With the newly convened Congress in Washington my recent interview with Political Science Academic and author Thomas Schaller about his book THE STRONGHOLD;HOW THE REPUBLICANS CAPTURED CONGRESS BUT SURRENDERED THE WHITE HOUSE felt particularly timely. The title,THE STRONGHOLD, suggests a fortress mentality to me. Going into the Election it was reported that Americans were deeply annoyed with the legislative gridlock in Congress. The last Congress has been called the least productive in history. The Democrats proposing and the Republicans always seeming to vote NO. This had the potential to change with the Election. With the Election we went from a divided Congress to one under total Republican control. This can only cause further legislative “war” between Congress in their “Stronghold” and the fortress White House. Shaller suggests that the Public wants both a productive government but also distrusts it. They seem to believe in the checks and balances concept of the Founding Fathers that the current situation of a President from one Political Party and a Congress controlled by another allows. Then the question which is currently unanswered is how do the two sides find common ground? A truce must be achieved if anything is to be accomplished. Citizens cannot have both legislative progress with a divided Congress. It just will not work.
This past Sunday I interviewed Japanese Politician Yuki Oikawa. He is an official of the Happiness REALIZATION Party. A newly formed political party it finds its root in Buddhist principals. Typical of many political movements which find their roots in a religion the party is conservative in nature. We talked of many things. Beginning with the taking of Japanese hostages by ISIS; we talked about various economic, political and social issues facing the Country. When we talked of Japan/China relations things got difficult for me. In this type of discussion it is inevitable that the rape of Nanking and the issue of the Comfort Women is raised. Oikawa and his Party denies the the rape of Nanking never happened. He claimed it was anti Japan propaganda manufactured by China. He admitted to the Comfort Women. However they we not forced. Rather they volunteered receiving pay and were free to leave anytime. Like the Holocaust Deniers this example of revisionist history is deeply troubling. While the temptation to challenge these assertions was strong I operate the Show with a Prime Directive not to embarrass my guest. I came close to breaking my own rule this time. I didn’t but rather hoped Listeners would draw their own conclusion.
There is an old saying, “To thine own self be true.” Like most old sayings this is something easier said than done. This past Sunday I had the pleasure of interviewing a man who knows the difficulty in meeting the challenge of this task and has done it anyway. My guest on this particular edition of WIP SUNDAY was Scott Turner Schofield. Scott was born female but knew at an early age “I’m a boy.” With everyone around him telling him he was a girl he managed to hold on to this difference sense of who he was and was not. Pressure from family,friends, peers, school and religion told him that who he knew himself to be was a wrong idea. Yet, he managed to prevail. Many others in his position have been deserted by family, have run away, given into addictions or other physical/mental health problems. Scott did none of these things. He held on tightly to the courage it took to be who he was. Getting an education while finding support from his family Scott found a network of supportive friends. Eventually finding the fiscal resources and the the emotional courage he took the final surgical steps to make the inner Scott and the outer Scott be one. Transgender people in our society are a hidden minority. Fearing scorn and social ostracism we often force them to live lives of “lets pretend.” Scott refused to pretend. In his work as a storyteller/performance artist he urges us to look past the question of what body parts a person might have (and what the might do with them). Rather we should consider them, he suggests, by what they do(and who they are) with the total package. This is a radical stance to take in our often racist, sexist, ageist, ablest society. If you want to know more about this truly unique and I believe courageous individual just Google the name SCOTT TURNER SCHOFIELD. You will find much to learn from this man who invites us all to be ” free to be you and me.”
As Kermit the Frog often reminded us , “It’s not easy being green.” I was reminded again this past Sunday that it is also not easy living an alternative sexual life. Whether your Gay, Lesbian ,Transgendered, Bisexual, or Questioning the issues and pressures that you face in society can be overwhelming. Evidence of this can be seen in the higher than average rates of suicide, depression and addiction than in the general population. The struggles and triumphs that some individuals have faced are documented by three authors I interviewed. In her book,, CHANGING LIVES,MAKING HISTORY:CONGREGATION BEIT SIMCHAT TORAH, tells the history of the Synagogue in New York City created by Jewish GLTBQ individuals to serve their faith needs. It is an important story of finding a place in organized religion with doctrine that is not always accepting. In her young adult novel, Double Exposure, author Bridget Birdsall tells the story of a young person born intersexual trying to find an identity. Finally, Rizi Timane Phd, in the book AN UNSPOKEN COMPROMISE tells his story of being born a female in Nigeria. At an early age he came to realize he had been born into the wrong body. He felt male. An unsupportive family subjected him to beatings, and exorcisms before he managed to escape them. Finding an education he came to America where he obtained gender reassignment surgery. He has found a loving woman ,has become a minister and now counsels others who have had similar experiences. All three books and their authors offer us stories of triumph over adversity. While like Kermit it may not be easy being green like Kermit even if you are “green” you can be a “star.”
More than five million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. Over thirty five million people have been diagnosed worldwide. It is the sixth leading cause of death in our country. I must confess as an aging Baby Boomer, I must confess, the thought of someday being diagnosed myself scares the (expletive deleted) out of me. This came to my conscious mind this past Sunday as I interviewed Greg O’Brien the author of ” ON PLUTO: INSIDE THE MIND OF ALZHEIMER’S.’ Mr O’Brien has written what is probably the first book by someone with the disease. First diagnosed in his middle fifty’s he is now sixty four years old. His Doctors estimate he has another four to six years before his mind is gone. A career Journalist he decided to write a book filled not with gloom and doom but rather one filled with grace, humor, vulnerability insight and fight. He wants people to understand what it is like to have the disease both for the patient as well as for those who love them. Clearly it profoundly impacts both of them. Mr O’Brien is an incredibly brave man. To have a disease where you are essentially dying by inches and maintain his positive commitment to life is extraordinary. I’m don’t believe I could do it. Clearly He subscribes to that quote from Dylan Thomas “DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT RAGE RAGE AGAINST THE DYING OF THE LIGHT.”
What is evil ? Some acts of human behavior are so heinous that there is no other word to describe them than evil. Is such evil born into people or is it made ? We can look at a new born baby and see nothing but innocence but yet they can grow up to commit brutal murders. Whether these murders were committed by an individual such as Jodi Arias ; who stabbed her lover 27 times while slitting his throat or by Hermann who engineered the Nazi killing machine. Both of these individuals were the subject of recent interviews on my Radio Show. In the case of Ms. Arias consider the book EXPOSED; THE SECRET LIFE OF JODI ARIAS by journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell. In the case of Goring consider the book THE NAZI AND THE PSYCHIATRIST; HERMAN GORING, DR. DOUGLAS M. KELLY AND A FATAL MEETING OF MINDS AT THE END OF WW II. Both authors suggest it is probably a combination of the two , nature and nurture , which produce evil such as theirs. While individuals are indeed born with a free will that allows them freedom to choose we much as how freedom is there when the ability to choose has been so damaged by early life events . A computer can’t process information appropriately and neither can the human brain. We must then ask can we do as a society to minimize damage being done to prevent evil having fertile ground in which to grow. We must also as what do we do with them when we find such people after the evil has been done.
What do a US Commemorative Postage Stamp, a $5,000.00 SAVINGS BOND, and a PHILADELPHIA RECREATION CENTER have in common? They all provide clues to a hidden historical treasure in the Center City West Rittenhouse Square District of Philadelphia. They all carry the name and likeness of Marion Anderson, who was America’s greatest contralto singer of the 20th century. The treasure in question is the Marion Anderson Historical Residence Museum. Located at 762 South Martin Street (Marion Anderson Way-in-between 19th & 20th & Fitzwater Street) it was Ms. Anderson’s home from 1924 until her death in 1993. It provides a fascinating, well documented look into this groundbreaking singer, civil rights pioneer and humanitarian. With so many firsts to her credit from being the first African American to give concerts around the world, to being the first to sing with the Metropolitan Opera she is most often remembered for her history making concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial some 75 years ago. Having interviewed the Museum Executive Director this past Sunday I was astounded to learn of the amazing gifted woman who continued to share her gifts with the world overcoming prejudice while never losing faith that tomorrow will be better. I urge everyone to visit the home of this Legend. For information about the Museum and its hours please call 215-732-9505.
We are a Country that promises justice for all. It is a concept which is written into the founding documents of this Country. However, all too often both access to and the quality of that justice becomes a question of money. Money buys choice and with money we can choose the best the marketplace allows us to afford. In issues of Criminal Law we are guaranteed legal representation and such representation will be provided if you cannot afford it. This is a right that is both understood and accepted. Far less accepted and understood is the need (and right?) to legal representation in matters of Civil Justice. Who represents those without resources in matters like landlord/tenant disputes, Protection from Abuse matters, appeals of Social Security decisions just to cite a few examples. Being poor complicates these issues enough. Add in being disabled or hearing impaired and the issues become even more complex. Recently on my show ,WIP SUNDAY, I had the pleasure of interviewing folks from the LEGAL CLINIC FOR THE DISABLED. Using a broad definition of the word “disabled”they provide representation to individuals with disabilities in the southeastern region of Pennsylvania( the five southeastern counties). With a relatively small staff and lots of volunteer help from some of the Philadelphia areas major law firms they do excellent work on behalf of those most in need of legal support. It should be noted that they do this with no governmental support. With Governmental support comes restrictions on what type of advocacy such an organization can and cannot do, Substantial in-kind support comes to them from both Magee Rehabilitation Hospital, through contributions from Foundations and from private individuals. All of this most important work happens on a small budget. My admiration goes out to these attorneys, both paid and volunteer, who do this work because it is the right thing to do. If we are to ever to live up to the promise of “and justice for all” then your access to financial resources should not be an issue.
I’ve often been asked who I’d like to have interviewed on the Show. While it’s too late now at the time of my wish list would be Joan Rivers. No matter what came out of her mouth it was always both the truth as she saw it while being incredibly funny. With her passing many people have recounted various bits of her humor. I would like to do something different. As she passes into comedic history I’d like to remember a piece of advice she offered us, ” Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is God’s gift, that’s why we call it the present.” Thank you Joan for all of the laughter and thank you for this and other simple truths.
In my search for possible interviews for my shows I am constantly amazed by the relatively unknown cultural treasures that we have here in the Philadelphia area. In a community where when we think of classical music the first thing that comes to mind is the Philadelphia Orchestra followed perhaps by the Philly Pops. A true treasure I have found is the Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra. Founded in 1991 they have played both here in Philadelphia as well as on tours thru South America , Bermuda and they are scheduled to tour Russia this fall. Under the direction of its founder, Musical Director and Conductor Daniel Spaulding it is clearly a labor of love for Mr. Spaulding. As a conductor Spaulding has been a frequent guest Conductor throughout Europe and the United States. This past Sunday I had the extreme pleasure of attending the Chamber Orchestra’s most recent performance at the Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia. The Church proved to be a beautiful and majestic setting for what I found to be a truly gifted performance. Mixing everything from Bach to Leonard Bernstein to John Phillip Sousa I was transported to emotional heights not often visited. Anytime in the future that the Philadelphia Virtuosi Orchestra performs in Philadelphia I will be there. Putting a vibrant interpretation to the best in music they are not to be missed. If you can’t find one of their concerts to attend then I suggest you look for one of their CD’s at your favorite music outlet. They deserve a WOW indeed.