Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Side of Bigotry with your Outrage?

So I have been thinking a lot about this ICK Fil A thing.  I call them that because it is garbage food that no one should be eating anyway.  I saw a piece on them a while ago and was shocked at how long it took the GOP to embrace them.  Here is my stance and you better sit down.

Let them do what they want.  The most powerful tool we have against bigotry, hate and, yes, stupidity is our almighty dollar.  If you do not agree with their politics do not give them your money.  I think we would be shocked at what business owners support what causes. I do not like what Walmart stands for so I do not go there.  But I do go to other big box retailers that have changed the landscape of our retail environment - no more mom and pop stores, the loss of the American Main Street.  Does it make me a hypocrite?  I suppose, but I cannot fear being called a hypocrite so much that I do not act in the small ways I can.  No act of boycott any of us ever engage in will ever be perfect but we have to do what we can to exercise the expressions of Free Speech that are available to us.  And remember, according to our Supreme Court money is speech. So spend your dollars wisely.

I am reminded of the quote that I have always loved - I believe it has been credited to Thomas Jefferson.  "I do not agree with  a word you say, but I will die fighting for your right to say it."  I did not look up the actual quote - I just went from memory since it is perhaps more important how it lives in my heart than how accurate it is.  I do not want any bigotry to exist in our society.  But I do not think that the way to eradicate bigotry is to in turn be a bigot.  My Twitter profile says that I am trying not to be a bigot for The Left - some days I am better at that than others.  The quote is from Annie Hall and you can see the clip here.

The implication in that scene is that Woody Allen's character is a bigot , but for the left, so it's OK  (clearly the point was that it's not OK.)

The Left will win this battle for equality but if we are not careful we will trip over ourselves on the way the promised land.  I say we we welcome everyone.  Keep them close - they might learn something - who knows maybe we will too.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

If I were stuck in an elevator with Paul Ryan....

The difference between you and me, Representative Ryan?  Choices.

You choose division over unity.
I choose to work for what is best for the country.
You choose stalemate over progress, filibuster over consensus.
I choose to vote for the best solution regardless from which side of the aisle it originated.
You choose the rich over the poor, the comfort of the few over the safety of the many.
 I choose to remember that it must always about the least among us.
You choose big business over education.
I choose to understand that without outstanding education for all American enterprise will disappear.
You choose profits over the environment.
I choose to understand that no amount of money will ever reverse the damage we are causing.
You have chosen to be bigoted.
I choose equality.

You have chosen to be heartless.
I choose to always care about my fellow earthlings - American or not.
You have chosen to turn a deaf ear.
I choose to always listen to all sides.
You have chosen to reject the teachings of your own religion.
I choose no religion other than that which teaches me to look out for those that cannot look out for themselves.

No one chooses to be poor.
No one chooses to be sick.
No one chooses to be chronically unemployed.
No one chooses to be homeless.
No one chooses public assistance over self reliance.
No one chooses a free lunch program over feeding their children.
No one chooses their sexuality.
No one chooses where they are born.

But we can choose to vote all of you out. And we will.

I hope those nuns choose to kick your ass.

Can some one get me out of here?  PLEASE????

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Father-Daughter Dance

I am an only child - yes I am Jim and Anna's only kid.  More importantly perhaps I am my father's only daughter.  My wedding was a mini royal wedding to be quite honest.  My parents eloped so my grandfather never had the chance to walk my mother down the aisle.  All my life I knew that was never going to happen to me - it was not an option.  I would have a wedding and it would be beautiful - the wedding my parents never had.  And, yes, dad would walk me down the aisle.

On more than one occasion my mother commented that she was completely opposed to the idea of a weepy bride walking down the aisle.  "No one wants to see a blubbering bride."  So I guess I have always known that the pressure was on to hold it together - which frankly is not one of my strengths.  My guess is Mom gave Dad a really harsh talking to about what he was allowed to and not allowed to say to me prior to our long journey down that narrow space.  As we were waiting for our cue we talked about the weather. Yes the weather. It was raining, pouring actually - it had not rained in months.  My wedding was knick-named the drought -buster wedding.  Luckily I suppose, since it did give us a topic distract us and keep the emotions at bay.  It worked - we both held it together.

My guess is my mother did not have a similar rule in place for the Father-Daughter dance though.  Clearly all bets were off and I have the blubbering dancing bride pictures to prove it.  I never told anyone what he said to me until now.

"For the rest of your life, no matter where you go or what you do you need to always remember you are loved.  Your mother and I will always love you.  You are our life.  Alway remember where you came from.  Always be true to who you are and never ever forget how much we love you."

We danced to an old Helen Reddy song "You and Me Against the World."  Jim and Anna only had one child.  They should have had more.  Such a shame that only one person calls them Mom and Dad.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

For My Boys.....

On the radio last night I heard part of President Obama's Father's Day message.  I was pleasantly surprised (OK absolutely thrilled) that much of what he said reminded me of what I wrote for my sons' blessing ceremonies.  Instead of a traditional "Christening" ceremony we had a non-demoninational blessing ceremony.  When the boys are older, and if they choose, they can make their own decisions about faith and religion.  Regardless of what they choose I hope these words always guide them.

For Nathan...

Being your mother is the most important thing I will ever do.  A wise woman once said that being a mother means that for the rest of your life your heart will live outside of your own body.  I didn't really know what that meant until you were born.  Now I realize how incredibly beautiful and fragile everything is.  I never knew my house had so many sharp edges and I never knew how slippery a baby can be when you lift him out of the bath tub!

My dreams for you are very simple.  I have no expectations of where you will live, who you will choose to spend your life with, or how you will make your living.  My only wish is that you become the kind of person who walks through his life with an open mind and an open heart.  Be the one with whom anyone can find solace.  Be the one to bring laughter where there is sadness, hope where there is fear and perspective when life seems overwhelming.  May you be proud to look back on your life.

I do want you to be an excellent student of history, especially your own.  You are the grand sum of the love, hard work and sacrifice of many generations from many different parts of this world.  Your ancestors crossed oceans, including your grandfather, with very little and built wonderful lives. Now you are standing on their shoulders.  I will do everything I can to make sure you are looking out toward a very happy and fulfilling life.

For Julian...

We have all learned from our Super Heroes: "To whom much is given, much will be expected."  Julian, much will be expected of you.

We expect you to always be kind. Always be generous with what you have - no matter how little.  Alway be willing to share your treasure, your time and your talent.  We expect you to be brave - never be afraid to be the lone voice that speaks up for what is right and what is fair.  Always be one of the good guys.

You have been born into an extraordinary place during an extraordinary time and we hope you don't settle for being a passenger on this journey.  The world needs all the help it can be ready.  Remember, anyone can do well but too few manage to also do some good along the way.

Today is your blessing but we are the ones that are blessed.  Thank you for being our son.

I always new President Obama and I were on the same page.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Ronnie Bucca - Prologue

There is a book that has been sitting on my nightstand for nearly ten years. Yes, ten.  That is not a typo.  1000 Years for Revenge by Peter Lance.  It has sat there, mocking me.  I pick it up, dust it, move it from here to there. My failure to read it has nothing to do with lack of time or interest. I fear that reading it will launch me into a new direction - some kind of strange point of no return.  I needed to be ready.  If I started this journey without being ready, it would have been a false start.  I have to, in my own way, tell the story of Ronnie Bucca - something I think I am supposed to do.  Maybe the way some people contemplate Everest or travel the world in search of the perfect wave or something. Maybe the way one might spend years trying to pull a mythical creature from a river. He has to. Now, I have to.

Ronnie Bucca was an FDNY Fire Marshal - the only one in the history of the FDNY to die in the line of duty. Tower One. 9/11.  On a floor higher than any other fire fighter.  Also, by all accounts, he saw the attacks coming and tried to warn the US intelligence community.  He knew they would come back to finish the job.  He was right.  I don't think enough people know who he is or what he did.  His entire life was truly extraordinary.

So this is simply my taking the step to commit to doing my own research and promising to tell his story.  Hold me to it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Don Draper or Roger Sterling?

So now I am going to circle back to this goliath-sized topic. Peggy Olson started this whole thing.  (Peggy by the way is so in love with Don Draper that she really had no choice but to leave the agency. Feel free to say I'm crazy on that one but did you see her face when he kissed her hand? 'nuff said.)  Maybe I should ultimately blame, I mean thank, Matthew Weiner. His irresistible boys of Mad Men typify this brain twisting debate - What is the difference between sexy and handsome? Can you be one without the other?

Don Draper? No. Roger Sterling. And yes I will admit I have an undeniable "thing" for silver foxes.  And for you returning bloggees, my complex affinity for one has already been documented.  I cannot take my eyes off of Roger Sterling. Don Draper is clearly handsome and if he takes his shirt off I won't be leaving the room.  But there is something about him that leaves me luke warm.  Even with all the mysteries of his past which by all accounts I should find "intriguing" he still does nothing for me. He's boring. There is no spark.  Roger on the other hand?  Well, how much I like a particular episode of this fantastic program is directly proportional to how many Pounds Sterling it has.  He has a way of being in the moment without taking any of it too seriously. He's the kind of guy that notices, and yes, catalogues, every woman within a one mile radius. And yes, the Gloria Steinem in me should be offended. I'm not. I can't help but wonder if I would make the Sterling cut.

Handsome is something that can be empirically, operationally measured - the square of the jaw, the width of the shoulders.  Sexy is comprised of intangibles that make you slightly uncomfortable and squirm in your seat. The handsome one has nice eyes, but the sexy one stares into your soul and leaves you feeling a bit naked. Roger always makes me uncomfortable - painfully self aware.  If I were in this agency's secretarial pool I would be the one always bumping into things whenever he was around.

Roger once told Joan that her lips were like a drop of strawberry jam in a tall glass of milk.  Not sure how she remained standing after hearing that.  A YouTube comment on a Mad Men clip summed it up perfectly: "This guy is the epitome of chill."  Bingo.  Now, if Captain Chill jumps into a pool of Piranhas I'm going to have to stop watching...for my own sake.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Yes, Virginia. There's a Black Man in the White House.

In September of 2004 I met my friend Karen for a drink - she had a drink, I had iced tea.  I was about 3 months pregnant with my first at the time. The upcoming election was the hot topic of course - we always talked about politics. And men. The one man we talked about more than any other that evening wasn't John Kerry, or even Bush for that matter.

It was "that guy." "Did you see that guy speak at the convention?" I asked. "You mean the black Bobby Kennedy?" Yep, that would be the one. "Can we just make him our President?  'You, we pick you.'  Sorry Senator Kerry, you're a nice man but we need this guy right now." We laughed about that for a minute, then the conversation got quiet.  I looked at her and said, "It's never going to happen is it?" "No.  Probably not."  Then we started to list the reasons why Barack Hussein Obama would probably never be our President.  Well, there were three reasons right there.  Oh, and he's African American, just to add a dash of unlikely to all that improbable.

Probably not in my lifetime.  For the first time these words rang in my ears. There is something profoundly melancholy about that phrase.  I was too young to feel that way.  About anything.

It was just a speech after all. Just words. With passion and humility and hope.  The "skinny kid with the funny name" had my attention.  Now I crossed my fingers for there to be at least a pound of substance for every ounce of eloquence. I watched, listened. And waited.

I did a lot for Senator Kerry in the lead up to the 2004 election.  I knocked on doors, handed out flyers at a housing project (successfully dodging security that kept trying to kick me out. Fuckers.)  I pounded the phones for him prior to and on election day.  I felt desperate - I did not want my kid's first four years to run parallel with W's second. We all know how that ended.

But the night wasn't a total loss.  The Land of Lincoln had a new US Senator.  I watched.  I listened. And waited.  Five months later I was a new mom. New baby. Same old President.

Four months after that I watched a beautiful American city disappear beneath the storm surge. I watched and listened. They waited. And waited.  Brownie was doin' a heck of a job and Barbara Bush said that the accommodations at the Astrodome were working out "just fine" since most of those Katrina refugees were "under privileged any way." Rick Santorum called for legal action to be taken against those that did not evacuate the 9th Ward.  After the waters receded I waited for the revolution - the overthrow.  Nothing.  But the words probably not in my life time were certainly much louder.

Then it seemed as though what was so improbable was now possible.  At least technically.  On a cold day in February Obama announced his campaign for President.  I distinctly remember a knot in the pit of my stomach and my head swirling with images of Bobby and King, Kennedy and Lincoln. It was going to be a long road to November of 2008.  And it was.

Super Delegates, "3 AM phone calls," Hillary, Wright, Kenya, Ayres, Puma, Palin, and Lehman.  I knocked on three doors for Obama.  I couldn't take one more person looking at their shoes and telling me they had "already decided who they were voting for." I sent Obama more money than I ever had to any other candidate. But I could not pound the pavement this time - it was too personal. I tried to distance myself. It didn't work very well.

Convinced that we would be counting votes for months, I went to sleep rather early on election night. I figured when I awoke at 2 AM (as I normally do) I would be able to see where things stood.  My husband woke me up and said, "Why the hell are you asleep?  Don't you want to watch?"  He walked over to the TV and pointed to Ohio.  It was blue.  So was Florida.  My eyes were not focused but it looked like Virginia was blue too. I honestly don't remember much after that.

So here we are. And like my man VP Joe said, the way only Joe can, Bin Laden is dead and GM is alive. Don't Ask Don't Tell is gone and marriage equality is alive, yet barely breathing its own.  But it's more than that. So much has happened and no, things are not very good for far too many.

We recently learned, or I did at least,  about a "secret meeting" at the Caucus Room. (Christ, what was their second name choice? Not many first dates go on there I'll bet - unless you went to Liberty University and work for the Heritage Foundation of course.)  Fifteen Republicans, including Newt Gingrich, who should himself count as three, met to plot against the President.  His political assassination was mapped on the day of his inauguration.  Think about that. The Republican Party is run by men that not only wanted the President of the United States to fail but they did not have it in them to celebrate the election of the first African American President in our nation's history.  There really are two Americas.  Not the ones who voted for him and those that didn't, but the America that can rejoice in his election regardless of who they voted for and the America that, no matter what, saw his Presidency as a reason to circle the political wagons or stock up on firearms.

We are not living in a post-racial America - I am not really sure what it would mean if we actually were.  Obama's election did not heal any wounds.  I thought it would. I hoped it would.  But it seems to have ripped the scab off our racist past, which isn't very past at all.

I believe in American exceptionalism. But not the Palin jingoistic definition of it, which the media seem to have adopted over these years. We are not better.  We are different.  America really is an experiment. For some it is going very well, for others - not so much.  For many Americans the election of Barack Obama was their "Fredo" moment. They had officially been passed over. They actually had been not only passed over but trampled on  - and not just once but for generations.  But for them as long as an old white guy was in the White House they still felt that their place in line for the brass ring was secure. Whites in the front, everyone else behind.  That all changed in November 2008.  It must have been like the ground shifted beneath their feet.

I am not sure what the "X factor" is though.  What makes one person rejoice in the election of our first African American President and makes another buy a hand gun because of it?  Is it intelligence?  Is it upbringing?  Is it geography? The US Census Bureau recently reported that for the first time there are more minority babies being born than white ones. Like the outcome of the 2008 election - this either makes you proud to be part of this beautifully diverse, exceptional place, or it makes you fear for your position in line.

These days though worrying about your position in line is a little like straightening chairs on the deck of the Titanic.  We are still looming on the edge of a sharp precipice. I am not sure what is going to wipe us out first - the REAL collapse of the global economy or the collapse of the polar ice cap.  If you think they are separate and unrelated events then you are probably too concerned with your place in line.

Obama  masterfully threw the brakes on to stop the car from going off the cliff but now we are sitting there.  Almost frozen - part political barricade, part failure of imagination, part fear.  This is the most important election of my lifetime and I suspect that will be the case every four years until the end of time - perhaps as it should be.

So I find myself again across from my dear friend, with a beer this time. Asking another question.  "Can it happen again? Can we do it again?"  If we can't - we will go over the cliff.  Or maybe we should just be pushed, or jump, and we can start over.