Archive for progressive living

You’ll find less news in our local paper

The Citizen-Times cut loose some of its best, most experienced people today. Six people from the newsroom, all of whom had been with the paper for years.

Jaime McKee and her son, Lucas.

Jaime McKee and her son, Lucas.

The first to go was Jaime McKee, who started at the paper in 1998, while she was still in college.

I think she grew up in that newsroom as she grew into someone who knows more about the web than anyone I know. I don’t know how they plan to maintain a quality web site without her.

I’m sure she’ll do well, either with another full-time job or as a freelance web builder. I know I’d hire her. Her husband is a teacher and we all know how hard it is to live on a teacher’s salary in North Carolina.

If you want to know more about Jaime, visit her blog at


RobThe next to go was Rob Mikulak, a copy editor with 40 years experience in the business. He was two years away from retirement and an excellent editor. No one knew more about newsroom operations and no one had a keener eye for mistakes in copy.

Rob also happens to be my husband. We haven’t put that out in public a whole lot because we didn’t want the Tea Party to go after him the way they did me. He always said, “Someone in this house has to have a real job.”

It’s not that he thinks running a small nonprofit isn’t a real job; it just doesn’t pay a real salary yet.

Anyway, he’s been counting the days until he can retire, and the countdown just accelerated to zero. He seems relieved, but the paper will be less reliable without him.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford

Then there’s Jason Sandford, the popular Ashevegas blogger. Jason brags that he has been hired at the paper more times than anyone else — four. He is a native of Asheville, and he knows everyone.

Former publisher Randy Hammer considered him an asset partly because of all the people he knew and who would talk to him. That’s a pretty powerful thing in the communications business.

Jason is so even-tempered — a rarity in this business. He loved coming to work every day and he often made the days a little more bearable for those of us who were less even-tempered.

Jason will continue to work on Ashevegas. Look for him to do good things with it.

Susan Reinhardt.

Susan Reinhardt.

Susan Reinhardt has a huge following because of her quirky sense of humor — part Southern belle, part neurotic mother of teenagers.

We all identify with her takes of family and friends. We see ourselves in her or her Aunt Betty.

Susan also has a huge heart for people who are less fortunate, and her telling of their stories touched a lot of hearts.

She’s never been a “hard-news” writer, but her gift for story-telling earned her a huge following. She will be OK as she continues to tell her stories in books.

Thomas Fraser

Thomas Fraser

Thomas Fraser came to the paper six years ago from another Gannett newspaper in New Jersey. We had a number of mutual friends, since I worked at papers in Central New Jersey.

Thomas worked the worst shifts, 3 to 11 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and he rarely complained.



fletchpixI couldn’t find a photo of photographer John Fletcher, one of the most talented people I know, so I included one of the photos he took.

Fletch takes breathtakingly beautiful photos of our mountains and he captures the best of the people he shoots.

I was surprised to hear he was one of the ones let go today.

Actually, I was surprised to hear about all the decisions. These are six really talented people who have always performed well. They have been loyal, hard-working, good employees.

Without these people, there will be fewer stories on the Citizen-Times web site, fewer stories in the paper, more mistakes, less truth.

Perhaps that’s what Gannett wants. This huge corporation cares nothing for talent, for loyalty, for the value of people who work for them, or for informing people of the truth.

Newspapers used to be a better way to get information than television; they could go into depth and analyze the issues. That’s not true anymore. There are so few people in newsrooms anymore that no one has time to investigate anything, and that’s how big business wants it.

Newspapers are killing themselves. The Citizen-Times is profitable — for now; Gannett is profitable. But they continue to make decisions that leave people less informed, when information is supposed to be what they sell.

All six of these people who were canned today will lose their insurance unless they can afford COBRA. Fortunately for all of us, the Affordable Care Act takes effect in January, so my husband, who has had bypass surgery, and I, with my asthma, will be able to get health insurance.

Shame on Gannett.


Let’s talk about women’s health and “balanced” reporting

femcareAs a reporter, I was always careful to tell both sides of a story, unless the “other side” was a lie — i.e. tobacco is safe, the world is flat or the free market can handle health care without any regulation whatsoever.

It was particularly important when dealing with controversial issues like abortion. I bent over backwards to be fair because although I am pro-choice, I chose not to have an abortion when I was advised to have one. There might have been a circumstance under which I would have chosen to end a pregnancy, but I didn’t encounter it.

I will not, however, condemn any woman who chooses an abortion because I am not in her shoes. According to the law of the land, she has a right to make that choice, with choice being the operative word here.

This week, the only clinic in the state that was eligible to perform safe, legal abortions was shut down by the state, just after the governor signed a law that will close the other 15 clinics.

The thing is, this isn’t just about abortion. These clinics aren’t abortion factories; they provide affordable care to women who are uninsured. I know because I got my primary care at an “abortion clinic” for several years when I didn’t have insurance and I never had an abortion. I’m not the only person who realizes how important these women’s clinics are for women’s overall health.

Women’s clinics also do well-women care such as cancer screenings. Many also have obstetricians who offer affordable care through pregnancy and childbirth. When you close down women’s clinics, you close down women’s access to health care. A lot of people are aware of this, and I would expect newspaper reporters to be among them.

However, when I opened my newspaper this morning, I might have thought I was the only one who knows about the diversity of services offered at women’s clinics and the importance of having them in the community. The front-page headline stated that the “abortion clinic closure” was “praised.”

Perhaps the closure was praised by people who oppose abortion under any circumstance, but the issue here is also access to affordable care, cancer screenings, contraception and other medications.

The problem here is that there is precious little help for women now. A woman of childbearing age (which I no longer am) has a right to decide when and if she will have a child. That’s pretty simple if she has effective contraception, but now that Femcare is closed, that makes affordable contraception more difficult to get. And the very people who deny women access to abortion also want to deny them access to contraception. Then, when the inevitable happens and a baby is born, these same people complain that poor women keep “pumping out” babies.

No matter what, they want to lay the blame on women — not on the men who impregnate them, not on a society that punishes people for being poor, but on women, often because we’re seen as sinful. Eve committed the first sin, after all. That’s what I was taught growing up.

So now, a group of old white men in Raleigh has decided that women can’t have access to abortion and the newspaper reporter can’t find a single person to say it’s not a good thing? No one is available to say women need the services this clinic provided?

I find that hard to believe.


‘You don’t agree with me so I hate you!’

stand-your-ground-lawI’m still feeling a little rattled.

I was loading groceries into my car when an older woman with perfectly sprayed hair and a sparkly gold top came stalking over to me.

“You are dumb as crap!” she said with a sneer.

“Excuse me?”

“Dumb as crap!” she repeated, pointing at the magnet on the back of my car that said, “Health care for all.”

I have a few liberal leaning stickers, such as, “God bless the people of every nation,” and “Question war,” plus one that says, “I can’t believe I’m still protesting this crap!”

She started walking away and I said, “Losing a child to our broken health care system has colored my opinion.”

“Keep chattering, Miss Dumb as Crap!” she said.

She opened the door to a huge gas guzzler of a car and threw her purse in. On the back of the car was a bumper sticker that read, “I wear lipstick and I own a gun,” which is OK by me as long as you know how to use it safely and you don’t go around shooting people you don’t like — like me.

“I suppose you’re a Christian,” I said as I walked my empty grocery cart to the corral on the other side of her car.

She sneered at me again and got into her car.

“Well, there goes the love of Jesus,” I announced loudly as she slammed the car and other people in the parking lot smiled. One woman looked at me and shrugged her shoulders.

So, she looked like the aggressor, which she was. I looked like the reasonable one, which took a lot of effort, believe me.

But why did she hate me just because we disagree? What’s more, what made her think we didn’t have ANY common ground?

If she had been carrying her gun in a stand-your-ground state, she could have pulled it out and shot me as I walked toward her with my empty grocery cart, even though the cart corral was on the other side of her car.

She could have claimed she felt threatened, especially if I wasn’t white.

That is no exaggeration.

George Zimmerman was declared not guilty after shooting an unarmed teenager — after stalking him and chasing him down — because he felt threatened.

We live in a culture where it’s OK to hate people who disagree with you — in fact, it’s encouraged.

We are told people who disagree with us have little or no worth, that they’re stupid and that we can aggressively corner them and tell them that.

And in stand-your-ground states, we can then open fire on them when they get mad right back at us.

I felt absolutely furious at that woman. Who the hell is she to judge me, knowing absolutely nothing about me as a fellow human being?

It took some real self-control not to yell insults back at her.

But someone had to be the grownup here, and I already knew it wasn’t going to be her.

Since George Zimmerman has been set free, it seems to me like it’s open season on anyone you think can be provoked into making you feel threatened.

Love, validated

This is the motto og the United Church of Christ, which was the first mainline Protestant denomination to come out in favor of marriage equality.

This is the motto of the United Church of Christ, which was the first mainline Protestant denomination to come out in favor of marriage equality.

Today the US Supreme Court struck down the misguided Defense of Marriage Act and upheld the right to marry in California.

It’s a big day for millions of gay and lesbian people who have long deserved to marry and enjoy the same rights as straight couples. Since the only objections I’ve ever heard come from opponents’ religious beliefs, the ban on gay marriage is obviously unconstitutional. Any two consenting adults should have the right to enter into the legal contract of marriage.

Despite the statements of opponents who say it will lead to bestiality, child rape and the fall of civilization, marriage equality just means two consenting adults can enter into this contract, whether they be opposite sex or same-sex couples.

My sister and her spouse were married in Massachusetts in 2006, and I couldn’t have been happier for them. They deserved the same rights as my husband and I get. When my sister died of lung cancer, her spouse was able to make the decisions they had agreed upon. No one could come in and claim they had a superior right to make those decisions. That gave both of them the peace of mind they deserved in my sister’s final days.

This morning’s ruling told gays and lesbians across the country that they have every right to love whom they please and the state has no right to discriminate against them.

This afternoon, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the military would extend benefits, including health care and housing, to same-sex spouses as quickly as possible.

Rep. Michele Bachmann went on a rant about how God created marriage and, well, blah, blah, blah, or to quote Rep. Nancy Pelosi, “Who cares?”

Justice Antonin Scalia’s angry scree of a reply was just the ranting, childish tantrum of a poor loser. Although many people have said he is brilliant, I don’t believe anyone with such a closed mind can be brilliant.

Opponents will carry on for a little while, but the tide has turned in favor of equality, just as it did for African-Americans in the 1960s. Eventually, every state will accept marriage equality, and a little farther down the road, the bigots will age and die, leaving society to wonder what the big deal was anyway.



Why I go to Raleigh for Moral Mondays

This is from two weeks ago, when we had about 2,000 people. We had about the same size crowd last Monday when there was a tornado watch. We are dedicated to making change.

This is from two weeks ago, when we had about 2,000 people. We had about the same size crowd last Monday when there was a tornado watch. We are dedicated to making change.

I think it’s important to talk about Moral Mondays here,  to explain why I got involved, why I got arrested on May 13, and why I continue to go for the rallies.

First of all, let me say in response to those who say we can’t accomplish anything with these demonstrations, I wouldn’t have gone if I didn’t think we could make a difference, and I am willing to tolerate the vitriol of people who would discourage us because I think they are afraid of us and what we stand for.

I go because I feel a moral obligation to protest the General Assembly’s and the governor’s refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Their ideological decision puts a half-million lives at risk in this state, and estimates are that at least 2,000 will die prematurely because of this decision,

Those lives matter to me. Each one of them matters. I don’t care if it is a homeless person who is addicted to drugs and alcohol. I believe each life has worth. If you don’t believe the same, please don’t call yourself pro-life in front of me.

My primary passion is health care, but when we take away unemployment compensation from more than 70,000 people, it has consequences. Most of them also lack access to health care because you can’t pay for COBRA if you don’t have any income, and most adults aren’t eligible for Medicaid here in NC.

When we de-fund schools, we rob children of the chance to rise out of poverty and provide for themselves and their families. They also will be the ones most likely to not have access to health care later on.

These issues are deeply connected to each other. Living wage impacts poverty, and all the stresses that come with it. People who have enough to live on are healthier overall because they don’t have the stresses associated with poverty.

I have visited my legislators repeatedly to educate them on the importance of access to health care and about the lower costs associated with access to care. My representative voted against Medicaid expansion. He voted to cut unemployment benefits. He supports a voter ID law that is a thinly disguised poll tax.

I am frustrated beyond words. I cannot fathom the reasoning behind barring access to health care for 500,000 people.

Our state’s computer system is their first excuse. It isn’t up to the task, they say. But then they decline to mention that we turned down federal money to upgrade the system.

When I reminded them of that, they said we have to fix Medicaid first. Well, North Carolina’s Medicaid system was a national model until its funding was slashed two years ago. Restore the funding and the system will be a model again. Instead, though, they are going to try and privatize it the way they did with the mental health system a decade ago. That “reform,” you may recall, was an unmitigated disaster.

When I explain that, they usually have a meeting they have to rush off to.

They aren’t listening, and it frustrates those of us who oppose what they’re doing. My heart breaks for people who will die because of these misguided decisions; it breaks for the families of those casualties.

Unless you have held the hand of a loved one as he or she dies unnecessarily, you can’t know the pain.

As a person of faith, I take seriously the Bible’s instruction to care for “the least of these.” And it is not just Christianity that requires this of people; it is a basic tenet of every major religion, and it is important to just about every atheist I know.

That’s why nearly 400 people have gone into the Legislature Building and been arrested. Dozens of them are clergy. Some are teachers and professors, students, old, young, black, white, Asian, hippies and lawyers.  This is a diverse crowd, and its members are passionate about justice for all North Carolinians, not just the wealthiest.

As the ones being arrested go into the building, they are cheered by a crowd of thousands. Hundreds of people move to the side of the building to await the departure of prison buses filled with people who are not afraid to speak truth to power.

When I was arrested, those cheering voices assured me I was doing the right thing. They gave me courage and hope.

I do not go to Moral Mondays for political reasons; I go for moral reasons. I go because if I do nothing, I am as much to blame as those taking the immoral actions.

I go because every life has worth.

We the people mean business

This was taken May 13, the night I got arrested.

This was taken May 13, the night I got arrested.

Moral Monday is rolling around again, and I plan to go to Raleigh to support those people who are volunteering to be arrested.

I was arrested on May 13 and I am banned from Legislature property until my case is resolved. I go to court on July 1.

My friend, Sarah Skinner, and I are going and there’s room for two or three more people in my car. If we get enough people we can rent a 12-passenger van for the trip.

Sarah has been my traveling companion on several trips, including two to Washington for rallies and another two for the Occupy movement and one to Charlotte to take part in the Planned Parenthood demonstration during the Democratic National Convention.

We are fellow unreconstructed hippies.

Because Sarah is a breast cancer survivor, she started dying her hair pink during October for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Now she calls the pink hair her “war paint,” so you’ll be able to spot us on Monday by her shocking pink mop-top.

We need more people to go to Raleigh and tell the General Assembly they work for us, and we are not happy. They may think we’re a nuisance, but they’re about to find out we’re much more than that — we are a movement.

So far, 157 people have been arrested for second-degree trespass, which is a misdemeanor. I doubt we’ll be placed on the no-fly list or locked up for an extended period.

I spent three hours in the jailhouse — some of the early protesters who were arrested have spent as much as eight or nine hours being processed. I think the processing is streamlined now that they know we’re going to be there in ever-increasing numbers.

I went to protest the refusal to expand Medicaid and the proposal to privatize it; others were there to protest the laws that harm unemployed people, students, workers, the environment, voters and low-income people.

There are so many reasons to protest it’s hard to pick just one. I have never seen anything like this group of legislators, and I’ve been aware of government abuses of power for 50 years.

When I have tried talking to these legislators, I get the brush-off or I get excuses filled with half-truths and out-and-out lies. When you call them on their lies, they change the subject or move on to another talking point. They aren’t listening.

They were elected to serve us, not corporate overlords, and yet they are serving the wealthiest and most powerful at our expense.

Sen. Tom Apodaca said we should know how he feels and he isn’t about to change his mind, no matter what the people think.

I don’t know what it will take to change the minds of some legislators, but we only need to reach a few to stop them from having a super-majority. Then we can work to throw the bums out in 2014.

As I said, Sarah and I are going. Anyone want to join us?

If you’re don’t stand up to protest injustice, you become part of it.

Turns out there is no scandal

its buildingSo, here’s what really happened with the Internal Revenue Service.

No one was targeting conservative groups. These political groups had applied for tax-free status and were being vetted for approval — as ALL groups must be before being granted tax-free status.

To get 501(c)(4) status, the group has to be working on social welfare programs as well as doing its political work. No more than half of its activities can be political. The IRS is tasked with making sure these guidelines are followed.

So, were they just looking at conservative groups? Here’s something from last week’s Congressional hearings:

Rep. Peter Roskam, R-IL: “How come only conservative groups got snagged?”

Outgoing acting IRS commissioner Steve Miller: “They didn’t sir. Organizations of all walks and all persuasions were pulled in. That’s shown by the fact that only 70 of the 300 organizations were tea party organizations, of the ones that were looked at by TIGTA [Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration].”

That’s only about 25 percent.

But even though the truth is that right-wing groups weren’t targeted any more than anyone else, this is their story and they’re sticking to it because if you repeat a lie long enough, people will believe it.

Remember what happened with ACORN after the fake news story with pseudo-journalist James McKenzie posing as a pimp that was nothing more than a cleverly set up and carefully edited lie. It took down an organization that helped people register to vote.

The right-wing groups want people to believe they’re being persecuted, even though they’re not.

Or perhaps there’s good reason for their paranoia.

The reason these groups want 501(c)(4) status is because it allows them to keep their donors hidden, and they want to protect their sugar daddies and mamas.

Since the Citizens United decision allowing unlimited corporate money in elections, various groups have rushed to get 501(c)(4) status. The IRS, which is understaffed, didn’t have time to research every group, so its employees looked for flags that might suggest a group was mostly a political organization, which is ineligible for 501(c)(4) status.

Should IRS officials have searched for organizations with “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their names? Probably not. But that’s about the worst thing that happened here.

Standing for justice

singingI stood with 48 other people from all across North Carolina as we were arrested for second degree trespass and loud singing.


This was the third “Moral Monday,” in which demonstrators go into the NC Legislature Building and refuse to leave.

Two weeks ago, there were just a few demonstrators, and 19 were arrested.

The action, led by the NC NAACP, is to protest the avalanche of backward legislation coming out of the General Assembly. Many of us have tried to talk to our legislators and have gotten nowhere. We’re met with lies and half-truths about the laws they’re passing — if they meet with us at all.

Tim Moffitt, my representative, called the Voter ID law a leg-up for people trying to get out of poverty because an ID will help them get a job.

“I wouldn’t hire somebody without a photo ID,” he said. “Would you?”

Actually, I would hire someone who doesn’t have a license, I said.

“I call it a $6 investment in someone’s future,” he said.

That would be fine as long as someone doesn’t need that $6 for food.

Nathan Ramsey told me we can’t expand Medicaid because the state’s computer system isn’t ready for it. I told him I happen to know we turned down federal money to get it ready. Then he said, “we have to fix Medicaid before we can expand it.”

I told him our Medicaid system was a national model until it was seriously under-funded two years ago, so all we have to do is fully fund it again.

They’re used to dealing with people who aren’t familiar enough with issues to see through a snow job, I guess.

We have e-mailed and called and gone in person to talk to legislators who don’t give a damn what we think or what’s best for the people they supposedly serve. They have said as much with their actions and even with such words as, “I am the Senator. You are the citizen. You need to be quiet.”

Each week’s bills have become more outrageous than the week before and there’s not any let-up.

Rev. William Barber, the head of the NC NAACP, led a group of about 300 of us into the building a month ago and we delivered letters to legislators, who ignored us. Thom Tillis actually ran away from us.

So, two weeks ago, a few dozen people went into the Legislature Building, “The People’s House,” as the Rev. Barber calls it, and 19 refused to leave. They were arrested.

Last week, more people went and 30 were arrested.

Last night, hundreds of people went in, singing and chanting, and 49 of us were arrested.

I have never been arrested before, but it is time to stand up for justice.

My issue is health care, but they have attacked us on so many fronts, we have united to say we will not stand for these injustices. As we chanted last night, “The people, united, will never be defeated!”

We were arrested as we sang “We Shall not be Moved,” and led away with our hands bound by zip-ties, still singing as they loaded us onto the elevator. We had our belongings taken from us and were loaded onto a bus, where we chanted and sang some more. We worked together to open the bus windows to alleviate the stifling heat. Of course, that allowed our chants and songs to be heard by the crowd of hundreds across the street, who cheered and waved as each of us was loaded onto the bus, still singing.

As the bus pulled out, we chanted, “The people, united, will never be defeated!” People standing on the sidewalk said they could hear us and several were moved to tears.

We were proud, we were defiant; we were not intimidated, and we chanted all the way to the jailhouse. The chant became musical and some people began to harmonize. It was a beautiful, powerful sound and it gave each of us courage.

Once in the jailhouse garage, we began to sing, “We Shall Overcome,” and we continued to sing as we were led inside and placed on steel benches, our voices echoing in the cavernous garage.

One by one, our zip-ties were removed and we were searched and processed. One person began to sing, “Freedom, freedom freedom, freedom, oh-oh, freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom,” and soon several of us were singing and harmonizing. The song became a prayer as we swayed and sang, and the police watched.

We were processed, one by one, and moved to the next bench, where we sang again.

“Freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom, oh-oh, freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom.”

They made us take our shoelaces out of our shoes and we joked about how much cuter our shoes had been with laces as they flopped when we walked.

Those of us who have been arrested have been banned from the Legislative Building until our court cases have been resolved, so the people who were arrested in previous weeks stood across the street, singing and chanting encouragement.

The first of us were released in about three hours, and we were met by a cheering crowd that included a legislator or two. We walked into the waiting arms of Rev. Barber and Rev. Curtis Gatewood, and then were led to food and drink before we were shuttled back to our cars.

I spent the night with my friend, Carol, who stayed up until after 2 a.m. with me, searching the Web for news of the Moral Mondays demonstration. I had seen the first news report while we were being booked on News 14, and now there were several.

State Sen. Tom Apodaca called us a “nuisance,” and said we all should know by now that he doesn’t care what we think.

Well, I believe the movement will grow. I believe the legislators will have to care because we will not go away. Those of us who have been arrested and threatened with real jail time if we go back will be replaced by people who will join the movement. Each week it will grow.

Moral Mondays will continue for awhile at least, and the movement will need more people to stand up for justice.

Our freedom requires people who are willing to fight, so if you want to go, whether you can be arrested or not, check the NC NAACP web site, sign up and go to Raleigh next Monday or the Monday after …

If we don’t take action now, things will only get worse.


Count me in!

nc protestI am going to Raleigh, probably this Monday, and I intend to get arrested.

So much is going to hell with our current General Assembly, they are wreaking such havoc with education, health care, unemployment, voting rights, women’s rights …

It has to stop. We have to stop it. And we can begin by showing up at the Legislature Building — “the people’s building,” as NAACP President Rev. William Barber calls it — and refusing to leave as the NC NAACP sponsors Moral Mondays.

If enough of us do it, maybe something will get through, if not to the legislature, then to the people of this state.

Protest is our Constitutional right, and we need to exercise it.

Last month I spent a week trying to convince people to attend a legislative day with me and not one person went.

I’m still hearing all the noise about how awful things are, how far backward we’re careening with this legislature, so is ANYONE from the area willing to come with me?

You don’t have to get arrested; you can leave the building when ordered and still make a pretty powerful statement with your presence at the protest. I, however, intend to be arrested.

When I was in Raleigh last month for the legislative day, Rev. Barber said he would begin civil disobedience actions soon. Well, they have begun and it’s time to take part.

If you know me, you know my primary issue is health care, but all of these social justice issues are connected. People who live in poverty are more likely to have unsafe housing, to have less access to healthy food, to be exploited by employers. They are far more likely to die from treatable or manageable illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer.

This isn’t Democrat and Republican, this is life and death.

It’s time to stand up and be counted, to risk arrest for what I believe in, to tell the world that we in North Carolina are not the mean-spirited, greedy, selfish people who sit in the General Assembly.

Our social safety net is shredded and almost gone. People are going to die as a consequence, and I feel compelled to go and fight for those lives.


Easier said than done

forgiveness2It’s great to talk about redemption and forgiveness — Christ did it all the time. The tough part, though, is to really do it when called upon.

I am a survivor of child sex abuse. My abuser was someone my family loved and trusted and he went to his grave with “our secret” intact.

Ten years ago, a man in our church was convicted of raping his 9-year-old grand-niece and sent to prison. On Palm Sunday that year, our pastor preached a sermon about redemption and forgiveness. He said the man is still a child of God and we are called to love him.

My thought was, “God forgive me, but no way!”

Later, I sent an e-mail to the pastor to tell him about what survivors of childhood sex abuse face for the rest of their lives, and explaining why I wasn’t ready to love this man. Leave it to God to love him, I said, because I can’t.

As a Christian, I knew the pastor was right, but I wasn’t there yet. I know what that little girl will have to deal with for the rest of her life.

Then on Friday, I ran into someone I know from around town, who gave me a big bear hug. We began talking about the book I’m trying to write about my son’s life, and he offered me some advice about the writer’s block I’m trying to get past. I have reached the part where Mike moved to Savannah, but I know what happens next and on some level I don’t want to write it.

“Just write,” my friend said. “You can go back and rewrite later, but you need to keep moving ahead. Don’t allow yourself to be stuck.”

He showed me a book on grammar he just published and mentioned he had sent it to a couple of people at the paper, but hadn’t heard anything back.

“They have issues with me,” he said. “I can’t blame them. I had a scrape with the law a few years ago.”

He spoke as though I would know what it was, and when I didn’t, he reminded me: he had been caught with child porn on his computer. I could see the shock on my husband’s face and hoped mine didn’t show the same.

“I did 10 months in prison,” he said. “I went through a lot of counseling, did a lot of self-examination and I understand a lot about myself now.”

So, he’s in recovery much the same as my son was after he quit drugs and alcohol.

So now I am faced with a real person who has done something abominable. Do I believe the words I have preached all my life about people who have done things wrong and then sincerely repented, or am I a hypocrite?

This man could have run to a town where people didn’t know him or his past. He could have walked away from here, except this is his home. He has faced the consequences for the terrible thing he did and now is trying to rebuild his life.

It would have been easier if he had robbed a liquor store and shot someone. Part of me wanted to ask if he had any idea what happened to those children he was looking at, but then I realized that’s part of what he deals with every day now as he tries to move ahead in his life.

If I am to get beyond what happened to me — which I can not change — then I have to allow others to get beyond their past as well.

I can rewrite portions of my book, but not my life. I can’t bring Mike back; I can’t retrieve my innocence. I have to look ahead. Just as my friend is trying to do; in fact, it’s all he has now.

Perhaps the best way to heal myself is to walk with him as a friend so perhaps we can heal together.



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