Saturday, January 28, 2017

Iran, "New Pangaea - An Evolution into the Fifth World" and the Immigration Ban

Like many people in this country I have watched the news coming from the new White House Administration with deep concern – as the intent of President Donald Trump becomes clearer in the Executive Actions he has taken along with appointments to key positions in his Cabinet.  I have added my voice to numerous petitions both group and self-initiated and participated in three peaceful protests in the Louisville area.

Much of my interest in current events stems from my long career as a teac her of government, history and English in public schools all over the country. My initial book “The Peacemaker” is a generational saga that tells the “true” story of American history in fictional form. This book tells the stories of disenfranchised members of American society from the days the Western European “invaders” came to North America to establish freedom for only one small group of people – the white Anglo-Saxon male.  When I decided to write a sequel to this story, the natural movement was to find the connection between what happened to the indigenous people of North America and take it to a global level of American imperialism that began after the completion of Manifest Destiny.
Manifest Destiny was the cry of the American industrialists who supported all the land grabs of the 18th and 19th Century that enabled them to take control of all the land and mineral resources from “sea to shining sea” by virtually destroying all the indigenous cultures that stood in their way. And there was a lot of cooperation from members of the press whose desire to sell newspapers rather than report the news led to the establishment of yellow journalism as the way of informing the public. 

 In the late 19th and 20th Centuries the American war machine turned its interests to third world countries and the wealth that existed there for the voracious needs of American factories and consumers to build the American Dream or a “chicken in every (American) pot.”  At the dawn of the 20th Century the vast oil reserves in the Middle East became the object of interest among all the newly established nations of Europe as well as the United States. Enter World War I, World War II, the Cold War, the Persian Gulf War, the Iraqi War and Afghanistan.  “The Peacemaker” ended on September 11, 2001 and it took 10 years for me to find the way to connect the events of September 11, 2001 with something that was happening on the global level to bring everything full circle. The acquaintances and events in my life in Florence, Oregon during those ten years finally led me to the setting and connections in my current book “New Pangaea – An Evolution into the Fifth World.”

In 2011 I was commissioned by a female doctor living in Seal Beach, California to ghost write a book for her about her experiences growing up as an entitled female in the Middle East and Pakistan and the horrific circumstances that led to her seeking sanctuary in the United States. I was paid for the writing so the book belongs to her and her husband, but aside from earning a bit of money, I earned a wealth of information from behind the scenes of political headlines coming from these countries. At the same time, I established a close friendship with a woman of the Bahia faith living in Florence. Through her, I learned the story of a young woman of the same faith who fled Iran when her best friend named Mona was executed for not swearing allegiance to the Islamic Faith that became the only faith allowed in Iran after the Revolution of 1978.   I began to read about the Bahia faith and its founders who were from Persia (Iran) and the atrocities committed against them for hundreds of years. I found “A Cry from the Heart” by William Sears, , most enlightening. The thread of a story began to develop.  

I began to read more stories coming from the refugees from Iran and found that most of the refugees were women because the men unfortunately fell to a more undesirable treatment.  One book was especially enlightening. This is Daughter of Persia  In compiling a profile of the main character of New Pangaea, I relied on a fictional profile created by studying the story of the wife of Mark Perry who wrote “A Dress for Mona” and the story of a journalist who came to the United States after the Iranian Revolution and settled in New Mexico and who works for NPR (National Public Radio). The name of the book is “My Name is Iran,”

The setting emerged as I began to learn about the Hopi Prophecy and the collaborative work done by members of the Bahia Faith not only with the United Nations and human rights but in seeing and finding connections to their own spiritual philosophies that have developed over the centuries. That, combined with the current indigenous people’s attempts to regain land and water rights and stop the destruction to the environment from mineral leases and corporate collusion with the federal government gave the setting and story line of the book. “New Pangaea – An Evolution into the Fifth World” is now available at as well as, Barnes and and also available in signed print form by going to the contact Brenda Duffey page at

As someone who has researched the history of Iran and the true story of American and Western European involvement in Iran, I must now comment on the restrictions to Iranian immigration the United States in the name of combating terrorism. Last night, Rachael Maddox revealed a study done by someone interested in knowing the true reason for the ban on certain immigrants to the United States in combating terrorism in this country on “The Rachael Maddox Show.”  Ms. Maddox showed a study done of all the terrorist attacks in the United States conducted from September 11, 2001 through the recent attacks in California and Florida. The study revealed that not one of the perpetrators of these attacks came from the countries affected by the ban on immigration.
 In addition, my own research has revealed that the extreme killings and torture that have occurred in Iran for the most part came first from the radical treatment of the Shah’s secret police force that was established in concert with the American CIA.  It was this treatment that led to the reinstatement of the Ayatollah Khomeini and the radical mullahs who seized control after the Revolution of 1978. The refugees that have come to the US from Iran have come as a result of the aftermath of the 1978 Revolution. To date, and I am not as current as I need be, I have seen no connection between the beheadings of Christians pointed to by Donald Trump as the basis for his concern about terrorism and also the use of torture, and ISIS and Iran. What I have seen is a man whom I believe is causing much alarm all over the world in countries such as Iran who now have nuclear weapons walking onto Air Force One followed by a man with a black box that contains the nuclear codes, and this is a matter of grave concern to me.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Donald Trump and Waterboarding

Every time I read anything Barbara Kingsolver writes I feel as though I am in the hands of a gentle masseuse working over the knotty areas of my consciousness that keep me separated in fear and judgement from those who are so different from me; either uneducated, poor, physically or mentally challenged, rich or simply brought up in a different culture.  Ms. Kingsolver writes about climate change and the endless wars created by the unending consumption of fossil fuels as well as the damage being done to all sentient life and the air, water and soil that sustains us all. Ms. Kingsolver is also an expert on the subject and writes with the authority of one who has endless knowledge and experience in this area. But the impact of her words comes from the way she writes that goes beyond knowledge, education and even experience. 
Unlike the scientific writing that speaks only to educated and subordinates those who may not accept these facts, Kingsolver first goes to the “heart” of the matter, examining first her humanness and then connecting on a larger level with her audience that excludes no one. As I have been reading her collection of essays, entitled “Small Wonder,” I am once again reminded that I need to approach anything I write on any subject in this manner. Recently, I have re-entered the field of education and taken it upon myself in retirement to perhaps offer what I know and have experienced as something to help guide others through the maze of misunderstandings and polarization that is of deep concern to me.
I have been watching the events unfurl at the national level as we all have and have been assessing any fear and judgement of the current administration as it conflicts with my own resistance to change. I am a historian and strongly believe that those who refuse to learn the lessons from history will continue to repeat the actions, thus stifling the growth of humanity in general. I have seen this happen and even wrote my first book about the development of American history based on what I perceive to be mistakes that need to be addressed as we face the challenges created by these acts in the 21st Century.
I also believe that as a nation we have stopped reading and stopped looking at our society with a critical eye and base all of our responses upon the limited world of our own egos and the small area of love that is only as big as the circle of our own arms. This is definitely judgmental, but I have approached this through the first person because I have come to this belief after a breakdown that forced me to first learn these things about myself. Since that time my mantra has been “be the change you want to see.” And so, I asked myself this question last night as I watched events unfold with the current administration that pulled me back into judgement and condemnation, the very acts I witnessed from our new President, especially his ideas on torture and his inability to start a free and open debate with those who disagree with him. What do I need to change in myself was the question I posed as I closed my eyes to ponder this before going to sleep. The answer came right away, “You must love Donald Trump and try to come into any critique of his actions from that standpoint.” Wow!  What a challenge.
I spent a long night releasing fear, anger and judgement, not thinking about any of my wonderful solutions I could offer to the world to make things better. When I awoke, I had a strange feeling of peace, free from the shadow of depression that had clouded my world for the past month. I sat down with my coffee and picked up “Small Wonder” and began to read the essay on “Flying” which was about Kingsolver’s response to the attacks on September 11th.  I was once again in awe of the way she expressed deep understanding and compassion for the people who died on that day, not the political ramifications of war. She expanded the feelings of those Americans to the larger world where every day seems to be a September 11th. As I read the essay two quotes stood out in my  That quote reminded me of what I heard Donald Trump declare about torture last night. “I don’t like seeing Christians beheaded and anything that works to stop that is okay.” These are not his exact words, but what I inferred from his words.  I had a hard time loving any person who could say that, but I worked on it last night. That was my challenge last night as I wrestled with this.  My answer to my response to this came in a second quote that I read this morning, “and I can make no claim to goodness until I can prove that mean people have not made me mean.”
Her final words about our response to the attack on 911 came not from her but from the father of Oscar Rodriquez who died that day. “I know there is anger; I feel it myself. But I don’t want my son used as a pawn to justify the killing of others. We, as a nation, should not use the same means as the people who attacked us.”

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Victory Gardens

Victory Gardens

During World War II Americans rallied to the call to action to prevent food shortages resulting from sending soldiers off to war. We are at war today and the enemies are many: food deserts, genetic farming, climate change, destruction of our soil water and air. It is time to act and start to rally around our victory gardens in our homes or neighborhoods.  There is an outcry from the public protesting Donald Trump’s cuts to agencies and programs designed to combat all of the above. What I am proposing is an action that is simple, effective and gets immediate results – victory gardens. Community gardens and collaborations with local farmers to buy and distribute fresh, affordable produce have sprung up in local areas all over the country. In the Portland neighborhood, Louisville Grows at has established a Healthy House to support training and development of community gardens in this large food desert suffering from hunger, disease, unemployment, homelessness, violence and on and on. The one thing that anyone can do to start addressing these complex issues is to start producing one’s own food and join food coops. Where does hunger end? Outside your door or down the street. How do water and air pollution and climate change end? Outside your house or down the street. How do violence and disease end? Outside your house or down the street. Where do do we help children become connected to their environment and make healthy choices?. Outside your house or down the street.  If you live in Portland, get connected with Healthy House that is opening on March 26th. Take your children and participate in growing your own food and learning how diet affects health. On March 11, from noon to four, Louisville Grows will be collaborating with the Portland Library to disperse seeds along with training on how to plant them. Women are the nurturers and teachers of the next generation. Get busy women and “be the change you want to see.” Gandhi

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Open Letter to Senator Rand Paul

Senator Rand Paul
Main State Office
1029 State St.
Bowling Green, KY 42101

Dear Mr. Paul:

I appreciate your response to my letter of concern about the nomination of Betsy DeVos to head the federal Department of Education.  Although I realize there are areas of disagreement on this issue, letters from you that give me insight into your thoughts help me determine my continued support of you. I voted for you in the recent election based upon my desire that you would be a voice of reason in the repeal of Obamacare – especially the individual mandate.  I am an independent voter and appreciate open mindedness and workings across party lines to best reflect the will of the people.  I am writing this letter in the hopes that you might consider an independent viewpoint in making a judgement concerning Senate approval of Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education.  I am not opposed to the idea of charter schools or the return of control of education to state and local governments, but I hope you will consider the middle view expressed in the next paragraphs that express why Betsy DeVos is not the person to lead in this controversial area.

I am a product of the public school system in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the Louisville area i.e., Portland. Without the support of great teachers who saw beyond my economic circumstances to advocate and offer compassionate guidance I would not have achieved the moderate success I have attained.  My highest level of formal education is a Master’s in Social Work from the Kent School of Social Work at the University of Louisville. My undergraduate degree, also from U of L, is in secondary education with endorsements in history and English. I have taught in public schools in Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina, New Mexico and Oregon, teaching all facets of social studies, including American history, civics, advanced government and consumer economics, as well as freshman, sophomore, junior and senior English. In addition, my MSW took me into the field of alternative education to collaborate with other teachers to create programs best suited for all students regardless of race, ethnicity, economic status or abilities. In fact, I spent most of my teaching profession developing and implementing programs that would fill in the wide gaps between traditional education and the students being served preventing effective service to the public school populations.  I was forced to retire early from my last teaching assignment in Oregon due to whistle blowing concerning abuses that were occurring in the implementation of the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), and internet abuse. That is one reason I was horrified when I listened to testimony from Betsy DeVos indicating complete ignorance of this law.

Ms. DeVos’ answers on almost every question regarding specifics about federal laws implemented to help the under-served student were answered in one way – I believe the states should handle this. That answer is far too simple to indicate any ability to explore, examine and work together with the states to make sure that in returning control to the states the best interests of all students will be served. A good example of this is the intervention of the federal government concerning education in the South that prevented certain groups from getting proper funding for sound education, thus keeping them in poverty. I am also wary of Ms. DeVos’ support of charter schools despite the fact that I am a strong supporter of charter schools that are operated with the idea of freedom of choice of parents to select the school that will give their children the best education possible while considering their specific concerns and talents. I saw this happening in Oregon and after my forced retirement, I wrote programs and worked in alternative education developing programs for teaching core curriculum through integration of content, project based learning, peer monitoring and cross cultural teaching of history. I defended charter schools in Kentucky for some time after returning to my home state in 2014 until my experience and research with those who support charter schools here provided a view of why charter schools were popular here. The supporters reflected one view – charter schools in the South reflect the idea of reversing education to the days of segregation and return to teachings based on the views of the radical religious fundamentalists of the state, not much different from the radicals of the Islamic State.  My intimate knowledge of the Amway Corporation and its principles also makes me wary of Ms. DeVos.

I was an Amway distributor from 1973 until 1980. During that time I attained the level of voting member direct distributor and even had a direct distributor in my organization. I visited Amway headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan and became very well educated in the philosophy of the founders of the corporation, especially Richard DeVos.  I was drawn to the corporation first because of the high quality, environmentally concerned way in which the products were produced. I appreciated the entrepreneurial spirit of capitalism also. I became concerned, however, as I began to notice the right wing agendas being promoted at rallies and training seminars. This created a little distance between me and the leadership of the organization. My ties to the organization ended when my husband decided to opt out of the business. We were already having marital problems and I was concerned about my economic security in the event of divorce because he was the major breadwinner in the family. I had chosen to be a stay at home mom at the time – another reason for my involvement in the company. When I indicated a desire to continue working the business without my husband, I lost all my up line support and the business failed.  The Amway Corporation promotes “family values” business which from my experience is interpreted as support for the white male Christian values that sees women as less than and offers no support for women who either want to make it on their own or be respected in a marital relationship that protects women from the capricious whims of the powerful male. Mr. Trump’s own words released to the public gave all women an opportunity to hear the extreme of that view expressed.  His nomination of Betsy DeVos is couched in a subversive way to show that his administration cares about female issues, but in my view, it only confirms what my suspicions were in the first place.

 I thank you in advance for reading my letter and hope you will know that I represent a lot of independent voters who helped put Donald Trump in the White House. I did not support either candidate and chose to vote for Jill Stein instead because I knew Donald Trump would carry Kentucky.  I don’t consider his election as the true statement of the workings of democracy because an outdated system set in place to protect the President from the “tyranny of the majority” put him office. I am not out in the streets protesting. I am trying to work with those officials who were elected to try and bring some sense into our system of democracy and make America the Constitutional Republic it was intended to be. Thank you for reading my letter.


Brenda Duffey

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Time for Peace: Only one Argument against the Many to Block Betsy ...

A Time for Peace: Only one Argument against the Many to Block Betsy ...: This link will take you to an essay entitled "A Fist in the Han...

Only one Argument against the Many to Block Betsy DeVoss' Nomination as Secretary of Education

This link will take you to an essay entitled "A Fist in the Hand of God" written by Barbara Kingsolver, noted author of fiction, non-fiction, essays and poetry. All of Ms. Kingsolver's works reflect her education and experience in the field of biology and her concern for what is happening to the balance of life that is the foundation of our own continued existence. Her essay succinctly describes what is happening to our food supply not only as it affects our health but the health and sustainability of the natural laws governing the earth's ability to continue to sustain life. Ms. Kingsolver gives an eye-opening explanation of how the growth of agribusiness and its total disregard for these natural laws is destroying our food, air and water supply. This particular essay highlights the dangerous consequences resulting from the stripping of the natural life sciences from many school curriculums. It is thought provoking and somewhat disturbing in light of the nomination of Betsy DeVoss to head the Department of Education during the Trump Administration.