Manufactured Hysteria

People who encourage fear and hatred and incite violence make up the vilest portion of the lunatic fringe

I apologize if my blog causes you some emotional whiplash today, dear reader. In my last post I wrote about Mr. Rogers and the importance of liking people just the way they are. Today I’m going to the opposite extreme, because I’m disgusted.

I just read an NPR article entitled, “In Florida, far-right groups look to seize the moment”. The hateful imagery drew me in. It was of a swastika intertwined with a cross, and it was projected on the side of a building that I know all too well. It is one of the skyscrapers in Jacksonville, Florida, a city I lived in and struggled to free myself from for 28 years. Just when I thought I couldn’t be more grateful for leaving that place, something like this crops up.

It seems that a white nationalist hate group has taken to projecting its disgusting messages on buildings with a laser projector so they can be seen from miles around. This story would have me outraged no matter where it was taking place, but it really hit home for me because one of the photographs in this article shows one of the drawbridges I used to work on in the background. If I were still there, I’d have had a front row seat for these odious messages, whether I liked it or not.

I absolutely refuse to use those images in this blog post. If you want to see them, you can go to the source article. I also refuse to utter this group’s name, because that’s what they want, isn’t it? They want to normalize hate imagery, and recruit more gullible, stupid young white males to their cause. Not today. Not on this blog.

By investing in a laser projector, these pathetic individuals can pretend that their message is more mainstream than it actually is. The truth is that this 40-foot-tall abomination was being projected by 3 or 4 pathetically misinformed young men in masks. They were huddled in some back alley while they played with their expensive little toy. They posted a lookout and were prepared to run away like the mangy curs that they are if they saw any sign of law enforcement approaching. That’s proof positive that they know that what they’re doing is wrong.

Advertisers of more benign products would kill for this type of exposure. No doubt thousands of people saw this crap on the night in question. I bet those boys were dancing with glee.

It seems that they like to project a variety of messages. They are flagrant antisemites, and they seem to be suffering from some sort of homosexual panic, given their targeting of LGBTQ+ people, and especially, at the moment, drag queens. Their white supremacist, pro-nazi agenda is sickening to witness, and it appalls me that so many young men, who could otherwise be a much-needed force for good, will instead get sucked in to this warped agenda.

I was surprised to learn that the City of Jacksonville has an ordinance the makes it illegal to project images onto a building without the owner’s consent. Unless that city has changed drastically from when I was fortunate enough to leave it in 2014, its city council, along with its law enforcement agencies, demonstrate by their behavior that they have that same racist agenda. I suspect these back alley slime balls won’t get caught because no one employed by the city really wants them to get caught. I also suspect that the only reason the ordinance passed was that the big corporations who own these buildings and work hard to maintain their brands were screaming bloody murder. (It’s a sad day when I side with corporations.)

Unfortunately, even if Jacksonville decided to enforce this ordinance, it probably wouldn’t stand up in court. As this article explains, hate speech only stops being free speech when it causes specific, imminent, and serious harm, like a genuine threat that causes fear in a specific group and it makes this group believe it will be subject to violence.

Sadly, in this country, it seems that hate speech is okay if there’s not an immediate call to action involved. If this group were stupid enough to project, “Let’s kill all the (fill in the blank) TODAY!” they might be in trouble. But statements like, “Drag Queens want to indoctrinate your children!”? No problem. With such a dramatic platform, this tiny little group with its tiny little minds will find ways to carry on and gain new members who actually believe in conspiracy theories and race wars and stupidity in general.

Frankly, I couldn’t care less whether hate speech is free speech or not. ANY speech which causes a targeted group to not feel safe enough to peacefully walk through the world is not okay. The yardstick should be, “Does this speech or imagery cause legitimate fear in an individual or group?” Swastikas do that. The sign below does not. It’s that simple.

I’m quite sure that Florida is a relatively safe place for hate groups to do their recruiting, since Governor DeSantis has been known to espouse this type of rhetoric himself. He has managed to get books pulled out of elementary schools if there’s even a hint of perceived scandal or the tiniest shred of diversity in them. He promotes the conspiracy theory that critical race theory is taught to minors (it isn’t and never has been.) Like these groups, he’s all about manufactured hysteria because the actual truth, that people who encourage fear and hatred and incite violence make up the vilest portion of the lunatic fringe, would never gain them any followers.

Hate is kind of like leprosy. It causes portions of society to wither and fall away. Hate groups may think they’re getting what they want when this happens, but in the end, the system as a whole is diminished because of it. It becomes deformed and ineffective. It’s not healthy.

Upon hearing this story, I immediately thought of Club Metro, a gay club that was located just a few short blocks from the home I used to own in Jacksonville. I went to a few drag shows there, and imagine this: I did not see any young minds being warped during these events! Metro had a welcoming, all-inclusive adult atmosphere, and I enjoyed my visits. It was one of the few LGBTQ+ venues in a city full of people who are forced to remain closeted most of the time for their own safety.

I wondered how Metro was faring under the increased atmosphere of hate since 2016. I was not surprised to find that it has closed its doors. An article from 2021 said that they weren’t able to survive the pandemic. Instead, drive in movies were being shown in the parking lot, and they hoped to move the club to a smaller venue.

We may be acting like the pandemic has slacked off, but the hate certainly hasn’t, and I’m sure that played an unspoken part in Metro’s demise as well. An article from early 2022 said that the original location is now a self-storage facility, and the club’s website no longer exists.

That news made me want to cry. There are enough soulless self-storage facilities in this country. What we really need are more hate-free zones. I was thrilled to see that the nearby Boot Rack Saloon is still going strong, but the place was so tiny that I doubt it was able to pick up the Metro slack. According to an out of date LGBTQ+ travel guide for Jacksonville that I found during my lazy hetero internet search, it is one of the few gay bars left in a city with nearly 1 million people.

Pathetic. I’m glad I no longer have to immerse myself in the fetid pool that is Jacksonville, Florida. I might have caught something incurable.

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book!


Newsflash: Your Kids Aren’t That Fragile

Stop using false childhood fragility in order to try to force your agenda on the world.

I am sick to death of children being used as an excuse for our horrible behavior. They’re used as pawns in nasty divorces. If we want to eat junk food, we claim we bought it for the children in our lives. Those children also become a handy excuse to get out of social obligations. Adults hate to admit to breaking things, so they blame it on the 3-year-old.

All those things are unacceptable, but even worse, in my opinion, is that we use children as political chess pieces as well. Want to control what people learn? Ban books and prevent certain subjects from being taught by saying that children might get their feelings hurt or be confused or get the wrong idea about what’s appropriate. If you wish to marginalize the LGBTQ+ community because they scare you, all you have to do is claim that they might just indoctrinate your children, as if anyone can run counter to one’s own orientation just by receiving some sort of nefarious (and completely fictionalized) pep talk.

These political shenanigans may seem like they’re on the rise these days, because hate speech and manipulation have become more mainstream since 2016, but the truth is that we’ve been carrying on like this for decades, if not for centuries. For some reason, this song from the Music Man just popped into my head. Yes, ya got trouble. Allowing your kids to play pool will corrupt them for life!

We’ve also claimed that dancing leads to fornication, and that kids who watch too much television become autistic, and that strangers are always much more dangerous than relatives. None of these claims are true, but once you throw the word “kids” into the mix, logic flies right out the window. We have to protect the children!

Protecting children is one thing. Sheltering them from the real world is quite another. Learning to coexist with people who look and behave differently than you do is mission critical if you wish to become a fully functional member of society. Teaching children intolerance makes them spend their lives attempting to exist within a narrow set of rules, and watching everyone around them break these rules on a daily basis will simply make an intolerant child turn into a bitter, reactive, selectively judgmental adult.

Your kids are a lot more resilient than you think they are. If you ever get the opportunity to be around kids that aren’t your own, in that moment when they’re able to drop the façade that they’re forced to wear when they are around their parents or guardians, you’ll quickly see that they are, and will always be, their own people. They will form their own opinions whether you like it or not. You can try to force them to go through life with blinders on, but that will only cause them to turn their heads at sharper angles the minute you leave the scene.

It is much healthier to expose your kids to as much as you can in life. Give them the opportunity to think things through and ask questions while they have caring adults in their lives to help them figure things out. Allow them to approach life with curiosity and enthusiasm rather than hate and fear. Instill in them the importance of having a moral compass and compassion for others, and then trust that they will be capable of making good choices for themselves.  

Otherwise, you are forcing them to become hollow vessels that can easily be filled with fear and hate. You’ll turn them into tools to be manipulated, and believe me, there will be plenty of people out there who are willing to manipulate anyone who has not been shown how to think critically. That’s no way to go through life.

Here’s an example from my own life: I lived with someone for 16 years without getting married. My born-again Christian sister (who had been married three times and used to live in a hippie commune), informed me that her kids wouldn’t be allowed to come to visit me anymore because we were living in sin. My response was, “If you do that, I refuse to take part in the lesson you will teaching them, which is that people who do not have the exact same belief system that you do should be shunned, avoided, and judged. That sets them up to become intolerant of the vast majority of the people in the world, and will cause them to have lives that are much more puny and monochrome than they deserve.”

We continued to visit eachother a couple times a year, and the subject never came up again. I doubt my sister got the lesson, though. I just think it suddenly occurred to her that she really wouldn’t fare well if I started throwing stones at her glass house.

The reason I’m thinking about this subject is that I just stumbled across a fascinating article on the History website about how some major cities were banning pinball machines in the 1940’s. Politicians decided that pinball was a menace to society. The article goes on to say:

“While law enforcement and civic groups looked askance at pinball for its gambling connections, churches and school boards also argued that it corrupted the morals of America’s children by encouraging them to steal coins, skip school in order to play and even go hungry by wasting their money on the frivolous pursuit.”

Imagine. There was once a time when police in New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Milwaukee were raiding candy stores, movie theaters, and bowling alleys, confiscating pinball machines, and then smashing them with sledgehammers. This, of course, simply drove pinball machines underground and gave them seedy reputations that they didn’t originally have.

The Republicans attempted to sully the reputation of a Democratic Presidential candidate by claiming he was closely linked to pinball. That candidate was John F. Kennedy. It’s amusing how yesterday’s scandals seem so ridiculous today.

It seems that sucking the joy out of children’s lives is a heady, powerful feeling for some. Not since Burgermeister Meisterburger have we been more shameless in our pursuit of control at the expense of our children than we seem to be at present. See his irrational proclamation in the image below. It’s a difficult responsibility, indeed.

But here’s an idea. Stop being a bully. Pick on someone your own size. Don’t use false childhood fragility in order to try to force your agenda on the world. All you’ll do is narrow every child’s horizon to match your own narrow mind.

Instead, teach them to cope with the complex, diverse, ever-changing world in which they will be living. Change is inevitable, no matter how many tantrums you throw. So set your progeny up for success, and mind your own business when it comes to minors who aren’t under your supervision. Then maybe you’ll get lucky and your sons and daughters won’t look back at you and bitterly laugh at the rigid and ignorant world you attempted to force upon them.

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The Fate of the Art from Guantanamo Bay

We are unwilling to loosen our grip on these men for even a second.

I was casting about for some good news, because, you know, one can only take so much. One of my most reliable sources thereof is the Good News Network. I find it interesting that much of the good news that they share gets very little press elsewhere. It’s as if mainstream media finds that good things aren’t noteworthy.

While browsing through the stories on that site, I came across one that intrigued me quite a bit. I love art, and I’m a firm believer in freedom of expression, and this story ticks both boxes. It was entitled, “Pentagon Reverses Ruling on the Release of Art Made by Guantanamo Bay detainees.”

As proof positive that humans are complex, I was astounded to discover that there are quite a few talented artists amongst the Guantanamo Bay detainees. That someone can be an alleged terrorist and still create beauty in the world is a little hard to comprehend. Our government would prefer that we view these men as evil personified, completely devoid of any shades of grey. It’s less messy that way.

Naturally, we all now understand that a lot of these men, who have been detained in Guantanamo for decades without even being formally charged, may not even be criminals. But even those who are innocent must be awfully bitter by now. And yet their creativity never dies, even though art supplies are awfully thin on the ground.

Apparently, released prisoners had always been allowed to take their art with them, and even have their work displayed in art exhibitions. Then along came Trump. I’m sure he couldn’t stand the idea that something might be improving the morale in Guantanamo. He couldn’t have that. And it must have been annoying to him to discover that, unlike him, most adults know how to color within the lines

So in 2017 it was declared that all art made by the detainees was actually property of the US Government, and couldn’t be displayed at all. This flies in the face of copyright laws, but Guantanamo is where laws and human rights go to die. It is also a blatant disregard of freedom of expression. And it’s rather ironic that these detainees, who haven’t even been formally charged with anything, can be so restricted when even American Death Row inmates can share their art with the wider world.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that any art that depicted the layout of the prison should be released to the public. I’d also be hesitant to allow art that releases the names of other prisoners or the names of prison guards. Security should be foremost.

But as you can see from the images included in this article, most of the art isn’t even political, let alone a threat to national security. All you see in these works is quite a bit of talent. I want to see what else these men have created.

So it’s good news that much of the foolishness regarding the Trump era restrictions have been reversed. But according to this article, the pentagon kept their wording vague enough to where they can still exert as much control as they want, at any time. For example, prisoners can now take their work with them, but it must be a “practicable quantity”, whatever that’s supposed to mean. And that quantity will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

And even though the art (or some quantity thereof) will now get to remain with the artists, the Department of Defense still considers it all to be the property of the US government. So it’s hard to tell if these artists will be able to profit from their work or not. Even on the issues that would have minimal impact on our country, but would mean everything to the artists in queston, we are unwilling to loosen our grip on these men for even a second. Absolutely not.

So is this still good news? Yes. Kind of. In theory. Let’s see how it goes in practice.

But I have to say that any glimmer of hope that our humanity is starting to creep back in is welcome news to me.

Untitled work by Ammar Al-Baluchi (currently detained at Guantánamo) 

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Contraceptive Implants and Reproductive Rights

I had no idea what a can of worms I was opening up.

Today is International Women’s Day. It’s nice to know we deserve a day, but there are so many women’s issues that are still yet to be resolved that it boggles the mind. When casting about to find a topic for this blog post, I was quickly overwhelmed. I could have easily written about gender bias, sexism, domestic abuse, teen pregnancy, female genital mutilation, and that’s just scratching the surface. (Heck, I could give you chapter and verse on mansplaining. A coworker once tried to explain to me how to flush a toilet. The email was 3 pages long.) But at a time when reproductive rights are being attacked at every angle, I felt that this particular topic was appropriate. I hope you agree.

From 1992 to 1998, I worked at a county public health department in an inner city in Florida. To be clear, I did not work in the clinic. I have no medical training. I was in administration, so I was more focused on policies and procedures. I interacted with all the departments, and based on my observations, the medical staff had the best interests of the patients at heart. Unfortunately, they were forced to make some questionable choices due to budget restrictions and the political environment in which they were forced to operate.

They gave out condoms for free, and that was admirable, but they went for the least expensive condoms they could find, and they had the highest failure rate. I suspect that many of the people who helped themselves to these condoms might not have had as much confidence in them had they known. It could be argued that a substandard condom is better than no condom at all, but I believe that giving people the opportunity to make informed choices is even more important than that.

Birth control was one of the primary functions of that clinic, as it should be. Every woman should have access to all the information and services she needs to maintain her health in general, and her reproductive health specifically. She should be able to decide how many children she wishes to have, if any, and how she’d like those children to be spaced in age based on her own individual circumstances.

I know that during the 90’s, many women walked out the door of that clinic having chosen Norplant as their primary source of birth control. Implantable contraceptives such as this are 99 percent effective, and they can last up to 5 years. The only birth control method that comes close to that level of effectiveness is the IUD.

During my long commute to work the other day, it occurred to me that I hadn’t heard a word about Norplant in a long, long time. Granted, I’m no longer connected to the health industry in any way, but surely I’d still have heard something about Norplant, if only in passing. So out of curiosity, I decided to do some research on the subject.

I had no idea what a can of worms I was opening up for myself. (Why, oh why do I always say to myself, “This should be an easy topic to blog about,” only to discover that there’s so much more to it that it requires days of research? Once I figure that out, though, I’m already hooked on telling you everything I’ve learned. Anyway…)

First of all, I should explain that Norplant is a Levonorgestrel-releasing implant that came in tiny little rods that were inserted under the skin of your upper arm. They were extremely low maintenance, highly effective, and easily reversible. They were also easily concealed, so the choice to use this method rested squarely with the woman. (As it should, in my opinion, because she is the one whose body and life are most impacted by pregnancy.)

Needless to say, there are certain elements of society that would rather not see women having that much power and control over their own lives. So much so, that even though contraceptive implants are endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control,  the Mayo Clinic, Planned Parenthood, the World Health Organization, and weirdly enough, the American Civil Liberties Union, you can no longer get Norplant and its new and improved version, Jadelle, in the United States. Fortunately, you can still get an etonogestrel implant called Nexplanon which is equally effective. That is, as long as we Americans are still allowed to have access to it. And with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, we are all reminded that nothing is guaranteed.

The first website I encountered during my research was rather hair raising in its bias. It was from a crackpot organization called the Population Research Institute. After looking into this organization, I came to the same conclusion that Wikipedia does, and since they put it so succinctly, I’ll quote them directly:

“The Population Research Institute (PRI) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in Front Royal, Virginia, US. The organization opposes abortion. They believe that overpopulation is a myth, and oppose hormonal birth control in females and vasectomies in males. In addition, the organization issues opinion pieces questioning the veracity of human driven climate change and the natural origin of COVID-19.”

Even without the Wikipedia assist, PRI’s ridiculously extreme and hysterical article on Norplant made it obvious to me that it shouldn’t be taken it seriously. It claimed that this creepy organization had “driven a stake through the heart of Norplant,” and that “population controllers have long dreamed of chemically sterilizing women for extended periods of time”. They go on to say that this contraceptive was so harmful that it could cause you to go blind or be bedridden for months on end, and that when women asked to have these implants removed, the “population control officials” flatly refused to allow it.

C’mon. Seriously?

Yes, some women suffered side effects, as some people do when taking any medication. (Check out another factually warped article by Human Life International, with its laser focus on the remote chances of side effects. It’s like reading the script of a badly written horror film.)

But I think it was PRI’s media campaign that encouraged women to engage in class action lawsuits, and even though Wyeth, the company which produced Norplant, never lost a single one of these lawsuits, after a time they chafed at the expense of these legal proceedings and started settling out of court with 32,000 women.

That blew the side effects thing way out of proportion, causing a media frenzy which scared a lot of people, and the upshot is Norplant/Jadelle are still approved by the FDA, but they’re no longer sold in the United States. They’re still available in more than 60 countries and they are used by 7 million women worldwide.

The Population Research Institute would have you believe that those 7 million women were merely “easy targets” that “lacked the means to fight back legally.” And just in case you aren’t buying that argument, they also say that it causes women to conceive children which are then aborted after the egg “fails to implant in the uterus.” In essence, they believe that life begins at the zygote stage.

A zygote is a cell. The skin you are shedding even as you read this are cells, too. Does that mean that any time we scratch an itch, we are committing murder? Should we hold funerals for every skin-derived dust bunny under the bed? If so, I’ll be busy for years. There’s no nervous system or brain in a zygote. It’s not sentient or viable. It’s about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

Anyway, it was awfully nice of PRI to close off yet another avenue of family planning for American women. Talk about population control! This organization, if given the opportunity, would force you to have children whether you like it or not.

Fortunately, it appears that most American women aren’t buying what these crackpots are selling. Check out this report by the Guttmacher Institute if you are curious about the statistics regarding contraceptive use in the US. Given its efficacy, though, I wish the percentage of women who chose implants when seeking birth control were higher.

Sadly, not only do you have extremists who would like to eliminate all forms of birth control on one end of the reproductive rights continuum, but on the opposite end, you’ve got the equally scary people who would like to exert control over women by forcing them to have implants as a punitive gesture. Women’s rights, under these circumstances, might be considered moderate middle ground.

According to the ACLU, Norplant is one of the many types of “contraception that enhances the reproductive freedom of women and men,” but they go on to say that it can also be “a vehicle for infringing on the reproductive autonomy of women.” Not good.

It seems that many judges and legislators attempted to mandate Norplant’s use by some women or groups. Some states wanted to give women convicted of child abuse or drug use during pregnancy a choice between Norplant and jail. (Let me state the obvious: Women on Norplant can still abuse children and use drugs.) Other states wanted to give incentives to women on welfare if they agreed to use Norplant. Still others wanted to require women who received public assistance to either use Norplant or lose their benefits. For a time it was quite popular to offer inmates reduced sentences if they got an implant.

I don’t want the government to decide anything about my childbearing capacity or decisions. It smacks of eugenics. I want all the available information on all the available birth control methods so that I can decide what to do with my own body. Men are never forced to medically acquiesce to politicians. Male child abusers are not forced to have vasectomies. Men’s public assistance is not contingent upon his birth control or lack thereof.

This article by the Guttmacher Institute reminds us that every woman’s birth control choice should be fully informed and completely voluntary. That is a fundamental right that accorded to every human being. Even though our rights are constantly being infringed upon, it’s still shocking to me to contemplate that so many people would deprive us of these rights.

The article goes on to describe the horrific history of sterilization abuse in this country, which is against the law now, but has still taken place as recently as 2013. Then it goes into further detail about the many controversial Norplant proposals. Then it reviews the many ways that countries the world over have attempted to control a woman’s reproductive choices by either prohibiting pregnancy because of overpopulation, or prohibiting birth control out of a desire for more workers, soldiers or patriots, or to comply with certain religious beliefs.

The bottom line is that we women are caught in the middle between groups who want us to reproduce whether we like it or not and groups who want to deprive us of the right to reproduce even if we want to. It’s all about control. It’s all about power.

A worldwide commitment to reproductive rights is the only way women can control their lives and futures. Toward that end, please support the Center for Reproductive Rights. The statistics below, which can be found on their website, make it perfectly clear that for many of us, these issues are a matter of quality of life, and, unfortunately, the potential for death. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to make those types of choices on my own.

  • 74 million women living in low and middle-income countries have unintended pregnancies annually.
  • Every year, 215,000 pregnancy related deaths are prevented by modern contraceptives.
  • The rate of maternal mortality in the US is 24 women per every 100,000. That’s more than three times the rate of most other high-income countries.

Make the choice to read my book!

The Myth of the Lost Cause: Robert E Lee Day and Confederate Monuments, Memorials, and Schools

Glorifying war is not a good look for anybody.

Recently, one of my readers pointed out to me that ten American states still celebrate Robert E. Lee Day. According to this article and this one, two of them, Alabama and Mississippi, celebrate it on the same day as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and have made it a paid holiday for state employees. Reading this made me physically ill. I had never heard of this abominable “holiday” until now.

For those who are unfamiliar with Lee, by all means, allow me to get you up to speed on this appalling individual. Robert E. Lee was a Confederate general during the civil war and, prior to that, had hundreds of slaves that had originally been the property of his late father-in-law. Lee was supposed to emancipate all of them according to the will, but he held onto them for five more years. He treated them much more harshly than his father-in-law ever had, and many of them tried, unsuccessfully, to escape, and were then sold off and/or jailed. By the time Lee was finished with that plantation, not a single slave family was left intact.

Further, to hear the South tell it, Robert E. Lee was the greatest general of all time, but if you delve deeper into what he actually accomplished, and also what he intentionally did not accomplish, you quickly discover that he was actually the worst general the Confederates could have chosen, and he is one of several reasons that they lost the war. First of all, his primary concern was Virginia. He concentrated on that one theater, and when other theaters begged him for help, he refused to send them reinforcements. At one point he was forced to do so, but he then delayed complying to such an extent that it caused a great deal of harm to the Confederacy. His campaigns were responsible for the death of 209,000 Confederate soldiers in his one area, which is 55,000 more deaths than General Grant was responsible for, even though he was in charge of 5 different Union armies simultaneously. Lee was also responsible for the disaster at Gettysburg, even though he attempted to blame someone else.

I could go on and on about Lee, but the bottom line is that he was no one to celebrate, then or now. And in truth, these holidays have nothing to do with Lee. They’re about racism and white supremacy. Southern supporters would have you believe that these days are to honor a part of our nation’s history, but it’s interesting to note that all but one of these state holidays cropped up, like the pustulant sores that they are, after Martin Luther King Junior Day was declared a federal holiday in 1983.

The state of Georgia has some sneaky writing in its state law which requires the governor to pronounce at least one day a year to be dedicated to honoring the Confederacy. But the average person might not even know this because it says, “the Governor shall include at least one of the following dates: January 19, April 26, or June 3, or a suitable date in lieu thereof to commemorate the event or events now observed by such dates.”

Those dates coincide with Robert E. Lee Day, Confederate Memorial Day, and Jefferson Davis Day, respectively. If they weren’t well aware that what they’re doing was wrong, they wouldn’t have to sneak these “holidays” into the legislation so as to make them practically anonymous, would they? Shame on them.

As a white woman from Connecticut, some might think that I wouldn’t have any skin in this game, so to speak, regarding all things Confederate. In that they’d be wrong. Aside from finding it incomprehensible that any human being could choose racism over civil rights for all humans, I also experienced a jarring culture shock that left a lasting impression on me when we moved from Connecticut to rural Florida when I was 10 years old.

Back then at least, most children learned about the Civil War between 3rd and 5th grades. I discovered firsthand that Connecticut and Florida put an entirely different spin on the subject. I was appalled.

Fifth grade in Florida was one of the worst years of my life by far. I suddenly found myself in a school system that didn’t “officially” desegregate until 1970, despite the fact that segregation had become illegal in 1954. And in fact, they didn’t get around to complying with a court order that required them to replace several aging schools that were attended mainly by black children until 2018. I wrote about my Florida school experiences in great detail here.

I walked into that racist cesspool after already having been taught about the Civil War for two years in Connecticut. But one thing that had been studiously avoided in Connecticut is the Myth of the Lost Cause. Even at age 10 I was able to poke multiple holes in this myth, so having a teacher, someone whom I always assumed would have educational integrity, cram this myth down my throat in Florida brought about the end of my innocence.

The myth goes something like this: The Civil War had nothing to do with slavery. It was all about states rights, and the Union was the aggressor. Most slaves were treated very well and were content. Poor whites were content, too. Plantations weren’t forced labor camps, they were genteel farms full of happy field hands. (Cough.)

The interesting thing about the Myth of the Lost Cause is that it really wasn’t perpetuated in earnest until the early 1900’s, some 50 years after the war was over, and it was championed by a group called the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Their primary goal is to prepare future generations of white Southerners to respect and defend the “principles” of the Confederacy.

The UDC perpetuated their myth in the same way myths are being perpetuated to this very day. They rejected every schoolbook that didn’t prop up the myth. They also sponsored Confederate monuments right at the time when Southern states were legislating an effort to segregate society and disenfranchise Black Americans. As this article explains, These Statues Were Never Really About Preserving History.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy also gave speeches in support of the Ku Klux Klan. In addition, they downplayed how violent the system of slavery was. I’m sure they were thrilled when Gone with the Wind came out, glamorizing the antebellum South to a degree that sickens any modern and educated viewer.

I really need to stop referring to the UDC in the past tense. They’re still alive and well. Here’s their website to prove it. They defend their monuments to this day. That’s why the past tense seems so appropriate for this backward group.

The UDC was responsible for another wave of memorials and monuments when the fight for civil rights heated up. These statues were intended to intimidate people who were already being terrorized by way of an increase in lynchings. In particular, the UDC enjoyed installing these monuments to ignorance on courthouse grounds. So much for equal protection under the law.

Another “coincidence” was that there was an increase in the number of schools and colleges that were named after Confederates right after the federal ruling in 1954 which outlawed segregation. In other words, “Yes, we’ll integrate if we must, but we won’t ever let you forget.”

Fortunately, there’s a growing trend to change the names of such schools. I once wrote a blog post about a high school in Jacksonville Florida that was finally, finally changed from Nathan Bedford Forrest High with its Rebel mascot to Westside High. Go Wolverines! Since then, Jacksonville has changed the name of 6 other schools. This is definitely a step in the right direction.

Since the death of George Floyd, an increasing number of confederate monuments have been torn down or relocated throughout the country. Another good step. But we still have a long way to go. After consulting this list of confederate monuments and memorials, I was proud to see that my current state of Washington “only” has two reminders of our nation’s Civil War shame. But nationwide, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, more than 2,000 memorials still valorize the Confederacy. Eight of those still stand in the United States Capitol, which was also the location of the January 6th insurrection. Those insurrectionists and the people who support them would like a repeat of the Civil War. That’s why it’s so important that we stop glorifying it, and start teaching the truth about the horrors of this war and the greedy, evil reasons behind it.

It’s time to grow up and take ownership of the fact that there are numerous dark periods in this nation’s history. Otherwise, we’ll never be motivated to improve.

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Looting in Plain Sight

For the current possessors of plunder, repatriation does not appear to be a topic of discussion.

If you’ve ever been to any museum or art gallery anywhere on the planet, odds are quite good that you’ve looked at something that has been stolen from its rightful owners. Colonialists the world over have looted, pillaged, and plundered with impunity, because they believe the world is theirs to exploit and profit from. For the current possessors of such booty, repatriation is quite often a dirty word. (And I find it ironic that these organizations often charge the general public a good bit of their hard-earned money to gaze upon these stolen goods.)

I firmly believe that things should be returned to their rightful owners. Unfortunately, that gets rather complicated in practice. I’ll give you one such dilemma that I stumbled upon quite by accident, and afterwards I’ll hit you with some questions about how these situations should be handled in general.

I must confess that even at my ripe old age, I still play Pokemon Go. One aspect of that game is the ability to exchange “gifts” with other players around the globe. These are in the form of digital postcards. They’re often photographs of points of interest, and if you’re lucky, someone has taken the time to write a description thereof. This is my absolute favorite part of the game. It’s like traveling without leaving your own home. Every day, I get “postcards” from Japan, Hong Kong, India, Brazil, and Spain.

Last week I was getting my Pokemon Go on, so to speak, when I received the following postcard from a Pokemon friend who is from Louisiana. My first thought was, “What the heck is a Buddha statue doing in Louisiana?” Many more thoughts would follow.

The person who created this postcard was kind enough to type out, verbatim, the inscription placard that is below the statue. It says, “This Buddha was built for the Shonfa Temple located northeast of Peking by the order of Emperor Hui-Tsung (1101-1125). Its builder was Chon-Ha-Chin, most noted of ancient Buddha makers. The temple was looted by a rebel general who took the statue as part of his loot and sent it to New York to be sold … The statue came to the notice of two friends of E.A. McIlhenny who purchased it and sent it to him as a gift in 1936.”

Seriously? This statue was knowingly taken from its intended place, passed through several hands, and now it’s proudly displayed in Louisiana, and the owners/accessories-after-the-fact don’t even bother to hide this information? It’s right out there for the whole world to see. “Look what we got!”

Naturally, I had to learn more. The postcard didn’t say exactly where in Louisiana this Buddha patiently sits. But since those who run the venue are blatant and proud of having this loot, they weren’t hard to track down. I simply dragged the image into Google images, and voila! The kidnapper’s lair was uncovered!

This statue has pride of place on Avery Island, which is located on the Louisiana coast southwest of Baton Rouge. If you look on a map, it would be quite understandable if you didn’t realize the place was an island. It’s a salt dome that is surrounded by bayous, marshes, and swampland, so technically, yeah, it’s an island. But much of its boundary is comprised of what looks like a drainage ditch that you could easily jump over, if you don’t have the good sense to be mindful of alligators and poisonous snakes.

Having never stepped foot in Louisiana, I had never heard of this island, so of course I did some homework. The place does have a fascinating history. Currently, about 124 people live there, but a lot of tourists come to visit the island, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

First, the island was a sugar plantation that was operated by about 100 slaves. Then, strangely enough, a nutria farm was established there. The culprit was Edward McIlhenny. While this family is known for its environmentalism, the nutria is one of the most ecologically harmful invasive species on the planet, and this guy released “a large number” of these nutrias into the wild, and their descendants plague the south to this day.

During the Civil War, Avery Island was home to a salt mine that supplied the confederacy with 22 million pounds of salt. Right after the war, in 1868, Edmund McIlhenny invented Tabasco Sauce, and you can still tour the factory, which continues to crank out the hot stuff for a spice-loving public.

Even more interesting for tourists, in my nature-loving opinion, is Jungle Gardens, a 170-acre venue on what used to be the McIlhenny estate. It looks like a beautiful place, well worth a visit, although I wouldn’t do it in the middle of summer. Way too hot.

The site is also used for events and weddings. Much of the garden was built to highlight the stolen Buddha. Buddhists sometimes come here to worship.

I don’t mean to imply that the McIlhennys did the actual stealing of this statue. But if they knew enough about it to be able to compose the placard that tells its history, then they were most definitely complicit. If someone steals the key to a house, and then gives you the key as a gift, that doesn’t mean you have the right to go in there and make yourself at home.

That placard gives us many clues about the statue’s provenance, so I decided to do a little sleuthing to figure out where it came from. First, the Shonfa Temple is mentioned, and it is said to be northeast of Peking. I Googled the temple and came up empty. However, there is a Chongfa Temple that was ransacked during the late 1800’s, but it is southwest of Beijing (Peking), not northeast. But the description might have gotten that backward. Further, the Emperor Huizong (anglicized as Hui -tsung) figures prominently in this temple’s history.

I could not find a thing about Chon-Ha-Chin, but given the other slight errors, and the fact that at the time the English spellings of Chinese names left much to be desired, it’s not surprising that I couldn’t find him.

The rebel general who did the looting was not named, but there was quite a bit of plundering going on during the Taiping Rebellion. I find it interesting, though, that said general would send the statue to New York to be sold, and yet no one knew his name. I’d think it would be much more likely that he sold it to some rich white guy who then brought it to New York. It is said that the statue languished in some warehouse for many years until two friends of the McIlhennys found it and thought it would make a great gift for them. It came to Avery Island in 1936.

And there the statue sits to this day. If it could talk, I wonder what it would have to say about the slavery and the nutrias and the Tabasco sauce and the tourists. Its surroundings are lush and beautiful, and it’s obvious that it is much loved. It’s the Jungle Garden’s most prized possession, but I still believe that they have no right to keep it.

But here’s where it gets sticky. History changes much. Even if Chongfa Temple is Shongfa Temple, most of that temple is no longer standing, and what remains is now a tea house. Should it go there?

In addition, while Buddhism is still popular in China, its history with the communists is fraught with violence, destruction, and suppression. Currently, Buddhism is tolerated, but it’s hardly official. And who knows when that tide will turn, and in which direction? Lest we forget, a fair amount of the ransacking of that nation was done by the Chinese themselves. Wherever this statue goes, it should be kept safe, and there’s no guarantee that that will be the case in today’s China. Just ask the people of Tibet.

But who gets to decide what is appropriate for this statue? It hasn’t exactly been safe in Louisiana either. Some fool tourist decided that it would be fun to break off its right earlobe. It’s a strange world we live in.

I don’t think Jungle Gardens or the Chinese Bureaucracy has the moral authority to make a decision about any of this. But then, who does, and based on what criteria? The ghosts of the past seem to be keeping their own counsel, and I keep going back and forth on the subject.

This seems to be a dilemma that matters to nobody but me. I’m sure Jungle Gardens doesn’t want to broach the subject for fear of losing this lovely statue. I suspect the current Chinese Government doesn’t particularly care, because they don’t want to focus on Buddhism. And while the Dalai Lama may be the most famous Buddhist, that religion doesn’t have an official leader.

Meanwhile, the Buddha sits in whatever the Buddhist equivalent of limbo might be. He sees everything, patiently waits, and judges not. But there’s plenty of judgment to go around.

Additional Sources:

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Kash Out and Go Home

Now he’s written what amounts to Pro-Trump propaganda for children.

The only reason Kash Patel even popped up on my radar was that I read this article about a gift one very deluded grandmother gave one of her grandchildren for Christmas. The book, which amounts to Pro-Trump propaganda for children, is creepy at best. (You can peek inside its sick-making pages on the Amazon site here.)

Patel’s book, which I refuse to name, is an adaptation of Dinesh D’Souza’s debunked conspiracy theory film 2000 Mules, about alleged voter fraud in the 2020 election. (You can read about how easily this film is debunked here.)

On the cover of the book, Trump is portrayed as a king, Hillary Clinton is made out to be an evil, scowling queen, and the author himself is standing behind the king, dressed as a magician, and waving a magic wand. That’s all you need to know to realize that this guy has a massive ego. But oh, it gets worse.

In the aforementioned peek inside feature on Amazon, the first 4 pages of this f****d up fairytale are about Patel himself. He calls himself “Kash the Distinguished Discoverer” and claims that he was known far and wide as “the one person who could discover anything about anything.” He alludes to the Russian’s being innocent of all wrongdoings with regard to Trump’s election, and then even more of Kash’s heroic exploits are touted, until finally the “king” is trotted out. Patel then goes on to tell the children who have the misfortune of reading this book that King Donald would “Make the Kingdom Great Again.”

He’ll be more than happy to sign the book for you, using a QAnon slogan. He also still believes the election was stolen. You’ll excuse me while I rinse the stomach acid from my mouth.

So who is this guy? Actually, Kash Patel is enough of a heavy hitter in the Trump-iverse that I should have known of him. But during that presidential debacle, there were so many scandals, lies, and dirty-dealings that perhaps I can be forgiven for not being able to keep up to speed on all of them.

On his Wikipedia Page, you get some of the broad strokes of this man’s strange political history. But basically, he’s the guy who claims that Trump declassified all of those classified documents lying around in Mar A Lago, simply by saying so. He himself had access to them. He’s the guy who worked the hardest to discredit the FBI and DOJ officials investigating Russia’s election interference for Trump. He’s the guy Trump wanted to install as either FBI or CIA director, but couldn’t, because it would have sparked organization-wide walkouts. He’s the guy that Trump thought was an expert on Ukraine, despite his total lack of experience or knowledge on the subject, and he’s the guy that convinced Trump that Ukraine was corrupt.

Nowadays, not only his he an author of questionable renown, but he has a website called “fight with kash” where you can buy obscenely overpriced merch, such as an unattractive $85.00 jacket with a “Don’t Tread on Me” logo. Proceeds to support the “Kash Patel Legal Offense Trust” with zero explanation as to what that organization stands for.

I think Mr. Patel is trying to turn himself into the next Rush Limbaugh. He has a vlog called Kash’s Corner where he spends a lot of time explaining that he’s persecuted by the current administration, and attacks the FBI, DOJ, and President Biden every chance he gets. He is also a proud supporter of the January 6th insurrection, and still is a Trump loyalist to this day.

This guy is in love with himself. Fortunately he’s small potatoes compared to the late Mr. Limbaugh. Patel apparently has a net worth 1-5 million, whereas, upon his death, Limbaugh’s estate was valued at 600 million. Frankly, both of them are a waste of human flesh as far as I’m concerned, but at least Patel is a less popular waste.

I’m not one to censor, ban, or burn books, but if one of Patel’s books showed up in my Little Free Library, I’d be sorely tempted. This man should come with a warning label. Children should not be exposed to his warped philosophies, even if grandma is the one who gives them the book. I wish Kash the Distinguished Discoverer would take himself back to the dark ages from whence he came, so that none of us would have to listen to the self-serving proclamations that sally forth from his pie hole.

I couldn’t resist giving this my official seal of disapproval.

Additional sources:

If you insist on reading Patel’s book, perhaps mine might serve as a positive after-outrage palate cleeanser.

You Don’t Have To

We are still responsible for our choices.

More and more things are becoming politically and/or socially acceptable. We are all able to cast our voices much further than we could in times past. The anonymity of the internet allows us to be more impulsive and less inhibited. Anything is possible. We practically have a mandate to go hog wild.

To that I say, “Sure you can, but must you?”

Just because many of us seem to suffer fewer consequences, does that mean that we’re no longer responsible for our choices? Absolutely not. There may be more temptations for you to resist, but you still are the conductor of the very content of your character.

Just because you can be intimidating, that doesn’t mean you have to be. Just because bullies now seem to be revered, that doesn’t mean you ought to jump on the bandwagon. What is your motivation when you say something anonymously that you would never say publicly? Is that who you want to be?

It may seem like there’s less of need for integrity, common decency, and critical thinking than there once was, but in fact, those things are needed now more than ever. With so many resources and influences out there, you have a legion of options, and very few of those are related to doing the right thing. But in the end, making bad choices will still rot you from the inside, and will likely damage others in the process.

To thine own self be true.

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Duck and Cover: Its Legacy and the Aftermath

If a child never knows what safety feels like, what kind of adult will that child become?

In my first post about duck and cover drills, I compared and contrasted them to the active shooter drills that students endure today. In the next one, I discussed many of the insane policies that came about due to the sheer panic of the adults who were in charge. Now, let’s get into the ways these drills changed people, and how they reacted to that change.

As the children who were made to cower under their desks got older, they began to realize that the adults had lied to them. Desks can’t save you. Many people now believe that this was a cold war tactic to manipulate the next generation to fear USSR and communism in general. (In fairness, duck and cover might save you from a low-yield bomb that detonated at least 10 miles away, but the subsequent survival would not be pretty.)

This caused many of these kids to reject the system and that, in part, gave rise to the Hippie Movement. Many of them weren’t dropping out of society as much as they were dropping out of the fear of a mass kill off. They figured, if we’re going to die anyway, let’s not think about it. Let’s live for today.

It’s understandable that these kids thought anyone over 30 couldn’t be trusted. But even as a child, I thought that philosophy was terribly short-sighted, because they, too, would turn 30 someday. Then what?

Here are a few posters created to push back against the cold war mindset.

The cold war also inspired a great deal of creativity. The women I spoke to wanted me to recommend several books, songs and movies. I can’t vouch for these recommendations, having not read/seen them all myself, but for those of you who are really interested in this era, I’ll list them here:


Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb


The Fog of War, a documentary in which Robert McNamara, then Secretary of Defense, with tears in his eyes, discusses how close we came to nuclear war.

On the Beach came out in 1959, prior to movie ratings. A lot of the duck and cover kids saw it at a young age, while the cold war was still going on, and it scared the bejeezus out of them. I saw it for the first time about a year ago, and, far removed from its history, and without any duck and cover trauma from my past, it “only” made me want to cry. I do remember reading the book at a young age, though. It was good, but scary. That’s probably why it took me so long to watch the movie.

Catch 22: the movie, the book

More Books:

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. This is not about the era so much as it is about the end of the world vibe.

The Children’s Story by James Clavell


The Eve of Destruction by Barry McGuire

Wooden Ships by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young or Wooden Ships by Jefferson Airplane. Which do you like better?

Hammer to Fall by Queen. That first link shows the lyrics, but if you already know them, I suggest this video, which shows Freddie Mercury in all his incredible glory. (God, I miss him.)

But honestly, so much good music was inspired by the cold war that I could go on forever. Instead, I suggest you check out this article entitled, Cold War Music: A Top Ten List for a deep, eclectic dive.

Clearly, all this fear mongering seems to have backfired for our government. Many of these duck and cover kids became lifelong pacifists and activists against war and nukes. Even more of them grew up to distrust authority and they still have the mindset that you should do what you need to do now, as tomorrow not guaranteed. For some, that sometimes resulted in poor decisions, but others matured into an attitude of gratitude and a feeling that nothing should be taken for granted.

Many of the duck and cover generation, especially the ones that had been plagued with night terrors or nightmares as children, are still stewing in toxic existential dread as adults. That should not come as a surprise. They were taught that the world will end in their lifetime, and that something bad would suddenly happen at some unspecified time. No one should have to live with that type of free floating anxiety.

One woman said, “When kids can’t trust their own instincts, it creates a feeling of powerlessness and an unstable relationship with those in power.”

I was not old enough to be tortured by the cold war antics of the adults all around me, and yet I can relate to that statement entirely. If you have a rational thought at age 7, and everyone ignores it or continues to behave irrationally even though they’re supposed to be in charge, you tend to question authority quite a bit.

Despite everything that one woman from the duck and cover generation went through, she still feels more sorry for the children of today who are enduring the active shooter drills. She said the red threat seemed too far away to worry about, whereas today’s kids see mass shootings on the news that are taking place in their own back yards all the time. That danger is too close for children to ignore. They can’t even pretend to feel safe under those circumstances.

For the duck and cover kids, the treats were mostly from the outside. Today most the threats are close enough to touch. That’s a sobering thought.

This is not the time for the adults, whose primary purpose should be to make children feel safe, confident, and loved, to instead model instability, irrationality, fear, and hatred, all while actively destroying the very planet on which we depend for survival. As a society, we subject our children to terrorism. If a child never knows what safety feels like, what kind of adult will that child become?

Drills should not be about transferring adult anxieties to children. They should be reassuring. They should be honest. They should answer questions, but they also should make it very clear that these drills exist so the ADULTS can be sure they keep everyone safe in the case of an emergency.

If schools insist on doing drills, for the children’s well-being they should combine them with tornado, earthquake, or fire drills. They are anxiety-producing, yes, but at least kids will think the enemy is the weather or faulty wiring, not some insane human being who is actively wanting to kill them. Perhaps turn it into a quarterly safety day designed to teach kids how to be part of a school community working together to remain safe and strong, rather than an exercise in helplessness.

The teachers, on the other hand, should have more in depth training, because they should all be on the same page as to what the plan will be. But that training should be done without students present. Anything more intense than that does more harm than good. After receiving such training, these teachers could then talk to the students, calmly, and say, “In the event of xyz, here’s what you will see the teachers do, and here’s what we may ask you to do. Just so you know.”

And, for the love of God, can we please not manufacture anxiety in children and parents where none need exist? Children should not be pawns in a political game. They should not be taught to fear Critical Race Theory, for example, especially since no public school in this country ever taught it in the first place. They should not be taught that wearing face masks and getting vaccines, as recommended by all public health professionals, is anything more than just that: a way to keep the public healthy and demonstrate your consideration toward those around you. And most of all, we should not be prioritizing our desire for automatic weapons over the very lives and mental health of our children.

It’s a much better tactic to give kids a feeling that their leaders are being rational and will know what to do in a crisis. Let them be children while they still can. Why on earth would anyone want to do otherwise?

If there’s any value in distrusting the Russians, we should be less worried about bombs and more worried about the fact that we aren’t teaching children to think critically, and we ourselves are buying into Russian disinformation campaigns and conspiracy theories.

Khrushchev wanted to bury us. He didn’t. But disinformation will do so if we don’t all take a deep breath and employ a bit of critical thinking. Destruction doesn’t require bombs or bullets these days. It just requires the masses to be ignorant, gullible, lazy, and accepting of social media that is not fact checked or moderated in any significant way.

But we’re too jaded to fall for Cold War fear mongering. Aren’t we? Apparently not. We elected Trump, who taught his base to fear immigrants, education, healthcare, and democracy.

And we need to give up this insane love affair with automatic weapons. Kids today are a lot less worried about being fried to a nuclear crisp than they are of having bullets tumbling at them at a rate of 40 rounds per minute, leaving an unidentifiable corpse. That feeling, right there, is what we are doing to this generation. I can’t even imagine being a student these days.

One thing’s for certain. We are letting these kids down with all our thoughts and prayers. Rest assured that there will be long-range societal consequences, and they will be impossible for us to predict. If we insist on fearing anything, we should fear that. Shame on us all

Special thanks to the women of the Facebook Group Crones of Anarchy!, for revealing so much about their duck and cover experiences.

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The Insanity of Duck and Cover

“In the event of an attack, put a mattress over your front door.”

As I mentioned in my last post, Active Shooter Drills: The New Duck and Cover, children were told to do some very insane things during the duck and cover era. I’m sure a lot of these adults meant well, but the science behind nuclear fallout was poorly understood by much of the general population, and they were in such a panic that they came to some very strange conclusions. Those duck and cover drills were created by people with the best of intentions. But what they turned into were general panic-fests, studies in misinformation , and psychologically damaging safety theater.

There’s actually something to the duck and cover concept. You can survive a nuclear bomb if it’s low-yield, and doesn’t detonate within 10 miles of where you are ducking and covering. It really is worth it to be able to plot out a blast radius.

What follows are some of the insane policies enacted by politicians, teaching professionals, and just about anyone old enough not to be restricted to the kiddie rides at the county fair. These people should have known better. With the tiniest bit of scientific curiosity, any responsible person wouldn’t have subjected children to any of these things.

  • One school actually had the children tattoo their blood type in case they needed transfusions.
  • Many others had kids wearing dog tags that included their name, address, DOB, and blood type. Some made those children put those dog tags in their mouths during drills, and children quickly realized that that was so people would be able to identify their bodies.
  • One parent told their child not to eat freshly fallen snow because it could have fallout from nuclear bomb tests.
  • Many households stashed supplies despite having no bomb shelters.
  • Kids were taught that when they heard the air raid sirens, they should run home as fast as they could.
  • Some were instructed to put a mattress over the front door at home in the event of an attack.
  • One woman noted that her town’s only nuclear fallout shelter was in the basement of the local Sears store, but it was common knowledge that most people wouldn’t make it there in time, and if they did, they wouldn’t all fit.
  • And let’s not forget the fact that many of these shelters had no plumbing whatsoever.
  • But in the event that there was a functioning toilet nearby, children were told that a toilet tank was a safe source of drinking water, but they weren’t told what to do when that ran out.
  • And no one questioned these bomb shelters’ air intakes. Were they all filtered? How?
  • I once did a blog post entitled Seattle’s Weird Cold War Relic which will tell you all you need to know about this country’s lack of comprehension and extreme irrationality regarding the big picture of nuclear war.

In Jacksonville, my old stomping grounds, children were instructed to bring backpacks to school that contained canned fruit and vegetables, a bleach bottle filled with water, hard candy, and sugar cubes. These packs were left in the cloakroom. During drills, the children would take these backpacks and walk 3 blocks down to railroad tracks. In an emergency, they were told that a train would come and whisk them to safety. The children took these drills as an opportunity to share the hard candy. Some of them wondered where these trains were waiting, and/or how they would ever find their parents again if they were loaded onto a train.

Meanwhile, at a school in Seattle, children were lined up along the perimeter of the school grounds, facing outward, and were told that in the event of an actual attack, school busses would come and take them to safety. One woman found that to be very creepy, just as I would have. She vowed to never get on that bus. She had an escape route plotted out. (And to her I say, “Come sit by me.”)

In one district, parents were asked to write a letter to their kids in case of disaster. Many of these letters said something along the lines of, “Goodbye, I love you. Here’s the phone numbers of distant relatives, just in case.” When the children changed schools, the parents got the unopened letters back and they were asked to pass them along to the next school, or provide a new letter for their now older child. Those letters must have been horrible to have to write.

One school decided to conduct an experiment. All the students were to run home as fast as they could. Ready, set, go! They were timed in their efforts to see if it was feasible to do that in the event of an attack. Nope. Since they were all good kids, they obediently returned to school after that failed endeavor.

Many teachers made it clear that these duck and cover drills were an exercise in futility, which added to the anxiety, while other teachers totally freaked out, leaving children to conclude that adults were crazy and no one was in charge. One teacher, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, burst into tears and told the marching band, who had been practicing on the football field, that he was proud of them and didn’t know if they’d get to perform their show or not. He then walked inside, leaving them standing on the field.

Another girl’s first grade teacher marched her class outside to the water side of the New Orleans levees, and then she told them that in the event of a real nuclear attack, the kids should run there and cover themselves in “at least” 6 inches of mud. (And breathe how, exactly? And how long were they supposed to stay buried like that? Weeks?)

A few Catholic school stories were told. (Those are always fun.) One class was supposed to pray during the drills but giggled instead. They were told that prayers would keep the nukes away. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, one school had 800 kids in parking lots chanting the Rosary for an hour. Later, a nun said they had saved the world because God had heard them. In another school, the children were asked if the communist came, would you renounce your faith and live, or never renounce it and be killed? One six-year-old girl said she would renounce and live. For that she was beaten until she could barely stand.

This was a time when children were often reciting the pledge of allegiance in a building that had been designated to be a nuclear fallout shelter. In some cases, the basements beneath their feet were full of civil defense crackers. What a strange world to grow up in.

Some teachers made a point of telling students that the Soviets and the Chinese and the Cubans lied to their people about America, and the only way to save ourselves from these evil people was to duck and cover, because they could drop the bomb any second. Meanwhile, one woman who grew up in Eastern Europe said she and her fellow students were being told the same thing about the United States.

It is interesting to note that children who went to Department of Defense (DOD) schools often report that they were never subjected to duck and cover drills. Was that because the parents who worked there had already drank the Kool-Aid, so no further fear mongering was required, or was it because they already knew enough to realize these drills were futile? There’s no real way to know, now.

If you’d like to experience some of the cold war propaganda firsthand, check out the following:

Duck And Cover (1951) Bert The Turtle This is the ultimate indoctrination movie that most children were forced to watch. (I tried to pretend that I was watching this at age 7, and I still have a knot in my stomach because of it. One woman told me that she came home and told her mother a confusing story about turtles and ducks in covers afterward.)

Fallout: When And How To Protect Yourself (1959) While watching this one, I was struck by its naivete. Sure, you can go out for brief periods. Just wear a raincoat and rubber boots.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki Films HD Movies like this one were sometimes shown as a sort of cautionary “this could happen to you” tale in the 1950’s and 60’s. Its focus seems to have been the impact on the buildings. Human beings are only mentioned twice, as a mere afterthought. I’m sure that when this movie was shown to children, the fact that America is the only country to have ever used nuclear bombs in combat, and that those bombs were deployed over civilian cities, was conveniently ignored.

These children were quite often shown the footage of the nuclear tests that we conducted on Bikini Atoll from 1946 to 1958 as well. I’m quite sure that most of us have seen at least one of those, if only in the form of a still photograph.

One woman remembered being shown a film about how to deal with a body should someone die in your bomb shelter. It said to wrap the body in plastic, open the door, put the body outside, and quickly shut the door again. She was 12 years old when she saw that. I looked high and low for that film. I think she is referring to the British Protect and Survive films that were made between 1974 and 1980, which were classified by the government and only intended for release in the event of dire emergency, but they were leaked to the public.

Now anyone can watch these public information films on Youtube here. (The one that deals with body disposal is about a minute and a half long, and appears around minute 57 of this compilation.)

Even more troublesome, there was a movie that came out in 1984 called Threads. It is based on information from the Protect and Survive films, and is considered by many to be the most terrifying film ever made. I hope no child ever sees that. It’s available on many streaming platforms. I see that I can see it on Amazon Prime. Now I just have to work up the courage to do so. If I ever do, I’ll be sure to give you a full report.

In my next blog post, I’ll be writing about the impact of these duck and cover drills, and how they still influence our culture to this day.

Special thanks to the women of the Facebook Group Crones of Anarchy!, for revealing so much about their duck and cover experiences. I’ve learned so much from all of you, and I hope my blog posts do the subject justice.

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