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Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Know Your Neighbors

18 May 2016
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The current flap about Hillary Clinton playing the “woman card” is nothing short of ridiculous. As a woman, I know what it feels like to be trivialized (called “honey” and “girl”), talked down to (“mansplaining”), ignored, talked over, interrupted and denied a seat at the decision-making table. I also know what can happen to one’s career if one stands up for oneself or responds in kind. So much for the “woman card.” Why aren’t we talking about Donald Trump playing the “man card”? After all, he’s trying to be some sort of alpha male by appealing to other men who wish they had the guts (and the money) to just say whatever they want. You know—a guy who puts down women based on looks, presumes women have less stamina to pursue their ambitions, makes unwanted physical advances, bullies to get his way, ignores a woman if she’s not a “10”…
04 May 2016
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Let me bring you into the world of Sharon Katz, a South African by birth, a music therapist by profession—and, in the words of musician Pete Seeger, “one of the people who is saving the world.” She was born in Port Elizabeth (now called Nelson Mandela Bay) under apartheid—the rigid racial/social ideology system that required citizens to live by race designations (black, colored/mixed race, Indian, white) in segregated areas of the country, with restrictions about who could go where and when. “We lived in a conspiracy of silence,” she says. “South Africa was a prison for everybody.” As a young woman traveling with her family, Katz saw how others barely survived in their segregated communities, and she became obsessed with finding a way to support change. “How can this be my country?” she asked herself. “Seeing all of that changed me forever.” In her teens, she would sneak out to…
20 Apr 2016
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The Paris Peace Accords, which were supposed to end the Vietnam War, were signed Jan. 27, 1973. The United States pulled what American troops remained out of that country. Congress then passed the Foreign Assistance Act of 1974 cutting off all military aid to South Vietnam’s government in Saigon. As the North subsequently advanced effortlessly toward Saigon, President Gerald Ford ordered the evacuation of all American personnel, including the removal of as many refugees as possible who had been friendly toward America. The U.S. Embassy was not intended to be a major departure point, but many became stranded there, including thousands of South Vietnamese hoping to claim refugee status. I still remember the iconic pictures of those evacuation efforts through the night of April 29, 1975, and that last American helicopter taking off from the roof with people hanging off the sides—and many still lined up, unable to get out.…
07 Apr 2016
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In his mid-70s, my late husband, a professional writer and avid reader, was diagnosed with macular degeneration. He had what is known as the “dry” type, which is progressive and can take many years to fully obstruct one’s vision. (There is also a “wet” type, which is fast-moving and can lead to blindness, but it can be reversed somewhat with a shot into the eye if caught quickly.) He eventually needed a magnifying glass to read the daily paper and had to give up driving after dark. For several years, I’ve had those tiny black dots floating across my vision that seem to afflict everyone of a certain age, and I recently developed a “floater” in my right eye that is like a gauzy haze. Although it has been diagnosed as temporary, it is compromising my eyesight. All of this became particularly pertinent when a friend who leads a class…
23 Mar 2016
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We live in a time when the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination is being targeted by his own party (via the Republican Principles PAC) with a depressingly accurate TV advertisement that quotes the various derogatory expressions Donald Trump has used over the years to describe women. It’s also a time when a Lane Bryant ad featuring “plus size” woman resulted in a backlash—including two major networks, ABC and NBC, refusing to run it. This means it’s time to address an age-old issue: the objectification of women, and its resulting impact on women in particular, and society in general. Sure, there are lots of examples of how badly some nations around the world treat half of the population—horrors like genital mutilation/female circumcision; burning women alive who are suspected of violating cultural norms like having extra-marital sex (including having been raped); the sex trafficking of young girls; and practices like arranged…
09 Mar 2016
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In the course of a normal life, we meet people—yet seldom do we meet someone who impresses us immediately, someone we know will make a difference in our lives. I was lucky enough to have such a meeting a couple of years ago—and sadly, there was not enough time to wring everything I could out of the relationship. I met Cathy Greenblat in connection with a showing of her extraordinary pictures of people living with Alzheimer’s disease, and I wrote about her in January 2014. She and her husband, John Gagnon, were then fairly new residents in Palm Springs—both retired academics who were trying to get settled in and establish lives here after several years living in France. The first time I met John was when I was invited to their home for dinner. I knew he had retired as a professional academic, but had no clue what he had…
25 Feb 2016
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When it comes to learning about black history, it turns out the best place to begin is right here at home. The cultural history of this area is reflected in the names of streets honoring celebrity residents like Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Dinah Shore, and streets honoring Native American history, like Tahquitz and Arenas. One name not as well-known is Lawrence Crossley, the namesake of Crossley Road. He’s an African American who arrived in Palm Springs from New Orleans in the late 1920s and went on to become a successful and influential developer and businessman. Far too many local residents don’t even know there is a long-standing and thriving black community here, nor do they know about the shameful circumstances that led to that community being located where it is, at the north end of Palm Springs. The history of Palm Springs includes the disgraceful episode in the early…
10 Feb 2016
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When I moved to Palm Springs full-time in 1985, vacationers strolled downtown during “the season.” I shopped in the chic stores at the mall—at least until they closed down each summer. Spring Break was our biggest attraction (although local residents generally stayed home that week), but that did not last much longer: After years of laissez-faire treatment of young partiers, there was the riot of 1986, and then-Mayor Sonny Bono decided to shut down Spring Break. In the years that followed, the International Film Festival was born, in 1989. The downtown mall closed. Downtown became dreary and sad. Thankfully, Palm Springs has experienced a turn-around—as has the Coachella Valley in general—by hosting events and encouraging tourism that brings more diverse groups and revenues to the area. Now that downtown Palm Springs is finally heading toward progress at replacing the empty mall behemoth with shops, walkways, living spaces, arts installations, hotels…
27 Jan 2016
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It’s difficult to find the right word to describe coming together to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade becoming the law of the land. Celebrate? That doesn’t feel right, because even pro-choice individuals don’t think abortion should be “celebrated.” Commemorate? Yes, we do remember and memorialize the decision that affirmed women have a right to privacy regarding when and whether to bear a child. But perhaps there’s an even better word. Solemnize? To dignify with events or ceremonies? That works for me. Recently, a group of local women and men gathered to solemnize the 43rd year since the Supreme Court validated women’s sovereignty regarding their own bodies, on Jan. 22, 1973. How’s the legal decision working these many years later? The total number of abortions performed legally in the United States has steadily been declining, particularly among teenagers, largely as a result of the use of birth control, sex…
13 Jan 2016
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Words have meanings. In the hyped-up atmosphere of the presidential campaign season, words are being used as political weapons—apparently assuming the audience is ignorant. I want to change that, particularly with regard to words like “sexist” and “feminist” and “enabler” and “abuse.” If a wife defends a philandering husband, is she an enabler? Not necessarily. If a man is a womanizer, is he therefore an abuser? Not necessarily. Can someone be a feminist AND be sexist? Unfortunately, yes, and that can describe either men or women. These words are not interchangeable. Sexism is an attitude based on traditional stereotypical gender roles. (All definitions used are consistent with both dictionary.com and Webster’s Dictionary.) When someone, male or female, judges another on the basis of the role they’re supposed to play, they’re being sexist. Donald Trump is sexist when he denigrates a female candidate’s appearance based on the stereotypical assumption that women…