‘Boyhood’ – The Real Modern Family

‘Boyhood’ – The Real Modern Family

‘Boyhood’ was one of the top films of 2014, it garnered many awards and accolades and most critics gave good reviews about the film. The film is unique that it was filmed over 12 years, starting when the child actors were 6 years old and 8 years old, and it was filmed chronologically as the children and the adult actors aged over the 12 years. It is the story about 2 children Mason Jr. and Samantha who live with their single mother Olivia (played by Patricia Arquette and she won a best supporting actress Oscar for the role) and their travails over their formative years, namely the upheaval caused by Olivia’s turbulent relationships since the divorce with her children’s father, Mason Sr. (played by Ethan Hawke). The film runs over 2 hours long and unlike typical movies, there’s no climax or some big revelation at the end but it gives painful detail about what it’s like to grow up in a single parent home where different step-fathers come and go. You see the triumphs of single parenting (by both parents), as they do try their best given their limitations, the sadness and confusion of the children with each change, each move and like their mother Olivia says keeping everybody away from the brink of poverty. The ultimate triumph of course is the resilience of the children, who managed to live through so many changes in such a short time (3 husbands, moving house 4 times all in the space of 12 years). Despite being raised on the salary of a single mother and very minimal financial contribution from Mason Sr., Olivia was able to send both of her children to college. Mason Sr. despite living far away from his children and making very little financial contribution to their lives, made the effort every other weekend to see his children and not to only see them but to bond with them in a meaningful way. The father-son and father-daughter bond that Mason Sr. forged proved to be pivotal as his children reached adolescence. He was by no means an absent father despite the physical distance.

Since the breakdown of the traditional family unit beginning in the 1980s, a new ‘modern family’ was formed in its place. Modern family can be blended families, same-sex parents, single parent families (by choice or not) etc. The ‘modern family’ is the new buzzword which implies that families now come in all different forms and the traditional family of mom, dad, 2 kids, 2 cars and a dog is not the only family model anymore. Whereas the TV show ‘Modern Family’ shows the fun and glamourous side of blended families where everyone gets along together and has a lot of fun and celebrate each other’s differences (and all the women are thin and fit), the reality is much more starker, as the film ‘Boyhood’ gives a gritty look at the instability of single parent households, with men coming and going, limited contact with their father and adults and children trying to make their way in life, coping with life, peer pressure at school and just trying to grow up.

Olivia and Mason Sr. married young and had their children in their early 20s and Mason Sr. was a free spirited musician without stable income, they eventually divorced with Olivia taking on the bulk of the childcare while her ex-husband went to Alaska for work ‘on a boat’ and he tried to write some music while he was there. It didn’t work out in Alaska so he moved back to Houston in hopes of reconnecting with his children and going to school to get trained as an actuary. Olivia is highly strung, impulsive, emotional and not always rational. She makes terrible choices in men and she reeks of desperation. On the one hand she’s bettering herself by getting her degree and therefore a better job and she always puts her children’s well being first. But she’s so desperate to recreate that nuclear family with the white picket fence that she makes really poor choices in men (‘a parade of drunk assholes’ is how Mason Jr. describes it).

In the beginning of the movie, she gets into a blazing row with her boyfriend because she had to cancel plans at the last minute (again) because the babysitter flaked (a common occurrence for single parents) and he was gone. The next man she meets and ultimately marries is her psychology professor, who turned out to be an abusive drunk. He was her meal ticket so she can finish her master’s degree without worrying about having to work. Her last boyfriend was a war veteran who seemed nice at first but was revealed to have a drinking problem too. Ironically, it was her first husband Mason Sr. that wasn’t drunk and abusive.

With women gaining more legal rights when it comes to divorce and custody, it was a huge step in the right direction for women’s rights. Women were no longer stuck in bad or abusive marriages they couldn’t leave because they couldn’t support themselves and they would automatically lose custody of their children. But the flip side, too many couples call it quits too soon and the people that are hurt the most are the children. The undertone of the story between Mason Sr. and Olivia was that they got married too young had children too young, and ultimately Mason Sr.’s musician/songwriter persona lost its luster when Olivia had children. She needed him to be responsible, step up to the plate and provide and Mason Sr. wasn’t ready for that. In fact, the theme of Mason Sr. not providing is so pervasive that even towards the end of the movie when they were throwing Mason Jr.’s high school graduation party and Olivia and Mason Sr. are finally in a good place in their post-divorce relationship, Mason Sr. offered to help pay for the party but when he opened his wallet he was out of cash and he said he’d go get some from his wife and all Olivia did was roll her eyes. No words were exchanged, none was necessary. You can see all the old emotion and resentment come bubbling back up when it comes to the issue of money.

The film is a perfect depiction of Generation Divorce, since the stigma of divorce and subsequent single parenthood and remarriages was removed, society then proliferated with single parent and blended households, whether by choice or not, a new kind of family was formed, one headed by a single parent, usually the mother. When the children asked their dad if he would get back together with their mom, he was open to it but said it wasn’t just up to him. When he dropped the children back at Olivia’s house, they proceeded to get into a huge fight where the children watched helplessly from the upstairs window, there would be no reconciliation. The audience isn’t given the backstory of their breakup, only hints at Mason Sr.’s irresponsibility to his family, which Mason Sr. admits to towards the end of the movie. In a particularly reflective scene, Mason Sr. told his son that if his mom had been more patient with him (Mason Sr.), things could have worked out differently. Mason Sr. acknowledges that he deserved much of vitriol he got from Olivia but that he also deserved a second chance.

The conclusion of the movie is neither tragedy over circumstances nor triumph over circumstances, it’s a mix of both at different times, and you just roll with the punches, very much like real life. It reiterates the belief that family is what you make of it. When Olivia’s second husband, the psychology professor, forced Mason to cut off his hair when his mother was out of the house and he couldn’t reach her by phone, in the car ride to school with his mother the next day, he asked his mother why she married him as ‘he’s such a jerk’? Olivia said that Bill (her husband) had many good qualities and at least they ‘finally have a family’, to which Mason answered ‘we already had a family’.

As a child of divorce, I can safely say that it is not the desire of children to have their parents stay together even if they are deeply unhappy, having parents in an unhappy marriage is also just as toxic or if not more so than a badly handled divorce. However, even things as unpredictable and mysterious as marriage and all that it entails, people can be partially responsible for the outcome by being mindful of their behavior in times of crises. But to know to do that, one needs to be emotionally mature, to not be too reactive and say things in the heat of the moment where you can’t take back and also to look at the big picture. Is a fractured family where I see my kids every other weekend or having to share my kids half of the time what I want my future to look like? And whatever that answer is should dictate how one behaves during marital conflicts.

#JoshDuggar – Lay the Blame on His Parent’s Bedroom Door

The latest news dispatch out of Tontitown, Arkansas ins’t which of the Duggars are entering a new courtship, engagement or wedding, it’s a scandal of the most salacious kind. Their eldest son Joshua Duggar was accused of molesting several underage children while he was about 14 years old. His parents first notified their church elders and after the alleged abuse had occurred for more than one year did they the approach law enforcement. A report was taken but no charges were filed and no investigations took place.The statute of limitations have passed on these alleged incidents and the Duggars have gone to the victims’ families and apologized at time it occurred. Much of the nauseated public must feel some sort of schadenfreude that this ‘perfect’ Christian family was caught in a scandal. The twitter-sphere and blogosphere has blown up with condemnation after condemnation. The Duggars are not only conservative Christians, but they actively lobby for politicians who share the same conservative values as they, and they include anti-gay, anti-choice and anti-women positions. Joshua Duggar until yesterday worked for Family Research Council, which is a lobbying group that seeks to ‘advance faith, family and freedom’ in government.

Many are focusing on the actions of Joshua Duggar, which are reprehensible, but the true responsibility lay at the with his parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. I lay the blame solely on his parents bedroom door. This was a family that has shunned traditional education. All of the children are homeschooled, they do not go to college (except one son who is in Bible college) they’ve no playmates outside of their own siblings or relatives and their ‘school friends’ consist of other children of Evangelical Christian families with similar beliefs.

Besides that, their beliefs about abstinence until marriage include no physical contact between the intended besides hand holding. Needless to say discussions about sex prior to marriage is not encouraged. This is not to debate sex education v. abstinence only education, or home schooling v. traditional schooling, regardless of what the choice is, parents have a duty to inform their children about the facts of life. Teenagers are sexually curious, that’s a normal development. It is up to parents, school teachers (sex education class) and health counselors to inform children of proper boundaries, what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t and most importantly, any and all contact (sexual or not) must be consensual. It is perfectly reasonable to discuss the birds and the bees even in a traditional Christian household that teaches abstinence only, just because they practice abstinence, it doesn’t mean the sexual curiosity and urges isn’t there, And praying about (the Duggar motto – they pray about everything) it won’t make it go away, just like praying won’t make the gay go away.

This isn’t judging the Duggar family about the choices for their family, about their beliefs and how they bring up their children. This is a basic parental failure on their part. Many people wonder just how they do it? Raise 19 children without any debt, where everyone’s needs are taken care of. Well, the short answer is they (Jim Bob & Michelle) didn’t really raise 19 children, Michelle Duggar gave birth to 19 children. The Duggars instituted a ‘buddy system’ which basically means an older child is responsible for one of the younger children and that includes waking them up, getting them dressed, brushing their teeth, do their school lessons with them, getting them to nap and making sure they eat their meals and getting them to bed…oh wait, that’s the parent’s job. They have farmed out their parenting duties to the older children and Michelle Duggar only takes cares of the infants until they can be handed off to an older child. I am not making this up, this is all documented on their show on TLC ’19 Kids and Counting…’They are very proud of their buddy system.

Besides their homeschooling lessons the only other studies that are allowed are Bible studies. They do not watch TV and their internet use is severely restricted. Even their phone calls, texts and FaceTime are strictly monitored. So, it’s clear that they do not want their children to be influenced by the ‘big bad world’ out there full of immorality, except they forgot one small detail. They clearly didn’t teach it to their children in a practical manner. It’s one thing to teach Bible morality, which is great, but they also need to teach them facts of life, as it applies today not in Biblical times. Children all have the same developmental milestones, even in devout Christian households. To not inform your children about basic facts of life and normal biological development is doing a disservice to them.

I don’t know if Joshua Duggar’s acts of molestation was his adolescent sexual curiosity that got out of hand or that he’s got a real problem which may persist to this day, the fact is that it happened and other girls were harmed and his parents first port of call was not a therapist or the authorities but church elders. And when they finally went to the authorities, the went to a state trooper who was a family friend and he himself is now in jail for sex offenses. It’s all around tragic, the victims are scarred possibly for life and Joshua Duggar and by extension the whole Duggar family’s name has been tainted. TLC has pulled their show from their programming lineup indefinetly, but they’ve not made a final decision on whether the show will be canceled. In my opinion it should, simply because Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar went to such great lengths to cover it up, it’s always the cover up that does someone in. The Duggars chose to be in the public eye and if they had skeletons this big in their closet they should have reconsidered. They cannot reasonably believe that people will not poke and pry into their private affairs under the false assumption that because their children do not have sex outside of marriage there is nothing to be found. Granted, no parent wants to expose the mistakes of their teenage son, possibly ruining his reputation for life before he’s even had a chance to grow up and reform himself, then they shouldn’t have put themselves on TV promoting themselves as this Christian family who live ‘pure’ lives (one of the favorite words of Jim Bob Duggar). The evidence is obviously to the contrary.

#MadMenFinale – The End of Nostalgia

From 1946 to 1970 is a time that modern Americans look upon as the modern golden age. Jobs were plenty, productivity was high and America was recovering nicely from World War II and the Great Depression. We were also in the middle of a baby boom, a population explosion that gave rise to counterculture that followed. The ‘baby boomers’ are still referred to as this monolithic age group that changed the face of America. Most baby boomers recall their childhood through rose tinted lenses and if you were white, middle-class, you were alright. It was a time in history where everyone and everything knew its place, no one to disrupt the social order.

Well, Matthew Weiner blew that notion out of the water for us with show Mad Men which begun in 1960. Housewives were not happy to just be housewives. The only jobs available to women were secretarial and clerical work which opened women up to all sorts to sexual harassment. We today take for granted our much more civilized office culture, at least between the genders. Women in the workplace in the 1960s were groped, petted and basically molested on a continual basis. The only women that were left alone were women of a certain age where they were no longer attractive to men anymore. If a woman wasn’t being groped or petted, she’s being told how to dress, to hike up her skirt, to take down the neckline as though she were some circus act.

The men, however, on the surface look like they are having a grand old time at work, where drinking begins at noon and ends into the wee hours of the night, but they face incredible pressures to succeed to provide for their families. Married women didn’t work then and so it was up to the man to bring home the bacon. So the pressure to stay on top of your profession is relentless. It’s created this scenario where husband and wives though share the same roof but are living parallel lives. The wives are bored to death with the minutia of domesticity and the husbands are under constant stress and anxiety to perform at work. And the children are stuck somewhere in the middle, existing between two unhappy parents, suffering from benign neglect.

Mad Men showed that people are just people, regardless of what era they are from. The frustrations, unhappiness, successes and triumphs are the same. There was no golden age. The so-called economic golden age only applied to white men, women and all other minorities did not benefit from the economic boom of the 50’s and 60’s. One thing that was glaringly obvious was the lack of black people in important positions besides the janitorial staff, elevator operator and secretary. The secretary was promoted to head of HR by Joan Harris and that was about it. Sterling Cooper didn’t bother to sign companies that catered to black people and they treat Jewish people like they are from outer space. The believed that Jewish people sell stuff just to each other and they get Jewish ad agencies to represent them, so when Rachel Menken wanted to make an appointment to take tje department store Menken’s to the next level, they were confused. They even paid some guy to be ‘David Cohen’ from the art department to sit in on the meeting. The whole thing was a farce. Though that didn’t stop Don Draper from having an affair with Rachel Menken, when Don Draper asked Rachel about Israel and how to advertise Israeli tourism, she told him to ‘crack open a book’ once in awhile and wondered aloud if she was the only Jewish person he knew.

Watching the show also made me grateful. Grateful that I am Gen X and that the women that came before me had to endure this type of indignity so that I didn’t have to. But I am most grateful to Matthew Weiner for putting an end to the nostalgia of the ‘Mad Men’ period, because when you dissect it and look closer, there is nothing nostalgic or sentimental about it.

#MadMenFinale – The Women of Mad Men

The women of Mad Men were each triumphant and tragic in their own way. They were triumphant over sexism, misogyny and other tragedies which befell them. The women fared better than the men and each in their own way found their own happy ending.

The most prominent female character is Betty Draper Francis, even though her scenes in the show dwindled when divorce from Don Draper became final. But because her character was such an embodiment of the era that every scene Betty Draper Francis told a deeper story. Betty Draper Francis was Don Draper’s first wife, and arguably first love for them both. Betty Draper was a typical woman of her time. She went to college more to find a husband than for scholastic reasons. Though her major was anthropology, she was never going to go to Papua New Guinea to study the aboriginal peoples there, she learned to speak Italian but that was to make herself more marketable in the marriage market. She is stunningly beautiful, in a Grace Kelly like manner (as she was repeatedly referred to in the show) and she can appear aloof and distant, which she attributes to her “nordic” roots. After college she did some modeling that’s how she met Don Draper, on a modeling shoot. He pursued her, wined and dined her, put a ring on her finger, they got married, got pregnant and moved to the suburbs in fairly quick succession. Betty Draper did what all good girls did of her generation, found a good man, got married and had children. Women who work after getting married is like an insult to her husband, indirectly implying that he can’t support his family with his income. Betty Draper did what she thought all good wives did, cooked for her husband, got dolled up before he got home and put the children to bed so that they won’t bother him after a long day’s work and kept the house in pristine order. She didn’t have any ambition outside of her home and she worked day and night to make her home, her children and herself as perfect as possible. Only until the end when she was dying of terminal lung cancer do we see Betty Draper disheveled in any way. Of course under all shiny facades lay unfulfilled desires, wishes, ambitions and dreams. If one doesn’t have a healthy outlet to express that, one becomes repressed, depressed and angry and this is the life trajectory of Betty Draper Francis. She was the embodiment of a life unfulfilled, the quiet oppression of a gilded but frivolous life took its toll on her. Though her life looked perfect on the outside, she smoked to excess and at times drank too much like many depressed and unfulfilled people do. And her unhappiness is compounded by an unfaithful husband, who was unsupportive and emotionally distant, only paying attention to her when he needed something from her.

Don Draper was not only unfaithful, but when he wasn’t sleeping with other women, he was so preoccupied with his own demons that he could not be a good companion to Betty. His betrayals were many, from talking to her psychiatrist behind her back about what she said in her sessions to lying about his identity. To give Don some credit, Betty wasn’t always easy to deal with, she could be petty, gossipy, jealous and childish. When she was angry with Don, which was often, she could be cutting and insulting in her remarks. Her natural aloofness can turn to ice cold with a stare. The death blow of the marriage came when Don Draper had an affair with the wife of a popular comedian that Sterling Cooper hired to promote one of their products. This affair was different in that it wasn’t discreet. The comedian knew that his wife was sleeping with Don Draper and told Betty Draper. This was one humiliation too many, it was one thing when the affairs were discreet but when others knew of it was too much for Betty.

Betty is ever resourceful when it came men, she already had a backup in place, her “life raft” as Don called it. She caught the eye of politician Henry Francis, who was divorced himself and promised to marry her when she divorced Don Draper. Henry Francis was madly in love with Betty and would never cheat on her. Betty’s feelings for Henry Francis was more complicated, it wasn’t the pure passionate love she felt for Don in her youth but she loved Henry in a deep way because Henry was kind to her and he made her smile again after so many years of misery. She promptly got divorced and married Henry Francis immediately after. Henry Francis was besotted with Betty and was never going to be unfaithful to her and he was prepared to put her needs and those of her children above his own. Betty in turn was a good and supportive wife to Henry. Henry was a decent and kind man, he wasn’t as handsome as Don Draper but every bit as polished and he was from a good family.

Betty soon found out that though she changed husbands, her last name and moved into an even larger and grander Victorian home, her own issues still remained. She still didn’t find an outlet for her creativity when she wasn’t being a wife or mother and soon turned to overeating to compensate and gained a lot of weight. When her mother-in-law hinted that she still had a man to please and can’t afford to be overweight, she lost the weight with the help with Weight Watchers and was back to slim self again. She thought that being a political wife and attending charities and ribbon cutting will bring meaning to her life, but she found all of that exhausting too.

By 1970 Betty decided to enroll in college to get her masters degree in psychology, she loved her studies and was on a path to self improvement and for the first time was happy and fulfilled. Henry stayed out of her way and let her do what she needed to do. But sadly that was not to last as that’s when she got her terminal lung cancer diagnosis. She met her end in a similar manner to Marie Antoinette, who was petulant, vain and frivolous for most of her life, but when her death sentence came in the form of her terminal lung cancer diagnosis, her strength and character emerged. While Henry was collapsing around her and wild with grief, she planned her end down to the last detail. Refusing any treatment she chose to live her last days attending her classes and living as normally as possible. She chose not to tell her children so to not alarm them but Henry told her daughter Sally and naturally Sally was the appointed mother figure to her two younger brothers. When Sally confronted her mother about not seeking treatment, Betty’s response was she didn’t want her to watch her die a slow painful death, like how she watched her own mother die. The last scene for Betty Draper Francis was her sitting at her kitchen table, smoking, her hair coiffed and makeup done with Sally doing the dishes.

Joan Harris is another central figure in the Mad Men Series, she started the series as the Head Secretary for Sterling Cooper, she was in charge of the army of secretaries and basically all the ‘girls’ that work in the office. She has flaming red hair, with tall and voluptuous frame. She was of a ‘certain age’ (over 30) and unmarried. Though on one hand she desperately wants to married and move to the suburbs and become a mother, she couldn’t quite give up her work either. She was unlucky in the love department though we are unsure if it’s by choice or by circumstance. She was in a long standing relationship with Roger Sterling who was married, though she loves him, she’s not comfortable with being a second wife. She and Roger Sterling were star crossed lovers of sorts, when he finally got divorced he went on to marry his 20 year old secretary and Joan was engaged to a doctor called Greg Harris. It was a relationship she settled for in hopes having children. The relationship was imbalanced and fraught from the beginning. Greg Harris was insecure in his manhood (literally and figuratively) because Joan worked with powerful and imposing men who made lots of money and had inkling that she was dating them before. So shortly before their wedding, he rapes Joan in Don Draper’s office as his sick way of getting even (though she never dated Don). Joan went ahead with the wedding out of practicality and never called him out on the rape. Joan Harris is different from the other women in that she operates from a place of practicality over love, nostalgia or sentimentality. When her husband’s career as surgeon failed to launch because of his poor test scores, it made him even more insecure and resentful, so he enlisted himself in army and went to Vietnam as an army doctor without consulting Joan. She was angry but overlooked it. When Greg was away she resumed her affair with Roger Sterling and accidentally became pregnant. Though Sterling was divorcing his younger second wife, Joan didn’t want to marry him while carrying his child. It looked like she was settling for sloppy seconds. So she passed off the baby as her husband Greg’s and called the little boy Kevin. Roger Sterling is aware that the little boy is his child but she refuses to allow him to formally recognize him. She’d prefer Kevin think that his father is a war hero. Again, this was done out of practicality and what’s best for everyone (according to Joan). She knew that eventually she and Greg will divorce and he’ll disappear and that’ll be the last he sees of his little boy so no need to create upset in the name of being honest. And she was right, Greg Harris did disappear, got remarried had twin girls with his new wife and never gave them a backwards glance.

The real tragedy of Joan Harris’s life is when her firm pimped her out to get the Jaguar account, the head of Jaguar Herb Rennet had a crush on Joan and said that he’ll give them the account if Joan agrees to sleep with him – just once. This alone is not shocking, but what’s shocking is the male partners of her firm actually thought that Joan should sleep with him, after all, she’s a woman with questionable morals. She was the long term mistress of Roger Sterling and she is divorced. Only Don Draper protested and said he’d rather lose the account than do that to Joan but the others weren’t so sure, even Roger Sterling didn’t even come to Joan’s defense and she was supposed to be the love of his life. In the end, Joan got herself a huge bonus and 10% non-silent partnership with the company. As angry as she was, as unedifying as it was, she was practical and thought of it as her way of securing her little boy’s future. The whole event was made more tragic by Joan’s practical and no-nonsense response to it. When she showed up to the next partner’s meeting (which was a cue that she went through with the ‘deed’) as a full partner of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, she wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed, she didn’t walk in with her head down, she looked everyone square in the eye, with a gaze that basically said, I am here and I am here to stay and dared anyone to slut shame her. She was unceremoniously pimped out, but she will stay to reap her reward. Joan never did have that happy ending with another man, but she was happy with the small business empire she created for herself. Since she was pimped out by her company and was awarded a 10% share, she’s received 3 pay outs and is wealthy woman in her own right. She thoroughly enjoyed her work and when she was in a position to not need to work, she found that she just couldn’t give it up, especially when there was money to be made. The thought of leaving money on the table killed her. She’d rather sacrifice a relationship with a man than her work. Her little boy Kevin is provided for not just by her but also by Roger Sterling, his biological father. He announced to Joan that he’s putting Kevin in his will and he’ll inherit half of his estate when he dies. Joan has also allowed contact between Roger Sterling and Kevin so that they can get a chance to know each other, though officially he’s still Greg Harris’s child. Roger is to never reveal his true identity to little Kevin.

Peggy Olson’s character is the the story that is most intertwined with all of the other characters. Peggy Olson starts out as a very plain nondescript secretary in Sterling Cooper, just another one of ‘the girls’. Compared with the other secretaries in the office, she was in dire need of a head to toe makeover and Joan Harris wasn’t shy to tell her about it. And even though she was so ‘plain’, it didn’t stop the men of the office making unwanted passes and advances at her. But even in her lack of physical appeal she had a backbone and a sort of self confidence that not even the formidable Joan Harris could take away. Early in her story, she unknowingly becomes pregnant with Pete Campbell’s child (a pre-wedding romp) and gives birth to a little boy, he was adopted by another family. She inexplicably becomes bigger and bigger and at the end of Season 1 she gives birth to a boy not realizing she was pregnant this whole time. At which time she ‘disappeared’ from Sterling Cooper after being promoted to copywriter along with a raise and it confounded Don Draper. So, he went looking for her and found her in some sort of a state sanitarium and in very poor mental state. Don tells her to “forget” the whole thing ever happened as that is the only way forward and to come back to work. Don personally guarantees her position and she comes back to Sterling Cooper thin and back to her normal self again. She never explained her absence, she just put her nose to the concrete and worked and worked and worked for the next 10 years. She had a gift with words and Don Draper took her under his wing, encouraged her and helped her along the way but not without a few nasty spats too. They never slept together, which is worthy to note since we are talking about Don Draper. Peggy is no looker compared to some of the other girls but she can clean up well. Peggy Olson is the one person that Don Draper helped, without expecting anything in return. As a result, they forged a close friendship, an innate understanding of each other and they quietly come to each other’s aid in various times of crisis.

Don Draper never spilled Peggy’s ‘secret’ and Peggy never discussed Don’s many indiscretions. If there is any redemption for Don Draper, it could be with Peggy Olson. Peggy never got to see the really bad side of Don Draper as that was not her experience with him, hence their final phone conversation of “what did you do that was so terrible?” to which he confessed all his sins, breaking his marriage vows, scandalizing his child and taking another man’s name and not making anything of it. Peggy finally did find happiness with her co-worker Stan but it came when she wasn’t looking, she had accomplished a lot for a young girl from Brooklyn who graduated from Miss Dever’s Secretary School. Her ‘relationship’ with Pete Campbell cooled to a professional working relationship and their secret love child was never discussed again after she told him of its existence. It was very telling in the end when Pete Campbell got back together with his ex-wife and moved to Wichita to work for LearJet, Peggy didn’t even bother to go his farewell lunch. Only the lecherous, aging and paunchy Harry Crane was there for Pete’s sendoff and one of his goodbye gifts was a cactus plant, very fitting of Pete Campbell’s prickly and unlikable personality.

The women of that era had goals, dreams and aspirations that were not just in the home. The women of 1960’s were often portrayed as housewives who were happy to be just be mothers and housewives but it’s just not true. The women of Mad Men didn’t “have it all” in the end. They had to make choices and sacrifices like all people do. But each main female character in the end reached their own happy ending which fit in the context of her life.

#MadMenFinale – The End of Don Draper

The creator of Mad Men has created one of the most compelling characters to grace the TV screens in recent times: the character of Donald Draper. On the surface, the anti-hero Don Draper seems like another TV character cliche, a man that every man wants to be and every woman wants to be with. But once you peel back the layers, it’s much more complex than that.

First of all, Don Draper isn’t who he says he is, he assumed the identity of his commanding officer in the Korean War by switching their dog tags after the real Lt. Donald Draper was killed in a bombing raid it was believed that Dick Whitman (his real identity) was killed. The coffin that was sent home to the Whitman family farm contained the body of Lt. Donald Draper. From then on ‘Dick Whitman’ was dead and ‘Donald Draper’ was reborn. The new Don Draper set about reinventing himself, from a poor farm boy to a sophisticated city dweller. He reinvents himself by slowly chipping away the pieces of him that represented his old life, the small rural and provincial worldview was gone, the devoutly Christian persona is gone and finally, the small subtle mannerisms that give away his humble roots were all slowly chipped away. He gets himself a job as an advertising man on Madison Avenue in New York City. He was making good money and marries a beautiful Grace Kelly lookalike and starts a family with her, never informing her of his real identity.

Even the best kept secrets have ways of exposing themselves, from long lost relatives finding him and bumping into people that knew him as Dick Whitman but more importantly himself, his own worst enemy. Dick Whitman lives in his head and at times is screaming to get out. Don Draper soon realizes that it’s not so easy to live the life of someone else, even if it’s the one of your dreams. When you deny your authentic self, no matter how awful and how much you hate that ‘self’, the psychological turmoil and the price you pay as a result of that is far worse than your jealous colleague finding out your real name.

One of the great ironies in the show is that whenever someone of importance finds out Donald Draper’s real identity, Draper wasn’t met with the scorn of being a ‘whore-child’ or stealing the identity of another that he anticipated. Even more shocking, no one cared to report him to the authorities either, people are more angry that he lied about his identity, not the reason behind it. Anyone can understand or empathize why someone like a ‘Dick Whitman’, if given the opportunity would want to change everything about himself, even if they don’t agree with it. What most people cannot tolerate, especially those close to him is the lie. And time and again, Don Draper fails to realize that. The reactions to people finding out about him goes from nonchalant, sadness, pity, understanding, empathy and of course anger. Only one person, his jealous colleague Pete Campbell threatened to expose him but it backfired badly.

When Bert Cooper, Don Draper’s boss, a managing partner of Sterling Cooper found out about his real identify  because of the vindictive Pete Campbell (the jealous colleague) told Bert Cooper that Don Draper isn’t who he says he is; Bert Cooper’s reaction is ‘so what?’ He then quoted some Eastern philosopher about taking the person standing in front of them as they are, and even gave Don Draper the opportunity to fire Pete Campbell.

Betty Draper: his first wife, when she found out his real identity, she was of course angry but mostly at the lie. When she found out why, she felt badly for him. And when she found out that his little brother Adam killed himself because Don Draper rejected him, she felt sad for him, that his only blood relative has died. His other work colleagues reacted in half disbelief, half bemusement, but none of them took him to task about it. He was good at his job and if he says he is Don Draper now then he is Don Draper.

Megan Draper: his second wife, she knew of his identity from the outset, and understood why and was fully accepting of it. During their divorce she threw it in his face (“everything about you is fake”) only because she was angry at his many betrayals but none to do with him assuming another man’s identity.

Sally Draper: his daughter, she found out his real past in bits and pieces and again, she’s more angry at walking in on her father in bed with another woman that isn’t his wife than anything else.

The second storyline in Mad Men is Don Draper’s complicated relationships with the women in his life. He’s mostly betrayed them in one way or another. It’s not just that he is a philanderer and broke his marriage vows and many hearts, but when he wasn’t philandering, he was emotionally unavailable and unsupportive of their personal endeavors if it didn’t include him. He routinely belittled Betty Draper making her feel stupid and insignificant. And if he was available, it’s because he needed something from Betty, namely sex or needing her to be arm candy at his work functions. The betrayal to Betty Draper is especially poignant because she was the first person to love him unconditionally, she wasn’t perfect, she had plenty of issues of her own but she loved him. She took care of him gave him a family that he lacked and craved, overlooked all the things that didn’t add up about him but finally had to divorce him if she wanted to preserve any shred of dignity or self-respect. Betty Draper coming from an upper-class and well-to-do family, her father and brother wasted no time pointing out the things in which were wrong with Don Draper, namely the lack of family, which they found to be extremely suspect. Betty Draper overlooked all of that because she loved him.

Sally Draper offered him the unconditional love only a child can and all he had to do there was not screw it up too badly but he couldn’t manage that as well. Sally walked in on him in bed with the neighbor’s wife, who’s child she’s friends with. In that second, it became clear to Sally what went wrong with her parent’s marriage. For the first time saw the true colors of her father, but in spite of that, she still loved him as only children can.

Megan Draper was his second chance at life, at righting past wrongs particularly in the marriage department. Megan was more worldly than the younger and more naive Betty Draper but Megan, like Betty, loved him absolutely and unconditionally. Megan was an excellent step-mother to his children and the children adored her. She was not the jealous or the petty type and was able to provide everything Don Draper needed from a woman: sex, total undivided attention, support, adoration and adulation and crucially personal space. Megan was able to focus all her attention on him and fill that void of the sad little boy needing his mother, but again, he couldn’t help himself and betrayed her trust, their marriage and everything else. Megan’s knight in shining armor became an “old and sloppy” liar.

The two women that he didn’t betray were Peggy Olsen and Joan Harris. Peggy was his secretary who showed a gift for copywriting. He promoted her to be a copywriter very soon after she joined Sterling Cooper as a junior secretary but when Peggy suddenly disappeared from work one day, he tracked her down at a hospital and found out she had a child out of wedlock, gave him up for adoption and was in a very poor mental state. He told her to forget about the whole episode like it never happened and come back to work, it’s the only way forward (which by the way, is the Draper motto). He saved her job for her and took her under his tutelage and never mentioned the episode again to her or anyone else. It’s also worth mentioning he never slept with her. So, it proves that Don Draper knows right from wrong and has the ability to discern the difference but most of the time chooses not to.

Joan Harris was the head secretary at Sterling Cooper and in a particularly unedifying episode, she was pimped out (literally) to a client to secure his business. She was told that she’d be rewarded handsomely for it, including a minority, non-silent, ownership (a condition she insisted on) in the company but she had do the ‘deed’ with a disgusting, balding, lecherous old man (it wouldn’t have been ok if she was pimped out to a young handsome man either – just for the record). She was divorced by this time and had a young son to support on her own. She looked at it as securing her son’s future to make the whole thing less wretched. The show’s creator and writer Matt Weiner beautifully illustrated the hypocrisy of the men that supposedly ‘loved’ and ‘cared’ for Joan by not opposing to have her be pimped out. Her former lover and the biological father of her son Roger Sterling was in on the conspiracy of silence. Don Draper was against it, saying he’d rather lose the business than make Joan Harris do that and was rather disgusted and appalled when Pete Campbell made the suggestion and Don Draper is rarely ever disgusted or appalled about anything. But when decision time came around, Don Draper was conveniently out of the office and the decision was made without his presence, when he found out it was too late. He personally went to Joan’s apartment to let her know that he was totally against this and it was done behind his back. Joan’s patted his cheek and said “who knew you were one of the good ones”.

In the final episode, all of Don Draper’s goodbyes were done by phone. His goodbye to a dying Betty Draper Francis (she remarried) was sad, poignant and appropriate. They didn’t say much to each other, but through choked tears and monosyllables, all the feelings and emotions between them were conveyed and they understood each other perfectly and I’d like to think that all that happened between them had been forgotten and forgiven. His goodbye with Megan Draper was him writing her a one million dollar check as their final divorce settlement and apology for all the wrong he’s done her. Finally, he chose Peggy Olson as his ‘confessor’: the lone woman that he not only did not betray but helped achieve her potential without asking for anything in return, the one person where he can look back and actually feel good about how he treated her. When Peggy asks him “What did you do that was so terrible?”, his reply was short but all encompassing, “I broke all my vows, I scandalized my child. I took another man’s name. And made nothing of it”. That right there sums up his life’s sins. For all his advertising genius of inventing slogans that neatly sum up how people should feel when eating, drinking or using a certain product, he failed to realize one of life’s most basic principles to self fulfillment, happiness and contentment and that is to be the best version of yourself. In short, be a good and honest person with integrity, whether as Don Draper or Dick Whitman, it won’t matter.

Carly Fiorina, GOP’s answer to Hillary?

The first woman GOP presidential candidate has declared herself: it’s Carly Fiorina. She’s not campaigning as the ‘anti-Hillary’ but a better solution to Hillary Clinton. As of yet, she hasn’t openly bashed Hillary Clinton, unlike her other male colleagues. No mention of Hillary’s expensive wardrobe, hair and makeup team, the extra private jet for her luggage and the like. Her male colleagues can take a lesson or two from Mrs. Fiorina’s restraint.

Fiorina’s slogan on her campaign website is: “We can do this.Together. It is time to declare the end of identity politics. It is time to declare the end of lowered expectations. It is time for citizens to stand up to the political class.” First of all, everyone has an identity. It’s impossible to run a campaign without an identity. It may not be the extreme left-wing or right-wing identity type of campaign but she definitely running on a very specific identity and agenda: she is running as a businesswoman, an executive who is going to make the government more efficient, a person with experience in the real world (as opposed to a career politician who is clueless), she is pro-life of course (a requirement), a practicing Christian, and a political outsider, though not by choice, she lost a tough and bruising battle to Senator Barbara Boxer. All of this would have been great provided that Mrs. Fiorina was a successful business executive. Her record at Hewlett-Packard was underwhelming at best, some would label it a disaster, her acquisition of Compaq was strongly opposed by the board of HP and even had a boardroom showdown with Walter Hewlett, the son founder William Hewlett. Walter Hewlett was regularly described as a ‘low key cellist’, or a basically ‘loser’ in the tech world, but as he observed of the Compaq acquisition and wondered out loud why would one double down investment on such a low profit margin product such as the PC. So what if you are biggest PC maker in the world (as that was Fiorina’s aim)? Perhaps he wasn’t so ‘low key’ after all, he did pay attention to his father’s business. It turns out Walter Hewlett was right, the acquisition was a huge disaster, HP lost more than half of its value on its stocks and it never felt so good to be so right for Walter.

But it’s not just the miscalculation of acquiring Compaq that will cost Fiorina in this campaign, it’s also the policies she adopted during the acquisition, she outsourced 15,0000 jobs overseas, and what’s worse, she had the people she was about to layoff train their own replacements, if that’s not illegal or unethical, it’s at least cold and unfeeling. All in all, it was over for her in five years. She was fired for her poor performance (though she claimed to 60 Minutes that she had no clue why she was fired and she was given no notice). It was the first time HP has fired their CEO, worth mentioning because HP is well known for valuing their top employees. And for this ‘failure’ she was awarded $100 million dollars as her severance package, while the company she ran lost half its value.

It’s not a crime to be an unsuccessful CEO, she wanted to be successful and make HP the biggest PC maker on the market but dot com bust happened and the PC computers has begun giving way to more portable way of using the computer like laptops and tablet devices. Her failed tenure as CEO was partly her own miscalculation and unforeseen market changes, so it’s not all her fault. But what will be a huge problem is if she intends run for president by using her business track record, which for all intents and purposes, is considered a failure. And since her departure from HP, she never held another high ranking position in another fortune 500 company. She never had a chance to ‘right’ her business record. After her departure from HP, she has served on boards of charities, and as a policy advisor for state and national governments.

She ran for senator against incumbent Barbara Boxer in the 2010 midterm elections hoping to capitalize on the Tea Party insurgency but she ran from the wrong state, it was a close and contentious race where her record at HP was brought to forefront by the Boxer campaign and the fact that she laid off 15,000 American workers was replayed over and over again on our TV screens and in the end, she lost to Boxer. If’s also fair to note that she laid off those people 7 years ago at the time of the 2010 midterm elections, but because California was still suffering from high unemployment, this was an effective anti-Fiorina message by the Boxer campaign.

If the GOP wants to find an alternative to Hillary Clinton, they should consider a candidate like Meg Whitman, a CEO who was actually successful, is still relevant today and has close ties to Silicon Valley. Meg Whitman also tried to run for governor of California in 2010, she ran a huge and expensive campaign where over $100 million of her own money was used, in the end she lost to Jerry Brown who only spent a fraction of what she spent in his campaign. After her failed run for the California governorship, she joined the board of HP (the irony) and was appointed its CEO in 2011 with hopes of turning the company around and really making it the biggest PC maker today. Her performance is mediocre at best, some call it underachieving, just one step above being a ‘failure’ but the jury is still out. But Meg Whitman can legitimately say that she was brought in to fix HP and that it was already underperforming prior to her arrival. She, unlike Carly Fiorna, didn’t cause the demise of HP.

For the GOP base, Meg Whitman would be considered too liberal, she’s pro-marriage equality and pro-choice and not a particularly devout Christian. The fact that she identifies as Republican and has actual success in business when she was CEO of eBay isn’t good enough for the GOP base. They call the likes of her a RINO (Republican in name only), who is only fiscally conservative but not socially conservative. What the Republican party continually fail to recognize is that their old order is dying. Their anti-gay, anti-abortion, Christian and social conservatism is no longer relevant to the electorate anymore. People today care about jobs, their health care, the overall state of the economy and a safety net for those who need it in times of crisis. Even people who are socially conservative, will not go so far as to openly condemn others who do not share conservative views.

With each attack on gay marriage, debating whether being homosexual is a ‘choice’ or not, attacking and shaming women who’ve gotten abortions and questioning the legitimacy of each rape incidence that has led to a pregnancy, shaming people on public assistance as being lazy and unmotivated the Republicans are shrinking their voter base, even people who consider themselves as moderate Republicans will recoil from these kind of uncalled for attacks. Being a Republican equals being a narrow minded bigot and nobody wants to be that.

Words that will haunt him: I, Too, Would Have Authorized Iraq Invasion – Jeb Bush

Poor Jebby. He hadn’t even officially declared his candidacy yet and he’s already made his biggest blunder. “I, too, would have authorized Iraq invasion”. Of course in the four days since he’s uttered these famous words he’s backtracked, re-explained himself so many times that it was hard to keep track. But it’s perfectly clear what his position is on this single biggest foreign policy failures in the modern era. One has to admire his loyalty to his elder o brother, after all the criticisms and the disastrous fallout from the Iraq Invasion, to which the full extent has yet to manifest itself, he still stood by his brother. He’s got one point for loyalty, but negative one in foreign policy. Of course he made it worse by dragging Hillary Clinton into it saying that she would to authorize the invasion of Iraq. Well, you see Mr. Bush, may she would have, may she wouldn’t, but she wasn’t president then, she was a senator who voted yes to authorize out of loyalty to her commander in chief or perhaps she really believed it was right for the country then, whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter. She wasn’t the president, she didn’t order hundreds of thousands of troops to go to a hostile land on false made up ‘intelligence’ and the bloods of thousands of soldiers and Iraqi civilians are not on her hands. If President George W. Bush can sleep at night and his conscience is clear about all the choices he made as president, that’s good for him, but it doesn’t change the fact thousands died, many thousands more are permanently injured.

What George W. Bush had in spades and was totally left out of Jeb Bush is charisma, that extra a little of something that one can’t put its finger on. That ‘x factor’ where if you could bottle it up and sell it, it would make you a billionaire. Whatever George W.’s perceived lack of intellect, depth and principles, he made up for it with charisma, in spades. He has a unique knack for knowing how to speak to an audience, if it was an Evangelical Christian audience, he knew how to speak their language, even though he’s not an Evangelist, he’s a Methodist. If he’s speaking to other politicians or ‘politicos’, policy wonks, political donors, people he needs to impress, he can pull that trick out of his hat too. If he’s speaking to a group of college students on a college campus, he is able to make a bunch of largely apathetic voters feel that they can contribute something by voting (for him of course). I was there for that particular speech. Though I was firmly against him and his policies, I like him personally. He was warm, funny, he made a point to meet everybody who attended his speech, he looked you in the eye when he spoke to you, even if he waved at you for a second, you felt that he cared about you. And it didn’t seem phony either, it was just how he was. He has that effect on people. Even the Dalai Lama said he liked George W. Bush as a person, but hated his policies. This is an extremely unique gift that you are either born with or not and cannot be taught. George W. Bush was any campaign advisor’s dream, just ask Karl Rove.

Poor Jebby wasn’t born this with this ‘charisma’. Up until now, his verbal blunders and Freudian slips are many. Starting with ‘accidentally’ declaring his intention to run as a GOP candidate for President, and now with the Iraq war. I don’t know who is advising him, but whoever that its, he needs to be fired. Jeb Bush’s biggest liability is the legacy of his older brother, his father’s to some extent but George Sr.’s administration was too long ago to have any serious policy implications today. But the same cannot be said of George W. Bush, his policies during his 2 administrations are still reverberating today, both foreign policy and domestic policy. His screw up with Iraq was so immense that people forget that he was the sitting president when we had our worst recession in modern times. The ‘blame’ or at least the ‘attribution’ of the recession has been unfairly laid at President Obama’s front door step.

If the Republicans want any chance at winning the white house, they will need to win the Latino vote, it won’t work mathematically otherwise, since the GOP of getting the black vote is slim to none, so the Latino voting bloc is key. The GOP has to find a non-Latino candidate who Latinos will vote for and Jeb Bush fits this bill. Marco Rubio’s story and rise is compelling but he is considered too liberal and biased on immigration issues to get the support of the base who are virulently anti-immigration, especially any policy that gives off any whiff of amnesty. So, Jeb Bush is their man, Jeb Bush’s wife Columba Bush, a Mexican-American, and by default their three children are of Latino heritage. Jeb Bush at least on paper, can appear to empathize with the frustration of the Latino voters because his wife is Mexican-American but he himself is a WASP. His children represent the demographics of America today, a country where persons of mixed heritage are on the rise. So, he can rally the base without alienating Latinos – only if he can keep his mouth shut where he should.

The first order of business his political advisors should tell him is that he should, under any circumstance discuss the Iraqi Invasion, if asked about it, his answer should be a firm ‘no, it was a mistake, I wouldn’t of done that’ and follow it up with ‘I love my brother but I don’t agree with all he does’. But of course he did the opposite of that. He will spend most of the primary season explaining what he meant by ‘I, too, would have authorized Iraq Invasion’.

Penelope Trunk, Show some respect to Sheryl Sandberg!

Ms. Sandberg’s husband tragically passed away while on vacation with his family last week. His cause of death was not immediately revealed by his family, so it led to a much speculation as his cause of death and that it was not due to natural causes. We know now it’s not due to natural causes, he fell off his treadmill and hit his head and paramedics weren’t able to revive him. It’s a tragic accident and he leaves behind his family and his 2 little girls no longer have a father. Due to the family silence on the cause of his death, some people have speculated that he committed suicide and the most prominent voice in the startup blogoshpere is Penelope Trunk, she wrote an entry called ‘Dave Goldberg’s cause of death? I think it’s suicide’ , there were some cryptic tweets that were then quickly deleted that pointed to a death that was not natural. The title of the article was written to provoke as Penelope Trunk does so well in her advice columns. Ms. Trunk is unique that she gives career advice that are contrary to the mainstream and advice that cater to people that out of the mainstream, such as herself, she suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome and she’s had a tough time in tech startup worlds where emotions are nuanced, things are read in between the lines and many feelings are not explicitly stated. Sometimes her articles serve to provoke, to say what everyone is thinking but don’t dare say and she can get away with it because she has Aspergers and she is not afraid to tell people so.

But this article went one step too far. First, he didn’t commit suicide, he had a tragic accident on gym equipment, so she’s wrong there. And unless the family chooses to disclose otherwise, I will not jump on the conspiracy theory wagon. She then implied that Dave Goldberg committed suicide because all of Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Leaning In’, Trunk claims that she gets to ask this invasive question because: “Because Sheryl Sandberg, who was married to him, is not only Facebook’s COO, but she is also the author of the book Lean In. That book tells women that they should have a career like Sheryl’s. And, most significantly for this post, that women should pick a spouse like Dave.Sheryl has said over and over again that it is because of her spouse that she is able to Lean In ( which, loosely translated, means work insanely long hours and have kids and have a great marriage).” And Trunk closed with the final salvo: “But really, I just want to know how Dave died. Because I think he killed himself. And if he did, this might tells us a lot about what happens when both people in marriage Lean In.”

I agree that Sheryl Sandberg is hard to like. I found her interviews for her book ‘Lean In’ patronizing and unrealistic. She is using her life’s experiences and projecting them onto how all women should treat their careers and is indirectly implying that the reason why women didn’t get where they want to be is because we didn’t ‘Lean In’. No Sheryl, that’s not why, most women do not get to choose their careers, it most likely chooses them due to life’s circumstances. A lot of women don’t get ahead is not because they didn’t Lean In, they did, but were pushed out by bosses who don’t appreciate them. And Sheryl Sandberg’s whole schpiel about finding a husband that shares 50/50 of the housework? Now, that’s how I know she’s not cued into reality. She didn’t have a husband that did half the child care and chores, she was able to pay for someone else to do them. And if I can pay for a top grade nanny, cook, house keeper, house cleaner, yes, I’d have a fantastic career and be totally relaxed about it and be able to attend to the needs of my husband too.

All of this doesn’t matter right now. Her husband has died, show some respect Penelope Trunk! It’s unbecoming of you to write a post like that, even your Asperger’s Syndrome doesn’t excuse you from that. Yes, Sheryl Sandberg was very vocal about her life, career and marriage but it was done in the spirit to help other women become like her. It was very misguided and the advice is not realistic but she was trying to give back in her own way. She doesn’t deserve this kind of vitriol, she has two young children who are in terrible shock, she doesn’t need attention seeking people to make what is a trying time for them even harder.

Penelope Trunk’s follow up to her speculative article that Dave Sandberg committed suicide was no less provocative, and yes, we get it, Sheryl Sandberg held him up to be this perfect husband, the reason why she was able to go do what she does and how all men should be more like him.

She portrayed them to have this perfect marriage of combining high powered careers and family life, showing up to tech conferences holding hands. It’s all nauseating and totally misleading. But again, Ms. Trunk, her husband died, show some respect. As for your inquiry if she has nannies or help? Of course she does! You don’t need her to confirm that, anyone who makes over six figures and doesn’t hire help is officially crazy. So there’s your answer.

Freedom of Speech is not the same as being an asshole.

The First Amendment Right, Freedom of Speech, one of the most hallowed rights we get to enjoy as Americans. We get to say (in print and speech) what we want, when we want and where we want, regardless of content, how offensive, crude, rude, lewd and crass it may be, we are protected under the Constitution and the law. The Founding Fathers found this Right to be important in establishing a true democracy and a free society, so in spite of the risks associated with allowing free speech, they went ahead and included in the Constitution.

Since its inception, this Right has been abused just as often as it was applied in the right way and nobody can argue to the contrary that despite the unpleasant side effects of free speech, it’s done much more good than harm in the public discourse of American society. Just like being pro-life, one cannot choose to be pro-life when it’s convenient, one has to be pro-life all the way through, in all circumstances of human life, the same goes with free speech. It cannot be free speech only in the following circumstances…but if it involves this other set of circumstances, there is restriction on expression, then it’s no longer ‘free’ speech.

At the same token, no Right has been abused more than the First Amendment Right (The Second Amendment, Right to Firearms is a close second). Hateful people, groups and organizations have used their First Amendment Rights as their platform to spew bigotry, hate and lies. No matter how hateful, even the Supreme Court cannot stop them, as evidenced with the Westboro Baptist Church members. As long as persons, groups and organizations are in a public space, they are free to say what they like, regardless of truth, taste and social sensitivity. The Founding Fathers perhaps hoped that future generations of Americans will appreciate what a precious right this was and therefore treat it with the respect and dignity it deserves. We have no such luck here.

There are also individuals who just live to shock, offend and provoke just for the sake of shocking, offending and provoking, without any reason or cause behind their provocations. It’s a ‘because I can, therefore I will’ attitude. And we are not talking about teenagers with too much time on their hands, we are talking about fully grown up people who need to seek attention for themselves at all times. Such is the case with Pamela Geller, who hosted a ‘Draw Mohammed’ contest in Garland, Texas. She represents the organization American Freedom Defense, which according to The Southern Poverty Law Center, is an anti-Islam hate group.  The prize for the winner of the contest is $10,000. And as predicted, this sort of Muslim-bating behavior, two people were killed at the event and the gunmen declared their allegiance to ISIS. 

Anyone with the most rudimentary knowledge about Islam is that they do not tolerate any insults towards their Prophet under any circumstance and it’s forbidden in Islam to draw a likeness of the Prophet. Though there are some sects of Islam (mostly Shia) that are not as strict about this particular edict, it is fair to say that the majority of Muslims across the world, do not take kindly to people insulting their Prophet and depicting their Prophet in a drawing. Muslims in general treat their religion with the utmost seriousness and do not make jokes about Islam, even harmless jokes. They lack a distinct sense of humor in this regard. There will never be any ‘When the Prophet walked into a bar at night…” type of jokes amongst Muslims. Even secular Muslims who are not observant treat their religion with reverence out of respect for the other Muslims who are observant. And on top of all this, they especially do not appreciate Westerners insulting their faith in any fashion, they do not care about our rights of free speech to say, write and draw as we please, at least not when it comes to Islam.

As decent and civilized human beings, we in the West, should respect that, even if we don’t understand it, are confused by it and totally disagree with it. When dealing with Muslims, unless one has glowing reviews about Islam, it’s best to avoid the whole topic all together. This is one area where the East and West differ with little room for compromise and so it’s best to avoid the subject all together. Just because the Constitution gives us the right to free speech, the right to be complete assholes, and just because we can, it doesn’t mean that we should.

If the next president wants to help America, start with regulating the police.

If the next president of the United States really wants to help America, which they all claim to love above anything else, he or she ought to start with cracking down on police abuse of power. It’s a domestic issue that has been ignored election after election. It’s treated as a not-important issue because it mostly concerns inner city minorities who are treated as throwaways, a sector of the electorate with the least power in terms of election contributions and special interests. There are special interest groups representing everyone and everything, even private prisons have lobbying representation to build vast prison complexes in sparsely populated states but there is no lobbying group representing the rights and voices of inner city people who routinely clash with the police.

It is important to preface this with stating that the majority of police officers are good, brave and decent people who love the communities they protect and serve. But there are also a small fraction of police officers who have no compunction about using their badge as tool for oppression and abuse.When 12 year old Tamir Rice was shot and killed for playing with a toy gun that looked like a real gun, we have reached crisis point.Twelve years old! He was only playing in the snow with his sister, and the person that called 911 said the gun could be a toy gun and that person called the police out of an abundance of caution, not to cause the boy’s death. And of course, Timothy Loehmann, the officer involved in the shooting was a rookie officer, said that the boy startled him and he had no way of knowing if the gun was a toy gun or real gun and that the boy could have been 20 years old. Tamir Rice was not described to be a tall or large child, his face is definitely still childlike, granted, the orange safety valve on the toy gun was missing therefore making it look like a real gun, but are rookie police officers so poorly trained that they cannot tell the difference between a child and adult? Even if Tamir Rice looked older than 12, say 15 or 16, is it appropriate to shoot a 15 or 16 year old with a possible toy gun. Officer Loehmann claimed that he didn’t get the message that the gun may be a toy gun or that the suspect is a child, so again, he didn’t know, that is their get out of jail card: “I didn’t know”, “I was afraid for my life”, “I didn’t know that suspect wasn’t armed.” Cleveland police were reluctant to charge Timothy Loehmann, even though the corner declared Tamir Rice’s death as a homicide, no murder or manslaughter charges have been filed an investigation is still pending 5 months after the shooting. Tamir Rice’s body hasn’t even reached its final resting place as investigators aren’t sure if they need his body for further investigation, adding insult to injury to Tamir Rice’s family.

Ever since the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012 by George Zimmerman, a wannabe-cop, self-appointed neighborhood watch and trigger happy to boot, there seems what feels like an endless horror of white cops killing black men, young men, men in their prime and the cops seem to get off scot free as long as they utter the words ‘I was afraid for my life’, ‘I didn’t know he was unarmed’, ‘I didn’t know he was a minor’. Eric Garner, a father of 4 was choked to death by Officer Daniel Pantaleo, for selling loose cigarettes, yes, it is against the law to sell loose cigarettes, but is it necessary to put a man in a choke hold because he resisted arrest? And when he says ‘I can’t breathe’ why was that ignored? Of course the NYPD blues came out in force to protect their own, blaming the victim, saying that if he weren’t engaged in an illegal activity he wouldn’t be dead. Well, by that standard, any person that commits an unlawful or illegal activity and is apprehended by the police deserve to die if they don’t do exactly as the police say? Eric Garner was selling loose cigarets, which to my understanding is common but still illegal. He wasn’t committing a robbery, he wasn’t armed, he wasn’t in a fight, he wasn’t trying to kill someone and yet he was choked to death and couldn’t breath. The Grand Jury refuse to indict the officer because the officer didn’t mean to kill him and since he technically resisted arrest the officer was well within is rights to physically restrain him. 

Mike Brown of Ferguson, Missouri was another case of an aggressive youth, unarmed, but due to his large and intimidating size, the office Darren Wilson again stated that he was afraid for his life, even though he’s the one that is armed, and that due to Mike Brown’s large size, it scared him. There seems to be a running narrative here: first, all these white officers have trouble telling what age these black kids are, second, they all use the same excuse that they were in fear of their lives even though the above mentioned people were unarmed, somehow, trained police officers have trouble differentiating if a suspect is armed or not and they are not taught a safe way to find out if a person is armed or not. They are reinforcing the stereotype that black boys always look older than they really are, and that they are all dangerous.

This type of brutal policing has to stop, the vicious cycle of arrest, incarceration and reoffending for black men has got to stop. The justice system was not designed to be a racist institution, it’s to the contrary, the US justice system is supposed to be dispassionate so that proper justice can be served. But inner city communities who do not have access to good representation and only have overworked public defenders as their only resource, each public defender has so many cases that he or she is just looking to get rid their cases off their desks, public defenders often recommend plea bargains to get rid of their cases. When a defendant accepts a plea bargain, it is the same as a guilty conviction, and now that defendant has a record. If the defendant hires his own attorney and insists on his day in court as is his right under the constitution, he may be acquitted or just receive probation.

When the results of an institution or criminal justice system disproportionately affects a certain minority group, that system or institution has become racist, it may not have started out that way and that may not have been the intent behind our criminal justice system to be racist, but as it stands today, it’s very safe to say that it is racist and unfair to those that are financially disadvantaged. A balance must be struck with effective policing and making sure communities are safe and the police overreaching and abusing their power because they have a gun and badge. Since all police carry guns in the United States, it’s safe to say that in any random probability, the police will be better armed than any suspect they meet.

The American people do not care that much about what happens with the Iran Nuclear Deal or what the erratic Iranian Regime says about Israel or which rebels they are backing militarily this month. The Ayatollah can mouth off his crazy talk or tweet his crazy words, Americans don’t care. Americans care about issues at home, health care access, contraceptive access for women, basic health care for all people, police brutality and abuse, jobs, education, everything that affects us here at home, right now.

So all the ladies and gentlemen running for president now, they need to pay attention to issues at home, it’s easy to divert the spotlight away from what’s important with what’s going on overseas and make it seem more important than what’s going on at home. It’s not going to work this time, the American public is sick of it, we want our next president to clean up our own backyard, to invest in our roads, to invest in our education and our children.

Stay out of my va-jay!

Reproductive rights, abortion, access to contraception, parental consent of abortion of minors, all of these are private matters between a woman and her doctor. They are not election talking points to woo voters from the left or right. These topics are private and sometimes involve tragic circumstances. It’s not a discussion of Christian morality and branding women who seek these services as immoral, reckless, feckless, promiscuous and need to be taught a lesson. It is degrading to infantilize women this way, to tell women when she’s allowed access to birth control (when she’s married), when she’s allowed to have an abortion (if at all) and if a minor has to tell her parents she’s pregnant even if she could be severely punished or even harmed by her family. Women do not need to be told by others how to manage their reproductive functions, even very young girls have a right to decide what should happen in the event that they find themselves pregnant. Let’s pretend if erectile dysfunction is common in most young males of procreating age, you can be damn sure Viagra would be free and available to all males and The Hobby Lobby wouldn’t launch a lawsuit against the government about not providing Viagra to its male employees. There wouldn’t even be a debate.

Men, the irksome male species of human that loves to involve themselves in all things non-male when it suits them. The male politicians and male prospective presidential candidates have the most to say about Roe v. Wade (the historic Supreme Court decision in 1973 that made abortions legal). Candidates like Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Rand Paul and even Jeb Bush all say that they would defund Planned Parenthood as one of their first acts if elected President, don’t we have far more serious problems and policy concerns than Planned Parenthood? An organization that provides free and affordable birth control, breast cancer screening, basic reproductive health services and yes abortion is included as part of their services to millions of low income women? Many right wing, foaming at the mouth, self-appointed messengers of God-politicians go so far to say that Planned Parenthood are really just abortionist clinics, as if their sole purpose for existence is to perform abortions. Of all the services Planned Parenthood offers to the public, only 3% are abortion services – that means 97% are for other women’s health concerns, such as breast cancer screening, PAP smears (helps to prevent female reproductive cancers), and providing affordable birth control to women who otherwise couldn’t afford it.

What is even more hypocritical about these self-appointed champions for unborn children is that most of them support the death penalty and do not oppose assisted suicide as much as they oppose abortion. If one chooses to be pro-life, one has to be pro-life all the way, and that includes convicts on death row, yes, those unsavory people who belong in the underbelly of society, who don’t deserve to see the light of day for their crimes and who are condemned to die for their heinous and unspeakable crimes. Yes, Mr. Jindal, Cruz, Walker, Paul, Bush, you must spare their lives too if you call yourself pro-life. You don’t get to pick and choose when you get to be pro-life. And for assisted suicide, even if a patient has lost all function but for his left thumb, and he lives a miserable dependent existence with absolutely no enjoyment or quality of life, and is just sitting there waiting to die, based on pro-life principle as dictated by God, the same God you purport to worship, which is natural life through natural death, all the aforementioned gentlemen should be as strongly against assisted suicide as they are abortion, no exceptions – just like their view on abortion. These anti-abortion politicians are political opportunists, their positions are not born of real convictions, it’s very easy to feel sympathy for an unborn child. you imagine them as newborns, all pink and wonderful and glowing but they never got to be born because their mothers cruelly ended their lives and they throw their political campaign behind those unborn children, of trying to ‘save them’ from their fate, from their cruel mothers who are unfit to begin with, they will be their champions because that is popular and everyone can related to a cute little baby. Well, gentlemen, how about throwing your political weight behind the people that are alive right now who are suffering? There are 16 million children in America that are living in poverty right now, which amounts to 22% of all American children, that is a staggering number, more than one-fifth of all children in the richest nation on earth live in poverty, and they concern themselves with the 3% of abortions carried out in Planned Parenthood? It would get them a lot more votes if they showed concern for the children in poverty that currently exist not the ones that didn’t get born.

The same politicians who want to defund Planned Parenthood as the first order of business if elected president are also the same people that are cutting back on social programs for the needy. So they want to block poor women’s access to birth control and abortion services and at the same time they want to cut their aid to support these children that they will be forced to have because of the former scenario, this is just another indirect way to shame the poor, to pick on the poor. Politicians who cite their Christian faith as the reason for their strong abortion stance, I don’t buy it because if you were Christian you would spare the lives of the condemned too, just like Jesus did. And do not talk to the voters about abstinence only birth control, studies and studies have shown that abstinence only education does not work, and in states where abstinence only education is taught (mostly the Bible belt), the rate of teenage pregnancy is higher and there is virtually no delay of sexual activity in teens whether they receive abstinence only education or not.  But more importantly, the same politicians that are promoting abstinence only education can barely keep their own pants up.

As a practicing Catholic woman, I am personally against abortion and consider it a very serious matter that the individual needs to come to terms with between herself and her maker. I am also against the death penalty and assisted suicide. This is my personal choice, my personal conviction based on my faith, my beliefs and what I believe is right for me. I would never transfer my personal beliefs into a political talking point or force it down the throats of other people. I would never have an abortion myself, even if  my health or life was at risk especially if my baby has a chance of surviving as long as I had one breath in my body, I will gladly give my life to my baby and that remains true after my children were born, I would lay down my life for them any time. Having said that, I’ve always been blessed to be able to afford birth control and in my younger and leaner days I had access to affordable birth control. In short, I’ve never experienced an unwanted pregnancy. I’ve never been pregnant out of wedlock not because I was more virtuous than others but because I had access to birth control for most of my adult life. Not everyone is so lucky, the decision to have an abortion is never taken lightly. Very few women go into an abortion clinic skipping and hopping with joy. It’s always tinged with regret, sadness and guilt. She may regret this abortion later, it may have been her only chance at ever having a child but at that time it may have been the only choice. Many pro-life activists hinge on the fact that some women say that they wish they were told of the psychological effects of having an abortion and that their doctors emphasized more on the psychological and emotional fallout of getting an abortion as opposed to just the physical, but is that really the job of the doctor? If a woman walks into an abortion clinic and sits on the examining table, it is fair for a doctor is to assume that this woman is ready and have thought about all the consequences, physical and emotional of having an abortion. Having an abortion is never a ‘good’ thing nor a desirable result, it’s usually done with great reluctance and regret, no doctor in the world can prepare you for that.

However unsavory it is to people, abortion is a legal and safe medical procedure, because it’s legal the reasons why a woman would have an abortion is irrelevant. The political debate (again, usually by men) on why women get abortions and how some reasons are more legitimate than others (such as rape or incest and the life of the mother is in danger – though according to Todd Akin, the rape has to be ‘legitimate’) and reasons that are not legitimate, such as getting pregnant after a drunken night out or a sober one night stand, in those cases, women just have to suffer that consequence of an unwanted pregnancy and yes I said ‘suffer’. It is clear that the United States is not an abortion nation, we have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in advanced nations, so clearly horny and irresponsible teenagers aren’t queuing up to get abortions. More people are born out of wedlock than ever as the stigma of having children out of wedlock has eroded with modern times, many women choose to be single mothers if they find themselves unexpectedly pregnant if their circumstances allow them to. As a woman, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that an abortion is rarely the first thought in a woman’s head if she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, it’s usually the last, usually with much sadness and regret and when all other options have been exhausted. Abortion is a deeply emotional and personal issue and for politicians (men or women) to make judgements about having an abortion and how and when a woman may have an abortion is an invasion of privacy on a massive scale. It’s a discussion to be had between a woman and her doctor.

This may be fairly obvious, but if someone doesn’t own a vagina, uterus and ovaries, then one doesn’t have a right to discuss abortion rights, they don’t get a say on who gets to have an abortion and under what circumstance an abortion is acceptable. They don’t get to decide who gets to have access to birth control based on their marital status. This is just another form of latent misogyny. The idea that women could control their reproductive cycles and control how many children she could have have never sat well with some men. When Margaret Sanger opened her first birth control clinic in 1916 and was distributing information about contraceptives, she was arrested, the concern that she was promoting immorality in society (there were, however, no medical concerns about someone taking hormones to regulate their cycle), the idea, the thought that a woman in 1916 can possibly control her reproductive cycle is beyond the comprehension of the mores of the society. It was presumed for millennia that the morality of society was kept in check by women’s fear of unwanted pregnancies, and it was also a way to control the lives and mobility of women, the more children she has the more restricted and dependent her life is on a man, which would then subjugate her to her husband. But if contraceptives were made widely available for women, where she could control and decide how many children she wanted, if any at all, and more importantly she could potentially have sex with anyone without the consequence of an unwanted pregnancy, that would be an unmitigated disaster, total bedlam, a total moral decay of society, what control would a man or a patriarchal society have over her? This was 1916, a reaction that was predictable. However in the year 2015 – almost 100 years later, this idea that women can do whatever they want with whomever they want whenever they want still doesn’t sit well with some men, hence all these restrictions on birth control coverage and abortion access, but at least the men of 1916 weren’t so cowardly to hide behind Jesus, God, the rights of unborn children and just came right and said that they didn’t like the idea that women could do as they pleased sexually and determine how many children they had and they (the men) preferred to have control over the lives of their women.

The hypocrisy is made more unbearable with the likes Rep. Scott DeJarlais, an outspoken pro-life activist who describes the life of an unborn child as ‘sacred’ was caught on a tape recording to pressure his mistress to have an abortion because he didn’t want his wife to find out. When he was asked to bow out of the election race by members of his own party (Republican) he refused. And the sick thing is, he was reelected in November 2014. Louisiana Senator David Vitter, another ‘family oriented, pro-life’ politician, was caught visiting prostitutes but he’s apologized to his wife and all is forgiven, at least publicly. It seems that these conservative politicians pick and choose the morals they choose to follow. Voters don’t care that their senator, representative or president have affairs, visit prostitutes and engage in other seedy vices, but do not insult the intelligence of the voters when you call yourself a family oriented, Christian candidate and when you are caught out doing un-Christian deeds you expect your voters to forgive you when you apologize in public.

Lastly, to lighten the discussion, this video made by comedienne Amy Schumer illustrates how a woman’s right to birth control has been slowly eroded over the years by conservative activists. http://http://alswrite.tumblr.com/post/117741843962/ask-if-birth-control-is-right-for-you

It’s very funny but very poignant at the same time.