What is Washboard Express?

Washboard Express is a way for me to express my own opinions, to be a provocative gadfly, by writing a "letter a day" to the President. I may miss a day here and there, because sometimes my family with be my first priority, but my goal is to write a total of 365 letters, representing one full year. To say I have opinions about most things would be to understate the obvious. Those of you that know me, know this is true, those who don't know me, will learn that it's true. The Washboard is a reference to going back to basics and "keeping it clean," so if you would like me to post your comments or opinions on this blog, I only ask that you be respectful. So go ahead, express yourself, and I look forward to an exchange of ideas and opinions.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Letter #146... Dear Mr. President... We need a "Shadow Law"

Dear Mr. President,

They say timing is everything and that some things are meant to be… and as Oprah would say… sometimes we have an “ah-ha moment.” I had one this morning when I was laying in bed listening via a baby monitor for the sounds of my son breathing.

In letter #138 I told you a little bit about Jeff and his situation, so laying there I couldn’t help but think about all the people that don’t have insurance, or in the case of Jeff, disability insurance, or have a family member that is able to take them and provide the kind of end of life care that each human being deserves. This is what sets us apart from the animal kingdom… our ability to ease one another’s suffering and allowing that person to die with dignity.

Then I thought about all the laws that are being passed that de-humanize and polarize us on various issues, such as the war, abortion, health care, homelessness, funding for schools, taxes, etc… etc…

I believe I have a solution that will end all this nonsense… I call it the ‘Shadow Law’. The Shadow Law would be a law that would require any and all elected officials that vote for laws that deny, restrict, cut, or de-fund programs for citizens to ‘Shadow’ someone affected by the passage of their law for a minimum of one week. People could sign up to be ‘shadowed’ by the representative in their home district… to essentially, ‘walk a mile in their shoes’.

The consequences of voting for the war... any war.
Just imagine what it would be like for Senators and Congressmen and Women to be required to attend the funeral of a young man or woman killed in a war that they voted for. Or being required to sit by the bedside of a dying person, whose disability was denied because his or her Rep. voted to end that ‘entitlement’. How about having to spend a week in a homeless shelter, and eating food provided by volunteers because you, as the Rep. in their district, voted to defund homeless programs. Or, attend a school with leaky roofs, with computers under plastic to protect them from the rain, sitting on the floor because there aren’t enough desks, and going hungry all day because the lunch programs were cut.

I sincerely think there would be a drastic turnaround in priorities if a ‘Shadow Law’ were enacted. Our elected officials would be less inclined to send other peoples children off to war if they had to spend a week in a war zone… and I don’t mean just visiting, but going out and ‘shadowing’ a real live soldier on patrol or fighting in some god forsaken place we wouldn’t send our worst enemy.

Vietnam Vets, Michael Carey & Greg Welch
When I opened my newspaper (Sacramento Bee, March 22, 2012) this morning there was a headline: TWIST OF FATE REUNITES TWO SURVIVORS OF WAR  (Vietnam). Do we even know, after 40+ years, why we fought that war? We didn’t stop communism, we didn’t secure anything vital to our country, so why were we there? Why were the lives of 57,000 men and women so meaningless to so many? Corporations and people profited from the war, but the ones who actually fought it got killed, maimed, became sick, and profoundly changed by being there even if they weren’t physically injured. The wife of one of these men said, “If I could redo it now, I would have hooked him up with a therapist a long time ago to see what was bottled up in him from Vietnam. I can’t even comprehend the stuff that they endured. Only another person who went through it would know.”  

And that’s the point Mr. President; we can’t even imagine what it’s like until we have experienced it for ourselves. They left Vietnam, but Vietnam never left them. Vietnam isn’t past tense… it’s still here, and these brave men are still living it.

As an example of how the ‘Shadow Law’ would work, one of these men or a family member could call the Rep. in their district, in this case it would be Rep. Dan Lungren of the 3rd Congressional District, and ask that he schedule a week of his time to spend with these two soldiers to get just a hint of what their lives are like. Now I know that Lungren didn’t vote for that particular war, but he did vote for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So it would seem, spending a week with these Vets, would be like a walk in the park compared to a week spent dodging bullets or bombs in Afghanistan.

And most recently we have many Reps., including Governors that are all Republicans, voting on issues that involve a woman’s reproductive rights and the right to receive a legal abortion without being subjected to unnecessary medical procedures not ordered by a doctor, but required by some law written by a person who doesn’t have the foggiest idea of what it’s like to be a woman faced with such a difficult choice. Let them go with her to the required doctors appointments, and wait with her for 72 hours before she is forced have an ultrasound and to look at it before she can receive a legal medical procedure from a licensed doctor.

Yes Mr. President, I think what we need now is a ‘Shadow Law’… a law that protects everyone from arbitrary laws passed by lawmakers that don’t have one iota, not a single clue, as to what ordinary Americans are faced with every single day.

Just maybe if they walked a day in our shoes, or spent a week in our ‘shadow’ they would think twice about how their votes affect us and choose to vote differently.

Let’s talk Mr. President, and maybe we can craft a law, or I could start a “We the People…” petition that would address these issues and force our elected officials to live in our world… if only for a week.

Most Respectfully,

Marcia Reimers
Your Gadfly Granny

Monday, March 12, 2012

Letter #145... Dear Mr. President... When an Apology is Not Enough.

Dear Mr. President,

On February 20th it was the incident with burning several copies of the Koran in Afghanistan, resulting in a violent protest that left five dead American soldiers, and now the latest incident on March 11th, the murder of 16 innocent Afghan civilians, mostly women and children, by an American soldier. Don’t you think it’s time to leave Afghanistan? Don’t you think it’s becoming more and more apparent that you are dealing with a war of diminishing returns, and instead incurring more and more risk to our remaining troops?

When you have to justify an apology it loses all credibility.
You were correct to apologize for the burning of the Korans… it was a stupid, insensitive, and dangerous act that should have never happened given the cultural awareness training given after similar desecrations of the Koran provoked identical results. However, justifying that apology by saying it was necessary to save lives, makes it seem less than genuine, and therefore not a true apology. I realize that was not your intent, but sometimes even good intentions can backfire and become counter productive.

I remember being forced to apologize to my mother for one thing or another, and I was never really sorry, I only did it to regain whatever privilege I’d lost and get back in my mothers ‘good graces’, thus making the apology meaningless and insincere.

How do you apologize for murder? How can you assure the Afghans that this was just one man acting independently and without the knowledge of his superiors or fellow soldiers? At this point this is all but impossible.

Since the U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to supposedly topple the Taliban rulers who harbored the al Qaeda network responsible for the September 11th attack it has cost over $500 billion dollars and nearly 2,000 U.S. Troops. To continue the present course seems to fly in the face of common sense from both the Afghan position and the position most Americans take.

The timetable of the end of 2014 is just a number, a number that seems more and more unrealistic. To re-establish stability (if there ever was stability) seems very unlikely after these indefensible acts of disrespect and aggression. It’s time to get our men and women out of Afghanistan, if the Afghan forces cannot control the Taliban and their country erupts in civil war… it is none of our business… they should be in charge of their own destiny and the destiny of their people… just like America.

It is quite evident that the U.S. and NATO forces can no longer protect Afghan civilians… they know it and we know it… the time has come, the time is now, withdraw our troops and bring them home.

Most Respectfully,

Marcia Reimers,
Your Gadfly Granny

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Letter #144... Dear Mr. President... The War on Women is Worldwide, and it's Real.

Dear Mr. President,

The other day I wrote about legislation related to women’s reproductive health issues. I referred to what is currently happening all across this country as the T.M.T.ing of women, or Traumatizing, Marginalizing and Trivializing.

I'm reminded of the first case of child abuse in this country... in 1874 in New York City the case of Mary Ellen a 9 year old girl being abused by her foster mother. After investigating Mary Ellen's home a social worker found her suffering from malnutrition, serious physical abuse including cuts from scissors, and severe neglect. Because there were no laws protecting children, the social worker turned to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), that's right... animals had protection before children. It was argued that because the child was a member of the "animal kingdom" she deserved the courts protection. In 1875 the New York Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Children became the first protective agency for children in the world. It took an additional 37 years until a bill to create the Children's Bureau, became law under President Taft in 1912.

Mary Ellen in 1874
I mention all of this because the plight of Mary Ellen can be equated to the struggle women have been fighting for their whole lives. It really is incomprehensible that women are still fighting for protection and recognition as equals today, and lately the fight is getting down right ugly.

The audacity of Republicans in Congress, and on the campaign trail to presume to know more about women’s health issues then the women themselves is mind-boggling. Why would they object to contraceptives being a mandated health care medication, I don’t seeing them fighting to discontinue paying for Viagra, which is not related to the issue of ‘health’ as much as it is to ‘pleasure’.

Then there’s the religious right wing-nuts that continue to yap about contraception being unnatural and not wanting to pay for it, or even condoning it’s use. But, when it comes to a man wanting a vasectomy… no problem. Isn’t having a vasectomy the ultimate in contraception... isn’t the only reason for having one is to alleviate the possibility of getting a woman pregnant? And do we ever hear about a mans promiscuity after having a vasectomy, are we reminded that he can now have sex as often as he wants because he can’t get a woman pregnant? The answer is a resounding NO!

Yes, there is a war against women and it’s worldwide. Gender preference in China and India where ultrasounds are routinely used to determine the sex of a baby before birth, and although supposedly illegal, aborting female babies. Female Infanticide is commonplace in many parts of the world. Female genital mutilation is routine even in very young girls in many parts of Africa.

The war on women is real, the systematic devaluation of women is real, the abuse of women is real, children forced into prostitution is real, young girls sold by their parents is real, girls as young as 6 or 7 sold into slavery is real, honor killings of women are real, and the fact that laws were passed by men in this country to protect animals before children was real… if Mary Ellen could testify again, she would tell you just how real it was for her. Yes Mr. President, I’m sure Mary Ellen would agree that women are still being traumatized, marginalized, and trivialized even after more than 125 years of being declared mere members of the animal kingdom.

Now ask yourself how you would feel, as a woman in America, where the men in government are passing laws and making decisions that affect your health, your well being, and your life. As a woman I can tell you… I’m not ‘feelin’ the love’.

Most Respectfully,

Marcia Reimers
The Gadfly Granny