An Eye For An Eye

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Ever since I saw this story in 2009, I cannot help but think about it and the ramifications. The story is here:http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/02/19/acid.attack.victim/index.html?iref=mpstoryview

The story is about a young woman named Ameneh who lives in Iran. She was unfortunate enough to have a young man sit next to her in college. He purposely brushed up against her and she was outraged. It was then that he began a two year pursuit of her. He harassed her and threatened her and even asked her to marry him. She however refused his advances.
One day after work she was approaching the bus stop when she heard someone behind her as she turned around she saw him and the next thing she felt was intense pain. He had thrown acid on her face. It immediately burned her entire face, her eyes, her arms and hands. Her mother kept the clothes she was wearing which shriveled and burned too. She was left permanently scarred and blind.

She has asked her government to blind her attacker with acid in the Islamic law tradition of “an eye for an eye” known as qisas. My understanding of qisas is that when used the punishment cannot not exceed that done by the perpetrator. Recently the courts in Iran have denied her attackers appeal and he could at any time be blinded. It is my understanding that he would have acid dropped into his eyes not sprayed on him in keeping with what qisas demands. She says her request is not one of vengeance but so that he can never do the same to another person and basically to show men that they cannot get away with this type of behavior. Human rights activists are outraged. I for one have been sitting on the fence quietly digesting the facts of this case and trying to come to some conclusion, none of which appear very satisfactory to me.

In researching this issue I was stunned to find out that in Bangladesh alone there have been over 2,600 acid attacks since 1999 against woman and young girls. According to IRIN, The UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs most of these were a result of land disputes, refusals of love declarations/proposals or problems with dowries. According to human rights groups these sorts of attacks are common in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Iraq and India. Often times women who take their cases to the courts find that they are met with disdain in which they are told that if they had only agreed to what the man had wanted they never would have had this problem.

In many countries women who have failed to dress modestly, meaning that their legs or heads may not have been covered or improperly so according to an arbitrary set of standards; have also been victims of acid attack.

Especially chilling is the story of the 11 girls and 4 teachers attending the Mirwais School for Girls in Afghanistan. On November 14, 2008 three men on motorcycles sprayed them with acid. The act was meant to intimidate the girls of the valley to remain uneducated and to stay away from school. In an incredible show of bravery almost all have returned to school refusing to be intimidated.

In 2002, parliament enacted two laws against acid violence: Under the Acid Control Act of 2002, the unlicensed production, import, transport, storage, sale, and use of acid can result in a prison term of 3-10 years. Those who possess chemicals and equipment for the unlicensed production of acid can get the same prison term.

One doctor sounded an optimistic note: “Since then, acid violence has been showing a rapid decline,” said Shamanta Lal Sen of the burns and plastic surgery unit at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH).

According to ASF, 221 and 192 people were subjected to acid violence in 2006 and 2007 respectively. In 2000 and 2001 their number was 234 and 349 respectively.

Combating the crime of acid throwing is not easy as it appears to be a fairly common occurance in some countries. And little is done to the perpetrators except for them being ordered to make a minimal financial payment as a form of restitution. Two thousand dollars hardly begins to compensate for the intense medical care required when skin is melted and burned to the bone. Further, in a country in which beauty means so much and disability renders one invisable and obsolete, permenant disfigurement is tantamount to sentencing one to death because eventually there will be no one or no system to take care of the victim. First the victim is victimized by the attacker, then often by the courts and finally shunned by society as a whole. And the offender knows all of this and delights in it.

If it is true that prison terms have reduced the number of acid attacks then perhaps it is possible that even tougher mandatory sentences would help to decrease the number of incidences. But then again,perhaps, if Ameneh Bahrami is right, the blinding of her perpetrator may have more of an effect on stopping acid attacks than any laws presently on the books. Furthermore,if she does nothing and he attacks again her refusal to take action will make her accountable to the next victim for their injury.Lest we try to forget the man who is to be blinded is not an innocent man being used to advance a cause but he is the man who knowingly plotted and planned to disfigure and rob an innocent young woman of the life she knew and loved. He succeeded.

According to a story in the Washington Post… More than two weeks ago, Movahedi was led into court by two policemen. He showed no remorse when the court ruled on the case. When the judge asked whether he was ready for his punishment, Movahedi said that he still loved Bahrami but that if she asked for his eyes to be taken out, he would seek the same punishment for her.

“They must also completely empty out her eyes, since I’m not sure that she cannot secretly see,” he said. “The newspapers have made this a huge case, but I haven’t done anything bad.”

Ameneh Bahrami has the right to ask for an eye for an eye and has sound reasons for doing so. First and foremost her attacker STILL doesn’t believe he has done anything bad as quoted in the article by the Washington Post.

Preventing harm to others is Bahrami’s goal and it is a noble one in a country where there is no justice for women. May her goal of eliminating acid attacks be the outcome of her quest and may women everywhere never have to fear such a barbaric act being perpetrated on them or their loved ones.

As John Stuart Mill has expressed, “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.”

 

 

You Say You Love Me But…

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You know my story. Three homegrown kids, three adopted from Korea. Two with autism and other disabilities. You know how hard we have worked to create this family by pouring our souls and our finances into getting exactly what our children need to succeed as they inch closer to becoming tax-paying adults.

You have been with us through our pregnancy issues and through our long and precarious adoption processes. You have stood beside us we were challenged to take on the school system and the medical establishment. You listened to my tears on those days where hour-long meltdowns were a common place occurrence and when our hearts were broken by  diagnoses that initially seemed as if they would be impossible to traverse. (They weren’t).

This YOU I am referring to is…you… my aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, and best friends. The people I have known and loved for a life-time.You… the people who have stood by my side through thick and thin for so many years. You…the people who have treated my kids like their own. I adore you, but at this moment in time, I must confess that I am confused. You tell me you me and love all of my children equally.  You assure me my boys are amazing. You also say that my daughters are intelligent and talented young women. And you tell me you would like your Caucasian son to marry my Asian daughter someday.  And yet, you also tell me you are voting for Trump. I just cannot wrap my head around this because the YOU that I know cares deeply about others and asks WWJD?

And so I have to ask, how can you vote for a man who makes fun of people with disabilities? People like my children who struggle for acceptance. Individuals, who like my boys, just want the same opportunities as those who aren’t in wheelchairs and are sighted. You of all people know of our family struggles because you have held my sons hands when they were sobbing because they have been bullied, yet again, and you were livid at the way they had been treated. Yet, you support a MAN who should know better yet makes fun of the disabled anyway. Where is your righteous anger at him?

You know that there are millions of disabled in this world who are thrown off public transportation or denied jobs because of their autism or missing limbs. We’ve talked about this and you have expressed your dismay. So why is it that you do not understand that if the leader of the USA bullies the disadvantaged, that he setting the framework for how we are to treat one another? That Trump is, in effect, telling the school yard bully that it is okay to intimidate your kid and anyone within arms reach . Don’t you realize that these kinds of hurtful/shameful behaviors will increase and once again reach into my home? The home of people that you say you love!

Why would you support a man who promotes bigotry and hatred especially when you know that this increases the chances of MY children being hurt or killed by people who profess a dislike for those that are “different” from them? You’ve heard other children call my kids “Chinese eyes” as they pulled back on their own, mocking them, and trying in some way to make them feel “less than.” You have seen first-hand the hurt in my children’s eyes and their confidence shattered. Why would you throw your weight behind someone who promotes the worst in human behavior instead of the best? Why would you stand behind someone who promotes an “us vs. them” mentality that will be divisive instead of uniting? And when this promotion of hatred undoubtedly explodes into something unfathomable will you willingly acknowledge the blood on your hands because you stood with the man who was promoting it?

As if the above was not enough; what I really don’t understand is how you can support a man who disparages women, cheats on them and makes inappropriate sexual remarks about them. We all have mothers, sisters, and daughters that we value and love. If your mother or daughter was being treated in a disrespectful manner or subjected to sexual harassment by their boss or a man on the corner would you laugh about it and dismiss it the way you do with Mr. Trump? I would hope not because if you do what kind of person does that make you? Seriously. THINK ABOUT IT.

I could go on about Mr. Trump not paying small business people which quickly puts them out of business. And I could wonder why you would elect someone who can’t keep his own financial affairs in order and refused to rent to people of color. And I could wonder about a man who cheats on his spouse, lies under oath, and takes only the best for himself. But what I really care about is how Trump treats others… and that is what worries me. He acts as if he is entitled…. to dismiss reporters doing their job… to tease people who are different from him…to bully women and minorities while promoting discord and hate. These derogatory ways of treating others are the signs of a man who has lost his sense of humanity, his ethics, and his ability to promote and live in a virtuous manner. He is a man who lacks the understanding that most people are not born in the lap of luxury that he was and has no clue of what it is like to live the way most people do. He didn’t earn his wealth. It was inherited. Why would you vote for someone who is that out of touch with you and your situation?

So, when November rolls around and you go to cast your ballot, before you do, I want you to think about my children and how much you love them. I want you to remember all the wonderful women in your life. I want you think about the disabled, the poor, the elderly, and all the people who you respect and love who do not look like you. And consider this… that a vote for Trump is a vote against people like me who love their children with challenges. A vote for Trump is a vote against all the females in your lives. And a vote for Trump is a vote against kids who do not have the same invisible privileges that their white parents do. So think of me when you vote. Consider why I might be fearful for all those beautiful faces within my family if you vote for this Republican. Please… just yourself in my shoes… because someday you or a loved one might be walking in them.

“Principles of justice are principles that rational, self-interested people would choose to govern the society in which they were going to live, provided that they did not know, at the time they chose the principles, exactly what their own place in society would be.” – James Rachel’s forward  to John Rawl’s  book, Two Concepts of Rules.

Complacency

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Throughout almost my entire life I have often taken on what I have “perceived” as injustice. I have fought to change things within the school system for my kids.I have tried to protect my patient’s autotomy and rights. I have stood alongside like-minded people as we protested for change. I have said the “unpopular” thing that has needed to be said but few wanted to. But all of this concern comes with a price. It extracts a huge part of the stillness and the gentleness that you need to go through life without going crazy.

When I was younger I used to look at older folks and wonder why they had gotten complacent and just accepted the status quo. I swore I would never be like that…but I am becoming that way and frankly I think that I might want to. Because the amount of energy I expend trying to right the wrongs is tremendous and I just can’t afford to do that anymore if I want to stay sane and live a peaceful existence.

This reflection is a result of last night when I attended the annual contract signing meeting for our diving club. Sure it’s a small blip in the scheme of things but I had concerns that the owner was not coaching our children as much as was expected/promised and she is the expert as well as a judge. She knows her stuff but she has a habit of blowing off parental concerns or saying things will change and she is not held accountable so nothing changes. So in the meeting I stated that she had missed at least two rotations of 50% of the practices which caused a big to-do with some of the other parents. We are paying a lot of money for these lessons and I want to be sure that what is promised is actually being delivered…which it is not.

Needless to say, I went home totally stressed and disappointed. Some of the parents who felt the same way did not have my back like promised. Sadly, in the end I accomplished nothing and pissed off some people because they are YES men to the owner of the club. And of course there is the unspoken feeling that if you say something it will effect your child’s coaching.  SIGH.

Last night I didn’t sleep well. I tossed and turned for hours and I woke up feeling stressed and unhappy that I took on something that needed to be said but will be paying a price for it.  My peace of mind is disrupted and the “happy place” I have been cultivating inside me for the past year feels anything but. And if I am honest, when I look back the amount of time I have spent fighting the “system,” whatever it may be, has most often not produced the results I had hoped for. And so I have concluded that I must stop fighting the fight because it is so disruptive to my own soul.

I would like to think that despite all of this I will do the right thing if called upon. I think we all do. We like to imagine that we would be the ones hiding our fellow Jewish citizens in our attics should the need arise. But yet, I have to wonder if complacency in the small areas of life soon reach into the larger and more important ones. I wonder too if complacency makes us lazy, afraid, and unwilling to risk our own comfort for a greater and far more important purpose; if it becomes our new a comfortable norm.

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And so today, I am leaning towards incorporating complacency in my life which essentially to me means putting my comfort ahead of everything else and sticking my head in the sand.  It means not rocking the boat, not championing a cause and not trying to fix things. For it appears to me that if you want to cultivate some sort of inner peace you can not do these things.

Frankly, complacency scares and disappoints me, but at my age, unfortunately, so does the fight.

 

 

 

 

Traveling Fool

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I am traveling today back east to the Big Birthday Bash. As I sit here sipping my cup of coffee watching all the folks pass by, I cannot help but be amazed and transfixed by all the ethnicities and skin colors I see walking around me. It is a blessing.

Most often when I travel internationally it is not like this. The airport in Amsterdam has mostly caucasian folks, the airport in Seoul is almost all Asian, and in New Zealand, it is again, mostly white folks cruising along. I have found that usually airports act as mini countries giving you a superficial glimpse of the sort of people who live there and what the country values. Way to often, it appears that many countries value segregation to some extent, the United States included.

Here in the United States we like to try to hide our discomfort with “others” that are unlike ourselves. Yet, we do not have the luxury of continuing to pretend that racism does not exist here if we want to survive as a nation. Racism is disguised in so many subtle ways … housing, education and jobs. And in your face hate is alive and well especially when I recall the time we were in New York City and someone yelled to our family, “Take those _______ kids back to their own country.”

As I take savor this cup, I see evidence all around me, that we as a species can change. For I see a rainbow of kids who are talking and laughing with one another. I glimpse a transracial family like mine. I see a so-in-love black man and white woman holding hands and looking at each other with complete adoration in their eyes. I witness such a variety of people interacting with one another knowing that I never would have seen this 30 years ago.  I see people who are willing to give each other a chance rather than remain distant from one another. And as I sit here I am renewed in my faith in people and in my country.

I  have hope that one day soon I will visit an airport in another country that appears as diverse as the ones here do. It just needs to happen for the sake of our children. For the longevity of the world. And frankly, it is just more colorful and beautiful to see people out there in the world who don’t look just like me!

 

 

Silenced Thoughts

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As I sit here in the silence of a house

Not yet awake

Tired but happy about the 2.7 miles

I already put in this morning…

I think about the soldiers

Who have lost their lives unnecessarily

Due to greed, oil, and the war mentality

Of our illustrious leaders

The hawks making the dove

Their prey

I think about the policemen

Slain by guns so easily obtained

In a culture that worships cold metal

And puts its “rights” above that of it’s own citizens

I think about the pregnant 13 year old

And I do not understand why

In this day and age a child

Is bringing another into a world whose life will be

One of impoverishment and instability

I look around me and see children

Who don’t have enough food

And have shit for parents and who don’t

Give a flying fig about their welfare

And I see corporations who

Worship the almighty dollar

More than their employees

And pollute OUR earth

Like they own it themselves

Like they own the earth, sun and the sky

And that they are entitled to them

Their vast resources obtained

But for the pleasure of a few

And I wonder

Why so few put the needs of others

Above themselves

Where did a sense of pride go?

And a job well done?

What happened to common ground ethics?

And to individuals to give up

Their seats to little old ladies

The years they have seen

Eroding them away

Like the mining companies

That blow the tops off of mountains

And let them sit exposed and vulnerable

Self interest pushed to the front of the line

With kindness at the back, now the exception rather

Than the norm

And as I sit

In the silence of the morning

I send out good vibrations

Of peace and love

Caring and compassion

Friendship and joy

And I hear the sleepy

Words of my daughter

As she descends down the stairs

“Hey, mom I had a bad dream”

And I go to comfort her

Because it is something I can do

That makes big difference

In this small indifferent little world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hatred Has No Place In Politics

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*I usually don’t do political commentary but today I felt I have to as the primary for my state is this Tuesday. If you don’t like it don’t read it.*

There are many times in my life that I have struggled with religion. In fact, when picking a church I have been known to call and interview the pastor about issues such as homosexuality in their church, Christians practicing hatred, and women’s rights. Inevitably, I would get a “Well, we tell people that homosexuality is a sin so we do not marry THEM in our church” to which I would reply that any church that teaches exclusion based on gender, race, ethnicity and sexual identification goes against the teachings of Jesus. I would thank them for their time, scratch them off the list, and then try another.

As a person who has children who are “minority” citizens of this country I have always had a concern about people who hate. Whether its Mexicans, homosexuals, or uppity women; haters don’t just hate one group they are equal opportunity haters against anyone who is “different” from them. I don’t tolerate it but I am surprised by the numbers that do. While this week it may be gays that are the new target group, next week it will be African Americans who experience more than the usual amount of racism that they have to deal with on a daily basis. Somehow, it always feels like we as a country are just a step away from my children being the next group that haters will descend on. This is why Donald Trump is such a concern to me.

The President of the United States is “suppose ” to represent and look out for the interests of all persons regardless of who they are and where they come from. But this week Trump sunk to a new low stating that the  judge who is presiding over his case should be removed only for the fact that he is Mexican American. But it is not the first time The Donald’s bigotry has risen to the forefront. During his campaign he has called Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers. In 1973 and 1976 the Justice Department sued Trump’s company for not providing equal opportunity to African Americans who were trying to rent apartments. He has also proposed a blanket ban on Muslims entering this country. His casino in Atlantic City was fined for removing black card dealers from the floor when a certain high roller arrived because the gambler did not want to be around black people. There are so many instances of Trump’s racist ideas and comments going back decades that it truly amazes me that anyone is surprised when a new attack against some group is uttered by the man.

As a parent I have an obligation to protect the rights of my Asian children. As a human being I have the same obligation to promote the rights of all of my fellow beings on with earth. I might even argue that as a person whose ethnicity has been provided the greatest protections and has been given greater opportunities; my duty is to ensure that those who have not had those chances should be entitled to rights equal to or greater than my own. So when I see a man who promotes hatred, bigotry and racism trying to ascend to the presidency I get uneasy. I get uneasy for my children, for my family, for people of color and those whose religion is different from my own.  I get uneasy because it seems incredible to me that we as a species have still not realized that hatred begets hatred and while you are now “safe” there is no guarantee that you always will be. And having visited an extermination camp, I have seen first-hand what the end results of hatred can be.

A leader who promotes hate of any sort is not a person who will bring unity to a country so torn by diametrically opposed ideas. Unity is what we need in a country as vast and diverse as ours and Trump will not bring it. So if you are thinking about voting for Trump I urge you to think about my children and all the children whose differences may make them vulnerable to attack because the Republican nominee is promoting an agenda which makes being “different” from the white establishment undesirable and if history is to be believed will end up limiting their opportunities. So it is time to take a stand against hatred by using your vote to show that you will not accept a candidate whose platform is mirrored in hate. I thank you as do the millions of families who will be negatively effected by a Trump presidency.

 

 

Food …The Children Should Not Suffer

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I live in one of the poorest most economically depressed counties in the entire United States. It’s a place where English is most often the “second” language and where individuals follow the fruit and vegetables, often picking in 100+ degree heat. It is a place where poverty is rampant but food in the fields is abundant, illegal drug use is prevalent and the gulf between “haves” and “have nots” is wider than the Grand Canyon. Frankly, there is no bridge big enough to traverse this giant chasm.

Make no mistake about it, I am a “have.” I have a roof over my head, money in the bank, and clothes on my back. My life is plentiful. But all around me are reminders that this just isn’t the case for so many. I do what I can…carry McDonalds cards in my car and hand them out to folks who need a meal. But that is just a miniscule drop in the bucket with what is truly needed in the area.

Today on the short drive from downtown I saw three different adults searching trash bins for bottles and cans that can be turned in for change. And while it is shameful that any human being is forced, for whatever reasons to live this way, I am not as worried (though I am concerned) about them because they are resourceful. It is the children that I worry about especially during the summer, for it is the children who suffer.

During the school year kids from low income homes have the opportunity to have free breakfast and lunch at school yet President Trumps budget calls for an elimination of this program. Continue reading

Ethical Dilemmas

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You are driving down a deserted highway when you come upon an accident. A man is trapped in a burning car and there is no way to get him out. His arms are broken, his legs pinned.The fire is now close to the gas tank and you know she is going to blow. The man says, “I have a gun in my bag behind me. Please get it and shoot me. I do not want to suffer death by fire.” He starts screaming that the heat is getting so intense. “Please, just do it!” he screams.

Do you shoot?

Years ago before the invention of cell phones this situation would be much more of a dilemma than it might seem to be now. As technology changes so does our ability to respond to the ethical dilemmas before us.

I always find people amazing who declare they know EXACTLY what they would do if they were in this situation or that. People who are so sure of themselves that they believe without a doubt that every situation is so cut and dry that there is only one answer and they would automatically follow it. That they would always choose the legal way, the most noble path or the one that God expects of them. Unfortunately, life is usually a lot more messy than we counted on and the path is usually not as clear as what we imagine when we make these types of proclamations.

Once a young mother of four and I were once discussing the illegal immigrant situation. She is in favor of building a wall between our nation and Mexico.  She believes that if she was a Mexican citizen she would go through proper channels to come here. She is steadfast in that belief. When I presented her with varying scenarios such as:

Would she cross the border illegally if her children were starving

Would she come illegally if there was a violent war and killing in the streets

Might she slip over if her family was split up and her kids were needing their dad who was living illegally in the USA

She always answered that no matter what she would go through proper channels because that it what you do. You follow the law no matter what.

I think that is easy for United States citizens to believe they would do the “right” thing because we really have not been put to the test for close to 170 years. For the most part we don’t live in fear of our lives on a daily basis, we don’t have bombs falling from the sky, and most of us are not dying of starvation. For the most part we are not put in the position of having to live the unimaginable or to live our lives surrounded by fear, so we don’t really know how we would react in crisis situations. We like to imagine that we would hold steadfast to our beliefs but do we really ever truly know until we are faced with these true life dilemmas?

What I do know is it is often very difficult to do the “right” thing. Situations are muddy, emotions are involved and there are plenty of reasons both pro and con to take or refuse to take a particular action.But I also know that the time that took the path that felt ethically wrong to me  has caused me more heartache and pain than if I had the “right” thing. Going against your own moral fiber is one of the most cutting things you can ever do to yourself and you have have to live with those regrets the rest of your life…I certainly have and I quit my profession in large part because of it.

So back to the man in the car.

What will you do and can you live with your decision for the rest of your life?