How violence influences our lives

How violence influences our lives

Reprinted from the Jupiter Courier - April 27, 2017

Recently, I had an opportunity to participate in a Writers Forum hosted by the Palm Beach County Library System. Along with other local authors, I spoke to the audience about my books… The Cat Leigh and Marci Welles crime novel series and a standalone crime novel, Private Hell. As I explained to those in attendance, I know what it’s like to be the victim of violence. I know what it’s like to have someone you love survive a violent crime.

Having experienced violence on a personal level, I feel compelled to share what I have learned in order to keep people safe in an ever increasingly dangerous world. I’m hoping my books will teach the need for personal responsibility. I’m hoping to educate through entertainment the ways to avoid becoming a victim.

Allow me to explain why helping others is a passion for me. The first 25 years of my life were spent in hell on earth. At the time hell was located in Hudson County, New Jersey. It might still be there.

After an intensely dysfunctional childhood, I married my high school sweetheart; a man I thought as my knight in shining armor. Like so many women, I thought wrong. What I perceived as an escape to a better life was, in reality, incarceration in a prison far worse than the one I already knew.  Very quickly, his armor tarnished. He was, eventually, diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and a latent homosexual. Needless to say, I am lucky to be alive and even luckier to have met my present husband of 41 years, who understood then and continues to understand now that healing is a lifelong journey.

Having gone through the horrors of physical and emotional abuse for so long, I thought nothing worse could happen in my life. Then, in 2007 my daughter joined a long list of women who, because of their gender, became a victim. As every parent will tell you, no knife cuts as deep as the pain of watching their child suffer. My advocacy work began the moment I saw my daughter beaten beyond recognition.

For 10 years - ever since the day my daughter was raped by a maintenance man with a master key and a machete - I have been advocating in both the spoken and written word on behalf of victims of violent crime.

As a result of her experience, I’ve become more adamant about the need for change in the way we view anatomy specific assault (a.k.a. sexual assault) and domestic abuse. Not just legislative change. Societal change as well.

I want to stress that neither my daughter nor I regret the traumas we have undergone in our lives. We choose instead to use those incidents as lesson plans. If talking about what happened to us can prevent one other woman from suffering the same fate, we are willing to shout it from the rooftops. Our experiences have made us much more aware of what we could have done – should always do – to protect ourselves from violent crime. The number one way to stay safe is to think before we act!

Everyone remembers where they were when a life changing event happened. Consider 9/11. For me, the wee hours of the morning of July 1, 2007 are equally as chilling. I can still hear my daughter’s voice on the phone crying “Mommy, help me! I’ve been raped.” At first, I was confused. Then fear set in. Eventually, anger replaced every other emotion.

I’m angry that rape is placed in a box labeled sex crime and treated differently than muggings and murders. I’m angry that some members of the judicial system punish rapists less severely than they do other criminals. I’m angry so few people are willing to speak the truth about rape.

Rape is a violent crime and deserves to be recognized as such in a court of law. By not doing so, we force survivors to hide in the shadows – ashamed to report the crime, and often, not getting the help they desperately need.

Rape survivors are like soldiers who have gone off to war. A woman who has been sexually assaulted has been in a battle – a battle for her life. Survivors should be lauded as heroes – especially those who come forward and prosecute their attackers.

My goal in writing is to bring awareness to the complexity of rape. This is a crime that affects the victim on many, many levels and those effects are long… No, they are life lasting.

Many women have gotten angry with me because I’ve said that they need to take responsibility for their own security. That reaction always baffles me. Responsibility is a part of life. Eating healthy, dressing properly in different climates, wearing a seat belt, buying insurance… these are but a few of the ways we protect ourselves from potential danger.

Why, then, is asking women to do the same in social situations such a terrible request. If you are going out for the evening, go in a group. Don’t walk alone on a dark street. Recently, there have been a rash of rapes committed as a result of “meet ups” planned through social media sites. It is imperative that women of every age understand that not all friend requests come from friends or friends of friends.

When addressing the subject of safety, I tell women to use the same precautions taking the trash to the curb as they would (should) entering a deserted subway station. I am always surprised by the frequency with which I am accused of trying to take away personal freedoms. Danger is everywhere.

Many years ago, I was employed in Manhattan. This was at the time when women first began wearing sneakers to work. I thought they looked foolish. Now, I think every woman should carry a comfortable pair of running shoes that she can slip into when the work day or a night on the town is over. No matter how outlandish Nikes look with a sequined dress, survival is never a fashion faux pas.

As a society we must accept that rapists cannot be cured – not with behavioral modification therapy, not with medication – not by religion. Only the strong bars of a prison cell can stop another attack. We must remember that rapists are the human chameleon. They have the ability to blend in perfectly with every segment of society. 

If ever there was a club no woman aspired to join, survivors of rape is it. Those who are forced onto its roster need to hold strong against anyone who would undermine their progress. That includes judges and politicians who consider anatomy specific assault no big deal.  

As a result of being sexually assaulted, my daughter has a very deep scar on her left wrist – put there by the zip ties used to bind her hands. Over that scar, she now has a teal blue ribbon tattoo – the symbol of a rape survivor.

When asked in court why she had gotten the tattoo, Jessica told the jury, “If I have to remember what happened for the rest of my life, I want to remember that I survived.”

Guaranteeing that no other woman shares that memory is why I write.

Donna Carbone’s books are available on amazon.com. She welcomes emails from readers who have stories to tell or who need assistance in getting help after an assault. Write: write4you@comcast.net.

Read to Achieve

READ TO ACHIEVE


Reprinted from the Jupiter Courier - July 27, 2017

As an author, the topic of literacy is ever important in my life. I write for many reasons, but the primary one is to educate through entertainment. Reading… at least, reading well… is a dying art and, if a person is not a good reader, they will not be well informed no matter how many diplomas and degrees they may acquire.

During the last school year, I had the privilege of mentoring seven gifted students at J.D. Parker Elementary School in Stuart. Three girls and four boys aged nine to 11 spent 90 minutes with me every Tuesday. Cliché as it may sound, I learned so much more from them than they learned from me. There wasn’t a day I left school without a big smile spread across my face.

When children are raised in a home where reading is a focal point, their manner of speaking and writing… their vocabulary and sentence structure… is a dead giveaway that their parents know the importance of books. When children are exposed to literature, they grow emotionally and intellectually because they are better able to grasp the deeper meanings in all that they see and hear. When good readers speak, you can bet they have something important to say and will say it well.

The first assignment these boys and girls were given was to write about a topic for which they felt passion. It could be a sport, a hobby, a place they had visited... anything that got them excited. The only No! No! was that they could not write about video games.

Oh, the groans I heard when I delivered that instruction. Guess what. Once video games were no longer a choice, those seven students found that they actually had many other activities in their lives that brought them pleasure. The few short paragraphs they were asked to write became page upon page of excited expressions about sports, dance, singing, travel and, yes, even school. Each student was asked to read his/her piece out loud and doing so generated a barrage of questions from their peers. We all learned a lot about each other that day and deeper friendships were born.

Over the past year, I have produced a number of Author Meet and Greets in our community. With the help of sponsors like Harbourside Place, I have been able to introduce many local writers to our residents. The talented men and women who join me at these events write in a variety of genres and each one of them stresses the importance of books in our lives. They are dedicated to promoting literacy. I am honored to call them friends and privileged to share a stage with them.

I am also a proud member of the Woman’s Club of Stuart. You might wonder why, living as far away as I do, I chose to join this organization. The reason is that the Club’s mission statement focuses heavily on education. With literacy all important in my life, I am willing to travel near and far to work with like minded people.

I’d like to share with you an experience I recently had while dining out. A  friend and I were enjoying a leisurely lunch in a busy restaurant. All around us professional men and women carrying the requisite iPhones were engaged in animated conversations that rivaled Japanese katakana. Well-groomed and, seemingly, well-educated, their manicured fingers poked the air as if it was the Pillsbury Doughboy’s belly.

Overhearing other people’s conversations is an unavoidable part of the dining experience. As my friend and I reviewed the specials of the day, words -- or rather one word -- began to vie for attention with our growling stomachs. Making eye contact over the tops of the menus, we uttered the same thought aloud, “Gene Weingarten.”

In September 2010, Weingarten, a journalist with the Washington Post, wrote an article entitled, Goodbye, cruel words: English. It's dead to me. To quote from his essay:

“Signs of its (the English language) failing health had been evident for some time on the pages of America's daily newspapers, the flexible yet linguistically authoritative forums through which the day-to-day state of the language has traditionally been measured. Beset by the need to cut costs, and influenced by decreased public attention to grammar, punctuation and syntax in an era of unedited blogs and abbreviated instant communication, newspaper publishers have been cutting back on the use of copy editing, sometimes eliminating it entirely.”

Prior to Weingarten’s post, I often wondered if anyone except me noticed the poor sentence structure, misspellings and improper grammar used by reporters, public speakers, teachers, students and everyday people.  As I compose this editorial, I fear I am writing more of a eulogy than an opinion piece.  How can it be that, with all the words Webster has put at our disposal, the utterance we heard used most often that day to specify an object or action was a word that did not specifically identify an object or action at all?

No matter the topic under discussion, this one word was significant for its insignificance. The actual definition is “an object or entity not precisely designated or capable of being designated.” Is it even possible for a known object or action not to be “precisely designated?”

Spotlighting something we want and nothing we need, this single syllable word is all encompassing. Lovers know it as the touch that sets their souls aquiver. It is sometimes stupid, sometimes rash, and often funny. Without it, pipes would leak, chairs wobble and doors squeak.

I can only presume that the action or object requested is so sacrosanct that it must be referred to in code. At times, it is something that is missing, nothing that is wrong and anything that is a possibility. It can define an object that resembles something, remind us of something, sound like something but is never the thing itself. Landfills, basements, attics and garages are piled high with discards defined by these six letters. Every day we outgrow its usefulness. Not the word… the object defined.

Here are snippets from conversations overheard:

A female diner: “Ewwww! Look at the size of that thing! Kill it! Kill it!” (palmetto bug)

An attorney: “I am so frustrated writing that damned thing, um, the brief but I have to get it to the judge this afternoon.” (He gets points for self-correcting.) 

We are all guilty of maiming the language we speak. I’ve no doubt Webster is spinning in his, well, you know.

At the time Weingarten published his article, he claimed that the English language “… succumbed at the age of 1,617 after a long illness. It is survived by an ignominiously diminished form of itself.”

I would have to agree, but I’m not willing to bid a final farewell just yet; at least, not until I’ve found the ever-elusive thing. How hard could it be to find? Everyone knows of its existence. People constantly talk about it. We carry it, but can never find it, in our purses, pockets, and briefcases. We store things in the trunk of our car and in kitchen cabinets. There are random things in tool boxes, sewing kits and junk drawers.

Weingarten said it better than I ever could in his closing paragraph:

“English has become increasingly irrelevant, particularly among young adults. Once the most popular major at the nation's leading colleges and universities, it now often trails more pragmatic disciplines, such as economics, politics, government and, ironically, "communications," which increasingly involves learning to write mobile-device-friendly ads for products like Cheez Doodles.”

That explains the orange hue staining so many keyboards and smart phones.

Don’t allow yourself and your children to fall into the cracks left by empty book shelves. Reading, writing and speaking go hand and hand. Your children will never achieve their dreams if they are not enthusiastic readers. Parents are their children’s first and most important teachers. It is by example that good (and bad) behaviors are learned.

Open a book tonight. Sit down with your child and share not just the words on the page but the message within the narrative. Encourage a love of reading in your children because books, whether they are comedies or dramas, not only entertain, they teach many of life’s important lessons. Reading improves language skills and helps with critical thinking.

Books are your passport to other places and times. Give your children every advantage in an ever increasingly competitive world. Read every day!

Donna M. Carbone is a published author and playwright. She is an outspoken voice for women's rights and also advocates for better healthcare programs for veterans. Donna presently has four books available on amazon.com -- Through Thick and Thin, Silk Suit/Stone Heart, Private Hell and her first children's book, Lambie and Me. Contact her at write4you@comcast.net

 

Situational Awareness... a lifesaving skill

Situational Awareness... a lifesaving skill


Advance copy: Jupiter Courier - September 2017


In April 2015, I wrote an editorial entitled “To fear is human… and wise.” That editorial was an extended version of another editorial I had written on the same subject a year earlier. Here I am, two years later, still writing on the same topic. Why? Because people are unwilling to assume responsibility for their own safety for fear of being labeled they are not.

After the destruction of the World Trade Center, the FBI asked all Americans to report any activity that appeared out of the norm… activity that could be a threat to our great country and its citizens. I happened to be visiting family in Goodyear, Arizona at that time. My husband and I were staying in a hotel located just a few miles from the largest and most powerful nuclear power plant in this country. We were also just a few miles from Luke Air Force Base.

Returning to our hotel one afternoon, I overheard a very agitated man loudly talking on a public telephone. He was obviously of Middle Eastern descent and had a heavy accent. Although most of his conversation was in what I later learned was Dari, he did speak English when saying “nuclear” and “Luke Air Force Base.” I grew concerned. When he walked away, I saw a piece of paper on the floor below the phone he was using. I picked it up and, using my computer, traced the number to Afghanistan. Dari is the most widely spoken of Afghanistan’s official languages. I immediately called the Phoenix office of the FBI as I was asked to do by the leaders of my country. When I told certain friends and acquaintances of my decision, I was accused of overreacting.

Fast forward to the Boston Marathon bombing. Most journalists encouraged us to “… not be afraid” and to “… return to normal life” which, in their opinion, would be a slap in the face to terrorists. This is the same message we are being spoon fed now by the media despite the continued loss of life around the world, especially in Europe. Truthfully, I have no desire to slap terrorists in the face. I want to eliminate them by whatever means necessary so that we really do NOT need to be afraid. We must stop walking around with our heads in a cloud pretending that all is right with the world.

Let’s not forget: Paris, Nice, Brussels, Berlin, London, Stockholm, Normandy and Barcelona.

We are not immune here at home. Remember: Little Rock, Arkansas; Fort Hood, Texas; Moore, Oklahoma; Queens, New York; Brooklyn, New York; Garland, Texas; San Bernardino, California; Orlando, Florida; St. Cloud, Minnesota; and Columbus, Ohio… just to name a few incidents that were actually reported.

A healthy dose of fear is what makes us aware of the fragility of life. To quote Benjamin Disraeli, “Fear makes us feel our humanity.” If we, as a society are not yet feeling fear, I shudder to think just how little the lives that have been lost really mean to us. Are our memories so short that we mourn only until the next concert, vacation, or special event beckons us to turn a blind eye to who and what is happening around us?

There is a huge difference between healthy fear and panic. Panic immobilizes. It freezes our brains so that we cannot think beyond the moment. Panic dominates, making reason and logic impossible. Fear, on the other hand, is our inner warning system – gut instinct so to speak. It keeps us on our toes and heightens our senses. It protects us at times when we least expect to need protection. But gut instinct is not enough, especially if we have allowed the fear of labels to prevent us from acknowledging the voice in our heads and the feeling of queasiness in the pit of our stomachs.
If we are to retain our liberties and freedoms, we must learn the finer points of situational awareness. We must take responsibility for our own safety. No government can protect everyone at all times. We were all born with five senses. Use them when out in public. Unfortunately, the most important sense… the one which few people seem to have… is common sense. Compensate by learning the finer skills of situational awareness.

To ignore that fear has a place in our lives is to ignore that danger is all around us. Rather than professing that we are not afraid, let’s acknowledge that we are and rightly so. Then, let’s choose to temper our fear by using the tools that were given to each of us at birth. Follow your gut. Become an expert at using ALL of your senses. Embrace situational awareness. Do not ignore fear because to do so will continue to allow our enemies to sneak up from behind and kill innocent people by whatever means is available to them. They are very smart. We must be smarter!

Donna M. Carbone is a published author and playwright. She is an outspoken voice for women's rights and also advocates for better healthcare programs for veterans. Donna presently has four books available on amazon.com -- Through Thick and Thin, Silk Suit/Stone Heart, Private Hell and her first children's book, Lambie and Me. Contact her at write4you@comcast.net



Lies: Cause and Effect

Recently, I received an interesting email from an acquaintance, and while I was not surprised by its content, I was disheartened to know that some people actually condone what was written. The sender, a retired teacher and the head of a retired teachers' group, expressed the sentiment that, because everyone lies in their daily lives, we should not concern ourselves that politicians also lie. The fact that everyone does it seemed to be a credible excuse which the writer further justified by saying that it was "… the degree" of the lie that was important.

I do not equate lying with telling someone that their new hairdo is flattering. Why intentionally hurt someone's feelings? I do not equate lying with telling a terminal patient that there is still hope. Hope has been known to save lives. These variations on the truth are kindnesses we offer to comfort friends and acquaintances. Lies fall into a totally different category.

Usually, I ignore the emails I receive from this individual because they are ludicrous and filled with misconceptions and misinformation. However, this time I was forced to reply by asking him when, as a society, we started excusing unethical behavior based on the severity of a falsehood. I asked him if a lack of principles was what was passing for good behavior in our schools today and whether students were being rewarded not for the strength of their character but merely for not being as bad as the other kids.

As a child challenging authority, I often posed the everyone is doing it rationale to my mother. I vividly remember her asking me, "If everyone jumped off the George Washington Bridge, would you jump as well?" She did not expect me to answer. I knew that wasn’t the real question. She wanted to know if I preferred being a leader or a follower. The inference was, of course, that being a leader was much better because we all know what happens to sheep who follow a wolf in shepherd's clothing.

If everyone doing it has become an acceptable excuse for lying, what's next. Will there be acceptable reasons to rape and murder?

One last thing... the email writer offered a few examples to back up his views. He said that actors lie in commercials, car salesmen lie to customers, people on dating sites lie to potential mates, job hunters lie on resumes, and so forth. He actually related a story he had read in a medical journal about a medical school applicant who told the interviewer that he wanted to be a doctor so that he could be rich, own a big house, have servants, buy fancy cars and travel the world. The interviewer praised him by saying that other applicants who had expressed a need to offer care to the sick and the poor were insincere. He seemed to feel that this young man was a breath of fresh air.

I'm not sure which bothers me more -- the idea that someone goes into medicine only to be rich, the interviewer thinking that actually admitting to such a desire is praiseworthy or the concept that people really caring about each other is a total fabrication.

Donna M. Carbone is a published author and an advocate for women and veterans. Contact her at write4you@comcast.net

Spinning the roulette wheel on rape and abortion


As a woman who once had to make a decision on abortion and as the mother of a rape survivor, I sometimes feel I am watching politicians spin a roulette wheel populated not with numbers but with the latest cause célèbre. Last year rape was bandied about so often I began to feel that taking the trash to the curb would be detrimental to my survival. This year, abortion has been placed in the spotlight. Why? Because some religiously motivated anti-abortion group decided to show just how horrific the procedure is for the unborn.

Let’s be honest. The only thing those videos did was force us to look at our own callousness as human beings. We already knew the facts of abortion. We already knew what was happening with those tiny body parts. We just preferred to hide our heads in the sand until it became politically expedient to take a stand.

Of course, no discussion on abortion can be held without throwing rape into the mix. Politicians would have you believe that the majority of rapes result in pregnancy and that those pregnancies are terminated by abortions. Not true! If we stopped pandering to religious groups who use shame as a cattle prod to control their congregations and admit that sex is a normal biological function, women who are raped would immediately call the police, go to the hospital and receive treatment so that pregnancy does not occur. No shame! No pregnancy! No abortion.

I am constantly saddened by politicians who seek a solution to our growing rape crisis by focusing on after the fact rather than talking openly and honestly about how to prevent rape in the first place. Speaking as someone with first-hand knowledge, I can tell you that prevention is a whole lot better than the years of therapy recovery requires. No one wants to hear it but in every situation, there is always something we could have done differently to prevent tragedy. I’m not pointing the finger of blame. I’m just stating the facts which my family learned the hard way.

Eight years ago, my daughter was brutally beaten and repeated raped by a maintenance man with a master key and a machete. The assault would have been preventable had we but challenged the terms of her lease which forbade us from putting a second lock on her door. Were we to blame for not knowing that the law was on our side? No. Do we still feel responsible? Absolutely.

The devastation of rape has been lost to political rhetoric. Fear is a great marketing tool. Since most people never question the so-called facts fed them by experts who have never been on the receiving end of the crime, rape is no longer a perversion we need to eliminate but rather a rallying cry for those seeking political favor.

In a perfect world women would have the same freedoms as men but that world has yet to be discovered. We are not equal to men when it comes to protecting ourselves. We are vulnerable. We must teach our daughters to take responsibility for their own safety. That includes not drinking to oblivion at parties or in nightclubs no matter how much fun it might appear to be or the amount of peer pressure exerted.

The idea of preaching shame on you to sexual predators is laughable. Shame requires a conscience and the ability to feel empathy. Rapists have neither. No one and nothing can protect us from danger as well as we can do it ourselves. Casual sex is not a guarantee of being raped. Drinking to oblivion, however, can result in the same outcome as lying down on the railroad tracks as the warning bells are clanging and the crossing gates are lowering.

When it comes to abortion, I am amazed at the shortsightedness of our legislators. If the rights of the unborn are truly at the heart of their objections, their focus should be on pre-conception.

Considering how readily we talk about erectile dysfunction and irritable bowel problems on television, it would be wise to start educating the public — kids, in particular — on the use of birth control on a nightly basis. Does anyone not recognize the subliminal message kids are getting from those little blue pill ads. If a man isn’t having sex, well, he just isn’t a man. The same will soon be true when the little pink pill becomes available for women.

We do not need laws to stop abortions. We cannot depend on slogans to prevent rape. We need education and easy access to free and/or affordable birth control. We need to talk about shared accountability. Once we do that, the end game will be guaranteed, and it will not require burning down clinics, killing doctors or distributing not so shocking videos.

The truth is the most powerful weapon we have. Now, if only we used it.

Going topless... is this what we have been fighting for?



The Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced in Congress in 1923. The content has always been highly controversial as equality for women is a touchy subject. From the beginning, the ERA pitted not only men against women but feminist against feminist. Middle-class women were generally supportive although women in the workforce were dissatisfied, insisting that hours, wages and working conditions needed deeper discussion. As is always the case, when dissension divides the ranks, the battle is lost.

I’m fairly certain that if the members of Congress had been told in 1923 that the Equal Rights Amendment would guarantee women the right to go topless in mid-town Manhattan, the yes votes would have rattled the rafters from the first roll call. It’s amazing what exposing the female mammaries can accomplish. Just look at what First Amendment rights to free speech and peaceable assembly have done for New York City. Pedestrian plazas are now staging areas for racists, con artists, pugilists, panhandlers and drug users dressed as Elmo, Cookie Monster, Woody, Super Mario, Spiderman, Hello Kitty and Minnie Mouse.

Here is where a crystal ball would come in handy because history does have a strong possibility of repeating itself where gender equality is concerned and, perhaps, women need to look no further than a mirror for the answer to why progress is at a standstill.

When the Equal Rights Amendment was again introduced in Congress in 1972, it passed both houses. It’s ratification seemed guaranteed until Phyllis Schlafly, a staunch social and political conservative who opposed modern feminism, mobilized like-minded women by claiming that the ERA would be disadvantageous to housewives (who are not known for going topless). As a result of her efforts, the amendment failed.

Time marched on and by 1977, thirty-five of the necessary 38 states had ratified the ERA. Optimism was high but with the 1979 deadline looming, five of the 35 states that had ratified the amendment rescinded acceptance. Congress then extended the ratification deadline to June, 1982, but only the first 30 states continued to support the amendment and it once again fizzled. The ERA has been introduced—and failed— in Congress at every session for the last 33 years.

According to Catherine Rampell, a journalist for The Washington Post reporting on the topless women strutting their stuff in Times Square, Police Commissioner William Bratton, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and the Daily News are all over-reacting. Ms. Rampell further poo pooed the opinions of a large portion of the female gender who are veterans of the war on women in the workplace. She made it clear that, in her opinion, anyone opposed to a woman exposing herself in public was puritanical.

In her most recent column—New York’s bizarre uproar over a few topless women—Rampell stated that “New York City has lost its mind because a few women have lost their shirts.” She quoted a Sara Nicole, 29, who said, “The female body is a commercial entity but they don’t want us commercializing our bodies ourselves. Only the Gap and Victoria’s Secret get to do that.”

I don’t shop at either Victoria’s Secret or the Gap but I’m pretty sure neither of them feature fully exposed jiggling jugs in their advertising. As for the female body being a commercial entity, plying your naked wares on a city street could be considered a form of prostitution. That label could loosely apply whether you are selling sex or being tipped for having your photograph taken with a tourist from Idaho. I’m pretty certain the camera isn’t focused on the face.

Rampell drives her philosophy home by writing that women are taught to hate their bodies from a very early age. She has a point. Very few women can meet the standards set by Madison Avenue advertising firms. However, my gut tells me that most women are more interested in being recognized for their brains than their breasts. We’ve fought too long and too hard to allow a few extroverts to diminish and/or destroy the inroads we have made. Only someone too young to remember how steep the climb up the corporate ladder has been for most women would champion such behavior.

On the chance that the ERA doesn’t pass again when Congress next meets and you need an explanation, just remember what’s being preached by Catherine Rampell at The Washington Post. If ever women have proven to be their own worst enemy, the patriotically painted breasts bobbing in the breeze in Times Square might be the best example of how the stupidity of the few can destroy the hard work of the many.

DMC 8/2015

Ignorance rules Florida Legislature



Ignorance rules Florida Legislature

by Donna M. Carbone
April 9, 2015


A return to the Dark Ages took place in Tallahassee on April 9th when the Florida legislature voted to endorse HB7111 (a revenge bill) by a vote of 75-38. The bill effectively issues a license to discriminate against the gay population in matters involving private adoptions. As corrosive as this bill is to equal rights for all people, the behavior of Florida House Judiciary Committee Chair Charles McBurney during recent hearings was an embarrassment to the State of Florida and all educated people of good character. When a very nervous 10-year old Nathanial Gill attempted to address the committee in a faltering voice that spoke to the importance of his words, McBurney cut him off before he was finished by laughing and saying, “Unfortunately, your minute’s up.” Perhaps, Mr. McBurney felt threatened by what would come out of the mouth of this “baby.”


On March 11, the Florida House of Representatives passed HB 7013, which effectively removed from state law the ban on adoptions by homosexuals. The ban has not been enforced since 2010 when a Florida appeals court declared it unconstitutional in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). At the center of that controversy was Martin Gill - Nathanial Gill’s father - a gay man living in Dade County.


In 2005, Mr. Gill became a foster parent to two brothers then aged 5 and 1. The early years of the boys lives had been spent in a grossly dysfunctional environment.  Mr. Gill became the rudder on the choppy sea that had been their life.

Gill fed them, bathed them and nurtured them. He cared for them when they were sick, lifted their spirits when they were sad and held them when they were hurt. Together they laughed and cried, smiled and frowned, grew up and grew together -- as a family should. He was what all foster parents should be... devoted to the children in his charge.



The boys are African American. Mr. Gill is white. By his actions, he taught them acceptance of self and others, regardless of skin color. Having been exposed to drugs while still in the womb and abuse after they were born, the brothers were both classified as special needs children but, to Mr. Gill, the most important need was to love them, which he did unconditionally.


Despite all his admirable qualities, Mr. Gill’s sexual orientation made him an unsuitable candidate for a parent under Florida’s 33-year old ban on gay adoptions. He decided to fight to keep the boys he loved and battle lines were drawn. The next two years must have felt like an eternity in hell. Thankfully, a very wise decision by the Third District Court of Appeals in Miami turned hell into heaven on earth for this father and his sons – a place where they could legally be a family.


In November 2008, a Miami-Dade County family court judge declared Florida's gay adoption ban unconstitutional. At the time of the ruling, the judge stated that Mr. Gill and his partner were "the best" parents for the two boys.  The State immediately appealed and any hope that justice would prevail quickly faded. During oral arguments before the Third District Court of Appeal in August 2009, a lawyer for the state made it clear that, if the court allowed the ban to stand, the state would immediately begin to find new homes for the boys. This is the same state that granted custody to Mr. Gill in 2004. 



State Attorney General Bill McCollum was hired to represent the Department of Children and Families in the case. DCFS wanted the children removed from Mr. Gill’s influence, despite glowing reports of superior care, and placed for adoption by someone else – someone not gay.



The Appellate Court dragged its feet in making a ruling. No judge wanted to go on record as being for or against the ban. Two years passed during which the Gill family resided in a limbo of uncertainty. Then, Governor Charlie Crist announced that he was contemplating dropping the state’s appeal. 



While at first glance Crist’s decision might have seemed favorable for Gill, such a decision would only have a positive effect in Miami/Dade County. The ban on gay adoptions would remain on the books and judges in other counties could invoke the law, hindering attempts by others in the gay community who wanted to open their hearts and their homes to children in need.



By some miracle, the dawn of a new age began in Florida. Moving away from blind ignorance and bigotry into the light of wisdom and acceptance, the Third District Court of Appeals ruled the ban on gay adoptions unconstitutional, thereby declaring Mr. Gill legally a father to his sons. As a result, when gay and lesbian people petition the Department of Children and Families to adopt, they can no longer be turned away.



In 2009, I was optimistic our state representatives would recognize that the time had come to put our shameful past behind us. I was certain our elected officials would understand that there is no magical hormone which provides a rush of maternal/paternal instinct, making us instantly loving and caring parents. Real mothers and fathers are not the result of bloodline or sexual preference.



That optimism was shattered when Rep. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) proposed HB111 which allows discrimination against gays and lesbians wanting to adopt based on religious beliefs. The successful adoption of this bill makes me ashamed to call myself a Christian.



Parenting is hard work and the most important job any of us, who so choose, will ever do. To be responsible for another human being, to provide nourishment for the body, mind and soul, to teach by book and example, to make strong physically and emotionally, to give love freely expecting nothing in return -- that is the definition of a mother and father.



Martin Gill fulfilled all those requirements. He fulfilled them long before a court allowed him to legally be called “Daddy.” To him and all those (regardless of sexual orientation) who open their lives and their hearts to children in need I say, “Bravo. I’m proud to have known you even if only through the media. You are a fine example of what parents should always strive to be.”



Faith and religion are two distinctly different entities. HR 7111 is not a faith-based bill. It is a shameful attempt to use mendacious doctrines as a cattle prod to control the masses. I encourage Floridians to remember the names Charles McBurney, James Brodeur and all those who approved HR7111 when they next go to the polls. Vote out ignorance. Vote in a legislative body accepting of all people.