The View from My Pedestal

The View from My Pedestal is the title of Donna's monthly column in The Beacon Magazine. Thanks to the open mindedness and courage of her publisher, Burton Brewer, she is able to write about all issues -- the mundane and the controversial/humorous and tearjerker. What is posted below are op/ed articles that cover a wide variety of topics, each of which is thought provoking and, hopefully, smile inducing.


"A drop of ink may make a million think."
~Lord Byron~

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SILENCE IS ACCEPTANCE


Home Depots and Lowe’s Home Stores in south Florida have restocked their shelves in the aftermath of heavy buying by homeowners desperate to protect their homes from Hurricane Matthew’s fury. There are wood and nails aplenty available for purchase. I tell this because, when some of you read what I am about to write, you will seriously consider crucifying me for being anti-woman. Many of you will go on the attack claiming that I am blaming the victim who, in this case, is the entire female gender. I’m not but, as I’ve learned over the past nine years, pointing a finger at other people is a lot easier than pointing it at ourselves.

Let me start by saying that I found Donald Trump’s comments to Billy Bush to be vile and unforgivable. As a survivor of domestic abuse and as the mother of a rape survivor, anytime I hear a man speak demeaningly of women, I become physically ill. Mr. Trump’s explanation that it was just “locker room banter” is ridiculous. There is a huge difference between jock shock commentary and the type of degradation Mr. Trump expressed in his narrative. He should be rebuked in the harshest of terms.

That same level of criticism needs to be focused on Bill Clinton, whose actions actually did speak louder than words. The fact that while president of the United States, he used the oval office as a pay-by-the-hour motel room where he seduced women working at the White House is deplorable. (Note to Hillary Clinton: check your own “basket” before hurling insults at the masses.) Anyone who is a student of history knows that President Clinton’s behavior was not unique to his time in office. Many – MANY – presidents including the revered JFK used their position to lure many – MANY - women who found the aromas of power, celebrity and wealth intoxicating.

As reported by CNN Politics: While Monica Lewinsky will always be remembered as the pinnacle of Bill Clinton’s philandering, she was hardly his first experience with infidelity. Almost immediately after marrying Hillary Rodham in 1975, Clinton began cheating, leaving behind a trail of liaisons that would become evidence against him in the impeachment trails of 1988. There were co-workers, like Kathleen Wiley, and glamour girls Gennifer Flowers and Elizabeth Ward Gracen. According to former Arkansas state trooper L.D. Brown, Clinton pursued hundreds of prostitutes during his time as state governor, including Bobbie Ann Williams who claims that Clinton is the father of her son. Sally Perdue, Miss Arkansas 1958, said she had an affair with Clinton while he was governor of Arkansas in 1983. She claimed she was threatened by a Democratic staffer in 1992 if she revealed the affair. Most damaging, there was the woman who exposed it all – Paula Jones.

As reported by National Geographic: Kennedy biographer Robert Dallek describes JFK as a "compulsive womanizer" whose insatiable urge for sexual conquests was fueled by a complex array of personal traumas. According to Kennedy biographers Michael Meagher and Larry D. Gragg, the future president was sexually promiscuous dating back to his high school days at Choate. During World War II, he had an affair with Inga Arvad, a woman that the FBI had under surveillance because they believed she might be a German spy. As a still-single Massachusetts Congressman in the 1940s and early 1950s, Kennedy indulged himself with what his friend, New Jersey Congressman Frank Thompson, Jr., called a "smorgasbord of women." According to biographers Meagher and Gragg, Kennedy's lovers were prominent, accomplished women, as well as strippers, airline stewardesses, and secretaries. Even after Kennedy married the strikingly beautiful, elegant Jacqueline Bouvier, he continued to pursue extramarital relationships—despite the risk of scandal that might have crippled his Presidency.

All of these Little Red Riding Hoods painfully learned that there is no taming the Big Bad Wolf. It is important for women to remember that if the wolf’s teeth are bared… if he is salivating… if his big, hungry eyes are devouring you, he’s probably going to use you to satisfy his lust. Run away! If you don’t, you must accept at least a modicum of shared accountability for the growth of the rape culture mentality. Trump, Clinton and their ilk epitomize that type of thinking.

These men and others like them see women as objects meant to be used for their personal pleasure. Their self-images are pumped each time a female allows herself to be a vessel for their ego driven ejaculate. (Attention feminists: here’s where you pick up your hammers and get ready to nail me to the cross.) The key word in the last sentence was allows because these men, while rapists in the emotional sense, did not physically force women to participate in their disgusting behavior.  

If we remain silent when a man speaks crudely in our company… if we allow ourselves to be touched, grabbed and/or groped by men who think our bodies are free for the taking… if we do not fight back either with words or a good swift kick to the genitals, then we are silently condoning such actions. What does it matter if the man invading our space is president of the United States, a billionaire many times over, an office colleague or the captain of the high school football team? To touch someone who does not wish to be touched is assault. The crime is not diminished depending upon WHO is doing the touching.

Silence is acceptance! Each time a boy/man gets away with treating a woman as less than human, that behavior gets easier to repeat. Each time a woman swallows her self-respect for the sake of... actually, I’m not sure why we continue to give men the right to violate us.

Women today have a huge advantage over our sisters from decades past. The media is on our side. At least, they are if they can smell a front page story. Use them! Go public! Every time a man decides you are a possession not a person, tell the world. Don’t hide in the shadow of shame. In war… and we are definitely facing a battle of epic proportions… it isn’t the general with the largest army who wins but she with the smartest strategy. Counter attack by making your voice heard. That same shame that predators use to keep us silent can be used to put them behind bars where they belong.

Respect is a unique quality. While it should be freely given at first meeting, it must from then on be constantly earned. We are responsible for the perceptions people hold about us.

Remember that until we make victim a word to fear in the heart of every predator, we will never be safe nor will we receive the respect we justly deserve.

October 2016

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Abortion Reform – Protection or Pretense

Straddling the fence is an uncomfortable position for the deeply opinionated like me. I applaud Roe versus Wade and hope it will never be overturned. That doesn’t mean I think abortion should be used indiscriminately as a means of birth control. Abortion is a necessary evil available when health issues and circumstances beyond our control lead to unwanted pregnancies. 

Whether a pregnancy results from consensual sex or sexual assault is unimportant. The option to abort at a safe facility under the care of trained medical professionals is a necessity. In Florida, a bill sponsored by Longwood Rep. Scott Plakon would require doctors who perform the procedure to have privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility. Plakon claims that the purpose of the bill is to protect women should complications arise. The opposition claims the bill is an anti-abortion measure – a step toward reversing Roe versus Wade. 

If the rights of the unborn are truly at the heart the issue, then the focus should be on pre-conception. The goal should not be to end abortions but to make them less necessary. That goal requires three things… an open and honest discussion of human sexuality with our children, free or very low cost birth control, and the removal of politics from the equation. Condoms have been available for 400 years. The pill was first introduced in 1960. When was the last time you saw either prominently displayed in a store? When was the last time you heard a PSA on safe sex? Considering how readily we talk about erectile dysfunction on television, it would be wise to start educating the public on the use of birth control on a nightly basis. If you think the subliminal message in all those Cialis and Viagra commercials is lost to kids, you are sadly mistaken. What they hear is that if they are not having sex, they are not real men and women. The proven facts are that until we start talking honestly to our kids about human sexuality… until we remove the stigma of shame associated with sex… until we accept that sex is a vital part of life and that no amount of preaching abstinence is going to change the previous statements, a lot of unwanted babies will be conceived. A lot of those babies will never breathe fresh air. Let’s go a step further. Politicians love to bundle rape into the abortion issue. If we removed that stigma of shame associated with sex, women who are assaulted would call the police and be taken to a hospital. There all necessary steps would be taken to insure that a pregnancy does not result from the attack. No shame. No pregnancy. No abortion.

One last thing… I believe the biggest change that needs to made is to how we use the term abortion. The word currently carries a connotation so ugly that women are afraid to talk about the procedure. When it comes to rape/incest or the health of the mother and/or fetus, a new category – Medical Priority Terminations (MPT) – should be used.

January 2016  



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A voter without a party

When I was in high school, oh, so many years ago, it was a part of the standard curriculum to read The Man Without a Country by American writer Edward Everett Hale. For those of you unfamiliar with the premise, the short story, which is set in the early 19th century, is meant to be an allegory for the unrest caused by the Civil War.

Briefly, A Man Without a Country is the story of fictional American Army Lieutenant Philip Nolan, who is tried and convicted of treason based on his friendship with Aaron Burr. So angry is he that during his trial that he shouts, “I wish I may never hear of the United States again!” His wish is granted. For the next 56 years, Nolan is transported from ship to ship, living out his life as a ghost on the high seas, ignored and forgotten by the country of his birth. The total isolation from all that he loved—his family, his friends, art, music, and, mostly, his homeland—is a painful lesson. Nolan comes to realize that without roots a man is like a leaf in a hurricane.

It is not hard for me to imagine how isolated Nolan must have felt. There have been many times over the last few decades when I, too, have missed my homeland. Although not forced to live out my life on a sailing ship, I often feel adrift in a sea of rhetoric and intentionally misleading “facts” that spew from the mouths of politicians on both sides of the aisle. Where is the America that put truth before power? Where is the leader who recognizes that he/she is not actually a leader at all but the instrument by which the will of the people is carried out? What happened to a government “… of the people, by the people, and for the people…?”And, most of all, where are the people—the citizens of this country—who actually understand and abide by Lincoln’s words in the Gettysburg Address: “… conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men (and women) are created equal…?”

I am not a Republican. I am not a Democrat. Neither party represents me and the majority of my peers. Since our system requires that a voter register as something, I am forced to list myself as an Independent. I am not an Independent. There is no label for me and those like me who stand in the middle looking left and right trying to extract the truth from the lies. I do not vote a party or a person. I vote on the issues.

When forced to identify myself, I usually say I am a conservaberal or a liberative. I’m a mutt… a mix of both parties ideals because I do see good ideas on both sides of the aisle. My problem is that the good ideas are never fully developed. For some reason, both parties stop short of actually rectifying an existing problem and merely choose the band aid solution that is cheapest and easiest.

Perhaps, it’s time we actually became a democracy. We are not that now and never have been. America is a democratic republic. The difference is that in a true democracy, we, the people, would vote on every single issue. There would be no congressmen to represent our choices. We would do that for ourselves.

Of course, changing to a democracy would require sweeping the Capital clean with a very big broom. Since politicians would still be in charge until the transition is made, the expenditure approved would be for a whisk broom not a push broom. Thus, we have another cheap and easy maneuver to keep the people from truly controlling their destinies and one that would leave a lot of dirt in the halls of Congress.

Donna Carbone advocates on behalf of victims of assault and in favor of better healthcare for veterans. To comment on this editorial, write feelnoshame@comcast.net


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How to prepare for college... and have a good life


Reprinted: Jupiter Courier - August 6, 2015

The school bell is about to ring and while mothers of preteen students are busy filling backpacks with notebooks, pencils, markers and assorted necessities, mothers of college-aged girls are also preparing to pack bags. For parents of young women heading off to schools of higher education the sight of suitcases in the hallway can be traumatic. Yes, tuition is a frightening reality—one that could play havoc with your savings account for many years. Eventually though, the bills will be paid and your daughters will begin earning their own way in the world. That’s a good thing.

Unfortunately, there is another frightening reality—one which many parents refuse to accept—mothers, in particular. Whenever I speak to individuals and groups about the need for all women regardless of their age to take responsibility for their own safety, it is inevitably the mothers of daughters in the last years of high school or about to enter college who balk at the suggestion. They seem to resent being advised that their daughters need to be careful about the who, where and how of enjoying themselves. As the mother of a rape survivor, I wish I had known eight years ago the things I know now.

Taking responsibility does not mean denying oneself a good time. It doesn’t mean you cannot party with your friends or drink or dress provocatively. It does, however, mean that the good times will not be marred by painful memories in years to come.

If I had a penny (even as worthless as pennies have become) for every time I’ve heard “rite of passage,” I would be very wealthy. I always think that people are confusing “rite” with “right” because although you do have the right to go, dress and behave as your choose, the rite that you may be participating in could be rape. Here is where I get the most flack. Invariably, there will be one mother who will spout the feminist line about how what you wear has no correlation to rape… and that is true to a certain degree. Rapists aren’t necessarily drawn to sexy attire unless that attire will make it hard for the intended victim to get away. Just try running in five inch heels. See how far you get. Consider that being unconscious in a pool of vomit, whether wearing a designer dress or a suit of armor, is not only unattractive, it’s also an open invitation to every pervert lurking nearby.

College is a transitional period for all students. Both males and females get their first taste of freedom and, more often than not, they are unprepared for the dangers inherent in the absence of parental supervision. Despite what some factions would like you to believe, not all men are potential rapists. However, there are rapists in college just as there are everywhere in life. Date rape is a controversial subject which I will not address here. My comments are generalizations meant to keep all women safe throughout their lives.

No woman deserves to be raped. Choosing to go naked through the streets does not qualify a female as being rape worthy. Nothing a woman does… no manner of behavior… justifies abuse. However, if you are going to dress provocatively, if you are going to drink to excess, if you are going to habituate areas that are less than safe, you had best be aware that the fact that you don't deserve to be raped means nothing to a rapist.

Women should able to do as they please without fear of assault, but we don't exist between the pages of a story book where the princess lives happily ever after. This is real life and here the princess can wake up brutally beaten—if she is lucky enough to wake up at all. Why? Because she chose to protect herself with rhetoric rather than reason.

Don’t be a victim. Don’t allow your daughters to be victims. Talk to your children about the danger in acting irresponsibly. Mottos and slogans can’t save your life, but here’s one that might detour you and your family out of harm’s way: “Think before you drink.” Let’s make that motto even simpler—“Just think.” And don’t expect someone else to protect you. That’s your job.

Donna Carbone advocates on behalf of victims of assault. To comment on this editorial, write feelnoshame@comcast.net
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Abortion: A difficult decision without outside interference


Abortion is in the news a lot lately. Credit the upcoming election for putting this hot topic front and center in debates between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice advocates.  The videos circulating throughout the media in which Planned Parenthood executives negotiate the sale of fetal tissue are, while distasteful, not shocking. Unless you have lived in a cave your entire life, there is no way you could not know what happens to those unwanted unborns who gain celebrity status by the sad fact that they never actually take a breath.

The Pro-Life contingent is intent on making the voting public believe that there are people (the implication is men) trying to persuade women to have abortions against their will. Florida Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, recently introduced legislation requiring women to wait 24 hours before having the procedure. ACLU attorney Renee Paradis immediately filed a motion against the waiting period stating, “It’s clear that the sole purpose of this law is to make it more difficult for a woman who has decided to have an abortion to get one, and to punish and discriminate against those who do.”

In the verbal game of ping pong that ensued, Rep. Sullivan defended her actions by claiming that the waiting period was an important policy change meant to protect women from being forced into having an abortion before they had considered all the consequences.

Who are these people intentionally trying to force women to have abortions? Where are they? I think we should force them out of hiding and hang them in a public square. While we’re at it, we need to use the same tactics on people trying to prevent women from having abortions. A harsh beating with a heavy bible might be the appropriate punishment.

As a woman who once had to make a decision on abortion, I am always amazed at the short sightedness of our legislators when discussing this issue. If the rights of the unborn are truly at the heart of their objections, their focus should be on pre-conception. I realize that this statement appears simplistic on the surface and implementation of such a plan would be costly, but we already spend a fortune on social programs so why not one that actually could improve the quality of people’s lives.

Two months into my pregnancy with my now 35 year old daughter, I began having complications. My doctor could find no reason for the bleeding and cramping I was experiencing. Everything seemed normal but, obviously, it wasn’t. She strongly advised having an abortion and, until I made a decision, she put me on bed rest. My husband and I returned home and had a good cry. We already had one child and we did not want to risk my health or our son losing his mother. However, we did not want to lose the child in my womb either. My husband left the decision to me and I chose to see the pregnancy through. Today we have not only a beautiful daughter; we also have a wonderful grandson.

Now, to further explain my investment in the abortion controversy, said beautiful daughter was the victim of a brutal rape eight years ago. Her survival is a miracle. We, as a family, learned a lot from this experience and one of the most important things we learned is that a system is in place to help survivors if they notify the police. Far too many women do not report being raped because their faith and their culture would hold them responsible. That has to stop. God has no place in violent crime unless it is to rain fire and brimstone upon the perpetrator.

Every rape needs to be reported to the police immediately after the assault. Once reported, the victim is taken to the hospital where medical precautions insure not only that a pregnancy doesn’t result but that the woman does not contract HIV should her attacker be infected. Most counties/cities provide mental health therapy through an Office of Victim Services to help women deal with the trauma of assault. My advice to rape survivors: call the police, report the crime, go to the hospital, avoid abortion and, hopefully, put a behind bars before another woman is attacked.

As a side note—I deplore the term sexual assault because it encourages the misconception that rape is about sex which brings us back to religion and the shame factor. Why not use Anatomy Specific Assault—an on-target description.

To remove the stigma of shame from rape, we have to remove moral superiority from the equation. There are no saints in this world. Whether someone is preaching from the pulpit or the dais, if they are not speaking realistically about human sexuality, they should be silenced. Sex before marriage is not wrong. Promiscuous sex at any time in your life is dangerous and, sometimes, deadly.

A rape survivor who is courageous enough to report the crime and is determined to bring her attacker to justice is a hero. By being pro-active, survivors turn being victimized into being victorious and help light the way for the timid hiding in the shadows. The more women who speak out, the more who will be empowered to do so.

Implementing a pre-conception solution to abortion is a multi-tiered program. First, free or low cost birth control must be available to all men and women no matter their economic status. This would include containers of free condoms on every checkout counter in every store. Oral birth control would be available either free or at an affordable cost, said price to be determined by income or lack of it. The morning after pill (Plan B) could be bought for $5.00 not $50.00—no questions asked. Yes, I know that there are clinics that provide free birth control. We need to make condoms easier to get—supermarkets, gas stations, the post office—everywhere.

Hypocrisy is rampant in paid advertising especially on television. Every night commercials for erectile dysfunction air with nauseating regularity. The subliminal message is that, if a man is not having sex, he is not a man. In the very near future, pharmaceutical companies will begin airing ads for the female version of the little blue pill. Again, the message will be that if a woman is spending less time on her back than on her feet, she is not truly a woman.

Do parents not understand that their very impressionable children are aware of the message within the message? If sex makes a male more manly and a female more womanly, why wouldn’t kids want to be a part of that scenario?

If we are going to allow advertisements for sexual activity on national television, should we not be tempering those ads with public service announcements preaching the practice of safe sex. Should we not be talking openly and honestly to youthful viewers about the need to use birth control, the various methods of birth control and the availability of birth control? Why not ads for Plan B, the so-called morning after pill? Actually, a true understanding of Plan B requires an advertising campaign of its own because the use/misuse of this drug is both a blessing and a curse.

I realize that there will be people who, even if condoms were to magically appear on their bedside table every night, would not use them, but I believe the majority of women would be grateful. I also believe that we do women, especially young women, a disservice by not speaking the truth about rape in public service announcements. Rape statistics can be lowered. Maybe, someday, they can even be eliminated, but not until the female gender takes responsibility for its own safety. No one is trying to take away hard won equal rights, but women must accept that when it comes to physical strength, they are not equal. Rarely, in a one-on-one battle with an attacker, will a woman come out the winner. Why allow yourself to be victimized?

In order for any safe sex program to work, we need to begin educating children and adults on human sexuality. Abstinence is never going to catch on as the next big fad so we need to speak openly and honestly with our children about how their lives will change—not for the better—if they act first and regret later. That does not mean we fill them with fear of punishment in the hereafter or demean them in the present. Facing a lifetime of working in McDonald’s should be enough of a deterrent against unprotected sex.

One of the biggest changes that needs to made is how we use the term abortion. Thanks to the superficially motivated, the word carries a connotation so ugly that women are afraid to talk about the procedure. When it comes to rape/incest or the health of the mother and/or fetus, a new category—Medical Priority Terminations (MPT)—needs to be put in place.  MPTs would be covered by insurance just as any other surgical procedure.

That leaves us with abortions performed for a variety of acceptable reasons from unwanted pregnancies to inability to afford a child to domestic abuse issues. No one should have to explain the “why.” Abortion or MPT is a personal matter to be shared only with a spouse (by choice) and a doctor. As for a 24-hour waiting period—every woman seeking an abortion has already spent that amount of time and more thinking prior to going to the doctor.

Whatever the reason a woman considers an abortion, our goal should be to eventually make that decision unnecessary. We start by talking to our children. We remove the stigma of shame that is always associated with premarital sex and rape/incest, which means taking God out of the conversation. We provide free or low/cost birth control and Plan B everywhere. We take politicians (especially those espousing their personal religious beliefs) out of our bedrooms and our private lives. In time, as the numbers decline, abortion (and rape) will no longer be a rallying cry for votes during an election year.
    
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The Confederate flag and its place in history

While I believe that the Confederate flag should be removed from a position of prominence on government buildings at every level, I would not like to see it relegated to a shelf in a dusty closet somewhere. Rather, I would like to see the flag displayed in a glass case in the lobby of every capital in every southern state along with a well written, truthful narrative of its history and the history of each individual state -- before, during and after the Civil War. I'm aware that whoever writes each state’s history will do it from the perspective of how they would prefer it to be remembered and not as it was. However, if government buildings did carry truthful narratives that proved to be false, then the chance of people seeing them and demanding changes would happen more frequently. I, actually, hope situations like that do arise. The more attention we bring to the false narratives, the quicker we will reach a version of the truth that is, at least, palatable. 

I do understand wanting to hold onto something with a familial significance, and for many the Confederate flag is an emotional issue. However, the passage of time has a way of changing how we "see" history. No one is saying that we should forget the men who fought and died in the Civil War. In fact, just the opposite. We don't talk enough about the Civil War which was the most costly engagement in terms of human life in our country's history. However, the flag's original meaning has been lost. You can thank the racists of the world for turning it into a symbol of hate. 

Consider that the Iron Cross, so closely associated with Hitler's anti-Semitic regime, is actually a military decoration and was first awarded in 1813 during the Napoleonic Wars. But... like the confederate flag it has taken on new meaning because certain people used it for nefarious reasons. My husband has an iron cross which was awarded to his grandfather during WWI. He keeps it in his drawer as a remembrance of heroic deeds performed under inhuman conditions. My husband would never think to display it publicly because he knows that some of our friends would misunderstand and be hurt by what would seem like a disregard for what they have suffered.

When my son was in high school in the 1990s, I was a very involved parent, often supervising events on campus and serving as a chaperone for local and out-of-state trips. I vividly remember traveling to Boston for a debate tournament at Harvard University. The trip included some sightseeing, including a walk along the Freedom Trail. The students were all excited to visit historic landmarks highlighting Boston’s role in the American Revolution. They seemed to appreciate the sacrifices made so that they could enjoy the lifestyles they usually took for granted. We were proud parents… all except one father of African American ancestry who appeared troubled. Upon questioning, he revealed that, while watching the mini-series The Blue and the Grey, his daughter, a senior, had asked him what the movie was about. His answer, “The Civil War” had elicited the response, “What war is that?”

I also remember that immediately after 9/11 an attempt was made to remove all images of the Twin Towers from news reels, films, post cards, photographs - the reason being that it was too painful for those who had lost loved ones in the attack.

Then, like now, I had mixed emotions. I am certainly cognizant of the renewed heartbreak families will feel every time the World Trade Center is seen or mentioned. I also fear that if we do not remember... if we do not continually invoke that painful memory... we will be forced to relive that tragedy in real time.

We do not shirk from the memory of the Holocaust. Rather, we embrace those horrific events because by doing so we hope to prevent a recurrence. Since evil is always with us, by keeping the images -- the photographs, the remnants of life in the prison camps -- in public view, we have an advantage over our enemies.

This is how I believe we should approach the issue of the Confederate Flag. Do not allow it to fly in a place of honor but do not hide it away in shame either. Display it. Talk about it. Encourage polite and intelligent discourse. Only then, will we move forward rather than continuing to look back.

Unlike the father who was ashamed of his daughter’s question, my fear is that in years to come, children will no longer ask, “What war is that?”

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JUPITER COURIER NEWS WEEKLY

May 21, 2015

Memorial Day ... What's is TO YOU?

By Donna M. Carbone




"To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die."

~ Hallowed Ground - poet Thomas Campbell ~







President Richard Nixon declared Memorial Day a federal holiday in 1971. Observed on the last Monday in May, it is a time for the living to pay homage to those who gave their lives so that we and the oppressed people of the world can remain free from tyranny. 

Honoring our deceased veterans has been a tradition since 1868 when Union General John A. Logan declared "Decoration Day" an occasion to place flowers on the graves of Civil War soldiers. It is estimated that 625,000 Americans died over differing views on slavery, trade tariffs, and states' rights. The Civil War holds the ignominious record of the highest number of casualties in one confrontation and is the most costly engagement America has ever fought. As staggering as those statistics are, the total number of men and women who have given their lives in all wars - foreign and domestic - is well over one million. Surely, one day a year is not enough to give tribute to our fallen soldiers. We must do more.

When my son was in high school in the 1990s, I was a very involved parent, often supervising events on campus and serving as a chaperone for local and out-of-state trips. I vividly remember traveling to Boston for a debate tournament at Harvard University. The trip included some sightseeing, including a walk along the Freedom Trail. The students were all excited to visit historic landmarks highlighting Boston's role in the American Revolution. They seemed to appreciate the sacrifices made so that they could enjoy the lifestyles they usually took for granted. We were proud parents… all except one father who appeared troubled. Upon questioning, he revealed that, while watching the mini-series The Blue and the Grey, his daughter, a senior, had asked him what the movie was about. His answer, "The Civil War" had elicited the response, "What war is that?"

Since the Vietnam era, war has become commonplace in our lives. Our men and women in uniform have been fighting on foreign soil for so long that we no longer stop to think about the danger they face every day. Where once we protested in the streets to bring our soldiers home, now few Americans blink an eye as statistics rolls across the bottom of their television screens announcing the names of those who have perished in battle. Unlike that father who was ashamed of his daughter's question, my fear is that in years to come, children will no longer ask, "What war is that?" 

With each passing birthday, I have become more aware of my own mortality. I've often wondered who will remember me when I'm gone. My husband and I were blessed with a new grandson two years ago and we try to spend as much time with him as possible. When the inevitable happens, I want him to remember us… to know that we loved him and wanted only the best for him. Every Memorial Day, I think about the friends I lost in the Vietnam War… those young men who never had a chance to start a family. There are no children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to wave a flag in their honor… or are there? It is up to us to keep their memory alive. We may not know their names. We may not know their faces, but we do know what they sacrificed for us. If that isn't the true meaning of family, I don't know what is. 

Let each and every one of us give true meaning to poet Thomas Campbell's words by remembering our deceased veterans this Memorial Day. Let us pay tribute to those who gave their lives so that we can enjoy the blessings and bounty of life in a country where freedom's bell rings loud and clear. If we remember, perhaps the day will come when no new names will be engraved on headstones and monuments. 

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Fine line between funny and fatal


January 2015

Recently, Miami Herald columnist Charles Pitts published a column on the Pope and freedom of speech… In his opening paragraph, Mr. Pitts stated that one of the limitations of freedom of speech is that "you don't threaten or incite violence." Then, he segued into a criticism of Pope Francis' words to the media on January 15. As a former Catholic (if there actually is such a thing), I don’t often agree with the Church’s position on social issues of the day. However, in reading the interview the Pope gave regarding the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, I found myself nodding vigorously in agreement… not with his exact words but with the message behind them. The Pope would have been wiser to say, “We should not insult other people’s faith…” rather than “We cannot insult other people’s faith…” but either way, he was talking about showing respect for the beliefs of those who do not share our mindset. By not doing so, the possibility of "inciting violence" becomes an actual event.

Freedom of speech does have limitations – perhaps not in the legal sense but most definitely in the moral sense. If the journalists at the Paris newspaper were poking satirical fun at Islam in an effort to enlighten the masses, I would herald their efforts, but the jaded Jersey girl in me sees their publication as a means to make money through controversy. How can you enlighten someone who is blind and deaf to anything outside their sphere of understanding? What is accomplished by provoking in an obscene and opprobrious manner those who consider violence a justified means of defending their faith? Is shock value worth dying for? Weren't they merely preaching to the choir?
 
Pope Francis used the example of someone cursing at his mother, which many would consider the ultimate sign of disrespect. He said he would punch that person in the nose. To most people of faith, god is a parental figure. When you curse at god, you show disrespect at the basest level. I'm not a believer, but even so I would never ridicule in a repulsive manner what others hold near and dear – be it parent or god. If I did, I would expect to get punched in the nose.

I do believe that there are many causes where courting death is worthwhile and freedom of speech is one of them but only when the words being uttered carry the kind of weight that can change the world. Nothing good was accomplished by the deaths of editor Stephane Carbonnier and his four colleagues. Those of us who champion freedom of speech didn't need them to die to reinforce our convictions. How much better it would have been had they tempered their drawing pens and words and remained alive. In time, they actually might have had an impact on the world that lasted longer than a few days or weeks.

The purpose of Charlie Hebdo was/is not to champion freedom of speech – that right is not in jeopardy. The purpose of the newspaper is to instigate... to rile the masses for their own financial gain. The more offensive the cartoons... the bigger their profits. 

I’m not condemning the paper for wanting to increase its bottom line. Worse things than drawing offensive satirical cartoons have been done for the almighty dollar. However, it's sad that people have to die to make the cash registers ring when a little respect could benefit long term goals. 

Understanding that there is a fine line between funny and fatal might prevent more deaths in the future. Respect can offer the same protection as a kevlar vest.


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If my vagina could talk...

January 2015
A number of years ago, my daughter and I bought tickets to see The Vagina Monologues then starring Sharon Gless in the ever changing cast of no longer famous women actors. The tickets were a birthday gift from each of us to the other – an opportunity for mother/daughter bonding. With all the hype surrounding the play, we looked forward to an evening of entertainment and emotional hugging. 

Not a half hour into the reading, I was ready to demand my money back; and I'm certain that if I had asked for my vagina's opinion, it would have heartily agreed. My Venus mound and I were definitely unwilling to adapt the feminist mindset that proclaimed this production a masterpiece of  “erotic intelligent theater.” The play is terrible -- a blatant and, yes, successful exercise in making a boat load of money from saying vagina without blushing five hundred times in 90 minutes.

For those of you unfamiliar with Eve Ensler's work, here is Wikipedia's synopsis: The Vagina Monologues is made up of a varying number of monologues read by a varying number of women. Every monologue somehow relates to the vagina, be it through sex, love, rape, menstruation, mutilation, masturbation, birth, orgasm, the variety of names for the vagina, or simply as a physical aspect of the body. A recurring theme throughout the piece is the vagina as a tool of female empowerment, and the ultimate embodiment of individuality.

Got that? After all the years of fighting to be recognized as something more than sexual objects; after all the struggles to be seen for our brains and not our bodies, women willingly pay to see themselves defined as nothing more than a tw**! I refuse to be cast in that role!

Why am I complaining so many years after the fact? Last week, I had dinner with three women whom I consider intelligent and worldly. They had recently seen a local production and, like parrots in a Victorian parlor, began mouthing all the hype that the local theatre critic had written in his review. These women showered glorious praise on the production calling it a "tour de force for women,” “a fearless acknowledgement of women's issues," and "a therapeutic cleansing (gag) of long held misconceptions of male/female issues.”

Losing my self-control, I stood up and said (while pointing south of my belly button), "This is not who I am. This (pointing to my head) is who WE are." Many a fork paused mid-way to mouth!

Eve Ensler wrote The Vagina Monologues following interviews she conducted with 200 women about their views on sex, relationships and violence. She has stated that her fascination with vaginas began because of "growing up in a violent society. Women's empowerment is deeply connected to their sexuality." Ensler has also said, "I'm obsessed with women being violated and raped and with incest. All of these things are deeply connected to our vaginas." No kidding!

If my daughter had not been raped seven years ago, I would have laughed at my friends' inane comments. If I hadn't seen my daughter beaten and bruised, I probably would have not have risen to the bait.  However, the memory of my daughter crying in my arms while I told her that rape has nothing to do with sex but was about feelings of inadequacy on the part of the attacker fueled by anger, is still painful. Rape is a physical beating in which men use their penis rather than their fists. The only way women can empower themselves against attacks of any kind is to be ever aware of the danger around them. 

After sitting through this play, I felt the only thing Eve Ensler was obsessed with was making money. We all know that sex sells. Talk about the human anatomy - male or female - and the cash register sings. Utter words like penis and orgasm, and the big bucks just pour in. That being said, I will not deny that Ensler has been generous in using her windfall to fund many worthwhile organizations. It’s the means, not the end, that offends me.

Let me assure you that if my vagina could talk, it wouldn't give a damn about what color or style of clothing flattered it best. My vagina wouldn't complain about tampons and pap smears or the difficulty in pushing a bowling ball through a hole only big enough for a marble. If my vagina could talk, it would say a lot of things about the Vagina Monologues (like this was the first and last time I’d spend money on an Eve Ensler play) but I won’t write them here because I am not controlled by one part of my anatomy. I am the sum of my parts. 





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Two all beef patties -- better with pigeon poop

January 2015
Seems a night doesn’t go by when one journalist or another isn’t spouting about the most recent lawsuit against some fast food giant. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a non-profit watchdog and advocacy group which considers itself society’s food police, often comes under attack for targeting the restaurant, food and tobacco industries rather than acknowledging that the real enemy in the fight for healthier lifestyles is lack of personal responsibility. CSPI’s litigation department is currently taking aim at Pizza Hut, Campbell Soup, Kraft Foods, Welch Foods and Johnson and Johnson, among others. Of course, the case you are probably most familiar with is the one that painted a bull’s eye on Ronald McDonald’s back.
In 2010 the CSPI went so far as to lure one San Francisco mother into filing a claim against McDonald’s for… brainwashing. In the suit, this mother claimed that commercials for Happy Meals sent subliminal messages which infected her child’s mind, causing her to become a whining, sniveling little snot.

Okay… that’s my interpretation of the lawsuit. In reality, the CSPI convinced this unsuspecting mother to be their guinea pig and, probably, promised her a sizable share of the wealth should the claim result in monetary reward. When I first read about the lawsuit, I kept hoping that the judge assigned to the case would be the straightforward type and that he/she would tell this mom, “Your kid’s a brat, but it’s not her fault. She staged a coup when you forgot to be a parent. Learn how to say no. Case dismissed. ”

Every time one of these stories hits the airwaves, I’m reminded of my teenage years when a Sabrett hot dog from a pushcart parked on the sidewalk outside my high school was the closest thing we had to fast food. We used to call them “dirt water dogs” because no one knew when/if the water used to boil the franks had ever been changed. We didn’t care. They tasted great!

The high school I attended was co-institutional (Catholic for those who don’t understand double speak) with boys on one side of the building and girls on the other. Furtive glances were exchanged as we made our way from class to class and rubbed shoulders in the hallways. Our body language was easily understood: “Meet you behind the skating rink after final bell.”

We were such innocents. As soon as the gang was all together, we would begin our trudge home – for some of us a many mile walk – and along the way we would push and shove each other as a sign of affection. Most afternoons we stopped for at the Sabrett wagon and, if a boy felt especially sweet toward one of the girls, he would treat her to a frank “with the works.” Ah, love.

Now, one day “the works” turned out to be more than any of us expected. I can see everything so clearly even though this happened nearly 50 years ago. My friend, Claudio, a munchkin of a guy with a gigantic heart, was talking animatedly about the upcoming football game against our biggest rival. He held his hot dog in his hand and waved it around like tube-shaped exclamation point. On one of those rotations, a pigeon flew over his head and pooped – right onto the frankfurter.

We all saw it happen, but like the smart-ass kids we were, we didn’t say a word. We stood there in a trance as Claudio brought the bun to his mouth and took a big bite. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed that hard again and, yes, I’m ashamed of how we behaved – but to a bunch of 16-year olds, it was funny. I’m laughing at the memory now, and I’m way past using age as an excuse.

One of the boys was first to catch his breath and speak. With obvious glee, he told Claudio what had happened. Did I say he had a big heart? He also knew how to make the most of a comical and embarrassing situation.

Without missing a beat, he said, “Really. Tastes like mustard.”

And he took another bite.

So, for all those parents who are having troubles controlling their kids cravings for Whoppers and Big Macs – try a little pigeon poop as a condiment The problem will be solved instantaneously. There aren’t too many Claudios in this world.

BTW: It took 15 years before I ate another Sabrett’s hot dog, and I’m always on the lookout for flying mustard dispensers.

Bon appetit!





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HR147 - Protection or Pretense
January 2015


Straddling the fence is an uncomfortable position for the deeply opinionated… like me. I applaud Roe vs Wade and hope it will never be overturned. In fact, I would like to see 410 U.S. 113 (1973) chiseled in stone and erected as a monument on the front lawn of every capital building in every state. That doesn’t mean I think abortion should be used indiscriminately as a means of birth control. Abortion is a necessary evil available as a last resort when health issues and circumstances beyond our control lead to unwanted pregnancies. The question then becomes “what is beyond our control?”

Rape is certainly beyond the control of the victim. Genetic diseases and life threatening conditions are also beyond the control of the expectant mother. Pregnancy, in and of itself, is not beyond control – not by men or women. Methods of birth control abound and, generally, are available free in most areas of the country. Do we need more availability? Yes. Every checkout counter in every store in the nation should have a 50 gallon fish tank filled with free condoms. Birth control pills should be covered on every health insurance plan and carry a low (if any) co-pay. Plan B – the morning after pill – should be affordable to everyone. A $50.00 price tag puts the drug out of the reach of those who need it most. Sex education should be part of school curriculum starting at the third grade level… not because it’s the school’s responsibility to teach safety but because parents are shirking their responsibility. Abortion, when needed, should be free or priced low enough that those without disposable income can afford the procedure.

Religion plays a big part in how people view abortion. Those deeply steeped in faith believe that every life deserves to be lived. The problem herein lies in determining when life actually begins. There are as many answers to that question as there are grains of sand, but one thing is absolutely fact… by the 20 week mark, a human being is alive and growing within the womb. Twenty weeks is the half way mark in a pregnancy. Five months have passed since conception took place. Five months is a long time to wait to make a decision about any major event in our lives. Abortion is a monumental decision so why are women waiting?

One reason is shame. Because many people still believe that sex outside of marriage (consensual or forced) is sinful, they deceive themselves about being pregnant rather than seeking help. Shame is a huge hurdle in getting women the help they need in a timely fashion, especially when incest is involved. As an advocate for rape survivors, I am always preaching the need to remove the element of shame associated with the crime. We need to hail survivors as heroes. Those who are willing to pursue their attackers in a court of law should be awarded medals. If we did that, then women who are raped would call the police, go to the hospital, and medically remove the threat of pregnancy and disease. They would receive counseling and follow up examinations to guarantee that a pregnancy did not result from the assault. They would not need an abortion. Their bodies and their minds would be healthy and would heal without major scarring.

For unwanted pregnancies that result from consensual or unreported assaults, the option to abort at a safe facility under the care of trained medical professionals is a necessity. Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Wisconsin and Oklahoma have laws requiring doctors to perform abortions at certified surgical centers and to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Referred to as TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) by abortion proponents, these regulations have closed some Texas and Mississippi clinics where doctors were unable to secure admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

HB147, a bill being sponsored in the Florida legislature by Pensacola Rep. Walter Bryan “Mike” Hill and Longwood Rep. Scott Plakon – both Republicans – would require doctors who perform abortions to have privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility. Hill and Plakon claim that the purpose of the bill is to protect women should complications arise from the procedure. The opposition claims that HB147 is an anti-abortion measure – a step toward reversing Roe versus Wade. The American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have issued statements against HB147, saying that there is no medical reason for the regulation.

I have no doubt that anti-abortion activists – those holding political office and those protesting on sidewalks outside abortion clinics – will use HB147 to further their personal beliefs. For that reason, we need to be cautious about the wording of bills claiming to protect women. However, fifteen years ago, I had liposuction performed on my body. I went to a doctor who met the requirements outlined in HB147. Is abortion not worthy of the same considerations?

Cars come equipped with seat belts to protect lives. Bicycle riders are encouraged to wear helmets for the same reason. Athletes wear protective gear to help them avoid injuries. Are those individuals more important than a pregnant woman?

I do not want government intruding in our private lives (especially our bedrooms). I do, however, believe that abortion deserves to be treated with a greater degree of importance than a face mask penalty on the football field. Make safe abortion a priority. Remove from office anyone who threatens to overturn Roe versus Wade. Most important, provide the education and the means so that, in time, abortions will no longer be necessary.

While we are legislating women's lives, let's change the way we refer to medical procedures that result in the termination of a pregnancy due to health concerns or rape. We could call them "Surgically Induced Terminations" or "Medical Priority Terminations." Let's stop calling them abortions because there are far too many small-minded people who will use the negative connotations of that word to hinder progress and threaten the lives and the rights of women everywhere.

To comment on this article or inquire about Write For You services, contact Donna at
write4you@comcast.net
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Once a Catholic - Always a Catholic

January 2015

It is impossible for me, the daughter of a diehard Catholic father, to deny that twelve years of parochial education have not had an effect on me. If my math is correct, by the time I graduated high school I had attended 624 Sunday masses and heard an equal number of “burn in hell” sermons that were as close to mind control as one can get without being lobotomized. Add to that figure monthly First Friday services, novenas, benedictions, High Holy Day masses, confessions and the scowl of disapproval on the face of every Franciscan nun who ever wielded a ruler and, well, the damage to my psyche was pretty severe.

By the time I neared 30 years of age, my ability to absorb any more guilt had reached the saturation point. As with all soft, porous substances, the more guilt thrust upon my conscience, the more questions began to leak from my brain… and my mouth. “Something isn’t right,” I would tell anyone who would listen. Fear? Punishment? Eternal damnation? How does that fit in with the picture of a God who loves his children? How could a loving God allow so much cruelty and sadness in this world? The answer I got was the same I had been hearing for decades – God works in mysterious ways. Well, the real mystery to me is why anyone would buy into that nonsense.

In the mid 1980s, my husband and I were still attached to our faith. We enrolled our children in a parochial school and became members of the PTO. Being a parent brings out all the old haunting fears. I pushed my doubts to the back of my mind and buried them deep... but not for long. Five months into the school year, a few of the pre-teens in our church came forward to say that the pastor was “encouraging” them to show their gratitude for his generosity with sexual favors. By encouraging, I mean threatening them. Oh, not in any way tangible, but the message he broadcast to those boys was very real.  They were scared.

As secretary of the Parent/Teacher Organization, I made a formal complaint to the monsignor in charge of the Archdiocese of Newark, and this was the response: “Mrs. Carbone, not only must you catch him in the act but you must get me a picture as well. If I were to transfer every priest who was a homosexual or pedophile, I wouldn’t have enough men to go around.” My first problem with the monsignor's statement was the equating of homosexuals with pedophiles. Pedophiles and rapists are a breed undo themselves.Pedophiles and rapists are a breed undo themselves. They are more likely to be heterosexual in their perversions. My second problem was one of disbelief. I could not believe the cavalier manner in which I was dismissed.

My husband’s and my reaction was to remove our children from Catholic school and place them in the public education system. We should have done more, but we were naïve. The other result of that incident was that the questions I had silenced began to roar with a vengeance. Soon thereafter, I traded in my unconditional acceptance of contradictory teachings for reason and logic. Although I cast aside my former belief in a mystical supreme being, I do not consider myself an atheist.
For starters, I hate labels. They are never accurate. There are as many qualifiers as there are shades of grey and the color spectrum is infinite. I believe in god – I just believe that WE are god and, unfortunately, Satan as well. You will notice that I did not capitalize god but did give Satan that honorific. Why? Because mankind will never be “that good” but, sadly, we have become experts at being really, really bad.

The elements of good and evil are within each of us. When the religious minded talk about free will, they are merely stating the obvious. We all have a choice and how and what we choose determines on which side of the aisle we will stand -- the politics of faith so to speak.

In April 2014, Pope Benedict canonized both Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII. To me, saints are the heroes of an ancient work of fiction – the bible. They inspire us to be more than we can be, but like Superman, they don’t really exist and nowhere less so than in the Catholic Church. Remember, a pope doesn’t just materialize on the throne. He comes up through the ranks, and unless he is deaf, dumb and blind, he knows full well what is happening among the clergy. Pretending that evil (pedophilia) does not exist is not saintly; it’s criminal.

The definition of saint is someone acknowledged as holy or virtuous. I know plenty of people who would fit that description and not one of them ever turned their back on crime or worn a triregnum (a hat with three crowns) on his head. Pedophilia is one of the most heinous acts of abuse. Every pope, every cardinal, every monsignor, every bishop, every priest, everyone in the religious community who knew what was going on and did nothing to stop it is as guilty as those who actually perpetrated the act upon the innocent. And they all knew! Every single one of them – past, present and, unless some changes are made soon, future. Sainthood! Please!

So referring back to the title of this article, “Once a Catholic – Always a Catholic” seems to fit me like made-to-order skin. My mindset is that of someone who loves pizza but hates anchovies. If a pie should arrive on the dinner table covered in the salty fish, I pick them off in order to enjoy the tasty dish below. I’ve done the same thing with my Catholic education -- picked off the anchovies and kept the tomatoes and cheese.

An adherence to morals and ethics, which govern all the decisions I make, are the lessons I learned at the painful end of a wooden yardstick. Honesty and charity, a concern for my fellowman and a desire to leave this world just a little better than when I arrived keep me centered. 

Of course, since I believe I will one day return to this earth, you could label me a hypocrite – a label that just might be accurate. There is a method to my madness. I really don’t want to come back to the same world I will be leaving. At least, not unless it is greatly improved, and the only way I can see that happening is if we all start practicing what is preached from millions of pulpits around the world. 

Be kind to one another! Kindness, like a virus, is contagious, and I can’t think of a better disease to pass around. Now if only we could get it to reach epidemic proportions. Oh, and remember the children. Please don’t ever turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to their cries. There are no acceptable excuses. And no saints!


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Local playwright to be featured at Black Academy of Arts and Letters 

"Shell of a Man" to be produced by Akin Babatunde


Palm Beach Gardens, Fl: Donna M. Carbone, a recognized freelance writer/journalist living in Palm Beach Gardens is being honored by the Black Academy of Arts and Letters (TBAAL) in Dallas, Texas on April 19, 2015. Her stage play, Shell of a Man, which is based on the life of an actual Vietnam veteran and focuses on the effects of PTSD will be given a staged reading under the direction of renowned actor/director/writer Akin Babatunde. 

In a recent interview, Carbone explained how Shell of a Man came to be written and why she is so passionate about having it produced nationally. "In 2011 I published two columns supporting better healthcare for veterans. A Vietnam vet wrote to me, expressing his thanks and beginning what was to become a much cherished and, often, painful friendship. He calls himself Robert L. We've never met. His face is but a ghostly image in an old photograph he sent to me. I hear his voice only through the emails we exchange. I believe that distance and the anonymity of the internet allowed Robert to share his life with me in a way few others have heard. What he said forced me to accept that, despite being well-read, I knew nothing about what a black man endured being raised in the Jim Crow south or the effects of having served in a war zone. Although Shell of a Man is told through the life of one man, it is in actuality the story of many men."

Shell of a Man will be featured as part of the TBAAL's Spotlight on Playwrights series under the director of the highly awarded actor/director/writer Akin Babatunde. Babatunde's theatrical career spans Broadway, regional theatre, film and television. He has been a resident company member of prestigious theatrical institutions throughout the country and is founder and artistic director of Vivid Theater Ensemble of Dallas and founder of Ebony Emeralds Classic Theater Company. Mr. Babatunde was the first African-American to direct for the Dallas Shakespeare Festival in the celebrated diverse production of Taming of the Shrew in 1993.


As a writer Mr. Babatunde's work has been commissioned by Florida Stage, La Mama Theater, the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, Brown University, the Black Academy of Arts and Letters and the Core Ensemble. His one-man show, Before the Second Set – A Visit with Satchmo, has received critical acclaim at theaters across the country. Mr. Babatundé wrote and starred in Blind Lemon Blues, which toured in Europe and received rave notices in the New York Times at its 2004 New York premiere at Central Park's Summer Stage. Television appearances include Law and Order and Wishbone - the PBS literary show for children.

Akin Babatunde was the first African-American to be awarded the Dallas Observer Best Actor He has also been honored with the Dallas Critics Forum Award (1991 and 2004), the 2004 Legacy of Success, and the Alvin Ailey Performing Arts Award. He received the prestigious Individual Artists Grant from the Palm Beach County Cultural Council to create a new work Harvest of Voices based on oral histories.

Mr. Babatunde is a renowned arts educator, having undertaken five long-term artist residencies in underserved communities in Florida. During those residencies, he created new music theatre works alongside at-risk teens and community members. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Arts and Humanities from the University of Texas at Dallas.

In discussing Akin Babatunde, Carbone said, "I couldn't be more honored. Mr. Babatunde is a gifted performer and writer. I certainly feel that I have been given a gift by his participation in the reading. I can only hope that the audience will be as thrilled to hear Robert's words as I was to write them."


For more information, contact Donna M. Carbone at write4you@comcast.net or call 561 743-9955.
 



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A country does what it has to do
 December 2014 - as reprinted in the Palm Beach Post

 I've grown weary of the anti-torture people condemning the United States for the methods used to extract information during a time when an attack on home soil was not only probable but has already made its way into our history books. A recent letter writer to the Palm Beach Post compared our methods of enhanced interrogation to those of the Japanese and Nazis during World War II. Nothing could be further from the truth. The United States does not condone torturing prisoners of war merely for the enjoyment of watching them suffer.

In recent weeks, I have read many comments condemning the U.S. by comparing past history to present circumstances. My thoughts immediately go to the millions of people murdered in concentration camps and how many of them could have been saved had we – the nation every other country turns to in times of aggression – used enhanced interrogation techniques.

War by its very nature is hypocritical. Rarely does one country invade another for altruistic reasons. When attacked, the responsibility of a governing body is to protect soil and citizens. Carrying out that responsibility requires people in decision making positions who understand the enemy. War requires a titanium spine and a dedication to flag and country that does not falter when missiles – the ballistic and the verbal kind -- start falling.

Just because a representative of a nation has applied a signature to a document that establishes accepted wartime treatment of prisoners does not mean that country will be able to abide by those precepts until the end of days. Intention and reality are two distinctly different things. Time and the depravity of the human mind have a way of changing what is “accepted.”

When you are faced with an enemy combatant who smiles while decapitating young children and cheers while a teacher is burned alive, you should be able to understand that every confrontation has a different set of rules. The first and most important rule is to protect a homeland and its people by whatever means necessary.

I wonder how the naysayers would feel if they had to witness the deaths of the innocent. Would the cries of children… would the sight of their blood pooling around their feet… enable them to see that our enemies are using their misguided notions of decency against us. How many of them, if faced with a machete poised above their necks, would pray for the U.S. military to save them? To me, this scenario is the modern day equivalent of the aphorism, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”

Shortly after the attack on the World Trade Center my husband and I made two road trips to Sedona, Arizona. Both times I sat in the Chapel of the Holy Cross and cried. The first time I cried for all those who had died on September 11. The second time – just 90 days later – I cried because so many Americans had already forgotten those innocent people. As a nation, we have a short memory. I hesitate to think what that means to our future.

If someone truly believes this country is capable of and guilty of atrocities, how is it that they continue to live here and enjoy a quality of life found in few other places on earth? That's hypocritical.

To comment on this article or inquire about Write For You services, contact Donna at
write4you@comcast.net 
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QUILL POWER
December 2014

My friend, Deborah Weed, is hosting a Facebook page entitled Quill Power – the quill in this case being a pen. The purpose is to encourage people to share stories about their lives, in particular, the lessons learned from the hardships they have endured. She’s asking two questions: Have you ever given your power away and what did you learn from it?

When Deborah approached me, I honestly did not know whether I could answer those questions. A part of me didn’t want to admit that I had been powerless at different times in my life. I’ve fought so hard to be in control that looking back seemed counterproductive. However, the more I thought about my life, the more I realized that losing power isn’t really about giving it away. Sometimes power is taken from us, and the reason that it is so painful is because it is taken by people whom we trust. 

My childhood was dysfunctional at best… destructive at its worst. My mother, a tortured soul who never was able to put her own painful past behind her, took her frustrations out on my sister and me. The physical beatings were many but it was the emotional beatings – the ceaseless chiseling away at our self-esteem – that left the deepest scars. There were many days when I buried my face in the bathroom towels so no one would hear me cry. I learned at an early age that crying was a sign of weakness. Crying scored points for the enemy and that was unacceptable. Defiance became my best friend. Unfortunately, defiance also made the situation worse. As a young teen, I had a lot to learn.

By the time I was 18, I was desperately seeking someone to rescue me from my prison. I saw myself as Rapunzel, locked away in a tower, pining for her Prince Charming. I thought I found him in my high school sweetheart. I was wrong. There is no need to go into the horrific details of that relationship. Let’s just say that desperation had me jumping from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. Forty seven years later, I still carry the scars on my heart and mind.  I also carry a strength of will that would not be mine had I not faced and bested those obstacles.

The first 25 years of my life were hell, but it was during those years that I developed the strength I would need to become the woman I am today. Without the past, my present and my future would be… well, different and not necessarily better.

No one escapes this life without having known both joy and sorrow. Sorrow leaves indelible marks in the form of scars. Scars, both the visible and the invisible kind, are a compendium of life’s less smile-inducing moments. However, scars only reveal where we have been. They don’t have to dictate where we are going.

To comment on this article or inquire about Write For You services, contact Donna at
write4you@comcast.net 
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WORDS ARE WEAPONS, TOO
January 2015


A recent letter writer to the Palm Beach Post expressed his dislike for the term “gay” used in an article on same sex marriage. I was immediately reminded of a Facebook post by a young mother living in Colchester, Essex, England last year. She wrote that her son’s middle school had banned the word gay and all its possible uses. Anyone heard saying the word would be expelled. She further posted that her son had stated that the word meant stupid among his peers and was not a homophobic slur. This mother, concerned by the limitations put on her son’s freedom of speech, inquired what other parents thought of the situation.

The vast majority of those I interviewed felt the world had gone the way of reacting rather than acting. Many had stories which reflected my own childhood. Being of Italian descent, my mother often spoke of how, as a very young girl, she would battle anyone who called her a guinea or a wop. A close friend, born and raised in Cuba said, “I’ve learned to close my ears. Otherwise, anger takes over.”

So, what’s the solution? When I asked how people handled the use of demeaning language in their own families, most said they followed their parent’s examples. Each time a derogatory name was heard, they used it as an opportunity to discuss the meaning, use and intention of the word.

As to the Facebook post… something kept drawing me back. Soon another person posted a comment. So impressed was I by the intellect and honesty of the poster that I wrote to him and asked if I could use his name and words in this column. He gladly gave his permission.

Michael Franklin is a school teacher in the Crowley Independent School District in Texas. He is also gay. He has very strong feelings about using the word gay in an inflammatory and insulting manner. This is what he said by way of introduction:

“I'm 36 years old, and I've been around straight people all of my life. I've never heard anyone say, "Oh, I feel so gay today" when they really meant happy. Homosexuals never decided to label themselves as gay, and it's very impractical to think that straight people are suddenly going to start using the word gay to replace the word happy.”

 Michael’s words were eye openers. We corresponded throughout the day. 
“As a gay adult, I find ‘That’s so gay!’ to be offensive. Our society would never have accepted ‘That's so black’ or ‘That's so Mexican’ in lieu of saying ‘That's so stupid.’ The sad thing is that these words are said around gay students who are in the closet, which makes them even more afraid to be honest about their sexual identity.

Gay is often used as an insult towards both homosexual and heterosexual males. The reaction, when directed to a gay person, is much different than that of a straight male. When a closeted gay person hears it, it causes him to fear that his peers will find out the truth. The use of derogatory terms places a lot of stress on gay teens. The suicide rate for gay youths is far greater than that of any other group of teens.”

Re-reading Michael’s words made it painfully obvious how easily and unknowingly society falls into a
pattern of abuse. Neither repetition nor denial of meaning can turn a wrong into a right. One of my communiqués with Michael included a thank you note for my interest in this topic. He wrote: “You made my night! I feel strongly that we must educate people to how hurtful language can be, especially when it becomes a part of everyday speech. Hurtful words diminish the self-esteem and confidence that we have in ourselves, especially when they are closely related to aspects of our lives over which we have no control.”

“… over which we have no control.” Those six words are, perhaps, the most important of all Michael
wrote. As for thanks, it is I who needs to thank him. Through our exchange I learned that there are still
many truths left to be discovered. I also made a friend.

To comment on this article or inquire about Write For You services, contact Donna at
write4you@comcast.net 



 


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