Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Kings Dominion, Congressional Reception for LGBT Advocacy in Jamaica, Cuban Independent LGBT Advocates Barred, DR Citizenship Measure, Bad/Sad News

On Memorial Day weekend, my daughter Melanie and I took her grandson De’Andre to Kings Dominion, a theme park about two hours away near Richmond, Virginia.  I rode only on one ride, a red and yellow car on a monorail circling above the park. I'm not fond of swirling around or bumping or zooming up and down, which seem to be the major motions of most rides. While my daughter and great-grandson rode many of the kiddie rides, I watched the crowds of families walking by, a cross-section of America and Americana, many sunburned overweight people in shorts and tank tops, all sorts of tattoos and hairstyles, men with beards and ponytails, women in saris and hijabs, and whole families wearing color-coded t-shirts of day-glow chartreuse or atomic pink to keep track of their members. Bags were searched at the entrance to assure that no one was bringing in food or drink, as that could only be bought inside at exorbitant prices, like $4 for a soda.  My six-year-old great-grandson’s favorite activity was driving cars of any type, his mother’s son in that regard, as my granddaughter loved driving small cars more than anything at his age. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to go with us, but plans to go next time.

May 17 was the International Day Against Homophobia. During the following week, several events took place, including a bipartisan Congressional reception for Human Rights First (HRF), an LGBT advocacy group in Jamaica. Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL) and Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA) hosted and spoke at the May 22 event. The guest of honor was Jamaican lesbian activist Angeline Jackson, mentioned before on this blog, who started the HRF advocacy organization after she was raped at age 19 by a man who was convicted, then later exonerated. She recounted how the police had advised her to “go back to church” after she reported the crime. She and other lesbian activists in Jamaica are often taunted “You need a man.” The crowd at the event and the rousing cheers after Jackson’s speech, and the bipartisan congressional reception itself held at the Rayburn House Office Building, indicate how mainstream LGBT rights are becoming.

Meanwhile, in Cuba, as reported in a DC gay advocacy newspaper, The Washington Blade, Independent Cuban NGO's Excluded From LGBT Conference

Posted: 08 May 2014
Cuban advocates not invited to international LGBT conference

Apparently, the Blade asked Cuban authorities for comment, but none was forthcoming. One of those cited in the article, independent Cuban AIDS activist Ignacio Estrada, appears in my new book, Confessions of a Secret Latina: How I Fell Out of Love with Castro & In Love with the Cuban People.

 Partial progress has been seen in the Dominican Republic’s citizenship crisis, triggered when the high court there declared that all descendants of people who arrived in the country after 1929 were not citizens. In the wake of furious world-wide condemnation, the Dominican president, Danilo Medina, has proposed a plan that, so far, as legislative approval. Those born between 1929 and 1997 with proper documentation will be granted full citizenship; those born between 1997 and 2010 will need to apply for citizenship; and those born 2010 or later, or those who have no legal documents, will be given the opportunity to apply for naturalization after 10 years. Implementation must be monitored for the first category of people (who supposedly will get access to their Dominican documents), as well as for the second category, who, meanwhile, remain virtually stateless, and are probably the vast majority of affected people.

A progress report closer to home: the dumpster for the house next door, to which a 2-story rear addition is being added, has been moved somewhat closer to that actual property and I no longer run smack into it going out my front door. Now, the main disruption is a jack hammer starting at 8 am that’s breaking up a concrete slab in the back. I feel for the worker wielding it; he must feel the vibrations throughout his body. Of course, everyone working on the house is Hispanic, only the foreman is not. They heard me speaking Spanish to some guys who took some stumps out of my front yard, so now they always greet me with “buenos dias” in the morning.

Unfortunately local news and everyday happenings include both the bitter and the sweet.  In the last week, unaccountably and quite unusually, there have been four purse robberies if women walking alone in our neighborhood, one occurring as early as 4:45 pm when there is still much daylight. One robber was armed with a gun, the other robberies were apparently at knifepoint with two of the women being stabbed. Police patrols have been strengthened.

The staunch leader of our DC chapter of The Compassionate Friends, a parental bereavement support group, Olivia Gunther, has died after a long battle with cancer. Olivia was a woman who was able to comfort and rally other bereaved parents, despite the loss of her son, husband, and sister. She was a role model for us all.

My visitor from Tanzania received terrible news that her husband’s sister, who had been suffering complications from a botched dental procedure, had died, leaving her husband and two children. It’s so very hard for people here only temporarily to deal with such family tragedies from such a distance—committed as they are to representing their government and unable to make a quick trip home, not only because of the time involved, but the great expense. My visitor was feeling distraught about not being there to help her husband and his family at this crucial time, making it hard to focus on the course she’s taking here.  

Some time ago, an artist from an African country was staying with me. He’d left his young son and pregnant wife back home. One weekend, a girl friend from NYC came to stay with him over a long weekend and they seemed to be having a very good time together when news came from his wife that she had suffered a serious hemorrhage and miscarriage. She begged him to come home and, apparently conscious-stricken, he left immediately, though his time here was not up.

The latest book I've read is Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives by Michael Specter, a writer for the New Yorker. Among his examples are the anti-vaccination scare, the phony marketing of Vioxx, the rejection of genetically modified crops, and blind faith in Echinacea and other alternative medicines and vitamins. As he says, all crops have been genetically modified from their wild state, all medications have side effects as well as desirable impacts, "natural" doesn't mean safe, and childhood vaccination exemptions put not only the children involved at risk, but also children too young to be vaccinated or those with underlying conditions that make vaccination risky--preventing "herd immunity" from protecting them. So now measles, polio, and other common childhood diseases have resurfaced.

I would add American gun violence and the lack of gun restraints to denialism.  The individual “right to bear arms” supported by the Supreme Court, gun manufacturers, the NRA, and a small, but vociferous (violent?)  minority is depriving many Americans of the right to life or to a safe and secure life free of the fear of being killed at random. One columnist recommends, since the mantra is: guns don’t kill, only people do, let’s license and check out the people who wield the guns. But even psychiatrists admit they cannot predict which of the large number of people with emotional or mental health issues will commit violence.  Since countries with strict gun control laws have the lowest homicide and suicide rates, why not try more gun control for a change? As the grieving father of a student killed in Santa Barbara demands, it’s time for lawmakers stand up to the gun lobby. If enough of them did it, even the massive amounts donated by the gun lobby to defeat them would not defeat them all. I still think my proposal, paying gun manufacturers and dealers to phase out and move to another type of business endeavor should be considered. And there would also be less violence in Mexico and countries south without the massive firearms flow from the USA.

No comments: