Oaxaca de Juarez. The land of my childhood. A place in which the fondest of memories are retained in my heart. Oaxaca city is nestled in a long fertile valley surrounded by the Sierra Madre mountain range. Dotting the sides of these mountains, reside the nine major Indian tribes which call this living museum, Oaxaca, home. Each group with indigenous dress, food and local dialects give Oaxaca state and the capital city, Oaxaca, a distinct diversity that makes it such a wonderful place to visit. It is even a better place to live as a child.
The main square, called the Zocalo, dates back to 1529. This area of town, is representative of the colonialization efforts of the Spaniards. On week-end nights at the Zocalo the state band plays with gusto but not much talent. But strolling by with a bag of hot redskin peanuts soaked in fresh lime and cactus salt is food for the gods. This hub of community activity is a place where the elderly sit on the benches and the young men court the ladies in the evening shadows cast by the trees and surrounding buildings. It is a place where small boys spin tops and fruit juice vendors serve up glasses of fresh guayaba, melon or tamarindo juice.
Oaxaca is a place bounded by strong tradition. There is Semana Santa, where the whole city shuts down for Holy Week. All of the "locals" are fair game for the custom of dumping buckets of water from second story windows onto the unsuspecting shoppers below. The week ends with much pageantry for Easter Sunday.
It is a place where tourists from all over the world come to see the market during "Dia de los Muertos" or "Day of the Dead". This correlates with our Halloween. You may buy "dead bread" with a skull on it, have a friends name painted on a small coffin, buy Mariachi skeleton musicians and tamales de mole negro. The faithful, find their way to the graves of their family that night to drop off food for deceased loves ones. Spending the night by the grave, they await the spirit of the dead to come and eat their favorite dish.
Equally fascinating is "Noche de los Rabanos" which is on December 23rd. This "Night of the Radishes" festival boasts farmers from all across the region who set up table with displays of radish art. There are whole villages of radish people, radish flowers, radish cattle, you name it. Tens of thousands of people converge on this area and wait for hours to pass through the hundreds of displays. Pickpockets also hope to be lucky during this night. It is best to wear a money belt or to carry a purse close to the front.
Oaxaca has suffered physical violence in recent days with the killing of an American journalist. It is sad to think that the need to restore order to this city was delayed until an American was killed. But tourism is big business in Oaxaca. This state remains one of the poorest in Mexico and many of the people depend on the sale of their artisan crafts and fresh produce to sustain their families. I would not encourage anyone to make Oaxaca their vacation destination in the next few weeks. But in the future please consider a trip to Oaxaca. You will never regret it.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Oaxaca de Juarez. The land of my childhood. A place in which the fondest of memories are retained in my heart. Oaxaca city is nestled in a long fertile valley surrounded by the Sierra Madre mountain range. Dotting the sides of these mountains, reside the nine major Indian tribes which call this living museum, Oaxaca, home. Each group with indigenous dress, food and local dialects give Oaxaca state and the capital city, Oaxaca, a distinct diversity that makes it such a wonderful place to visit. It is even a better place to live as a child.
Posted by tammyswofford at 10:17 AM
Monday, October 30, 2006
"Eyelash transplantation does for the eyes what breast augmentation does for the figure."
Dr. Alan Bauman
Since I have never had the cash to manage a couple of saline implants, it has eased the pain of being endowed with a normal figure to mention occasionally, "I feel so much better since I have had my breast reduction. My back does not hurt anymore." That always works to bring the conversation to a skidding halt when a 38D walks into the room and flaunts those things standing right next to me. I have never been one to run from the battle, especially when the opponent has unfair advantage. But, oh my! Longer eyelashes? And for only three thousand dollars per eye? This is starting to look awfully tempting. I am considering selling my car and riding public transportation to get the latest in cosmetic surgery.
But then, it takes an innocent little statement from our fourteen year old son to bring me back to reality. Leaning over me a couple of nights ago, he looked at me quizzically and said, "Mom, you have a little scar on your face." Asking him to point to the spot, he confirmed my suspicion. Laughing aloud, I informed the little rascal that what he had observed, was one of those nice little wrinkles that people get when they forget to maintain the botox look and smile too often. Yes, I am getting a couple of little laugh lines around my eyes.
Cosmetic surgery is big business in nations where the locals are not so poor that they are fighting over a bowl of rice. It can be a career enhancer for men and women who are entering the arena of age discrimination and competing with more youthful counterparts for a job; especially if the task requires a public face. Cosmetic surgery can tweak a "7" and turn a woman into a "10" when she is on the hunt for a suitable man.
But what we need to remember is the following, folks. While beauty can open doors it does not always climb the stairs to success. What is a pretty mold on the outside might harbor the personality of a hyena on the interior. And behind those long, fake eyelashes, botox eyes, piano key veneer teeth, saline implants, butt-tucked and liposuctioned hips may reside the brain of an intellectual midget. Beauty can be bought. Fascination, is not guaranteed.
Posted by tammyswofford at 7:35 AM
Saturday, October 28, 2006
It is ninety degrees in the shade and I am dressed in a blouse, walking shorts and sandals. I am busy picking through the parsley at the Farmers Market when suddenly, I get dragged behind the watermelon display and raped by the lone man running the counter. Who is to blame? Let's enter the world of the top Muslim cleric in Australia, Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali, and see what he thinks. A little look at this link might help before we move along.
"If you take uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden, or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it.... whose fault is it, the cat's or the uncovered meat?"
Rape Fallacy Number One:
Women deserve rape. Yes, if we are raped there was something in our behavior or manner of dress that precipitated and encouraged the male to attack us.
Sheik al-Hilali further states that women are "weapons" used by "Satan" to control men.
Rape Fallacy Number Two:
The sexual attraction of women outweighs the ability for self control in the male.
"If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred."
Rape Fallacy Number Three:
Women taking appropriate precautions cannot be raped. It is only careless and foolish women who are raped.
Why do the statements of this man offend me so highly? Maybe it is because rape has touched my own family tree. There is the relative who had a newborn and was home alone. A male escapee from a mental hospital broke in her door. He caught up with her as she ran to grab her baby in the crib. She was brutally raped, beaten and strangled. He told her that when he returned the next time, he would kill her.
Another of my close family members was assaulted in a church bathroom at age five years. The complaint brought to her mother was that a man had given her a sore throat. He certainly made her life hell in the few minutes where his life interfaced with hers in a bathroom stall.
Rape is ugly. Incredibly ugly. It happens to women who have just loaded groceries into their car and want to head home and cook dinner. It happens to nurses leaving hospital shifts late at night who are raped in the parking garage. It happens to female real estate agents showing homes to a man in a suit. And it happens to women who call a plumber to fix the toilet.
But it never, ever happens because we deserve it.
Posted by tammyswofford at 5:00 AM
Friday, October 27, 2006
About Situation Ethics
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
In 632 Muhammad died. That was the beginning of the Shia rumble. Although it appears that the express wish of the leader of the Muslim state was for his son-in-law, Ali, to gain the seat of power on his death, the young man had to wait in line behind the first three Caliphs, Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman. The Caliph Ali was later murdered and his son Husayn ibn Ali suffered martyrdom at Karbala, which is in Iraq. Shia faithful all over the world commemorate the death. Things have rumbled ever since and in spite of other religious offshoots, such as the Sufi, it is the Sunni who have dominated the political stage in recent history. In Muslim majority nations they comprise the majority sect in many cases. But modern Shia political power began to emerge from the ashes in 1979 with the Iranian revolution and the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Enter the United States of America onto a page of history not well understood by most citizens. In 2003, our entrance into Iraq did much more than topple Saddam Hussein and dismantle the Baath'ist party. It gave the Shia choices they had not been able to exercise for many years. That included the right to exert political dominance in a geographic region where it has been denied. There are approximately 284 million Muslims represented by the Arab League, including Iraq. Breaking this down a bit further, Iran is 90 percent Shia, Iraq is 60 percent Shia and between them this calculates out to approximately 75 million Shia souls.
Syria, hugging the northwestern border of Iraq is a mish mash of Maronite Christians, Druze, and Shia, while retaining a Sunni majority. Syria manages to interface with the predominantly Shia Lebanon because of a common hatred for Israel.
The relationship between Syria and Lebanon offers two things to Iran. Syria provides a convenient land bridge into Lebanon. Thus Iran is able to leverage the Shia influence in Lebanon and for all practical purposes Hezbollah functions somewhat as a detached army regiment for Iran, with money and weapons flowing through the Syrian borders.
Pakistan has a Sunni majority population, as does the Hashemite Kingdom and the House of Saud. The House of Saud is further invested with Salafi, who also consider themselves Sunni, but are strict religious constructionists who hold tightly to the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad, which is the archived traditions and actions of the founder of Islam.
Before the U.S. entrance into Iraq, Sunni political dominance although wielded by a minority population, provided a hedge against the rising aspirations of Iran. Saddam Hussein took a calculated risk engaging Iran in 1980 after the Iranian Revolution. Fearing the Sunni/Shia balance in Iraq could be affected by the aspirations of Iran, knowing Iran had vulnerabilities because of the Tehran hostage crisis and subsequent U.S. embargo on aircraft parts, Mr Hussein moved his troops into play against Iran. The conflict lasted from 1980-1988 and caused much economic and social upheaval to both nations.
The removal of Saddam Hussein and a Sunni-dominated political system exposed a fault line. The tetonic plates of the Shia and the Sunni are clearly exposed and they are moving against each other, with the quake yet to come. What we should see in the next fifty years is strong play on the geopolitical stage with rising Shia power as Iran leads the pack. The next ten years, expect regional flash points of conflict in the Middle East as Sunni-based governments seek to maintain their leverage against a growing Shia political influence. Just as the upheaval that followed the establishment of a new Pakistani government on August 14, 1947 we can expect to see similar upheaval for several years as Iran grasps into Iraq, seeks to strengthen her reach through the land bridge of Syria and set up a puppet regime in Lebanon. There will be rising Shia nationalism which will effect the physical movement and displacement of population on the ground, as we already see as a microcosm, in Iraq.
Anytime large parcels of real estate change hands, especially in the formation of a new government, a destabilization period ensues until a new equilibrium and national identity is established. The Shia are rising. This is their decade.
Posted by tammyswofford at 7:14 AM
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
In the instant technology mind-set of the West, we forget to listen for the rumble of history right under our feet. It is there. Do you feel it? Time to adjust our gaze backwards, to the Cripps Mission of 1942. But really, we need to go back to the 1930's. No, make that 2,500 B.C. So strap in and put on your helmet. Moving fast and hugging the terrain close today, on this flight into the past.
The Indus Valley Civilization. Ever heard of it? One of the oldest ones around. This civilization which spanned 2,500-1500 B.C. put the seeds in the ground for the population of a modern Muslim state. Fast forward to 712 C.E. This is the year when Islamic commander Muhammad bin Qasim conquered southern Punjab, setting the political stage for successive Islamic empires, all the way to the Mughal Empire, which declined in the 1,700's.
Keep moving along to the 1930's. Allama Iqbal brought a kernel of thought for a "strong on the stalk" now existent modern Pakistan. Seeking a political interface for the politically underserved Muslim in India he burst onto the stage with vigor. Following in his footsteps in 1940, Muhammad Ali Jinnah came to prominence consolidating political power when the Muslim League adopted the Lahore Resolution.
Back in Europe in 1940, the war was not going well. France fell in June of that year. America got her tail whipped with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Japanese had invaded China in 1937, but shortly after Pearl Harbor, they turned their gaze to Burma. This small nation, had a vital supply route used by the troops of Chiang Kai-shek to thwart the Japanese offensive into the interior.
Meanwhile, back in India, there was the rising issue of the clash of Hindu and Muslim political parties, each seeking a dominant spot. The Lahore Resolution was certainly a top priority issue. Prime Minister Winston Churchill had enough on his plate and was not in a giving mood. Dispatching Sir Stafford Cripps to India on March 22, 1942 to attempt a conciliatory move that would strengthen the Allies in the war effort, the diplomacy was a failure. Both Hindu and Muslim nationalists and leadership in India rejected the proposals set on the table by Sir Stafford Cripps.
Fast forward to 14 August, 1947. The British partition of Pakistan into two wings, one in eastern and one in northwestern south Asia, brought area Muslims together geographically and politically. (Originally called W. Pakistan and E. Bengal, later E. Pakistan.) But following the realignment of borders to create modern Pakistan massive riots unsued. Many people died. This led to large demographic population shifts of Hindu families back to India proper, and Muslim families funneled into Pakistan. At times the parliamentary prose of a document or a treaty issues forth as a sword, in the practical outworkings of establishing sovereign domain. The sword was unleashed for a time, during these difficult days.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah became the first Governor General of Pakistan. Much later, the Indo-Pak War of 1971 allowed for the emergence of East Pakistan as the newly formed nation of Bangladesh. But today, Pakistan retains the seventh most populous army in the world. It is ramped and ready with nuclear capabilities. What happened decades ago, effects us today.
Ruminate on all of the above until Wednesday. Then, we will talk about Iraq. What will we see in fifty years? Feel the rumble.
Posted by tammyswofford at 6:52 AM
Monday, October 23, 2006
I was a corporal, aviation ordnanceman attached to Sub-Unit One of VMGR-152 at Da Nang, RVN. I was barely in country long enough to get the "I was there" ribbon. My favorite answer when asked what I did in the war is, "I made daylight". I flew in the back of a KC-130 and pushed parachute flares out the back.
I am no hero. I did not join the Corps until I had draft orders. The Corps had a delay program and I was a part-time student. I signed up for 4 years to get into aviation. I hoped to get something that might help me later as I planned to study Mechanical Engineering. Lots of jobs available for BB stackers in the civilian world.
I had uncles in the Army Air Corps, Airborne and the Corps during WW II. My dad was a deferred until about VJ day because of his occupation. When other boys played army, I played Marines. There used to be a series of books called something like Landmark History. I read about the Corps in the Pacific. Guess that is what did it. Have never figured it out.
My orders for West Pac were to the 9th Amphibious Brigade. This young Corporal, not knowing a lot about the organization of the Corps, figured he was about to become a door gunner on a helicopter and thought he would be coming home in a plastic bag. I got to Camp Hansen and was assigned to MAG-15 in Iwakuni. Took two weeks to get a ride to Japan. At H&MS-15, we would get orders for someone to go to Sub-Unit One. The senior Marine of the rank they wanted, got first choice. When my time came, I jumped at it. I wanted to fly, but not as a door gunner on a helo. I figured as an aviation ordnanceman those were my only choices.
That was a good decision. About a month later, my old shop, with the exception of the OIC, the NCOIC, and a couple of snuffies all got orders to go down south. THey all went to tail-hooks or the bomb dump. They worked twelve hour days, six and a half days a week for regular pay. I worked twenty-five hours a week and got paid extra for flying. (Not full flight pay though.)
We got up in the morning and went to chow. Came back and got the flares ready for that night, which normally took about three hours. Then we were off for the rest of the day until evening. If we were flying, we had to load the birds. If you flew at night, then you were free until your next flight. First night, you flew the first bird that flew at sundown. Next night you flew the second ship which took off at midnight. You usually got back at 0200 or after sun-up.
We had hot and cold showers, concrete sidewalks, running potable water, tin-roofed screened in hootches, and air conditioned club and evening movies. Hot chow if we wanted to ride the six to the galley. Sometimes we got C-rats, and ate them in the hootch rather than ride to the mess hall and all of the flies. We had women who cleaned our hootches and did our laundry for a very small fee.
This brings up something I thought about later. If I ever had the chance to influence the decision to have the local people work on a military installation in a combat theater, I would argue against it. Sometimes the "mama-sans" would not come to work. We would get hit by rockets that night. More than once, a Vietnamese national would be caught stepping off distances inside the air base.
I have wondered over the years due to the opposition to the war if the people of Vietnam appreciated us or wanted us there. One evening I talked to a Vietnamese family that was there during the war. They said they were glad we came. Another answer to this is the number of immigrants from there, who are here now.
I feel we lost Vietnam because the American people lacked the glue to see the project to completion. Another reason, was Johnson tried to run the war from Washington.
Sgt Major Hugh Havins, USMC
Posted by tammyswofford at 4:52 AM
Sunday, October 22, 2006
The Monday blog will allow the readers a chance to look back in history and interface with the life of a Marine who served in Da Nang, Vietnam. While this Marine states, "I was no hero" this Navy nurse thinks otherwise.
It is not merely heroism in combat that makes a hero. But it is also the fidelity to duty, the honor of wearing the cloth of the nation, and keeping the oath, that make our military personnel admirable role models for the American citizen.
Psalm 15 speaks of those who swear to their own hurt and do not change. For this Marine, and all others who have faithfully discharged their oath, we salute you.
V/R LCDR Tammy Swofford, USNR, NC
Posted by tammyswofford at 5:14 AM
Friday, October 20, 2006
I think that people like the Howard Sterns, the Bill O'Reillys and to a lesser degree the bin Ladens of the world are making a horrible contribution. - Sean Penn
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
The insurgency in Iraq has adapted to us. Charles Darwin had it right. It is survival of the fittest and natural selection takes care of the rest when it comes to battlefield survival. Iraq has shown that superior military technology, can be trumped by psychological ingenuity.
Entering Iraq we understood the asymmetrical nature of the battle space. We had all the toys. "They" did not, beyond our fear of a chemical attack. Yet a new asymmetry of the battle space has emerged from the shadows. It is not only physical but also psychological. We are cognizant of it now. How are we to deal with an insurgency which views the battle space through an asymmetrical morality lens? We can no longer afford to flank the issue which stares us in the face.
Human shields, suicide bombers and non-uniformed combatants are merely part of an adaptive process at work which recognizes the superiority of a force which cannot be conquered by conventional means. The enemy now conquers psychologically. The outstanding rigors of military training of the past which serve us well will require additional and new doctrinal thought to conquer the insurgency actions of future battles. This doctrine must reinforce the right of the soldier to secure the perimeter, take the berm or the next mile of land with the assets at their disposal. Because of the asymmetrical nature of Iraq with the movement of insurgents in and out of homes and no clear battle lines of demarcation, we are increasingly engaging urban guerilla warfare. We are facing a battlefield anomaly for our troops. And in the blurring of lines, there is not only increased risk of physical harm but also psychological hazards for soldiers thrust into an environment where both sides do not play by the same rules of engagement. In an arena where opposing combatants do not wear a uniform and the enemy hides in densely occupied population groups there is no longer an ability to "fire at will" in certain situations. I believe that future longitudinal studies will show unique psychological components emerge in some of our returning warriors who have functioned bravely in a battle space which is defined by rules of insurgency, not rules of a national standing army. Having dealt with PTSD in military personnel from World War II, the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam era, different dreams, sounds and emotionally-laden memories fuel PTSD. The limbic system kicks in a nanosecond before the cerebral cortex, giving the classic example of a returning soldier who crouches behind his desk when hearing a car backfire on the street. Such is the nature of the psychological wounds of war.
We would consider it ludicrous to line up our artillery in a stationary line, such as that employed by the British and the French in the 18th century. But our psychological battle space footprint in Iraq has changed just as drastically. And how our warriors must now train, think and react, is pyschologically different with insurgency combatant groups.
I do not speak of promulgation of a new doctrine of anarchy, which matches the anarchy, as a solution on the ground. But I do believe that newly emerging doctrine of asymmetrical warfare is needed. It is necessary, to minimize the risk of any soldier going from a training-to-court-martial phenomenon. It is needed, for the protection of our soldiers. War is hell. And because it is hell, the American soldier must at times engage the binary action of inflicting the maximum damage in the shortest length of time. This binary action has as its focus to both gain a victory and secure the peace. And in the world of insurgency with an opposing military force operating inside the confines of civilian communities, things can be pretty rough.
I retain confidence in our military. Our doctrine will evolve through the things we have learned in Iraq to benefit future generations of warriors. But the psychological footprint in Iraq could well leave us with a stalemate, and not a checkmate, because of the asymmetry on the ground.
Posted by tammyswofford at 7:50 AM
The blog for Wednesday will be controversial. As such, it does not reflect my chain of command or the thoughts of any officer other than myself. I have no formal educational background in foreign policy, or military doctrine beyond that extended to me in my twelve years in the Navy as a Nurse Corps officer.
But the thoughts put on the page will express my own concern for our troops on the ground, in regards to the psychological impact of asymmetrical warfare.
Posted by tammyswofford at 7:13 AM
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
All four contenders for the Texas governorship are making sex crimes against children a hot button issue for the voters. Perry, Strayhorn, Bell and "Kinky" all believe that mandatory lengthy minimum sentences might be the answer. They all claim to support a death penalty option for an offender who commits a second violent sex crime against a child. The first option, costs too much. Why should my tax money be spent to house and feed a violent sex offender to the tune of $365,000,000 dollars for a twenty-five year stay in jail? The second "option" definitely begs a question: "So tell me Governor Perry, et al. Why has the bastard been allowed back on the street to do the same thing twice?" We all know that pedophiles have a fairly high recidivism rate.
Now unless you have had a young male in your hospital who had a broomstick shoved up his rectum and broken off, producing a colon perforation, maybe you just do not get it. And unless you have known of a little girl who had to have her vagina and urethra repaired due to sexual assault, the topic might seem a bit distant to some of you, when violent sexual assault of a child is discussed.
So for the liberal readership who are a bit squeamish regarding the whole issue of the death penalty I will today propose hard labour for violent sexual assault. Why should these cretins languish in prison blocks, all the while nourishing their miserable, lazy bodies with food purchased from the taxes of the lawful citizenry? So it is time for the "Swofford Solution". Each convicted sex crime criminal may choose from one of the following options in lieu of a death penalty.
* The Fishing Option:
Whaling with the Eskimos for one week. In below zero weather. Wearing shorts and a
* The Flight Option:
Packing parachutes for Army Rangers and personally testing all defective chutes by leaping out of the aircraft at 10,000 feet.
* The Alligator Romp:
Tagging the tail of both the male and female alligator while they are engaged in mating.
* The Wildlife Adventure:
Cleaning the carnivore habitats of a zoo with a large smoked ham strapped to your back.
Now should any of the readers also care to submit their hard labour options for violent sexual predators, the comment section remains a free speech zone.
Posted by tammyswofford at 5:04 PM
Monday, October 16, 2006
Time to put honesty on the page. In the aftermath of the execution of physically bound little girls in the Amish school shooting, the community of believers in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania has shown remarkable Christian faith. They have laid hold of a basic tenet which is easy to say, hard to do, and which would be humanly impossible for me. I do not think I could forgive, the unforgivable. Murder, just happens to fall in that category for me.
And in looking at the unbelievable grace expressed by the Amish, I think a word of caution is in order for the rest of us. Unless the grace to forgive springs from the hearts of the family, we do well to keep our mouths shut. I personally cringe when the issue of forgiveness is trumpeted by people of the cloth at the funeral of a murder victim. It is all about timing, folks. Words spoken out of season, can be very painful. It is about not being a Christian cad to the family.
In my estimation it is a gross mistake for any person to dare wave the flag of forgiveness early in the grieving process following a murder. Yes, forgiveness is a mandate of our faith but a life has been taken violently and with incredible hostility. We cannot presume to even lightly grasp the depths of pain in the family tree, as they bury their own. Pushing "forgiveness" is like wearing a protective armor of chain mail. On the one hand,it can protect us from the family speaking of their loss. Hey, how can they really tell us how they feel when we have hammered them to forgive the murderer? But it can also protect us from letting the violent death of a friend really sink in. God forbid we would allow ourselves to think of the physical aspect of a friend's death. So we become cold. And the chill in our own emotions can sometimes be extended as the need.... to forgive. But the cold reality of murder should not be met with a cold armor of chain mail. Intense grief due to murder, is a vicious and harsh reality. And that reality, requires warmth. The warmth of a cloak is the requirement for suffering. That cloak, is to wrap the family in comfort. Yes, comfort, and nothing else. Pressing the family to forgive because it is the "Christian thing to do" merely adds one more emotional component for a family already suffering from intense crisis.
Grief is a process. It must be walked through in stages for the individual to regain equilibrium and emotional health. Anger, can be a natural stage of grief. A life has been taken. It is o.k. to be angry about it. Should you seek to comfort the family of a murder victim please let them express the anger of their loss. Sit patiently and listen to all which they express. Let nothing being said surprise you and do not let what you say, surprise them. The safest three words you can say to the grieving is, "I am sorry". The next best thing, is to be silent.
But most of all, do not let the word "forgiveness" be the one which is utmost in your helpful little Christian vocabulary. Some things, are really pretty unforgivable. Give the person the space to grieve. Be a good friend. Leave the rest, in the hands of God. He is well-equipped for these situation.
Posted by tammyswofford at 4:48 AM
Friday, October 13, 2006
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Theo Van Gogh produced the film "Submission" and was shot and stabbed to death with a note pinned to his chest. A Danish newspaper printed twelve poorly drawn cartoons which insulted Islam. The torching of Western embassies in several nations, and flashpoints of massive civil unrest in some Muslim majority nations was engaged in retaliatory response. Pope Benedict XVI quoted an ancient historian who in strong terms castigated Islam. A nun in Somalia was gunned down and lost her life. The Danish Youth Party has now entered the firestorm. On Tuesday, the Danish Embassy in Tehran was the focus of angry protest. In light of these events and my own trending of other less newsworthy items, let's bring analysis to the table. Freedom of speech, now engages asymmetrical warfare. We are playing "Russian Roulette" and need to consider this strategy from two platforms: *A risk-benefit paradigm and *threat assessment.
In the West, we are spinning the cylinder. The gunshot is heard in the East. The recoil, comes back on the Muslim living in the West. The cold feeling of a weapon of steel is one of great power. I have witnessed the power of a Colt .45, 9 mm and M-16 when cradled in my own hands. But a weapon is not made to moderate. It decimates when fired with accuracy at the target. It can also decimate unintentionally, in the hands of the careless. The same is true of free speech. The choice is ours to decimate, if we so desire. I strongly support free speech. At times it is the only way to sift the chaff from the wheat. Healthy societies allow free speech. Not all who employ it as a liberty also guard it as a trust. But the very foundation and greatness of our own American society depends on upholding this right extended to us by our Founding Fathers. An unusual degree of intelligence and skill is required for those who moderate free speech. Those who penned our Constitution and Bill of Rights were men of letters who knew how to speak in either restrained or impassioned manner, depending on the need. Their extension of this gift to Americans, is one we must retain.
Because we believe in free speech, the line is increasingly being drawn in the sand by the average citizen in the West. You tell me I cannot speak against Islam? I speak against anything and everything else in the West. Why can I not speak regarding this one issue? Time to load a bullet and spin the cylinder. Now where the gunshot is heard will remain a partial mystery. Maybe Pakistan? They have anti-blasphemy laws in their penal code. Better yet, get president Ahmad-i-nejad to castigate your words and that bullet has been well-spent. An embassy torched in Syria and diplomatic staff evacuated? Even better. Feel the recoil, Muslims in the West! This is all about you!
I firmly believe that free speech is being handcuffed in the West. There is a threat to our right to say what we think, a drive to political correctness that precludes sound judgment. I see the threat and believe it exists. But the laughter of the drunken fools in the Danish Youth Party is like crackling thorns on fire under a large pot ready to boil over.
Speak intelligently. Anyone can draw cartoons. Speak forcefully and with forethought to the issues at hand. Only speak, if you have educated yourself first. Keep your weapon clean and ready to use. But don't spin the cylinder and play Russian Roulette.
Posted by tammyswofford at 3:14 AM
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Washington, D.C. may lay claim to the Smithsonian. New York has Broadway musicals. Here in Texas we have.... we have.... the yearly Fort Worth Stock Show and the State Fair of Texas. The depths of our pioneering roots, is seen in the heights of our culture at both of these events.
I actually prefer the Fort Worth Stock Show. Where else can you get so much for your money? You can amble by the cattle pens and get a first hand look at prize bulls and dairy cows. Sheep and goats are sheared right before your eyes. The smell of the barnyard is mixed with scents of chili and smoked turkey wings. Haute couture of Texas is in abundance as men and women in Western shirts, jeans and 300 dollar boots mingle in the crowd. Throw in a trip to the rodeo at the end of the day and it is all about satisfaction.
Now the State Fair of Texas is definitely about the food. Vendors fry anything that can be put on a stick or ladled in and out of a hot grease vat in two minutes or less. You can savor a corny dog and onion rings and follow it with a fried Twinkie. But the pinnacle of gastronomic experience was at the jalapeno eating contest this year. The winner is Rich Lefevre of Nevada, who downed 247 peppers during the eight minute contest. Sonya Thomas of Virginia, came in second place consuming 239 of the peppers. In Texas we like to play by simple rules: Don't spit on the sidewalk, open doors for the ladies, and call your elders "Sir" and "Ma'am". The rules for the jalapeno eating contest are simple too: You can drink a liquid as a chaser and don't throw up.
And I do have to wonder who sponsored this event. Hmmmm? Maybe the makers of "Preparation H"? I can just imagine the adventurous mood in the bathroom when the winners in this gastronomic challenge decide to jettison their hundreds of peppers back into the sewage system and resume their normal lives.
Posted by tammyswofford at 6:01 AM
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
"Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain. For purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain. America! America! When getting to this point in the song, I always feel my throat start squeezing and my voice trails off momentarily. God, I love this land!
Last week the Wall Street Journal had an article by Jeffrey Zaslow describing how our high school students are being psychologically impacted by seeing our flag burned while mobs of thousands chant anti-American slogans in other nations. Beyond that, some of our best students attended a recent event, Peace-Jam, where they heard ten Nobel Peace Prize Recipients spill their guts blaming the U.S. for waging war in Iraq and not feeding the world hungry and building schools. (WSJ, Oct. 5, D1) I guess some of these dudes have never bothered to look at the steady flow of money that leaves our taxpayers hands through USAID and other programs that help the global community. Such polarized statements bother me. One-third of the world dwells in an arc of instability, tottering near the precipice of disaster from day to day. All of that, is MY FAULT? It is America's fault? I don't buy that bologna. Each government, has the responsibility to build the infrastructure of their own nation in such a way that population groups can be self-sustaining. Our government has done a damn good job from the looks of it. But much of the money we give to other nations might as well be flushed down a toilet. It never benefits the intended recipients but enriches the ruling class. Take a quick look at the Transparency Index as a guide. When corruption is kept to a minimum, national health thrives. Corruption, kills the soul of a nation.
So as mature adults with the broader view we should also be concerned regarding what students process in their immature brain banks. Global issues do impact our foreign policy and national policy. But at the same time, we must be proactive to undergird and prepare the next generation of American adults for the world in which they will live. It is a world which will engage increasing levels of hatred, borne on the shoulders of the poor and uneducated populist masses who are merely useful idiots in the hands of their masters. Better a poor and hungry stomach believe that somehow Americans have caused their misery than maybe their own leader, huh? Revolution, is such an ugly word....
Some students expressed a desire for more international studies to learn of other nations, their governments and belief systems. I support that move. Because we are bounded by oceans on the east and west coast; our northern and southern neighbors are not distinctly dissimilar to us in some regards; Americans can be glaringly obtuse regarding a global picture. But in presenting a global perch to our students we must not fall into an intellectual guilt ethos that is afraid to also present another truth. America, is the greatest nation on the face of the earth. They should be gratefully proud of citizenship. We need to instruct them as to what has worked in America up to this point. What gives us such bounty and benefit?
Christianity has worked and will continue to benefit our nation. The Sept/Oct. issue of Foreign Affairs has an interesting article. The author, presents a history of the three predominant Christian streams of thought that have affected our last two centuries and then focuses on the rising tide of evangelicals; how there is already an impact and opportunity for good. It is being expressed in a small but increasingly global arena. Giving concrete examples of how AIDS monies have been allocated to the African continent, humans rights issues brought to the forefront by Christians, he dismantles the "screech" of those who believe we should panic because of this rising American voice.
A strong government has worked and will continue to work on behalf of our nation. In the "scandal of the day" mentality which has crept into our news media it is easy to develop what I call bagel vision. That is what I get when suffering from a rare migraine. I lose the peripheral sight and about all I can see is through the whole of a bagel. Personally, this whole government bashing, presidential bashing by the media is giving me a migraine. In spite of the glitches, I fail to see the majority of Americans drinking out of streams, lacking electricity, eating the same food day after day, etc. See what I mean? Our industrialized and technologically advanced society has been nurtured by good governmental policies put in place by people of vision.
And talk about science! Check out our Nobel Laureates this year! As lines of demarcation harden against fetal stem cell research and there are popular voices saying we will return to a dark age in science and medicine, I refuse to swallow the lie. America has a vibrant and energetic science community. We have some of the best hospitals and research labs in the world.
Our high school students need to be taught to cheer for the home team. Yes, be familiar with the other team. But hatred for America in many quarters distills down to just one common denominator, which is envy. Meanwhile, people continue to flood to our shores to lay hold of what we already know is a good deal: American citizenship. God Bless America!
Posted by tammyswofford at 5:16 AM
Monday, October 09, 2006
Most educated readers are familiar with the name Salman Rushdie. The man who wrote "The Satanic Verses" exploded out of a media cannon when Islamic scholars issued a fatwa against him in 1989 demanding his execution for blasphemy. My guess is the majority who recognize the name Salman Rushdie, draw a complete blank when the name of Dr. Rashad Khalifa is mentioned. Unfortunately, he is "the other guy" tapped in the fatwa when a group of 38 scholars met in Saudi Arabia on February 19, 1989 to discuss the apostate condition of these two Muslim men. An Egyptian biochemist, he had developed a following from a teaching on "The Miracle of the Qur'an," using the number "19" and its multiples, as the basis of a mathematical guide to prove the veracity of Qur'anic text. There was a side issue with an accusation of sexual assault when he had worked for the U.N. and most likely other things of which we are not aware which dropped the scholars anvil squarely on his head. Less than a year after the issuance of this decree, Dr. Khalifa was dead. He was stabbed to death at a mosque in Tucson, Arizona.
Now this was not a fatwa issued by a poorly educated cleric running a small Islamic school that teaches rote Qur'anic memorization. (3.4 million children in Bangladesh attend such schools) It was a legal indictment issued by a recognized Islamic legal council. When Salman Rushdie went into hiding, he knew that the document had some teeth. Dr. Rashad Khalifa continued to maintain a visible profile.
This big news splashed across the pages of news organizations in the Middle East. Take for example the Istanbul weekly magazine "Nokta". They made Dr. Khalifa the cover story in one of the April issues after the fatwa was released. While most of the attention was actually focused on Salman Rushdie because of his controversial book, the plans were undoubtedly already in motion for the assassination of Dr. Khalifa.
After his death, circumstantial evidence pointed to Wadih El Hage as one who may have orchestrated the murder. This man, a follower of Osama bin Ladin. But we must remember that it was not just a small group of scholars who supported this decision. Take for instance Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam). His now infamous statement to a group of Muslim students in Surrey, England still "dogs" him. He supported the killing of Salman Rushdie for blasphemy. I assume he also had the same regard for Dr. Rashad Khalifa.
So where is Salman Rushdie today? He is alive and well. In 2007 he will join the academic community at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
Posted by tammyswofford at 5:36 AM
Friday, October 06, 2006
For interesting reading: The Least Dangerous Branch - Alexander Bickel
Thursday, October 05, 2006
In the acute angst and aftermath of the Rep. Mark Foley scandal it is time to break out the game board and remind the readers how to play Capitol Hill "Monopoly"!
Each one you need to pick a game piece! Here are your choices and feel free to attach the real name of a bona fide Senator or Congressman!
*The Vulture: A scavenger bird, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals.
*The Weasel: A small and devious carnivore known for energy and cleverness.
*The Javan Stink Badger: Short-legged and heavy-set, the lower jaw is articulated to the upper so that dislocation is nearly impossible, and the animal maintains a powerful grip on the prey. (Sorry, I have already taken this one. It is Ted Kennedy....)
*The Wolverine: Extremely strong, can kill a moose. The female will not produce young if food is scarce.
Now it is time to remember how we play the game!
*Behavior only becomes morally reprehensible when it is politically expedient! Thus, we have the clever release of the Foley Follies at the beginning of October! (This can only get more exciting as we play along!)
*Moral outrage at the press conference is quickly reduced to a yawn and a nail filing session back at the office. But to manage this one properly requires political posture. Lean slightly into the microphone when speaking. Look either earnest or stunned, regarding the recent "revelation" against the other guy. Assure the public that you will quickly get to the bottom of this mess....
*You get $200.00 dollars each time you pass "Go", but don't be shy. There is plenty more where that came from and remember the one with the most cash, wins.
Drawing a "Chance" Card: My favorite is the Nelson Rockefeller card. It is best expressed with a bit of prose: "Take a mistress, die in bed. Leave your party in bad stead."
Drawing a "Community Chest" card: If you are lucky, you get the Hillary card. That gives you free access to F.B.I. files of your political enemies. So much news, so little time, you know.
O.K. I have explained just a few rules of the game. Grab your snacks and play along. And if you know of any other rules, or game pieces you would like to add, please post a comment. smile
Posted by tammyswofford at 7:23 AM
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
The recent killing rampages in both local city public schools and now a small Amish classroom in the countryside has shaken whole communities. While one young man targeted a school administrator, two of the episodes in the past week were perpetrated by adult male butchers. The killings at the Amish school was most likely a copy-cat event, but the fact that the men targeted girls and the killings included apparent sexual rage, make the episodes even more gut-wrenching.In the aftermath of these deaths law enforcement authorities and security experts remind us that there is no real way to make schools completely safe. I also wonder about the psychological impact of students being treated like inmates, as we put more and more boundaries in place to prevent schools from becoming slaughter houses. We do not function under a Napoleonic penal code, but that is what some are advocating for our public schools. Our children must enter through metal detectors, be frisked and have armed guards roaming the halls. Such a posture, is what some will demand in the aftermath of these recent tragedies.
Maybe it is time for America to return to principles of universal morality. In the finger-wagging of liberals who deem it odious to consider such things because of religious overtones there is a fact that remains and stands alone. Some truths are universal in nature. They exist on a higher plane of thought that dwells beyond the consideration of only religion. They are principles that all enlightened humans must grasp and maintain. The concept of understanding the nature of bloodshed is shown to be lacking in pockets of America. It is lacking in schools which can no longer teach moral absolutes but rather an existentialism that allows for each man to determine his own course. It is lacking in homes where parents no longer instruct their children regarding the sacred value of life. It is lacking in jury decisions that show a willingness to be compassionate to the murderer but not the victim and their family. Shedding innocent blood has a ripple effect felt through the stream of society. It grasps the generations on either side of the victim. This week, grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings are all mourning the classroom murders of their family members. The four little words, "Thou Shalt Not Kill" hold the key to the survival of the human race. In the Christian tradition the words were written on tablets of stone by the finger of God. "Thou Shalt Not Kill" is an imperative command. It provides a safety net for society if we but dare to believe the four little words to be of universal truth.
Such simple little words, but powerful and necessary words. The blood of our children is crying out this week. The blood of children whose lives were taken by evil men without a grasp of universal morality. May we all pause to reflect and consider our own lives. And maybe, just maybe, allow the finger of God to touch our hearts.
Posted by tammyswofford at 6:35 AM
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
In the acclaimed film "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", Sidney Poitier and Katharine Hepburn give stunning performances in a film classic which explores the world of bi-racial romance. When the film was released, individual states remained that still outlawed interracial marriages. This film was considered thought-provoking and also opened the door for needed discussion to clarify thought and political debate.
With the recent revelations regarding Rep. Mark Foley, R-Florida, we need to again consider and debate "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner". American society had to confront bias and prejudice regarding human relations when that particular film hit movie theaters. But on a much more serious note, society needs to confront "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" on a very dangerous level. Because like it or not, the technology we have handed to our children making them more accessible to us, the parents, also gives accessibility to pedophiles, perverts and criminals out there possessing the same technology. We would never consider allowing a middle-aged adult male to sit on our living room couch and suggest to our teen-age son that he slip out of his shirt and shorts. But that is exactly what Rep. Foley did, with the help of a little instant messaging and e mail based transactions. My bet is that when the F.B.I. is done looking at his cyber communications, it will be quite a load of laundry hanging out to air. I guess that is why he is quickly opting for the usual entitlement of the rich and famous: a sudden moment of illumination as to what a bad boy he has been and then the obligatory trip to some upscale rehab to opine with therapists and discussion groups as to all of his sad personal problems. Pause a moment folks....I am trying to squeeze out a tear.
Cell phones, chat rooms, e mail and message boards should all be diagrammed the same for parents. You are handing your kids a key to the house and vacating the premises. Don't fool yourself. They are talking to people you would never allow in your home. They are talking about things that are beyond the scope of both their intellect and emotional make-up to manage responsibly. They are discussing things that will shock you. And while they live under your roof and you imagine safe boundaries, squatters are setting up shop in your living room. Do you know who they are and why they seek access to your children? Do you know if the chat room pal is really another thirteen year old or it it really a forty year old man with an obssessive desire to bed down a junior high girl?
Your children require vigilance and oversight. It is a brave new world out there. And we are just now realizing that many of our children are sailing in uncharted waters without a compass.
Posted by tammyswofford at 6:37 AM
Monday, October 02, 2006
When I had my colonoscopy, the office staff sent me home with a nice little basket of goodies. The staff of Dr. Aniruddha Chitale, M.D. needed to send their female patients home with a toothbrush. It appears that the doctor added a complimentary service (beneficial only to himself). A sedated female patient awakend just enough to remember her assault. After the procedure she told her husband not to let her forget what had happened. He drove her straight to a police station. Her face was swabbed for DNA. It was a match for the semen of the doctor.
An administrator at Ennis Regional Medical Center (Texas) had already dealt with patient complaints. The complaints had ranged from memories of kissing, to fondled breasts and privates during colonoscopies. Virtually ignoring the immense liability because this doctor kept the cash register ringing, these complaints were not met with harsh and immediate repercussions from the ethics board of the hospital. Wait a minute! Maybe this hospital does not even have an ethics board!
There was also the bizarre case of a woman who became impregnated during a dental procedure requiring sedation. Her husband had been snipped, so what was probably a bit of memory buried in her pysche was pushed to the forefront when she stood in the bathroom and read that home pregnancy test for the third time.
I have given intravenous conscious sedation for years, even prior to regulations and guidelines being put in place by the Texas State Board of Nurse Examiners. I now hold a recognized certification for sedation, gained from hours of study and testing. The efficacy of certain combinations of drugs to make difficult procedures bearable without an anesthesiologist,but an R.N. in attendance, is something to which I can attest. I can take you from talking to snoring in two minutes flat. Most sedation procedures use a narcotic and benzodiazepine combo. With these drugs, we also possess reversal agents in our pharmaceutical arsenal, should you be too sensitive to standard dosing. But it is the benzo (Valium or more my preference, Versed) that allows for short term memory loss. My own hospital only allows for the drug Versed to be administered by a nurse and physician when both are certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support. That is the powerful nature of what we hold in our hands.
Here is the bottom line on this issue. The medical standard of care requires that a female "stand by assist" be available when a woman is receiving a physical exam or any care by a male doctor. In the case of my own colonoscopy pre-care, the physician offered a female standby and I declined the need. We were both professionals who had worked side by side for years and neither of us felt the distinct need for a "shield". But the shield was offered. It was the right thing to do.
But when any client has received conscious sedation, there should be two people in the room at all times. The doctor is in the room for the length of the procedure. The nurse, remains with the client until the care is transferred to the recovery room staff. It is a chain of custody issue. It is a safety issue.
Dr. Chitale found little ways to get the nurse to vacate the procedure room. He then played out his personal fantasies with limp, unconscious women. My guess is he also got a buzz by following up with the husband, shaking his hand, and assuring him that his wife was "just fine". wink wink Maybe there is a man out there who will also get a buzz from personally breaking this man's kneecaps with a baseball bat when he least expects it. Surely, the victims did not expect to be assaulted during a medical exam.
Posted by tammyswofford at 4:20 AM