This Crazy Week: Choose Carefully What Matters

I’d decided earlier this week to steer clear of some of the events that were really heating up on many political, legal and societal fronts. I’m still taking heat from a few of my previous posts, which is OK, but trust me – I stand by everything I say and write. The beauty of that is I live in a country that allows me to do that.

I had a couple of emails this morning, including one from a client, asking me when I intended to write about the evils of same sex marriage. It’s difficult to give the one sentence statement I want to give.

For me, it’s simple: live and let live. I don’t give a rat’s ass who’s cracking whom, who’s marrying whom or who’s getting a divorce. If you know me, you already know I’ve had two failed marriages. I’m hardly the one to take a stand either way on the beauties of marriage. But, there are a few things I can take a stand on because they do affect me.

Facebook is loaded with twisted scripture from the Bible, accusations that same sex marriage was allowed because Christians did not stand up and demand it not pass and promises that the world’s coming to an end any second now. I don’t know who’s going to burn in hell for their choices made in this life, but we’re all going to have to answer for all of our sins. I’ve said it before: I’ll do me, and you do you. I know I won’t have to answer for passing judgment and spreading hate regarding someone else’s sexual identification. If I believe that everything happens for a reason and what’s meant to be will be (and I do believe this), and that everything passes in God’s time, then how can anyone claim to know God’s reasons?

My point is: we’re divided enough in this nation. What’s dividing us are opinions. Nothing more. I’ve got a newsflash for you – we don’t get a say, not really, with the decisions being made on our behalf in this country. If our opinions mattered, we’d have a unified Congress. We hear the politicians griping about the illegal actions of this Administration, yet the most they do is threaten their political enemies…on social media, no less. How many times have we heard different politicians demanding impeachment procedures against someone outside their party? Daily, right? Yet nothing is ever done. They’re griping and listening to their constituents, yet they are also the ones who can make it happen. But what do we hear as their response? Crickets. We hear crickets.

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Rusty Weiss, Political Insider

We are divided in ways we shouldn’t. Why are we turning on each other when the ones making the wrong decisions are behind closed doors and on tables piled with cash? When did we decide it’s better to do war on Twitter and Facebook with each other than look to the root of the real problem? It’s not us against us; it should be us united and demanding answers. Instead, we show our fear with ridiculous posts on social media. Ask any psychologist: anger is often nothing more than fear. Once we realize that, things become clearer.

mississippiSo, back to my point: I won’t be posting on the evils or benefits of same sex marriage. I do not care. What I do care about, however, is the possibility of being told I can’t fly my state’s flag in Mississippi. I do care about being forced to buy insurance I cannot afford and I do care that there are actually people out there who want me to surrender my guns. I do care about Russia and Greece partnering on the Turkish pipeline (that’s happened, but we’ve not felt the repercussions of that yet. Oh, and by the way, pay attention to BRICS angle in the coming weeks and months). I do care about overhearing an oil man in a conference say, “Hell, a terrorist attack might not be so damn bad. At least it’ll drive oil prices up.” And I do care about the fact that we’ve already seen a shooting of a co-worker from an employee who’d just been laid off from a job in the oil sector in Houston. I care because it’s just beginning and it will affect me and you and anyone else in this nation. Who you get in bed with each night matters none to me. The last time I cared about someone getting in bed with someone else, I realized my then-husband was cheating. So no, I don’t care.

It’s all about priorities.

Flags, the Media and Southern Ghosts

Finally, an elected leader is speaking with a bit of clarity, determination and with no hesitation. Mississippi Governor Bryant has spoken and said the Confederate flag remains, even if every other elected official has cowered to the ridiculous calls for removal of our state’s flag. Before you fall into the typical “She’s a racist” response, at least give me the courtesy to explain a few things.

For years, Mississippi has been the go-to state for everything that’s wrong in this country. We’ve ranked low on surveys that paint a dark picture of “the worst of…” and we rank high on other surveys that many say should make uscapture-20150625-165605 all ashamed. The reality is, when you hear a Mississippian say, “leave us alone”, you can be sure it’s a collective suggestion based on an inability of any outsider to actually “get it” when it comes to why we do the things we do. Our declaration of, “You’re wrong” is always met with, “…but the media says…”

When Hurricane Katrina hit several years ago, people were astounded when Governor Haley Barbour stepped up to the plate, like a true leader, and did what had to be done. You see, he knew that to fall to the will of the federal government would have meant turning his state into the government’s whore. While the media bellyached about the injustices just west of us in Louisiana, Mississippians were quietly rebuilding. We prayed quietly and hoped quietly – and when it was all said and done, we rejoiced quietly. We knew first, it was the only way to get it right and second, it was just as well because it’s all we know anyway. We rely on faith, family and neighbors. And we’re good with that.

After Governor Barbour left office, Governor Bryant stepped up to the plate. He too has shown an amazing determination to not be a follower. He’s said no to Medicaid expansion, despite the pressure to fall in line. And just today, he’s said no to the media’s demand and others whose demands are far too shortsighted when it comes to the Confederate flag.

By the way – he and Barbour are the only two current/former governors who have had the courage to dismiss this ridiculous call for the flag’s removal.

For most of us, the Confederate flag does not raise images of a segregated south. That’s because most of us weren’t raised with the stories that the rest of the nation uses to beat us over the head. We know the dark tales, but those stories about the KKK, burning crosses and brutality against our fellow Mississippians are told with shame by our elders. Nothing prideful at all in those stories. We know the fear, we know the grief and we know the anger that brews in our hearts every time one of those stories are retold.

Just so we’re clear – and really, I’m not trying to antagonize anyone – but what exactly is it we should apologize for? Would an apology for the evils committed years before we were even born help? If so, then why have the decades since, filled with apologies, not appeased those who feel slighted? How long must anyone apologize for those brutalities committed by people we did not know?

I used to think of the United States as a powerful, unified force to be reckoned with. The world admired us and those who didn’t admire us, at least they feared us. When it became clear our own president was doing anything but ensuring we stand together, I thought to myself, “Well, we in the south stand together.” After I’ve seen so many do the politically correct thing for the sake of doing, well, the politically correct thing, I realize we’re in trouble. As long as we allow the past to dictate our present day and our future, we’re all screwed.

As I said, the Confederate flag means an entirely different thing to most of us. There’s not a single time spent on the river, drinking beer and eating crawfish that we don’t have the Confederate flag flying somewhere. It might be from the bed of a truck or it might be flying from a pole someone planted in the sand. For most of us in the south, it’s about living good and doing it while we’re young. It’s indicative of country music, sunburns, cookouts and falling in love with those we love, whether we’re riding horses or are on the sandbar. Under the sun. Under the moonlight. Some of the best times in my life have included that flag, even though it hadn’t occurred to me until recently. So all of those demanding change because it’s indicative of ties that bind too tightly, just know that for the rest of us, it’s about freedom and all that comes with a southern, even redneck, state of being.  And by the way – when y’all call us rednecks, you should know we’re flattered. That’s a compliment down here in Mississippi.

Really, how much longer is anyone going to fall in line behind a media’s ulterior motives? Aren’t y’all tired of it?

And if you’re interested, here’s part of a chapter that I opted not to include in a recent writing project. There’s not a writer I know who doesn’t have a hard drive filled with chapters of “Eh, maybe in another story”. This is one of those stories that I didn’t include, but it feels quite appropriate now. You should also know that I spoke with my mother about this today (it’s true, written from the perspective of fictional characters). She too remembers the American flag flying. The Confederate flag was not flying. As you’ll see, I should know. I was there.

And with that, Leslie kicks it off, “Hey – do you remember being forced into the floorboard in the back seat of the car when we lived on the coast? We couldn’t have been more than five or six at the time. “

After thinking for a minute, Pen realizes she hadn’t thought about that for years. At the time, the two sisters, huddled in the floorboards of that old Granada, were convinced they were being punished for some unknown crime committed moments before being ordered to “get down”.

“Yeah. Why are you bringing that up now?” Pen asked her older sister.

“Stay with me here. Do you remember me confronting Granny one night after one of those trips?”

Even as Leslie is asking the question, Pen is shaking her head, almost afraid to hear what’s about to be told to her, but knowing it’s coming anyway.

“I’m assuming that’s a rhetorical question,” Pen mumbles, to which Leslie rolls her eyes and says, “Yeah, whatever. Hush. This is serious.”

Leslie pauses, and then begins.

“OK, so one night, I asked Granny what we had did wrong to cause Mom to punish us. When she told me we hadn’t done anything wrong, I actually threw a fit and demanded to know why we weren’t allowed to go trick or treating.” Pen was growing more confused with each word her sister was rapidly unloading.

“Wait, what? How would Granny know?”

“Because she was usually with us us…remember? It was us, Mom and Granny most nights.” Leslie pauses, hoping her sister’s memory would return minus any further clarifications.

Still with a blank look, Pen says, “I don’t know, Leslie.”

And with a roll of her eyes, Leslie returns to her story, figuring Pen would catch up.

“Just listen. One night, I caught a glimpse of a big fire and a bunch of people dressed in costumes. It looked like a party. The way I saw it, we were either being punished for misbehaving or Mom was trying to make sure we didn’t find out it was Halloween because she didn’t want to do the whole trick or treating thing.”

Pen is staring at her sister tell a story that she was a part of, but feeling more of an outsider. She was on the outside, looking in. Why hadn’t Leslie told her that their mother was avoiding Halloween, she wondered? Before she can say anything and further distract them from the story, Leslie quickly pushes her hair, complete with pink icing, behind her ear and continues. 

“Granny got a kick out of it, which only made it worse for me. I was then convinced that not only was Mom plotting against our opportunity for candy loot, but Granny was in on the deal too.”

Standing up, Leslie moves toward the oven to pull the cakes out.  

“So, anyway, do you have any idea what that was?”

“No. What was it?”

“It was a KKK meeting!”

“Oh my God! Are you serious? How does…I mean, why…” she trails off, uncertain of what to ask.

“Well, remember, it was the late 60s, early 70s and there was still a lot of hatred, especially in that little Podunk town. It just so happened that Mom and Granny’s Bingo nights were sometimes held on the same nights those meetings took place. And because there was only one way in, we had to drive past them. Mom didn’t want us to see that.”

“Oh my God. How did we not know that?”

“Well, for starters, we were kids. And probably, too, I guess Mom didn’t want us to see what hate looks like when we were just beginning to live our lives. She probably was afraid of gunshots, too and felt like she could protect our little psyches and our physical bodies by insisting we get down into the floorboard.”

“Our little psyches,” Pen interrupted. “You’re such a nerd.”

“Yes, brat…our little psyches.”

The two sisters turned their attention to the cake layers, neither speaking but each lost in their own thoughts as they tried to understand the mindset of people, some of whom were likely their neighbors, ones who attended the same church they had attended for years and maybe even ones who opened the doors to their homes for them, smiling and excited to fill their bags with Tootsie Rolls and Chiclets and candy cigarettes when it really was Halloween. 

Something startles Pen, who’s suddenly realized everything makes sense, even when it doesn’t, “Wait. Remember that sign above that laundry mat? The one across from the grocery store that was wiped out one of the hurricanes?”

Knowing what she’s about to ask, Leslie answers, “Yeah. That ‘whites only’ sign had nothing to do with separating laundry.” Leslie had asked all those years ago what the sign meant, only to hear their mother mumble to herself, “And I was so happy when she began reading…”

“That sign meant no one but white people,” Pen said, more as a declaration than a question. “My God, Mom must have felt like she always had to be a step ahead. It was all around us, wasn’t it? I mean, she…I…God, Leslie! How did we not know all of this? I mean, how did we…,” she trails off, unsure of what to ask. Suddenly, the memories come flooding back and the look on her face tells Leslie that neither will ever look at their childhood in the same light again.

A couple minutes later, Pen says softly, without looking up from her task of icing the cake, “Was it as bad as they say it was?”

Leslie knows what she’s asking and while she doesn’t have proof of her answer, she knows it to be true. “Yeah, I guess it was. I figure Mom wouldn’t go to those kinds of lengths to protect us if it wasn’t. I mean, passing those meetings, held right out in the public with no fear of the police kind of tells the tale, right?”

“Yeah. I guess. How do you know there was no fear of the police?” Pen asks, even though she senses it’s probably another one of those questions she should not have asked.

Taking a deep breath and never looking up from the cake, which has become a very interesting one based on the fact both are determined to keep their eyes trained on it instead of each other during this conversation, Leslie says, “Because that’s why I thought it was Halloween. The ones dressed in white, I thought were supposed to be ghost costumes. And when I saw the cops, I thought they were costumes too,” she says quietly. She doesn’t finish her thought. She knew she didn’t have to.

In an even quieter voice, and dropping her spatula into the now-empty bowl of icing, Pen says, “Yeah. Ghosts.”

For a split second, when Leslie looks up, she sees that same little tomboy sister who was mischievous and mean and sweet and hopeful. In that split second, she realized that must have been what their mother and grandmother had felt every moment of every day; an unbridled determination to shield them from all that was wrong and evil and to give them both a chance of finding faith in people, minus the jaded images from a segregated south.

One last thing: when the old man who “hosted” these events finally died, he took with him much of that hate. I never remember another event like this. Ever.

 

The Deeper and Far More Disturbing Truths about Guns and Mass Shootings

I’ve managed to steer clear of social media and the ongoing debates about flags and guns this week. As my mom always says, “Don’t let your bulldog mouth overload your jaybird ass”. Yeah…she really says that. And she also knows that she raised my sister and me to make sure anything we do say is loud and clear – whether it’s right or wrong. So, right or wrong (but definitely right), here goes…

There will never be a time when this country is rid of every non-law enforcement gun. Ever. It’ll never happen – and that’s the way it should be. Aside from the Constitutional arguments many are making, the truth is you can’t unring a bell. These ideas for stronger background checks and ensuring guns don’t land in the wrong hands are absurd. Sure, there are many who will gladly hand over every firearm they own to the government – and then there are those who will dare to stand and say to that same government, “Over my dead body.”

Despite the common denominator in so many of these shooters’ lives, people still focus on the guns they used to devastate other lives. When are we going to wake up and acknowledge the real root of the problem? I think the gun capture-20150624-193346argument is safer than the truth, but really, how much longer are we going to keep the focus on anything but the real problem?

You can’t put kids on psychotropic drugs, knowing the potential for far worse problems – including murder and suicide – and then demand the rest of the country to fall in line behind some ridiculous “remove all guns” campaign.

There was a time when these problems did not exist. It was before, of course, the introduction of dangerous and powerful chemicals for our children as a way of “fixing” them.

Let’s lay everything aside for just a minute and consider these facts:

In the US, the use of Ritalin and other stimulants commonly prescribed for ADHD increased in the late 1970s and into the 1980s. By 1990, Ritalin sales in the United States increased 500 percent. Use of Ritalin and the other commonly prescribed psychotropic have increased every year since.

After the Charleston shooting last week, Obama wasted no time using it as further justification in his anti-gun nonsense.

Once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun. … We as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.

He’s right; this type of mass violence isn’t occurring as often in other countries. Maybe this is why:

The United Nations reports that the US produces and consumes as much as 85 percent of the world’s production of Ritalin.

Don’t get hung up on the “it’s just Ritalin” (Methylphenidate) argument – the problems trace right back to the collective go-to antipsychotic drugs prescribed to our kids today, including Adderall, Concerta, Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Cymbalta, Wellbutrin, Risperdal, Seroquel, Abilify, Klonopin (yes, there are Klonopin prescriptions being written for kids), Xanax, Ativan. By the way, we have more than one million kids younger than 5 who are taking these drugs, the same ones that include:

The fact is, most juvenile shooters are white males. There are tons of statistics and studies that support this. Now consider this:

Minority children were less likely than white children to receive an ADHD diagnosis. With time-invariant and -varying confounding factors statistically controlled the odds of ADHD diagnosis for African Americans, Hispanics, and children of other races/ethnicities were 69%, 50% and 46% lower, respectively, than for whites. (Source).

And here’s a truth for you:

Gun ownership in the U.S is actually down. So now what? At some point, we, as Americans, will have to rethink the evil common denominators in these types of mass shootings. How much longer can we continue down this path, with little, if any, justification for laying the blame squarely on the gun debate?

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How did we go from a nation that treated gun ownership as one of those rights to be treasured to one that has seen people blame firearms for all of the problems of today’s troubled young people? How is it we had a total of two shootings between 1950 and 1959 by two people younger than 21 to the more than 15 so far this year alone? Some days, there are actually two shootings occurring simultaneously by people younger than 21 in this country:

On May 12, 2015, an 18 year old student shot himself in his school’s breezeway in Tempe, AZ. At the same time, in Jacksonville, a 16 year old kid was shooting bullets into a school bus. He hit two students.

That whole 2nd Amendment argument simply doesn’t measure up, especially considering fewer Americans own guns today. The only – THE ONLY – consistency is the number of kids who are taking prescriptions for depression, attention deficit and other mental illnesses is growing right along with the number of shootings in this country. If these shootings are primarily committed by young, white males and at the same time, it’s also young, white males who are being prescribed these drugs in higher numbers, why is the media insisting on ignoring that? Where are the ethical doctors who are willing to stand up and say, “Oh, hey…y’all might want to consider…”

That’s it. The gun argument does not support the numbers. It just doesn’t.

Lies and Excuses: Duggars and Defenders: Part II

This is Part II of what was initially supposed to be a single post. As I researched and began documenting different things for what I thought would be a blog post on the Duggar scandal, I realized how big it had become. Part I can be found here.

As people began taking sides, it was mind-numbing to consider how many were actually siding with Josh Duggar and his parents. They did this under the guise of Christianity and at the cost of the victims. The victims, from their own interview, haven’t recognized the deeper truths. Maybe they never will. In a way, maybe it’s better. Mostly, many of their decisions, beliefs and problems will be rooted in the molestation and they are woefully unprepared. They just don’t know it yet. It’s who came to the defense of Josh Duggar and his parents that resulted in the collective incredulous gasp. Let’s just say the word “hypocrite” has taken on new meaning.

There are people raising ten different kinds of hell about the sins of Kaitlyn Jenner in one breath and in the next, insisting what happened in this family is typical familial dynamics. I’ve heard everything from, “They were all kids,” to “My God, it’s not like he raped them”. This is the kind of ignorance that keeps molestation in the cold, dark corner of human nature. This is exactly why victims are afraid to speak out and it’s exactly why the real numbers of molestation cases can never be accurate.

The Politics

Of course, it was just a matter of time before Sarah Palin piped in. This woman…I swear, she used to have a solid mindset. She was tough, she made sense and she had no concept of biting her tongue. Her approach to this scandal? To release a ridiculous rant against some Hollywood twit through her daughter’s blog. It’s just…bizarre. From her Facebook post verbatim:

HEY LENA, WHY NOT LAUGH OFF EVERYONE’S SEXUAL “EXPERIMENTS” AS YOU HAUGHTILY ENJOY REWARDS FOR YOUR OWN PERVERSION? YOU PEDOPHILE, YOU

Is she saying what Josh Duggar did was little more than “sexual experiments”? She continues:

Radical liberals in media who have total control over public narratives are disgusting hypocrites, so says my daughter.

It’s the classic “overlook the problem and then turn the tables” mentality.

Then:

I’m not defending the Duggar boy’s obvious wrongdoing over a decade ago. The main victim in any story like this isn’t the perpetrator, it’s the innocent ones so harmfully affected.

The Duggar boy’s obvious wrongdoing. Let’s be blunt, shall we? How about the “Duggar boy’s felonious acts”?  Oh, and it was over a decade ago, so what? No harm, no foul? And by the way, he is not the victim – “main” or otherwise in this story.

Next, she targets the law enforcement:

The shocking, unethical leak of a private, legally protected counseling document by a politically motivated law enforcement official. Media – time to go after her or him for illegalities and for destroying the public’s trust in law enforcement.

And she calls on the media to do the right thing. Really? The media? This is the most distrusted segment in American culture today. Oh, that’s right…she DOES know how twisted the media is, but hey, whatever works, right? Her next line:

The media’s hell-bent mission to go after the entire Duggar family for one member’s wrongdoing, while giving a total pass to perverted actions of someone like Lena Dunham – or any other leftwinger celeb caught doing awful things. Remember reports of the pedophile billionaire our former democrat president has been friends with and hung out with on the pedophile’s “orgy island” full of underage girls?

By the way, as for the “shocking” and “unethical” leak of private, legally protected documents, no one broke the law. (Don’t forget – Josh Duggar wasn’t concerned about legally protecting his victims: he sued the state in 2007). Both Springdale and Washington Counties in Arkansas were presented with a FOI notice. The information was not sealed, so they had to release it. And why wasn’t it sealed? The parents did not report it until AFTER the statute of limitations run out and after it was too late for their son to be held accountable. Also, Josh Duggar, by then, was an adult, so he had no right to expect the same privacy as minors. If she’s that pissed about this becoming public, she should take it up with Jim and Michelle Duggar.

And, like mother, like daughter, Bristol sums it up in a way that’s more pleasant to her senses:

Josh Duggar touched a sleeping girls breast – a terrible thing to go.

Howard Kurtz wasted no time, either. After the first part of the interview aired last week, he and Kelly had a nice little chat that began with Kelly asking him, “Why must it go to the ‘red-blue place all the time?”

He replied, “Because we live in such a polarized media culture that that becomes more important than anything else.”

Of course. Except the ones who jumped on the Duggar bandwagon were conservative politicians, Fox News pundits – and even one who was, at one time, both. Mike Huckabee left Fox News to throw his hat into the presidential wannabe ring. He should have stayed right where he was.

Ultimately, whatever happens has probably already happened. This was big news a few days ago; today, not so much. We’ve moved on to other matters, including new police brutality videos, the G7 summit and whatever else it is the media thinks we should know. For many, myself included, it’s time to rethink what it is I know about the political repercussions over the controversial issues. I’m fine with that. I can do that. I’m just beginning to wonder how to choose, yet again, between the worse of many evils.

Lies and Excuses: Duggars and Defenders: Part I

As I researched and began documenting different things for what I thought would be a blog post on the Duggar scandal, I realized how big it had become. Because of that, I’m breaking it down into two parts. I’ll publish Part II on Monday. It focuses on the media backlash and the insanity of both Conservatives and the media. Part I, below, focuses on the recent Duggar interviews.

Many of us watched the Megyn Kelly interview with the Duggar family over the past several days. For those of us who’d hoped they’d be asked the tough questions by Kelly, who’s known for holding interviewees’ feet to the fire, those viewers were both disappointed and disgusted. Not surprisingly, the majority of viewers, many in the media and of course, the Twitter court (myself included), promptly called “foul”.  As is the case with sexual assault, molestation and/or rape – there’s always a “Paul Harvey”…the rest of the story.

As the parents of this man continue to sing his praises and insist he’s the victim, there are a few things that Kelly and the family’s other supporters have conveniently overlooked. Actually, what’s been overlooked or dismissed just might be the worst part of this entire episode.

From the sleeping arrangements that just don’t add up to the mind-boggling defenses of Josh Duggar from Kelly, presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (who definitely blew any shot he had to hell and back with his support of Josh Duggar) and now, Sarah Palin, many are shocked and are wondering if maybe the entire conservative movement is worth the cost others will pay. What makes this worse is that at my core, I’m as Republican and conservative as they come; and now I’m rethinking everything I thought I knew.

Sleeping Arrangements

In 2002, the Duggar family had 13 children: 5 girls, 8 boys. They lived in a 2000 sq. ft. home with three bedrooms. The parents had one bedroom. (Remember, they didn’t move into their 7,000 sq. ft. home until January 2006). Michelle Duggar stated during the interview that the five daughters shared two bedrooms, which left the parents with the other bedroom. (The transcript is here).

KELLY: The girls all slept together?

M. DUGGAR: Hm-mm.

J.B. DUGGAR: Yes. The girls had two bedrooms at the time.

KELLY: How many girls are we talking about?

J.B. DUGGAR: We had five girls at the time.

This left the 8 boys. Maybe the living room turned into a sleepover room at bedtime? As kids, most of us would have loved the idea of “camping out” in the living room. Jim Bob said that after his son came to him in March 2002, he and his wife:

And so we went, and the first thing was to protect the girls.

DUGGAR: Well, we definitely put safeguards in our home.

Let’s jump ahead to July, 2002 – four months after the first disclosure:

So, we had safeguards that protected them from that. But there was another incident where — two different incidents where the girls were, like, laying on the couch, and it was — he had touched, like, over the couch and actually touched their breast while they were asleep.

According to the interview with one of the family victims, the separation of boys and girls did not occur until after Josh returned from Little Rock, where he went to be “counseled” in the spring/summer of 2003. People who are pointing to the layout of the family home are forgetting that new home was not their family home in 2002 and 2003. Three bedrooms between 15 people is challenging and why anyone is surprised by the fact that many of the kids slept on sofas clearly has never had a teenager who loves sleepovers.

The shocking part is that the girls were not as “protected” as Jim Bob said and the “safeguards” mentioned by Michelle were, well, non-existent.

I’ll Sue

Next, everyone even remotely associated with this case insists Josh became humble and sought forgiveness, which quickly was given. He wanted to move forward and his parents felt it was part of the past. The case that was opened by Arkansas police went away (whether it’s because of statutes expiring or other reasons). Ah, but then it was reopened. Josh Duggar actually had the audacity to sue the Department of Human Services for investigating him. Whatever happened with that case couldn’t have been good for the family. Most Arkansas DHS investigators say it was likely that instead of winning a ridiculous lawsuit, it brought more pressure onto the family, up to and including his being labeled an “in home offender”. If that’s true, DHS then really became involved because they’re obligated to conduct investigations at different intervals, something that Duggar’s lawsuit did not intend.

The fact that the Duggars are mum (and the fact that Kelly didn’t ask about it) suggests there is no happy ending from that avenue over poor, victimized Josh.

Long Term Repercussions of the REAL Victims

Here’s the greater problem, though. Fox News quickly paraded a number of experts who dismissed the potential for bigger problems down the road when it comes to these young women. They are indeed following their parents’ lead, which is admirable and frankly, something most kids don’t feel the need to do today. The parents have divided loyalties – again, it makes sense. No parent wants to be in the position that they’re in. I think, though, they are so deeply interwoven with their religious beliefs, they’re missing huge red flags. While they’re busy shoring up their religion, they’re not thinking about the faith of these young women and how they will likely struggle with that faith. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), childhood sexual abuse survivors face a number of potential problems that will plague them throughout life.

  • There often exists a lack of trust that sometimes doesn’t become obvious until years later. For some, the inability to trust is put into place in the moment of the assault and never goes away.
  • They’re twice as likely to be raped as an adult.
  • They suffer from flashbacks – the scent of a cereal, for example that they equate with the assault. It might have been what the victim had for breakfast the next morning. It stays with children and anytime the scent of it hits them, they’re right back in that moment.
  • Eating disorders are common.
  • Depression and low self-esteem is common as well.
  • A sense that they don’t have control over their lives.

For Megyn Kelly and Fox News to provide a gracious, kind and quite comfortable platform for these parents is irresponsible. By doing so, this tells the victims that anything negative they’re feeling is not justified. Hell, if the supporters are these types of globally recognized names and images, what do the victims know, right?

Soon, though, there were other voices that quickly barreled into the conversation and in ways that are ridiculous and self-serving. Enter Sarah Palin.

I’ll post the remainder of this piece on Monday. Disagree with anything I’ve written? Let me know – leave a comment or drop me a line at donna@donna-mcgill.com.

Huckabee and the Huge Disservice to Molestation Victims

capture-20150524-045906For 15 seasons, fans of the TLC reality show, 19 Kids and Counting, have watched a large family grow, because, well, apparently, there’s a fascination with seeing large families on television. In all fairness, I realize there’s probably more to that fascination than simply witnessing an unrealistic determination of a southern family continuing their efforts of growing in modern society; I have never seen even one episode. My sister has and it was our topic of choice over dinner. For her, the creep factor inched up during one of the first seasons, so she too abandoned the notion of finding anything wholesome or even realistic that served as a foundation for the family. Now, her creep factor makes sense.

Our conversation then moved on to Mike Huckabee, mega conservative candidate for the Republican presidential ticket. He’s another one who annoys me, even when I can quite define that annoying feature. But at least he’s standing up for what he believes with this whole molestation scandal surrounding the Duggar family. Got to appreciate that, right? God love him, he’s had a history of shoving his judgmental foot down his own throat.

Here’s the thing: this molestation brouhaha isn’t adding up. There are too many denials, redacted documents, timing issues (including destroying all of the records the moment an Arkansas law enforcement agency received a FOIA request from the media) and a disgusting number of “hiding behind God” comments from the family, which they believe, no doubt, should put the entire scandal to rest. “We rely on God. He’s saved us, so we really don’t need anything else” types of comments are leaving a bad taste in even their most avid supporters’ mouths.

Don’t misunderstand me: I’m vehemently faithful, but religious? Not so much. This family is the epitome of the self-righteousness that has overtaken American churches. This family’s religion is what they believe elevates them higher than homosexuals, unwed mothers and the rest of the sinners. Now, though, child molesters are OK because, well, one of their family members is indeed a child molester. And Huckabee supports that. Perfect.

But let’s get back to the heart of the matter: the molestation admission. Everyone has closed ranks around this family’s eldest son, Josh Duggar. Now we learn that at least a few of his victims include his sisters. The operative word is sisterS – as in plural. While Mom and Dad are building their walls around him and themselves, there are real victims who are witnessing this and a few who are now behind that proverbial wall. I’m not suggesting this family made their daughters second class citizens, but what I am saying is that they have no idea what this looks like to these girls – whether they’re relatives or family friends.

Not only must they live with the betrayal, but in a way, they’re being victimized again. Their story’s out there, whether they want it to be or not. I’ve heard nothing – and I mean nothing – about the repercussions for them. We’ve read the statements, but really, what do you think is happening this very minute? Is there someone dismissing their feelings and saying, “God will handle it”? “God forgives”? While it’s true that God forgives, for most victims, it takes them awhile to get to the forgiveness stage. I don’t think God becomes angry at us when we try to tell someone how hurt we are or how angry we are or how betrayed we are and that we don’t want to hear how God will fix it for us.

Sometimes, the answer is, “Yes, I know you’re hurt. We’ll get through it. I don’t know how yet, but we will.” Other times, the answer is, “Let it out. Tell me. Throw something. Get mad! Just get it out. I’m right here to help you.” The thought of someone whose go-to answer is, “There, there. God will handle it,” is infuriating, patronizing and dismissive, especially when the criminal is also hearing the very same nugget of wisdom from the same people. Essentially, the victims’ parents are protecting the molester who forever changed their life trajectories.

Because of this abuse, these girls (whether they’re his sisters or family friends) are now at a higher risk of those “sins” Huckabee is determined to eradicate, including addiction, unplanned pregnancy and a lifetime of poor self-esteem. They say the higher the pedestal, the harder the fall. Mike Huckabee is about to learn that lesson, courtesy of his support for almost everyone in the Duggar family. It must feel like a kick in the teeth for the victims.

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So, with Huckabee closing ranks with the Duggar family, he’s in essence saying he supports this criminal behavior. He’s forgiving of child molesters, but really, is anyone surprised? He did, after all, play a pivotal role in having a rapist released from prison, only to have that criminal rape again, though this time, Wayne Dumond killed the woman he raped.  Read that story (and a copy of the letter Huckabee sent Dumond in prison) here. He also happened to agree with the vulgar statement made by Todd Akin, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

I think we’re seeing a pattern with Huckabee and it doesn’t look good for women.

35 Years and the Original Urban Cowgirl Gets the Last Line

For most of us, and certainly for those of us in the south, there are names that are synonymous with Texas: cowboys, oil, George Bush, Gilley’s and of course, Urban Cowboy. Hard to believe, but it’s been 35 years since the film’s release. Urban Cowboy was ambitious; let’s be honest – what are the odds of a Jersey boy morphing into a believable cowboy out of small town Texas – and one who could actually two-step and waltz? See, that’s the thing about odds: once proven, they matter little. I was always sure it was the influence of the true Texans, especially those we get to know in the film, that really pulled out John Travolta’s inner cowboy – and boy did they!

Debra Winger (l), Jessie La Rive (c), John Travolta (r)

Debra Winger (l), Jessie La Rive (c), John Travolta (r)

One of those influences was Jessie La Rive Mapes, who played Debra Winger’s best friend throughout the film. This Texas girl’s character was a spitfire and as I’ve learned over the past few days, it most certainly comes natural. Jessie was gracious and was willing to spend a little time with me on memory lane, and as I learned (and always suspected), the authenticity of a film often comes down to director’s leap of faith and trusting the talent of his actors.

Jessie had worked at Gilley’s prior to filming. She ran the bull and worked in the kitchen when she wasn’t working at her “regular job”. She said, “I was driving a wrecker at the time we started filming so they thought it would be fun if Sissy was the one driving the wrecker. It all worked out.”

There are people in life who you look at and you just know that each knows all the dirt on the other – and it’s OK because of the deep loyalty between the two, especially when it comes to women. Lord knows I have a couple of

Photo Courtesy: Jessie La Rive Mapes

Jessie’s 21st birthday gift: her first plane ride with John Travolta as her pilot. (Photo Courtesy: Jessie La Rive Mapes)

friends who know where the bodies are hidden. Those friends are rare and when we find them, we just know the treasures that they are. Jessie (Jessie LaRive Mapes) and Sissy (Debra Winger) were so seamless in their interactions with one another that you wonder if maybe they didn’t grow up as school girl friends.

I asked Jessie, “I’ve always noticed how Jessie and Sissy really meshed throughout the film. The two characters really complemented one another. Was it like that with Jessie and Debra offset, that made it believable in your roles onscreen?”

Jessie: “Debra and I hit it off immediately, so we were really good friends on the set and hung out after filming would finish. We had a lot of fun between scenes and would usually go to lunch together when we had time.”

She then goes on to tell me about their “fight”.

Jessie: “…in fact, we had to actually get into a fight to get mad enough to film the scene at Stoney’s when Bud and Wes were fighting in the parking lot.  We couldn’t stop laughing, so we went out back and literally started a cat fight just to pull the scene off.”

Fans of the film saw how Jessie went to bat for her best friend when Bud (Travolta) wouldn’t “allow” Sissy (Winger) to ride the bull. Her “Bud, I think you oughta let her ride it” line is so typical of what we women say; it’s not so much of a suggestion, but more of a, “Get the hell out of her way and let her do her thing.” When I asked her about that and whether it’s something she’d really say to her best friend’s husband, she made it clear how much she values her friends.

Jessie: “I am loyal to a fault and will always stand up for my friends. So yes, when I defended Sissy that is a “me” thing. 

Here’s a really fascinating truth: all of Jessie’s lines were adlibbed. She said, “They would give me an idea of what they wanted and I just played off that.” Unfortunately, the line where she tells Bud to kiss her ass was cut. She said there was careful editing because of some of the language.

What she told me next still has me in awe. I’d asked her about her favorite “behind the scenes” moment. She said it was the scene at Stoney’s when Bud and Wes found themselves in a fight in the parking lot.

Jessie: “I had just given birth to my son the day before and had to come back for the shoot that next night. When we talk about how sore I was (from riding the bull that day) I was being truthful. The Director, Jim Bridges, had a motor home in the back and hired a nanny to watch my son while we shot scenes.  In between each scene I would go out to the motor home and be with him until it was time for the next shot.”

I remember that scene well: The Eagles playing on the jukebox, Bud yelling at the waitress and a hamburger hurled towards Wes (played by Scott Glenn). The next thing we see is Jessie physically restraining Sissy so that she’s out of the line of fire coming from the parking lot brawl. And Jessie had just given birth to her son hours earlier.

And speaking of Wes Hightower (Glenn), he is the epitome of the bad boy that breaks hearts as he goes, each woman more convinced than the one before that she can “fix” him. This brings us to my next question for Jessie. I’d ask her if there was a favorite scene that stood out for her.

Jessie and best friend Betty, the real life Sissy who married the real Bud, Dew Westbrook

Jessie and best friend Betty, the real life Sissy who married the real Bud, Dew Westbrook (Photo Courtesy of Jessie La Rive Mapes)

Jessie: “My favorite scene has to be the shot in the trailer when Wes drinks to worm in the Mescal.  Debra and I sat back and watched him do about ten takes on that scene and for every worm he ate, we drank a shot to cheer him on. That was a long day.  There also was a scene that Debra and I shot just the two of us, playing on the bull with a beer in our hands.  It turned into an all-out beer fight, we were spraying beer everywhere on anyone that got close to us!  I wish they had left that scene in.”

That tiny trailer. A lot went on in that space. From the scene Jessie describes above to Wes owning up to the fact that Sissy was expecting too much, “You can’t expect a man like me to be faithful to any woman,” it was a great contrast to the vast space that defined Gilley’s

I asked Jessie, “Crazy as this sounds, I’ve always wanted to know if there was really a small trailer behind Gilley’s. Real trailer or Hollywood creativity?”

Jessie: “There was never a trailer behind the club. That was something that the director decided would work well with the plot. Also, watch the scenes that were shot at the trailer park. There are no mountains in Deer Park, Texas.  We shot those scenes in California along with the last scenes at the club where Wes robbed the office. Those scenes were shot on a sound stage at Paramount Pictures.”

These days, Jessie is recording a CD and she’s hoping to have it ready in time for the Urban Cowboy reunion in June (be sure to follow her on Twitter @urbancwgirl). She and Debra didn’t keep in touch after the film wrapped, but I get the sense that those amazing souls who made Urban Cowboy the incredible film that it is are as loyal as the day is long. Sometimes, actors can be led into creating believable work. Other times, it just falls into place.

Once you’ve seen it unfold and fall into place, from the opening scenes in Bud’s hometown to the marriage waltz across Gilley’s dance floor to Pam’s view of her Houston proper, it becomes a favorite. I won’t say I’ve kept my copy of Urban Cowboy updated with changing technology. I mean, it’s not like I had the beta tape, the VHS tape, DVD and blu ray. But maybe I did. I also happen to know you can see it on demand on Netflix. Hell, who am I kidding, anyone who knows me knows that’s true. Below is the official Paramount Movies trailer. You can see Jessie in the trailer and also Bud’s (Travolta) amazing hoedown.

I am so grateful Jessie La Rive Mapes was willing to share some of her stories and photos with me. For me, this is far more than just a column for the 35th anniversary of Urban Cowboy.

As for Jessie, the Original Urban Cowgirl, she gets the last line and even then, she’s the true best friend. Sissy’s worried about her car getting home. As Bud and Sissy begin their “happily ever after”, Jessie hollers across the parking lot:

“Don’t worry about it, Sissy!”