Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pride and Prejudice?

I had lunch with a friend recently. Not surpisingly, the presidential election came up. Now, I was surprised to hear that she's voting for Obama. She's a staunch, Christian conservative, goes to an evangelical church and believes in a strict, if not literal, interpretation of the bible. Despite the wide difference in our beliefs, we have remained friends. Naturally, I'm happy she's voting for Obama, but I was unprepared for what she said next.

"Of course, if he wins, the blacks are going to be impossible."

"What do you mean?" I ask. "Shouldn't they be excited by the first black president?"

"Well, yeah. But you should see how they're acting downstairs." By "they", she means the predominantly minority work force that makes up what the hospital calls "ancillary personel": the housekeepers, transporters, kitchen staff, etc. I try to pin her down but she's evasive. She didn't come right out and use the "uppity" word, but she might as well have. Let's be clear. We haven't had an African-American president in 232 years, the entire history, of our country. Recently, some news program interviewed people in Montana on why they were voting for McCain/Palin. Their response, "Because Sarah Palin looks like us." The not-so-subtle subtext: Senator Obama doesn't look like us. He doesn't look like the people in our family, in our town, in our schools and in our churches. What is going on here? It's almost 143 years since the 13th amendment was ratified and stiil we have people doing the electoral equivalent of locking their doors when they drive through a black neighborhood.

So what's wrong with African-Americans being undeniably proud of Obama? Our friendship has withstood a difference in age and religious beliefs, but I don't think it can survive her prejudice.

All the other slurs, against liberals in general and Obama in particular, start with the "they're not like us" argument. Sarah Palin visited North Carolina and said how she likes being in such a Pro-American part of the country. Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann (nee McCarthy) wants Congress to be scrutinized for those who may hold "un-American views." A Republican women's group sent out a mailing with a picture of Obama, along with watermellon and fried chicken, on a food stamp. Then were surprised when people thought that was racist. You can go online and find Obama sock monkey dolls. Us versus Them. Brown eyes versus Blue. Liberal versus Conservative. Gay versus Straight. Black versus White. Make "those people" sound scary enough and soon people will be believing that "they" sacrifice babies in the moonlight. That analogy isn't as farfetched as you may think-there are those who remain obstinant in their belief that Mr. Obama is a closet muslim because his middle name is Hussein and that he "pals around" with terrorists because he once served on a board with William Ayers. I could write whole articles on those myths alone.

When you start dividing people up into categories, it's hard to stop. It reminds me of the joke that there are two kinds of people: those who think that there are two kinds of people and those who know better. More important than the fact that judging people is intrinsically wrong, it stops dialogue dead in its tracks. How can you have a meaningful discussion on race, abortion, the environment or anything when one side is villifying the other? Furthermore, when you segregate off a section of society as being bad, scary and different, it then becomes easy to not only stop caring about them, but it becomes justifiable to hurt them. Political opponents will continue to sling mud at each other, but when you try and drum up your camp to actively hate the "other", you risk putting their lives in danger. John McCain tried to say that Obama was still a good person and he was boo'd by his own supporters. Yes, I know that not all Republicans are prejudiced, but some are wound up with hatred and that's frightening.

There is always someone who is going to be not like you. Remove all the people of color, people with religious differences, ideological differences, folks who don't talk and dress like you do, your neighbor down the street who acts weird and your son who is gay and who do have left? Nobody. You're alone. It's one thing to to be with people you have things in common with, but when it comes to compassion, forgiveness and kindness (all Christian values, I think?), you either have it for everyone or the reality is that you have it for no one.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Little Trash Compactor That Could

or: Why I love being Liberal

I never thought I'd write in defense of a Disney movie. I'm not vehemently anti-Disney, like some people I know(Big Business is Big Business, even if it has big doe eyes and a cute little tail). I just, well, you know, it's just cartoons to me. Anyhoo, our little one finally discovered the Pixar movieography. Her Daddy, in a fit of fatigue, let her watch Finding Nemo on the TV and since then she's pondered the cinematic stylings of Cars, Toy Story 1 & 2, and most recently, Wall-E.

Wall-E was a big occasion in our house. It was the first REAL movie, by which I mean we got dressed and went out TO THE MOVIES with (mostly) real popcorn and snacks and a big screen and big, comfy chairs. We weren't sure if she'd even sit through it, but we figured we were willing to take a chance with the matinee prices. To say it was a big hit is an understatement. The other night she gave her new Wall-E robot a bottle and laid it to bed on her pillow. It's a plastic robot. Not a cuddly, orange stuffed fish or even a red-haired Jesse doll. It's a plastic, yellow box with eyes. They sit in the rocking chair together and rock.

Now, I figured I'd like it. I laughed at Toy Story. I thought it'd be cute. I just never imagined it to be so affirming of my liberal, family values. Naturally, the conservatives hate it.

Sean O'Neill's, Your Guide to the Wall-E Controversy, breaks it down for you. Don't think for a minute that this is the same as the Southern Baptist's boycotting Disney for it's thinly-veiled gay characters and gay friendly employees benefits. According to some on the right, this movie represents the downfall of Moral America as we know it. I didn't think people still called other people pinko, radical commies anymore. I was wrong. In a nutshell, the criticism falls into three categories: 1) If you're an environmentalist, or even if you just recycle, you're anti-modernism and want the human race to go back to living in caves. 2) It's anti-fat people, because all the humans left in space are fat and lazy and 3) it's hypocritical, because Disney is marketing lots of Wall-E stuff, cheaply made in China and destined to fill landfills forever.

Possibly #3 is true, although in my experience, I've seen far more Cars merchandise recently than I have for Wall-E, even though Cars is two years old, already. Certainly, Disney/Pixar is far from dominating the market on "Cheap Crap from China". As for #1 and #2, well, humans are, overwhelmingly, destroying the planet and we are becoming more and more fat and lazy. Childhood obesity is rising at an alarming rate. There's a scene in Wall-E that shows the spaceship's nursery and all of the babies are suspended in walkers, watching TV. If you consider today's baby carriers, that go from home to car to store to home again, without the baby ever being touched and 90 percent of toddlers watching TV "regularly", it's not so farfetched.

Some on the other end of the spectrum say, "It's just a simple love story," but I don't buy that either. Even without the Otto the Autopilot's obvious line of "stay the course," it's a movie with a message. A message that what we're doing to our planet is awful and very, very sad. A message that love is stronger than ignorance. But most of all, the message that you should never, ever underestimate the power of one person to change the course of history. As Margaret Meade said,

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Summer smorgesbord

I just cooked up some butter sage pasta, a recipe that I got from this blog-The Inadvertent Gardner. It was amazingly simple and good. Then I fried yellow squash rings from this huge squash we got at the organic farm coop we belong to. I just dipped them in egg and then flour with salt and pepper mixed in. I fried them up in crisco with a little bit of olive oil. Then, because I was inspired by her squash blossom story, I went and "harvested" 2 pumpkin blossoms from the front yard.

The pumpkin is a mystery. Yesterday, we just suddenly noticed it was growing in the corner of the front yard, behind a box shrub. Possibly, it's from last year's pumpkin which was in an advanced state of decay when we finally threw it out.

Anyway, the blossoms were delicious. I hope the farmer's market has some. I can't wait to try stuffing them.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Dental Care for the little ones

My little one has turned 2 ½ years old and is still nursing, with no signs of stopping. I’ve been weaning little by little using the La Leche League, “Don’t offer, don’t refuse” method. Sometimes I’ve been known to try a little distraction to see if she really feels like nursing. That’s led to some interesting mommy-toddler conversations like,
“Not now. Do you want some (cow’s) milk?”
“No. Nummies.”
“You want some foods?”
“NO! Nummies! Nummies in rockin’ chair NOW!”

The problem we have is that she loves to nurse herself to sleep. Another is that she has many caries, aka cavities, aka bottle mouth. Of all the “I nevers” I’ve had as a mom-I’ll never co-sleep, I’ll never nurse a toddler, I’ll never give in to a temper tantrum-I would probably say my most emphatic was, I’ll never have a child with bottle rot. And she’s never really had a bottle, so why the cavities?

From what I’ve read and from my own earlier experiences with breastfeeding, breast milk is supposed to be protective of teeth. Indeed, when I first breastfed 17 years ago, I didn’t think it was possible for breastfed babies to get cavities. The July/August 2002 issue of Mothering magazine notes that only recently have studies of ECC(early childhood caries) distinguish between breastfed and bottle fed infants. Of note in the article is that some studies indicate that a strain of bacteria, Streptococcus mutans, may be responsible for tooth decay in infants. The bacteria are colonized and benign in adult mouths and passed to the baby by sharing food, cups, etc.

Other studies have shown that while breast milk alone offers protection from cavities, combining breast milk and sugary substances can actually hasten tooth decay. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry put out a press release in 1999 saying this:
Researchers concluded that breast milk prohibits acid and bacterial growth in the mouth. However, breast milk has a "low buffering capacity" and does not buffer the addition of acid. When breast milk is alternated with sugar, the rate of caries development is faster than that of sugar alone.

According to Burton L. Edelstein, DDS, MPH of the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, ECC is an especially rapid form of tooth decay. It usually starts behind the teeth, so it can be hard to spot. So what can a breastfeeding mom do to reduce the chance of ECC? Some suggestions from Dr. Edelstein:

You can take steps to protect your child's teeth through proper care:
Clean your baby's teeth and gums with a damp cloth or a soft toothbrush after each feeding.
Take your baby for his or her first visit to the dentist as soon as the first tooth erupts.
Teach your baby to drink from a cup by his or her first birthday.
Make sure your baby is getting the right amount of fluoride. If your town does not have fluoride in its drinking water, ask your pediatric dentist or pediatrician about fluoride supplements.

You can give your child the benefits of breast milk and help avoid tooth decay if you follow these guidelines:
-Breastfeed your baby for at least a year, as recommended by the AAP.
-As your child begins to have other liquids and solids, limit how often he or she consumes foods that contain sugar. This is one of the most important things you can do to reduce the risk of cavities for your child.
-Establish sleep routines early in your baby's life. According to the AAP, by age 6 to 8 weeks babies should learn how to get to sleep on their own without being rocked or fed. By age 6 months, most babies should be able to sleep through the night.
-Avoid long periods of breastfeeding, particularly when your child is very sleepy or falling asleep at the breast.

More links, if you're interested:

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Burfday Earth!

Pooter & I were looking on the computer for some local Earth Day activities. We came to one website and she saw the globe, so I said-That's for Earth Day.

Burf Day. We already know what birthdays are.

No, Earth day.

Burf Day!

Well, it's like a birthday for the earth.

Burfday for the earth! Burfday for the earth!

Sure, why not?

Anyway, I celebrated Earth Day in a totally granola way-I rode my $5 bike to the food coop, with my canvas grocery bag, bought some bulk goods and biked home. On the way home, I bought a 50 cent lemonade from some kids who were raising money for the people of Darfur. I love my hippy town. And I bought my husband an ED present-the biggest beet I have ever seen. That's right, I said beet. It's the size of a baby's head. A Mangel-Wurzel, to be sure. Read Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins if you want to understand. It definitely was an Alobar of a beet. A tale that begins with a beet, ends with the devil. So they say.

I never sent out Christmas cards because I never got pictures taken of the girls. Then I was going to send them out as valentines. Then Easter. So maybe I'll finally send out cards for Earth Day. Could happen.

Monday, April 07, 2008

So, I went to see Dr. Robert Sears Saturday night at the NJ La Leche League's annual convention. The best (and funniest) thing about it was the atmosphere. I'm used to being out in public and having the only high-spirited child. For instance, on the rare occassion that we try to bring a toddler out dining, we'll usually start off with trying to distract her with the books and toys we've bought. Then we take turns doing laps of the restaurant because she wants to "go runnin'". "Let's go runnin'! Come on, daddy, come on!" Then there's 5 minutes of eating and she's back to doing laps. Now, multiply that by 75 families and you get the idea of the ruckus involved at the annual La Leche League dinner. Only a pediatrician could have spoken to that crowd without a break in his speech.

It wasn't too cacophonous while he was talking, everyone quieted down a bit. It was really nice to see no strollers. Every one was holding their baby-in slings or on hips. At least the ones who weren't runnin' around the buffet table. I personally hate those baby carriers that turn into car seats, meaning that your baby doesn't ever have to feel human touch, except for diaper changes, I guess. The human touch factor remains important in our family now that we're smack in the middle of the toddler experience. Not unlike our teenager, one minute she's proclaiming her independance and the next minute she's whiny and clinging. The breastfeeding works great with calming her temper tantrums, as does the co-sleeping. Although both get to be a grind at times, there's nothing like having a warm little one curl up next to you.

Anyway, Dr. Sears' talk was pretty good. I'm not sure if it was $30 (plus $15 for the book)good, especially when it constitutes my "night out" allotment for several months, but I did learn some stuff. Namely I learned that we won't be vaccinating the Poot for several more years. He is definitely NOT anti-vaccine, but since we've gotten through the infant years without illness or vaccines, her risk is pretty low until she hits older childhood. The best thing about it is that here's a renowned pediatrician saying that there really is something to the vaccine debate. I'm tired of medical people who think that if you don't vaccinate, your some kind of heal-me-with-your-magic-crystal nut. Like most issues today, the debate gets polarized into the two extreme camps; those who say vaccines are completely safe and that Big Pharma is only here to help us and those that think vaccines are a huge conspiracy to steal our souls, like an X-Files episode.

I don't know what's a worse way to get news and learn about issues-the internet, where you can some eye opening information, but also the most ignorant viewpoints ever to take up cyberspace, or the regular media which dumbs down everything into 5 minute sound bites interspersed with car accidents and school shootings. It's hard to be a "see both sides of the issue" girl in today's society. Anyway, look forward to a coming post on vaccines soon.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

**Late Notice**

I just found out, but the NJ La Leche League is having their annual conference this weekend in Edison, NJ.

Dr Sears (see link on the sidebar) will be speaking Sat afternoon on parenting and Sat night on vaccinating children. If you're in the area, check it out. Onsite registration is available and tickets are also available just to see Dr. Sears Sat night.

More gentle than dulcolax!

We take the Pooter to the "Choo Choo store" (aka Barnes & Nobles) about once a week, especially in the cold and wet weather. If you don't know, almost every children's section of B&N has a Thomas the Train setup on a table with trains and stuff for the kids to play with. We like to go there, grab a cup of coffee and sit and read while Pooter plays with the other little kids. Except that lately it's fallen out of favor with us because she doesn't understand why we can't open all the shiny packages and play with them. As long as she sticks with the trains, though, we're fine. The odd thing, and probably gross, too, but I have no shame, is that EVERY time we go to B&N, she has a poop.

That's not the oddest thing, although perhaps they could work it into their advertising: Not regular! Try Barnes & Nobles! (and no, she doesn't drink their coffee).

No, the oddest thing is that no matter how many times we take her there, her parents always seem to forget extra diapers.