The Broad is Back!

May 30, 2016

Memorial Day Tears

One of the guys I went to HS with, Anthony Tormey, who, after a career in the military went on to found and currently is CEO of the Leader Development Institute, did a post on facebook of the young men from our hometown who died in Vietnam.

One of those young men, who died in 1968, is buried right next to my dad, who died four years later.

As an 11 year old girl, who was pretty much traumatized by war reports and body counts on the nightly news, seeing that white military headstone, alone on a gentle hill, made me sad. I realized he was only 19. That was “grown up” to me, but still I knew it was too young to be dead.

And so every time I’d go to the cemetery to see Dad, I’d say hello. He was PFC Kenneth R. Totten. And every Memorial Day I pray for him, this unknown young man.

I soon grew older than he ever did. Now my own son is older than he ever was, but still I pray, and still I say hello when I am back in my hometown and go visit Dad’s grave.

Today Anthony said he googled about the local men killed in action, and only found a picture of one, Capt. Edward Starr, a handsome young man, also too young to die, not yet 30.

Then I googled, too, and found a memory page to young Kenneth Totten. His friends and relatives had posted–they called him Kenny. Makes sense for such a young guy.

But then I saw a picture, and all of a sudden, this young man who had been a part of my life for 44 years, sprang into focus. I burst into tears. Now he is a real person to me.

He’s so handsome in his Marine blues. So damn young.

Kenny, your sacrifice is remembered and praised and mourned.  When I pray for your eternal rest, I add my prayers may no more babies have to die in war. A futile prayer as long as humanity stays the way it is, I know, but I am the eternal optimist.

Rest in peace, sweet boy. And thank you for your sacrifice.

The picture is from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund


February 12, 2014

Happy Birthday, Abe. Bring on the Revolution

Today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. It used to be a national holiday until we replaced it and Washington’s Birthday on February 22nd with the more generic and easier to plan around Monday holiday, Presidents Day.  Out of all the presidents, we honored Lincoln because he “saved the Union” and also signed the Emancipation Proclamation, a good legal first step to ending slavery in the US.


I have to admit that there are times when I wonder whether the Union should have been saved. Don’t misunderstand me–I love the South. It’s beautiful, full of wonderful people–my grandfather was a Virginian–and provides the United States with much natural bounty.  Much of the country’s wealth comes from the resources of the South.  My concern does not come from a dislike of a place or a group.  My concern is that the United States is just too large to govern effectively.


We are theoretically a collection of sovereign states and four commonwealths, each theoretically with a large measure of autonomy.  But over the years, the federal government in DC has been taking over more and more of this sovereignty, often using money to wield its will. Federal aid is cut to states that don’t toe the federal line. Money makes an excellent leash.  And when a small group of people–1oo senators, 435 representatives, a president, vice-president and a Cabinet of 15 heads of executive departments–rule over 314 million people, give or take, things are not going to go smoothly.


In his first inaugural address, Lincoln said, “This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it.”


I think many people are currently weary of our government. We are weary of a government run by corporations and special interest groups.  We are weary of our protests being ignored. We are weary of illegal acts being carried out in our name without our permission. We are weary of an elite in Washington that thinks it is the elite because it’s special and above us, not because we elected them to stand for us.  We are so weary of our government that many have given up–they believe there can never be change, so apathy has sunk in.  Frankly, that’s just where the power elite wants most of us to be.


No group is easier to be led than a group that no longer cares.  Too many of the hundreds of millions can be bothered to pay attention.


Perhaps if the Union had not survived, there would be a less powerful national government.  But now is the time to speak up.  There was the “Bloodless Revolution” of 1688. Rooted as it was in religious intolerance and bigotry, it’s not a perfect model, and it doesn’t actually correlate well, but my point is revolution can happen and change can come without bloodshed.  And as Lincoln reminds us, it’s our constitutional right to overthrow an ineffective government.


We the people have the power.  We just don’t realize it.  What was that Reagan-era slogan? “Just say no!”  Say no to a government that forgets that it’s, as Lincoln reminded us in the aftermath of a bloody Civil War battle, “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

July 4, 2013

A Thought about a Declaration

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” From the Declaration of Independence of the thirteen united States of America

I really can’t say it any better than this section of a document written 237 years ago before this was the United States. We were just united. This is what we’re celebrating in America today.

And this is a very long segment from that Declaration, one of the main documents forming American culture. But when I read it today, it makes me think. And it makes me think hard.

I do think that the American form of government is a fine one. But I have to wonder if the Government itself is protecting our citizens and allowing us life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Daily I see a “long train of abuses” done in the name of the American people that are actually causing nearly irreparable harm. Change is scary. Revolution is a hard word. The men who wrote this document knew that they were taking a destiny-changing step. They were either about to change the world or die trying, quite literally. Had the revolution failed many, if not all, would be hanged as traitors.

I would truly hate to see armed conflict in this country. But I also hate to see my country run by corporations and oligarchs. And from what I see, this is what it’s become. Maybe I’m alarmist. Maybe I’m crazy. Or maybe I’m just paying attention.

I believe in the ideals of this nation. I love this nation. But when I see what’s happening to my nation, my heart breaks.

We need change, change we really can believe in. A number of times in my adult life, I’ve thought there was going to be real change. But so far all I can think is: “The king is dead. Long live the king.” A few things change, but nothing of substance.

I know this isn’t very cheery and holiday-ish. I should be barbecuing and picnicking with family. And later today I will be. But I couldn’t let this solemn and important day pass without voicing some very real concerns. If we want another 237 years–another 50 years–something has to change.


This is another blog inspired in part from Patchouli Haze, my daily inspirational blog. I realized that it had turned dire, so I moved it here and expanded.

December 6, 2007


Filed under: holidays,New Broads — by maggiec @ 9:22 pm

It’s crunch time in academia, so no time to write, but I just have to tell you about a program I found through a charity newsletter I read. lets you pick a charity.  Then you download a small program or shop many of your favorite stores through their website and part of your purchase price is given to the charity of your choice.  And it’s great stores I shop at anyway–even e-bay, my shop of choice!  In the past week I’ve donated $8 to my charity, The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial.  That’s not much, but it’s eight bucks they wouldn’t have gotten, and I had to buy the stuff anyway.

If you sign up to the newsletter, you can get specials like free shipping and discounts, too.  Merchants are fighting for our dollars this year, so they are open to incentives. 

I always tell my foreign students that Americans are incredibly generous people.   We’re not the only one’s but we’re pretty good at giving.  This is a painless way to do it and stretch your holiday budget a couple of extra inches.

November 27, 2007

Thanksgiving experiences

Filed under: American culture,holidays,New Broads,traditions — by maggiec @ 9:38 pm

It’s been 13 years since my son and I celebrated Thanksgiving.  I’ve written in the past about being away on the holiday, more than once in fact, but I think the strangest experience of all was being back.

The last Thanksgiving I spent in America was celebrated at my mother’s house, as we had all the Thanksgivings I’d celebrated before that.  When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was a “fancy” holiday–Mom pulled out the good china, silver and crystal.  We had the white tablecloth, the candles; we dressed for dinner.  This was the formality of my youth.  At that last celebration, there were two grandchildren, the three children, one fiancee and Mom.

This year we had Thanksgiving at my brother and sister-in-law’s (the former fiancee), who have been the holiday hosts since I’ve been gone.  Mom was down at her place in Tennessee, the eldest grandchild was up at college and there were three new grandchildren.  The dinner was delicious and traditional, the table lovely if more casual than my mother’s taste, but it didn’t feel like a holiday to me and definitely not to my son.  This is no reflection on my brother and sister-in-law.  It’s a reflection on my son and me.

My son was three at the last Thanksgiving he celebrated.  He is clueless about the whole thing, but visiting family is always a good thing.  For me, I wondered, what happened to me?  Why don’t I care about the holiday?  Maybe because it seems so different?  Driving down to my brother’s we made some pit stops, and no one was dressed up.  I was in a work outfit, but my son was in jeans and a tee shirt.  The majority of people traveling were in jeans, sweats, even pajamas!  In my mind, holidays should mean uncomfortable clothes–pantyhose at the very least!  Kind of twisted, I know, but I still associate holidays with scratchy, tight, fussy and unpleasant clothing.

Was that it?

I wasn’t with my mom, so this is the first Thanksgiving that I’ve celebrated without Mom.  I didn’t celebrate abroad.  But no, that’s not it.

It’s not that I don’t care about the entire concept.  I do care, very much.

So I’m forcing myself to think about this, and I think the problem is the same problem I’ve seen since I’ve been back.  Commercialization.  Buy, buy, buy.  Eat a big meal, but then the focus shifts to Friday–Black Friday, the official start of the Christmas shopping season.  It was like this before I left, of course, but it seems worse now.  It just could be that I notice it more after being gone so long, but most people I talk to feel that things are getting more and more commercial every year.

Our Puritan forefathers and mothers would be horrified.  Lincoln, who called for a national day of Thanksgiving during the Civil War, would be stupified.  Even FDR, who set the fourth Thursday of November as our national day of Thanksgiving in 1939, would look askance at what has happened to our spirit of thankfulness.

Of course I’m grateful for all of my blessings, and I was happy to be with family, but the specialness was gone.

Black Friday is also called “Buy Nothing Day” to counter the rise in materialism and commercialism, but this year I didn’t hear a peep from the organizers.  It’s an international movement, not just in the US, but still, didn’t see anything about it till I googled it just now.

WOW!  Off the track, but you know one of the reasons why I didn’t hear anything.  Found this on “MTV, the channel that markets itself to hip youth, has decreed that our Buy Nothing Day public service spot ‘goes further than we are willing to accept on our channels’. Gangsta rap and sexualized, semi-naked school girls are okay, but apparently not a burping pig talking about consumption?”

Well, that was shocking.  I watched the ad and it was a big nothing in terms of shock value.  But I can see MTV’s point.  If you’re advertising demographic is youth, with it’s large disposable income spent on largely unnecessary objects, you don’t want to be annoying the big account advertisers, do you?

So, there it is, the first Thanksgiving back in the States.  Hard emotions to articulate, but very agitating on some levels.

October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Filed under: American culture,holidays,New Broads — by maggiec @ 9:09 pm

It’s been 13 years since I’ve been in America for Halloween, and what a difference.  It’s become so commercialized in that time that I’m totally turned off by the holiday.  I’m sure it was happening before I left, but seeing all of the Halloween-themed merchandise at the stores is utterly shocking.  Have we gone mad?

Back when I was a kid, Halloween was for kids.  Sometimes we had cheap nylon costumes with plastic masks, but often we had homemade costumes—one of our favorites was dad’s old clothes, dirt rubbed on the face and violá, a bum.  And the bought costumes were packed away in the attic, and recycled year after year.  I still have the bright orange oil cloth trick or trick sack my grandmother made me in 1967.  A lot of the costumes now are topical, so I wonder about their shelf life.  And there are just as many costumes for adults as there are for kids, and I’ve seen more dog and cat costumes (as in for your cat or dog) then I can imagine.  Why on earth would I want to dress my cat up for Halloween?  I think she just might have something to say to that, as well.

A couple of the homes here are decorated up with lights, lawn ornaments, graveyards.  It’s like Christmas done in orange and black.  I look at some of the things, and I’m tempted.  Wouldn’t it look nice to have a lawn display like that, I think.  It would be so cool.  But then I hang back, aware I’m being caught up in consumerism.  We have pumpkins on the stoop and mums, but that’s seasonal decoration.  It looks nice.  And I broke down and made up two headstones from slabs of Styrofoam that came in a flat pack desk I bought recently.  When I saw them, I said, “Look, tombstones.”  I used black magic markers and did a stone for Vlad Dracul, 1283-1898, and another for Ichabad Crane, making reference to the Headless Horseman.  I propped them up on the pine tree outside for “atmosphere”.  I thought about getting a plastic skull to add, but I restrained myself.

Part of me wonders if this is all just part of the burgeoning consumerism I see engulfing America.  Another part of me wonders if it’s my generation.  In large measure, we don’t seem to want to grow up.  Our parents saw Halloween as something for kids.  All they did was give us a curfew and inspect our candy.  Now it seems as if we want to continue having Halloween be as much fun for us now as it was then, so we’re horning in on the kids’ day.

My son sometimes gets upset with me because he missed out on Halloween.  Sometimes I’m sad he did, as well.  Now he’s still got no friends in the area, so he’s wishing he had something cool to do today.  When I think back to Halloween when I was his age—16 going on 17—I don’t remember it being a big deal.  Trick or treating was something for kids, and we were too grown up for that.  In fact, now I’m remembering what I did.  I was hired to take neighborhood kids around trick or treating, and I hung back with the other parents, feeling like I was all grown up and watching the kids at play. 

When I got to college there were costume parties for Halloween, but then back in college there were parties every weekend, so it was just a good excuse.  And we dressed up, but the girls were certainly not dressed like streetwalkers.  I still have pictures of friends dressed as Raggedy Ann, a lion, a punk, an alcoholic housewife complete with flannel jammies, curlers and a fake belly bulge, and a huge pumpkin.  And the pumpkin girl was covering a cute little figure, so sexy just wasn’t part of the equation.

Hm, sex and consumerism have taken over what was once an innocent day for children.  And to add to my shock, the woman downstairs from me told me that the kids can’t celebrate Halloween in school in order not to offend people’s religious sensibilities.  Times have changed.  Yeah, I know it’s a holiday based on pagan beliefs, but really, it was just a good excuse to dress up and get candy.  I don’t think any of us took the witches and goblins any more seriously than we took the witches and flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz.

Poor kids.  Poor America. 

And lest you think I’m a total curmudgeon, I have a plastic bucket full of candy, and I’m actually anxiously looking forward to the trick or treaters tonight.  I love the costumes, I love the excitement, I love the childish faces enjoying a rite of childhood.  I don’t mind buying the candy, either.  But I don’t want to buy into the need to buy “stuff”.

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