March 24, 2013

That Nurture Thing
Photo of Sprigg

Peter Sprigg doesn’t believe that same-sex marriage is as good for children as a heterosexual marriage. To him the biological trumps everything.

As I walked home from work the other day I listened to NPR’s All Things Considered. This is my “me” time.

Gay marriage is a trending topic these days and that day the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) had just endorsed same-sex marriage. The data, over sixty studies, showed no difference in the well-being of children raised by gay and lesbian couples than of children of heterosexual couples. You would think the studies, covering a wide breath of childhood metrics from emotional well-being to academic achievement, would prove the point nicely. But, of course, not to everyone.

As part of NPR’s “balanced” approach to reporting, commentator Alix Spiegel interviewed, not only a pediatrician who helped craft the Academy’s review, but Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at the conservative Christian public policy organization, the Family Research Council. He reviewed the same studies but came to a very different conclusion. Here is the transcript of his interview (emphasis mine):

PETER SPRIGG: I think it reflects more political correctness than it does any actual findings of the research in terms of the well-being of children.

ALIX SPIEGEL: Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at the conservative Christian public policy organization, the Family Research Council, says he has reviewed much of the same research, but not surprisingly has come to a very different conclusion. Sprigg says that the AAP is right that marriage is advantageous, but wrong about the cause of that advantage.

SPRIGG: The demonstrable benefits of being raised by married parents relate in large part to the benefits of being bonded to the mother and father whose union created you, who gave you life.

SPIEGEL: In other words, the advantage comes from the biological bond between the two parents and their child.

SPRIGG: And so it’s not valid to assume that homosexual couples who are allowed to legally marry would be able to transmit the same benefits to their children.

SPIEGEL: The AAP, though, isn’t alone in asserting that the children of gay parents seem to fare just as well as the children of heterosexual parents. In 2005, the American Psychological Association reviewed the research and came to the same conclusion.

If the biological bond is so critical to the well-being of children, Mr. Sprigg, why are my adopted girls so well-adjusted, good students, and critical thinkers? And I’m in a “traditional” marriage. Nature can be important, but love is pure nurture. And you don’t have to be straight to experience that!

Mr. Sprigg, you’re more than misguided. Your religious beliefs have blinded you to the facts. And my family and the families of my gay and lesbian friends and relatives are the facts.

Related: Read or listen to the entire story on NPR.

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March 7, 2013

Just a Little Comfort Food is All I Need

The woman in the next aisle had eaten her hamentashen before she got to the cashier!

I live in both a very Jewish and a very Latino suburb of DC. It’s an interesting mix: wonderful ethnic restaurants and a multicultural place for my multicultural family.

Last night I paid an inaugural visit to our new kosher supermarket. It recently opened in a space previously inhabited by one of the grocery chains. I’ve been a bit outta sorts of late (nothing major) but suddenly I felt right at home. Now, I’m not a religious Jew. Not even close (okay, except for my obligatory attendance at Kol Nidre services every Yom Kipper—I like to hedge my bets). But, I find there’s something deeply comforting about being around other Jews. I really can’t explain it. It’s not like I attend synagogue. And I certainly don’t agree with orthodoxy or blind support for Israel. But seeing men walking to schul with their wide-brimmed fur hats and Orthodox women, hair covered and pushing a stroller, all set for Shabbat, is simply comforting. I was surprised. But the feeling came from down deep.

The fruit and veggie guy was restocking (and wearing a yarmelke). I noticed that the plastic bags for your vegetables were the same horrible ones the last market had. They are simply impossible to open. I had mentioned this to the prior big chain manager with no success. So, of course, I approached this new guy. Why not? It was a new regime. He immediately said “I KNOW! They’re horrible. I hate them too. We are getting new ones.” Ahh, so comforting. There’s nothing like a Jew agreeing with another Jew. (Of course, there’s also nothing like a Jew disagreeing with another Jew too, but more on that in a minute.)

I had a short list of things to get. The place looks virtually the same as it did when it was a regular grocery store. But as I went up and down the aisles I noticed a few things were different. Where was my Progresso Soup?? And when I went to get cat food, there was a miniscule selection of Bella’s preferred brand.

Just then another clerk walked by asking if I needed help. “Yes,” I said. “I think you need a greater selection of Fancy Feast.” “No problem,” he said. Feeling very good, I went on: “And where’s my Progresso Soup?” He grimaced and said “Sorry, it’s not kosher.” Ah, I remembered. I’m in a kosher grocery store. The store looked so “normal” I’d forgotten. “So, is Fancy Feast cat food kosher?” “Cat and dog food doesn’t have to be kosher,” he replied. Oh. This Jew learns something new every day.

Now, there’s a gray side to my Jewish connection: it’s the religious side. While there’s room for contemporary thought within the religion as a whole, the Orthodox have a narrower range of acceptance. Those Orthodox women I mentioned above? They are sequestered in separate sections of the synagogue. And then there are the “Ultra Orthodox.” Last year religious extremists attacked Jewish women who were thought to be dressing immodestly.

A crowd of ultra-Orthodox men jumped on 27-year-old Natali Mashiah’s car in the Haredi Ramat Beit Shemet Bet neighborhood, she said. Members of the crowd smashed her car windows and punctured her four tires before spilling bleach on the inside of her car, said the Beit Shemesh resident, adding that she believed the men were going to set her on fire. As she fled the car, she said she was hit on the head by a rock thrown from very close range.


In the land of orthodoxy, men are the rulers. So it is written.

Just this week, New York Times Op-Ed columnist, David Brooks, also took a look into a local kosher market in Brooklyn. The Orthodox, Brooks writes, seem, on the surface, quite modern as they place their groceries into their minivans. However, he says, they represent a counterculture. My decision to be a secular Jew, to mix and match parts of my culture and religion, is a choice I’ve made. To the Orthodox “obligations precede choices.”

As I was checking out I was thinking about this as I loaded my groceries onto the belt. An elderly woman in the next checkout line was saying to the cashier, “I bought three hamentaschen but they were so good I ate them all.” Her words and intonation: so, so, comforting. “Bubbe? Grandma?” As I reached for one of those rubber dividers used to separate your groceries from the next person’s in line, I read the ad printed on it: “Why don’t you have gefilte fish for supper tonight?” Suddenly, I was in my bubbe’s house. It felt good to be Jewish. And that was a choice I happily embraced.

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September 9, 2012

Taking the Message to the Public
Chamomile Tea Party Poster in the DC Metro

The Chamomile Tea Party’s First Ad in Washington, DC’s Metro (click image for larger view)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on Life Outtacontext. But I’ve been busy.

With the upcoming election, there is more food for fodder than ever for my Chamomile Tea Party posters (and I have some new ones, so take a look). While I have my personal political beliefs, it’s interesting to step back and dissect this year’s political process. If you’re disgusted or scratching your head, you might want to take a look at an article in today’s Washington Post which sheds some light on why this (or any other) campaign is so negative.

I’ve been making these posters for just over two years. And while I’ve had some success in getting them out into the world (seen at rallies, and written about, I wanted to find another way of bringing the issues the “Party” stands for to the public.

So I thought BIG. I bought ad space in Washington, DC’s Metro, at one of the busiest stops in the system, Gallery Place. And the first of two ads went up this week.

If you’re in DC or know someone who is coming the Nation’s Capital, tell them they can find the poster on the Red Line platform at Gallery Place. And, feel free to pass this on to your friends, even if they aren’t nearby. They can stay in touch by “Liking” the Chamomile Tea Party on Facebook.

And, one more thing: from the beginning, I’ve given digital copies of my posters away for free. I want people to use them. But I’ve also had many ask if hardcopies are for sale. Well, now they are. If you feel so inclined, peruse the Chamomile Tea Party shop. They’re inexpensive and make great gifts!

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