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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Think On This a Bit

I didn’t know until recently that Jared Kushner’s father spent time in federal prison for a string of white-collar crimes. This was back in 2005-06, when Dubya was president. I’m sure Kushner Senior had a platoon of lawyers, but they could not convince a jury of his innocence. So my question is: If President Hillary Clinton had a son-in-law with such a family history, do you think everyone would have heard?

At one of Tampa’s nicer restaurants lately, I noticed the female wait staff wore black tops, while the males wore shirts that were coral or perhaps even pink. That’s something we wouldn’t have seen a generation ago.

Thinking about stereotypes reminds me: I’ve written before about the Art Factory at Winthrop Village in Riverview. We offer after-school classes for kids, including ceramics, painting, sculpture, and fabrics/sewing. To my surprise, the weekday that attracts the greatest number is the day that fabrics are featured. Boys want to sew as much as girls, and that’s another nice change.

Some of those kids will have their art for sale at the Winthrop Art Festival, which will be a new aspect of the ten-year-old annual event. It’s always the third weekend in March, which this year is Saturday and Sunday, the 24-25. About thirty professional artists will be displaying their juried work and hoping to win some $5000 in awards. You’ll see their white tents on Winthrop Common, a gathering place that’s just east of the corner of Bloomingdale and Providence Avenues. We’ll have food vendors and music, so come on out!

Guns and Glory

The legislature didn’t exactly cover itself with glory on its gun bill, but it is better than I expected. I’ve always believed that, especially in politics, it’s important not to allow the great to become the enemy of the good. I also think that for a hungry person, a half-loaf indeed is better than none. Historical progress, in fact, almost always is incremental – and when it is instead a rapid revolution, that can have unintended consequences. It’s okay to accept this gun bill and work for a stronger one next year.

Going from historical abstraction to the specific of our times, we gun-safety advocates should make more use of the analogy to automobiles. When cars were new, no license was required and there were no standards to meet. My aunt, who was much spoiled by her late-in-life father, started driving in Minnesota when she was twelve. Lawmakers there and everywhere, however, soon realized that public safety required registration and regulation for both car and driver. That should be the case with public safety and today’s guns, which are much more lethal than in the past.

You have to pass a written test even for a learner’s permit; you have to have a licensed driver in the car with you; and of course, you have to pay a fee. There are more hurdles to leap to get a full license. You must provide identification, including your social security number, and two proofs of your residential address. Then there’s not only a written test, but an actual on-the-road test with an employee of the Department of Motor Vehicles sitting next to you. And more money for your license and again periodically for its renewal.

In addition to the driver’s license, we license cars – and require annual renewal with fees. Your car’s tag number is open to public view and, if law enforcement wants to, it is easily traceable to your address. No one objects to the Highway Patrol or other law enforcement officers who enforce these standards. We accept them as necessary to our public safety. So why not apply the same standards to guns?

License them like cars. Just as the sale of a car – whether new or used -- requires registration, gun sellers/buyers also should have to publicly record transactions. We license cars in part as a tool in crime fighting, but just as the cops don’t come to confiscate your car, so they won’t come to confiscate your legally registered guns. Such registration, however, would cut down on the number of guns that get into dangerous hands, just as car licensing cuts down on dangerous driving. Offenders still will be out there, but that’s never a good excuse for doing nothing.

And then there’s insurance. Car owners must have proof of insurance to renew licenses, and the same should be the case for gun owners. State laws mandate liability insurance so that if a driver causes an accident, the insurance company will compensate the victim. Yes, I know it’s complicated and expensive – but we do it all the time with vehicles, so why not with guns? Victims deserve to have an insurance mandate that would help them in the case of gunshot, just like car accidents – and even more so. Unlike cars, guns are intended to be deadly, especially the military-style weapons used in recent massacres. Those weapons, of course, should be outlawed -- and probably would be if the insurance industry had reason to lobby for that ban.

A Nice Change: National Gatherings in Our Town

I love the fact that today’s Tampa has the status to attract national conventions! I spent much of last week squiring around New Yorkers who came here for the annual meeting of Writers and Writing Programs. It attracted about 14,000 people, most of them aspiring writers who were much younger than yours truly. That is encouraging, especially given the state of unpredictability that publishing has endured during the last decades. It seems that readers continue to want books, though, and many people want to work in the business of producing and selling them.

The first event I attended was a “sunset sangria” party on the patio of the History Center hosted by the Authors Guild. It was nice to see people I’ve only known by e-mail, and I was so pleased that everyone was pleasantly surprised by Tampa. In fact, the first thing that my closest colleague said when I picked her up at TIA was: “This is such a user-friendly airport!” She has traveled all over the world, so that was a fine compliment – and those of us who live here know it’s true.

The weather was cold by our standards, but the first woman I talked with at the Authors Guild event was from Canada, and she compared it to a summer’s day there. Other conversations included happy comments on our downtown and especially how “everything looks so new!” Those of us who remember when Harbour Island was a dredging dump called Seddon Island can congratulate ourselves on it and other transformations. They also were impressed by the Riverwalk and its historical statues, as well as the museums and restaurants that now attract these tens of thousands of visitors every week. It’s wonderful to welcome them to our town – and I showed off the bumper sticker that I keep on my car: “Welcome to Tampa, Where the Mayor and All City Council Members are Democrats.”

Women’s National Book Association

My big thing during the convention was a Friday night reading party sponsored by the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA). It was at the Centre for Women, which you know is located in an old Hyde Park mansion. I saw several of the one hundred plus attendees taking pictures of the historic house, often trying to capture the Spanish moss hanging from the live oak near the front porch. The Centre has done an amazing job of preserving the beautiful place, and they prominently display a photo of the beautiful Helen Gordon Davis, who endowed it back in 1978. Since then, thousands of women have used its services to leap the gap between homemaking and the work world. Helen, who died two years ago, would be so proud.

Along with two other women associated with the WNBA, I read from our new book, Women in the Literary Landscape. I’m going to take this opportunity to quote from its first pages.

“A woman wrote America’s first secular book: Without telling Anne Bradstreet, her brother-in-law took her poems from Massachusetts to London and returned with The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America (1650). Bradstreet was the busy mother of eight, yet made time to write poetry that still stands up well today. No matter what the field, women always have been there – and without women, history ends in a generation.

“Moreover, until very recently, they did this without access to formal education. Harvard College had been established when Anne Bradstreet wrote, but more than three centuries would pass before women were allowed to study there. In fact, almost two centuries would pass between Harvard’s 1636 beginning and the admission of women to any college anywhere in the world. The first was Oberlin College in frontier Ohio in 1833, and even there, they had to follow a “Ladies Course.” Yet despite this and other routine discrimination, women were active participants in the literary community in American from the beginning.”

So please google our book and buy it. It’s a bargain at $20, so get a couple more and give them to women you know. It’s important that we know the other half of history.


Doris Weatherford writes a weekly column for La Gaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper. With pages in Spanish, Italian, and English, it has been published in Tampa since 1922.
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