Category Archives: politics

How Do I Live in a Country that Allows Infanticide?

I recently wrote a couple of blogs about New York’s new abortion laws (see: Abortion is Not a Celebration and Full Text of the Reproductive Health Act).

But now, our politicians are voting on whether living, breathing human babies have the right to life.  This has nothing to do with abortion.

People who are pro-choice used to determine whether abortion was acceptable based on the moment they agreed that life started.  Many would say somewhere around 21-24 weeks was the time frame.

Recently, many have decided that life only begins at birth.

But now, even babies that are fully born are not safe.  44 Senate Democrats voted on Monday to block a bill that would have provided protection to babies that were born accidentally during an attempted abortion.  It was called the Born-Alive Survivors Protection Act and there were only 3 Democrats who did not vote to block it. THREE.

This bill was simply trying to protect the babies that were born alive; it did not change anything with regard to abortion laws.  It would allow for penalties (fines and jail time) for doctors who did not care for a baby that was born alive.  Everyone can agree that these are living babies, but some are arguing that they still don’t have the right to life, even after birth.  I truly cannot fathom this point of view.

If a live baby is born (even though an abortion was attempted), how can anyone choose to either kill it intentionally or let it die as a result of not caring for it or feeding it? People may not agree with my views on abortion, but I thought that most people agreed that infanticide was a heinous crime.

But this is what happens with the slippery slope of abortion.  First, abortion is legalized during the first trimester, then in the second, then in the third, and then any moment up until birth, but what is happening now cannot be called abortion.  Abortion requires a pregnant mother.  What is being legalized now is blatant infanticide –the killing of a precious and defenseless human baby.

Some people may argue that this type of situation is rare.  I don’t care.  Is murder allowed as long as it’s not common?  No.  One baby that is left to die from a botched abortion is one too many.

Many news sources are saying that babies never survive abortion.  Fine.  Then why block a bill like this?  In that view, a doctor would then never be fined, end of story.  They are incorrect.  No, it’s not common, but it’s possible and it does happen.

Yes, the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002 already exists, but it provides zero penalties to doctors and it mentions nothing specifically about what type of medical care is required.  The new act was going to ensure that a living baby was given necessary medical care if it was alive.  It would have also punished doctors who failed to heed that protocol.

There are plenty of parents who want to adopt.  We don’t have to force that mother to parent the baby, but let’s feed it and protect it and put it up for adoption.  How can anyone live with themselves knowing that they think it is perfectly acceptable to kill that baby?

I simply cannot understand.  I am heartbroken.  I am irate.  I am ashamed of this godforsaken country that thinks that it is progressive.  No, we’re not.  We’re shameful.

We’re full of thousands of people who agree with my stance but who are too indifferent to even make themselves aware of the news.  Too indifferent to care about what is happening outside of their own needs.  Too busy having “me time” and swimming in narcissism to care about things that actually matter.  Disgusting.

Advertisements

The Evils of Indifference

One of my favorite speeches to teach is Elie Wiesel’s “The Perils of Indifference.”  This speech was given on April 12, 1999 in Washington, D.C.  Elie Wiesel is the author of the book entitled Night.  He is a Holocaust survivor, political activist, and Nobel prize winner.

The message of his speech is that indifference is the greatest evil, even more than direct hatred.  That may sound confusing, but let me explain by pulling together quotes from his speech…

He starts off by remembering the day he was rescued, the day when the American soldiers entered his prison camp.  He “remembers their rage at what they saw” and he describes how he continues to feel grateful for that rage.

If the soldiers seemed unfazed upon entering the prison, that would show a lack of compassion.  That is the exact problem with many people today: their indifference.

I can tell people all about stories from my mission trips and although they are interested in the stories, they just don’t  care enough to donate money, volunteer, or get involved in any other way.  They believe that the people who are dying in other countries aren’t their problem.  They are indifferent.  Rather than feeling hatred at Joseph Kony or other genocidaires, they just ignore the problem and act like it doesn’t matter, or they say something about Africans being savages who cannot be saved.  This indifference is dangerous.

I think it is safe to assume that the majority of people on this globe suffer from indifference.  They are too concerned about the problems that only affect themselves and their inner circle of friends and family.  Anything outside of that circle simply isn’t their concern.

But that is exactly what allows evil to run rampant: a large group of people who don’t  care enough to do anything about these evils.

Wiesel continues his speech by emphasizing the gratitude he feels toward America for finally stepping in during the Holocaust.  He then defines indifference as, etymologically, “no difference,” proceeding to ask a few rhetorical questions about it.  Is it a virtue?  “Is it necessary at times to practice it simply to keep one’s sanity, live normally, enjoy a fine meal and a glass of wine, as the world around us experiences harrowing upheavals?”

But then he quickly provides a clear response: no.  It is not a virtue. He admits that it can be “tempting” and “seductive,” but to the person who is the victim of such indifference, it can mean life or death.  While the indifferent person enjoys his glass of wine, the people who are victims of mindless atrocities are losing their lives.

Now, I think that at times, some indifference may be necessary so as to not be constantly feeling depressed about the state of the world, or feeling that there is no hope.  I don’t think it is wrong for me to go out to dinner, go on a vacation, or enjoy my own life.  However, this is only true if I also do my part in tackling such indifference.  If I always ignore the problems of the world, as many people do, then I have a serious problem.

I travel on mission trips to try to improve the lives of those I serve, at least in small ways.  I make donations toward organizations that are out working in the trenches to improve our world.  I teach my students to be ethical, responsible citizens.  I’m not a perfect person, as I know that my acts of service are not able to entirely change the world.  But there are many American adults who never give a penny to charity, who have never volunteered (or stopped after they didn’t need it anymore for college applications).  It is these people who shouldn’t have the pleasure of enjoying that glass of wine with dinner, forgetting about the children who are being raped and maimed at the hand of sadistic leaders who continue to get away with murder (literally) because nobody has stopped them.

“To be indifferent to that suffering is what makes the human being inhuman.”  

Sometimes, I feel completely overwhelmed by the problems of the world.  There are so many horrible problems that I wish I could solve.  Poverty.  Hunger.  Malnutrition.  Lack of access to clean water.  Sex trafficking.  Slavery.  Addiction.  Abortion.  Euthanasia.  A disregard for the sanctity of life at all stages.  Pornography.  Global warming.  The extinction of animal species.  Healthcare.  Racism.  The justice system.  The war on drugs.  Homelessness.  And on and on and on.

I cannot fathom how so many people live their lives without ever consider the people who suffer on a daily basis.  I probably donate more money and volunteer more hours than many Americans, but I still sometimes feel guilty when too much time has passed since I felt I made a significant contribution toward the betterment of society.  I just don’t understand how people can spend five hours each night watching Netflix and never feel ashamed by their wasted time.  It can make them almost inhuman because of their complete disregard for humanity.

Wiesel says that indifference “is more dangerous than anger and hatred.”  That may sound surprising.  Isn’t it the bigot who is worse than the person who ignores the problem?  Isn’t it the rapist who is more evil than the bystander?

No.  Because the bystander it a good person who is allowing that rape to take place.  That bystander knows that what he is witnessing is wrong, but he is too concerned about his own safety to help the victim.  I’m not making excuses at all, but maybe the rapist is high on drugs and not fully aware of his actions.  Maybe the rapist has a mental illness.  None of that excuses the rape, but if the bystander is aware of the evil that is taking place, doesn’t he have an obligation to help?  If he knows it is wrong and does nothing, then he might as well be an accomplice.  Society can agree that the rapist is evil.  The bystander, however, has now also become evil if he does nothing.

Take this 2010 story from The New York Post as an example.  A homeless man in Queens saved a woman from a man who was attacking her with a knife, only to be attacked himself.  Surveillance footage shows him lying in a pool of blood while 25 bystanders walk by.  He saved the woman and was attacked himself some time around 5:40am, only to be found by firefighters at 7:23am.  Were his wounds fatal at 5:40?  I don’t know, but by 7:23 he was dead.

Those bystanders should feel partially responsible for his death.  They didn’t have to face any danger to save this man’s life (or at least attempt to).  They could have just taken out their phone and dialed 911.  Was that too much effort for them?  Was it simply easier to turn their head and walk away?

This isn’t just the case in America.  A Chinese girl was run over by a truck and there is video footage of witnesses doing nothing.  In the very beginning of Peter Singer’s TED Talk, “The Why and How of Effective Altruism,” he shows the video.  People walk right past her body and do nothing, to the point that she is run over again before a man finally helps, though it is too late.  She is dead.

This is why indifference is more dangerous than hatred.  That doesn’t mean that murderers and rapists are good, but they are fewer in number than those who are indifferent.  The murderer is still committing an evil crime, but there are times when it has only occurred as a result of good people doing nothing.  They are facilitating the murder.

“Indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor — never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten.”  Hitler would have loved those who were indifferent.  Why?  Because they weren’t stopping him.  No, they may not have been directly killing people, but indirectly, they were aiding the process.

Martin Luther King Jr., in his letter from Birmingham Jail, asserts that “the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

It is easy to condemn the extremists whose horrible actions are broadcast all over the news.  But they are in the minority.  The majority of the world is comprised of good people who are silent.  They are people who are good, but timid.  People who are cowardly when it matters the most.

It is their silence that allows evil to continue.  There’s a line from William Shakespeare’s play, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar that reads “cowards die many times before their death; the valiant taste of death but once.”  Every time we good people are silent when we know that we must do something, we are “dying” to ourselves.  We’re too afraid to stand up for truth, for justice, for humanity.

“Indifference, then, is not only a sin, it is a punishment.”  If I act indifferently, I don’t just ignore the child soldier; I punish him even more by allowing his captors to keep him in that position without facing resistance.

If I am indifferent, I continue buying those diamond rings, thereby allowing the blood diamond industry to continue and to make profit from me.  Rather than helping those who are suffering, I am abetting the enemy.

Elie Wiesel says how the Holocaust consisted of three types of people: victims, killers, and bystanders.  Which group was the worst?

Most people would quickly say it was the killers.  But by sheer number, there were many more bystanders who were doing nothing.  Such bystanders could have stopped the killers before the extermination of millions of Jews.  But they didn’t.  That is the problem of indifference.

To me, the most heartbreaking moment of Wiesel’s speech is when he says how “our only miserable consolation was that we believed that Auschwitz and Treblinka were closely guarded secrets. If they knew, we thought, surely those leaders would have moved heaven and earth to intervene. They would have spoken out with great outrage and conviction. They would have bombed the railways leading to Birkenau, just the railways, just once.”

He and his fellow prisoners believed that the world didn’t know about their plight.  They thought it was a huge secret because surely, somebody would have stepped in if they had known, wouldn’t they?

But that wasn’t the case.  America knew.  Other nations knew.  But their indifference took hold.

Wiesel brings up something that we never learn about in American history classes.  He explains what happened with the St. Louis.  It was a ship that was carrying almost 1,000 Jews to safety in 1939.  They were going to enter Cuba and then the United States with visas that they had previously applied for.  The quick version of the story is the fact that this ship was turned away.  28 passengers were allowed to disembark, but Cuba refused to allow that for the rest of the passengers.  The boat was sent back to Europe.  Wiesel says he doesn’t understand why Roosevelt allowed that to take place.  He proceeds to ask numerous rhetorical questions:

Why the indifference, on the highest level, to the suffering of the victims?”

Why was there a greater effort to save SS murderers after the war than to save their victims during the war?”

Why did some of America’s largest corporations continue to do business with Hitler’s Germany until 1942?”

It all comes down to indifference, which is still a problem today.  I wrote a blog a while back entitled Hard Work and Determination Aren’t Always Enough.  After posting it on Facebook, I knew that some people would disagree. But worse than those who blatantly disagree are those who are indifferent.  Those who don’t care about the plight of the black race in America.

We must rally up good people who have the courage to stand up against the evils of this world.  Too many people feel like they can’t really elicit major change.  While that may be true at times, think of all the change that would occur if every indifferent person spent even a small amount of time fighting back.  This whole world would change.

The recent abortion laws have been my most recent frustration.  I believe that abortion is an evil that must be fought.  There are thousands of people in the United States who agree with me.  The problem is that they would rather not ruffle feathers.

They will tell me how horrible abortion is, but when I ask them to become involved in Pro-Life work, they sheepishly back away.

When I offer that they can come pray outside of the abortion clinic with me, they suddenly stop responding to my messages.

So although they call themselves “pro-life,” are they really?  They may think that they are, but in reality, they’re just helping the abortionists to continue the work that they are doing.

If we want the world to change, we need armies of people standing up against the evils.  We need groups of indifferent people realizing that they must end their indifference and use their courage for good.

Elie Wiesel was grateful that the soldiers who entered his prison camp showed rage.  He needed to see that people had realized the evil that was taking place during the Holocaust.

Let us all give up our indifference, even if only for short periods of time. Together, we can change the world.

 

Full Text of the Reproductive Health Act

Since there is an abundance of biased news sources reporting on New York’s Reproductive Health Act of 2019, I have decided to read through the language of the actual bill to ensure a non-biased look into its language.  Full text here.

Here is what stands out to me:

Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures performed in the United States.

As a teacher of rhetoric, I know a logical fallacy when I see one.  What evidence is there to back that claim?  The bill itself provides none.  One of the safest medical procedures compared to what?  What exactly constitutes a medical procedure?  Is it safer to have an abortion than to get my blood drawn?  Probably not.  Safer than an EKG?  No.  Safer than an MRI?  Nope.

Here are some risks from abortions:

-pelvic infection

-blood clots in the uterus

-heavy bleeding

-cut or torn cervix

-puncture or tear of the wall of the uterus

-anesthesia-related complications

-scar tissue on the uterine wall, which can lead to future infertility or miscarriages

-depression

(Even the abortion pill can cause bleeding, blood clots, and infection, according to Planned Parenthood’s website)

Okay, let’s keep reading the bill.

A health practitioner licensed, certified, or authorized under title eight of the Education Law, acting within his or her lawful scope of practice, may perform an abortion when according to the practitioner’s reasonable and good faith professional judgement based on the facts of the patient’s case: the patient is within 24 weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, or there is an absence of fetal viability, or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.”

“Or health” is concerning to me.  This isn’t about saving a mother’s life.  Countless OB-GYNs have said that third trimester abortions are never medically necessary to save a mother’s life because the baby could just be delivered alive and still live.

But what could now fit the “or health” aspect of the bill?  Can a mother who is fed up with gestational diabetes choose an abortion?  One who is sick and on bed rest?  “Health” is much too vague.

“‘Person,’ when referring to a victim of a homicide, means a human being who has been born and is alive.”

So there won’t be any double counts of murder for a guy who murders his pregnant girlfriend.  But what happens if he beats her up badly, but only enough to kill the baby that is living inside of her?  What happens then?

Pregnancy can actually be a trigger for domestic violence.  This bill is not helping that situation at all.

 

Government Shutdown Lunacy

I haven’t been blogging lately, but recent news events have me so frustrated, that I just need to rant a bit.

So the government shutdown is a horrible situation for thousands of government workers.  I don’t care if you’re a Democrat, Republican, or Independent – we can all agree that the workers who have been furloughed are facing tough times.  34 days without a salary is a big deal.

While I was walking on the treadmill at the gym today, I saw a CNN report from U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. (see article) He can’t understand why so many furloughed workers are going to homeless shelters for food.  He says that any bank will give them money.

Initially, I thought that maybe the banks were doing something I hadn’t heard about.  Maybe they’re all helping to give temporary money to these workers.

Think again.  He’s talking about loans.

He admitted that these workers would have to pay interest, but “the idea that it’s paycheck or zero is not a really valid idea.”

Um what?  That’s exactly the situation: a paycheck or none.  Any random person cannot simply walk into a bank and walk out with money.  It’s not that simple.  And even if they do, they will now need to pay interest.  That’s no small potatoes.  But obviously this billionaire doesn’t have to worry about where his food is coming from.

He even suggested that 800,000 furloughed workers isn’t that large of a number.  He said, “And while I feel sorry for the individuals that have hardship cases, 800,000 workers if they never got their pay — which is not the case, they will eventually get it — but if they never got it, you’re talking about a third of a percent on our GDP. So, it’s not like it’s a gigantic number overall.”

I was listening to these idiotic comments while walking on the treadmill today and I couldn’t help but continue to shake my head in disgust.

Some of the politicians who are trying to end the government shutdown don’t realize the disastrous results it has on some families.  They can’t understand why these families are struggling.  And 800,000 doesn’t sound like a large number to them.

How can this be real life?

Ross is also disappointed by the workers who refuse to return to work after being ordered to by Trump.  Did he consider that working at McDonald’s is a better option right now than to go back to work for free?

Secret service agents are being forced to basically volunteer.  And that means risking their lives.  For free.

I’m all about volunteering, but the President forcing you to work for free isn’t the same thing.  Maybe Trump should pay some of these workers out of his own pocket.  If he needs secret service agents, then he can pay them.  Otherwise, he should be on his own.

Lara Trump (daughter-in-law of Trump), like Ross, made ignorant comments about the shutdown.  She said, “It is a little bit of pain but it’s going to be for the future of our country.” (See USA Today article).  A “little bit of pain”?  Excuse me, but people being unable to pay their mortgage payment, electric bills, car payments is more than a “little bit” of pain.  Not being able to buy food or gas is terrifying for these families, especially since there is no end in sight.

I thought that we lived in a Democratic nation that is for the people, by the people, but I’m beginning to question that.

A border wall is not necessary.  It’s not like we’re being attacked by an enemy force.  The fact that our government is allowing American families to go hungry because they cannot agree over a wall is complete lunacy.

The immigrants that some members of the government are so afraid of have never caused even close to the amount of damage that is now in existence as a result of our good ol’ government.

I am incredibly thankful that no members of my immediate family are government workers, but I am pained for those who are struggling right now.

America should be ashamed of herself.  She is allowing Americans with full-time jobs to fall into poverty, at no fault of their own.  We like to talk about the American Dream and how we just need to work to get ahead in America, but it’s simply untrue.  You can have a good, steady job in America, but because of the government, this job can tell you that you need to report for free, and you may or may not be paid back.

Guess what?  Our members of Congress are still getting paid.  The lives of 800,000 workers sit in their hands, but they don’t feel the effects themselves.

This is the America in which we are living in 2019.

This is going to go down in history as an embarrassment for our nation.  I’m already embarrassed.  I am by no means proud to be an American today.

Abortion is Not a Celebration

Every piece of news I hear regarding New York’s Reproductive Health Act of 2019 (RHA) sickens me even worse.  How this law is being celebrated I cannot even fathom.

See, I am against abortion for a variety of reasons, and I understand that some of those reasons coincide with my Catholic faith.  However, I don’t think it is necessary to be Catholic or even to believe in God in order to see how horrible this bill truly is.  And I think that Bishop Scharfenberger explained all of this quite nicely in his letter to Governor Cuomo.

First, he mentioned how Cuomo has said that he is Catholic and has said that we should “stand with Pope Francis” on previous occasions.  He cannot proclaim a Catholic faith while also allowing for the killing of defenseless babies.

The bishop says that this bill is an example of “aggressive extremism,” which is absolutely true.  As a teacher of rhetoric and argument, abortion sometimes comes up in the papers my students write for me.  Although some of them think differently than I do about abortion, they always say that it needs limits.  There is no reason for a woman who is 8 months pregnant to need an abortion.  Even if her life is in danger, the baby can be removed while keeping both the baby and the mother alive.  That baby is fully viable and can live outside of the womb if it isn’t brutally killed.

This bill even allows “non-doctors” to perform abortions.  WHAT?  Nurses, PAs and midwives will be allowed to perform the.  I know that the pro-choice camp likes to mention those dangerous back-alley abortions as a reason for legalization.  But now you don’t even need to be a certified medical doctor?  Abortions already come along with a slew of potential complications that any abortionist readily admits because, like all surgery, there is room for error and side effects.  So now we will allow people who are not certified medical doctors to perform them?  This is NOT a protection of women’s lives; it is the exact opposite.

The bill also removes criminal sanctions for pregnant women who are murdered.  So a perpetrator who kills a pregnant woman will no longer receive two counts of murder, at least in the state of New York.  And what about those angry boyfriends who beat their girlfriends/wives badly enough to kill the baby but not the mother.  He will not be charged with unlawful killing?  Yet we view this as a protection of women’s rights?  I would be more afraid to be a pregnant woman in the state of New York now than before the passing of this bill because I know that I will have no protection if someone wants my baby dead.

The bishop says, “Condoning coerced or involuntary abortions by repealing criminal sanctions even in cases where a perpetrator seeks to make his partner “un-pregnant” through an act of physical violence does not represent any kind of progress in the choice, safety or health of women.”

Typing this, I have a combination of anger and despair.  I am livid that New York has enough politicians who view this bill as a success, but I also grieve for the precious lives that are going to be lost.  I grieve for the mothers who are going to battle depression and potentially suicidal thoughts.  The mothers who may feel guilt for the rest of their lives.  Now I know that not every woman will react this way, but many of them will.

The bishop continues, “Removing protection for an infant accidentally born alive during an abortion is abject cruelty, something most people of conscience would deem inhumane for even a dog or cat. Finally, allowing late-term abortions is nothing less than a license to kill a pre-born child at will.

So what happens if a baby is “accidentally” born alive during abortion?  It can now be killed?  Now we are legalizing infanticide as well?

See, the thing is, that the argument surrounding abortion used to come down to people disagreeing about when life begins: conception, birth, or some time in between.  But that doesn’t even matter anymore.  Anyone would agree that a live baby that is outside of its mother is a living, breathing human being.  But we can still allow for its intentional death?

Nobody used to argue that a woman who was 9 months pregnant didn’t have a human being inside of her.  The problem is that now it doesn’t seem to matter to the world at large when life begins.  They can acknowledge that it is life; they just don’t mind putting an end to that life.

The bishop also says that he finds himself “wondering how it can be viewed as “progress” to have gone from a society working to make abortion “rare” to one that urges women to “shout your abortion” as some advocates of this bill boldly announce.”

Abortion advocates used to say that abortion should be a woman’s right, but they also hoped that it would be rare.  Instead, we now praise the women who have the “courage” to “shout their abortion.”  We seek to put abortions more out in the open.

So an abortion is something to be proud about?  I don’t think too many people are happy about their need for an abortion.  Nobody wants to get pregnant and end it.  It is a difficult process for anyone involved and I don’t think that “shouting out” their abortion is helping the emotional state of these women.

With the #MeToo movement, more women are opening up about sexual harassment and assault that was committed against them.  But they aren’t proud of that fact.  Rather, they are sharing their trauma.

Instead of shouting out about our abortions in a positive way, we need more women shouting about the damage that was done to their bodies, their families, and their emotional well-being as a result of their abortion.  We need them to share the pain they endured (and are still enduring) as a result of their abortion.

We need more people like Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood Director who had abortions herself.  She left Planned Parenthood after 8 years after learning about all of the lies she had propagated while working for them.  She now works to help other abortion workers to leave their jobs.  There is an upcoming film about Abby’s life the is coming out, called Unplanned, and the actress who plays Abby, Ashley Bratcher, knows that she may be blacklisted from future Hollywood films as a result of her involvement with this type of movie.

We need more people like Lila Rose, President of Live Action, who, although never having had an abortion herself, conducts undercover research in abortion facilities across America, exposing how the clinics do not recommend young women who have been victims of statutory rape to report the crime but rather only suggest abortion. (She posed as a 15-year-old girl impregnated by a 23-year-old man and they advised her not to go to the police.)  She has proven that Planned Parenthood intentionally breaks laws and covers up abuse.

We need people like Stephanie Gray, founder of Love Unleashes Life, who is an international speaker who makes logical, secular arguments against abortion.  She has debated abortion advocates.  I watched her debate with late-term abortionist, Dr. Fraser Fellows in front of medical students.  Although she has a religious background, she can shut down pro-choice arguments through the use of stories, questioning, and logical arguments.  She also gave a talk at Google about abortion.

The bishop also said, “How is it progress to ignore the harm that this will do, not only to innocent infants, born and unborn, but to their mothers? Does the heartache of so many New York women who have been pained by their abortion decisions matter? Is anyone listening to them? How is it really “pro-choice” when a law, which claims to guarantee choice, moves to expand only one option for women?

Dr. Fraser Fellows, a late-term abortionist, admitted to Stephanie Gray in their debate that some of the women definitely have emotional problems after their abortion.  But our society isn’t looking at that more closely.  And it’s even interesting that he is considered a late-term abortionist.  He could only perform abortions under 24 weeks gestation.  Now, if he was a New York resident, what he does wouldn’t even be considered late-term.  We can now kill babies at 36 weeks pregnancy.

At 24 weeks old, a baby already looks like a baby.  It has the potential to survive.  This is a premature baby at 24 weeks old:

Image result for baby 24 weeks

Dr. Fellows would dismember it, remove it from the woman, and then piece it back together to ensure that none of it was left inside of the mother.  For many people, this is gruesome to consider.  Many pro-choice advocates even think that this should not be allowed.

But New York just took it a step further.  New York will allow for the death of a fully grown baby, if that is what the mother wishes.  That baby would look more like this one:

Image result for baby at 36 weeks

Stephanie Gray spoke to a woman whose child died as a result of the Rwandan Genocide.  Her child was slaughtered to death with a machete.  Almost anyone would agree that the situation was horrific and despicable.

Yet she said the the death that follows abortion is worse.  Why?  Because she and her child had the ability to run away from their assailant.  The unborn baby has no  protection.

Image result for rwandan genocide  vs abortion image.

The bishop asks some interesting questions as he continues his letter: “If abortion is deemed a fundamental right in New York State, will the State then still be able to issue licenses to pro-life nurses or physicians? Will health facilities which do not provide abortions be certified? Will the law allow that even one dollar be given to maternity services without offering women the “choice” of abortion? These are unanswered questions, but I shudder to think of the consequences this law will wreak. You have already uttered harsh threats about the welcome you think pro-lifers are not entitled to in our state. Now you are demonstrating that you mean to write your warning into law. Will being pro-life one day be a hate crime in the State of New York?

I recently began looking for an OBGYN who does not perform abortions.  This was actually more of a difficult task than I originally expected.  I have to drive an hour to get to this doctor.  My other option is almost 2 hours away.  Not everyone in the state of New Jersey is pro-choice, but it is difficult today to be a pro-life doctor and we don’t even have New York’s new law passed here.

I will not go to a doctor who would give me the option of abortion, but as society supposedly “progresses,” my choices are being eliminated.  I want the choice to have a doctor who is against abortion the same way that I am.  I want to choose to not support an organization that kills babies.  However, I am in a teacher’s union.  Many teacher unions help to fund Planned Parenthood.  Part of the salary of these teachers allows abortions to be performed.  These teachers are forced to perpetuate abortions.  They have no choice.

Give me my choice back.  See, we say we want choice, but that’s far from the truth.  We don’t want women to choose.  We just think we know better.  We think that any unplanned pregnancy would be better off being ended.

But what about adoption?  Is it difficult to endure 9 months of pregnancy only to give the baby away?  Absolutely.  But sometimes that is the best option.  There are many difficult things in life that we simply need to endure.  Is working out difficult? Yes, but if we want a healthy body, we must persist.  Is it difficult to watch a family member suffer through an illness?  Yes, but we don’t just turn our backs on them because it’s too hard.  We suffer with them.  And there is a lot to be said about suffering and its redemptive power.

The people we view as heroes are those who have surpassed insurmountable odds.  Those who have faced horrible situations and suffering but who have made it out stronger.  As human beings, we suffer, plain and simple, but it makes us stronger.

There are so many people in America who yearn to adopt.  Many families struggle with infertility, yet it is difficult to adopt today.  Why?  Because our babies are being killed rather than being put up for adoption.  Now, part of the reason that adoption takes so long in our country is because of the home study and pre-placement period.  But even after that is complete, many people must wait months and even years to have a placement.  Some wait 5 years before bringing a child home.  That’s not just because of the legal process.  It’s because babies that would have been adopted are instead being killed.

In 2016, Planned Parenthood made only 1 adoption referral for every 149 abortions.  Is adoption a difficult option for a pregnant woman?  Absolutely.  But then she has the knowledge that her baby will be safe and loved rather than dead.  An abortion costs around $1500.  Adoption is free because the adoptive family pays for all medical expenses.

If more women who were pregnant and informed about the benefits of adoption, I am sure that the numbers of abortions would decrease, but that’s not the reality.  Planned Parenthood doesn’t want adoptions.  They would lose money.  Their revenue comes mainly from their abortion services.

2019, you’re not looking so great.

First, the longest ever government shutdown which is already posing disastrous effects on thousands of government employees.

Now the RHA being passed in  New York.

These are tough times in which we’re living; they are not times that we should be proud of and celebrate.

 

Legalized Abortions Hurt Women

How am I living in a world in which people are celebrating a law that allows for the killing of unborn babies?  How is the state of New York celebrating today?  How has our country stooped so low?

Governor Cuomo even lit the top of the One World Trade Center pink in order to shine a light that he wants our entire nation to follow.

What he fails to understand is that this law is not helping Americans; instead, it is going to lead to further devastation among families, especially women, those he thinks he is protecting.

This bill allows for abortion through the entirety of a woman’s pregnancy.  That means that we are going to be killing fully grown babies that have the ability to live outside of the mother’s womb.  Even if you believe that a younger fetus isn’t fully human, nobody can tell me that a baby at 9 months old isn’t human.  We’re basically legalizing infanticide.

When pregnant women were murdered, their assailant used to be charged with two counts of murder, but that is no longer the case, at least in the state of New York.

It is absolutely sickening.

How do people believe we are protecting women through this law?  It has been proven time and time again how many women who have had abortions face extreme amounts of depression and suicidal thoughts.  We aren’t removing a faulty organ; we’re removing a human life.  If a woman is 9 months pregnant and her life is in danger, a baby can be removed without an abortion.  It can survive a cesarean section at that point.  We’re not just killing some cells; we’re killing a helpless human being that is completely defenseless.

I could go on forever, but I will stop here.  It’s too sickening to consider any longer right now.

Hard Work and Determination Aren’t Always Enough

I am aware that some people may be offended by this post.  If that happens, just know that that isn’t my intent.

I recently finished reading the novel, Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult, who is one of my favorite modern authors.  I just can’t stop thinking about some of its messages.

I previously wrote a post entitled My White Privilege and another one called Admitting Your White Privilege Doesn’t Make You Racist, but now, after reading the book, I think that I have to disagree with the title of that second blog.  I think that it does make me racist. Not racist in an “I hate black people” kind of way, but in a more hidden manner.

Towards the end of the novel, one of the attorneys makes the distinction between active and passive racism.  Active racism is blatantly obvious to the outside world; it is those who consider themselves to be white supremacists, those who yell obscenities to those who look different from themselves.

Most people do not fall under that category.  More people are passively racist, even those who, like myself, are sometimes aware of our white privilege.  The attorney in the novel provides examples: not asking why there is only one black person hired in your workplace, not asking why slavery is the only item covered in a child’s textbook in terms of black history.

I am a high school English teacher in an urban school district.  My classes are composed of mainly black and Hispanic students.  I like to think that I am helping to reverse the problems accompanying racism.

But then the book has a character on the jury who is just like me.  She feels like she couldn’t possibly be racist as a result of the students she teaches in her classroom.  But is that enough?  Does she understand their struggle?  She is actually the person that the public defender is most nervous about, since she has racism lurking beneath the surface, racism that she is completely unaware of.

I wrote a blog acknowledging my white privilege, but do I truly understand the extent of it?

I try to connect with my students in the beginning of the year by writing them a letter in which I open myself up to them.  I explain how my upbringing wasn’t all sunshines and rainbows.  I want them to feel a closeness to me so that they can be vulnerable in their own writing, particularly in their college essays.

I teach them all year that they can reach their dreams if they work hard enough.  But is that really true?

Did I become a teacher as a result of hard work and determination?  Absolutely.  But did my skin color facilitate the process?  I’d have to answer that as “absolutely” as well.

Is hard work and determination truly enough?  I don’t think I can honestly say that it is.  Sure, people will name a bunch of members of society who happen to be black and also successful.  Barack Obama is a name that comes up quickly, despite the fact that he is only half black.  Oprah.  Will Smith.  Colin Powell.

Sure, there are examples, but the problem is that they are still the minority, and I would argue that they had to work harder to get to their place in society than a white person in the same position.

Did I work hard to become a teacher?  Yes.  But I didn’t have to prove myself through a mask of black skin.

I had a mother who, despite being a single mom working multiple jobs to put food on the table, knew that my education was key.  Yet she, too, was white.  Had she been a black single mom, life would have been even more difficult.  She may not have been hired at some of the jobs she had.  She would have been viewed even more negatively than she already was for being a single mom.  People may have simply assumed that she had been promiscuous, not even considering that she could have been divorced, and for valid reasons at that.

I will never be able to say that I fully understand the black experience in America, no matter how much I learn about it.  I am fascinated by it since I teach so many minority students, but I can never truly understand.  I also read the book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration and the Age of Color Blindedness  by Michelle Alexander since I am so frustrated by the racism that pervades the American justice system.  But can I say that I truly grasp it? No.

I was given a gift of privilege from the moment of conception: to be a white baby born in the United States.  I could have been born in a third world country.  I could have been born with the odds stacked against me.  I could have been born poor and black in America.  But I wasn’t.  My whiteness was and continues to be my pass.

If I am pulled over by a police officer, I do not have to fear being shot for no reason.  I will not likely have my car searched for drugs.  I have a good chance of getting away with a warning for speeding because I am white.

I can wander aimlessly through department stores without being watched by employees who think that I may shoplift.

I can be hired at a job and not have people brush it off and say that I was just a result of affirmative action and a school meeting its quota.

In the afterward to her book, Picoult writes that “In America, we like to think that the reason we have had success is that we worked hard or we were smart.  Admitting that racism has played a part in our success means admitting that the American dream isn’t quite so accessible to all.”

She explains how she asked white mothers how often they have to talk to their children about racism and they said that it was discussed either rarely or never.  When the same question was pointed toward black mothers, they said “every day.”

Picoult says that “ignorance is a privilege, too.”

I can pretend that I’m not racist by ignoring racism.  But could I ignore such racism if I were black?  No; rather, it would be a part of my daily life.  I can ignore racism if I choose because it doesn’t directly affect my life.

I can say that I understand because I will soon be marrying a man who is half black and half white.  But he is still viewed by most as a white male, thanks to his light complexion.  If he cuts his hair short, he can hide behind this false whiteness.  He knows better than to grow his hair out into an afro before a job interview.

If we have children, I don’t know yet what they will look like.  Will their quarter of blackness haunt them?  Or will they get my blue eyes and trick the world into thinking that they are Anglos to the core?

Ignoring racism or acting like it doesn’t exist perpetuates the problem.  Racism does exist and when we say that it doesn’t, we’re doing a disservice to all of the people who are victims of racism on a daily basis.

When I tell my students that they can all achieve their dreams with hard work and determination, I am telling them a lie.  Sure, they may achieve their dreams if they work hard, but what I fail to tell them is that they will have to work harder than I ever did.

They will have to live every day fighting against societal ignorance.  They will have to dress even more neatly and speak even more politely in order to be respected.  They will have to treat police officers with a higher degree of respect than any white person would, yet they may still be viewed as guilty.

They will have to conform to the standards of white society.  If their natural hair is too kinky, too nappy, or too wild, they will be viewed in a negative way.  If they happen to enjoy hip hop and rap music, they will be considered a thug.  If they pronounce a word differently than me, they may be seen as illiterate.  If their skin is too dark, they will be passed up for a job in favor for the light-skinned person who has no better qualifications, just less melanin.

I have my AP students complete what I call my “Be the Change” project at the end of the school year.  One of my Haitian students brought up race as a topic.

She said how her mother had her use skin lightening cream as a child since she was so dark.  She would be deemed more beautiful when her skin appeared lighter.  She also explained how this is completely normal for black people; yet this is something that I did not even know existed.

Fortunately, she is now proud of her natural skin and she is an incredibly intelligent, talented young woman.  However, she still has the odds stacked against her.  She will still be judged more harshly than I was.  She must push upstream against a current that is much stronger than the one I fought against.  Her work ethic may be mistakenly viewed as a simple result of affirmative action initiatives.  Why?  Because she was born into the “wrong” skin color.

And people who are unaware of their racism will call her African American, because they think that the term “black” sounds racist or rude.  Yet they will not even stop to understand that Haiti is nowhere near Africa.  She is not African American at all.

I am confident in her abilities, but me trying to wave around my own life as a success story must be a bit of a slap in the face to students like her.

Congratulations, Miss Q.  You got through being raised by your single mom.  In Brookfield, Connecticut, a quiet, white, middle to upper-class town, close to your stay-at-home aunts whose husbands could pay the bills, so they had time to care for you.  Or you stayed with your grandparents who had the privilege to be retired.  You graduated magna cum laude at your white, private university.  You got through Lyme disease, because you had health insurance that covered the cost of some of your treatment.

I don’t know what the answer is.  I don’t think that racism will ever cease to exist.  But I think that too many people today refuse to admit that racism is still a pervasive problem, which is even scarier than years ago, when our country was blatantly racist as a result of segregation and Jim Crow laws.

Today, our schools are desegregated.  Yay, what a happy, non-racist country in which we live.

Oh yea?  Enter my classroom in my high school and then enter the one just a few miles north.  You will see that segregation still exists.  No, it may not be forced by laws that forbid black students to enter the white schools, but it is enforced through societal norms.

Enter my classroom and you will see the books that my students use.  “I love dicks” written on the side.  “Butt cheeks” written on another.  And that’s the vandalism I’m not embarrassed to include here.  I assure you, it gets much worse.  How can I pretend that these students are equal to the ones in the other town with the shiny new textbooks?  These textbooks the students cannot even take home since we don’t have enough.  No, scratch that, those students don’t even have textbooks anymore.  Instead, they have the shiny new one-on-one laptops that they get to take home to their high-speed wi-fi connections.

My students aren’t equal.  They will need to work harder to get to the place where the student in the other high school can get thanks to his skin color or his daddy.  They will need to earn straight As while working all night as the dish washer at the local restaurant so they can help their mother to pay the rent, finishing their homework late at night (if at all), before getting up early to help their little sister get fed and ready for school while their mom is already out on her way to her housekeeping job that pays minimum wage and offers no benefits.

They will have no parent in attendance at Back to School night or parent-teacher conferences because their parent will not be able to pay the electric bill if they miss that night of work.

They will have every intention of passing class and trying to succeed, but their fatigue will get the best of them.

I, as their teacher, will offer extra help, but they will know that they have to rush from school to work and that they cannot stay any longer.

They could be a star football player, but they can’t waste those hours practicing when they have to be watching over their little brother, hoping that he can be the one who makes a difference.

They struggle to develop strong friendships since they move around with such frequency that they attend six different schools in just three years, building a wall around themselves that may seem harsh, but it is there to limit the pain of constantly evolving schools and relationships.

Would I be in my current position if I were born black?  I can’t answer that question with any degree of certainty.

Would I have had the perseverance to work hard at school to maintain my GPA only to leave school and work all night?  Probably not.

Has my white skin helped me to achieve the life I live today?  Probably.  It’s my ticket to the easy life.

That is the reality of white privilege.

 

 

 

No, We Don’t Need More Guns in Our Schools

The headlines over the past week have been awful.  Unfortunately, that isn’t just because of the shooting in Parkland, Florida, but also because of President Trump’s reactions to the shooting.

Despite the idiocy of Trump, though, I am so impressed by the many Parkland teens who are standing up and advocating for stricter gun laws.  Emma Gonzalez showed such passion in her speech:

She even confronted a spokeswoman from the NRA who was evading her question about banning bump stocks and semi-automatic weapons.  She brought up the fact that Trump was the one who helped to repeal a law that made it more difficult for people with mental illnesses to purchase guns.  She is adamant that the laws become stricter.

But while the students fight for tougher gun laws, President Trump does the opposite.  His solution is to arm teachers.

Initially, there was outcry from numerous sources upon hearing Trump’s idea, so he later followed up prior comments by explaining that he doesn’t mean that any teacher should be given a gun.  Instead, it should be teachers with military backgrounds.

He cited random, fake statistics, saying that 10% of teachers in one school might fit the situation while 40% in another school would.  Now, I don’t know what schools are like in the south, but I can promise you that here in New Jersey, we don’t have too many ex-military teachers.  I can think of two in my entire high school.  Does he really believe there are schools where 40% of the teachers used to be in the military?

He even made a comment about coaches being good candidates to be trained with weapons because they have experience in that sort of thing.  Excuse me, Mr. President, but our coaches are mainly teachers.  They aren’t ex-military.  Why is a coach more likely to be equipped to handle a gun?  We have a problem with fake news these days, which is no surprise considering our own president spreads his own fake news.

Then he suggested giving special bonus money to the teachers who are armed.  He said that “teachers love bonuses.”  Trump speaks as if we’re children.  “Teachers love bonuses.”  I mean, isn’t that true of anyone, really?  Who isn’t happy to receive a bonus at their job?  He just always has such a condescending attitude.

I would rather forego the bonus than have that sort of power in my hands, and I know that many teachers agree with me.  Police officers are highly trained with their weapons, yet they still shoot and kill innocent bystanders from time to time.  Has Trump considered how likely that is to happen in a school, especially in a chaotic moment like a mass shooting?

He said that it takes about 8 minutes for the police to arrive at a school shooting and the shootings have only lasted for 3 minutes on average.  Hypothetically speaking, let’s say 5 teachers in my school are carrying concealed weapons.  What is the chance that one of the five of them will be less than a three minute’s walk away?  And if they are, how likely is it that they will kill the criminal without accidentally taking an innocent life?

Then, who will be there to protect the teachers when lawsuits arise?  Will legislators protect them from accidentally killing an innocent student?  And even if they could be protected financially, who is going to protect the guilt that they will likely face forever?

Trump suggests that teachers take a training course and then revisit the course once every six to twelve months, but who will pay for it?  A man posed that question to him yesterday and he completely evaded the question, making it sound like that shouldn’t be a reason to turn down his idea since it’s so crucial for the safety of our children.

But that is exactly what continues to happen with education in America; laws are passed, but they lack funding.  Schools sometimes need to fire teachers in order to find the funds to comply with government mandates.  Trump keeps saying that this will be “basically free” to the schools.  I don’t think he understands what the word free means.

The courses to learn gun safety and shooting accuracy will cost money.  The purchase of guns and ammunition will cost money.  And the bonuses he says the teachers should be given will also cost money.  So even if people agree with his idea, it’s financially disastrous to education.  We would lose teachers so that a select few teachers could carry guns.  I’m not even going to get into our failing education system, but I would prefer tax dollars to be spent on improving education, not purchasing weapons.

Trump reminds me of a child who makes reactive, impulsive decisions without considering them fully.  School shooting?  Uh…let’s arm teachers.  Oh, people think that’s dangerous?  Okay…uh…we’ll only arm a select few who have a military background.  Where will money come from?   Shoot…haven’t considered that one…well, if you love your kids you’ll find the money.  Yea…that’s the answer.

How is this our president?  How do people still support him?  He sounds like a rambling fool.

Trump said this about the shooting in Florida:  “A teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened.  These teachers love their students. And these teachers are talented with weaponry and with guns. And I’d rather have somebody that loves their students and wants to protect their students than somebody standing outside that doesn’t know anybody and doesn’t know the students and frankly, for whatever reason, decided not to go in even though he heard lots of shots being fired.”

So a teacher would have shot him as a result of their love for their students?  A+B does not equal C here.  Teachers loving their students has no correlation to being able to shoot a criminal before he could kill more students.  There is zero causation between the two.  I love my students; therefore, if trained, I could “shoot the hell” out of any perpetrator?  No, that’s not how it works.

Cruz had an automatic weapon.  What will a teacher have, a handgun?  Does Trump honestly believe that one teacher with a handgun could have prevented all of that?

He made that comment after learning about the armed officer who was outside of the high school and who never entered.  His response about that was that “A security guard doesn’t know the children, doesn’t love the children. This man standing outside of the school the other day doesn’t love the children, probably doesn’t know the children. The teachers love their children. They love their pupils.”

First off, I’m an English teacher, and I cannot get over Trump’s repetitive, elementary sentence structure.  He loves to repeat key words and short sentences.  But him saying that we love our students while security guards don’t has no evidence or support.  Trump’s rhetoric is that of a child.  Yet some people still side with him?  I just don’t understand.  I feel like I’m living in the twilight zone.

He is so completely off base and out of touch with reality.  He even made a comment that “now is no longer the time for political correctness.”  That insinuates that he was previously being politically correct, but I can’t remember one instance when we held back from spewing insults at someone.

Trump likes finding scapegoats.  Immigrants, Muslims, it doesn’t really matter.  He needs someone to blame.  In this case, it’s the officer.  Now I don’t know the situation surrounding that officer.  I don’t know why he didn’t enter the building, but I’m sure that he is carrying some guilt right now.

He was also pointing the finger at California today, since California won’t go along with some of Trump’s ideas.  He started talking about the gang MS-13, and how those people aren’t even human beings; they’re animals.

MS-13 has nothing to do with this school shooting.  Yes, they actually are human beings.  No, that should not even be part of the conversation, but because he can point a finger, he will.

Trump pointing fingers is not helping anything.  And neither is his plan to arm teachers.

I miss the compassion we saw from President Obama following mass shootings like the one in Sandy Hook.  He appeared visually upset, tears streaming down his face as he discussed the events.  Families felt incredibly touched by his kind words to them when they met in private.  I don’t know how Trump reacted privately, but on camera, no matter the situation, he always has that smug grin plastered on his face.  It’s revolting, really.

I’m curious what changes are going to be passed by lawmakers in the upcoming months.  All I know is that, as a high school teacher, the last thing that I want is a bunch of my coworkers armed with guns.  That is not the answer.

Anyway…I really like this editorial that was posted in the New York Times:

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

I don’t think you understand the problem that our country is facing.  We are in the midst of a school shooting  and mass shooting epidemic.  There is something that is intensely wrong in our country at the moment.

Students from Florida are protesting gun laws.  Most of them want the laws to be made more strict so that students can not so easily obtain guns.

I absolutely understand that guns are not the only problem.  I’m a teacher and I deal with high school students on a daily basis.  There are problems with bullying, mental health, narcissism, you name it.

But it’s also true that in most of these mass shootings, the perpetrators are not killing with a simple handgun that is purchased for protection.  They’re also not using guns that are typically used to hunt deer.

These are assault weapons that are being used: AK-47s, AR-15s.  For what purpose should any American be purchasing that sort of gun?  To hang on their wall?  To go target shooting? Just look at the name.  Assault weapon.  They were created for the purpose of eliminating human life on a grand scale.

Should that be a part of our right to bear arms?  I would say no.

Yet you, Mr. Trump, are taking the opposite stance.  You see the shootings.  You try (in an embarrassingly awkward manner) to comfort the families before going to relax at Mar-a-Lago.  You decide that arming teachers is the best solution.

Bringing more guns into schools is no sort of solution.  I am a teacher and I feel safe in my school despite…no, not despite…as a result of the lack of guns.  I would feel much less safe knowing that there are guns all over my school.

The more guns we have, the greater a chance we have of having a gun accidentally getting into the wrong hands.

Arming teachers doesn’t hit the root of the problem.  Arming teachers says, “well, since we can’t stop the students shooting up the schools, we’ll at least train teachers to kill them so that fewer students will end up dead.”

Arming teachers?  Is that a solution?  Absolutely not.  That’s a band-aid.  That lets the criminals win.  That tells them that we’re afraid, that we don’t know how to fix the problem, so instead, we’ll add more guns and more violence.

Let’s look into mental health problems.  Let’s address cyberbullying.  Let’s change our gun laws.  Let’s be more strict about the violent video games that our children begin playing at a young age and the gory films they are watching despite the R rating.  Let’s make sure that our school systems and FBI actually look into potential threats.  Let’s pray and remember that God is still very present in this country, waiting for us to turn to Him.

You’re supposedly a man of faith.  I hope that’s true and that you pray to God.  I really hope you can find Him.  Because right now, you’re giving all of Christianity a bad name.  You mention your faith in God, but then you berate poverty-stricken nations, calling them sh**-holes.  Is that what Jesus would do?

You’re the first president to attend the March for Life to end abortion, saying that you respect life in all forms, but then you act as though immigrants are a lesser sort of human being.  Is that what Jesus would do?

You’re a hypocrite in every sense of the word.

Please, don’t bring our nation into further ruin by trying to push for teachers to be armed with guns.  That is not what we want.  That is not what the students want.  Denounce your NRA affiliations and stop the madness that you’re spewing every time I turn on the news.

In the meantime, I will continue to pray for this country, especially for all of the victims of the shooting in Florida, their family and friends, the rest of the student body, the teachers and staff, and anyone else affected by the tragedy.  You are all loved.  God is still here, ready to pick you up out of  the darkness if you let Him.

 

My Jury Duty Adventures

A few months ago, I received a juror summons in the mail, asking me to appear at the superior court this past Monday for jury duty.

Initially, I was somewhat disappointed about the timing since I had the entire summer off because I’m a teacher, so I didn’t really want to miss a day so early on in the school year.  But once the date approached, I became excited because I was interested in learning more about the whole process.

People had warned me to bring a book because jury duty is usually a long day of waiting.  I read the FAQs online so I would know what to bring and what to wear, and then I waited to check the website the Friday night before my Monday appearance.

I was on call for Monday, which meant that I could go to work on Monday, but I would need to check the website again that evening to see about Tuesday.  I was definitely disappointed that I didn’t get to go on Monday, so when I checked the website that evening and saw my number, I was excited.

I changed my mind about my outfit so many times.  I wanted to look appropriate while also being comfortable.  I didn’t want to wear anything that might cause lawyers to excuse me from a jury if I got that far.  I chose blue dress pants, a white and blue striped shirt, a salmon cardigan, and Sketchers brown simple shoes.  I had my hair in a low ponytail.  I debated not wearing my crucifix necklace because I didn’t know if they would want to avoid a religious person, but then I decided against it.  If they didn’t want me because of my faith, then their loss.

The morning of jury duty was extremely boring.  We reported at 8:30am to sit in a huge room full of people who looked bored and annoyed.  We had the rules explained to us before checking in.

We were told that we would receive a $5 stipend for the day.  I can’t believe it’s only $5.  This is 2017.  You can’t even go buy lunch for $5.  As a teacher, my pay isn’t docked for jury duty, but I can’t imagine being someone who lives paycheck to paycheck.  If they are selected for a 3-day trial, they will receive a measly $15.  That seems absurd.  I know that they say that a person is excused if they can prove financial hardship as a result of being on a jury, but I don’t know how lenient they are with that.

Then, we were told that if we are public school employees, we needed to tell them when checking in because we were not allowed the $5.  He said that we couldn’t “be greedy.”  I was not upset about the lack of $5, but found it funny that he could even say with a straight face that we would be “greedy” if we took the $5.

While in line to check in, they played a video about the importance of jury duty and our rights as citizens of the US.

By 10am, nothing had happened.  Thankfully, there was wi-fi, so I actually got quite a bit of work done on my laptop.  They announced a bunch of names and everyone called got to go up to a court room.  I was hoping to hear my name, but I didn’t.

Around 11:40, a man told us that there were three cases and that the only one that still needed jurors would not be ready to call them up until after lunch.  So while we were supposed to leave for lunch at 12:30, we got almost an entire extra hour!

I had packed lunch, planning to eat outside or in my car, but I have a friend who lives close to the courthouse, so I went to her house since she works from home.  It was really nice to get to have a random Tuesday afternoon lunch with a friend since I’m usually working at that time.

After lunch, we went back to waiting.  Then they started calling off more names.  The line of people was getting really long, so I was not expecting to hear my name.  Then I realized that they were reading the names alphabetically, so I waited in anticipation as they got closer to my name.

Sure enough, I heard, “Stephanie….” and a long pause before the woman butchered my name (typical, since I have a foreign last name).  While other people were visibly upset when their names were called, I had the opposite reaction.  I was absolutely ecstatic to get to go up to the court room and see the whole process.  But because the group of us was so large, I knew that my chance of actually being chosen for the jury was quite small.

We entered the courtroom and each of us had to grab a pad of paper and a pencil.  The judge introduced the lawyers, the plaintiff, and her family to us and then explained a brief overview of the case.  It was a civil case.  The defendant had hit the plaintiff’s car, which had already been admitted, but the plaintiff was suing due to health problems that she has been having in the three years since the accident.

He told us that he would be asking us 22 questions as a group and we were instructed to write down “Yes” or “No” on our notepad.  Once it came time to call jurors into the jury box, anyone who responded “No” to every question could take a seat to be questioned further.  Anyone who responded “Yes” had to go to speak to the judge and the lawyers to see if they could be excused from the case.

The initial 22 questions asked us things like this:

-Did we recognize the plaintiff/lawyers?

-Did we recognize the names of any of the witnesses / medical providers?

-Had we ever been involved in a lawsuit?

I was really excited when we got to question #22 and I had answered “No” to each of the questions.  I was wishing that instead of randomly calling jurors, they could have just asked who answered “No” to everything and even who might volunteer to serve on the jury.  I definitely would have raised my hand.

I snuck a peek at the papers that the people on either side of me had.  Both of them had a few questions marked “Yes.”  The man to my left was clearly aggravated with jury duty and just kept sighing through everything.  And then there I was, hoping and even praying (I know, I’m ridiculous, but I really wanted to experience court) that I would get called.

Most people had answered “Yes” to at least one of the questions, so it took forever to get seven people into the jury box.  Once they got to the seventh person, I was feeling disappointed.

Then the judge told them that he would ask them more questions so that the lawyers could get to know them.  He explained that the lawyers had a certain number of jurors that they could excuse for any reason, which is called a peremptory challenge.

These questions went as follows:

-Occupation / former occupations if you were in other fields

-Household – spouse? his/her occupation / children? their occupations

-Hobbies

-Favorite TV shows and new sources

-If you could speak to anyone, dead or alive, for 15 minutes, who would it be and why? (excluding anything religious and family)

-Is our country too litigious or is it too strict in its regulations that prevent people from suing others?

-Would you make a good juror and why?

Since I had all the time in the world while sitting there, I wrote down my answers to each of the questions.  I was struggling with the one about which person I’d like to speak to.  I’m glad that I wasn’t juror #1 because she didn’t have any extra time to think about her responses and she was visibly nervous.

I first thought of Jesus, Mother Teresa, and Gandhi, but they’re all religious.  Then I thought of the machine gun preacher.  Nope, still religious.  I have always loved Eminem, so I wrote his name down first, but even though I love his music, I think it would actually be terrifying to speak to him in person, and I would probably have nothing to say.  I settled on Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone.  I thought that might be a risky answer since it’s very different from everyone else’s answer, but it was the best option I could come up with.

Jurors kept getting eliminated left and right and I found the whole process fascinating.  I loved hearing all of their answers.  More people watch the Food Network than I had realized.  Nobody has any opinion about whether or not people sue too much.  That baffled me since I feel like I have an opinion on everything.  Most people also didn’t really have hobbies.  Their hobbies were just playing with their kids and grandkids.  I thought that was a little sad.  I know I’m younger than everyone else who was questioned, but I’d like to think that I will have something else that I enjoy doing in my life other than playing with grandkids.  Some people mentioned different types of sewing or painting.  One lady was a drummer.  But most of the responses were dull.

I’m really interested in racial equality in our country and I’m currently reading a book called The New Jim Crow about mass incarceration in the United States today and how much racial discrimination exists within the justice system.

In this case, everything the book said was absolutely true.  Now, this was not a criminal case, so it’s a bit different than the cases against drug dealers, or people caught with drugs or weapons, but I was still observing everything.

The plaintiff was an African American woman.  The judge and all three lawyers were white.  The first seven jurors were all white.  I started looking around the courtroom at the other potential jurors.  There had to be over 60 people in that room and there was not one African American.  There was one Hispanic woman and one Indian woman.  Everyone else appeared to be Caucasian.

I know that alone does not mean that the case would involve any racial discrimination, but it sure does make it more likely.  From this experience, I would argue that a jury is definitely not a random sampling of people in a particular county.  Anyway, I could get carried away with all of this, but back to my actual experience yesterday…

While listening to each of the potential jurors, I was trying to guess which ones would be excused.  I was correct about many of them.

-That lady has a husband who is a physician and her children are also physicians, so they’ll eliminate her since it’s a carse involving bodily injury. “Juror #2, thank you, but you are excused.”

He said he would meet his great-grandfather.  They clearly said not to choose a family member.  I would eliminate him for being a bad listener.  Yep, juror #4 was excused as well.

Her boyfriend is a state trooper and she hesitated for way too long when they asked her if she would be able to be impartial.  Juror #5, gone.

-She just keeps saying how nervous she is.  I don’t think they’ll like that she’s terrified this entire time.  How will she make a good decision if she can’t calm down? Juror #1, dismissed.

I know that this is not nice, but she has lots of visible tattoos and seems kind of trashy.  I doubt they’ll take her. 

Why does everyone keep saying they would be a good juror because they’re honest?  It’s driving me crazy.  You’re in the jury – your honesty doesn’t really matter.  More significant qualities include: ability to remain impartial, decision-making skills, focus, good listener, etc.  All of these women just keep telling us they’re honest.  Congratulations, but you’re not the one on trial!

Okay, you get the point.  Next thing I knew, they were dismissing the woman I had judged for her visible tattoos and my name was being called.

“Stephanie _____?” said the clerk.

“Yes.”

“Did you respond “Yes” to any of my 22 questions?” asked the judge.

“No,” I said, trying to stop myself from grinning.  I grabbed my bag, and walked into the jury box and into the sixth seat.  I had to try really hard to avoid smiling too much.  I didn’t want them to think I was the ditzy blonde who was overly excited about this experience.

I had to answer each of the questions and because I had written them down, I was ready to go, unlike many of the other people who had been in the jury box.  I was getting so tired of hearing the judge repeat the questions over and over again.

I talked about my job as a teacher and my college job as a sports medicine assistant.  I mentioned how I enjoy working out, running, and volunteering.  I said that I get my news from Yahoo, BBC, and Al Jazeera and that I don’t watch any TV, but that Prison Break was the last show I had watched.  I explained why Ishmael Beah was the person I would choose to speak with, mainly because I love volunteering in Africa.  And I told them that I do believe our society is too litigious.  I gave them the example of people suing for their hot McDonald’s coffee and how that type of lawsuit just causes more restrictions on the rest of us.  I said that I did believe that I would be a good juror because I could be fair and impartial.

When I finished, I was nervous that they wouldn’t like my answer about the 15 minute conversation.  The other jurors either couldn’t pick anyone or they picked famous musicians.  Then came little miss Stephanie, explaining why she wanted to talk to a former child soldier.  I though it seemed a little too extreme.  Every time a lawyer would pick another juror to dismiss, I would hold my breath, hoping that my name would not be called.

Then, the defendant’s lawyer said something in lawyer-speak that I understood to mean that he was happy with the seven of us.  My eyes widened.  The judge turned to the plaintiff’s two lawyers.  They went to speak to the plaintiff.  I heard her say “Yes,” and tried to calm myself.  These lawyers also said that they were satisfied.  YESSSS!

While some of the people around me were visibly disappointed, I was so excited that I would get to go to an actual trial.

The judge told us that we should feel proud of ourselves since they had gone through 38 people before selecting the 7 of us.

The judge explained all of the rules.  We were not allowed to speak to anyone about the case until its completion.  We could not research anything regarding the case online, including looking up the names of the judge, lawyers, witnesses, plaintiff, or defendant.

After he explained everything, we were sent home and told to report back at 9am today.

I called my mom, so excited to tell her the news since she had always wanted to serve on a jury and has never been selected.  I couldn’t tell her any details about the case, but I was so excited to see the trial.

Today the seven of us jurors sat in the waiting area.  Some of them seemed content with being selected.  One woman said she had served on a criminal case previously and that she was happy because this was supposed to be a two-day trial, whereas her last one lasted longer than a week.  One man was pretty disgruntled, saying how he must have selected the short straw.

The clerk met us and escorted us into the court room.  After sitting down into the same seats in the juror box as yesterday, he judge said that he had good news for us: the case had settled, so jurors were no longer needed.

What?  My hopes were crushed.  I was so excited to experience the trial.

He explained that situations like this happen sometimes because the parties involved realize that they really have no idea what the jurors will conclude about their case, so it might be more prudent to just settle.

I did not expect that, especially since we had been told that this case had taken three years to get to court.  Oh well.

Despite my disappointment, I was able to get home much earlier than I had planned and the weather was beautiful today, so I even had time to go to the beach, which I couldn’t have done if I had been at work all day.  It’s also good that I’ll get to go back to work tomorrow so that my students don’t need another substitute.

I’m still excited that I was picked.  It was a fun experience.  Maybe one day I’ll actually serve as a juror for a trial.  Or maybe not.  But that was my experience and I really enjoyed it.  Now I won’t be summoned again for at least three years, so I guess we shall see what happens next time.

I know that this blog makes me sound ridiculous, but these past two days were really exciting for me.  It’s kind of a weird topic to be so excited about, but you know, it’s the simple things in life.