Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Family Ghost

This post falls under the heading of what I started with on this blog, stories of life that I always figured that someday, I would get around to telling. Such as it is, I am not going to bury this one. I did save it for just the right season though.
In the last year, I have thought much about my mortality and the things I wanted to get written before I was gone. Somehow, the family ghost(s) was not on the list, or maybe it was. It is not that I ever officially said, well yes, I do believe in ghosts. Somewhere along the way though, I realized that no matter how logical we want reality to be, there are some things we just plain do not understand. And ghosts are one of those things.

Most of the time, when the subject of ghosts comes up, I have avoided mention of my own. One does so love to maintain a semblance of normalcy, the illusion of sanity. Be that as it is, with all these books and stories and histories of ghosts, it’s time to fess up, this one is among those stories that I am not inclined to take with me to the grave. We have a ghost(s). And we pretty much have, since we moved into this house.  

We had only been in the house maybe a couple weeks when we had our first encounter. Actually, my daughter had the first encounter. I am trying to remember her exact age, she was still in the carry her around in your arms, diaper wearing stage, less than two years old. But she had a few words, and one word that she communicated very distinctly was “Baby.”

I was walking through the kitchen with her in my arms, and suddenly, she reached for the ceiling and squealed “Baby!” almost jumped out of my arms reaching, like very small children do, when they are so excited to see another little person just like them. Except she was reaching for the ceiling, and there was nobody else around. The first time it happened, I brushed it off, didn’t think much about it. The kitchen is more like a great room, with a cathedral ceiling, and I figured maybe she saw a shadow—or something. The second time it happened, I squinted trying to make out what she was seeing. I didn’t see a thing, tried again to make outa shadowmaybe. About the third time, she started excitedly squealing “Baby,” and excitedly reaching toward the ceiling, for something I still couldn’t see, I thought maybe I would say something to one of the neighbors the next time I ran into one of them.

Well, the next time, I am in the yard, here comes the neighbor walking over to my fence, “Did you hear about the baby?”

“What baby?”

“The people who lived there before you, their baby drowned in a swimming pool not long after they moved out of the house.”

I never met the family who lived there before us, never knew the child’s name. My own daughter was too young to have a clue what a ghost was, but after so many instances, there was no doubt, she was seeing and communicating with something that appeared very childlike to her. It was also eerie that in these early experiences, the apparition was always above us.

That was the start, but over the years, we had a number of what would be considered paranormal experiences in the house. When the kids were in elementary school, there was a while that it seemed to be a perpetual problem. And I do mean problem. Somebody was always seeing something. My son, who was maybe ten years old at the time, was in the backyard, and swore somebody was walking behind him. In the same time-frame, he had walked past me, looked at the wall beside me, which was toward the hall, and said, “There’s a dog man.” He pointed and kept going. Didn’t even stop. He doesn’t remember that now, but it sure stuck with me at the time.

Over the years, there were a number of instances in that hall. More than once during this time, out of the corner of my eye, I would catch a fleeting glimpse of a shadowy being that seemed to hurry away when it realized it had almost been seen. But it was always an almost, I never really saw a thing, nothing that I could define.

And then there was the neighbor’s kid. Late one night, one of the neighbor’s kids, she was around 16 at the time, started banging on our door to wake us up. She was terrified and had crawled out the window to come to us for help. She said somebody was in their house. Her parents were asleep in bed and she heard footsteps walking down the hall. We called their house to see if everything was okay. And her parents, of course, answered. Everything was fine. This child was an honor student; she was about as far from what you would ever consider a flake in your life. If she said she heard footsteps in the hall, there is no reason anybody would doubt her. As far as I know, she had never in her whole life had a silly little goofy incident; that was not her personality. She was rock solid as both a child and an adult. What she heard that night, we’ll never know. But at the time, it was just a late night incident with the kids. Alone, it was the inclination of teen angst, ghost stories perhaps, but in the context of the other, too close for comfort, and never to be discussed again.

Even for somebody who doesn’t believe in ghosts, and I never honestly did, but after so much of this, you start thinking, well could be we need to do something about it. So I had the bright idea of seeing a family counselor, a shrink perhaps. Whatever comes in life, I have always been of the mindset that you just deal with it. At least I felt like I was attempting to do something—the most rational think I could come up with to deal with an irrational problem. That was among the dumbest decisions of my life.

At the time all this was going on, I didn’t know about things like parapsychologists, there really are people who make their living as ghost busters, and later somebody did tell me that a family therapist probably wasn’t the best choice for dealing with ghosts. I figured that one out. I tried, I really did. Shrinks, Rid-Damp, and salt. I tried everything. For a while I wondered if a Catholic priest might know what to do, but I’m not actually Catholic. If a person can deal logically and rationally with a ghost, I gave it my best shot. I eventually tried to read and understand what I could. Didn’t deter those ghosts one bit. And the thing is, in the middle of all this, if you had asked me if I believed in ghosts, I would have still answered with a resounding “No, of course not, you have got to be kidding.”

As to the Rid-Damp, whatever you live with, you do your best to deal with it. Being the logical pragmatic person that I tend to be, who never believed in ghosts in the first place, except now I apparently had a problem with them, and no matter how crazy your problem might be, or how crazy it sounds when you try to talk about it, there are some things a shrink can’t fix, and ghosts are right near the top of that list.

So after the useless money I spent trying to shrink the ghosts away, I attempted to figure out what one does to rationally deal with ghosts. For a while, I would go from corner to corner of the house sprinkling salt. I heard somewhere that would work. It seemed like it would work for a while, and then they would be back again, so I kept at it, trying to resolve the ghost problem.

Then somewhere or other, I heard that ghosts really like damp places so if you get rid of as much dampness as possible, at least the place won’t be so enticing to them—perhaps. So how do you get rid of dampness in your house? Rid-Damp, of course. I put Rid-Damp containers all over the house. When an old friend dropped by and I was putting out more Rid-Damp, he was asking what I was doing, and I was explaining my ghost problem as I went from room-to-room and he is following me around the house as I put out more and more Rid-Damp. That was a particularly bad episode and I had Rid-Damp all over the house. Nobody questions my ghosts, my eccentricity, or even my sanity, they just nod their head, not a suggestion at all, and I continued in my mission to drive away the ghosts. And that week it was Rid-Damp.

Needless to say, the Rid-Damp was a complete waste of time, money and effort. Rid-Damp is not effective for controlling ghosts. I don’t remember who gave me that helpful household hint, but it doesn’t work.

Over the years, we had several instances that involved the family pets, when a cat or dog caught sight of something that nobody else could see, and for the cat, growling, and hair standing on end. One instance with the dog, she stood at the entrance to the hall, her hair stood on end and she started trembling, suddenly she broke out of the tremble, put her nose to the floor like she was smelling something distinct, on a trail, with her nose to the floor the whole time, she followed the trail into the bathroom and it ended at the vent. That was it, and she turned around looking, running around in circles, she clearly had the scent of something, and was going back and forth with her nose to the floor, over and over, tracing the same path. But whatever it was, it was gone just as quickly as it had appeared.

Over the years, there was also the realization that we were dealing with more than the spirit of one child. The ghosts are not an everyday or even an every year occurrence, but one can be pretty certain though that once you get complacent and you are sure they are gone, they will be back. And that is generally when you least expect it, and frequently at a time when you really do have real life problems to deal with, in the real word. The world does not stop just because you have a ghost.

The years brought acceptance though and then there was the one time, my daughter yelled out, “They’re back.”

“Who’s back?” I asked,

“The ghost,” she said. “The cat. Look at the cat. He sees something.”

By then, we were past worrying about it all. And we were no longer afraid of those ghosts. I can’t say the same for the cat though. One more time, that cat’s hair was on end and near the same area of the hall where the dog had also had an experience. Also, by this time, we had had so many encounters over the years, it was old hat, and this time my daughter went scrambling for a camera. I didn’t know what to look for in the picture, despite it all, I was never well versed in the lore of ghosts. There was indeed a light in the hall that we were able to see in the picture. I no longer have a clue where the picture is. But that was the day when the ghost went from being a problem to one of the family, or at the least a member of the household. It was there. It wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and neither were we.

The one time when the ghost actually manifest to the point of a poltergeist experience was the morning after my now ex had left. My soul was shattered at the break-up of our family and there was a horrendous storm that night, there were floods all around the area, as if the heavens were sobbing with me. In every sense of the word, it had been a dark, loud, wet, and stormy night.

The next morning, my daughter and I were sitting at the table in the kitchen, still digesting what had happened. She had a glass of something, I don’t remember what, probably juice, and one of those little toy straws like you get in the kiddy meals from MacDonald’s. It was something between a whistle and a straw, that you put together with one of those little action hero heads, then you could blow it and make noise while you drink your drink. We were sitting there and the action hero whistle straw starts blowing. And we were watching it blow, by itself. This was not a battery operated thing; you had to blow it. We were already in shock about her dad leaving and for a minute, we just sat staring at the thing. Then I picked it up and took it completely apart to stop it from blowing. A couple minutes later, the dog goes to the entrance of the hall and her hair stands on end. She stands frozen and trembles in terror for a few seconds, and then she snaps out of it, puts her nose to the floor, and begins the chase that once more ends at the vent in the bathroom, and then she runs around in circles, continuously retracing the trail of the scent, trying to find whatever it was she had both seen and smelled.

About that time the phone rang, it was our insurance man, sounding oddly nervous, stressed. My soon to be ex had already called about his car, the flood the night before had been so bad, places that had never flooded in town before flooded with that storm, and his beloved Beemer was among the damage.

Strange doings, the world doesn’t stop because a five year old ghost or any other ghost for that matter drops by. Over the years, I discussed these matters with people who knew and understood ghosts and the paranormal more than I did. With time, the fear of the unknown was replaced by an acceptance that there are some things we just plain don’t understand. In some of the experiences, it was clear that the ghost, or whatever it was, was a child and communicated with my daughter when she was too young to have a clue what a ghost was. Later, with that realization, in the times when it manifest, I tried to think maternal thoughts toward it. I really didn’t know what else to do. It is not like there is a manual on how to deal with the family ghost, or maybe there is and I just missed it.

With more time still, it was pretty clear, that not all of the encounters were with the same being. Although my daughter’s early encounters were very positive, the time in the yard with my son, and the incident with the neighbor’s child were both very frightening for everyone involved. Since, at times, the incidents seemed to involve more than the actual house, it has been suggested that perhaps the area was at one time a Native American burial ground. Since I too have at least a partial Native American ancestry, I did not find that troubling, and almost in some way felt like, well maybe I am supposed to be here. I don’t know, as frightening as it all was in the early days of awareness, with time, I have wondered what happens to the ghosts when the family moves away. Disconcertingly sad and odd thoughts.

Over the years, I have also visited other places that were supposed to be haunted. Sometimes accidently, sometimes on purpose, at which point it was as much curiosity as a search for common ground. Something I could latch onto. With time, I also learned that where there is a tendency of a ghost to manifest if, for whatever reason, that spirit is not at rest. It has been a while now since the last visitation, but if it was somehow within me, it was my inclination that my home would be a place of peace, strength in spirit, love, and respect for life in all its manifestations. I didn’t know what else to do.

The years have changed what Halloween used to be about, and we do so love a good ghost story. But the day used to holy, for honoring those who had gone before. What was really going on? I still don’t understand it all, probably never will, but could be those ancients were onto something. I have long since quit putting out the Rid-Damp.

Copyright 2013 Regina Garson

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Miley Cyrus, Banned NZ Student Video, "Blurred Lines" and Rape Culture Run Amok

I was aware of the Miley Cyrus MTV Video Awards episode and I will even admit I was secretly rooting for her, but I didn’t pay it a whole lot of attention. Then I heard about a video parody some New Zealand students had made of the same song being pulled from YouTube. When you consider Miley and her outrageous butt twerking, tongue wagging performance, I started to get curious.

There is no doubt, when Miley Cyrus got on that stage with Robin Thicke, she pushed at the edge of everything we consider good, proper, and decent in the decorum of a young woman. She gyrated, she twerked, she rolled her tongue, she licked and she fondled. She did just about every raunchy thing a person can do, and still keep their clothes on. And she did it all on stage.

It seemed that just about everybody had an opinion, except me — at least until I caught wind of this YouTube video ruckus out of New Zealand (NZ). And could be I was the last person on the planet to hear about “Blurred Lines” and Robin Thicke. Not that I watched the awards show, I just caught clips of the ruckus that followed. I honestly just thought he was a Beetlejuice prop, or something. I always did love that movie.

It appears that the whole MTV Video Award thing was supposed to have been Robin Thicke’s show. He was not actually a prop. Although an expected winner with his number one hit song, he won nothing. But he had invited Miley to perform a duet with him. Some duet. They both had their own hit songs, and somehow came together in the middle. I didn’t even realize he was supposed to have been part of the show until I did a little follow-up on the NZ video parody.

No doubt that performance got Miley a whole lot of attention. Rumors were flying, and not just about it not being what was practiced in rehearsal. Leaves me curious as to what was actually practiced. Of course, if you take a minute to look at the Thicke video, think about what was going on, and perhaps what was expected of her performance, given the song…. Could be she was doing a little pushing there too, and I don’t mean twerking.

Although Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” (NSFW) was the number one hit song of the summer, the feminist community has not been particularly impressed and have pretty much been coming out of the woodwork on this one. The consensus is that the song is indeed about blurring lines—between consensual sex and rape—a misogynistic glorification of rape and sexual violence.

In a time when women all over the world are suddenly fighting to hang on to what hard won rights they do have, Thicke’s video performance took everything that was reprehensible about the glorification of a culture of rape, and the objectivation of women, and bumped it up to a whole new level. And he was laughing all the way to the bank. For 12 weeks and counting, “Blurred Lines” has been at the top of the Billboard charts.

For me though, it didn’t start sinking in as to the implications of Miley’s performance, much less the discussions going on in the feminist community, until I caught a blip about a video made by some students at Auckland University. A comedy skit, “Robin Thicke – Blurred Lines [Feminist Parody] ‘Defined Lines.’”

Although it had 300,000 YouTube hits within days of its release, it didn’t hit the news until it was pulled—something about it being derogatory toward men. Really?  A parody of “Blurred Lines” is pulled for being derogatory toward men. You know if it got pulled, I had to see what it was all about. You can watch it on YouTube.

It’s obviously back now, but could be their video was indeed derogatory toward men. No doubt about it, “Blurred Lines,” of which it was a spoof, was derogatory toward women. There is also no doubt that it showed significantly more skin than the student parody, which depicted good looking men, nearly naked, existing for no other reason than to serve as sex objects for their women. It was hilarious. The whole thing was supposed to have been a joke, which the Auckland Law Revue students put together for a comedy show. It was pulled from YouTube just about the time it started going viral. Nothing like a little censorship to bring proper attention to a subject.

The video parody featured Auckland University law students Zoe Ellwood, Olivia Lubbock, Adelaide Dunn, and a few of their male friends. Here are some comments from Adelaide Dunn, who wrote the lyrics.
We just wanted to make a fun video exposing the objectification and sending out a positive message to women, also being a little bit jokey and tongue in cheek. Our intent of making the men topless and putting them in their underwear was just to expose the impact we felt when we saw topless women in a similar situation. When you reverse it, you are making a statement about it…. When you take something out of its original context, which was a comedy skit show, people are going to take it as more of a political statement than we intended it to be….  But if you can start a discourse on what it means to be a sex object, I think that is a positive thing. (Adelaide Dunn, Channel 3 News, New Zealand, 2013)
Essentially, what started as a comedy skit turned into a feminist political discussion.

There were definitely some folks who felt that the Thicke video was pornographic. In one version, the women were scantily clad; in the other, they were even more scantily clad and wore only nude colored g-strings. Thicke maintained that the nudie version was his wife’s idea.

In both versions, it was pretty clear that the women were there for one reason. That is not really that big of a deal; when you get down to biology, we are all sexual creatures. However, whether or not that sex is consensual is an entirely different matter. A whole lot of people took the message of the song as one of blurring the lines between consensual sex and rape. In a time when a convicted rapist gets 30 days while his victim gets a trip to the morgue, the flippant perpetuation of that attitude is not okay.

During my first trip to DC as an activist, one of the older feminists talked about how her generation had worked so hard for women to have certain freedoms. She also mentioned that earning those freedoms did not mean that the next generation was going to define freedom in the same way.

I have thought about her words many times. I’ve been very troubled in recent months with all the efforts toward legislation that will turn back the clock on women’s rights. Leaders are coming forward though and that is clear. Elizabeth Warren is one of them, so is Wendy Davis. It could be that the young Barbara Bush is another.

I don’t know what they have to do with Miley Cyrus, and the growing list of feminist video parodies, except momentum is growing in more than one way. Women are not ready to give up the gains they have made. If Miley Cyrus got tongues wagging, the students in New Zealand got some people thinking. Obviously, if he has a number one hit, Robin Thicke has countless fans. Everyone wasn’t shouting hooray though, and the video left a whole lot of people troubled.

As to the MTV Video Awards show, it really was supposed to have been his (not Miley’s) show. But looking at his video, it is pretty clear what he expected — a good stage prop of the scantily clad female variety. Something in the song about domesticating a good girl with an animal nature. “I know you want it,” and “You’re a good girl,” and again, “I know you want it.” Those are the lines people are picking up on.

Good family man that he is reputed to be, a whole lot of people found the “Blurred Lines” video troubling. Those students and a whole lot of others have had a few things to say about it all. Could be Miley Cyrus did too. Yes her performance was raunchy, yes it was in bad taste; but if you’ve ever watched the video of “Blurred Lines,” it was too, and suddenly you get it. Was it some kind of feminist statement or was she merely stealing the show? I don’t have a clue. Word has it, she has been known to steal a show, crash a party with a twerk. She has also sang “Blurred Lines” with him before. Things sure do look different though when it is a woman overstepping what was supposed to have been defined boundaries and aggressively asserting her sexual power in the process.

Make no mistake, when Miley Cyrus walked on that stage, she took command of her sexuality. She took command of Robin Thicke and his show too, she was not one of his “good girls” awaiting his whim. There is no doubt, she was rude, raunchy, sexually aggressive, and condescending toward Thicke. Her performance was an indisputably despicable display of onstage depravity. Could be she nailed it though. Although the vocals were lovely, his song was rude, raunchy, and sexually condescending toward women.

Miley cut the glitz, trashed the glamor and played it for what it was. The award winner for “The Most Misogynistic Video Song Performance of the Year” was righteously upstaged, turned into a nameless sexual prop, much like the women he sexualized in his own videos, and subsequently emasculated — by a twenty year old “Disney sweetheart” and a growing list of young feminists who somehow have the appearance of having been directly spawned by the implications of the lines that were way to blurred in his song. It took me a minute, but I finally got it.

Go, Miley go!

PS — Although the move did not originate with her, shortly after Miley Cyrus’ MTV award show performance, the word “twerk” was officially entered into Britain’s Oxford Dictionaries.

Copyright Regina Garson 2013
Originally published on Forward Progressives September 4, 2013

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Martyred Life of Peter McWilliams

I did this piece on Peter McWilliams not long ago. He is by no means the only who has died because of needing and not being able to have access to cannabis based medications. He had cancer and couldn't keep his medicine down, and his life depended on the medications. As a last resort, his doctor prescribed marijuana for the nausea. It worked immediately, and it was the only thing that did, but the law hasn't caught up with medicine on this one, and even in California, he was forced to discontinue the treatment. He died shortly thereafter. Marijuana has long been regarded as among the best nausea treatments on the planet, but this is just one potentially life saving medical option that is not available to many of our people because everything related to marijuana is illegal. Change is being made, but we are not there yet.

The Martyred Life of Peter McWilliams
By Regina Garson

I think the real reason writers write is because deep down, they don’t have a choice. They know in their soul that there are stories that must be told. Some stories must not be allowed to rest in peace until there is peace to rest in. The story of Peter McWilliams is one such story for me.

I know I had to have heard of him before, I must have, somewhere in my consciousness. How many times have I talked about Magic Stream, my first website, now among the oldest and longest running self-help sites on the Internet. It has been such a part of me for so long, how did I miss the story of Peter McWilliams? 

Once I realized who he was, I looked around, and in arm’s reach was a well worn copy of You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought. That was just one of his books. I have picked it up many times over the years, but never put his name with the book.  

With nearly forty books to his credit, Peter McWilliams was a bestselling author and poet. Primarily known for his self-help books, that is only part of his story. It is very likely, you have heard of at least some of his books, could be you have one on your shelf and his name never hit you either. He used to joke that he was the bestselling writer that nobody had ever heard of. Somehow, everybody had heard of his books, but they didn’t tend to have a clue who he was.

The one I cherish, You Can’t Afford The Luxury of a Negative Thought is part of his Life 101 series. He also wrote about living with and healing from depression. He wrote a best-selling series of poetry books. Come Love with Me and Me My Life sold millions of copies. He also wrote about computers and marijuana, etc., etc. 

Peter McWilliams was very outspoken on issues he felt were important. Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in Our Free Country was also a best-seller. It came to be regarded as the Libertarian Bible.” He was a Libertarian spokesperson and the notion that if the crime hurts no one, the government should butt out. Among other, the book advocated for the legalization of marijuana.

His books touched countless lives in countless ways. Now all that’s left now is the spirit of this mortally wounded warrior and healer. Through no fault of his own, Peter McWilliams, became a martyr for the very things he believed in and worked so hard, a symbol of all that is wrong in a system gone horribly wrong.   Just a short time ago, if you had said his name to me, it probably would not have rang a bell. Even though I had one of his books in arm’s reach, I still did not know who he was. His jokes about everybody knowing his books but nobody knowing him, he nailed it. 

I was doing a story on some medical marijuana dispensary raids out in Seattle, started thinking about it, and probably for the first time, it started sinking in how serious this medical marijuana issue is. It is not that I didn’t know it was serious, I just didn’t know how serious. I certainly didn’t understand that it was life and death serious.  And I know, and everybody who knows me knows that I am quite liberal. And I considered myself significantly more educated than most on the subject. But I had still missed major chunks of information, and despite myself, I was still somewhat influenced by the hype.  By hype, I mean Reefer Madness hype and the propaganda mill spawned by the efforts of Henry J Anslinger and William Randolph Hearst, and later President Richard Nixon, when he declared the War on Drugs, for no other reason than it gave him a legal means to have people put away that he found problematic. I am not joking; 
Nixon really wanted a way to get rid of those hippies, who at the time were making a lot of noise protesting the Viet Nam War. He figured that since a lot of them smoked pot, the plan might just work. And with that foundation, and that most auspicious of US presidents, to this day, our nation continues the War on Drugs.

For thousands of years before all this, cannabis was a medicine, not a recreational drug, not a Schedule 1 Narcotic. For any number of ailments, cannabis is among the most effective treatments ever known to human kind. It is effective in the treatment of Crohn’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, glaucoma, cerebral palsy, eating disorders, severe nausea, including the nausea associated with cancer. Recent studies in Israel demonstrate it an effective treatment in some cancers. Yes, the knowledge of it as a potential cancer treatment has been around for a while. Wonder who forgot to mention that one? 

Other studies show a possible treatment for Alzheimers.  Despite the fact that the list goes on and on as to the studies and treatments, these treatments are not available to most patients in the United States. And in the US, instead of concentrating our studies on how to heal and cure, the studies have focused on the dangers of drug abuse, even when there was little or no drug abuse to be seen. And even when it is absolutely clear as to the numerous effective medical applications. There are very few side effects and there is not a single recorded case of death from overdose from marijuana in all of written history, in all of civilization, in all the world. I’d say somebody pulled a smooth one on us.   

Anyway, with increasing awareness, people know there have been serious misspeaks on the part of our governments when it comes to marijuana, its recreational use, but much more importantly, its medical use. For many ailments, throughout the history of civilization, it has been the treatment of choice. People are also starting to understand there is indeed a problem, in both the legality and classification of marijuana. State by state, the laws are being changed at an increasingly rapid pace. 

The problem is, those laws have not been changed at the Federal level. And that has left inconsistencies in how things are handled at the state and Federal level.  Although in no way an isolated case, the story of Peter McWilliams is perhaps one of the most gut wrenching of all time. In 1996, he was diagnosed with AIDS and non-Hodgkin's lympoma, cancer. 

This was the same year Proposition 215 passed in California. It allowed terminally ill patients access to marijuana. As to his own health, Peter was having a hard time keeping the cancer medications down; he suffered from severe nausea, as is true with many cancer patients.  When nothing else seemed to be working, on his doctor’s advice, he tried marijuana, and it eased the nausea so that he was able to keep his medications down. The treatment was successful and as you might expect with a long time self-help writer, when he realized it was indeed a very effective treatment, he became active in the medical marijuana self-help movement as well, talking about it, educating other patients, and teaching them how to grow it as well. 

He was growing his own medicine, for himself and others, which was legal and he was in compliance with all regulations under California law.  In 1997, he was arrested, by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and charged with growing marijuana. The story gets complicated, as things tend to when the Feds get involved, I won’t go into all the details, but they indeed spun a good case against him. 

There is no doubt he looked bad. He had hundreds of marijuana plants. However, since he was growing for others as well, many of those details would have looked very different had he been allowed to present his side of the story in court. As I mentioned, he was in compliance with his state regulations. Could be that is a big part of why these folks are not allowed to testify in their own behalf when these cases get to court. Without being allowed to present a defense, he indeed looked like a major drug lord kingpin. Along the process of the case, although he spent some time in jail, he was released on bail, and the condition that he not use any marijuana at all. He would have to submit to weekly drug tests. Since his elderly mother and brother put up their houses as bail, he was told that if he failed the test and was incarcerated, they would both lose their homes. 

If I understand the story correctly, they also gave his mother a follow-up phone call to make sure the whole family understood what would happen if he failed the drug test.  This was not a joke, in no way a -- what I really want to do is get high joy ride. Peter McWilliams died within days of discontinuing use of the cannabis medication. His cancer medications were making him nauseous to the point he was not able to keep them down. He had cancer and AIDS, he needed the marijuana medication, and his life depended on it. When the government took that away from him, he died choking on his own vomit.

Let me be specific, when they found him dead, he was on his bathroom floor, in a pool of vomit. And they argue the humanity of our death sentences. He did not die by hanging, or lethal injection, or by a firing squad, not by stoning, or by beheading, but when the court took his medicine away, Peter McWilliams was sentenced to death.   In a recent news story on DEA practices, which is another story, but really how I ended up on Peter McWilliams, they claimed that their various investigative techniques were used against "common criminals." It is clear, they defined this man, this kind and gentle, activist and healing spirit, as a criminal, a criminal so heinous he was not allowed his medicine, even if his life depended on that medicine. Is that how the rest of the world sees Peter McWilliams? I am not so sure.   

From my own writing, and although change is hopefully in the air, I am aware of the DEA’s aggressive persecution of sick and infirm patients using medical marijuana. This is even in states where what they are doing is completely legal and the medication is specifically prescribed by their doctors. I am also aware that by the time the DEA finishes building their cases against these seriously ill individuals, they frequently look like drug lord kingpins. And that is how they are presented and prosecuted in court. 

Somehow, the pictures of these drug lord kingpins in wheel chairs and on life support systems don’t tend to make it to the evening news. Peter McWilliams was in a wheelchair and going downhill fast when he made his last court appearance. Medical marijuana activists from across the country have long been calling foul on the DEA’s tactics regarding these patients, the growers, the dispensaries, and those who provide their care and medication. The raids have been conducted in state after state where the use of medical marijuana has been legalized. Despite numerous statements from our President that the Federal government would not interfere in changes in state medical marijuana laws, the DEA raids have not only continued, they have escalated. When you compound the matter that they are aggressively going after seriously ill and injured individuals, even the terminally ill, that puts the whole thing in a different light. Peter McWilliams did not survive their persecution. When the news stories flash and you hear how many of these dealers and thugs are taken off the street, it is easy to nod your head in agreement, it all seems so logical and good. We all know that the DEA goes after major drug kingpins. It sure puts things in a different light when you realize that Peter McWilliams was one of those alleged kingpins. When the DEA gets their hands on them, seriously ill and/or injured individuals find themselves in court, homes confiscated, financially ruined by the legal costs, not to mention their medication confiscated, and very likely not able to do much work at all because of their health. Then they are made out to be major drug kingpins and prosecuted and sentenced as such. There is more though. That is that when these seriously ill patients get to court, they are not allowed to mention their medical condition or that the plants they were growing or the amount they had in their possession was a prescribed medication, often for a terminally ill condition.  

Peter McWilliams was probably the most famous such case. He died just days after he was ordered not to take his cannabis medication. In the process, he too was made out to be a major drug lord kingpin. As with many others, what he was doing was completely legal under his California state law, Proposition 215. As with many others, his doctor had recommended the medical marijuana treatment. And the treatment was indeed effective.  

Under Federal guidelines, the fact that his marijuana use was a matter of life and death was not admissible in court. What he was doing as both a grower, and educating others on the use of marijuana as a medicine was legal in the state of California where he lived. He started and was using marijuana on the advice of his doctor. None of that was allowed in court. The fact that taking the cannabis medication was a matter of life and death was not admissible in court.

Because of his work and his writing, McWilliams was a very visible, but in no way isolated case. This scenario is playing out every day in this country. Nonetheless, a tremble was felt throughout the land when he passed. There was a rally in protest when he died. Even though his life depended on it, his side of the story, the reason for his marijuana use or the amount he had in his possession was not allowed in court. He was allowed no defense. None. Could be that is how the DEA defines common criminal, an individual for whom they remove all defense.
How can any civilized nation on this earth take away the medication of a terminally ill individual, the medication that is keeping them alive, and not only not allow them to speak up in their own behalf -- as they take their medicine away from them -- but then to not do a thing to change those laws after that person dies choking, on the floor, in their own vomit.

It was very clear at the time that everything to do with his case was a very big mistake. Change is brewing, and state after state are changing their laws, but we are not there yet. And the situation remains the same in states that haven’t changed the laws to allow the use of cannabis in the state. And still, even in the states where it is legal, when the Feds have come in and made Federal level arrests in what was state licensed medical marijuana cases, no matter the diagnosis, no matter the reason for treatment, no matter how many people are being helped, no matter that it is a state licensed facility, in compliance with every regulation on the book, when the case comes up in Federal court, no mention is allowed of the medical implications or background to the case.

A lot of people are hopeful that there will be changes with the recent announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder, but at the end of the day, it was just a memo, there was no change in the laws, not yet anyway.

No matter how you look at it though, Peter McWilliams was sentenced to death. To the Feds and the DEA, he was just a common criminal. There are countless others who do not agree. Just as surely as there is the declaration of war, any war, there is an enemy that must be destroyed. There are heroes, there are prisoners of war, and there are martyrs. And there are others who through no fault of their own are systematically destroyed by the enemy. Someone’s brother, sister, lover, friend, a loved one doesn’t make it. Whose war is it anyway? These are our people who are dying. To this day, there are many who consider the death of Peter McWilliams a murder for which the DEA should be charged. 

If you’ve never read his stuff, it’s worth a look. It is almost a guarantee that somewhere in the stack, you will find something that you enjoy. That touches your soul. Several of his books are available online, for free.

Peter McWilliams worked right up until the time he died. These last two are uncompleted, works in progress.
  • Joy is Good: Peter McWilliam’s work in progress about  Depression and “Joy Pills” aka St. John’s Wort. 
  • A Question of Compassion: An AIDS-Cancer Patient Explores Medical Marijuana. (It is as is, Peter McWilliams has passed.)
Also see:
Peter McWilliams loved quotes, and sprinkled them throughout his works. I’ll finish with this one. It fits. 
He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetuate it.    -- Martin Luther King, Jr. --    Copyright 2013 Regina Garson

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Paula Deen, What have you done?

Paula Deen on Facebook

In all my years of writing, I have seldom had an urge to get on the celebrity gossip bandwagon. At times I have done a certain amount on race and diversity issues though, so resolved to weigh in on this one. My what a can of worms.

I don't know Paula Dean, never met her, never even went to a restaurant, or show where I might have seen her in person. Don't know anybody who claims to know her. I have seen her show on TV though, but I was probably the last person in the country to see the show and/or have a clue who she was, being as I don't watch a whole lot of TV. The way the gossip mill is running though, you'd think everybody in the country knew her on a first name basis.

I eventually got around to seeing her show. Paula Deen is a cook, a chef to be more exact, that would be a cook who is a really good cook. She is also Southern. She took the best of the best of ordinary every day Southern cooking, bumped it up a notch, declared herself the "Queen of Southern Cooking" and built a multimillion dollar empire around it, TV shows, restaurants, cookbooks, and the list goes on. 

She is an entertainer extraordinaire and Southern to the core, and that is how she pitches herself, her food, her shows, and her merchandise. She sure got herself in a heap of trouble though when one of her former employees filed a complaint of harassment and discrimination against her business. In all fairness, if you sit down and read it, most of the complaining is about Paula's brother Bubba Heirs, who Paula evidently hired to run one of her restaurants. I am not certain exactly what was going on there, but it doesn't sound good. It also sounded like perhaps Paula didn't do a whole lot of listening over the years when folks said something was wrong. She also apparently didn't do a lot of listening when they said it was very wrong, I don't know, I wasn't there.

That said, for all the years I have worked various in media and publishing, I tend to not put a whole lot of stock in the gossip that goes around in the media, most especially celebrity gossip. This case is getting a whole lot of attention, but best I can tell, most of the folks writing, posting, ranting and raving on both sides of this one, don't personally know any of the people involved. I guess that is why we have courts of law though and this one is definitely in the court of law process.

A lot of us enjoy TV. If you are a TV watching kind of person, you tend to turn on the TV day after day and watch the same favorite shows. After a while, you start to feel a familiarity with the people on those shows. You feel like you know them. We all do. The thing is, we don't. They are just shows, entertainment, an act, even the cooking shows are all just an act, so are the news shows for that matter. In our minds though, we know who we like and who we don't like. Who we consider like us, and those who are not. The truth is though, we mostly don't know those folks at all, and more than one of them has had trouble when somehow or other it came out in public that they weren't honestly who folks thought they were. Is that their fault or ours? It really is all just a show.

Could be I'm rambling. Anyway, when it comes to the media, just about any kind of media, there is a lot of money in gossip, and they are sure getting their money's worth on Mrs. Paula. And it doesn't sound good. In fact, some of it sounds just about as bad as it can get. On this one though, her guilt or innocence is for the court to decide.

Tough questions. Does she have a history of racism and unseemly behavior, poor manners as it were when it comes to sensitivity toward people of various races. Looks like she busted that one wide open. It didn't seem to faze her one little bit when asked the related questions in the deposition. Of course, she's racist, in so many words, she didn't really deny that, actually when she thought about what she had said, she did a little backtracking. Then she did come out with a very public apology. Personally, I am not certain whether she is sorry for what she did, or sorry that she got caught and/or got called out doing what she did and there is definitely a difference in the two. From some of the comments she made, it really does beg the question. However, at the end of the day, whether she was sorry because she realized she was wrong for doing what she did or because she really slipped in getting called out on doing what she did, I don't have a clue, but she did have the sense to realize that perhaps an apology was in order. And she did issue a very public and heartfelt apology. What else can a person in that situation do? 
The N-word
Through it all, there has been a lot of discussion about the N-word. Uttering that word can destroy careers and ruin lives, and it has before. Could be it will again. However, the word has not been eliminated from common use in this country. In fact, it is used quite frequently in entertainment, on the street, and among friends. There is a difference though, that use is by those of the race to whom the word most frequently refers. 
We got that. But despite the effort, it has not been eliminated from our vocabulary at all. Which goes back to the question, if this word is so reprehensible as to destroy lives, and what an individual has worked decades to achieve, if merely uttering that word is to that level of wrong, then the rules need to be enforced equally. Obviously, it is a social code with us, not a point of law, but when breaking that code has that level of repercussion, there needs to be some level of equality in its enforcement. Make no mistake, we as a society are enforcing it, but we are not enforcing it with any level of equality at all. I don't guess saying something isn't equal is anything new, despite the quest of past generations for equal rights, we're not there yet. As soon as we make a little progress, we take a few steps back on something else. Could be this is one of those steps back.
So we got it about the N-word. That is apparently a really big issue in this case. It is either okay to use the word, or it isn't. If it isn't, it needs to be removed entirely from public usage, none of this -- we can use it, and they can't thing. It does not matter the reason, it is either okay to use it or it isn't. If it is truly not okay to use this word, to be completely fair to Mrs. Paula, every person who uses it and appears on TV, movies, music, etc., every single one of them needs to be removed from their media and entertainment positions as well. They also need to be removed from their positions in as loud and a shaming media circus as can be mustered. We can do it folks, Black and White, shame them all.
The Jokes
The other thing that is getting a lot of coverage is the racist jokes. Best I can tell, Mrs. Paula does not discriminate on that, she is apt to tell or at least listen to a racist joke on just about anybody for just about any reason, including redneck jokes, of which she is obviously one, redneck that is. It is not like I am calling her out on it, I have claimed that one a time or two myself, much to my own Mama's consternation. Face it, if you grew up in the Southern hills, and you were shooting a gun before you were big enough to hold the thing up, who teaches a three year old to shoot a gun…, don't answer that, and the first shot of liquor to touch your lips was moonshine, you might be a redneck. I don't care how it all plays out, I don't like one bit that us Southern folks, likely of a little bit of redneck heritage all are lumped together with racism and such when such as this comes out. We are not all actually like that. 
As has been pointed out though, she is a woman of a certain age, born in another time, when things really were different in the South. I was also born in the Jim Crow South, grew up during the Civil Rights Movement. I have awful memories of those times, and I'm White. I can look back now and I know there were a lot of things wrong. Hopefully with time we all learn and we do make changes as we grow to understand each other. Change had to happen. There is no doubt about that.
Mrs. Paula is a little older than me, but not by much. I've heard those jokes. That's the South for you though, I can just about guarantee, you can go from one end of the South to the other, the whole country for that matter, and just about every person you meet at least knows one person who tells those kinds of jokes. Mind you, all those jokes are not Black jokes, some of them are Jewish jokes, and gay jokes, and blond jokes, redneck jokes, Republican jokes, I'd never tell a Republican joke, but don't ask me to swear that under oath. And I do find those Democrat jokes highly offensive. But I can definitely handle them. Get the idea?
Taking my heritage for example, there are an awful lot of redneck jokes around these parts. I have definitely loved and shared a redneck joke or two, as if those were my own special domain. I can tell them, I'm red as they say. But as a gay friend said many years ago, us gays can tell gay jokes, but we don't take it so kindly when those same jokes are told about us. Ditto on the redneck jokes. The redneck jokes are mine, but if you want to know the truth, I don't take too kindly to them when they are coming from the mouth of an uptown New York City city slicker. Could be Mrs. Paula really did cross a line with what jokes were suitable for being told where. 
Red or no, most well bred Southerners know better than the N-word, and they know better than race jokes, too. Despite the image of the racist South and Southerners, neither are looked on highly in polite company -- not in these parts anyway. 
On a very deep level, by deriding one or the other of us, in our minds, our ways are somehow okay, like the "other" somehow doesn't deserve the same as the rest of us expect. Does the one we laugh at in disdain deserve better than a low paying job, or the luxury of not working, living off the taxpayers, three hots and a cot, as if they ask for and aspire to a life behind bars. How deep do those attitudes really go?
The TV Thing
Back to the TV thing, with that and other media, we see these folks every day, and we have an image in our mind of what we think they are. That image has to do with their act and the way they present themselves in public, i.e., on the TV screen. If you look at their actual job title, it is "personality," they are entertainers, paid for that pizzazz that lights up when they get in front of a camera, it's a show, that's it. Most of us have jobs, we do what we can to get by. 
A "Personality"
Paula Deen got where she is today because she's a super duper good cook, a world class chef, but she is also a "personality, an entertainer." There is no doubt, she does a good job on that and she sent the world reeling when it became very obvious that Mrs. Paula wasn't exactly the person we all thought she was, and certainly not the way she presented herself. Still, she makes all kinds of yummy foods that are admittedly not that great for you. But people everywhere love her food and she puts on a good show teaching us how to cook it. She also has restaurants where you can go pull up a chair and enjoy that down-home Southern soul cooking. That is what she does. That is what she is famous for. 
Paula Deen is a chef. She doesn’t pretend to be a paragon of anything except good cooking, high calorie, fat laden stick to your rib yummies that you are just about guaranteed to love eating and hate stepping on the scale the next morning.   

Life and Social Media
I don't know much else about her. I skimmed through her Facebook postings to see what she was about. She is most definitely an astute business woman; there is no doubt about that. In addition to her food business, she does a whole lot of giving back to the community. That is one of my core values, I believe deep down that we should all do some little something, as we are able, to give back, everything is not necessarily a grand show, but I do believe we should all do what we can to do our part and make the world a better place. Best I can tell, not that she is a great philanthropist or any such as that, just that she does her part and what she is supposed to do to be a good citizen and member of her community. I think that is a strong Southern value. We believe in community and doing our part in it. Best I can tell, she does what she is supposed to do as a member of her community.
Scanning further, you can learn a lot from a person's Facebook pages. I lived a while in Macon, Georgia. It has been a while, but when we first moved there, the thing that really hit me about the area, we hadn't been there long, and thought we'd go out for a quick meal. Didn't have a clue where we were going, but we found a little strip of restaurants and pulled up to one and noticed that every single person inside was Black. We sat in the car scratching our heads a minute, mind you, that was thirty some years ago, with a little bit of thinking, being as we were new in town, we drove on down the road. What we realized is that every single restaurant, all the patrons were either Black or White. We didn't even see one that was integrated. That was a very vivid memory of the area, just a couple hours away from Savannah, where Mrs. Paula lives. 
Anyway, we decided maybe we had better go in one of the ones for Whites. After my own personal experiences living in Georgia, I actually noticed that her businesses were integrated. There were Black and White customers and Black and White employees both, which even though it was many years back, was not my Georgia experience. I'd heard said on other that some of the employees had been with her for decades. Could mean that all is as it should be, it could also mean the economy is not worth a rip and that is the best around and nobody is making waves. I don't honestly have a clue. All I can see is that by Southern standards, she has a diverse staff and a diverse clientele. Could be those were just the pictures that got posted. I don't really know. I could also see as how if there aren't many jobs around folks might stay on no matter how they were treated, I could also see as how if she had a certain reputation, she would not be getting that diverse of a clientele, I don't honestly think all those diverse folks would keep coming back if she had that bad a reputation, and behaved that poorly, and as far as I know, that is where she and her family are from. Leaves a lot of questions I don't have a clue on.
The Gossip Mill
I don't know where I am going, trying to be balanced maybe. We are all human. Paula Deen is not a perfect human. I'm not either, actually. The thing is, if people spend much time around me at all, they probably have a pretty good idea how I feel about at least some number of things, what kind of person I am, and what I am about. However, no matter how much we want it to be otherwise, most everything on TV is a show, it's entertainment, play acting, and as backwards as it sounds to most of us, they also make a lot of money when they keep the gossip mill running.
She makes her living putting on a show cooking good food. Her job is being an on camera personality who knows good food. Just because you watch her show, and she sounds so down-home going on and on about her family, none of that means that you really know her. Does that make her any more or less a person? Not in my book. She's made some mistakes. But if nothing else, she has reaped what she sowed, karma has bit her on the backside, whether she gives a rip or not, she is now very aware of what people think of that kind of behavior. Does that mean she will change her ways? I don’t even know that she was behaving that way in the first place. She mentioned things a long time ago and the gossip mill is after all the gossip mill. The person filing the suit is not a recent employee. She's been gone a while. 
On a certain level, we all have to come to certain understandings with our conscience though.
Is it my business if she changes her ways? Not really. Except that, in her visibility, her role as a public figure, she very much represents the South, she is indeed a daughter of the South. But I am too. The whole incident leaves me somewhat uncomfortable. We all know a Mrs. Paula. She is not a slough off. She has worked hard to get where she is and she has done well. She is without a doubt well loved. She is active in her community. But she has also exposed some ugly truths. One is that no matter how hard we try, we are all human. Also, no matter how hard we have tried, there are also some things that we as Southern people truly have not got past. 
Still, at the end of the day, do these mistakes merit her being fired? I'm not so sure about that. She's involved in a court case, we know that. The verdict is not even in and she has already lost her job and a major contract. Back to the N-word though, if she is going to lose her job for using it, so should everybody else who uses it, no matter what the color of their skin. Equality is about equal treatment and it goes both ways.
I've heard some of the older folks who have worked with race and diversity issues for years say we will never truly get past the problem until that generation, her generation passes on. I'm not far behind them though and that is not encouraging. If anything, maybe the good out of this is that it got folks talking. Black and White alike are supporting her. There is no doubt that Mrs. Paula is loved. There is no doubt that she has made some mistakes. Some doozies. There is also no doubt that she has given back to her community. Despite it all, there is no doubt she is loved by many, Black and White alike. There is also no doubt that for every one who is very vocally expressing their support for her, there is another who feels that justice has been served in the court of public opinion, and the law suit is just a loose end.    
This problem is all over this country though, it's not just the South. Like with the jokes, we all know somebody who can't seem to stop those race and ethnic jokes. Some of the stories in that statement though, it truly makes you wonder. The media is all about Mrs. Paula, but if you read the thing, the statements mostly aren't. Her brother isn't getting near the coverage she is, but when you throw him in there, it just keeps getting worse.
The part that bothered me the most wasn't actually the N-word thing or even the jokes, it was that the bathroom facilities in her business were separate and that the Black employees entered by the back door. The last of the Jim Crow Laws officially ended in 1965. I do know that. Separatist racist practices within the day to day operations of the business is indicative of a much deeper problem. Whether it is race, money, social class, or ethnic group, we are not treated equally in this country. But in this, there were no pretenses. And we are not talking thirty years ago on this one.
Lessons Learned
Back when I did a lot of writing on race issues, one of the major minority publishing companies in the country, which I won't mention their name, but one thing stuck in my mind after all those years. I had been the managing editor for a women's site, professional development, glass ceiling, overcoming discrimination and all that. Well, a major study came out from a major human resource firm on women who had taken time off from their careers when they had babies, and how that put them behind in their careers. Yes, somebody did a study on that. Silly me, I thought it would be a no brainer to do something on that, maybe interview some expert on what a woman can do to make up for lost time after she has been out of the workforce having babies, and finds herself behind for just that reason. The publisher was quite clear, he said, we cover discrimination and how to overcome problems as it relates to race (i.e., skin color), nothing else. The bottom line was that since this study on women being behind in the work place had nothing to do with the problems caused by race and White men, it was not covered, even though otherwise, it was definitely the focus of the publication. It was also along about that time that I learned that a more enterprising editor would have figured out a way to make the story about race and done it anyway. 
I wasn't happy with that lesson. It was however a lesson, that despite the noise, sometimes the folks that look like they are working toward change, aren't really working toward change at all. And at the end of the day, it is all about the noise. And in this business, like entertainment, noise equals money. Except there is always somebody who is taking the brunt of that noise. The thing that distressed me the most, and the other thing I learned in that gig was that in doing so, if the problem of race was ever really overcome in this country, they'd be out of business. There's a point in there somewhere.
Could be this bash Mrs. Paula business has got a little out of control. Every other day when you pull up the news, off to the side there is a piece on some celebrity who has had a wardrobe malfunction, wardrobe malfunctions get a lot of attention. Another one can't seem to stay out of jail, another one can't seem to keep up with which husband she is on now, another one or two go off the deep end and do odd things to their kids and/or hair. One is in and out of jail for beating his wife. Somebody gets drunk and gets stopped by the police, in Hollywood, that makes the national news.
What does this have to do with Paula Deen? Entertainment.... It's all about the money. The story is getting a whole lot of press, a lot of coverage. Some folks are definitely pulling their paychecks on this story. They are voting with their wallets too. Lost her TV contract and an endorsement contract with Smithfield. At the same time social media and Facebook is brimming with support. Hundreds of thousands, nearly half a million on one I saw, people have said they would boycott the companies who dropped her. That is pretty strong support.  
Paula Deen Support Page
People all over the country are taking sides. I'd be lying if I said I had never watched her show, and truth be known, if I am ever in Savannah again, I'd probably think about a visit to her restaurant. But at the end of the day, I don’t know her. I don't have a clue what honestly happened. I am not going to pick up a stone to throw her way. But I am not going to raise my voice in support either. I don't know what honestly happened, but it is pretty clear something did. The real ruckus has to do with how the people in this country get so caught up in celebrity culture, it is all about entertainment. She is an entertainer, a show cook. That's it. She doesn't make decisions that affect the well being of much of anybody in the modern world, except maybe her employees. From the looks of things, she let them down big time though. That little issue is already being decided in a court of law though. Best I can tell, that is actually the issue in this one. The rest is between her and her maker. 
Seems to me though, if this country got this fired up about issues that were really important, it would be a better world for us all. Not that this isn't an important case, it actually is. But why is what a celebrity does more important than the behavior of the rest of us? Even if she makes an off color joke. Who cares? Who among us hasn't heard an off color joke before? 
As if in some kind of massive moral compass, we indignantly demand the destruction of the life and career of a White Southern woman who decades ago dared to utter the N-word, while she still makes her Black employees use the back door and separate bathroom facilities.  
After all that thinking, all that writing, I got hold of a copy of the law suit. I read the complaint, it is troubling. I didn't cry, that is about all I can say. Then to be fair, I also found a copy of Mrs. Paula's deposition. I read her response. I guess I understand why this one is going to trial. Best I can tell, a lot of the response seems to be based on technicalities, not denying much of anything.
I am not going to pick up a stone and throw it. But there is not a thing in me that can say I support Mrs. Paula on this one either. Despite her tendency to if not engage in, to at least ignore poor and harassing behavior on the part of the people she puts into positions of power (even if it is her brother) over her employees, who depend on her, she is a solid member of her community. You cannot expect anything except that they will support her. From my experience with Southern courts, the more money you have, the better you are going to come out. I think Mrs. Paula is probably going to come out on top on this one. I don't honestly know if that is right or wrong. The truth is in there somewhere. I am not the judge and I am surely not on the jury. As much as I hate the celebrity gossip mill, it could be the only place that justice is served on this one is the court of public opinion.
Granted she made some mistakes, but do those mistakes honestly call for a level of retribution that destroys everything she ever worked for? At a certain point, you have to go back to what the good book says, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. We got problems in this country, big ones, although her actions may well speak to a deeper problem, at the end of the day, Paula Deen is not one of those problems. At least not one of the big ones. She is a cook, a chef, she writes cookbooks, and has a few restaurants. That is how she earns her living. She has done well. She most definitely earned her position. 
Could be her biggest wrong of all, it wasn't the N-word, and it wasn't those jokes, it was that when she reached her position, when her employees, the people who worked for her, who helped to keep her dream alive, and whose lives she really did have power over, when they came to her with very real problems, she did not listen. She is getting a whole lot of press, but if you read the paper work, most of it was for somebody else's wrong doing. Be that as it is, at the end of the day. She was the one in charge. It was her call. If she had done right by the people who depended on her, she would not be in court today.
Could be, if there is any good at all to come of this, it got people talking, maybe it is time for just a little more conversation about race. Progress has been made, but we're not there yet. 
For more information see:
Copyright 2013 Regina Pickett Garson