In Loco Parentis

Longtime readers will remember that Dymphna spent much of her childhood in foster homes and an orphanage. This week’s edition of Dymphna’s Greatest Hits, written on Christmas Eve of 2009, is an extensive meditation on her experiences, and how they compare with an academic study on the subject.

In Loco Parentis

by Dymphna
Originally published December 24, 2009

Do you have an opinion on the value of orphanages versus that of foster homes as places to put a motherless child?

Which of the two do you think is better for children? Whatever your conclusion, how did you come to hold your opinion as the correct one?

These aren’t rhetorical questions, but they are (in a sense) loaded. Unless you’ve made a study of the subject, or been a resident of an orphanage or foster home, you’d have to base your answer on what you ‘feel’ rather than any hard information. No surprises there: we all do that on any number of issues. We work from our own experience, from observations, maybe from reading or from conversations with other people. In these ways we arrive at answers crafted to satisfy our intellect and our practical experience.

Of course, the question about which environment is best for children assumes you care one way or another. Those who don’t care should read something else.

In putting forth my own ideas there is the unspoken assumption that at least some of our readers have an opinion on this, if for no other reason than the inescapable fact we’ve all experienced being a child (some still are — e.g., our homeschoolers). Every child has wondered at one time or another, “Who will take care of me if something happens to my parents?” Kids know they’re dependent on adults to survive. For them the question is not yet academic.

Recently Scientific American published a study addressed to this very question: which is better for the motherless (okay, “parentless”) child, an orphanage or a foster home? Before looking at their findings, I’ll present my own experience with foster homes and orphanages, both as a child and later as an adult social worker. If the personal part isn’t of interest, just skip to the section about the study’s findings.

I’ve given lots of thought to foster homes and orphanages. They loomed large in my childhood from the age of two until I reached ten. I didn’t know that I was to encounter these places again in my adult work life.

From age two or so until age five, I was in any number of unsatisfactory daycare, foster care and foster group home arrangements. There was even a brief surreal interlude where a homeless mother with her own child lived in our house to take care of me while Mother was at work. In exchange for room and board and a spot of money, Mrs. X was to mind me during the day. In addition she was to cook supper for all of us. That set-up lasted only as long as it took the neighbor ladies — two widows with a parrot — to report to my mother the screams and beatings taking place while she was absent. Half-deaf, the both of them, but they could hear my travail loud and clear. Their frightened report to my mother brought that experiment to an abrupt end. On paper it had been a great idea. In reality, envy and rage at my mother’s good fortune to have a home and a job created an unbearable turmoil for Mrs. X and she was compelled to pass the mess on to me.

Stacked up in my memories there are other more mundane tales of neglect, of punitive harshness decked out in “you must learn to be obedient”, and a myriad of other sadisms all children know so well, even the lucky ones with parents.

By the time I was five and no stable arrangement had been found by my determined, fiercely devoted Mother, the damage was starting to show. Mostly it took the form of anxiety and a run-down immune system. At the family doctor’s behest, Mother placed me in Saint Mary’s Orphanage so that I could have a stable routine and some continuity. I got both, and much more than that during the years until I turned ten.

Yes, of course I’ve wondered why my mother didn’t apply for welfare back then. She’s gone now, so I can’t ask her, but I have some ideas about her hesitation. Recently her oldest passport, the one that got her from Liverpool into New York City, floated up to the top level of my chaotic papers. Looking at that worn dark green booklet made me recall having seen her immigrant card a few times. The light went on: my foreign mother was not a citizen, so she didn’t qualify for welfare.

My guess is she’d have applied if she weren’t so afraid of calling the attention of “the authorities” to her existence, thus starting a Kafka-esque process ending in her being sent back to Ireland. If you’re familiar with the fundamentally shame-based reality of the Irish middle class, you already know why she’d have died rather than face such a fate.

Logical thinking? Hardly. More like basic animal fear. My mother’s Logical Thinking chip never did function very well. Her quite Victorian father seems to have removed that potential from all his daughters. So whatever thinking went on where her children and her own survival were concerned was paralyzed with fear but fueled with fierce mama-bear determination. In other words, an engine stuck in neutral but revved up all the time…

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An Open Letter to Cindy Sheehan

This week’s edition of Dymphna’s Greatest Hits takes us back to a topic that after fifteen years has already faded into the mists of history. Cindy Sheehan had her fifteen minutes of fame, and then she moved on to… Well, to whatever people do when their fifteen minutes is up.

For those of you who are too young to remember, or weren’t paying attention at the time: Cindy Sheehan’s son Casey was killed in the Iraq War in 2004. In the summer of 2005 she made headlines as antiwar activist cum grieving mother who held a vigil outside George W. Bush’s ranch in Texas to protest the Iraq war. Later she took part in other “peace” actions, and was associated with Code Pink in some fashion.

Dymphna’s take on Cindy Sheehan was quite different from what was going around in the rest of the right-wing blogosphere in 2005. Since she had lost her own child just two years before, Dymphna had some insight into what another grieving mother might be feeling, and addressed her in that spirit.

It’s now been nine months since Dymphna died. Last summer was a time of horror and devastation for me, against which my psyche has protected me by making me unable to remember a lot of it. I just have flashes, snapshots, brief vignettes from those first awful weeks — enough to recall the utter misery of it. And it’s still here with me, but nowhere near as intense.

However… After living with Dymphna through the time of Shelagh’s death, I can tell you that the death of a child is far worse than the death of a spouse. Dymphna never really came back to her old self afterwards. I encouraged her to start this blog as a way to bring herself out of the worst of it, to mitigate her bottomless sorrow by doing something useful and important that drew on her gifts as a writer.

And here I am, fifteen years later, circling back to revisit that difficult time. Re-reading her essay brought it all back for me.

An Open Letter to Cindy Sheehan

by Dymphna
Originally published August 20, 2005

I had to look up your name since I have avoided your story as much as possible. Not out of a lack of compassion for your sorrow, but rather because of my own fragility and the sorrow I carry for my own dead daughter.

Here’s what I know about your story — and when you think about it, to have learned this much despite not having a TV and making an effort to avoid learning about your odyssey, it’s amazing I know as much as I do.

Your son Casey was a soldier and he died in Iraq. At first, you were able to maintain in the face of this catastrophic loss. I believe you even met with the President at one point? See — even I, with no access to regular media and a real wish to avoid your story, even I know these things. Or maybe what I “know” is some garbled version of what has been going on for you in your public grief.

This is a guess — an educated guess from one mother of a dead child to another — but I think things began to unravel as time went on and the reality of Casey’s complete and total and lifelong and irrevocable absence hit your consciousness like a fist sinks into a gut. And the bunched knuckles kept coming back to deliver blow after unending blow.

One picture I happened upon in the grocery store showed you on your knees. I presume it was taken in Crawford since someone who didn’t know me well wanted to discuss your story and said you’d gone to President Bush’s ranch. I remember turning away from your face as you knelt there. Yours was a sorrowful visage, a broken face like the reflection from a fractured mirror. My heart twisted for you even though I barely glanced at the picture.

Your grief has served to polarize others. Some say you’re being used, some dismiss you as “crazy” — and tell me, what mother of a dead child isn’t crazy? You’ve been cheated of your son; you walk through the valley of the shadow of death and no one comes to greet you. There will never, ever again be a laughing bear hug from this son grown tall and handsome.

When a husband or wife dies, we call the surviving partner the widow or widower. Why do you think it is that there is no one word to describe our condition, Cindy? Mother-of-a-dead-child is the best we can do? The lack of a name gives you some inkling how much our culture avoids the knowledge of this sorrow. If we named it we’d have some power over it. But the condition you and I share is unnamed because since time immemorial parents have dreaded this loss. It is the worst. There is nothing else that can be done to us. A motherless child is a pitiful creature and carries a life-long emptiness he or she tries to fill with other grown-ups. A childless mother is a crazy person and nothing can fill the hole, not if she had a baby a year for the rest of her life.

Do you have other children? I have three. And when people ask me, pleasantly, “how many children do you have?” I look at them blankly. It is all I can do to not to run screaming from the room.

Here is where I liken my experience to what is happening to you: after Shelagh’s sudden death, after the Rescue Squad carried her off and I watched them disappear down the drive, after the Medical Examiner returned her body to us, there was lots to do. The first morning I awoke I heard her say distinctly, laughing, “Mom, welcome to the first day of the rest of your life without me.” I think she was trying to make it easier in her Shelagh way.

There was so much to do. Her children needed clothing for the funeral, there were burial arrangements to make, a minister to call, family visitation to be arranged, a burial service to be created. So many, many people to notify. Elderly grandparents and a large contingent of Irish relatives to talk to and arrange for flights. As the days passed, I thought to myself “I can do this. I can just keep having this whole thing to organize and plan and I’ll be okay. As long as I never have to bury her, I’ll be fine.” Yes, this is crazy thinking. Even then, I vaguely knew that.

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Islam’s Saints

This week’s edition of Dymphna’s greatest hits is from the spring of 2006. Until I reread the piece this morning, I had forgotten about the case of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan man who faced death for converting to Christianity, and who probably would have been executed had it not been for pressure brought to bear by the U.S. government.

The links embedded in the original no longer work, and have been removed.

Islam’s Saints

by Dymphna
originally published on March 28, 2006

The Christian convert in Afghanistan who faced execution has been let go, at least for the moment. Because Afghanistan’s President is anxious to join the modern world, which has a secular rule of law, he was able to bring pressure to bear on the Sharia Court to let the religious prisoner go. And because he wants to bring his country into the 21st century, Karzai was open to the urging of world leaders who called him to intervene in this case.

Things will not go so well for the Sharia-shackled prisoners in Iran. The government there is deaf to any pleading, and in fact, is planning its executions in secret so as to fly under the radar of humanitarian groups who might seek to interfere. Here are two current cases:

The first is a 17-year-old young woman named Nazanin who was out walking with her niece and their respective boyfriends in March, 2005. The two girls were set upon by three men. When the men began stoning the girls, the boys ran away. Injured from the stones, the girls were dragged to the ground and Act II, the rape, began. Nazanin managed to get out a knife she carried to protect herself from attacks. She stabbed her rapist in the chest and he died from the wound. So, of course, Nazanin now faces execution for this act of self-defense. She was sentenced in January, 2006, though the date of execution isn’t certain.

The second case is an older woman, Fatemeh Haghighat-Pajooh, who murdered her “temporary husband” for his attempted rape of her daughter. The whole sick idea of “temporary marriage” is Sharia-speak for permitting adultery and prostitution, which would otherwise be punishable by execution. “Temporary marriages” can be of any duration, from a quick assignation at lunch, to many years’ duration. You can be married to one woman and still contract with another for a muta. This is largely a Shi’ite permutation, though Sunnis have been known to use it when convenient. Needless to say, built in to this corruption is a lack of protection for the “wife” of these arrangements:

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Bon Appétit, TNR

This week’s installment of Dymphna’s Greatest Hits from July 2007 discusses the manufacture of fake news by a “journalist” at The New Republic. Reading it through made me realize how little has changed — the behavior of the legacy media hasn’t improved in the intervening years, and it may even have gotten worse.

Most of the embedded links in the original are now defunct, and have been removed.

Bon Appétit, TNR

by Dymphna
Originally published July 21, 2007

The New Republic is being either naive or cynical. This one is a tough call if you want to believe the best about a person, or group of people — in this case a magazine that’s been around since the First World War.

By now you’ve probably read about what Sgt. Mom calls “the latest milblog kerfuffle-du-jour.”

The dust-up concerns a series of essays The New Republic has published by a supposed soldier in Iraq who describes anecdotes about his fellow soldiers that are (a) horrific and disgusting, and (b) inaccurate in their details. Of course, (b) simply means another “fake-but-accurate” strand in the MSM tapestry of careless lies and half-truths woven to serve their purposes. With the MSM, f-b-a is a standard sufficient to allow them to print what the rest of us consider slanderous, but which gives them license to put their agenda into the public sphere for consumption by the willing or the unwary.

OPFOR blog and The Weekly Standard magazine both question the veracity of the pseudonymous Scott Thomas’ stories about his service in Iraq, and then ask their readers to pass judgment based on their own experience of military life.

The commenters on both sites take the stories apart; they do so on the basis of small, telling details. For example, it’s not called a “chow hall” in Iraq, and the things on soldiers’ heads are no longer “helmets.” Nor do enlisted men ever operate as free of the oversight of their NCOs as TNR’s “correspondent” would have you believe. In real life, any sergeant or junior officer would take these fellows down based on the ghoulish, sick stories this writer tells. Not to mention what their peers might do to them for such depraved behavior…

Here we are again, right back at Dan Rather’s fonts from a 1970’s IBM Selectric. We’re back in WWII movies where the reality behind the bad guy (usually German) is revealed by his ignorance of, say, American baseball players. In other words, liars get outed by the little things they don’t know but couldn’t possibly be ignorant about if they came from the milieu they are claiming as their own.

Back during Rathergate, James Lileks was quoted by the Standard:

“The whole ‘fake but accurate’ line shows how tone-deaf these people are; it’s like saying a body in a pine box is ‘dead but lifelike.’ It boggles, it really does: the story is true, the evidence is faked, but the evidence reflects the evidence we have not yet presented that proves our conclusion — ergo, we’re telling the truth…

Both OPFOR and the Standard did what The New Republic should have done to begin with: fact check with those who do know the details because they can prove they were there in Iraq when these brutal incidents supposedly took place. For example, TNR’s essayist describes a soldier who deliberately makes a U-turn in his Bradley in order to run over a dog.

Even to this un-military blogger, the story smells like… like a dead dog lying in the sun. I mean, how do you make a swift U-turn in a tracked vehicle like a Bradley, hmm? And we are supposed to believe that the dog is going to stand and wait for you to return and run him over just for fun? Heck, even the lazy hounds given to sleeping on our country road get up well before my speeding bullet of a car reaches their noses.

Here’s how a commenter from the Standard sees it:

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Homeless or Not??

Before her fibromyalgia became so severe that she had to quit working, Dymphna’s final job was at a charitable organization that helped mentally ill people, many of them homeless. This week’s edition of Dymphna’s Greatest Hits (from September 2009) draws on that work experience.

Homeless or Not??

by Dymphna
Originally published on September 29, 2009

The story below has been on my mind ever since it arrived via email a few weeks ago.

First, I’ll present just the story itself, which my friend thought amusing (as did all the commenters at the site). After you read it and decide for yourself what this situation is about, I’ll give my interpretation of the events. Having saved our email exchange, I’ll also give my friend’s arguments against my interpretation.

Several blogs posted this when it first appeared. Unfortunately, I no longer remember where I ran across their posts, though I do remember they drew the same conclusion as my friend, i.e. that it was simply a weird amusing story from Kansas:

A man and woman decided to give the phrase “Dumpster diving” a new twist over the weekend, crawling inside one on North Waco so they could be alone.

But while they were engaged in what Wichita police described as “an intimate moment,” they were robbed by a man armed with a pocket knife.

It all unfolded shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday in the 700 block of North Waco, police said, when the man and woman, both 44, crawled into the trash container for privacy.

A short time later, a 59-year-old man and his 64-year-old companion interrupted the couple inside the trash container.

With the older man encouraging him, the 59-year-old man pulled out a pocket knife and took shoes, jewelry and the 44-year-old man’s wallet.

Police were notified, and officers found the two suspects a short time later. The stolen property was recovered.

Okay, there you have the bare facts. I looked around for more details, but none were to be had. Thus, we’ll have to go with what we’ve got here.

How did you read this story?

Here’s my response to my friend:

Thanks for sending this (I think). It made me immensely sad.

I felt so sorry for all of those people. They were like something out of a Flannery O’Connor short story. Degraded and such casual evil.

The couple must’ve been homeless. And the villains don’t sound any better off.

I’m not sure I’m up to reading the comments about them unless there is some compassion somewhere in them. Is there?

My friend didn’t agree with my interpretation at all. He wrote back:

I doubt that they are homeless.

Remember that the thieves got away with jewelry and a wallet.

And most homeless people don’t call the cops when something happens. If anyone was homeless, I think it was the robbers.

As I read his reply, the time I’d spent working with homeless people came flooding back in full Technicolor. I intuitively knew that these were not only homeless people but likely from that class of homeless known as “the ambulatory mentally ill”.

The fate of these folks is the result of legislation going back to Kennedy’s era, when the enlightened elite decided to open the doors of our mental institutions and send patients back into their communities to be cared for by local folks. Of course this novel legislation, which eventually created “Community Service Boards” who would oversee the mentally ill, was another case of unfunded or underfunded federal do-goodism. If you think ObamaCare is a good idea, just look at federal mandates as they apply to CSBs. It would be funny if it didn’t damage so many people. And if the dedicated staff at your local CSB didn’t have so few resources to help the walking weirdoes (as other homeless people call them).

This report [pdf], by Kaiser, is overly optimistic in my view:

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The Slave Owner’s Book Store

This week’s selection of Dymphna’s Greatest Hits is from June of 2005. I remember the case well — Homaidan Al-Turki was convicted, but I don’t know if he’s still in prison.

Note: Most of the original links are now bad, and have been removed.

The Slave Owner’s Book Store

By Dymphna
Originally published June 13, 2005

Everyone must know by now about the Saudi couple in Colorado facing state and federal charges on various counts:

A Saudi Arabian couple was in custody Friday, accused of turning a young Indonesian woman into a virtual slave, forcing her to clean, cook and care for their children while she was threatened and sexually assaulted.

A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted Homaidan Al-Turki, 36, and his wife, Sarah Khonaizan, 35, on charges of forced labor, document servitude and harboring an illegal immigrant.

Al-Turki also faces state charges including kidnapping, false imprisonment and extortion, as well as 12 charges of sexual assault. His wife faces some of the same charges. The two could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.

U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Jeff Dorschner said the Indonesian woman, who is in her 20s, came to the United States with the couple legally to perform domestic chores. But her U.S. visa was hidden from her by Al-Turki and Khonaizan, according to Thursday’s indictment.

The woman was controlled by “a climate of fear and intimidation” that included sexual abuse and the belief that she would “suffer serious harm” if she did not perform her tasks, the indictment said.

The woman is believed to have lived with the couple from 2000 until November 2004, according to authorities.

Mr. Homaidan Al-Turki, the alleged perpetrator of these crimes, is the owner of a book store called Al-Basheer Publications and Translations. Here is his “About” page:

Al-Basheer Publications & Translations began in 1417 Hijri, 1996 C.E. and is dedicated to publishing high quality books on Islam from only authentic sources. Our titles are by distinguished scholars from around the world. Most notably, we are the publisher for books written and translated by Sheikh Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo.

Al-Basheer Publications & Translations is dedicated to the spread of knowledge from the Aqeedah and Minhaj of Ahl us-Sunnah wa al-Jama’at. All of our books, tapes and other products that we publish and distribute have all be carefully researched to ensure quality and accuracy of content. May Allah guide us in this effort (emphasis added).

We distribute a huge selection of items, including books, tapes, videos and gifts. In the coming weeks, you will see these items as they are added to our inventory on the internet and to our catalogues. We carry books in English, Arabic, and more than 13 other languages. Currently we have opened Maktabat Al-Basheer on the internet to assist you in shopping for the best books in English and Arabic, as well as the Quran and translations of the Quran.

We welcome your questions and comments at info@al-basheer.com.

By all means, drop him an email; he says your comments are welcome.

Meanwhile, there’s a spotlight special on the website this week.

        Do Women Really Know Their Rights?
  Format: 5 Audio CDs (English)
By: Yasir Birjas
  Retail: $25.95
You Save: 10.02%
Your Price: $23.35
  Weight: 1.00 Lbs.
 

You might want to hurry, though. It says there are only four copies left. No doubt there were five before he gave a copy to the maid.

UPDATE: More specific details have been released about the Indonesian slave.

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If Only

This week’s edition of Dymphna’s Greatest Hits discusses the train of events that led up to the Great War in the summer of 1914. It was originally posted in June of 2005.

If Only

by Dymphna
June 19, 2005

Right Wing Nuthouse recently posted a moving look back at D-Day and the character of the American soldier which allowed us to pull victory out of a brutal and chaotic situation. From the perspective of sixty years, he looks back on that assault as the defining moment for the twentieth century, listing the many disasters which might have followed on the defeat of those soldiers hitting the beach.

In a house filled with amateur historians, the post sparked dinner table conversations that lasted for several days. Finally, the consensus came down to one incident, one date, that changed the course of the 20th century and set into play the events which were to dog the rest of our days, even down to the present.

That moment, of course, is June 28, 1914. The incident is the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to Austro-Hungarian throne, by Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo.

Princip was a member of an anarchist group, the Black Hand. He was one of three assassins (that lovely Arabic word), sent to Sarajevo when it was known the Archduke was to be there, invited to inspect Army maneuvers. All three of these anarchists had tuberculosis and figured they wouldn’t live long. They wanted their short lives to be useful and to that end set out for their date with destiny.

However, the prime minister of Serbia was told about the plot ahead of time and ordered the men arrested. His orders were ignored, and the men arrived in Sarajevo. If only the arrest orders had been carried out.

The first attempt on Franz Ferdinand’s life was a grenade under the Archduke’s car as they drove from the train station to City Hall for the usual reception. However, the driver of the car saw this and managed to speed ahead, avoiding damage. Unfortunately, two people in the car following were seriously injured. Thus, after the reception the Archduke insisted on going to the hospital to see them.

It was decided that the Archduke should be escorted to the hospital on a route that bypassed the city. Unfortunately, no one told his driver. It was only as they were turning into Franz Josef Street that the Army general accompanying them noticed the mistake and had the driver back up. Guess who was at a café on the corner? Gavrilo Princip. Firing from only five feet away, how could he miss? He shot the Archduke in the jugular vein and the Archduke’s beloved wife, Sophie, in the abdomen. As he was struck, Franz Ferdinand begged Sophie to live. “Think of the children,” he implored.

The couple died at the governor’s residence. If only someone had told Franz Urban, the driver of the car, about the change in plans.

The cascade of events following their deaths was like a carefully placed set of dominoes. The players in this deadly game were as follows:

1.   Princip was a Bosnian Serb. It was presumed that the machinations of Serbia were behind the assassination. Thus the demands and ultimata by Austria-Hungary were on Serbia. They sent an “expert” to collect evidence.
2.   Serbia was bound to Russia by alliance and by ethnic ties.
3.   Germany was bound by its alliance with Austria-Hungary.
 

Can you see the clouds gathering here? Can you see the dominoes beginning to tremble?

4.   Austria-Hungary demanded apologies and cessation of anti-Austrian propaganda. They wanted cooperation from Serbia in their investigations. Meanwhile, Serbia stalled. This intestinal fortitude was encouraged by word from St. Petersburg that Russia would back them.
5.   Now come Britain and France. Bound by a mutual alliance with Russia, the Triple Entente, they were obliged to come to Russia’s aid.
6.   So began the mobilization: Britain readied the fleet, France mobilized.
7.   Austria declared war on July 28th. Two days later, Russia mobilized, part of which was deployment on the German border.
8.   The Germans made an ultimatum to Russia: cease and desist.
 

On July 29th, Germany proposed British neutrality. In return, the Germans would not annex Belgium or French territory. If only the British had agreed.

9.   On August 1st, 1914 — less than six weeks after the Archduke’s death — Germany declared war on Russia.
 

And so the dominoes fell. From the invasion of Belgium to the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, the losses were massive:

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A Cat Who Depends on Secondary Sources

This week’s edition of Dymphna’s Greatest Hits is an unusual one: not only has the poem below never been published before, but until now it had never existed except in manuscript form. It was written in pencil on a half-sheet of paper torn out of a spiral notebook. As far as I know she wrote it in the late winter of 1978-79, a few months before we met. It was the first poem by Dymphna I ever read.

Charlie was a stray cat who wandered into Dymphna’s household in Maryland and was adopted by her (probably at the behest of her kids). When she moved in here the following summer, Charlie came with her. I remember him as an amiable fellow, but he didn’t stick around very long. He hadn’t yet fully bonded with Schloss Bodissey, and it may be that the lure of the vast wilderness outside the front door was irresistible to him. In any case, a few days after he arrived he went out one morning and never returned.

Charlie was here so briefly that no photos were ever taken of him, so I used a picture of Moe instead for the header of this post. I don’t think Charlie had any black on him, but the picture will have to do.

[Moe appeared in this space a few times a quarter-century later, most notably in a heroic role in 2005 when his piteous meowing alerted his master that his mistress had fallen off a ladder picking figs and couldn’t get up.]

And now for the poem:

Conversations With Charlie

by Dymphna

Not Nietzsche…
Charlie and I discussed the weather:
Whether it would rain;
When Spring would come;
Where the mice had gone for Winter.

I sat there on the car,
Breathing the becoming air
And glad to be
With Charlie in the dark.

But Nietzsche? No…
Charlie doesn’t read him,
Except in translation,
And I have nothing
To say to a cat
Who depends on secondary sources.

Fathers of Daughters

This week’s edition of Dymphna’s Greatest Hits was originally posted on Fathers’ Day in 2005.

Fathers of Daughters

by Dymphna
June 19, 2005

Father’s Day is a pale feast compared to what we do in May for mothers. That’s understandable since mothering roles have changed less than fathering has in the last generation. The daddy template is broken, or if not broken, certainly skewed and bent by stress. As the job has become more thankless and more easily taken from them, fewer daddies are to be found at their posts.

The easiest piece to see of this sad situation is the animus that the previous generation’s feminists have for men. Their anti-male bias has taken its toll on men, but it has not served women well either. Feminist politics are those of resentment and victimization. The younger generation of women coming along behind them are not eager to trap themselves in this ghetto where men are vilified and condescended to.

The most damaging thing the feminist movement did to women was to push fathers to the periphery. “I’d-rather-do-it-myself” was a mantra whose end result was not stronger, happier children. Long-term studies of the children of divorce do not paint a pretty picture.

In contrast to this philosophy, I offer two anecdotal pieces of evidence of the importance of fathers for girls. We know they’re crucial for boys if they are to grow up able to strive and to maintain themselves in the world as productive adults, able — as Freud said — to work, to love, and to play. Without Dad, some of that will wither. What about the girls, then?

Here are two stories that show what a woman can only accomplish with the help of her father. These are fathers who had to buck the culture to give their daughters what they needed. They are brave and courageous and anonymous men who deserve our attention on Father’s Day.

The first story appeared this week in the print edition of The Wall Street Journal. Neo-neocon reports the serendipitous appearance at her front door of a copy of the Journal which contained an article entitled “Married at 11, a Teen in Niger Returns to School,” with Roger Thurow’s byline. Neo-neocon relates the sad story she read of the young Muslim girls of the Southern Sahara who face several horrific problems directly related to gender.

The first is genital mutilation. The second is premature marriage at wholly inappropriate ages to men much older than they. These early marriages result in pregnancy in little bodies that are not yet ready to bear babies to term. When the babies are ready to be born they cannot easily leave a womb which has no room to let them pass. The result is protracted labor in which long days of pressure on the walls of the uterus cause it to tear a hole between the uterus and vagina. The result is a fistula. The result is urinary incontinence and social ostracism for smelling so bad.

The girl under discussion here was sold by her father into marriage in exchange for a camel. Mr. Thurow gives us her story:

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No Need to Turn Off the Lights and Don’t Bother Closing the Door

This week’s selection from Dymphna’s Greatest Hits discusses the antics of the Church of England as put on display back in June of 2005. I wish I could say that the situation in the Anglican Church has improved since then, but as far as I know it has deteriorated even further.

Note: Only one of the embedded links in the original post is still live. I had to remove the rest.

No Need to Turn Off the Lights and Don’t Bother Closing the Door

by Dymphna
Originally published on June 27, 2005

The Pharisees are in the driver’s seat of the Mini Cooper that has become the Anglican Church in England. Following the map printed up for them by the Anglican Peace and Justice Network, the C. of E. is busy driving over the cliff. How could anyone with a lick of common sense believe one word coming from a “Peace and Justice” committee? Did these people sleep through the birth and (Deo gratias) death of Communism? Do they not see the bright neon socialist signage in “Peace” or “Justice” — good Lord, never mind the double whammy PEACE and JUSTICE.

Does the Anglican Communion in England have any idea how irrelevant it is? The Incredible Shrinking Church has just shriveled another centimeter or two. It’s sooo bad it’s embarrassing. You could go read the report here (it’s a PDF. You’ll need version 7), but why bother. You can recite the p.c. lines from memory by now: poor Palestinians, bad Jews. Let’s take our money away from the bad Jews and give it to the deserving Palestinians who only want peace but the Jews are too mean to let them have it. Blah. Blah.

Well, we knew it was coming; this was just a matter of waiting for the final mainstream sheep farm to sell out. The only surprise is that it took so long. Here’s Melanie Phillips’ take on this “defining moment” —

The APJN report is full of the most inflammatory lies, libels and distortions about Israel — and the fact that the amended resolution that was finally passed only welcomed part of it (a weaselly caveat to provide deniability) does not alter the fact that it provided the ammunition for a poisonous onslaught against Israel. The document uncritically reproduced the Arab propaganda version of Israel’s history and the present circumstances of the Middle East conflict, presenting the Arab perpetrators of genocidal mass murder as victims and their real victims as oppressors merely for trying to defend themselves. But then what can one expect of a report which concludes by referring to ‘the honor of meeting the President of the Palestinian Authority, the late Yasser Arafat, who so warmly welcomed us in what turned out to be one of his last days among us’?

A warm welcome from the late pederast himself. How charming. Arafat was the father of terrorism, a diabolical Communist and one of the most truly evil people of his generation, so of course the Anglican Peace and Justice Network loved him. What’s not to love? Do you suppose they have a position paper on Castro, too? Another honorable sweetie-pie.

There are not words to describe the moral revulsion the name Arafat engenders. You could perhaps see why the naïve could be taken in by the man-in-the-street Palestinian: they’ve had years to work on and perfect their royal sense of resentful entitlement. And you might even decide to overlook the festering sores on a culture which produces suicide bombers who want to attack the hospital that treated them. But information on Arafat is readily available; his shameful history is there for the reading. One has to be willfully blind to refuse to acknowledge the depth and breadth of his malevolent iniquity.
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Knowing Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

This week’s edition of Dymphna’s Greatest Hits requires a special explanation, because the poem featured below has never previously been published. She wrote it in the summer of 1995 as part of an extended collection that we called Therapy Poems, although its official title eventually became Intense Disclosures (which itself would require a separate essay to explain, but Wallace Stevens aficionados may recognize the reference).

Dymphna liked to say that she had been in therapy longer than Woody Allen. She had seen several therapists before I met her, but after we got together we were quite poor for almost two decades, so her opportunities for professional psychotherapeutic assistance became very infrequent.

In the mid-1990s, however, she was given the opportunity to have weekly sessions with a young psychiatrist who had just entered his residency. She was to be the central case for his thesis, or whatever it is that psychiatric residents do to achieve their final release from training and be allowed to practice. She was able to see him gratis for therapy once a week over a period of a couple of years.

She was, as she herself described it, a Difficult Patient. She knew far too much about psychology, philosophy, theology, and other esoteric subjects to be easy going for a therapist. Fortunately, her doctor was (and is) a competent, kind, considerate, and humane man, and was able to navigate the stormy seas raised by Dymphna’s psychological tempest.

Their sessions were intense, needless to say. Early in their relationship she took to writing a poem after every session, which she would then deliver to him at the start of their next meeting. At the end of his residency, when he had to terminate the therapy, she collected the poems together into a volume entitled Intense Disclosures, had it printed and bound, and gave him a copy.

To create the book, she turned all the original Word documents over to me, and I did all the formatting and indexing necessary for the print version. As a result, I have the full collection — which we always called “Therapy Poems” between ourselves until she picked out an official title — in a form that is easily accessible. “There is a Midnight” (which I posted as part of my eulogy for her), was a member of that collection, as was “Lament For My Brother”, which I posted here.

The poem below may be the best in the collection. She wrote it when she was very unhappy and angry with her therapist (as patients in psychotherapy often are). He was such a WASPy guy, with his blond hair and blue eyes, so she tweaked his nose with “To Young Dr. O’Malley From the Bi-Polar on Ward A-2”.

The poem would still be worth reading if the story ended there. However, after he had read it, he confided to her a personal detail about his life: he had recently learned that his parents had adopted him, and that his biological parents were in fact Jewish. He looked so Aryan, and had been raised a Christian, but genetically speaking, he was a Jew.

Not an old one, though. Not yet.

The poem is below the jump. By the way: “O’Malley” is not his real surname, so there’s no point in searching the lists of accredited Virginia psychiatrists to try and find him.

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Thank Heaven for Little Girls

This week’s edition of Dymphna’s Greatest Hits discusses a case in Yemen from more than fourteen years ago. However, like so many accounts of Islam in the Middle East, it could just as well be from today.

Thank Heaven for Little Girls

by Dymphna
Originally published on May 1, 2005

Each new case further illuminates a degraded culture in which girls — little girls — are used as pawns and scapegoats. With a heavy heart, here is yet another.

The woman in Pakistan — remember the stoning last week? — was named Amina. So is this one: Amina Al-Tuahif. She’s from Yemen, though she has lived in a moral universe so far removed from ours she might as well be from another planet.

  • In 1984, Amina al-Tuahif was born.
  • In 1995 she was married off. Age eleven.
  • In 1996, when she reached her menarche, she was impregnated. Age 12.
  • In 1998, (January), her husband was killed. She was pregnant with her second child. Age 14.
  • In 1999, following a confession arrived at under torture, she was found guilty of the murder of her husband. She was sentenced to death. Age 16.
  • In the next few years, she went through a series of appeals but at each juncture the sentence was upheld. While girls her age in America were trying to decide which prom dress to wear, she was contemplating her death.
  • In 2002, she was raped by a prison guard and impregnated. Her third pregnancy. Age eighteen.
  • In May, 2003, her son was born. Shar’ia law, compassionate in every detail, commuted her sentence until he reached the age of two — old enough to be weaned.

You’d think they’d just take the baby and let someone else raise it, wouldn’t you? But in Yemen (and the rest of the Muslim world) no one wants the offspring of a condemned woman and a rapist… not even her family. So Amina got to keep her son with her. Consider this: what is it like to have a baby in prison? What do you do for diapers? Do you get enough food for a nursing mother? You think? In Yemen?

Meanwhile, what about her other children? She’s not allowed to see them. Anyway, the younger daughter died in a car crash last year.

It is now May, 2005. Time to die. Tomorrow, her lawyer will arrive at the jail to take Amina’s son away. No one wants him. Amina must travel alone with her guards back to the village where they will kill her. Her parents are not permitted to see her. Age? Twenty-one.

So we have her story now. All the usual compassionate agencies and governments are making the usual attempts at intervention on her behalf. Perhaps they will succeed. Perhaps not.

Such a short, sad life.

Do you think it might be possible to save these little girls? If they’re going to be sold off anyway, why can’t we buy them? So many people want children. All these big, empty houses over here. All those sad little girls in the desert.

There is something very wrong with this picture.

The Past is a Foreign Country…

…They do things differently there.*

In this particular province of the past, Dymphna smokes a cigarette. Indoors. And in an art gallery, no less.

Those were different times. The poets studied rules of verse, and all the ladies rolled their eyes.

Our Russian commenter Elena requested that I post a photo of Dymphna when she was young. This is among the best from those early years. It was taken in 1982, when she was in her early forties, at the opening for one of my art shows in Washington D.C.

The photo of Dymphna holding the puppy (posted here) remains my overall favorite, but this one is a close second.

* L. P. Hartley, from The Go-Between

How Political Correctness Lowers IQ

This week’s installment of Dymphna’s greatest hits is from May of 2005. Like last week’s, it’s fairly timeless. Unfortunately, the website she originally linked to seems to no longer exist, so the link has been removed.

How Political Correctness Lowers IQ

by Dymphna
Originally published on May 5, 2005

Walter Williams doesn’t fly commercial airplanes much anymore. He used to, traveling to speaking engagements several times a month. But then along came 9/11. Or rather, along came Norman Mineta with his truly bizarre idea of “security”:

“While the security procedures are not based on the race, ethnicity, religion or gender of passengers, we also want to assure that in practice, the system does not disproportionately select members of any particular minority group.”

Never mind that the sentence itself is strange bureaucratese. We’ve become inured to the debasement of the language. Here’s what’s appalling: we may not speak about the reality that a particularly gendered ethnic group created the hell of 9/11. The elephant in the airport is the disproportionate self-selection of Muslim males on the “Most-Wanted” terrorist Lists.

The only group we avoid criticizing more than Muslim males are gay Episcopalian bishops.

This demand for political correctness has gone beyond the ridiculous into the regions of banal evil. There is an ugly strain of utopian idealism in our country, a virulent insistence on ‘fairness’ that undermines intelligence, merit and achievement. Not to mention virtue, the refuge of the uncool.

The malignant organism that rips the social fabric of American life, leveling differences while it pretends to celebrate them, PC everywhere insinuates itself into the crevices, using a cover of well-meaning to create vacuous, bizarre realities like “zero-tolerance” and unattended college sports programs for women (while men’s programs are eliminated).

It demands — and gets — bathrooms for the transgendered who cannot decide which restroom to use.

Pornography is our constitutional right but we shouldn’t be looking at images of the Twin Towers falling.

“Give Peace A Chance” means no dodgeball at recess.

“No Child Left Behind” means all will be mired in ignorance together. Even fewer will be able to point to Europe on the map, or know a quadratic equation from an interrogative sentence. A what??

No, ignorance is not the perceived problem. Unfairness is. The smallest infraction is insufficiently negligible to escape its notice. Yet PC has so blinded formerly normal people that children wander the school halls bent on murder and no one sees them until bodies are lying on the floor. “But he was such a nice boy.” More calls for gun control and therapy for bullies.

Political correctness has made us so stupid that some of us demand conversation with vaginas.

If we don’t rise up and call a halt to this social rot, terrorism will be irrelevant. We’ll be protozoa.

Orwell had no idea, absolutely none.

Read all of Walter Williams’ “The Sad, Stupid State of Airport Security.” It’s a three-parter at Human Events, beginning with the above link.