Monthly Archives: December 2006



I maintain a few blogs; the baggage of enforced respite.  I literally have lots of time on my hands, the consequence of a disability that leaves me physically limited but usually intellectually quite limber, and while there are days when I lack the strength to sit up in bed or raise my hands to access the keyboard, most of the time I am able to click away.
The first blog I started is called In Bed With Frida Kahlo. It is named after disabled activist and artist, Frida Kahlo, whose life story, including her strengths and weaknesses; gives me fortitude and insight.   This is a very personal blog about my struggles with disability and the massive discrimination that accompanies it.  It includes diary posts, recipes, poems, art work, photographs, daily indignities and other musings. 

The second blog I started was the Café Intifada blog, which is a bulletin board of events and articles of interest to artivists and other activists.  I also include poetry, art, commentary, photos etc. It is the official web page of Cafe Intifada, the organization I head up.  

The next blog I developed is Emma’s Room, and it simply publishes my completed, more formal writings; mostly essays. 

The Frida blog includes the entire history of the conflict in the Human Rights Committee and UTLA as it pertains to disability, so for those Café Intifada readers who are following the issue of death threats and hate speech, the Frida blog provides some of the back drop as well as the more personal contemplations on both that situation and the current challenge of personal security, anonymous threats and political and social isolation.

emma’s blogs:
In Bed With Frida Kahlo:_Daily indignities, small insurrections and honest musings from a life of_infirmity and rebellion_
Emma Rosenthal: A blog of political essays, letters and news._

Café Intifada: Uniting Art with Critical Consciousness:_

Diary Post: Death Threats and a Woman’s Voice

To view the entire thread on the crisis in the Human Rights Committee, from the beginning, go to:


Diary Post: Death Threats and a Woman’s Voice

So much has happened since the last post.  I’ve been blogging, but mostly on the Café Intifada blog.  My health, though weak, has not been totally debilitating. I’ve needed to limit activity a bit, but I’ve not been on total bed rest.  On Saturday, Andy and I attended the MPAC conference and banquet, As this was Andy’s first day of vacation and my health has been so tenuous, we arrived for the afternoon sessions.  I made it though the day, though I was having trouble walking.  This has been a consistent problem for about a week now, though today was better.
We came home  from the conference to a death threat to me in the body of an email, so in addition to all of the work and preparation we are going through in our lives winding our way through the long list of tasks that must be done, should be done, or that we simply want to do; now we must address the issues of safety and security that this type of threat demands, including reporting the matter to law enforcement.
While it is true that the actions of my adversaries have been effective in increasing my marginalization within the teacher’s union and has limited much of my activity, what they fail to understand, and what I am getting really clear on, as I retrace the maze of events, starting with the Human Rights Committee retreat, the explosion of controversy around the BDS campaign, (again, see the CI webpage*)  the greater understanding of the limits of my health,  and now deal with death threats, is that, in fighting this massive machine, there is so much work to do, of such diversity and scope, that one is never without purpose, allies or activity.
I have been very content and focused, for the most part, over the last few weeks, especially since resigning myself to applying myself more directly to my writing, for the time being.  Andy and I, as I have eluded, are working on ways to bring our work, especially mine into a larger vision of our relationship, including where we live, how we invest our time and money and use the resources we have to build community and advocate for empowerment and justice.  Writing suits me more than other physical forms of activism, though one must guard against isolation.  By focusing on my writing and limiting my social interactions to a few close friends, I get much less overwhelmed and lost in the bitterness of internal conflict and battle.
It is a shame that the activists in the HRC couldn’t put petty differences aside, and, truth be told, either in silence or complicity, backed “Clarence,” after I protested what had been repeatedly harassing comments and ostracism.  But this is an old pattern: back the perpetrator.  It is almost a lock step response.  As long as women, children and other subservient populations are expected to maintain “the peace” at the expense of their own needs, feelings and safety, then any woman who defends her rights in the face of harassment (in this case, at an event at the home of the harasser) will be seen as rude, disruptive and problematic.  There is no appropriate protocol to address harassment within the range of acceptable discourse, especially in the heat of the moment.  They are expert; coaching their taunts and jabs in the camouflage of humor or in private threats and whispers, so that the pressure is on the victim, to either maintain decorum** at her own expense, or risk ostracism and blame.  It takes a real understanding of the politics of male dominance and a commitment to combating it, to elicit an appropriate response to a situation such as the one that presented itself at the retreat.
I have gone over and over the course of events.  Yes, “Camile” had been  petty and uncooperative over the last two years, making it difficult to even incorporate her suggestions into the conference planning, as she refused, with gracious passivity, to provide the information (bios and descriptions) for her proposals for the conferences, and at the time I did recognize it as the that strange rivalry between women, the resentments we hold, as if we were bees and there can be only one queen.  Michael Novick was right in his characterization that what transpired at “Clarence’s” home was an example of lack of sisterhood and feminist consciousness among the women, because, while  this clique has attacked my participation in the committee in what has been a rather unethical opportunist alliance between them and the  union president, the latter, wanting to distance me from the union because of pressure from Zionist organizations and their teacher contacts, and the former, because of the animosity towards me that has developed since the retreat; prior to the retreat (again, with the exception of “Camile”) there was no sign of any animosity or difference of methodology.  “Camile,” “Mildred” and “Gilroy” all presented workshops at the both conferences.  In addition to his workshop, “Gilroy” also volunteered to facilitate other workshops.  “Mildred” gave me a gift after the last conference, thanking me for all my hard work.  At one point, the Conference sub-committee was empowered by the larger Committee to make any decisions necessary to make the conference possible.  At no point did anyone, oppose the work I was doing, make a motion to amend my work or curtail my efforts. I frequently brought the work of the sub-committee including the web page, the conference participants and program,  before the Committee for approval and feedback, and usually, if not always, incorporated that feedback into the final product and I worked with everyone and encouraged even greater participation in the decision making
So that now, when “Gilroy” accuses Andy and me of conducting our efforts undemocratically because other chose not to participate more, and “Mildred” asserts that I dominated the group because I am retired and other members can’t do as much, it seems a bit opportunistic and disingenuous.
“Gilroy” has expressed outrage at my posting his emails to me; a strange accusation, as if his emails, sent to me off list, were a confidential communication, and not simply a private harassment between a CAMS officer and myself, written with the clear intention of limiting my participation, and to date, he has not provided a response, not a single example to support the attacks in his letter that I have, in the “past for conferences… grumbled and complained a lot, made many cavalier decisions, and then taken credit for other peoples work.”***
And while President Duffy was capable of communicating to his chapter chairs and leadership, the rationale for his decision to curtail and essentially shut down a standing committee of the union, the question remains, when brought to his attention and the attention of the other officers, the repeated harassment I was sustaining as a disabled woman who asserted her rights at an inaccessible and official UTLA meeting, why didn’t they use that same apparatus to insist on a protocol that would assure that such types of discrimination not occur at UTLA events?
It is 3:30 am. Andy is asleep next to me.  I work by the light of the computer screen. These are writers’ hours. It is not anxiety or depression, but drive and purpose.
There is so  much I have yet to say.  __*’s%20the%20terrorist%3F
**decorum: dignity or correctness that is socially expected.

Diary Post: Carry lots of water, and watch out for rattlesnakes.

There really are no defeats, only realignments, assessments, reappraisals; as long as there is breath, as long as the heart still beats.  Of course I wish that the situation had played out differently in the Human Rights Committee, and the union as a whole, and for the forces of repression, division and empire, this was a cunning victory; how to get a “progressive” union leadership to destroy the future of the Human Rights Committee, for years to come!  (But I haven’t written about that yet, and will probably post it to the Café Intifada blog when I do, probably some time this week, or perhaps in installments.)
For those of us who have ever taken serious inventory of our lives and begun to make amends for trespasses, what becomes apparent rather quickly, is that rarely was the trespass so severe that the one most hurt was the other person, for in most cases she dusted herself off, and got on with her life.  It was more often the trespasser who lost out on a deeper relationship, better opportunity, greater community, usually acting out of fear or greed, not love, hope, transformation, the outcome was always to the detriment of real growth and abundance.
And in this case,  the period of devastation has passed.  My adversaries will have to live for a long time with the mess they have made, perhaps, even now unable to see what it is they have wrought, but I am sure it will become apparent soon enough.  Having reassessed my life, I feel like I am back on my path; my memory of who I am and what I value, restored.  I am writing again, planning a future with Andy, working on a few surprises that will provide ample opportunity for community, transformation, connection and healing.  The cloud has lifted and my mind is clear enough to enjoy tea with Sonali, lunch with Linda or a visit to a sick friend; without feeling so overwhelmed with my own difficulties that I cannot participate, create a communion of our diverse paths, problems, struggles, visions.
I am not so afraid of public or people anymore.  It helps that I am feeling stronger, and as my son reaches adulthood, my responsibilities are not so heavy and overwhelming.  I have not needed a scooter for some time, able to negotiate large supermarkets on my own two feet, and only using the walker for longer social engagements where I have to stand and “mingle.”  Strange, how standing is harder and more exhausting than walking.
Today I  am tired, weak and sore.  I think it is from working in the garden yesterday.  I pruned the roses and got rid of the weeds.  Not a lot of work, but enough to tax my sick body.  I don’t mind these relapses when they last only a few hours, or allow me to get some work done from bed.  It is when the pain is so great that I cannot sit up and I am laid out flat or when these limitations stretch, so surreptitiously, into days or weeks, so that what may have at first seemed like a necessary nap, lays me out, minute plus minute, for what seems like eternity, each moment a drop of a leaf; each hour, no different than the one preceding, the one following, often too weak to rise, too awake to sleep.
I had planned to go to Pasadena, see my therapist, my acupuncturist and my chiropractor, but  I am feeling light headed, weak and sore. Tonight there is a reiki gathering I want to go to that only meets once a month.  It is too much for me to do in one day.  So, I will have the therapy session over the phone (with the little men from the government adding to their profile of me, if it so interests them!)  and visit the other two practitioners on Wednesday so I can go to the event this evening.  Today I will spend some time in my home, gazing at my garden; writing.  I have been so neglectful of the inner dialogue, as well as the entire writing process; rewriting, sending material out for publication.
If I died tomorrow, I would not regret missing one more meeting, but rather, not having written  down the ideas I have that dance in my mind.  It is tedious. Solitary work.  I am finally feeling a calm contentedness and am ready to court my muse.  So, that’s my calling.  That’s what most immediately needs to be done.
And community;  I had wanted for so long to find Andy.  My friends insisting that it was some patriarchal internalization of a need for a man to make me whole.  But it isn’t that.  It is the beginning of community. My extended family is not close, neither in proximity nor intimacy, and in Los Angeles, we are all so far apart and so afraid. So many people are so self-serving that there is a whole ethic to support the isolation of greed, so that no relationship is really what it might appear to be.  People cling to their pair bond relationship, seeing friends less often.  Andy is my daily contact with another human being.  I don’t have co-workers.  My friends are all very busy with their own careers, families and social justice work.  I have found a handful of people who have a profound integrity and deep wisdom.  We get together when we can.  But we are so far apart.  In Southern California we bravely attempt to maintain community over such a large geography.  The region spreads out mile after mile.  There are few discernable communities, there is no container for human interaction.  My nearest friend lives two miles away, Ariella lives 5 miles away.  Sonali and Jim live 20 miles away.  Linda lives 30 miles away and Andy’s apartment is 32 miles from here.   It is an impossible geography, one that takes real planning to attempt to breach.  Andy and I are waging such a strategy.  But it will take time, real creativity, and we’re not showing our hand yet!  Not yet!
But it is more than that. .  It is also a patriarchal construct that we can do it alone, that we don’t need each other.  This rugged American individualism keeps us divided, selfish and apart. There is much growth one can do, on one’s own. There is the work of self-acceptance, independence, autonomy; questions most women need to address.  But there are those possibilities that can only occur  in communion, in connection, commitment, community.  It is the deep work of love, growth and interdependence. I am so blessed to find in Andy a partner with whom I am so aptly matched, even our strange sense of humor, our playfulness, in addition to our process, the honesty we both bring to dialogue, problem solving, growth and discovery, the willingness to support each other’s visions, commitments, work and ambition.  His is not an easy schedule.  He is at meetings most nights and away many weekends.  I joke; it’s like dating Gandhi, except that he doesn’t beat me!  (Gandhi beat his wife.)  Imagine Gandhi coming home and his partner, for she was an amazing partner to him, saying; “but you never spend any time with me!”
I am not easy either.  My health limits the plans we can make and often forces us to cancel at the last minute.  I am a single mother and my son has his own set of special needs and demands. As  I gain the independence of the empty nest I want to go back to school, go to writers conferences, hone my craft.  Andy is the partner, busy with his own path, who will never take me away from mine, never call me home when I need to wander, never try to limit my vision or whittle away at my strengths.   Both Andy and I have need for solitude, which will perhaps be the greatest obstacle to overcome when we bring our homes together, and something we must keep in mind while looking for a suitable place to build this life.
But today, this last few weeks, actually, I am filled with hope.  I am not naïve, though often accused of it (a rather sexist accusation, never applied to men with lofty ideas or hopes—no one ever said to King, or Jesus or Gandhi that they were naïve—and look how things ended for them!)  I know the obstacles we are up against.  I am aware of our own brokenness, our wounds, traumas,  the internal divisions, egos, fears, ambition, privilege and barriers that threaten to destroy us from within.  I am acutely aware of the immensity of the machine we have yet to dismantle.
And I know how small I am, a weak woman, in a bed, watching the daily changes to the pomegranate tree that fills the view from the French doors that lead from my bedroom to my garden.  It has been good company this tree.  When I leave this home,  I shall miss her and the changes of the seasons that she narrates so intelligently.
It was Audre Lorde who said, “When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid”.   Perhaps that’s it.  It is my vision that is restored, the direction, the path.  I was quite a hiker before I became ill.  When the trail got too long, or I got too tired, I remembered to just take the next step.  The hike, no matter how long was simply a strand of solitary steps beaded together.
And acceptance brings change.  It is my life, not the life of those who would try to control me, condemn me or bring me down.  Once claimed, and clearly on the right road, all I need to do is take the next step.
If you are a kindred spirit, I hope to meet you on the trail.
Remember; carry lots of water, and watch out for rattlesnakes.

Diary Post

Today is tedious.  Yesterday had redemptive moments.  I was able to write in between periods of extreme fatigue.  But I am afraid this is more than a momentary relapse; now day three.  My body, mostly my back and feet, hurts and I am very tired.  I get hungry but don’t want to eat.  I am dizzy and light headed.  Sunday night I wasn’t able to sit up, I was in so much pain.  My vision gets wavy, and then it’s okay.
There was a period of time when I couldn’t read.  My eyes could not focus on the words and I could not follow the meaning of a sentence from beginning to the end.  The cognitive impairment of this condition is very frustrating.  I still have problems with simple math and spelling; tasks that in the past would have been unchallenging.  But today, most of the time I can read and write.  I find handwriting difficult.  I make lots of mistakes.  I don’t have the mental dexterity to control my hands.  Typing is so much easier and more forgiving; mistakes ( four in this last word alone!) are much easier to correct.
The first time I had my eyes checked and told the doctor that my vision changed from time to time, he told me I was imagining things.  But every opthamologist I’ve seen since says that that’s pretty common with fibromyalgia.  Slowly the medical profession is beginning to at least recognize this condition, even if they have little or no remedy.  At the very least, a doctor can bear witness, provide a mirror to a patient’s suffering.  Otherwise, it is such a solitary existence.  Few allopathic practitioners understand that simply acknowledging their patients’ experience is a healing modality in that it breaks down the patient’s isolation and the desperation and anxiety that goes with it.
I’ve been watching films and want to get back to my film blog.  Maybe I will be able to tend to that today.  Currently I am struggling to hold my arms up to type these meager sentences. I am very weak right now.
Blogsource provides a tally of visitors each day, and I am glad to see that my blogs (all four of them!)  are gaining readership.  If you have a moment, take the time to post a comment, or send me an email.  I would love to know more about those of you who take the time to track my musings.  What brings you to my pages?

Dear Emma, it’s now to see you back again. I find your posts very inspiring (… and I wish I could write as well!) I wish you all the best. I have put a link to this blog on my blog page, what you have to say deserves to be heard. Before I left Pasadena I was having all sorts of physical problems, not nearly as bad as yours, but I was really terrified it may be fybromyalgia. Of course none of my doctors would hear any of it. I am much much better now. I am 100% convinced that the environmental factors have a lot to do with it, there’s so much poison our bodies are exposed to in places like Los Angeles (and yet I still have a soft spot for LA…) I wish you will recover soon for this last bout. Happy Hannuka, hugs gaby_Posted by Gaby on 12/17/2006 12:48:02 AM

Diary Post: Good to be writing again

December 08 2006 (21:43:00) US/Pacific

I am home now.  Andy is at work.  It is morning.  The house is pristine as it waits to find its new inhabitants.  I spend my last few weeks in my garden.  I will have to make a new home, bring new beauty to a new location.
A few days ago, I was frustrated by my limitations, feeling as if my life has produced nothing,
Linda asks me; “What is your path?”
I know my path.  But how can I follow it with the current objective realities?
Andy reminds me:  “Look how much you have accomplished just getting your house ready, how much you have done in helping me organize mine.”
So I am an accomplished and talented……..
Punchline please……..
Yes, not everyone is good at that.  But I do want more.  I do need more.
My time and strength is limited.
What can be done, realistically, kindly, honestly, simply
I want to work on my writing.
I want to find a home that supports our work.
I want to begin to build community._I want to bring art and activism together.
I want to bridge the gap between justice and healing.
I want to study.
Slow down.
It is good to be writing again.

Diary Post: Irons in the fire

Today is happiness.  I’m not sure why.  It’s the same world, the same bed, the same blankets and sheets and pillows as every other morning.  There’s still genocide, injustice, and marginalization, including mine.  But today I’m content.  Perhaps a cloud has cleared, this hell ride of the last five months, starting with the Human Rights Committee retreat and the horrid infighting and betrayals that resulted.  Through it all I became, not just an activist with a disability, but a disability rights activist with a clearer understanding of the immense discrimination against and invisibility of people with disabilities.  Andy and I have become closer, the threats against me and the betrayals as veteran activists responded so abysmally to the reaction to the scheduling of a small meeting at UTLA headquarters on the BDS campaign (boycott, divestiture and sanctions against Israel,) illuminating the need for greater security and less isolation.  (more on this in a later post, possible to the Café Intifada blog, but I’ll keep readers informed!) This has resulted in expediting our plans to move me out of the San Gabriel Valley and to find a place together.  We have spent much time talking and growing as a couple and unifying our mission and purpose.  We are well matched.  Nothing can get closer to heaven than that.
In my isolation and the betrayals of activists I have known, some for over twenty years, as they scurried to protect their lofty positions, now that they run the union, betraying an issue they have fought for, afraid that a principled stand might ruin the next election, I needed to assess my personal security.  I had hoped that we might have learned something from the witch hunts and purges of the fifties, but apparently not.  In times like these, acts of desperation, anger and self-preservation can result in real tragedy.  But my security doesn’t come from the left, though I wish it did, I wish we had that wisdom.  I do need to move closer to Los Angeles, make a home with Andy, and find ways to build real, sustaining community in this city of greed, ambition and distance, where people get so busy they don’t have time to feel lonely…until they get sick…or lose a job…or times get tough.  But I’m not totally unprotected here.  While we don’t have a community of values, my neighbors would respond to an emergency and would help me.  I do know people in city government in this small town, who would respond quickly to any real threat to my safety.  I have a dog, a security system and even video cameras, which I installed after both our cars were vandalized in my driveway last year.  It took me several months to realize the resources I do have, so lost in the immensity and the rapidity of the events that shattered and transformed my relationship within the Human Rights Committee and the teachers’ union.
Hate mail, death threats, betrayal,  isolation and new alliances, my father’s death, the illnesses of friends and family,  forced me to rearrange my life, accelerating plans already in the works.  The last several months have been consumed with deep inner reflection, grief and hard work.  We had planned to make a home together next summer,  but the opportunity presented itself and the necessity insisted that we put that plan in place much quicker.  I have been busy getting my home ready to sell in what is a rather difficult market.  A year ago, this home would have sold for more than I am asking for it now, and within the first weekend.  But the place looks great and the work is done.  I am a fisherwoman, the hook is baited.  Now I wait.
I have had to take a deep appraisal of reality; what my physical limitations allow me to do,  what social realities prevent me from doing, who my allies are, what alliances I need to build.  One of the most frustrating of social realities is that my illness prevents me from fighting and defending myself the way I used to, the stress of the conflict impacting my health so acutely.  More frustrating is that disability brings out cruelty in others.  (Apparently there is an entire body of work, from Freud on, on disability and sadism, documenting that normally sane people become excessively cruel when they perceive weakness or disability.)  So that I come under greater attack and attract greater hostility than if I weren’t disabled.
Acceptance brings change_Acceptance brings change
Fighting reality is a fruitless battle.  The truth is that I am a very disabled woman in a very intolerant world.  I struggle with the ethics of popular culture, what I call spiritual fascism: that all illness is physical failure, that all misfortune, the result of negative thinking.  Many of the platitudes reflect middle class and even upper class realities: “Go with the flow; “ (I would have washed away long ago!) “Do what you love, the money will follow;”  (only if it is profit making!!!—who survives these days writing poetry or defending universal human rights?—money is the ruling class’ measure of worth—small wonder they don’t pay me to bring them down!!!!)
The one I’m struggling with right now:  “What would you do if you thought you could not fail?”  While this is a great inspirational saying for those whose inactions simply reflect a fear of success, it may be very helpful, but for those whose lives are truly limited by financial, social or physical constraints, the results will be quite different.  Perhaps I should write more fiction, because, with no shortage of good ideas, what I have lacked has been the resources to bring them to fruition, the results have been some very public failures, leading some people to conclude that I have acted corruptly or dishonestly, when what has really played out is an inability to align my vision with the limits of the current reality.
I want to live my life in the open, embracing the notion that transformation can only come in the illumination of truth, that silence = death, that if we all live in our own miserable cocoons and pretend that everything is great, then nothing ever changes and we become even more isolated.
But, Andy reminds me that not everything is public.  I understand this when it comes to the telling of other people’s stories, and no matter how relevant or central to my own, nor how cruel someone has been to me,   I err on the side of prudence, certain that these matters are theirs to tell, not mine.  But my own story has been perhaps a bit too open.  Or perhaps doesn’t need the telling in the present tense.
It has been a long time since I have posted to this blog.  So much has happened.  So much.
So, I have many irons in the fire, but I think I’ll play close to the vest and see where the winds take me before showing my hand.
I want to write.
Build community.
Make a home with Andy.
Give Leon the support and the distance he needs as he makes his way into adulthood.
Build alliances.
Make art.
Make love.
Seek justice!
Fight for freedom.
Will I meet you on the path?  What visionary ideas can we bring into reality?