GOP Tries to Keep Abortion Rights Off the Ballot & The Divorce Rate for Couples Over 65 Has Tripled!
65,000 Pregnant Rape Victims Can't Get Abortions in Their State, Iowa Wants to Force Children to Sing National Anthem Daily, Lea Salonga Sings “Someone to Watch Over Me"
What I’m Discussing Today:
Kareem’s Daily Quote: I solve the riddle of the sound of one hand clapping.
Nearly 65,000 US rape victims could not get an abortion in their state: This is what happens when the wicked and the self-righteous are the same.
Republican legislatures in some states are trying to keep abortion off the ballot: Why does the GOP fear democracy so much? They want to force children to pledge allegiance and sing the national anthem, but not let their parents vote.
'Gray divorce' rates have doubled. But it's a costly move, especially for women: Divorce rates for those over 65 have tripled. Why are Boomers giving up on marriage?
An Iowa bill would make students sing the national anthem every day: “O say can you see…?” Yeah, but I don’t like what I’m seeing.
Kareem’s Video Break: A baby gets a hearing aid and hears his mother’s voice for the first time. Be prepared to witness pure joy.
Lea Salonga Sings “Someone to Watch Over Me”: This Gershwin jazz classic has been recorded over 1,800 times. But this time is special.
Kareem’s Daily Quote
We know the sound of two hands clapping. But what is the sound of one hand clapping?
A Zen Kōan
I first read this quote in J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories when I was a teenager. Back then, I took it as more of an amusing curiosity than a serious philosophical question. I thought of it as mystical wordplay, like the riddle of the Sphinx. Over the next few years, I occasionally thought about it but without digging too deep. When I attended UCLA, I became a student of Bruce Lee, who was a dedicated reader of various philosophies, especially Eastern thought. He exposed me more seriously to the Zen Buddhist kōan, a short statement, anecdote, or question that is meant to stimulate enlightenment. The goal isn’t to think about the meaning as much as to have the kōan inspire a sudden insight. Like a defibrillator cranked up to maximum and jammed into your soul, shocking you into an enlightened consciousness.
Unfortunately for me, I’m a ponderer. I like to think about things for a long time, sometimes for years. This approach is the opposite of Zen Buddhism, but I find it brings me, if not enlightenment, immense pleasure. It’s a spiritual sudoku. And so, over the years I have returned to “We know the sound of two hands clapping. But what is the sound of one hand clapping?” in my decidedly Western Sherlock Holmesian riddle-solving approach.
The key for me is the first sentence, which sets us up to picture two hands clapping. The trap is that we then focus on the mechanics of the one hand clapping, flapping our fingers against our palm. Instead, we should think about why hands clap in the first place. Sometimes it’s to get someone’s attention, sometimes it’s a spontaneous expression of joy, sometimes to turn lamps on and off (mostly in sitcoms). But usually, it’s to express approval over someone else’s performance. So, the sound of two hands clapping isn’t just that of flesh slapping together, it’s the sound of humans expressing appreciation and encouragement to each other.
There’s a poem by Richard Wilbur called “The Juggler” in which the narrator describes a juggler who whips into a frenzy by adoring his audience with amazing feats of juggling. They are especially affected at the end when he juggles a chair, a broom, and a table because those are the symbols of the daily weight that each person in the audience carries. When he finishes, the audience applauds wildly because his performance has temporarily lifted that heavy burden from them. The poem ends with:
For him we batter our hands
Who has won for once over the world's weight.
The sound of two hands clapping is the sound of a person being elevated into a joyful state by art because they are reminded of their connection to all other people facing the same struggles. The sound of one hand clapping is the silence of suppressed joy and appreciation. It is the person who feels delight in another person but is unable to express that out of fear of embarrassment or some other repressed reason. The one hand is raised in desire to participate, now thwarted by a lack of courage. This reluctance to express one’s feelings to another human being is isolating—it is the deafening, unbearable sound of silence.
A few years ago, I had a mini-epiphany that I wanted to make a greater effort to tell people whose work has moved or delighted me how much I appreciate them, even if it makes me sound like a silly fan. Mostly, I’ve done this right here in my Substack newsletter when I recommend a show, movie, song, or book. Sometimes, I hear back from the artists and it brings me great joy that I clapped loudly with both hands for them.
My overthinking may not bring me enlightenment, but it has brought me the joy of a deeper connection with humanity.
Nearly 65,000 US rape victims could not get an abortion in their state, analysis shows (The Guardian)
SUMMARY: Nearly 65,000 rape-related pregnancies likely occurred in the 14 US states with near-total abortion bans following the US supreme court’s 2022 Dobbs decision – yet just 10 legal abortions are performed monthly on average in these states, researchers found in a new analysis.
The data demonstrates that abortion bans likely make it impossible for most victims of rape to obtain abortions in their home states, even for the minority of people who live in states with exemptions for rape, researchers said.
The figures come as rape exemptions have fallen out of favor among anti-abortion activists and politicians, despite the fact that most Americans, including Republicans, believe that victims of assault should have access to abortion, and that most Americans believe abortion is “morally acceptable”.
…The estimate found that the overwhelming majority of rape-related pregnancies, 58,979, likely occurred in states without exceptions to their abortion ban. Texas alone accounted for as much as 45% of that number (26,313) because of its large population and total ban without exceptions.
MY TAKE: Anti-abortionists often discuss women who get pregnant from rape as being some statistical anomaly, like two-headed sheep or toast burnt to look like Jesus. But 65,000 in just 14 states is staggering. And that’s only a small portion of the larger picture:
A CDC study from 2018 estimates that 2.9 million women in the U.S. have had a rape-related pregnancy in their lifetime.
Adding to the horror: In 2020, 1,765 girls aged 10-14 gave birth.
What makes these statistics even more impactful is that only 21% of rapes and sexual assaults are reported to police.
Every 68 seconds another American is sexually assaulted. 1 out of every 6 American women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.
In 2019, over 652,676 women were raped. For the last decade, rapes have increased at an annual rate of 2.9%.
Even in those hard-line states that allow for abortions in cases of pregnancies that resulted from rape, the bureaucracy is so daunting that it’s extremely difficult to be given an exception. Women are then forced to leave the state for an abortion. That’s okay for those with money, but it’s an unbearable hardship for the poor.
What makes the situation even worse is that among wealthy nations, the U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate. Instead of decreasing deaths of women giving birth like in Poland, Greece, and Finland, the rate in the U.S. has doubled over the last 20 years. Not surprisingly, Black women die at the highest rate.
When a woman gets pregnant—whether by choice or not—she faces the very real possibility of death. Which makes having the government deny women the right to choose so insidious. They are forcing women to risk their lives against their will. This is a clear and emphatic statement that they find women more disposable than men. At the core, their arguments are based on sentiments instead of science, on religion rather than reason. On cruelty rather than compassion.
One more statistic for those shouting about the joys of adoption: In 2021, about 113,589 in the U.S. were waiting to be adopted. Three years later, most are still waiting—plus those new kids who have joined them.
This is what happens when the wicked and the self-righteous are one and the same.
SUMMARY: Legislative efforts in Missouri and Mississippi are attempting to prevent voters from having a say over abortion rights, building on anti-abortion strategies seen in other states, including last year in Ohio.
Democrats and abortion rights advocates say the efforts are evidence that Republican lawmakers and abortion opponents are trying to undercut democratic processes meant to give voters a direct role in forming state laws.
“They’re scared of the people and their voices, so their response is to prevent their voices from being heard,” said Laurie Bertram Roberts, executive director of Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund. “There’s nothing democratic about that, and it’s the same blueprint we’ve seen in Ohio and all these other states, again and again.”
MY TAKE: Coach Wooden and I didn’t see eye to eye on certain social and political issues, but the reason we were such close friends for over 50 years is that I knew he would always make the moral choice, even if it cost him professionally. He was a role model to me not because he was a good coach but because he was a good man. I think of him sometimes when I see how many GOP politicians behave with a complete lack of ethics. They are either too greedy for power to care what the consequences of their actions will have on others, or they are too unintelligent to recognize how they are collectively destroying American democracy.
Even if I were a Republican, seeing politicians conspiring to keep the people from voting on issues that deeply affect them would make me not vote for them. This country is founded on the principle of robust debate about an issue and then voting on it, letting the will of the people prevail. The GOP philosophy seems to be that they can’t make a convincing case to persuade their constituents so they’ll make sure the people don’t have any say. If they can’t win with facts, they’ll cheat. That’s what the politicians engaged in this plan are teaching their children.
Lincoln warned us about the danger to democracy from within: “From whence shall we expect the approach of danger? Shall some trans-Atlantic military giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe and Asia...could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. No, if destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we will live forever or die by suicide.”
Why does the GOP fear democracy so much? They want to force children to pledge allegiance to the flag and sing the national anthem, but not let their parents vote. Do they not see the hypocrisy? Do they not understand why we fought the Revolutionary War? Do they not have any moral compass? I guess we already know the answers to those questions.
Kareem’s Video Break
I’m always looking for videos that amaze or delight, and this one is pure delight. The baby gets a hearing aid and can hear his mother’s voice for the first time. His joy is infectious.
If you enjoy this newsletter, share it with someone else.
SUMMARY: The divorce rate has doubled since 1990 for Americans over 55. For couples over 65, the rate has tripled.
And in financial terms, few “gray divorcees” are better off.
Gray divorce has surged in recent decades, federal data shows, even as the divorce rate for younger Americans has declined.
“One in 10 people getting divorced today is 65 or older. That is remarkable,” said Susan Brown, distinguished professor of sociology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. “A growing share of aging adults will be aging alone.”
Several demographic factors shaped the gray divorce phenomenon, researchers say: The American population is aging. People are staying healthy longer. Couples are marrying later.
In dollar terms, divorce is costly to anyone. Yet, for older Americans, the costs are steeper.
“I haven’t seen a scenario in which either partner is better off financially,” said Elizabeth Windisch, a certified financial planner in Denver.
A man can expect his standard of living to decline by 21% after a gray divorce, according to research by Brown and her colleagues. A woman’s standard of living will plunge by 45%. Both partners see their wealth decline by half.
MY TAKE: The first two articles in today’s newsletter made me angry, but this one makes me sad.
Couples should not stay together when they are unhappy. But I would hope that people would discover their incompatibility sooner in their marriage rather than later. By sooner, I mean before the age of 65. It’s one thing if it was merely a matter of couples who are financially stable splitting their assets and going on their merry way, but these statistics indicate that each person in a “gray divorce” is worse off financially, not to mention emotionally.
This phenomenon is unique to the Baby Boomers. The divorce rate among those under 50 has been decreasing, while divorce among those over 65 has tripled. Experts say that subsequent generations will probably have much lower rates of divorce. Boomers married younger than later generations, which means that a substantial number also divorced and remarried. Remarriages are 2.5 times more likely to end than first marriages.
One sobering and disappointing fact is that several studies have shown that the risk of divorce is higher when the wife develops a disability or chronic illness, but not when the husband does. Not a good look for men.
Why Baby Boomers particularly? We grew up in a time when divorce was more acceptable than in previous generations. We also grew up in a time that encouraged individual pursuits and not being defined by our significant other. Marriage was less a sacrament than a hope-for-the-best situation. One of the reasons I feel saddened by this statistic is that Boomers had such a grand vision for the future society they would help to create. The blueprint was right there in the lyrics to “Aquarius” from the musical Hair:
Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind's true liberation, Aquarius
I guess those golden living dreams of visions didn’t include, for some, their golden years.
SUMMARY: When it came time for her closing comments at Wednesday's Iowa House subcommittee meeting, Rep. Sue Cahill stood — and began singing the national anthem.
"O say can you see, by the dawn's early light," she began to sing as her colleagues stood and sang with her.
Cahill and her colleagues were discussing House Study Bill 587, which would require all teachers and students at Iowa schools to sing at least one verse of the national anthem every day. The two Republicans on the subcommittee voted to advance the bill.
Cahill, a Democrat, did not.
MY TAKE: Cahill sang a verse to her colleagues, not to promote the bill, but to remind them what the song symbolizes: A country that doesn’t need to indoctrinate its children with forced flag pledges and anthem singing. The way a country garners the loyalty of its citizens is to do the right thing for the right reasons. A child can’t be forced to respect their parent—only to pretend to respect them. No one respects the suppression of freedom.
States like Florida have attempted to bully students into admiring their country by editing history to cut out our mistakes. Any child with the slightest intelligence will end up resenting those who lied about their history because they didn’t have the strength or character to admit their mistakes. Nor the wisdom to learn from them.
On its most basic level, patriotism is merely about survival. We live in a place and must defend others from taking what’s ours. At its best, patriotism is a love for one’s country for embodying the best attributes of humanity rather than its worst.
The irony is that, while the right encourages implanting patriotism like a computer chip, they are busy dismantling what we’re supposed to be patriotic about: equal opportunity, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of choice. They march toward the White House carrying on their subservient shoulders a known rapist, fraudster, liar, and racist. All while singing the national anthem.
“O say can you see…?” Yeah, we see all right.
Lea Salonga: “Someone to Watch Over Me”
You may not be familiar with her name, but you probably have heard Lea Salonga sing. She was the voice of Jasmine in Disney’s animated Aladdin as well as Mulan in the 1998 animated version. She also has numerous acting awards for her work in musical theater. In 2022, Time magazine’s TIME 100 Impact Awards recognized Filipino Salonga as a “life-long role model for children of color.”
Written in 1926 by George and Ira Gershwin, “Someone to Watch Over Me” is a favorite jazz standard made popular by numerous singers including Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Linda Ronstadt, including many others. At least 1,800 recordings of the song have been made. For me, if you can sing this song with the longing and passion it requires, then you can sing anything. Salonga does just that.