Voter Access Constrained in Michigan

In his most recent Capitol Update State Representative George Darany declares:   “Earlier this week, the House passed a series of bills that will limit YOUR access to vote in Michigan. Senate Bills 751, 754 and 803 create unnecessary requirements that do nothing to promote fair and safe elections and they create unreasonable and burdensome requirements on organizations that are critical in assisting voters to register to vote.

 

“I could not support these bills because the outcome of this legislation could result in suppressing the rights of many eligible voters throughout the state. Good government is only possible when its constituents have a voice in the policies and decisions affecting their lives, and these legislative changes could limit citizens’ participation in government at all levels.

 

“All the while, our neighboring states are expanding voter access with legislation like no-reason absentee and early voting. I myself have introduced legislation, House Bill 4108, that will help increase voter access to absentee voting and I encourage action on this legislation.”

 

AAUW has influenced legislative debate and advocated for fundamental issues, whether economic, educational or social, for over a century.  Since women gained the right to vote in 1920, our organization has created a strong tradition of voter education and registration.  What can you do to help?

 

Become educated about the issues and motivate others to take action.

 

Realize you are part of an important bloc of voters.

 

National AAUW’s  Woman-to-Woman Voter Turnout Campaign is based on effective voter turnout techniques intended to mobilize women to vote. We owe branch members, Kathleen Gapa and Dr. Sally Barnett, a round of applause for all they have done to make this happen in 2012.

How, Not What

Where American education went wrong:

Instead of teaching children how to think, they decided to teach them what to think.

Then they forced children to regurgitate with number-two pencils onto tiny ovals.

Test results were deemed more important than the ongoing process of discovery.

All kids, not only had to be on the same page, at the same time, they were forced to regurgitate on cue.

Dreams of futures being shaped by curious minds experimenting with creative solutions gave way to nightmarish visions of attenuated futures.

Everything became about earning a good living instead of learning a good life.

Let’s start teaching kids how to think before Fox News and CNBC destroy the United States of America with endless fallacies of logic.

Our New Poet Laureate

I wonder how many Americans have a favorite poet. Mine is Seamus Heaney.
So I was delighted recently when our new poet laureate acknowledged how important his book North was in helping her understand her own relationship to history.

In our high-tech, 24/7- flash-communication world, some may not find poetry of value; but thought recorded in artful language as a result of deep reflection may be more of worth now than ever.

Our last two poet laureates, Philip Levine and W.S. Merwin, were men in their eighties.
Our new poet laureate, Natasha Trethewey (”TRETH-eh-way”), was born in Gulfport, Mississippi in l966. In 2007 she won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for Native Guard.

James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, designated her the 19th U.S. Poet Laureate.
“Natasha Trethewey is an outstanding poet/historian in the mold of Robert Penn Warren, our first Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. Her poems dig beneath the surface of history—personal or communal, from childhood or from a century ago—to explore the human struggles that we all face,” said Billington as he made the announcement.

Trethewey is intrigued by the ironic contradictions in her life experiences. Her parents,  black mother and white father, were married illegally due to anti-miscegenation laws. Her birthday is April 26, Confederate Memorial Day. She was born exactly one hundred years after the holiday was created. Her parents divorced when she was six years old. When she was just nineteen years old and enrolled in college, her mother was murdered by an abusive-second husband she had divorced.

Trethewey recalls, “I turned to poetry to make sense of what had happened and started writing what I knew even then were really bad poems. It took me nearly twenty years to find the right language, to write poems that were successful enough to explain my own feelings to me and that might also be meaningful to others.”

Family, memory, the South and racial perceptions leak into her poems and into us as she leads us to reflect upon this complicated, diverse and by turns, tolerant-intolerant society called the United States of America. I have a feeling she will be an outstanding poet laureate. A half dozen of her poems follow. I hope you will savor them.

History Lesson
I am four in this photograph, standing
on a wide strip of Mississippi beach,
my hands on the flowered hips

of a bright bikini. My toes dig in,
curl around wet sand. The sun cuts
the rippling Gulf in flashes with each

tidal rush. Minnows dart at my feet
glinting like switchblades. I am alone
except for my grandmother, other side

of the camera, telling me how to pose.
It is 1970, two years after they opened
the rest of this beach to us,

forty years since the photograph
where she stood on a narrow plot
of sand marked colored, smiling,

her hands on the flowered hips
of a cotton meal-sack dress.

ELEGY
For my father
I think by now the river must be thick

with salmon. Late August, I imagine it
as it was that morning: drizzle needling

the surface, mist at the banks like a net
settling around us — everything damp

and shining. That morning, awkward

 

and heavy in our hip waders, we stalked

into the current and found our places —
you upstream a few yards and out

far deeper. You must remember how
the river seeped in over your boots

and you grew heavier with that defeat.
All day I kept turning to watch you, how

first you mimed our guide’s casting
then cast your invisible line, slicing the sky

between us; and later, rod in hand, how
you tried — again and again — to find

that perfect arc, flight of an insect
skimming the river’s surface. Perhaps

you recall I cast my line and reeled in
two small trout we could not keep.

Because I had to release them, I confess,
I thought about the past — working

the hooks loose, the fish writhing
in my hands, each one slipping away

before I could let go. I can tell you now
that I tried to take it all in, record it

for an elegy I’d write — one day —
when the time came. Your daughter,

I was that ruthless. What does it matter
if I tell you I learned to be? You kept casting

your line, and when it did not come back
empty, it was tangled with mine. Some nights,

dreaming, I step again into the small boat
that carried us out and watch the bank receding —

my back to where I know we are headed.

 

PILGRIMAGE

Vicksburg, Mississippi
Here, the Mississippi carved

its mud-dark path, a graveyard
for skeletons of sunken riverboats.

Here, the river changed its course,
turning away from the city

as one turns, forgetting, from the past —
the abandoned bluffs, land sloping up

above the river’s bend — where now
the Yazoo fills the Mississippi’s empty bed.

Here, the dead stand up in stone, white
marble, on Confederate Avenue. I stand

on ground once hollowed by a web of caves;
they must have seemed like catacombs,

in 1863, to the woman sitting in her parlor,
candlelit, underground. I can see her

listening to shells explode, writing herself
into history, asking what is to become

of all the living things in this place?
This whole city is a grave. Every spring —


Pilgrimage — the living come to mingle
with the dead, brush against their cold shoulders

in the long hallways, listen all night
to their silence and indifference, relive

their dying on the green battlefield.
At the museum, we marvel at their clothes —

preserved under glass — so much smaller
than our own, as if those who wore them

were only children. We sleep in their beds,
the old mansions hunkered on the bluffs, draped

in flowers — funereal — a blur
of petals against the river’s gray.

The brochure in my room calls this
living history. The brass plate on the door reads


Prissy’s Room. A window frames
the river’s crawl toward the Gulf. In my dream,

the ghost of history lies down beside me,
rolls over, pins me beneath a heavy arm.

LIMEN
All day I’ve listened to the industry

of a single woodpecker, worrying the catalpa tree

just outside my window. Hard at his task,

 
his body is a hinge, a door knocker

to the cluttered house of memory in which

I can almost see my mother’s face.

 

 

She is there, again, beyond the tree,

its slender pods and heart-shaped leaves,

hanging wet sheets on the line — each one

 
a thin white screen between us. So insistent

is this woodpecker, I’m sure he must be

looking for something else — not simply

 
the beetles and grubs inside, but some other gift

the tree might hold. All day he’s been at work,

tireless, making the green hearts flutter.

 

PASTORAL
In the dream, I am with the Fugitive

Poets. We’re gathered for a photograph.

Behind us, the skyline of Atlanta

hidden by the photographer’s backdrop —

a lush pasture, green, full of soft-eyed cows

lowing, a chant that sounds like no, no. Yes,

I say to the glass of bourbon I’m offered.

We’re lining up now — Robert Penn Warren,

his voice just audible above the drone

of bulldozers, telling us where to stand.

Say “race,” the photographer croons. I’m in

blackface again when the flash freezes us.

My father’s white, I tell them, and rural.

You don’t hate the South? they ask. You don’t hate it?

Flounder
Here, she said, put this on your head.
She handed me a hat.
You ’bout as white as your dad,
and you gone stay like that.

Aunt Sugar rolled her nylons down
around each bony ankle,
and I rolled down my white knee socks
letting my thin legs dangle,

circling them just above water
and silver backs of minnows
flitting here then there between
the sun spots and the shadows.

This is how you hold the pole
to cast the line out straight.
Now put that worm on your hook,
throw it out and wait.

She sat spitting tobacco juice
into a coffee cup.
Hunkered down when she felt the bite,
jerked the pole straight up

reeling and tugging hard at the fish
that wriggled and tried to fight back.
A flounder, she said, and you can tell
’cause one of its sides is black.

The other side is white, she said.
It landed with a thump.
I stood there watching that fish flip-flop,
switch sides with every jump.

“Just the stats, ma’am”

Some interesting statistics from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce follow.

(Note: Reach Advisors, a market research firm, attributes much of this to Title IX. Title IX changed the course of US culture as it provided changes in educational access and attainment for women.)

 

1. Women comprise nearly half the total work force.

2. Women control or influence 73% of consumer decisions in the USA.

3. Women hold approximately 16% of the board seats at Fortune 500 companies.

4. Women hold approximately 3% of Chief Executive Officer positions, 17 out of 5oo.

5. Women suffer a pay gap from their first job which increases over time.

 

For further insights, consider reading TIME Magazine’s, March 26, 2012, cover story by Liza Mundy.

 

 

Check it out!

 

 

Are you aware of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? It’s an official website of the United States Government.

 

“The central mission of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is to make markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans.” Whether you are applying for a mortgage or student loans, selecting a credit card or using other consumer financial products, it’s a website worth visiting: <consumerfinance.gov/> .

 
Since 2008, the world has faced a severe financial debacle. Home values went over financial cliffs. Neighbors lost homes to foreclosures. Jobs disappeared. Savings shrank. Credit evaporated. Untold numbers of consumer loans defaulted. Credit card interest rates soared as lines of credit diminished.

 
In July 2010, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The Act created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to protect citizens from abusive and deceptive practices.

Beaten, raped, burned and stoned

According to the Nobel-Peace-Prize recipient, Amnesty International:

Up to 70% of women worldwide encounter violence.

One-in-three women worldwide are beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in their lifetime.

One-in-five women worldwide will become a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.

Last year, an estimated 15,000 women were raped in eastern Congo.

Women in war-torn countries are systematically raped by soldiers.

Girls in crowded refugee camps are assaulted and otherwise abused.

As many as 6-out-of-ten migrant women from Central America are raped on their journey to the United States of America.

Native American and Alaska Native women are more than two-and-a-half times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than other women in the USA.

Impoverished women with no means of support endure years of domestic violence.

Women in Iran can still be stoned.
Girls in Sierra Leone can be genitally mutilated against their will.

A girl in Saudi Arabia was gang-raped by seven men. Consequently, she was sentenced to imprisonment and 200 lashes for being alone with a non-familial member of the opposite sex! Her sentence was dropped subsequently after a huge hue and cry from people from across the planet!  The public clamor in protest of such penalties was heard!

You, too, can speak on behalf of these women!

Educate your family and friends.
Petition politicians.

STAND UP FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN A WORLD OF WRONGS!