Opinion: A Checklist for My Husband
By Carol Gee
When my husband suffered his first heart attack at age 44, my thought was that he was much too young for something so serious to have happened. With the second one, followed by a quadruple bypass, worry and fear raised their ugly heads.
Over the years, one health crisis after another has been my husband’s constant companions. Consequently, I’ve been interpreter of his every episode or procedure, regaling them in minute details, over and over, to doctors and others needing to hear about them. Frankly, every time I’ve waited in the “family” waiting room at Emory University Hospital, I’ve felt like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole: frightened, and because I’m his only family — alone.
However, it’s those things I can’t prepare for that frightens me the most. Such as, when my husband, a black man, goes to the store, or to the barber shop. My fear when it seems he has been gone too long simmers much like a pot of slowly boiling water. And, although he arrives back home safely that day, doesn’t mean the fear ends. It’d just ended for that particular day — this crippling fear never ends!
Sometimes you see it coming; other times, not so much! After all, the incident I’d once feared had already occurred when he had been stopped because of what can be described only as “driving while black.” This occurred as he was on his way home from visiting friends.
“Good evening sir. May I ask where are you coming from?” The officer had asked.
Full disclosure: I’m the talker. When my quiet man says something, it’s either important and yes, often quite profound. So when the retired military veteran, who had a few months prior been hired at a prestigious local hospital was asked “had he been drinking,” he answered truthfully.
“I had one beer to be sociable,” he acknowledged. “I don’t really like beer, but that was all they had. I didn’t even finish it.”
The officer then instructed him to park his vehicle where he’d been pulled over. “This is just as a precaution,” the officer insisted. Reluctant to leave his car, he nevertheless complied.
I had once told him that he could only seek justice for any perceived injustices if he were alive to do so.
“Is this Mrs. Gee? My name is Officer Mike Wilson. I don’t want to frighten you, but I just pulled your husband over. He is fine,” he hastened to add. “He admitted that he’d had been drinking. He is not under arrest, this is just for his safety. However, I will need you to come pick up your car,” he continued, telling me where it was. “Then, you can pick him up from the lobby of the county jail.”
Shaking, I barely remembered calling my sister to come get me. With her sleeping toddler bundled into his car seat, she dropped me off where our car was parked in a nearby school’s parking lot just a few blocks from our home.
Law-abiding folks, neither of us had even been inside of a jail before. That particular incident turned out all right, though it still shook both of us up. Once we got home, I burst into tears.
The possibility that this incident could be repeated, and that it could turn deadly, was my constant worry. Hence, I created another checklist of what to do if or when he is ever again stopped by the police. You know:
“Do what the policeman says. Don’t make any sudden moves. Keep your hands where they can be seen at all times. And answer questions politely. Keeping the above reminders in mind, could save your life.”
Sadly, the recent altercations with police in Baltimore, Cleveland, Ferguson, Minneapolis and others are grim reminders for wives like me. And why I fear for him. Hearing Eric Garner, whom people described as a peaceful man, gasping, “I can’t breathe!” as a result of the choke-hold that the police reportedly used, that ultimately resulted in his death, leaves me so terrified that sometimes I can barely breathe.
I get it. Cops are scared, and rightly so. Particularly when they approach cars. Could that fear result in the worst possible scenario imagined: the killing of black boys and black men? Alas, the answer is yes.
These claims of fear, thus justified as self-defense, too often is inspired by something more insidious — hatred. Much like the turbulent ’60s, where killings and protests ruled the day, our lives are overshadowed by fear and suspicion. I guess it’s true what writer William Faulkner once thought when he wrote “The past is never dead, it’s not even past.”
Question: When did the lives of black males in our society become so insignificant? Not my degrees in psychology and sociology, nor my master’s that examined the human condition, helps me to understand why being stopped because of a broken rear light and reaching for his license and registration, at the policeman’s behest, Philando Castile of Minnesota was shot four times?
All this piques in me a desire to understand, and to explain (if only to myself), how things like this can happen in a so-called civilized society? In the 21st century?
When will it end?
You know, “being black in the wrong place” as Castile’s mother tearfully lamented, upon learning her son had been shot and killed? Indeed, there are times when even the best of us comes up wanting in our quest for understanding. And, granted it leaves me frustrated.
So, baby, in addition to all the above, keep your insurance and registration handy. Keep your speed under the limit. And please, don’t drink and drive. Yes, black lives matter. All lives matter. Yet, the sad truth — the fear of losing our sons, lovers and husbands is something we black women know — better than any other women, in the world.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Carol Gee is a retired military veteran and retired Emory University administrator and is the author of “Random Notes (About Life, “Stuff” And Finally Learning to Exhale),” “Gilded Pearls” and others. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Llewellyn King: No, Mr. President, We’re Not the ‘Enemy of the People’
By Llewellyn King
The media is to blame. That is the cry of the autocrat, the dictator and the shifty politician.
I have heard variations of it since I started in the newspaper business at the age of 16. The “media” is more now more frequently used than the “press,” which was the old term.
I have heard it from crooks, con artists, egomaniacs, communists, fascists, anti-Semites, ethnic butchers and madmen.
I heard it in person from Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the brutal Chilean dictator, in Santiago and from Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, the last communist leader of Poland, in Warsaw. I heard it in person from the defenders of Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean tyrant, and I heard it from the lips of Kenneth Kaunda, who sent Zambia down the wrong track. I heard it in person from the sycophants around Cuban strongman Fidel Castro.
In Washington I heard it from Cabinet officers, congressmen, chief executive officers, contractors and lobbyists, and innumerable military contractors when I was publisher of The Energy Daily and Defense Week.
Now I am hearing it from President Donald Trump. He is attacking the media, using a term — the enemy of the people — that I have only heard from dictators. Trump is attacking the very basis of all freedom: the freedom of the press. That is the freedom to find the news and publish it.
When the president attacks the media he immediately makes the gathering of the news more difficult. Those who want to brush us off, lie to us, subvert our work, endanger our income and our lives are emboldened.
Worse, the work itself is brought into doubt.
Truth is the victim: If lies can pass as fact, truth is in the gutter and the body politic is in trouble. Look to Germany in the 1930s, Cuba in totalitarian maw, the Soviet Union and its satellites under communism’s yoke. Look to Venezuela today. Where evil is afoot, the media is silenced or subverted.
Against this, the editorial board of The Boston Globe has persuaded more than 100 newspapers to respond to Trump’s “enemy of the people” rhetoric on Aug. 16.
The thought is powerful and right, but the tactic is wrong. In showing a united front to the White House, The Globe and its allies validate the White House myth that the media is united against the people.
The media is united in only one thing: doing its job. It is not in any way monolithic. To suggest that we are a monolith is to suggest, as Trump does, that there is a media hegemony with a common purpose. There is not.
We are a calling of irregulars, from the smallest newsletter to the great urban newspapers and from the pod-caster to the star-heavy television networks. That is our strength; the diversity that makes us a cast of tens of thousands with individual parts.
Dan Raviv, then with CBS Radio, told me in a few words what is involved, “I like to find out what’s going on and tell people.” He nailed this job.
Yes, we make mistakes. Yes, we can be arrogant. Yes, we can be an embarrassment. Yes, some insert opinions when they should not. I still cringe at things I have gotten wrong, going back decades. At best, our mistakes keep us humble.
I would suggest that those who think we are the enemies of the people — a preposterous idea — just remember that everything they know, with infinitesimal exception, was brought to them by journalists; journalists covering the White House, journalists writing about government, business, foreign affairs, science and wars. Individuals trying to find out what is going on from Moscow to Beijing and, when we can, Pyongyang.
When the courts have failed, the politicians have let all down, and justice is in danger, drop a dime. Call a reporter: the appellate court of last resort.
You do not call the media, you call a reporter. That individuality is our ultimate strength — and the public’s last, very last, line of defense.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Toddlers on Trial
By Jim Hightower
We Americans believe everyone has a right to have their day in court. Right?
But what if the court is turned into a loony bin, making a mockery of justice? Welcome to the federal immigration courts that are struggling to deal with the insanity of Trump’s imperious “zero tolerance” decree that all Latino asylum seekers will be jailed and prosecuted as criminals.
How insane is it? Toddlers, separated from their parents by Trump’s border guards, are being put on trial by themselves. “We were representing a 3-year-old in court,” said Lindsay Toczylowski, a dismayed defender of a migrant kiddo, “and the child — in the middle of the hearing — started climbing up on the table. It really highlighted the absurdity of what we’re doing with kids.”
Not just doing “with” them, but to them. Fleeing unimaginable trauma in their home country, then suffering the pain of being torn away from their parents inside our border, the expectation that these little ones can mount a legal defense has rightly been labeled “unconscionable” and “grossly inappropriate” by experts. But I would add, inexpertly, that it’s insane and evil.
Here’s a bit of Trumpian evil for you: Johan, a 1-year-old Honduran boy taken from his amnesty-seeking father by border agents, was hauled into federal immigration court in July. A one-year-old! As an AP reporter wrote, the baby briefly played with a ball, drank from a bottle, then “cried hysterically.” The law doesn’t even require that children have a lawyer to represent them!
The judge said he was too embarrassed to try explaining this judicial proceeding to anyone: “I don’t know who you would explain it to, unless you think that a 1-year-old could learn immigration law,” the judge said in exasperation.
Maybe he could try explaining it to the U.S. president who’s foisted this lunacy on us. It’s a case of the inmates having taken charge of the insane asylum.
Aretha Franklin: sublime soul diva whose voice inspired the civil rights movement
August 16, 2018
Senior Lecturer in Music, Kingston University
Leah Kardos does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Kingston University provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.
It is no coincidence that two of Aretha Franklin’s celebrated contemporaries who traveled to Detroit to see the singer in the last stages of her illness were Stevie Wonder and Jesse Jackson. It is hard to overestimate Franklin’s importance to both music and the civil rights movement – and the presence of one of music’s greatest figures alongside Martin Luther King Jr’s right-hand man at her bedside in the final days of her life is a fitting tribute to one of the true greats of Black American culture.
Aretha Franklin was the “Queen of Soul”. One of the bestselling recording artists of all time, she became famous in the 1960s as a singer with a uniquely expressive voice possessing great passion and control. Her hit songs in the late 1960s tapped into the spirit of the civil rights movement while her hit cover (and gendered re-authoring) of Otis Redding’s Respect was an anthem of black female empowerment.
The first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, Franklin’s voice was declared one of Michigan’s important “natural resources” two years before. She won 18 Grammy Awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award (in 1994) and presided over a rich recorded musical legacy preserved in 42 studio albums, 131 singles, six live albums and more. Her iconic performances and productions came to define the term “soul music” in the 20th century, setting the standard for black female vocal excellence.
The daughter of celebrity Detroit minister CL Franklin, Franklin was born in Memphis in 1942 and raised in Detroit, starting her singing career in the choir at her father’s New Bethel Baptist Church. She belonged to a generation of African American artists who migrated from the south during a time when segregation and Jim Crow law was still in effect, who then went on to participate in mainstream American culture.
Her deep connection to the southern freedom movement was familial and spiritual as well as musical – her father was actively involved with Democratic party politics and the civil rights movement. Politicians and activists – along with many of the gospel superstars of the day – were a fixture in the family home. As a result, Franklin received formative musical mentoring from stars such as Dinah Washington and Mahalia Jackson in addition to inheriting a strong commitment to social justice. She was to support progressive politics throughout her career.
For people stuck in political struggles for equality and respect, Franklin’s voice came to articulate the collective emotion, frustration, strength and depth of their experiences. Her voice rang out at historical political milestones – at the 1968 Democratic party convention in Chicago that shortly followed the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr and Robert F Kennedy, and at the inauguration of the first African American president Barack Obama in 2009. She also performed at pre-inauguration concerts for Democratic party presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
Inspired to follow in the footsteps of Sam Cooke, Franklin began her solo singing career in 1960 performing on the gospel circuit and signing a record deal with Columbia Records. Her first secular albums in the early 1960s blended R&B styles with pop and jazz and achieved only modest success. It wasn’t until her move to Atlantic records and a deliberate return to gospel music stylings in 1967 that Franklin made her commercial breakthrough.
Recording at FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, working in partnership with Atlantic co-owner and producer Jerry Wexler and the legendary Muscle Shoals rhythm section, Franklin’s debut for Atlantic, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, was certified gold in the same year of its release. Her work with Wexler at Muscle Shoals during this period spawned many well-known hits such as Chain of Fools, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, Respect, and I Say A Little Prayer.
While she recorded and performed her own compositions from time to time (hit 1968 single and feminist anthem Think is an original song of hers), Franklin earned a great part of her fame as a unique interpreter of other people’s songs. Through gospel-influenced musical rearrangement, and her striking changes to melodic content, she effectively re-authored material written by others, asserting a sense of creative ownership through spirited and dynamic vocal performance.
Franklin often altered the context of the existing lyric through her inflection and emphasis or by introducing call and answer interplay with her background singers. These voices of sisterly support were often provided by her very own siblings, Erma and Carolyn Franklin or The Sweet Inspirations (a girl group founded by Cissy Houston and Lee Warwick, the mothers of Whitney and Dionne). Using these techniques, as she did with Respect, lyrics could be repositioned to reflect the black female perspective. Another later example of this can be found in her interpretation of the Rolling Stones’ Jumpin’ Jack Flash in 1986, which was used as the theme tune for the Whoopi Goldberg film of the same name.
Music culture owes Franklin a debt for bringing ecstatic pentecostal fervour to popular music, pushing the expressive boundaries of the contemporary singing voice. She was one of the first true great divas of soul (alongside Diana Ross) – fusing gospel and African American spiritual music traditions with the blues, pop and R&B to create the template of vocal expressiveness and authenticity that artists aspire to still. In doing so she set the stage for the technical virtuosity of Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey.
A fierce musical talent not only in sensitive and dynamic vocal interpretation but also as a skilled pianist and arranger, Franklin demanded respect from us. And because of her many great artistic and cultural achievements, it will forever be given.
How Virtual Reality is giving the world’s roller coasters a new twist
August 15, 2018
Post-doctoral Researcher in Software Engineering Applications for Business Digitalisation at the Department of Business Management, University of Johannesburg
Candice Louw does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University of Johannesburg provides funding as a partner of The Conversation AFRICA.
Roller coasters have been a popular attraction at theme and amusement parks around the world for more than a century. Whether it’s at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida, in the US or the now-defunct Ratanga Junction in Cape Town, South Africa, these behemoths have a way of drawing the crowds.
Research conducted in 2016 suggests that this trend won’t change any time soon: the most desired attraction, for the majority of amusement and theme parks across the globe, was a steel roller coaster. This indicates that roller coasters are a large contributor to the success of the amusement industry as a global tourism export.
Now the digital era has introduced a new spin on roller coasters: incorporating Virtual Reality (VR) into the experience. This marries the real and the virtual. While guests are fastened to their seats and ride the actual roller coaster, they are provided with a VR headset that introduces an alternate reality: you’re underwater, or even in outer space.
The world’s first VR enhanced roller coaster was introduced in Europe at Europa-Park in Germany in 2015. It was overlaid on an existing steel roller coaster.
But does this new technology pose a threat to the future demand and existence of steel roller coasters? That’s the question my colleague and I posed – and answered – in our research.
We analysed the effect that VR enhanced roller coasters have had on the pioneers of the movement, the European steel roller coaster industry. Since the introduction of the first VR enhanced roller coaster in 2015, more than 30% of European manufacturers have made VR additions to one or more of their operational roller coasters.
Our findings suggest that if this trend continues, it’ll soon become the norm to enjoy a new VR spin on an old roller coaster favourite. And theme parks will still be drawing in the crowds.
Rethinking roller coasters
We conducted our research at the 2017 edition of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions’ annual conference and trade show in Orlando, Florida. It draws professionals from the leisure and attractions industry, like operators, investors and developers, from all over the world.
There were 104 European exhibitors across all areas of amusement; we focused on the 23 who specialised in manufacturing steel roller coasters. Using the conference’s exhibitor information booklet and cross-referencing entries with the online Roller Coaster Data Base, we found that at the end of 2017, 8 European manufacturers have already had VR additions made to at least one of their operational roller coasters.
Most of these VR overlays have been designed by external companies. Manufacturers are arguably missing out on an opportunity to expand their own product offerings. But this may soon change. One roller coaster manufacturer, Zamperla, launched its own internal technology division “Z+” at the conference and will generate its own VR overlays and experiences.
This may prove to be a viable alternative strategy for European manufacturers that would like to incorporate VR offerings with their own roller coasters. It’s also a good way to expand companies’ existing product ranges without the extra cost of external providers.
What the future holds
It’s clear from our research that steel roller coasters remain hugely popular. But VR is becoming an increasingly important addition to the industry.
It could also help to revitalise traditional steel roller coasters that are getting older or generating less interest and revenue. For instance, Ratanga Junction’s inverted steel roller coaster the Cobra might have been given new life by a VR experience overlay. Instead, it has been dismantled and the park closed down because it was an “unprofitable facility”.
Meanwhile, roller coasters that have been enhanced with VR, like Kraken Unleashed at SeaWorld and Galactica at Alton Towers, stand to benefit from the attention their new features generate.
Our research suggests that VR should be viewed as a complementary asset to steel roller coaster infrastructure and product offerings, rather than a threat.
The real promise of LSD, MDMA and mushrooms for medical science
August 15, 2018
Professor and Canada Research Chair in the History of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan
Erika Dyck receives funding from Social Sciences and Humanities Council (Canada).
University of Saskatchewan
University of Saskatchewan provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation CA.
Psychedelic science is making a comeback.
Scientific publications, therapeutic breakthroughs and cultural endorsements suggest that the historical reputation of psychedelics — such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), mescaline (from the peyote cactus) and psilocybin (mushrooms) — as dangerous or inherently risky have unfairly overshadowed a more optimistic interpretation.
Recent publications, like Michael Pollan’s How to Change your Mind, showcase the creative and potentially therapeutic benefits that psychedelics have to offer — for mental health challenges like depression and addiction, in palliative care settings and for personal development.
Major scientific journals have published articles showing evidence-based reasons for supporting research in psychedelic studies. These include evidence that pscilocybin significantly reduces anxiety in patients with life-threatening illnesses like cancer, that MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetaminecan; also known as ecstasy) improves outcomes for people suffering from PTSD and that psychedelics can produce sustained feelings of openness that are both therapeutic and personally enriching.
Other researchers are investigating the traditional uses of plant medicines, such as ayahuasca, and exploring the neurological and psychotherapeutic benefits of combining Indigenous knowledge with modern medicine.
I am a medical historian, exploring why we now think that psychedelics may have a valuable role to play in human psychology, and why over 50 years ago, during the heyday of psychedelic research, we rejected that hypothesis. What has changed? What did we miss before? Is this merely a flashback?
Healing trauma, anxiety, depression
In 1957, the word psychedelic officially entered the English lexicon, introduced by British-trained and Canadian-based psychiatrist Humphry Osmond.
Osmond studied mescaline from the peyote cactus, synthesized by German scientists in the 1930s, and LSD, a laboratory-produced substance created by Albert Hofmann at Sandoz in Switzerland. During the 1950s and into the 1960s, more than 1,000 scientific articles appeared as researchers around the world interrogated the potential of these psychedelics for healing addictions and trauma.
But, by the end of the 1960s, most legitimate psychedelic research ground to a halt. Some of the research had been deemed unethical, namely mind-control experiments conducted under the auspices of the CIA. Other researchers had been discredited for either unethical or self-aggrandizing use of psychedelics, or both.
Timothy Leary was perhaps the most notorious character in that regard. Having been dismissed from Harvard University, he launched a recreational career as a self-appointed apostle of psychedelic living.
Drug regulators struggled to balance a desire for scientific research with a growing appetite for recreational use, and some argued abuse, of psychedelics.
In the popular media, these drugs came to symbolize hedonism and violence. In the United States, the government sponsored films aimed at scaring viewers about the long-term and even deadly consequences of taking LSD. Scientists were hard-pressed to maintain their credibility as popular attitudes began to shift.
Now that interpretation is beginning to change.
A psychedelics revival
In 2009, Britain’s chief drug adviser, David Nutt, reported that psychedelic drugs had been unfairly prohibited. He argued that substances such as alcohol and tobacco were in fact much more dangerous to consumers than drugs like LSD, ecstasy (MDMA) and mushrooms (psilocybin).
He was fired from his advisory position as a result, but his published claims helped to reopen debates on the use and abuse of psychedelics, both in scientific and policy circles.
And Nutt was not alone. Several well-established researchers began joining the chorus of support for new regulations allowing researchers to explore and reinterpret the neuroscience behind psychedelics. Studies ranged from those looking at the mechanisms of drug reactions to those revisiting the role of psychedelics in psychotherapy.
In 2017, Oakland, Calif., hosted the largest gathering to date of psychedelic scientists and researchers. Boasting attendance of more than 3,000 participants, Psychedelic Science 2017 brought together researchers and practitioners with a diverse set of interests in reviving psychedelics — from filmmakers to neuroscientists, journalists, psychiatrists, artists, policy advisers, comedians, historians, anthropologists, Indigenous healers and patients.
The conference was co-hosted by the leading organizations dedicated to psychedelics — including the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and The Beckley Foundation — and participants were exposed to cutting-edge research.
Measuring reaction, not experience
As a historian, however, I am trained to be cynical about trends that claim to be new or innovative. We learn that often we culturally tend to forget the past, or ignore the parts of the past that seem beyond our borders.
For that reason, I am particularly interested in understanding the so-called psychedelic renaissance and what makes it different from the psychedelic heyday of the 1950s and 1960s.
The historic trials were conducted at the very early stages of the pharmacological revolution, which ushered in new methods for evaluating efficacy and safety, culminating in the randomized controlled trial (RCT). Prior to standardizing that approach, however, most pharmacological experiments relied on case reports and data accumulation that did not necessarily involve blinded or comparative techniques.
Historically, scientists were keen to separate pharmacological substances from their organic cultural, spiritual and healing contexts — the RCT is a classic representation of our attempts to measure reaction rather than to interpret experience. Isolating the drug from an associated ritual might have more readily conveyed an image of progress, or a more genuine scientific approach.
Today, however, psychedelic investigators are beginning to question the decision to excise the drug from its Indigenous or ritualized practices.
Over the past 60 years, we have invested more in psychopharmacological research than ever before. American economists estimate the amount of money spent on psychopharmacology research to be in the billions annually.
Rethinking the scientific method
Modern science has focused attention on data accrual — measuring reactions, identifying neural networks and discovering neuro-chemical pathways. It has moved decidedly away from larger philosophical questions of how we think, or what is human consciousness or how human thoughts are evolving.
Some of those questions inspired the earlier generation of researchers to embark on psychedelic studies in the first place.
We may now have more sophisticated tools for advancing the science of psychedelics. But psychedelics have always inspired harmony between brain and behaviour, individuals and their environments, and an appreciation for western and non-western traditions mutually informing the human experience.
In other words, scientific pursuits need to be coupled with a humanist tradition — to highlight not just how psychedelics work, but why that matters.