Friday, April 29, 2016

You're right, Frank, it isn't

“The elections are run by the same industries that sell toothpaste on television.” — Noam Chomsky

AND YET tomorrow I will rise at 5:00 AM, meet a friend in Des Moines, and carpool to Creston to attend the Iowa Third District Democratic Convention. Because I can't just give up and stop trying to make the process and outcome better.

Below: from one of my favorite New York Times columnists, Frank Bruni.

No Way to Elect a President

By Frank Bruni 
April 19, 2016

With Donald Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s victories in New York, we’re one furious contest closer to the end of this spectacle. But we’ve known for a while now where we’re headed, and it isn’t anyplace good.

American voters are displeased with the candidates they’ve been given. They’re disengaged from the process that winnows the field.

And that process disregards the political center, erodes common ground and leaves us with a government that can’t build the necessary consensus for, let alone implement, sensible action in regard to taxes, to infrastructure, to immigration, to guns, to just about anything.

Make America great again? We need to start by making it functional.

This election has certainly been extraordinary for its characters, but it’s equally remarkable for its context, one of profound, paralyzing sourness.

A poll released by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal on Sunday showed that 68 percent of American voters couldn’t imagine themselves casting a vote in the general election for Trump, while 61 percent said the same about Ted Cruz and 58 percent about Clinton.

A much, much higher percentage of voters viewed each of these three unfavorably than favorably. “Unpopularity Contest” was the headline on the story on the NBC News website, which rightly asked how well any president of such polarizing effect would be able to govern.

We’ve had such presidents (and candidates) before. And pessimism isn’t new.

But there have been developments and differences in 2016 that may well be making the situation worse.

The media, for one. This election isn’t being covered so much as marketed, by news organizations whose desperation for eyeballs has turned many of them into drama queens. Each new poll is a major scoop. There are countdown clocks for events as humdrum as candidate town halls. Debates are teased with ominous soundtracks and photographs better befitting prizefights.

When you treat a campaign as if it were an athletic competition, you turn it into more of a blood sport than it already is. And when you breathlessly promote it the way you would a hit TV show’s season finale, it becomes just another piece of theater. Neither approach encourages sober-minded engagement.

Nor does the manner in which so many voters use the Internet in general and social media in particular, to curate and wallow in echo chambers that amplify their prejudices, exacerbate their tribalism and widen the fault lines between us. The online behavior of the Bernie Bros is a great example, but it’s hardly the only one.

Additionally, the precise unfolding of the Republican and Democratic races this time around, along with complaints from the candidates themselves, has exposed the undemocratic quirks and mess of the process: the peculiarity of caucuses; the seduction of delegates and superdelegates; closed versus open primaries; states that are winner-take-all as opposed to states that are winner-take-most; the possibility of a brokered convention at which an interloper could be crowned.

To prevail, a candidate doesn’t even have to persuade an especially large share of the electorate, given how splintered and detached voters are. In an important commentary published in The Hill on Monday, the Democratic pollster and strategist Mark Penn extrapolated from Trump’s and Clinton’s vote tallies to note that, in his estimation, “We now have a system in which it takes just 10 million votes out of 321 million people to seize one of the two coveted nominations.”

“The result,” he wrote, “is a democracy that is veering off course, increasingly reflecting the will of powerful activist groups and the political extremes.” Would-be nominees needn’t worry much about the roughly 40 percent of Americans who at least technically consider themselves independents — a group that’s grown over the last decade — or the 60 percent who say that a third political party is needed.

No, these candidates “can just double down on elements of their base,” Penn observed. “Rather than bring the country together, they demonize their opponents to hype turnout among select groups, targeted by race, religion or ethnicity.”

Penn suggested several smart reforms to increase voters’ participation and sense of investment, including the abolition of caucuses and a rotation of the order in which states vote, so that Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina don’t always get such outsize sway.

I wish we could also find a way to shorten these presidential campaigns significantly, so that they’re not such a soul-draining, throat-ravaging turnoff to almost anyone who’s not an epic narcissist or mired in politics to the point of no return.

Then maybe we’d look up one of these years and be choosing among the greater of goods, not the lesser of evils, and the victor would be left, physically and ideologically, with a voice that still carries.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Officially, a graduate of the University of Iowa

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” — Michelangelo

AS ONE would expect, I've been preoccupied with wondering and worrying about Paul's heart. The good news is that his heart monitor results came back, and according to the readout, Paul had only two a-fib episodes of about two minutes each in the 48 hours he wore the monitor. 

That's not how it felt to him, however. Our hope is that the irregularities he's felt that have been longer and more pronounced than the monitor revealed are a function of his heart still healing from the atrial ablation procedure. It's a really, really good thing if it's not been a-fib.

And so as the old groaner goes: "Besides that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?" 

The diet

We're continuing our weight-loss regimen. I've lost 16 pounds, and Paul has lost 22. I have three more pounds to lose, he has 20. Until reclaiming it, I didn't realize how much I missed the body I've long been accustomed to. I'm really happy to fit comfortably into my size 2s again. The bad news is that although I'm pretty close to being the right size and weight, I'm so out of shape. Now the hard part starts: toning my (albeit smaller) doughy self. 


Some of you may have seen Paul's extravagant praise of me in March when he announced that he had finally graduated from the University of Iowa with a music performance degree. If you read it, you might have felt that it was a fine example of hyperbole; naturally it helps to have a supportive spouse, but surely such an exaggerated panegyric is over the top.

Here's the backstory. Paul didn't graduate 30 years ago due to an administrative error. All was well until about three weeks before graduation when his advisor notified him that he wouldn't get his diploma because he was failing an obscure geography class. He couldn't have been failing it, because he wasn't taking it! Nonetheless, it meant he wouldn't graduate.  

He had made plans to move to Texas, and that's where he headed three credits short of a degree. While he lived in Texas, he took classes like calculus at Austin Community College just for fun. Not my idea of a good time, I must say, but whatever floats your boat. (Did I mention that he's really smart?)

When he moved back to Iowa five years later, the first thing Paul did was contact the University of Iowa to see how he could complete his degree. They told him it would take almost four full-time semesters — in other words, two years — to complete the degree he missed by three credits. 

He gave up.

Paul and I met shortly after his return to Iowa. Two and half months after our first date, we were living together; a little more than a year after that we were married, and so life rolled on.

Eventually he told me the story of his non-graduation, and I could feel how much pain this unfinished part of his life was causing him. It was palpable! 

It was a source of shame for him that he wasn't a college graduate despite having spent almost six years in college (he could easily be a perpetual student), acerbated by playing in bands with so many of his former college buddies all of whom had of course graduated. He also felt ashamed that he hadn't marched into someone's office at the time it happened and demanded something be done to fix what wasn't his mistake in the first place.

As the years passed, I kept suggesting that the climate and process for adult learners had improved, and he should drive over to the U of I and knock on people's doors until he found someone willing to help him, but the subject was fraught with too much pain and shame.

I'm a member of the Rotary Club of Des Moines, and in July of 2004 then-president of the University of Iowa, David Skorton, came to speak to our club. I button-holed him afterward and asked him whether he could assign someone to help Paul sort through what he needed to do to finish. It was, after all, sort of ludicrous that he wasn't an "official" graduate because when the U of I held a music alumni gala concert, he was asked by the University to participate!

President Skorton said he'd get someone on it, and for about six months or so Paul and an advisor sorted through what would and wouldn't transfer to satisfy existing requirements. Unfortunately, none of his Austin CC credits would transfer, but nonetheless he and she were making progress until she developed cancer, and Paul never heard from her again. Still, before she disappeared, she had been making it sound as though it would take at least three full-time semesters to graduate.

By now Paul was more discouraged than ever. A decade rolled by; I was hesitant to broach the subject any more than I already had since his last try had only served to confirm in Paul's mind the impossibility of ever completing his degree.

Then two years ago, Sally Mason, who was then President of the University of Iowa, came to speak to Rotary. Once again I button-holed. President Mason listened intently and said, "I'll put someone really good on his case."

And she did. Peter Hubbard worked with Paul, and over the course of several months what had been two years of requirements to graduate turned into two classes: one upper level computational class worth three credits and one fourth-semester foreign language worth four, both of which could be taken at Des Moines Community College.

After no small amount of coaxing and encouraging on my part, he took logic last spring and aced it (of course), and then German this past fall semester. 

Paul was not at all sure he was up to walking into fourth-semester German since it had been literally 30 years since he studied it. Because it's only offered in the fall, he had the summer to try to refresh him memory and catch up, but when it was time to enroll, he nonetheless remained convinced he couldn't do well enough to pass. I suggested that although that might indeed be true, it would be a much better idea to test that hypothesis by trying, rather than assuming he couldn't make it. He could always drop it if he had to. 

He aced the class.

So that's why Paul was extravagant in his praise. I had believed in him all these years when he hadn't believed in himself, and I had been persistent in maintaining that he shouldn't be punished for a three-credit error on the university's part.  

It may be tempting to wonder whether finishing his degree was something I wanted, and maybe Paul didn't quite so much. After all he had been rather recalcitrant. 
It's true that I lobbied hard for him to complete it, because I could feel how much that unfinished business was hurting how he felt about himself. 

When he finally completed that last class, however, I became concerned! Where was the joy? Where was the sense of accomplishment? I began to worry and doubt myself . . . my perceptions, my assumptions, even my motives! Perhaps all along it had been about what I wanted, not what he wanted.

But then his diploma arrived. Paul had had a late night gig, and rare for me, this time I hadn't waited up. I was dead asleep when I heard, "Sweetie, sweetie. You don't have to wake up all the way. Just wake up enough to open your eyes a little. I'm going to turn on the light now. Just open your eyes a little bit."

So I did. And there was Paul holding his diploma in his hands with tears in his eyes. He'd gotten the mail when he came home from the gig, and in the mailbox was his diploma. He'd sat down on the front steps and wept for ten minutes. He said that before then, before he held it in his hands, he just couldn't let himself believe that he'd finally erased the sense of failure he'd been carrying all these years, and just be happy and proud.

He wrote:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

An eight-pawed love story

“Love is like wildflowers; It's often found in the most unlikely places.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

AS PROMISED (or threatened) Shiny is sharing a story from ABC News about a rescued pit bull and a kitten. Watching the video will make your heart smile, but as a word of warning, DON'T have the sound on! The music behind the video is obno!!! 

Rescued Pit Bull Treats 'Little Sister' Kitten Like a Princess

By Eliza Murphy

April 22, 2016

This may just be the sweetest animal match made in heaven.

Bubba the pit bull terrier absolutely adores his “little sister,” an orange tabby kitten named Rue.

Their owner, Becca Pizzello, says Bubba has always had a soft spot for cats.

“I rescued Bubba six years ago from a shelter in Phoenix, Arizona, when he was 3-months-old,” Pizzello, of Brooklyn, New York, told ABC News. “At the same time, my roommate had rescued a litter of kittens that had to be bottle fed until old enough for adoption. Since then, Bubba has had an endless affection for cats. Literally obsessed.”

When Pizzello made the cross-country move to New York, she decided Bubba would love a kitten of his own to help keep him company.

“I always knew he’d love having one of his own but I wanted to wait until we moved to New York City this year,” she said.

“After weeks of applying for any baby kitten available for adoption, I finally received a call from a rescue in Brooklyn," Pizzello recalled. "They had a litter of kittens that were 7-weeks-old and would be ready in a week. A week later I went to Brooklyn to pick up a baby kitten having absolutely no idea what they looked like. Rue stood out like no other and I took her home as fast as I could. She was the only orange baby.”

Bubba and Rue’s matching fur color was a complete coincidence, and Pizzello couldn’t be more thrilled about it.

“The fact that Bubba and Rue have identical coloring still blows my mind,” she said. “I am the luckiest!”

Bubba treats Rue like an absolute Princess, cuddling with her round the clock and even bathing her with kisses.

“They instantly connected and are now inseparable,” Pizzello explained. “I think Rue thinks Bubba is her mom and Bubba loves it. He baths her like a baby and snuggles close to her to make her comfortable. They will definitely be a fun duo to watch grow up together!”

Since Rue is still so tiny, Pizzello says it’s helpful to have Bubba around helping keep an eye on her.

“If I walk away somewhere [Bubba] always follows me," she said. "Now I will say ‘go watch your sister’ and he turns around and goes and watches where she is.”

“They're so painfully cute. She follows Bubba around everywhere and is just starting to play. I don't know how I got so lucky with two perfect munchkins.”

Take a look at their adorable four-legged friendship.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Georgetown University owned and sold slaves

“Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” ― Abraham Lincoln

HEY LOOK was really tempted to post an adorable video of a dog who has adopted a tiny kitten and leave it at that, and tomorrow Shiny believes she will do just that as an antidote to all the suffering in the world past and present.

Today, however, I ask you to wade into the pain with me through this New York Times piece. 

And especially today as a means of protesting US District Judge Thomas Schroeder’s dismissal of the suit brought by the US Justice Department and the North Carolina NAACP challenging North Carolina's election law that now will 

a) require voters to show a picture ID
b) eliminate same-day voter registration
c) end out-of precinct voting
d) decrease early-voting days

Just another compelling reason to boycott North Carolina! Don't travel there, don't spend money there — and tell them why you won't.

272 Slaves Were Sold to Save Georgetown

By Rachel L. Swarns

April 16, 2016

WASHINGTON — The human cargo was loaded on ships at a bustling wharf in the nation’s capital, destined for the plantations of the Deep South. Some slaves pleaded for rosaries as they were rounded up, praying for deliverance.

But on this day, in the fall of 1838, no one was spared: not the 2-month-old baby and her mother, not the field hands, not the shoemaker and not Cornelius Hawkins, who was about 13 years old when he was forced onboard.

Their panic and desperation would be mostly forgotten for more than a century. But this was no ordinary slave sale. The enslaved African-Americans had belonged to the nation’s most prominent Jesuit priests. And they were sold, along with scores of others, to help secure the future of the premier Catholic institution of higher learning at the time, known today as Georgetown University.

Now, with racial protests roiling college campuses, an unusual collection of Georgetown professors, students, alumni and genealogists is trying to find out what happened to those 272 men, women and children. And they are confronting a particularly wrenching question: What, if anything, is owed to the descendants of slaves who were sold to help ensure the college’s survival?

More than a dozen universities — including Brown, Columbia, Harvard and the University of Virginia — have publicly recognized their ties to slavery and the slave trade. But the 1838 slave sale organized by the Jesuits, who founded and ran Georgetown, stands out for its sheer size, historians say.

At Georgetown, slavery and scholarship were inextricably linked. The college relied on Jesuit plantations in Maryland to help finance its operations, university officials say. (Slaves were often donated by prosperous parishioners.) And the 1838 sale — worth about $3.3 million in today’s dollars — was organized by two of Georgetown’s early presidents, both Jesuit priests.

Some of that money helped to pay off the debts of the struggling college.

Georgetown University in Washington, seen from across the Potomac River. The institution came under fire last fall, with students demanding justice for the slaves in the 1838 sale. Credit Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

“The university itself owes its existence to this history,” said Adam Rothman, a historian at Georgetown and a member of a university working group that is studying ways for the institution to acknowledge and try to make amends for its tangled roots in slavery.

Although the working group was established in August, it was student demonstrations at Georgetown in the fall that helped to galvanize alumni and gave new urgency to the administration’s efforts.

The students organized a protest and a sit-in, using the hashtag #GU272 for the slaves who were sold. In November, the university agreed to remove the names of the Rev. Thomas F. Mulledy and the Rev. William McSherry, the college presidents involved in the sale, from two campus buildings.

An alumnus, following the protest from afar, wondered if more needed to be done.

That alumnus, Richard J. Cellini, the chief executive of a technology company and a practicing Catholic, was troubled that neither the Jesuits nor university officials had tried to trace the lives of the enslaved African-Americans or compensate their progeny.

Mr. Cellini is an unlikely racial crusader. A white man, he admitted that he had never spent much time thinking about slavery or African-American history.

But he said he could not stop thinking about the slaves, whose names had been in Georgetown’s archives for decades.

“This is not a disembodied group of people, who are nameless and faceless,” said Mr. Cellini, 52, whose company, Briefcase Analytics, is based in Cambridge, Mass. “These are real people with real names and real descendants.”

Within two weeks, Mr. Cellini had set up a nonprofit, the Georgetown Memory Project, hired eight genealogists and raised more than $10,000 from fellow alumni to finance their research.

Dr. Rothman, the Georgetown historian, heard about Mr. Cellini’s efforts and let him know that he and several of his students were also tracing the slaves. Soon, the two men and their teams were working on parallel tracks.

What has emerged from their research, and that of other scholars, is a glimpse of an insular world dominated by priests who required their slaves to attend Mass for the sake of their salvation, but also whipped and sold some of them. The records describe runaways, harsh plantation conditions and the anguish voiced by some Jesuits over their participation in a system of forced servitude.

“A microcosm of the whole history of American slavery,” Dr. Rothman said.

The enslaved were grandmothers and grandfathers, carpenters and blacksmiths, pregnant women and anxious fathers, children and infants, who were fearful, bewildered and despairing as they saw their families and communities ripped apart by the sale of 1838.

The researchers have used archival records to follow their footsteps, from the Jesuit plantations in Maryland, to the docks of New Orleans, to three plantations west and south of Baton Rouge, La.

The hope was to eventually identify the slaves’ descendants. By the end of December, one of Mr. Cellini’s genealogists felt confident that she had found a strong test case: the family of the boy, Cornelius Hawkins.

Broken Promises

There are no surviving images of Cornelius, no letters or journals that offer a look into his last hours on a Jesuit plantation in Maryland.

He was not yet five feet tall when he sailed onboard the Katharine Jackson, one of several vessels that carried the slaves to the port of New Orleans.

The ship manifest of the Katharine Jackson, available in full at the Georgetown Slavery archive, listed the name, sex, age and height of each slave transported to New Orleans
in the fall of 1838. It showed that the cargo included dozens of children,
among them infants as young as 2 months old.

An inspector scrutinized the cargo on Dec. 6, 1838. “Examined and found correct,” he wrote of Cornelius and the 129 other people he found on the ship.

The notation betrayed no hint of the turmoil on board. But priests at the Jesuit plantations recounted the panic and fear they witnessed when the slaves departed.

Some children were sold without their parents, records show, and slaves were “dragged off by force to the ship,” the Rev. Thomas Lilly reported. Others, including two of Cornelius’s uncles, ran away before they could be captured.

But few were lucky enough to escape. The Rev. Peter Havermans wrote of an elderly woman who fell to her knees, begging to know what she had done to deserve such a fate, according to Robert Emmett Curran, a retired Georgetown historian who described eyewitness accounts of the sale in his research. Cornelius’s extended family was split, with his aunt Nelly and her daughters shipped to one plantation, and his uncle James and his wife and children sent to another, records show.

At the time, the Catholic Church did not view slaveholding as immoral, said the Rev. Thomas R. Murphy, a historian at Seattle University who has written a book about the Jesuits and slavery.

The Jesuits had sold off individual slaves before. As early as the 1780s, Dr. Rothman found, they openly discussed the need to cull their stock of human beings.

But the decision to sell virtually all of their enslaved African-Americans in the 1830s left some priests deeply troubled.

They worried that new owners might not allow the slaves to practice their Catholic faith. They also knew that life on plantations in the Deep South was notoriously brutal, and feared that families might end up being separated and resold.

“It would be better to suffer financial disaster than suffer the loss of our souls with the sale of the slaves,” wrote the Rev. Jan Roothaan, who headed the Jesuits’ international organization from Rome and was initially reluctant to authorize the sale.

But he was persuaded to reconsider by several prominent Jesuits, including Father Mulledy, then the influential president of Georgetown who had overseen its expansion, and Father McSherry, who was in charge of the Jesuits’ Maryland mission. (The two men would swap positions by 1838.)

Mismanaged and inefficient, the Maryland plantations no longer offered a reliable source of income for Georgetown College, which had been founded in 1789. It would not survive, Father Mulledy feared, without an influx of cash.

So in June 1838, he negotiated a deal with Henry Johnson, a member of the House of Representatives, and Jesse Batey, a landowner in Louisiana, to sell Cornelius and the others.

The bill of sale was dated June 19, 1838, and stated: “Thomas F. Mulledy sells to Jesse Beatty and Henry Johnson two hundred and seventy two negroes, to wit.” It outlined a payment plan, with discounts if the slaves turned out to be more infirm than described.

Father Mulledy promised his superiors that the slaves would continue to practice their religion. Families would not be separated. And the money raised by the sale would not be used to pay off debt or for operating expenses.

None of those conditions were met, university officials said.

Father Mulledy took most of the down payment he received from the sale — about $500,000 in today’s dollars — and used it to help pay off the debts that Georgetown had incurred under his leadership.

In the uproar that followed, he was called to Rome and reassigned.

The next year, Pope Gregory XVI explicitly barred Catholics from engaging in “this traffic in Blacks … no matter what pretext or excuse.”

But the pope’s order, which did not explicitly address slave ownership or private sales like the one organized by the Jesuits, offered scant comfort to Cornelius and the other slaves.

By the 1840s, word was trickling back to Washington that the slaves’ new owners had broken their promises. Some slaves suffered at the hands of a cruel overseer.

Roughly two-thirds of the Jesuits’ former slaves — including Cornelius and his family — had been shipped to two plantations so distant from churches that “they never see a Catholic priest,” the Rev. James Van de Velde, a Jesuit who visited Louisiana, wrote in a letter in 1848.

Father Van de Velde begged Jesuit leaders to send money for the construction of a church that would “provide for the salvation of those poor people, who are now utterly neglected.”

He addressed his concerns to Father Mulledy, who three years earlier had returned to his post as president of Georgetown.

There is no indication that he received any response.

A Familiar Name

African-Americans are often a fleeting presence in the documents of the 1800s. Enslaved, marginalized and forced into illiteracy by laws that prohibited them from learning to read and write, many seem like ghosts who pass through this world without leaving a trace.

After the sale, Cornelius vanishes from the public record until 1851 when his trail finally picks back up on a cotton plantation near Maringouin, La.

His owner, Mr. Batey, had died, and Cornelius appeared on the plantation’s inventory, which included 27 mules and horses, 32 hogs, two ox carts and scores of other slaves. He was valued at $900. (“Valuable Plantation and Negroes for Sale,” read one newspaper advertisement in 1852.)

The plantation would be sold again and again and again, records show, but Cornelius’s family remained intact. In 1870, he appeared in the census for the first time. He was about 48 then, a father, a husband, a farm laborer and, finally, a free man.

He might have disappeared from view again for a time, save for something few could have counted on: his deep, abiding faith. It was his Catholicism, born on the Jesuit plantations of his childhood, that would provide researchers with a road map to his descendants.

Cornelius had originally been shipped to a plantation so far from a church that he had married in a civil ceremony. But six years after he appeared in the census, and about three decades after the birth of his first child, he renewed his wedding vows with the blessing of a priest.

His children and grandchildren also embraced the Catholic church. So Judy Riffel, one of the genealogists hired by Mr. Cellini, began following a chain of weddings and births, baptisms and burials. The church records helped lead to a 69-year-old woman in Baton Rouge named Maxine Crump.

Maxine Crump, 69, a descendant of one of the slaves sold by the Jesuits, in a Louisiana sugar cane field where researchers believe her ancestor once worked.
William Widmer for The New York Times

Ms. Crump is a familiar figure in Baton Rouge. She was the city’s first black woman television anchor. She runs a nonprofit, Dialogue on Race Louisiana, that offers educational programs on institutional racism and ways to combat it.

She prides herself on being unflappable. But the revelations about her lineage — and the church she grew up in — have unleashed a swirl of emotions.

She is outraged that the church’s leaders sanctioned the buying and selling of slaves, and that Georgetown profited from the sale of her ancestors. She feels great sadness as she envisions Cornelius as a young boy, torn from everything he knew.

‘Now They Are Real to Me’

Mr. Cellini, whose genealogists have already traced more than 200 of the slaves from Maryland to Louisiana, believes there may be thousands of living descendants. He has contacted a few, including Patricia Bayonne-Johnson, president of the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society in Spokane, who is helping to track the Jesuit slaves with her group. (Ms. Bayonne-Johnson discovered her connection through an earlier effort by the university to publish records online about the Jesuit plantations.)

Meanwhile, Georgetown’s working group has been weighing whether the university should apologize for profiting from slave labor, create a memorial to those enslaved and provide scholarships for their descendants, among other possibilities, said Dr. Rothman, the historian.

“It’s hard to know what could possibly reconcile a history like this,” he said. “What can you do to make amends?”

Ms. Crump, 69, has been asking herself that question, too. She does not put much stock in what she describes as “casual institutional apologies.” But she would like to see a scholarship program that would bring the slaves’ descendants to Georgetown as students.

And she would like to see Cornelius’s name, and those of his parents and children, inscribed on a memorial on campus.

Her ancestors, once amorphous and invisible, are finally taking shape in her mind. There is joy in that, she said, exhilaration even.

“Now they are real to me,” she said, “more real every day.”

She still wants to know more about Cornelius’s beginnings, and about his life as a free man. But when Ms. Riffel, the genealogist, told her where she thought he was buried, Ms. Crump knew exactly where to go.

The two women drove on the narrow roads that line the green, rippling sugar cane fields in Iberville Parish. There was no need for a map. They were heading to the only Catholic cemetery in Maringouin.

They found the last physical marker of Cornelius’s journey at the Immaculate Heart of Mary cemetery, where Ms. Crump’s father, grandmother and great-grandfather are also buried.

The worn gravestone had toppled, but the wording was plain: “Neely Hawkins Died April 16, 1902.”

The New York Times wants to hear from descendants of the 272 slave sold by Georgetown University. Click on THIS LINK to learn more.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Congratulations to Galen and David

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” — Mignon McLaughlin, American journalist and author

TODAY two dear friends, Galen Brooks and David Voight, were married in Washington, DC. Unable to attend, Paul and I and five other friends of the couple gathered here in Iowa to 'attend' the wedding via live-streaming. How very modern. 

A modern method of attending for a modern marriage . . . because this marriage between two men who have been partners for 19 years has only been deemed legal by the United States Supreme Court for less than a year.

Back row left to right: Jacqueline Main Thompson, Karl Schilling, Peg Schilling, Paul Schilling.
Front row: Rick Thompson, me, Paul. We wore boutonnieres and toasted 

the couple with champagne. Thanks to Karl and Peg for hosting.

In celebration and recognition of their marriage, I've attached another story of love and marriage that coincidentally appeared in today's New York Times, the same day as Galen and David's wedding.

Finding Love Again, This Time With a Man

By Harris Wofford
April 23, 2016

AT age 70, I did not imagine that I would fall in love again and remarry. But the past 20 years have made my life a story of two great loves.

On Jan. 3, 1996, the telephone rang just before midnight, interrupting the silence of the hospital room. From the bedside of my wife, Clare, I lifted the receiver. “Please hold for the president.” Bill Clinton had heard that Clare, struck by acute leukemia, was fading. She listened and smiled but was too weak to speak.

Some hours later, I held her hands in mine as she died. During 48 years of marriage, we had spent a lifetime together.

In the cold spring that followed, I felt grateful to be alive, lucky to have many friends and family members, and glad for a challenging assignment from President Clinton involving national service. But I also wondered what it would be like living by myself for the rest of my life. I was sure I would never again feel the kind of love Clare and I shared.

Clare and I fell in love trying to save the world during World War II. I had founded a student organization to promote a postwar union of democracies to keep the peace. When I left to serve in the Army Air Corps, Clare became national president, guiding the Student Federalists as the group grew across the country.

Our romance and adventure continued for five decades. When I was running for election to the Senate in 1991, Clare gave up her job to become an all-out campaigner, helping us win in a landslide. In my narrow losing re-election campaign of 1994, astute Pennsylvanians observed that if Clare had been the candidate, she would have won.

We spent a happy half-century together with different perspectives on life. Growing up during the Depression, in which her father suffered while my family prospered, she became a skeptic while I emerged an optimist.

In 1963, we enjoyed visiting the philosopher Martin Buber in his quiet Jerusalem study. In his “Paths in Utopia,” Buber says a good and great idea will rise again when idea and fate meet in a creative hour. Hopefully, I asked him if he saw that creative hour coming soon to achieve peace for Israelis and Palestinians. Before he could answer, Clare laughed skeptically, saying, “From what I’ve seen, it will be a long time coming.”

Buber said to Clare, “You are right, that the time between creative hours can be very long, but they do come, and I hope that when one comes, your realism will not make you miss it.” And as we parted, he told me, “You are obviously a romantic, my friend, and I hope you recognize that a romantic needs a realist like Clare.”

For our three children and me, Clare was at the heart of our family. When I told her, “You’re my best friend,” she would reply, “and your best critic.” And when I said, “You’re my best critic,” she responded, “and your best friend.”

We were both about to turn 70 when she died. I assumed that I was too old to seek or expect another romance. But five years later, standing on a beach in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., I sensed a creative hour and did not want to miss it.

It was afternoon, and the tanning beachgoers faced west, toward the wall of concrete buildings lining the boulevard, to catch the sun, ignoring the beautiful sea. I swam alone in the water, attracting the attention of two bystanders near the shore. They came over to say hello, which is how I met Matthew Charlton.

As we talked, I was struck by Matthew’s inquisitive and thoughtful manner and his charm. I knew he was somebody I would enjoy getting to know. We were decades apart in age with far different professional interests, yet we clicked.

I admired Matthew’s adventurous 25-year-old spirit. When he told me that I was “young at heart,” I liked the idea, until I saw a picture of him on a snowboard upside down executing a daring back flip. The Jackson Hole newspaper carried the caption, “Charlton landed the jump without mishap.”

We took trips around the country and later to Europe together, becoming great friends. We both felt the immediate spark, and as time went on, we realized that our bond had grown into love. Other than with Clare, I had never felt love blossom this way before.

It was three years before I got the nerve to tell my sons and daughter about Matthew. I brought a scrapbook of photographs, showing Matthew and me on our travels, to a large family wedding. It was not the direct discussion the subject deserved. Yet over time my children have welcomed Matthew as a member of the family, while Matthew’s parents have accepted me warmly.

To some, our bond is entirely natural, to others it comes as a strange surprise, but most soon see the strength of our feelings and our devotion to each other. We have now been together for 15 years.

Too often, our society seeks to label people by pinning them on the wall — straight, gay or in between. I don’t categorize myself based on the gender of those I love. I had a half-century of marriage with a wonderful woman, and now am lucky for a second time to have found happiness.

For a long time, I did not suspect that idea and fate might meet in my lifetime to produce same-sex marriage equality. My focus was on other issues facing our nation, especially advancing national service for all. Seeking to change something as deeply ingrained in law and public opinion as the definition of marriage seemed impossible.

I was wrong, and should not have been so pessimistic. I had seen firsthand — working and walking with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — that when the time was right, major change for civil rights came to pass in a single creative decade. It is right to expand our conception of marriage to include all Americans who love each other.

Matthew is very different from Clare. The political causes that continue to move me do not preoccupy him, nor have I turned my priorities to design, the focus of his driving talent. Still, the same force of love is at work bringing two people together.

That instinctive emotion gives me new appreciation for these words from Robert Frost:

"And yet for all this help of head and brain
How happily instinctive we remain,
Our best guide upward further to the light,
Passionate preference such as love at sight."

Twice in my life, I’ve felt the pull of such passionate preference. At age 90, I am lucky to be in an era where the Supreme Court has strengthened what President Obama calls “the dignity of marriage” by recognizing that matrimony is not based on anyone’s sexual nature, choices or dreams. It is based on love.

All this is on my mind as Matthew and I prepare for our marriage ceremony. On April 30, at ages 90 and 40, we will join hands, vowing to be bound together: to have and to hold, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do us part.

Harris Wofford is a former senator from Pennsylvania, special assistant for civil rights to President John F. Kennedy and adviser to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Friday, April 22, 2016


“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

MONTHS AGO, I accidentally ran across an article 
about "otherizing" written by Tom Moon, a San Francisco psychotherapist. Otherizing is the process by which an individual or group becomes mentally classified in someone's mind as “not one of us” — and almost always leads to denigration and poor treatment of those "others."

I was so impressed by the post that I contacted Tom and asked for permission to share it on Hey Look.

It's of particular interest to me because I've been working for a while now on finding balance between on the one hand, not letting people walk over me, and on the other, not ripping people to shreds — the take-no-shit/do-no-harm philosophy. It's a tough steady state to achieve . . . for me anyway. 

Why Do We "Otherize?"

by Tom Moon, MFT

Some years ago I was walking with a friend in San Francisco when we passed a group of teenagers. One of the boys shouted “I hope you both die of AIDS disease!” I looked into his face and saw pure hatred in his eyes. I realized that he wasn’t seeing me at all, but a construction of his own mind. To him, because my friend and I weren’t the same as him and his friends, we were less than human, unworthy of respect, and deserved to be attacked merely because we existed. He had “otherized” us.

Neuropsychological research is demonstrating that otherizing is an innate and universal human capacity. As soon as we place people outside of the circle of “us”, the brain automatically begins to devalue them and to justify bad treatment of them. But why? 

Since otherizing lies at the root of virtually all of humanity’s most intractable problems – racism, sexism, homophobia, militant nationalism, religious bigotry and so on, we’d obviously be better off without it. So how did it ever arise in the first place? 

Anthropology offers some important insights into this question. For several million years, until the advent of agriculture, our ancestors lived in hunter-gatherer tribes which typically had fewer than 150 members. They were threatened by predators, starvation and disease, and had to compete with other tribes for scarce resources. In these harsh conditions, those who cooperated with others in their tribe typically lived longer and had more offspring, so natural selection favored the evolution of love, cooperation, empathy, loyalty and fairness within tribes. 

But those same evolutionary pressures also favored ruthless aggression toward members of competing tribes. Cooperation and aggression evolved synergistically: tribes which were more cooperative were also more successfully aggressive, and aggression toward other tribes demanded cooperation within tribes. Hence the strange duality in human nature: we’re capable of deep love and inspiring acts of self-sacrifice; but we’re also capable of limitless cruelty. Tribalism is alive and well in the structures of our brains.

While the capacity for otherizing is deeply ingrained, it’s also true that the more lately-evolved structures of the brain can alter the behavior of the more primitive structures. Or, more simply, our unique capacities for self-awareness, self-reflection, and deliberate intention give us a unique capacity for freedom of action.

One thing we can do to reign in our own otherizing is not to make the common and na├»ve mistake of “otherizing the otherizers.” It’s easy to point the finger at homophobes and racists, but it takes rare humility to see in ourselves what we condemn in others. 

Anytime you feel self-righteousness arising when you think about any other group or individual, no matter how wrong, hateful or ignorant they are, suspect that your own capacity to otherize has been triggered. It can be very helpful to form the intention to be on the alert for those situations in which you are inclined to devalue other people. Some of these may be so automatic or seem so trivial that you can easily overlook them. For instance, I’ve noticed that when I’m driving, I sometimes otherize pedestrians who slow me down at intersections, and when I’m walking I sometimes otherize drivers who are impatient with pedestrians.

When we become aware that we are otherizing a person or a group, it can help to remember these words from Longfellow: “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” 

When we otherize, we turn off the neural pathways mediating compassion and empathy. That may be why, if you try to incline your mind toward empathy for a despised other, you may be aware of tremendous resistance, sometimes rationalized by thoughts about how they don’t deserve it, or by the strange belief that to feel empathy for bad people somehow allows them to get away with something. But if you can see the humanity in your enemy, the intensity of otherizing automatically begins to diminish. This has nothing to do with excusing bad behavior or condoning injustice: we can strongly condemn cruel actions while simultaneously remembering the humanity of the actor. Cultivating the habit of seeing “bad actors” as also “us” takes patience, but it can be done.

It is ironic that we cling so tenaciously to our habit of otherizing because in actuality, the more forgiving and compassionate we are, the happier we tend to be. That’s because all of the emotions connected with otherizing – contempt, hatred, vengefulness, fear and so on – are painful, while those connected with empathy and compassion are soothing, peaceful, even joyful. In his book “Buddha’s Brain”, neuropsychologist Rick Hanson tells the story of “a Native American elder who was asked how she had become so wise, so happy, and so respected. She answered: ‘In my heart there are two wolves: a wolf of love and a wolf of hate. It all depends on which one I feed each day.’”  

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sexual abuse and the Catholic Church

“There are many who don't wish to sleep for fear of nightmares. Sadly, there are many who don't wish to wake for the same fear.” ― Richelle E. Goodrich, American author and novelist 

BESIDES providing me with my beloved Magazine, subscribing to the Sunday New York Times gives me access to the paper every day online. It's a portal to, literally, a world of national and international news, politics, art, music, opinion, humor and stories of human triumph and tragedy.

Now there's a feature called The Times Insider that can be accessed for a charge of $10 a month offering behind-the-headlines insights into NYT stories. I may have to spring for it. The article below is an example.

You may have read in previous posts that I recommend seeing the movie Spotlight, so you can well imagine that I zeroed in on this particular story. Fair warning: it's an infuriating one. The 
insurance industry is fighting tooth and nail against the proposed bill you'll read about. Paul believes that the existence of for-profit insurance companies is on its face immortal because it's never ever about what is right or fair or honorable. It's always about money. 

Representative Mark Rozzi, left, sought Gov. Tom Wolf’s support for changes to
sex abuse laws. Credit Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Sex Abuse and the Catholic Church: Why Is It Still a Story?

By Laurie Goodstein

April 20, 2016

I have interviewed many survivors of child sexual abuse over many years, but this was the first time I had ever interviewed a survivor who was also a politician. State Representative Mark Rozzi sat behind his office desk at the State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. As he spoke he fidgeted with a small figurine he kept on his desk — a little dog with four heads, all snarling — a gift from a fellow survivor. We were discussing his long fight trying to pass legislation to make it easier for survivors to press charges and file lawsuits against their abusers.

Well into the interview I asked him to tell me what had happened to him as a child. “The abridged version,” I said. I had read his story elsewhere, but needed to hear it directly from him, even though I knew it would not play a big part in the article I planned to write. I figured that as a politician, he would have a well-practiced, pithy rendition.

Twenty-five minutes of unrelenting trauma later, we had still gotten only as far as high school. Then, just as Mr. Rozzi was saying, “I’m going to tell you something I have never talked about to a reporter” — at that very moment — there was a knock at the door and his executive assistant came in to tell us that another legislator was waiting in the vestibule. Interview over.

As I rushed to gather up my notebook, laptop and recorder, I realized I had no idea what he was about to reveal, but I had just gotten the answer to another question I am often asked: Why does the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church never seem to go away? Why is it still a story? It has been 31 years since National Catholic Reporter, an independent Catholic publication, broke the first story, about a serial abuser in Louisiana. It has been 22 years since I reported my first article about abusive priests (out on an Indian pueblo in New Mexico, for The Washington Post). Why is the news media still covering this?

The answer lies with the victims. Many, like Mr. Rozzi, are resilient and accomplished. (He is a businessman, a husband and a father, as well as a legislator.) Some are basket cases, unable to hold down a job or romantic relationship. But no matter where they are on this spectrum, the abuse they suffered is often so searing that it is the formative experience of their lives. Even if they have supportive family and friends, a financial cushion and plenty of time in therapy — all big “ifs” — they never entirely leave it behind.

I have met survivors who would prefer never to speak of it. But many more find salvation in telling their stories. This is not simply catharsis. They want to be assured that their abusers are known to the world and can never hurt another child. They want to know if their abusers had other victims. They want other victims to know that they were not alone, and that it was not their fault. They want to put their trauma to some use. Only then can they rest.

But they often wait years before they are ready to speak. They are too ashamed, or confused, or afraid of not being believed. But eventually they tell someone, and once they start speaking, some cannot stop. That’s why the sexual abuse story has emerged so slowly, over years, in waves. Abuse victims are like combat veterans: The war is long over, but the coping is not. Years after the Vietnam War ended, people are still writing memoirs and making movies, still processing what happened.

Of course, child sexual abuse is an issue everywhere, not just in the Catholic Church. The Times has written about it in schools, scouting organizations, camps, United Nations missions and other faiths. My colleagues on the Metro desk wrote a disturbing series on the cover-up of child abusers in the Orthodox Jewish community in New York. I have covered cases of sexual abuse in such a wide variety of religions that I have trouble keeping track: Protestant, Jewish, Hindu, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the most bizarre story of all — an international Christian cult called the Children of God.

But the scandal in the Catholic Church has proved far more extensive, and experts I have spoken with over the years have had a few theories why. One is sheer numbers — Catholics make up about a quarter of the American population and are the largest single religious denomination. The Catholic Church is also a hierarchical organization that keeps extensive records, so abuse usually leaves a paper trail (there was a long document trail leading to the pope in an article I wrote about a Wisconsin priest who abused as many as 200 deaf boys). Another factor, too, is the exalted position of priests, acting “in persona Christi” — in the person of Christ. Many Catholics, survivors included, have told me they had found it unthinkable that a priest could be capable of crimes against children.

And then there is the church’s requirement of celibacy for priests. While many live by and value it, for others it has led to covert sexual relationships with adults, double lives and deep secrets. Some also theorize that the all-male priesthood is a factor. While it’s quite possible that having women in the clergy would have instilled more accountability and sensitivity, child sexual abuse also happens in faiths with married clergy. It also happens in families.

Nearly every time I write about child sexual abuse, more people with more allegations come out of the woodwork. I get phone calls and emails urging me to dig deeper, telling me I have seen only the tip of the iceberg. I have heard from victims in their 20s and in their 80s, and every age in between. When the movie “Spotlight” came out, about The Boston Globe’s investigation of a vast cover-up that led all the way to the city’s cardinal, the phone calls and emails started again. A former altar boy from upstate New York asked me to investigate whether the priest he said molested him was still in ministry. A woman shared memories of nuns in a children’s home hurling buckets of cold water at her as punishment.

I try to respond to each one, but I can’t pursue most allegations. There are too many — and the bar for doing more articles on this is now very high. We do them only when it tells us something new.

The Pennsylvania story had a wrinkle I’d never seen before. A grand jury report found that in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, police officers, district attorneys and judges colluded with two former bishops to cover up allegations against priests. They wanted to avoid giving scandal to the church. Church files revealed that a judge even secured a job at the county courthouse for a priest who had been accused by multiple families of molesting their young boys. But a district attorney wrote the bishop an apologetic note explaining that the job offer had to be rescinded after the priest boasted about it and “devout Catholics” objected. It was all there, in the files.

Pennsylvanians were shocked by the report, which found evidence that more than 50 priests and religious leaders in this one small diocese had abused children over more than four decades. Among those reading were state legislators in Harrisburg. I interviewed nearly a dozen in the capital, all but one Catholics. I was struck by how so many felt personally betrayed to read that bishops had, despite promises, kept accused priests in ministry until recent years.

Pennsylvania shows how the sexual abuse story in the Catholic Church has evolved. The reporting now is often about accountability: Are bishops abiding by the reforms they agreed to in 2002, in response to the eruption of cases set off by the scandal in Boston? The American bishops agreed to report allegations to the authorities and to remove all credibly accused priests from ministry. They agreed to establish prevention programs in parishes and schools, teach children and adults about warning signs, and conduct background checks on employees.

Have they? The biggest church abuse-related stories in the United States in very recent years have been about bishops in Kansas City, Missouri and Minnesota who failed and eventually lost their positions.

Some bishops have told me off the record that they are stewing that colleagues who have failed to protect children make them all look bad — but then news is never about the planes that land safely.

The revelations in the Pennsylvania grand jury report proved to be a tipping point that revived Mr. Rozzi’s cause in the Legislature and prompted lawmakers to act. After years of stalemate, the Pennsylvania House passed a bill on April 12 that would drop the statute of limitations for filing criminal charges in child abuser cases, and extend the statute for filing civil cases to age 50. In many states, including New York, the statutes of limitations are so tight that survivors who don’t speak up while still young cannot file civil or criminal cases against their abusers. The bill in Pennsylvania would apply not just to cases against clergy members, but also schoolteachers and others in government positions. Its fate in the Senate is unclear: The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the insurance industry are set to lobby hard against it.

The day after my interrupted interview with Mr. Rozzi, I returned to his office to follow up. I was not actually eager to hear the rest of his story, because what I had already heard had been horrifying. The priest gradually gained his confidence by teaching him how to gamble on horses, plied him with beers in the rectory, showed him pornographic magazines, took pictures of him naked and eventually raped him. The same priest, Mr. Rozzi later learned, had also victimized his friends. Three have committed suicide.

When I asked Mr. Rozzi what he had been on the verge of disclosing the day before, he fished out an envelope he had brought from home. It had the return address of a recruiter with the Cleveland Indians baseball team. Lou Gehrig was on the stamp, and it was postmarked July 1, 1989. Inside was a letter from a recruiter inviting Mr. Rozzi, then a senior in high school, to a tryout.

“I put it away, and I knew I had saved it, but I have never opened this since that day,” he said, waving the envelope at me.

Mr. Rozzi said he had never made it to the tryout because the night before he had had another bout of violent, sick nightmares. He hadn’t slept. He sat on the edge of his bed, bawling, too exhausted to face the recruiter. It had been five years since the priest had abused him. On the outside, Mr. Rozzi said, he appeared to be a star high school jock, but inside, he was going to pieces. He did not speak publicly about his abuse until he was 39.

He told me that people sometimes ask him, “What do you think they took from you?”

He held up the envelope and said, “Here you go.”