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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.

Unachieved Goals

Every fall, I regret that I have not led a campaign with friends who specialize in PR.  I would call this educational effort "Be Bright at Night," and it would come out at the autumnal equinox, when short days begin in September.  Until the winter solstice in December, our nights will be longer than our days, and therefore late afternoons and evenings – after the school day -- become more dangerous.  They used to teach this sort of thing when I was a kid, but now it seems that many people do not understand that they should make extra efforts to be visible at night. 


Please, encourage everyone you know who walks or rides a bike to wear white.  Tell kids to stick garish reflective stuff on their wheels.  They could consider wearing day-glo garments, and they seem to like flashy neon shoes.  I know that this problem partly is diminished eyesight for us elderly drivers, but that doesn't mean that the kid we don't see will avoid a terrible fate.  Let's put this information on radio stations they enjoy and on the websites they use.  Schools can't do everything, and besides, some of the offenders are long since out of school.  They might just need a reminder:  "Be Bright at Night."


A much less serious goal, but one that would improve life and is easy to do.  I've talked with a few people in the food biz about it, but met with the immediate rejection that my bright ideas usually get.  Why not make bags of bread that hold a few slices of several varieties?  The shape of bread loaves is one of few things that remains the same since my childhood, even though there are few families of seven ala that of my youth.  Give us a choice between wheat, rye, pumpernickel, etc., instead of a loaf that will bore and rot before it's eaten.  If it costs more, it still would be a bargain.


Not exactly a goal, but I just have to quote this short letter-to-the-editor in the New York Times.  It's from Patrick Flynn of Ridge, NY:  "I have to confess to being a one-time anti-vaxxer.  I was adamantly opposed to the vaccines against measles, mumps, pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus, and polio that I was mandated by the state to take.  But later I realized that it was a good thing.  Kindergarten changes a person."




I'm pleased that we've reached October, and the Supreme Court is officially in session.  Traditionally, you know, they adjourn at the end of June and do not meet during July, August, and September.  Yet this year, important rulings have been made during that time – especially in refusing an injunction to Texas' insane abortion law.  I think everyone, including hypocritical legislators, expected enforcement of that to be delayed until oral arguments could be scheduled.  These behind-the-curtain decisions are the reason polls show that confidence in the Court has plummeted.


I do in fact mean "the Court," as in the Supremes.  Lower levels of both the federal and state judicial systems are not so bad – and our local system is very good.  Julia Holt continues to do her excellent job on the defense side, while prosecuting attorney Andrew Warren brings new light to that job.  He is implementing innovative programs to both save the taxpayers' money and give minor offenders a chance to redeem themselves.  I'd push him for attorney general of Florida, but I'm not sure if there is another who can take up his local reins so effectively.


By the way, female judges now make up close to a majority of seats on both the county and circuit court level, which are elected positions.  Not so much in appointed positions, especially the Florida Supreme Court.  Thanks to Republican governors, we currently have none.  Bob Graham and Lawton Chiles, both Democrats, appointed the first women, but Florida has mandatory age requirements, which means they have retired and were replaced by men. 


Presumably Governor DeSantis saw this as a potential reelection problem:  I see on the internet that a (young, white) woman – a Mississippi native whose specialty is hospitality law – will have her investiture on November 17.  I think that is the same date as the inductions for the Florida Women's Hall of Fame, so prepare for PR.  Despite credentials that are slimmer than thousands of Florida lawyers, Jamie Grosshams is already listed on the Court's website as if she were a sitting judge.  I've heard no public discussion whatever, and yes, I think that cynicism is warranted.




The defense bill recently passed by the US House ($768 billion) includes a provision that young women will have to register for the draft like young men.  This is historically huge, but again there has been extremely little public attention.  I noticed it in a small Washington Post article on September 24, but have not seen it in the New York Times or anywhere else – certainly not the Tampa Bay Times, which prefers to beg for donations so that they can add more revenue to their already excessive pages of advertising, not content.


More than any other factor, it was the issue of the draft that defeated the Equal Rights Amendment in the early 1980s.  Like most other arguments against the ERA, this one now is irrelevant – but state legislatures have become more conservative than they were back then, so even if – and that's a big – Congress were to renew the ERA, it is more unlikely to be ratified than it was in those more enlightened days.  A House vote to draft women would have been a lightening stroke back then, but now no one notices.  The issue is passé, as, apparently, is equality of rights under the law.


I do want to remind you, though, a virtually all-male Congress almost drafted a certain class of women during World War II.  Nurses were axiomatically female then, and war meant such a shortage of them that legislation was well on its way passage that would have drafted nurses who failed to volunteer.  Without the atomic bomb, war in the Pacific would have continued, and nurses would have been drafted.  I wrote about this in my "Ámerican Women and World War II," which I see still is available on Amazon.  I'm also pleased to see that it gets five stars, although no one has sent me a dime in decades.


And that reminds me of the book biz.  At the beginning of this millennium, everyone agreed that the printed book and even publishing itself was dead, but that proved wrong.  It's true that some readers prefer an electronic/audible version, but they nonetheless pay for that – and small publishing houses are churning out printed books at an unprecedented rate.  Thoughtful readers have one-upped the business experts.




Did you notice that the Biden administration is encouraging voting by empowering federal agents?  In additional to the state and county locations where you can register to vote, now you also can register at a number of federal agencies.  These include offices for Social Security, the Veterans Administration, Immigration and Naturalization, Housing and Urban Development, and branches of the Labor and Agriculture Departments.  The Department of Transportation is encouraging bus and rail systems to offer lower fares on Election Day.  Hope springs.


On another front, the world now has TV in tepees.  Or tepi, as the French and some politically correct people spell the word. The relevant spelling here would be in some variant of Russian used by the nomads who live above the Arctic Circle.  Like Native Americans whose economy was based on buffalo, the Nenet tribe of Yamal follows reindeer.  They live on a peninsula northwest of Siberia and move every few days during what passes for summer – carrying not only their tents, but also electric generators and satellite dishes for television.  The Russian government is using this medium to educate them on COVID, and Siberian medical personnel travel the 200 miles of no-exit highway to stations where people line up for vaccinations.  So far, more than 135,000 people in Yamal have taken the shot.


Still another switch:  I was talking with friends recently about the English children who were evacuated from London and other industrial cities during World War II.  Some went to the British countryside, but others were sent to families as far away as Canada and Australia for the seven years of the war's European duration.  It was deemed necessary not only to prevent Nazi bombs from dropping on kids, but also because it allowed their mothers to work in defense industries.  It nonetheless took a huge chunk out of a child's life, and some family relationships never recovered. 


King George and Queen Elizabeth could have sent Princesses Elizabeth II and Margaret to one of their rural castles, but instead the teenagers stayed in London to offer themselves as morale models.  To be sure, they were twelve miles away at Windsor Castle when Germans bombed Buckingham Palace in September 1940.  Along with others, the king and queen sheltered in the basement and emerged unhurt – but some 40,000 civilians died in this Battle of the Blitz. 


It took Japanese bombing of Hawaii's Pearl Harbor to draw Americans into the war against fascism, and for more than a year, Britain stood alone as the world's only defender of democracy.  If you want to watch dramas in this setting, look on your streaming service for "Island at War," "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society," "Family at War," "Foyle's War," and more.  Thank God for these brave people!  Without their courage, Hitler would have won – and right-wing thugs would have run our lives.


OK, one more suggestion.  Right-wing thugs who called themselves patriots are featured in "Mudbound." It's a tale of two Mississippi farming families, one black and one white, during the war.  The film's last scenes are terrifying as the Klan implements its racism, but it is well worth watching.  I'm pleased that young producers these days are making some good television.  



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