speaking of tomatoes

Speaking of tomatoes, which I have been doing often lately, I came across this bit of news:

Dutch stage tomato fight against Russian sanctions

I had heard of people throwing tomatoes in protest, but more in a public shaming of a politician or performer sort of way. Not as a mass political protest. Especially where the protest involves protestors throwing tomatoes at each other.

And then in trying to find the link to the above-described story, and googling “tomato throwing,” google kindly filled in “tomato throwing festival,” thus leading to the further discovery that there is even an annual tomato-throwing festival in Spain: La tomatina.

I am currently coping with an excess of overripe tomatoes myself, but the only throwing I had in mind for them was towards the compost pile…

An almost overripe tomato from my kitchen counter. I have no plans of throwing this tomato at anyone. If I don’t manage to include it in some sort of tomato sauce, it will be thrown in the compost pile.¹

¹ Truth be told, I am only including this photo because I have been posting so many photos lately that it felt somehow wrong to not include a photo of something. And seeing as I don’t have photos of actual tomato-throwing activities, I took this rather uninteresting photo just now in my kitchen.

Too close to home.

Today marks one month after the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. Below are some of the things that I wrote in the days following. I revisited this post several times over a couple of weeks, editing to update the time references, but ultimately still felt too raw each time to post. One month later, I am ready to try again.

It’s probably for the best for me that I learned the news in stages. The first reports I heard of Friday’s shooting were that there were several people injured. I saw murmurings on Facebook late morning, and the links I followed had no more information. I saw that photo, the one that seems to be everywhere, of young kids being walked away. Some with their eyes closed, some obviously crying. I quickly looked away, feeling pangs from seeing the troubled faces, and went about my business. From what I’d read, there had only been injuries. I had things to do to get ready for our planned weekend trip to my in-laws’.

A bit after noon, I talked to John. I don’t remember why I called him. Probably something about our trip. He asked if I knew about the shooting in Connecticut. I said I did, but as we spoke I realized that I didn’t really know. He mentioned that the town was one we’d recently driven through, and even stopped for dinner. A pretty town with a little river running through it that we had both admired. I hadn’t made the connection, hadn’t retained the name of the town. We got of the phone and I went back to my laptop, and learned more.

With every update, the news only worsened.

On Saturday morning I woke up in the uncomfortable monstrosity of a fold-out bed at my in-laws’, and I understood my body’s achiness. But my eyes were sore, too, with the soreness that I get when I have been crying. Instantly I remembered why I had been crying, and the tears and the heaviness in my heart began once more.

I can’t count the number of times I cried that week, especially over that weekend. At the same time, I was careful to hide my grief from Phoebe and Theo. I’d cry in the bathroom. Or in the car by myself. I felt glad that my recent cold would mean that my red eyes and nose would be unremarkable. I felt glad that I am liberal with my hugs and physical affection, so being held tight by Mommy is nothing out of the ordinary. I don’t think that they could feel how deep my need was for those hugs.

That Sunday, we drove home from my in-laws’, but took a different route. Our usual route, the one that we take every month or so, goes right through Newtown on Route 84. We were concerned that there would be heavier traffic along the route, especially with the planned visit from the President that night. It felt right, too, to give them that extra space. But my thoughts and heart were there, and my eyes watched Sandy Hook on the map.

There have been other mass shootings, recently and in past years. Other tragedies. I have grieved many times before for those I’ve never met. But in my life as it is now, this feels like the worst possible tragedy. I can’t even begin to make sense of it. I can only compare my feelings to grief to the loss I’ve felt when someone close to me died, and to the shock I felt after September 11th.

I think of those parents in that little New England town, a town like my own in many ways, who sent their kids off to school that morning just as I had, never dreaming how the day would end. How could they? It was unimaginable. It should have been unimaginable.

Innocent people. Teachers. School administrators. The death of any one of them would have been felt as a great loss for the school and the community.

But children. Twenty little children. The loss is immeasurable.

First graders.

The same age as my Phoebe.

A week later, I felt the tension of grief ease, with a mixture of relief and guilt. I found myself laughing more and crying less. But I know that for those other parents, family members and friends, the healing will be a much slower process. I have lived through grief, the ordinary grief of losing a loved one, and it still can knock the wind out of me many months or years later. I use this familiar grief as an inadequate yardstick to measure the grief I imagine those others to be living through, and to have ahead of them.

I have felt so many strong emotions these past weeks. Horror. Anger. Immense gratitude that it was not my town, that my own children are safe.

I’ve sensed that there are those around the country and around the world who feel that enough energy has been spent on this tragedy, that we need to move forward and focus on change. But this is one of those events that has changed me. Like many the world over, I’ve still needed to process and to grieve.

This Week in Pants

The web is abuzz with pants. With so many people writing about pants these days, I’d be letting them down if I didn’t put up a post about it.

I bring to you: This Week¹ in Pants.

First, I’m pleased to report that the “in my pants” music meme is alive and well (and not just in my pants). Dee of On the Curb is the latest to report in:

You, too, can have music in your pants.

And wearing pants elsewhere…

And would you believe that the realm of pants extends even beyond the blogosphere? I scoured the headlines for news of pants around the world. Here are some of the top pants headlines:


¹ Okay, fine, so many of these posts are older than a week. But “This Fortnight or So in Pants” isn’t nearly as catchy as “This Week in Pants.” I mean, just check out the acronym: TWIP.

the state of Israel mocks humanitarianism

Tonight I saw a photo that may haunt me for the rest of my life.

I was sitting on the couch, holding my nearly sleeping 4-month-old baby, while my husband was upstairs putting our 2-year-old daughter to bed. And jen directed me to a post at No Caption Needed. It featured an image, under which the first line of the following paragraph reads:

A child’s arm protrudes from the rubble of a building destroyed by an air strike.

The hand is tiny. A toddler’s hand. There is no hope that the child in the photo is alive.

My stomach turned. I found myself crying onto my baby’s footie pajamas, scooping him up and squeezing him tight. I found myself glad that it was not my daughter sitting on my lap, because she would have seen the photo. She would have seen my tears. She is not yet 3 years old, and I cannot yet explain these things to her.

I cannot explain these things to myself.

The International Rescue Committee, an organization that provides aid to refugees, describes the current crisis:

News reports today indicate that more than 570 Palestinians, many of them women and children, have been killed in the violence that began on December 27 following the breakdown of a six-month ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Thousands have fled to safety, but most of the 1.5 million people in Gaza have nowhere to go as both Israel and Egypt continue to restrict access to their territories.

The United Nations says the humanitarian crisis is growing as food supplies dwindle, access to clean water diminishes and hospitals fill up with the wounded and dead. More than a million people are said to be without electricity.

Let it not be said that Israel is completely oblivious to this growing humanitarian crisis. According to the New York Times:

Israel suspended its military operations in Gaza for three hours on Wednesday to allow humanitarian aid and fuel for power generation to reach Gazans, who used the afternoon break to shop.

You know what’s more humanitarian than allowing humanitarian aid?

Not bombing people.

NYC goddam

The news came out yesterday that the officers charged in the shooting death of Sean Bell have been acquitted. Sean Bell, a 23-year-old black man, was unarmed when he was killed by plain-clothed police officers who fired an unconscionable 50 shots into the car with Bell and his two friends, also unarmed.

The incident and the trial, complicated as they were, have highlighted that we as a society have long way to go yet in the fight against racism, and the fight for social justice.

Many have expressed outrage and sorrow at the news of the acquittal. Stacie/girlgriot of If you want kin, you must plant kin… has posted some moving words about her own responses to the news, including a poem by Langston Hughes.

In reading those words, I have been reminded of the song “Mississippi Goddam,” written by Nina Simone in 1964. It’s a powerful protest song. I’m sure that Nina would agree that progress in social justice is still “too slow.”

(This YouTube version is different than the recordings I know, but Nina’s voice is still powerful and moving.)

Here are the lyrics:

The name of this tune is Mississippi Goddam
And I mean every word of it

Alabama’s got me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

Alabama’s got me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

Can’t you see it, can’t you feel it
It’s all in the air
I can’t stand the pressure much longer
Somebody say a prayer

Alabama’s got me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

This is a show tune
But the show hasn’t been written for it yet

Hound dogs on my trail
Schoolchildren sitting in jail
Black cat crossed my path
I think every day’s gonna be my last
Lord have mercy on this land of mine
We’re all gonna get it in due time

I don’t belong here, I don’t belong there
I’ve even stopped believing in prayer
Don’t tell me I tell you
Me and my people just about do
I’ve been there so I know
Keep on saying go slow

But that’s just the trouble – too slow
Washing the windows – too slow
Picking the cotton – too slow
You’re just plain rotten – too slow
Too damn lazy – too slow
Thinking’s crazy – too slow

Where am I going
What am I doing
I don’t know I don’t know
Just try to do your very best
Stand up be counted with all the rest
‘Cause everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

I bet you thought
I was kidding didn’t you

Picket lines school boycotts
They try to say it’s a communist plot
All I want is equality
For my sister my brother my people and me

Yes you lied to me all these years
You told me to wash and clean my ears
And talk real fine just like a lady
And you’d stop calling me Sister Sadie

Oh but this whole country is full of lies
You’re all gonna die and die like flies
I don’t trust you anymore
You keep on saying go slow go slow

But that’s just the trouble – too slow
Desegregation – too slow
Mass participation – too slow
Unification – too slow
Do things gradually – too slow
Will bring more tragedy – too slow

Why don’t you see it why don’t you feel it
I don’t know I don’t know
You don’t have to live next to me
Just give me my equality

And everybody knows about Mississippi
Everybody knows about Alabama
Everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam
That’s it

refueling my optimism

I have to say, yesterday’s news made me happy. I believe I have already expressed my enthusiasm for Al Gore. So it should come as no surpise that I was happy to hear that he, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Happy may even be a bit mild. I actually got goosebumps, and got choked up while reading a news stories about the award.¹ (Tears don’t come too easily for me these days, either.) I felt moved by the acknowledgment of the impact that climate change can have on human populations. I felt pleased that scientists are being honored for their research into climate change.

I don’t have time to write more tonight, but I wanted to share my excitement about this news.

And speaking of reading that gets my idealism revved up, the September Just Posts went up earlier in the week. This month’s round-up of posts on topics of activism is the biggest yet, and are once more hosted at One Plus Two, Under the Mad Hat, Creative Mother Thinking, and Truth Cycles. Have a look!


¹ I can’t find an article I thought I read from the New York Times. The NYT article I found from later yesterday had a very different tone. The one I remember was more in line with this AP article.

throwing blame

As I headed out from an appointment on Wednesday, I walked passed a recently delivered newspaper on the ground outside the office building. It was folded up inside a clear plastic bag. The following headline jumped out at me:

ICE¹ sweep nets 5 local immigrants
Officials say those who commit crimes deserve ticket out of town

I bent over to get a better look, and to read the portion of the article² that was visible through the plastic. I was disturbed. The headline and the article seemed to suggest that immigrants are criminals.

A closer reading of the article revealed that in fact the individuals who had been arrested were charged with various crimes, some of them more serious than others, and in addition were immigrants. (Well, actually, they were tracked down because they were immigrants who had committed these crimes.)

At the same time, the article did contain various subtle and not-so-subtle suggestions that illegal immigrants are somehow menacing. Take this section about the reactions of a local police chief:

“I don’t have a problem with them going around and trying to round up these illegal immigrants,” said [town] Police Chief […]. “Illegal immigration just can’t be tolerated.”

With two convicted criminals from his town arrested, the chief said it’s high time the government start getting illegal aliens off the streets. The group has largely been overlooked in the past, “creating a problem on a couple of angles that people don’t want to look at,” he said.

[Town] Police are seeing some crimes increase with illegal immigration, particularly unlicensed automobile operation charges.

One overarching problem I have with the article is the way the discourse is framed. A careful reading of the article shows that the particular individuals arrested had been convicted of crimes. But let’s face it. Not everyone takes the time to read articles closely. It would be all too easy for a reader to be left with the impression that immigrants are more likely to commit crimes, and that illegal immigrants are particularly threatening. Consider this phrase, taken out of its context:

crimes increase with illegal immigration.

No discussion of the complexity of the issues and no contrary viewpoints were offered. The tone of the article is congratulatory towards the ICE. A casual reader would have the impression that the general public attitude towards this ICE sweep is of approval. That the issues are clearcut. Even that the arrest of these individuals is just the surface of the festering problem of “criminal aliens”.

The article, as well as many ostensibly neutral reportings of issues relating to immigration in the media, reflects a subtle undercurrent of anti-immigrant sentiment. (And don’t even get me started on the venomous hardcore anti-immigration set.)

This increased xenophobia quite honestly reminds me of other dark times in our world’s history. When things look dark, whether it’s because of plague or economic depression or threats of war, people look for someone to blame. When the issues are complex, it is hard to pinpoint the source of the problem. What it is easy to do is pick some group to shoulder the blame. Communists. Gypsies. Jews. Witches.

Our country is at war. Gas prices and living expense are rising. Homelessness and unemployment rates are high. Many people are finding it hard to make ends meet. People want answers. People want solutions. But because these are not quick or easy to achieve, people want to blame. It’s so much easier to blame the other, because blaming those that are too close to us seems not to accomplish anything. Lately, immigrants, especially those that have violated current immigration laws, have been offered up and targeted for blame.

The issue of immigration is one that I think about often, though I have not yet ventured to write on the topic. It’s been hard to work myself up it, even though I have many thoughts I’d like to write down. For the most part, though, I write about fairly lightweight topics on this blog. This is because I write primarily for my own amusement and for the potential entertainment of others. I like to write with humor, even when the topics touch on seriousness. But I just can’t find anything funny about the growing hate and intolerance evidenced in the discussion of immigration issues.


¹ US Immigration and Customs Enforcement

² Note: The online headline reads: Immigrants face deportation³

³ Note (added later): I forgot to mention that I stopped to buy my own copy of the paper on my way home, so that I could read the article more closely. Which is how I noticed the two different headlines.

the case of the 54 million dollar pants

This is a tale of a man who loved and lost. He had pants. He loved them. He cared for them. Then in a brutal act of dry cleaning, he lost his beloved pants. “Vengence will be mine!” he cried to the heavens. Setting himself up against the drycleaners who had so wronged him, he decided to sue the pants off them.

But the cruel fates and crueler legal system failed him:

A judge in the District of Columbia has dismissed a case against a dry cleaner who was sued for $54 million in damages over a pair of missing pants.

Roy L. Pearson, an administrative law judge, originally sought $67 million from the Chung family, owners of Custom Cleaners. He claimed they lost a favorite pair of his suit trousers and later tried to give him a pair that were not his.

Man, he must really have loved those pants.

When the drycleaners tried to pull up some other man’s pants, and pass those phony pants off as his own, he was not swayed. When they tried to offer him payment for replacement pants, he was not mollified.

Over the course of the litigation, the Chungs said they made three settlement offers — $3,000, then $4,600, then $12,000 — all rejected.

He demanded satisfaction. The satisfaction that the drycleaners so boldly guaranteed on their front sign. He refused to drop his pants suit.

What price freedom? What price pants?

Thanks for sharing this, jenny. You have become a remarkable source of pants. And thanks, John, for sending me this other article.