What Does a Great America Do With Syria?

I’m horrified by the chemical weapons attack in Syria. Anyone with a pulse and a heartbeat should be.

But what does it mean for Americans?

We are currently under an “America First” leadership policy. President Trump would say that “the people” have given him a clear initiative “Make America Great Again.” I wonder what a Great America does in the face of this current catastrophe?

I hope that you will all grant me a few assumptions:

  1. The United States of America is a world leader.
  2. The United States has tremendous power over other countries by virtue of where we spend our money and energy. (Energy includes military force, but also political humanitarian efforts.)

Knowing what a Great America should do is a very big, complicated question that I don’t have the expertise to answer. But it shouldn’t stop me from thinking about it in terms that DO make sense.

Let’s take it to the playground.

On any given playground there are groups/cliques/circles – call it what you will. Some are stronger than others, have more sway on the basketball court, deciding who gets to play and on what team. One group may rule the jumprope rotation, deciding who gets to be the jumpers and who holds the rope.  Ask any kid and they’ll tell you, the rules of the playground are COMPLICATED. Nothing is never as it seems from the outside perspective, there are slight moves being made at every moment that dictate how recess will progress. Some days it ends in fights, other days it’s quiet.

One day your kid comes home with a black eye and a confusing story about how he got it. Something about a basketball, an agreement between 3 other kids, and a jumprope competition. You go to the leaders of the “free time” – the teachers, playground volunteers, and the administration looking for help.

The leaders have choices:

  1. Do nothing. Kids will be kids.
  2. Bring the class into a special session on bullying. Create new policies.
  3. Launch an incident investigation, whittle down the list of probable suspects, and enact a punishment.

Choice 1: Do Nothing

Your kid spends most every recess “volunteering” in the classroom, his academics begin to suffer, and it’s clear he’s unhappy. Unfortunately for you, you are in a one public school town, no money for private school, and no time to homeschool. You wait it out, hoping that things work themselves out. They don’t, they only get worse.

Choice 2: Special Session on Bullying, Create New Policies

Things improve slightly. You learn new ways to talk to your kid about how to handle a bully, and what to do if someone is getting bullied. The incident is out in the open, everyone is watching for signs of bad behavior. The instigators are quieted for a bit. There will be another incident, but now a policy is in place. New bullying sessions are convened, and the repeat offenders start to show themselves and are able to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Choice 3: Probable Suspects Punished

Things may improve, or they may get MUCH worse. The bullying starts to occur in the shadow moments, off to the side, or off the playground completely. The tactics change from less visible black eyes to the shattering of all self-esteem. The bullying becomes less obvious to the leaders, but more sophisticated and treacherous to their victims.

What does this have to do with Syria?

We’ve already assumed we, the Great America, are a world leader. We have the ability to effect change on not one child getting bullied, but on hundreds and thousands of children who are suffering at the hands of dictator bullies, regime bullies, and rebel bullies.

We can do nothing and let the suffering go on for years, decades, and for many, their entire lives.

We can attempt to effect change by bringing everyone to the table. Look for solutions from a world perspective, creating policies and pacts that reduce the power of those who would do harm, and bolster those that would do better.

We can enact swift punishment, using missiles and ground troops. Altering the fight, forcing some into the shadows, and potentially alter the fight in some new, equally disturbing direction.

As a parent of a child, what would you want from your school leadership?

As a parent of a child in Syria, what would you want from your world leadership?

As a parent of this Great America, I want my leadership to work with all the leaders of the free world and look for solutions to the complicated problem that is Syria, maintaining in interest in the better for everyone, not just in the “better for us”.

I know it’s a silly analogy – a playground and a civil war zone – but it works for me on some level. It helps me evaluate my leadership’s response to this crisis. Despite what “caused” this catastrophe – a statement from the White House last week, or a decision from the U.N. Security Council four years ago – this is happening. And as a parent and an American, it would sadden me if we do nothing.

A Great America would do something, together with other world leaders, with great thought and deliberation. A Great America would lead efforts to protect the innocent. A Great America would choose it’s allies carefully, ensuring the good of the children and the good of the world remain our first priority, even if it means a little less time at recess for us.

What do you think the United States should do? Is there a better analogy to help me understand how to evaluate this situation and my leaders? 

**A little side-note here: There are a lot of articles written on the topic of Syria, most of which require, at minimum, a college degree to understand; the majority requiring at least a degree in politics. There is not a lot written for the vast number of people who have neither. I’m a firm believer in doing the right thing, and in this situation it means engaging everyone in the conversation. Most adult Americans are parents, and maybe one parent to another we can have a dialogue about what the right thing to do might be without calling each other out as donkeys or elephants.



For reference, here’s just a few articles that informed me. Regardless of my political leanings, I do my best to source from several opposing outlets.

Worst Chemical Attack in Years in Syria – New York Times

Timeline of Chemical Weapons Use in Syria – Fox News

White House Response to Syrian Attacks – Fox News

Gas Attack in Syria – CNN

Syrian Gas Attack Reportedly Kills Dozens – NBC News

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She Was Someone’s Somebody, Even Though She Was Drunk

I sat down in the aisle seat, anticipating that my youngest would need to be whisked out at a moment’s notice for creating a scene that only a 3-yr-old knows how to make. Regardless of the fact that this was a grade school performance of The Jungle Book, parents would not appreciate their child’s 0.2 seconds of fame being diminished by a snot-nosed, belligerent little man who smelled suspiciously like a men’s room urinal and in desperate need of a haircut.

That’s when I met her.2717399328_a772fd34fa

Saying that I met her is actually stretching the truth. She stumbled to edge of the row where I was sitting and slurred “MOVE DOWN” – indicating the open seats beyond me.

I smiled apologetically and explained that the seats were saved. Not by me, of course, but by the owner of the white sweater, green scarf, and Trader Joe’s bag that were strewn across the top. The theater equivalent of the American Flag on the moon.

I’m not entirely sure she understood my rambling explanation, but she moved along and I breathed a sigh of relief – and a clean breath of fresh air. I could taste the alcohol that had wafted from her lips.

Instinctively I thought, “What kind of person comes to a children’s theater completely plastered in short shorts and a cropped sweatshirt bedazzled with Hello Kitty?”

My compassionate side countered, “Someone’s mother, or aunt, or grandma.”

I imagined the child that sat backstage who hoped not for her family to come, but for her family NOT to come. Or who worried that his mother might stand up in the middle of the performance and shriek, “That’s my boy!”

The woman I met was someone’s somebody – and she showed up. She was drunk, disheveled, and wildly inappropriate – but she showed up.

In that moment I stopped thinking about what a horrible person she might have been, and started thinking about how wonderful that child was that this woman was trying to show up for, despite all the obstacles of the obvious addictions and hardships she faced.

If I knew the child that belonged to the heart of that woman,  I would simply like to tell them that this was not an embarrassment, this was an act of love.

Not Everyone Lies On Facebook

Sigh. Where to begin?

I’ve been reading MANY posts lately about the lies people tell on social media, how we scrub our lives and portray only our most beautiful moments. It’s a social media backlash that I honestly take a little personally.Lies Kids

I post pictures of my kids doing adorable things. I only post pictures of myself when they look good. I share anecdotes of my small children saying amazing, profound things. And I am not ashamed of my life shared on social media.

Here’s how you can interpret my social media activity:

  • I post cute kid stuff maybe 3-5 times a week. Other than those moments you can assume they have been in timeout for knocking each other around like barbarians.
  • You will find pictures of me, usually with my husband, about once a month because doing my hair and makeup for anything other than work (and usually not even on those days) only happens that often.
  • I share articles and stories that inspire, inform, or make me laugh so hard I snort coffee. Since this is most of my posting, you can infer that I read a lot and care about politics, world events, the great irony of reaching middle age, and art. To name just a few.
  • I “Like” a lot of my friends’ posts because I like my friends and their kids – both human and animal. I genuinely like seeing their fondest memories, reading lists, and musings about life.

You see, I don’t lie on Facebook. In fact, it’s a pretty accurate highlight reel of what my life is like. Would it make my friends happy to see 4 pictures a day of my children crying, whining, or giving me the evil eye? Would they rather see pictures of me the moment I wake up with puffy eyes, standing over a toaster making waffles willing the coffeemaker to brew faster?

Life will always be a series of highs and lows. I have faith in my social media friends that they can read between the lines of my “perfectly Instagrammed” life and know that I am well-rounded, equally disturbed, and a majority of the time completely unraveled. I know that I believe the same about them.

If you love social media and want to continue the fun, please feel free to share this rant. Who knows, maybe it will start a counter-revolution.

The Day I Risked My Daughter’s Life To Save Others

Just thinking about that day makes my stomach turn and my hands go sweaty.

It was an otherwise normal day. The morning was a blur of frenzy as I tried to get ready for work while entertaining a 1-year-old in a plastic, jumpy play thingy. I’ve never liked mornings, and this one was no exception. Two cups of coffee and I knew things would look better.

Baby Hands

Image Credit: Sias van Schalkwyk http://www.seepsteen.co.za

As I buckled my daughter into her car seat, a small thought began to nag at me. Voices of friends, family, and internet strangers started to swirl in my head as I made the 10 minute drive to the building that held my daughter’s fate. By the time we checked in I was frantic, although you would have never known from the outside.  When our name was called, I scooped her up and took her into the room that would make her cry and wail. I knew my heart would break.

When it was over, I watched her carefully. She seemed the same. Over the next few months, I looked for signs of sickness. In the end, we came out the other side unscathed.

That was six years ago, less than a year after Jenny McCarthy became a vocal anti-vaccine spokesperson.

While the rational side of me KNEW that the MMR vaccine did not cause autism, I couldn’t help but be bombarded by her face telling me that I was wrong. The rational side of me did the research to the best of my non-scientific ability and I had concluded that vaccinating my children  was the right decision, but the loud roar of the anti-vaccination movement could not be avoided.

The day that I took my first born to get her MMR vaccination, I was scared. Six years later, I am mad.

I shouldn’t have been scared by a beautiful, eloquent spokesperson that refuted science and held up her beautiful son as evidence. Her son that, according to her, became autistic after receiving vaccines. The son that, according to her, recovered from autism through chelation therapy. The son with autism that, according to her, caused her divorce.  I know all of this because she was EVERYWHERE – on the news, on talk shows, online. I couldn’t escape from her if I tried.

Six years later, a report surfaced that McCarthy admitted her son was misdiagnosed with autism and suffered instead from  Landau–Kleffner syndrome, a common misdiagnosis. A week later she slammed that report refuting it’s truth, and all links to the original reports have been disabled (good job, lawyers). Regardless, it’s too late for me. Personally, I don’t believe her son had autism and was cured by an obscure therapy any more than I believe her claims that the MMR vaccine causes autism.

I do, however, blame her for my fear of vaccines. I also blame the media that gave her airtime.

A few weeks after my son was born in 2010, a newborn died of whooping cough at my hospital during a horrific outbreak in our state. The outbreaks were concentrated in areas that had low vaccination rates. Once again, I was scared. Not of Jenny McCarthy’s dire warnings, but of the thousands of children that were not vaccinated because their parents were afraid; a fear that may have been triggered by Jenny McCarthy.

This fear continues to be propagated by the anti-vaccination community that will sell you thousands of dollars in supplements and call the government and Big Pharma evil money-mongers despite contributing $32 billion of revenue to the US economy in 2012 alone.

That day, six years ago, I was told that I was risking my daughter’s life by vaccinating her but I chose to do it anyway because the evidence told me that these vaccines were more likely to save other children than hurt my own.

Please share this so other parents know that they are not alone in their fear. I applaud the families that vaccinate and thank them from the bottom of my heart for saving the lives of others with their decision.

If you are concerned about vaccinating your children, here are just a few excellent resources to consider. 

**A Population-Based Study of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccinations & Autism** please read this if nothing else

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia – Vaccine Education Center

The History of Vaccines

HealthyChildren.org

Is there an expiration date on apologies?

Physical bullying at school, as depicted in th...

Physical bullying at school, as depicted in the film Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently I was faced with the reality that my actions in high school hurt someone. More accurately, that my inaction hurt.

I was alerted to a blog post written by someone I attended school with who was bullied mercilessly.  It was written with such honesty and pain that it brought me to my knees.  While I don’t remember seeing any of the bullying happening to him personally, I saw and heard plenty in those days that I turned away from, pretending that nothing was happening.  After reading his post, I expressed my apologies and regret at not being a better person so many years ago.

Yesterday I read an article about a brave young women who posted a poem about her experience being bullied on a class reunion website. Her classmates were moved by her words and have since rallied with apologies and a fundraiser to get her back to the reunion.

It makes me wonder, do apologies go stale after so much time has passed? I was not the victim of bullying in my youth. Cruelly teased at times, yes, but not bullied.  If I had been, what would those apologies mean to me today?  Would it give me any solace knowing that my tormentors had grown up to be decent people that regret the actions of their youth?  Would it make my younger me feel any better about what happened?

I know in 12-step programs one of the steps is to make amends with the people that we have hurt.  Making amends is referred to as restoring justice and it does not always mean  apologizing directly to the people we have hurt. Often it is making changes in our life and in our behaviors to make it better, safer, for the people around us.   Amends seems a far greater gesture than an apology.

Most of us will not have the opportunity to apologize to the people we hurt directly.  In the case of bullying, either by torment or apathy, we are called to recognize our part in the cruelty that some people dismiss as a “”rite of passage.”  We have a chance and an opportunity to make amends to the children of our past by teaching OUR children that taunts, jeers, exclusion and violence are NEVER acceptable towards another human being. We can be an example of how to stand up for others that are being treated unjustly, and not walk away from another person in pain.

While I was offered an opportunity to apologize to someone directly, and would do it again, I think it’s much more important that I make amends for my part in history.  I am teaching my children that everyone has a purpose, a value, and a gift to share. I do not permit mean comments about other children, whether it is about their clothes, hair, or any other attribute that may seem different.  I do not force friendships, but I expect tolerance.  I work every day at modeling acceptance, and it’s not always easy, but I know that my little charges are watching, listening, and taking their cues from me.

I would hope that my amends will make a difference, even if my apologies don’t.

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