Sunday, December 28, 2008

Celebrating the End of Year Holidays

We have developed such expectations about the holidays (What are you doing New Year's Eve?) at the end of the year that some people have anxiety attacks about making things come out just right. And others dread the holidays because they have to be with people (usually family) whose company they do not cherish.

I carried my childhood traditions/expectations long after my childhood had passed. We had wonderful Christmases at our house and I thought I needed to duplicate those rituals when I had my own family, even when my family was two people--my son and I. It felt like there should be more people involved--I grew up in a family of six--but my son had never known anything else and he loved the rituals we were developing, so I loved them too. We both remember that time fondly, but we're not so attached to it that we make any effort to replicate it.

My New Year's eve memories have not been as good as the Christmas ones. The best were staying up with my son and watching the ball drop in New York. The one that was most painful and that helped me let go of the New Year's Eve fantasy was the year I was eight months pregnant and barely able to move. The man with whom I was having a passionate love affair, and who said he loved me, the father of my child, left me home alone and went to a New Year's Eve party. He came home unapologetically early the next morning.

In the years I've been an independent woman I've done as I pleased during the holidays--sometimes resting from a demanding job then dining with friends. Or, at other times cooking and inviting people over. The common denominator, however, was that I felt compelled to do something special for that period between December 24 and January 1.

This year I decided to let go of the emotional investment I've had in this holiday period since I was a child and let the "special" thing be pampering myself by doing what I most enjoy. So, I'm spending the week writing, reading, and writing some more. I've listened to my favorite music, some of it Christmas music, and had bubble baths with candles. It is a lovely experience. I may do it again, or not.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ethnic Identification

With a view toward dividing the country into black and white and pretending that no other ethnic identities exist, laws were passed during the formation of the U.S that isolated people of African descent by placing us outside the "mainstream." Everybody else, unless whites said no, was white and presumably a part of the mainstream. These laws and the unwritten customs that accompanied them operated to maintain the myth of white supremacy. They also made black the embodiment of all that is bad/evil/wrong, and of course white the opposite. Other "obvious ethnics" (see W. Kamau Bell's comic turn on this term) resent this black-white division with good reason.

One result of lumping all Europeans into the "white" category is that many of them no longer have any notion of their ethnic origins. And, in California I've observed that many could care less as more and more people ignore ethnic boundaries. I know one young man who is the product of an Italian-American mother and Mexican-American father. His wife is the product of a father who is Greek-American and a mother who is Korean-American. They have two children. How do we classify them? And, who cares?

At some point we may even stop using that ridiculous appellation, "bi-racial," usually reserved only for the offspring of one white parent and one obviously ethnic parent. Unless, of course, that offspring becomes the first black president of the United States.

At this point, as global interaction on every level increases, I think ethnic identification will become far less significant than it has been. That won't happen anytime soon, but things are certainly moving in that direction.

Monday, December 22, 2008

On Second Thought...

My previous post comparing Obama's selection of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration to Reagan's announcement in Philadelphia, MS was a mistake. That was my anger and disappointment speaking.

Upon further consideration, I cannot justify that comparison because the intent of each man is different. Reagan was sending a message that he was not a friend of blacks and/or the Civil Rights Movement. Obama, on the other hand, is fulfilling his campaign pledge to be inclusive rather than exclusive. Obama's vice president and cabinet selections are also evidence of his intent to be inclusive. His choices remind me of the Edwin Markham (1852-1940) poem, "Outwitted."

He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him in!

I was reading The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer yesterday and these words leaped out at me.

"Extremes create their opposites; the wise avoid them."

We've had several decades of hostility between extreme positions of left and right in this country. It has led us to this point where we are losing young lives in two wars, both initiated by the U.S.; an economy that is disastrous and getting worse; and a consumption of the world's natural resources that threatens our very existence.

We are fortunate to have been sensible enough to elect someone as wise as Barack Obama to be our next president. But, like most Americans, I adopted the default position of ostracizing those whose opinions/beliefs differ from my own. While continuing to express my own opinion, I will refrain from judging those who do not agree with me.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama Disses Lesbians and Gays

President-Elect Obama's strident effort to open his administration to everyone, regardless of their views, is once again being criticized. Although intellectually I see the wisdom of his openness, my emotions often rebel in horror. This is one of those times.

Just as I was offended when Ronald Reagan chose to announce his run for the presidency in Philadelphia, Mississippi, best-known for the lynching of three civil rights workers--James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner--I am offended that Obama has invited Rick Warren to do the invocation at his inauguration. Reagan's selection of that particular site was an intentional slap in the face of the Civil Rights Movement. Obama's selection of Warren feels like an intentional slap in the face of lesbians and gays, particularly so soon after Warren helped lead the fight to abolish their right to marry.

As laudable as Obama's penchant for inclusion is, there are some occasions when it is just not appropriate. This is one of them.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Greetings--BUY BOOKS!

I've been talking to booksellers lately who report that times are hard. And local booksellers aren't known for vast reserves of capital, so a serious dip in sales can be devastating. Booksellers don't lose enough money, however, to receive congressional attention. A government bailout isn't in the cards.

We don't want bookstores to die. Authors need them, and so do neighborhoods. So let's mount a book-buying splurge. Get your friends together, go to your local bookstore and have a book-buying party. Buy the rest of your Christmas presents, but that's just for starters. Clear out the mysteries, wrap up the histories, beam up the science fiction! Round up the westerns, go crazy for self-help, say yes to the university press books! Get a load of those coffee-table books, fatten up on slim volumes of verse, and take a chance on romance!

There will be birthdays in the next twelve months; books keep well; they're easy to wrap: buy those books now. Buy replacements for any books looking raggedy on your shelves. Stockpile children's books as gifts for friends who look like they may eventually give birth. Hold off on the flat-screen TV and the GPS (they'll be cheaper after Christmas) and buy many, many books. Then tell the grateful booksellers, who by this time will be hanging onto your legs begging you to stay and live with their cat in the stockroom: "Got to move on, folks. Got some books to write now. You see...we're the Authors Guild."

Enjoy the holidays.

Roy Blount Jr.
Authors Guild

Friday, October 24, 2008

Six Word Memoirs

I was recently introduced to six-word memoirs. As a writer who's always looking for brevity, I am enthralled by this concept. At a dinner a few nights ago, the speaker read a few of these brief memoirs and challenged the audience to come up with one of their own.

Within minutes, I had one that brought applause from the audience and that I share here.

"Found myself. Lived happily ever after."

Here are my six words on Love and Heartbreak.

"Love, lose. Love, lose. Keep trying."

I invite you to come up with your six word memoir and share it with me.

Power and Money Rule

Not that this is news to anybody, but once again we see that when those in power don't like the rules, they change them.

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York City, decided that two terms were not enough for him. So, the term limits law ratified by Big Apple voters was overruled by Bloomberg and the city council. Now they can all run for another term.

Let's hope that New York citizens exercise the real option for limiting terms, voting them out of office.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


As Deepak Chopra points out; the only thing that can defeat us is our own apathy.

The progressive side of American politics feels done in by the nasty work of Karl Rove, following in the muddy footprints of the late Lee Atwater, a grinning, guitar-strumming master of demagoguery. The effectiveness of slamming Michael Dukakis with the horrifying tale of Willie Horton is now being revived using mug shots of William Ayers. Rove has been retooled as robo calls in a number of swing states, all of it to see if the old black magic will keep working. Instead of erupting in outrage and secretly dreading that a smear campaign will undo Barack Obama's lead in the polls, I return to the basics.

Why did the Republican smear machine work in the first place? The answer from many on the left is that the American electorate is stupid, malleable, covertly racist, easily frightened, and capable of falling for rich white Republicans who could care less about the common man. Let's say that all those things are valid (even though most are open to debate). Such factors can't be quantified, and if asked, many people give ambiguous or misleading answers about their personal beliefs. The second point to make is that Barack Obama owes his rise, in large measure, to overlooking people's worst instincts and appealing to their better ones. From the beginning, his campaign has posed a clear-cut choice between the best and worst in human nature.

The right-wing revolution went through three stages of moral deterioration. Stage 1 -- Resentment toward blacks, gays, immigrants, liberals, atheists, and the educated class was openly encouraged for political gain. Previously unrespectable, even anti-social beliefs were given entree into electoral debates. This was the Nixon 'silent majority' phase. Stage 2 - Splinter groups that preached intolerance and bigotry were praised for their "values." This was the Reagan phase, which preached the hollow slogan of "Morning in America" while ignoring AIDS victims -- just one symbol of institutional immorality. Stage 3 - As the right wing gained power, anyone who didn't agree with their ideology was smeared and labeled as immoral, unpatriotic, extremist, and disloyal. The term 'liberal' encapsulated all. of these. This was the high-water mark of the Tom DeLay, Karl Rove phase during the Bush years.

Obama isn't proposing a return to left-liberal politics so much as a reversal of these three stages of moral decline. His great adversary is apathy. As long as 40% of the electorate votes Republican out of inertia, the demagogues had an easy time getting another 8 - 10% to follow fear, intolerance, and xenophobia, the toxins that all democracies are susceptible to, especially in stressful times. Those wedge voters are probably still in place, even if they feel demoralized by the defrocking of their patron saint, Pres. Bush. Three million dedicated Christian fundamentalists, fired up by fringe issues like flag burning and gay marriage, can only sway a Presidential election if there is severely low voter turnout.

But now the apathetic majority has risen up for the first time since the Reagan revolution, not to vote for Democrats but against an immoral agenda that masked itself in sheep's clothing. I know many people who are afraid that McCain and the Rove machine can stir up the worst in human nature once again. For me, the right attitude isn't fear and suspicion but a clear-eyed realization that voters vote for immorality only when they are blind or asleep.

Waking up is Obama's best hope, and although it took an economic calamity to seal McCain's fate, the electorate seems more awake this year than in a very long time.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What Did We Expect?

So American International Group, Inc. (AIG) spent nearly half a million dollars treating their execs to a luxurious resort and spa a few days after they received the government bailout. What else did we expect? This is what corporate execs do, live luxuriously, which is one thing when they are using the money "earned" from gouging consumers, but quite another when taxpayer money is used to save them from bankruptcy. We knew who they were before Henry Paulson, our treasury secretary (who, incidentally is a former exec of one of those financial institutions), gave them the money. We've been had. Surprise! Surprise!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Have We Really Sunk This Low?

I'm sharing this article on the ridiculous Sarah Palin because it is better than anything I could have written.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Chopra on Real Wealth

The Difference Between Wealth and Money

Ordinary people are outraged that the wealthy want to be given free money as a bailout, and at the same time they are frightened about losing their own money. Fear doesn't live in a vacuum. To cope with uncertain times, many turn to morality. They blame runaway greed on Wall Street, even though, as a commentator wisely said, Wall Street without greed would just be pavement. They blame the financial world in general for being selfish and rapacious. They blame government for not looking after the average Joe, and finally, many people wonder if God isn't blaming all of us for our sinful ways.

This flood of blame and judgment shows an impoverishment of spirit that is far worse than loss of money. Jesus was asking a serious question when he said, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world if he loses his soul?" By the same logic he told his listeners to store up wealth in heaven, not on earth. This turns out to be good economics, because the more you attach your worth to money, the more harmed you will be in a crash. But there's much more to it, of course. To be wealthy in spirit means that you are confident, tolerant and forgiving of others. If that seems too idealistic in hard times, then consider this. You are wealthy if you don't need the things money can buy in order to prosper.

When we were young and didn't have money, what motivated us? Enthusiasm, a vision of the future, the desire to follow a personal vision, curiosity about the world, a drive to fulfill our own potential, and love for those we wanted to nourish and support. All those things are tied to money, but they aren't the same as money. They are the coins of spiritual wealth. Wealth of spirit gives you the ability to make a living. Having money in the bank doesn't lead to love of others or a vision that motivates you to be better tomorrow than you are today. The way out of this financial crisis is for Americans to regain more inner wealth. How is that done?

Reject fear and pessimism.

– Know what your vision is and act upon it.

– Don't blame others and seek payback when things go wrong.
– Prosper inwardly through love, generosity, giving, and altruism.
– Stop identifying with your salary and possessions.

– Work for the common good whenever you can.

No country has ever had a Golden Age when people lived by all these things, but there are times when these things dominate social behavior and other times when they are forgotten. I think it's foolish to try and calculate whether America is in moral decline. Individual lives are always full of promise and hidden potential. The rise of a corrupt ruling class and the huge inequalities between rich and poor aren't a good sign, but even here there's enormous will to pull back from the brink. The key to a turnaround isn't financial or moral, for that matter. It comes down to understanding the difference between wealth and money, and then living as if that difference matters.

Lest people think an idealist vision does not translate into practical economics, let us consider some of the specific policy outcomes that the current crisis could lead to:

1. A de-militarized economy that does not equate security with the size of the Pentagon's budget.
Investment in wisdom-based economies, including alternative energies, sustainable agriculture and ways to restore balance in the ecosystem.
A genuine re-investment in education that rewards excellence in science and creativity.
The building of infrastructure, including urban oil-free transportation, restoring our bridges, roads, parks, and forest.

5. Comprehensive health care coverage for everyone in the country.
Every crisis comes with opportunity. Knowing the difference between wealth and money provides the wisdom to seize these creative opportunities. A monetary bailout, on the other hand would merely serve as a band-aid, not a long-term solution.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Palin is not a reformer!

She is just another self-aggrandizing politician as this article reveals. She also refused to cooperate with the investigation into the firing of her brother-in-law. This is Republican political arrogance a la the Bush administration, and is certainly not reform.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


So Paulson, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, wants congress to rush through passing a bailout for the Wall Street financiers, and doesn't want them to take time to look after the taxpayers who will be holding the bag. It's too urgent, he says, we need to save the greedy capitalists, and that will rescue the taxpaying consumers by freeing up money so they can go deeper into debt.

Isn't this how we got into this mess?

All we've done for the last twenty years is watch the Wall Street financiers get increasingly enormous salaries while the rest of us were tightening our belts. Letting them fail after taking ridiculous risks sounds to me like the best medicine. And cutting off consumer credit for a while might also be a good thing. In a crisis, we all need to stop and think, not keep throwing good money after bad.

If the Democrats allow the Republicans, yet again, to walk all over them without doing something for taxpayers; it's going to be real difficult for me to vote for anybody in November.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

This is Your Nation on White Privilege by Tim Wise

For those who still can't grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because 'every family has challenges,' even as black and Latino families with similar 'challenges' are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

White privilege is when you can call yourself a 'f***in' redneck,' like Bristol Palin's boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll 'kick their f***in' ass,' and talk about how you like to 'shoot s**t' for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.

White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don't all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you're 'untested.'

White privilege is being able to say that you support the words 'under God' in the pledge of allegiance because 'if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it's good enough for me,' and not be immediately disqualified from holding office – since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the 'under God' part wasn't added until the 1950s – while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.

White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.

White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was 'Alaska first,' and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she's being disrespectful.

White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do – like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor – and people think you're being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college – you're somehow being mean, or even sexist.

White privilege is being able to convince white women who don't even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a 'second look.'

White privilege is being able to fire people who didn't support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.

White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God's punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you're just a good church-going Christian, but if you're black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you're an extremist who probably hates America.

White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a 'trick question,' while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O'Reilly means you're dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.

White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it, a 'light' burden.

And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters aren't sure about that whole 'change' thing. Ya know, it's just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain.

White privilege is, in short, the problem.

Responding to the Palin Effect by Chopra

My post a few weeks ago on Sarah Palin acting as Barack Obama's psychological shadow triggered a lot of people. I thought it would be worthwhile to talk about how one deals with the shadow once it breaks out and begins to disrupt things. But first a short recap: The emergence of Gov. Palin wasn't simply startling -- it was inexplicable. How could 20% of women voters suddenly turn toward her when Palin stands for erasing forty years of feminism? How could the mentality of a small-town mayor morph into a potential President making global decisions? To explain her meteoric rise, I offered the idea that each of us harbors a shadow, a place where our hidden impulses live. By appealing to fear, resentment, hostility to change, suspicion of "the other," and similar dark impulses, the Republicans have been the shadow's party for a long time. Sarah Palin put a smiling face on feelings that normally we feel ashamed of.

The shadow is irrational; it thrives on gut emotions. (A recent Fox News poll ran with the headline, "In their gut, independents choose McCain.") Bringing the 2008 campaign down to the gut level means bringing it down to the level of the shadow. Instead of listening to an intelligent, persuasive, charismatic man with one African-American parent, people get to say, "I just don't like blacks. They're scary; they're not like me. It's a gut thing." Only it's not. It's a shadow thing that each of us, not just the right wing, must deal with. Reacting to Palin with fear, confusion, panic, and lashing out also comes from the shadow.

People who were shocked and dismayed by the Palin effect generally don't know how to handle shadow energies. Here are a few salient points:

1. Don't panic -- The shadow is built into your psyche, and when it brings fear, hostility, and resentment to the surface, those feelings want to get out. They cause disruption, but your panic only makes them stick around longer.

2. Try not to be overwhelmed -- Eruptions from the shadow are transitory. If you don't encourage them, these energies dissipate naturally. If you are overwhelmed, however, the net result is exhaustion and loss of energy.

3. Remind yourself who you really are -- You are much more than your shadow, because your aspirations, hopes, and dreams keep advancing despite the shadow's apparent power. Pay the least attention to these disruptions as you need to calm down and no more.

4. Keep a clear focus -- The shadow creates disorder and runaway emotions. If you focus on your purpose and remain rational, you will anchor yourself to a more stable reality.

5. Don't fight fire with fire -- If you sink to the level of dark energies, you will be fighting on their terms, and the likelihood is that you will lose.

If we translate these points into current politics, they are clearly applicable. The Democrats were triggered by Palin because they fear losing and that fear runs deep. The bogeymen that frighten us the most come from a primitive level; they stir a sense of childish helplessness. But your mature self, like Obama's campaign organization, is coherent and knows how to carry out its purpose. Realize that American politics has been dominated by shadow issues for decades, so it's only natural they still have claws and teeth. But their game has gotten old and tired. If you are able to see past the appeal to fear and resentment, have trust that other people can, too.

The bottom line is that the 2008 election isn't about change versus experience or a noble candidate who may lose to one who plays dirty. This election is about consciousness. Since the Reagan revolution, consciousness has been sleepy and dull in politics; ideals have been tarnished by cynicism; inner decay has sapped the party in power of its original purpose, leaving only a pointless morass of defensiveness that expresses itself in negativity. If the majority of the electorate wakes up and feels inspired to turn the page, that will happen. Obama has sounded the call; few people missed the message. Now it's a matter of dealing with a phase of fear and resistance before we discover if stuck consciousness is ready to move ahead.

The Palin Effect by Deepak Chopra

"Obama and the Palin Effect"

Sometimes politics has the uncanny effect of mirroring the national psyche even when nobody intended to do that. This is perfectly illustrated by the rousing effect that Gov. Sarah Palin had on the Republican convention in Minneapolis this week. On the surface, she outdoes former Vice President Dan Quayle as an unlikely choice, given her negligent parochial expertise in the complex affairs of governing. Her state of Alaska has less than 700,000 residents, which reduces the job of governor to the scale of running one-tenth of New York City . By comparison, Rudy Giuliani is a towering international figure. Palin's pluck has been admired, and her forthrightness, but her real appeal goes deeper.

She is the reverse of Barack Obama, in essence his shadow, deriding his idealism and exhorting people to obey their worst impulses . In psychological terms the shadow is that part of the psyche that hides out of sight, countering our aspirations, virtue, and vision with qualities we are ashamed to face: anger, fear, revenge, violence, selfishness, and suspicion of "the other." For millions of Americans, Obama triggers those feelings, but they don't want to express them. He is calling for us to reach for our higher selves, and frankly, that stirs up hidden reactions of an unsavory kind. (Just to be perfectly clear, I am not making a verbal play out of the fact that Sen. Obama is black. The shadow is a metaphor widely in use before his arrival on the scene.) I recognize that psychological analysis of politics is usually not welcome by the public, but I believe such a perspective can be helpful here to understand Palin's message. In her acceptance speech Gov. Palin sent a rousing call to those who want to celebrate their resistance to change and a higher vision.

Look at what she stands for:
--Small town values -- a denial of America 's global role, a return to petty, small-minded parochialism.
--Ignorance of world affairs -- a repudiation of the need to repair America 's image abroad.
--Family values -- a code for walling out anybody who makes a claim for social justice. Such strangers, being outside the family, don't need to be heeded.
--Rigid stands on guns and abortion -- a scornful repudiation that these issues can be negotiated with those who disagree.
--Patriotism -- the usual fallback in a failed war.
--"Reform" -- an italicized term, since in addition to cleaning out corruption and excessive spending, one also throws out anyone who doesn't fit your ideology.

Palin reinforces the overall message of the reactionary right, which has been in play since 1980, that social justice is liberal-radical, that minorities and immigrants, being different from "us" pure American types, can be ignored, that progressivism takes too much effort and globalism is a foreign threat. The radical right marches under the banners of "I'm all right, Jack," and "Why change? Everything's OK as it is." The irony, of course, is that Gov. Palin is a woman and a reactionary at the same time. She can add mom to apple pie on her resume, while blithely reversing forty years of feminist progress. The irony is superficial; there are millions of women who stand on the side of conservatism, however obviously they are voting against their own good. The Republicans have won multiple national elections by raising shadow issues based on fear, rejection, hostility to change, and narrow-mindedness.

Obama's call for higher ideals in politics can't be seen in a vacuum. The shadow is real; it was bound to respond. Not just conservatives possess a shadow -- we all do. So what comes next is a contest between the two forces of progress and inertia. Will the shadow win again, or has its furtive appeal become exhausted? No one can predict. The best thing about Gov. Palin is that she brought this conflict to light, which makes the upcoming debate honest. It would be a shame to elect another Reagan, whose smiling persona was a stalking horse for the reactionary forces that have brought us to the demoralized state we are in. We deserve to see what we are getting, without disguise.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Team of Rivals

I admit I was disappointed when Barack Obama announced his vice president selection. The governor of Virginia was my preference and it seemed to be a likely choice in terms of his interests and the demographics. Then I remembered that Obama is a big fan of Abraham Lincoln and he loved Doris Kearns Goodwin's book, Team of Rivals. In that book, Goodwin spells out the details of how Lincoln, a one-term congressman, won the nomination from other better-known candidates, largely because he was a great speaker and he refused to excoriate the men running against him. (Sound familiar?)

Then, when Lincoln was elected, he asked his former opponents to join his cabinet. Ever heard the aphorism, "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer."?

So, it looks as though Obama is emulating Lincoln, which is not a bad way to go. For more on Goodwin's book, click here.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Obama's Vice President

I was going to write about this but somebody else already said everything I wanted to say, so check him out.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

New Territory for Blacks

Some of us are not yet ready for prime time.

Jesse Jackson wants to cut off Barack's nuts.

Bernie Mac tells one of his standard hangin' on the corner jokes at a Barack fundraiser where people paid $2500 to attend.

Unfortunately, for people who have made a living exploiting black victimization, Barack Obama's being thisclose to becoming president of the U.S. is uncharted territory. Threatening uncharted territory.

Many of us who are interested in exploring the new territory are jubilant and excited. However, others may be inhibited by the fear of not knowing what to do. And some, like Jesse, don't want to go into the new territory at all because that means a total revision of a comfortable lifestyle dependent on casting blacks as victims.

Humans are notoriously resistant to change, even when it's for the better. There are black people who are having real problems with even the IDEA of a black president. It is just unbelievable for them. So much so that they are predicting some ominous secret looms over Obama that when revealed will stop him in his tracks. They are unsettled by the prospect of a black man in the White House. They never expected it; they don't know how to react. It alters their view of the world and their role in it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Pragmatic Obama

A NY Times column says we haven't been paying attention; that Barack has not moved to the middle; he's never been an ideologue.

And you know, she's right. We are so desperate for something new and better, we heard what we wanted to hear. But that's fine with me. All along I've observed that Obama actually wants to bring people together. Lots of politicians say that, but it's only rhetoric. Barack means it. And the older I get the more I understand that extreme positions, although absolutely essential, don't ordinarily get the job done because people are inherently resistant to 180 degree change, preferring things to change incrementally, if at all.

The best example of this occurred during the Civil Rights Movement. Malcolm and the Muslims, the Black Panthers, and SNCC made King's "radical" nonviolent demonstrations acceptable. And in turn all kinds of other things were accomplished. So, we extremists definitely have to keep Barack's feet to the fire, but I believe that with the support of the people his campaign is organizing, he will get some necessary things done--like universal health care, improving the economy and bringing troops back from Iraq.

Of course, we mustn't forget the importance of Bush's contribution. His extreme bad judgment like tax cuts and no-bid contracts for his wealthy friends (Halliburton, oil barons, etc.) have made things SO BAD that the country is seriously considering electing a black man president.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Note to Barack Obama

So, it's not just me, there are others who believe that the Barack Obama who managed to wrangle the Democratic nomination from the formidable Clintons, has abandoned his winning approach to appeal to the highly touted "middle."

Barack, that's not how you got here. It was your offer of CHANGE, not only in the way you run for office, but also in your policies, that so galvanized those of us who had become weary and disenchanted with the political process. If you become another Democrat who waters down his message to court Bush's minions, you could lose the enthusiasm you generated during your primary run, and lose those voters.

Arianna Huffington says the same thing in more detail.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Clarence Thomas Officially White

"All the judges are white and/or old; most are both."

The above statement is from a Newsweek column by Dahlia Lithwick. Now, I admit that there is nothing about Clarence Thomas's voting record on the U.S. Supreme Court to indicate he is a member of the group descended from Africans who were enslaved, but I hadn't realized that he is considered to be white. Or, is it that Ms Lithwick forgot about him altogether?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Am I Setting My Sights Too High?

I wasn't expecting perfection from Barack Obama. As a matter of fact, the one fear that I had about his run for the presidency was that he might find it expedient to behave like the same old politicians we've become accustomed to. And it's happened already.

I don't mind that he decided not to accept public financing for his campaign after pledging to do so. Changing your mind when you have more information happens to us all, even seekers of political office. What bothers me is that rather than saying, "I made a mistake when I made that pledge. I had no idea then that I would be able to raise so much money from such a broad base of the electorate. Now that I see that possibility, I am no longer interested in public financing."

Instead, Barack decided to "spin" his decision. That was such a typical run-of-the-mill political response. And I'm disappointed. I expected honesty and candor from him. Is that setting my sights too high?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tim Wise and I Agree

Here's his take on Hillary's women for McCain.

Your Whiteness is Showing:
An Open Letter to Certain White Women
Who are Threatening to Withhold Support From Barack Obama in November

By Tim Wise

June 5, 2008

This is an open letter to those white women who, despite their proclamations of progressivism, and supposedly because of their commitment to feminism, are threatening to withhold support from Barack Obama in November. You know who you are.

I know that it's probably a bad time for this. Your disappointment at the electoral defeat of Senator Hillary Clinton is fresh, the sting is new, and the anger that animates many of you--who rightly point out that the media was often sexist in its treatment of the Senator--is raw, pure and justified.

That said, and despite the awkward timing, I need to ask you a few questions, and I hope you will take them in the spirit of solidarity with which they are genuinely intended. But before the questions, a statement if you don't mind, or indeed, even if (as I suspect), you will mind it quite a bit.

First, for those of you threatening to actually vote for John McCain and to oppose Senator Obama, or to stay home in November and thereby increase the likelihood of McCain winning and Obama losing (despite the fact that the latter's policy platform is virtually identical to Clinton's while the former's clearly is not), all the while claiming to be standing up for women...

For those threatening to vote for John McCain or to stay home and increase the odds of his winning (despite the fact that he once called his wife the c-word in public and is a staunch opponent of reproductive freedom and gender equity initiatives, such as comparable worth legislation), all the while claiming to be standing up for women...

For those threatening to vote for John McCain or to stay home and help ensure Barack Obama's defeat, as a way to protest what you call Obama's sexism (examples of which you seem to have difficulty coming up with), all the while claiming to be standing up for women...

Your whiteness is showing.

When I say your whiteness is showing this is what I mean: You claim that your opposition to Obama is an act of gender solidarity, in that women (and their male allies) need to stand up for women in the face of the sexist mistreatment of Clinton by the press. On this latter point--the one about the importance of standing up to the media for its often venal misogyny--you couldn't be more correct. As the father of two young girls who will have to contend with the poison of patriarchy all their lives, or at least until such time as that system of oppression is eradicated, I will be the first to join the boycott of, or demonstration on, whatever media outlet you choose to make that point. But on the first part of the above equation--the part where you insist voting against Obama is about gender solidarity--you are, for lack of a better way to put it, completely full of crap. And what's worse is that at some level I suspect you know it. Voting against Senator Obama is not about gender solidarity. It is an act of white racial bonding, and it is grotesque.

If it were gender solidarity you sought, you would by definition join with your black and brown sisters come November, and do what you know good and well they are going to do, in overwhelming numbers, which is vote for Barack Obama. But no. You are threatening to vote not like other women--you know, the ones who aren't white like you and most of your friends--but rather, like white men! Needless to say it is high irony, bordering on the outright farcical, to believe that electorally bonding with white men, so as to elect McCain, is a rational strategy for promoting feminism and challenging patriarchy. You are not thinking and acting as women, but as white people. So here's the first question: What the hell is that about?

And you wonder why women of color have, for so long, thought (by and large) that white so-called feminists were phony as hell? Sister please...

Your threats are not about standing up for women. They are only about standing up for the feelings of white women, and more to the point, the aspirations of one white woman. So don't kid yourself. If you wanted to make a statement about the importance of supporting a woman, you wouldn't need to vote for John McCain, or stay home, thereby producing the same likely result--a defeat for Obama. You could always have said you were going to go out and vote for Cynthia McKinney. After all, she is a woman, running with the Green Party, and she's progressive, and she's a feminist. But that isn't your threat is it? No. You're not threatening to vote for the woman, or even the feminist woman. Rather, you are threatening to vote for the white man, and to reject not only the black man who you feel stole Clinton's birthright, but even the black woman in the race. And I wonder why? Could it be...?

See, I told you your whiteness was showing.

And now for a third question, and this is the biggie, so please take your time with it: How is it that you have managed to hold your nose all these years, just like a lot of us on the left, and vote for Democrats who we knew were horribly inadequate--Kerry, Gore, Clinton, Dukakis, right on down the uninspiring line--and yet, apparently can't bring yourself to vote for Barack Obama? A man who, for all of his shortcomings (and there are several, as with all candidates put up by either of the two major corporate parties) is surely more progressive than any of those just mentioned. And how are we to understand that refusal--this sudden line in the proverbial sand--other than as a racist slap at a black man? You will vote for white men year after year after year--and are threatening to vote for another one just to make a point--but can't bring yourself to vote for a black man, whose political views come much closer to your own, in all likelihood, than do the views of any of the white men you've supported before. How, other than as an act of racism, or perhaps as evidence of political insanity, is one to interpret such a thing?

See, black folks would have sucked it up, like they've had to do forever, and voted for Clinton had it come down to that. Indeed, they were on board the Hillary train early on, convinced that Obama had no chance to win and hoping for change, any change, from the reactionary agenda that has been so prevalent for so long in this culture. They would have supported the white woman--hell, for many black folks, before Obama showed his mettle they were downright excited to do so--but you won't support the black man. And yet you have the audacity to insist that it is you who are the most loyal constituency of the Democratic Party, and the one before whom Party leaders should bow down, and whose feet must be kissed?

Your whiteness is showing.

Look, I couldn't care less about the Party personally. I left the Democrats twenty years ago when they told me that my activism in the Central America solidarity and South African anti-apartheid movements made me a security risk, and that I wouldn't be able to get clearance to be in some parade with Governor Dukakis. Yeah, seriously. But for you to act as though you are the indispensible voters, the most important, the ones whose views should be pandered to, whose every whim should be the basis for Party policy, is not only absurd, it is also racist in that it, a) ignores and treats as irrelevant the much more loyal constituency of black folks, without whom no Democrat would have won anything in the past twenty years (and indeed the racial gap favoring the Democrats among blacks is about six times larger than the gender gap favoring them among white women, relative to white men); and b) demonstrates the mentality of entitlement and superiority that has been long ingrained in us as white folks--so that we believe we have the right to dictate the terms of political engagement, and to determine the outcome, and to get our way, simply because for so long we have done just that.

But that day is done, whether you like it or not, and you are now left with two, and only two choices, so consider them carefully: the first is to stand now in solidarity with your black brothers and sisters and welcome the new day, and help to push it in a truly progressive and feminist and antiracist direction, while the second is to team up with white men to try and block the new day from dawning. Feel free to choose the latter. But if you do, please don't insult your own intelligence, or ours, by insisting that you've done so as a radical political act.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dishonoring Hillary Clinton

I am puzzled by the feminists who are so angry that Hillary Clinton did not win the nomination that they have organized to persuade other women to vote for John McCain.

This puzzles me, and it also seems to be yet another demonstration of racism. Why have these women decided to punish Barack Obama, the Democratic party, and themselves because Hillary Clinton did not win the nomination?

Is it because Obama refused to stay in his place when he decided to run against Clinton?

Because she's a woman, was Clinton supposed to be handed the nomination without opposition?

This is perhaps the saddest and most self-defeating act I've ever witnessed. It further corroborates that these women see themselves as victims. And in so doing, they dishonor Hillary Clinton. There are many things one can say about Hillary, but I have never seen her behave like a victim.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Time to Lance the Boil

Now that Barack Obama is poised to become the next president of the U.S., it's time to lance the boil of racism that has infected America from its inception.

We need a national, open, and thorough discussion of racism in every venue. On network and cable television--including PBS, HBO and Showtime--the Internet, in film, comedy clubs, and live theater.

I recommend an examination of racism that includes the treatment of American Indians, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans. The history of ethnic group exclusion should also be mentioned, e.g., the treatment of Jews, and the period of discrimination against the Irish and southern Europeans.

However, the main focus needs to be on the treatment of the most persistently despised group in the U.S., the descendants of the Africans who were enslaved. The examination should also include how our insistence that the U.S. live up to its expressed ideals has made this a better country.

The time is now!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


It was a long hard struggle, like everything worthwhile that we humans do, but you prevailed. If you can, relax for a while, then prepare for the next phase of the journey.

I am so proud of you. There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. This is your time; our time, this country's time. Together, working as a unit, we will make the changes to move us all to higher ground. We've wallowed in the mud too long.

I have witnessed the coming and going of W.E.B. DuBois, John & Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X, Ella Baker, Martin Luther King Jr., and Fannie Lou Hamer. And now I will witness the first person of African descent become president of the United States. Something I never expected to see in my lifetime. I am happy to have volunteered and contributed to your campaign, to be a part of this historic occasion.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Clinton Desperation

Glad to see I am not the only one outraged at Hillary's repeated references to RFK's assassination. The longer the campaign goes on, the more the Clintons reveal who they really are. Is it possible this country would actually put these desperate, conniving, malevolent people back in the White House? Oh, that's right, we re-elected Clinton once before and the Bushes three times. Will we ever learn?

Friday, May 23, 2008

A thought on Hillary as Barack's VP

If Barack Obama selects Hillary Clinton as his running mate, he will need full body armor and two tasters, one for his food and another for his beverages.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

and, there are other indications

Jack Bass writes in the N.Y. Times that even in the South blacks and whites are cooperating--witness the congressional seats in Louisana and Mississippi that had been Republican for 30 years that were recently taken by Democrats.

...and furthermore

Hillary Clinton's overt appeal to racists that they should vote for her, is exploding in her face. Now the public officials who are superdelegates are rushing to support Obama so as not to be identified with Hillary's racist entreaties.

When this campaign is over and Obama has the nomination and does not select Hillary as his V-P, I will feel sorry for her. But not until then.

Besides, I have to agree with Chris Rock...does Hillary really want to occupy the same office where Bill got his blow jobs?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The American Way of Racism is Fading

An article in The Washington Post yesterday reports that Obama campaign workers have encountered racism. Is anybody surprised at this?

This report is certainly disturbing, but also not at all surprising. What I am surprised by is that there hasn't been more of this kind of thing. When economic times are tough as they are now, people become angry and frustrated. It has been the custom to take out this frustration on "others," that is the people who are "different" from them.

Obama represents not only the black "others" who have been this country's traditional scapegoats, but his Muslim name also makes him a "representative" of our new enemies, the Muslim "others."

I understand why Obama doesn't want this stuff publicized because that could set up a mob contagion and create an atmosphere where this kind of behavior is considered acceptable.

Having volunteered in the Obama campaign in my home state of Indiana, I have been pleasantly shocked by the overwhelming numbers of people who support him in this state that is not known for being particularly enlightened or well-educated.

The American way of racism is fading, and when Obama becomes president I believe his popularity will increase among those who are currently unable to see past his color.

Of course, there will also be those who will cling to their anger and resentment because that's what defines who they are.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Tell it, sistah!

Can I Just Tell You?

by Michel Martin

Expect Obama to Walk Out on Wright? Spare Me

Sen. Barack Obama and Rev. Jeremiah Wright

Tell Me More, March 26, 2008 ·

It probably won't shock you to know that when I was in high school, I was an avid member of my school's debate team. I wasn't the first African-American on the team, but because kids' interests can change, I was often the only one. That's not so surprising, as there were not that many kids of color at my school back then, just as there were not that many in most of the other schools we competed against in our part of New England.

Frankly, I didn't think about it all that much — not until one debate competition, when my team was hosted for dinner at the home of one of our competitors, a dinner at which I was promptly invited by my young, white host to socialize with his black maid in the kitchen.

My teammates, with whom I hung out and lived 24-7 because we went to a boarding school, did and said nothing.

My coach, a faculty member who was extremely well regarded in debate circles — and was, in fact, a relative of a courageous civil rights advocate in the Kennedy Justice Department — did and said nothing. And, in fact, he said nothing to me about this for more than 20 years, until he called me up out of the blue one day to apologize for letting me down.

"I just did not know what to say," he said.

I mention all of this because I have had it up to here with members of the commentariat who keep lecturing us about how they would never have tolerated the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's more incendiary sermons, and they wonder why Barack Obama did. They would have walked on out [of the church].

Can I just tell you? I don't think so.

Setting aside the fact that I question how many of these people have actually darkened the door of any house of worship in recent years — because I hope they would not be so smug and cynical if they had — let me just posit the theory that if the tables had been turned, if it had been their church, their family, their friends, their turf, they would have sat right there.

They would have sat right there just like aides to Lyndon Johnson and Harry Truman sat right there when their bosses privately used the "N" word and other negative language to talk about the African-Americans on whose behalf they were often working, language which has been well documented on White House recording devices.

They would have sat right there just like the Rev. Billy Graham did when Richard Nixon used anti-Semitic language.

They would have sat right there just like countless good people do when their friends tell racist jokes, or when their employers refuse to return phone calls of applicants they suspect might be black or brown, or refuse to rent apartments or work with people of color.

I know this because, over the years, I have met too many white people who have told me how they have struggled to find their voices when language or behavior emerges from people they otherwise care about — who they believe to be good people — but who, nevertheless, say or do things they think are wrong.

I know this because I have met too many brown people who have struggled to find their voices when someone they care about has made an anti-Semitic or homophobic remark, and they agonize over how much to object, knowing that those views are deeply rooted. And they fear causing a breach over something they think won't change.

Obama has explained his relationship with his minister at some length. One is free to accept or reject his explanation. But please — spare me the moral outrage about what you would have done or would do in that situation. And just do it.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Democratic party for sale? Boycott Exxon & Mobil

Hi loyal readers of my blog,

I don't know if you saw this, but 20 big Clinton donors tried to bully Nancy Pelosi for saying that superdelegates should let the voters decide who becomes the Democratic nominee. This is the worst kind of insider politics, and it has to stop.

You and I and everyone who has ever given money or time to a progressive candidate make up the backbone of this party.

We need to send a strong signal that we, the small donors, will back Democratic leaders with the courage to stand up for Democracy in the Democratic party. Please join me and sign this statement today.

Also, please join the national boycott of the two largest oil companies, Exxon and Mobil. We need to flex our united muscles to bring down the price of gasoline before it rises to $4 a gallon during the summer. Spread the word!

Monday, March 24, 2008


Of National Lies and Racial Amnesia: Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama, and the Audacity of Truth

by Tim Wise

March 18, 2008

For most white folks, indignation just doesn't wear well. Once affected or conjured up, it reminds one of a pudgy man, wearing a tie that may well have fit him when he was fifty pounds lighter, but which now cuts off somewhere above his navel and makes him look like an idiot.

Indignation doesn't work for most whites, because having remained sanguine about, silent during, indeed often supportive of so much injustice over the years in this country--the theft of native land and genocide of indigenous persons, and the enslavement of Africans being only two of the best examples--we are just a bit late to get into the game of moral rectitude. And once we enter it, our efforts at righteousness tend to fail the test of sincerity.

But here we are, in 2008, fuming at the words of Pastor Jeremiah Wright, of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago--occasionally Barack Obama's pastor, and the man whom Obama credits with having brought him to Christianity--for merely reminding us of those evils about which we have remained so quiet, so dismissive, so unconcerned. It is not the crime that bothers us, but the remembrance of it, the unwillingness to let it go--these last words being the first ones uttered by most whites it seems whenever anyone, least of all an "angry black man" like Jeremiah Wright, foists upon us the bill of particulars for several centuries of white supremacy.

But our collective indignation, no matter how loudly we announce it, cannot drown out the truth. And as much as white America may not be able to hear it (and as much as politics may require Obama to condemn it) let us be clear, Jeremiah Wright fundamentally told the truth.

Oh I know that for some such a comment will seem shocking. After all, didn't he say that America "got what it deserved" on 9/11? And didn't he say that black people should be singing "God Damn America" because of its treatment of the African American community throughout the years?

Well actually, no he didn't.

Wright said not that the attacks of September 11th were justified, but that they were, in effect, predictable. Deploying the imagery of chickens coming home to roost is not to give thanks for the return of the poultry or to endorse such feathered homecoming as a positive good; rather, it is merely to note two things: first, that what goes around, indeed, comes around--a notion with longstanding theological grounding--and secondly, that the U.S. has indeed engaged in more than enough violence against innocent people to make it just a tad bit hypocritical for us to then evince shock and outrage about an attack on ourselves, as if the latter were unprecedented.

He noted that we killed far more people, far more innocent civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki than were killed on 9/11 and "never batted an eye." That this statement is true is inarguable, at least amongst sane people. He is correct on the math, he is correct on the innocence of the dead (neither city was a military target), and he is most definitely correct on the lack of remorse or even self-doubt about the act: sixty-plus years later most Americans still believe those attacks were justified, that they were needed to end the war and "save American lives."

But not only does such a calculus suggest that American lives are inherently worth more than the lives of Japanese civilians (or, one supposes, Vietnamese, Iraqi or Afghan civilians too), but it also ignores the long-declassified documents, and President Truman's own war diaries, all of which indicate clearly that Japan had already signaled its desire to end the war, and that we knew they were going to surrender, even without the dropping of atomic weapons. The conclusion to which these truths then attest is simple, both in its basic veracity and it monstrousness: namely, that in those places we committed premeditated and deliberate mass murder, with no justification whatsoever; and yet for saying that I will receive more hate mail, more hostility, more dismissive and contemptuous responses than will those who suggest that no body count is too high when we're the ones doing the killing. Jeremiah Wright becomes a pariah, because, you see, we much prefer the logic of George Bush the First, who once said that as President he would "never apologize for the United States of America. I don't care what the facts are."

And Wright didn't say blacks should be singing "God Damn America." He was suggesting that blacks owe little moral allegiance to a nation that has treated so many of them for so long as animals, as persons undeserving of dignity and respect, and which even now locks up hundreds of thousands of non-violent offenders (especially for drug possession), even while whites who do the same crimes (and according to the data, when it comes to drugs, more often in fact), are walking around free. His reference to God in that sermon was more about what God will do to such a nation, than it was about what should or shouldn't happen. It was a comment derived from, and fully in keeping with, the black prophetic tradition, and although one can surely disagree with the theology (I do, actually, and don't believe that any God either blesses or condemns nation states for their actions), the statement itself was no call for blacks to turn on America. If anything, it was a demand that America earn the respect of black people, something the evidence and history suggests it has yet to do.

Finally, although one can certainly disagree with Wright about his suggestion that the government created AIDS to get rid of black folks--and I do, for instance--it is worth pointing out that Wright isn't the only one who has said this. In fact, none other than Bill Cosby (oh yes, that Bill Cosby, the one white folks love because of his recent moral crusade against the black poor) proffered his belief in the very same thing back in the early '90s in an interview on CNN, when he said that AIDS may well have been created to get rid of people whom the government deemed "undesirable" including gays and racial minorities.

So that's the truth of the matter: Wright made one comment that is highly arguable, but which has also been voiced by white America's favorite black man, another that was horribly misinterpreted and stripped of all context, and then another that was demonstrably accurate. And for this, he is pilloried and made into a virtual enemy of the state; for this, Barack Obama may lose the support of just enough white folks to cost him the Democratic nomination, and/or the Presidency; all of it, because Jeremiah Wright, unlike most preachers opted for truth. If he had been one of those "prosperity ministers" who says Jesus wants nothing so much as for you to be rich, like Joel Osteen, that would have been fine. Had he been a retread bigot like Falwell was, or Pat Robertson is, he might have been criticized, but he would have remained in good standing and surely not have damaged a Presidential candidate in this way. But unlike Osteen, and Falwell, and Robertson, Jeremiah Wright refused to feed his parishioners lies.

What Jeremiah Wright knows, and told his flock--though make no mistake, they already knew it--is that 9/11 was neither the first, nor worst act of terrorism on American soil. The history of this nation for folks of color, was for generations, nothing less than an intergenerational hate crime, one in which 9/11s were woven into the fabric of everyday life: hundreds of thousands of the enslaved who died from the conditions of their bondage; thousands more who were lynched (as many as 10,000 in the first few years after the Civil War, according to testimony in the Congressional Record at the time); millions of indigenous persons wiped off the face of the Earth. No, to some, the horror of 9/11 was not new. To some it was not on that day that "everything changed." To some, everything changed four hundred years ago, when that first ship landed at what would become Jamestown. To some, everything changed when their ancestors were forced into the hulls of slave ships at Goree Island and brought to a strange land as chattel. To some, everything changed when they were run out of Northern Mexico, only to watch it become the Southwest United States, thanks to a war of annihilation initiated by the U.S. government. To some, being on the receiving end of terrorism has been a way of life. Until recently it was absolutely normal in fact.

But white folks have a hard time hearing these simple truths. We find it almost impossible to listen to an alternative version of reality. Indeed, what seems to bother white people more than anything, whether in the recent episode, or at any other time, is being confronted with the recognition that black people do not, by and large, see the world like we do; that black people, by and large, do not view America as white people view it. We are, in fact, shocked that this should be so, having come to believe, apparently, that the falsehoods to which we cling like a kidney patient clings to a dialysis machine, are equally shared by our darker-skinned compatriots.

This is what James Baldwin was talking about in his classic 1972 work, No Name in the Street, wherein he noted:

White children, in the main, and whether they are rich or poor, grow up with a grasp of reality so feeble that they can very accurately be described as deluded--about themselves and the world they live in. White people have managed to get through their entire lifetimes in this euphoric state, but black people have not been so lucky: a black man who sees the world the way John Wayne, for example, sees it would not be an eccentric patriot, but a raving maniac.

And so we were shocked in 1987, when Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall declined to celebrate the bicentennial of the Constitution, because, as he noted, most of that history had been one of overt racism and injustice, and to his way of thinking, the only history worth celebrating had been that of the past three or four decades.

We were shocked to learn that black people actually believed that a white cop who was a documented racist might frame a black man; and we're shocked to learn that lots of black folks still perceive the U.S. as a racist nation--we're literally stunned that people who say they experience discrimination regularly (and who have the social science research to back them up) actually think that those experiences and that data might actually say something about the nation in which they reside. Imagine.

Whites are easily shocked by what we see and hear from Pastor Wright and Trinity Church, because what we see and hear so thoroughly challenges our understanding of who we are as a nation. But black people have never, for the most part, believed in the imagery of the "shining city on a hill," for they have never had the option of looking at their nation and ignoring the mountain-sized warts still dotting its face when it comes to race. Black people do not, in the main, get misty eyed at the sight of the flag the way white people do--and this is true even for millions of black veterans--for they understand that the nation for whom that flag waves is still not fully committed to their own equality. They have a harder time singing those tunes that white people seem so eager to belt out, like "God Bless America," for they know that whites sang those words loudly and proudly even as they were enforcing Jim Crow segregation, rioting against blacks who dared move into previously white neighborhoods, throwing rocks at Dr. King and then cheering, as so many did, when they heard the news that he had been assassinated.

Whites refuse to remember (or perhaps have never learned) that which black folks cannot afford to forget. I've seen white people stunned to the point of paralysis when they learn the truth about lynchings in this country--when they discover that such events were not just a couple of good old boys with a truck and a rope hauling some black guy out to the tree, hanging him, and letting him swing there. They were never told the truth: that lynchings were often community events, advertised in papers as "Negro Barbecues," involving hundreds or even thousands of whites, who would join in the fun, eat chicken salad and drink sweet tea, all while the black victims of their depravity were being hung, then shot, then burned, and then having their body parts cut off, to be handed out to onlookers. They are stunned to learn that postcards of the events were traded as souvenirs, and that very few whites, including members of their own families did or said anything to stop it.

Rather than knowing about and confronting the ugliness of our past, whites take steps to excise the less flattering aspects of our history so that we need not be bothered with them. So, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for example, site of an orgy of violence against the black community in 1921, city officials literally went into the town library and removed all reference to the mass killings in the Greenwood district from the papers with a razor blade--an excising of truth and an assault on memory that would remain unchanged for over seventy years.

Most white people desire, or perhaps even require the propagation of lies when it comes to our history. Surely we prefer the lies to anything resembling, even remotely, the truth. Our version of history, of our national past, simply cannot allow for the intrusion of fact into a worldview so thoroughly identified with fiction. But that white version of America is not only extraordinarily incomplete, in that it so favors the white experience to the exclusion of others; it is more than that; it is actually a slap in the face to people of color, a re-injury, a reminder that they are essentially irrelevant, their concerns trivial, their lives unworthy of being taken seriously. In that sense, and what few if any white Americans appear capable of grasping at present, is that "Leave it to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best," portray an America so divorced from the reality of the times in which they were produced, as to raise serious questions about the sanity of those who found them so moving, so accurate, so real. These iconographic representations of life in the U.S. are worse than selective, worse than false, they are assaults to the humanity and memory of black people, who were being savagely oppressed even as June Cleaver did housework in heels and laughed about the hilarious hijinks of Beaver and Larry Mondello.

These portraits of America are certifiable evidence of how disconnected white folks were--and to the extent we still love them and view them as representations of the "good old days" to which we wish we could return, still are--from those men and women of color with whom we have long shared a nation. Just two months before "Leave it to Beaver" debuted, proposed civil rights legislation was killed thanks to Strom Thurmond's 24-hour filibuster speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate. One month prior, Arkansas Governor Orville Faubus called out the National Guard to block black students from entering Little Rock Central High; and nine days before America was introduced to the Cleavers, and the comforting image of national life they represented, those black students were finally allowed to enter, amid the screams of enraged, unhinged, viciously bigoted white people, who saw nothing wrong with calling children niggers in front of cameras. That was America of the 1950s: not the sanitized version into which so many escape thanks to the miracle of syndication, which merely allows white people to relive a lie, year after year after year.

No, it is not the pastor who distorts history; Nick at Nite and your teenager's textbooks do that. It is not he who casts aspersions upon "this great country" as Barack Obama put it in his public denunciations of him; it is the historic leadership of the nation that has cast aspersions upon it; it is they who have cheapened it, who have made gaudy and vile the promise of American democracy by defiling it with lies. They engage in a patriotism that is pathological in its implications, that asks of those who adhere to it not merely a love of country but the turning of one's nation into an idol to be worshipped, if not literally, then at least in terms of consequence.

It is they--the flag-lapel-pin wearing leaders of this land--who bring shame to the country with their nonsensical suggestions that we are always noble in warfare, always well-intended, and although we occasionally make mistakes, we are never the ones to blame for anything. Nothing that happens to us has anything to do with us at all. It is always about them. They are evil, crazy, fanatical, hate our freedoms, and are jealous of our prosperity. When individuals prattle on in this manner we diagnose them as narcissistic, as deluded. When nations do it--when our nation does--we celebrate it as though it were the very model of rational and informed citizenship.

So what can we say about a nation that values lies more than it loves truth? A place where adherence to sincerely believed and internalized fictions allows one to rise to the highest offices in the land, and to earn the respect of millions, while a willingness to challenge those fictions and offer a more accurate counter-narrative earns one nothing but contempt, derision, indeed outright hatred? What we can say is that such a place is signing its own death warrant. What we can say is that such a place is missing the only and last opportunity it may ever have to make things right, to live up to its professed ideals. What we can say is that such a place can never move forward, because we have yet to fully address and come to terms with that which lay behind.

What can we say about a nation where white preachers can lie every week from their pulpits without so much as having to worry that their lies might be noticed by the shiny white faces in their pews, while black preachers who tell one after another essential truth are demonized, not only for the stridency of their tone--which needless to say scares white folks, who have long preferred a style of praise and worship resembling nothing so much as a coma--but for merely calling bullshit on those whose lies are swallowed whole?

And oh yes, I said it: white preachers lie. In fact, they lie with a skill, fluidity, and precision unparalleled in the history of either preaching or lying, both of which histories stretch back a ways and have often overlapped. They lie every Sunday, as they talk about a Savior they have chosen to represent dishonestly as a white man, in every picture to be found of him in their tabernacles, every children's story book in their Sunday Schools, every Christmas card they'll send to relatives and friends this December. But to lie about Jesus, about the one they consider God--to bear false witness as to who this man was and what he looked like--is no cause for concern.

Nor is it a problem for these preachers to teach and preach that those who don't believe as they believe are going to hell. Despite the fact that such a belief casts aspersions upon God that are so profound as to defy belief--after all, they imply that God is so fundamentally evil that he would burn non-believers in a lake of eternal fire--many of the white folks who now condemn Jeremiah Wright welcome that theology of hate. Indeed, back when President Bush was the Governor of Texas, he endorsed this kind of thinking, responding to a question about whether Jews were going to go to hell, by saying that unless one accepted Jesus as one's personal savior, the Bible made it pretty clear that indeed, hell was where you'd be heading.

So you can curse God in this way--and to imply such hate on God's part is surely to curse him--and in effect, curse those who aren't Christians, and no one says anything. That isn't considered bigoted. That isn't considered beyond the pale of polite society. One is not disqualified from becoming President in the minds of millions because they go to a church that says that shit every single week, or because they believe it themselves. And millions do believe it, and see nothing wrong with it whatsoever.

So white folks are mad at Jeremiah Wright because he challenges their views about their country. Meanwhile, those same white folks, and their ministers and priests, every week put forth a false image of the God Jeremiah Wright serves, and yet it is whites who feel we have the right to be offended.

Pardon me, but something is wrong here, and whatever it is, is not to be found at Trinity United Church of Christ.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama's speech on race

Thank you, Barack Obama. If I weren't already supporting you, I'd be forced to support you after hearing your speech yesterday.

Your speech served as a reminder of why you will make an excellent president, and of how you operate far above the usual political sound bites. You were honest, compassionate, direct, and eloquent.

You are the kind of person this country needs as president, and even if people are convinced otherwise, at least you will have elevated the discourse so that whoever is elected will have to operate on a higher level than if you had not been involved.

Despite the prevailing inclination of politicians and pundits to focus on our worst aspects, to spotlight our mistakes and flaws, you insist upon appealing to the better angels of our nature. This insistence will not go unrewarded because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

Whatever the outcome of this presidential campaign, I know that you are and will be a powerful influence in this country and the world for many years to come.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Desperation setting in

Geraldine Ferraro says that Barack Obama has come this far because of his color.

We can expect even more outrageous and absurd comments from the Clintons' campaign and their supporters as Obama continues to add to the states he's won, gains more of the popular vote, and increases his delegate total.

The Clintons will not give up. They will try to change rules they previously agreed to abide by as they did to no avail in Nevada, and are now trying to do with Michigan and Florida. They will do ANYTHING in their effort to win. They want the power, glory, and money-making potential of the White House back! Just think, Bill has made millions since he left office. How much more can they rake in as the only couple to have both been president of the U.S. Not to mention double-dipping in the generous former president pension plan, plus Hillary will also have a pension from serving in the senate. Isn't this absolutely disgusting!

By the way, remember Hillary's claim that she helped bring peace to Ireland? Well here's what Former Northern Ireland First Minister William David Trimble — who shared a Nobel Prize for his peacemaking efforts in Northern Ireland had to say about that claim.

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. Even for the Clintons.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


Despite the Clinton's announcement of a "stunning" victory in Texas, Barack Obama actually won the most delegates.

Texas has a complicated system that includes voting in a primary election AND caucuses. Hillary won the primary. Barack won the caucuses. The net effect is that Obama won more Texas delegates than Hillary in her "stunning" victory."

Meanwhile [March 11,2008], CNN estimates show that Obama won last week's Texas Democratic caucuses and will get more delegates out of the state than rival Hillary Clinton, who won the state's primary."

TOTALS: Barack Obama = 1607, Billary Clinton = 1476

Friday, February 22, 2008

Nothing More Powerful

I read a Newsweek article today contrasting the boomers, who were activists in the 60s, to the millennials, young people who are now active in the presidential campaign. According to this article, boomers are more combative and confrontational, while millennials are more consensus oriented and practical; preferring to effect change from the inside. Barack Obama, despite his age, embodies the qualities millennials admire, and therefore represents them.

Chronologically, I'm pre-boomer, but if this article is correct, my sentiments are distinctly millennial. I was certainly combative when I was younger, but assumed I had mellowed with age. Perhaps that's not it at all.

Upon further thought, I believe we're in an epoch where a critical mass understands that this is not the time for confrontation. Life, history, world development is cyclical and evolutionary. There are many indicators that we are in a new cycle. We are moving rather quickly toward a global economy. Despite the technological and economic superiority of the United States, this country is no longer able to exercise its will over other nations, beginning with the debacle in Vietnam and currently evident in Iraq. Additionally, we are seeing increased philanthropic activity by the wealthy and celebrated--Bono, Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney. And technological innovations on the Internet--MySpace, FaceBook, YouTube--allow and encourage increased expression of ideas and participation in the political process.

Of course, there are always those who resist change of any kind who will continue to rail at the disintegration of "values." And they will continue to scream and protest while adapting to inevitable changes. (Like, for example, the vociferous, independent women who make a living insisting that women should be wives and mothers who submit to their husbands and don't work outside the home.)

Visionaries, like Barack Obama, are in touch with this seismic shift in our world and have surrendered to it. Now is our time for a new way of operating the government and the country.

And there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Harvard and Stanford do the right thing.

Congratulations to two of the most prestigious (and expensive) universities in the country. Both Harvard and Stanford have instituted policies to waive tuition for students whose family incomes are less than $100,000. The details are more complicated, but the bottom line is that these two universities with their multi-billion dollar endowments have recognized that the cost of their tuitions weed out all but the extremely wealthy and perhaps a few who are extremely brilliant.

What that means is that the campuses wind up with only one class of student with no diversity of ideas or perspectives. This policy change at these universities will significantly broaden and diversify the field of brilliant students from which they may select the best. It will also provide a cultural base on campus that will allow students to interact with a range of people whose backgrounds may differ from their own. And that's one of the major benefits of a college education.

I hope other universities will follow Harvard and Stanford's lead.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Unsporting Milieu of Sports

The last several days have been interesting in the sports world.

Bobby Knight quit his job without being asked.

Indiana University, an erstwhile power in college basketball, is about to fire yet another coach.

The U.S. Congress wasted their time and our money in a hearing about Roger Clemens' use of steroids.

Senator Arlen Specter wants to have another congressional hearing about the New England Patriots' cheating.


Now that Kelvin Sampson, the IU basketball coach has come under fire and may be fired, we know why Bobby Knight suddenly quit his job at Texas. Bobby Knight and the Bob Knight Worshippers (BKW) have been working on getting him back to IU since the minute he was kicked out. I know what I'm talking about because I live in Indiana and I'm an IU alum. I'm not sure if the BKW are in the majority here, or if they are just more visible and vocal than those of us who were happy to see Knight's back. In any case, I have no doubt that the BKW are somehow involved in the mess currently brewing for Sampson. They either set him up, or they knew, that with the impossible pressure Sampson is under to win immediately, that he would be forced to break the NCAA rules. I find it significant that someone in Sampson's office reported his infractions. I would be really surprised if that person is not a BKW.

So long as Knight is breathing, the BKW will want him back at IU, so bring him back. Don't let some other unsuspecting guy take the coaching job and be undermined the way the last two coaches have been. Mike Davis, the guy who immediately succeeded Knight, won more than 60% of his games, but that wasn't good enough because he wasn't Knight. So Davis had to leave. In his second year Sampson has the Hurryin' Hoosiers ranked in the top 25 nationally, but that won't do. He's not Knight. So let's resolve this issue once and for all. Bring Knight back!

Let Knight and the BKW have their heart's desire. When the gods want to punish us, they give us our heart's desire.


I'm not a fan of baseball. The only reason it was ever the national pastime is because back in the day, there wasn't much else to do. With the advent of television, football has become the national pastime. You don't see rows and rows of empty seats at football games. And we all know that basketball and hockey are a lot more entertaining than baseball. I don't care how much nostalgia wants to say otherwise.

It's precisely because baseball is boring that everybody (players, owners, fans, the commissioner, the league) looked the other way when steroids became a part of the game. The astounding feats of the players made baseball exciting and increased ticket sales. There's no point in feigning shock about the source of this sudden inflation of the baseball prowess of guys in their mid to late 30s. Even I know that athletes don't peak near the end of their careers. According to this baseball logic, Shaquille O'Neal should be about to hit his stride!

So accept it for what it is, people, and please, Congress, do not waste any more time stirring these muddy waters.


The Patriots admitted they spied and they've been punished. All along they said their perfect season would mean nothing if they did not win the Super Bowl.

The did not win the Super Bowl.

The undefeated season merely made them big enough for a really hard fall.

Let it go, Senator Specter.