Oakland City Concil: Public Comment on Budget Process

Dear Oakland City Council,

Last night, on May 30, I attempted to speak publicly to Oakland City Council specifically to comment on item  12 in this agenda. Due to the length of the meeting, I had to leave in order to put my third grader to bed. I sat patiently in chambers for nearly FOUR hours but wasn’t able to affirm many of my fellow neighbor’s voices, whom I was proud to see showed up strong. I’d like to submit this as my public statement and request that the council considers this sentiment one that represents many of my neighbors whom I’ve spoken with directly.

Here are my prepared remarks that I had hoped to share at last night’s meeting:

Hello, my name is Anita Singha, a resident of district three and member of Housing Our Unhoused Residents (HOUR). I live on Wood street and see the effects of the housing crisis every day. My family drives by piled up trash, inadequate shelter, porta potties that aren’t well maintained, and unsafe camps for women and elderly. This is a hugely unsettling and stark contrast to the extremely expensive new housing being built in my neighborhood. I have read the staff reports in the agenda and am alarmed at the very low amount of funding and planning that barely covers 2015 unhoused estimates of 2600 unhoused and frankly lacks a long-term vision for equitable housing for all residents in Oakland. The $180,00 that was allocated for the Compassionate Communities pilot was simply not an adequate dollar amount to use for estimates for additional sanctioned camps. I had hoped to see that the city would have learned more money is necessary to effectively run sanitary and safe camps and therefore I can’t support more sanctioned camps with the estimates provided and don’t feel there is enough staffing to address complex issues.

I urge the city council to do more research and scope the full estimates needed to find safe housing for all residents living on the streets, this should be the long-term vision, not simply shuffling a small population in and out of shelters. The Mayor and the Council must make funding for affordable, extremely low incoming housing, services and effective shelters and navigation centers a priority, not a back burner issue. I ask you to use Measure KK funds that I am paying for out my property tax to create homes for the unhoused. Look to fund from A1 bond, state funding and plan for the long term and stop passing the buck to other agencies. This is an Oakland issue! Further to add one more point to reiterate many voices tonight, I also ask that the city focuses on running an efficient police department, I ask Libby to re-consider her lofty goal of 800 police, stop police overtime pay mismanagement and fund the Police Commission by an additional $350,000 so we have a well run OPD, as the voters wanted! Use the budget in every way possible to help those in need and investing in the vibrancy and future a city I hope to call home for decades to come. These investments will make for a better city that works for everyone. Thank you.

 

Dismantling: Searching for Meaning

This morning I spied the fog is rolling in, just like that the sky has turned from crystal blue to opaque whiteness. Mine is the last residential street in Oakland, edged off by an unsightly freeway ramp. The other side the hubbub of a bustling port transports clothes, shoes, food, cars, oil, and electronics. One side of the block is under construction, all plywood and slab—luxury living at ¼ the size but three times the price of a modest home in one of the elusive battleground states. My neighborhood is a contradiction. The other side is speckled with wonderful Victorian row houses, a reminder of a time when this was a solidly middle-class neighborhood, where families thrived before red lines were drawn and redevelopment came crashing through. Further down a shanty-like network of lean-to’s, tents, tiny homes and sheds create a safe haven for our unhoused neighbors who are wedged against chain link fences waiting for the world to take notice and help.

Words like bubble, inner city, hell, gentrification are the descriptors for this street, but this is my neighborhood, I live here with my family, just like so many other decent humans. In this past year, I’ve put my energy towards acquainting myself with the politics and the community, both of these are a challenge but worth the time. There is no single word, no demographic term that accurately describes my little space on this Earth, monolithic we’re not, rather a complex community, in need of specialized services and a new form of progressive development that will require leadership that is sorely missing in the bluest city, in the bluest county, in the bluest state. I can’t stop thinking, still reeling from this election, trying to parse out what has gone wrong, why I wasn’t heard, who I wasn’t listening too. For the first time in a long time I feel our politicians have abandoned us on so many levels, party politics has left us in the lurch and I see clearly that the change we wish to see is within us. The time is now, no more waiting around. There are no heroes, no symbols or catchy slogans that will save us. Just our solidarity and resistance.

Since election day the weather has been unseasonably warm and quite literally the only bright spot that was hard to overlook during these very uncertain times. I started off 11/8 filled with optimism, and proudly stated to my friends online that I love my city, my job my country, my family and friends and those feelings didn’t dissolve on 11/9. But optimism is replaced with resolve. I’m trying to dig deep because mistakes were made, I feel duped, misinformed, and mistaken. My critical eye has re-focused, I no longer trust the same sources of information that spoon-fed me comfortable doses of anesthetic in the form of snarky satire and refreshable data feeds. To be frank, it’s not all that important to cling to the same sources that threw us off our game. But I do expect more from the campaigners and politicians who let the wolf into the henhouse and implore they do as much soul-searching as their constituents. But I have my plan, I’ve replaced podcasts and radio news with music, comments online with in-person conversation, and mainstream media with history.

The weekend after the election, tears still well up, my stomach keeps dropping, another musician has left us. If there was ever a time for poetry and music it is now. Emotions are hard to contain as Leonard Cohen’s gravelly baritone rolls out poetry so apropos it feels like another punch to a bruised soul:

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

It’s through this process of grieving, hearing words strung together with a marksman-like accuracy, that I start the process of healing. I’m not moping or wallowing because I need to stay energized. Of course, I’m unsure, not fearful but on edge, anxious but resigned. I’m filled with concern for the vulnerable and the foundational freedoms of my country that is once again struggling with its legacy of inequality. The reckoning has arrived and it’s not in the form we’d expected. But I’m still here. So are you.

Dismantling my liberal echo chamber: Part 1 of many

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I am still processing and these thoughts are just a sketch, a journal entry I share with you all for some reason. It’s not meant to sway or change opinions or even garner clicks or follows. Maybe it can be used to diagnose the downfall of our country or the unraveling (or enlightening) of a sad liberal.  Don’t take much heed in what I say, for as of today, I am stripped of knowledge. All I know is that Donald Trump will be the president of my beloved country. We have no clue what is coming next, none. I think it will be something we can’t contemplate because that’s the lesson of history. I am not going to speculate any further, rather, I am going to be watchful. I am going to listen hard.

But one thing I am clear on is that I have never been so wrong, never felt so misguided and duped as I have these past few days. This election has shaken apart my belief system, I feel like my head snapped back in a form of political whiplash. A friend of mine said, “I feel stunned and simultaneously stupid for feeling stunned.” I couldn’t have said it better. I’m pretty quick to admit when I’ve fucked up. It’s probably from all the practice. In the past, I have let my mistakes eat me up, spit me out and ground to a pulp. But now I’m older, I’m a quick study. When I make a mistake, I lather up with humility, get introspective, and ready for problem-solving. This is a challenge and can make little sense, and may not result in much. But I do believe, that a crisis like the one we’re facing today is an opportunity in a weird way, I just don’t know what it is yet.

By midnight on Nov. 8, my blind spots cracked wide open and I still feel very raw. I take on the challenge of this indelible moment in history to ask questions, sit with what happened and try to understand how I missed the signs. They were there, all around. I’m still poking at cracks in the system but without as much guidance from the media and tastemakers. So I take this on as an amateur, as an unpublished writer, as someone hurting and wanting to hone my own ideas! I hope that I can write as clearly as I can without influence, although that is impossible I know. My posts going forward will not have media links or quotes from famous journalists. I have abandoned them until they reckon their irresponsible ways and figure out how to report information.

It’s only been two full days so it’s possible this current assessment is still riddled with bias, but so far what I’ve gathered from my own brain is that my error in judgment during this election season has a few layers; 1. I stopped listening to my inner voice; 2. I had an over-reliance on opinion makers and corporate media; 3. I didn’t talk to anyone on the “other side” in person; 4. I let fear cloud my judgment; 5. I fell into a binary trap. (My side/Their side).

While I was so wrapped in fear that a threatening man would take the highest office in the US, I got lost in the fog and couldn’t see my worst fear materializing. I didn’t see it coming because I didn’t want to see it. Surely people would think the way I thought? I was so certain. But I knew, deep down inside, I could feel the tug in my mind–You’re not seeing the whole picture. But ignored it, I read every article in my favorite liberal papers, clicked hundreds of links, traded music for political podcasts, refreshed data feeds, played with charts and graphs and projections. Validate, validate, validate. I felt so informed, I knew what was going to happen! Look at me I just read a 10,000-word essay in the New Yorker. Oh, but I ignored George Saunders’ accurate portrayal of Trump supporters and thought those folks are just the fringe, the center will unify. Yay, I am a centrist!

I tried to talk to others about my concerns early on, I was worried we had a candidate that wouldn’t resonate. But then fell back into the liberal trap when I was convinced otherwise, it’s not her style, it’s not who she is, and she is competent. Don’t be sexist. Don’t compare her to Michelle Obama or Elizabeth Warren, that’s not fair. But I knew my candidate would suppress voter enthusiasm. And in the final stretch, in a bit of mania, or maybe a weird subconscious epiphany, I rushed around and made last minute calls to Florida and donated money to trump hate. Like all of us, I obsessively checked Nate Silver for comfort. And I think back to last week, I must’ve known something in my gut. But I kept telling everyone, oh look at this amazing chart, it’s so in the bag! Don’t worry we’re gonna win this. But why did I feel afraid?

And come on, I know better. I have worked to fight against corrupt corporate media and now I was consuming terabytes of information like a gluttonous information junkie. I wore out my eyes, got carpal tunnel from clicking and swiping, paid hundreds of dollars for data usage fees, but convinced myself it’s all worth it. What just happened? Ah the fog, the smoggy foggy lies, lulled me into their trap. Dammit.

So, today I will say, I have no answers. But maybe, just maybe, we need to find new ways to crack through the rhetoric on each side. I don’t know how yet or if it’s even plausible. I am not shirking or hiding or sulking. I am just scanning the landscape, still soaking this all in because I don’t ever want to repeat the same grievous mistake of believing in propaganda. For let’s call the media on both sides what it is, biased information created to push a certain political narrative. I was lulled into comfort by the drug of information and I’m on the worst come down ever. And I know what to do, I gotta cut off my pushers, reduce the mind control, and extract myself from a toxic situation.

But I have hope too. Again, I am not advocating a thing. Please take the time to figure out what you need to do for yourself. But on day one I unfollowed and unsubscribed from every mainstream media source that fed me spoonfuls of misinformation. Already it’s made a huge difference reducing the chatter in my social feeds, at best I feel cool that I’m not giving into clickbait. I am not going to analyze the whys and what’s of the data. I tried to listen to a podcast and lasted six minutes before feeling disillusioned. Without any thought to their own errors, they launched right back into the same punditry, trying to figure out the other side, who voted for Trump, their motivations, etc. etc. etc. They admitted the professionals were wrong, but then didn’t take responsibility for passing on the information from the same professionals. Had they learned nothing?!

So meanwhile, I plan to hang out with people in real life more often. I am going to rely on nature, art and family for solace. For me it’s a time of healing. I will fight too, but I am kinda over people screaming at me to speak out, accusing me that I’m complicit unless I start fighting right now! My whole life has been a fight, I’ve lived with racism and sexism for ages, so has my family. I am glad white liberals are wide awake, but trust me us brown folk knew that people want us gone, hate crimes are nothing new. Also, I have this feeling we don’t really know what we need to fight against specifically. Once I see the true battle lines drawn I will be ready to take my position to fight for moral justice. I will wait to see what organizations need donations after I assess needs. But right now, I am recharging. I do feel something is going to happen, something not so good but we don’t know what it is yet. I feel it in my bones. For whatever that means. Remember, I know nothing.  

Yes, the day has come! I’m with her.

 

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Yeah, yeah yeah…uhh so four months ago I wrote a blog about my dislike of Hillary and why I wasn’t going to vote for her. Little did I know that my eight-year-old daughter and our cat were way ahead of me in their support for Hillary. Way back then, and boy does it seem forever ago, I was all in for Bernie. His grassroots campaign, the progressive values he represents, yes even his blustery speaking style, appealed to me over Hillary. I jumped on the Bernie train early on, so after supporting him this past year, I got teary when Bernie asked the DNC to nominate Hillary. I was relieved he handled the transition with grace, as I didn’t side with fervent Bernie supporters demanding a contested convention. Yes, even after DNC leaks. I was proud to vote for him, but more importantly, I feel triumphant to see the influence of progressive issues on the Democratic party platform. I am still a Bernie Democrat but as of this week, I am whole-heartedly “With Her”.

What tipped the scale for me was watching the Republican National Convention, and the amount of hate spewed directly at her was horrifying. I knew they disliked her but it got crazy. I cringed through just a few speeches, but watching Rudy Guiliani’s frenzied mania, the chants to “lock her up” and accusations of her allegiance with Lucifer was enough. My response was empathy and protectiveness towards Hillary. Watching all those white men freak out about her made it clear that I had to support her and fight misogyny. I hope the RNC knows how badly it backfired, I’m not the only woman to feel this way. I knew I had to be open to Hillary again, get geared up and even question some of my assumptions. I gotta clear a few things up, for one I didn’t mistrust her because of her emails or Bhengazi. I’ve been calling both of those investigations a witch hunt. But within the swirl of messages of distrust towards Hillary, I may have gotten a little more critical about her than I realized. I spent all of those months rooting for Bernie, and part of the conversation was to defeat Hillary. And it takes a minute to shift gears.

So, as I began to watch the Democratic National Convention I was already convinced to vote for her–but I still had some lingering doubts, things that bugged, a discomfort. Maybe I did want to be sold on her after all, and so I watched. Night after night as the DNC made a strong case, I began to feel enthusiasm and even hope. I agree with Barak Obama, when he said she is the most qualified person ever to run for President. I’m not letting her off the hook on a few key issues, namely her foreign policy (don’t worry I caught her allegiance to Israel). She co-opted Bernie’s platform, and I will be expecting her to come through on repealing Citizen’s United, reform banking, improve the health care system, and make college affordable. It’s a tall order, especially considering she will have her hands full with foreign affairs. And finally, I will do what I can to remind people to vote down ballot so the Democrats can gain control of the Senate. Like she said, she can’t do this alone!

I felt the DNC put on a rousing, entertaining and highly effective convention. The positive tone, the focus on love and togetherness was just the right message we needed to hear. Because it’s clear the country is gripped with anxiety, we’re not divided, we’re just afraid. And if there is one thing I know, there is nothing like patience, love, and a good long hug to ease negative feelings. Stronger together. I buy that message.

After watching four evenings of the Democratic National Convention I’ve come away the following observations:

  1. The Democratic Party knows how to work the system to win.
  2. The media is completely out of touch with America, and they suck, and it’s their fault Trump won, and they spread biased misinformation.
  3. I will not allow this country to be defined by hate.
  4. There are some amazing people in our country who’ve sacrificed everything.
  5. There is actually common ground between Democrats and Republicans.
  6. Who is Elizabeth Banks?
  7. The Twitterverse is gonna have so much fun with nice guy Tom Kaine.
  8. African-Americans using their preacher/sermon style is a force for good that is rooted in our country! It’s powerful and inspirational.
  9. I was aware of the emotional manipulation and it kinda felt good.
  10. I loved the crowd filled with so many shades of white, yellow and brown faces!

And I finally buy Hillary as a candidate. She took on the challenge to appeal to us Bernie Democrats and not just expect our easy allegiance. I know, my friends who are a long time Hillary supporters are probably bothered she had to make a case at all. But I think it made her a better candidate. I thought she nailed her speech. And I mean the voice of God, Morgan Freeman himself, reminded us that she is a mother, a fighter, and she sits in the kitchen and talks her daughter about her day. In her speech, she owned her smarty-pants style. She admitted to being policy wonk and said the details matter. Yeah, own it! She acknowledged there is work to be done to level the playing field, the economy is rigged, that the banks are too big. I’m going to rise above cynicism here and point out that last year she wasn’t saying these things, and she did precisely because of the progressive Bernie movement. I felt vindicated sticking up for my sad, last stand of a vote in the California primary.

We still have 100 days left of the campaign and lot can happen, and there is usually an October surprise of some sort. In 2008, when Obama was running, the whole world economy was in a scary tailspin in the Fall. And I fear we will have to endure a lot more negative campaigning before November. But, I’ve been making plans on how I can help assure that Trump doesn’t make it into office. I couldn’t live with myself if he did win and I didn’t do everything I could to stop his madness. He could have the opportunity to shape the Supreme Court and that just can’t happen!

And that’s just it, like so many parents we have our eyes on the future. I got emotional when I watched Hillary stand before a cheering crowd, and I thought about my eight-year-old daughter, growing up in her tween and teen years, with a woman at the helm of this country. At the end of the next two terms, my dear, smart, forward-thinking girl will almost be able to vote. She has already promised we could go to the voting booth together when she is 18. Now that’s a promise I will hold her to for sure. Yeah, just like Hillary there are a lot of promises to be kept. I think some of them can happen.

 

Why my cat is voting for Hillary but I’m not.

FullSizeRenderRecently, my seven-daughter asked me why I wasn’t supporting Hillary Clinton. I explained it was a primary vote, and right now I choose Bernie Sanders because I like his message more than Hillary. My daughter kind of understood but then unequivocally told me she backs Hillary because she wants to see a woman as President. I told her that was a good reason, and I want to see that too. I also promised her if Hillary won the primary I’d vote for her, and we’d both go to the polling place together. She started making Hillary campaign posters and posted them around the house. She even made one for our cat and proclaimed feline allegiance to Hillary! Even though the cat had no choice in the matter, I didn’t worry about influencing my daughter’s (and kitty’s) vote because her reasoning was as sound as many other adult women. Plus, I got a kick out of the fact that she came to her own conclusions. That’s all I want for my girl, to use her mind, speak up and remain confident. Apparently, the poor cat is going to have to go along with her owner!

What I didn’t tell her is that I don’t find Hillary Clinton very inspiring, anymore. There was a time, way back in the 90’s, when I watched the First Lady of the United States fight tooth and nail for health care reform. I was an unemployed, dropout, living a textbook Generation X slacker lifestyle. It was a drab, low-energy, uninspiring time. But there she was a lone woman, at a table, sparring with senators ready to take her down. I related, I too felt the men in my life were taking me down. I tried to one up them, playing pool, smoking cigarettes, wearing combat boots and overalls. I didn’t like being told I couldn’t do something because I was a woman. If I was, I tried to be better than a man, even if it was a loser’s cause. And so Hillary became an inspiration, she was fighting for healthcare for all, and was emotional, transformational, and well-versed. She had answers for everything, and the men came off as hysterical and combative. All in all, I thought she rocked!

I still reflect upon this memory of Hillary and I know there is still a part of her that remembers this time. Obviously, she has skill, tact, and political prowess. She can think on her feet, with intelligence, steely composure and book smarts. But, Hillary doesn’t move me anymore, she doesn’t speak my language or inspire confidence. I do hesitate to write this because I’m aware that as a woman running for President of the United States she is getting a special dose of sexist treatment from the media, in stupid memes, and of course from her opponents. I don’t think some of the criticism lobbed against her time and again is totally legitimate, for example having to explain her husband’s illicit behaviors. But I do believe that she should be brought to task for some questionable activities in her long political history. It’s also not fair for her to call foul when she is criticized, especially since she and her surrogates play a nasty game of insidious political takedowns. She is no longer the newcomer, the wife of the President taking on a cause that was really a side project. Now she has created her own political legacy and she should be held to that record. I am not a fan of her corporate ties and her interventionist and harmful foreign policy that ally with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Yes, the cynical point of view is that all politicians are bought out by corporations, court lobbying groups and shake hands with despots and corrupt rulers abroad. Just because everyone does it, shouldn’t invalidate concern. I felt this way eight years ago and as time has passed and more evidence has been brought out, it’s evident she owes political favors that conflict with her ever-changing campaign message. And finally, I would have been inspired to support the first woman in the Oval Office if she had less baggage than Hillary. Despite the efforts of Hillary’s cronies to paint all criticism of her as misogynistic and sexist, I think it’s a fair assessment that she does have a pretty thorny background.

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More importantly, I don’t believe her trickle down feminism will benefit women as much as she’d like us to believe. I’ve heard her say something like “we deserve to show our daughters that they can become anything they want even the President of the United States of America.” But there is so much more our daughters deserve to see! If girls want to be anything they want they deserve equal access to quality public education, beginning in early childhood through high school in particular. Girls deserve to have access to women’s health and progressive sexual education. Girls deserve justice when they are raped, molested and assaulted and not discredited, blamed for being too sexy, or drunk. Girls deserve to date boys that are also educated about consent and respect for their bodies. Girls deserve to be called on in class. Girls deserve to be bossy, smart, intelligent without impacting their confidence. Girls deserve to live in a country that is safe from guns, terrorism, and war. And while girls deserve to see more women in leadership, I also believe that girls deserve to see women in a variety of roles. We need to honor the hard work of the invisible and not just worship the visible and elite achievements of women in office, or movies, or music, or social media.

And I know, Hillary thinks she deserves to be President and I can see why, but for me this is not reason enough. There are a lot of women that deserve more than they have right now, and they don’t have the power or voice to ever be heard. Hillary often says, “I will fight for your support, I will do what it takes.” But she supports the continuation of economic policies that make it difficult for working families to get ahead. I know Hillary is endorsed by Planned Parenthood, but here again, I don’t feel that gets to the root of the issues that face all women. We know that economic inequality impact women’s day to day lives more than ever. The change that needs to take place starts here and I believe that reforming our economic policies will do more improve women’s health, education, and careers. Focusing on Planned Parenthood and abortion rights is only looking at a symptom but not addressing the root causes, it’s an aid, not a solution.

IMG_0884I wish I could say all of this to my daughter and maybe I will just rant to the kitty one afternoon! I know one day my intelligent child will make her own connections. After all, the arc of history changes perspective doesn’t it? Perhaps the feminist inspiration that I seek, where women in leadership display integrity, vulnerability, softness, and inclusion will become the norm for my daughter’s generation. Because right now, what is missing for me, is there isn’t enough respect for the true power of womanhood. I want to see women celebrate feminity, not as a reaction to stereotypes created by men, but forging our own identities. We are mothers, sisters, daughters, and we give life, nurture change, nudge our husbands, brothers, sons and fathers to do more. Luckily, I do see more of this message on the horizon. And while we may see a woman break the glass ceiling in DC, the real change is happening in our homes, communities and workplaces. A female President that still plays by the old rules and propels foreign and domestic policies that don’t protect our interests as a nation is just a symbolic gesture. But don’t tell my cat, she still thinks its cool to see a lady as President.

Weekly Miscellany: Women and the countless lies we’re told and some we tell.

Miscellany

This week I happened upon a trail of lies that are told to women and a story about lies told by a woman. Coming upon this theme wasn’t deliberate, but the connections were difficult to ignore. Women have been lied to for the ages, our identities constructed, our lot in life pre-determined by fathers and husbands and up until recent decades we’ve had little choice in forging our own paths. But as we’ve started to create our own identities and speak out, the campaign to keep us quiet and in our place has become more devious over time. Facts and figures are skewed to tap into our natural ability to feel guilt. We are still easily shamed by society and even the word feminist has been diminished by a campaign of subversive ridicule that includes Hollywood starlets denying allegiance.

In the past few weeks, I definitely needed a little feminist fire to get me through yet another debate about the validity of women’s health, abortion and our sexual freedom—the real core of the matter. I decided to go to the source and read through Margaret Sanger’s 1914 newspaper, The Woman Rebel—still a really cool name!  But there is nothing like an energetic rant by my long-time favorite firebrand, Emma Goldman. It amazes me that feminists from over 100 years ago were so brazen and still so modern, proclaiming their radical ideas against adversity. These early feminists were shouting out ideas that are still taboo in many places in this world—now that is revolutionary!

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Love and Marriage

by Emma Goldman, excerpt from The Woman Rebel, Vol. 1, No. 1, March 1914.

The defenders of authority dread the advent of a free motherhood lest it rob them of their prey. Who would fight wars? Who would create wealth? Who would make the policeman, the jailer, if women were to refuse the indiscriminate breeding of children? The race, the race! shouts the king, the president, the capitalist, the priest. The race must be preserved, though women be degraded to a mere machine, –and the marriage institution is our only safety valve against the pernicious sex-awakening of women. But in vain these frantic efforts to maintain a state of bondage. In vain, too, the edicts of the Church, the mad attacks of rulers, in vain even the arm of the law. Women no longer want to be a party to the production of a race of sickly, feeble, decrepit, wretched human beings, who would have neither the strength nor moral courage to throw off the yoke of poverty and slavery. Instead she desires fewer and better children, begotten and reared in love and through free choice, not by compulsion as marriage imposes. Our pseudo-moralists have yet to learn the deep sense of responsibility toward the child, that love in freedom has awakened in the breast of women. Rather she forgo forever the glory of motherhood that bring forth life in an atmosphere that breathes only destruction and death. And if she does become a mother, it is to give to the child the deepest and best her being can yield. To grow with the child is her motto; she knows but in that manner alone can she help build true manhood and womanhood.

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The next article really had me upset, because I’ve watched so many women struggle to have babies, some are unable and others worry about the looming ticking clock. Yet it turns out that the facts have been obscured, only to project the notion that it’s best for women to settled down early and pursue family over career. Those women who choose to wait, do it with a mix of bravery and trepidation, because they’ve been told that statistics for childrearing are not on their side! But I implore all women to read this article all the way through, regardless of if you’re a mother, mother-to-be, or not, because it will show you how the narrative of a woman’s body has been continually hijacked by lies.

The following excerpts are from “How long can you wait to have a baby?” from The Atlantic Monthly, July/August 2013.

The widely cited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying, for instance, is based on an article published in 2004 in the journal Human Reproduction. Rarely mentioned is the source of the data: French birth records from 1670 to 1830. The chance of remaining childless—30 percent—was also calculated based on historical populations.

In other words, millions of women are being told when to get pregnant based on statistics from a time before electricity, antibiotics, or fertility treatment. Most people assume these numbers are based on large, well-conducted studies of modern women, but they are not. When I mention this to friends and associates, by far the most common reaction is: “No … No way. Really?

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A few days later, I was clicking around for a good movie and I came upon “Julia” about two friends beautifully portrayed by Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave. I was teary almost all the way through because I couldn’t get past the story of the long lost friendship. The cinematography and the backdrop of France and Germany on the eve of WW2 was sumptuous, a little stark and foreboding. When it ended, I was so struck and I stayed up late researching everything I could about the movie. “Julia” was highly acclaimed, receiving 11 Academy Award nominations and a BAFTA award for best film. But the most interesting thing I learned is that the riveting and emotional plot of two friends separated by tragic circumstances during WW2 was based on a pack of lies, a story that was co-opted by the very controversial writer Lillian Hellman. Even when this film was released in 1977, it was presented as “based on a true story” which means not the whole truth but partly. But, really the whole center plot of the two friends was completely fabricated. I read this on Wikipedia, but also cross-referenced this controversy because I’m so fascinated by this trail of lies.

The Oscar-winning film Julia was based on one chapter of Pentimento. Following the film’s release in 1977, New York psychiatrist Muriel Gardiner claimed she was the basis for the title character. The story presents “Julia” as a close friend of Hellman’s living in pre-Nazi Austria. Hellman helps her friend to smuggle money for anti-Nazi activity from Russia. In fact Hellman had never met Gardiner. Hellman denied that the character was based on Gardiner, but never identified a real-life alternative.[2] Hellman and Gardiner had the same lawyer (Wolf Schwabacher) who had been privy to Gardiner’s memoirs. The events depicted in the film conformed to those described in Gardiner’s memoirs.[2]

I’m not the only one that is fascinated by Hellman, in 2002 Nora Ephron staged a musical about this controversy of Hellman and Gardiner called “Imaginary Friends.” I feel like I’m about a decade late in this interest in Hellman, I would have loved to have seen Ephron’s musical.

But the fascination into Hellman’s contradictory and fascinating life hasn’t ceased, just a few year’s ago Fresh Air book critic, Maureen Corrigan reviewed a 2012 biography of Hellman entitled, “A Difficult Woman”.

“Difficult” is probably the most tactful word one could use in characterizing Lillian Hellman. If ever there were an author safer to meet through her art rather than in real life, she was the one. Born in New Orleans into a Jewish family, Hellman came of age in the Roaring ’20s, liberated by flappers and Freud. Hellman drank like a fish, swore like a sailor and slept around like, well, like most of the men in her literary circle, chief among them Dashiell Hammett, with whom she had an open relationship spanning three decades. She was, recalled one observer, a “tough broad … the kind of girl who can take the tops off bottles with her teeth.”

Although she concedes that “Lillian Hellman is a juicy character [whose] life is filled with sex and scandal,” Kessler-Harris mostly trains her gaze on the larger arguments over Stalinism and Hellman’s art and her truth-telling or lack thereof. Kessler-Harris wants to delve into how Hellman was formed by her time and, perhaps, misremembered by our own.

…but here’s one good reason why young women especially should care about the lessons offered by Hellman’s life: Hellman, Kessler-Harris emphasizes, continued to be a bold creature of the 1920s long after Betty Boop became domesticated into June Cleaver.

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Goodbye September!

A month ago, I made a commitment to activate this blog again. What has occurred since, has been a bit consuming but I know I’m doing the right thing because I’m LISTENING! Hello!? Anita, what do you want to do with your life? WRITE! Well get to it lady!

I was just talking to a friend today who asked my about my daughter and I told her she wants to be a guitar player when she grew and I kind of laughed. My friend said “Well I knew I wanted to be a writer around her age.” She’s reminded me that I was around seven, the same as my daughter when I had the idea that I’ve wanted to write books. I’ve never been confused about this. I’ve never had to read a book or take a test to find my passion. I’ve always been driven by words, reading, books, literature, writing, journalism and ideas. And I’ve felt this very strongly from a young age. So what in the world happened? Everyone tells you, find your passion, right? Then just do it.

What happened is a series of sad, but familiar events. My family, immigrants from India weren’t very supportive of creative pursuits.  I recall arguing with my dad, maybe I was 11 or 12 and he said, “Yes become a lawyer or doctor first and THEN you can write a book.” It’s only now as an adult that I know why he was saying this, he only cared for my future, having stability was all my family ever wanted for their kids. A writer’s life was no life for a woman. This was also made clear early on and I have to say, it hurt to hear those words from people I loved.

I struggled through school, had problems paying attention to certain subjects. I always managed to be a solid B student because I got A’s in English, writing, humanities and C’s in math and science, but this grade was not exciting enough for an Indian family. Over time the sadness morphed into a deep depression. By the time I was a freshman in college, pursuing Journalism, a sort of compromise for an English degree because I convinced my dad (and myself) it could lead to a career, I was clinically depressed. Instead of going to class, I would drive to school each day and sleep in the parking lot under the warm sun.

Now, everybody has regrets in life. I totally get it. But I keep repeating the same mistakes. I still haven’t fully figured out how to get passed the doubts, fears and barriers that have built in my mind. It’s not enough to have a passion. You have to be fearless, you have to stand up to others and just do what you want. I’ve never really been able to do this and as each year passes, it becomes hard. I’ve decided to not make it hard anymore. I need to get out of my own way as they say! This seems like a ridiculous time in my life to keep trying, but what else can I do?

It’s taken me years but I know that the best “therapy” is to keep listening. There is nothing worse than to live a life that is marred by regrets. It’s taken me 30 years to figure out the true source of my depression is that I’m simply not doing enough of what makes me happy. I’m not listening to my true self and have tried to run from it, hide it away, and ignore it. But when you’ve had a passion that has been squelched your whole life, you start to become sick. Really, it’s a form of cancer, it just remains. I’m not sure if I can really heal or get over the years that I’ve wasted, but I have to try to keep going on and write. I have so much to write about, this is a gift! A gift of creativity that not everybody has tapped into or feels as strongly. So I must honor it and be okay with fear, understand the barriers and just be a little crazy.

That’s why early this month, I finally decided to put my foot to the metal. I made some clear choices:

I want readers.

I need to put my writing out there.

I’m going to worry less about others.

I’ve been experimenting with a few styles and topics. I have learned what is read and not. But I think the best advice I’ve seen on writing is to not give a care about clicks and views and readers. Just write. But I do have to share this chart, check out September! So thanks to all of you for your support, I plan to keep this space going as well as I can.

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