To mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October, I’d like to tell you a story.
Many years ago, I interviewed a young woman who shot and killed her husband after enduring years of abuse at his hands. The woman was in her early 20s. She had a child who was just learning to walk. There was little sympathy in the community for her actions. It was the majority opinion that she had done wrong, and of course, she had. She took a life.
Why didn’t she just leave? Why didn’t she run to the neighbors and call the police when the hitting began? The public blamed the woman for allowing her husband to beat her up. They said she was unfit to be a mother because she had stayed with him after she had a child.
I recently watched a PBS TV program featuring brief commentaries by the following women, some of whom I had never heard of before:
Alicia Keyes, singer; Madeline Albright, former secretary of state; Sara Blakeley, panty hose mogul; Nia Wordlaw, airline pilot; Laurie Anderson, artist; Rosie Perez, actor; Aimee Mullins, model and athlete; Shonda Rhimes, TV writer; Nancy Pelosi, politics; Edie Falco, actor; Betsey Johnson, clothing designer; Margaret Cho, comedian; Elizabeth Holmes, scientist; Wendy Williams, TV host; Gloria Allred, feminist civil rights attorney.
As I watched and listened, I asked myself “What single quality do these women have in common?” Wealth? Ambition? Extreme good looks? High I.Q.’s? Ivy League-quality educations? None of those attributes did all of the women share, as far as I could judge.
Every eight years, our community has the opportunity to review our county’s guiding document, the Pinellas County Charter. The Charter Review Commission exercises our right as Pinellas County citizens to self-governance by allowing amendments to the charter to be placed directly on the ballot for voters to decide on. This 13-member commission represents a cross-section of citizens and a handful of local government officials. I have been appointed by my colleagues to represent the Board of County Commissioners on this commission. Your input to me would be invaluable as we move forward.
Charter government in Florida dates back to 1968 when voters amended the state constitution to provide counties with more powers of self-governance, a right often referred to as “home rule.” One of the ways counties strengthen their home rule authority is by adopting a charter, which Pinellas County voters approved by referendum in 1980. Pinellas is one of 20 counties in Florida that have adopted a charter.
While citizens always have the right to voice their support or dissent for Pinellas County polices, the charter review process is unique in that it actually enables a citizen-led body to propose changes that are then directly placed on the ballot. Policy areas affected by charter amendments include the legislative and executive branches of government, county officers, and city-county relations, to name a few.
Many Americans are increasingly conflicted when they are confronted by advice from research scientists, even advice on such fundamental issues as vaccination and human health, nutrition and food safety, and especially the role of climate change in their lifestyle decisions.
This dilemma exists even though most Americans recognize the technology shaping much of their lives comes directly from the stunning achievements of these same research scientists. These technologies have transformed our lives, mostly for the better, with options unimagined even a few years before.
The reluctance, and occasional hostility, of citizens to accept, or even rationally discuss, the views of research scientists underlies serious challenges now facing societies in determining which science and technology to embrace and which to reject. Often these decisions have merged with unsubstantiated opinions and/or personal ideologies.
I wish I had indulged in more vices when I was young. If that had been the case, my chances of enjoying a financially secure old age would have increased just from my giving up my corrupt activities and bad habits. Of course, that assumes I actually would have quit.
Chasing strange women, for example. A “strange” woman is described in the Book of Proverbs as a female who will lead you into dangerous, destructive practices. “Does this include marriage?” I used to ask that question of my parents when I was 14 and religious, as I thumbed through the Old Testament. My parents replied, “Shut up and do your algebra.”
Eventually I learned (from watching other guys) that chasing strange women can be costly in terms of time, money, loss of sleep, lawyers’ fees, angry husbands and several other less-than-desirable outcomes. Looking back, however, I can see that if I had become a skirt-chaser I would have had to be much more ambitious and successful just to afford the jolly times. Even though I’d have spent a lot of bucks on the ladies, I might have become a big-time executive and then retired into a comfortable, well-padded old age. That has not happened.
1. Can we trust any of the modern medicines the drug companies keep sending our way? Many of their advertisements sound like this: “Flipwisket (megasyncolestamine) will cure your (here insert whatever ails you). However, possible side effects include dizziness, cancer of the earlobe, bowel seizures, forgetfulness, headaches, adultery, inner voices, hair loss and frequent stupidity. Do not operate heavy equipment, race cars, lasers, tasers or razors within eight days after taking this product.”
Using many of today’s remedies amounts to nothing short of gambling. If you don’t try them, you may suffer for years. If you do try them, you may suffer for years. Or die. Take your pick, and roll the dice. One thing is sure: We will never hear a drug company say, “This product is absolutely safe. No side effects whatsoever.”
2. Why did we get rid of the word “closing” and instead begin saying “closure”? Years ago after a blizzard or flood, we had the closings of schools and roadways. Today we say “closures.” Also: after a death or other misfortune, people grieved, but carried on without a lot of verbal dramatics. No more. Today many survivors bravely say, “We only seek CLOSURE and GETTING ON WITH OUR LIVES.”
The woman was just 5 feet tall, pretty ... and bruised. Her husband was about 6 feet 2 inches. He clutched her wrist as he beat her. She screamed and pleaded for him to stop.
The incident transpired in a mall in front of dozens of shoppers who did nothing to impede the attack. One man finally stepped forward and tossed the assailant into a wall.
Domestic abuse once was swept under the rug. It was even accepted for decades that battered women enjoyed being beaten. The fact remains that women often allow physical and psychological cruelty to protect their children from overbearing and dangerous partners. They also suffer from their own challenges, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and low self-esteem.
I’m certain that some of the 100 U.S. senators and 435 U.S. representatives are upright, honest, dedicated, idealistic men and women.
Statistical likelihood would make that happen. Even in this jaded era, you can’t get hundreds of officials elected to the highest posts in the land without some of them being top quality.
But how do we keep track of our Congress-persons, good and bad? Who keeps an accounting of their performances, the votes they cast, the lobbyists they meet with, the campaign contributions they accept? What are their attendance records? How many measures do they cast votes for in each session? How often do they accept free tickets for travel, donated by persons or companies who want their support?
Barks for Books INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – Children who need help reading can get help from Agape and reading therapy dog and his friend Belle at Barks for Books Wednesdays, 1 p.m., at the Indian Rocks Beach Library, 1507 Bay Palm Blvd. Call 596-1822.
Book of Mormon study CLEARWATER – A course of study in the Book of Mormon will run Sept. 16 through Dec. 9, at 3303 Belcher Road.
The study will meet Wednesdays, 7 to 8 p.m. The Clearwater Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints will host the course. Attendees will learn about the Book of Mormon and discover what the book teaches about Jesus Christ.
City Power Toastmasters Club meeting ST. PETERSBURG – The City Power Toastmasters Club, a nonprofit communication and leadership club, meets Wednesdays from noon to 1 p.m. at the Municipal Services Building, One Fourth St. N., Sixth Floor, Room 600.
The club teaches self-confidence and skills to help listen, think, speak and gain leadership qualities. Participants gain poise, positive body language and speak more easily.
Guests are welcome to visit for free with no pressure to join.
Florida Native Plant Society meeting CLEARWATER – The Pinellas chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society will meet Wednesday, Oct. 7, 7 p.m., at Moccasin Lake Nature Park, 2750 Park Trail Lane.
Largo Toastmasters meeting LARG0 – Largo Star Toastmasters Club 5933 invites new members to its weekly meeting on Wednesdays, 12:05 to 1:05 p.m., at the Young Rainey Star Center, 7887 Bryan Dairy Road No. 120 in Largo.
The club is open to all residents and workers in the Largo, Pinellas Park and Seminole areas.
A Toastmasters club provides a supportive and positive environment where members have the opportunity to develop their oral communication and leadership skills. Come watch as members present speeches, develop leadership skills by serving in various club positions and participate in Table Topics sessions in a relaxed yet structured one-hour setting.
Madeira Beach Open Air Market Madeira Beach Open Air Market, Wednesdays through the end of April, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Madeira Way between Gulf Boulevard and the Tom Stuart Causeway.
Master Gardeners on duty UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County Master Gardeners provide solutions for all types of questions concerning garden, lawn and landscape care on Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., through mid-November, at the Palm Harbor Library, 2330 Nebraska Ave., Palm Harbor.
NARFE monthly meeting CLEARWATER – All federal retirees and active federal employees are encouraged to attend an upcoming meeting of Clearwater National Active and Retired Federal Employees, Chapter 259 at 1 p.m. on Oct. 7 at the Clearwater East Library, Conference Room A, 2251 Drew St.
There will be a discussion of up-to-date issues particularly relevant for active and retired federal employees, and presentations from Ms. Jane Lemley, the NARFE Florida President, and from Aetna insurance.
For information, call Mike Pizzorusso at 510-9472.
Recreational fishing course MADEIRA BEACH – A five-week recreational fishing class begins Wednesday, Oct. 7, at the Madeira Beach City Marina, 503 150th Ave.
Fee is $50 for the course. Each session meets Wednesdays from 6:30-9 p.m. Class size is limited.
Subjects to be covered include knot systems; care, selection and use of tackle; electronics; bottom fishing; live bait and hardware trolling; artificial reefs and cleaning of fish.
Instructor is Capt. David Zalewski, operator of charter boat Lucky Too II, who has fished in local waters since 1962.