Marriage and Family are Real: Marriage and Family are Love
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Marriage and Family are Real: Marriage and Family are Love

Marriage and Family are Real: Marriage and Family are Love

(reprise of a Facebook Post I wrote)Marriage and Family are Real Sabin Howard Traci Slatton



This is our family. We’ve gone to see the Tree at the Met for nearly 2 decades.
It’s love. Family is love, and it is everything. Family is real.
Family radiates from a marriage. Marriage is love, and it is everything. Marriage is real. Imperfect, unglamorous, full of laughter and tears: real.
Sabin and I have been married for 13 years, together for almost 18. We’ve stood beside each other, holding hands and enjoying holiday uplift, for nearly 2 decades.
Marriages are built on such things: trips to the Met and to Italy and to the pediatrician and to the kitchen to cook breakfast; shared jokes and shared Figurative Sculpture books and shared victories and shared burdens and, yes, shared challenges. Every life encounters conflict and obstacle, ache and loss. These are real, too. And they are so much easier to bear with your family, your mate, holding your hand–as Sabin and I have held hands for nearly two decades.
We’ve held hands through lean times and good times, through sickness and health, through the birth of our daughter, when I died twice and was narrowly revived by a doctor who had “never seen so much blood in her life.” We held hands and held each other in a spacious room in Venice while the rain pattered on the canal during our 10th anniversary.
Even though this year, 2017, has been so hard, forcing a lengthy and devastating separation, I affirm our marriage. Marriage is 1000 tiny threads that bind people together, and those threads are shared experiences. I affirm our threads. I affirm our marriage. Sabin Howard, I love you.

Marriage and Family are Real

Marriage and Family are Real

The Rashoman Effect of History

The Rashoman Effect of History

The Rashoman Effect of History

For the last year and a half, I have been studying WW2. I’m working on a novel set during that period. Actually, I’m working on two novels set during the period, both in the European theater. But I started with one story and I wanted to get the details accurate. I also enjoy in-depth research.

I didn’t realize, at the outset, that to understand WW2 one must delve into WW1. But that’s another issue.

Books, old news reels, documentaries, and people are resources. In Paris recently I started asking people, “What was your family doing during the war? What did your parents and grandparents tell you?” Responses were fascinating.

I’ve been querying people for over a year now. Americans, Germans, French, British. What’s become clear is that history even this recent has been shaped a certain way. It’s been predigested. The victors write history, yes?

But it’s not so simple as winner vs. loser. There are subtleties in the way events have been metabolized.

For instance, Paris during Occupation and Liberation and the years immediately following. I once told a friend who is a rabid Francophile that the French had, in cowardly fashion, handed Paris over to the Germans.

Poor guy almost blew a gasket. You know that vein that stands out on someone’s forehead when they get really mad? Well, it bulged, and then he gave me an earful.

Now in the midst of this unending research, I can admit: rightly so. I deserved the setting-straight. Now, I’m a huge fan of Winston Churchill, but the context within which France formed a collaborationist government must be taken into consideration. France was not a large country, and at the end of WW1, it had lost one-tenth of the adult male population. That’s a catastrophic loss. Moreover, the men who survived were ravaged by mutilation, disfigurement, and severe psychological trauma. Many couldn’t work. The country was, literally, devastated for a generation.

Also, after the vicious way Poland was annexed, the French were pretty clear that the Germans meant business.

These factors must be taken into consideration when considering the collaborationist government’s invitation to the Germans.

I mention these facts, also, as part of an example of the duplicity of history which I encountered recently. By duplicity, I mean doubleness.

In Paris, at the end of a walking tour about the Occupation and Liberation, the tour guide spoke of how American soldiers came to Paris and treated the city like their personal playground. They got drunk, they got rowdy, and they got women. This behavior, she noted, was in contrast to the German soldiers, who behaved with correctness. They were loathed. The people who openly consorted with them were loathed more. But the highly disciplined German soldiers were under orders to be respectful–not to Jews, gypsies, Slavs, Jehovah’s witnesses, or homosexuals, of course. But to the French and to Paris itself. And so they were correct, while the liberating American soldiers were not.

I took notes and wondered about the behavior of American GI’s in Paris at that time.

Then I came home and read the memoir of an American soldier who was in Paris during liberation and then for r & r several months later. He wrote of the thriving black market post-Occupation, and of the Parisian’s willingness to rip off American soldiers. He implied, with little subtlety, that Parisian women actively solicited American soldiers, who had money to spend and the impulse to be generous. And, you know, general horniness which made them ripe for the plucking. Those mademoiselles knew exactly what they were up to, they planned it, and they were good at it.

Having recently been ripped off in Paris myself, including rather gallingly by a medical doctor at the Hôpital Américain, and having an idea of the tough times Parisians had been through for thirty years prior to Liberation, I was inclined to believe the soldier’s memoir.

But it is probably also true that American GI’s, many of them farm boys out of the US for the first time, and exhausted by battle, were out for vice and vim.
The moral of this story is, well, there are two: 

One, NEVER go to the Hôpital Américain. If you get sick in Paris, find an English-speaking doctor somewhere in the city and ask about the fee ahead of time, or if your French is good enough, call SOS Médecins. A bout of strep throat cost me too dearly, and I’m not talking about the two feverish days I spent with aching swollen glands.

Two: Question the first interpretation you get about any historical event or trend, especially if it is a state-sponsored version or generally accepted wisdom.

Do your own digging and see what your shovel turns up.









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I support Wikileaks

Noam Chomsky, re the suppression of information in the US regarding polls of Arab opinion: “What that reveals is the profound hatred for democracy on the part of our political leadership.” (Nov 30, 2010, on DEMOCRACY NOW, interviewed by Amy Goodman).

I wish Assange had withheld certain names. I wish he’d vetted the cables to protect operatives who work for us within lethal, poisonous organizations such as Al Qaeda.
I really wish he’d slipped a condom on before having sex with that woman in Sweden, and I wish he hadn’t taken the snores of the other woman to mean consent. Because these sex charges will detract from the crucial, even urgent work Assange is doing.
But we have a big problem in the United States, and many people aren’t noticing it because we have an African American president. They wrongly assume that the “regular people,” the grassroots who, according to the lies, I mean mythology, elected Obama, are being looked out for. Surely an African American president would remember his roots among the most regular of people, African Americans, and he would care about the individual. But that is not the case.
The problem: Big Corporations are screwing individuals. ‘Big Corporations’ includes: the insurance companies, Big Pharma, Big Agribusiness, Wall Street, the medical establishment as run by Big Pharma and the insurance companies, Biotech and chemical companies, and the United States Government, which is an example of a large, unwieldy, and thoroughly corrupt corporation.
So the US government conceals things from American citizens. Things like diplomatic spying and the results of polls in the Arab world.
How about this one: how many people in the US know that Obama showed up at the G20 summit in London in 2009 with a huge entourage? Specifically, Obama had 500 staff in tow, including the White House kitchen staff, 200 secret service agents, 6 doctors, 35 vehicles, 4 speechwriters, and 12 teleprompters. (See I guess they don’t have teleprompters in London? Or maybe the British are so penurious they wouldn’t lend a few to Obama?
This wasn’t widely reported in the US–but the Brits poked fun at Obama. It’s a little shocking to read about this kind of lavish spending, but it isn’t the only time. The Obamas have taken some vacations that are, well, Republican-worthy. Marie Antoinette is alive and well and reborn!!
Big Pharma deceives people by, for example, not telling them that CoQ10 will greatly reduce the side effects of statin drugs. Big food conglomerates lie to the American public by pretending that high fructose corn syrup and msg are non-toxic. The FDA has sold us all down the river to be poisoned, sickened, and fattened up by toxic chemical additives, pesticides, and preservatives. Let’s not even start with Genetically Modified food, which has NOT been tested. Just wait until the first Terminator plant genes start crossing the species barrier–it’s called genetic drift–and make human beings sterile.
Big Insurance gouges the American consumer. Our lousy health insurance went up 20% for 2011–WHY? Nothing else has gone up 20%–I’m not paying 20% more for milk, eggs, or clothing. So WHY HAS OBAMA PASSED A ROTTEN HEALTH INSURANCE ACT WHILE STILL ALLOWING BIG INSURANCE TO RAPE AMERICA?
Is it because Obama has taken too much money from those companies to even attempt to rein them in?
Are people aware of how Big Insurance won’t allow doctors to run tests or offer medical treatments that individuals need, because those tests or treatments are expensive? How it compensates doctors for NOT running necessary tests? All so HEALTH INSURANCE COMPANIES CAN EARN OBSCENE AMOUNTS OF MONEY?
All this goes to show, we need MORE Wikileaks–not less. The world is increasingly run by big corporations who show nothing more, and nothing less, than contempt for individual human beings. Our only hope of addressing this kind of self-serving corruption is through transparency.
Mr. Assange: I am rooting for you. I hope you get out of your legal troubles, and I hope you learn to be real careful about sex. Most of all, I am praying that you will turn your attention to the real villains, the true governors of our world: the big corporations. Let’s see some of their internal documents. Start with Oxford, AON Corporation, Aetna, Assurant, AMS, and Unicare. Move on to Monsanto, Merck, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Astrazenica. Then Kraft, Cargill, Pepsico, Bunge.
But I somehow think you will not get the chance to do this important muck-raking work. Because the billions of billions of dollars earned by these companies means that they are worrying that you will do exactly as I’ve asked. And you and Wikileaks are, for them, better off dead.
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Why Revision is Important

I am sparring with my middle daughter’s high school principal and her history teacher. I want her to have the opportunity to revise an “F” research paper on the Industrial Revolution so she learns how to write a good history paper. They are refusing. I don’t even care about the grade. I certainly don’t care about the industrial revolution. I just want her to learn. Moreover, she wants to learn, and will do the revision, with guidance.

The necessary disclosure: this 9th grade girl is feisty, brassy, exuberant, creative, beautiful, talented, intelligent, and original. She’s also naughty. She breaks boundaries and tests limits. She doesn’t take “no” for an answer and she won’t do most of her work. I look at her and think of that famous quote, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”

And then my heart breaks. Because 80% of what she does ends up being self-sabotaging. Her scrambled-eggs teenage brain has an exquisite talent for bad choices. I am her mother, I ache for her, and I am sad for what she will put herself through before she understands.

But she likes her history teacher, who is dynamic and charismatic. She wants to do well for him. She works in his class. But she started to struggle and to look perplexed while doing her papers in the fall. I started making a request: “Please let her revise a paper until she understands what a good one is.”

She also admitted to me that she didn’t know what to do. I conveyed that, thinking that surely the teacher would want to help her learn what to do.

But the teacher consistently refused it. He didn’t want her to revise and he wouldn’t help her with a revision. It perplexes me. Isn’t the job of a 9th grade history teacher to teach the kids how to write a high school history paper? Isn’t his job more than to be snazzy in class? How are the kids going to learn critical thinking unless they learn how to write, and the ONLY way to learn how to write is to rewrite?

Did he expect her to write a good paper, or even a passable paper, when she hadn’t learned how to write one? Was she supposed to simply stumble across the way to write well? Does keeping-fingers-crossed-for-good-luck pass for careful pedagogy?

I know about learning to write both because it’s my lifelong pursuit, and because I taught writing at the college level. I taught Logic & Rhetoric, aka Freshman Composition, at Columbia University. With 100% certainty, I can say that the freshmen who learned how to write are the ones who revised, revised, revised.

Yes, there are some people who are born good writers. With a small amount of guidance, they become excellent writers. But mostly writing is a skill like piano playing. The more you practice, the better you get. And it’s closely related to learning how to think.

In these notions, I am not alone. George Orwell articulated the argument much better than I can. In his 1946 essay Politics and the English Language, he writes, “Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits, one can think more clearly….”

So why wouldn’t the history teacher, and the principal, want to take the necessary trouble to help a student think more clearly? Isn’t that their reason for being? At least partly?

My daughter attends a private school, and the tuition is exorbitant. One would think that, at a school charging more than most people earn in a year, she would be required to learn how to think clearly, which means learning how to write clearly.

Orwell is talking partly about diction and construction in his essay. I guess that would be the purview of the English teacher, not the history teacher. But the message about the relationship between clear thinking and clear writing bridges all disciplines. The more clearly my daughter writes about history, the more clearly she is thinking about it. If the history teacher isn’t there to teach her how to write a history paper, shouldn’t he at least be teaching her how to think about history? Or does he just want her memorize that Robert Fulton received a patent for the steamboat in 1809?

Regarding revision, E.B. White stated it best in The Elements of Style: “Revising is part of writing. Few writers are so expert that they can produce what they are after on the first try….Remember, it is no sign of weakness or defeat that your manuscript ends up in need of major surgery. This is a common occurrence in all writing, and among the best writers.”

So why wouldn’t the teacher, and the principal, want to instill that work ethic in their students? Why wouldn’t 9th graders be taught as freshmen that revising is writing?

It’s more work for the teacher, for sure. And a teacher who knows he is lively and engaging in class might not be motivated to take the extra time and effort. He knows the kids love to be in his class. But is he really doing his job as a 9th grade history teacher, if he doesn’t require a motivated but struggling student to revise a failed paper until it is passable, so that she learns what to do? So that she learns how to think, both about history, and about an argument?

I don’t think so.

Social Questions
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Social Questions

Last night at a pre-Sundance party in NYC I had the great good fortune of meeting the talented and impressive Anthony Whyte, whose work is being made into a movie.

He was there with his business partner Jason Claiborne, who runs Augustus publishing, “Where Hip Hop literature begins,” and fellow author Erick S. Gray.

They were an intriguing trio. Whyte has a background in the armed forces, as did my dad, so we had that to discuss, as well as books and movies.

This morning I did some googling around and learned that Whyte had trouble getting his first novel published. He then self-published, and people were so hungry for his message and his platform that he sold several thousand books quickly. Of course then a publisher jumped on the bandwagon, bought the rights, and republished… to sell over a hundred thousand copies. Pretty good! Whyte mentioned none of this to me; he was classy and unassuming, and left it to me to discover his story.

We talked about Zora Neale Hurston, author of the classic THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD. I remembered reading how Hurston had ended her life working in a library, and as a maid. It’s distressing that she died in obscurity, enduring financial struggles, when she’d written one of the masterworks of American literature. It left me thinking again about some questions that my oldest daughter had posed to me, over a year ago, when we discussed an African American Literature class she had taken: How did we in the U.S. create an underclass that left an entire group of people disenfranchised, struggling to find and authenticate their voice?

Is it enough that we have elected Obama as president? Is it enough that brilliant minds like Whyte, Claiborne and Gray are not accepting the status quo regarding their work, but are going out and creating new opportunities?

What does it take to create a truly equal society based on the hard work and merit of the individual, without regard to race, gender, sexual preference, and religion?

I hope none of these questions are offensive. I don’t know if they are politically correct or incorrect. They are the musings of a basically white woman of mixed genetic heritage who can not document her Native American ancestry because records were lost during the Trail of Tears. I’m just a mom with smart, irreverent kids, who ask good questions and expect me to engage them honestly.

And what else about the party? It was too much fun for the responsible parent I am, and included me introducing myself to a famous TV/movie actor who now believes I am sketchy. Because I did make a sketchy introduction, and he was far more gracious to me than I deserved. But I had to sally up to him with my big, tipsy grin–if only to be able to text my kids that I’d met him.

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I don’t understand

I don’t understand

Let me start by saying that I am a woman, a Jew, and a New Yorker, so I don’t have a good opinion of radical fundamentalist Islamists.

In my mind, the enslavement and mutilation of women that is institutionalized under radical, fundamentalist Islam is one of the greatest human rights crimes in history, alongside the slaughters of the Holocaust and Rwanda, and African slavery. It isn’t okay to maim and oppress women just because an interpretation of some holy book says it is. I have some strong feelings about the institutionalized misogyny of orthodox Judaism and the Roman Catholic church, also. Not okay.

So I am already biased. I stood on top of my husband’s parents’ building on west 66th street on September 11, 2001 and watched the column of black and brown smoke that was once the World Trade centers. I knew people who survived, had friends who barely missed being down there because they stayed with their kids in class on that first week of school, and knew of students who lost parents at my children’s school.

So I have some questions about why the world is blaming Israel for the Gaza war. If Mexico were continually lobbing missiles at the US, would we stand for it? If a group of Basque Separatists were firing rockets at France all the time, literally thousands of rockets, would France really say, “Oh, gee, merci beaucoup?” What if Turkey faced a daily ration of rockets from Cyprus?

Or is there just a subtext of anti-Semitism in all this nasty world criticism? Is it just that Israel isn’t supposed to defend itself?

Why isn’t the world more critical of Hamas for using ordinary people as human shields? Why is that okay, but it’s not okay for Israel to put an end to continual bombardment and threat?

If Hamas doesn’t want the war, it seems to me, they are in a position to stop it: by not firing missiles at Israel. If Hamas doesn’t want ordinary people to be hurt–and it is deeply painful to see all the images of bloody children and wailing women that the world press delights in running–then why doesn’t Hamas stop using civilian locations as military positions?

Hamas bears the responsibility for this war: Hamas has relentlessly baited and attacked Israel and then done the sleaziest trick imaginable by hiding behind innocent children and women. Hamas does not have a right to fire rockets at Israel, just like Mexico doesn’t have the right to do that to the US, Spain doesn’t have the right to do that to France, and Cyprus doesn’t have the right to do that to Turkey.

I have dared to voice a criticism against radical Islamism. Because radical, fundamentalist Islamists are the bullies of the world, I have to wonder, am I safe for daring to ask these questions? Look what was done to Theo Van Gogh.

And for those who will probably want to label me as rascist, I would ask you to read Irshad Manji’s essay in Newsweek (“Special Edition Issues 2009”)  about helping the Muslim world by giving micro-loans to Muslim women to start businesses. I support this and would agree to a special tax–say everyone in the US making over $20,000 pays between $20 and $200 for a special fund just for this purpose alone. Empower the women, and the religion will take on a more tolerant, modern-age-friendly shape: a shape that we can all live with in peace.

It isn’t women who promote constant firing at another country.