June birthdays

Already this month, my younger daughter T turned 30 and my granddaughter ABC turned 3.

This is simultaneously wonderful and terrifying.

I am very concerned for their future, the future of all young people, and the planet.

When I was thirty, I was at a home that we owned with two young daughters and a spouse whose job supported us all comfortably and enabled us to save for the future. T and her Millennial friends do not have anything approaching that kind of economic security. Even if they are well-educated and skilled workers, most available jobs don’t pay enough to live on, even as a single person, much less a family. The pandemic and ensuing economic collapse have made matters worse and it is unlikely that recovery will be rapid. The best case I can hope for is that this economic and health catastrophe will re-set priorities and policies so that economies and governments serve the common good and recognize human dignity.

The pandemic taught us an important lesson. Those who were hit hardest – people of color, low-income communities, the elderly, and those with complicating medical issues – were also those who were already being ignored or discriminated against. The death of George Floyd, the killing of yet another unarmed black man by police, underscored the racism still in evidence in the United States, a message that has resonated around the world, as white people have been examining their behavior toward people of other races in their countries, too.

Women who are my age (almost 60) shake our heads in disbelief that so much discrimination and harassment and belittling of women and girls still exists. I am sad that our fight for equal rights is not yet won and now falls onto the younger generations as well.

Over all of this, lies an atmosphere so polluted with excess carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases that the levels are higher than they have been at any time in human history. The consequences of that are far reaching and serious, the efforts thus far to address it wholly inadequate.

While I have been in stay-at-home mode because of the pandemic, I have been deluged with opportunities for webinars, a number of which are looking at a path forward from the current massive disruption of “business as usual.” It is heartening that so many are looking to #BuildBackBetter, looking at structural change that addresses climate change, pollution, racism, income inequality, sexism, all manner of discrimination, and the call to honor human dignity. I have become accustomed to linking human welfare with planetary welfare, articulated so well five years ago in Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. This follows the tenets of Catholic social justice doctrine and has been my basis for activism, looking for systemic ways to address problems and injustice holistically, rather than trying to rectify a problem narrowly, which could inadvertently cause adverse effects. (There are specific instances that can be addressed with a narrow solution, but systemic change can solve many smaller problems more completely and rapidly.)

If this truly is a pivot point in human history, perhaps we can work together and construct a new way of living which respects all life and the planet, as well. That would give me hope for T’s generation, for ABC’s generation, and for the generations to come. The work will be difficult, but it is what is called for at this critical moment in history.

SoCS: a “hidden figure”

Over these last days, we have been hearing a lot in the media about Katherine Johnson, who recently died at the age of 101.

She was one of the women portrayed in the film Hidden Figures. She worked for NASA (the US space agency) as a human computer. Before the advent of the digital age, being a computer was a job, not a piece of equipment, and Katherine Johnson and her colleagues were the ones doing the computations involved to figure out trajectories for missions for satellites and manned spacecraft.

The women in Katherine Johnson’s computation department were, like her, African-American. And they were all women. Men, predominantly if not exclusively, worked in other departments where they were considered professional and paid more. The women who worked as human computers were not considered as professional by the government standards in place at the time and earned much less.

Katherine was a very accomplished mathematician. Her skills were noticed and she had the opportunity to work with the professional men on the first attempts to put astronauts into orbit. The work was going on in Virginia, which, at that time still had segregation laws in effect. One of the scenes in the movie that drove home what this meant was showing Katherine running across swaths of the NASA campus to get back to the building in which she had originally worked in order to use the “colored women” bathroom. She was eventually allowed to use a restroom close to her new workspace, but it was a stark reminder to me that this kind of discrimination was so overt during my lifetime.

Katherine encountered lots of sexist and racist discrimination, but persevered and triumphed. John Glenn trusted her work so much that he would not board his capsule for the first attempt at going into orbit by a US astronaut until she had personally verified all the figures.

After a long and distinguished career at NASA, Katherine Johnson was honored in a number of ways. There were NASA buildings named in her honor. President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest civilian honor in the country. At the time of the Hidden Figures movie, she appeared on stage with the stars of the film during the award season.

I’m grateful that her story has received more notice so that she is no longer a “hidden figure” but an inspiration to new generations of women and of people of color to reach for the stars in their own lives, despite the racist and sexist attitudes that still, unfortunately, plague us.

Rest in peace, Katherine Johnson.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “figure.”  Join us! Find out how here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/03/06/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-march-7-2020

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley! https://www.quaintrevival.com/

Women’s March 2018

I went to the Binghamton NY Women’s March yesterday. Last year, we had about 3,000 participants, but we expected this year would be smaller and it was, although our numbers far exceeded the 500 that were expected. I have seen estimates of 2,300-2,500.

Last year, we were only permitted to walk on the sidewalk, but this year the police blocked the side streets so we could march down the main street. I was lucky to find some poet friends in the crowd as well as some other friends and acquaintances.

We marched to the United Presbyterian Church, where, due to our numbers, the speakers and crowd were moved from a downstairs community room into the sanctuary with overflow gathering in the community room with an audio feed.

The theme of our local march was “Be heard” in order to hear more clearly from some underrepresented groups. One of the most moving speeches was from a sexual assault survivor who moved us all to a standing ovation because of her courage and message.

I was pleased to have daughter T beside me, as she had been at the march last year. We wore our matching Women’s March shirts and had a good discussion on our way home.

I will keep up my activism on women’s issues and other social justice/civil rights issues as well as supporting candidates who uphold those ideals. While things are challenging right now, we will continue to listen to each other and work hard for the good of all.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here:
 https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/21/jusjojan-daily-prompt-january-21st-2018/

 

 

 

Hidden Figures

Yesterday, B, E, T, and I went to see the film Hidden Figures. We all loved it.

Hidden Figures is based on the story of a group of African-American women who were “computers” in the early days of the US  space program. That is computers, as in those who carry out mathematical computations.

As sometimes happens, there are some connections between aspects of the film and our area and family. B, early in his career, worked for Link Flight Simulation, which made simulators for NASA. He then went to work for IBM, which, like Link, was founded in our area. IBM plays a role in the film, with a 1961 computer filling a large room. IBM used to have a museum in Endicott which had components from that era, as well as equipment, such as time clocks from IBM’s early years.

The film shows the rampant sexism and racism that the women faced in segregated Virginia. It was sobering for B and me, being reminded that this was happening in our lifetime, although we were only toddlers at the time and living in rural New England, which was neither segregated nor diverse at the time.

It was also sobering for all of us to realize that, as far as our country has come on matters of race and sex, there is still quite a distance to go to reach real equality and equity.

The long and fruitful careers of the main characters in the film are encouraging to all the younger women who follow, despite the obstacles that they still face. Thank you to everyone involved in making the film for bringing this important story to all of us.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/15/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-15th17/

 

Is it over yet?

I am finding it increasingly difficult not to be discouraged about the upcoming US elections.

The attack ads have gotten ridiculous. I happen to know one of the candidates in our Congressional district and would laugh at the distortions being used against her in ads, were it not so serious. To her credit, her own ads tend to be positive ones, but there is a lot of outside money getting thrown into this race, which tends to make it nasty. Our current representative, who is a Republican, is retiring, so the parties are being very aggressive in trying to get the seat, and there is an independent in the race, too.

This pales in comparison to the presidential ads. Because we live right next to swing state Pennsylvania, our television programs are filled with ads, most of them from political action committees or super-PACs who have no qualms whatsoever about slinging mud at the opposition, even if they have no evidence to back up their claims.

Unfortunately, the behavior of some of the guests on news programs isn’t much better. It has been particularly hurtful to me to see the Trump campaign be so demeaning and dismissive toward women. Even as a 59-year-old, Donald Trump appears not to have understood what “consent” means, which is totally unacceptable. What is even worse is that candidate Trump, who has bragged for years about his extramarital affairs and his sense of entitlement toward women sexually, refuses to admit that he has ever done anything wrong in regards to his treatment of women.

He says that no one respects women more than he does and he often adds, “Believe me.”

I don’t believe you, Donald.

There are years of evidence to back me up.

And I know plenty of people who exhibit true respect toward women – and all people – and have behaved in accord with that respect for decades.

I have been dutifully watching the debates, but I am not sure I can make myself watch another one. The lies are sickening.

Just a few more weeks…

meltdown

“Meltdown” seems to be the word most being used this weekend to describe the Trump campaign and its relationship with leading Republicans.

I admit to being puzzled.

Yes, a lewd recording of Donald Trump from ten years ago is now public, but there have been many other reports and recordings chronicling his horrid behavior and opinions about women readily available for decades. I don’t understand how anyone could be surprised by this new recording.

Supporters were apparently willing to ignore Trump’s sexual behavior and sexist attitudes until now; some still are.

I think that those who are now withdrawing their support are doing so because the recording shows predatory behavior and the attitude that, as a rich man, Trump feels entitled to sexual access to any woman he finds attractive, regardless of her own feelings. I am glad that people are finally standing up for women’s rights to be free from harassment and from being judged solely for their physical attributes. But why were they willing to look the other way for so many months?

Trump’s plan to fight back is apparently to attack Hillary Clinton over her reaction to her husband’s affairs at the debate tonight.

This is a bad idea.

Any spouse who has ever been cheated on will likely be offended by Trump’s attempts to hold Hillary responsible for having a cheating spouse. People who have been faithful to their spouse will not appreciate him denigrating her for staying in her marriage. Trump would also be calling attention to his own divorces, public affairs while still married, repeated treatment of women as trophies or pretty accessories on his arm, repeated mean, dismissive, offensive, and sexist comments, and his apparent inability to take responsibility for his own actions and attitudes.

Many of Trump’s advisers and Republican officeholders are warning him not to attack Hillary over Bill’s behavior, but Trump is not especially inclined to take advice.

I will be watching the debate tonight, although it may make me sick to my stomach.