Wednesday, October 27, 2010

WANTED: A National Referendum on the U.S. Congress

This is taken and modified from one of those emails that periodically gets circulated on the Internet. Since it is a great idea, I'm sharing it. Perhaps we can get a critical mass to actually implement this.

Congressional Reform Act of 2010

1. Term Limits of twelve years only, in one of the options below.

  • Two Six-year Senate terms
  • Six Two-year House terms
  • One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms

2. No Tenure / No Pension.

Members of Congress will collect a salary while in office and receive no pay when they are out of office.

3. Members of Congress (past, present & future) will participate in Social Security.

All funds in the Congressional retirement fund will be moved to the Social Security system immediately. All future congressional retirement funds flow into the Social Security system, and members of Congress will participate along with their constituents, the American people.

4. Members of Congress can choose to purchase a retirement plan or not, just as all Americans do.

5. Members of Congress may no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of the Consumer Price Index or 3%.

6. Members of Congress will no longer have their current health care system, but will participate in the same health care system as their constituents, the American people.

7. Members of Congress will be equally subject to all laws they impose on the American people.

8. Effective January 1, 2011, all contracts with past and present members of Congress are voided.

The American people did not make or approve the rules by which the U.S. Congress operates; members of Congress created these rules for themselves.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators that served their term(s), then returned to home and work.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Is it Love or Fear?

I just had an exchange with a friend that may change my life.

He said as a Buddhist he learned that every action is an act of LOVE or FEAR.

I thought about this for a few minutes and I get it! He's exactly right. I am no longer bothered when a non-black person calls me "nigger" because I do not fear those people anymore. At one point bigots had government power supporting them and could hurt us with impunity. But no more.

There are currently many fear-based myths being repeated ad infinitum in the media and on the Internet. When I've encountered people who repeat these hateful myths (largely because it makes them feel better about their circumstances), I've often been annoyed, even angered. But I know now this is a waste of my energy.

I have nothing to fear from these people or the notions they're spouting. They have no more power to stop the changes occurring in the world than I do. From now on I will consider them with love and try to imagine what has happened in their lives that drives them to interpret the world in such a fear-based way.

Thanks, Enzo.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Ground Zero Hysteria

Very few people welcome change, and we are in the midst of a mighty upheaval here in the U.S. and throughout the world. Things will no longer be what they have been. It is these shifts in the collective consciousness that underlie the delirium over Ground Zero as well as the Tea Party nastiness.

There is a hysterical fringe element in this country who cannot abide the world's changing dynamics. These folk who have always seen power have a colorless face that matches their own, now feel immensely threatened because that period of Eurocentric hegemony is coming to an end. (For their information: the sun has been setting on the British Empire for decades now.) They see that the fastest growing economies, and therefore the ascending powers in the world, are China and India, two nations of color. In addition, the birth rate of immigrants from South America, Central America, Africa and Asia outpaces the declining birth rate of non-colored people here in the U.S.

And the most outrageous affront to this fringe is that we have a President of the United States who is of African descent! This has so unhinged their sense of what is appropriate that they disrespect him and the office in every possible way. And their fury is nourished by the attention they receive from a sympathetic media, many of whom also want to "take the country back" to the past when colorless people were unquestionably running everything.

Some of these folk are probably the same ones who were also indignant when women and blacks insisted on equal rights. Those battles were won and most of society has moved on, but still some unhappy people defiantly cling to the old ways.

In time, they will either come to terms with things as they are, or wallow in their misery as the world continues to evolve.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Racial Issues are as American as the Stars and Stripes, so FACE IT!

The Obama administration's string of legislative victories: a historic health care bill, reining in some of the egregious practices of banks, in particular removing them from the student loan process, and the recent bill to curb Wall Street excesses all may be smothered by their awkward handling of racial matters.

I fully understand that if we had a white president the Shirley Sherrod incident would never have happened. However, if it had, the white president may have been a little concerned about appearing racist if he abruptly fired a black employee without first investigating the matter thoroughly. The Obama administration, on the other hand, is so terrified of looking as if they are coddling blacks that they ignore, neglect, or as in the Sherrod case, act precipitously, and wind up alienating the people who put them in office.

President Obama's gut-level response to the ridiculous arrest of Henry Louis Gates was welcomed, but he backed down and staged a "beer summit" to allay the fears of his staff. During his campaign Axelrod and company advised him to steer clear of anything racial, but Obama, with the support of Valerie Jarrett, his only black senior advisor, gave a great speech on race in Philadelphia anyway. The world didn't fall apart and he was elected!

Barack Obama is the president of the entire country, including those who despise his very existence; however, that does not mean that his administration can assume the loyalty of one group and react like cowards to the other. That will only serve to leave them absolutely FRIENDLESS. Remember that the goal of bi-partisan support, while a worthy one, didn't work out in reality. I approve of reaching out to your enemies; however, it's dangerous to do so at the expense of your friends.

WARNING Obama advisors: check with Valerie Jarrett before you run off into the wilderness of racial issues; she's more experienced in these matters than most of you. Otherwise blacks and those idealistic people of all races who put you in office may decide not to come out and vote next time.

Unfortunately, staggering blunders like the firing of Shirley Sherrod have a more lasting resonance than our gratitude for those great legislative achievements.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I'm in love with Bill T. Jones

I know. He's gay. But I'm not in love with his genitalia. I'm in love with his intellect, creativity, artistry, eloquence, and forthrightness. Bill T. Jones owns and fully occupies his space on earth. He is mindful, self-possessed, sensual and attentive; the model of a Mac Arthur "genius" grant recipient.

A few days ago I had the privilege of seeing a new work choreographed by Bill T. Jones, "Fondly Do We Hope...Fervently Do We Pray." It was commissioned to commemorate the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth. Before seeing the work, I re-examined Jones' oeuvre in a continuing education class and watched the Bill Moyers interview.

After I saw the performance I decided to review my programs from previous Jones performances. What I discovered was that it had been sixteen years since I last saw one of his performances. But it was satisfying to know that I've witnessed several of his legendary creations, including "Last Night on Earth," "D-Man in the Waters," "Still/Here," and my favorite, "Last Supper at Uncle Tom's Cabin/The Promised Land." And Jones himself performed in all of those. For the Lincoln commemorative, he was choreographer and director.

I am so pleased that I took money from my ever more tightly squeezed budget and treated myself to one more Bill T. Jones work. I love you, Bill.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Here's What I Think...

What I've observed and experienced is that many people have an opportunity (or perhaps more than one) in that decade between age 40 and age 50 to make life-changing decisions. These decisions may be triggered by a feeling of restlessness, a loss of some kind, by a health or financial challenge, or perhaps all of the above. Sometimes it takes a trauma to get our attention when we are headed in the wrong direction; otherwise we keep rolling along in our little groove until it becomes a rut, then a grave.

I believe President Barack Obama, who will be 49 this year, is being presented with his opportunity to change as he presides over the U.S. government. It appears that in his thirteen months in office, he has been unable to please anyone. Progressives are deeply disappointed and Republicans are orgasmic about their ability to sabotage everything Obama wants to accomplish. The problems he is grappling with, and that the U.S. Congress is diddling over, have been 30 years or longer in the making. However we live in a society with a 24 hour news cycle that relies on signifying, sensationalism, and provoking outrage. Americans have come to feel entitled to INSTANT solutions to everything, no matter how complex the issue.

I, too, have been less than pleased about several of President Obama's choices--escalating the war in Afghanistan, bailing out the banks, reluctance to wholeheartedly support the constitutional rights of lesbians and gays. However, I knew when I voted for him that he did not have a magic wand with which to wave away our problems.

But more than that I knew that his well-intentioned efforts to pull all sides together so that the government could actually accomplish something in a bipartisan fashion would likely not work. I applaud him for the sentiment, because it is a good one. And it may actually happen when the condition of the country is desperate enough for masses of people to storm Congress and insist on concrete, viable results. And that day will come. The recent price hikes by the health care industry are simply the tip of the iceberg. The plutocracy ain't done with us yet.

However, I doubt that Obama will still be president when our politicians begin working together. The big lesson that Obama is learning (although I imagine Michelle tried to tell him), is that racism is a cherished tradition in the United States of America. For many whites the only power they have is their imagined superiority to blacks. That's who they are. To recognize and respect Barack Obama as their president would be an evisceration of their identity. And as usual, politicians exploit the racist feelings of their constituents (and their own racism) as cover for their self-aggrandizing power plays.

We Americans of African descent who inherited the lessons of how to cope with racism from our parents and grandparents, anticipated that a segment of whites in this country simply would not, could not, bring themselves to respect a black man in a position of authority. The most obvious example of that disrespect was the S.C. congressman shouting out "liar" as the President addressed congress.

I've seen this same lack of respect for black authority so many times I can't list them all. It happens among coaches (except in the NBA), where blacks are allowed less time to build a team before they are fired, but it has also happened with the election of black mayors (the council wars in Chicago when Harold Washington was elected), black university presidents (Adam Herbert at Indiana University in 2003), and with black managers and supervisors in the corporate world.

Those of us who were schooled in the minutia of racism have some preparation for maneuvering around this internalized skepticism about our abilities that many whites, and some blacks, have. What we know for sure is that it takes impenetrable firmness and rock-solid confidence. Obama obviously has the confidence, otherwise he never would have sought the presidency, but he still has some lessons to learn about how to deal with racists who are known to mistake kindness for weakness.