Father’s and Mother’s Day are great American traditions, but I’m not sure I like them. Unhappily, I have a really big problem with these days because I don’t have the goods. My mother and grandmother who were such loving figures in my life are gone. My father, who I take after in so many ways, is gone, too. I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself. My children live far away but will no doubt call or send a card. I’m grateful for their love but I would really like to call my own parents. Just knowing they were around made life balanced and feel more secure.
On special occasions, Veterans & Memorial Day, I reread this letter from a young soldier, my father, Aaron Levine to his dear wife. On the verge of being deployed to Europe during World War II, he wrote this 1944 note. He writes my pregnant mother who came to NYC to see him off, but missed him. My father didn’t see his son until he was one year old. Aaron Levine passed away at age 84 and worked on community projects even on his death bed. Literary, practical, loving, and compulsively methodical, here is his WW II good-bye letter …
Over the years, I’ve attended press conferences, graduations, receptions, and concerts at Volkswagen Chattanooga’s conference center, but I’ve never before seen it decorated entirely in pink. The event was the first ever Volkswagen Women Who Rock Awards Brunch. After having my picture taken in the photo booth wearing a pink Volkswagen hard hat, I meandered through the crowd waiting to hear from the keynote speaker, Julie Baumgardner, CEO and Founder of Chattanooga’s family oriented nonprofit, First Things First.
We watched profiles of the award nominees on the overhead screens as we listened to each of their favorite songs. It was a musical lesson in diversity. True to Volkswagen’s techie mindset, the playlist could be downloaded on Spotify. After much munching and brunching, we were brought to attention by Shireena Avery, the Volkswagen Diversity Sponsor to the featured Employee Resource Groups (ERG). The Women Who Rock program got underway with Megan Herndon, President of Volkswagen’s Women in Motion ERG.
Why have women waited so long to tell their stories of sexual harassment, discrimination, pedophilia, abuse, and discrimination? How do we as individuals and as a nation process this tidal wave of #MeToo information as people come forward? I’ve hesitated to tell my stories of sexual harassment because I’ve never been able to comprehend and digest them. The first time I experienced my feminine vulnerability, I was only four years old. I was playing outside in the garden of our home in Bermuda, when a teen-age neighbor squatted down next to me as I was playing with my favorite marbles in the garden. Smiling at me, he reached under my skirt and stroked my privates through my underpants. Before he walked away, he made me promise not to tell my father, silencing me.
While President Trump reconsidered the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)? Many American cities, like Chattanooga, have built their economies on international industries, their vendors, and outdoors sports competitions including Ironman. Before the halt to our participation in the TPP, there was a well-attended panel discussion on the controversial TPP at the Small Business Incubator with moderator Jim Frierson, who was Chief of Staff in the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) during the Reagan Administration. The cabinet agency is responsible for developing international trade policy for the President and negotiating with our trading partners. America’s first bilateral free trade agreements — with Israel and Canada — were initiated, negotiated, and implemented during his eight-year tenure. As intense competition from Japanese autos and semiconductors appeared to threaten the US and then receded, the seeds of an ambitious Pacific regional trade compact were planted in exploratory meetings by the USTR himself, Ambassador Bill Brock, a Chattanooga native.
Islands at Risk
Refugee International reported a few years ago that a Kiribatian man tried to convince a New Zealand court to make him the world’s first climate change refugee. Kiribati is an impoverished group of Pacific islands vulnerable to rising sea levels. He didn’t succeed, but many experts predict a growing number of displaced people seeking asylum because of global warming. The planet has limited drinkable water, fertile land, clean air, and food. The planet’s current supplies are steadily shrinking.
What happens in Vegas does NOT stay in Vegas. Domestic terrorism is a national issue. I often write about how the byproduct of economic dislocation is an increase in violent attacks. When people feel they have little to lose, they lose their socialization and their humanity. The result is a rise in domestic abuse and acts of violence on strangers, whether individually or in crowds. The anger and divisiveness that now permeate our culture take the phenomenon beyond the disenfranchised. Incidences like this attack on a concert in Las Vegas parallel the rise of traditional terrorism and are symbolic of the desire to deconstruct society.
I cannot accept the explanation of mental illness which implies that this massacre is just a single individual with no takeaway that impacts the country. Nor can I accept that Las Vegas was punishment for criticizing Trump and not standing for the national anthem, as one religious figure is saying. Neither denial nor incitement should be acceptable if we are to confront domestic terrorism in our midst.
I have been puzzled in recent weeks by colleagues congratulating me on my humility. What are these folks talking about? People who knew me years ago would definitely be amused by that. At best, I was described as “Sweet but Stern.” At my boldest, I was told that I could terrorize entire cities. Community leaders had a white-knuckled grasp on their chairs when I tersely announce my intention to speak off-the-record. Not even a voice from the back of the room calling out, “Oh ho, this should be good!” slowed me down.