Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Two more words.
I have no words for the symbolism of this moment. I have no words to adequately describe how I feel about the fact that in my lifetime, while I’ve been on this planet…the journey of the African American has gone from not being able to eat at the same tables or drink from the same fountains as others to THIS. The journey of a people who had to march to sit down where they wanted on a bus, run from dogs and water cannons, firebombs, lynching’s……
This moment. This moment where the WE of it all truly stood above everything. Where the WE of the PEOPLE of America – the common man, the ones without all the traditional money and power – the WE…believed one simple slogan – YES WE CAN. The WE that felt that each of us could make a difference – our one vote could actually count for something. That EACH of our singular voices together could send a powerful message to the “establishment” of the United States of America. The long lines…the patient waiting of millions to make a simple statement. YES WE CAN. I’m writing and I’m searching, but I still can’t find the words.
There are those who are afraid. They think that he’s a socialist – and have the opinion that their rights will be eroded. Well, our new president has promised to be your president as well – so pull up to the table and make sure your voice is heard – but while you are talking, be sure to make space to listen as well. Open your mind to other opinions and views. Decide that it's not ALL about just you. Or just me. It's about US - us as people, us as the UNITED STATES.
I’ve been getting emails from all over the world today. All of the emails have been congratulating America on our choice for president. Our standing in the world is about to change for the better. We have an opportunity to rebuild the good will and the alliances that have been squandered over the last eight years. The world knows that the people of America have sounded the call for change. To quote Martha Stewart “that’s a good thing”.
I’m not saying that our new president is the “second coming”. He’s a man. And, if WE as a people – both democrats and republicans don’t work together and FORCE our representatives to do the same, NOTHING WILL CHANGE. WE must communicate with those on the hill. WE must participate in a process that for far too long has suffered from apathy and a lack of faith that WE could do anything to make it better. Last night has changed that. Last night proved before our very eyes, that WE (Americans from different walks of life, with diverse opinions and beliefs) could do something unexpected.
But…on another side of a coin, my new president IS a giant of a role model in a society that needs them desperately. A black man, faithful husband, educated and intellectually brilliant, good father, community servant…..
Today, Martin and Malcolm smile. Today, we know we have wings and we too belong – and we can fly. Today, excuses for young black men have been removed. No father? – Look at Barack. You don’t come from money? Neither did Barack. I too am hopeful today that we can “get there” if we all work together for our common good. Now, America…the real work begins. But can we do it?
YES WE CAN.
Friday, August 29, 2008
This part of Barack Obama's speech hit squarely the head of the nail for me.
This is the basic philosophy that I just will not accept. The give the money and resources to those that have, and trust that they will do the right thing for those that have not mentality. If big business and it's power brokers and elites could be trusted with the well being of the workers (if they are not shareholders), America would be far better off that it is today - and would still have some moral leg to stand on. (Instead of making the abortion issue the test of morality).
It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it.
For over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy -- give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is that you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. You're on your own. No health care? The market will fix it. You're on your own. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps -- even if you don't have boots. You are on your own.
We all have a responsibility to work for the good of our society first, then for ourselves. When society benefits as a whole, we all benefit as individuals. I'll happily pay my share to do what's right, if everyone else is doing the same.
I'm weary of the the direction we've taken. The lack of respect around the world for our country. The buffoon that America elected TWICE whose left all of us in positions much worse that when he first started. I'm willing to choose something different. To take a chance on a new direction.
I want both sides of the house and senate to get off their self serving behinds, and work to make our lives better in America. I want to FIRE THEM if they don't change the direction (or lack thereof) they've been providing for the country. I want America to take it's power back and provide for it's own. I want our government to get serious about working against the scourge of poverty, cleaning up our environment and ending our dependence on big money oil, providing affordable health care for all who need it allowing their doctors to make the treatment decisions in conjunction with their patients (with no interference from the profit making thieves in the insurance industry and their lobbyists), and giving all of our children access to first class education so that they too can contribute to society and compete in the global economy.
I understand, its a tough road to hoe that requires a culture change but...
Can we do it? YES WE CAN.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Two Words With a Ring Of Possibility
By DeNeen L. Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 4, 2008; C01
Two words profound and yet contradictory. Once thought of as an oxymoron, impossible to be placed together in the same sentence, context, country -- unless followed by a question mark.
Black president? This century?
Black president -- words perhaps as foreign as "green president." And yet now, a black president seems a distinct possibility with Sen. Barack Obama heading into the general election as the Democratic presidential nominee.
Black president. The two words evoke excitement, dread, great expectations, intense fear, incomprehension, power, the breadth of possibility.
For some, those two words -- black president -- symbolize the smashing of a glass ceiling, whose splintered shards had fallen on others who had thrown rocks at it in vain.
Black president, words that carry with them the hope of the Invisible Man, the Manchild in the Promised Land, the balm on the anxiety of a Native Son.
Said with whispers. And gasps. Exhaled as if the accumulation of all the troubles of a people would be over, though those who know better know also that that won't happen.
"Black president. Is there still racism in this society? Of course there is. But it is not nearly the level of racism that would make the idea of the words 'black president' sound ridiculous," says Roger Wilkins, professor emeritus at George Mason University. "Black president. . . . It is not as if one morning I woke up and turned on the radio and I heard someone say 'black president,' I would drop my teeth. This has been gradual. When I hear it, I think as someone who has taught history for the last 25 years; I think our country has come a long way."
Wilkins adds: "There is a very deep joy and pride when I listen to the words 'black' and 'president' applied to a walking, breathing person who carries African genes in his body and soul."
And yet, for others, there is symbolism of a different kind. A symbolism of fear. Geraldine Ferraro, the first female vice presidential candidate, has said Obama is a candidate for president only because he's black. And she's raised the specter, in her recent writings, of a "reverse racism" that some whites fear under a black president.
"They're upset because they don't expect to be treated fairly because they're white," Ferraro wrote Sunday in the Boston Globe, adding, "They don't believe he understands them and their problems."
( I need to interject here. WTH, why wouldn't he treat them with all the same fairness that he's been treated? hmmm could that be what they are actually afraid of?
* * *
A black president is old hat in the movies. Television shows also have portrayed black men in the Oval Office. Comedians joke about black presidents. There is even a rock band called Black President, which has posted online: "when we came up with the name of the band, Senator Obama had not yet announced his intentions to run for office. it was just our way of saying America needed a change and we could think of nothing more indicative of change in a racist, soulless system than a BLACK PRESIDENT." (But the band has not endorsed a candidate, according to its Web site.)
Because of his appeal to whites, some call him "post-racial," this man, Obama, who didn't run as a black president, whose mother is white. Yet people still call him the first black presidential nominee. "Post-racial" meets the "one-drop rule" from the days of Jim Crow?
Race gets elastic that way -- stretched well beyond the truth some years ago when Toni Morrison called Bill Clinton the country's first black president. It insulted some black men, being compared to Clinton and his misdeeds. But the words stuck. Pretty or not.
In January, during a debate, someone asked the question of Obama: "Do you think Bill Clinton was our first black president?"
"Well," said Obama, pausing as the audience chuckled, "I think Bill Clinton did have an enormous affinity with the African American community and still does. That's well earned."
But months later, after lots of black folk felt the former white president was race-baiting, his "black president" title was revoked.
Now, the title is poised to be passed on, to Obama.
* * *
Everybody knows there are no guarantees in politics. But this "black president" idea is electrifying fodder for thought.
There is Artis Allen, 74, a retired meat cutter, leaning against a rail at a post office in Silver Spring, pondering those words -- black president -- and reflecting on his childhood.
"Black president? No, not then. When I grew up in Georgia, it was very prejudiced. I remember a man who ran for governor. He said he did not want a black vote. Black people couldn't vote too much anyhow. I was 13 and my daddy wasn't a politician, but that was his main conversation: politics."
"Black president," Allen repeats. "What surprises me is white people are voting for a black man just as much as black people. That is what really amazes me."
Down the street, the words "black president" stop Ali Salaam, 32, a barber who, like Allen, is black.
"Black president, what does it symbolize?" Ali says. "Elite status, the best of the American dream. That's what it evokes for me. I love it. I always believed it could happen. I didn't think I would see it happen in my lifetime. But once I heard him speak, I believed it. When I heard him speak, it reminded me of King, Du Bois, Malcolm X. It was entrancing."
Steven Warren, 16, a junior at Archbishop Carroll High School, says the words are "revolutionary. I didn't think it would happen while I was in my prime. I thought it would happen when I was in my 60s."
"You can take the black out and he still would be president," says the young black man.
Up the street you go, carrying the words, black president. The words stop at the feet of Tommy Thayer, 30, a tattoo artist. "It's a damn shame there hasn't already been a black president as far as I'm concerned," Thayer says. "We are so used to all the presidents being all whites and all men. That's like telling everyone we are a racist nation. I think people are robbing themselves if they don't get to know other cultures."
Thayer describes himself as "all white, 100 percent white, Irish, Italian if you want specifics. . . . He's going to win. I'm almost positive. I can feel it. We are going to have a black president."
Well, for now, a black presidential nominee.
Friday, May 16, 2008
A program of attraction, rather than promotion.OR
"If I be lifted up.. I will draw all men unto me"
There's a lot to be said around this, but as I was talking with a close friend last night, my head was spinning with principles that were founded in 12 step recovery, steps that apply to a relationship with God and the foundation of a spiritual program. So often we promote Christ and Christianity with our mouths. We wave the bible, the commandments and use them as tools like crusaders to force a conversion or compliance within another.Our actions indicate that we believe that we must lift Christ with a sword or a threat. I hear folks tell others what Jesus thinks all the time. However, whenever Jesus was involved...it was all about attraction. Jesus never sent folks out into the street with tracts advertising his latest big speech, or made announcement on Temple Radio. People were drawn to him once they saw who he was. To his closest, he issued an invitation - once he saw their interest. The masses never needed inviting. He showed up...and they started showing up. That's attraction in its most magnetic form.
The question is, with His life as our example - why do we feel the need to do it differently? The difference I suppose, is religion - not relationship. I love and respect my closest. I love and respect their families. Because I love them, I want to live the best life I know how so that within me (as I saw with my own mother) they will see something to aspire to. They will see (as I have see in scripture and in my life) failures, stubbornness, bad decisions but also humility, willingness to change, thoughtfulness. My wish is for them to never see that it's all about me. But that they see it's all about the process of the relationship with God. And that process has nothing directly to do with anyone else other than me ( not the church I go to, the work I do or the people I know - or think might judge me). My life, My testimony, My story is my sermon. The choices I make, the things I say and do become my personal witness without ever quoting a scripture (that no one asked to hear), or providing my opinion on what God thinks (aka doing the work of the Holy Spirit). You know a tree by the fruit it bears. You know a person by the impact they have.
What we must all do to be champion attractors for deep spiritual walk with God - is to go within, examine the barriers in our own lives - confess those to God and others so that they may be cleared from your life - admit our state of powerlessness over EVERYTHING that we cannot change - give it to God - and then taking his hand become partners in making it better.
I have seen this process work in more lives that you can imagine. However, most of those lives have NOT been within the organized religious circles. Many who have this process sit in those circles - but many also sit who do not. Most of us do not have 40 years with which to wander around in the wilderness trying to figure it all out on our own. Take the first step towards peace and serenity - now.
This seems almost too simple to be true, but acceptance -- accepting things exactly as they are -- can be the key that unlocks the door to happiness.As you read the passage below replace "alcoholism" and "sober" with the things/behaviours/people you cannot accept - then read it again.
It may be one of the most referenced passages in recovery literature. It's from Page 449 of Alcoholics Anonymous or The Big Book as it is widely known:
And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation -- some fact of my life -- unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.
Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life's terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.
In its simplest term - that last sentence is a prayer. "Lord, change me.....fix.....me." If that's all you asked for and God granted....the end result .....happiness
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
One of the hardest, thorniest and most difficult things we humans are ever called upon to do is to respond to evil with kindness and to forgive the unforgivable. We love to read stories about people who've responded to hatred with love, but when that very thing is demanded of us personally, our default seems to be anger, angst, depression, righteousness, hatred, etc. Yet study after study shows that one of the keys to longevity and good health is to develop a habit of gratitude and let go of past hurts.
Want to live a long, happy life? Forgive the unforgivable. It really is the kindest thing you can do for yourself. Your enemy may not deserve to be forgiven for all the pain and sadness and suffering they've purposefully inflicted on your life, but ''you'' deserve to be free of this evil. As Ann Landers often said, "hate is like an acid. It destroys the vessel in which it is stored."
Realize that the hate you feel toward does not harm them in the slightest. Chances are, they've gone on with their life and haven't given you another thought.
Look at the situation from an eagle's eye.]] Make a list of the good things that happened as a result of this awful experience. You've probably focused long enough on the bad parts of this experience. Look at the problem from a wholly new angle; look at the good side. The first item on that list may be a long time coming because you've focused on the bad for so long, but don't give up. Force yourself to find 10 good things that happened specifically because of this experience.
Look for the helpers. Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers) related that, as a little boy, he'd often become upset about major catastrophes in the news. His mother would tell him, "look for the helpers." In your own nightmarish experience, think back to the people who helped you. Think about their kindness and unselfishness.
Look at the bigger picture. Was someone your "good Samaritan"? In this biblical story, a traveler happens upon a poor soul who was beat up on the road to Jericho and left for dead. It's a lot easier to play the part of the Good Samaritan than to be the poor soul who is left bleeding and bruised on the side of the road. Perhaps this isn't all about you. Perhaps your trial provided an opportunity for others to rise to an occasion to provide you with help and support.
Be compassionate with yourself. If you've ruminated over this problem for a long time, steering this boat into a new direction could take some time, too. As you try to make a new path out of the dark woods of this old hurt, you'll make mistakes. Forgive yourself. Be patient and kind to yourself. Extreme emotional pain has a profound effect on the body. Give yourself time to heal - physically and emotionally. Eat well. Rest. Focus on the natural beauty in the world.
The Aramaic word for "forgive" means literally to "untie." The fastest way to free yourself from an enemy and all their negativity is to forgive. Loose yourself from them and their ugliness. Your hatred has tied you to them. Your forgiveness enables you to start walking away from them and the pain.
Forgiveness must be unconditional. Therefore, it cannot be dependent upon the repentance of those who have harmed us. However, unless those who have harmed us have truly repented of whatever they have done, we need to use wisdom in avoiding repeating the hurt. This may require avoiding those who are unrepentant of the harm that they have inflicted upon us.
How many times this week did you tell "the story" about how badly you were hurt and how horribly you were wronged? How many times a day do you think about this hurt? Stop telling "the story." It is a stake driven into the ground that keeps you from moving away from this hurt. Rather, forgive your enemy because it's the kindest thing you can do for your friends and family. Negativity is depressing, physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.
When your enemy and their evil actions come to mind,send them a blessing. Compliment someone you hate and wish them well. (this may take a LOT of practice and prayer) Hope the best for them. This has two effects. One, it neutralizes that acid of hate that destroys the vessel in which it is stored. The evil we wish for another seems to have a rebound effect. The same is true for the good that we wish for another. When you become able to return blessing for hatred, you'll know that you're well on the path to wholeness. The first 15 or 150 times you try this, the "blessing" may feel contrived, empty, and even hypocritical but keep trying. Eventually, it will become a new habit and soon thereafter, the anger and pain that has burned in your heart will evaporate, like dew before the morning sun.
Remember: you're not the Lone Ranger. One wise African-American preacher said, "I worship a God with holes in his hands and feet." If they did it to innocent Jesus, then how much more to us? And if they wrong you for doing right, then you're really doing what Jesus did. You're in good company, at least!
Maintain perspective. While the "evil" actions of your "enemy" are hurtful to you and your immediate surroundings, the rest of the world goes on unaware. Validate their meaning in your life, but never lose perspective that others are not involved and do not deserve anything to be taken out on them. Your enemy is someone else's beloved son, someone's employee, or a child's parent.
Got any stories of forgiveness? How you made it through? I'd be glad to hear them.
By Kevin Merida
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 13, 2008; A01
Danielle Ross was alone in an empty room at the Obama campaign headquarters in Kokomo, Ind., a cellphone in one hand, a voter call list in the other. She was stretched out on the carpeted floor wearing laceless sky-blue Converses, stories from the trail on her mind. It was the day before Indiana's primary, and she had just been chased by dogs while canvassing in a Kokomo suburb. But that was not the worst thing to occur since she postponed her sophomore year at Middle Tennessee State University, in part to hopscotch America stumping for Barack Obama.
Here's the worst: In Muncie, a factory town in the east-central part of Indiana, Ross and her cohorts were soliciting support for Obama at malls, on street corners and in a Wal-Mart parking lot, and they ran into "a horrible response," as Ross put it, a level of anti-black sentiment that none of them had anticipated.
"The first person I encountered was like, 'I'll never vote for a black person,' " recalled Ross, who is white and just turned 20. "People just weren't receptive."
For all the hope and excitement Obama's candidacy is generating, some of his field workers, phone-bank volunteers and campaign surrogates are encountering a raw racism and hostility that have gone largely unnoticed -- and unreported -- this election season. Doors have been slammed in their faces. They've been called racially derogatory names (including the white volunteers). And they've endured malicious rants and ugly stereotyping from people who can't fathom that the senator from Illinois could become the first African American president.
The contrast between the large, adoring crowds Obama draws at public events and the gritty street-level work to win votes is stark. The candidate is largely insulated from the mean-spiritedness that some of his foot soldiers deal with away from the media spotlight.
Victoria Switzer, a retired social studies teacher, was on phone-bank duty one night during the Pennsylvania primary campaign. One night was all she could take: "It wasn't pretty." She made 60 calls to prospective voters in Susquehanna County, her home county, which is 98 percent white. The responses were dispiriting. One caller, Switzer remembers, said he couldn't possibly vote for Obama and concluded: "Hang that darky from a tree!"
Documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy, the daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy, said she, too, came across "a lot of racism" when campaigning for Obama in Pennsylvania. One Pittsburgh union organizer told her he would not vote for Obama because he is black, and a white voter, she said, offered this frank reason for not backing Obama: "White people look out for white people, and black people look out for black people."
Obama campaign officials say such incidents are isolated, that the experience of most volunteers and staffers has been overwhelmingly positive.
The campaign released this statement in response to questions about encounters with racism: "After campaigning for 15 months in nearly all 50 states, Barack Obama and our entire campaign have been nothing but impressed and encouraged by the core decency, kindness, and generosity of Americans from all walks of life. The last year has only reinforced Senator Obama's view that this country is not as divided as our politics suggest."
Campaign field work can be an exercise in confronting the fears, anxieties and prejudices of voters. Veterans of the civil rights movement know what this feels like, as do those who have been involved in battles over busing, immigration or abortion. But through the Obama campaign, some young people are having their first experience joining a cause and meeting cruel reaction.
On Election Day in Kokomo, a group of black high school students were holding up Obama signs along U.S. 31, a major thoroughfare. As drivers cruised by, a number of them rolled down their windows and yelled out a common racial slur for African Americans, according to Obama campaign staffers.
Frederick Murrell, a black Kokomo High School senior, was not there but heard what happened. He was more disappointed than surprised. During his own canvassing for Obama, Murrell said, he had "a lot of doors slammed" in his face. But taunting teenagers on a busy commercial strip in broad daylight? "I was very shocked at first," Murrell said. "Then again, I wasn't, because we have a lot of racism here."
The bigotry has gone beyond words. In Vincennes, the Obama campaign office was vandalized at 2 a.m. on the eve of the primary, according to police. A large plate-glass window was smashed, an American flag stolen. Other windows were spray-painted with references to Obama's controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and other political messages: "Hamas votes BHO" and "We don't cling to guns or religion. Goddamn Wright."
Ray McCormick was notified of the incident at about 2:45 a.m. A farmer and conservationist, McCormick had erected a giant billboard on a major highway on behalf of Farmers for Obama. He also was housing the Obama campaign worker manning the office. When McCormick arrived at the office, about two hours before he was due out of bed to plant corn, he grabbed his camera and wanted to alert the media. "I thought, this is a big deal." But he was told Obama campaign officials didn't want to make a big deal of the incident. McCormick took photos anyway and distributed some.
"The pictures represent what we are breaking through and overcoming," he said. As McCormick, who is white, sees it, Obama is succeeding despite these incidents. Later, there would be bomb threats to three Obama campaign offices in Indiana, including the one in Vincennes, according to campaign sources.
Obama has not spoken much about racism during this campaign. He has sought to emphasize connections among Americans rather than divisions. He shrugged off safety concerns that led to early Secret Service protection and has told black senior citizens who worry that racists will do him harm: Don't fret. Earlier in the campaign, a 68-year-old woman in Carson City, Nev., voiced concern that the country was not ready to elect an African American president.
"Will there be some folks who probably won't vote for me because I am black? Of course," Obama said, "just like there may be somebody who won't vote for Hillary because she's a woman or wouldn't vote for John Edwards because they don't like his accent. But the question is, 'Can we get a majority of the American people to give us a fair hearing?' "
Obama has won 30 of 50 Democratic contests so far, the kind of nationwide electoral triumph no black candidate has ever realized. That he is on the brink of capturing the Democratic nomination, some say, is a testament to how far the country has progressed in overcoming racism and evidence of Obama's skill at bridging divides.
Obama has won five of 12 primaries in which black voters made up less than 10 percent of the electorate, and caucuses in states such as Idaho and Wyoming that are overwhelmingly white. But exit polls show he has struggled to attract white voters who didn't attend college and earn less than $50,000 a year. Today, he and Hillary Clinton square off in West Virginia, a state where she is favored and where the votes of working-class whites will again be closely watched.
For the most part, Obama campaign workers say, the 2008 election cycle has been exhilarating. On the ground, the Obama campaign is being driven by youngsters, many of whom are imbued with an optimism undeterred by racial intolerance. "We've grown up in a different world," says Danielle Ross. Field offices are staffed by 20-somethings who hold positions -- state director, regional field director, field organizer -- that are typically off limits to newcomers to presidential politics.
Gillian Bergeron, 23, was in charge of a five-county regional operation in northeastern Pennsylvania. The oldest member of her team was 27. At Scranton's annual Saint Patrick's Day parade, some of the green Obama signs distributed by staffers were burned along the parade route. That was the first signal that this wasn't exactly Obama country. There would be others.
In a letter to the editor published in a local paper, Tunkhannock Borough Mayor Norm Ball explained his support of Hillary Clinton this way: "Barack Hussein Obama and all of his talk will do nothing for our country. There is so much that people don't know about his upbringing in the Muslim world. His stepfather was a radical Muslim and the ranting of his minister against the white America, you can't convince me that some of that didn't rub off on him.
"No, I want a president that will salute our flag, and put their hand on the Bible when they take the oath of office."
Obama's campaign workers have grown wearily accustomed to the lies about the candidate's supposed radical Muslim ties and lack of patriotism. But they are sometimes astonished when public officials such as Ball or others representing the campaign of their opponent traffic in these falsehoods.
Karen Seifert, a volunteer from New York, was outside of the largest polling location in Lackawanna County, Pa., on primary day when she was pressed by a Clinton volunteer to explain her backing of Obama. "I trust him," Seifert replied. According to Seifert, the woman pointed to Obama's face on Seifert's T-shirt and said: "He's a half-breed and he's a Muslim. How can you trust that?"
* * *
Pollsters have found it difficult to accurately measure racial attitudes, as some voters are unwilling to acknowledge the role that race plays in their thinking. But some are not. Susan Dzimian, a Clinton supporter who owns residential properties, said outside a polling location in Kokomo that race was a factor in how she viewed Obama. "I think if it was somebody other than him, I'd accept it," she said of a black candidate. "If Colin Powell had run, I would be willing to accept him."
The previous evening, Dondra Ewing was driving the neighborhoods of Kokomo, looking to turn around voters like Dzimian. Ewing, 47, is a chain-smoking middle school guidance counselor, a black single mother of two and one of the most fiercely vigilant Obama volunteers in Kokomo, which was once a Ku Klux Klan stronghold. On July 4, 1923, Kokomo hosted the largest Klan gathering in history -- an estimated 200,000 followers flocked to a local park. But these are not the 1920s, and Ewing believes she can persuade anybody to back Obama. Her mother, after all, was the first African American elected at-large to the school board in a community that is 10 percent black.
Kokomo, population 46,000, is another hard-hit Midwestern industrial town stung by layoffs. Longtimers wistfully remember the glory years of Continental Steel and speak mournfully about the jobs shipped overseas. Kokomo Sanitary Pottery, which made bathroom sinks and toilets, shut down a couple of months ago and took with it 150 jobs.
Aaron Roe, 23, was mowing lawns at a local cemetery recently, lamenting his $8-an-hour job with no benefits. He had earned a community college degree as an industrial electrician, but learned there was no electrical work to be found for someone with his experience, which is to say none. Politics wasn't on his mind; frustration was. If he were to vote, it would not be for Obama, he said. "I just got a funny feeling about him," Roe said, a feeling he couldn't specify, except to say race wasn't a part of it. "Race ain't nothing," said Roe, who is white. "It's how they're going to help the country."
The Aaron Roes are exactly who Dondra Ewing was after: people with funny feelings.
At the Bradford Run Apartments, she found Robert Cox, a retiree who spent 30 years working for an electronics manufacturer making computer chips. He was in his suspenders, grilling shish kebab, which he had never eaten. "Something new," Cox said, recommended by his son who was visiting from Colorado.
Ewing was selling him hard on Obama. "There are more than two families that can run the United States of America," she said, "and their names aren't Bush and Clinton."
"Yeah, I know, I know," Cox said, remaining noncommittal.
He opened the grill and peeked at the kebabs. "It's not his race, because I got real good friends and all that," Cox continued. "If anything would keep him from getting elected, it would be his name. It might turn off some older people."
"No, older than me," said Cox, 66.
Ewing kept talking, until finally Cox said, "Probably Obama," when asked directly how he would vote.
As she walked away, Ewing said: "I think we got him."
But truthfully, she wasn't feeling so sure.
Friday, March 14, 2008
What Was Silda Spitzer Thinking? (Sally Quinn for the Washington Post)
Once, just once, wouldn’t you love to see the politician up there at the lectern sweating bullets, apologizing for letting down his wife and family …. alone?
Once, just once, wouldn’t you love to see the wife issuing her own statement saying that what he had done was unacceptable and that she was leaving him?
Wouldn’t that be morally correct?
But instead, again and again, we see the pathetic, ravaged faces of these women victims, standing supportively beside their husbands as they allow themselves to be excruciatingly humiliated in front of the whole world.
We really haven’t come a long way baby, have we? Certainly not in the case of women married to elected officials.
For the past few days since the Spitzer scandal broke, all anyone has been talking about is why? Why would a guy with a fabulous education, brilliant career, powerful position, beautiful and brainy wife and a lovely family, risk losing everything for a couple of evenings with a hooker.
I’m asking why, too. Why would a beautiful and brainy wife with three wonderful children allow herself to be put in this hideous situation for even 49 seconds -- the time it took to apologize. Much less do it all over again two days later when her husband resigned as New York’s governor.
I know why he did what he did. Because he could. Arrogance and power are a lethal combination, and men who combine both often begin to believe in their own invincibility.
The more baffling question to me is why she did it. All I could think of, watching Silda Spitzer’s defeated expression, was of Taliban women covered from head to toe in burqa, standing a few paces behind their men, appendages to their all powerful husbands. Or Indian women committing sati, throwing themselves on their husband’s funeral pyre.
American women are so quick to criticize the religious tradition of others, where women take a subservient position – but are we so different? That’s not what the Spitzer scandal suggests.
One can only assume that the women who do this are just as enamored of the power and the position as their men. Of course their power is derivative, which makes it all the more difficult to lose. (It was reported that Silda Spitzer did not want her husband to resign.) Would Hillary Clinton have run for the Senate or even President had she not stood by her man after the Monica Lewinsky episode and insisted he not resign? We’ll never know.
I have been writing about this for decades. I could run a story I wrote in the seventies today and it would read exactly the same way. Remember Mrs. Gary Hart, Mrs. Bob Livingston, Mrs. Larry Craig, Mrs. David Vitter? Certainly Hillary Clinton comes to mind as a competent and successful woman in her own right, standing next to her husband over and over again as he lied to her and to the country about his dalliances. It is such a demeaning role for women to play and one that should have stopped a long time ago.
Think of the message this image sends -- not to just adults, but to young children, both boys and girls. For young girls, it says this is an acceptable role for women -- to be lied to, cheated on, disrespected and humiliated in public/ You take it and must still be supportive. because that is what is expected of women.
For boys, it says it’s okay to lie and cheat and dishonor your family, and you might grow up to be a senator or a governor or a president. You can get away with it.
I know that many women are supportive of those who stand by their man, for no other stated reason than to keep the family together. Imagine, though, the scars that the children will suffer from getting conflicting messages. Surely they are taught to be honest and to honor their family, but suddenly it is also to do as I say and not what I do.
Shouldn’t we expect that anyone who betrays his family and the public trust to pay the consequences for his actions?
That is why these wives must stop standing supportively next to their husbands as they confess and explain and apologize. They are just as enabling of them in their shame as they were in their glory.
Monday, March 03, 2008
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Record-High Ratio of Americans in Prison
By N.C. Aizenman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 28, 2008; 5:10 PM
More than one in 100 adults in the United States is in jail or prison, an all-time high that is costing state governments nearly $50 billion a year, in addition to more than $5 billion spent by the federal government, according to a report released today.
With more than 2.3 million people behind bars at the start of 2008, the United States leads the world in both the number and the percentage of residents it incarcerates, leaving even far more populous China a distant second, noted the report by the nonpartisan Pew Center on the States.
The ballooning prison population is largely the result of tougher state and federal sentencing imposed since the mid-1980s. Minorities have been hit particularly hard: One in nine black men age 20 to 34 is behind bars. For black women age 35 to 39, the figure is one in 100, compared with one in 355 white women in the same age group.
While studies generally find that imprisoning more offenders reduces crime, the effect is influenced by changes in the unemployment rate, wages, the ratio of police officers to residents, and the share of young people in the population.
In addition, when it comes to preventing repeat offenses by nonviolent criminals -- who make up about half of the incarcerated population -- alternative punishments such as community supervision and mandatory drug counseling that are far less expensive may prove just as or more effective than jail time.
Florida, which nearly doubled its prison population over the past 15 years, has experienced a smaller drop in crime than New York, which, after a brief increase, reduced its number of inmates to below the 1993 level.
"There is no question that putting violent and chronic offenders behind bars lowers the crime rate and provides punishment that is well deserved," said Adam Gelb, director of the Pew Center's Public Safety Performance Project and one of the study's authors. "On the other hand, there are large numbers of people behind bars who could be supervised in the community safely and effectively at a much lower cost -- while also paying taxes, paying restitution to their victims, and paying child support."
About 91 percent of incarcerated adults are under state or local jurisdiction, and the report documents the tradeoffs state governments have faced as they have devoted ever larger shares of their budgets to house them. For instance, over the past two decades, state spending on corrections (adjusted for inflation) increased by 127 percent, while spending on higher education rose by 21 percent. For every dollar Virginia spends on higher education, it now spends about 60 cents on corrections. Maryland spends 74 cents on corrections per higher-education dollar.
Despite reaching its latest milestone, the nation's incarcerated population has actually been growing far more slowly since 2000 than during the 1990s, when the spate of harsher sentencing laws began to take effect. These included a 1986 federal law mandating prison terms for crack cocaine offenses that were up to eight times as long as for those involving powder cocaine. In the early 1990s, states across the nation adopted "three-strikes-you're-out" laws and curtailed the discretion parole boards have in deciding when to release an inmate. As a result, between 1990 and 2000, the prison population swelled by about 80 percent, increasing by as much as 86,000 per year.
By contrast, from 2007 to 2008, the prison population increased by 25,000 -- a 2 percent rise. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has issued decisions giving judges more leeway under mandatory sentencing laws, and a number of states, including Texas, are seeking to reduce their incarcerated population by adopting alternative punishments.
"Some of these [measures] would have been unthinkable five years ago," noted Gelb. "But the bottom line is that states have to balance their budgets."
Sunday, January 20, 2008
this little shining light lifts us all up.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
I have only made decisions. These decisions were made and acted upon before the holiday season. Thats why they are so NOT resolutions.
Decision 1. EAT FRESH.
I really had to take a look at what I'd been putting into my person habitually over the last few years. I really am not doing a "diet" thing - but attempting to put some healthy principles in place that will last the rest of my life. I am and will always be a "foodie". I love everything about the stuff. Watching people cook it - listening to folks talk about it, it's origins, the variety and let's not even discuss the flavors!
Many times, I was not as fully conscious as I would have liked to be about what was going into my mouth. Since my diabetes diagnosis last September however, all that has changed. The first decision that I made was to "eat only the calories that I really liked". You know, sometimes we eat just cuz the food shows up. This happens especially during the holidays. You may not really love that type of cake, pie or whatever...but it's there and LOOK! its free. So into your mouth it may go. "I'll just have a taste".....turns into 5 lbs gained during the holiday season.
This year, I did it differently. I planned for just about everything I ate. Most of the junk that just showed up, I managed to pass on. I decided that if I was going to DO a CALORIE, I would do one because I LOVED it. That attitude sort of morphed into...well, if you are going to do a calorie why not get the most nutritional value from the ones that you do? AND....why not make it all taste fabulous at the same time?
So here we are at EAT FRESH. I've been on a roll. Walking the peripherals of the grocery and spending a lot more time around the fruits and vegetables. I've discovered fennel and leeks, and all types of squash - in addition to the sprouts and green leafy's I like. I've found that anything roasted is DELISH! ;-) and that there are ways to make healthy meals anything but boring. As for the fruit...I've realized something that I'd never admitted before. I don't like citrus. Now, I thought all my life that I liked the stuff, but since it sits in my kitchen alone and spoiling most of the time. I had to admit that I just don't really care for it. So now the exploration to find out what I DO like. Here's whats been added to the yum yum list. Fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries) I've found I could eat every day! Pears, papaya, banana's...all added to the yummy-eat-this-all-the-time list. And look how many vitamins I'm getting. So good I can't stand it. This year, I'm working on eating all the colors of the rainbow and loving every minute of it.
Decision 2: Take Your Vitamins
This has been a rocky road for me. I really don't like the big ol horse pills. But, at my age I'd better make sure that I get every nutrient coming to me if I wanna be around and feel good for awhile. The trick to this decision is to take the pill pack at night. That way, my stomach doesn't really know that the pills don't agree with me.
Decision 3: Exercise as a part of every day (or at least 4 or5 of 7 days per week)
I have a motto around this one. "Slow And Steady Wins The Race". As part of a decision to live a better life or as Oprah like to say "Your Best Life", I'm making daily exercise a goal. Most weeks I'm able to meet the goal of at least 4 days of vigorous activity and on my good weeks make 5 days. Now, after a few months it's about upping the time and intensity - and building endurance so that I can actually BURN the calories I want to - and see some results on the scale. I've already seen results in my strength and blood sugar levels - as well as inches lost - BUT, the scale moves like a terrapin going up a mountain. No matter, as long as I have the attitude that allows me to, like Dorree in Finding Nemo to "just keep swimming", I know it's all gonna be good.
So this year...no resolutions. Just continuing actions on the decisions that I made months ago. Anyone else got decisions they'd like to share?