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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.

Fooling Some People All Of The Time

A couple of weeks ago, an older white woman boarded the tram from the VA's parking garage to its main entrance. (Yes, Hubby still is there).  From her overdressed appearance and her nervous manner, I guessed that she probably was a job applicant, not an outpatient or visitor.  I was right, as she asked for directions to Building 41. (Yes, there are more than 80 buildings connected with the hospital, many of them aluminum portables and some of them literally miles away.)


I saw her again a few days later.  She had forgotten me, of course, but remembered after I asked her how the employment process was going.  She went on to say that she really needed the job – and when the conversation ended, I would have done my best to prevent that from happening, had I known how to do that.  It turned out that she was so deluded – and firm in her delusion – that she conceivably could be mentally ill.


She said she was 69 years old and had to save for her retirement because Florida has Sharia law, under which all of her husband's property would go to her son.  I was stunned and, of course, told her that no state has Sharia law and it certainly would not be enacted by our Republican-dominated legislature.  She repeatedly insisted that I was the ignorant one, and I would learn better if I just checked out Facebook.


That would have been the end of it, except that I decided to tell you, and for that, I had to spell "Sharia."  It didn't turn up on the spell checker, so I googled it, and one of the options was "Sharia law Florida."  I clicked, and the very first story, from 2014, was headlined, "Florida Democrats Vote to Impose Sharia Law on Women."  That distortion is so appalling that I cannot even speak to it – but doubtless her villainous son had used his computer to convince her that, as a widow, she would be on her own.  And that was the fault of Democrats!  It's well known, of course, that Democrats hate women and intend to impose Old Testament patriarchy.




I had a conversation with another friend, an ardent liberal whose distain for Trump exceeds even mine, and she assumed that most people at the VA would be Trump supporters.  I hadn't thought about this, but when I did, I had to disagree.  I've seen tens of thousands of parked vehicles there during the seven weeks of Hubby's hospitalization, and I recall only one pick-up truck that was emblazoned with Trump regalia.  Lots of people wear baseball caps and sloganized t-shirts, but I've never seen one instance of MAGA nor anything similar.


So I think that if Republicans are counting on veterans as a solid base, they should count again.  These are people who truly served, people who left limbs in Iran or Iraq or whatever is the enemy of the month.  These are people who took their oath seriously and didn't walk away because of bone spurs (bone spurs, btw, that apparently don't hurt on the golf course).  As far as I can tell, many soldiers and veterans have figured out that God is not a registered Republican.  I think they especially have come to realize that, as we said in the Vietnam days, "war is not good for children and other living things."  Instead, modern war benefits the private defense contractors who make huge profits while both victims and veterans struggle.


If you haven't already done so, please check out two informative websites:  Vote Vets and Common Defense.  Both are run by former military officers, and both offer sensible information.  And you can't fool all of the people all of the time.




One indication that more people may be rejecting the rhetoric of hypocrites and thinking for themselves is that this year's January gathering in Washington to protest Roe v Wade had the fewest participants I've seen in decades.  Most years, big sign-wielding crowds have stood in front of the Supreme Court to rail against the 1973 decision, but relatively fewer joined the rally this year -- despite an appearance by Orange Hair.  Maybe some of them thought about his personal "family values," decided he has none, and stayed home.


The most important point that is rarely pointed out is that anti-choice advocates have had 47 years to overturn Roe v Wade, and they never even drafted the constitutional amendment necessary to do that.  If you were paying attention in civics classes (and yes, we do need that again, instead the one-dimensional STEM curriculum Rick Scott imposed), you were taught that the only way to overturn a Supreme Court decision is to amend the Constitution. 


Doing this requires a positive vote from 2/3 of both houses of Congress and ratification by ¾ of the state legislatures, with both houses in each state.  That means dozens of campaigns all across the country -- yet largely voteless women achieved this in 1920, when the 19th Amendment guaranteed all voting rights to all American women regardless of where they lived.  Florida did not ratify, and Florida women won the vote only because of positive action in other states.


The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was first filed in 1923, and re-energized in the 1970s.  The Florida House repeatedly ratified it – but our senators did not.  The last legislative vote before the deadline expired in 1982 was 21-19, with a Tampa senator who campaigned for it deserting his pledge to us.  Now, 38 years later, the issue has arisen again, and women who sat on their hands back then suddenly are appalled to discover that their gender has excluded them from equal rights since the Constitution was written.  I welcome them, yet I want to scream, "Where were you in '82?"


But it's Roe v Wade than matters more than the ERA right now.  I was happy to see that not only were fewer anti-choice people attracted to the Washington rally, but also that the news coverage of the Tallahassee occasion was dominated by young women in pro-choice pink.  They were protesting the fact that the legislature once again has taken up a parental consent bill – an issue that was settled in the early 1990s, when many of the too-young legislators were schoolchildren.  At the same time, however, I was happily chagrined to see that anti-choice strategy is just as boneheaded now as it was back then. 


The bill's sponsor – Republican Kelli Stargel of Lakeland – is a woman, but as far as I could tell, every one of the anti-choice speakers before the committee was a man – who of course never will be faced with the difficult dilemma that pregnancy can present.  And these male "leaders" have spent nearly a half-century condemning women's freedom of choice, but never have written the constitutional amendment that they need. 


Even without the vote, we women did that.  When the Supreme Court ruled that we were not full citizens in 1873, we drafted the 16th Amendment.  It was finally adopted as the 19th Amendment in 1920.  Today's anti-choice forces never have come up with proposed language – or even tried -- yet they continue take the votes of naïve people and laugh all the way to their political bank.




As Johnny Carson used to say, "Don't try this at home."   Yet I've been up and down I-75 so frequently lately that occasionally I dare to take a brief break from watching the traffic and look to the side of the road.  The most important observation is that the By-Pass Canal in Thonotosassa is full, and we shouldn't have to ration water this spring. Many plants decided that it was spring back in January.  Especially maples on Fletcher Avenue are popping out their new red leaves, making them look like autumnal trees Up North. 


If you are fortunate enough to be in the passenger seat and thus can afford to scan the scene between I-4 and Fowler, you may see, on the west side of I-75 as your head north, a lovely bit of old Florida.  It's a wild Flame Vine that covers the tops of a dozen trees, stretching out in the sun for hundreds of feet.  There's also one on the northwest corner of Highway 301 and Fowler, and another in downtown Mango.  If you keep looking up, you may spot one in your neighborhood – unless it is too well cultivated.


The Florida Flame Vine thrives on neglect, and it blooms in years when the temperature hasn't been very low.  Most native vines are gone now, victims of the development that has caused our most prominent bloom to be houses.  There's also a beautiful, big wild orchid tree in Thonotosassa that is in glorious pink bloom.  It's hidden behind pines, an indication that it also has been neglected.  Many plants die from too much attention, and the analogy to people is something worth pondering.




My daily drive also offers lots of opportunity to compare gas prices.  They jumped up after our drone attack on an Iranian in Iraq, but soon dropped again -- even while the number of snowbirds increases.  I know that the snowbirds are here in great numbers, as vehicles with out-of-state tags at the VA are much more common now than a month ago.  Yet despite this increase in demand, nearby gas prices have dropped at least thirty cents a gallon. 


This defies the law of supply and demand, and I think it is because the supply is sufficient. Barack Obama was criticized by both the left and the right for his energy policies, but the fact is that Americans have become energy independent because of his foresight.  We don't need the Mideast anymore.  Nor Venezuela nor anyone else.  This is a secret, though:  don't tell your Republican friends that Obama did something well. 


Don't mention, either, that within a very short time, Scotland not only will be energy independent, but also will have all of its needs met with renewable resources.  Wind, which long has been an enemy to Scotland's agriculture, now is turning enough turbines to power the entire country and perhaps enough to power northern England, too.  I'm going to watch to see how this affects Scottish desires to become independent of the UK.  They may again ally with Europe and the EU, just as Scotland did with France during the days of Mary Queen of Scots.


So from Sharia law to Flame Vines to gas prices to British Brexit, it's an interesting world.  And you'll notice that I didn't even mention impeachment.



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