Philip Allen Hodge 1930-2011

Two days before my Dad died a guy called up looking for him to do some freelance jewelry design. “Phil’s sick? I’m so sorry to hear that. He was the best.”

He grew up in Claremont, New Hampshire, in the Depression, the middle of three brothers. Their mother had gone to school to become a nutritionist, their father was on the cutting edge of communications technology– the radio. All three boys loved science, and my father could build or fix anything.

His little town school did not prepare him to succeed at MIT, so as a second choice he went to RISD. His parents had broken up, and even at this age he helped support his mother. Some of his classmates were creating the beatnik scene, but this wasn’t his thing. His artistic style of care and precision was not in sync with the times. He liked Norman Rockwell more than Jackson Pollock.

After school he was drafted into the army, but was able to serve in the US due to my arrival. He and my mother spent two years in Tacoma, Washington.

When they came back to Rhode Island he got a job as a jewelry designer for Anson, Incorporated. He worked late, he worked Saturdays, he supported seven rowdy children and we never lacked for anything. I had a job at TD Brown photo, and one of the women I worked with had been a factory worker at Anson. “Your father was so nice, everyone liked him”, she told me.

In his final months there was nothing left but that kindness. The doctors and nurses at the VA called just to see how he was doing. The nurses went beyond professional concern and just plain liked him. I had some good time with him, for which I’ll always be grateful.

He will be remembered every day. He raised us well.

Occupy Providence on Sunday Afternoon

Facilitation Meeting at Occupy Providence

We finally made it to Occupy Providence today, to provide some pictures and a report from the heart of the movement. Ninjanurse has been doing us proud with daily posts all week, despite lots of other forces in her life that would normally take over and render a person incapable of blogging. But Nancy, like the Occupy Providence movement itself, is undaunted by it all, and keeps bringing us back home to the essential messages that make the Occupy movement worth joining.

While we were there, the Episcopal church provided a service of prayer in support of the movement. There were probably 50-75 of us, amidst another hundred to two hundred people occupying the park. The tents are plentiful and colorful, and General Burnside has also been decorated.

WPRO was there interviewing one of the Occupy members. The group did a “Mic check” to get everyone’s attention and then announced about when and where to gather to go the action at Sheldon Whitehouse’s community dinner. This action was leaving at 5 pm to bring a group of members to show the presence of the movement outside the Senator’s community dinner, and also to have a member of the movement ask the Senator his views on the Occupy Providence movement when he takes questions after the dinner.

A friend had dropped off some food for us to bring — a 10 pound bag of potatoes, 10 pounds of rice, some big cans of beans, some fruit. We handed them in at the food tent, where it appears they are making food and providing food for free all day long.

The feeling there, on this splendid Fall afternoon, was one of peace and hope. People were meeting and talking in earnest about what the next moves would be. People were praying together, looking up at the beautiful clear sky, and around at the other like-minded people in their presence. There were many dogs being walked, and petitions being signed, and regular Americans wandering around and wondering at where we are and how we got here.

Barbara Ehrenreich– Homeless and the Occupation

Author Barbara Ehrenreich spent a year working minimum-wage jobs for her book, ‘Nickeled and Dimed’ where she uncovered the truth– workers are not getting by in America.

She has a post on Common Dreams today, ‘Throw Them Out With the Trash: Why Homelessness Is Becoming an Occupy Wall Street Issue’.

The current prohibition on homelessness began to take shape in the 1980s, along with the ferocious growth of the financial industry (Wall Street and all its tributaries throughout the nation). That was also the era in which we stopped being a nation that manufactured much beyond weightless, invisible “financial products,” leaving the old industrial working class to carve out a livelihood at places like Wal-Mart.

As it turned out, the captains of the new “casino economy” — the stock brokers and investment bankers — were highly sensitive, one might say finicky, individuals, easily offended by having to step over the homeless in the streets or bypass them in commuter train stations. In an economy where a centimillionaire could turn into a billionaire overnight, the poor and unwashed were a major buzzkill. Starting with Mayor Rudy Giuliani in New York, city after city passed “broken windows” or “quality of life” ordinances making it dangerous for the homeless to loiter or, in some cases, even look “indigent,” in public spaces.

Click here for the whole post.

Occupy Providence Day 8

Just a walk-through today. The fountain was turned off and the debris I saw yesterday in the basin has been cleaned up. Burnside Park is even cleaner, it’s about 10am and quiet. I have a bag of first-aid supplies, but the medical tables are unstaffed. Perhaps the first-aiders are meeting in one of the tents.

Today’s Providence Journal says that Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare is talking about eviction. I want them to keep talking. Not only as a sympathizer to the occupiers, but as a Providence taxpayer. The Occupation is keeping Burnside Park cleaner and more friendly than it’s ever been. I don’t want my cops working overtime on a non-threatening exercise of free speech.

Occupy Providence Day 7– Health and Education

It’s about 9:30 and at the bottom of the bus tunnel is a parade of about 30 occupiers starting up Waterman Street. Sign says, ‘bail out students, not the banks’. They are on their way to occupy Brown.

In Burnside Park the tents are still up but no crowds. The media tent is unstaffed, a banner on the awning says, ‘PFD Supports Occupy PVD’ with a picture of the Fire Department seal. The food and medical booths are busy, people sitting out on benches. Some live here all year.

Note to Public Safety– I’ve never seen the park this clean.

Some of the chalk graffiti is gone, maybe washed away by the rain. Someone has put up a sign objecting to Ron Paul signs being taken down. His supporters are the only ones trying to claim this movement for a politician, and not getting many recruits as far as I can see. On a tree is posted an ‘Occupy World Map’.

Meetings and Events are posted thru the weekend. ‘Occu-Stock’ is planned for India Point Park on Oct. 27-29 4-11pm.

At the medical tent I talk to the organizer, but am interrupted twice by people dropping off donations. She has her feet up, blister and swelling. I give her some first aid and advice. Foot problems come with constant walking and staying outdoors. I plan to return with more gauze– the little first aid kit doesn’t have much.

I’m on my way to check on my Dad and can’t stay longer. Karen Lee Ziner has a great article in today’s Providence Journal. I can’t find it on the site– it’s front page on the print edition.

I took a lot of pix, will post them later.

Ending the War in Iraq?

Dear Readers,
Kmareka welcomes our new Mideast expert, Kevin De Jesus,PhD, who sends us this post on the consequences of war and the long road for survivors, both in the US and Iraq. Thank you, Kevin, for looking beyond our war-weariness to confront the reality our veterans and their families face…

Ending the War in Iraq?

Not so simple, as war’s legacies endure through the family.

Media outlets across the globe have reported that President Obama has declared that “America’s war in Iraq will be over by the end of the year”. This is not the first time the Iraq war has been declared “over”. Recall President Bush announced on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln that the war in Iraq had ended, in fact some nine years before this war will foreclose by virtue of a full troop withdrawal.

I believe we must rebuff the notion that the Iraq War will in fact be so neatly over – it is indeed this type of mythic conception of war that leads us to be deluded into thinking war, partly due to our ability to fight at such a high-tech capacity from great distances, is so precisely so simple. I argue, rather, that many battles will continue between here and the Euphrates, battles which will be waged through the legacies of war’s reverberations through families, across their everyday social, emotional and relational lives. Can we argue therefore that an ethically-committed politics, particularly among those of us who opposed the war in Iraq here in the US and across the globe, ought to drive a sense of urgency to remain focused on easing and supporting the lives of those whose life will be continually encroached by the long-reach of the hauntings of political violence that share a different sense of time than President Obama, or for that matter of Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki.

Let us consider some of the evidence for this argument I make. MIT’s Dr. John Tirman’s informative blog, “Iraq: the Human Cost” reveals an array of threats to human well-being across the duration of the war, and in particular, as in the case of many of the displaced, the long-term impoverishment, dislocation and erosion of rights and protections, that are long-standing in effect. Tirman notes that other threats, lethal and devastating in terms of human impact includes the exposure of children to landmines and cluster bombs used in Iraq by both US and non-US military and para-military actors. Fortunately, Iraq has joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2009 , however, according to the Landmine and Cluster Munitions Monitor (2011), Iraq remains “massively contaminated” with explosive remnants of war, due to the succession of violent conflicts which have embroiled Iraq for decades, including the Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf War and the 2003 US-led invasion. {For the full report, link here. }

What role will the US and other coalition partners play in clearing these munitions, particularly that according to UNICEF and UNDP decades are likely needed to clean up the terrain of Iraq .

How will families of cluster munition injuries secure the resources needed to rebuild their family life, meet the cost of disability, and heal social-psychological wounds, as a part of the Obama-Maliki plan to end the Iraq war? Is, in fact, such a matter of the human legacy of war also legitimate part of ending war?

Central to the family is the matter of the disappeared. According to a recent NPR report (July 20, 2011), Iraqi family members of disappeared persons gather each Friday to alert the world to their plight. It is claimed by NPR that since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, “tens of thousands” of new missing/disappeared persons have been reported, with a particular increase in 2006 and 2007. How will Obama and Maliki deal with the matter of secret prisons, enforced disappearances, and the families of the disappeared who live the war in a particular way, day after day?

For American families who have endured the Iraq War vicariously, through their deployed loved one, the risk of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may be higher than in veterans themselves, one clinician has found. The military family advocacy organization “The Sanctuary for Veterans and Families” details an array of threats to the well-being of veterans from Iraq and their families, including homelessness, supports for women veterans, resources for the children of veterans and the development of community-based psychological supports for veterans and their families. Top on the agenda of The Sanctuary for Veterans and Families is legislative advocacy.

Perhaps an ethically-committed politics can begin with taking the lead from The Sanctuary. Recognizing that for so many the war will not be over by the close of the new year, can those of us who were so ardently opposed to the Iraq War, continue to actively engage to ensure that the resources vitally needed to continue to ameliorate the effects of the war on families from both the Iraq and the US, be delivered?

The Silent Passing of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

The following is from Kmareka’s West Coast correspondent, Elaine Hirsch.

Elaine Hirsch is kind of a jack-of-all-interests, from education and history to medicine and videogames. This makes it difficult to choose just one life path, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites and writing about all these things instead. Currently, she writes for

The Silent Passing of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Ten days after the solemn ceremony commemorating the tenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, a momentous piece of legislation was enacted in the United States. Any student of history should remember September 20th, 2011 as the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and as the beginning of a new era for gay rights in America, but instead the moment was eclipsed in the national news.

The history of DADT and its eventual repeal is an important chapter for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights community. In the all-male American military service of yore, sodomy was considered a grave violation which merited discharge, but homosexual preferences or tendencies were not specifically addressed until around World War II. Military psychiatrists deemed homosexuality a deviant behavior, and thus not suitable among servicemen. This rather extreme and disparaging view was soon eschewed and replaced by a more tacit “no sex between servicemen” regulation, although gay members of the military continued to be unfairly discharged. The issue of homosexuality in the military was mostly an afterthought during the Vietnam War era, when simply maintaining troop levels was the main concern.

The notorious cases against Fannie Mae Clackum and Leonard Matlovich of the United States Air Force led to the adoption of a policy by the Department of Defense which essentially outlawed homosexuality in the military. By the 1990s, the LGBT rights community raised awareness of this unfair policy and public opinion began to sway against the narrow-minded stance it represented.

It took the brutal murder of a gay sailor serving in Japan to bring the issue to a level of national interest. Radioman Petty Officer Third Class Allen R. Schindler, Jr. was only 22 years old when he was stomped to death by a shipmate because of his sexual orientation in 1992. The young sailor’s murder prompted presidential candidate Bill Clinton to announce his intention to repeal anti-gay military policy, but Congress quickly moved to make it federal law instead. This was a shrewd political move that forced the Clinton White House to attempt a repeal. The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy is the compromise reached in lieu of overturning the gay ban in the military.

Originally the policy was called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue.” This was the phrase chosen by sociologist Charles Moskos, who was instrumental in drafting a policy that didn’t explicitly permit homosexuals to serve in the military, but neither allowed them to be discharged as long as they “served in silence.” The original name of the policy was shortened almost as soon as the policy was adopted, but it was also known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Harass.”

As an official policy, DADT was challenged numerous times. The inadequacy of the policy was depicted in at least two films: Serving in Silence (1997) and Soldier’s Girl (2003). Serving in Silence is based on the life of Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer, an Army nurse who served in the Washington National Guard. Colonel Cammermeyer was honorably discharged in 1992 against her will when she came out as a lesbian. She appealed the discharge in federal district court and was reinstated and allowed to retire.

Soldier’s Girl portrays the tragic murder of Private First Class Barry Winchell, an infantryman in the 101st Airborne Division who was brutally murdered by a fellow soldier who believed PFC Winchell was involved in a relationship with transgendered showgirl Calpernia Addams. PFC Winchell’s murder infuriated President Clinton, who immediately ordered a review of the DADT policy. Lieutenant General Timothy Maude, a top Army officer who sympathized with the LGBT military community, personally met with PFC Winchell’s grieving parents.

The White House under President George W. Bush didn’t do much to advance the repeal of DADT, but presidential candidate Barack Obama made it a campaign promise. In 2010, efforts to repeal DADT and grant homosexuals the right to serve in the US military began in earnest. The efforts were silent but swift, and ultimately successful. The lack of news media attention shouldn’t detract from the sheer significance of the change represented by the repeal. The end of DADT marks a major achievement in the progress of civil rights in America. It may’ve passed in relative silence, but it should be remembered with fanfare.