Thursday, August 31, 2006

Go, go, go Rocky Anderson!

There's not generally a lot of good news from back home, in Utah. But over the years, one of the topics my father and step-mother relish most, is the mayor of Salt Lake City, Rocky Anderson. They call me up and giggle about the funny things he's done. Like making a city-wide law requiring orange flags to be placed at all street crossings. People are supposed to carry the flags across the streets, so they won't get run over by all the SUVs. Dad made a lot of fun of Rocky for doing that, and I think it's pretty funny, but I also love crossing the street holding those flags. Just last week, too, the New York Times ran an article on his xenoscaped lawn -- in which they quoted a neighbor saying they loved his lawn, because before it was xenoscaped, it was a browning patch of green.

Anyway, for the second time in his mayorship, he has chosen to protest the arrival of President George Bush to Utah rather than to pretend to welcome him -- and Utah is one of the only states that still has a high approval rating for the president.

And I'm proud of Rocky for sticking to his principles. He's a rare bird in these times -- a democrat who is actually a democrat. To me, he is the best of Utah: a very creative, weird, enigmatic man standing in high contrast to the social conservatism my state is better known for. I am proud of his flags and his supporting gay marriages and his xenoscaped lawn. He's a green politician in a land full of ashen ones.

Moreover, his success in a state like Utah makes me hopeful for the future -- hopeful because there ARE intersting, thoughtful, innovative candidates out there, not just those bland, old-money democrats that so often depress voters. Hopeful because he was elected twice. In Utah.

Since it's hard to find things Utahn to brag about, I want not only to brag about Rocky, but I want to post the speech he made in the Bush Protest he participated in on Thursday. I find it inspiring to hear these words from an American politician, and though we're not in the habit of publishing speeches at Green Parenting, I think this one is worthwhile...I'm going to print, almost in full, even though it makes for a lot of text. I just think speeches like this ought to be spread out through the web, onto as many servers as possible.

Washington Square Salt Lake City, Utah August 30, 2006
      ...Let no one deny we are patriots. We love our country, we hold dear the values upon which our nation was founded, and we are distressed at what our President, his administration, and our Congress are doing to, and in the name of, our great nation.
      Blind faith in bad leaders is not patriotism.
      A patriot does not tell people who are intensely concerned about their country to just sit down and be quiet; to refrain from speaking out in the name of politeness or for the sake of being a good host; to show slavish, blind obedience and deference to a dishonest, war-mongering, human-rights-violating president.
      That is not a patriot. Rather, that person is a sycophant. That person is a member of a frightening culture of obedience - a culture where falling in line with authority is more important than choosing what is right, even if it is not easy, safe, or popular. And, I suspect, that person is afraid - afraid we are right, afraid of the truth (even to the point of denying it), afraid he or she has put in with an oppressive, inhumane, regime that does not respect the laws and traditions of our country, and that history will rank as the worst presidency our nation has ever had to endure.
      In response to those who believe we should blindly support this disastrous president, his administration, and the complacent, complicit Congress, listen to the words of Theodore Roosevelt, a great president and a Republican, who said: The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole.
      Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.
       To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.
      ...We have been getting just about everything but the truth on matters of life and death . . . on matters upon which our nation's reputation hinges . . . on matters that directly relate to our nation's fundamental values . . . and on matters relating to the survival of our planet.
       In the process, our nation has engaged in an unnecessary war, based upon false justifications. More than a hundred thousand people have been killed - and many more have been seriously maimed, brain damaged, or rendered mentally ill.
       Our nation's reputation throughout much of the world has been destroyed. We have many more enemies bent on our destruction than before our invasion of Iraq.
      And the hatred toward us has grown to the point that it will take many years, perhaps generations, to overcome the loathing created by our invasion and occupation of a Muslim country.
      What incredible ineptitude and callousness for our President to talk about a Crusade while lying to us to make a case for the invasion and occupation of a Muslim country!
       Our children and later generations will pay the price of the lies, the violence, the cruelty, the incompetence, and the inhumanity of the Bush administration and the lackey Congress that has so cowardly abrogated its responsibility and authority under our checks-and-balances system of government.
       We are here to say, "We will not stand for it any more. No more lies. No more pre-emptive, illegal war, based on false information. No more God-is-on-our-side religious nonsense to justify this immoral, illegal war. No more inhumanity."
       Let's raise our voices, and demand, "Give us the truth! Give us the truth! Give us the truth!"
       Let's consider some of the most monstrous lies - lies that have led us, like a nation of sheep, to this tragic war.
       Following September 11, 2001, the world knew that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were responsible for the horrific attacks on our country. Our long-time allies were sympathetic and supportive. But our president transformed that support into international disdain for the United States, choosing to illegally invade and occupy Iraq, rather than focus on and capture the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks.
       Why invade and occupy Iraq? Vice President Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice represented to us, without qualification, that there were strong ties between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.
       In September, 2002, President Bush made the incredible claim that "You can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam."
       President Bush represented to Congress, without any factual basis whatsoever, that Iraq planned, authorized, committed, or aided the 9/11 attacks.
       Our President and Vice-President, along with an unquestioning news media, repeatedly led our nation to believe that there was a working relationship between al Qaeda and the Iraqi government, a relationship that threatened the US. Even last week, when I met with Thomas Bock, National Commander of the American Legion, I asked him why we are engaged in the war in Iraq. He said, "Why, of course, because of the 9/11 attacks on our country." I asked, "What did Iraq have to do with those attacks?" He looked puzzled, then said, "Well, the connection between al Qaeda and Iraq."
       I was shocked. Here is a man who has criticized us for opposing the war in Iraq - and he is completely wrong about the underlying facts used to justify this war.
       Not only has there never been any evidence of any involvement by Saddam Hussein or Iraq with the attacks on 9/11, but there has never been any evidence of any operational connection whatsoever between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.
       Colin Powell finally conceded there is no "concrete evidence about the connection." "The chairman of the monitoring group appointed by the United Nations Security Council to track al Qaeda" disclosed that "his team had found no evidence linking al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein." And the top investigator for our European allies has said, 'If there were such links, we would have found them.
       But we have found no serious connections whatsoever.'"
       President Bush himself finally admitted nine days ago during a press conference that there was no connection between the attacks on 9/11 and Iraq. It's terrific that the President has now admitted what others have known for so long - but where is the accountability for the tragic war we were led into on the basis of his earlier misrepresentations?
       Besides the fictions of Saddam Hussein somehow being linked to the 9/11 attacks and his supposed connection with al Qaeda, what was the principal justification for forgoing additional weapons inspections, failing to work with our allies toward a solution, refraining from seeking additional resolutions from the United Nations, and hurrying to war - a so-called "pre-emptive" war - in which we would attack and occupy a Muslim nation that posed no security risk to the United States, and cause the deaths of many thousands of innocent men, women, and children - and the deaths and lifetime injuries to many thousands of our own servicemen and servicewomen?
       The principal claim was that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction - biological and chemical weapons - and was seeking to build up a nuclear weapons capability. As we now know, there was nothing - no evidence whatsoever - to support those claims.
       President Bush represented to us - and to people around the world - that one of the reasons we needed to make war in Iraq - and to do it right away - was because Saddam Hussein was seeking to build nuclear weapons. His assertions about Saddam Hussein trying to purchase nuclear materials from an African nation and about Iraq seeking to obtain aluminum tubes for the enrichment of uranium were challenged at the time by our own intelligence agency and scientists, yet he didn't tell us that! Ten days before the invasion of Iraq, it was proven that the documents upon which President Bush's claim about Saddam Hussein trying to obtain uranium was based were forgeries. However, President Bush did not disclose that to the American people. By that failure, he betrayed each of us, he betrayed our country, and he betrayed the cause of world peace.
       Neither did the vast majority of the news media disclose the forgeries - until it was far too late. It took our local newspapers here in Salt Lake City four months - until after President Bush declared that major combat in Iraq was over - to report the discovery that the documents were forgeries - and, therefore, that there was no basis for the false claims about Saddam Hussein trying to build up a nuclear capability. By its failure to promptly disclose the forgeries, the news media betrayed us as well.
       Had the American people known we were being lied to - had President Bush informed us that the documents were forged and that he had no other basis for his claim - had our nation's media done its job, rather than slavishly repeating to us the lies being fed to it by the Bush administration - our nation may well not have allowed the commencement of this outrageous, illegal, unjustified war.
       To President Bush, to his administration, to our go-along Congress, and to our news media, we are here today, demanding, "Give us the truth! Give us the truth! Give us the truth!"
       Then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said that high-strength aluminum tubes acquired by Iraq were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs," warning "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
       Undisclosed by President Bush or Condoleezza Rice was the fact that top nuclear scientists had informed the Administration that the tubes were "too narrow, too heavy, too long" to be useful in developing nuclear weapons and could be used for other purposes. Dr. Mohamed El Baradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, agreed.
       So much for the phony claims of Saddam Hussein building nuclear weapons - the primary claims justifying the rush to war.
       What were we told about chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction? These claims were as baseless and fraudulent as the claims about nuclear weapons.
       President Bush told us in his January 2003 State of the Union address that Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. Then, in May of 2003, he made the outlandish statement that, "We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories."
      Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told us, "We know where the [WMDs] are." Vice President Cheney and then-Secretary of State Powell also joined in the chorus of lies and misinformation about weapons of mass destruction. Of course, no stockpiles of biological or chemical weapons were found.
       Bush Administration Weapons Inspector David Kay noted that Iraq did not have an ongoing chemical weapons program after 1991-a conclusion remarkably similar to statements made by Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice before the 9/11 attacks - and before they sacrificed the truth in the service of promoting the Bush administration's case for war against Iraq.
      On February 24, 2001, less than 7 months before 9/11, Colin Powell said that Saddam Hussein "has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors," said Colin Powell.
      And in July 2001, two months before 9/11, Condoleezza Rice said: "We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt."
      It is astounding how they changed their claims after the President decided to make a case for the invasion and occupation of Iraq!
      To think that we could be lied to by so many members of the Bush administration with such impunity is frightening - chilling. Yet these imperious, arrogant, dishonest people think we should just fall in line with them and continue to take them at their word.
      The truth has been established. Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks on the United States. There is no evidence of any operational ties between Iraq and al Qaeda. And there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
      What a tragedy, leading to greater tragedy. We are fed lie after lie, our media reinforces those lies, and we are a nation led to a tragic, illegal, unprovoked war.
      We are here because of our values. We love our country. We cherish the freedoms and liberties of our country. We don't call those who speak out against our nation's leaders unpatriotic or un-American or appeasers of fascists. We have good, wholesome family values. In our families, we teach honesty, we teach kindness and compassion toward others, we teach that violence, if ever justified, must be an absolutely last resort. In our families, we teach that our nation's constitutional values are to be upheld, and that they are worth standing up and fighting for. Our family values promote respect and equal rights toward everyone, regardless of race, ethnic origin, and sexual orientation.
      In our families, we teach the value of hard work and competence - and we are left to wonder about a President who, after receiving an intelligence memo about the threat posed by al Qaeda, decides to continue his month-long vacation - just before the 9/11 attacks on our country.
      As we demand the truth from others, let us also face the truth. Our government all too often has not cared about the human rights of people in other nations - and it doesn't really care about democracy, unless it leads to the election of those who will do our bidding.
       Consider the irony regarding the claims that Saddam had chemical weapons and, because of that, we needed to rush to war in Iraq. When Saddam Hussein was using chemical weapons - first against Iranians, then against his own people, the Kurds - our country provided him with biological and chemical agents and equipment to make the weapons. Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush refused even to support economic sanctions against Hussein for his use of weapons of mass destruction.
       What did our nation do in response to Hussein's use of chemical weapons, killing tens of thousand of people, when he actually had them?
       We befriended, coddled, and rewarded him - with government-guaranteed loans totaling $5 billion since 1983, freeing up currency for Hussein to modernize his military assets.
       Perhaps those in the US government who aided and abetted Saddam Hussein to further US business interests, while he was gassing the Kurds, should be sharing his courtroom dock as he is being tried now for crimes against humanity.
       No more lies, no more hiding of the truth, no more wars that more than triple the value of stock in Dick Cheney's prior employer, Halliburton - and which, as of last September, has increased the value of the Halliburton CEO's stock by $78 million.
       We are patriots. We're deeply concerned. And we demand change, now.
       No more lies from Condoleezza Rice about whether she and President Bush were advised before 9/11 of the possibility of planes being flown into buildings by terrorists.
       No more gross incompetence in the office of the Secretary of Defense.
       No more torture of human beings.
       No more disregard of the basic human rights enshrined in the Geneva Convention.
       No more kidnapping of people and sending them off to secret prisons in nations where we can expect they will be tortured.
       No more unconstitutional wiretapping of Americans.
       No more proposed amendments to the United States Constitution that would, for the first time, limit fundamental rights and liberties for entire classes of people simply on the basis of sexual orientation.
       No more federal land giveaways to developers.
       No more increases in mercury emissions from old, dirty, dangerous coalburning power plants.
       No more backroom deals that deprive protection for millions of acres of wild lands.
       No more attacks on immigrants who work so hard to build better lives.
       No more inaction by Congress on fixing our hypocritical and inconsistent immigration laws and policies.
       No more reliance on fiction rather than the science of global warming.
       No more manipulation of our media with false propaganda.
       No more disastrous cuts in funding for those most in need.
       No more federal cuts in community policing and local law enforcement grant programs for our cities.
       No more inaction on stopping the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.
       No more of the Patriot Act.
       No more killing.
       No more pre-emptive wars.
       No more contempt for our long-time allies around the world.
       No more dependence on foreign oil.
       No more failure to impose increased fuel efficiency standards for automobiles.
       No more energy policies developed in secret meetings between Dick Cheney and his energy company cronies.
       No more excuses for failing to aggressively cut global warming pollutant emissions.
       No more tragically incompetent federal responses to natural disasters.
       No more tax cuts for the wealthiest, while the middle class and those who are economically-disadvantaged continue to struggle more and more each year.
       No more reckless spending and massive tax cuts, resulting in historic deficits and historic accumulated national debt.
       No more purchasing of elections by the wealthiest corporations and individuals in the country.
       No more phony, ineffective, inhumane so-called war on drugs.
       No more failure to pass an increase in the minimum wage.
       No more silence by the American people.
       This is a new day. We will not be silent. We will continue to raise our voices. We will bring others with us. We will grow and grow, regardless of political party - unified in our insistence upon the truth, upon peace-making, upon more humane treatment of our brothers and sisters around the world.
       We will be ever cognizant of our moral responsibility to speak up in the face of wrongdoing, and to work as we can for a better, safer, more just community, nation, and world.
       So we won't let down. We won't be quiet. We will continue to resist the lies, the deception, the outrages of the Bush administration. We will insist that peace be pursued, and that, as a nation, we help those in need. We must break the cycle of hatred, of intolerance, of exploitation. We must pursue peace as vigorously as the Bush administration has pursued war. It's up to all of us to do our part.
       Thank you everyone for lending your voices to this call for compassion, for peace, for greater humanity. Let us keep in mind the injunction of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

Who's Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies, & Global Economics

I recently watched a great documentary narrated by Marilyn Waring. In 1975, at the age of 22, she was elected to the New Zealand parliament from a beautiful, rural district where the main occupation seems to be raising sheep. By virtue of her place in government and her seat on an accounting committee, she learned first hand about the absurdities in the way nations count economic activity. For example, she realized that a catastrophic event like the Exxon Valdez oil spill adds to growth, whereas childcare does not. And as a result, the accounting system inherently backs policies that favor destructive industries. Moreover, it makes the caring work done in families invisible and renders public support for childcare a "burden" to the taxpayer.

As Waring explains national accounting, the documentary shows pictures of the devastation from the oil spill followed by mothers caring for children. I can write all about national accounting, but the visual images provide jolting evidence for her critique. I don't think MaGreen could watch it at all because an otter is shown trying to lick and scratch oil of its skin. But Waring really wants viewers to understand that there is no "debit side" to national accounting and what that means in the material world.

After three terms in parliament, Waring withdrew from politics, earned a Ph.D., and became an academic. Through her experience and her studies, she came to understand that the accounting scheme in New Zealand is by no means exceptional. She traced the scheme to the United Nations in New York and read through several shelves of bound procedures herself. The UN, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund all require that member nations use the same accounting method where unpaid caring labor, subsistence farming, and ecological resources are "of little importance."

By expanding her focus to international agreements, Waring is able to make connections between the predicaments of desperately poor mothers in economically underdeveloped countries and mothers in wealthy countries like New Zealand. The documentary was copyrighted in 1995 and released in 1996 for the US. Despite its age – ten years is such a long time in this digital era – the information and analysis that Waring presents is just as relevant now, if not more, than at the time of release. What really sets it apart from many videos about globalization is that Waring shows how democracy, when it is functioning well, can counter act the destructive aspects of capital. The documentary does not end on the familiar dour note of whiny liberalism, but shows several paths out of our predicament.

Green Parenting, as MaGreen and I are trying to develop it, tries to link the intimacy of parenting – the brush of our baby's cheek against our arms – with the global institutions that shape and are shaped by our familial relationships. Parenting guides always focus to the exclusion of all else on the relationship of the mother and child. Maybe a partner is included, but only in the margins. We need to place parenting in the full context in which happens.

Here are some related links:
Wikipedia on Marilyn Waring
Distributor of Who's Counting

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Urban Nature Skills

This morning I woke up as our baby tossed and turned next to me. She poked me and whined in my ear even though she hadn't quite woken up either. I picked her up, walked over to the living room, and got the potty out. Once I put her on the potty, she cried briefly and then focused. A few minutes later, she shook her fist and evacuated herself. Then I put her back in the bed next to MaGreen and got ready for work.

I had to walk to work because I left my bicycle there yesterday. Now, over the past ten years, I have lived in Chicago, New York, and Houston, three of the four biggest cities in the US. For six out of those ten years, I have not had a car. Most of the time, I have walked and used trains to get where I need to go. When I lived in Brooklyn, I spent two hours everyday underground riding the subway, crushed in those metal boxes with the city's teaming humanity. And yet, during this decade of big city living, I have never mastered the bus.

How they confounded me, the buses. I was in awe of them. How they rushed by like beasts so big my flesh did not interest them. Even so, I often imagined them hopping up the curb, consuming me, and moving on without stopping.

Buses also symbolized to me a low rung in the socioeconomic ladder that I have never had to cling to. When I grew up in Mobile, Alabama and I read about Rosa Parks refusing to give her seat up to a white man in Montgomery, my first reaction was, "What was a white man doing on a bus?" During the thirty years between the Montgomery Bus Boycott and my childhood, most white people got cars and moved to the suburbs. And like Alabama's other public institutions, the bus system went neglected and whatever remained was left to black folks. That idea of buses has stuck in my head.

These past two years, since I sold my car and have aimed to live responsibly while hoarding enough wealth for my family, I have tried to figure out the bus system when I can't bike. On Tuesdays, I commute by train and bus from Rice University, where I work, to the University of Houston, where I study. During my last trip, I saw a black lady spot a bus that I couldn't see at all. She just stood up and walked to the curb. About five minutes later, there was the bus. It was like those stories of Native American trackers who could detect animals and enemies approaching when they were nowhere to be seen.

Today, after I pooed BabyG and bathed myself, I started walking towards work. This time, I decided to keep a look out for buses. If I caught one, that would be great. But I wouldn't wait for one, because if I walk fast I can get to work in forty minutes. When I reached the Richmond intersection, I slowed down and peered into the distance. I saw something. It was small. A speck. A glint of a bus's wide visage. There were two people patiently waiting at the stop. A black man and a brown lady wearing a Chapultapec Restaurant uniform. They saw that I saw and looked for themselves. In the old days, I would have walked by the bus stop with my briefcase, trying to stride my way through the heat. Today I achieved a new urban nature skill – spontaneous bus spotting. It's a skill I want to develop and pass on to my child like gardening or thinking critically.

Call me the flexible urbanist. The city tracker. The master of Metro. I rode in the air-conditioned bus, the lovely 26, to the Richmond and Main transit center. From there, I hopped onto the Metro Rail which dropped me off at the main entrance of Rice University. I reached my office in prime condition. My natural, antiperspirant-free underarms were dry and my co-workers hadn't even gotten in yet.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Potty On! Elimination Communication at 8 Months

In the first months of BabyG’s life we knew whenever she had to pee because she screamed so hard you’d think somebody was stepping on her bladder every time she had to go. I’m no Einstein, but it was pretty clear when to put her on the potty.

By the time she was four months old, however, she was so much less embittered by her elimination needs that she stopped protesting them. It was time for me to become a super observant mother who watched and/or carried the baby all day long. A mother who could anticipate pees by noting subtle signals. She rolled on her stomach…to pee? She kicked her legs frantically…a pee sign?

Sometimes. But not all the time. Truth be told, I never figured out her particular pre-pee activities. Some mothers feel like they need to pee when their baby does…I feel like I need to pee when I need to pee. My bladder isn't psychic. So I changed lots of wet diapers because we never did go full-time nakey-baby. Even when BabyG did hang out nude, she provided me with a number of puddles that I wiped with diapers.

But I didn’t loose complete faith in EC because of the following, very important mathematical equation:

In layman’s terms: two poos in a potty are more than vastly superior to fifteen wet diapers, cubed. Especially over an eight month period. And we have caught two poos in a potty most every day of BabyG’s life because she poos on schedule: when she wakes up, and then again sometime between four and seven. The afternoon poo can be tricky, but she gets whiney, still, before a poo.

When I went to Utah I missed a couple poos; and here and there we’ve had an accident. But since she was born, there haven’t been twenty messy diapers. And I never missed ALL the pees. I caught the waking up pees, some breastfeeding pees, and usually, a few other otherwise unscheduled ones every day. Though imperfect, I was content with our ECing record because of the Arnold Mankad Corollary.

Or, two poos in a potty and fifteen wet diapers per day over a period of eight months, or even 8 million months, are so much greater than and more superior to one stinky diaper smeared all over my baby's butt that it isn't even funny.

When BabyG turned six months, GreenDaddy and I began throwing the American Sign Language potty sign...making a fist with the thumb between the second and third finger and shaking it back and forth, ie, an ASL letter "p" BabyG as she went poo on the toilet or right after she finished.

I figured by the time she was a year old, it might mean something. I figured it’d help her let us know when she had to poo, but that it wouldn’t work for pees.

But then yesterday GreenDaddy and I noticed BabyG trying to mimic the signs. Sort of. Or was she just playing with her hands? I started checking her diaper immediately when she made the signs. Usually it was dry. I didn’t do anything and checked a minute later…it’d be newly wet.

Still, I didn’t believe. Not until this morning when she skipped her morning poo, which GreenDaddy is in charge of. He brought her back to me so he could go take a shower. I started breastfeeding her, and she stopped, looked at me, and wiggled one hand in a sort of fist, and the other she waved back and forth. I ran her to the potty and she pooed the instant she sat down. Usually you have to wait around a few minutes.

Still, I didn’t believe. I didn’t even watch for more signs most of the rest of the day. Later, I was playing with BabyG when she started making potty signals. I ran her to the potty, and again, she immediately pooed. It was early for her poo – I usually wouldn’t have taken her to the potty at that time. I was so excited I took fifty pictures. But alas, my editors won't let me post them all...but note the potty signal she is making with her hand in the third picture -- the i-just-pooed picture.

I was giddy. I took her back, to continue helping her go down for a nap, and a few minutes later she signed again. I checked her diaper and it was dry. I decided I had imagined her making signs at all because how would she have to go again, so soon? Still, about a minute later I checked the diaper and it was sopping wet. When she signed again, half an hour later, I took her to the potty and she peed again. I know enough through ECing to understand she might not yet sign for every need, but it's incredible to realize the skill is developing.

Which basically, is to say, that while I might not be a genius, my eight-month-old baby girl most definately is.

Monday, August 21, 2006

On the Legacy of Bismillah Khan

Bismillah Khan died Monday at the age of 91. Khan was the renowned master of the shehnai, an instrument that sounds a bit like an oboe. I’ve never mourned the death of a musician before.

My parents had a large collection of audio cassette tapes. When I grew up in Alabama, Indian culture was hard to come by. Back then, we had to drive five hours to reach the nearest Indian grocery store. There was no Netflix or satellite TV. You could not download Indian music from iTunes. People brought back music and video recordings from India, which were then systematically copied and shared. In our family room, there was a cabinet full of these pirated tapes with hand-written labels. My parents had a habit of writing the labels in Gujarati, a language they did not teach me to read. During the languid hours of my childhood – I’m astonished by how much free time I had – I popped the tapes into my Walkman one by one. Usually I was frustrated by them. Most of the recordings were of Hindi film songs or folk songs I couldn’t understand. The Bismillah Khan tape, however, didn’t have lyrics. Just the shehnai.

I listened to that one tape over and over. On one bus trip I took, I tucked myself into a cloth seat and played the tape into my headphones at least three times in a row. The recording was of an hour long performance. Everybody on the bus was a musician. It was an orchestra trip. My friend wanted to know what I was listening to, but when I passed the headphones to him he shook his head. “This isn’t very good,” he said. For my friend, Khan’s music couldn’t stand up to Mozart or Mahler. I realized that he couldn’t hear the subtlety I heard. And that made the listening experience even richer for me. I relished Bismillah Khan’s music all the more because my friend could not understand it. The music gave me a way to draw a line around my Indian identity, which felt so unstable and fragile. Khan’s music itself was tenuous and yet epic. A Himalayan brook flowing into the Ganges.

I later learned that Bismillah Khan was a devout Muslim and that he also worshipped the Hindu goddess Saraswati. He often played in the Hindu temples of Varanasi. His most famous performance was at the Red Fort in Delhi on the eve of Indian independence. My parents played his music before any puja. His recordings were played at our wedding. During a century of horrendous communal bloodshed in India, no one represented the history of dialogue between Muslims and Hindus like he did.

Ultimately Khan's music took on two significant meanings for me. He was the end of my self-loathing as an Indian American and the beginning of my pride and love for my family’s culture. He was also the fluidity and flexibility that gives me strength to step outside narrow definitions of that same Indian culture, the strength to immerse myself in other American cultures without losing my roots. I really want to pass those two, seemingly opposing states of mind on to my daughter.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Beets are Green

For a long time I’ve been wanting to write on Green Parenting about food and co-ops and eating. I still do, but I thought that to inaugurate this series, I’d begin by offering an appetizer, whose importance is only clear if you understand that, as a child, beets came in sliced, gelatinous-looking form out of a can. They only came out at Thanksgiving, thank gods. I hated them. But instinctively, I knew that with such an intriguing color, there had to be more to beets than what I knew. When I moved out on my own, I began buying beets. I made a series of shredded salads nobody really liked. I didn’t like them much, even. So, despite how cool looking they are when they come attached to their greens, how satisfying it is to peel the beet and find that startling color beneath such roughshod skin – the sort of reddish purple I imagine a younger, more-hip-than-traditional queen or king would wear – I tried to stop buying them.

Tried, operatively. I mean I couldn’t help but buy the beets. As the naïve, young soap opera heroine is attracted to the louse dressed in black leather, whiskey, and a moustache, so, too, have these breathtakingly beautiful, bulbous roots been irresistible to me.

And I knew they were no good for me, they never had promised to be anything but otherwise. I watched bundle after bundle of them rot, heartlessly, half-grated, in their bin. Sometimes they’d go in a stir-fry, and taste not-horrible. Initially, it’d make me swoon, but upon further reflection I realized that’s not what I was looking for in my relationship with this vegetable. So, I used them to dye a couch, as you know, but that’s a sort of once-in-a-lifetime endeavor. And, I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but the event turned out tragically. The couch faded and looked stupid after a couple months. I gave it away, to a family with a good cover.

So last night, when I decided to do something with the beets the co-op had given me in a mixed share I’d pre-purchased the week before, I wasn’t expecting much. The recipe basically calls for grating beets, adding flour, and frying them in giant pancake form, in butter. Sounds gross.

But, by jingos, it isn’t. It is perfect. The butter flavors the beets, the beets get crisp. It tastes gourmet. It is simple to prepare. It is exciting. I am going to share it with you, as Mark Bittman, shared it with me in How To Cook Everything: Vegetarian Cooking. Bittman has served me poorly in a few other recipes...I get this feeling he doesn't believe in vegetarian food, but most recipes I like a lot. And wow did he come through with the Beet Roesti with Rosemary.

• 1 to 1 1/2 pounds beets
• 1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 cup flour
• 2 tablespoons butter

1. Trim the beets and peel them as you would potatoes; grate them in a food processor or by hand. Begin preheating a medium to large non-stick skillet over medium heat.

2. Toss the grated beets in a bowl with the rosemary and salt, then add about half the flour; toss well, add the rest of the flour, then toss again.

3. Place the butter in the skillet and heat until it begins to turn nut-brown. Scrape the beet mixture into the skillet, shape it into a nice circle, and press it down with a spatula. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the bottom of the beet cake is nicely crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Slide the cake out onto a plate, top with another plate, invert the two plates, and slide the cake back into the pan. Continue to cook, adjusting the heat if necessary, until the second side is browned. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings, time: 20 minutes

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

EcoKids: Raising Children Who Care for the Earth

Our friend Julie gave us a copy of the book EcoKids, which I just finished reading. The author, Dan Chiras, is an ecologist and father of two boys. He teaches courses on renewable energy, green building, and sustainability at Colorado College. The subtitle really is accurate. Chiras focuses on ways to raise future environmental leaders.

The book starts off with a lovely autobiographical note. Apparently, even though he went to college during the Vietnam War, Chiras was an apolitical pre-med student. He explains that his transformation into a hardcore tree hugger wasn’t because of a single event. A number of early experiences – growing up in the country, hiking through old growth along the Appalachian trail, witnessing a good fishing stream turned to muck by factory effluent – coalesced while he was driving through Gary, Indiana. I’ve driven through Gary and I imagine many people have become die-hard environmentalists that way. I used to call Gary the “armpit of America”, but I think too highly of armpits now to smear them that way. Chiras quit the medical track and devoted himself to environmental studies before it really emerged as a discipline.

Each chapter presents a mix of ecological theory, inspirational stories, and practical advise. His background as an academic often comes through. Sometimes I felt like I was sitting in a college lecture hall, as if an undergrad had transcribed one of his talks. On the other hand, he strongly advocates teaching environmentalism in the field, while hiking or driving past a clear cut or visiting a sewage plant.

I enjoyed the contradictions in his style, which became more and more obvious as I read through the book. For example, in a subsection called “Age-Appropriate Education” he writes, “Avoid the tendency to try to teach young children abstract concepts like I did with my children. Being an environmental scientist, writer, and educator, I found myself lecturing about air pollution long before my boys could understand what I was talking about. (Sorry guys.)” And yet, Chiras doesn’t seem to have internalized his own message. A little later in the book, he writes, “Ask your children what the statement ‘Ecosystems are the life-support systems of the plant’ means.” That’s a very abstract, lecture-like, rhetorical question to pose to a child. I ultimately found these contradictions endearing. My dad is an academic and I’m one too, so I identified with Chiras’s difficulty holding back the lectures. Also, Chiras doesn’t give the impression that he never made mistakes or that he has parenting figured out. You learn indirectly about his divorce and his teenage boy’s desire to own a gas-guzzling, muscle car.

My favorite part of the book was probably the description of his house. It made me want to live off the grid. He has solar panels and a super efficient refrigerator. The bedrooms are partly under ground. Elk sometimes graze above where he sleeps. I also liked how he referenced useful resources and books. Now I have half a dozen books to add to my reading list. The one’s at the top are Household EcoTeam Workbook: A Six-month Program to Bring Your Household into Environmental Balance and Living Simply with Children.

EcoKids is the first parenting guide I’ve read that isn’t strictly oriented to the relationship between the mother and child – the world outside the family is also a consideration. The book was close enough to what I think MaGreen and I are trying to accomplish with this blog that it clarified in my mind what the difference is between ecological parenting and green parenting. For me, green parenting includes social responsibility from the beginning. Race, ethnicity, class, and gender aren’t side notes for me. You can’t just add and stir them in at the end. That said, EcoKids is excellent and you should read it.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


Our beloved megopolis, this unmatched experiment in car culture and concrete sprawl, is finally building a real mass transit system. A series of citywide referendums showed that a majority of Houstonians are in favor of expanding light rail. The Republican congressmen who tried to block light rail had to back down. One of the proposed routes even runs near our home, which I’m very excited about.

The opponents of rail, however, did not give up. Residents of a single wealthy neighborhood – Afton Oaks – have managed to dredge up all the old arguments against rail and delay progress on the new East/West line. This line would connect the heavily Latino and working class East side, Houston’s largest public university, an historic African-American neighborhood, the arts district, and the main shopping district. The Afton Oaks people have mounted a campaign to have a large section of the line shifted from Richmond avenue to a street where nobody lives. The US congressman who is supposed to represent me, John Culberson, has vociferously taken up this one neighborhood’s Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) fight.

Fortunately, the umbrella group for our neighborhood association and the city leaders in favor building a useful transit system have begun to build a broader and louder Yes In My Back Yard (YIMBY) support base to counter the NIMBY’s. Today there was a meeting at a park in our neighborhood. I walked down with BabyG in the Baby Bjorn. A large map showing the proposed route, and suggested alternatives, was hung from a fence. Yard signs and fliers in support of routing the rail along Richmond were passed out. I missed our lesbian city councilwoman Sue Lovell, but I did talk to the president of the Neartown neighborhood association.

When BabyG and I were walking back home, I sort of held up our new sign so people driving by could see what it said, “Where the people are: Yes to rail on Richmond.” No one was looking though. A bunch of Whatever-I-don’t-care-what’s In My Back Yarders or WIMBY’s. I think I prefer the Afton Oaks NIMBY’s to the WIMBY’s. I prefer people who bother to participate in local politics and who care about what happens to the cities their children will inherit.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Recent Interview with My Seven Month Old

Me: I have been thinking about the deep structure behind our difficulties as a family. What is the ultimate reason for us not living in the wonderful land of turtles that you told me about in our last interview? Why is it difficult for both me and mommy to have careers, for us to have enough meaningful time together as a family, and for us to be part of a strong community? Is it because of patriarchy or capitalism?

My Baby: Daddy, “patriarchy” and “capitalism” can mean lots of things. I don’t want to talk about this unless you give me clear definitions.

Me: Well, I think that capitalism is the organization of society around money and ownership. Labor, time, production of goods and services, and access to basic necessities like water – all these things are exchanged using money. Whole political systems are built around encouraging these exchanges and producing wealth for people with power.

And I think that patriarchy is the oppression of women. It is made up of all different kinds of causes like the reservation of well-paid jobs for men, the expectation that women should do all the housework and all the baby care, and the idea that women have stronger morals but weaker intellects than men.

I think patriarchy is worse than capitalism. Obviously patriarchy’s bad for you and mommy. I personally think patriarchy is bad for me too. I don’t want to be the one who goes to work all the time my whole life even if it means I can come home and order mommy around. I wouldn’t enjoy ordering mommy around even if she let me.

My Baby: I enjoy ordering you and mommy around.

Me: That’s true.

My Baby: The problem in a capitalist world is that taking care of children only matters in so far as it produces productive workers and managers. In this era of global capitalism, if governments require companies to provide generous family leave and childcare services, jobs are moved to countries that don’t require good benefits.

Me: So you think capitalism is definitely worse than patriarchy.

My Baby: I don’t know if one is better or worse. According to Heidi Hartmann’s essay “The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism,” sometimes capitalism and patriarchy actually work together and sometimes they are at odds. When women care for children, parents, and husbands for free, it’s like patriarchy and capitalism walk hand in hand. The men in charge get rich off well-cared for workers and they get all the benefits of having women serve them at home. On the other hand, women going to work can mean more profits and that is good for capitalism but bad for patriarchy. Women who make money at work, even if they have bad wages, often have more say at home.

Me: So we live in a Global Capitalist Patriarchy in perpetual crisis?

My Baby: Daddy, let’s stop talking and make farting noises until I fall asleep.

Me: Pfffff ththththth BWOP!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Thrush music--hark!

Oh, poet Frost, if you only knew what sort of thrush we are harking here in our environmental little duplex in Houston.

One day last week I looked into BabyG's mouth and discovered it had been colonized by one of the most dreadfully mundane banes of humanity I can think of: candida. Or as its called in mouthish circles, thrush.

Oh would that it was a blibbering bird betaking a break upon my babe's tongue, and not this fippishly frothsome fungi!

Oh that my camera could capture, more compleatly, this nigh vanquished villainy!

The pediatrition, who I like because he reminds me of my friend David Bernardy, prescribed some medicine. We are green, but we take medicine.

As the internet had suggested I feed the baby acidopholus, as well, I asked the doctor whether he agreed. He did, so long as it didn't come in yogurt form...she's still too young for cow's milk, he said. So I went and bought little acidopholus capsules and every day I break one into her food, and eat one myself.

This whole plan would have worked swimmingly except that the little dripper I'm supposed to give her the medicine with apparently reminds her of a spoon. Though she had taken her first tiny steps into the land of solid eats before the medicine, after the very first taste of Nystatin, she began shunning anything that appears like it might be containing medicine. All spoons are suspect, in BabyGland, and so she's been hogging my breastmilk.

I was really stressing out about this. Feeding my favorite baby in the world hours and hours worth of breastmilk makes it hard to study for my comps, or to clean, or to do anything for very long.

But then,: Eureka! Today I discovered she'll eat food so long as it comes in anything other than long-stick-looking form. So you can try to feed her with a spoon and spend the morning watching her pucker and stick her tongue out and shake her head no...but if you dip a wedge of tomato or apple or beet -- or as pictured, potatoe -- into her squash and corn purree, she'll chow down hungrily.

Thank God. Not only will the breastfeeding frenzy maybe quiet down a little, but BabyG and I may go into business soon. We'll crunch the disposable spoon industry with the much more earth-friendly edible spoon industry. Maybe I can convince people with finicky babies to pay $5 a yam, or something, and we finally begin saving for BabyG's college education.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Living Small

I'm not a habitual ranter, but I feel one coming on. The New York Times ran an editorial today with the title, "Sinful Second Homes." The piece derides those environmentalists who keep second homes – most notably Al Gore, who actually has three homes if you count his family farm.

I not only have a problem with people who keep second homes, I have a problem with people who have a single home. MaGreen and I live in half a home – a two-bedroom apartment. Granted, we own the place and there's a yard, but it is still a two-bedroom apartment, a little unit in a building split down the middle. Every baby book I've read has a section on preparing "the baby's room." Our baby does not have a room. Why does she need a room? She's only seven months old. I don't even have a room. There's the living room, the office with a spare single bed, the bedroom, the bathroom, and the kitchen.

Why don't we move to the suburbs where we could easily get a four-bedroom place for the same price? I couldn't bicycle to work. We couldn't walk to our friends' places. We couldn't walk to the Gay Pride Parade or to restaurants, grocers, bars, and schools. We just couldn't walk. The more I walk and ride my bicycle, the more strongly I hate the car-centered lifestyle that I grew up in. It's a prison. The most stunning aspect about my life on bicycle and on foot has been how social it is. I meet people.

I want gigantic house owners to feel bad. MaGreen and I spent the last three days cleaning our apartment. It's hard to keep a place clean when you're packed into it. All space is at a high premium. There is no room – as in physical space – for nostalgia. You can't keep all the ragged shirts of your childhood or the ridiculous collection of knickknacks you've accumulated. You have to pick two or three and chuck the rest. I feel like wealthy people have squandered all the world's resources on creating giant storage spaces. We air-condition formal living room sets, formal dining tables, and closets full of completely useless junk like battery-powered polar bears that clap to the tune of jingle bells.

When I was in Utah with MaGreen and BabyG, we spent the day in the hospital with MaGreen's step-mother. In the evenings, we packed up MaGreen's parent's house, because they had just sold it and needed to move out within the month. My job was to go through the basement. As I went through box after box of porcelain turtles, I couldn't help but think of a lack of space as a saving grace. Having a giant basement and five extra rooms encourages junk collecting. At the hospital, I saw all the new equipment for America's increasingly obese population. This wheelchair was stationed right outside of the hospital room. BabyG's body in that gigantic wheelchair – it just set me to thinking about living small.

Maybe one day soon, our family won't fit into our half-house even more than we're not fitting into it now. Maybe MaGreen will get a high-paying job. The house will start cracking from the pressure and we'll move to a country home with a staircase just for show. But in the meantime, I'm going to lord our lean, green apartment over all the hypocritical environmentalists who have whole houses.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Raksha Bandan – A Tradition Worth Rethinking

When I was a kid, around this time every year, my female cousins would send my brother and me little string bracelets called rakhi. Then my parents would send them a little gift on our behalf. I wore my rakhi with pride. When I was very young, I remember the rakhi as a fairly simple piece of string, maybe with a little foil embellishment. As the years went by and Indian stores popped up in the US, the rakhi became these fantastically gaudy, multicolored creations. The point of the tradition, however, is not the beauty of the rakhi itself, but the bond between brothers and sisters that it symbolizes. Since I didn't have any sisters, the rakhi symbolized my bond with my cousin-sisters who lived all over the US, in India, and even Australia. Because my family is diasporized, I think those little pieces of string took on even more importance than in the days of yore.

Now that my brother and I have our own kids, it's time for us to continue this excellent tradition, right? I actually refuse to carry on with Raksha Bandan on the same terms. Treating cousin-sisters thousands of miles away as if they were my sisters was an adaptation. I think it's time for another adaptation, another rethinking of this very old custom. My problem is that the discourse around the rakhi is patriarchal. The sister gives the bracelet to her brother as a sign of appreciation for his protection. For example, this description of the meaning of Raksha Bandan, which I found on, is typical:
Rakhi or Raksha is a sacred thread embellished with sister's love and affection [sic] for her brother. On the day of Raksha Bandhan sisters tie Rakhi on their brother's wrist and express their love for him. By accepting a Rakhi from a sister a brother gladly takes on the responsibility of protecting her sister. In Indian tradition the frail thread of Rakhi is considered stronger than iron chains as it binds brothers and sisters in an inseparable bond of love and trust.
This narrative of taking on "the responsibility of protecting the sister" reflects a whole worldview where only by virtue of a man's status can a woman have any security or rights. A worldview in which honor is associated with cloistered women who are subservient to men from cradle to grave, where women do all the cooking, housework, childcare, eldercare, and if they do any paid labor it is informal, and where men can move about more freely and have the right (and obligation) to do the paid labor. My family does not live in that world. It hasn't for two generations now. My mother, my wife, and my sister-in-law all have careers. They have rights independent of my relationship with them. I hope that our familial bonds are based on love.

Why should BabyG send her male cousin, Akshay, a rakhi and not get one back from him? Why shouldn't BabyG and her female cousin, Asha, exchange rakhi too? We should expand Raksha Bandan. It should signify all sisterly and brotherly bonds. They can all protect and love one another. If we cut the patriarchy from the tradition, the tradition is not weakened. It can open up and bring more meaning to our lives.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Be the Change You Want to See…Or Not

When we first started this blog, I wrote about the Panamanian family we staid with during our honeymoon, a family in which the mother went off to take care of American children and only saw her own children once a month. I heaped scorn on the rich mothers in LA who employ poor Salvadorans so that the rich kids get the benefit of two mothers and the poor kids get far less loving care. I wrote about how I still wanted MaGreen to have the opportunity to do paid work without being on the demand side of the global trade in motherly love. I wrote that there must be some other way.

Now it’s time to either walk the walk or eat my words. MaGreen needs to take two major exams this Fall in order to keep making progress towards her Ph.D. She must read a book per day for the next two months. Until now, she has taken care of BabyG by herself every weekday except Thursday afternoons. That one afternoon, I leave my job early so that MaGreen can teach writing to children at the M.D. Anderson cancer hospital. At this stage, MaGreen can’t prepare for the exams and take care of BabyG on her own. BabyG demands more attention now. She expects to be played with.

So I called the daycare program I put BabyG on the waiting list for. They said there were no openings. I panicked. On my way home that day, I saw a dark brown Latina woman walking with a very white two year old.

“Hello,” I said. “Can I ask you a question?” The woman just looked back at me blankly and I added, “en Espanol?” She agreed and I approached her. “I have a seven-month-old baby and we need help caring for her, two or three days per week.”

“I can work for you part-time,” she said. Her “patrones” employed her three to four days per week and she said she could take on more work. She came to our home with her husband and we talked with them. They are Guatemalan. They have a seven-year-old son in Guatemala who is being taken care of by the grandmother. When we asked what wage she would want, she said eight dollars. She said she would talk to the family down the street about splitting her time and would come back in two days with a list of references. When she and her husband left, MaGreen and I felt torn about the possibility of hiring her.

“Is it right to hire her?” we asked.
No, we thought. To hire her would be to participate in an exploitive system that tears up families. We have opposed trade pacts like CAFTA and NAFTA that cripple the ability of Latin American and Caribbean nations to create a just distribution of wealth. We should also try our best to avoid supporting this exploitative system as consumers of caring labor and instead try to participate in alternatives.

Yes, we thought. It is right to hire her. The woman has agency of her own. She did not and we did not choose the economic system that brings us together, but she did make a choice to try the life of the domestic worker in America. It is naïve to think we can live outside of the economic order. For her, getting paid to take care of BabyG could mean the option of a more promising future for herself, her son, and her whole family. Not paying her wouldn’t bring her any closer to her son. She could have a comfortable working environment in our home and really help us provide good care for BabyG while MaGreen studies.
Then I heard back from the childcare center and they said we did in fact make it off the waiting list. So I scheduled a time to take a tour of the facility. I was feeling good about childcare. It looked like we would be able to choose between two decent options, either a daycare facility or a nanny.

We went on the tour today. Although the daycare facility looked like a safe place to enroll BabyG, the actual building was junky and rundown. MaGreen and I also thought the babies looked listless and unengaged. They were watched, fed, and kept dry, but otherwise not stimulated. Also, we’d have to drop many of the parenting choices we’ve made like using cloth diapers and elimination communication. I think both us had a bad feeling in our guts, beyond regular separation anxiety. Maybe the nanny thing will work out, I thought. The Guatemalan lady had said she would come today at 6pm with a list of references. She did indeed come, not with her husband, but with her cousin and her niece.

“I won’t be able to get enough days from my current employer so I brought my niece because she can work for you,” she said. Her niece claimed to be twenty-three, but she looked more like seventeen to me. Unlike the aunt, the niece did not seem sharp or experienced. I felt bad for the niece. She spoke Spanish in clipped and slurred phrases. She’d only lived in America for seven months and didn't have real references. I knew we couldn’t hire her, but I felt obliged to keep asking questions like we were seriously considering the proposition. I made small talk and danced around the tough questions.

“Do you have lots of family in Houston?” I asked.

“Oh yes,” they said, “Bastante.”

“In Guatemala is your family in the city or in a village?” I asked.

“A village,” they said.

“Do you speak another language than Spanish there?” I asked.

“Yes, we speak Quiche,” they said.

I was in awe. What sequence of events brought these Mayan Indians into our home? Had the US funded and trained killing squads that destroyed their communities? Had US multinationals squashed their local food sovereignty in order to make huge profits off cash crops? Are national investments in the infrastructure that would lead to improvement in the quality of life in Guatemalan villages restrained by provisions in trade deals with the US? Can we, like bitter old lefties, trace the story back through the Cold War, all the way back to the 1954 CIA-sponsored coup of President Arbenz Guzman, a democratically-elected Socialist.

Here in our living room. The great big world. Our little baby girl. Their struggle to escape history. Our ambitions. Can we be the change we want to see? I’m not sure.