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Playlist: The Indifference Diaries

Compiled By: Susan J. Cook

The hand life deals you... Credit: Susan Cook
Image by: Susan Cook 
The hand life deals you...

Elie Weisel, the humanitarian Holocaust survivor, once said "The opposite of love is not hatred, it's indifference". Indifference brings out the worst in humanity sometimes. Sometimes we can't document the day-to-day sequence of events that culminate in harm. And sometimes we can.

The Indifference Diaries: The Opposite of Love (and Democracy, fairness and humanitarian concern) is Indifference

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 09:56

In Maine, a 40 million dollar tax break for a subsidiary of the fifth largest weapons producer in the world passed the Legislature last year. A reporter recently disclosed via the Freedom of Information Act the communication between the bill's sponsor, a legislator, and the Vice President of the General Dynamics-owned Bath Iron Works who will receive the money . The VP's solicitous tone and responsivity is in striking contrast to his refusal to respond and his frank indifference to a neighborhood citizen seeking information about the devices used/installed/tested in the shipyard and their pronounced health impact on residents.


The Indifference Diaries: The Opposite of Love is Indifference- A Defense Company Ignores the Impact of  What They Do
-Susan Cook-
Elie Weisel ,the Holocaust survivor once said, "The opposite of love is not hatred, it's indifference".  It is everywhere, every day, indifference that is.
In my state,  a bill passed last year sponsored by 2 local legislators to give 40 million dollars to a subsidiary of the world's fifth largest weapons producer.  In this case, the subsidiary makes destroyers, now themselves weapons because of the addition of sonar. Now, living nearby as I do, I am well aware of their building and their intense security measures and when it is in use- either because they accompany it with radar/ intense security surveillance or because of what the sonar itself does. It  kills whales. Its installation  and testing here means the cell and neurological  busting that sonar is suspected to do can and does effect people nearby. I have contacted various levels of adminstrators at least a hundred times and asked them what they are doing.  I started by asking  who the medical physicists are that the company consults with to ensure  the safety of children, adults and mammals in the neighborhood exposed to their sonar tinkering and intense security measures - radar, for example.
I wrote to the communications director, who was preceded by another communication director, who was preceded by another communication director.When I called the first one,  he would actually speak to me. One time he told me, "Oh they are testing a navigation radar and a low level powered radio system today." Bless his heart.  The next one and the next one after that have never responded. At some point I decided to communicate directly with the CEO of the subsidiary, of which there have been 4, the overseer of Fleet services- who presumably is the Navy's liason- the communications director and the  lawyer, Jon Fitzgerald who is a vice president and whotestified about the 40 million dollar indifference bill.
I finally included a note that I was cc:ing the text to New York Times reporting staff. And then when they ignored that, I specified the lead writer on the front page New York Times story about the sonic attack on employees at the U.S. Embassy in Havana. 
I have never gotten a return registered letter like the one I sent to Mr. Geiger and Mr. Harris, former CEOs respectively, about the damage caused by their 1) sonar 2)radar systems 3) security devices. All of which takes place at the end of the yard, by the way, with the big old briny Kennebec River right there, to keep watch over.
Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016 at 4:45am
Dear Mr. Harris,
What testing is in place at BIW this morning from 3 AM or so on? Sonar is harmful.
Thursday, April 14, 2017 Matt Wickenhouser, the Communications Director called me  back after multiple multiple contacts by me.  "They are not testing any thing (with an emphasis on the word testing)" When I threatened legal action if they didn't respond, Mr. Wickenhhouser wrote:
"At this point I will no longer respond to your messages , given your decision to pursue legal action. Our counsel is Jon Fitzgerald." Now, Mr. Fitzgerald is a vice-president.ewho testified as theleadl lobbyist on this tax break bill who I have also contacted multipletimes  precisely when the disturbance because of sonar/radar/"you tell us" is happening.
I  contacted Mr. Fitzgerald multiple times: August 29, 2017 3 am  July 17, 2017 3 am  Dec 7, 2017 7:37am  Nov 19, 2017 5:58am  October 28, 2017 12:08am  Dec 28, 2017 1:42AM  Jan 5, 2018 5:05am  Dec 26, 3:45am
My text pretty much said and asked the same question.

Dear Mr. Fitzgerald,  Starting at about [fill in the time], the sound of testing of a sonar device at or near the drydock on Washington St. is loud and disruptive. Please inform me before your company testing begins. And please remember the Duke  University Engineering work which indicates that sonar  disrupts on the cellular level."

 After this bill was filed,  a  reporter using the Freedom of Access law, obtained copies of Mr. Fitzgerald's communication with the bill's sponsor.
The legislator needed "talking points" from Mr. Fitzgerald.
“I am available at your convenience, thanks for sponsoring.”
“[H]appy to host a working lunch or whatever works for you,” Fitzgerald said in a Dec. 8 email to the bill's sponsor. “At that time, I will have the expanded list of city/town BIW employment, a draft of the legislation, a multi-page listing of state, county and municipal assistance provided to Ingalls in Mississippi. It would be great to get specific on co-sponsors and any other details you require.”

[Ingalls Shipbuilding is a BIW rival based in Pacagoula, Miss. Bath Iron Works has argued the renewal of a 1997 tax deal from Maine is essential to maintaining the company’s competitiveness with Ingalls, which has received considerable subsidies from its state".] The two met Bath Iron Works’ offices.

“[W]ould you like me to order lunch?” Fitzgerald wrote. “I would get something from the Sandwich Shop. If that works for you, let me know what you would like, they usually have fish chowder on Friday.”

“Sounds good,” former State legislator Jen DeChant replied. “Turkey sandwich. Thank you.”
In the many times I texted Mr. Fitzgerald and other managment, he never expressed any concern about the children, adult, animals, mammals, including me who live in the South End. Nor we might add, has the bill's sponsor.

Truth be told, I received one response from Mr. Fitzgerald to the multifold I sent. "There is no testing of sonar equipment at 4 am. " he texted on Wednesday September 13, 2017. Testing as opposed to installing; using as opposed to testing; sonar as  opposed to radar; radio waves as opposed to radar. I am not a medical physicist so parsing exactly what they are doing is difficult.

The obvious question is  what is happening there because children and adults, mammals, feel the physical consequence when BIW is using/testing/installing/exploring with sonic/security/radar devices.  Because they have not bothered to respond. That is indifference.  One local principled activist has decided to go ona hunger strike to protest the 40 million $ indifference bill. Coincidence isn't it that in the  long run the most compelling evidence of indifference against this weapons producing company may be an emaciated human body.

The Indifference Diaries, Part 2: Giving Three Million Dollars to Corporations While Maltreated Children Wait

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:52

Maine's children receive grossly inadequate services from Child Protective Services. Three have been murdered or had a perpetrator convicted in Maine since December. The Legislature has prioritized giving 3 million dollars to the subsidiary of the largest weapons making corporation in the world. Protection for children tagged as maltreated remains underfunded all the same.


The Indifference Diaries: Part 2 Prioritizing Corporations Over Maltreated Children

-Susan Cook-


In December of 2017, a 4 year old child was murdered by the partner of her grandfather, after Maine's Child Protective Services placed her in their foster care. She is one of 3 children murdered or whose perpetrator was sentenced for murder in Maine since December. The living situations of these children were not investigated by Child Protective despite multiple reports. Maine funding for Child Protective has been substantially reduced. One example: 2.2 million dollars for Community Partnerships for Protecting Children will end in September.


In December, local legislators not far from where the 4 year old lived were carefully catered to the BIW Vice President Jon Fitzgerald grooming them to sponsor a 3 million tax cut bill for the local subsidiary of the fifth largest weapons maker in the world. State Senator Dana Dow of Wiscasset, the town where the 4 year old lived in an under-investigated foster home, has spoken loudly about the need for that 3 million dollar a year tax cut.


There is not enough money for both good services for maltreated children and 3 million for BIW managment in the state budget. If there were, children who have been screened in as likely child maltreatment cases would not have to wait an average of 99 days for services.


Then there's the ten year old in Stockton Springs who died in February after being beaten daily, multiple Child Protective reports ignored. State Senate President Mike Thibodeau and State Representative Karlton Ward represent the district where she lived while Child Protective report after report were ignored by an underfunded DHHS. These legislators too want the state to give that 3 million dollars a year toBIW.


The annual federal Child Maltreatment report has been published for 27 years for the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, by the Children's Bureau of the Department of Human Services. Child fatalities, Child Protective Services data and Perpetrator data are voluntarily sent. Maine has gaping omissions in the data they submit.


*Maine's Data on the number of child fatalities in 2016 is left out.

*Maine's Data on the number of child maltreatent victims eligible for then referred to other agencies is missing

*Maine's Data on the number of maltreatment victims who received court action is missing.


The Child Maltreatment report is available about a year after it is collected. Maine's 2016 Child Maltreatment information sent in tells us there were about 225000 children under 18 in Maine.


*There were 3158 perpetrators that year who maltreated 3446 child victims that year.

*1626 children received services that year.

*Of those 1626 children, 799 received services on or after the report date.

*The average number of days after report until the child received services was 99 days .

* About 23 calls a day or 8392 calls were received through the Child Abuse hotline. 7618 were screened out.

*That leaves 774 children who were reported as possible victims of maltreatment who on average 99 days later would be recieve services from the state of Maine.


Multi-billion dollar corporation General Dynamics/ Bath Iron Works will wait far less time to know if they'll receive 3 million dollars a year in a cash back tax subsidy.


Three million dollars a year works out to about $3800 a year to pay for services for each of those 774 children screened in as maltreated. A 99 day wait period- on average – is hideous.


So to get back to Senator Thibodeau and Senator Dow sponsoring 3 million in BIW cash tax rebates, why not spend it on saving children's lives and bringing them services soon after someone calls suspecting child maltreatment? There is not enough money for both.


Does it have to wait until someone realizes "That's Senator Thibodeau's and Representative Ward's district. That happened in Senator Dow's district, the chair of the Taxation Committe who strong-armed everyone into giving 3 million dollars in year-end retirment contribution/bonus money to the 5 th largest weapons maker in the world." I have worked with children and adolescents since 1976. I do not know what a diary of these children in the last weeks of their lives would say. I do know that 3800 dollars a year that might pay for a once a week home visit for each child would go a long way toward preventing their deaths. That amount would cover the same service for the other 774 children tagged as being maltreated in 2016. Favoring corporations over 774 children tagged as maltreated is indifference. Not to corporations but to children.

The Indifference Diaries, Part 3. Using Good To Create Evil, Seizing the Parent/Child Bond to Punish

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 08:57

Being of the wrong lineage, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, now carries devastating consequences for the children of parents caught crossing the US border illegally. Separation from attachment figures has been documented by generations of developmental scientists as carrying grave consequences for children. Attorney General Sessions now justifies its use as a tool to punish asylum seekers.



The Indifference Diaries, Part 3. Using Good To Create Evil, Seizing the Parent/Child Bond to Punish

The Pope  now prevails upon the world to believe that Reproductive Rights- including termination of an unwanted or unsafe pregnancy- are the equivalent of Nazi-era eugenics. His effort to sanctify bearing children by placing it under the umbrella of church doctrine stands  in direct contrast to Attorney General Jeff Session's policy of seizing children who cross the border illegally with their parents. Children as contraband that the government can take away because the parent has sought freedom certainly bears many of  the hallmarks  of eugenics. The suffering created for these children because government has deemed them an object for punitive purposes suggests a selective identification like eugenics-  not because the child is in danger but because the government has chosen to  because the government doesn't like the parent's judgment in seeking illegal entry into this country. Yes, there are connections between separation of parent and child and death, as the work of Swiss psychiatrist Rene Spitz first documented in 1945.

Of course, Sessions selectively  parses which parental judgement is  a problem. That's  similar to the selective exclusion of  poor parental judgement we have witnessed here in Maine under Governor  Paul Lepage.  In Maine, since December 2017, the media has reported  arrests, sentencing and criminal prosecution in the deaths of 5 children murdered by 5 caretakers. Each death was preceded by multiple reports to Maine's Department of Health and Human Services  now ineffective because of underfunding by conservative lawmakers thus  allowing  attribution of their selective inattention to high case loads. 

Yes, the legal system and judges exploit the parent/child bond, too,  now used as a point of contention- much like shared financial assets are -  in high conflict divorces where attorneys fill their pockets as divorcing parents  repeatedly litigate child custody. There is little or no acknowledgement of the pain inflicted on children by separation from their primary attachment figure let alone the disruption to children's daily lives ("Where's my soccer uniform/ homework/ snow pants? Oh, they're at Dad's ") .  Brangelina now anoint high conflict divorce as high social dilemma because Brad Pitt seeks to take on shared equal physical custody of their children with  Angelina Jolie.

Generations of child psychologists and child psychiatrists have documented the extraordinary consequence of parent/child separation and the level of trauma disruption inflicts. Swiss child psychiatrist Rene Spitz first described anaclitic depression in infants in his 1945 article "Hospitalism: The Inquiry into the Genesis of Psychiatric Conditions in Early Childhood." (The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, v. 1,  Ed. Anna Freud et al)

He specified " the evil effect of institutional care on infants, placed in institutions from an early age, particularly from the psychiatric point of view." His research was  especially concerned with the effect of continuous institutional care of infants under one year of age, "for reasons other than sickness."  One of his most influential studies compared the developmental status of children in 4 different conditions, including one prison: 3 where children were with their mothers or a significant sole attachment figure, one a foundling home where multiple staff members  kept the children  under hygienic conditions,  carefully maintained, in individual cubicles, "adequate food excellently prepared and individualized according to the needs of each child".  In the foundling home, the temperature of the room is appropriate, he wrote,  with "pastel-colored dresses and blankets" for each child. Physicians visited the children once a day. One head nurse and 5 assistant nurses tended to 45 babies, a few by their mothers. By a few months of age,  all of them were removed to isolated cubicles. 

The developmental status of the foundling home children became  substantially and significantly lower than children in the 3 other groups over their first 12 months-  beginning with a precipitous decline at 4 months.  This happened despite the fact that the "Foundling" home children begin with developmental scores equivalent to the 3 other groups. 

Spitz documented that the withdrawal, refusal to eat, failure to thrive, retardation of development, insomnia fit a syndrome which he called "anaclitic depression provoked by separation from their love object."  In fact, despite the  hygienic conditions and asepsis, availability of medical care and food, the mortality of foundling children "was inordinately high" of life.  Thirty four of the 91 foundling home died within the first 2 years.

Spitz first published this work in 1945. Urie Bronfenbrenner republished it in 1972. The work spurred generations of studies of  attachment  which amplify its central significance as a  vital fluid in  human development. Bessel VanderKoerk now proposes separation from primary attachment figures as "developmental trauma" equivalent to post-traumatic stress disorder.  

There were no Pokemon posters on the walls of the  circa 1945 foundling home like there are in the former Walmart supercenter where Jeff Sessions now houses  some of the close to 2000 children seized from their parents who chose to seek safety for them here. He claims cleanliness, food, clothing and toys are adequate substitutes for the physical presence of their attachment figures.  Spitz  and legions of developmental specialists prove that is simply not the case .

The Society for Research in Child Development has chosen to not violate their 501-c3 status by openly condemning a political policy but is publicizing  the developmental science  about the danger of separation of children from attachment figures "that speaks for itself". The high mortality rate of the children separated from their "love object"  that Spitz- and others- have documented tells us that separating children from their parents is a kind of passive eugenics. Passive because  the US  Senators and Congressional representatives allowing the policy to continue won't see its impact but eugenics just the same. A child of the wrong lineage, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Indifference Diaries, Part Four: Adventures in the Skin Trade and Child Maltreatment

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:17

The murders of four children at the hands of caretakers were adjudicated by Maine's court system recently. As the last days of a child whose grandfather's girlfriend is on trial for her murder, the question is raised. What factors influence the caretakers of children who are abused, neglected or abandoned.


The Indifference Dairies, Part Four: Adventures in the Skin Trade and Child Maltreatment


-Susan Cook-


In "Adventures in the Skin Trade", Dylan Thomas writes of a boy lying in a summer corn field, dozing off to dream of a young woman who captivates him. "I'll have a baby on every hill,"she tells him, love and romance re-draped over childbirth, the reality receding that love alone does not create competent childrearing, the consequences of parenting failures left for the child to bear.


In Maine, the minute details of that failing came under public scrutiny during the trial of a woman who, as the foster caretaker of her boyfriend's son's child, murdered the child. The child was one of 4 child deaths adjudicated by the Maine legal system during a recent one year period.


Maine's Child Protective Services removed the child from the biological parents. Child Protective services never returned to assess the safety of the child or the adequacy of the new caretakers.


The testimony of the medical examiner about the child's injuries, offered in intricate detail and reported by the local The Wiscasset Newspaper, is bone chilling, explicating "the early signs of dying during a slow dying process" . The caretakers ignored them. DHHS or the child's biological parents were nowhere to be found.


I spent several years studying parents' conceptions of children, childrearing and parental influence for my Masters' Thesis, later published in a peer reviewed journal. The research included Maine samples of parents with a history of abuse and neglect as well as parents with no such history.


"The human potentials realized in the parental role are often reduced to the singular notion that it is the capacity to love which provides the motivation, resilience, and understanding to nurture a child. Yet, loving parents can understand and treat their children in very different ways. Studies of family violence suggest that the emotional investments of parenthood remain highly vulnerable to the stresses and demands of childrearing." (Newberger and Cook, Am. J.of Orthopsychiatry, 53 (3), July 1983, p. 512)


The town where the child lived announces itself on a road sign as "the prettiest village in Maine". The spots within its boundaries - poor people frequent- The Family Dollar store where one cashier noticed bruises on the child and considered calling Child Protective Services is in a non-descript strip mall. The locally-owned flourishing discount store which sells low-priced surplus, overstocked and fire-damaged goods serves many who live in poverty. There, the adult shoppers with their developmental disabilities and lost capabilities accompanied by their group home staff, peruse items. Maybe the child was brought there or given one of the low priced toy or children's books. The reporter noted that the foster caretakers eventually stopped taking the child out in public "because of her bruises."


Romanticized proprietary childbearing fantasies or accidental conception did not save this child from dying any more than the dreamer in the Dylan Thomas story brought a baby born on each hill who was not abused.


I visited Wiscasset and the local discount store days during the trial. The cashiers at the The Family Dollar are a stanchion for the abused and vulnerable. Still, Family Dollar treats their employees poorly- exponentially increasing their own life stress. I don't know if the cashier was the same one who noticed the child's bruises because these no-benefit, low-paying jobs have high turnover. The local discount store was eerily quiet- hardly any developmentally disabled adults and their group home staff there that day.


Both the prosecutor's expert witness who examined the child's multiple injuries and the defense attorney's expert witness agreed that the child died of child abuse- deliberately inflicted injury rendered by an adult or adults.


Parental Conceptions have been studied and replicated as a risk factor- in other research- prospectively, most notably by Egelund and Brunquell. Parents at risk of child abandonment and abuse see their children as either empty vessels who absorb and mimic the environment "poured" into them or if the child is resistant- a carrier of some defect that defies outside influence. Discipline is solely to hold power and control over the child, the parent shaping the child in the parent's image. The unique perspective of this child - the vulnerability, pain, distress, is foreign to them.


Thought influences mood and behavior. Parental Conceptions effect - likely not exclusively- how parents act. Trusting or not trusting one's own parental adequacy or potential adequacy is often not considered in childbearing decisions. The pressure to not terminate a pregnancy - and the visible demonizing and shaming of women who believe reproductive choice is a human responsibility- leads to decisions further removed from the pregnant woman and her belief that she or her partner do not have the capacity or will to prevent abuse, neglect or child abandonment. Right-to-Life proponents, protesters who stand outside of Planned Parenthood Clinics with pictures of in-utero fetuses did not and still have not rallied to insure that Maine's Child Protective Services keep children safe. It is almost as if Dylan Thomas is at it again- romanticizing - over and over- this time- the pro-Life crowd who want to cut services that cost money- at the cost of a child's life. And then are nowhere to be found.

The Opposite of Love is not Hate, it's Indifference: Cupcakes and the Lineage of Hatred

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 07:52

When we don't recognize the unkindness of entitled hatred, we may be quietly consuming more of it than we realize. That may be a way in which a lineage of hatred quietly enters our system and our lives.


The Opposite of Love Is Not Hate, It’s Indifference:
Cupcakes and the Lineage of Hatred
-Susan Cook-
Dutsi, depending on whether the translation is from the Sanskrit or Tibetan, means human remains. In Tibetan Buddhism, small amounts are consumed during some very high level spiritual rituals. It is said that when Chogyram Trumpah Rinpoche, a modern Buddhist spiritual leader, was a boy in a Tibetan monastery, he was given as part of his monastic teaching, dutsi to eat from his beloved brother who had died. What is consumed is no small matter in Buddhist circles.
I help staff from time to time Buddhist retreat weekends, during which Trumpah Rinpoche’s teachings are taught, bringing bagels, tea, sometimes more elaborate celebratory fare. At one retreat, an anti-choice participant brought 46 cupcakes, symbolizing 23 pairs of chromosomes- the veiled gesture being that some of those supporting reproductive rights- would be eating cupcakes , symbolically chromosomes.  as if they were cupcakes. Chogyram Trumpah Rinpoche was similarly deceived- the legend being that the monastics did not tell him that in his grieving moment of lost idealization of deep love- in this case for his brother. Such are the lessons of impermanence in Buddhism. Left un-grieved,  traumatic loss of idealized love and attachment brings consequences like permission to  physically and sexually abuse, abandonment, addictions , deep maltreatment and trauma. Un-grieved loss, in effect  perpetuates a lack of human compassion. And an absence of  love in the world.
Most of the people at the retreat didn’t count the cupcakes or notice the unspoken energy around the mockery in  eating cupcakes they were offered-  as might have been the case for Trumpah Rinpoche in his isolated dependence on his monastic  teachers. 
One might say that the compassion Buddhist teachings aim for was lost in dogma.  Buddhism’s  Four Noble Truths, include that we all have been given precious human birth. In Tibet, surviving beyond birth has always been and is still extraordinarily difficult. Precious human birth comes in that culture in very, very  different ways than it does in Western culture. Almost 40 years ago, I worked for a year on an observational study in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at a major hospital where we observed infants born before 28 weeks gestation and the environment around them. Very sophisticated medical technology, intubation, oxygen ventilators, umbilical IV monitoring and other complex interventions brought some of these neonates to survive. Others did not. And, no insurance did not cover all the costs, then or now. In 2015, the New England Journal of Medicine, published a study of 5000 premature infants which found that the gestational age at which  some neonates receiving this complex technology could survive - still not breathing on their own- was about  2-3 gestational weeks earlier than sophisticated technology made available 40 years ago. In the Far East where Buddhism began, that medical technology is not now and has never been available.
We don’t know how Trumpah Rinpoche experienced the consumption of dutsi. As an adult, he brought his interpretation of Tibetan Buddhism to the West in a palpable and palatable way to white, alienated, privileged westerners. His life characterized great spiritual accomplishment as well as sequelae of trauma. Nancy Steinbeck, one of his early devotees wrote about the "crazy wisdom’ of Trumpah in  her memoir “The Other Side of Eden".
Belief in reincarnation is also a steadfast truth among devoted Buddhists. The question often asked  is how could genetics alone and mere nurture bring, so quickly,  such ominous gifts to very very young children. In Buddhism, tulkus are children recognized at a very young age as being reincarnates of Buddhist deities and realized practitioners. In ‘Music in the Sky’, Michelle Martin wrote at length about the recognition and pronouncement of Tulkus.  They’re not recognized because of western smug science about the available gene pool , having ‘good genes’ and chromosomal status. There’s much, much more to the accomplishment of spiritual lineage than that.
To get back to the cupcakes, Buddhist teachings about compassion are often displaced by white western proprietary dogma and replacement of "what is" with what someone else thinks "should be".  "Dharma" the teachings of Buddhism, translates as "things as they are".  The holocaust survivor Elie Weisel said "The opposite of love is not hatred. It’s indifference" to things as they are. Indifference is transformed  to mindful awareness through Buddhist practices, meditation in particular. The Compassion that Buddhist practice develops means that hatred and acts of unkindness won’t be unnoticed.
During the 2016 campaign, the Presidential candidate- now President-  remarked with a not-so-veiled hatred that any woman who terminates a pregnancy should be punished. His remarks were met with some push back but certainly implied warning to any of his former casual sexual “dalliances“ which -  who knows- may have resulted in  unwanted pregnancy-  to not disclose their  private medical history.
Elie Weisel reminds us that hatred is not on the opposite end of a continuum that begins with love. Hatred is a different entity. If we do not recognize the unkindness, its mockery, its one-up-man-ship, smug claim to a better version of ‘what is’, in its hidden consumption either as cupcakes or dutsi, we may end up with more of it in our system than we know. And that may well be how the lineage of hatred is perpetuated after all.

How to Be Invisible, Part 2: Preventing Maltreatment By Listening to Someone Else

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 09:50

Our society has systematically discredited women's ability to know themselves, their bodies and their ability to parent. Child maltreatment, Harvey Weinstein's victimization and Ireland's long permission to invade women's private medical decisions are consequences of that discrediting.


How to Be Invisible, Part 2: Preventing Child Maltreatment by
Listening to Someone Else

-Susan Cook-


I was driving to the local farmer's market the other day, in the rain. Not torrential, but still, rain. I passed a man walking by the roadside with a ma-a-y-be 4 or 5 month old baby in a baby carrier backpack, the child facing forward. No hat. Legs and arms completely bare and exposed. The child's, that is. I thought for about 3 seconds and I slowed and rolled the window and said to the father (I assume), "Your baby's head is getting wet." Father had his hat and rain jacket, on. He nodded and pointed generally down the road. I rolled the window back up and started to drive. Then, I thought about another 3 seconds, rolled down the window and said "You know little kids get hypothermia a lot quicker than adults do."

"Thanks for the help," he said, "[Expletive] ... off."


I continued driving , thought about Child Protective's 1-800- line, the local police and continued to drive. Child Protective in Maine has now been documented as negligent following release of a vague "investigation" of 2 child deaths by caretakers since December 2017. Three other events linked to the deaths of 3 other children at the hands of caretakers also took place. That's 5 children killed by caretakers since December. Largely uninvestigated. It is after all, the time of fertilizing political egos. Election season.


Child Protective will take a long time to be "on their game" enough to investigate a baby who "might" get hypothermia from bare skin completely exposed to rain.


I once told a father of a similarly small baby that he should not take the child in his canoe on a lake that becomes quickly rough during a canoe race. Oh, he had already placed the child in the canoe, the child with a life preserver on. Let's be clear- the life preserver was not the father's good judgement. I did call Child Protective that time.


Ego is inextricably bound to parenting. Every chicken speck of ego fragility, every blurring of the absolutely necessary distinction between what is safe for children and what is safe for adults- after a live birth- gets tossed into the more powerful, more dominant current of a parent's ego. Parenting means putting your own needs on hold- whether it means missing the farmer's market closing or abandoning your addiction.


"My kids are the ones that look like me," I heard a mother call out to someone recently.


Ego is not just about vanity. It's about when parents won't acknowledge the impact of their actions on their children. Ego can make a parent's conscience as opposite as the perspective of the child sitting behind the father in the baby carrier. And it contributes to child maltreatment. (See Parental Awareness and Child Abuse and Neglect, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, July 1983).


I told one of the fiercer peace advocates I know about this event later in the day. "I've done that and you pay for it."

She's right about that. I wrote a letter to the newspaper about the 4 Maine child maltreatment deaths since December. An immediate comment from a Republican said "She's a political operative who accused the Republican State Senate President of "tapping" her phone." The comment reflects the same sloppiness of detail the then- yes- Republican Governor and DHHS commissioner brought to reviewing the 5 child deaths. No effort to be accurate in response to the many calls to Child protective about these children that were dismissed.


The "[Expletive]... off" comment came on the same day that Irish women were celebrating the successful referendum to remove the abortion ban from Irish law. It comes the day after Harvey Weinstein was charged, arrested and lead off in handcuffs for rape and sexual assault of two of the many women he victimized. Both in their own way speak to the permission to discredit women- pregnant or not- who know best what their own bodies have experienced, their own suitability and ability to parent, and the suitability and ability of the fertilizing male to parent a baby born after that long period of incubation. It's not about the threat to the father's ego called on to support the woman's ego. When one unmarried, single woman who bravely and independently fended off society's then rampant familial shaming and humiliation to give birth to the child, called the emotionally disengaged father from her hospital bed to announce the child's birth, he hung up.


Emotionally, the immediate defense against shaming is a wish for invisibility. Fear of shaming- and its explotation- made Harvey Weinstein's accusers invisibile. Successful shaming leads to real invisibility. Irish women (and Americans) for generations were sequestered in 'homes for unwed mothers", their infants ripped from them and, a Maine newspaper recently reported, sold by the Catholic church to those willing to make donations.


The zygote, the newly fertilized ova, the embryo are now medically visible to pregnant women, as they have never been before. The physical and emotional needs of the developing fetus, for nutrition, medical care, substance- free, psychotropic- medication free, mothers whose emotional bearings are free from abuse and yes, shaming, remain the same. Very often unacknowledged and ignored. Maine's then Governor and then DHHS head banned child-bearing age women from receiving food stamps if they held over $5000 in assets- a reliable vehicle, a motor home, a savings account. They opposed Medicaid for poor childbearing age women.


The people who knows best what her body has experienced, much as Harvey Weinstein's victims know best what he did to their bodies, much as Irish Women know best their own invisibility to the physical intrusiveness of Ireland's government and the church, are the women themselves. Any politician's effort to suggest they know better than the woman replicates and breeds the theft of credibility, like that of Harvey Weinstein's victims. Like that of women sequestered in Irish homes for unwed women.


Unconditional credibility for women begins to end shaming as the tool that pries a woman off her own body's instinct to speak up or acknowledge what it knows and makes her gut invisible to herself.


This brings us to the Gag rule Congress now reviews to prohibit Planned Parenthood clinics from telling women about options for termination of a pregnancy. It is another version of the discrediting of Weinstein's victims, the practice of sequestering of unwed, pregnant women and yes, the hip young dad telling me to "[Expletive]... off". Child maltreatment is, as ever, put on the backseat made invisible egocentrically, by shaming, humiliating and discrediting. Just saying, "[Expletive]... off" if someone happens to notice it.

The Little Prince and His Imaginary Rose: Her Imaginary Care and The Proprietary Life

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:17

I’m not sure how one marries the  proprietary "I give the right to life”  to the “I give the right to life free from emotional and physical torment”. Like “The Little Prince” in St. Exupery’s book, the rose some in our society imagine they "give the right to life” becomes even more imaginary when it comes to her care, drawn only on paper. And even when the roses are real, a judicial system that gives only a verbal warning to an alleged sexual abuser to have no contact with children gives only imaginary protection to them.


The ‘Little Prince”  and His Imaginary Rose:
Her Imaginary Care and  the Proprietary Life
-Susan Cook-
“I gave my children the right to life“,  a friend said to me recently.  I was struck by how proprietary that view- that who conceives a child owns the right to life. I had never quite heard it put that way. There is much more to be done to own life and nurture children than conception .
I remembered that conversation  when the founder of a local youth theater group was indicted for sexual exploitation, unlawful sexual contact with children under the age of 12 and violation of their privacy. The accused’s attorney  sought 500 dollars cash bail . The judge raised it to 5000 dollars cash bail and 50,000 dollars real estate surety and "banned" the alleged perpetrator from having contact with children under the age of 16. The tone of his defender in the local newspaper generously left room for doubt. The demand for a complete and thorough review of policy and practice, conviction on hand or not, was muted by comparison. The fear that some "citizen" might lead to disenfranchisement of the theater group seemed an undercurrent.
The founder of the local youth theater group has now been sentenced to 10 years in state prison for the sexual abuse of 8 children.
Sexual abuse and molestation damage the right to a life free from emotional and physical torment and life-long impaired functioning. I often wonder why the same  logic used by Second Amendment proponents "If guns are outlawed, only  outlaws will have guns" isn't  applied to someone who has been indicted on sexual abuse charges who has successfully deceived caretakers. Why wouldn’t that same deception apply to his agreement to ban himself from harming them? Why would a judge believe that sexual abuse indictments bring some magical restoration of a conscience which says do not hurt children?  The legal system's bar seems to be set very high for the proof required to show that children are in need of protection from an alleged exploiter.  Five hundred dollars cash bail? All the indicted has to do is nod his head "Yes." The  protesters outside Planned Parenthood clinics holding pictures of fetuses, directed toward those who see parenthood as a privilege, needing responsible commitment and planning are lawfully permitted to engage in far more shaming and hostility than this man indicted on sexual abuse charges will witness. 
Still, this “sole proprietorship” claim -“I give them the right to life”- does nothing to protect children when there is no ownership or accountability, personally, or by society, for a life damaged by   neglect and abuse, dangerous parenting, poverty, non-vigilant child care or a legal system that relies on a verbal caveat to alleged sexual abusers "to avoid contact with children under 16". I am reminded of the Portland Press Herald report that the average number of years spent in jail by people  convicted of murdering a child in Maine is six years. I am reminded of the Maine Children’s Death Study (1980, Maine Bureau of Health) which found that the co-occurring factor for most  children who die by any means between birth and age 18  is the family’s receipt of food stamps. In other words, poverty. The  "Adverse Childhood Experiences" (ACE) study  now further confirms that abuse and neglect lead to markedly higher levels of  physical and emotional illness, and impaired functioning throughout life.
At the same time, personal choice after conception to continue a pregnancy - or not- what an individual can claim as theirs to decide- is always being disputed by those who claim to be the better judge than the mother of whether she has the emotional, physical and social capacity to bear and raise a child free from abuse, neglect and torment. It is only the child who suffers from their misjudgement and the shaming and humiliation of a woman who does not believe she can give a child a safe life. Nobody contests the average 6 year sentence in Maine of murderers of young children. Nobody contests the gross inadequacy of a judicial system giving a verbal warning to an alleged abuser to have no contact with children under the age of 16. Ownership of the damage and suffering children experience  when raised by parents whose reckless self indulgence or deprivation take precedence over a child’s well-being may be nowhere to be found. It does not freely follow from the sole-proprietor “I give the right to life" claim.
We are not a society that takes care of children or mothers. They are not guaranteed good care if the state enters into the home because neglect or abuse has been recognized. The foster care system is miserably under funded and inadequate. Maine has witnessed in recent months yet another murder of a child by a foster home caretaker deemed adequate by the Department of Health and Human Services.
A woman  offered maternity leave at 1/3 her prior salary is inadequately paid. There is certainly no wish to extend any care or bounty to chilldren of illegal immigrants, asylum seekers or legal immigrants, a recent suggestion floated that parents and children seeking asylum be held in separate facilities by Immigration authorities.
I’m not sure how one marries the  proprietary "I give the right to life”  to the “I give the right to life free from emotional and physical torment”. Like “The Little Prince” in St. Exupery’s book, the rose some in our society imagine they "give the right to life” becomes even more imaginary when it comes to her care, drawn only on paper. And even when the roses are real, a judicial system that requires only a verbal warning to an alleged sexual abuser to have no contact with children gives only imaginary protection to them.

Seeing Consequence Before It Happens: Asking Questions about Children who are Suffering, Noticing the Answer

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 05:20

We know the consequence of indifference.In the last few months, Maine has witnessed 3 murders of children: 2 by foster care-takers, one at the hands of the nonbiological partner of the parent and a pregnant parent. Just-like-that. Although we know it was not just-like-that. It was consequence. And we have to say, from the Commissioner of the Dept. of Health and Human Services on down, ours to be accountable for.


Seeing Consequence Before It Happens: Asking Questions, Noticing the Answer

-Susan Cook-
In Buddhism, samsara is the Sanskrit word for the endless cycle of suffering: birth, death, rebirth, misery. They poach some of their  agony about this onto "karma" which is regularly misinterpreted to mean "What goes around , comes around." That is a misinterpretation of karma. Karma says, quite simply, there is a consequence from cause and effect. That doesn't mean that we dismiss the possibility of a user-friendly existence. Samsara says, quite simply, "We know."
I am reminded of this as yet another child has died in a foster home deemed safe by Maine's Department of Health and Human Services Commissione,  the head of the organization so yes, the karma is the Commissioner's to bear, ultimately. 
I run out of ideas about how we help people become more vigilant about watching children to make sure they are cared for and not in harm's way.  I say that in the wake of an active and engaged interest in child abuse and neglect that stretches back to 1976. I worked then as a home visitor to children aged 3 or under who were considered "at risk". Bearing witness to parents barely able to provide warm shelter in rural Maine winters and watching children take second place to their parents' inability to see beyond their own needs set me on a path of inquiry. Why do some parents end up in that circumstance?
Now, sometimes it seems others deign to ask that question. That it is not for us to ask why but ours to watch when it happens and say the karma lies elsewhere.
I was in a training chock-full of clinicians, guardian-ad-litem (those appointed by the court to assess the best interest of the child), lawyers, judges and state Child Protective officials.
Back then, a child had been murdered by another foster parent, who also had been a child welfare worker. I asked what seemed an obvious question of the Child Protective official. What has changed since the child's death?
Vipers don't recoil more quickly than the Child Protective Official did.
"Maybe you should tell us what you think should change, " in a tone that even in a cold Maine winter was icy and mocking. 
I have to say, it was, at that point, that I wondered if there was still any interest in asking "why" anymore.
Rather, as time has progressed, care for what happens to children is directed toward the zygote - immediate post conception- or the embryo stage- the first 10 or 8 weeks of pregnancy. Terminating an unwanted pregnancy at that point is now vociferously protested  as indifference to well-being. 
When a spiritual tone envelops the discussion,  the view becomes even more unambiguous about what is or is not protecting a child.
When I told one clinician who was  outspoken about his deep sensitivity to zygote/ embryonic pregnancy, that I worked with children in high conflict families, often with abuse present, he said, "Oh, that's big of you. If you're drawn to that kind of work." I asked myself how an avidly outspoken clinician, keenly sensitive to zygote/embryonic pregnancy could not be drawn to working with children at risk for abuse  in those situations.
That is karma. Without being drawn to the consequence of zygote, embryonic, fetal development, labor, delivery, birth, neonatal health, developmental stages, and the context of parental and family care, the karma  may well become indifference.
We know the consequence of indifference. Maine now has another child murdered by a foster care-taker. Just-like-that. Although we know it was not just-like-that. It was karma. And we have to say, from the Commissioner on down, ours.

Compassion and Its Blindspots: Women's Turn for No Compassion in Alabama

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 08:09

A Buddhist teacher talking about Compassion told the story of the leader ripping open his vein to feed a starving stranger. Bodily acts coming out of compassion to prevent suffering are found in many spiritual traditions. The blindspots in compassion in this society it appears may now prevent recognition of the decision to end a pregnancy as one of those acts.


Compassion and Its Blindspots: Finding A New Dedication to Merit


I heard a Buddhist teacher talk recently about Compassion, he born in Bhutan. In Bhutan, wealth is measured by Gross National Happiness, not a Gross National Product. There is no military. Hatred, anger and suffering the teacher said are dispelled by compassion. He explained the origin of a Buddhist liturgy that like in any other tradition people will repeat without really understanding its significance. The liturgy recited after a lengthy practice session or teaching goes like this,


By this merit may all obtain omniscience,

May it defeat the enemy wrongdoing,

From stormy waves of birth, old age, sickness and death,

from the ocean of samsara may I free all beings


A variation of this liturgy says,

By the confidence of the golden sun of the Great East

May the lotus garden of the rigdens' wisdom bloom

May the dark ignorance of sensient being be dispelled.

May we all obtain profound brilliant glory.


The merit , he explained, comes from an example set by the ruler of a mythical and beatific country where establishing compassion was the standard by which everyone lived. Some very dark evil carnivorous beings came who had no compassion and because this was a country where killing to eat was not tolerated, they had nothing to eat. They came to the ruler, starving and on the verge of death and asked him to given them food. And the ruler ripped open his vein and gave them blood to save them and from this he created the Dedication of Merit.


From the beginning of time, war and conflict between men (largely) has been the source of blood sacrifice that is considered noble, patriotic, beyond question as an act of valor. Compassion rarely comes from that. Rather, we are more familiar with body strewn images of the Civil War, World War I and II, the Vietnam War, any war that comes to mind. and the misery of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder so closely associated with those who survive the horrors of war. Somewhere along the line, the ripping open of the veins to feed the starving as an act of compassion to end suffering has been subverted: the patriotic encouraging the blood shed unaccompanied by compassionate intent.


This brings us to the current vitriol surrounding the termination of pregnancies. There is much more beyond conception to creation of compassionate care for the breathing born 40 weeks or less later. This is not a secret. Women know what is not available to the unborn, the deprivations of the unborn in utero that psychological and emotional despair, poor nutrition, poverty, alcohol and opiod use, and abuse of the body of the woman carrying the child creates. Who bears the deprivation of care most significantly, if the infant survives to a breathing birth, is the child.



The decision to terminate a pregnancy is the ripping open of the vein like the king in the Dedication of Merit origin- a choice to bear the suffering oneself rather than 40 weeks later pass the deprivation, the abuse, the harm onto a being only able to breath on their own at birth.

Like the leader, it is an act of compassion in which one bears the consequence ones self. It is only in white Western elite societies that sophisticated medical technology allows survival of some infants after birth that in third world countries without medical sophistication do not never survive.


The "merit" that Donald Trump know endorses as a criteria for immigration to this country reifies the White Western elitism seen in births that survive because of sophisticated medical technology and the absence of that "merit" in third world countries.


There is no license granted in any spiritual tradition to my knowledge to reserve bodily sacrifice for the War dead. The ruler ripping open his vein to feed those filled with hatred and contempt as an act of compassion is not unlike those ending a pregnancy who openly acknowledge their own inability to provide compassionate care because no mystery here- society or family do not or will not provide the care either. The deprivation of care after birth is passed on after a 40 week gestation period- if a breathing being endures the deprivations. Many do not feel entitled to make the zygote, the embryo, the fetus bear the suffering of the deprivation. Like the Buddhist leader who chose to bear it himself, they choose to bear it themselves and terminate the pregnancy.

There is a spiritual blindspot in the pronouncements of the Alabama and Missouri governors who pass legislation to ban termination of all pregnancies because- this is no mystery either- they fail to acknowledge "the life" they alledgely are saving needs much much more to survive to a live birth let alone grow to and through a healthy childhood. In keeping with the Dedication of Merit, we could establish a new merit rating for each for these states that pretend to glorify life by assessing these qualities:

-availability of free birth control to all conception-eligible women to prevent unwanted pregnancy

-provision of housing, food, medical care and employment at a living wage scale for women during pregnancy

- provision of safe, reliable, well monitored child care immediately after birth

-Medicaid and Medicare for all

- Food stamps distributed without shaming or race-baiting

-psychological and psychotherapy intervention widely available 

-healthy, safe foster care if a mother cannot provide care

Men or family may well not be willing or able to provide care. In the United States,society is not- no surprise- our extended family. And for the woman who is victimized, incested, raped, shunned, broke, abandoned, partner-less, or damaged in body, mind and spirit, ripping open the vein, terminating a pregnancy may be the only act of compassion available and she chooses it.


Why Women Don't Tell, Part 2: July 20, 1969 for Some Women Means Remembering Violence

From Susan J. Cook | Part of the The River Is Wide series | 06:29

The 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing reminds some of us that violence toward women and girls is still minimized. The President of the United States has been inciting violence toward 4 members of Congress.


Why Women Don't Tell: Part 2
This Time It is Not the Victim Who Is Silent
Everyone was remembering where they were the night Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon on July 20, 1969.
I was too. That 1969 night, I was upstairs in my bedroom  cowering, full of fear at the family home  where I grew up.  Not fearful for Collins, Armstrong or Aldrin  but for myself.
My brother who had beaten me up a few weeks earlier after, drunk, he drove the station wagon off a small dirt road was sitting  in the living room downstairs, drinking. No one else was home and as I came downstairs to see one small step for man, one giant step for mankind, I could see he was very drunk. He was a violent drunk. I had no way of knowing whether he would draw his fist again.
I was 17. I had never been beaten up before. I always thought it fortunate that I was able to open the passenger side door and get out .  I was able to outrun him. 
As I watched the American Experience and Nova programs about the Apollo flights, I was wondering  how many other women and girls on July 20, 1969 were cowering somewhere , fearful that a relative, a boyfriend, a stranger passing them in a subway station late at night would turn and assault them. 
And on July 20, 1969, as  so many were remembering that night 50 years ago, how many girls and women were cowering that a male known or unknown to them would attack them.
Out of all that technology has brought us since then, most men are still stronger than women and certainly physically stronger than girls. And violence against women and girls is still to be expected. The assault, the public shaming and humiliation, the denigration of credibility, the character assassination , the demeaning  and the implicit passivity these are all met with when they are directed at females persist.
The President of the United States has taunted. demeaned, and encouraged violence toward  4 women - they are women first-  and few in Congress have spoken loudly and yes- aggressively- spoken out against the violence toward women this President has encouraged.
They have instead focused on the correct political rubric- let's see... is it racist or sexist- and um signed  a resolution. A stranger walked by me the other day in a  store the other day and commented " He's going to end up getting someone killed." He took more a risk in saying that to me than Maine's Senator Collins has. She has said nothing against the violence.
"We're always going to feel strangers to these men," Eric Sevareid, the television commentator said after the landing. " They will in effect be a bit stranger even to their own wives and children. Disappeared into another life we cannot follow.." 
But they were not strangers to us at all, nor were the leaders who rushed to congratulate them. They divorced, wrestled with celebrity.  Never corrected the omission of woman kind from the first words spoken. Richard Nixon, who until recently was the least admired President  in the history of the United States, greeted the astronauts as quickly as he could. Just a month earlier, on June 21, 1969, his Vietnam War- it had become his- killed the first boy my mother ever let me go on a date with - in his car By 1974, Richard Nixon had violated every ounce of civil political discourse imaginable- authorizing a burglary at the Democratic National Committee Headquarters. Shifting funds to silence the perpetrators. A pettiness so earthly and easily avoided such that no moon shot could cast a shadow big enough to  cloud the small minded self-serving-ness of it.
Eleven billion dollars was spent getting the first men to the moon.  Corrected to present dollars-  it is accurate to say that in the 50 years following the moon landing - eleven billion dollars has not been spent on preventing and solving violence toward women   and girls.
As so few condemn the incitement  of violence by this President (Does he mean to drag them back to "where they came from" by their hair? Or at gun point? )  we have to ask why  we tolerate his encouragement of tacit character assassination, attacks on credibility, and oblivion to violence toward women. 
And we have to ask why in not speaking loudly, vociferously, we tolerate the complicit postures of our Senators and Congress members. Because this time, they are the ones who are silent not the victimized this President is taunting.