Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year’s Eve Peace Vigil, Casa Grande, AZ, and surrounding area:

Friday, December 31, 2010
4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Corner E. Florence Blvd. and N. Colorado St.

Tony Fasline (520-426-0070) will hold his weekly Peace Vigil this Friday, December 31, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., at the corner of E. Florence Blvd. and N. Colorado St. in Casa Grande, AZ. Tony invites anyone who is interested in showing their support for ending conflict in the world to join him. Hold out positive thoughts for that!

I don't know if I'll be able to join Tony and whoever else shows up, but if not, my spirit will be with all. As I continue to emphasize in my writing, ending the policy of war will be only one step toward building a truly peaceful society, but it is definitely a vital one. Most importantly, we must do everything we can to end poverty as a policy of governments around the world, because that condition is the primary condition that fosters wars.

I wish for love and peace to all, not only during the year-end holiday season but throughout the entire year and all those to follow!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Enlightened drug policy saves money, lives, communities

The humble poppy is such a pretty flower, yet it’s the source of so many
addictive substances society must contend with, hopefully in more enlightened ways
than we have been doing for decades.
(Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons: Public Domain)
Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé
Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz
1885, Gera, Germany

For years, authorities from many disciplines, from health care to law enforcement, have argued that the current policy of treating drug addicts as criminals is not only wrong-headed but far too expensive, and certainly dangerous. Now Portugal has joined the growing number of countries to prove that providing medical treatment to drug addicts instead of locking them up does pay off.

Of course, there are still critics of reform who argue that drug addicts must be punished and treatment is expensive. They’re correct about the latter, but I contend that the facts make the former point moot. Drug addicts suffer physically and emotionally throughout their lives, even after they become sober. In fact, staying on an even keel is, for them, a lifelong struggle, marked by ups and downs.

What’s more, the economic arguments are actually balanced on both sides when comparing the ongoing cost of throwing drug users into prison versus sending them to treatment. But the nay-sayers fail to consider the long-term economic benefit when they deny the need for enlightened change. Considering only the cost of law enforcement and incarceration misses the point, as that’s only one part of the equation, both economic and social.

Wherever a high percentage of the population spends time in prison, the overall community ends up being victimized. Security becomes a vital and expensive item in community and personal budgets. That extra charge is written into the cost of everything, both goods and services, sold in the neighborhood. That’s why in the U.S., for instance, prices for basic commodities are higher in inner-city stores, at least in those places where there are any grocery, department, or discount stores left.

Sending people to prison for possessing and using hard drugs merely turns them into hard-core criminals, bringing down not only their lives but that of their families and their communities. On the other hand, providing medical and social support to addicts has a beneficial effect not only on their future, but that of their loved ones and the entire community.

The greatest positive argument comes from the social improvements, which affect all of us. Turning people from prison to medical treatment has a positive effect on the community at large, as has been shown in Lisbon. In the past decade, formerly depressed drug-infested neighborhoods have become lively communities where families thrive. The few addicts left are treated humanely, and the government has a standing offer to help them overcome their dependency on hard drugs.

In the long run, any government would benefit both economically and socially by implementing the following policies:

  • Treat drug addiction as a public health issue by offering treatment to anyone willing to take advantage of it.
  • Arrest drug addicts only when they commit a crime involving more than simply using a dangerous drug.
  • Provide educational, job training, and employment opportunities to recovering drug addicts.
  • Provide counseling and support to families affected by drug addiction.
  • Direct funds currently used to enforce a failing drug policy toward community improvement projects.

Communities around the country that are doing this kind of thing are reaping the benefits of this open-minded policy. The time is long past due for both state and federal authorities to try the same thing, for the benefit of all.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Poverty: What It Is and How to End It

On the first day of January, Arizona will join 16 other states that have a higher minimum-wage levels than federal law requires. The purpose of Arizona’s 10-cent increase is commendable: to raise the average income of many of the lowest wage earners in the state. But, as usual, the result will be incomplete and the goal--to ease the rate of poverty in the state--will remain elusive.

In the first place, not every worker is covered by the minimum-wage law. Many people with developmental disabilities work for charitable organizations funded by government subsidies and/or government contracts. These groups aren’t required to pay disabled people a living wage in exchange for semi-skilled labor. Also exempt are people who receive tips, such as many hotel and restaurant employees.

And even though wages are set to go up for many low-income workers, the prices of many goods and services make it impossible for a family of any size to subsist on a minimum-wage income. Even those few extra dollars each week will barely make a ripple in the great need so many families face today.

So, how do we solve the problem of poverty? How can the current economy produce enough well-paying jobs so that workers and their families won’t have to struggle just to pay for the basics, let alone enjoy any of the extras that provide them with some small measure of choice in their lives and their futures?

The best way to answer that question is to define the condition of poverty. Thus, the important question:

What is poverty?

The Oxford American Dictionary (Avon Books, 1980) defines poverty as:

  1. being poor; great lack of money or resources.
  2. scarcity; lack.

My personal definition of poverty is more to the point:

Poverty is a lack of access to one or more of the basic goods or services necessary to enjoy a dignified existence.

In the first chapter of my book, The World I Imagine: A creative manual for ending poverty and building peace, I explain the difference between needs and wants. I also include a short list of many of the basic goods and services required for a decent life. Sadly, millions of people in this country and billions around the world spend their entire lives in this condition of need, with little or no hope of ever being able to change or improve their situation in life.

I remember hearing the term “war on poverty” when I was a young woman. President Lyndon B. Johnson introduced the term in his State of the Union address on January 8, 1964. The rest of the ‘60s was marked by a concentrated effort to improve the lives of many people who’d previously been ignored by both public and private economic programs.

Unfortunately, the clash of economics and politics created a system that has spawned a class of multi-generational dependents who seem to have lost hope of ever breaking the cycle of poverty. That’s why I published my essay collection on the issue in The World I Imagine.

Throughout that book, I explain innovative ways in which we can develop and implement creative ideas for educating and training everyone to the extent of their abilities and interests, then match them to the various jobs that need to be done to run a successful economic system. Then, of course, the powers-that-be must ensure that all the basic goods and services necessary for a dignified existence cost no more than half the amount that the lowest-paid full-time worker is able to earn. That will ensure that no one lives in a state of poverty, and everyone will have a bit more than just the basics and, thus, at least a small measure of choice in their lives.

In fact, in a later essay, which I plan to include in my next book, I explain that if we can tackle the twin issues of providing universal education and universal employment, then we’ll have the means necessary to solve all the rest of the problems our society faces at this dangerous time in world history.

Most importantly, we must be ready to develop new and creative ways of managing resources, always keeping firmly in mind the vital goal of ending poverty as an acceptable social policy.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Caps for Good: Knit or crochet a baby’s hat by February 28, 2011

Just in time for Christmas, I read the article by Cokie and Steve Roberts about Caps for Good, the program run by Save the Children to collect infant caps knitted and crocheted by volunteers around the country. The caps will be sent around the world to help keep newborns warm during their earliest weeks of life, when they’re most vulnerable to illness. Imagine: Something as simple as keeping a baby’s head warm can help raise the rate of infant survival among the poorest populations of the planet.

After reading the article in the Casa Grande Dispatch, I went to the Save the Children website and downloaded the instructional booklet for Caps for Good. It’s a good thing I did, because it turns out the current campaign to collect infant caps will end on February 28, 2011, just a couple of months from now. That means if you want to knit or crochet a cap to donate to this worthy cause, you’d better hurry.

If you want to help by making a cap that will warm the head of a vulnerable little tyke, the instructions for making both knitted and crocheted caps are on page 3 of the booklet (technically, page 4 of the PDF document). I intend to dig out some of my old yarn and knitting needles or crochet hooks and see if I can produce a cap or two. It’s been some years since I wielded those implements, but I used to turn out beautiful sweaters every couple of months, and many smaller items, from gloves to caps. Making a simple baby’s cap should be no problem at all.

And lest you fellows think such a project is too sissified for manly men, you should know that men and boys around the country are making a point to learn how to make the caps so they can be real heroes and save the lives of thousands of precious children. So, don’t let anything stand in your way. Make a cap, then use the forms in the PDF booklet to add a personal message to the infant’s mother, then send the cap with the form to the President or your Congressional Representative to let them know what you’re doing and urge them to make enough money available to provide care for children in the poorest countries.

Then you can do one more thing: Tell someone else about the Caps for Good project. Be sure to do that right away, so they can produce a cap before the deadline when this campaign ends. Remember, February 28, 2011. Mark your calendar.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Disability: Reality vs. the one-legged runner

Note: I promised to post the following article a couple of months ago, but medical issues, both mine and my husband’s, slowed things down for a while. We’re both doing better now, so now I’m back to the grind, and you’ll hear a lot more from me for a while.

In my previous articles on Disability in the Media, I discussed the ways in which artistic productions focus on disability. Now, let me reveal another side of it with a couple of examples that have been covered by virtually all the news outlets, one recent and another from 1980. First, the 30-year-old case:

As a person disabled by chronic illness, I must confess what I think about the fantastic image of the “one-legged runner.” Many people are familiar with media images of Terry Fox, the young man who lost his leg to cancer before he tried running all the way across Canada. He had a two-fold purpose for his marathon-a-day journey: focus more attention on the need for cancer research and raise money for that research.

While his efforts at bringing attention and cash to the cause were successful, few people are aware that Fox had to end his journey well before he reached the halfway point, and nine months later he died of his disease. At the time, I appreciated the need to focus more attention on the need to spend more money fighting disease, cancer and any other type of illness. But like many others with various types of disabilities, I wasn’t completely thrilled by the image of the “hero” amputee that most people saw in the media.

That’s why I was delighted to read Cheri Register’s reaction to the one-legged runner in her book, Living with Chronic Illness: Days of Patience and Passion (Bantam, 1992). Ms. Register and I share a history of dealing with the ups and downs of the unpredictable nature of different kinds of chronic illness. I knew exactly how she felt about the one-legged runner, especially when she revealed that she’d heard the same reaction from others who suffer from chronic illness.

People with different types of chronic illness rarely have the capacity to run around the block, much less cross-country. We don’t have much opportunity to gain media attention and focus people’s minds on donating to research for our particular medical conditions. Thus, reports of the one-legged runner made many sick people fantasize about sneaking onto the sidelines along the course he was running and, when he passes by, sticking out a crutch to trip the “heroic symbol” that gets all the media attention.

Granted, it’s not a very charitable reaction. But it does help us sick people relieve a lot of our frustrations at being shut out of the media loop when the cameras focus on all the unbelievable heroes with different types of disability.

As if the decades-old image of the one-legged runner weren’t bad enough, now we hear about the quadruple amputee who recently swam the English Channel. The angel on my right shoulder reminds me that I must congratulate Philippe Croizon, who completed the crossing in 13 ½ hours. On the other hand, that impish fellow on my other shoulder keeps whispering bad thoughts in my left ear: “Next time he tries something like that, maybe an anchor would slow him down just a wee bit.”

Okay, I’m really trying to be a good girl here. But the reality is, on the rare occasions that I try to explain something about the reasons for my disability, many people will counter with a claim that they know someone with [whatever detail I’ve just shared], and that person is doing just fine. I bite my tongue before I dare to ask if they know everything about that person’s life, such as the many hours, days, or longer, when that person hides the bad times because they only want to come out in public for the “up” times. I’m pretty sure the answer will almost always be “no.”

Then there are the many people who ignore everything I say about limitations I face daily. Instead, they insist I push myself beyond my capacity to do things for them. In recent years, my answer to such abusive demands is always “no.” Because of this, I end up being the one that’s called “selfish.” But I believe that focusing my limited energy in an attempt to help make this a better world, while they’re trying to manipulate me into satisfying some selfish demand of theirs, demonstrates the real difference between us.

Meanwhile, people who really need help don’t have the strength to do the spectacular things those unreal disabled “heroes” use to get all that media attention focused on their conditions. There are plenty of sick people who need help too. We need to find out how to get the media to pay attention to our situations.

The time has come for everyone to rethink their attitudes toward disability. The most important thing disabled people really want is help to break out of the disability “closet” and just be useful, productive, contributing members of society. That’s all I’m trying to do with this work.

Here’s my entire series on Disability in the Media:

Terry Fox (1958-1981), Canadian cancer fund-raiser,
during his 1980 “Marathon of Hope” fund-raising run across Canada.
July 12, 1980, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
courtesy Photographer Jeremy Gilbert)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Eve Peace Vigil, Casa Grande, AZ, and surrounding area:

Friday, December 24, 2010
4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Corner Pinal Ave. and Florence Blvd.

Wherever Tony Fasline (520-426-0070) of Youngstown, OH, and Casa Grande, AZ, is, he holds a Peace Vigil for one hour every Friday afternoon from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. This Friday, December 24, from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., he’ll stand Vigil for Peace at the corner of Pinal Ave. And Florence Blvd. In Casa Grande, AZ. Tony invites anyone who is interested in showing their support for ending conflict in the world to join him. Hold out positive thoughts for that!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Why This Peace Activist Celebrates the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Flying Rainbow Flag
The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is but one step forward
in a long fight for civil rights for every human being.

Finally, the Senate has approved a bill repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. With an earlier positive House vote on the issue, the bill now goes to the desk of President Barack Obama, who’s promised to sign it immediately and end the discriminatory practice of preventing gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

Why would a peace activist care about this issue? Because people who want to see the end of conflict in the world don’t feel negatively about those people who truly want to serve their country, its citizens, and its best ideals. We simply want to encourage the political leaders to find more positive ways to accomplish their goals in the world than by killing people.

Standing for peace is not anti-military. In fact, the best thing that can be done for the troops and their families is to help make the world a place where there is no more armed conflict. A world in which military forces can perform positive functions to help people, such as aiding people stricken by natural disasters around the world; helping to build hospitals and schools overseas that are not in danger of being destroyed by enemy forces; bringing food, water, and medicine to people living in remote areas of the world.

Peace people also believe in respect for civil rights for everyone. That’s why restricting people from being able to choose military service, or any other employment, simply because of their sexual orientation is anathema to us. That’s why I take every opportunity to stand for full civil rights for all members of the LGBTQ community. DADT is merely one of the ways in which gay rights are being limited or denied.

So, now is the time to celebrate, but briefly. There is more work to be done to ensure that all human beings will be treated with respect, that their rights will not be denied.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Report from Friday’s Peace Vigil:

I had a ball sitting on the corner of Pinal and Kortsen, holding a peace sign and chatting with Father Tony Fasline! (Note to all: see that I’ve spelled Father Tony’s last name completely this time! I dropped the “e” before, but it is Fasline!)

We counted honks (consider them all positive), thumbs ups, and peace signs and I think it came to around 17 or so! A few thumbs downs, and one cussin' out, but if somebody doesn't do that, then we aren't standing up for what's right!

Anyway, I won't be able to do it all the time, maybe once or twice a month, but I'll keep posting the notices each week, so people will know what's going on! Maybe more people will pay attention and join Father Tony--and me, when I can be there!

If you're anywhere in the Casa Grande area next Friday, or some Friday in the future, consider coming out to stand up (or sit down, like me) for peace! Just keep checking this Peace Blog, and I'll let you know when and where!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Attention Peace Lovers, Casa Grande, AZ, and surrounding area:

Friday, December 17, 2010
4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Corner West Kortsen Road and North Pinal Avenue

I’ve just had a conversation with Father Tony Fasline (520-426-0070) of Youngstown, OH, and Casa Grande, AZ. Wherever Father Tony is, he holds a Peace Vigil for one hour every Friday afternoon from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. This Friday, December 17, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., he’ll stand Vigil for Peace at the corner of West Kortsen Road and North Pinal Avenue. Father Tony invites anyone who is interested in showing their support for ending conflict in the world to join him. My husband and I hope to be there. Hold out positive thoughts for that!