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President-Elect Trump is Gaslighting America December 20, 2016

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Politics.
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monkeybridge

I’ve blogged about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) since 2008, long before Donald Trump descended that golden escalator in Trump Tower.

I thought I’d pretty much said all I wanted/needed to say about NPD. I put up two blog posts earlier this year noting that the consensus of numerous professionals in the mental health field is that Trump is the walking definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. You can read  Is Donald Trump Actually a Narcissist? Therapists Weigh In  published by Vanity Fair. (FYI: The article is in error on one thing. Narcissistic Personality Disorder does appear in the DSM-5. You have to scroll down several pages to to find it.)

Which brings me to the insightful Op-ed piece Trump is Gaslighting America by Lauren Duca that appeared last week in Teen Vogue of all places. Duca explains that gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse using manipulation.

Think of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and gaslighting as besties. What better way to keep control of the game (and yes, those with NPD look at everything as a game) than to keep other people wondering if you really meant what you said? Or if you even said it? It’s been called a crazy-making behavior because the  person with NPD deftly maintains the upper hand by using a virtual sleight of hand card trick using words instead.

Have you noticed how easily Trump, when confronted with something he said or did or promised, without hesitation denies that he ever said it? Even if there’s a video of him saying it, he shouts, “Wrong!” or changes the subject with a provocative tweet. Or dismisses it because “nobody cares about that.” I’ve watched as veteran journalists seem at a loss for how to interview someone who says whatever he needs to say in the moment and while denying things he said in the past. When you are a narcissist, yesterday is ancient history.

Clearly you misunderstood them because a Narcissist can never be at fault. Geez, are you really that ________? (fill in the blank with a derogatory word).

It’s like trying to have a conversation with a petulant child who screams, “I know you are but what am I?” Over and over and over. Asking a Narcissist for clarification or explanation just opens the door for more half truths and boldfaced lies.

Dealing with a Narcissist is exhausting. Let’s face it,  you can’t reason with crazy. But Trump’s “crazy” has a name, so please check the DSM-5s list of characteristics if you have any doubt.

Trump’s masterful ability to gaslight and distort the truth is dangerous as the goal of the Narcissist is to wear people down and eventually silence them altogether so no one will dare question them for fear of retribution and more lies. Do you really want to die on that hill?

Please read the imbedded links as it’s important to know when someone is gaslighting you or in this case the American people. It’s the first step to understanding how to get your/our voice back.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
                                                                               Martin Luther King, Jr.

Trump’s Rampant Narcissism March 8, 2016

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Politics.
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FU

 

 

I like to find a graphic before I begin writing and let’s face it – it’s been a while. As Trump dominates the news, what better image than Frank Underwood’s cufflinks from the Netflix series House of Cards?  Frank is the cloying sociopath who has wormed his way (with help from his wife, Claire, who is cut from the same cloth) into the highest office in the land – the  President of the United States. Sound familiar?

I read an interview today  Donald Trump and Narcissistic Personality Disorder – An Interview with Sam Vaknin on American Thinker, an uber conservative blog focusing on national security issues and Israel. Vaknin is a former Israeli citizen who was imprisoned there for fraud and now hangs his hat in Macedonia. He is the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited. I like to think of Vaknin as the Head Vampire. But then I’m sentimental.

I’ve mentioned Vaknin once before in Barack Obama is a Narcissist and Other Urban Myths. Although this interview cites Vaknin’s numerous academic titles and refers to him as “Dr. Vaknin,” that title was bought via a diploma mill in California. Vaknin is touted as the ultimate authority when it comes to Narcissistic Personality Disorder while the interviewer fails to mention that Vaknin has proclaimed himself a “self-aware narcissist.”

That said, his assessment of Donald Trump, based on way too many hours of watching him on video, is pretty spot on.

Vaknin wonders, in light of Trump’s call to kill the families of terrorists, if there could be something else in play here aside from NPD. Since then, Trump has backtracked and I chalk up a lot of this due to his bombastic style and telling people what they want to hear at any given moment. He turns on a dime.

Should we be more alarmed about the popularity of Donald Trump or his “followers” who are basking in the Idealization Phase? Those who know a thing or two about Narcissistic Personality Disorder know what comes next. And it ain’t pretty.

A Psychologist’s Open Letter Regarding Narcissism August 30, 2015

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Politics.
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open-letter

A friend, who is a therapist, just posted a link to  A Psychologist’s Open Letter to U.S. Voters from The Huffington Post. This is definitely worth a read as Dr. Craig Malkin, a Clinical Psychologist and Instructor at the Harvard Medical School, addresses the narcissistic continuum as it pertains to politics. He cautions voters to be wary of what they applaud for as their applause is music aka Narcissistic Supply to the Narcissist’s ears. A very interesting read.

California Dreaming and the Dream Act November 29, 2010

Posted by alwaysjan in Politics.
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A stenciled image from a wall in Venice, California reminiscent of the official yellow road signs posted along the freeway outside San Diego. The signs urged CAUTION and featured the same family of illegals running across the freeway. The signs were deemed not PC and eventually removed, but the image left a lasting impression.

Update Dec. 18, 2010 – The Dream Act fell five votes short of passing in the U.S. Senate today. What a wonderful Christmas present it would have been to have given these young people the gift of hope.  Jan

On the front page of The Los Angeles Times today appeared an article Standing up for a Dream – With a vote due soon on the legislation, undocumented students are shedding their secrecy and speaking out. I’ve been meaning to write about the Dream Act for awhile.  With its passage now being considered during this lame duck session of Congress, the time has come.  I can’t stay silent for fear of ruffling a few feathers.

Two years ago a friend of my son’s, who I’ll call Jose (How generic is that?), lived with us for 18 months. When Jose was five, he and his younger brother were smuggled across the Texas border by two strange women – coyotes. His parents had left both boys behind with relatives in Mexico to seek work in the U.S. Jose’s mother, who was 15 when he was born, was converted by Mormon missionaries.  So two boys from Puebla found themselves living on the outskirts of Salt Lake City –  Mormon Ground Zero.

Jose’s parents worked day and night for a cleaning business often leaving the boys to fend for themselves. His father’s brother joined them. They bought a house. Jose and his brother attended public schools. Mormonism fell by the wayside. The marriage floundered. When Jose’s uncle died, his mother returned to Puebla with his younger brother to put things in order. The visit stretched into weeks, then months. She was not coming back, and Jose’s father had no interest in returning to Mexico.

Jose had come out to his mother as gay, but not to his father.  When he did, his father wanted nothing to do with him  (I’m happy to say that two years later, father and son reconciled.)  So here was a boy in high school who to his mind was 100 percent American. His relatives in Mexico were appalled at how poor his Spanish was when he talked to them on the phone. And although he could speak Spanish, he never learned to read or write it.

Long story short – Jose moved in with us.

He couldn’t attend high school, so he studied for and passed the California High School Equivalency Exam. This allows students, in effect, to quiz out of high school and enter community college. But with no documentation, Jose would have to pay out-of-state tuition. He picked up a few cash jobs, but not enough to make ends meet.  Certainly not enough to pay for college. Returning to Mexico was never an option, or at least one he discussed.

For Christmas we gave Jose  a consultation with an immigration attorney through the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.  The attorney laid out Jose’s options.  Getting a fake Social Security card was never an option as that’s a felony which would have prevented him from ever applying for citizenship.  He could petition the court that as a minor he feared for his safety if he returned to Mexico because he was gay. The attorney asked if anyone had ever molested him, or he had memories of abuse.  Jose looked at him blankly.  “I don’t remember anything about Mexico,” he replied.  At the very least we were talking $5000 in legal fees. Then the attorney mentioned the Dream Act.  We were all ears.

Obama had just been elected and the attorney was blunt.  He thought the new president had way too many issues on his plate to tackle the hot button issue of immigration.  Although the Dream Act had the support of both senators in California, as most of those students covered by the Dream Act live in California, its future was in limbo.

Jose thought about his options, or lack of.  He grew depressed.  Four months later, we bought Jose a one-way ticket to Mexico City.  He was returning to a country he had no memory of. I felt like we were sending him into exile in Siberia. His tearful calls confirmed his worst nightmares. The culture shock was overwhelming.

I’m sure there are those who would say, “Boo hoo!  That’s what you get for being illegal in America!” But Jose and so many other children here, including many students that I’ve taught, did not have a choice in how they came to the U.S.  While many have floundered, those illegal students covered by the Dream Act represent the best and the brightest.  I fear that many of our own “legal” children would not meet these standards.  The Dream Act does not guarantee citizenship, but offers a path to legal residency. It offers hope.

Before you make up your mind, be sure to read the link to the article from The Los Angeles Times. I fear that if the Dream Act is not passed, those who’ve stepped forward into the light to share their stories must once again retreat into the shadows.

Barack Obama is a Narcissist and Other Urban Legends August 23, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Politics.
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Obama narcissus

Several friends and relatives forwarded me the email Obama is a Narcissist purportedly written by Sam Vaknin, “a world authority on narcissism.” It goes on to say, “He (Vaknin) understands the inner mind of a narcissist like no other person. When he talks about narcissism, everyone listens.” Whoa, let’s take a deep breath.

What the email fails to mention is that Sam Vaknin was diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in 1984. And that title of Dr. before his name? Shmuel (Sam) Vaknin’s resume reports that he completed nine semesters at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. His doctorate is not in psychology, but philosophy, and was received from Pacific Western University, an unaccredited on-line diploma mill based in California. (Operators are standing by, if you too would like add Dr. to your name) Vaknin, an Israeli citizen, was incarcerated in Israel for white collar fraud and currently resides in Macedonia.

Although the Obama is a Narcissist email references some of Vaknin’s writing and includes a header suggesting he is the author, the article was actually published Sept. 8, 2008 by Ali Sina on the FaithFreedom.org (FFI) site as Understanding Obama: The Making of a Fuehrer. How do I know this? I credit Snopes.com. Since 1981, Snopes founders Barbara and David Mikkelson have made it their job to investigate information flying around out there on the internet and provide a much needed reality check.

FFI identifies itself as “a grassroots worldwide movement of ex-Muslims and all those who are concerned about the rise of the Islamic threat.” Its publisher, an Iranian who lives in Canada, uses the pseudonym “Ali Sina.”

If you’ve received the above email (there are numerous versions flying through cyberspace), you know it quickly goes off the deep end. Obama is likened to Jim Jones, the charismatic cult leader of the the People’s Temple who led over 900 of his followers to commit mass suicide. The email says they did so “cheerfully.” Sina’s ugly diatribe refers to Obama’s supporters as “worshippers” and wastes no time in comparing Obama to Stalin and Hitler. Sina has said on the website that he hopes Obama will be executed by electrocution – he subscribes to the conspiracy about Barack Obama’s birth. Wingnuts unite!

My outrage about the above circulating email is two-fold. First, it’s a lie and a blatant misrepresentation of the facts. I only worked briefly as a journalist, but the journalistic mantra is “a reliable source.”

Secondly, as someone who’s written quite a bit on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), I know those with NPD are pathological liars. So to my mind that negates Vaknin’s observations made from half-way around the world. Vaknin has provided incredible insights into his own narcissism for which I’m grateful. It’s important to note that those with NPD crave attention, but will settle for notoriety. The email circulating provides this to Vaknin in abundance.

I’m most disappointed with how quick people are to use and abuse the term “narcissist.” I realize many don’t know any better. That’s why I write what I do. For the record. narcissism runs on a continuum from healthy narcissism (Healthy Ego) to Destructive Narcissistic Patterns (Me is getting in the way of Us) to Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or as Vaknin refers to his NPD, Malignant Narcissism.

I can’t imagine how any politician or leader could rise to power without a healthy/hefty dose of narcissistic traits. Think alpha male. But this doesn’t mean they have NPD. One tell-tale sign of those with NPD is they’re unable to maintain a healthy emotional relationship with significant others. Someone better tell Michelle and the girls.

I highly recommend that when an email is forwarded to you, you run it by Snopes.com. I recently was forwarded Cancer Update from Johns Hopkins University. When it started talking about how ingesting dairy products creates mucus and how some forms of cancer thrive in mucus, it got me to wondering. I went to Snopes and sure enough they’d already done the research. John Hopkins issued a rebuttal stating that the circulating email is a total fabrication.

If you have trouble remembering the name Snopes, you can do like I do. It rhymes with Scopes, as in the Scopes Monkey Trial. There’s a cure for ignorance – it’s called education.

Photo Credit:  Google Images

C is for Chaos June 19, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Politics.
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grafitti

The writing is on the wall, but can you read it?

 

 

When I got up this morning (Ahhh, first day of summer vacation) my husband was reading the newspaper.  “It seems like it’s on the verge of exploding,” he said.  I thought he was talking about my school district. Turned out he was talking about Iran.  

What a colossal mess the state of California has made.  And who’s going to pick it up? Us. The people. And teachers, of course.  We’re good at picking up messes (primarily messy parenting).  

Friday, after teachers had packed up their classrooms for summer vacation, emails arrived from our union.  The RIFs (Reduction in Force notices) keep a comin’.  Bottom line: Thirty-four MORE elementary teachers in the district are to be RIF’d.  Also included in the cuts are a smattering of English, History, and PE teachers at the high school level.  

My district isn’t huge, so that’s a lotta people.  People who have children. People who have rent and mortgages to pay.  People who are still paying off their student loans so that they could become a teacher.  An updated seniority list is to be released next Wednesday, so everyone’s on edge.  It reminds me of the classic movie Lifeboat.  Supplies are running low and everyone’s looking to see who’s going to be thrown overboard next. (What’s that scent you’re wearing?  “Chum?”)  The sharks are circling.

For the record, my job is not in jeopardy, but those of many of my colleagues and friends are.  It’s not like the students are going anywhere.  If anything, we’re starting to see a slow exodus of students arriving from private school whose parents can no longer foot that bill. 

I always tell people that when it comes to school, I expect chaos, so I’m never disappointed.  That said, I’m disappointed.  In the state.   In the city. In my district.  I don’t have enough fingers to point.  

We’re not the only district in trouble.  The Los Angeles Times ran a story today about how teachers in that district have “accepted a new contract that includes no pay raise for last year, this year or next year, but will allow them to take formal contract grievances public.” According to the story, “more than 2,500 UTLA members could be laid off as of July 1.”  Ouch!

Freezing salaries opens yet another can of worms.  I start a master’s program (along with two other teachers, one who’s been RIF’d) next week. I’ve already paid $1400 for the first quarter’s tuition.  I don’t mind telling you that I’m getting my master’s for the salary bump. If salaries are frozen, where does that leave teachers like me?  

This is not a script with a happy ending  – Not for those teachers laid off, or for those left to manage herds of children come September. 

My son Taylor forwarded me the following email.  Food for thought.

In a small town in the United States, the place looks almost totally deserted. It is tough times, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit.
Suddenly, a rich tourist comes to town.
He enters the town’s only hotel, lays a 100 dollar bill on the reception counter as a deposit, and goes to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one.
The hotel proprietor takes the 100 dollar bill and runs to pay his debt to the butcher.
The butcher takes the 100 dollar bill, and runs to pay his debt to the pig farmer.
The pig farmer runs to pay his debt to the supplier of his feed and fuel.
The supplier of feed and fuel takes the 100 dollar bill and runs to pay his debt to the town’s prostitute that in these hard times, gave her “services” on credit.
The hooker runs to the hotel, and pays off her debt with the 100 dollar bill to the hotel proprietor to pay for the rooms that she rented when she brought her clients there.
The hotel proprietor then lays the 100 dollar bill back on the counter so that the rich tourist will not suspect anything.

At that moment, the tourist comes down after inspecting the rooms, and takes back his 100 dollar bill, saying that he did not like any of the rooms, and leaves town.
No one earned anything. However, the whole town is now without debt, and looks to the future with a lot of optimism.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the United States Government and the State of California are doing business today.

The Party’s Over June 13, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Politics, Teaching.
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donkey2

The notice was put in the teachers’ mailboxes today (Friday afternoon).  The bottom line – Due to the state of California’s severe budget crisis, the gates of Hell have been thrown open. We’d already been told that class sizes in September were going from 20 to 22.  But today we were informed that class sizes could go to 25, or as high as 31.   Oh, and that there could be layoffs of teachers as late as August 15th. There was no Happy Hour today.   The mood amongst teachers was bewildered, even somber.

My first year of teaching was in 1997, when the state had just reduced the class size in grades K-3 to 20 to 1.  Oh, the stories the veteran teachers could tell – of teaching 35 of those wiggley, “I’ve got to go to the bathroom!” first graders.  And they were still standing (the teachers that is).  I’m afraid that 20 to 1 is all I’ve ever known.  I did a stint of student teaching in the fourth grade where the class size is typically 30+, but those kids are big and can sit in a chair (okay, most of them).  It took me three weeks just to memorize all of their names.

I’m not worried about my job.  This is my fifth year with the district, but other colleagues, who are also my friends, aren’t so lucky.  When the first round of RIFs (Reduction in Force notices) went out on March 15, teachers lower in seniority were put on notice.  In years past, this was always a formality, and they were hired back come September, when the classes filled up.  But these are strange times.

According to the local paper, 160 students at a local Christian school are leaving due to their parents’ own budget crises.  I’m pretty sure those kids will be coming to a school near me,  and it will have the word “public” in in. But, how this will sort itself out is anybody’s guess.

It didn’t help that the news came after a long day of trying to pack up the classroom while keeping the students busy engaged.  I believe I am the only teacher in history to accomplish this without showing the students a movie.   A group of boys constructed an Amazonian forest in a huge cardboard box, while another group of students was busy “stitching” on their burlap flags. Stitching is not to be confused with “sewing,”  which is a girlie pursuit.   I fashioned “needles” out of paperclips and the kids went to town and did a surprisingly good job.  Only later another teacher informed me that there were in fact real big plastic needles the kids could have used.  Oh.  I’m big at reinventing the wheel,

I only mention this because none of these activities would be possible with 30 plus kids in the room.  Someone literally might poke their neighbor’s eye out with that paperclip due to lack of elbow room.  Come September, space in my classroom could be disappearing as rapidly as the rain forest in the Amazon.

This gives a whole new meaning to June Gloom in Southern California.

Photo credit:  The Unruly Birthday Party  by Jan Marshall.

Obama Poster – Barack Obama as American Mythology February 25, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Art, Politics.
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man-from-illinois-print1

On Election Day 2008, planetjan was featured as one of WordPress’ 100 “Growing Blogs.” This was in large part because of my “Obama Cholo” post featuring the artwork of artist David Cordova. It was the first time I’d dipped my toe in the political waters. Numerous sites linked to my post and my stats went through the roof. So both Obama and I had a good day.

Since then, my friend Nora Dunn (who makes cameos in some of my blog posts, as she’s a frequent visitor to our outpost of insanity) has introduced us to Scott Siedman’s art. Nora owns several of Scott’s paintings and when I first saw them, I was bowled over by Scott’s bold style.

When we finally met Scott, he brought and we bought a copy of “The Man from Illinois” poster, which is a reproduction of his original painting. There’s a strong stylistic nod to quintessential American artists Norman Rockwell and Thomas Hart Benton. When I asked Scott what book Obama is reading, he said he left that open to interpretation. Scott noted though that Abraham Lincoln, also an attorney (and the original Man from Illinois), was often seen reading the English Book of Common Law.

Not to sound like a late-night infommercial, (but wait, there’s more!), but at $32 to $34 a pop, the poster is a bargain (though I’m hoping to soon snatch up Citicorp at the 99 cent store nearest me).  For details and to view a larger image of the print, click on manfromillinois.com.  Thanks Nora and Sheila!

Fortune Has Arrived January 26, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Holidays, Personal, Politics.
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fortune

The mother of one of my students, who’s Chinese, came in Friday to talk to students about Chinese New Year.  I love the color red so I was already sold on the holiday.  Several years ago I didn’t have time to send out Christmas cards but saved face by sending Chinese New Year’s cards instead.  She read stories and brought beautiful Chinese dolls and a gorgeous woman warrior puppet wielding a sword,  “A woman can be a warrior,” I informed the skeptical boys (brandishing my own verbal sword).

She explained how it was important to clean everything to prepare for the luck and good fortune that a new year brings. (It’s the Year of the Ox, in case you didn’t know.)  All of my “Dragons” cleaned the entire classroom along with two students who were born in the Year of the Rabbit.  Because they were born at the end of the year, we learned they are officially “Rabbit Tails.”

I was also given the character fu above which means good fortune in a general sense – wealthy, happiness, success (a green card?).  The character is to be hung upside down. (Like I would know the difference!)  When turned upside down, the character creates an auspicious phrase (Chinese for pun) Fu dao le that rhymes with the character for “arrives” or “comes.”  So you’re expressing your wish that fortune be directed to wherever the upside down character is found.  That’s why you’ll find the upside down character throughout the year and why not? Everyone needs good fortune heading their way.  When good fortune comes, you turn the character right side up to signal its arrival.

I love symbols or maybe it’s the ritual, as so much of modern life has been stripped of ritual (other than the ritualistic stop at Starbucks).  It seems to me that just about everyone I know could use some good fortune, including our new president, Barack Obama.  Boy, does he have a big mess to clean up, and I think he’s going to need some help from the likes of you and me. Just to be on the safe side, Obama needs to hang up a really big upside down fu above the steps to our nation’s Capitol.

There are lots of people I know and love who could use some good luck. They cling to Hope while they await its arrival.  I’m thinking tonight of my sister-in-law Jane (“Janer”).  At 47, she’s already survived two marriages, one to a narcissist.  She has nine children (eight still at home) and learned just last month that she has breast cancer. Tomorrow she’s having a double mastectomy.  I know she’s scared, but chooses to focus on the positive (“I’m getting a tummy tuck and they’re going to use all that extra skin for reconstructive surgery.”)  Know this.  A woman can be a warrior.

Yes You Can – Obamicon Me January 22, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Art, Monthly Mao, Politics.
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mao1

Hey, it works!  My friend Elisse sent me a link to obamiconme.pastemagazine.com.  You can upload a photo and choose the perfect word to go with then have it rendered in the style of Shepard Fairey’s iconic poster.  

There’s an on-line gallery of all the images people have created.  The only caveat is that you can’t upload graphic sexual images (Like who in the world?)  You have to create an account using your email address, but it’s totally free and after you’ve created your “Obamicon” you can download it or post it on Facebook.  My pets are submitting their headshots, but they’ll have to wait.  First I have to “Obamicom” all my Republican friends.

Yes We Did – Watch the Inauguration January 21, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Politics, Teaching.
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bracelet1

I woke up at 5 a.m. worried about one of my students, who’s often tardy.  I shouldn’t have bothered. When I arrived at school, he was already in line and eager to let me know he was the first one at school.  I breathed a sign of relief.  So far, so good.

I’d left a note on the classroom door.  Any student who arrived late had to be personally escorted to the restaurant where we were going to watch the inauguration or go to another teacher’s classroom.  The plan was to leave directly from the playground where we line up so as not to miss Obama’s swearing in.  The Start bell rang.  We had exactly 14 minutes to walk to the restaurant if we wanted to see Obama take the presidential oath. 

We speed-walked in a single file line.  Several of my students, giddy with excitement, said they felt like they were in “Make Way for Ducklings” (one of the stories we’ve read) and that I was Mrs. Mallard leading the parade.  We arrived just in time to see Joe Biden sworn in as Vice-President. They piled their backpacks in a corner and found seats.  We had the front room at the restaurant, and my students quickly settled in to watch Barack Obama sworn in and listen to his speech, while they were served orange juice and muffins.

Then out came the real food.  Hot trays with three kinds of eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, and pancakes.  There were beans and meatballs and even baklava.  One of my students who’s African American brought her mother and her grandmother (who was still younger than me!).  They brought me the bracelet in the photo above.  I have a wonderful photo of them  – three generations – watching the inauguration.  In one photo, my student’s grandmother is wiping away tears.  It’s a beautiful image. 

As I looked out over my students, I saw the faces of the future. My students are Asian (Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese), Latino (Mexico and El Salvador), African American, Armenian, Bosnian, Pakistani, and my token white student (I have one every year), who’s excited that he’s learning some phrases in Bosnian.  In short, they are the faces of American – and our country’s future. If my class is any indicator, our country is in good hands.

Yes We Can – Watch the Inauguration January 17, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Politics, Teaching.
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obama

My third grade students almost missed watching the inauguration of Barack Obama.  Last Tuesday it hit me.  Although I have a TV in my classroom (won in a raffle), I’ve only used it to show videos and DVDs.  Because of the mountains in Southern California, you can’t get decent TV reception unless you have cable or a satellite dish. So how were my students going to watch Barack Obama take the presidential oath?   No matter your political bent, this is History with a capital H!

I  talked to my husband aka “Tech Support” about our options.  On any given day the internet is down in my classroom.  (To be fair, when we got a new school superintendent, he was appalled at the sad state of technology in our district, but that’s Another Story).  I know teachers who are taking Tuesday off because they don’t want to miss this historic event.  How sad is that?    .

I emailed my room parent to ask if she had any ideas.  (And no, I don’t name names, but I am arranging to have her face carved on Mt. Rushmore.)  I was willing to invite my students to watch the inauguration at my house (and yes, I would have obsessively cleaned for third graders), but parents aren’t allowed to drive students on field trips.  Dedicated teacher that I am, I wasn’t willing to put my job security on the line and commandeer a bus (not in this economy).

My room parent is one of those “can do” people, who can move mountains. (I just point to where I want it moved.) When my sons were in school in New York City, I was always a room parent, and I’d like to think that my sons’ teachers thought of me in the same way.  But then I was never “put to the test.”  I excelled at collecting money from parents and making sure there were enough cupcakes for class parties.

Within 20 minutes of my email, my room parent had come up with a plan.  I had to (take a deep breath) call my principal at home to get the okay.  My principal thought it sounded “fabulous!”  The very next day, each student received a personal invitation to the presidential inauguration.

So I don’t know how you’re spending Inauguration Day, but this is what my “future leaders of tomorrow” will be doing.  As soon as the Start bell rings. we’re going on a “Walking Field Trip” to a restaurant three blocks from the school.  My room parent knows the owner.  Although the restaurant doesn’t open until lunch, they’re letting my class watch the inauguration in the back room on the big screen TV AND serving them breakfast. (My room parent said she’d take care of that.)

One of my students is bringing her mother and her grandmother, so you’re welcome to join us.  All of the permission slips have been returned, and the students are psyched.  Because they’re third graders, now they want to know about the really important stuff – like what’s to eat?

Why is this so important to me?  This year I have a cluster of English Language Learners (ELLs) and most of their parents are here on student visas or aren’t citizens, so they didn’t even vote.  And unlike in years past, I only have three African-American students this year.  But I understand the significance of the election of the first African American president for ALL Americans.  My students (who are 8 and 9) might not fully appreciate this now, but years from now I want to them to remember how they spent this day, and that they shared it with me – their teacher.

On Friday, as they got ready to leave, I asked my students, “Are you going to come to school on Monday?”  I got a resounding NO.  They all know it’s Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday. (Third graders are SO smart.)

“Are you going to come to school on Tuesday?” I asked.  “Yes!” they said in unison, barely able to contain their excitement.  “Don’t be late, ” I reminded them.  “We have a date with history!”

Note to Teachers: So many teachers have read this post after plugging in the search term “inauguration lesson plans for third grade.”  My amazing room parent also bought me a subscription to edHelper.com. so I was able to put together a four-page Inauguration packet filled with puzzles and activities.

Planetjan in Pakistan? November 28, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Blogging, Politics.
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No sooner had I put up my post “Barack Obama as American Mythology” then I received a request for an interview from Ghazala Khan atThe Pakistani Spectator (TPS).  “We at TPS are carrying out a new series of interviews with the notable passionate bloggers, writers, and webmasters.  In that regard, we would like to interview you, if you don’t mind,” he wrote.  Who, me? 

I checked out the link to the Pakistani Spectator, which seemed to me to provide relatively mainstream political and entertainment news.  There were interviews with several other “notable” bloggers (one was in Bakersfield – a known hotbed of radical activity – and he admitted to drinking copious amounts of alcohol), so I figured no fatwah would be forthcoming.  And there was that ad in the sidebar announcing that you CAN lose a pound a day without dieting.  It was right next to an on-line poll about what to do with those Talibans.  Here are the poll options:  Dialogue with Them, Crush Them, Let America Deal with Them, Give Them a Free Hand, Jirgas(?) and Limited Operations, or finally, I am Confused. 

I agreed to the interview and Ghazala Khan emailed me the interview questions, which required me to do some hard thinking.  Not an easy thing to do when you’re overwhelmed with Parent/Teacher conferences and Thanksgiving looms.  But I emailed my responses and woke up the next morning to find that the “Interview with Blogger Jan Marshall” was right below a photo of Barack Obama.

Political news is available through TPS in Urdu, but not entertainment news. So, boo hoo – no Urdu for you. You can read the interview by going to the following link.  The Pakistani Spectator. Scroll down through the political news.  Us “Notable Bloggers” are relegated to Entertainment under Interviews in the middle column.   My interview has since been bumped by more recent interviews, but you can find it if you go to the top of the page and click on Interviews. The Interview archives are organized by the date published.  My interview was published Nov. 24th just days before the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. 

With all of the turmoil in that region in the world, I think all of us can benefit by knowing more about each other.

My Son – Who Happens to be Gay November 22, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Life, Parenting, Politics.
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I have two sons. My younger son, Ian, happens to be gay. I didn’t set out to have a gay son. But then Ian didn’t set out to be gay, and to be honest, it came as a shock to him as well. He was confused about why he felt “different.” And he struggled alone. Even now, I can’t imagine what that was like for him when he was only nine and had a crush on a boy in the fourth grade.

When Ian was 14 and a half, we were sitting in the doctor’s office, and he announced he was gay. We laugh now remembering what happened next. I blurted out, “Oh my god, I hope my parents die soon!” This was because my parents had left their church in the Midwest over the issue of gay unions. My head was spinning. Driving home, I was in a fog. I’ve always had gay friends, but my son? My eyes brimmed with tears. Why me?  What I remember most is what my son said next. “Mom, I’m the same person I was before – it’s just that now you know.”

“Please don’t tell Dad,” Ian asked. My response? “That’s like asking me not to tell your father the house is on fire!” So he told his dad who was surprised, but ultimately okay with it. Then he told his older brother who shrugged. “Just don’t expect me to go riding around in one of those gay pride parades.”

Ian felt such a sense of relief to be able to be honest about who he was. This was the same kid who had written “I’m gay” in Sharpie on the back of another boy’s jacket in middle school. Talk about confused self-loathing. It wasn’t easy for him though.

Ian, who’s outgoing and always had lots of friends, thought once he came out, other students at his high school would come out as well. He waited…and waited. There was one other boy who was extremely flamboyant, who Ian wanted nothing to do with. Ian had played Little League baseball and considered himself a jock. His attitude was, “If I want to hang out with a girl, I’ll hang out with a real girl.”

Looking back, I can’t believe how brave my son was. Yes, he took a boy as a date to the prom. He was confident no one would give them a problem as Ian is infinitely likable and has a wicked sense of humor. No one did, but I held my breath. As a parent, I was frightened that someone would lash out at my son, verbally or physically. But being young, Ian was convinced he could change the world – or at least people’s opinions – one at a time.  And to his credit, he did and continues to do so.

Meanwhile, my husband and I found PFLAG ,Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians And Gays. (I should note that at the meetings I attended there were also families with transgender children.) We met so many incredible people at those meetings. People came because they too had family members and friends who were gay. Those who’d been attending for awhile always described being able to acknowledge their child’s sexual orientation as an amazing “journey.” It was painful though when parents who’d just found out their child was gay came to a meeting. Some were still in such a state of shock or denial they couldn’t speak. But the important thing was they showed up. It was the first step on their journey.

There was a Chinese woman who wanted to know if there were herbs that could turn her son, who was in his 30s and a doctor, back to “normal.”  There were African Americans whose childhoods were so interwoven with the church, they felt ostracized in their own community. And there were people who’d gotten married because, “I thought if I got married and had a family, it might make IT go away.” They’d come to the conclusion that telling a lie is easy, but living a lie takes a toll on one’s soul.

Eventually, I couldn’t keep The Secret any longer. After a year, I broke down and told my parents their grandson was gay. They were in shock, but they love Ian. Several years later when they were visiting, my father said to Ian, “Someday when you meet the perfect woman…”  He caught himself. “I mean man,” he said. Ian was overjoyed as he adores his grandparents.

My son has never been interested in the club scene. “That’s not the way you and dad raised me,” he said with such earnestness, that my heart ached for him. He talks about “when I have a kid.” He has that optimism that comes with youth. It helps that we live in Southern California. Ian is still put off by “girlie” guys and was critical of people who are transgender until he saw the movie Transamerica.  He watched it again the other night and said it made him cry. So even he has been on his own journey of understanding.

My son is now 22. He goes to college and he, and his boyfriend of a year, live with us. The other day he asked, “Mom, at what age are you considered a loser if you still live at home with your parents?” I told him with the economy the way it is, this might be as good as it gets.  But we’re all okay with that.

I really don’t give much thought to my son being gay anymore. It’s just one part of who he is, but certainly doesn’t define him as a human being. I was disturbed though when he came to me last night and told me how upsetting it was when several young men chanted, “Yes on 8!” when he and his boyfriend walked by. Ian is a peaceful person, and it was all he could do to not say something. And of course, you always think of just the right thing to say afterwards. But hate, even though Ian knows it stems from ignorance, still hurts.

So when my friend TIna, who also has a gay son, emailed this morning that she’s going to attend a peaceful march tonight to protest the passage of “Yes on 8,” I said count me in. She and some of our friends marched last weekend. They sent me pictures of them holding their placards. What impressed me most was that most of those who showed up didn’t have a gay child. They were there because they thought it was the right thing to do. They believe in equal rights for all Americans.

So now it looks like it’s going to be a gay day. I can think of a lot of things I’d rather be doing on a Saturday night. But the stakes are just too high. We’re not talking about one of THOSE people. We’re talking about my son.

One of the most eloquent and impassioned commentaries I’ve seen on this issue is “Keith Olbermann’s Response to Prop. 8.”  To view his commentary, please press the following link. Peace.

Hope & Hip Hop October 29, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Art, Artists, Music, Politics.
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Our friend, Dina (The Salsa Queen!) forwarded this link on Youtube.  I must confess that my father warned me I should NEVER blog about politics or religion – but this is ART!  MC Yogi grew up in a group home for “at risk youth” and then discovered the transformative power of yoga.  Who would have thunk it?  His music appears on the White Swan label, home to another of my faves, Deva Premal.  Got art?  If you want to see an AWESOME video, click here:  MC Yogi: Obama ’08 Vote for Hope.

Obama Cholo October 26, 2008

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My friend Angela had this poster on her front door, and it was love at first sight (a primera vista). She told me her hairstylist, David Cordova, had made it which led to an after school jaunt through the winding hills above Eagle Rock to meet him. He had an Obama event that night, and his supply was running dangerously low, but I bought four posters at $5 a pop ($10 at the event!) and was ecstatic.

David said he came up with the idea for the poster because many Latinos are still hesitant to vote for an African American (the brown vs. black issue that I’ve encountered in my own classroom over the years – though less so lately). But according to a front page story in the Los Angeles Times today, a growing number of Latino voters argue that anyone who has faced discrimination would be good for all minorities. Besides, for most voters, it’s no longer a white, black, or brown issue, or even a red or blue one. It all comes down to green – it’s the economy.

David said he took some of the color out of Obama’s skin, added the Mexican day laborer bandana, and the classic cholo shirt. Que milagro! Barack gone barrio. This way Latinos can see that Obama is not so very different from themselves.

I have to admit that in the poster, Obama looks surprisingly like the Mexican cook who works back in the kitchen at the local sushi bar. So in that sense, Obama Cholo (as David refers to him) IS every man – at least in Los Angeles.