Tag Archives: Planned Parenthood

And this was very good

 

campWhen I was a young girl I attended summer camp in central Mississippi. The camp was a bit unusual for the time and place—Mississippi isn’t really known for its Jews. This camp, tucked away in the woods, was created to give isolated Jewish kids the chance to live in a community of Jews, at least for a few weeks each year.

And this was very good.

While there, the youth of our peculiar southern diaspora enjoyed swimming, kickball, arts and crafts, kitchen hall duty, sneaking to the boys’ side of the camp (and vice versa), campfire songs, camp Olympics, and a little Torah thrown in for good measure. It was like any other camp for kids, except it was kosher.

And this was very good.

Together we connected to our faith. We connected to our culture. We connected without the burden of needing to explain or defend the idiosyncrasies of the traditions of our typically out-of-place and often misunderstood religion.

And this was very good to be one of the many and not one of the few for a month or two.

Like all good camps, we had our share of scary tall tales and ghost stories, too. The man with the hook. The monster in the lake. The wild animals in the woods.

And of course, there were the stories of the Ghost Riders. These were the scariest tales of all because we recognized the truths that were possible (if not probable) in those tales.

Let me set the scene: the camp was built around a lake and surrounded by forest. If you didn’t know it, you would think we were in the middle of nowhere. Isolated we were. Was this very good?

Beyond the cabins and the mess hall there were woods for exploring. And at the edge of the woods there was a tall fence. Go no further. Do not enter. Do not exit.

At camp, the sun shone by day, the moon and stars by night. And, as the ghost story goes, one night years ago men on horseback came. They were dressed in white robes with a white hoods over their heads and they rode around our camp. They rode around the outside of the fence that marked our borders. Our edges. Our place.

Good is often best understood when balanced with a bit of evil, I suppose.

We were young Jews, but we had plenty of experience with bigotry and fear. We knew what kind of hate and ignorance existed on the other side of that tall fence. We knew our presence, in the beginning, was very likely unwelcome.

It wasn’t unthinkable to believe the fence was part of some grand bargain made between the camp and the towns.

And it wasn’t a hard leap to believe the Ghost Riders were members of an old brotherhood who patrolled the fence as a way to remind us to stay in our place.

I never saw a Ghost Rider myself and the stories themselves were never presented with proof. It was camp mythology, camp lore passed down from senior camper to junior camper over the years. Perhaps the stories have even faded by now. The men on horseback have certainly disappeared.

And this is very good.

Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about those Ghost Riders. I sense they never really left. They went into hiding. They went undercover. They put down their white robes and hoods and picked up the Constitution to see if there were other fences they could define and patrol. They are not content to just keep a few Jewish kids in their place. Now they are out to scare anyone who doesn’t agree with their narrow-minded ideology. They are contemplating the fences they want to build around women, LGBT people and families, refugees, immigrants, black lives, and more.

And we are here to remind them that we have heard their ghost stories before and we are not afraid. There is no fence they can build that we can’t tear down. There is no hood they can wear that we can’t see through.

And this is very good.

We love. We think. We care.

This is very good….

(This essay references an old camp song from my camp days: This is Very Good by Cantor Jeffrey Klepper. The use of his song does not indicate his agreement with the views expressed in this essay, it was just an important song to me at the time.)

 

 

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Filed under Politics and Religion

There are limits

holding handsThere are limits to one’s ability to stay silent, to take one’s opinions to a different venue, to pretend like all things are happy.

I hope you’ve all had a thankful holiday and that your season ahead is filled with good things, but I also hope you remain vigilant observers of and active participators in the evolution of this country as part of a global community.

We are an imperfect nation with grand and myopic judgments to make about the world. We fear what may come to our shores and we lose ourselves to dogmas about peace only coming to those who are strong enough to take everyone else out. That’s not peace, that’s oppression. It’s also a farce.

Fear what you will, but do not kid yourself: violence and terrorism are not waiting at the gates hoping we will drop our guard. It’s here, as we seem content to terrorize each other without any help from the outside world. We terrorize in the name of “peacekeeping”. We terrorize in the name of faith and/or ideology. We terrorize with an hypocrisy that overwhelms our senses.

There are limits. And how we respond once we have reached our limit will define how we evolve from here.

Peace through equality.
Peace through body-autonomy.
Peace through faith in humanity.
Peace through peace.

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Filed under Politics and Religion, Violence Against Women

My Son Brought Home a Condom

condoms

My teenage son and I have an after-school ritual where he tells me about his day. It’s nothing dramatic or complicated or all that different from what happens in many homes, maybe even homes like yours. Sometimes the chats are absolutely boring–one day can be very much like the next for a teen–but the chats connect us.

A few weeks ago my son rattled off the day’s events:

“…math was easy, I’m not convinced Shakespeare was all that great, I had lunch in the park, I need new shoes, I have to write an essay tonight, I got this condom today, I have to study for an econ test…”

Did you catch that? He said ‘I got THIS condom today’. And he waved THAT condom in the air when he said ‘I got this condom today’ and he returned THAT condom to his pocket before moving on the mundane details of his Economics class.

And you know what I did?

Nothing.

Well, not exactly nothing.

I tried to convince him that Shakespeare is actually worth studying and I told him we’d buy new shoes on Saturday and I asked him where he got the condom because I’m curious that way.

And because we’ve never made sex a taboo subject in our home he explained it all to me over an after-school snack of chips and salsa.

It turns out he and his friends were hanging at their after-school coffee shop (he’s a city kid) when one of the girls pulled out a bunch of condoms.

But she wasn’t just going to hand them out. Nope. You had to earn the condom.

Intriguing, if not slightly unsettling, if you don’t know the rest of the story.

This young woman came ready to teach. She, along with her parents, had been volunteering at a local Planned Parenthood clinic. She had no doubt witnessed the other side of unprotected sex, STDs, teen pregnancy, and more. She was invested in passing along what she had learned.

In what must have been an interesting conversation to witness, this young woman and this group of strong, independent, and empowered teens talked about safer sex, birth control options, and proper condom use (there was even an inanimate object available for practice).

Someone, somewhere, might find this situation shocking, disgusting even. Someone, somewhere, may question whether or not a group of teenagers are going to get the details right. Someone, somewhere, may even be questioning the morality of the impromptu after-school special.

But to that I say to the someones, somewhere, that you are missing the point, if not completely living in a bubble of naïveté. These kids were and are phenomenal.

These kids are living in the present. These kids are aware of their surroundings. These kids appreciate that a conversation about sex isn’t necessarily an invitation to have sex.

I’ll take a pat on the back for playing my part in that evolution of thought.

Parents who do not shy away from conversations about sex help create a generation of young people who understand that sexual responsibility is shared. Parents who do not use fear as a tactic and parents who keep the communication door wide open will be able to correct any misinformation their kids may receive about sex, sexuality, and biology (and you can paint those conversations with the morality code of your choice.)

That HAS to be better than silence and avoidance.

These kids in the coffee shop are to be commended. They  possess a respect for their bodies that is beyond what we could have hoped for. They are not paralyzed by fear or ignorance. They are comfortable with who they are and are ready to have a clear and open dialogue about sex and sexuality.  These “kids” do not see blurred lines when it comes to consent—no always means no. These emerging adults grasp the reality that a YES requires accountability and may have consequences.

Yes, my son brought home a condom. And I couldn’t be prouder—proud that he was comfortable talking to me about it and prouder yet that he and his friends are actively invested in their own futures and that they want those futures to be happy, healthy, and met on their own terms.

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Filed under Feminist Parenting, Health and Wellness