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