Monday, May 20, 2019

A Letter from Montgomery

FROG HOSPITAL -- May 20, 2019

By Fred Owens

A Letter from Montgomery. A friend of mine from college days lives in Montgomery, Alabama, which is ground zero in the abortion debate. Knowing her to be a fairly conservative Catholic woman, I asked her to write a story about how she sees the new anti-abortion law in Alabama. Does she support it? I said I would put her story in the next Frog Hospital without editing or commenting. but just let her say what she wants. I told her that most of my readers are pro-choice so that is who she will be talking to. I am pro-choice myself, but my highest purpose in this conflict is to keep open the lines of communication. Her name has been withheld. She is the mother of five children and a retired French teacher. I know her to be a kind and decent person with a good sense of humor. So, without further ado ....

To:  Frog Hospital, concerning the law just passed in Alabama preventing abortions from being performed in most cases.

From:   People who have lived in Alabama for 40 years and are committed Catholic Christians.

Background on Alabama:
  • We have lived in Montgomery, Alabama since 1979, moving here several months before George Wallace was re-elected for a 4th term.  Since segregation no longer got votes, and since he was basically a populist, he won BECAUSE of the black vote.  [If you can imagine, he was the liberal candidate.]  In 1979 the majority of people were "yellow-dog democrats;" they would vote for anyone on the Democratic ticket, even if it was a yellow dog.  Few would vote for the party whose first presidential candidate was Abraham Lincoln, and there were often so few Republican candidates that in an election the Democratic primary was basically the election result.  But from Goldwater to Gingrich there was a massive shift of conservatives from the Democratic to the Republican party.. Now there is a Republican super-majority in the state legislature.  The conservative positions are often spoken of in Christian terms [pro-life, anti- gambling], although some stances are not what Jesus would recognize [low funding for health care and help for the poor, homophobia, some latent racism still...].  There is also a latent fear and resentment of the Federal government, even though more federal money flows into Alabama than taxes go out. Remember that States Rights stance you learned of in US History class??

All that to say that Alabama, like every state, has its peculiarities. California ain't like anywhere else either!

This Alabama law is directly designed to be a challenge to the Roe vs. Wade decision that women have a legal right to abortion.  It is based on the science that life begins at conception; that is why it is so restrictive.

We see ourselves as Catholic Christians and liberal Democrats, which is awkward, because neither party platform conforms consistently to principles of protecting, defending and supporting human life in its many stages and phases, especially the most vulnerable.  To over-simplify: Republicans support embryonic human beings; Democrats support the poor, the sick and the marginalized. No party consistently puts reducing weapons, warfare and street violence before the fears of Americans and the interest of the military industrial complex.  It is complicated; no political party supports all vulnerable groups.

“Thou shalt not kill” applies to the unborn child, the prisoner on death row and the incapacitated older person—not to mention civilians in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen, and families in places with polluted water, etc.  It is only consistent that the unborn child, recognized as a human being in laws that protect her right to inherit and in laws that characterize the killing of a pregnant woman as a double homicide, should have her right to life protected before she is born.    And it is consistently pro-life that a pregnant woman be supported and have access to medical care and physical needs.

 Respecting human life and supporting those in need includes the unborn child and the pregnant young woman, children and young adults prey to sexual assaults, the poor and the sick who cannot pay for all their needs on a non-living wage, those marginalized and stigmatized as "other" because of race or sexual orientation, inconvenient older people who need care, and those victimized by violence—including those victimized by our warfare abroad.  You can’t protect only one group or exclude only one group. The needs of some do not need to be pitted against the needs of others as they claim their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The End.

Well, that's all she wrote, as the saying goes. I thank my friend for this well-thought out contribution to the discussion. I ask my readers to consider what she has to say and I will leave it at that.

until next week,


Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

Monday, May 13, 2019

Sisterhood and the Red Truck

By Fred Owens

Sisterhood. Let's talk about the four women in the Senate who each want to be president  -- Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, California Senator Kamala Harris, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and New York Senator Kirsten Gillebrand. One of them might be the next occupant of the White House. They are all qualified for this high office and I would vote for anyone of them in a minute.

I'm trying to come up with a name for this group of female senators -- something like the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, only not so terrifying, but more militant than a garden party. Right now they are going around giving speeches and doing the usual political routine and frankly I'm getting bored with the progress. Where is the innovation? Where is the creative difference in style?

Here's an idea. What if the four ladies work together at some level and show the power of sisterhood. For an example I am thinking of the tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. They are loving sisters but fierce competitors on the tennis courts. So use your imagination and picture this -- Kamala and Elizabeth making joint appearances and riding on the same campaign bus, issuing a joint press release that they decided to ride together for a day as a way to save gas. They could debate each other most vigorously. They might dispute and challenge each other, but at the end of the day, they might enjoy a glass of wine as the bus rolls along from one town to another in rural Iowa.

How about the lesser known of the four -- Kirsten and Amy. What if Amy Klobuchar invited Kirsten Gillibrand to Minnesota for a day of canoeing on one of the beautiful lakes in that state? What a dramatic video that would make. Two female senators paddling together on a lake while discussing and disputing climate change issues.

This spirit of competition blended with cooperation would set a new campaigning standard. It would be a lot of fun too. The problem that women have as presidential candidates is that they think they need to act seriously in order to be taken seriously. Not so. The truly confident candidate will make a joke at her own expense. And then make a dig at Trump. Trump is a truly frightening man so we need to laugh in his face and overcome the fear he generates.

One of these four women might become president -- but only if the other three candidates stand with her at the end of the day.

Well it's Monday morning here in Santa Barbara and that was my idea for the day.

The Red Truck

Acton, Massachusetts, 1995. The red Chevy S-10 I had that year was a sweet truck. Just the right size for hauling plants and soil and tools.  I took it to the nearby garage for an oil change. Lucy Stinziano ran the place and we talked. She sat behind the desk and I sat across from her piles of invoices and orders for parts. "We can do the oil change and give your vehicle a going over. See what needs fixing." I said sure.

I liked sitting there talking with her. She said, "This was my husband's business. Danny died two years ago and now I run it. We have two bays and two mostly full-time mechanics doing the hard work. I'm here at this desk running things. I'm a single mom now. I have two teenage daughters, Stella and Mary Louise. They're good kids, try to be good anyway. My mother-in-law lives down the street, but she practically lives at our house these days.. I'm struggling. I'm 43 and I expect to be happy when I'm 50 and get these kids out of my hair -- sell this business, do something I really like."

Same here I said to her. I'm a single dad -- divorced -- and I have the two kids, teenagers. It's too hard. My landscaping business is going well and I have big plans. Except what good are plans? Mostly I just have bills to pay.

"Look, " Lucy said, "You can come back on Monday and we can do your brakes. They need it."

I said fine. I came back on Monday and we talked while they fixed the brakes. I liked talking to her. She was all business with me, but she didn't tell me to shut up and leave, so I kept coming back for more repairs.

Some new windshield wipers one day. The next week there was a squeal on the fan belt -- might tighten the belt or need a new one. I was really getting premium service on my red truck, but I was hoping for something from Lucy. Finally I talked to her, and told her my life while they installed new sparkplugs and and a new air filter.

I said to her, look, what I'm saying might offend you ---

"I'm sure it won't."

It's not like I'm your type --

"You're like a college boy, a hippie."

Let me finish..... I'm not what you're looking for and you're probably not even looking. But I'm just me. I haven't got a girl friend, not that I was thinking of you like that. I don't see it like that. I has just hoping for a bit of your company because I'm running out of money for repairing my truck.

"We did one hundred percent good work on your vehicle. You got the best of service."

I didn't mean that. I was just hoping we could do something like see a movie together. I mean, who wants to go to the movie by themselves? It wouldn't be a date. I could meet you there. It's just that I like female companionship and you're nice.  I like talking to you....we could just talk.

"No, not me. Like you said I'm not ready for that kind of thing. I got too many worries right now in my life. I got no time for fun."

It wouldn't be fun, it would just be passing the time.

"No, not for me. I appreciate your business, Fred, but that's it."

So that was it -- $700 worth of repairs on my truck and I could even get a date for coffee with Lucy. But I tried.

That's all for this week, take care,


Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

Monday, May 06, 2019

Will the Meek Inherit the Earth?

By Fred Owens

Will the Meek Inherit the Earth? No, the Scalias will. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia may have left this earth, but his progeny remain and they are abundant. He had nine children and 33 grandchildren. In contrast, although it would be wrong to describe these three women as being meek, the three female Supreme Court Justices have, in total, two children and two grand children, all belonging to RBG,  Justices Kagan and Sotomayor having none.

This is a question I have posed to progressive people -- If Save the Earth People have small families and Rule the Earth People have large families, which side will prevail in the long run? The Scalias, of course.

So I always encourage my friends of child-bearing age to have children, because I want our side to be abundant. Let me say first that it is very wrong to shame people who choose not to have children, and equally wrong to shame people who have a lot of children. I am only talking about situations where someone says they might have children when the time is right, and my response is Go for It. I believe we should have strong and fully supportive prenatal care for would-be parents of any income level. We should have full and complete reproductive choices. We should have generous and lengthy parental leave. Under those good circumstances, people will have as many children as they want, and when you get right down to it, the number doesn't count, but the quality of care does. So strictly speaking I don't believe in population control. This sounds idealistic, and it is, but the number of human beings on this planet doesn't matter, what only matters is the quality of human love, love for each other and love for the things of this earth.

We can divide ourselves into two camps -- Save the Earth and Rule the Earth. I grew up in a Rule the Earth culture -- that the earth was ours to master and control and build on and modify and explore. But I found that to be insufficient so I changed to Save the Earth, and feared for the future of the planet, and drastically reduced my carbon footprint and supported all things renewable and sustainable.

But that didn't work either. I worked very hard on various organic farms but I was disappointed in the results -- we just did not produce very much food and my sustainable organic vision had such a small population. Like the Skagit Valley where I used to live could be a paradise with only 10,000 people living there. We would need to kill the extra 100,000 who do actually live there, or else convince them to move back to California.

Nope, that effort at Saving the Earth didn't work, and brought me some renewed respect for Rule the Earth because when it comes to such critical things as the food supply, conventional agri-business sure kicks out a lot of groceries. I know people say that can't last, but it has lasted all my life and I got tired of waiting for it to collapse.

So, as of today, I would say that I love nature, but I'm willing to give it a shove now and then.

Current Affairs. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is losing her nerve, or else being wisely cautious. Maybe Trump has got her spooked, or maybe she is just not showing her hand. She does not favor impeachment, not yet. She may or may not want to cite AG Barr for contempt of Congress. She might want Mueller to come to the House and testify over Trump's objections. Or not.

Sure, it's easy for Sanders and AOC to criticize her decisions, but how would you like to have her job? She has to deal with Trump every day and for the next two years. Could someone else do a better job? I think not. I support Speaker Pelosi.

Family Reunion on the Occasion of My Sister Carolyn's 75th Birthday. We had a fine family reunion and weekend party at my sister's bungalow and backyard in Venice by the Beach, which is part of Los Angeles. We had a banquet dinner for 24 relatives and friends at a festive Italian restaurant. The wait staff sang Happy Birthday in Italian. My daughter Eva and her wife Lara brought my grandson Walter down from Seattle for the occasion. I don't write about grandchildren because I would just start to gush and boast, and then I would have to listen to other people gush and boast about their grandchildren and then hear the suffering silence of people my age who do not have grands, so I just say I enjoyed playing with the little tyke.

I do have a bevy of beautiful nieces -- Aisha and Jordana, Prima and Zana, Liza and Rosie, all present except for Laura who lives in Monaco in France. The nieces were lively and funny and serious and strong and helpful and steady  -- all good. My son Eugene was there as was my brother Tom and my sister Katy. My niece Jordana, about to turn 21, was brave enough to bring her boyfriend Ron. We tried to scare him, but it was a bluff and he knew it. Ron is a fine young man and I like him quite a bit.

Twenty-four people, all Democrats. Funny how that worked out.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital