Changing Times

Jul 04, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

Reading through the Newbery Award winners keeps me happy. Next on my list: the 1933 winner, Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis. I’ve found a good book is such a helpful way to focus on the positive.

As an urban composter for 50 years, it did my heart good to read in The Christian Science Monitor Weekly (6.20) about San Francisco being an early composting adopter. They did a study in 1996 and found low-tech ways to divert one third of their garbage from landfills. S.F. collects 500 tons of compost every day! This shift reduced methane emissions drastically. Over 135 countries have studied their program.

Two obits that fluttered out of The Economist pile included a marvelous tribute to South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Dec. 26, age 90. (1.6) and a surprising tribute to Britain’s first transgender activist, April Ashley, Dec. 27, age 86 (1.8). Archbishop Tutu grew up poor in Transvaal and witnessed many racial insults to his father. But the respectful example of a white Anglican minister deeply touched him and led him to become an Anglican minister. His advocacy for the voiceless was solid. His impish sense of humor went both ways. A joke he told was about his being sent to hell after his death, causing the devil to ask St. Peter for political asylum in Heaven.   

April Ashley made the transition from a much-bullied delicate man to a woman. After praying for years to wake up as a girl, he underwent the surgery in Morocco in 1960 and became a celebrity partyer. An odd marriage didn’t last but dragged out to a humiliating divorce seven years later. To escape harassment, Ashley moved to California and eventually found protection through the Gender Recognition Act of 2005. By then, she had become a public spokeswoman for people needing to correct documents after transitioning. She recommended people be kind and have courage because they would need to.

Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle (6.24) carried a brief, on Scotland proposing a posthumous pardon for people convicted of witchcraft. On International Women's Day in March, a Scottish minister made a formal apology to thousands, mostly women, convicted and executed under the 1563 Witchcraft Act. Yes, despite discouraging news, times are changing.

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