Momma Knows Best

I am the mother of an almost-18-year-old. This having an almost-grown kid is hard stuff, y’all. Remember those days of sweetness, when your little girl cried every time you dropped her off at Sunday School? Or how about those days when you longed to go to the grocery store (or the bathroom) ALONE? My mamma told me those days would pass quick as lightning and that one day I would look back on them with longing.

She was right.FullSizeRender 52

It’s Not Somebody Else’s Problem — It’s Mine, and It’s Yours, Too

We’ve been living here in the Sunshine State for about three months. Most of our boxes are unpacked (except in the garage — don’t look in the garage!) and we even have some photos hanging on the walls. I’ve had pleasant strolls by the ocean and the river…but the experience has not quite been what I dreamed it would be. While I envisioned  beautiful, clear water and lazy days at the beach, the reality has at times been murky…and deadly, at least for the fish.

The Indian River flows out in front of our home. Every day the sun catches on the waves and paints light patterns on the floors and walls. I can sit on the porch and watch pelicans and other sea birds soar overhead. It would be peaceful and soul satisfying if it weren’t for the stench. The river is dying. A multitude of factors over the past decade have led to algae overgrowth. The algae chokes out the oxygen, and then the fish die. Most of this nastiness has been happening to our south, but yesterday on a walk I came upon gunk and dead fish a mere three miles from home. If the wind blows from that direction, the smell of dead things permeates what could have been an idyllic scene.

There’s been a great deal of finger pointing among politicians and policy makers but not a lot of action. I’ve since learned that Florida voters in 2014 approved Amendment 1  allowing the state to

…dedicate 33 percent of net revenue from the existing excise tax on documents to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund…to acquire and improve conservation easements, wildlife management areas, wetlands, forests, fish and wildlife habitats, beaches and shores, recreational trails and parks, urban open space, rural landscapes, working farms and ranches, historical and geological sites, lands protecting water and drinking water resources and lands in the Everglades Agricultural Areas and the Everglades Protection Area.

Yet instead of using this money to clean up the pollution, the Governor and legislature are instead using it for things that used to be paid for in the general budget, such as paying the salaries of the state’s forestry service. Governor Scott also cancelled a deal to buy up property south of Lake Okeechobee and use it to build wastewater treatment plants. The lake is the source of much of the nastiness that is now invading Florida’s rivers, thanks to fertilizer runoff from farms that border the lake and from the growth of subdivisions on land that was previously just sawgrass. The issues behind the sickly water are complex, but scientists think they have found workable solutions to the problem. The trouble is, politics got in the way. The entirely Governor-appointed South Florida Water Management Board that makes decisions on water management is comprised of:

  • Chairman Daniel O’Keefe — an attorney with Shutts and Bowen
  • Vice-Chairman Kevin Powers — a partner with Indiantown Realty Corporation
  • Sam Accursio — a 2000-acre farm owner who believed his crops were damaged from previous SFWMD policies
  • Rick Barber — CEO of Agnoli, Barber & Brundage, a civil engineering/land development company
  • Sandy Batchelor — a tax attorney with a master’s degree in forest conservation and Co-CEO of The Batchelor Foundation
  • Clarke Harlowe — President of Southeast Landscape Management
  • Mitch Hutchcraft — VP of Real Estate, King Ranch/Consolidated Citrus LP, the largest citrus grower in the United States
  • James Moran — an attorney (partner) with Reed, Griffith & Moran
  • Melanie Peterson — a realtor with Sotheby’s International Realty; has a BA in Geography, Environmental Resource Analysis

So Governor Scott appointed three attorneys, two realtors (one with a BA in Geography), two farm growers (one of which is the largest citrus grower in America and the other who doesn’t like moving water through the Everglades because the practice made his farm too wet, damaging his business), one land developer and one landscaper….all to take steps to manage Florida’s most precious resource: water. Essentially, he put the fox in charge of guarding the henhouse. 

Just looking at the facts without emotion, does anyone else see a problem with this group of people tasked with keeping our water safe? What about a water resource engineer? Or a hydrologist? A water scientist? A water quality specialist? There are people out there whose entire expertise is centered around managing water quality. Instead of appointing those kinds of people, Governor Scott appointed people who have a financial interest in what is done with Florida’s water.

So the water keeps getting dirtier and the rhetoric keeps getting nastier and now there are floating dead pufferfish in front of my house.

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So far in 2016, 366 manatees have died (only 80 of these were from boating collisions) and the region has seen massive fish-kills. But what about people-kills?

Florida lakes and rivers and seashores contain cyanobacteria and the flesh-eating bacteria vibrio vulnificus. As of yesterday, Florida has seen 23 cases of vibrio vulnificus in 2016; 5 of these patients died from their infection. Since 2008, there have been 251 cases of flesh-eating bacteria victims; 78 of these victims died. In 2008, the entire state had 16 cases; last year the count was 45. Fish kills are one thing. How many PEOPLE have to die before we take action?  This man was fortunate; many others are not.

When I told my friends and family I was moving to Florida, they jokingly sent me photos and videos of alligators and told me to be careful:

I checked. Florida alligators have killed 23 people since 1948….yet Florida’s vibrio vulnificus has killed 78 people since just 2008. Hmmm….23 deaths in 68 years from alligators…and 78 deaths in 8 years from dirty, polluted water.

Clearly, cleaning up Florida’s water is about saving lives and saving livelihoods.

Elected officials and candidates: take notice. Senators Nelson and Rubio, Representative Posey, State Representative Crisafulli and Senator Altman: I’m researching and watching your actions. I will give my vote to those who take concrete steps to clean up the waters of death. Signing the Neverglades declaration would be a great start. In fact, if you sign it, you’ll get my vote. If you don’t, you won’t.

Take your cue from United States Congresswoman Gwen Graham, who is leading the charge to do something about this crisis. She wrote a detailed letter to Governor Scott, outlining specific steps he can take to restore health our waters:

  • Call for a special session of the state legislature to find short and long-term solutions
  • Replace the water management board with scientists, engineers and conservationists
  • Create a plan to clean up septic tanks
  • Use Amendment 1 funds to buy land south of the Okeechobee River

When will you act, Governor Scott?

We are smart, creative people who should know better. Even our children know we’ve dropped the ball on this.

As my daughter said, as she looked at the scum and saw the dead fish floating by the pier:

History won’t look kindly on us. We are the generations who torched the Earth and poisoned the oceans, wearing clothes and playing with toys made by slaves in all but name in Southeast Asia, claiming moral superiority over our ancestors who did what humans do best – wait, and make it somebody else’s problem. 

It’s not somebody else’s problem. It’s my problem and your problem. We can’t bring back those 78 souls who died in the past eight years from Florida’s filthy water. We can’t bring back the dead dolphins, manatees, and fish. But we CAN use our voices and our ballots to insist that our government leaders change course. Florida friends, contact your elected officials and ask them to sign the Now or Neverglades Declaration (you sign it, too). Click here to find your representatives. Ask them to pressure Governor Scott to take the steps suggested by Congresswoman Graham.

Non-Florida friends, you can help, too. Contact your United States senator and representatives and ask them to provide political pressure.  The Army Corps of Engineers control the dam on Lake Okeechobee, so there is some federal oversight to leverage.

Let’s remember: our elected officials work FOR us. So let’s give them their marching orders before vibrio vulnificus claims more victims and cyanobacteria destroys Florida’s tourism, fishing, and outdoor industries. It’s not up to somebody else. It’s up to us.

 

This November, #I’mAProLiferWithHer

So….I’m coming out of the political closet.

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I’m a pro-life Christian, and I support Hillary Clinton for President. In a nutshell, here’s why:

  1. Hillary Clinton is a lifelong Christian whose belief in Jesus compels her to work out her faith in action.
  2. A vote for a pro-choice candidate is not a vote for abortion.
  3. Many of Hillary Clinton’s 37 issues published on her presidential campaign website are compatible with compassionate conservative agendas.
  4. Hillary Clinton does not speak “Whine-ese.”
  5. She is an inspiration and took time to meet with my daughter.

Here are reasons why I am not supporting Donald Trump:

  1. His skin is too thin.
  2. His words and actions do not follow Jesus’ teachings in his personal or his public life.
  3. Donald Trump doesn’t think he has to ask for forgiveness.
  4. I don’t like the way Donald Trump ran small businesses out of business by not paying his bills.
  5. I don’t like the way Donald Trump speaks about women or how he puts down anyone who disagrees with him or criticizes him.

I imagine that many of my conservative friends and family are sitting there with their eyeballs falling out of their heads, not believing that I would actively support Hillary Clinton for president. I’m pretty sure my eyeballs would have rolled out onto the floor a year ago if you’d told me that I would cross over and enthusiastically support her, too!

How did this happen? First of all, I have changed. God has not yet finished the work in me, and I am finding that public policies I used to vehemently oppose, I now support. For example, I used to think that felons who get out of prison shouldn’t be allowed to vote. I used to think the death penalty was just. I used to think that giving away contraceptives was unfair because I had to buy my own as a young wife, thank you very much. I used to think ‘amnesty’ was a dirty word and illegal immigrants were criminals who needed to be booted back to their countries.

Now I think that it is more merciful to allow felons who have served their time to continue their rehabilitation by contributing to the democratic process. I think the death penalty is wrong because juries are not God and make mistakes. The abortion rate lowers when we give contraceptives away because pregnancy rates lower. Anything that brings down the number of abortions is a good thing, even if it means spending some of my tax dollars on someone else’s contraception. I’ve since learned that illegal immigrants have broken civil laws, not criminal ones, and I believe if they pay a fine and back taxes and have no criminal record, they should be allowed a path to citizenship.

What changed my positions? Being a debate mom has taught me to question the underlying assumptions behind every assertion that I hear on the news or read on Twitter. Whereas I used to listen to FoxNews and other conservative commentators without question, now I question everything.

I feel like a walking, talking example of Romans 12:2, where the “present world” is the conservative mindset I used to embrace without question. Now I see that there are thoughtful Christians on both sides of the political spectrum, and it is not sinful to switch sides when the Spirit leads you in that direction.

2 Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.

In thinking about the candidates, I wondered why people on the right hate Hillary Clinton and why people on the left hate Donald Trump. Can there be any redeeming qualities about either person? I’m so tired of bad news!

So I set out to unearth the good things both candidates have done for others. Hillary Clinton has worked with the Children’s Defense Fund to ensure that children with disabilities have access to public schools, posed as a suburban mom to expose illegal segregation, lobbied to ensure children in this country would have health insurance (CHIP program), worked to make it easier to adopt foster children, taught Sunday school, and visited more countries as Secretary of State than any other in history. Donald Trump donated the use of his plane to transport a sick child to a hospital, championed the rights of black people and Jewish people when a Florida town had a law on the books that barred them entry into the swanky clubs, and spontaneously uses his wealth to help people he hears or reads about on the news, such as a family that was about to lose the family farm and giving a reward to a citizen who intervened and stopped a person from committing suicide.

Having established that both candidates are capable of doing good work, I began looking into their faith. While I don’t want a “Pastor-in-Chief,” I do want one who has the wisdom that comes from the Lord.

Donald Trump’s faith — in his own words:

I believe in God. I am Christian. I think The Bible is certainly, it is THE book. It is the thing. I was raised and I gave you a picture just now and perhaps you’ll use that picture I found it from a long time ago. First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica Queens is where I went to church. I’m a protestant, I’m a Presbyterian. And you know I’ve had a good relationship with the church over the years. I think religion is a wonderful thing. I think my religion is a wonderful religion.

But people send me Bibles. And you know it’s very interesting. I get so much mail and because I’m in this incredible location in Manhattan you can’t keep most of the mail you get.

There’s no way I would ever throw anything, to do anything negative to a Bible, so what we do is we keep all of the Bibles.

I would have a fear of doing something other than very positive so actually I store them and keep them and sometimes give them away to other people but I do get sent a lot of Bibles and I like that. I think that’s great.

Well, I go [to church] as much as I can. Always on Christmas. Always on Easter. Always when there’s a major occasion. And during the Sundays. I’m a Sunday church person. I’ll go when I can. http://www1.cbn.com/thebrodyfile/archive/2011/04/11/exclusive-donald-trump-to-brody-file-i-believe-in-god

I am not sure I have [asked God for forgiveness]…I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so…I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t. http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-on-god-i-dont-like-to-have-to-ask-for-forgiveness-2016-1 .

When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed…I think in terms of ‘let’s go on and let’s make it right.’ http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/18/politics/trump-has-never-sought-forgiveness/

I try not make mistakes where I have to ask forgiveness.

I think repenting is terrific.

Why do I have to repent or ask for forgiveness, if I am not making mistakes? I work hard, I’m an honorable person. http://www.christianpost.com/news/trump-why-do-i-have-to-repent-or-ask-for-forgiveness-if-i-am-not-making-mistakes-video-141856/#0jFrFUx3OUW4IwBb.99

I will be asking for forgiveness, but hopefully I won’t have to be asking for much forgiveness.

Jesus to me is somebody I can think about for security and confidence…Somebody I can revere in terms of bravery and in terms of courage and, because I consider the Christian religion so important, somebody I can totally rely on in my mind.” http://time.com/4361777/donald-trump-cal-thomas-forgiveness/

Hillary Clinton’s faith — in her own words:

I am a person of faith. I am a Christian. I am a Methodist. I have been raised Methodist. I feel very grateful for the instructions and support I received starting in my family but through my church, and I think that any of us who are Christian have a constantly, constant, conversation in our own heads about what we are called to do and how we are asked to do it, and I think it is absolutely appropriate for people to have very strong convictions and also, though, to discuss those with other people of faith. Because different experiences can lead to different conclusions about what is consonant with our faith and how best to exercise it…

…My study of the Bible, my many conversations with people of faith, has led me to believe the most important commandment is to love the Lord with all your might and to love your neighbor as yourself, and that is what I think we are commanded by Christ to do, and there is so much more in the Bible about taking care of the poor, visiting the prisoners, taking in the stranger, creating opportunities for others to be lifted up, to find faith themselves that I think there are many different ways of exercising your faith. But I do believe that in many areas judgment should be left to God, that being more open, tolerant and respectful is part of what makes me humble about my faith, and I am in awe of people who truly turn the other cheek all the time, who can go that extra mile that we are called to go, who keep finding ways to forgive and move on. Those are really hard things for human beings to do, and there is a lot, certainly in the New Testament, that calls us to do that.

The famous discussion on the Sermon on the Mount should be something that you really pay attention to. There’s a lot of great Bible studies: What does the Sermon on the Mount really mean? What is it calling us to do and to understand? Because it sure does seem to favor the poor and the merciful and those who in worldly terms don’t have a lot but who have the spirit that God recognizes as being at the core of love and salvation.

So there is much to be learned and I have been very disappointed and sorry that Christianity, which has such great love at its core, is sometimes used to condemn so quickly and judge so harshly. When I think part of the message that I certainly have tried to understand and live with is to look at yourself first, to make sure you are being the kind of person you should be in how you are treating others, and I am by no means a perfect person, I will certainly confess that to one and all, but I feel the continuing urge to try to do better, to try to be kinder, to try to be more loving, even with people who are quite harsh.

So, I think you have to keep asking yourself, if you are a person of faith, what is expected of me and am I actually acting the way that I should? And that starts in small ways and goes out in very large ones, but it’s something that I take very seriously. So thank you for asking.” http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2016/01/25/hillary-clinton-gets-personal-on-christ-and-her-faith/

What has always guided me and supported me has been my faith, has been my belief in the saving graces, and the salvation that faith brings…And in those difficult times in my life, I have often been struck by a particular passage from scripture [Clinton said, before recounting the story of the son who abandons and disrespects his father but is forgiven and welcomed home.] When someone has disappointed you, has often disappointed themselves, it is human nature to say: ‘You’re not wanted. We know what you’ve been doing. Go sleep in the bed you made.

But this isn’t what the father in this parable does. [She reminded the congregants at the Holy Ghost Cathedral that he instead put on his finest clothes, had the cooks prepare a feast and went out to meet his returning son with an embrace.]

[Clinton said she took from that parable the need to] practice the discipline of gratitude every day. There is much to be grateful for even when it doesn’t feel or look like it.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/03/06/in-an-unusual-allusion-to-bill-clintons-sexual-affair-hillary-clinton-speaks-of-forgiveness/

When I look at Hillary Clinton, who talks about the Sermon on the Mount, loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself, taking care of the poor, taking in the strangers, visiting prisoners, lifting one another up, and turning the other cheek, I see a person whose political agenda does all of those things. We may disagree about whether it’s up to the government or up to the people (although some would say the government IS the people) to do those things, but to be sure her agenda springs from her Christian faith.

When I look at Donald Trump, who talks about religion, about going to church, about having a good relationship with the church, about collecting Bibles people send him, about his (evolving) perspective on not needing to ask God for forgiveness, about his reliance on himself in being an honorable person, about Holy Communion itself being a form of forgiveness because it makes him feel cleansed, about relying on Jesus in his mind (but not in reality?), I see a person who does not really have love for his neighbor and his enemy as motivation for his political actions. His agenda springs from…I don’t know what. A belief that he knows what will make America great again? That under President Obama everything went downhill and now it’s up to him to make better deals?

Donald Trump is, in the words of James Dobson, “tender” towards “things of the Spirit,” and he believes that Trump is “born again” and was saved.  Yet Trump’s words and actions point towards a person who really doesn’t understand Jesus — or, if he understands him, he doesn’t follow Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek. As his wife Melania said at a rally earlier this year,

“As you may know by now, when you attack him, he will punch back 10 times harder,” (http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2016/04/04/melania_trump_when_you_attack_donald_he_will_punch_back_10_times_harder.html)

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has been roundly attacked for advocating the very thing Jesus commanded us to do towards our enemies. In a speech at Georgetown University in 2014, she said, regarding ways to address global issues and security, that the United States needs to use what she calls “smart power:”

This is what we call smart power, using every possible tool and partner to advance peace and security, leaving no one on the sidelines. Showing respect even for ones enemies.

Trying to understand and in so far as psychologically possible, empathize with their perspective and point of view. 

Helping to define the problems, determine the solutions. That is what we believe in the 21st century will change — change the prospects for peace.  http://www.weeklystandard.com/hillary-we-must-empathize-with-americas-enemies/article/820584

She was criticized by people on both sides of the political spectrum for these remarks. The world couldn’t understand why someone would want to try to see a jihadist’s point of view. But her words are remarkable in that they so closely align with the words Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 5 (during the Sermon on the Mount):

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Where were the evangelicals when she was facing persecution from her own party for advocating the very thing Jesus taught? (It’s also noteworthy that ancient warrior Sun Tzu wrote something similar in The Art of War:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.  (https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/1771.Sun_Tzu)

Love her or hate her, Hillary Clinton’s agenda springs from her extensive background in Christian service.  She credits her youth minister, Don Jones, with opening her eyes to what it looks like to live out faith in action. He took her to see Martin Luther King Jr. speak, and afterward she waited in line to shake his hand. The sermon was life-changing:

When we got to Orchestra Hall and Dr. King began to speak, I was transfixed. He challenged all of us that evening to stay engaged in the cause of justice and not to slumber while the world changed around us. His grace and piercing moral clarity left a lasting impression on me. Until then I had been dimly aware of the social revolution occurring in our country, but Dr. King’s words illuminated the struggle taking place and challenged our indifference (https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20160728/downtown/how-seeing-dr-king-speak-chicago-changed-hillary-clintons-life).

Hillary and her youth minister, Don Jones, remained close friends, exchanging letters until his death in 2009. When he died, she wrote,

Don taught me the meaning of the words ‘faith in action’ and the importance of social justice and human rights. I will miss him and will be grateful forever for the gift of his intelligence, counsel, kindness and support over many years.  http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/25/politics/clinton-methodist-minister/ 

Hillary does not wave her faith around like a flag. Instead, she has described it as the ‘background music to her life.’

It’s there all the time. It’s not something you have to think about, you believe it. You have a faith center out of which the rest flows….My faith has always been primarily personal. It is how I live my life and who I am, and I have tried through my works to demonstrate a level of commitment and compassion that flow from my faith.  http://time.com/2927925/hillary-clintons-religion/

[For those of you who wish to learn more about Hillary Clinton’s faith, visit http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faith4hillary/2016/06/humblefaith/ and http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2016/05/06/3775910/hillary-clinton-faith-profile/.]

This is not the Hillary Clinton that mainstream media often displays to the public. She reached out to Billy Graham during the time of her husband’s affair with Monica Lewinski, and he encouraged her to forgive him. Later, in 2005, she met with Reverend Graham at his New York City Crusade. Billy Graham said of her [as she held his hand the entire time]:

She was just so sweet. She is different from the Hillary you see in the media. There is a warm side to her—and a spiritual one. (http://time.com/2927925/hillary-clintons-religion/)

Democrats tend to minimize her faith or criticize her for her positions (such as her belief that enemies should be respected) that arise out of her faith.  Republicans don’t like her because of her pro-choice stance and her stance on gun violence. They think she wants to provide a path for citizenship so she can hold on to the power of the votes those immigrants would cast for her. They think Benghazi was her fault. They think her private email server was set up so she could hide something. Some even blame HER for her husband’s infidelities.

I know these things because I used to believe some of them, too. Until I read the Benghazi Report (https://benghazi.house.gov/sites/republicans.benghazi.house.gov/files/documents/Part%20I_Redacted.pdf) and learned that the primary reason rescue missions weren’t sent is the military was unprepared. The Secretary of State is not responsible for the military; that’s the job of the Secretary of Defense and ultimately the president. She cares about immigrants because her faith tells her take care of the foreigner. And in light of the recent hacking of the CIA director’s inbox by a sixteen year old (https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160215/06362933606/trust-us-with-more-data-say-government-agencies-hacked-16-year-old.shtml), maybe it was a good thing that her emails were stored in a separate server (although mixing personal and private was a mistake for sure)! The fact that she didn’t divorce her husband despite the very public humiliation of the whole affair is a testament to her love for him, or her belief in forgiveness, or both, and for that I admire her.

As far as her pro-choice stance, I have done some heart searching. And while I am always going to be pro-life, I read the Roe v. Wade decision to try to see how the court came to its conclusion. Here are my takeaways:

    1. There has always been disagreement about when life begins, and the Supreme Court did not set out to solve that issue in their decision:
      We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer. [410 U.S. 113, 160]
    2. The Supreme Court used English Common Law and the US Constitution to help them craft their decision because the Constitution does not specifically address the definition of a ‘person.’
    3. Roe v. Wade does not give a woman carte blanche:
      With respect to the State’s important and legitimate interest in the health of the mother, the “compelling” point, in the light of present medical knowledge, is at approximately the end of the first trimester. This is so because of the now-established medical fact, referred to above at 149, that until the end of the first trimester mortality in abortion may be less than mortality in normal childbirth.
      With respect to the State’s important and legitimate interest in potential life, the “compelling” point is at viability. This is so because the fetus then presumably has the capability of meaningful life outside the mother’s womb. State regulation protective of fetal life after viability thus has both logical and biological justifications.
      At some point in pregnancy, these respective interests become sufficiently compelling to sustain regulation of the factors that govern the abortion decision. The privacy right involved, therefore, cannot be said to be absolute.

So while Roe v. Wade did make it legal for women to get abortions, it stopped short of giving a woman total permission to abort a baby at any stage and specified that the State can restrict abortion at the point of “viability.”

But how do Christians who abhor abortion reconcile supporting a pro-choice candidate? Several of them have pointed out the fact that the total number of abortions in this country has declined under President Obama’s eight years in office. Like me, many believe that abortion is more of a poverty issue than it is a law issue. Christian author and blogger Rachel Held Evans posted an excellent blog today on this very issue (http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/pro-life-voting-for-hillary-clinton); Shannon Dingle, another Christian writer, published her support as well here (http://www.shannondingle.com/blog//im-pro-life-and-im-voting-for-hillary-heres-why).

To put it in Biblical terms, we pro-lifers have been locked in heated battles to clean off our tarnished cup. We want to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states to prohibit abortion.  But we haven’t realized that in doing so, the inside of our cup will still need to be cleaned as long as women continue to feel that abortion is the only choice open to them.

This is especially true for poor women in America.  In the United States, nearly 70% of all abortions are performed on women who make 200 percent or less of the federal poverty line. Just to be clear, the federal poverty line for 2016 is $11,880. Less access to contraceptives mean poor women get pregnant three times as much as those who are wealthier. http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2015/03/02/poor_women_have_more_abortions_even_though_middle_class_women_abort_more.html

It seems to me that the pro-life movement would be more effective if it spent more time loving and less time picketing those women who find themselves dealing with an unintended pregnancy. If poor women felt like someone had their back, maybe they wouldn’t feel like they had to have an abortion. If they had food in their bellies, clothes on their backs and a safe place to sleep, perhaps abortion wouldn’t even cross their minds.

Furthermore, the question of when a baby becomes a baby is addressed in the Old Testament. Mosaic law apparently distinguished between a premature, unformed fetus and a fully formed baby.  Take a look at Exodus 21:22:

22 And if two men strive and smite a woman with child, and her child be born imperfectly formed, he shall be forced to pay a penalty: as the woman’s husband may lay upon him, he shall pay with a valuation.
23 But if it be perfectly formed, he shall give life for life,
24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
25 burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

(Septuagint translation http://www.biblestudytools.com/parallel-bible/passage/?q=exodus+21:22-25&t=lxx&t2=niv).

If a man caused a woman to miscarry and the baby was imperfectly formed (i.e., early term), he had to pay a fine. But if the baby was perfectly formed (which would be late term), then the injury was considered murder and the “eye for an eye” laws went into effect.

Having suffered through two miscarriages that occurred during the first trimester, I am walking proof that natural “abortions” happen frequently. In my case, two out of three pregnancies resulted in miscarriage. Were those babies I miscarried at 8 and 4 weeks souls capable of feeling pain at being wrenched away from my body? Did their bodies have nerve endings? Neither of them had a heart…but were they alive? Or were they part of my body? Or both?

The issue is more complicated than I originally thought. In light of this Biblical treatment of miscarriage-due-to-violence and the restrictions Roe v. Wade placed on a “viable” baby being aborted, I can no longer say that overturning this Supreme Court decision should be the only priority for the pro-life movement. While I am not and could never be pro-abortion, I can set my disagreements aside as there are many other issues facing our country that are just as important.

These issues that concern Hillary Clinton are not incompatible with compassionate conservatives. There is much common ground that can be found, such as revamping and modernizing the VA and holding its leaders accountable. Both candidates support expanding women’s services in the VA and utilizing telemedicine. In the health care realm, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both advocate increasing competition in the pharmaceutical industry by allowing Americans to purchase prescription drugs from overseas. Both candidates want the already existing background checks on gun buyers to include information on serious mental and criminal issues. Both candidates want to help small businesses succeed and bring more jobs back to America; they just achieve that goal in different ways. Both want some kind of tax or fee on businesses that choose to leave the United States.

I like the way Hillary Clinton has specific policies detailed on her website. I am behind 95% of her proposals. Her drive to push for a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease and funding for more research is particularly near and dear to my heart. I lost my sweet grandma in December. She traveled a long road with dementia, and there were treatments available that weren’t available to HER, because she was poor. For example, Medicaid wouldn’t cover the cost of her medication patch, so her doctor switched her over to pills, which then gave her unpleasant side effects. Overall, I really like the way Clinton has bold goals — for renewable energy, for internet access, apprenticeships and education, for fixing the VA, for campaign finance reform, immigration reform, and for job creation. I’m of the opinion that we won’t achieve it if we don’t first dream it.

In contrast to Donald Trump, one of the biggest things I like about Hillary Clinton is that she doesn’t speak “Whine-ese.” Throughout her career, she has been the subject of a storm of criticism. Rather than hitting back, she’s learned to stop worrying about what people are saying about her.

“I feel like I’ve run the gauntlet. When somebody is saying something about another person that is unfair, it’s not that it’s about me so much as the meanness that can be displayed towards people. I don’t like that. It used to bother me and I would get frustrated and then I didn’t have the energy for it any more. And I also thought, ‘If I’m spending energy worrying about what somebody is saying about me, then how am I ever going to make the point I want to make?’

I’d rather have a President Clinton who spends her energy solving problems than a President Trump who cannot seem to pass up a chance to hit back when he has been criticized. His behavior and language don’t appear to rise out of a desire to follow Christ; instead, he seems to almost want to BE Christ, and some of his supporters are letting him take the place of their Savior. On social media, a meme is circulating that says, in part:

I was reading the Bible this morning and I found the perfect verse that explains the success of Donald Trump…

“Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:30-31)

It’s almost like God created this verse for Donald Trump and this moment in history.
Trump is our energy. More energy than any candidate EVER! He took on the 16 best candidates in GOP history… all younger than him… all with better political credentials… and destroyed them with his energy. You mean that kind of energy in a 70-year old isn’t inspired by God?

Trump renews our strength. Or does the all-time record turnout and all-time record votes for a GOP presidential primary candidate not define “strength”?

With Trump we mount up with wings like eagles. With Trump as our leader there is nothing we can’t do. Any man that can build skyscrapers in Manhattan and vanquish 16 presidential opponents, while spending almost nothing…can lead us to the heights of eagles.

With Trump we run, we are not weary. Just when we get tired of the fight against Obama, Hillary, big government, big business, big media, big unions, big pharma…just when it all seems impossible to overcome the powerful forces of evil… along comes Trump to re-energize us. Trump inspires us. Trump gives us hope. Trump gives us confidence in victory. Trump gives us just a touch of arrogance. Maybe God understands that’s exactly what we need right at this late stage to save America.

Friends, that meme is straight-up idolatry and twists the meaning of those beautiful verses in Isaiah, and I can stay silent about it no more. I’ve seen it on Twitter and on FaceBook. Donald Trump is a man. He is not the source of our energy or the source of our strength. He is NOT the one who gives us the ability to mount up with wings like eagles or to run and not grow weary. The only One who gives us the ability to do those things is the Lord. Reading the verse in context, we see in verse 28 that clearly the prophet Isaiah is ascribing these wonderful qualities to God himself.

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.

He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=isaiah+40&version=NIV

The last time I checked, Jesus’ name was not spelled T-R-U-M-P or H-I-L-L-A-R-Y. We must be very careful that in our zeal for one candidate or another, we don’t idolize them. We also need to watch out that we don’t demonize the other side. No matter who is elected in November, Jesus is still King.

Finally, my daughter got to meet and take a selfie with Secretary Clinton last month when we happened to go to the same showing of Hamilton in New York. The theater was crowded and noisy, but my 17-year-old daughter decided she may never have another chance to meet a former President and possible future president before watching a musical written about our country’s first president, so she went for it! When they met, my daughter told her that she has really inspired her. Hillary replied, “That’s wonderful! Thank you so much…I’m glad!”

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My daughter said that Secretary Clinton came across as very genuine and heart-felt and a little overwhelmed. Then she said “she reminds me, of me!” You see, my sweet girl can look a bit overwhelmed herself. In debate, people often think she is upset when really she is just thinking. And it occurred to her as she met Hillary Clinton that they share this characteristic of being misunderstood, probably because they likely share the INTJ Myers Briggs personality type. The Selfie was a special moment I know none of us will ever forget.

We’ve since learned that Hillary Clinton has watched Hamilton at least three times now, showing that she, too, was moved by the performance. Her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention quoted the musical, and we noticed that the scene she quoted is one that also moved us.

Though “we may not live to see the glory,” as the song from the musical Hamilton goes, “let us gladly join the fight.”
Let our legacy be about “planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.”

That’s why we’re here…not just in this hall, but on this Earth.

The Founders showed us that.

And so have many others since. (Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/07/full-text-hillary-clintons-dnc-speech-226410#ixzz4GEjgCWGQ )

Hamilton is so successful because it taps into what it means to be an American. Having that shared experience — and the selfie that she took the time to take with a seventeen year old girl — was the starting point to my decision to find out what I could about Hillary Clinton, apart from all the rumors, hype and drama.

So….now that your eyeballs fell out of your head, you can put them back in. It’s been a long, prayerful, heart-wringing road, coming to this decision and stepping out of this political closet. I have so many dear friends — and almost ALL of my family, who are Donald Trump supporters, and I hesitated to put this information out there because I don’t want to be unfriended, unfollowed, or disowned! But ultimately I wanted to share what I’ve learned. Even if I didn’t persuade you to vote for her, I hope you can see where other conservative Christians might support her.

Even though I’m out of the closet, I’m still the same person you knew yesterday, and I’m not going to unfriend or unfollow or disown you for supporting Donald Trump. After all, we should never let politics trump love, right?

It’s worth noting, perhaps, that I’ve come full circle. The first time I voted in a presidential election, I cast my ballot for her husband. Then I voted for Republicans in subsequent election years. But this November, #I’mAProLiferWithHer.

Black Lives Matter…Too

I’m writing this post with a specific audience in mind. If you hear the words “Black Lives Matter” and feel your stomach clenching, then this post is for you, and I ask you to keep an open mind and consider what has been laid on my heart to write. If you are one who has been saying BlackLivesMatter all along, then I invite you to read and add to the conversation as well.

In the past, I have tweeted and written posts in response to #BlackLivesMatter by saying #ALLLivesMatter. I read those words #BlackLivesMatter and immediately heard the invisible word, “only,” at the beginning of that phrase. My stomach clenched and I felt offended, especially when a family member’s white brother was severely wounded by a police officer and died seven months later. The #BlackLivesMatter tag seemed to dismiss and exclude the pain my family endured. A young man’s life mattered, but he wasn’t black. He didn’t get a hashtag.

After the police shootings of black men and the awful ambushes of the Dallas and Baton Rouge Police Departments, my heart felt raw and shattered. How could these horrors be happening in my country? I began praying and researching, and as I did so, God helped me see that this desire to counter with #AllLivesMatter is really a misunderstanding of the movement’s intent.

#BlackLivesMatter is an analogy. It began as an attempt to draw attention to the number of unarmed black people who are killed by police. A 2015 study by criminal justice researchers from The University of Louisville and The University of South Carolina shows that unarmed black men are seven times more likely to be shot by police than are white men. The study used data collected by The Washington Post, which showed that:

Black men accounted for about 40 percent of the unarmed people fatally shot by police and, when adjusted by population, were seven times as likely as unarmed white men to die from police gunfire, The Post found.

After adjusting for different factors, such as whether or not the suspect was mentally ill, the crime rate of the neighborhood and whether the police officer was being attacked, the study concluded:

“The only thing that was significant in predicting whether someone shot and killed by police was unarmed was whether or not they were black,” said Justin Nix, a criminal justice researcher at the University of Louisville and one of the report’s authors. “Crime variables did not matter in terms of predicting whether the person killed was unarmed.”

151 years after the 13th Amendment was ratified and slavery was abolished, unarmed black men are seven times as likely to die from police gunfire than unarmed white men. If each race of people was a house, can you see that the Black House is on fire and needs attention?

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Another post I found gave unique insight on why responding with #AllLivesMatter contributes to the problem of misunderstanding each other:

Culture, laws, the arts, religion, and everyone else repeatedly suggest that all lives should matter. Clearly, that message already abounds in our society.

The problem is that, in practice, the world doesn’t work that way…there is a news bias toward stories that the majority of the audience (who are white) can identify with. So when a young black man gets killed (prior to the recent police shootings), it’s generally not considered “news,” while a middle-aged white woman being killed is treated as news. And to a large degree, that is accurate — young black men are killed in significantly disproportionate numbers, which is why we don’t treat it as anything new. But the result is that, societally, we don’t pay as much attention to certain people’s deaths as we do to others. So, currently, we don’t treat all lives as though they matter equally.

When viewed from this perspective, we see that #BlackLivesMatter does not exclude the lives of white people. It doesn’t mean #ONLYBlackLivesMatter.  It means that at this time, there are problems in policing and the culture that need to be addressed. The fire needs to be put out, and not just by our elected officials and police officers.

We need to join hands and put the fire out together.

For some reason, some police feel more threatened when confronted with a black person than they do with a white person. Let’s talk about this. If you are white, do you feel threatened when you meet a black person for the first time? If you are black, do you feel threatened when you meet a white person for the first time? Dig down deeply, and consider how you really feel.

I confess to you that yes, I have felt threatened, and I’ll tell you why. In junior high, I got caught in the middle of a violent fight and was knocked to the ground. In high school, a bully yelled in my face and then threw a basketball at the back of my head as I walked away, knocking me out. Both of those incidents involved black girls. Now I have since experienced good relationships with black women, but I confess that up until now, it takes me longer to trust a black woman than it takes me to trust a white one. I did not even realize this fact about myself until I started praying about this whole nasty situation going on in our country, and God showed me that I had been projecting my fear and emotions about these two incidents onto an entire race of people. I am truly and deeply sorry for this reaction, and I repent of this sin.

How many of us do this emotion-based blaming? If I, in my unconscious distrust, gave a black woman the impression that I didn’t like her or looked down on her, does she then hold all white people accountable for my bad behavior? And so the cycle continues, unless we break it.

Black women friends — do you trust white women in the same way you trust black women? If not, why? Can you bring yourself to grab my hand and trust me, seeing me as I am on the inside and not just as a skinny white woman who used to be afraid of you?

Upon reflection, I can see this truth: skin color has nothing to do with behavior. Let me say that again: skin color has nothing to do with behavior.

We need to instill that truth in our children. If someone does something that hurts you or someone else, look beyond the color of his or her skin. Hold that individual accountable rather than assuming everyone with that skin color behaves in the same way.

If we can do that, then we can live freely as brothers and sisters, citizens and police, no matter what color we are on the outside. And if we are Christians, then we surely need to perform heart surgery on ourselves to remove any inherent distrust we may feel towards our brothers and sisters of a different color. The words Paul wrote to the Galatians are still true today:

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3)

So let’s open up the conversation. Let’s acknowledge that our black brothers and sisters are living in a metaphorical house that is on fire and need our help and our love, not our scorn.

It begins with understanding that the phrase #BlackLivesMatter does not mean only BlackLivesMatter or BlackLivesMatter more. It means BlackLivesMatter, too, also, as well as, additionally, likewise. Let’s remember that 152 years ago, black people were viewed as property and weren’t even counted as full humans! Today, they are viewed by the police and others with more distrust and fear, perhaps because they, too, are caught in the lie of linking skin color with behavior. We need to cut this lie out of our lives. People are individually responsible for their own behavior.

Please, black friends, I beg you to forgive me for projecting the behavior of a few onto the many, and I ask you to extend grace to me. Could you trust me even though I am white? And please don’t hold other white people responsible for my behavior. Please don’t blame all police officers for the behavior of a few.

Jesus was spot on when he laid down the Golden Rule. If we do this one thing — treating everyone the way we want to be treated, with respect, and especially with love — then we can solve the divide. (Note to protesters of all colors who block the streets, highways and interstates: think before you act. Will your actions stop someone from getting to the hospital? If so, take your protest elsewhere. How would you feel if a protest prevented you from getting your baby to the hospital?) Let’s all think through walking in each others’ shoes before we take a step.

My white family member who was killed by police mattered. There were no vigils or demonstrations held on his behalf, and in light of the demonstrations going on today, that lack of public interest in his death hurts. Yet that hurt feeling is exactly how black people have been feeling for centuries. That’s why I can stand with them. We grieve together.

Working together, we can change the world to be a place where all races can say #AllLivesMatter and feel that they genuinely do, without our stomachs clenching. #LoveStartsNow

 

Twenty Things I Learned In New York City

New York City. The Big Apple. The City That Never Sleeps. 

Over the last five days, I finally walked the streets of NYC, and I kind of “get it.” There’s a strange vibe thrumming all the time. The city is a living, breathing machine. Here are 20 things I learned on my first foray there.

1.Libraries have no books. At least, they have no books for browsing. If you find yourself in NYC and want to inhale the intoxicating scent of thousands and thousands of books, go to a bookstore. If you want a book at the NYC Public Library, you have to go to a designated reading room and request staff to bring your book to you. Oh, but if you love architecture? Soaring ceilings and marble floors? Yes. You can find those!

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2. Parking is impossible. And when it is possible, it’s oppressively expensive. We saw several parking lots that had portable stands that raised the cars up and down. At these rates, it would cost a person $160 a DAY to park there for work. No wonder everybody uses the subway!

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3. Subway=Panic Attack. I couldn’t even walk down the steps. There I was, being all brave with the crowds on the streets, but show me a hole leading into the ground, and I just couldn’t do it. My heart started pounding in my ears, I got dizzy, and my chest felt like an elephant was sitting on it. The thought of boarding an underground train that rocked back and forth, coupled with the odors rising up from those steps, made it physically impossible for me to do it. It’s at times like these that I am sorry my family has to put up with me. Once they realized I was not going to be able to take the subway anywhere, we walked on and figured out another way to get to where we wanted to go: Uber.

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4. Uber Cool. An Uber driver took us across to the Battery Park City area, and once we got there, we used our feet. I walked a total of 54, 097 steps (19.72 miles) over our five days in NYC! I’d never been with my husband when he’d called up Uber rides before, so it was fun to see how the app works. We didn’t have to wait more than two or three minutes each time.

5. Weird Food is Normal. I walked past cafes that advertised all sorts of foods that I’m sure are healthy…but I just can’t fathom eating or drinking them. Like this green smoothie with red beans on top:

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6. Arugula is hot. New York chefs appear to adore this bitter green stuff in their salads. In fact, several “house” salads I ordered contained arugula and little else. How on earth did someone decide this stuff is food? Note to self: avoid salads next visit.

7. Homeless people are in the landscape. They truly are the faceless and the vulnerable. I saw several as I walked the streets, and I sit here writing these words with shame dripping from my fingertips. I did not engage them. I did not offer to buy them food, which was plentiful, from the vendors on the corners. I treated them in the same way I treated the bags of trash stacked up on the curb: with eyes averted. Ugh! I wish I could turn back the clock and act in love instead of like a typical gawking tourist. When we went to Central Park, I snapped a photo of a person sprawled out on the rocks under the shelter of an umbrella. It wasn’t until I got the photo on my laptop that I realized this woman is probably homeless, and the “pillow” under her head is likely a trash bag filled with possessions. She looks so sad. Why did I just walk by when my heart pulled me to buy a hotdog, to engage in conversation? I have much sin to unearth here, I think.

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8. Celebrities among us. Celebs live in NYC in relative obscurity. (Unless they happen to have the last name Clinton…see below).  We saw this guy enjoying a snack and a newspaper in a quiet memorial garden. I’ll leave him unnamed here, for privacy’s sake.

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9. My daughter, The Next President? Speaking of celebrities…Secretary Clinton and former President Clinton were in the audience as we watched Hamilton! My daughter the go-getter made her way over and got her photo with Secretary Clinton. Whether you like her political leanings or hate them, it felt very…historical….to be watching a musical about the founding fathers with a presidential candidate and former president in the audience!

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10. Theaters “On Broadway” aren’t. Every block around Times Square had numerous theaters, and each theater carries one show. The theaters are scattered everywhere in the Theater District. This surprised me. For some reason I had the idea in my head of a bunch of theaters lined up and down a street named Broadway and that all theaters carried several different shows at once. We went to two theaters on this trip: The Richard Rodgers Theater for Hamilton, and the Lyceum Theater for Fully Committed. If I had a zillion dollars and more days, I would have gotten tickets to see Wicked, Waitress, Matilda, The Lion King, and more — each in its own theater.

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11. No Eye Contact. Don’t look people on the sidewalks in the eye unless you want to carry around a pile of brochures about plays, a bus tour, a boat tour, a restaurant, a comedy club, a party…. Yes. I learned the hard way!

 

12. Talent is everywhere. We heard a man sing a Whitney Houston song better than Whitney ever did! Check it out here:

13. But Ignore the Naked Cowboys and Painted Ladies. These guys are the hustlers of Time Square’s Pedestrian Flow Zones.  You can’t walk past them without being offered a chance to take a picture with them, for a fee, of course. Elmo and several Disney characters were around, too!

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14. Intriguing Architecture. Many of the buildings in New York are ornate and gorgeous! Like this one:

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15. A NYC Park is an oasis in a concrete desert. We visited Central Park, Bryant Park, Battery Park and a memorial garden. Every time I spied greenery in the distance, my feet felt lighter and my soul a little happier.

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16. 9/11 Memories. Shadows of the Twin Towers hover invisibly over the memorial. Everyone has a story. Our Uber driver lost a friend. We visited the memorial museum on Independence Day, and I’m still processing the collective pain of that day…of how the scenes on television looked like scenes from a movie, not real life. And then to walk those gleaming streets, with beautiful flowers…to see the Freedom Tower, free from the dust and smoke and wreckage that lay everywhere just fifteen years ago…wow. Sorry…I have no words just yet..except, we love you NYC.

17. Safety First. I walked the streets and I felt safe. NYPD was seemingly everywhere. Maybe it was the holiday weekend, but I was glad to see these guys. Even if some of them did drive these cute little cars!

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18. Even Cemeteries Are Closed on Independence Day. We tried to visit Alexander Hamilton’s gravesite at Trinity Church, but the gates were locked up tight. I was able to grab this shot, though, through the wrought-iron fence. I wonder what he would have thought about 9/11 and the Freedom Tower?

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19. NYC Fireworks BOOM! We walked down to the East River (a little over a mile away from our hotel) to catch the Macy’s fireworks. When we were about a block away, the show began, and we heard them before we could see them. Unless you get to the river where there are no more buildings, you can’t see anything. So we joined in with the locals and caught a small view of the show behind the UN building. It was a great ending to a moving day.

20. Finally, Brutal Honesty. The people we met were nothing if not honest. Here’s my favorite sign, and a symbol of what it means to be in New York:

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Haha! Until next time, New York! I wonder what else you have to teach me?

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