Orchid Fever

 

Twenty six years ago, when I first ventured into Waldor Orchids, the lush greenhouses a few miles away, to find one perfect white phalaenopsis, Bill Off, the owner fixed a practiced eye upon me and pronounced, “You are going to become an orchid junkie!”  “Now, how do you know that?” I asked. “This is the first orchid I have ever bought. I don’t even know how to grow them.”  His answer reminded me of what Justice Potter Stewart said when he was asked for his definition of pornography.  Bill just smiled and said, “I know one when I see one.”  And that was that. Of course, he was right.

Today, Bill and I are close buddies. I’m in the greenhouses on a regular basis. And the orchids are taking over our house. I certainly have not become an expert, but I have learned a lot about the growing and care of the amazingly hardy plants. And I’ve discovered a new dimension of nurturance and creativity along the way.

First, let me share that the first orchid, the one I call my “oldest living baby” is alive and well, putting forth seven to eleven exquisite flowers every year on a single, long graceful stem.  Each identical white bloom has a dark purple center and lasts for up to six or seven months, delicate and ephemeral in appearance, yet actually strong and hardy requiring very little care. Bill had given me a culture sheet that spelled out the optimal conditions of light, shade, water and food that a particular variety need.  Two hours attention a week take care of the twenty plus plants we now have.

Maybe it was luck that my first orchid plant did so well.  Or maybe it was that  walking into that greenhouse was for me what the Greek poet Kazantzakis meant about having one’s “brush and colors and painting Paradise.”  In I went and what an aesthetic treat it has been. Most of my orchids live on the floor in the family room next to the sliding glass doors in full southern light. Some of the most popular varieties require 4 to 6 hours of sunlight, and our indoor garden is three rows deep to catch the best light. Never mind that we cannot reach or open those doors. A small casualty for the cause.  We can reach the deck through the sliding doors in the adjacent kitchen.

Other orchid varieties reside on tables next to northern and western windows in the living room, southern windows in the dining room and arrayed around the Jacuzzi tub in the master bathroom. Where there’s space and light, there’s room for a new baby. My husband has been very cooperative and I’ve steered clear of his office.

So, why do all this?  And what does “requires very little care” mean? Most orchids need water and food only once a week. Different species thrive with different light, temperature and humidity, all detailed on the culture sheet. Food is a liquid mixed with water at the sink in a large plastic pitcher. Thursday is usually Orchid Day at our house, taking about two hours. All the plants are brought into the kitchen where they sit in plastic drain dishes on the counters. Each is then taken to the sink to water, feed if necessary with Grow or Bloom depending on their progress in a yearly cycle, and thoroughly drain.  Water should be tepid and added until it runs out of the hole in the bottom of the plastic or terra cotta pot. All reside in lovely decorator pots during the week.

Wow! Sounds like real work. Yes, but nothing compared to the rewards. Each Thursday, I may spot the beginning of a spike or efflorescence on at least one plant , just a tiny green nub pushing its way out at the base of the leaves or between bulbs.  I call my husband and he oohs and aahs with me. The next week, I check to see the extent of growth of the stem that has already grown two to four inches.  Over the months that follow, buds will emerge on the lengthening stem and develop into flowers. Once they are ready, a flower may open overnight. One can almost watch the petals unfold.  Thus, each stage of the yearly cycle has its pleasures for the grower. Very different from buying an orchid plant from a florist with flowers in full bloom.

Bill says I should consider a small greenhouse attached to the house on the back deck . I told him I’m not ready for that kind of commitment yet. This love affair with the oncidiums ‘Dancing Dolls’ , exquisite yellow flowers, and ‘Shary Baby” , tiny lavender blooms with the aroma of chocolate, has to be kept under control. But when ‘Kaleidoscope‘, the spectacular phalaenopsis whose petals are coral with fuschia stripes, and ’Golden Elf’ a yellow cimbidium with a lemon scent bloom at the same time, I know I may be weakening.

Meanwhile, I’ll just drive over to the greenhouses to walk around and enjoy the hundreds of gorgeous orchids in bloom. Chat with Bill a little. He always takes time. Maybe, bring one new baby home. There’s always space for one more on the family room floor. It’s a beautiful sunny day. Why not?

………………………………………………………………………………………………Joyce S, Anderson

 

 

 

Race: Man’s Most Dangerous Myth

Prologue: When I began to teach at Atlantic Community College, the country had witnessed the Watts riots in Los Angeles in l965, inner city riots in Detroit and Newark in l967, and prolonged riots in cities nationwide after the assassination of Martin Luther King in l968.  The pattern was the same; burning buildings and looted stores while most of the victims were the black residents of the neighborhoods that were destroyed. Police strategy was to contain the violence and destruction to the inner city area. The Kerner Commission that investigated the riots gave a comprehensive analysis of the underlying causes of the riots as well as the precipitating incidents. At the heart of their report was the deep anger and frustration of the black population within the inner cities who faced discrimination and prejudice in all areas of their daily lives — work, education, housing and police intimidation.

 

It is now 2017 and the issue of race and racism is emblazoned in the headlines once more. When thousands of white supremacists invaded Charlottesville, Virginia on Friday night, August 11, they brought racist bigotry and deadly violence with them. Ku Klux Klan, Neo Nazis and Skinheads were met by counter-protestors the following day. President Trump at a press conference the following Tuesday blamed “both sides” for the mob violence that ensued.

 

Today’s events brought back what happened in l968 when race exploded across the country. I approached the Dean at Atlantic Community College to see if I could prepare a course syllabus on Race, Ethnicity, Prejudice and Discrimination.  The country was exploding and I wanted to do something constructive in my new position.  He asked me to give him a book to read before he made his decision. I gave him “Race: Man’s Most Dangerous Myth” by the anthropologist Ashley Montague. After he read the book, Dean Young gave me the go-ahead and I began teaching “The Individual and The Group” in the Spring semester of l969. It was offered until 1983 when I took a leave of absence.

 

Twenty seven students signed up for the course offering, a night class once a week. I will never forget that first class. The average age of community college students was 28 and most of the class members were mature working people. There were also two Atlantic City High School seniors who were taking part in Project WILL, inter-racial learning and living.  She was black and he was white. The future black mayor of Pleasantville and his wife were in the class.  There were Vietnam veterans as well as a fire fighter and a couple who were attendants at the state hospital, Ancora.  There was almost an even number of black and white students. I learned as much that semester as the students.

 

History: The heart of the course, presented in both lecture and discussion was the night for “Race: Man’s Most Dangerous Myth”. I began by asking the class , “ Please jot down in a phrase or sentence what the word ‘race’ means to you.” Their answers included: “ Different groups of people.”  “Skin color.” “Different religions.” “Different backgrounds.”  “Black, white, red, yellow.” and “Different nationalities”.  Two people wrote There’s no such thing as race.”

 

The lecture that evening took the students back to the l8th century when the concept of race as we know it began. Before that time — for thousands of years —  discrimination and group hostilities grew from religion, class, caste, political and cultural differences. The man who inadvertently created the modern concept of race was a Swedish research botanist, Carl Linnaeus. In his passionate study of plant life, he developed a system of order — a way to classify according to kind and type — genus and specie.  After he classified all plant life in The System of Nature (l735), he went on to classify every known animal as well. Finally, he came to humans whom he named in Latin: Homo sapiens – man the wise.

 

Linnaeus then took the next step and divided Homo sapiens into four sub groups.  Europaeus albus, Asiaticus luridus, Afer niger, and Americanus rufus.  He linked geographical location with skin color: white, yellow, black and red. (The latter described only native Americans.)  He then added, from his ethnocentric point of view what he thought were characteristics of each group.  Europaeus albus — superior, creative and lively. Asiaticus —haughty, stern and opinionated.  Afer niger – slow, negligent and cunning. Americanus rufus – easily contented, free and tenacious.

 

Linnaeus had used objective evidence when he classified plant and animal life. However, when he reached Homo sapiens, he became completely subjective and drew upon hearsay, random anecdotes and his imagination. He had never traveled to Asia, Africa or America.  Nevertheless, the stereotypes were formed and the classification was picked up by other scientists who were intrigued with measuring physical differences among human beings.  A veritable frenzy ensued, measuring cranial indices, ears, noses, hair texture and other permanent features of adult humans.

 

Linnaeus did state that his categories were arbitrary groupings and he never used the word race. The term was coined by George Buffon, a French naturalist, for the first time in l749 when he decided there were six groups of human beings.   It is supremely ironic that skin color was chosen as the prime measure of difference …since skin color is NOT a permanent trait. It is an adaptable trait, affected by such factors as sun, disease, emotion and pregnancy. It is also clear that true colors — white, black, yellow and red of a painter’s palette never appear in actual skin pigmentation, Complete lack of color in an albino is the closest to white. The genes that transmit skin color are very complex in contrast to the genes for eye color. And most significant, there is a range of skin color within every human group that is far greater than the differences between the groups. These are scientific facts based on deep research studies.

 

Ashley Montague called race the “witchcraft of our times.”  He knew that people believe in myths.  And if something is defined as real, it is real in its consequences.  The two skeptical students in my class who wrote, “There is no such thing as race.” sensed what was correct.

Now, in 2017, we need to separate reality from the myth of race. Human qualities are the result of genetic endowment and nurturing as we grow from infants to maturity, often called “Nature and Nurture”. Racism — the result of centuries of defining people by their skin color — permeates our society and our lives. It is linked inextricably to our country’s history with slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction as an aftermath. We need to separate reality from the myth of race. . Our democratic society has many levels of class and economic conditions. Where one is born and to whom, has an enormous effect upon the level of education, opportunity and success one will achieve in one’s lifetime.

Epilogue:   It is now 2019 and Race remains a central issue in our lives.  The president has sent a tweet telling four young Congressional women of color to “go back to where you came from.”   In addition , he continues his condemnation of immigrants trying to come  from Central America to escape the danger in their homelands.  Most are women and children walking thousands of miles seeking a better life in America.

Nancy Pelosi, The Speaker of The House of Representatives, has accused Donald Trump wanting to “make America White again.”  Three of the four women are natural born citizens; one became a citizen.  All were elected by voters in their districts to represent them in Congress.  They believe America IS GREAT RIGHT NOW.  Freedom of speech is in the First Amendment to The Constitution.  Amen!

Joyce S. Anderson

Will The Supreme Court Save The DACA Dreamers?

Prologue:  On August 15, 2012 during The Obama administration,  U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ( USCIS) began accepting applications for DACA  (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). As of June, 2016, USICIS had received 844,931 initial applications for DACA  status.

Since 2012, over 800,000 thousand young men and women have completed their educations and worked in their communities, paying taxes.  They have hoped   that a path to citizenship would be initiated in the United States Congress and they would become American citizens – thus their name The Dreamers.

November, 2016: Donald Trump was elected President and the future of The Dreamers changed.   His first campaign statement coming down the escalator in Trump Tower was that immigrants crossing the Southern border were “murderers and rapists”.  During his rallies , he promised  “ We will build “a Great Wall to stop these people  from coming to the U.S.  And Mexico will pay for it! “ He described gangs of men arriving in “caravans” by the thousands.  But the majority were women and their children walking thousands of miles to escape persecution and death from gangs.

On September 5 of 2017, the Trump administration announced that it was phasing out the DACA program.  It permitted only those recipients whose benefits expired between Sept. 5 of 2017 and March 5 of 2018 to renew for a final two years.  Young immigrants rushed to file for renewal.  Democrats in Congress and members of the public were dismayed by the new policy.  The Dreamers had captured support across the country.

On January 17 of 2018, it was reported that the Justice Department was appealing a District federal Court Judge’s ruling to save DACA at The Supreme Court.  Judge William Alsop in San Francisco had imposed a nationwide stop to the program until litigation could be heard.  The case to save DACA had been brought by the University of California and Janet Napolitano, its president.  It was then decided at the Appeals Court Level against Donald Trump’s attempt to end the DACA program.    They could continue to get work permits and go on with their lives.  Finally , the Trump administration filed a petition to The Supreme court to hear the Appeals Court decision which was turned down.

On January 23, 2019  an article in the  New York Times by Adam Liptak described how Trump had taken inconsistent positions on DACA  at the same time he was trying to end it.  He had called a meeting of interested members of Congress and department heads to discuss possible solutions.   He called upon Congress to give legal status and a path to citizenship to The Dreamers.  His offer to extend the program in exchange for concessions on building his Wall at the border never materialized.

Throughout 2019, the Trump administration continued their separation of families at the Southern border with increased media coverage of children in cages without proper care.  One official described the situation as “summer camp”.  Others were appalled … “No soap or tooth brush…. Sleeping on the floor…babies unattended by  an adult!’

On Friday, June 29, The Supreme Court announced it would consider how President Trump has tried to end the DACA program since he took office. Once again, The Dreamers will live in fear until a decision is reached.

Federal courts in California, New York and Washington D.C. have blocked the president’s efforts to end DACA.  In August,  Judge John Bates on the D.C. Circuit who had been appointed by a Republican president,  wrote a harsh critique of the administration’s  reasons.  He ruled that the rationale that they put forward was “arbitrary and capricious under federal law.”

The American people are strongly in favor of DACA as reflected in opinion polls over the years.

However, The Supreme Court has changed since 2017 when Trump became president.   He chose two new members highly recommended by The Federalist Society : Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh.   There are now four conservative members and four liberal members.   Chief Justice John Roberts usually votes with the conservatives.  He broke from them in June and joined the liberals on the crucial vote that delayed adding a  Citizenship Question to the 20/20 Census.

Will he do the same to save DACA and The Dreamers?

………………………………………………………………………………………….Joyce S. Anderson