The Imaginary, Destructive Power of Social Media

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It’s very easy these days to say that social media is toxic. People act in ways they’d never do in real life, because it isn’t real life. They act like feral wolves, because they can. The Twitter police don’t carry guns, and their badges are imaginary.

In fact, social media is one big imaginary world, and we’re all way too wrapped up in things that don’t matter – the opinions expressed by strangers in public.

Last week, Jon Gruden’s life exploded because of some private email exchanges that he had between 2011 and 2018 with a colleague. The emails included comments that were objectively racist, sexist and homophobic, and it’s hard to figure out how to defend them. You really can’t. Gruden doesn’t.

But they were private conversations between two men, and they became public because of a wholly separate investigation into another individual suspected of wrongdoing. Gruden, who was not the target of that investigation, became the victim of what we’ve all seen over the past few years, something I call the Twitch Hunt. When the private comments became public, Gruden was essentially turned into a non-person. Matt Taibbi had a great column where he described Gruden as becoming increasingly invisible, like a ghost evaporating into the fetid air. Gone, done, cancelled. He wrote:

“Throwing the door open, I could still see him for a second in outline, like Wonder Woman’s Superfriends plane, crouching in my shirt-rack. Then, in a flash, he was gone. The shirts fell back into place. All that was left was a voice.

“Is this forever?”

“I’d put your over-under at nine years.”

“Jesus.”

I have friends who were canceled because someone believed that they’d overstepped some social boundaries, boundaries that are now delineated by the tech gods and their acolytes. It’s not that Twitter and Facebook make all of the rules, but they empower those with animus and hostility toward “this” or “that” to crush the inconvenient and non-conforming. Social media creates, and it destroys, because it has such immense power to influence the way we see the world. In doing so, it effectively changes that world.

You can no longer use certain words, because the Twitter armies will hunt you down and take your soul hostage if you do. You can’t express certain dissonant views about vaccines and masks, or the Facebook Stasi will sniff you out and tag your posts with disclaimers, the social media equivalent of being placed in the public stocks.

And if you dared to use racist, sexist or homophobic language with a friend in the privacy of your email (which of course was never private) you will be sentenced by the Star Chamber years after you transgressed. The sentence will be social oblivion.

I was canceled by a newspaper because the Twitter mobs forced the powers that be to silence me. So be it, I found another place, another bully pulpit, another microphone where more than one voice is permitted to speak. But others are not so fortunate. And many, many others who don’t have the money and the resources of a guy like Jon Gruden have not only been disappeared like a victim of some South American junta. They have been destroyed.

It’s all so ephemeral, and yet deadly. A person who we will never meet, and who made some bad comments to someone else we will never meet, is neutralized. None of it touches us, but we’re supposed to care.

Meanwhile, real life is happening, and we’re too busy looking at our phones to notice. But at least we can mark ourselves “Safe from Jon Gruden.”

Copyright 2021 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected]

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We Stand on the Shoulders of Others

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I was watching TV the other night, and one of those ubiquitous campaign ads popped up. This time, it was a female candidate for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, discussing all of her accomplishments.

Other than the fact that it was refreshingly positive and didn’t engage in any vitriol there was nothing particularly notable about the ad. But something stuck with me, something that others might consider completely innocuous but that has been bothering me for years.

The candidate noted that she was “the first in her family to go to college.” Many people have used that in the past, the whole American Dream story about children doing better than their parents, who did better than their own parents. It’s a classic narrative of upward mobility, and who can blame someone who has struggled for being proud of their accomplishments?

But as the child of the “first college graduate” in his family, and someone who, herself, has two degrees which were paid for through trust funds, student loans and a few annoying summer jobs, I am starting to realize that there is something really wrong with measuring ourselves by our level of education.

My grandmother Mamie left school in the third grade because her mother and father needed her to earn a paycheck. She worked in a cigar rolling factory, in a candy factory, in restaurants, in stores, in any place that didn’t care about child labor laws. That covers pretty much every industry in the early 1900s.

My grandfather Mike was a trashman and spent the best part of his youth and adulthood driving through the streets of Philadelphia, gathering up other people’s refuse.

My mother Lucy ended her academic career with a diploma from West Catholic Girls in 1956, and then went to work. She handed over every paycheck, unopened, to her parents. It never occurred to her to go to college, because that high school diploma was already more than Mike and Mamie could have hoped for her.

My father Ted worked his way through school, didn’t get a penny from his own parents, gratefully accepted the love and financial assistance from his girlfriend-fiancee-wife Lucy, and ended up on Temple Law Review. And the rest is history.

I write these things to point out that getting a college degree is only a measure of someone’s value if they did it by themselves, without having stood on the shoulders of beloved people. My father would have been the first to tell you that he was only able to do what he did because of my mother. My mother would have been the first to tell you that she was only able to wear her own cap and gown because Mamie rubbed her knuckles until they bled, washing someone else’s clothes. She was only able to do it because Mike lived among the steaming discards of strangers.

There is nothing wrong with that judge being proud of her accomplishment as the “first college graduate in the family,” as long as it is mentioned with humility and generosity of spirit and not as some attempt to separate herself from her origins. As someone who was blessed with the ability to spend 20 years of her life in a classroom on someone else’s dime, I am in no position to undervalue importance of a college education. It is the greatest gift my parents gave me, after life.

But I would never, ever say that I was the “first” in my family to do something (especially since I’m actually the “second”). My father was no longer alive when I got my degree from Bryn Mawr, but Mamie was. The first person I ran to when I got the diploma, the first person whose arms wrapped tightly around me in an embrace that smelled of Jean Nate and powder, was my grandmother. And the first person I thought of at the party afterward, looking at the plates of half-eaten food and empty bottles of soda, was Mike. He would have cleaned up the mess, and not danced in the aisles.

There are reasons that I am able to write at all and reach strangers with these thoughts, and they have nothing to do with my college education. My life is possible only because other people did the hard work, the dirty work, the work that goes unmentioned in campaign ads.

So the next time I hear someone say she was “the first to go to college in my family,” I will wait for her to thank that family for the glory in their life. When I go to sleep tonight, I’ll be thanking my own.

Copyright 2021 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected]

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The Anti-abortion Movement is on the March

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I remember when people were poring over photographs of President Trump’s inaugural back in 2017, trying to disprove his theory that it was the largest crowd in history. Clearly, it wasn’t. It wasn’t even close, which didn’t particularly bother me in the least. I was never one of those ladies who thinks size actually matters.

But I changed my mind after I saw the photos from the recent PA March For Life, which took place last week in Harrisburg, Pa. It was the very first time that Pennsylvanians gathered together to express their support for the voiceless, and it was an overwhelming success. Even I, who’ve attended other pro-life rallies and been disappointed at the turnout, was awestruck by the seemingly endless crowds of people massed together in front of the state Capitol.

This was not a photoshop. This was an actual, palpable measure of the passion on the pro-life side of the divide that separates the humane from the narcissistic, and it clearly had an impact. Almost immediately, the abortion advocate who for the past eight years has masqueraded as governor tweeted out this message:

“Today’s ‘March for Life’ in Harrisburg is just an anti-woman rally by a different name. They want to remove health care options during pregnancy — a time when so many already can’t access life-saving care. I’ve vetoed three anti-choice bills. I’ll veto any others that come to me.”

I re-read that tweet several times, and while it angered me (as pro abortion propaganda always manages to do) I also found myself chuckling at the typical logic of Tom Wolf. He suggests that abortion is a “health care option” during pregnancy. It’s kind of like saying a bender is a “health care option” during rehab. The disconnect is glaring. Abortion terminates pregnancy. Getting smashed ends sobriety.

In neither case would these alternatives be considered “health care options,” unless you’ve got a sadist for a doctor and a masochist for a patient.

The language of the left is unraveling, as well as their narrative that the country supports liberal abortion rights. In fact, they aren’t even content to let the Supreme Court do their dirty work for them anymore.

Fearful of the prospect that a majority of the justices might finally overturn Roe, those in positions of authority have decided to codify the right to an abortion. The same week that Pennsylvanians told their lame-duck governor what he could do with his veto, Democrats in the U.S. House voted overwhelmingly to allow women to have an abortion up to the moment of birth. They call it the “Women’s Health Protection Act.”

I call it dead in the water, because there is no way that they are going to get enough votes in the Senate to turn this sham of a reactionary bill into law. They know that, of course. They don’t care, just as Tom Wolf doesn’t seem to care that a once silent majority of Pennsylvanians think he’s one step removed from Sweeney Todd.

I say “once,” because that display on Monday proved that the anti-abortion movement is growing in strength, influence, and acceptance. The momentum is with us, which is why the other side is ramping up its efforts to make us look like extras from “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

The PA March for Life was not a one-off event, nor was it the last gasp of a movement that swallows the line that most Americans want to keep abortion legal. In fact, a recent Marist Poll found that only 27% of Democrats believed that women should be able to have abortions at any point during the pregnancy. When you’ve lost the Dems, you start rage tweeting.

And yet, the House just passed a bill that would allow women to abort their babies up through the ninth month, if they could prove that their health would be negatively impacted by the birth. That includes “emotional” or “mental” health, which takes the ruling in Roe’s companion case, Doe vs. Bolton, and makes it statute.

Again, that bill won’t make it past the House. It will be like that “lonely old bill” sitting alone (and singing) on Capitol Hill from that School House Rock cartoon in the 1970s. And there’s a pro child majority on the Supreme Court. And the law in Texas is, in fact, the law for the foreseeable future. And Amnesty International is filled with hypocrites. And Tom Wolf is a lame duck. And … science.

This time, you can believe the photos.

Copyright 2021 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected]

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Why I Think Feminism is a Farce

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Whenever I write about abortion, I get a lot of pushback from people who disagree.

I fully admit that I’m an extremist when it comes to whether a child has a right to be born. There is no wiggle room for me, no negotiation, no gray areas. The “rape and incest” exceptions are what my old law professors used to call “red herrings” used to shut down discussion.

I am a conservative, an anti-feminist, a woman of the far right. I was a Republican and I was a Democrat and I was an independent but even through those partisan mutations, my identity remained constant: I hate liberalism. There’s no way to sugar coat it or conjure a Kumbaya moment: At my core, I reject anything that smacks of progressive policy.

The fact that I work with asylum applicants, something that would normally place me in the “enemy” camp for some Republicans and many “seal the border” conservatives, does not change my beliefs that every human life has dignity and should be treated with respect until it no longer deserves that treatment. That’s a conservative position, one that recognizes a tradition that derives from our Founders: We all have an inalienable right to life. We also have the liberty to make mistakes, but the obligation to bear the consequences. As for the pursuit of happiness, I’ll leave that to AOC and the folks at the Met Gala.

Which brings me to the point of this column, several paragraphs in: I despise feminism. You can put that in the “duh” category, I suppose, but I’ve seen an unfortunate trend over the past few years that somehow equates being independent, strong and outspoken with being a feminist. Sadly, some of my fellow conservatives have fallen for the hoax, hook line and stiletto.

Feminism is sold and packaged as the idea that women are as good as men, and that they have an equal place in society. It is presented as a philosophy that empowers females and is used to show how “evolved” we have become, or need to be, in respecting our daughters. It fueled the MeToo movement, caused a run on pink yarn, justified the murder of 48 years worth of babies, and spawned millions of pages of books with titles like “Know Your Worth” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Vagina Monologues” and its sequel “Telling The Vagina To Shut Up.” (Yes, I made that last one up.)

There are even some women who identify as “anti-abortion” but who also define themselves as “pro-life feminists.” Ick and eew. That dishonors those of us who believe that feminism is an exclusionary philosophy with very little to do with empowering women and everything to do with shaming men.

Let me give you a recent example of how mean-spirited self-described feminists can be. Eighties Super Model Linda Evangelista came out last week and admitted that she’d been the victim of botched plastic surgery, which left her “unrecognizable.” She explained that because of the medical procedure, she had essentially become a hermit, hiding from public view.

Instead of being supportive, as “the sisterhood” claims it always is, they made snarky, cruel comments about the fact that she shouldn’t be obsessed about the way that she looks, how ridiculous it was that a woman valued herself based on her looks, and how this played into the hands of the patriarchy.

My first thought when I viewed these comments on social media was that it was quite easy for the women who looked like they did (you could see their profiles in their tweets) to make fun of a woman who made millions based on her beauty. Clearly, they’d never had that problem.

But even more than this, I was reminded of how modern feminism only values a certain form of woman, a certain type of independence, a certain flavor and color and breed of fierce. It brooks no dissent, nor does it accept any request for clarification, as in why did the institutional feminists not respect the accomplishments of Justice Amy Coney Barrett? Or, why did they abandon Monica Lewinsky? Or, why did they simply roll their eyes when Senator Susan Collins got death threats for voting in favor of Justice Brett Kavanaugh?

At a more personal level, why did they call me an obscenity on a national website devoted to “empowering women?”

Those are all rhetorical questions, of course. The truth is fairly simple.

Feminists cannot see beyond the tips of their annoyingly noisy vaginas, and fail to understand that the only organs that truly matter have nothing to do with gender: The fearless heart and the magnificent, independent brain.

Copyright 2021 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected]

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Why We Laugh at the Bubble of ‘White Privilege’

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I think I finally understand what white privilege looks like.

I caught some photos of the Met Gala last week, complete with Whoopi Goldberg dressed in something that can only be described as a giant crocheted toilet roll holder and AOC flaunting her chassis in a form-fitting dress with the words “Tax the Rich” scrawled in blood red on her butt.

The Met Gala is designed to raise money for the eponymous New York City museum, a place where I’ve spent many joyous hours as both a child and adult. I fully support the arts, and the need to protect and promote them in an era where everything has become polarized, pasteurized or petrified. Without them, we are Neanderthals before the cave drawings.

But there is a cognitive disconnect in charging people $35,000.00 per ticket, at a time when people are literally struggling to put food on their tables. It is obscene that the equivalent of a yearly salary would be spent on a dinner, a gift bag stuffed with trinkets and a photo op.

The great irony in all of this is that the person writing this column is a conservative who opposes eviction bans, prolonged unemployment subsidies and COVID lockdowns. She’s someone who believes that those who refuse to return to work until they can be assured that there is less than once scintilla of a percent of possibility that they’ll be infected with the virus never intended to return to work in the first place.

I am not one of the woke, who thinks the free-market system is dangerous because it crushes brown and Black people under its massive weight. None of those things make any sense to me.

And yet you would not see me dead in one of those monstrous confections created to display the whimsical yet deeply caring zeitgeist of the wearer. When you go to a costume party, you are not supposed to take yourself seriously. And yet, that is exactly what AOC did, as she paraded herself through the halls, mask-less from all accounts, like a clueless Disney Princess with a Jackson Pollack painting splashed on her tochus.

AOC gets away with it, even though she’s technically a person of color. Whoopi gets away with it too, even though she’s obviously a person of color. They benefit from the truest form of “white privilege” that exists, namely, the privilege of living in the sterile liberal bubble.

That bubble is as white and sanitized as the space shuttle at lift-off. There are no germs that pierce its inner realms, infecting the happy residents with a dose of reality. The people who live within that bubble, and it is quite large and encompasses actors, journalists, politicians and certain religious folk, are incapable of understanding the rest of us out here in the greater world. They think they know who we are, what we need, how we are violating their standards and what should be done with us if we fail to acknowledge their wisdom. They believe that they can lecture us on climate change and reproductive rights, on clean eating and religious plurality, on which lives matter and which are useless. Their speeches sound good, when spoken back to them by others in that echo chamber.

But the rest of us see who they are and what they stand for, and we laugh. They might not hear us, in that bubble, but the sounds are becoming louder and more constant with each passing day. Inhabitants of the bubble have the whitest of privileges, the right to ignore reality. They have the luxury to care for the proletariat, as long as they themselves are fed, housed, groomed and cosseted. Unlike FDR whose birthright privilege did not prevent him from empathizing with the desperate and the dispossessed, these folks are all appearance. They might look compassionate, but each one has a portrait in their attic crumbling from moral decay.

Every time I hear someone attack me or my conservative friends for our “white privilege,” I chuckle. I’ve heard Larry Elder, Clarence Thomas, Condi Rice, Alveeda King and Candace Owens accused of exercising “white privilege.” I’ve seen Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Alberto Gonzalez, Maria Salazar and Susanna Martinez tagged with “white privilege.” You can, apparently, be brown and Black and yet have a certain color of privilege, according to the left.

But the true color of privilege is the color that defines your world view, one that allows you to preach and prattle on about how we need to take care of the poor, all the while draping yourself in diamonds and disdain and traipsing around for the cameras.

Limousine liberals have always been with us. They just used to dress a lot better.

Copyright 2021 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected]

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When America Follows Its Better Angels

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I recently filling in hosting a local Philadelphia talk show, which gave me the opportunity to interview Lt. Colonel Jonathan P. Meyers, a retired Marine who’d recently written a memoir about his almost three decades in service: “American to the Corps.”

During his years of active service, Meyers had been involved in a number of memorable events. But perhaps the most exceptional thing he’s done in his life came after retirement when, as a private citizen, he joined with two other former Marines and worked to get U.S. citizens, green card holders and Afghan allies out of Afghanistan before the doors closed and the likelihood of success evaporated like smoke in a Kandahar opium den.

Tragically, as Colonel Meyers explained, he was ultimately unable to get everyone on his manifest out. He’s still trying, even as the Taliban consolidate their power and take their victory laps by beating women and whipping journalists who try and bear witness to their brutality.

“The State Department really put themselves in this position, by not completing the job before taking the last troops out,” Meyers said, criticizing the administration for claiming the Taliban were acting in a “businesslike and professional” manner. He said he knows of an Afghan mother and her American toddler who was injured after slashing her foot on some razor wire after being pushed into a sewage canal by the Taliban.

“Then the Taliban showed up two days ago and executed her brothers,” Meyers said. “So, they’re not being very business-like and professional, but this information is not getting out to the public.”

When I heard him say this, I wasn’t surprised. I know firsthand the extent to which some in the media have been complicit in helping the White House spin the conditions on the ground in Afghanistan. Perhaps they, like the president, wanted to approach this 20th anniversary of 9/11 with an almost triumphant attitude as in “the war is over, our troops are home.”

To some extent, they’ve been successful, primarily because we don’t want to believe that we actually lost. We don’t want to accept the fact that young men and women died for nothing, that others came home with only half of their bodies or minds intact and it made absolutely no difference. The hasty and disorganized withdrawal allowed us to wipe the slate clean like some geopolitical Etch-A-Sketch, and leave the battlefields that swallowed up two generations of Americans in the rearview mirror.

I cannot look at 9/11 and feel relief that we are no longer in the maelstrom. The “optics” of the forever war being over might make President Biden feel as if he’s accomplished something, as if he’s written the eulogy and epitaph for the earth-shaking violence that consumed our troops for two decades. But every time I get a phone call or a text from someone asking for help to get their family members out, I’m reminded that the story isn’t over just because we’ve stopped reading the book.

Interviewing Colonel Meyers was a sobering experience. He deliberately tried to avoid making partisan attacks, even though you could tell in his voice and in his carefully chosen words that he was filled with rage over the hubris of a president and his advisors, reckless and driven to a particular goal regardless of the devastating consequences.

This is what he said when I asked him if he thought that there was any legitimate reason for the State Department to have provided the Taliban with a manifest of names so they could confirm who was trying to get out:

“That’s strike three against us in terms of providing lists of people, and I understand that they provided the manifest that was put together for these airplanes, which again is unbelievable, and what it really demonstrates to me is the political naivete of the people in the National Security apparatus. It’s obvious that you couldn’t be a qualified national security expert and make a decision like that, so that has to be the reason that this is happening.”

Colonel Meyers reminded me that Americans are often at our best when we stop being Republicans and Democrats, dissidents or sycophants, and we simply follow our better angels. Sometimes, that means ignoring our flawed and self-interested leaders, and putting faith in ourselves. I trust the people like Colonel Meyers much more than anyone who considers the terrorists who stole our sons and daughters, who are beating women and kidnapping young boys as being “professional and business like.”

Last weekend, President Biden wanted to be able to say that we were out of Afghanistan. He wanted that sound bite.

And now, he has it. But at what cost?

Copyright 2021 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected]

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Texas is Not the New Taliban

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As expected, everyone’s apoplectic about the Supreme Court’s decision not to block the Texas abortion law.

It’s no secret I have been advocating for the criminalization of abortion for decades. Many people disagree with me, and that’s okay. It’s a controversial topic, and there really is no common ground, despite what the peacemakers try and argue. And I fully admit that the Texas law is extreme and novel, to the extent that it allows private parties to enforce it. Revolutionary, in its own way, and it remains to be seen if it passes constitutional muster.

What I want to focus on is the strange hypocrisy that rears its head up every time we discuss abortion rights, something particularly notable today as we deal with the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

For over 25 years, I’ve been practicing immigration law. For the last 15 or so, my practice has seen a significant uptick in asylum cases, a large percentage of which involve women who have been the victims of violence. Some of that violence has been at the hands of family members, and some of it has been institutional. Lately, I’ve seen a number of women who were abused by their partners and the police did nothing to protect them. That’s very common in Central America.

But then you have the most horrific situations, namely, when it’s the government itself doing the persecution. That is more likely to happen in countries that adhere to a perverse and draconian version of religious dogma, usually sharia law. And many women who were fortunate enough to taste the freedoms and privileges of the west are now facing what I call “The Great Reversal,” plunging them back into a darkness they either never knew, or of which they only have vague memories.

I’m referring, of course, to Afghanistan, and the resurgence of the Taliban. My position on how the United States catalyzed “The Great Reversal” by its deliberate and poorly-planned withdrawal after 20 years is as well-known as my opposition to abortion. I’ve spent the last two weeks writing about it, lamenting its impact on American allies, on children, on U.S. citizens, and even on dogs.

But now is the time to highlight the most obvious and heartbreaking victims of all: The women. The Taliban wants them clothed in dark fabric, anonymous figures moving through the markets, the streets and all public venues. The Taliban wants to keep them from the dangerous enlightenment that comes from education, something for which Malala Yousafzai almost sacrificed her life. The Taliban wants to strip them of their right to own property, to work at jobs, to constitute human value before legal tribunals. This is no secret. These are facts documented in every official human rights report published over the last two decades.

And while the emancipated women of America did raise concerns about the threat to their Afghan sisters, they saved their greatest vitriol for Texas, the Supreme Court and those of us in the anti-abortion movement. Like clockwork, they were out in the streets holding placards with the same slogans I used to see as a child: “My Body, My Choice.” I always found that amusing, since more than one body was involved.

But I digress. The consistency of the movement in support of abortion rights is not the real problem. What matters to me is the lack of self-awareness of the women who see their foreign sisters standing on a precipice of social annihilation, and are more concerned because the women of one state in this great nation will only have six weeks within which to get an abortion.

There is this argument that most women don’t know they’re even pregnant within six weeks. I find that hard to believe, but even if that were the case, this law will make sure that women who demand reproductive autonomy will become even more vigilant about monitoring their reproductive health. And let’s remember that this law does have exceptions for the health of the mother, so the idea that women are being denied “health care” is a bit specious to say the least.

But beyond that, the suggestion that not being able to get an abortion is equivalent to not being considered human is offensive, and underlines the increasing radicalism of a movement that persists in seeing abortion as not just “health care,” but a mark of autonomy, humanity and equal citizenship.

I would hope that some of the people who are still on the fence saw this overreaction from the most extreme abortion advocates and realized that-even if they opposed laws as stringent as the one in Texas-they reject the narcissism of people who mistake a paper cut for an amputation.

Copyright 2021 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected]

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Tragedy in Afghanistan is a Call to Action

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I come from a family of fighting men.

My cousin Adolph was a paratrooper who landed at Normandy on D-Day, and the parachute he used – stained with blood and dirt – was turned into my cousin Helen’s wedding dress. My father spent two years in Thule Greenland, at a godforsaken outpost at the North Pole during (no pun intended) the Cold War.

My uncle Louie was a Marine, stationed in Beirut during one of the early crises in the 1950s, and my cousins Alex and Anthony served honorably in Vietnam. Last but not least, my brother Michael was stationed in Iraq during the prosecution of Saddam Hussein as a civilian employee of the Department of Defense.

France. Greenland. Beirut. Vietnam. Iraq. Postcards from the front lines, and a part of my DNA. There is nothing more honorable than service to this country that has given so much, and asked for so little from the majority. But America has demanded that last full measure from the men and women, but especially the men, who have served in combat positions, and we only stop to consider the debt when tragedy occurs.

Last week, 13 U.S. service members were killed by terrorist bombs in Kabul. They were not in active combat. They were doing something that adds poignancy to their mission: Helping civilians escape the hellhole in Afghanistan created by the men in suits.

President Joe Biden is responsible for this, as was Donald Trump before him, and Barack Obama, and George W. Bush, all the way back to the presidents and senators who thought it was a great idea to arm terrorists so we could get back at the Soviets.

But to dwell on this is to ignore the nature of the sacrifice those 10 Marines, two soldiers and a Navy corpsman made last week. They were in the process of evacuating desperate civilians, U.S. allies and their families, women and babies just born, from a country that had fallen into immediate chaos, and imminent tyranny. They were trying to save those people with the power of their US imprimatur, their courage, their intelligence, their ingenuity and to some extent, their weapons.

Their mission was not to capture a hill or fortify a city. It was to be the separate links in a human chain, person by person, life by life, breath by labored breath, leading toward the open door of infinite possibility: Freedom.

The fact that they were killed, murdered, while trying to save lives makes their loss exponentially worse. The Bible says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Take it even further: No greater love hath a man that he lay down his life for strangers.

The picture of the Marine sitting down and cradling a newborn Afghani child went viral, and the reason it did is because it spoke to something deep within all of us that lies dormant until tragedy occurs: The understanding that in the dark and dire moments, the touch of a human being is the greatest weapon against despair and the strongest defense against disaster.

That picture is emblematic of what the Marines and other warriors have been doing around the world, in all of the collective war zones on this tortured planet. It is not the shot of the soldier with dark glasses and in cammo with a gun slung across his shoulders.

It is not the tragic image of a battered and bloodied combatant, alone on a hill.

It is the picture of that Marine, cradling the child.

Of the Marines on Iwo Jima, raising the flag.

Of every moment that someone in uniform shows up to represent what this country has always meant, despite the woke naysayers who slander the past with their twisted and evolved retelling of facts and events that never occurred.

Those who died this week are an unbearable loss to their families, a horrific sacrifice to what many consider a failed campaign, a tragic reminder of the fragility of life and the toxicity of radical ideology.

But to me, especially, as I deal with the refugees who long to escape the maelstrom in Afghanistan, the fallen represent the light that burns brightly in the hearts of generous Americans, the power of the human spirit against the nihilism of terrorists and opportunists (often interchangeable) and hope.

May their memory be a blessing, an inspiration, and a call to action. And may their deaths be avenged by our refusal to pay tribute to tyrants.

Copyright 2021 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected]

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Columbus Statue Decision is a Victory For All

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Last summer, I spent a few days standing in front of the Columbus statute at Marconi Plaza in South Philly.

I wasn’t alone.

A lot of good folk were there around me, laughing and singing and eating Wawa hoagies. We were there to show solidarity with the Italian American community of the city, since most of us were card-carrying members. We wanted to show our support and create a human line of defense against a mayor and the woke jokes in his administration who wanted to erase our history.

Of course, the mainstream media didn’t see it that way at all. Most of the establishment sources of news treated the defenders of the statue as vandals, thugs and racists. There were front page photos of some guys carrying baseball bats and sound bites of them hurling epithets at tender tattooed bicycle mamas with purple hair and bruised social sensitivities. And there was this narrative about the Proud Boys having both organized and infiltrated the group.

We were no longer normal Philadelphians trying to preserve our history and some public art. We were a security threat.

I remember thinking, at the time, why all of this animus towards a statue that has existed without incident for over 40 years in the placid, verdant heart of one of the city’s iconic neighborhoods? Which of the residents who had grown up here, built families here, invested their life’s savings here and sent their children to school here had complained about the racist colonizer who had allegedly killed indigenous children and raped their mothers? Was it the butcher on the corner of Broad and Packer? The baker on South Ninth Street? The bricklayer off of East Passyunk? The retired schoolteacher on Fernon street? The pizza maker on South Broad?

No, it was baristas from other parts of Philadelphia who had a problem with the statue of Columbus, and with the proud Italian Americans who built the city and the plaza that hosted his image. It was the newbies, the carpetbaggers from suburban climes, the youngsters who likely had ancestral roots in Italian soil but who were taught to hate themselves and their own heritage.

For two years, there was a battle over that statue, and at every turn and juncture, the media made it seem as if the defenders of Columbus were the same people who put their knees on the neck of George Floyd. If stood with Columbus, we trampled on the rights of the indigenous, those of color, those who are allegedly the oppressed refuse of society.

But that didn’t bother George Bocchetto, the brave attorney of Italian descent who waged battle in the court of law, filing motions and injunction requests and petitions to stop the removal of our heritage. Two weeks ago there was a final hearing on the effort to protect the Columbus statue and keep it at Marconi Plaza.

And last week, Judge Paula Patrick ruled that the city had absolutely no legal basis to remove the statue, issuing a scathing decision that contained this language:

“It is baffling to the Court that the City of Philadelphia wants to remove the Statue without any legal basis. The City’s entire argument is devoid of any legal foundation.”

And that was the nice part. The decision is both precise and brutal, ticking off the flawed reasoning, mediocre lawyering and dishonest motivations of the city in trying to punish Italian Americans for being proud of their heritage. The decision is a complete and total victory for not just Italian Americans, not just the people of South Philly, but for every person who believes in the integrity of the legal system and the respect that we need to show everyone, not just those demographics that whine the loudest about oppression.

Of course, there are people who are particularly displeased with the decision. The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story discussing the legal victory, and then took a completely irrelevant and borderline defamatory pot shot at Judge Patrick, trying to connect her to QAnon conspiracies. This African-American female judge, who made the mistake of registering as a Republican, is smeared by innuendo by the same organization that smeared the good people of South Philly who defended the statue.

But that doesn’t matter, in the grand scheme of things. What does matter is that a devoted group of people with the will to take a stand for their beliefs, their heritage and their history won a victory on a battlefield otherwise strewn with the road kill of political correctness.

The baristas of Philadelphia will need to find another windmill to swing at. Columbus is there to stay.

Copyright 2021 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected]

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What’s Happening in Afghanistan is a Tragedy

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I’ve been practicing immigration law for over 25 years, and I speak four languages fluently. I’ve traveled widely outside of the United States, and lived abroad for large stretches in the 1980s and ’90s.

All of this is to say that I am devastated with what’s happening in Afghanistan.

Some readers will simply yawn and turn the page on this one. They’re more interested in being warriors against school boards than in hearing about the fall of Kabul. They’re focused on kids in masks as opposed to women wrapped in burqas. They are obsessed with women getting patted on the rear, and not women who are being stoned to death.

I get it, we all have our priorities.

But these days, my interests extend a little broader than to what’s going on in my own backyard, because that’s never been the boundary of my world. When you deal with foreigners every day of your life, especially the type of foreigner who comes to this country in search of protection, you take John Donne’s words to heart:

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man

is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;

if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe

is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as

well as any manner of thy friends or of thine

own were; any man’s death diminishes me,

because I am involved in mankind.

And therefore never send to know for whom

the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

I don’t want to make this political, although it’s difficult to avoid criticizing our current president for withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan. I won’t presume to be an expert in geopolitical issues beyond the impact they have on my asylum clients, and my depth of knowledge in the national security sphere is as shallow as a YouTube makeup star. But I can’t avoid the reality that until Joe Biden made the executive decision to draw down our presence with unexpected haste, the Taliban was relatively dormant.

They’re never inactive. They’re always terrorizing people like my Ph.D student from Peshawar ,who was beaten as he returned home from vaccinating villagers against smallpox. They target folks like my elementary school teacher from the Swat Valley, bombing his building because he dared allow girls in his classes. They make examples of men like my cab driver from Islamabad, who made the mistake of delivering a Swedish journalist who’d written an expose about fundamentalist terrorism, to his hotel. For that service, “Nawaz” was shot at by masked men on a bike.

And these are just the ones over the border in Pakistan.

Now, with the vacuum created by this recent withdrawal, the Taliban in Afghanistan (as well as their Pakistani brothers of “Tehrik I Taliban”) have become emboldened. They are winning, and they know that they are winning, and we have left.

Years ago, my brother Michael was living and working in the Green Zone in Iraq, assisting in the prosecution of Saddam Hussein. He wrote home about the men and women who served as translators, people who risked their lives every day to serve the U.S. government. That government promised to protect them.

And they needed that protection. Those civilians in the Green Zone like my brother were living in one of the safest areas in the Middle East, an almost impenetrable fortress guarded by the most competent, fearless and resourceful troops in the world. The interpreters, on the other hand, lived in villages seeded with informers and terrorist sympathizers. Their families were at risk. They could not hide behind American artillery for their safety. And yet, they showed up every day, and did their jobs, and then squared their shoulders and walked home.

The same thing was happening in Afghanistan. And while our government has made some relatively feeble efforts to support these individuals, like creating a visa classification which would allow them to immigrate, very few have made it to the U.S. And of those who did get visas, the vast majority have left their families behind because of administrative red tape.

Biden has said that he wants to prioritize the removal of these brave men and women, and that’s all well and good for the cameras. But by drawing down the troops, he has helped fuel the onslaught of a terrorist organization that is stronger, more resilient and deadlier than ISIS, al-Qaida, or the many fundamentalist splinter groups around the world.

In the next months, I will be meeting with other asylum clients who are refugees from Taliban cruelty. I will do everything that I can to make sure that they, the lucky ones who made it out, don’t ever have to go back into the maelstrom. I may be successful, and I may not be.

But when I look into their eyes, I will see the others who are not there before me, the ones that stand behind them and who are still in that blighted place left open and vulnerable to the ravages of war and terror.

And I will be ashamed, knowing the reason for it.

Copyright 2021 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected]

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