The Box

To Elizabeth, on her 14th birthday

 

In a box under my bed, lies my baby.

In this box, a pink ribbon and hat.

In this box is a lock of her downy blond hair,

And her name carved in wood, painted black.

In this box are her finger and feet prints,

And a picture of her with my nose.

In the box are too few scraps of memory,

And the dried petals of a sweet rose.

 

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Photography by Loura Lawrence

In a different box under the ground, lies my baby,

With a stuffed toy and some warm clothes.

She is there, in the ground, my poor baby,

Safe now from the chill wind that blows.

There in the ground lies my baby,

Overtopped by a grey-stone rose.

Choosing Sides? In the Aftermath of Violence, there are no Winners

In the wake of the Charlottesville, VA protests, one thing has become crystal clear:

  • 14596954857_9eb1e2905d_zOne side is motivated by fear, which leads to anger, anger to hate.
  • One side throws around emotionally-charged language, calling the other side traitors to America.
  • One side refuses to give any ground, refuses to honestly hear the other side out.
  • One side sees the other as everything that’s wrong with this country. If only that side would leave America, she would be truly great again.
  • One side has been trying to “white-wash” history for years.
  • One side is just itching for another Civil War.
  • One side is on a witch hunt, ready to destroy complicated people over voicing their opinions and utilizing their civil right as Americans to freely speak out without fear of repercussions.
  • One side can’t or won’t see that where and how the other side lives plays a big role in that side’s opinions on politics, etc.
  • One side’s idealism is the most important thing to them, higher than the people who make America great (i.e. Americans), higher than the laws that make America safe, higher than any religious precepts of peace. The idea, and not the reality, is the number one thing.
  • One side resembles fascism in it’s complete devotion to the idea, and the utter destruction (so far verbally, reputation-wise, financially) of anyone who even appears to question it. There is no neutrality in this side’s eyes, how much less room is there for all sides?
  • One side is more than willing to resort to violence as a catalyst for change, “if necessary.”
  • Will one side stop at nothing for their ideal America to be realized? That remains to be seen.

Which side am I talking about? If you only see one side or the other, you are part of the problem. United we stand, divided we fall.

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The grave is never satisfied.

Finding Home

This past week, I spent a marvelous time exploring parts of Oregon and even more of Washington.

IMG_1112_watermarkNow, as I sit typing in a cozy studio bungalow by myself, I can hear the ocean from Ediz Hook just a few feet away. I can hear a friendly bay horse whinnying for attention not far behind me, and a variety of birds (even an owl!) fussing to their neighbors. I now love the smell of real pine trees (a novelty in Dayton, Ohio), and the Olympic mountains make a fantastic backdrop to this serene setting. I feel at peace. I feel at home.

Yet, my family and most of my friends are back in Dayton, Ohio. My home in Ohio is far from the majestic mountains and relatively peaceful sea of Puget Sound, but it is hardly without charms of its own. The friendly smell of backyard firepits and evening grills, the sound of my children laughing and jumping through a sprinkler, my lovely garden and collection of books, and family and friends who are welcome to stop by any old time (and do!) I have missed while here.

In both Oregon and Washington I have met new friends, visited with family, and enjoyed aspects of nature I’ve not been able to enjoy in a very long time. I feel stronger than I have in years, and I’ve done much, much more than I have in years. I feel more peaceful and adventurous than I have in years. I feel invigorated, renewed. I have changed in subtle but important ways this week, and am excited about those changes.

The sea and the pines call me to stay, but my children and family are calling me back. Which way is home?

The New Inquisition? Part 2 of 2

A response to John Corvino, continued from Part 1

The Game of Risk

The legal line between small businesses and giant corporations is wide and well established, but anti-discrimination cases like the ones in question, all center around small businesses. Why? Could it be that small businesses are easier for states and state regulatory commissions to pick on?

Larger corporations are likely to have a team of lawyers on hand, but independently owned businesses may have none. Without the same legal standing or protections as corporations, when small business owners come under the radar of radical state commissions like Oregon’s Civil Rights Commission, they often fold altogether. Not only are the owners out of a job, they may be financially, reputationally, and creatively ruined. Those business owners have not been “educated” or “taught a lesson to,” their homes and holdings have been forfeit. They have been effectively obliterated from society, just as ancient Inquisitors did to so-called heretics.

As Roger Parloff pointed out in the March, 2017 New Yorker piece, Christian Bakers, Gay Weddings, and a Question for the Supreme Court,

…From the standpoint of individual liberty, a mammoth corporation, such as Woolworth’s, is different from a mom-and-pop business. The regulatory machinery has been hesitant to tell individuals how to behave on their own premises, no matter how repugnant their behavior may seem. To this day, as Eskridge observes, the federal employment-discrimination laws do not apply to businesses with fewer than fifteen employees, and housing-discrimination laws do not affect owner-occupied buildings with four units or fewer…”

As an independent business owner and contractor, I absolutely value my ability to choose not to work with certain clients for any reason. They may be a pain to work with and a potential liability, and that liability and work outcome are my direct responsibility. I do not get to pass the buck, I do not get to hide in corporate shadows, and I can’t even be fired. Therefore, as any good business owner, I will pick and choose whom I work with very carefully and attempt to further protect myself and clients with fair contracts for us both. But those measures don’t offer protection against rapidly changing (and often unknown) laws or interpretations of them. Small business owners are screwed.


Custom-Made Cakes, etc.

The main difference between a cake bought from the case, versus a custom-made cake via Cake Boss, is the risk and time and talent involved in the creation of the custom cake. If a generic cake gets accidentally dropped on the floor, there may be 5 more just like it in waiting. If a custom cake gets dropped, it’s a potential disaster (the worst part about watching Cake Boss is worrying those big cakes won’t make it to their intended destination in tact!).

It bears repeating that many of those who have won financial settlements against small business owners like bakers and florists, have done so without ever having a contract to begin with for customized creative services. Many cases do not end up in court, but are investigated (which is appropriate), prosecuted with the force of law (not appropriate), and legally penalized by certain state Civil Rights Commissions working independently from impartial judges, lawyers, etc. (really, really not appropriate).

We should not tolerate such behavior, particularly if we fancy ourselves as supporting small businesses. It’s legally outrageous, and sets a frightening precedent for small service providers who cannot always cope with the legal or media outcomes of major lawsuits or “legal” fines.

Bacon or Buttercream?

Some readers might respond to the above, “Well if business owners would only follow the law to begin with, they wouldn’t get in trouble.” Unfortunately, as we saw in part 1, state anti-discrimination laws are interpreted subjectively and, as we will see, are sometimes applied “unevenly.”

Mr. Corvino’s examples of Kosher and vegan bakeries not making bacon cakes or buttercream cakes for anyone (and therefore, no one), is a false dichotomy. Those bakeries have set professional limitations on what they will produce, based on sincerely held beliefs. It would be offensive to knowingly go into a Kosher bakery and ask for a bacon cake, or to ask a vegan baker for a meat pie, though they surely have the technical skills to produce such things. So how is it different when the bakery is a Christian one? Christian bakers also refuse to produce certain products based on sincerely held beliefs, but for them this is reprehensible, because their particular belief is culturally reprehensible.

*I do not necessarily endorse all views contained within this video or within others by Louder with Crowder


Neglected

In addition to anti-discrimination laws being culturally and judiciously haphazardly applied, I am angry by the underlying societal devaluation of creative talents and skills. It’s not “just a cake,” but a carefully crafted work of art, unless you are buying from a generic, big-box retail store.

It’s not “just photography” or “just a painting,” as if no real heart, imagination, or effort goes into these things. But customers really do know better; they are attracted to artistic works precisely because they are different. Customers can see the difference, and are willing to pay higher prices because of the quality and creativity involved. Not just anyone can make beautiful cakes. Not just anyone can take gorgeous pictures, and not just anyone can fix computers or human hearts. These things require serious investments of time, experimentation, specialized equipment, and education.

So when people imperiously declare that small business owners should “suck it up” and “perform” on command, so long as potential customers throw money at the owner/creator, it is incredibly insulting. It is, in fact, prostitution!

This scene from Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert Edition by Universal, shows that even Fantine, an actual prostitute, should still be able to choose with whom she works. The result of her refusal and self-defense, eerily echoes the legal retribution some shop owners have unfairly faced. This clip was taken from my legally purchased, home copy DVD. 


Show Your Local Small Businesses Some Love

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One of my family’s favorite candy shops in Indiana. The saltwater taffy is a must!

In general, Americans love funky little shops and hole-in-the-wall restaurant discoveries. They are personable, more welcoming, custom-geared for certain clientele (like my new favorite local bar geared towards gamers, D20), and tend to have higher quality customer service and products. Customers love these places not just for the food or flowers or art (products), but also for the atmosphere (heart). These are places where memories are made with family and friends, as opposed to generic retail stores which supply general goods and public services.

Most anti-discrimination laws, therefore, make no sense when applied to privately owned small businesses. For proof, let’s define the confusing term, “public accommodations,” which has been broadly (and unusually) interpreted by Oregon’s Civil Rights Commission to mean essentially any place “the public” might be. However, according to Wikipedia,

“Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 defines public accommodations as a limited number of facilities which are open to the public. Examples include hotels, motels, restaurants, theaters, and all other public accommodations engaged in interstate commerce; exempted private clubs without defining the term “private”.

In other words, privately owned small businesses are not generally considered “public accommodations”.


Coercion and Prohibition Never Work

Lastly, let’s say just a word about prohibition and coercion and how the attempt to legalize something via these hard lines never, ever, ever, ever works. Ever. Even when the cause is noble, like protecting women and children from the abuse or neglect of drunk fathers. Even when parents are seeking to protect their kids from getting addicted to hard drugs, and even when we long to see all people treated the same everywhere because they are people (though you know, that road goes two ways).

Community and education are the keys to societal changes, albeit those things take much longer to implement and see progress. It isn’t as satisfying as exacting a kind of vengeance upon others who share the same ideas with people who may have hurt us, or our friends, or loved ones. But vengeance is not justice, and change only starts with an army of one.

Otherwise, just let our robot overlords rule and program us outright.

*I had no idea when writing this that “Robot Overlords” was a real film. But now I do, and since it features Gillian Anderson (X-Files) and Ben Kingsley, I must watch it.


Works Cited

https://louralawrence.com/2017/05/26/state-civil-rights-commissions-the-new-inquisition-part-1-of-2/?preview_id=51276&preview_nonce=21411b9b44

http://www.oregon.gov/boli/CRD/Pages/C_Crprotoc.aspx

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_accommodations

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2145829/