiple Child Protective reports ignored. State Senate President Mike Thibodeau and State Representative Karlton Ward represent the district where she lived while Child Protective report after report were ignored by an underfunded DHHS. These legislators too want the state to give that 3 million dollars a year toBIW.

 

The annual federal Child Maltreatment report has been published for 27 years for the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, by the Children's Bureau of the Department of Human Services. Child fatalities, Child Protective Services data and Perpetrator data are voluntarily sent. Maine has gaping omissions in the data they submit.

 

*Maine's Data on the number of child fatalities in 2016 is left out.

*Maine's Data on the number of child maltreatent victims eligible for then referred to other agencies is missing

*Maine's Data on the number of maltreatment victims who received court action is missing.

 

The Child Maltreatment report is available about a year after it is collected. Maine's 2016 Child Maltreatment information sent in tells us there were about 225000 children under 18 in Maine.

 

*There were 3158 perpetrators that year who maltreated 3446 child victims that year.

*1626 children received services that year.

*Of those 1626 children, 799 received services on or after the report date.

*The average number of days after report until the child received services was 99 days .

* About 23 calls a day or 8392 calls were received through the Child Abuse hotline. 7618 were screened out.

*That leaves 774 children who were reported as possible victims of maltreatment who on average 99 days later would be recieve services from the state of Maine.

 

Multi-billion dollar corporation General Dynamics/ Bath Iron Works will wait far less time to know if they'll receive 3 million dollars a year in a cash back tax subsidy.

 

Three million dollars a year works out to about $3800 a year to pay for services for each of those 774 children screened in as maltreated. A 99 day wait period- on average – is hideous.

 

So to get back to Senator Thibodeau and Senator Dow sponsoring 3 million in BIW cash tax rebates, why not spend it on saving children's lives and bringing them services soon after someone calls suspecting child maltreatment? There is not enough money for both.

 

Does it have to wait until someone realizes "That's Senator Thibodeau's and Representative Ward's district. That happened in Senator Dow's district, the chair of the Taxation Committe who strong-armed everyone into giving 3 million dollars in year-end retirment contribution/bonus money to the 5 th largest weapons maker in the world." I have worked with children and adolescents since 1976. I do not know what a diary of these children in the last weeks of their lives would say. I do know that 3800 dollars a year that might pay for a once a week home visit for each child would go a long way toward preventing their deaths. That amount would cover the same service for the other 774 children tagged as being maltreated in 2016. Favoring corporations over 774 children tagged as maltreated is indifference. Not to corporations but to children.

Seeing Consequence Before It Happens: Asking Questions about Children who are Suffering, Noticing the Answer

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:20

We know the consequence of indifference.In late 2017, Maine witnessed 3 murders of children: 2 by foster care-takers, one at the hands of the nonbiological partner of the parent and a pregnant parent. Just-like-that. Although we know it was not just-like-that. It was consequence. And we have to say, from the Commissioner of the Dept. of Health and Human Services on down, ours to be accountable for.

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Seeing Consequence Before It Happens: Asking Questions, Noticing the Answer

-Susan Cook-
In Buddhism, samsara is the Sanskrit word for the endless cycle of suffering: birth, death, rebirth, misery. They poach some of their  agony about this onto "karma" which is regularly misinterpreted to mean "What goes around , comes around." That is a misinterpretation of karma. Karma says, quite simply, there is a consequence from cause and effect. That doesn't mean that we dismiss the possibility of a user-friendly existence. Samsara says, quite simply, "We know."
I am reminded of this as yet another child has died in a foster home deemed safe by Maine's Department of Health and Human Services Commissione,  the head of the organization so yes, the karma is the Commissioner's to bear, ultimately. 
I run out of ideas about how we help people become more vigilant about watching children to make sure they are cared for and not in harm's way.  I say that in the wake of an active and engaged interest in child abuse and neglect that stretches back to 1976. I worked then as a home visitor to children aged 3 or under who were considered "at risk". Bearing witness to parents barely able to provide warm shelter in rural Maine winters and watching children take second place to their parents' inability to see beyond their own needs set me on a path of inquiry. Why do some parents end up in that circumstance?
Why?
Now, sometimes it seems others deign to ask that question. That it is not for us to ask why but ours to watch when it happens and say the karma lies elsewhere.
 
I was in a training chock-full of clinicians, guardian-ad-litem (those appointed by the court to assess the best interest of the child), lawyers, judges and state Child Protective officials.
 
Back then, a child had been murdered by another foster parent, who also had been a child welfare worker. I asked what seemed an obvious question of the Child Protective official. What has changed since the child's death?
Vipers don't recoil more quickly than the Child Protective Official did.
"Maybe you should tell us what you think should change, " in a tone that even in a cold Maine winter was icy and mocking. 
I have to say, it was, at that point, that I wondered if there was still any interest in asking "why" anymore.
Rather, as time has progressed, care for what happens to children is directed toward the zygote - immediate post conception- or the embryo stage- the first 10 or 8 weeks of pregnancy. Terminating an unwanted pregnancy at that point is now vociferously protested  as indifference to well-being. 
When a spiritual tone envelops the discussion,  the view becomes even more unambiguous about what is or is not protecting a child.
When I told one clinician who was  outspoken about his deep sensitivity to zygote/ embryonic pregnancy, that I worked with children in high conflict families, often with abuse present, he said, "Oh, that's big of you. If you're drawn to that kind of work." I asked myself how an avidly outspoken clinician, keenly sensitive to zygote/embryonic pregnancy could not be drawn to working with children at risk for abuse  in those situations.
That is karma. Without being drawn to the consequence of zygote, embryonic, fetal development, labor, delivery, birth, neonatal health, developmental stages, and the context of parental and family care, the karma  may well become indifference.
We know the consequence of indifference. Maine now has another child murdered by a foster care-taker. Just-like-that. Although we know it was not just-like-that. It was karma. And we have to say, from the Commissioner on down, ours.

The Two and One-Half Minute Conspiracy: Is Congress Losing Credibility as a Moral Proving Ground?

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 02:57

Some places, for example, the Intelligence Committee of the United States Senate serve as our country's moral proving ground. But this week‘s testimony from the United States Attorney General Mr. Sessions raises the concern Congress is losing its credibility and stature as a moral proving ground. Here was Mr. Sessions, the profound skeptic on the defensive, accusing the US Senate Intelligence Committee of secret innuendo making. The Committee members navigated territory they always have- the moral proving ground of disputed versions of events.

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The Two and One-half Minute Conspiracy Theory -
Is Congress Losing Credibility as a Moral Proving Ground?


-Susan Cook-
I heard a Buddhist teacher talk recently about the meaning of charnel ground in Buddhist theologies. That’s where spiritual metamorphous takes place.  Many people seek moral redemption there but are surprised and dismayed when they confront all the illicit, dark-sided stuff they thought they were leaving behind. Convicted felons, broken promise-makers, adulterers, liars, thieves,  dens of iniquity. Turns out it is real life which , as you can well imagine, is not pristine and untainted. And there you  are , another Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron says, and you start where you are.  Getting there doesn’t mean you are granted immediate moral redemption or immunity or a step up on the moral hierarchy. And the convicted felon still is not the best candidate to be entrusted to guard the financial assets or electronic personal information or the precious jewels. The spiritual bump and grind still lies ahead.

We hope that some places are far from the charnel ground, for example, the Intelligence Committee of the United States Senate as its own moral proving ground. But I’m not so sure about that . This week‘s testimony from the United States Attorney General Mr. Sessions suggests Congress is losing its credibility and stature as a moral proving ground. Here was Mr. Sessions, the profound skeptic, carefully stepping around heaps of collected uncertain material, on the defensive alleging secret innuendo of uncertain nature or origin. And here was his indignation that he was being asked about betrayal, broken promises-  certainly the stuff of which the charnel ground is made. No moral redemption seeking from this testifier. Mr. Sessions’ indignation took precedence over this Committee, still commissioned as one of this country’s many moral proving grounds- no matter how questionable and mucky the wading ground. If the US Attorney General doesn’t respect that, then maybe a conspiracy theory is warranted- that this country as a moral proving ground is seriously threatened and maybe that will stir our collective aspiration to protect the moral proving ground we‘ve always - and the world- turned toward.  

How to Have A Social Conscience: A Citizen's Guide to the Psychology of "Less Than"

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 03:09

Millions of women all over this country are protesting the denial and exclusion of women’s rights by the new Washington, DC throne holder. So to explore Social conscience- or at least understand what a Social conscience is when it comes up in the media, you might ask yourself these questions:
If my experience is different than someone else’s, do I believe the person is ‘less than’ me otherwise the person would not have has those experiences? And there are more to ask.

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How to Have A Social Conscience:
A Citizen’s Guide To The Psychology of ‘Less Than‘
-Susan Cook-
There are times in this country when conscience seems to have retreated right back into its most egocentric, self-serving form. You know, the ‘what I do is ok but what you do is not ok‘ view. Conscience as a grand opportunity to make judgments about who is ‘less than’. ‘Less than’ who we ask? ‘Less than’ you, of course.
There are long and lengthy psychology arguments about where conscience begins: if it begins out of personal pain or if it begins in watching people you love be in pain and then gradually becomes a ‘social conscience’. Then your primary focus is not just yourself but how the world is for people who are different than you, that is, empathy, moral awareness, or a social conscience. Millions of women all over this country are protesting the denial and exclusion of women’s rights by the new  Washington, DC throne holder. So to explore Social conscience- or at least understand what a Social conscience is  when it comes up in the media, you might ask yourself these questions-

If my experience is different than someone else’s,  do I believe the person  is ‘less than’ me otherwise the person would not have has those experiences?
Do I believe that because I have not had those experiences, I am better than the other person and thus I am empowered to pass judgment on them and do not have to pass laws to protect people because that would never happen to ‘my kind’? Do I believe that some people are just better than others or at least ‘the way they do’ things is better than the way other people ‘do things‘, so when someone does something you don’t like, you can blame them? You can feel morally superior and you can even express contempt toward the other or pass judgment or look down on them because you are entitled to act as if you are superior?
When all is said and done , and someone says, ‘Don’t you have a social conscience?’ do you avoid answering because you are- remember where we started with this- better than the other people and don’t need to have empathy or a need to protect their well-being because the most important person is you?

This Political Year of Women: Smears, Cheap Shots and Character- A Citizen's Guide

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 08:11

If you missed the smearing, cheap shots and character assassination against women this year, and one woman in particular, maybe you were cut off from earth-bound communication. This year was ‘proof’ strategies flourish, to undermine the credibility and judgment of women- no matter how many credentials she’s acquired, critical responsibilities she’s taken on or professional advances she’s made. If someone wants to reduce her through name-calling, lie invention, Facebook reputation smearing that she has poor judgment, is a crook, a controlling bitch, a substance abuser, is a 'no filter' big mouth, or indifferent to sexual assault, all they have to do is start saying it. Put it on Twitter, editorialize it in the local newspaper, or post it on Facebook. There you have it. Like a public offering traded on the stock market, the smearing gains value the more it’s traded. It is doesn’t matter if you are Hillary Clinton. Or Madeline Albright. It could be you. It could be me.
Stunningly though, permission for smearing and discrediting of a woman- ‘trial by the court of public opinion’ one Party chair called it to justify a smear campaign he actively took part in- ’taking out to the woodshed’ another Party Chair called it- is shored up by gender-bias. Stereotypes that demean women and give others- including men -permission to keep her in her place, discredit her or not trust her are the archetypes summoned by the fury of the smearing. Even though 59 percent of women in this country identify themselves as feminists, there is a blind spot that hides the spontaneous and willing engagement in sexist smearing- if you are a woman -as not feminism. This is what Madeline Albright meant when she said there is a special spot in hell for women who do not support other women.

Smearscheapshotsandcharacterassassination_small This Political Year of Women: Smears, Cheap Shots and Character -Susan Cook- If you missed the smearing, cheap shots and character assassination against women this year, and one woman in particular, maybe you were cut off from earth-bound communication. This year was ‘proof’ strategies flourish, to undermine the credibility and judgment of women- no matter how many credentials she’s acquired, critical responsibilities she’s taken on or professional advances she’s made. If someone wants to reduce her through name-calling, lie invention, Facebook reputation smearing that she has poor judgment, is a crook, controlling, a substance abuser, indifferent to sexual assault, all they have to do is start saying it. Put it on Twitter, editorialize it in the local newspaper, or post it on Facebook. There you have it. Like a public offering traded on the stock market, the smearing gains value the more it’s traded. It is doesn’t matter if you are Hillary Clinton. Or Madeline Albright or it could be you or it could be me. The G-force is heightened when other women take part in it. If you are a woman who criticizes the prevailing regime in this country, that only men become President- you are an attacker. If women join in, it amplifies the case that you are. Stunningly though, permission for smearing and discrediting of a woman- ‘trial by the court of public opinion’ one Party chair called it to justify a smear campaign he actively took part in- ’taking out to the woodshed’ another Party Chair called it- is shored up by gender-bias. Stereotypes that demean women and give others- including men -permission to keep her in her place, discredit her or not trust her are the archetypes summoned by the fury of the smearing. Even though 59 percent of women in this country identify themselves as feminists, there is a blind spot that hides the fact that spontaneous and willing engagement in sexist smearing- if you are a woman -is not feminism. This is what Madeline Albright meant when she said there is a special spot in hell for women who do not support other women. If only permission to smear women was old news. It is not. What is still news is the lack of protest against it by other women. Few labeled what we saw this political year as sexist. Few labeled the women who freely engaged in it- many being paid to do so by through their political jobs- as Not Feminist, Traitors to the Core of Feminist Achievement and Belief, and yes, the progenitors of a return to no reproductive rights, more gender pay inequity, and every other public policy that demeans women‘s judgment and her capacity to choose. Feminist political ideology becomes just so much loose cannon talk and no-filter thinking. You know how women are. Directors of Communication, lofty members of the Judicial branch of Government, - an FBI Director, Attorney General and yes members of the Democratic Party either joined in or couldn‘t really think of anything to say. They said nothing. Where have feminists gone and more importantly why did they go. Sometimes I think it is just a time warp because of all the advancement the women‘s movement has brought and everybody‘s forgotten that the necessary condition for feminism to exists acknowledging that gender makes a difference. I was on a train to the Democratic National Convention and spoke with the leader of a very large Feminist organization. I decried the Democratic Party for openly supporting the Independent man instead of the bright, capable female candidate. ‘It‘s ok, ’ she said. ’He’ll still vote with the Democrats.’ It was not, then, nor is it now ok to ignore the gender of a female political candidate. Femaleness still brings a different voice systematically devalued and overlooked in male-dominated cultures. . Female Genital Mutilation remains a culturally accepted practice in Muslim countries. Women still experience gross economic inequity. Carol Gilligan, the Harvard psychologist, who wrote ‘In a Different Voice-’ openly questioned the exclusion of female subjects from studies used to define human development- from National Institute of Health studies of heart disease to studies of moral development, male experience was routinely seen as equivalent to human. Women’s decision-making about right and wrong is often defined by violations of care for others and one’s self and connection as central to moral awareness. This political year brought back exclusion of women by women . They overlooked gender as a critical political consideration. Carol Gilligan was chosen the first Ms. Magazine ‘Woman of the Year’. She quoted a student of hers who said women become the float in relationship to men-and male culture- the variation in what they think and choose dependent on what males think and choose. Of course, we tend to think women have come a long way from the days when women were humiliated or shamed or bullied into accommodating male beliefs and thinking. I am afraid we have returned to a time when bullying and shaming is the preferred cultural tool for changing what women think. A New York Times columnist editorialized about ‘What Women Lost’ in this political year. I’m not sure that we’ve lost anything. Rather the permission to bully and discredit women has been there all along. This year we had a National stage for it and a male candidate and his team particularly well-versed in pursuing it. And maybe we’ve all just returned to not noticing the women are missing. And women becoming ‘the float’ - bullied, called out as untrustworthy loose cannons and liars, - who change their minds depending on male decisions- like the student Carol Gilligan quoted- that was me - said.

The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry: Today, More Men Who Act like Unwanted Pregnancy Has Nothing to Do With Men?

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 01:32

The Sixty Second Moral asks questions about what is right or wrong in 60 seconds more or less. So, today, we ask, will there be yet another man who acts as if unwanted pregnancy has nothing to do with men, is just the woman’s situation, an indifferent man for whom the fate of the conceived after birth is not his responsibility, the day-to-day care, feeding, clothing, childcare, medical care, not his problem. Will there be yet another man who doesn’t know that childbirth is a privilege wrung from adequate prenatal care, earned by people and societies who actually give children housing, feeding, clothing, education, sustain quality of life , clean breathable air, and yes, his tax bill may be higher.

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The Sixty Second Moral Inquiry:
Today, will there be yet another man who acts like unwanted pregnancy has nothing to do with men?

Today will there be yet another man who acts as if unwanted pregnancy has nothing to do with him, is just the woman’s situation, an indifferent man for whom the fate of the conceived after birth is not his  responsibility, the day-to-day care, feeding, clothing, childcare, medical care, not his problem. Will there be yet another man who doesn’t know that childbirth is a privilege wrung from adequate prenatal care, earned by people and societies who actually give children housing, feeding, clothing, education, sustain quality of life , clean breathable air, and yes, his tax bill may be higher. Will there be another man who conceived an unwanted pregnancy hanging up on the mother who calls to tell him the child is born and breathing now and will need money for safe warm housing, to be fed with food stamps, or the 5000 dollar nest egg the mother put aside from money from the sale of the snowmobile to buy safe childcare, away from negligent caretakers, selfish alcoholics, addicts , sexual or physical abusers, or pedophiles who harm the child or the mother? Will the men for whom childbirth is just more narcissistic self-indulgence finally grasp healthy children’s care and healthy mothers mean his taxes may be higher?

Why Women Don't Tell: Dying from Silence

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:59

The anniversary of the loss of my childhood friend who died from suicide just passed. She, like many women, was sexually abused and never told anyone. Not too long ago, many assaulted by Harvey Weinstein are finally told. For the silence of those who have been exploited or sexually assaulted to end, shame needs to be disenfranchised, for once, from telling. Which means that the blame, the ready cacophony of ‘She’s lying’, the persistent undermining of women’s credibility, no matter what her experience or credential ends. We all bear witness to that in the reduction of an exceptionally experienced, brilliant woman who ran for president reduced to liar, sneaky untrustworthy thief and criminal. We should all fear that the same specter awaits those who have accused Weinstein and that in time, his accusers will be met with the same sanctioned dismissive view.

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Why Women Don’t Tell: Dying of Silence
-Susan Cook-
The anniversary of the death of my childhood best friend, who I’ll call ‘S’, passed recently. 'S' drove to an isolated country road, parked her yellow convertible by the side, and, in time, died. She committed suicide. Someone found her there. Over the next few weeks time- word of her death spread to me when her roommate answered my call late one Sunday night,  hoping to talk  to my longest friend. Her ashes were scattered  from a mountain overlooking the ocean.   The long disoriented grieving then began for a 24 year old, who I knew had not always been happy, but presented happiness to everyone else. Yellow was her favorite color.
Years later, her roommate, who had an unusual first name, was mentioned in a memoir I was reading. I wrote the author, wondering if the mentioned person was the roommate I had spoken to that night.  It was. In the conversation that followed, the roommate  told me that yes,  ‘S’ had been repeatedly sexually abused by a sibling. ‘S’ and I shared much about our  lives but she never told me that.
Sexual assault and abuse unravel the innocence of human development.  I remember when her first high school boyfriend told  her , she had ‘bedroom eyes’. one of those precipitous moments when, she and I knew, there was something emerging in the way she was seen and we did not know what it was. Then there were the nights when  her parents weren’t home, when we each with our then 2 or 3 week - long romances,  disappeared into  separate rooms, the radio on, playing "Strawberry Fields Forever", sometimes. From ninth grade on, she bleached her hair with ‘Summer Blonde’, lighter and lighter shades, the older she got. She had learned males like blondes.
Why S never told me, or for that matter, only one other person  was, I suppose, emotional protection- of an extremely isolating and dangerous kind . Not all sexually violated people commit suicide . But if  suicidality doesn‘t come, substance abuse and deep despair and distress may.
All of this comes to mind , as it does every year,  because  ‘S’  not telling  makes her like the hundreds of women who have not told. This year, it comes at a time when many women have- only now-  come forth to identify themselves as victims of  sexual assault and harassment by  Harvey Weinstein. They are finally telling.  S never got that opportunity or could not take whatever one arose.
We don’t need to travel too far to witness the subtle and unsubtle signs that telling will be met with blame, the ready cacophony of ‘She’s lying’, the persistent undermining of women’s credibility, no matter what her experience or credential . And this year the question is again raised. Why hasn’t shame been disenfranchised, once and for all from the telling of sexual assault and abuse? 
Many may remember Rep. Todd Akin raising the question in a Missouri television interview about whether a woman claiming rape  “was really raped”. After all, he said, discussion of the choice to terminate a pregnancy after rape is irrelevant because “rape doesn‘t cause pregnancy.” 


And then, there‘s the coverage of a 2013 Maine prostitution trial  following the exploitation of a young woman by 140 men. Her feelings, her body, her violation were pretty much ignored as the media devoured the events. The statewide newspaper headlined the “dilemma” of men who paid for sex with her trying to prevent the embarrassment of publicity . And then there was  the Maine Press Herald columnist  who  wrote of the young woman  “oh yes, having sex with well over 140 men who paid dearly for an hour of her precious time” and questioned how contrite she was  when she said “These actions were not taken because I wanted to. I did not feel like I was in a position to choose.” Bill Nemitz, the columnist wrote, “Come again?” “The Madam glides from the spotlight insisting she'd been tricked into turning tricks,” he wrote.
The young woman was held in sex slavery  (the human rights term for prostitution)  by Mark Strong, the Thomaston insurance agent barely mentioned by Mr. Nemitz or his newspaper. After her trial, in which she was sentenced to 10 months in jail, she announced that she “was feeling free“. Any humanitarian observer would note that anyone who says she is ‘feeling free’ after being sentenced to 10 months in jail has been  imprisoned by far worse jailers.
Most recently,  the same male columnist shared the stage as the interviewer of this year’s winner of the Frances Perkins Center award for  Intelligence and Courage, named after FDR‘s very accomplished Secretary of Labor. This an interviewer  who quite crassly dismissed  the credibility of a sexual assault victim . It was  as if a sexually assaulted  woman’s undermined credibility in telling had absolutely nothing to do with  that of Jane Meyer, the award winner or Frances Perkins, both of whom no doubt encountered as women many efforts to dismiss their believability.  Maybe the Center thought interviewing Jane Meyer would be ‘easy’. Of course, different day, different dollar, as the saying goes.
Which brings us back to not telling- and where the  permission to shame and discredit sexual assault victims comes from. To accuse them of lying,  ‘she deserved it’, sometimes with  the subtle collusion of women using long familiar tactics for shaming girls and women. We should all fear that, in a short time, Harvey Weinstein’s accusers will be met with the same sanctioned dismissive view.
So, this time of year  yes, I’m angry about that. But not as angry as I am that my friend ‘S’ could not tell about her long sexual abuse because she knew  the consequence of telling and thus died, from silence.

The Little Prince and His Imaginary Rose: Her Imaginary Care and The Proprietary Life

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:17

I’m not sure how one marries the  proprietary "I give the right to life”  to the “I give the right to life free from emotional and physical torment”. Like “The Little Prince” in St. Exupery’s book, the rose some in our society imagine they "give the right to life” becomes even more imaginary when it comes to her care, drawn only on paper. And even when the roses are real, a judicial system that gives only a verbal warning to an alleged sexual abuser to have no contact with children gives only imaginary protection to them.

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The ‘Little Prince”  and His Imaginary Rose:
Her Imaginary Care and  the Proprietary Life
-Susan Cook-
“I gave my children the right to life“,  a friend said to me recently.  I was struck by how proprietary that view- that who conceives a child owns the right to life. I had never quite heard it put that way. There is much more to be done to own life and nurture children than conception .
I remembered that conversation  when the founder of a local youth theater group was indicted for sexual exploitation, unlawful sexual contact with children under the age of 12 and violation of their privacy. The accused’s attorney  sought 500 dollars cash bail . The judge raised it to 5000 dollars cash bail and 50,000 dollars real estate surety and "banned" the alleged perpetrator from having contact with children under the age of 16. The tone of his defender in the local newspaper generously left room for doubt. The demand for a complete and thorough review of policy and practice, conviction on hand or not, was muted by comparison. The fear that some "citizen" might lead to disenfranchisement of the theater group seemed an undercurrent.
The founder of the local youth theater group has now been sentenced to 10 years in state prison for the sexual abuse of 8 children.
Sexual abuse and molestation damage the right to a life free from emotional and physical torment and life-long impaired functioning. I often wonder why the same  logic used by Second Amendment proponents "If guns are outlawed, only  outlaws will have guns" isn't  applied to someone who has been indicted on sexual abuse charges who has successfully deceived caretakers. Why wouldn’t that same deception apply to his agreement to ban himself from harming them? Why would a judge believe that sexual abuse indictments bring some magical restoration of a conscience which says do not hurt children?  The legal system's bar seems to be set very high for the proof required to show that children are in need of protection from an alleged exploiter.  Five hundred dollars cash bail? All the indicted has to do is nod his head "Yes." The  protesters outside Planned Parenthood clinics holding pictures of fetuses, directed toward those who see parenthood as a privilege, needing responsible commitment and planning are lawfully permitted to engage in far more shaming and hostility than this man indicted on sexual abuse charges will witness. 
Still, this “sole proprietorship” claim -“I give them the right to life”- does nothing to protect children when there is no ownership or accountability, personally, or by society, for a life damaged by   neglect and abuse, dangerous parenting, poverty, non-vigilant child care or a legal system that relies on a verbal caveat to alleged sexual abusers "to avoid contact with children under 16". I am reminded of the Portland Press Herald report that the average number of years spent in jail by people  convicted of murdering a child in Maine is six years. I am reminded of the Maine Children’s Death Study (1980, Maine Bureau of Health) which found that the co-occurring factor for most  children who die by any means between birth and age 18  is the family’s receipt of food stamps. In other words, poverty. The  "Adverse Childhood Experiences" (ACE) study  now further confirms that abuse and neglect lead to markedly higher levels of  physical and emotional illness, and impaired functioning throughout life.
 
At the same time, personal choice after conception to continue a pregnancy - or not- what an individual can claim as theirs to decide- is always being disputed by those who claim to be the better judge than the mother of whether she has the emotional, physical and social capacity to bear and raise a child free from abuse, neglect and torment. It is only the child who suffers from their misjudgement and the shaming and humiliation of a woman who does not believe she can give a child a safe life. Nobody contests the average 6 year sentence in Maine of murderers of young children. Nobody contests the gross inadequacy of a judicial system giving a verbal warning to an alleged abuser to have no contact with children under the age of 16. Ownership of the damage and suffering children experience  when raised by parents whose reckless self indulgence or deprivation take precedence over a child’s well-being may be nowhere to be found. It does not freely follow from the sole-proprietor “I give the right to life" claim.
We are not a society that takes care of children or mothers. They are not guaranteed good care if the state enters into the home because neglect or abuse has been recognized. The foster care system is miserably under funded and inadequate. Maine has witnessed in recent months yet another murder of a child by a foster home caretaker deemed adequate by the Department of Health and Human Services.
A woman  offered maternity leave at 1/3 her prior salary is inadequately paid. There is certainly no wish to extend any care or bounty to chilldren of illegal immigrants, asylum seekers or legal immigrants, a recent suggestion floated that parents and children seeking asylum be held in separate facilities by Immigration authorities.
I’m not sure how one marries the  proprietary "I give the right to life”  to the “I give the right to life free from emotional and physical torment”. Like “The Little Prince” in St. Exupery’s book, the rose some in our society imagine they "give the right to life” becomes even more imaginary when it comes to her care, drawn only on paper. And even when the roses are real, a judicial system that requires only a verbal warning to an alleged sexual abuser to have no contact with children gives only imaginary protection to them.

Shaming and Humiliating By Choice: Roe v. Wade and Denying Consequence

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:13

As 6 Supreme Court Justices end Roe v. Wade, shaming and humiliating Pro-Choice advocates becomes the anti-choice strategy.

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Shaming and Humiliating Women By Choice
Shaming and humiliating have always been behind actions made toward females who do something adverse to the (the male- dominated) status quo. Ten year old girls slapped across the face when they disclose for the first time to an adult that they have been repeatedly sexually abused by another person or adult women standing up to defend women's right to make choices about her body  are examples of targets of actions intended to summon these feelings.
At the Planned Parenthood of New England rally I attended,  a man held up his poster of a mutilated face (just enough of face to imply that this photo-shopped image was a baby) . Other protesters went over and held up their signs to block his sign. He eventually put that sign down then held up his picture of a 3 or 4 month old infant. His intention was clear: shame, humiliate and the unsaid about the rally attendees : murderer, torturer with whatever grotesque imagery or distortion he could make.
Zygote, embryo or fetal health- and that of a newborn- are - as reproductive rights insist- fundamentally linked to the physical and mental health of the mother. As Gloria Steinem points out, reproductive rights also protect giving birth to an infant at the same time protecting a woman's right to not be forced to give birth against her will.
Pro-choice exists for the suicidal woman with an unwanted pregnancy, the pregnant woman in an abusive relationship who knows the physical, sexual or emotional abuse from a partner will not end just because a pregnancy is brought to term and will very likely make the newborn a victim of that abuse as well. Pregnancy does not cure physical, emotional or sexual abuse. The ectopic pregnancy of a woman who will die if the pregnancy continues, all of these are the object of the man who showed up to shame and humiliate. Would he be an abusive, shaming and humiliating father too? His intent at the rally was clear.
Shaming and humiliation have always been the back pocket strategy to denigrate women- prostitutes, rape victims (she asked for it), sexually abused children (they're lying), the abused woman who cannot make the abuse end or the woman in a relationship where the cold indifference to her emotional well-being did not succeed in preventing pregnancy. The recourse for women in these situations is limited.

Reproductive choice supporters know each of these circumstances has precipitated many female suicides.
If all else fails to denigrate the authentic pain women experience, when an unwanted pregnancy takes place, Ed Whalen, a prominent anti-choice lawyer on PBS “Firing Line” emphasized another “go-to”. Roe v. Wade should be overturned because, he said “Roe was lying. She made it up.”
There is explicit gender bias in anti-choice laws. Males who've fertilized a female ova have always found ways to avoid parental obligation. “Ignore the pregnant woman” is one which 23andMe and Ancestry.com are rapidly undoing by uncovering actual paternity of children previously unidentified, born to mothers who by threat or force remained silent. A woman recently discovered her half-sister much to the rage of her 90-something mother .
Another way is to present complete indifference to the pregnancy, making it clear that the sole provider of caretaking will be the mother if she carries the pregnancy  to term. Remember women earn 70 cents or so for every dollar men make, a figure which has been much much lower in the past.
Threats to the woman by the male if she brings the pregnancy to term are not unheard of,  literally again, forcing her to terminate a pregnancy is also not unheard of.
And then there are the stories about the women who brought an unwanted pregnancy to term calling the father to announce the birth upon which the male immediately hangs up the phone, these days the text or email deleted.
The man showing up with his grotesque photos carries on that cycle of shaming, humiliating, abusing and precipitating physical and mental illness, if not suicide, with, by the way absolutely no consequence (as there are none for Ed Whalen) for his actions.