Diane Vogel Ferri is a teacher, poet and writer. Her essays have been published in Scene Magazine, Cleveland Christmas Memories, Raven’s Perch, and by Cleveland State University among others. Her poems can be found in numerous journals. Her chapbook, Liquid Rubies, was published by Pudding House. The Volume of Our Incongruity was published by Finishing Line Press. Diane’s essay, “I Will Sing for You” was featured at the Cleveland Humanities Fest in 2018. Her novel, The Desire Path can be found on Amazon. She is a graduate of Kent State University and holds an M.Ed from Cleveland State University.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Half of Us

Half of Us

Half of us remember the water and air pollution of the 1970’s when streams and lakes were too filthy to swim in, air dangerous to breathe, animals and birds endangered and nearing extinction. The EPA worked for decades to create a healthy, safe environment for Americans.  Half of us now think that a manufacturer has the right to pollute public waterways and air in favor of making more money. Half of us do not care about the health of the next generation—corporations are more valued.

Half of us value public schools that have provided free education to all American children in their neighborhoods.  Half of us want school choice that would drain the resources from public schools and still only provide choice to the lucky ones who have parental advocates and a quality charter school within their neighborhood. This would possibly provide a better education for some, not for all.  Half of us believe we simply need to support and help public schools reach their potential not continue to take from them—then every child will benefit. This also starts with reform for fair and constitutional funding of all public schools.

Half of us say that government should stay out of our lives, but think it’s okay to tell a woman what to do with her body and make decisions that will impact the rest of her life. The other half of us are most likely not in favor of abortion, but understand that we are not in that woman’s shoes and cannot possibly know her circumstances. 

Half of us call ourselves pro-life but are not concerned about the lives of poor unwanted children after birth or that 30 million American children are hungry everyday. Half of us want to take away preventative care, prenatal care, contraception (which prevents unwanted pregnancy) and check-ups for those who have no where else to go, but call themselves pro-life. Babies, children, adults and the elderly—all are alive.

Almost all of us can trace our family history to immigration, yet half of us have decided that all immigrants should be demonized for the actions of a very few. Half of us boldly proclaim our patriotism but deny that freedom of religion applies to every religion, not just our own. 

From 2005 to 2015 there were 24 American deaths from terrorism. In that same decade 280,000 Americans died by gun violence at the hands of other Americans. Even though there are no recorded instances of someone saving others with a gun and there are thousands of instances of innocent bystanders being killed by guns, half of us think gun rights are more important than the right to safety and life.

Half of us are vocal and vigilant about defending the American flag, the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. Those traditions and ceremonies do not make America great unless they apply to all Americans no matter their race, religion or gender. Discrimination of our fellow Americans is still overwhelmingly present in our society. 

Half of us revere the Constitution yet disparage those exercising their First Amendment rights when we do not agree with their stance.  Peaceful protest has brought about change in this country from Civil Rights to the end of the Viet Nam War to Women’s rights to vote. Freedom of speech and assembly applies to everyone—all the time.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Why People Choose to Believe Lies

It seems we are surrounded with lies and "alternate facts" and the worst hypocrisy we have seen in our lifetimes.  I am not an alarmist and I do not believe in living in fear, but I do believe we must DO SOMETHING to oppose the lies and unsubstantiated claims that are being made by Trump and his spokespeople, otherwise they will think we are all falling for it.

The reason many people believe what they hear or read without question is because they consider the sources to be authority figures.  People who voted for Trump will believe him now because if they can't believe him then they will have to admit that they made a mistake by voting for him. That extends to anyone who speaks for him.  Kellyanne Conway coined the term "alternative facts" and it has been made fun of in the press, but some will find it acceptable because she helped get Trump elected. People often don't want to think for themselves if it's easier for someone to do it for them.

I lived through a situation like this. It is a microcosm of our country now but it revealed a lot about human nature to me:

I treasured the church I grew up in. It was a second home to me. The church stood in a prime location on the main corner of my community for 150 years, but the building was about 50 years old. The denomination was declining, but our church attendance was good.  The minister decided that we should build a bigger church (which would clearly be a feather in his cap.) At first I thought it was a joke, but he put all of his efforts into convincing people we needed it. He even (unethically) gave sermons on it. The congregation was divided and a months-long battle ensued.  I unwittingly became the leader of the opposition. We were in the papers and on TV. 

When I asked people how they felt they would reluctantly tell me they really didn't want the church to move but "Rev. Cummings says we need it." I was amazed how many times I heard this. I would remind those people that the church wasn't his—it was our church. He worked for us.  

One of his biggest points was that we didn't have enough parking. Yet, when you looked in the parking lot there were always spots. We had an agreement that we could park in the grocery store lot next door if needed. In addition, there was an empty house sitting in the middle of the parking lot that had formerly been a home for the ministers but now unused.   We could just tear down that building and gain dozens of spots. People chose to completely ignore what was literally right in front of their faces.

I spoke with dozens of people who blindly followed his logic on every point and never questioned whether it made sense.  That is what is happening now. The POTUS is an authority figure and we were taught as children to obey authority. Years ago I stopped looking at physicians as authorities when I discovered they often did not have answers or were incorrect in their diagnoses. I do not disparage them, but I do not see them as all-knowing either. In the same way many people will readily take a doctor's advice without question. 

I said we must DO SOMETHING and that does not mean argue with our Facebook friends. That means write an email or make a call anytime you read or hear a false statement, especially from one of your Senators or Representatives. Remind them that they represent you and you will not accept lies and half-truths.  Make sure they know you are watching and catch them in any hypocrisy. Their jobs are in our hands.  If we allow "alternate facts" to become the norm it will be our fault for remaining silent. It's all we can do now.

PS - The church. moved five miles away into another county, split the congregation, broke up lifelong friendships as well as my heart.  They insisted they needed 30 acres for a compound of sorts which still is empty except for a medium sized church—but they have lots of parking. The pastor retired, left the congregation with a mortgage and went on to counsel other people how to break up their congregations.

Friday, February 3, 2017

We Walk Through Italy

We Walk Through Italy
by Diane Vogel Ferri

On Roman blocks and bricks older than conception
we walk roads of infinity stone, of an empire adept 
at every human need and invention, we walk through
the glory of light-filled domes, basilicas where

pure unencumbered art gushes in 
a cataclysm of the muses in full bloom,
on walls, ceilings, floors, mosaic, marble,
Mary and her baby crucified.

We traverse walking bridges in the city of water streets;
barnacles and mold climb the drowned foundations
in some kind of warped beauty, in our gondola we watch
floating buses and taxis move people through the narrow canals.

St. Peter’s is the spiritual sky, the solemn truth where
our murmurings become muted in Mary’s sorrow.
Pompous sculptures surround us and swell our dreams in 
a reunion of the old world and the new.

We see the white ecstasy of David in the present distance,
it pins our eyes wide open and static in our circular view.
The sacred Sistine Chapel slows our breathing
in the required silence, arms are at a sudden rest.

We ride along the winding coast of a turquoise Naples Bay,
buildings precariously stacked like toy blocks,
rock mountains and little green hills, a volcano at rest,
millennial fortress towers stand on guard.

When the crowds of picture takers and posers suffocate us
we look up, look up to ancient structures still proud,
into a singular previously unknown world 

and we are reborn, we are redeemed.