The Republican obsession with women’s bodies and sex

Haven’t posted for quite a while now.  Maybe it is the end of winter doldrums (I can almost say I survived my first Vermont winter which wasn’t nearly as bad as winter in the Boston I left behind.) or maybe I’m just discouraged by the general  state of politics.   I’m becoming increasingly fearful about what will happen if the Republicans take over the Presidency next year.  But I have been aroused from my lethargy by a story and editorial in today’s Brattleboro Reformer.

I’m not sure how it works in other parts of the country, but New England has a tradition of school children asking a legislator to introduce a bill for them.  I wrote a few weeks ago about the young woman who wanted Vermont to have a Latin motto.  Another group would like the Gilfeather turnip to become the Vermont state vegetable.  The children have to do their research and come and testify before the appropriate committee of the state legislature.  Their bills sometimes pass and sometimes get postponed for a year, but along the way they learn about politics and how bills become laws.  So a group in New Hampshire wants to make the red-tailed hawk the state raptor.  The Reformer editorial compares their reception to that given to the Gilfeather turnip lobbyists.

On March 17, a dozen students from Wardsboro Elementary School traveled to Montpelier to lobby for designating the Gilfeather turnip as the state vegetable. Wardsboro was home to John Gilfeather who is credited with developing the turnip that bears his name.

Rep. Emily Long, a Democrat from Newfane and a co-sponsor of the turnip bill, said she was “absolutely thrilled to see the kids here. I heard they were really good, I saw one of their teachers, and she was glowing!”

The students were told by Rep. Carolyn Partridge, a Democrat from Windham, that the bill would not pass this year, but she said many members of the committee supported it. In fact, Partridge said Gilfeather turnips had a celebrity status at her family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas tables growing up, and she said she would make a soup from them and bring it to the committee so they can taste the gnarly root vegetable for themselves.

Members of the committee were given wool-felted Gilfeather turnip pins, one of many items handcrafted and sold as part of fundraisers for the annual festival, which benefits the town’s library.

But what happened in New Hampshire?

Now let’s compare the reception the Wardsboro students received to the reception a handful of fourth-grade students received when they went to Concord to lobby to name the red-tailed hawk the state bird. What was the reaction they got? Incredibly, one legislator likened the bill to abortion.

State Rep. Warren Groen, from Rochester (need we really name his party?) said the red-tailed hawk “mostly likes field mice and small rodents. It grasps them with its talons and then uses its razor sharp beak to rip its victims to shreds and then basically tear it apart, limb from limb. And I guess the shame about making this the state bird is it would make a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood.”

Yes, Groen took the opportunity to push his anti-choice agenda at the expense of a group of 9 and 10-year-old students from Hampton Falls.

We’ve all seen video and read stories about male Republicans at all levels of government getting tangled up in trying to figure out birth control, rape, and abortion.  Remember back when Newt Gingrich said women can’t be soldiers because they get a “disease” every month?  Or Rush Limbaugh thinking one had to take a birth control pill with every act of intercourse?  Or the guy who said women could hold an aspirin (I think it was an aspirin.) between their knees to prevent rape.  And most recently the state legislator who thought maybe one could swallow a tiny camera so a doctor could see how old the fetus was before an abortion was performed.  The list is endless.  But NH Rep. Groen really shows the totality of their obsession by introducing the anti-choice agenda during a hearing about raptors.  When the inappropriateness of his comments was pointed out and he was asked by leadership to apologize, Groen made the whole thing into a free speech issue.

What was Groen’s reaction to criticism of his comment? “Every time we’re in session the gallery is open, and there are children in the gallery. So, I don’t know, should we limit free speech or should we limit who goes in the gallery?”

Maybe the answer, Rep. Groen, is that on a day when birth control, abortion rights, or Planned Parenthood are being debated it is up to parents to decide if their children should be in the gallery.  But not when we are talking about red-tailed hawks.

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk

And while we are on the topic may I ask why Congressional Republican have to add an amendment about abortion to every single piece of legislation?  Today I’m talking about the bill concerning trafficking of women, the bill that is holding up the confirmation of Loretta Lynch to be Attorney General.  Can we drop that language and pass the bill and confirm Ms. Lynch, please?

 

 

 

 

 

Photograph:  Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  Taken by Betty Lemley, New Jersey, February 2008

Trying to make sense of the anti-vaccine movement

Why don’t some parents get their children vaccinated?  Religious grounds?  Maybe for a few.  Philosophical grounds?  I still haven’t figured out what that means.  Misinformation?  Probably more of a reason than religious grounds.  But I have concluded that it is having no personal history that maybe the biggest reason.

Like most of my generation – born before the early 1960s – I suffered from all the childhood diseases as they were called back then.  I had the measles, rubella (then called the German measles), and chicken pox.  I was somehow immune to the mumps even though I attended a birthday party after which all the attendees but me got them.  I particularly remember chicken pox.  It was miserable.  I felt terrible and I itched all over.  It was worse than having poison ivy which I seemed to get almost every summer until I was old enough to recognize the plant.  My experience was typical of almost everyone I knew.  Margaret Talbot provided some history in her piece for the New Yorker, “Not Immune”.

Twenty-five years ago, when a doctor named Robert Ross was the deputy health commissioner of Philadelphia, a measles epidemic swept the country. Until this year’s outbreak, which started at Disneyland and has so far sickened more than a hundred people, the 1989-91 epidemic was the most alarming that the United States had seen since 1963, when the measles vaccine was introduced. Nationwide, there were more than fifty-five thousand cases and eleven thousand hospitalizations; a hundred and twenty-three people died. Most of those infected were unimmunized babies and toddlers, predominantly poor and minority kids living in cities. Ross thought that the blame for the outbreak could be placed partly on poverty and partly on crack cocaine, which was “making a lot of families forget how to raise children.”

The epidemic spurred the creation, in 1993, of a federal program, Vaccines for Children, which subsidized shots for children who were uninsured or onMedicaid*. Immunization rates soared. Then a new skepticism about vaccination settled in—this time, more often than not, among affluent parents who were drawn to holistic living and were dubious about medical authority. An infamous 1998 study in The Lancet, which claimed that the rising incidence of autism was linked to vaccinations, was particularly influential with some of those parents—even though the data were found to be falsified and the author’s medical license was revoked. Another theory, tying autism to thimerosal, a preservative added to vaccines, has also been debunked. Since 2001, thimerosal has been used only in the flu vaccine—and there is a thimerosal-free alternative—but the incidence of autism continues to rise.

Nevertheless, the skepticism endured, and one result has been the decisive return of infectious diseases. First, it was whooping cough: in 2012, more than forty-eight thousand cases and twenty deaths were reported to the Centers for Disease Control, the greatest number since 1955. Now it’s measles….

Child in later stages of measles rash (probably has had rash for 4 or 5 days)

Child in later stages of measles rash (probably has had rash for 4 or 5 days)

The level of misinformation and fear is incredible.  Nothing that anyone says or does seems to lower the volume.  There is no known link to autism from any vaccines.  What remains are religious ground and some vague notion of philosophical grounds.  A couple of Sunday’s ago, Gina Bellafante tackled the question of religious grounds in her New York Times column.

New York already allows parents to seek vaccine exemptions for medical or religious reasons. In effect, philosophical exemptions are superfluous because religious exemptions perform the same function. A state form requires that parents provide a written passage, in their own words, explaining why they are requesting the exemption, and the principles that guide the objection. A head of school can accept the submission or reject it, ask for supporting documents — a letter from a priest or a rabbi, for instance — or not. Anyone whose request is denied can appeal to the education commissioner.

That religious exemptions are available at all to any but Christian Scientists, whose disavowal of medicine is foundational, remains a subject debated not nearly enough. It is not just that the waivers are used to conceal the discredited anti-vaccination sentiments shared by parents with no theological commitments whatsoever. (As one Manhattan school nurse put it to me, “It would be practically impossible, not to mention a huge pain, to prove that they are lying.” Of the 25 percent of students at the School for Young Performers in TriBeCa who received religious exemptions last year, how many have parents prepping them for the seminary?) It is that among the major religions there is virtually no canonical basis for vaccine aversion; the Bible, the Quran and the texts of Sanskrit were all obviously written before the creation of vaccines, and most religions privilege the preservation of life.

Read the end again:  “…most religions privilege the preservation of life.”

So today I saw a snopes.com piece debunking (there is that word again) the new internet factoid that 

In the last ten years no one has died of measles in the U.S., but more than 100 people have died due to the MMR vaccine.

Snope.com responded

During a then-current measles outbreak, on 4 February 2015 an alternative health site published an article claiming no one in the United States died of the measles between 2004 and 2015.

Furthermore, the article stated, more than 100 people (mostly young children) had died after receiving the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine.

The claim circulated widely during a time of increased debate over parental decisions about vaccinations, particularly among those who are opposed to the practice. In some iterations the claim was amended to specify “child deaths,” but the article itself stated there were zero deaths (among all age groups) from measles in the United States in the timeframe cited. That claim was provably false, as two people in the U.S. died from the measles in 2009, and another two deaths from measles were recorded in 2010. As such, in two of the ten to eleven years cited in the claim, at least four people have died of measles. And according to the World Health Organization, 145,000 people around the world died of measles in 2013 alone.

Likely one of the reasons there have not been more deaths in the U.S. is the push in the 1990s to get kids vaccinated under the Vaccines for Children program.  Snopes.com concludes

Few people died of measles in the U.S. between 2004 and 2015 because measles was classified as eliminated in 2000. Relatively few people in the U.S. contracted the viral infection after that, so it stands to reason far fewer would go on to die of it. And while more than 100 reports of suspected adverse reaction or death may have been reported to VAERS in the years cited, that number references unconfirmed public reports, not verified vaccine-related fatalities.

Finally, the possibility of death is not the only reason one should (or should want to) vaccinate a child against measles. As the CDC notes in their measles fact sheet, in some children measles can lead to pneumonia, lifelong brain damage, and deafness.

The number of deaths cited seems rather small compared to the number of persons vaccinated especially since it is not clear that there was a death for each reported case.

Now, of course, the progressive parents who don’t want their kids vaccinated for philosophical grounds have lots of company from the right who have politicized the issue.  Talbot writes

On Fox News, Sean Hannity declared that he wasn’t “trusting President Obama to tell me whether to vaccinate my kids.”

 I argue that parents are vulnerable to all that is floating out there – the misinformation and the politicization – because they have no history of the diseases.  Very few people in the United States born after the introduction of vaccines have had measles, chicken pox, or mumps.  I would venture to guess that most adults who have children were themselves vaccinated when they were children.  I base that simply of the fact that there have been few outbreaks since the early 1960s.  No parent who had any of the once common childhood diseases would want their children to suffer.  Unfortunately, I think this cycle has to play itself out which means some kids will die or suffer long-term consequences.

[By the way, if you were part of the generation that had chicken pox be sure to get the shingles vaccine.  I watched my mother suffer and you can bet I got vaccinated the first chance I had.]

Photograph:  From the CDC

A proposed new state motto for Vermont

Today, March 4, 1791, Vermont became the 14th state.  It seems appropriate to write about a piece of legislation I hope will pass this year.  One of my state Senators, Jeannette White, wrote a column about it last week in the Brattleboro Reformer.

State flag of Vermont

State flag of Vermont

Vermont, like most states, has the state tree (sugar maple), bird (hermit thrush), and motto  “Freedom and Unity”, but unlike many other states, has no motto in Latin.  I’ll let Senator White explain

…[the] Senate Government Operations Committee, which I chair, has broad enough authority that it can address many of these [smaller] issues. One of them was a proposal to adopt a state Latin motto. This began last session when an 8th-grade Latin student, Angela Kubicke, discovered we are one of a few states that do not have one. It was late in the session and there simply wasn’t time to take it up. So the Government Operations Committee gave her some advice and suggested she come back at the beginning of this session. She did her homework and it paid off. She organized Latin students around the state, developed a motto that made sense for Vermont, got a bill sponsor, brought it to us and on Feb. 11 our Committee heard the testimony before a room full of about 70 Latin students from around the state, their teachers, three classics professors from UVM [University of Vermont], and other interested people.

I love the fact that the young woman didn’t get discourage and give up.  Instead she organized.

The motto is Stella quarta decima fulgeat — May the 14th star shine brightly. The number 14 has some significance in Vermont: there are 14 counties and we were an independent republic for 14 years. But even more important was that, during those 14 years as a republic, Vermonters worked very hard to become the 14th state — the 14th star on the flag. And during those years as a republic, there was a mint in Ruppert that minted Vermont coins. On the back was this motto.

At least twenty other states have Latin mottos and the proposed “Stella quarta decima fulgeat” would not replace “Freedom and Unity”.  So what happened when word got out that an additional Latin motto was being considered by the Vermont legislature?

WCAX did a small story about it that immediately riled bloggers. The comments ranged from “Stop wasting time on this” to “Latin motto? They should learn to read English” to “If we have a Latin motto it will open the flood gates for illegal aliens coming over the Mexican border (in case this is lost on anyone — apparently many Vermonters feel that Latinos speak Latin)” to “Send Joe Benning (sponsor of the bill) and Obama back to Mexico.”

I have to say, however that all the comments I saw on the WCAX  page were not negative and I think several comments were posted by some college students – who do do not go to school in Vermont – as an attempt at humor.  But some, like the ones quoted by Senator White, were just nasty and ignorant.

This being my first Vermont legislative session I hope I have this right.  We are having town meeting week and the legislature is not meeting. But Angela Kubicke’s bill is going to the House when they reconvene.  Hope it passes.  Stella quarta decima fulgeat.

Extremists and history

Last week I caught a snippet of news about a state legislator in Oklahoma who wanted to redo the Advance Placement History syllabus to emphasize the speeches of Ronald Reagan.  I gather he was also not interested in any multicultural aspects of our history.  And he also didn’t understand that changing AP history would keep students from getting college credit for the class – one of the reasons kids take AP classes.  According to CNN, Oklahoma is only one state that doesn’t like the new framework for history under the Common Core.  I don’t think that everyone will ever agree on what should be included in our history class.  For example, the internment of the Japanese Americans into camps during World War II was never taught in my high school history class.  I took care of that by doing a report on my grandparents.  History is such a huge subject and these classes are designed to touch on a few highlights.  And a framework is just that, a framework.  Students and teachers can hang a lot of information within that framework.

What frightens me is that some of the same people who think they know better than historians what should be taught in high school history are the same people who are also religious fundamentalists.  Many in our fundamentalist Christian movement want to make Christianity the state religion.  Forget that the U.S. Constitution prohibits establishment of a state religion. These folks like to carry around pocket-sized copies of the Constitution, but I don’t think they have actually read it.  Will their next fight be to teach only about Christianity and not other religions and cultures?

Destruction

There is sickening news out of Iraq and Syria.  This is the part of the world that we learned about in world history class as the “Cradle of Civilization”.  Yes, it was mostly Western Civ, but the Mesopotamian influence was far-reaching.  I was watching MSNBC when they ran the video of men taking sledge hammers and drills to 7th century B.C. statues destroying them forever.  The New York Times wrote this

The limestone sculptures, statues and reliefs smashed by militants in northern Iraq provided valuable historical insights into kingdoms that flourished thousands of years ago and were crucial in the formation of early Arab identity, experts say. The destruction took place in Mosul, in one of the most important museums in the Middle East.

On Friday, archaeologists and historians in Iraq and around the world studied a video posted by the Islamic State showing millenniums-old artifacts being smashed by sledgehammers, seeking to come to terms with what artistic and historical riches had been lost in an exercise clearly meant to promote the militants’ extreme beliefs and project their power.

As with all news programs and video, the pictures ran again and again.  I could only watch once.

The World Post (from the Huffington Post) quotes one of the destroyers

The region under IS control in Iraq has nearly 1,800 of Iraq’s 12,000 registered archaeological sites and the militants appear to be out to cleanse it of any non-Islamic ideas, including library books, archaeological relics, and even Islamic sites considered idolatrous.

“Oh Muslims, these artifacts that are behind me were idols and gods worshipped by people who lived centuries ago instead of Allah,” a bearded man tells the camera as he stands in front of the partially demolished winged-bull.

“The so-called Assyrians and Akkadians and others looked to gods for war, agriculture and rain to whom they offered sacrifices,” he added, referring to groups that that left their mark on Mesopotamia for more than 5,000 years in what is now Iraq, eastern Syria and southern Turkey.

“Our prophet ordered us to remove all these statues as his followers did when they conquered nations,” the man in the video adds. The video bore the logo of the IS group’s media arm and was posted on a Twitter account used by the group.

But this is only the most recent destruction of history.

In January, Islamic State militants ransacked the Central Library of Mosul, smashing the locks and taking around 2,000 books — leaving only Islamic texts. Days later, militants broke into University of Mosul’s library. They made a bonfire out of hundreds of books on science and culture, destroying them in front of students.

The day after Baghdad fell to U.S. troops in April 2003, looters burst into the Iraqi National Museum in the Iraqi capital, making off with scores of priceless artifacts and leaving the floor littered with shattered pottery. The U.S. was widely criticized at the time for failing to protect the site.

Yes, we are also complicit in failing to protect world heritage.

But it is the ransacking of the library and the burning of the books that leads me to a comparison to the fundamentalist Christians in this country.  They have in common with ISIS a tunnel vision that allow only for one point of view.  One religion.  One way of thinking.  It seems to me that all fundamentalists have a common root:  To destroy that which is other or different.  I am not comparing that Oklahoma legislator to an ISIS terrorist, let me be clear about that.  What I am saying is that while the manifestation of their beliefs may be different, they share a desire to make everyone adhere to what they know is best.  It is done through terror and killing in Syria, Iraq, and Africa and stupid legislation in the United States, but the end goals seem to me to be the same.

Photograph:  AP

A eulogy for Karen

I was, in the way children count age, 2 years and 3 months old when Karen was born so I always used to tell her I knew her when she was born.  That wasn’t really true as I don’t remember the event although I have a memory of her older brother showing her to me.  And maybe that isn’t a true memory but something that one of our mothers told us when we were older.  In any event she was my oldest girlfriend.  Our mothers were best friends from college and so we grew up together – like having two Moms and two Dads.  In fact, her parents introduced my parents, but that is another story.

When we were young, we lived pretty close to each other and spent a lot of time playing together.  But at least once I must have gone off to do something with her brother and another friend and told her she couldn’t come because she was too young.  I don’t remember the incident but she never forgot it!  When we got older and her family moved to California, we started writing letters between occasional visits.  We wrote through high school and college maybe not regularly but several times a year.  The only time I remember losing touch a little was after she got married, but that separation didn’t last long.  We would also talk on the phone when one of us could afford the long distance call (Yes, it used to cost money.) or had something really important to convey.

By the mid 1990s, long distance became much less expensive and we began monthly calls.  I had a bad habit of forgetting the time difference between east and west coast and, more than once, called too early.  She tolerated my early wake-ups.  We talked though her return to college to get her degree and then her Master’s.  She talked me through my dissertation.  We talked about her divorce and my marriage.  We talked about her son’s marriage and our grandchildren.  We discussed the tribulations of being adjunct faculty. We talked politics and family and baseball.  And we always remembered each other’s birthdays with cards.

I think it was in 2010 when I realized that something was wrong.  She repeated herself a lot and barely let me say anything.  It was the first time I had to make excuses to get off the phone or she would have continued to talk.  And then I didn’t get a card for my birthday.  I found out from her brother that she had been diagnosed with a form of dementia and was going into a group living situation.   She moved into an assisted living facility where she died at the end of last month.

I’m sad to say that I never made it out to see her after she got sick and that I didn’t send her cards and pictures as often as I should have.  I appreciated all the reports from her family and friends on her special page on Facebook.  But I never forgot her and miss our phone calls to this day.  Just before I learned of her death, I was thinking how much she would appreciate all the snow around our house.

I won’t be at her memorial tomorrow, but I wanted to write a eulogy anyway.  I think she would appreciate it.

Judge Moore and Justice Thomas and marriage equality in Alabama

I guess that Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is taking his cues from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ dissent instead of from the actual ruling in which the majority of the United States Supreme Court refused to stay a District Court ruling that allowed the state to become the 37th state to allow same – sex marriages.  According to the Washington Post story, Justice Thomas wanted a stay.

The court is months away from hearing arguments in a landmark case about whether states are free to ban such unions. But Thomas said a majority of the justices may have already made up their minds, as reflected by the court’s “indecorous” decision Monday morning allowing same-sex marriages to proceed in Alabama.

“This acquiescence may well be seen as a signal of the Court’s intended resolution of that question,” Thomas wrote in a dissent from the court’s order refusing to stay the weddings. “This is not the proper way to discharge our . . . responsibilities.”

Thomas and his pal, Justice Scalia voted for a stay.  And I think he is probably right.  The more states that allow marriage equality and the more couples that marry, the harder it will be to overturn any lower court rulings.  It may turnout that the Supreme Court will “compromise” by letting the few states in which the Appeals Court has overturned lower court rulings that not allowing marriage equality violates either the state or U.S. Constitution, but I think they are headed for a Loving v. Virginia kind of decision.

However, Judge Moore appears to have decided that he’d rather go with Thomas than the actual ruling.  Judge Moore ordered Alabama probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  According to the Washington Post

Much of the legal uncertainty in Alabama over same-sex marriage centers on Roy Moore, chief justice of the state’s Supreme Court. On Sunday night,Moore told Alabama’s probate judges not to issue marriage licenses, defying a federal judge. This is not the first time Moore has refused to follow a federal judge’s ruling.

We all remember when Judge Moore refuse to remove that large stone Ten Commandments monument from the courthouse.  The Post explains

Until this week, Moore’s claim to fame was being the “Ten Commandments judge.” The controversy that led to Moore being ousted from the bench involved a large monument to the Ten Commandments that had been installed in the Alabama Judicial Building in Montgomery.

This two-and-a-half-ton monument, and Moore’s fight to keep it in place, served as a cultural flash point. Civil liberties groups argued that it violated the church-state separation, while conservative and religious supporters of Moore defended his actions.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuitarguing that the monument violated the constitutional prohibition against religious endorsement. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit agreed, ordering Moore to remove the monument.

He was then removed from his judgeship by the state ethics panel, but was reelected in 2012.

2300alabama-ssm-0209

So as a result of Judge Moore deciding the Thomas dissent was better than the refusal to grant a stay, Alabama is in chaos.  There are now counties where no marriage licenses are being issued at all, some that are just refusing same-sex couples, and others who are complying with the district court.

There will be more lawsuits as people are denied the right to marry.  I wonder what Justice Thomas will do when the next appeal from Alabama reaches the Supreme Court, but I think the Alabama ethics panel will be having another hearing with Judge Moore.

Dean Smith and Carolina basketball

My mother, Marii Hasegawa, loved Atlantic Coast Basketball, but she really loved the Tar Heels the best.  Even after my sister got her Masters degree from Duke, my mother refused to root for them when they played North Carolina.  I have only been to one Final Four, but it was in 1982 and I got to see North Carolina win it all.

Dean Smith, the North Carolina basketball coach, after the Tar Heels defeated Georgetown for the N.C.A.A. championship in 1982

Dean Smith, the North Carolina basketball coach, after the Tar Heels defeated Georgetown for the N.C.A.A. championship in 1982

My mother was happy; my aunt who favored Georgetown, was not.

Richard Goldstein writing the obituary in the New York Times points out that while Dean Smith was a legendary basketball coach he should be remembered for a great deal more.

Smith’s 879 victories rank him No. 4 among major college men’s basketball coaches, and his teams won two national championships. He turned out a host of all-Americans, most notably Michael Jordan, perhaps basketball’s greatest player, but he emphasized unselfish team play. He was a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and a four-time national coach of the year.

Like most successful coaches, Smith was adept at diagraming plays on a blackboard. But unlike many, he ran a program that was never accused of N.C.A.A. violations, and some 97 percent of his players graduated.

President Obama awarded Smith the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, in November 2013, presenting it to his wife, Linnea, who represented him at a White House ceremony.

In addition to citing Smith’s achievements on the court, Mr. Obama praised his “courage in helping to change our country” through his progressive views on race relations.

He drew on a moral code implanted by his parents in Depression-era Kansas to break racial barriers in a changing South. He challenged segregation and recruited Charlie Scott, who became the first starring black basketball player in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“My father said, ‘Value each human being,’ ” Smith recalled in “A Coach’s Life” (1999), written with John Kilgo and Sally Jenkins. “Racial justice wasn’t preached around the house, but there was a fundamental understanding that you treated each person with dignity.”

Smith’s parents instilled a sense of racial tolerance in him, in a highly segregated state, long before the modern civil rights movement. His father [a high school basketball coach] put a black player named Paul Terry on his 1933-34 team, which won the state championship, though Terry was barred from playing in the state tournament by Kansas sports officials.

I remember hearing a lot of players say they made decisions well into adulthood only after consulting with Coach Smith.  I remember when Michael Jordan wanted to leave UNC early some of the announcers saying that Jordan was leaving only after promising his mother and Coach Smith he would get his degree.  He did.

The Charlotte Observer has this anecdote.

Smith the innovator also was Smith the motivator. But he didn’t give rah-rah pep talks. He typically explained what they needed to do to win and the significance of the moment.

Once at Maryland, however, he did promise to sing “Amen” – the Terps’ late-game theme song – if the Tar Heels beat Lefty Driesell’s club. Carolina won and Smith fulfilled his vocal promise, but according to reports, he would not have won the “American Idol” title.

“He was not much as a singer,’’ recalled guard Ged Doughton.

Many will write about Dean Smith’s contributions to the game of basketball.  For example, his “Four Corners” offense made the shot clock necessary.  But I want to remember him for his views off the court also.  In an article from 2013, Barry Jacobs wrote

Smith was periodically approached about running for the U.S. Senate from North Carolina as a Democrat. But the publicity-shy coach disdained the glad-handing involved in soliciting votes and raising money. Besides, he said, “I’d never get elected if people in North Carolina realized how liberal I am.”

He was probably right. Over the years Smith spoke in favor of a nuclear freeze and for gay rights. He opposed capital punishment. He joined a Chapel Hill street protest against the war in Vietnam. When President George H.W. Bush sent American troops into Iraq in 1991, Smith asked: “Why can’t the United States band together for some other good thing like (fighting) poverty? If you want to kill somebody, then everybody’s for it.”

 My mother loved Carolina basketball and she admired Dean Smith.  If they had ever met I think they would have had a lot to say to each other.

Photograph:  Pete Leabo/Associated Press