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

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.

Fifty Shades of Grey - Fifty Shades of Abuse

Letter to the Editor - Palm Beach Post - February 13, 2015

Dear Sir:

The ravages of domestic abuse never fade. Forty years after my escape from a marriage that nearly took my life, the emotional scars are still visible. I’m good at playing the part of confident woman. Most days, the act doesn’t take much effort. Time has honed my performance skills. As if my exposure to domestic abuse wasn’t bad enough, seven years ago my daughter was sexually assaulted. Her assailant is serving three life sentences plus 35 years. I write of these things not to elicit sympathy but to give weight to what is to follow.

In today’s Post – Friday, February 13 – a review of the film Fifty Shades of Grey written by Rafer Guzman (Newsday) was published. Why you would choose a review written by someone so obviously misogynistic is mindboggling, especially when female film critics have made their opinions widely known.

As an advocate for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence, I received many emails from friends after this film was released. Many included links to reviews. One, in particular, stood out. It was written by Rosie Waterland of and if ever a commentary proved that men and women see the world differently, Ms. Waterland’s surpasses all others. 

To quote from her review, “I walked into the premiere screening of Fifty Shades of Grey… planning to walk out with a bunch of ridiculous and funny material that would lead to a hilarious recap. Instead, I walked out of the cinema on the verge of tears. Fifty Shades of Grey is about domestic violence dressed up as sexy fantasy.  It’s also about an incredibly disturbing and manipulative emotionally abusive relationship. (The film) makes domestic abuse seem okay.”

Now compare Waterland’s words to those written by Guzman: “"Neither the book nor the film has the guts or, perhaps, the brains to acknowledge Anastasia's basest desire -- money. Whenever she's unsure about taking another beating, Grey buys her a car or shows her his enormous helicopter. It works, too. Now that's the true meaning of domination."

I don’t know if helicopter is a euphemism for something even more disturbing in Guzman’s psyche, but it’s clear that his review says a lot more about him than it does about Fifty Shades of Grey. You owe your female readership an apology even if just in the form of a second review written by someone who recognizes and abhors abuse rather than someone who believes women are willing to submit to abuse in exchange for trinkets and baubles.

Donna M. Carbone