“They say our mothers really know how to push our buttons – because they installed them.”
Image: Business Today
“They say our mothers really know how to push our buttons – because they installed them.”
Image: Business Today
Many of the cases that arrive before the U.S. Supreme Court begin with individuals either trying right a wrong or make their own lives better. They rarely expect to launch a national movement. That was pretty much the case when Norma McCorvey found herself pregnant with her third child in 1969. An unemployed carnival worker living outside Dallas at the time, McCorvey apparently had led a rough life and had given up her first two children for adoption. She didn’t need – and couldn’t afford – to bring another child into the world. However, the state of Texas didn’t allow for abortions except to save the life of the mother. Even rape and incest victims couldn’t end their unwanted pregnancies. Like so many women in her situation, McCorvey was too poor to travel to another state where abortions were safe and legal. She even tried to obtain an illegal abortion, but again the cost was prohibitive. She sought legal help and ended up under the guidance of attorneys Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington.
In 1970, after McCorvey had given birth and given up the baby, Coffee and Weddington filed paper work challenging the Texas law and bestowed the name “Jane Roe” upon their client. They targeted then-Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade. Wade had entered the national spotlight nearly a decade earlier when he prosecuted Jack Ruby for killing Lee Harvey Oswald who had been accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy. (Wade would later come to light as a ruthless prosecutor who engaged in unscrupulous legal maneuvers to ensure criminal prosecutions, no matter the cost and despite evidence to the contrary.)
After McCorvey’s suit was filed, a Texas district court ruled the state’s abortion ban violated the constitutional right to privacy under the 14th Amendment. Wade persisted, however, and vowed to prosecute any doctor who performed what he deemed unnecessary abortions in the state. The case eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court and, in a 7-2 ruling on January 22, 1973, abortion was fully legalized in the United States.
That was pretty much the end of the issue until the 1980s, when right-wing religious leaders began stoking the fires of anti-abortion rhetoric. It accompanied the presidency of Ronald Reagan who openly stated he wished for a return to an America before the 1960s. That should say enough about his bigoted state of mind, but it aligned with a growing hostility towards progressive ideology and civil rights legislation.
Earlier this week the unexpected news arrived that the Supreme Court may overturn Roe vs. Wade by the end of its current term in June. We wouldn’t know anything about this if it wasn’t for the leak of a draft opinion by Associate Justice Samuel Alito who declares the Roe decision “egregiously wrong” in terms of constitutional practicality. Chief Justice John Roberts has confirmed the veracity of the statement, but has joined many others in condemning the leak.
For many of us the leak isn’t the main concern. It’s what it says. There is now a very real possibility that nearly a half century of protection for that part of women’s overall health care could end because a handful of conservative extremists on the High Court want to inject their personal views into it.
For their like-minded ilk in the American public, the overturning of Roe marks the end of a long-fought battle in their alleged “pro-life” agenda; a perverted early Mother’s Day gift. It doesn’t matter that a majority of Americans don’t want to see a complete ban on abortion. They’ve been working for this moment over the past four decades.
For liberals, though, this is a much more dire situation. While the current case that brought Roe back into the forefront is limited to just abortion, progressives see other seminal SCOTUS decisions in the judicial crosshairs. It really isn’t extraordinary to see such cases as Obergefell vs. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage, reversed. Along with abortion, queer rights have been a target of far-right conservatives. But, if the Court sees fit to outlaw abortion at the national level (and leave it up to individual states), it could also reasonably overturn Griswold vs. Connecticut, which ruled that states could not deny birth control to married couples. Before that decision, married residents of Connecticut (and a few other states) couldn’t legally purchase birth control.
To some conservatives, abortion has become another form of birth control, which is not what contemporary feminists who jump-started the modern women’s movement desired. The latter group had always declared that abortion should be a woman’s last choice. But, with the overall concept of birth control in mind, is it possible a woman who has a tubal ligation could be criminally prosecuted? For that matter, could men who have vasectomies be subject to criminal jurisprudence? How about condoms or IUDs? Could those be outlawed?
Why stop with Roe? Aside from Obergefell and Griswold, could the Court target Loving vs. Virginia, the case that struck laws against interracial marriage? How about Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education, which outlaws racial desegregation in schools?
Remember that, when Antonin Scalia died in 2016, Republicans in the Senate displayed their usual contempt and disdain for President Obama by refusing to hold hearings on his nominee to the Court, until after Donald Trump got into office. They stated that, since Scalia’s death occurred during an election year, the incoming president should select his replacement. Yet, upon the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2020, they rammed through the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett – a character straight out of “The Handmaid’s Tale”.
That social and religious conservatives want to dictate what women can and cannot do with their own bodies conflicts with the long-held American vision of individual freedom. Many of these people screamed at the thought mandatory mask-wearing or forced vaccinations at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic; crying they should have autonomy over their own bodies. Really? What an original concept.
Conservatives herald the beauty of life, but a life costs hard dollars in the very real world of child-rearing. Since 2019, for example, the state of Texas has experienced a 1,100% rise in children placed into foster care. Love and compassion alone won’t pay those bills, no matter how much prayer one puts forth. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie once emphasized that pro-life means the entire life cycle – not just up to the moment the fetus is born.
The reasons why an individual woman wants to end a pregnancy are myriad, but it is no one else’s business. As painful a decision as it may be, I’d rather see a woman end a pregnancy she doesn’t want than give birth to a child she doesn’t want. Children who come into the world unwanted are often unloved. That’s an awful fate for someone.
Regardless, pregnancy and birth are individual choices. No one – not the Supreme Court and not a politician – has the right to interfere with that.
“There is a difference between politics and outright hate. I think people are frustrated that elected officials haven’t done enough to call that out, that maybe Democrats are afraid of talking about religion and faith openly and honestly and calling hate what it is. I think we have to.”
Michigan State Senator Mallory McMorrow, defending herself from accusations by a fellow state senator, Republican Lana Theis, that she wants to “groom kids” and “sexualize” them
McMorrow added, “I am a straight, White, Christian, married, suburban mom” who wants “every kid to feel seen, heard and supported – not marginalized and targeted because they are not straight, White and Christian.”
In 1983, when I was 19 years old, I visited a doctor for some long-forgotten reason. Before then I had noticed a slight leftward tilt in my torso, even when I stood perfectly straight. As a gymnast, perfect form was essential. It still is for that matter. When I mentioned it to the doctor, he said, “Oh, that’s scoliosis.” In my naiveté, he might as well have said, ‘You have terminal cancer and have about six months to live.’ I honestly knew nothing about scoliosis, so after he left the room, I began contemplating my 19 years on Earth and what kind of mark I’d made on my loved ones. I took it that seriously.
When the doctor returned after a few moments, I inquired further, and he explained in greater detail what scoliosis is and what causes it. My anxiety came across as mere curiosity. I had learned to act and – as a typical male – hide my emotions. If the bastard only knew how terrified I was…
One of my long-time friends, Paul, died on April 9 after a year-long battle with liver cancer. He was 55. I’d written about him previously. Paul and I had known each other for some 35 years. We actually attended the same parochial grade school in Dallas and were altar boys at the same Catholic Church. Our fathers had grown up together in East Dallas in the 1930s and 40s. Like me, Paul had a strong dedication to family. We had so much in common, yet differed on many levels. We often dined together, and during one meal a few years ago, he asked why I still hung around him. I couldn’t really answer him. In some respects, he had an elitist mentality; in part, I think, because of his years living in New York and his trips to Europe. We had something of a love/hate relationship. We’d have a dispute over some issue and would be estranged from each other for weeks and sometimes months.
Aside from good food, one love we shared was cinema. Among our favorite films was the campy 1962 classic “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane”. The movie is like a steak cooked rare – an acquired taste. We often jokingly referred to ourselves as ‘Blanche’ and ‘Baby Jane’, the dueling sisters of the story enmeshed in an unbreakable union of alcohol, bitter memories and dated outfits. Yes, I know that sounds gay, but bear with me. We watched a slew of films over the years and afterwards, critiqued them like an amateur Siskel and Ebert duo over cocktails.
Like me, Paul desired a career in the motion picture field. In the mid-1980s, I studied filmmaking at the University of North Texas. In 1991, Paul moved to New York to study the same at New York University. He earned his degree three years later and remained in New York; trying to secure his place in one of the most fickle industries in one of the toughest cities in the world. He finally decided to move back to Dallas in 1996 whereupon we began hanging out together again.
The friendship connection extended to our respective families. I’d come to know his parents, and he had come to know mine. We experienced each other’s struggles with family, friends, romance and work – you know, the usual stuff of life. When he lived in a tiny apartment, he had Christmas parties every year, with plenty of food and beverages. As much as it cost him, he told me, the gatherings made him happy. And it made others happy. They were simple times, but they were good.
I’ve written before about losing a close friend to AIDS in 1993 and how I got sick with hepatitis at the same time; how that prevented me from attending his funeral; how that made me feel I had betrayed his mother at the last moment by abandoning them – like so many of her son’s so-called friends had done. I noted how the bonds of friendship are tested during the worst times of our lives. I’m proud to say I’ve often been that ‘True’ friend and equally happy to say I have ‘True’ friends among my inner circle.
Paul and I had a dispute at the end of 2020. The source? A “New York Times” editorial about the unexpected support Donald Trump received from Hispanics in Texas. I expressed surprise, but Paul (who had grown increasingly conservative) said it made perfect sense to him. A short time later he learned he had liver cancer. As 2021 progressed, his health worsened, and our mutual desire to reconnect increased. We were old friends, after all, getting to be old men. Or as I like to call it – the tail end of middle age. A news editorial shouldn’t be a permanent barrier to good memories.
When Paul’s sister called me that Saturday night to inform me of his death, she asked, “Are you sitting down?”
“Is he gone?” I replied.
I already knew the answer.
I’ve been going through a lot personally in recent months. Paul’s demise only adds to it. There’s nothing like the death of a relative or close friend to put our lives into perspective; to understand what is truly important and valuable.
The funeral was this past Wednesday, the 20th. Beneath a cloudy sky, I stood beside a mutual and much younger friend who was doing everything not to burst out crying. I wrapped an arm around him and told him these moments are what make life so hard. We have to deal with the deaths of people we know and love – family, friends, coworkers. It’s what allows people to survive and reach a certain age. Paul buried both his parents, a beloved aunt, his older brother and two nephews. For whatever reason, his time here had ended.
Another mutual friend told me shortly after he’d learned of Paul’s death that he had dreamed of him. “I didn’t know if it was the edible I’d eaten earlier,” he added. But he said Paul told him he was happy now; he felt good and was safe.
I have to admit that – as bad as I’ve been feeling lately – I bore some envy of Paul. He was no longer suffering. All his pain had gone. He didn’t have to worry about credit card bills, taking out the trash – or wondering if he was going to wake up the next day. He also won’t get to live out his dreams of being a screenwriter.
When each of my parents died, I told people my only consolation was that they were no longer suffering from physical agonies. But they had lived long lives and they’d achieved the best they could, given their circumstances.
I suppose Paul had done the same in his 55 years.
Living our best lives is all we should do with whatever time we have.
Filed under Essays
Here’s an interesting dichotomy. Please look closely at the photo above. Is this what the tail end of middle age is all about?
Occasionally I receive mailings from a company that installs walk-in tubs – the kind used by, you know, old and or disabled people. But, for the last couple of years, I’ve also been receiving periodicals from “Parents” magazine. I suddenly feel like I’m one of the three last people on Earth – and the other two are a drug dealer and a politician.
I’m 58 now and am starting experience the early signs of an aging physique and mind: occasional loss of balance, difficulty squatting down and getting back up, saying whatever comes to mind with little regard for the consequences. In some respects, I feel like both my body and mind have tired of me and want to lead separate lives. For the most part I don’t blame them.
But note to self: I DON’T NEED A FUCKING WALK-IN TUB!!!
Not yet anyway.
The “Parents” magazine is more shocking. I don’t know how I got subscribed. It’s not like that time back in the mid-1970s when some neighbors – impressed with my curiosity and precocious nature – bought us a two-year subscription to “National Geographic”; a subscription I maintain to this day.
I literally had to do a double-take when I saw “Parents”. It didn’t seem to be a complimentary issue; a trial run. My name and address are on the label!
It’s a true irony, though. I always wanted to be a dad. To get married and settle down into a nice comfortable suburban life. But I also wanted to be a world-famous scientist, an architect, an actor and singer. Some things just don’t happen because there weren’t meant to happen. Oh well…
I’m still a writer! Something I definitely wanted to do with my life!
After peeling off the labels, the two above-mentioned items go into the recycle batch. And I go into the kitchen to grab some wine!
Some things go just as planned.
Filed under Wolf Tales
The death of actress and national icon Betty White on New Year’s Eve 2021 has left many of us here in the United States shocked and despondent. White was just 17 days shy of her 100th birthday; an event which she and the rest of us looked forward to celebrating. Now she’s gone. Suddenly. None of us really saw this coming. How could this happen? Why? But none of us should be shocked.
Death doesn’t honor our designated times of order. My paternal grandfather once said that he respected death because it bears no prejudice. It takes who it wants when it wants. According to my father it was painful for him to admit even that much; as he had seen so many very young people and/or very good people suffer an untimely demise throughout his time on Earth. My grandfather died in 1969, and my father didn’t fully comprehend the meaning of what the old man had said until some years later.
Perhaps it’s easy for we older folks to have a more cynical if not sedate view of death. I’m at the point where I know I have more years behind than ahead of me. But currently I feel I’m surrounded by people enduring serious health struggles. A close friend is showing signs of Parkinson’s. Another friend is dealing with liver cancer. His doctors gave him less than a decade, unless he has a liver transplant. But his liver seems too badly damaged to qualify for a transplant. So he’s resigned himself to decluttering his life and reconnecting with people. One of my cousins who’s 10 years older suffered a heart attack in 2020 and is now battling kidney failure. The 40-something son of another long-time friend is still recovering from a catastrophic stroke he experienced about 2 years ago. He’s ensconced in a rehabilitation facility, but doesn’t appear to be making much progress – not according to his father. The latter says it seems his son doesn’t really want to cooperate with the therapists; as if – just a few years from age 50 – he’s decided he’s lived life to the fullest.
As a manic depressive in my past life, death often occupied more space in my mind than thoughts of the future. A typical artistic type, I experience the full range of emotions humanity possesses. But death haunts all of us throughout our lives. When I was in high school, a girl was killed when a train struck the car in which she was riding. Around that same time, lightning killed a boy walking home from school. Some years later, while working at a retail store, a teenage constituent was killed by a drunk driver, and another died in a car wreck. In the fall of 1992, I happened upon the obituary of a young man I’d known in grade school; he was 29. The following year a friend died of AIDS at the age of 31.
Looking at the myriad news events surrounding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I’m always heartbroken at the sight of very young people returning home with damaged bodies and minds or in coffins. The epidemic of school shootings and deaths of those caught up in civil unrest is truly upsetting.
How is it these things are allowed to happen? Isn’t there supposed to be an all-loving, omnipotent deity who could prevent such horrors?
I’ve always wondered what life is like on “The Other Side”; whatever it’s supposed to be and wherever that is. I like to think all those I’ve known in decades past, including my parents and even my dogs, are safely enveloped in such realms; where (hopefully) they are happy and loved.
Back in 2012, I had a brief dream of an English and German instructor I had at a community college in suburban Dallas in the 1980s. She was a quirky, yet truly inspirational character. I hadn’t thought of her in years when I had that dream. I think it was a day or two later when I found her obituary in the newspaper. And I thought later that, perhaps, she flitted through my sleeping subconscious to say goodbye – for now.
Betty White’s “sudden” death saddened so many people. But she was 99! So she didn’t quite make it to her centennial birthday! She always vocalized how fortunate she was to have lived so long and to have so many people admire and love her. She had reached the end of her time in this world.
We all will at some point. As sad as it may be sometimes, it doesn’t really matter one’s age or condition at the moment of death. It just happens. We have to make our time as valuable and fulfilling as we can.
Filed under Essays
Once again, my lovely readers, the yuletide season is upon us, and while most intact families celebrate the wholesomeness of the holidays, we must understand that some people just don’t fully comprehend what it’s supposed to mean.
Herein lies a batch of odd Christmas photos where the subjects just couldn’t get into the spirit or hope their placement on a sex offender’s registry would go unnoticed.
Filed under Curiosities
By Li-Young Lee
To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.
I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.
Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy’s palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife’s right hand.
Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he’s given something to keep.
I kissed my father.
Li-Young Lee, “The Gift” from Rose. Copyright ©1986 by Li-Young Lee
Filed under News
As if we need any more idiots procreating, here comes some disheartening news: Paris Hilton wants to be a mom. The notorious hotel heiress recently announced – like people really wanted to hear this – that she and her boyfriend, Carter Reum, have begun in vitro fertilization.
Help us, Jesus! The welfare of civilization is at stake!
Hilton has gone through boyfriends like I’ve gone through bottles of vodka. And, as a recovering alcoholic, I should know!
Hilton stated she’d like to have twins, a boy and a girl, and that IVF is “the only way” to ensure that happens. To help her along, Hilton consulted with another longtime friend, an equally disingenuous celebrity famous for nothing else other than being incredibly wealthy – Kim Kardashian. Kardashian had given birth to twins via IVF, which, Hilton declares is something “I didn’t even know about.”
Living in that billionaire bubble, Hilton doesn’t know how most things work – like when you have to pay for your light bill or shop for food. And this chick wants to bring more of her kind into the world. Like I said – civilization is at stake.
I mean, who really gives a fuck?!
Most Americans remember the tragedy and miscarriage of justice surrounding Casey Anthony. She’s the Florida woman whose toddler daughter mysteriously vanished from her parents’ home in Florida in 2008. The child’s body turned up just down the road several months later, but only after Anthony’s mother reported the disappearance. Cindy Anthony called police after she opened the trunk of her daughter’s car, some 3 weeks following the little girl’s last known sighting. Casey Anthony led police on a long road of deception before they realized she was most likely responsible for her daughter’s death. Casey’s 2011 trial became a theatrical event, as people stormed the courtroom every day, and a slew of legal and media pundits offered their opinions and viewpoints. When the jury found Anthony not guilty of all charges, except lying, outrage became palpable.
And now, just as we got rid of Donald Trump, Casey Anthony has surfaced again – like a mole you thought you’d excised from your face a decade ago. Last December Anthony filed paperwork in Florida to open a private investigation firm. Named Case Research & Consulting Services, LLC, Anthony hopes to help other “wrongfully accused people, especially women, and help them get justice.”
I feel this witch got away with infanticide only because she’s a woman, mainly a White woman, and serves no purpose on Earth.
As the old Texas saying goes – get a rope!