Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Last Day of School – Still Wishing for That Endless Summer




long beach
The last day of school smells, feels, and tastes like summer with the heat heavy in the air, the sweat rolling down your back, and the thought of that ice cream cone you know you’re going to get after the bell rings. The last day of school is a rite of passage just as is the first day of school or graduation, but there is the unique quality the last day of school holds in a child’s imagination. It is still something that provides so much joy, making you giddy about all the free time ahead. The last day of school – nothing else feels quite like it.

Yesterday was my son’s last day of school – his last day of first grade. As we parents were waiting outside for dismissal, the building was literally rocking with screaming, howling, and laughing children. With all the windows thrown open due to the heat, we could see students running back and forth inside the classrooms, as if they were caged and waiting to be set free.

In one of the upper floor rooms, one student stuck his head out the window and proclaimed, “I hate school!” All the assembled parents laughed, no doubt thinking of their own childhoods. In another room Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” blared on a stereo as the kids were singing and dancing (one cool teacher in there). At a lower floor window a little one looked out the window and cried uncontrollably. From jubilation to tears – such are the emotions of the last day of school.

The bell rang – bringing back memories good and bad of my own school days – and, when the doors finally opened, the older kids burst out of them in a maddening rush. Arms and legs flailing everywhere, backpacks sailing into parents’ waiting arms, beach balls being tossed up toward the blue sky, and yelling and laughter could be heard everywhere – a free for all never felt so good, and I wasn’t even a student.

As my son’s class came outside he and his classmates seemed a bit more sedate. One of his little friends was crying, running over to his mother and saying he would miss first grade. I asked my son if he was okay, and he smirked and said, “Yeah, I’m fine.”

51YDZT12Y9L._AC_US160_I recalled my last days of school and the joy I felt, remembering Alice Cooper’s song playing, if not on the car radio, in my head each year as I exited the building in sweaty delight. There was the vague but still perceived hope that his lyrics “school’s out forever” were not just wishful thinking. Somehow, someway, it would come true that year. Along with the Beach Boys’ album Endless Summer, there came a reverie of long, listless days of swimming and wandering the beach, sitting on the porch until it got dark, lighting the citronella candles, watching fireworks exploding over the ocean, and sleeping as late as I wanted with no sound of an alarm clock ever to be heard again.

Now it was my son’s turn. He ran around joyfully with his friends for about five minutes, chasing not only one another but the dream of the long sunny days ahead, and afterwards he bid them all goodbye with smiles and waves of hands. I took his hand in mine and as we walked out of the schoolyard, I felt his joy and the rush of what feels like Christmas in June – with the biggest present in the world waiting to be unwrapped – freedom!

Now he already knows from last summer that he is not going to be completely free. When we go away on vacation, we bring books to read and workbooks for math and reading. He understands that is part of it, but it also is on a flexible schedule, and there is joy in that there will be a good deal of time for playing and laughing and just his being able to be a kid. We will have the ocean and sky and long days and staying up late. Those languid, hot sticky days leading into long warm nights filled with fireflies are the things of which sweet dreams are still made.

If nothing else, summer is a good excuse for us all to be kids again. To stir up pitchers of iced tea or lemonade, to remember “time” that usually matters doesn’t now, to linger at the beach to watch the sunset or even to eat dinner there, and to sit looking up at the stars afterwards without a worry about tomorrow or any other thing.

We left school far behind and as I drove I said, “When school was over we used to say ‘No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks.’ What do you think about that?”
160621105029-arthur-brooks-school-summer-vacation-medium-tease

“That’s kind of funny, Dad.”

After that we went to have that ice cream, and we savored that cold delicious treat more now because there were no worries – no homework, no studying for a test, no getting up early tomorrow. As I looked at him and saw the joy in his eyes, I felt the way I used to feel when the calendar was still turned to June in my mother’s kitchen and I knew I had two more months of freedom ahead of me.

At that moment as we enjoyed our ice cream, it felt as if school was not just out for summer but forever and completely just as Alice Cooper sang so long ago. When we left the shop we went back to go for a swim in the pool and, as we floated and lazily stared up at the clouds in the sky, I almost believed that September would never get here.

Photo credits: CNN, Amazon

Friday, June 17, 2016

Movie Review: Finding Dory – Search For Love and Self

dory3
In the 2003 film Finding Nemo, the titular clown fish was sought by his father Marlin (Albert Brooks) and funny and friendly blue tang fish Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) on a voyage that took them across the sea. Since the film was an instant classic, the prospect of a sequel – 13 years later – comes with definitely high expectations. Fortunately, directors Andrew Stanton and Angus Maclane (Stanton also wrote the screenplay) have finely crafted Finding Dory, making it a sequel that in some ways surpasses the original.

To sit back and just look at the film is an overwhelmingly dazzling visual experience (my son and I saw it in standard or 2D and it was amazing). What we have come to expect from Pixar we get here and then some. From magnificent kelp forests to under and above water panoramas to the surrealy beautiful Marine Life Institute – where the somewhat eerie voice of Sigourney Weaver narrates the proceedings – the depiction of these aquatic settings is stunning and at times almost dream-like. Through this majestic array of colors and effervescent light our characters swim their way toward their destination and into our hearts.

The title is sort of misleading – Dory is not being sought but is actually the one searching for her parents Charles (Eugene Levy) and Jenny (Diane Keaton); however, in a sweet twist, the more forgetful than ever Dory is also on a quest of finding herself, or at least the fish she thinks that she should be (if she could remember). The clever subtlety of a title Disney character with a disability is handled brilliantly, and as we recall our friend Nemo (this time voiced by Hayden Rolence) has a disability of his own – the slightly deformed fin from the barracuda attack that left his mother and siblings dead.

Now Marlin and Nemo are the supporting characters to Dory, but they get separated several times during their journey, giving Dory ample opportunity to repeat the line her parents told her to say when meeting strangers: “I suffer from short-term memory loss.” The sweet and totally clueless way DeGeneres repeatedly delivers this line is not only endearing but  surprisingly effective in disarming even the most vicious looking creatures. It also qualifies the character’s likability and vulnerability. Luckily in this aquatic world most of the creatures seem ready and willing to help Dory on her quest.

dory2The children will love the many vividly portrayed supporting characters, especially the hilarious Hank (Ed O’Neill who at times seems to be ad-libbing), an octopus who is amazingly athletic, shape-shifting, and can even drive a truck. While there are some jokes purposely meant to go over the little ones’ heads, there are also the obvious ones that get them to laugh as my son did many times throughout.
Interestingly enough, Hank has his own quest – to be sent to an aquarium in Cleveland to live out his days peacefully; however, he gets pulled in by Dory and keeps popping up to rescue her time and again. 

Hank also has a disability – losing one of his tentacles in an accident. As he becomes more protective of Dory, Hank also starts to question his own desires, while the kids will already know that he is going to stick with Dory and not end up in some fish tank on Lake Erie.

The required funny stuff is here, and the kids will love it, but there is also something more – we get a chance to explore with Dory but also within Dory. With the courtesy of flashbacks that spark moments of awareness, Dory becomes one of the most deeply and emotionally realized animated characters of all time. As she literally finds her parents she also finds – or perhaps reclaims – the self she lost but has never had. There are a number of lump in the throat moments throughout, but it’s not easy to retain your composure when the shadows of Charles and Jenny first appear to Dory and she realizes her quest has ended.

If you’re thinking “Is this all perhaps a little too deep for the kids?” my seven year old got it all. He understood what Dory seeks and also that, even though she has a problem, her intelligence, grit, and love for her parents help her solve it in the end.

dory1Of course, there is the somewhat disturbing “Disney thing” to be found here that goes back starting with Bambi and onward to The Lion King and, of course, Finding Nemo itself – the separation of parent(s) and child. Most of the princesses are either orphans or have only one parent, and there is always that solemn sense that pervades these films – what my son later confessed was something he kept thinking about that was scary – what if Dory never found her parents?

That Disney thing aside, Finding Dory is a magnificent visual experience and tells an emotional story about a character that is challenged by an affliction and loss, but she overcomes these things motivated by love and propelled by the endurance of spirit. Like its predecessor, Finding Dory is not only a delight but an instant classic!

Photo credits: movies.disney.com

Bernie Sanders Can Win As Third Party Candidate

Okay, after reading the headline, you are probably thinking, “No third party candidate can win the White House.” You may have been someone like me who once voted for one in the past, but then afterwards your candidate lost and you felt you wasted your vote. I know all your concerns, but this year is truly different.

Let’s look at the 1980 presidential election results – this was the year I first voted in a presidential election. In that contest we had incumbent Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter, Republican former California governor Ronald Reagan, and Congressman John B. Anderson (R-Ill.) who ran as the Independent Party candidate.

Anderson appealed to people who didn’t like either candidate for the major parties. I cast my vote for him because he had taken Democrat Patrick Lucey (former governor of Wisconsin) as his running mate, and I thought he would bring the country together (there was division even back then). His stand on the issues of the time appealed to me much more than what I had heard from the other candidates. I also believed that Anderson would be more qualified than Reagan and take the country in a better direction than Carter.

You may look at the results – everyone knows Reagan won with 51% of the popular vote to Carter’s 41% - and say but Anderson only got 6.6% of the popular vote and no Electoral College votes. While this is true, more than five million Americans pushed the lever for him if, for no other reason, as a vote of good conscience because there was no way they were voting for the other guys.

Now, flash forward to 2016, and the situation has drastically changed. There is no incumbent running, which alters the playing field. Yes, Mrs. Clinton is backed by current President Barack Obama, but she is plagued by a possible indictment for the email server debacle as well as the accusations that the Clinton Foundation is corrupt. The shenanigans of her spouse, former President Bill Clinton, also account for problems with her candidacy.

The “presumptive” Republican nominee, Donald Trump, has caused much controversy with off the cuff comments about everything from soup to (perhaps he is totally) nuts. Trump’s position on key issues changes more than the weather, and his antics have caused a disturbance within his own party and shaken his support.

bernie-sanders-mug_5fea106e0eb494469a75e60d8f2b18ea.nbcnews-fp-320-320So, while these two candidates seem like damaged goods, Bernie Sanders is off to the side looking much more presidential and not encumbered by major controversies. The huge crowds that turn out to hear him speak, the fervent enthusiasm of his supporters, and his reasonable demeanor during this campaign (while others have been mudslinging) all speak of the caliber of his potential presidential timber.

We also are aware of the pernicious attempts by the Democratic National Committee to undermine his candidacy from the start. Hillary (The Anointed One) Clinton was in Chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s favor from the beginning, and everything was done to promote Hillary and keep Bernie out of the limelight. Consider how the media neglected to cover his events with the same attention as they did with Hillary, and you will understand the power of the DNC.

You may cite recent polls that give Hillary an 11% or more lead over Trump, but if you want to bank on those numbers I have a tall building in NYC I’d like to sell you. Poll numbers – along with their margins for error – are insignificant and will tend to lull people into a false sense of security that Hillary can beat Trump.

Consider veteran newsman Dan Rather's opinion (coming from someone who has a long and distinguished career covering presidential elections and presidents) when he noted that “Democrats who want Hillary Clinton to be president should be afraid. They should be very, very afraid.” Rather went on to make it clear that Trump’s popularity and chance for victory rests in what people think he will change, while Clinton comes off as the one to maintain a status quo that many people don’t like.

If you are really into poll results, consider that most polls show Sanders beating Trump by a much wider margin than Hillary. Bernie Sanders appeals to those Republicans who don’t like Trump all that much but would (and I have heard this said hundreds of time) “Vote for anyone other than Hillary.” Sanders also appeals to Independents like me who couldn’t vote for him in the primaries, and he appeals to Democrats who don’t like Hillary and are also looking for the changes that Sanders hopes to introduce if he is elected.

If you like numbers, polls indicate most Americans want Bernie to stay in the race. Who knows what his primary numbers would have been if the DNC, the media, and Clinton had not conspired to keep Bernie voters away from the polls – or in some cases even not allowing them to vote when they got to the polls. Consider before the California primary – before one person cast a ballot – that the media declared Hillary the winner. Of course, many Sanders voters would not go to the polls then. If this doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth, get your taste buds checked.

donhill3-foxSo all Bernie supporters, Independents, and Democrats and Republicans who are not satisfied with their “presumptive nominees,” should band together and make Bernie’s third party candidacy a reality. There will be enough votes – more than enough if all the disenfranchised cast ballots – to leave Hillary and Trump in the dust where they belong.

Run, Bernie, run – run as an Independent. Your country needs you, so please do not quit. If you do not run then I for one will not vote in a presidential election for the first time since 1980, and I imagine there are many others out there just like me who cannot force themselves to pull the lever for the other candidates. It is for me, even after all these years, still a matter of good conscience.

Photo Credit: CNN, FOX News

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Orlando Shootings – Despicable Media and Politicians Exploit Tragedy For Gain

Time and again the media gets it wrong after a terrorist attack or mass killing – they continue to slap pictures of the killers on front pages, run lengthy stories about their lives, delve in depth to the motivations for their actions, and basically stoke the flames of all the crackpots, wannabee mass murderers, and pending terrorists to go out and get their moment of fame and glory. It is truly and utterly despicable.

I cannot go to a website and not be subjected to seeing the face of the killer in this latest mass shooting in Orlando. I sign on to the Internet, and there is his face! If I go to another site, there he is again! It is beneath contempt that we must keep seeing his image over and over again, including the one with his smiling wife and the blanked out face of their child, as if to humanize him as a family man.

President Barack Obama, “presumptive” presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and an assortment of other politicians seemingly never fail to let a crisis go to waste. Discounting the feelings of the victims’ friends and loved ones, they all launched into attacks on one another while pushing their particular agendas. It is thoroughly disgusting to see this situation become – instead of the national tragedy that it is – an opportunity to pound home political ideologies and blame everyone else but the man who pulled the trigger.

160613114758-orlando-victims-t1-13-victims-large-169Make no mistake, this is not just a horror for the LGBT community, although they are feeling particular anguish and despair as well they should. The nation must mourn this loathsome attack on the gay nightclub Pulse because every one of the dead and wounded was out for a night of entertainment that should have been enjoyed without fear. This is not just one group’s loss but a national one. If any one group cannot go out and dance joyfully, none of us can.

As always in these cases, I refuse to mention the killer’s name or that of his family. It matters little to the public what his motivations were, who his parents were, or that he was married with a child. These are things for the investigators to know, to explore, and to make determinations as to how to go about using that information to better protect Americans and prevent another disaster like this from happening again.

Having lost a family member on 9-11, I know the victims’ friends and loved ones are only in the beginning stages of processing what has happened. It doesn’t get any easier, doesn’t go away, and with time only increases the vacancy in their lives as they will ache for their missing loved ones even more. None of these people, or the survivors of the attacks, should be disrespected by politicians using the incident to advance agendas. They should not have to suffer through story after story in the media regarding the depraved lunatic who perpetrated this attack and be made to see his ghastly image again and again.

Unfortunately, the media and the politicians don’t learn and obviously don’t care. The more the media publicizes these killers, the more fuel they add to the fire of other people waiting in front of their TV sets or staring at their computer screens. This kind of dubious fame is just what they are hoping for, and the media gives it to them on a silver platter.

If I didn’t know any better – and maybe I do and don’t want to believe it – I would assume that Mr. Obama is in cahoots with the gun makers. Every time something like this happens, he makes his call for gun control, and invariably the stocks of the gun companies go up through the roof as Americans run out and purchase more guns. If he is really serious about stopping gun violence, I would think by now he would see the futility of this tactic and adopt a different strategy.

orlando1As for the rest of the politicians and presumptive nominees out there, they too have only made things worse. By slinging mud at each other in the days since the attack, by completely disregarding the victims’ friends and love ones by furthering their own candidacies or platforms, they show their true colors and it is totally reprehensible. Mr. Trump, Mrs. Clinton, and all the rest of them should hang their heads in shame.

At this point the authorities should (exclusively) know everything about the killer and use it to their advantage as they investigate and plan to stop future attacks; instead, all of this is front page news and not only stokes other wackos’ fires but aides in their planning the next incident. What should be clandestine in a fight against terrorism is out there in the public domain.

Let’s thank the media for undermining the safety of every American and all the people from around the world who visit our shores. Let’s praise their lunacy of publicizing the killer in Orlando and all the criminals they have promoted in copious stories over the years in hopes of higher ratings or copies sold. Let’s thank the politicians for exploiting tragedy after tragedy to further their agendas without considering the effect on the survivors of such atrocities or members of the lost victims’ families.

The media and politicians are strange but cooperating bedfellows; however, we the public do not have to play into their hands. It is up to us to switch the channel, to go to a different site online, or not purchase that morning edition with a killer on its cover. More importantly, we should not vote for any politician who exploits tragedies such as Orlando to elicit votes or to advance an agenda.

Finally, the face of the killer has also been all over social media. Please know that anyone who has lost someone in a large scale event does not want to see the face or faces of those who killed a friend or loved one, especially when he or she is going to social media to maybe relax or try to forget what is going on. It is an affront to these people who are suffering. Show them some respect and do not post pictures of a killer on Facebook, Twitter, etc. None of us want to see these despicable faces of evil.

But please do post the images and stories of those who died. Let’s honor their lives and memories. We need to speak their names, pausing and reflecting after each one, and acknowledge the unbearable loss of their presence in this world. These are the people to publicize, to laud, and to remember in necessary and meaningful ways.

In the end it is doubtful that the media or politicians will ever learn, but it is up to the American public to teach them a valuable lesson. Withholding our support as viewers of TV shows, visitors to websites, as purchasers of the morning edition, and in the voting booth should send a clear signal that we are not only as mad as hell but we surely will not take it anymore.

Photo credit: CNN

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Movie Review: ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ – Watching with my Son 34 Years After First Seeing the Film

Through the wonder of a handy little thing called Netflix, my seven year old son and I have been watching some interesting things lately. Among them have been The Little Rascals, Jungle Book, and assorted Disney films. None of these has had as much of an impact as watching E.T. the Extra-Terrestial.

025192114342_DVD_2D-XI recall first seeing the film on a hot June evening back in 1982. School was out for summer, and I was humming Alice Cooper’s most famous song as I went with a few friends and waited on a long line. Once inside the packed theater, I settled back to watch something that more than surpassed the buzz I had been hearing and Rex Reed’s review I read in the NY Daily News.

All these years later I truthfully had forgotten a good deal of the film. Besides “E.T. phone home,” E.T. getting loaded on Coors beer, and the scene when Elliot (Henry Thomas) rides his elevated bike with E.T. in the basket across the moon, it was like seeing a new movie.

My son just loved the film, wondering aloud a few times “Is E.T. real?” and “Are there really little people up in space?” My answers matter little considering that most of the time he sat there mesmerized by what he was watching. He particularly loved the fact that Elliot hides E.T. from his mom (a wonderful Dee Wallace), and only his brother Michael (Robert MacNaughton) and sister Gertie (adorable little Drew Barrymore) know about it.

What strikes me now (as I don’t remember from way back then) is how big a slice of American pie the film is. It encapsulates so much of the childhood experience of millions of kids who had to dissect frogs in school, got dressed up for Halloween, and played with Star Wars and other action figures. Elliot’s room is like a 1980s museum piece, and even the old stuffed toys in his closet capture the essence of what it was like to be a child back then.

The interesting thing though, despite the old fashioned phones and the antique Coors cans, is there is a great deal more to which a 2016 child can relate. My son was excited to see that Elliot played with Boba Fett and Greedo action figures just as he does, and when he saw Elliot’s TIE Fighter, he yelled, “It looks just like mine, Dad.” He could also relate to having some issues with an older sibling, liking a girl in his class, and wanting someone to understand him better.

When Elliot and Michael take disguised as a ghost E.T. trick-or-treating (with the motive to get him to a space in the woods to try to contact home with a device E.T. built from toys and a coffee can), you get the feeling it could be 2016 in that Halloween costumes have changed little in all these years, with the old reliable Frankenstein or zombie still leading the pack. In one of the funniest moments, when E.T. sees someone dressed as Yoda from Star Wars, he mistakes the child as a compatriot.

Director Steven Spielberg and writer Melissa Mathison captured something more than a time capsule here – they embraced the universal elements of childhood that remain the same today. Elliot is a normal kid who likes girls, plays with his toys, and has his school friends, but he’s feeling alienated since his father and mother separated. He gets along with his older brother and his friends for the most part, and mother Mary is doing as best as she can to cope with being a single parent after her ex left for Mexico. Elliot’s need of something to fill the void he feels comes conveniently in a small alien with glowing fingertip.

The conflict here comes in two forms – one is the old kids hiding a big secret from Mom, but the other is the government team constantly searching for E.T. in the area. Spielberg’s choice of camera angles heightens the tension whenever we see the faceless men searching the forest, led by a seemingly villainous guy wearing a set of keys.

Elliot and E.T. also make a psychic connection, one that is very humorous when E.T. gets drunk watching TV at home and Eliot starts feeling the effects in school. Thus a deep emotional bond becomes also physical, and as E.T. starts to slowly die, Elliot does as well.

I won’t go any further regarding plot details just in case anyone reading this hasn’t seen this film yet, but the last twenty minutes or so are about tugging on your heart strings and having a full box of Kleenex handy.

My son sat stunned as the film ended, and we shut the TV off and talked for about fifteen minutes before he went bed. He grasped all the subtleties of the film, especially how E.T. can be seen as symbolic of people here on earth about whom we may think preconceived things, but we don’t really know enough about them.

After watching all the Star Wars films a few times, my son had an idea about aliens that wasn’t always positive. Many of them come off as evil in that galaxy far, far away, but then along comes E.T. and shakes up his ideas about potential visitors from outer space.
After all these years I felt the film stands up amazingly well, and it definitely appealed to my son. The funny thing is that only the next day he asked me, “Why didn’t E.T. and Elliot have cell phones?” Of course, I told him they didn’t have them back in those days, but that was the only blip on his radar, otherwise thinking nothing was greatly different than things are today.

In the end E.T. the Extra-Terrestial still makes the grade with its target audience, but it also remains an extraordinary film about love, loss, sacrifice, and tolerance that we adults need to see. The message Spielberg drives home is clear, one that is especially necessary and compelling in this increasingly volatile world – no matter what our outward appearances are we are all more the same than we are different.

For over 30 years the E.T. character has captured the hearts of millions of people worldwide, and now here in my house my son has been pulled in to the E.T. fan club that I guess his father never left. If you have never done so, sit down and watch this film with your kids (or your grandkids); you’ll be glad that you did. Oh, and don’t forget to have some Reese’s Pieces handy; trust me, they will be the perfect snack for you during the show.

Photo credit: Universal Pictures

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Stanford Rape Case – The Injustice of the Victim Getting a Worse Sentence Than the Accused

There has been growing outrage over the sentence in the case of 20 year old Brock Turner, a star Stanford University athlete who raped an unconscious woman behind a garbage dumpster near a campus frat house – he received six month's jail time for the crime. The understandably angry reaction to such leniency in sentencing is compounded by Judge Aaron Persky (a Stanford alumnus), who in passing down his decision noted that a prison sentence “would have a severe impact” on the rapist. What about the severe impact the rape had on the victim? If you are shaking your head and wondering what’s going on here, join the club.

Two integral elements were entered into the proceedings by the victim and the rapist’s father, Dan Turner. I am no legal expert, but I fail to understand why the rapist’s father was allowed to do this. Brock is not a minor; therefore, he is responsible for his actions, not his old man. Meanwhile, a victim’s impact statement seems like the only thing that should have been heard by the court.

Questions have been raised about Judge Persky’s thought process in delivering such a light sentence, especially after listening to the victim read a 12-page letter about the trauma that this crime has caused in her life. She wrote, “You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice.”

CkS4yHYUkAAaYdyApparently the victim’s lengthy and emotional appeal to the judge meant less to him than Dan Turner’s letter about his rapist son. Turner noted that his son was so distraught he could no longer eat a steak dinner. The father also indicated that a long sentence would be “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action,” referencing the time it took for Brock to rape the woman. How dare this man insinuate that this violent act was what he obviously is trying to say was his son getting some action?

Of course, Dan Turner shrewdly knew that by writing “action” he was attempting to not only qualify what happened as not being an assault but also to nullify the horror the woman had to endure. Since the judge in the end agreed with Turner by imposing such a light sentence, it seems the father’s words were more effective than the victim’s in the end.

Rape is one of the most horrific crimes that can be inflicted on a person. The concept of rape is really quite simple no matter how some try to redefine it – it is anything that goes beyond the victim’s willingness to participate or an inability to give consent. Once the person on the receiving end either physically refuses an advance or utters the word “No,” then the aggressor must cease and desist. In this case the victim was unconscious, so that rendered it impossible for her to make a decision; therefore, any ensuing “action” must be categorized as unwanted, meaning in no uncertain terms that any sexual activity would be rape.

Years ago in one of my English composition classes I used “Date Rape’s Other Victim,” an article by Katie Roiphe adapted from her book The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism on Campus. This was an attempt to get the conversation going about the next assignment that my students had to write – a persuasive essay. In a class of 26 students almost evenly divided between male and female, the impact of reading the article the night before led a vigorous and at times raucous discussion in which a number of students (male and female) became emotional.  It is, of course, mentioned in the article that “one in four college women” have either been victims of rape or attempted rape, a statistic that shook up my class of 18 or 19 year old freshmen.

What became clear that day, and later on in the papers that the students would write, is that the definition of rape was muddled even back then. One of the guys said, “Well, girls always say ‘No’ because they don’t want to seem too easy.”

To which one of my female students responded, “Did you ever think that maybe girls say ‘No’ because they mean ‘No?’”

While things got a little heated there for most of the session – and definitely came down along lines of gender for the most part – the thing I tried to get to as the facilitator of the conversation was that each person has a responsibility to recognize the other one’s rights and respect them. Of course, when alcohol or drugs are involved and impairment is a factor, then the person has to stop upon realizing that the other party is in no condition to consent. At least in that session, all of my students seemed to agree with that.

Rape has always been a difficult topic that is uncomfortable to talk about and to confront; however, the Brock Turner case makes it necessary and compelling to do so now more than ever. The incongruously light sentence for rape handed down by Judge Persky is so shocking, so undermining of the victim’s long letter in which she passionately, but in the end futilely, pleads for some kind of justice, that the lasting damage to her is not hard to assess.

If a victim can lay bare her trauma, her horror, her psychological torment in such detail and still be discounted, then rape victims everywhere are going to worry about similar outcomes in court and probably hesitate to come forward. They will fear that all their efforts will end up with such horrific results. Why come forward at all? Unfortunately, throughout history, this is the reason many rape victims keep quiet in the first place – they fear that the victim will come out of it worse than the accused.

CkV3yJzUgAEm6ExWhen reacting to the verdict, the victim’s lawyer said, “The punishment doesn’t fit the crime.” Now there are calls for Judge Persky to step down or be removed from the bench – Change.org has a petition with hundreds of thousands of signatures in favor of removing Persky – but whether or not this happens, the damage to the victim cannot be undone. She has been re-victimized by the court and a system that has let her (and all rape victims) down.

In defense of Brock Turner, people have argued that he “is a good kid” and that he has never committed a crime before (as the judge also noted). Let’s make it clear – none of these things matter, absolutely none of them. Turner raped a defenseless woman in a vicious and pernicious manner, and the failure of the court to impose appropriate punishment is appalling.

One also has to look at the culture of rape on campuses across the country, what Roiphe notes as a “rape-crisis” that can also involve false accusations, which we have seen happen too; however, there is no denying that rape is a real issue at colleges, and Stanford has had more cases of rape and other sexual violence than any other college in the U.S. and is currently under federal investigation. So Turner’s case of raping an unconscious woman is part of a much larger problem on that elite Santa Clara Valley campus.

The victim’s letter stands as an essential document regarding rape, one that is as strong as anything Roiphe ever wrote about the subject. One can only describe it as gut-wrenching, and as Mel Robbins of CNN noted in her article, “Show Rape Victim’s Letter to Our Sons,” the letter should be required reading for the males in our lives – not just our sons but fathers, brothers, uncles, male cousins and friends. More importantly, we have to let our daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts, and female cousins and friends read it too. They have to know about the monster that could be out there and the danger that is real.

So Brock Turner gets six months in jail, three years’ probation, and will be a registered sex offender for life – meaning he got off way too easy. The victim, on the other hand, is sentenced for life – a lifetime of knowing that she was violated and treated literally like garbage behind a dumpster, and could have been just left for dead (if not for students who intervened).

Now the victim is supposed to get on with her life, knowing that in six months Turner will be out there again, chowing down on steak no doubt and able to live his life as if it never happened. How is the victim supposed to reconcile the inconceivable cruelty of that outcome?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Bernie Sanders Still Has a Shot – Despite The Media Campaign Against Him

I get it – everyone in the media wants Hillary to lock this up so bad that they declared her the winner before anyone voted on June 7, 2016. So, while on the surface, it looks like Hillary won something that day; the reality is that the media took the wind out of Bernie Sanders’s sails. Many of his supporters no doubt stayed home thinking there was no point. What a sad day for democracy June 7 was, and it was a terrible day for the American people.

bernie-sanders-mug_5fea106e0eb494469a75e60d8f2b18ea.nbcnews-fp-320-320From the very start the media discounted Bernie Sanders’s candidacy. He was an upstart, a renegade, a senator with no background for a nationwide run for office. Despite all the media downplaying (or sometimes simply ignoring) his campaign, Bernie had huge turnouts and enthusiastic supporters. Hillary’s campaign rallies looked like they were held in a morgue compared to his.

Bernie is fire and brimstone when he talks; Hillary sounds as if she’s yelling at Bill. Bernie excites the crowds with talks about a bright and new future, something that promises to shake off the conventional shackles that have been holding people back for generations. Hillary promises more of the same old Washington crap that has alienated voters and made them gravitate to Sanders and someone like Donald Trump.

The problem is that, as Hillary stood there basking in the glory of her supporters as the media on all channels – and I know because I kept switching channels – lavished praise and lauded the historic nature of the moment, Mrs. Clinton was standing on a rickety platform, held together by all the corruption and lies that got her to that point in the process.

Let’s make no mistake – there have been dirty tricks, lies, and attempts to keep Bernie supporters from voting. Mrs. Clinton has repeatedly asked Mr. Sanders to do the right thing – which basically has been to suspend his candidacy. Of course, Mr. Sanders plans to do no such thing. He’s taking this all the way to Philadelphia, and well he should.

Listening to law enforcement experts, former FBI agents, and legal experts on various radio talk shows and on TV, there is a general consensus that Mrs. Clinton should be indicted for the email scandal that she at one time dismissed as nothing of consequence. This doesn’t mean that she will be indicted, but there is a cloud hanging over her head bigger than Chris Christie.

Bernie’s ace in the hole then is “presumptive nominee” Hillary’s Achilles’s heel – a scandal that, even if it goes away, leaves its detritus all around her. No one can underestimate the negativity this email issue has brought to Hillary, and its not going away even if she manages to get it to.

donhil1-cnnEven if Hillary is not indicted, if she is the one to go up against Donald Trump, the email debacle is one of many things (along with the exorbitant speaking fees, questions around the Clinton Foundation, and old Slick Willie himself to name a few) that Trump will use against her.

Bernie’s appeal as an opponent for Trump is that he is also considered an outsider; the difference is that he isn’t always putting his foot in his mouth. The prospect of Hillary debating Trump should make Democrats extremely nervous, even Debbie Wasserman (I screwed Bernie) Schultz thinks she would be able to beat him. Make no mistake – if Hillary debates Trump, she’s going to need to do more than scream.

donhill3-foxOn the other hand, Bernie could debate Trump on issues, take apart his limited knowledge of national and world affairs, and challenge him on the economy. Without all the baggage Hillary carries – and she has more than a 747 – Bernie has a remarkably excellent chance to mop the floor with Trump during debates and win by a landslide in November.

Last night they were celebrating Hillary with champagne wishes and caviar dreams (with apologies to Robin Leach), but today Democrats should be waking up with more than a hangover. They should come to a grim realization of be careful what you wish for.

ter1Bernie Sanders has more than a shot to upset the apple cart in Philadelphia in July at the Democratic National Convention. The so-called super delegates may just see that the only way to defeat Donald Trump is the senator from Vermont and not the former Secretary of State who day after day looks like she has more holes in her than a piece of Swiss cheese.

If the process had not been so corrupted by the Clinton machine, Bernie Sanders would have been the presumptive nominee. Now there is a chance that he will still be his party’s nominee; that is if the Democrats want to win in November.

Photo Credits: CNN, FOX News, NBC