While considering the possibility of becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) after I graduate, I’ve been watching a lot of videos. Michelle so clearly explains what its like to go through the process of being taken away from your original family and being placed in multiple homes afterward, none of them providing the stable life she needed.
I say “usually” because there are exceptions – when a young person wants to adopt from foster care, when a family seeks to adopt a child with severe medical needs, etc. But these are generally not the fundraisers I see on Facebook or crowdfunding sites. Rather, it’s the families who want to adopt an infant or a very young child from abroad. I find it not only tacky, but also indicative of how Americans (as well others) perceive the idea of adoption. We’re truly clueless. Our culture glorifies the idea of taking a baby away from an underprivileged mother and giving it to a more privileged parent. We crowdfund for adoptive parents but where are the fundraisers for the original mothers? The author of this article, Nicole Chung, explains it much better than I ever could.
We need to support original families and their communities. We can direct our financial support to meet public health needs, promote women’s health, educate children, provide infants and youth with necessary medical care regardless of whether or not their families can pay for it, de-stigmatize and wholeheartedly support single parenthood and kinship care and other alternatives to adoption, and address the many economic and social factors that ultimately lead to family separation. There’s no reason that adoption can’t exist alongside systems that prop up families, help them stay whole and together, and allow more parents and communities to keep and raise their children.
I am married to a man whose teenage parents chose to parent rather than seek out adoptive parents for their child. They provided a wonderful life for him. They are a happy, stable, family and his parents are absolutely wonderful in-laws. I’m not claiming that this was the right choice and others are making the wrong choice. I’m simply saying that we need to re-evaluate the systems we have in place in order to offer support for parents who would keep their children if they had the resources. We should place an emphasis on that support.
If you’re interested in this topic, you can also listen to Kathryn Joyce’s interview with NPR on the topic of religious communities and adoption. She also wrote a book, The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption, which covers that same topic, adoption during the baby scoop era, and infant adoption today here in the United States and in South Korea.
I know many people don’t like Bill Maher, but he isn’t the only one speaking here. What his guest has to say is more important, at he notes, because she’s the one living the life of a Muslim woman. Her feelings, experiences, and opinions are more important than those of a white male in the United States. You may disagree with her, but first you must listen.
I do not know anything about professor Ahmed. I have been reading Mona Eltahawy’s book Headscarves and Hymens and though it’s difficult to read, I would recommend it. She makes a number of interesting points. She brings up the issues women are facing in Arab and North Africa countries but she also covers those who have been working hard to bring about changes. Perry makes a point in the video that when reading the essay (on which the subsequent book is based), there is a certain familiarity to what Etahwy describes. I agree. It’s easy to point fingers at “those” people but the emphasis on purity and the control of women absolutely exists here in the United States. It may look different and be less intense, but it’s here and it’s dangerous. Hopefully this clip makes sense even if you haven’t read the essay or the book.
More Eltahawy. I haven’t watched the full video. I believe she discusses some of what is in her book.
Among all of the shouts for more guns, more military action, more prayer, more Jesus, and for whatever reason, more Donald Trump, I think there are important voices that get drowned out. These people have been hard at work trying to influence the Muslim world from the inside out ( and there are many, many others who have been doing the same for a very long time) and they deserve to be heard. Perhaps you recognize their names, perhaps not. If you have some time, consider watching a video or two. If you’re really curious, you could read their books. I have only read a small part of Maajid Nawaz’s book Radical, so I can’t comment on it yet.
Another interesting debate here too, featuring again, Maajid Nawaz along with Feisal Abdul Rauf. Also, the ever controversial Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I fully admit I still adore her. I have read all of her books (Infidel, Nomad, Heretic, and The Caged Virgin) and recommend them highly. Ayaan employs more courage than most of us could ever hope to posses and is a fierce defender of women and girls all over the world. The debate is about two hours but you can get an idea of the voice of all three speakers within the first 25 minutes.
I know people use homeopathy for all sorts of thing but its worse than I thought. I was taking a look around the interwebs for foster care information when I came across a story in The Adoption Experience by Ann Morris. People seem to like the book. It has high ratings. I don’t know anything about Ann Morris but what I saw on the page caught my eye.
For those who are unaware, sexual abuse can lead children to excessive masturbation. This isn’t just normal kid stuff, it becomes a problem both socially and even physically, as they can hurt themselves, so there is a legitimate reason for it to be mentioned. Whether or not this child was abused and exhibiting behavior stemming from that abuse, I don’t know, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume that’s all indeed true. The author of the story (not Ann Morris) wants other adoptive and foster parents to believe that homeopathy is proper treatment for sexual abuse. Foster children need good homes, acceptance, and real treatment to address their past trauma or neglect. Not bottles of literally nothing.
I watched a video the other day that was quite eye opening for me. I am not going to link it because the channel does include what I find highly inappropriate material but I did learn something from it. While I am certainly aware that I benefit from white privilege both as a white woman and a Jewish woman (visit Black, Gay, and Jewish for information on discrimination against black Jews), I hadn’t considered exactly some of the ways feminism in particular differs for me. Because of my experiences, I sometimes make these assumptions that white women and black women are perceived similarly, as in, we’re both perceived as women first. But, that is probably often not true.
If you ask me to describe myself, it goes something like woman, Jewish, humanist, environmentalist, student, wife, daughter, sister, etc. For the author of the video, black comes first. For me, white isn’t even on the list. Why? Because I’m privileged enough that it doesn’t have to be on the list. It’s the default. It’s the flesh colored crayon. I don’t identify by my color because nobody has forced me to do so. Being a feminist in this body is different than it would be in another body. I realize I need to be more aware of how feminism differs for women of color, how they may feel about its history, and its current iteration.
Dr. Mercola is whipping people into a frenzy this week over modified mosquitoes, which may be (or maybe have already been) released in Florida. These males mate with the females but the offspring will not be viable. The goal is to reduce the incidence of Dengue fever. Like with all things labled “GMO”, people get hysterical. I don’t quite understand the fear. Just ask SciBabe, she’ll explain why natural isn’t always best.
Messing with nature has provided us with the ability to protect ourselves against harmful disease, feed ourselves (all of the foods we eat today are improvements of what we had 10,000 years ago), have clean water, treat infection, prevent sun burn, make childbirth less dangerous, treat our sewage, etc. Manipulating nature should be done carefully of course, but this trial has already been done in other countries and it worked out well for them. We have no defense against viruses, bacteria, and disease if we aren’t willing to manipulate nature. Over 100 million people get the disease a year and at least 20,000 per year, mostly children, die from it. There is no vaccine. With malaria, half a million people die each year. If we could do something like this with mosquitoes that carry malaria (and we likely can), that could eliminate a tremendous amount of suffering.
I also find it interesting that the same people who complain about reducing the incidence of disease through the genetic manipulation of mosquitoes would be adamant that if a vaccine did exist, nobody should get it. What do they want? Do they enjoy the suffering of children? Eating like an orthorexic isn’t going to save you from malaria.
The Southern Baptist Convention is concerned that religious freedom, one of the foundations of this country, is presently being eroded. This week they released a list of of victories and setbacks in their struggle against this erosion. Like me, you may be curious as to what kinds of things made the list, so let’s take a look at a few:
Setback – June 26, 2013 – Edith Windsor’s same-sex partner died, leaving Windsor her entire estate. Windsor was denied the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses because the term “spouse” only applied to heterosexual marriages. In United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act’s federal definition of marriage as a man and a woman was unconstitutional, opening the floodgates for a series of lawsuits overturning bans on same-sex marriage at the state level.
Apparently, Edith Windsor’s ability to receive the estate she was bequeathed by her partner is an assault on religious freedom. Who knew? I’m a member of a Reform Jewish congregation in my city. I feel absolutely no impact on my rights in light of this case. My cousin Amy is openly Christian, attends church regularly and is raising her kids in a Christian environment. Her right to do so has not been impacted in the slightest by this case. A friend of mine, Abigail, recently started a new church with her husband, who is a Pastor. Both are very passionate about their Christian faith. They eat, sleep and breath Jesus and let everyone know. They may have never even heard of Edith Windsor. And that’s okay because she has no bearing on their freedom to openly and enthusiastically practice their religion. I’m having a difficult time determining exactly how Ms. Windsor is eroding religious liberty in this county.
Setback – June 26, 2013 – California Proposition 8 was a successful ballot initiative in 2008 for a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriages. Approved by voters and upheld by state court, it was ruled unconstitutional by federal courts. When the state refused to appeal, proponents of the proposition sought appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that the proponents did not have standing to appeal. Although the Supreme Court did not address the amendment’s constitutionality, the dismissal legalized same-sex marriage in California by allowing a previous district court ruling to stand.
Here they are upset that the Supreme Court dismissed their appeal to make same-sex marriage illegal. Clearly, they are not fans of same-sex marriage. Fine. Don’t have one.
Setback – May 7, 2014 – Jason and David Benham, two brothers who work in real estate, were slated to star in a new show on HGTV called “Flip It Forward” in which the brothers would help transform a fixer-upper home for a family. After the media publicized the brothers’ stance against homosexuality and the homosexual agenda, HGTV canceled the show before it aired.
HGTV is a business operation. They can air or not air any shows they choose (within the parameters allowed on cable television). That is their right. If they feel the Benham brothers are poor representatives of their network, it makes sense that rather than put money into a show that might not bring in a return, they cancel instead.
Setback – November 2014 – In part due to the Duggar family’s efforts to oppose a Fayetteville, Ark., anti-discrimination ordinance, more than 1,000 people signed a petition for cable network TLC to cancel their show “19 Kids and Counting.” A counter-petition garnered even more signatures as of the end of 2014. TLC has not responded to the petitions.
Again, religious freedom does not grantee you the rights to a television show. There were a number of people who found Mrs. Duggar’s behavior offensive, they voiced that opinion, just like millions of Christians do each day. This isn’t an erosion of religious freedom.
Setback – Jan. 6, 2015 – Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed dismissed Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran following an investigation into Cochran’s book “Who Told You That You Were Naked?”, which calls homosexual behavior immoral. Though a city investigation found no evidence that Cochran had discriminated against homosexuals, Reed cited policy violations and possible lawsuits against the city as reasons for his termination.
Chief Cochran was not terminated for simply holding the belief that homosexuality was immoral or for even writing a book. He was terminated because he broke the rule against publishing a book without approval and for distributing it at work. You can bet with certainty that if a humanist Fire Chief passed around his book on why Christianity is a death cult, they would want his head on a silver platter.
One of the issues that has been raised with fundamentalist religion is the glaring cruelty and violence found within sacred texts. This week, Answers in Genesis published an article wherein they attempt to answer the question of why God would kill innocent children in a worldwide flood. You do have to ask yourself, even if all the adults were vile and loathsome, what about the children? How could a just and loving God kill them too? AiG responds with their own question:
“Why did the parents of those children refuse to let them board? Why did they insist on putting their children in harm’s way? If anyone is to blame, it is the parents and guardians who stopped them from coming to the Ark…Why blame God for something when He provided a means of salvation, which the parents refused?”
Excellent question – except there is nothing in the story that leads us to believe this was a possibility. One must only read it. There is absolutely nothing about God, Noah or anyone else offering a spot on the ark to a child. It is not, in any way, suggested in the text. Obviously, the writers at AiG recognize this story is problematic when asserting a loving, caring God, otherwise they wouldn’t conjure up additional story lines that can’t be found in the text. Would it not make more sense to concede that Genesis is a mythical story written by an ancient people as a part of a cultural narrative rather than persisting in the delusion that the Bible is a historical text book? If you find the behavior of your deity troubling, examine why you think the story is factual in the first place, rather than claiming excuses that aren’t even there.
Life can be difficult. I have no doubt that this is one of the reasons people are so eager to pray. It’s hard to feel like everything is out of your control. To sit back and feel powerless, especially when those close to your are suffering. Prayer allows us as humans to feel useful. But does prayer accomplish anything? It may make us feel better about our inaction but that’s about it. Studies also show it to be ineffectual. There is an alternative. Doing something. Here are a few ideas. What would you add?
For someone who is sick
- Bring their favorite flowers when you visit
- Clean their home or run errands.
- Make a meal and deliver it to their home
- Drive them to Dr. appointments.
- Raise funds for medical expenses.
For someone who is heartbroken/depressed
- Invite them out for coffee
- Let them talk about it
- Listen without judgement
- Plan an event they enjoy
- Accompany them to a difficult event
For someone needing a job
- Hand out their resume
- Provide job training
- Mention their name within your network
- Inform them about job postings
For someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one
- Send them a sympathy card and continue to send notes long after others will have moved on and forgotten
- Pay them a visit just to chat
- Let them talk about the person they have lost if they want to do so.
- Make a donation to a charity in their loved one’s name.
Plastic waste is a huge issue for wildlife, marine life and humans. It can’t be avoided entirely but there are things we can do to reduce our consumption of plastic. Here I’ve outlined a few of my recommendations. I am not affiliated with any of the mentioned products. In some cases I have used them, in other cases I have not but I am giving you examples of the options available. Once you take stock of how much plastic you use it can get to be overwhelming to realize just how much of your every day products are either made from or packaged in plastic. Don’t let that stop you. Even if you make small choices here and there, it will make a difference.
- Carry your own reusable bottle rather than buying bottled water. You reduce the amount of plastic you use as well as save money.
- Carry reusable shopping bags (which are best purchased second hand) or reuse your old plastic bags. You can also buy or make cloth produce bags (or do without). Do try let the cashier know ahead of time that you will not need a bag. I’ve refused a bag and had them just throw it away because they had already pulled it off the hook. That defeats the purpose of not taking the bag. – Reusable Produce Bags.
- When buying a drink out of the house, say “no thanks” to plastic straws. At home, try glass or metal reusable straws. – Metal Straw Set
- Carry your lunch in reusable containers. Avoid disposable plastic “ziplock” baggies. – Reusable Hemp Lunch Baggies – Metal Lunch Box Kits – Reusable Zipper Bags
- Buy a set or two of reusable utensils to carry in your car so you don’t need plastic.
- When dinning out, take your own “doggie” bag in the form of a reusable dish. If you’re not sure you’ll need it, take something just in case.
- Use bar soap rather than liquid. The bar gets rinsed on every use. The liquid bottles…not so much.
- Bring your own toiletry supplies when traveling. Yes, those little bottles in the hotel are free but they are also made of plastic.
- Buy whole foods. This can be very difficult. It may well be the most difficult challenge for myself. Convenience foods, as they are called, are all wrapped in plastic. Even when you buy organic, they are wrapped in plastic. The more you buy whole foods without packaging (think fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables), the less plastic pouring into our environment.
- Look for products that come in reusable, glass or paper packaging that can be recycled (most often, the plastic packaging for foods and other products is not recyclable).
- Buy from bulk bins whenever possible rather than buying food wrapped in plastic. You can use muslin bags which are washable and reusable. – Muslin Bags
- Clean with baking soda & vinegar. There are many “eco friendly” and “green” cleaning products on the market. Some are probably great…but they still come in plastic. They are also rather expensive. Vinegar can be bought in glass and baking soda comes in cardboard. They are cheap, safe and easy to use. Just remember to never to use bleach and vinegar in the same area.
- Castile soap is another good option for cleaning if you want more than the vinegar and baking soda . Dr. Bronners for example does come in plastic but it’s heavily concentrated and lasts a long time. The bottle is recyclable but the lid is not.
- Cut out juice, soda and other drinks that come in plastic bottles. Even though bottles are recyclable, you cannot guarantee they will always make it to the facility. Also, this type of plastic is usually reused only one time, whereas glass can be recycled over and over again. Additionally, the plastic lids are not recyclable.
- If you can buy fresh bread and cheese without plastic, do so. This may not be easy for everyone. I recommend saving your plastic bread bags to reuse. One idea is to use them in place of the little plastic baggies provided at parks for dog “business”. If you do not have a dog or a need to clean up after them, perhaps someone else you know could reuse those bread bags. I’ve also used our plastic bread bags to hold our shoes while traveling so they don’t get our clothes dirty.
- Buy shampoo bars rather than shampoo in plastic bottles. You may even be able to find a local source. I’ve been using bar shampoo for months now and I really like it. It works well on beards too, so I hear. I recommend Esty.com which allows you to search locally. – Shampoo Bar
- Return those cherry tomato/berry containers to a farmers market and ask if they would like to reuse. Though these are generally #2 plastic, again, with their light weight they may not make it to the facility. Also, in some places (such as where I live) they are not actually recyclable in the first place.
- Choose milk in a returnable glass bottle, local if possible. I cannot recommend you buy milk from a questionable source or from all the way across the country just to get a glass bottle. However, if you have glass bottled milk available in your area, you may want consider it.
- Choose wine with natural cork stoppers rather than plastic. Not only does this prevent more plastic from getting into the environment but it also supports cork forest where a number of endangered animals make their home. Without the cork industry, these forest are torn down to make way for other uses of the land.
- If you’re handy in the kitchen or like to learn new things, you can make your own yogurt. Almost all yogurt comes in a #5 plastic that is very unlikely to be turned into anything else. There are brands packaged in glass but for the most part, plastic is your option. However, making yogurt doesn’t require much in the way of special equipment except for a cooking thermometer which can be purchased at any retail store inexpensively.
- It may seem unrelated but paper products such as bathroom tissue and paper towels are wrapped in plastic. Try using clothes that can be washed rather than these disposables when appropriate, especially in the kitchen. You can purchase clothes specifically for this purpose or make your own out of old t-shirts and pajamas.