April 2007

For America’s Daughters

History. Our record. I’ve been an avid student of our record since 8th grade when Lucille Wikstrom, a tall, commanding woman made World History come alive for me. She expected me to sit up straight and pay attention to her. Which in hindsight is about what any woman wants of any man. Be straight. Be considerate.

I devoted five college years to history achieving a graduate degree in the subject. Human history is so relatively short (measured in thousands of years) that with any degree of discipline you can get your hands (mind) around it, know with some certainty our delightful, sad story. We can know where we came from, when, and the obstacles and challenges that confronted our ancestors.

Herstory is history, too. But you wouldn’t know it from much of the texts that tell our story. Over the past decade, I’ve thought more and more on the subject of female equality and why it took until the 20th century to achieve it (relatively speaking and only in the industrialized west).

Actually, there are intriguing historical examples of female equality. In 8th century b c Italy, there were a people (Etruscans) whose culture was secure (in all its implications) enough that women could walk their communities naked, exercised to stay fit and freely slept with whomever they chose (even after marriage). What an historical anomaly.

Even the most casual survey of our story suggests that women were in many instances considered, if considered at all, little more than appendages (think of the Biblical example of Eve as a rib) of/to men.

This begs the question, why? Why were women relegated to a status inferior to men? Why today in much of the world are we still asking that question?

Take for example, Islamic Egypt. I once considered Egypt a moderate, more secularized nation. In Harpers Magazine (page 13) this month (May, 07) are the following two facts. 96% of Egyptian women under the age of 50 have undergone genital mutilation. 75% of those operations are now carried out by medical professionals. Reread those statistics and shudder.

Without going into graphic detail, this is a staggering indictment of that culture. That Egyptian women be allowed to experience sexual pleasure (independence) is anathema (frightening) to that male dominated culture. Such that their women are coerced and brainwashed into mutilating their bodies. To what end I ask?

It’s a form of control. Of men controlling a woman’s body. Her sexuality. Her freedom. Her womb. Her independence.

I’ve laughing said for years, “No man knows for sure.” Who the real father is of his children. Of course, that is a joke. But with a real historical caveat. If women are left to their own devices (freedom), well, Katy bar the door. Which is exactly what men have done for eons. Put women behind doors (bars). Literally and figuratively.

We see the vestiges of that mentality in our own nation. Five men, let me reiterate, five men (the U.S. Supreme Court) using the authority of the state recently determined that, once again, a woman is incapable of determining for herself her fate. That her womb is the property of the state and is therefore subject to control.

Let’s not mince words here. No man (as in male) I know or respect would ever accept any control (unless freely given) of his body or mind by any other entity or agency. Why then do we impose such restrictions on women?

Reproductive freedom (in all its implications) is an intensely private matter. To interject the state into a woman’s womb is repugnant and unacceptable. It is a grievous blemish on America’s progressive history of freedom and independence. And, no less onerous because the aggrieved is female.

I ask, what do you (we) want for America’s daughters? For your daughters? For all the women of America? A nation where men know what is best for women? Or, a nation where a woman makes that determination? For herself. In all things, in all matters.

I say to the women of modern America, please, please wake-up to history. That which can be taken from you, will be taken from you.

To that end, I recommend attending Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando’s evening with actor, Richard Dreyfuss. It’s a fundraiser. It’s May 10th. You’re invited. Call Kim or Diane at 407.872.6838.

Reach Jepson at: Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US


Living For What?

I sometimes sing a few lines of the theme song from the 1966 movie, “Alfie.” What’s it all about, Alfie?  Is it just for the moment we live?  Depending on the issue, I do a follow-up hum of that catchy little TV tune from Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone.”  No words to that one. You just know, bizarreness surely follows.

Standing in any line can produce these musical moments.  Dealing with a front desk, low level “Ve are just following orders” bureaucrat can also evoke my musical side.   So many experiences can. I should learn to tap dance, too.   So much of life has that quality to it.  Life, period, can have you humming the tunes and doing the dance.

What gets you up and at’um in the morning?  Your job?  Your children?  Your goals?  Your needs?  Your wants?  Your hunger?  That unfinished book?  Your fears?  Your bladder?  Your alarm clock?

What do you live for?  You don’t, you’re simply waiting to die?  I don’t think of life that way.  The moment?  Tomorrow?   Happiness?  I live for happiness.  My dog.  My family.  My children.  My mortgage payments.  To please.  My father.  My boss.  I live for my career.  My next raise.   The deal, I live for the deal.  To serve.  My country.  God.  Mammon.  Sex. Aesthetics.  The novelty.  For the joy of it.  To clean your pool.  I live to clean my pool.  To protest.  I live to protest.

After we reach a certain point in our maturity, self-reflection (for some) becomes automatic.  We have an internal “How are we doing” barometer that intuitively floats in the back of our minds, letting us know our condition.  If we’re living for the right things.  For us.  As individuals.

My father told the following story about himself.  He told it as follows, in first person:

He had recently picked a new primary care doctor. After two visits and exhaustive lab tests, the doctor said I was doing “fairly well’ for my age.

A little concerned about that comment, I couldn't resist asking him, “Do you think I'll live to be 80?”

The doctor asked, “Do you smoke tobacco, or drink beer or wine?”

“Oh no,” I replied. “I'm not doing drugs, either.”

Then he asked, “Do you eat rib-eye steaks and barbecued ribs?”

I said, “No, my former doctor said that all red meat is very unhealthy!”

“Do you spend a lot of time in the sun, like playing golf, sailing, hiking, or bicycling?”

“No, I don't,” I said.

He asked, “Do you gamble or drive fast cars?”

“No,” I said. 'I don't do any of those things.”

“Well, do you have a lot of mind-boggling incredible sex that leaves you breathless, exhausted and ravenous for more?”

“Oh, no,” I said, “I haven’t for years!”

The doctor looked at me and said, “Then, why do you want to live anyway?”

Ha! Ha!  That Dad!  He loved a good story.  But this joke is interesting in the way it poses the question.  What are you living for?

To stand in life’s metaphorical lines and hum a few bars of “Alfie?”

Not all inspirations are carnal but given our bodies, senses and desires, I tip my hat in awe to the carnal and say, “What a gift, the human body.”  Thank you, evolution.

But there are the intellectual, artistic and spiritual sides that also giving meaning and motivation to the human experience. Life’s a balance.   What leaves you breathless one moment may be little more (gratefully so) than a fond memory tomorrow.

And if that doesn’t get you nearly leaping out of bed in the morning, I’d give more thought to exactly what memories you want cascading through your mind at life’s end.  I can think of no sadder song than, “It might it have been.”

That you obediently (resignedly) qued-up for what life offered or that you, on occasion, sang the song, your own inimitable song.

Or, as K.C. and The Sunshine Band sang it so emphatically, “Do a little dance, make a little art. . .”

Or, “something” like that.  You fill in the something.

Reach Jepson at:Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US





And Life Goes On

If   I   were   to    assess   the “meaning” of life for me, it would be balance.  The meaning of life is balance.  Actually, the meaning of life is life.  Pure and simple.  That is it.  There is no more meaning to life than that.  But, as a sentient life form, I have to (must) make a determination of meaning beyond the obvious biological or chemical explanations.

Perhaps, sentient is not my entire meaning.  Human beings are not the only sentient creatures inhabiting earth.  Elephants, the Great Chimps, perhaps whales (and other creatures) have, I believe, an awareness beyond their sheer will to live.  So, I will add the word reflective.  As a reflective human being, the meaning of life is balance.

Between caring and not giving a damn.

I’ve said for over a decade, “Thank gawd for videotape.”  Because without it the future would never know exactly what was lost to them.  The incredible variety of exquisite flora and fauna lost forever due to human exploitation of the planet.  It was and is said with sarcasm.  In Monday’s Orlando Sentinel the demise of Puerto Rico’s “iconic singing frog,” the coqui is chronicled. Just the latest animal lost.  Or, soon to be.  And life goes on.

I get a kick out of the St. John’s Water Management District’s television advertisements encouraging water conservation.  Only water twice a week they say. It’s the law!   Hmmm?  Now why does St. John’s care about water conservation you might legitimately ask?  Because if we run low on water, development slows.  Can’t have that in Florida!

Ironic, we save water so the St. John’s Water District can approve more and more developments for more and more people to use our already finite supply of water.  Too funny.  Life goes on.  Rather, development goes on.   And Gopher Turtles are smothered.

Balance:  between caring and not giving a damn.

We’ve a rogue government in the Bush Administration.  It is indifferent to the nation’s future, actually the Bush government is antithetical to America’s democratic future. It wages war for inexplicable reasons (beyond all logic), contrary to the nation’s best interests.  The Bush administration appoints mediocre, biased minds to administer America’s government.  With tragic results like Katrina.  A government that intentionally divides rather than unifies. It is beyond reason.  It is beyond sad.  We have the potential to be so much better as a people, as a nation.

Balance: between caring and not giving a damn.

And then there is the personal. Of a sister dead at 54 from brain cancer.  Of relatives and friends maimed from heart attacks and strokes. Or breast cancer. Of disease.  Of the diminution of one’s own body and mind.  Aging, by any other name.  Inexorable aging.  Inexorable life.

Author and humanist Joseph Campbell said it well.  “Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.  We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.”

I am not a weepy kind of a guy.  There is just so much “out there” that could have you in tears 24/7. Whether it be the loss of habitat and specie diversity, or the corrosive effects of a corrupt government or most immediately, the loss of a beautiful life, a sister or a friend’s murdered Virginia Tech child.

But I can be at times a furious kind of a guy.  Furious over stupidity and bigotry.  Of corruption.  Or ineptness.  Or indifference. Of loss.  And therein lies a rub.

Balance: between caring and not giving a damn.

The challenge for our democracy is balancing the infinite expressions of free men and women with the intelligent design and maintenance of our social fabric (government & governance).  The iconic individual balanced (in harmony) with the social human. Of creating a world that enables both to flourish.

We live in our minds, yet reside in the world.  We have to care but not give a damn, too.  Life is painful.  Life is exquisite.  Life is momentary.  We live our lives striking the balance.  Reflect on the fulcrum.  On your balance point.    Live accordingly.

Reach Jepson at:Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US



What’s It Take?

I have a note to myself that, for reasons that escape me, is in the console of my vehicle.  On it are the actual congressional (House & Senate) vote counts giving Bush authority to wage war against Iraq. Our memories (and this administration) would have us believe there were few votes against going to war.  Wrong.

The Senate vote was 77 to 23 authorizing the war.  21 of the 23 opposing votes were Democrats.  In the House the vote was 296-133 with 126 of the no votes, Democrats.  I’m impressed that two Republican Senators and seven Republican Representatives bucked the President on this vote.  See, not all Republicans are necessarily brain dead, just a majority.  (I joke, I spoof, I fun on the Republicans.)

In case you missed it, the Pentagon released last week a report that categorically and unequivocally stated there were no ties between al Quaeda and Saddam Hussein.  That to have claimed so was misleading.  Deceitful, if you will.  Oh, what the heck, out and out lies.

Let’s visit one more time how we came to be in Iraq.  America was attacked on 9-11.  Fear and anger set in. The Bush administration, which had actually been planning a war against Iraq prior to 9-11, ratcheted-up the war planning process. (Ironic huh, their planning?  Maybe, tragic is more appropriate.)

The Bush Administration Challenge: How do you war against an imaginary enemy?

No problemo!  Create, fabricate, make-up reasons to wage war. Weapons of mass destruction, links to al Quaeda, nuclear weapons, yellow cake from Niger, aluminum tubes, mobile labs of biological and chemical weapons and, of course, 9-11.  All of it, lies.  Not one word this administration claimed for America’s war against Iraq has proved accurate or true.  Then or now.

I re-read what I wrote in the Observer days before Bush’s folly and I, in essence, said, “No way would we go to Iraq.  The Bush administration is too interested in fire-selling America’s resources, enacting big tax cuts and eliminating burdensome environmental regulations.  A war would risk that over-arching Republican agenda.”  Boy, did I have it wrong.

The war was used to accomplish all those goals. What?  Are you not a patriot?  9-11/tax cuts.  9-11/deregulation.  9-11/resource give-aways.

Today, Bush regularly polls 30% support for his administration.  This is absolutely baffling to me.  How can this President still muster nearly a third of the electorate as supporters?  How much more sorrow and tragedy, misfortune and malfeasance can this administration inflict upon America before his core supporters say, “Enough is enough?”

Bush has made, through tax cuts, the top one-half of one percent of Americans richer. What in fact, has Bush accomplished for the rest of America (us)?

“Uh, uh, uh, he’s appointed two Supreme Court judges who consider women incapable of making decisions for themselves. That’s an accomplishment.”

Oh, yes, of course, the sanctity of life argument.  I get that.  You bet I do.

Let me see if I can properly frame that argument.  All life is sacred.  Is that right?  Do I have the gist of it?  Life is sacred and, as such, anyone who would needlessly slaughter innocent life is reprehensible, immoral and probably a commie, too.

Hmmm?  We have in power a president and his administration that unequivocally fabricated reasons for going to war, profoundly weakening the nation and killing and horribly wounding thousands upon thousands of American soldiers and innocent civilians.

But he appointed two judges who consider women incapable of thinking and that is good because innocent life is sacred!

For those 30% of Americans whom the President (and the Republican Party) call their core support, I ask this.  When are you going to employ your minds in a rational examination of the true values of this administration?  When are you going to consider our dead and hurt soldiers as slaughtered innocence?  Dead, maimed for lies.  And, I ask, why is life the size of a period point more important in your value system than mature adult men and women (our soldiers and Marines)?

How do you square that with your faith (values)?  And why should the rest of America not question your inconsistency?  Or, your intelligence?

Reach Jepson at:Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US


What Is Good For Me.

My youngest child moved to New York City last week. To live and work.  Arguably in that order. He’s going to work as an assistant stage manager for a new off-Broadway play. He’ll travel the subway into Times Square every day.  What joy.  What fun.

My oldest child moved (as the crow flies) four blocks from my home last month. Husband and child in tow.  What joy.  What fun.

If life is process, then my life has it all.  The comings and goings of life.

I was reading in the New York Times last Sunday an essay on Thornton Wilder by Jeremy McCarter, theater critic at New York Magazine.  In it, McCarter references a Wilder play titled, “The Long Christmas Dinner” which I have not read (but now will).  It depicts a 90-year continuous dinner where family members come and go. Children are born and in turn have children themselves. Where things are said anew (as if new) by each generation. And exit stage right.

It is amazing (to me) with all that human beings have in common how “XOXOX” we are with one another.  Picking the right word for how we are (with one another) is challenging.  I initially just typed in five capitol X’&O’s.

After all, I recently heard a reputed “Darwinian anthropologist” say (roughly), “I’m surprised, all things considered, that human beings are as kind and generous as they are.”

What word do you use to describe humanity?  Of course, many words can be imagined. But, for the sake of this exercise, one word, please.

Process-oriented.  But that’s two words.  My original thought was to use the word, “rough.”  How rough we are with one another.  Mean.  How mean we are with one another.   But “rough” and mean” sound so simplistic, so sophomoric. Yet, they work. In a lot of instances.

Now, my mind works in predictable ways.  I almost always go quickly to an extreme with an idea.  Where does that conceivably lead?  Yes, we are rough and mean.  All our ancestors were rough and mean.  Or, at least enough of’um were.

Yet, humans are fun. We’re GREAT BIG FUN.  We’re fun with a capital PH.  PHUN!!  My dad first (early-on) suggested that level of fun.  I heard it all my life.  Fun with a capital PH!  We’re talking PHUN! here.

Humans are entertaining.  Amusing.  Creative.

And, critical.  Critical fits.  Humans are thoughtful, reflective, analytical, problem-solving (two words, no).  And, Introspective (close to reflective but a nuance or two, a shaving’s difference).

We are also articulate and communicative.

Consider, too, historical, biological and/or spiritual.  How spiritual we are with one another. Oh, and yes, subjective and objective.

Linked, joined, coupled. Burdened (burdening).  We’re also supportive, yet combative.  Heavenly, yet horrific.  Generous or ungiving. Scientific and superstitious. Rational-Religious. (I joke on religion. I jest.)  Let’s make it: Rational-Irrational.

Humans are a great number of things to one another. Which is why I selected (this particular moment) the word, “judgmental.” How judgmental we are with one another.

And, understandably and justifiably so.  That all of us are here this moment suggests enough of our ancestors made enough sound judgments that, lo & behold, here we all are taking nourishment.

Saying we are judgmental is both a positive and a negative.  We all know the negatives on/of being judgmental.

That is not my perspective today.  The fact that we are judgmental offers the hope of logic and reasoned argument as our best way to solve problems (challenges).

If I were king for the day, I’d make literature and the study of literature just as an important a school requirement as math or science.  Possibly, more.

Why?  Because reading about “us” accomplishes many things.  It depicts our individual uniqueness and our bonds. Fiction (history, too.) tells our story and one of our biggest stories, our biggest themes is family.

By telling and reading our story, we inform our judgment.

One of my best friends ever, Uncle Curtis, has a 17-year-old high school junior, Colin Royce, who recently made a column inch in The Chicago Tribune with his baseball hitting exploits.  It’s all about family for Curtis.  As it is for nearly every other American alive.  Around the world, too.

We come and go.  Our children come and go. Our parents go. And, in the interim, is family.  We sit around the table of life, supping, if you will.

Developing social policy which bolsters and strengthens family is a legitimate pursuit of our government.

And by using an expanding “informed” judgment, America can do better at nurturing that most important of national priorities, our American family. In all its permutations. Furthering the process, of “us.”

And that is good for me.  And you.

Reach Jepson at:Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US