Heroic Greek Girl

While recently in Athens, Greece, I attended an exhibit of photographs documenting the arrival of Syrian refugees, on display at the Benaki Museum Annex. Different photographers provided images for the exhibit, and at the same time, assisted the refugees. Their images provide an opportunity for many people from all over the world, visiting Athens and this museum, to gain insight into the refugee experience. As good art should do, these images give voice to those who have had their voice taken away.

The images showed both extreme kindness and heart-breaking pain. A number of people going through the exhibit needed to leave the gallery on occasion in order to collect themselves, dry their tears and repress the anger welling up in them, that in this world, desperate families still need to leave the homes where their families have lived for centuries, because they are no longer safe in their own countries.

Many of the images showed the kindness of the Greek people as they ran into the Aegean Sea, grabbing infants and toddlers from the arms of exhausted parents, helping them to the safety of the shore. There were images of futile attempts to resuscitate small children who had drowned.  There were images of police comforting the refugees as they processed them into the country and directed them towards shelter and food.

A Greek scholar, born in Canada, raised in South Carolina, who moved to Greece to return to her roots, told me that Greek people know what it is to be refugees and that is why they are so open to helping any way they can, even in the face of Greece’s economic difficulties.

At the end of the exhibit, there was a photo of a young Greek girl, 8 years old, standing on a plaza in front of her home with the sea behind her. She stands strong with both sneakered feet planted firmly on the ground, looking directly at you. These are the words she gave the photographer, her story:

“I volunteer because I cannot see people being wet while I am just comfortably sitting. Our house is on the sea and refugees arrive every day. Recently, a boat arrived with 45 people and many babies. I got into the sea, grabbed babies and put them in our home. We turned the radiator on and we gave them milk. I put socks on them and gave them diapers.

The other day I took sea urchin spines off the foot of an adult, they had arrived with their boat behind our house on the rocks and as they were about to arrive at the coast, he stepped on a sea urchin. These people are not familiar with the sea. My teacher gives me thumbs up for helping but tells me that I also need to pay attention to my classes. The other kids at school make fun of me. They tell me I will get sick. What makes me angry is that several adults come by just to steal the engines of the boats and leave the people helpless.

It is just five of us who help here. At school we have history and religion classes and we are told to love and help our neighbor. But here no one comes to help.” (Hermione Koyimani, 8 years old).

If any one asked me who deserved the Nobel Peace Prize, I would give it to Hermione in a heartbeat. When I hear proposals to ban all Muslims, including the tens of thousands of refugees  seeking a safe place, I am deeply ashamed and offended. There is nothing American or great about such heartlessness. Indeed, it is a level of immorality I had hoped never to see in the United States. My America does better by those who are in need. We forget that many of us are here because at one time, we were in need. America has always been there for those seeking sanctuary. Around the world, Americans are respected because when things get tough, Americans show up to help. I am sick to death of attempts to malign and destroy what is the essence of being American. We are in danger of losing our moral compass and God forbid we let ourselves be lead down the road of ignorance and intolerance. We have a sea urchin spine that we need to pull out of our own foot.


Posted on 24 Jun 2016, 13:00 - Category: World Issues

Lack of Ethnics in the NH Legislature

How incredible that a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives has been charged with intent to commit aggravated felonius assault against a 14 year old girl. He is also facing felony charges for drug possession with intent to sell.

How does someone like this get elected to the NH Legislature? We need to work together to make sure that we elect people that we can count on to be ethical, honest and return respect and dignity to the office of State Representative.

Posted on 18 May 2016, 17:07 - Category: NH Legislature

Please Attend Fisher Hearing May 9th 10:00am

A familiar biblical precept says that by not denouncing evil, one is complicit in it. Bystanders may not be guilty of an assault, but they are guilty of letting it continue in their presence. Recent events have challenged us to put this to the test. As the old labor union song asks, “Which side are you on?”

It has been reported that Robert Fisher,  Representative from Laconia to the New Hampshire Legislature, promotes violence against women through a website called “The Red Pill.” He feels that rape has an upside to it. He is quoted as saying "Rape isn't an absolute bad, because the rapist I think probably likes it a lot. I think he'd say it's quite good, really.”

Everything about Rep. Fisher’s perspective on women, as expressed in The Red Pill website is repulsive and disturbing. There is no defense of his position, his actions and his words. I was heartened by the words of Jennifer Horn, the former chair of the NH Republican Party who is quoted in the Boston Globe in an article by Stephanie Ebbert (April 26, 2017) saying, The Red Pill “is a despicable site. His (Rep. Fisher) word and his intention are reprehensible,” I also second her condemnation of his trying to play the wronged party in all this. She goes onto say in the Globe article that ”he tried to make himself the victim of this in some way. This is not a free speech issue. This is not a partisan issue. This is not an issue about fairness for men. It is completely an issue about violence against women.” Bravo.

The New Hampshire House voted to send this issue to Legislative Administration for their consideration. The vote was an overwhelming 307-56. This hearing will take place Tuesday, May 9th at 10:00 and is open to the public. The committee can only consider what Fisher has said during this term. They cannot go back to consider past comments. In fairness, this makes sense in that we have all done and said things we regret. However, as the committee may be limited in its scope, the public is not. For those who wish they could do something, attending the hearing is a very effective way to express show your contempt for Fisher and his toxic views of women. Please attend.

This is an important matter. During orientation for new members to the house, Speaker Jasper talked about the high respect he has for the Legislature, and that he expected us to show that same high regard, that we would carry the honorific “honorable” for the rest of our days and that we should make every attempt to live up to that title even when we were not in office. Rep. Fisher’s remarks, his website, his attempts to justify his behaviors and beliefs, his glee at the notion of violence against women defiles that office, mocks the respect that the office is due.

We also learned that according to the Center for Disease Control, New Hampshire is not a very safe place for women.  It used to be that one in four New Hampshire women would be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. Now, it is estimated that one in three women will suffer a violent sexual assault over the course of their lives. When you have a lawmaker blatantly promoting violence against women, perhaps this should not come as a surprise.

As a state, we seriously need an examination of conscience; discernment of the soul. Does New Hampshire really have such low regard for women? I hope not. Is this the kind of state we want? I believe the answer to that is a resounding NO. So what do we do? Continue the outrage. To remain silent is to be complicit in Fisher’s misogyny and calls for violence against women.

If attending the committee meeting is not possible, there is another option for those who wish to express their views. Fisher, while perhaps not the owner, is associated with a company called Same Day Computer with locations in Portsmouth and Laconia. I am not aware that Same Day Computer has spoken out against Fisher’s positions and in remaining silent, Same Day Computer is tacitly supportive of Fisher and his views. I would not allow anyone who promotes violence against women access to my family, my home or my computer. I hope others who feel that same way will take their patronage to another business and avoid Same Day Computer. Speaking with one’s wallet is effective and allows one to say that they stand up for women’s rights and condemn those who would promote violence against women.


Posted on 7 May 2017, 10:59 - Category: NH Legislature

The outcome no one expected

The 2016 election year was one that almost no one expected. For many people, the following days were ones of numbness and bewilderment, not to mention anxiety about what is going to happen next. Trump promised a lot of things, far more than he will ever be able to deliver. Anxiety runs high to see what path he will take and how long it will take before he shifts and goes in another direction. Regardless, many of the people who voted for him and believed all the things he said will be bitterly disappointed.  One group in particular comes to mind, a group of marginalized individuals who, in large part, determined the outcome of this election.

Trump burst an abscess, festering for over 30 years. We have been rightly concerned with the disenfranchisement of many groups: people of different colors, different sexual orientations, different religions, different ethnicities, people with disabilities, veterans, women. But no one, from either side, has been attentive to this embittered  group of individuals: the under-educated, middle-aged, white men whose skills are no longer compatible with the modern age of globalization. We have overlooked those who have not had a job in over a generation.

Regardless of whether it is in the countries of Africa or the Middle East, or here, when people cannot feed their children and provide  a healthy life for them, anger builds and they look for a place to lay blame. They also look for a way out of their predicament. Both sides, Republican and Democrat, talked about ways to address the challenges facing communities where jobs have disappeared, but neither side has done enough about it. At least that is how it looks to workers whose jobs have been lost to technology, globalization or shifting markets. They, quite literally, had nothing to lose voting for Trump.

Unfortunately, regardless of Trump’s promises, these jobs will not come back, not because they went somewhere else, but because they no longer exist. These jobs were lost in large part because times have changed.  There is a normal desire to return to an earlier time, but that time no longer exists and will not come back. We are moving from the nativistic model of the past towards the globalism of the now. It is understandably frightening when you feel that the world is going on without you, that you are being left behind.

This is not to dismiss, or in any way diminish, the legitimate concerns of other groups. This is only to say that not all of the disenfranchised have been acknowledged and the outcome of the 2016 election reflects that. Some people have a hard time  dredging up empathy for poorly educated white men with outdated skills. It was the white man’s world for a long time, to the exclusion of other groups. But I think it is fair to say that day is gone. This election represents, to me, one last attempt to return to the past and one last cry to say, don’t forget we are here too.

Linda Loman, the stressed wife of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, says it best. “I don't say he's a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person... A small man can be just as exhausted as a great man. He works for a company thirty-six years this March, opens up unheard-of territories to their trademark, and now in his old age they take his salary away.”

Like it or not, the Willie Lomans of today have  reason to feel left behind and ignored. In light of this, we must focus on our common humanity, not race, sex, religion or any factor that results in a label. We are a global community now and there is no going back. The question is how are we going to go forward. And how do we not leave any one behind. As we finish out this year, let us strive to put hatred and prejudice behind us, and hold on to the ideals of truth, empathy and justice.


Posted on 3 Dec 2016, 16:18 - Category: Politics

Paid Family Leave

I got a text from my son and his wife, still living in China, asking when and how one goes about introducing a baby to solid food.  He had the usual questions, including “should we make baby food ourselves”? No, especially since you live in China. Then I wondered if I was being fair, so I checked out infant mortality rates and China’s is twice the rate of the United States, but it turns out, that is not saying much.

Our infant mortality rate is projected to be 5.87 deaths per 1,000 births. We rank right along with Slovakia at 5.27 and Latvia at 5.3. South Korea beats us at 3.86 and Japan beats even that with 2.08. All of Europe does better than we do and we are not much better than Russia with a rate of 6.9 deaths per thousand. The infant mortality rate in the United States is much higher than any other comparable country.

Recent research suggests one possible reason for this is the lack of paid maternity leave. My son and his wife are unusual in that they are both at home. She is taking care of the baby and my son works out of an office in their apartment. This baby is getting double doses of parental attention. That is a very different situation from here, where both parents typically have to work and baby goes to daycare. Affordable daycare is critical for today’s working families in the United States, but so is the opportunity for a mother to spend a few months at home with her newborn.

Incredibly, according to a Business Insider article (August 2015),  the International Labor Organization lists the United States as one of only two countries in the world whose government does not require employers to provide paid maternity leave. The other is Papua New Guinea.  The American Family and Medical Leave Act requires certain American companies of over 50 employees to offer unpaid maternity leave with job protection and continued medical insurance, but financially, this is not viable for many. Some companies have taken on this issue themselves, voluntarily implementing paid family leave.  Facebook offers 4 months.  Even Twitter is part of this movement, offering 5 months. Netflix offers up to one year of paid leave. Google recently went from 12 weeks to 18 weeks because they believe that providing leave results in more women returning to their jobs. In this way, they do not lose valuable talent and skills and do not have to train a new employee. A number of studies have shown that women are more likely to return to work after having a baby if paid maternity leave is available to them.

Going back to where I started regarding infant mortality, I read a new study, out of UCLA and McGill University, linking maternity leave with a decline in infant deaths. Since the United States doesn’t seem to have the will to require paid maternity/paternity as a country, perhaps this new study will help turn the tide. The results of this long term and broad-based study found that for every month of paid  leave, the infant mortality rate of that country dropped by 13%. This result is most noticeable when 8 weeks is extended to 12 and 12 to 16. After that, the difference is not as large.

The researchers did not look at the reasons why this drop occurred but speculated that it results from less stress being placed on the mother, allowing time to seek medical help for both the mother and the baby, and being able to breastfeed for a longer time.  Being home, the mother is better able to assess her health and that of the baby and seek help, whereas if she were working, she is less able to do this. Getting baby off to a strong start pays off down the road with a healthier baby. Parents feel more confident knowing they will have these early months to establish their bond, take care of any medical issues, and have time to seek answers to questions they have.

The same article from Business Insider from August 2015, also reported that women who were able to take leave after having a baby were 39% less likely to need public assistance and 40% less likely to receive food stamps. Further, regarding the company’s bottom line, it states that “more than 90% of employers affected by California's paid family-leave initiative reported either positive or no noticeable effect on profitability, turnover, and morale.”

One of the biggest weaknesses we face is our short-sightedness. We are penny-wise and pound foolish when it comes to repairing our infrastructure, providing access to health care, drug prevention programs, energy efficiency, climate change, and paid family leave.  Every study recounts the benefits to baby, mother and father, and employer, but still we resist. At some point, maybe we will start to listen to the research and leave Papua New Guinea in the dust. Or, we could wait and be the only country in the world that does not provide paid family leave.


Posted on 22 Apr 2016, 8:58 - Category: Family Issues

Pages: ... [2] [3]


Political advertisement paid for and approved by the candidate.
Campaign Websites by Online Candidate