#AnonymousSpeaks

No Human Being is Illegal: A Letter from the Border

El Paso was in the news this week, with crowds attending Beto O’Rourke’s March for Truth to counter  a Trump Rally across the street. .The El Paso Times reported big crowds for both but untruths for Trump and toned down crime talk in light of a new Congressional deal.  This woman’s letter cuts to the heart of matters..

El Paso was in the news this week, with crowds attending Beto O’Rourke’s March for Truth to counter a Trump Rally across the street. .The El Paso Times reported big crowds for both but untruths for Trump and toned down crime talk in light of a new Congressional deal. This woman’s letter cuts to the heart of matters..

On Friday, Sally, Abby and I arrive in El Paso to see the city’s sights, and also to volunteer.  Our goal is to welcome, feed, clothe and help refugees, arriving daily with their next destination somewhere in the United States.  On Sunday we begin orientation with Annunciation House. Because a new site to receive immigrants has just opened at a hotel, Annunciation House asks us to travel Sunday morning to Las Cruces, New Mexico. We three are up for the trip, 45 minutes away from El Paso.

 We arrive shortly before 50 immigrants do, mostly from Guatemala, some from Honduras and El Salvador. There’s no time for our orientation! Fifty people arrived by bus and sit outside on sidewalks and curbs in the hotel parking lot, mostly small, young families, usually pairs, a mother or father with a child.

 We learned about their journey. They cross over the bridge from Mexico to El Paso. They are taken to a detention center to be registered. They are given a thin metallic blanket and must sleep on a cold hard concrete floor, one blanket for two of them. The air conditioning is turned up high, the people kept very cold, not what they’re used to. Adults are given one frozen burrito three times a day.  The children are given a juice box and animal crackers, three times a day. When each adult and child is registered, they are given a date for legal action.

 A thick, heavy, black ankle monitor is put on the adult, programmed with the address of their sponsor, while they wait for the immigration court proceedings to unfold. It is a stark and frightening experience for them, on purpose, we are told.  The officials at the holding center are directed to make the stay very unpleasant in hopes they will decide to ‘self deport’.  A fair number of these people develop sickness, colds, fevers, and upset stomachs during their 2-5 day stays.

 You may have read about this in the news. Currently there are 30 people in one detention center in El Paso that are on hunger strike because of the conditions.  They are force-fed by a tube that is put through the nose and down their throats. The government officials at the detention centers refer to the immigrants as “bodies,” and when it is time for them to eat, they say, “It is feeding time,” as if they were animals on farms, not human.

 I am furious and very disturbed, hearing the experiences confirmed. Often a new site needs to be opened at a hotel to meet the need, as happened in Las Cruces when we arrived. There are 300-400 people arriving daily in El Paso seeking asylum from poverty and violence in their home countries.  The Detention Centers call Annunciation House Director Ruben Garcia daily to say how many they are releasing from detention. There is a tremendous amount of coordination going on to make this system flow daily. Thus the need for local and faraway volunteers like us.

Nearly all the refugees have someone in the US who will sponsor them.  The destinations of those I’ve worked with so far included Chicago, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, Atlanta, Washington D.C., upstate New York and New York City, Philadelphia, North and South Carolina, Florida, California, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, and even Vermont.  The receiving family member, friend or sponsor pays for a plane or bus ticket, trips that take one to three more days of travel.

 What do we do as volunteers? Each mother and child, or father and child (sometimes there are 2 or 3 children per adult) is welcomed by the site coordinator, and told they are safe, there will be food to eat, and enough water to drink, and medicine for those that need it. They will be warm here, respected and supported to complete their journey to their sponsor. 

 Volunteers are introduced, so families know who can help or answer questions. They then are escorted, family by family, into “the central office,” really two hotel rooms, where four Spanish-speaking volunteers complete intakes. One volunteer writes down the full name of the mom or dad, the name and age of the child(ren), where they are from, and where they need to get to next.

 Then the family moves to another table where another Spanish-speaking volunteer begins to make transportation plans.  They call the receiving sponsor in the US, and the sponsor and volunteer arrange for plane or bus tickets. Usually the parent and sponsor talk on the phone to ensure both parties understand the plan. Forms are filled out and pinned to complex whiteboards, delineating next steps by date—today, tomorrow, or the next day, by bus, plane, or pickup, if very local. 

 On those occasions when the destination address changes from the one programmed into the government’s ankle bracelet, it’s a real problem. Then arrangements have to be made to take the adult back to the detention center to get permission, and to reprogram the ankle monitor!  

 (Editor’s note: The Associated Press reports that early in 2018, immigrant families were separated as part of a “zero tolerance” program. But after a presidential executive order reversed that, families are often detained, then issued ankle monitors and released while they go through sometimes lengthy court proceedings. Inquiries into costs and suppliers and whether these monitors are effective remain unanswered by ICE—but that they associate immigration with criminality is clear.)

 After intake, the family goes to Annunciation’s next station, where I am serving as a volunteer who coordinates and assigns a hotel room number. That sounds simple, but keeping track of the rooms, and where everyone is assigned, is a feat.  There’s a large matrix on the wall, filling in who is where, with colored sticky notes, color depending on the day they arrived, and making sure that parent roommates are matched by gender, and by children with a matching age and gender. Yes, it is complicated!

 I give families their room number and escort them to the next station where Sally is volunteering, and they get a small packet of toiletries (soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb). Sally takes them to meet a “runner.” Abby is serving as a “runner,” taking the adult and child(ren) to their assigned room, and speaking enough Spanish to help them get settled in their room.

 She tells them how to open and close the door, how to work the shower, makes sure they know to flush toilet paper inside the toilet, rather than put it in the trash can, as they did back home. She explains they cannot use the hotel phone and only have one key for two families, shares the schedule for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and explains that while they are free to come down to the lobby, they must not leave the building, and can come to the office any time with any questions or medical needs.

 Families then can relax—or sometimes not!  Rooms are limited.  I often have to reassign a family to another room at a moment’s notice.  Abby then goes to them, and asks them to relocate to the room I reassign.  Abby says they are all so accommodating— “Sure no problem, and thank you.”

 Other Spanish-speaking volunteers work on transportation plans, time and flight, and find and assign a volunteer “transporter” to take the family to the airport or the bus station. I took one family to the local bus station in Las Cruces and made sure they got on the bus, but people are being transported to buses or planes throughout the day, morning or night, every day. I am amazed at the coordination it takes for all these volunteers and all this responsibility—and then there are the missed buses or connecting flights that have to be solved.

 There is a room assigned for medical help and supplies.  Today, there was a mom and three-year-old daughter, who had a rash. The nurse practitioner was called in to look at it and he determined it was scabies. So a prescription was called in, and a volunteer had to go to pharmacy in El Paso to pick it up, etc.

 At any time during their short stay, families may choose to go to the “clothing room” where Sally, Abby and I also volunteer, organizing and sorting donated clothing.  Each person is provided one new pair of socks, one new pair of underpants, a pair of pants, a blouse or shirt, and a winter coat if needed for a cold destination. 

 Local churches volunteer to provide lunches and dinners for our hundred people, which consists of rice, pinto beans, corn tortillas, sometimes shredded chicken, and when there is a lack of volunteering, pizza is brought in. When the moms and dads and children leave, they are provided with a bag filled with food.  If leaving on a bus, a family of two traveling on a three-day bus trip requires 18 sandwiches. 

Sally, Abby and I are pretty busy from 7:00 AM into the evening, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and packing destination bags with fruit and snacks. We smile and comfort these folks, many of whom are frightened. It is our honor to greet our neighbors from abroad with empathy, compassion and a smile.  As the mission of my home Unitarian Church says, we welcome all, as we build a loving community, to honor each person’s spiritual journey, to serve human need and protect the earth, our home.

Love, Jo Romano

Interested in helping? Find more about Annunciation House and volunteering here: https://annunciationhouse.org/volunteer/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 On Friday, Sally, Abby and I arrive in El Paso to see the city’s sights, and also to volunteer.  Our goal is to welcome, feed, clothe and help refugees, arriving daily with their next destination somewhere in the United States.  On Sunday we begin orientation with Annunciation House. Because a new site to receive immigrants has just opened at a hotel, Annunciation House asks us to travel Sunday morning to Las Cruces, New Mexico. We three are up for the trip, 45 minutes away from El Paso.

 

We arrive shortly before 50 immigrants do, mostly from Guatemala, some from Honduras and El Salvador. There’s no time for our orientation! Fifty people arrived by bus and sit outside on sidewalks and curbs in the hotel parking lot, mostly small, young families, usually pairs, a mother or father with a child.

 

We learned about their journey. They cross over the bridge from Mexico to El Paso. They are taken to a detention center to be registered. They are given a thin metallic blanket and must sleep on a cold hard concrete floor, one blanket for two of them. The air conditioning is turned up high, the people kept very cold, not what they’re used to. Adults are given one frozen burrito three times a day.  The children are given a juice box and animal crackers, three times a day. When each adult and child is registered, they are given a date for legal action.

 

A thick, heavy, black ankle monitor is put on the adult, programmed with the address of their sponsor, while they wait for the immigration court proceedings to unfold. It is a stark and frightening experience for them, on purpose, we are told.  The officials at the holding center are directed to make the stay very unpleasant in hopes they will decide to ‘self deport’.  A fair number of these people develop sickness, colds, fevers, and upset stomachs during their 2-5 day stays.

 

You may have read about this in the news. Currently there are 30 people in one detention center in El Paso that are on hunger strike because of the conditions.  They are force-fed by a tube that is put through the nose and down their throats.

The government officials at the detention centers refer to the immigrants as “bodies,” and when it is time for them to eat, they say, “It is feeding time,” as if they were animals on farms, not fellow humans.

 

I am furious and very disturbed, hearing the experiences confirmed. Often a new site needs to be opened at a hotel to meet the need, as happened in Las Cruces when we arrived. There are 300-400 people arriving daily in El Paso seeking asylum from poverty and violence in their home countries.  The Detention Centers call Annunciation House Director Ruben Garcia daily to say how many they are releasing from detention. There is a tremendous amount of coordination going on to make this system flow daily. Thus the need for local and faraway volunteers like us.

 

Nearly all the refugees have someone in the US who will sponsor them.  The destinations of those I’ve worked with so far included Chicago, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, Atlanta, Washington D.C., upstate New York and New York City, Philadelphia, North and South Carolina, Florida, California, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, and even Vermont.  The receiving family member, friend or sponsor pays for a plane or bus ticket, trips that take one to three more days of travel.

 

What do we do as volunteers? Each mother and child, or father and child (sometimes there are 2 or 3 children per adult) is welcomed by the site coordinator, and told they are safe, there will be food to eat, and enough water to drink, and medicine for those that need it. They will be warm here, respected and supported to complete their journey to their sponsor. 

 

Volunteers are introduced, so families know who can help or answer questions. They then are escorted, family by family, into “the central office,” really two hotel rooms, where four Spanish-speaking volunteers complete intakes. One volunteer writes down the full name of the mom or dad, the name and age of the child(ren), where they are from, and where they need to get to next.

 

Then the family moves to another table where another Spanish-speaking volunteer begins to make transportation plans.  They call the receiving sponsor in the US, and the sponsor and volunteer arrange for plane or bus tickets. Usually the parent and sponsor talk on the phone to ensure both parties understand the plan. Forms are filled out and pinned to complex whiteboards, delineating next steps by date—today, tomorrow, or the next day, by bus, plane, or pickup, if very local. 

 

On those occasions when the destination address changes from the one programmed into the government’s ankle bracelet, it’s a real problem. Then arrangements have to be made to take the adult back to the detention center to get permission, and to reprogram the ankle monitor!  

 

(Editor’s note: The Associated Press reports that early in 2018, immigrant families were separated as part of a “zero tolerance” program. But after a presidential executive order reversed that, families are often detained, then issued ankle monitors and released while they go through sometimes lengthy court proceedings. Inquiries into costs and suppliers and whether these monitors are effective remain unanswered by ICE—but that they associate immigration with criminality is clear.)

 

After intake, the family goes to Annunciation’s next station, where I am serving as a volunteer who coordinates and assigns a hotel room number. That sounds simple, but keeping track of the rooms, and where everyone is assigned, is a feat.  There’s a large matrix on the wall, filling in who is where, with colored sticky notes, color depending on the day they arrived, and making sure that parent roommates are matched by gender, and by children with a matching age and gender. Yes, it is complicated!

 

I give families their room number and escort them to the next station where Sally is volunteering, and they get a small packet of toiletries (soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb). Sally takes them to meet a “runner.” Abby is serving as a “runner,” taking the adult and child(ren) to their assigned room, and speaking enough Spanish to help them get settled in their room.

 

 She tells them how to open and close the door, how to work the shower, makes sure they know to flush toilet paper inside the toilet, rather than put it in the trash can, as they did back home. She explains they cannot use the hotel phone and only have one key for two families, shares the schedule for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and explains that while they are free to come down to the lobby, they must not leave the building, and can come to the office any time with any questions or medical needs.

 

Families then can relax—or sometimes not!  Rooms are limited.  I often have to reassign a family to another room at a moment’s notice.  Abby then goes to them, and asks them to relocate to the room I reassign.  Abby says they are all so accommodating— “Sure no problem, and thank you.”  

 

Other Spanish-speaking volunteers work on transportation plans, time and flight, and find and assign a volunteer “transporter” to take the family to the airport or the bus station. I took one family to the local bus station in Las Cruces and made sure they got on the bus, but people are being transported to buses or planes throughout the day, morning or night, every day. I am amazed at the coordination it takes for all these volunteers and all this responsibility—and then there are the missed buses or connecting flights that have to be solved.

 

There is a room assigned for medical help and supplies.  Today, there was a mom and three-year-old daughter, who had a rash. The nurse practitioner was called in to look at it and he determined it was scabies. So a prescription was called in, and a volunteer had to go to pharmacy in El Paso to pick it up, etc.

 

At any time during their short stay, families may choose to go to the “clothing room” where Sally, Abby and I also volunteer, organizing and sorting donated clothing.  Each person is provided one new pair of socks, one new pair of underpants, a pair of pants, a blouse or shirt, and a winter coat if needed for a cold destination. 

 

Local churches volunteer to provide lunches and dinners for our hundred people, which consists of rice, pinto beans, corn tortillas, sometimes shredded chicken, and when there is a lack of volunteering, pizza is brought in. When the moms and dads and children leave, they are provided with a bag filled with food.  If leaving on a bus, a family of two travelling on a three-day bus trip requires 18 sandwiches. 

 

Sally, Abby and I are pretty busy from 7:00 AM into the evening, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and packing destination bags with fruit and snacks. We smile and comfort these folks, many of whom are frightened. It is our honor to greet our neighbors from abroad with empathy, compassion and a smile.  As the mission of my home Unitarian Church says, we welcome all, as we build a loving community, to honor each person’s spiritual journey, to serve human need and protect the earth, our home.

 

Love, Jo Romano

 

Interested in helping? Find more about Annunciation House and volunteering here:

https://annunciationhouse.org/volunteer/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Trouble with THE Truth

National Intelligence 2019.jpeg

Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, gathered by 17 federal agencies, reported to Congress on Jan. 22, about our national security in 2019.  He said our American goal must be seeking the truth and speaking the truth, which was embraced by newscasters as a hopeful development, given Trump’s flip relationship with facts. Yet I couldn’t help but notice the security team was mostly male, as were the intelligence system’s creators. All seem resigned to a world under threat and guarding against inevitable war with more and bigger guns.

The inclusion of Gina Haspel, the first woman to ever head the CIA, hardly put me at ease. She’s the one who destroyed tapes of waterboarding that would hold the CIA responsible for using terror—a cherry on top of a banana-split history of political disruption and foreign violence. It was close enough to Martin Luther King Day that you’d think they might be mulling over why he said America had three big problems: race, poverty, and militarism. He left out gender, but back in his day, most everyone did.  Did I mention our top intelligence team is as white as I am?

 So why give us old news from the same old crew who says their mission is THE truth, the seeker and speaker of a single truth? Who exactly runs the distillery of their truthiness, and what rum-recipe are they using?

In our post-colonial time, we have learned there are many truths, and different ways to see matters. History is a war tale written by “victors,” and most updates of our time have come from the victims, not so much from the perps. When entrenched power speaks of change or apologies, it’s most often unconvincing—as with Guliani’s spins, the Virginia governor’s recent black-face moonwalk, or those priestly and corporate settlements out of court to avoid public exposure.

 While the public is pretty accepting of lies and half-truths after a century of advertising—the traditional funder of our journalism—lately the lies slip closer to ceaseless nuttiness. A masculine market logic of bloodless numbers, and impersonal facts of profitable threats undermine trust and solutions. A more genuine security report would surly include more girls, more color and difference, and more freedom to feel more than fear. Check out the link above.!

 The mid-term election of more diverse voices showed us a majority of Americans already know this. Unless we cherish all the life on our one green earth and begin to plot collaboration and peace, we may not survive, much less prosper. That requires a truth spoken by diverse bodies using all five senses: a shared feeling and hearing and touching of genuine thoughts, experiences, and emotions to discover what we hold in common.

 Then we might speak a more unified and inclusive truth—not THE truth, which can only be imposed by those with the biggest guns.  

—Rickey Gard Diamond

Rounding Up Children, Then and Now

Marian Pritchard with Erica Polak, a Jewish baby she was hiding in 1944. Part of the Dutch resistance under Nazi occupation, Pritchard later told an audience at a 1996 lecture at University of Michigan: “By 1945, I had lied, stolen, cheated, deceived and even killed.".” (photo from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Marian Pritchard with Erica Polak, a Jewish baby she was hiding in 1944. Part of the Dutch resistance under Nazi occupation, Pritchard later told an audience at a 1996 lecture at University of Michigan: “By 1945, I had lied, stolen, cheated, deceived and even killed.".” (photo from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum)

During my 13 years researching and writing An Address in Amsterdam, I often tried to imagine how I would have felt as a Gentile as the Nazis rounded up my Jewish neighbors— especially the children.

We know of at least one young woman, Marian Pritchard, who just couldn’t bear it when she saw Nazis storming a home for Jewish children and tossing them into trucks.  Although she was only 19, Pritchard became a staunch resistance worker who kidnapped, stole, lied, deceived and even killed by the end of the war, protecting 150 Jewish lives in the process. 

Far more people looked away from the roundups, or walked past the groups being marched through the city, or wished the war was over already.  Their indifference and collusion were a factor in the mass murder of 80% of Amsterdam’s Jewish population of 75,000.

Now, when I see stories about the children we are incarcerating at the border, I understand the position of the Dutch in 1940-45 so much better.  Something terrible is happening in my country, and I have a share of responsibility for it – more than the Dutch did, because they were occupied by a foreign power.  In this case, my money is paying for it.  My elected officials are allowing inhumane policies unless they are out front and center opposing and organizing against it.  How should I respond when I see photographs of young kids sleeping under mylar blankets and nothing else?  “Basic child welfare standards do not apply,” according to the Huffington Post.

I have read that no one is allowed to touch or comfort them.  Hundreds have been separated from everyone they love, and many have little hope of reunification.  Toddlers are taken into court hearings with representation that is a complete charade. In fact, 12,800 children were in custody in September 2018.  Two have actually died under our roof, 8-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo and 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin.

The prison (called a “tent city”) in Tornillo, Texas has been releasing some children for the last few weeks, and is slated to close— but this is no guarantee that the situation is better.  According to WLRN in Miami, “With the recent releases of children, migrant advocates are cautiously hopeful. But they question why more of the 12,400 children who remain in the HHS shelter system have not been released. And they wonder why the government is closing Tornillo, but expanding another unlicensed emergency shelter in South Florida?”

Immigrant children now housed in a tent encampment under the new “zero tolerance” policy by the Trump administration are shown walking in single file at the facility near the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Immigrant children now housed in a tent encampment under the new “zero tolerance” policy by the Trump administration are shown walking in single file at the facility near the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

It’s so easy to feel sickened by all this and turn away, to agree with those who say “It’s just too depressing” or “I can’t stand it, so I try not to think about it.”  Those are understandable reactions.  But they don’t help the kids.  How can we take personal responsibility to stop the cruelty we are engaging in as a nation?

Maintain the pressure on our Senators and Representatives.  Praise those who are taking action, such as California Rep. Ted Lieu (D), and those who are starting investigations in the House of Representatives.  If your Congresspeople are not among those who are leading the charge, goad them until they do, or ensure that they are hearing the full range of their constituents’ views.

Write or speak directly to those who perpetrate these crimes against humanity – the President, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Kevin K. McAleenan.  Write them, but also call their staffs.  These people are paid to listen to you – except right now they aren’t, because of the government shut down.  They’ll be back one day.

Get together with others to take creative action to protest and resist.  Link up with the peace and justice organizations in your community to see what’s possible as a group.  Depending on where you are, children and adults are being held in multiple locations.  Just as in Amsterdam under the Nazis, the invisibility of these prisons makes it possible for the outrages to continue.

People protest against U.S. immigration policies on the American side, right, of the Mexico-America border near Tijuana on Dec. 10, 2018. RNS photo by Jair Cabrera Torres

Support the organizations which are providing humanitarian and legal aid to these persecuted people, both adults and children.  No one will help them but you and me.  Many groups are worthy, but for whatever it’s worth these are my choices:

Keep the stories alive.  Pass them along.  Don’t let these children be forgotten – or their parents.   Talk about them at home and in your places of worship, write and post about them on your social media.  Tell your kids and grandkids what is going on.  Get them involved in trying to communicate why their country shouldn’t treat anybody this way, much less another child.  If we involve children now, maybe we can face them when they grow up.

—Mary Dingee Fillmore, author of An Address in Amsterdam


For the Men Who Love Us

Courtney Wild, now 31, was 14 years old when Palm Beach hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein first recruited her to his child sex ring. She’s one of dozens of, victims betrayed by Alex Acosta, then US Prosecutor, now Labor Secretary. Before the story by Julie K. Brown at  The Miami Herald  broke Nov. 28, 2018, Acosta was in the running for Sessions’ job as US Attorney General, Photo by Emily Michot. .

Courtney Wild, now 31, was 14 years old when Palm Beach hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein first recruited her to his child sex ring. She’s one of dozens of, victims betrayed by Alex Acosta, then US Prosecutor, now Labor Secretary. Before the story by Julie K. Brown at The Miami Herald broke Nov. 28, 2018, Acosta was in the running for Sessions’ job as US Attorney General, Photo by Emily Michot. .

If I were a guy, about now I’d be feeling pretty awful.  You’ve maybe seen your mom or daughter or sister all upset and crying, or mad as hell about the Kavanagh hearings. Maybe you’ve laughed at Matt Damon’s portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live, feeling uncomfortable, remembering times you’d seen guys like him in action, not the least bit sorry for acting like an ass.

Those guys, never sorry as a point of religious practice, like Roger Stone, brag about their philosophy. Never apologize. Never reflect. Lie if you need to, and keep on lying if you have to. You can see Stone say so in this film, Get Me Roger Stone. He openly credits his mentor, Roy Cohn, who was Joseph McCarthy’s right hand man, and also Donald Trump’s guru.

Their priesthood promises that if you’re strong enough, trouble goes away. You’ll outlast all those crybaby complainers, and win. Be sure to call them crybabies, because name-calling hurts and scares pussies. That’s what Alphas call men who reflect or apologize. Winners have to use these mean methods; you’ve been told in a million ways.

And too often assholes do win in exclusively male-constructed, male-populated, and male-governed institutions, which our most powerful institutions have been, in fact, until pretty recently. Until women began to be journalists and lawyers and professors and politicians, shaking things up.

For instance, if you’re a Beta male, and you probably are, because “Nice Guys Finish Last,” you may be as appalled as your girlfriends are by this week’s story of Florida federal prosecutor Alexander Acosta’s immunity deal with a girl sex-trade dealer, a.k.a. hedge fun manager Jeffrey Epstein. The Miami Herald’s pictures of those fresh-scrubbed faces speak of innocence, or naiveté. For them, $200 was a big deal, and he did say he only wanted a massage. Haven’t we heard that one before?

Palm Beach Epstein had money to spend on whatever was needed to protect his bad habits, and so did his rich customers, all wealthy men with similar bullying instincts. That made him a winner, even when caught: got his own suite in a jail for a year, though he didn’t have to stay there, and his clever immunity deal also ended an FBI investigation into Epstein’s out-of-state sex buddies. Acosta the prosecutor won too: he was rewarded by a Trump cabinet position, now Secretary of Labor.

You mean “labor” as in girly “massages?” Sure, why not.

 The mainstream media doesn’t often encourage men (or women) to think complicated thoughts, which usually come with feelings. But this story breaks the norm. I’ll bet you’ve asked some questions in your deep male voice:  What the hell were these men thinking, or feeling?  What awful spirit moves these guys we’ve so often rewarded?

Like a girl, I’ll respond with more questions, wanting more to be joined with you in conversation, than to argue in battle. What would happen if the men who control enough money to buy whomever they want to screw—employees, investors, suckers who pay taxes, the naïve, the snowflake crybabies—had a change in heart. Or were maybe put in jail?

More men, even conservative men, might join their moms, sisters, and girlfriends then—oh, and the founding fathers—to openly call for an end to a corrupt money power, and its fake masculinity coupled with cruelty. Did I mention that high five between Putin and MBS? Have you ever read the Bible story about Judith and Holofernes?

Judith and Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi.jpeg

“Judith and Holofernes” by baroque painter Artemesia Gentileschi, who was raped as a girl by an old friend of her famous painter father. She dared take her assailant to court in the early 1600s, testifying under duress, but he got away with it. It inspired her art.

Listening to the Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh Hearing

Editor’s note: When a woman sent us this piece, longer than we usually publish, we knew we had to bring you her brave words. So many have stories!

After listening to both testimonies for the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, like many I ended the day feeling cognitive dissonance fracturing my mind and jangling my nerves. Two completely different possible truths. One was delivered humbly, with strength, but also trepidation: in a one-piece bathing suit she had practiced her dives. The other was delivered forcefully with anger, indignation, and bitter upset: he lifted weights, played football, and drank beers with the guys. The two narratives spoke volumes about the effects of patriarchy. Each voice could be credible, depending on one’s construct of reality, of what’s right and what’s wrong … of what is really going on here.

I took a long walk down my dirt road.

I thought about my sex education as a young woman growing up in the ‘70s, just a few years earlier than Blasey Ford, in a small town. I got a booklet from my mom, but learned the details on the playground, like many of us did. One boy in elementary school told me, as I sat casually, legs sprawled: “Close your legs; the war is over.” I had no idea what he meant. I am not sure he did either. I felt terribly embarrassed and did not feel confident to ever sit with my legs sprawled again.

As I progressed into middle school, some girls already having sex, I learned from peers, TV, movies, and jokes told by adults:

  • Girls with big boobs got male attention. I developed quite late, not until the very end of high school. Strike one.

  • Girls who had sex were desirable, popular, and got the cutest boyfriends. They dated the sports stars. I held out until I was 17. Strike two.

  • “Boys will be boys.” Whatever boys did or desired should get preference. Home run.

The last, most damaging message was: If you teased a boy—if you flirted, made out, or put yourself in close proximity unsupervised by adults—and you got the boy excited, he had every right to do whatever he wished, because … you asked for it. It was your fault. Especially if you were drinking. Because guys, well, they have this “uncontrollable” physical reaction. It was cruel, once arousing them, not to follow through. Girls who teased were chided with the phrase “blue balls.”

I am not sure if these messages were pervasive, then, for all girls my age, in all towns, and all schools, but these were planted in my adolescent psyche, and, I suspect, in the minds of most of my peers.

Fast-forward to my senior year. When I finally went “all the way,” it felt like a badge of honor. I was in the club! Not long after this dubiously victorious moment, I went out with my friends on Halloween. Somehow over the course of the night, in three cars, we got separated. We were hanging out near our high school, thirty minutes away from home, and decided to meet at this party a classmate told us about. Driving alone for some reason, I found my way to the party at a house out in the middle of nowhere on a back road. I waited in my car in the driveway, but my friends never showed up. Not wanting the night to be a total loss and miffed at my girlfriends, I put on my witch hat and cape and went inside. It was packed and loud music was playing. I did not know a soul.

Turns out many there were a bit older and from a motorcycle gang. I didn’t drink anything, or talk to many people. I didn’t stay long. But I remember two encounters: a short, thin woman, wearing a leather biker hat, took a swig from a bottle of wine as she told me she’d just taken two valiums. Then she confided she was pregnant. I remember feeling panicked. Oh my god! I must have looked out of place and startled. The owner of the house, a stocky guy with medium-length blond hair, came over and for the rest of the short time I was there, he was nice to me. I don’t remember why, or what he did, just that he was nice.

Fast-forward to some evening in some month following this party. I visited this guy. I don’t remember how it was arranged, or why. I don’t remember exactly when—not what day, what week, or even what month. I know it was my senior year. I know it was cold out. I know this because he was fixing his furnace, which wasn’t working. That’s what he did for a living. He fixed furnaces. I don’t remember how I got there, or how I got home. I suppose I drove. Who else would drive me way up to this house out in the boondocks? I have no recollection of where it was; I could not ever find it today.

I suppose this was a stupid thing to do. But he had been nice. Perhaps I wanted a boyfriend. Perhaps I hoped for love. Perhaps I wanted to be cool. Perhaps I was simply looking for a diversion. Our senior class was tiny and here was someone new, outside our small circle. I don’t remember what we did after he fixed the furnace. We might have eaten a little dinner, listened to music. I don’t think I had more than a beer, maybe two. If I had any.

What I do remember is this:

A narrow, dirty-white couch in the middle of an otherwise sparse living room. Making out on this couch with this blond-haired guy I barely knew. Saying, “Stop” when he wanted to keep going past making out. His look of disgust. I remember telling him it was my time of the month, hoping to dissuade him with a decent excuse. It did not stop him. He asked me how many days was I into my cycle. I said, “near the end.” I was shocked when he pushed forward, saying, “no big deal.”

I don’t remember if I said stop again. I might have just gone along with him, because, well, boys will be boys. He was stocky; I didn’t know him very well. I had aroused him, so it was my duty to deliver. I remember my humiliation when he removed my monthly protection and dangled it in the air, almost mocking me. I don’t remember the act itself. I think it was rather quick and business-like. I remember a sick feeling when we were done. Something wasn’t right. But I didn’t know what. And I remember the month of terror after, hoping I wouldn’t become pregnant. Luckily I did not.

I might have told a friend or two. Otherwise I filed this incident away as one of the dumb things I did as a teen. It was my fault. I filed it away initially as evidence that those early messages were true. But one was not true: I was not cool or desirable to have put myself in such a position. I filed away a sense of my powerlessness as a young woman, as a woman of any age. My “Stop” did not matter. Not to him. Not to our culture. I had no name for this until I was in my early 30s—date rape.

The snarky, hateful comments about Blasey Ford on social media run the gamut, but one refrain, even chanted by the President, ridicules her spotty memory of her trauma: How can she not remember how she got there and back? Why can’t she remember how much she drank? When it was? Where it was? Why she went in the first place?

Walking down my dirt road, thinking back on my own trauma, I realized I was missing all the same puzzle pieces. Yet, like Blasey Ford, the moment of violation was crystal clear some 36 years later. I have a similar residual trauma from the incident, though it has manifested in me differently than hers.

But Blasey Ford has at least one memory I don’t have. She remembers his name.


The Benefits Cliff

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"Ok, Screwnomics, here's a story of how the economy works against women. As a single mother, graduate student, I had more income from student loans, food stamps and fuel assistance than I do working full time as a mental health therapist. I fall into the gray area, the 'cliff' where people fall off - where you earn too much to qualify for assistance, and too little to pay the bills. So—am I being forced to share housing with a workingman, so that I can pay the bills? What if I prefer to be independent?"

Good question, Cliffhanger! We know some earnest souls believe the best welfare reform is marriage—your taxes even helped pay for programs, dangling this solution. But we’re with you. Even should you marry, you’re wise to want independence. Economic vulnerability is a gateway to other risks.

 One clue you mention is that word “mother.” There’s evidence that moms, especially single ones, are the worst paid of anyone, regardless of their field, regardless of education. Mom’s Rising names it The Motherhood Penalty. We looked up the starting pay for mental health therapists and found it was about $42,000 a year. Assuming a 40-hour workweek, that’s about $20 an hour, before taxes. Your contract could well be less.

Then we went to the MIT Livable Wage calculator that estimates basic costs for living, which varies in all 50 states. We looked at Vermont (where WE live) and saw an adult living with one child annually needs $13,511 for housing; $7593 for transportation; $8209 for childcare, and $6871 for medical insurance and copays. Your livable wage here would be: $45,660. Just losing your childcare alone costs an arm and a leg. Jana Kasperkevec at The Guardian suggests that minimum wage legislation needs always to be considered in tandem with the benefit “cliff” that too many learn about the hard way.

Are there ways to preserve benefits to help moms and young people bridge to better paying jobs? Are there some benefits, like food stamps or childcare, that should be more universally subsidized—and with living wages for child care providers? (They’re often on welfare, like fast food workers.) Could the government provide a universal cash allowance for the time and care families invest in readying the “next generation” of our nation? You can learn more about Eleanor Rathbone and England’s “Mother’s Allowance” and other solutions in Screwnomics.

Livable wages need to be more widely understood by state legislators and business organizations, the public and the private sector—and also by students who are taking out loans. Stagnant and shrinking wages have been the majority’s lot since 1970, and the recent tax cut for corporations? It should have been a tax cut for mental health therapists. If this keeps up, more Americans will need your help!

We believe EconoGirlfriend peer groups and problem solving can make a difference—thanks so much for sharing here.

Hey readers, can you relate? Do you have a story to share? Tell us here!