Wednesday, April 28, 2010
"Imagine if the Tea Party Was Black" - Tim Wise
Let’s play a game, shall we? The name of the game is called “Imagine.” The way it’s played is simple: we’ll envision recent happenings in the news, but then change them up a bit. Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure - the ones who are driving the action - we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead. The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.
So let’s begin.
Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protester — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.
Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.
Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.
Imagine that a prominent mainstream black political commentator had long employed an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization, and that this bigot regularly participated in black separatist conferences, and once assaulted a white person while calling them by a racial slur. When that prominent black commentator and his sister — who also works for the organization — defended the bigot as a good guy who was misunderstood and “going through a tough time in his life” would anyone accept their excuse-making? Would that commentator still have a place on a mainstream network? Because that’s what happened in the real world, when Pat Buchanan employed as Executive Director of his group, America’s Cause, a blatant racist who did all these things, or at least their white equivalents: attending white separatist conferences and attacking a black woman while calling her the n-word.
Imagine that a black radio host were to suggest that the only way to get promoted in the administration of a white president is by “hating black people,” or that a prominent white person had only endorsed a white presidential candidate as an act of racial bonding, or blamed a white president for a fight on a school bus in which a black kid was jumped by two white kids, or said that he wouldn’t want to kill all conservatives, but rather, would like to leave just enough—“living fossils” as he called them—“so we will never forget what these people stood for.” After all, these are things that Rush Limbaugh has said, about Barack Obama’s administration, Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama, a fight on a school bus in Belleville, Illinois in which two black kids beat up a white kid, and about liberals, generally.
Imagine that a black pastor, formerly a member of the U.S. military, were to declare, as part of his opposition to a white president’s policies, that he was ready to “suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.” This is, after all, what Pastor Stan Craig said recently at a Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina.
Imagine a black radio talk show host gleefully predicting a revolution by people of color if the government continues to be dominated by the rich white men who have been “destroying” the country, or if said radio personality were to call Christians or Jews non-humans, or say that when it came to conservatives, the best solution would be to “hang ‘em high.” And what would happen to any congressional representative who praised that commentator for “speaking common sense” and likened his hate talk to “American values?” After all, those are among the things said by radio host and best-selling author Michael Savage, predicting white revolution in the face of multiculturalism, or said by Savage about Muslims and liberals, respectively. And it was Congressman Culbertson, from Texas, who praised Savage in that way, despite his hateful rhetoric.
Imagine a black political commentator suggesting that the only thing the guy who flew his plane into the Austin, Texas IRS building did wrong was not blowing up Fox News instead. This is, after all, what Anne Coulter said about Tim McVeigh, when she noted that his only mistake was not blowing up the New York Times.
Imagine that a popular black liberal website posted comments about the daughter of a white president, calling her “typical redneck trash,” or a “whore” whose mother entertains her by “making monkey sounds.” After all that’s comparable to what conservatives posted about Malia Obama on freerepublic.com last year, when they referred to her as “ghetto trash.”
Imagine that black protesters at a large political rally were walking around with signs calling for the lynching of their congressional enemies. Because that’s what white conservatives did last year, in reference to Democratic party leaders in Congress.
In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?
To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.
And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.
Tim Wise is among the most prominent anti-racist writers and activists in the U.S. Wise has spoken in 48 states, on over 400 college campuses, and to community groups around the nation. Wise has provided anti-racism training to teachers nationwide, and has trained physicians and medical industry professionals on how to combat racial inequities in health care. His latest book is called Between Barack and a Hard Place.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Last night, I dreamed I was living in Atlanta in a small apartment that had a private garden behind it. (Is that even possible?) I was sitting in the garden on a lounge chair, talking with my friend Holly. My dreams always feature me, happy, somewhere other than here. It's probably just a reaction to the daily stress of my current job.
Lucid dreaming is when you are dreaming, but you are aware that you are dreaming. That hasn't happened to me in a long time. The last time was when I was living in Phoenix. It was extremely disturbing. I dreamed that I woke up and opened my eyes, but could not move. There was someone in the house with me. The person, a male, came into my room and I was terrified, but could not move or scream. This type of sleep paralysis is much-described and studied. There are lots of studies about it, but no definitive answers.
Have you ever had this experience? Were you frightened?
There are a lot of song lyrics about dreams and dreaming. Here is These Dreams, from Heart:
The sweetest song is silence that I've ever heard.
Funny how your feet in dreams never touch the Earth.
In a wood full of princes, freedom is a kiss.
But the Prince hides his face from dreams in the mist.
Here is I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables:
I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted
Here is I Dream, I Dream, by Babyface:
I dream, I dream
I dream of you
All day long and all day thru
I dream, i dream oooh baby
I dream of you
All day long I dream of you
Here is Dream a Little Dream of Me, by Louis Armstrong:
Say nighty-night and kiss me
Just hold me tight and tell me you'll miss me
While I'm alone and blue as can be
Dream a little dream of me
What is your favorite song about dreaming? What did you dream about last night?
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
She came home from work and was immediately hit in the nose with an odor that she could not identify. So she walked through the house sniffing, first in the laundry room (did she leave some damp clothes in the washer too long), then in the kitchen (was something left out on the counter), then in the bedroom (did the cat pee on the pile of dirty clothes) and finally in the bathroom (had the dirty towels in the hamper finally ripened to a funky smellfest). Nothing jumped out and identified itself.
She heard the faint sound of the Isley Brothers. She dug her cell phone out of her purse and flipped it open. Before she could give a greeting, her Mother started talking.
"Dear Girl, I have been trying so long to reach you, but you simply will not answer the phone! Your sister told me that you were having trouble at work and I told her that people never appreciate when they have someone who is committed and always attempts to go beyond the call of duty."
"Mom, I am not having trouble at work."
"Nonsense, your sister already told me. I am coming to take you to lunch tomorrow and you must tell me all about it."
"Mother, there are no problems at work right now, Everything is fine! But there is a problem here at home."
"Yes. There is a terrible smell in my apartment and I can not figure out where it's coming from."
"That is easy for you to say, Mother. You aren't smelling it right now!"
Her Mother did not respond. "Hello?" There was nobody there. This could mean only one thing. She was on her way right now.
Why did she say anything? Now she would have to stand by while her mother searched the entire apartment to try to find the smell. And before she left, her mother would extract a promise from her to attend some event, the sole purpose of which would be to introduce her to an eligible doctor or lawyer or some other similarly "suitable" man, when in fact she would actually be more attracted to one of the waiters! Bother!!!
Sunday, April 18, 2010
1. Go surfing in Hawaii
2. See the Statue of Liberty in New York City
3. Visit a Parisian cafe'
4. Hit the beach in Southern California
5. Tango in Argentina
6. Take tea in England
7. Go clubbing in Miami
8. Reflect in a Japanese garden
9. See the Pacific Northwest Orcas
10.Tour the Washington monuments
11. Dive the Great Barrier Reef
12. Cruise Chicago Architecture
13. Shop for turquoise in the Southwest
14. Ride a funicular in the Alps
15. Go fishing in Baja California
16. Hear music in Nashville
This list won't work for me in its entirety. It will require some adjusting. So, let's see - what is CJM's travel bucket list? Here goes ...
1. Go surfing in Hawaii? No. I would like to go to Hawaii. But I don't want to go surfing. But I will happily take a tour of the islands, eat lots of seafood, hike trails to see spectacular waterfalls, interact with locals, eat lots of seafood, make a lei, shop for something that is uniquely Hawaiian, eat lots of seafood ... well, you get the idea.
2. See the Statue of Liberty in New York City? I've already done that. My father and stepmother and I took my niece, Genevieve and my nephew, Chuck, to see the Statue of Liberty. It is incredible to think about the history of Ellis Island and to imagine what early immigrants thought when they saw it for the first time. In October, I sailed past it on the Caribbean Princess. So what will I replace this with? How about if I go see the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro? Yes, I think that is an appropriate substitution!
3. Visit a Parisian cafe'? Not interested. Oh, I know how that makes me sound. Everyone should want to do this at least once. But I just don't. I'd rather take a train trip across Canada. I would love to see Lake Louise and Banff. And since the trip would probably end in Vancouver, why not tack on a few days there as well so I can see Stanley Park and the harbor and EAT.
4. Hit the beach in Southern California? My skin burns if someone says the word SUN to me. So, a day at the beach will not be happening for me any time soon. Can I substitute Disneyland? Yes! I've been to Disney World many times, but have never been to Disneyland.
5. Tango in Argentina. Hmmmm. I will admit that this appeals, but only if I can have a partner that I have been dancing with for a long time. This could still happen for me, but the odds are probably not in my favor. So, I will be satisfied with watching tango and drinking Mate. And perhaps I will get to meet some gauchos.
6. Take tea in England. Yes! I would love to do this. Of course I would also want to do and see about a hundred other things in Great Britain. And if I was over there, I would want to travel to Scotland to see my family's origins.
7. Go clubbing in Miami. No, no, no, no, no. Instead, I will travel to Miami to eat at the five best restaurants there. In August and September, Miami hosts Miami Spice, a celebration of fine dining. The top restaurants offer their signature dishes at reduced prices as a promotion. Lunch is $22 and dinner is $35.
8. Reflect in a Japanese garden. Well, now you're talking!!! I would love to go back to Japan. I lived there from age ten months to just before my 6th birthday. As a result, I am very comforted by all things Japanese. So, yes!
9. See the Pacific Northwest Orcas. I wonder if they made this list before or after that orca at Sea World killed his trainer. Oh, I know. You can't really judge the entire species by the actions of this captive creature. He was never meant to be in a big tank with humans. He was meant to be in the ocean, swimming free. But the ocean scares me anyway, with or without orcas. So I am unlikely to be riding around in a dingy looking for giant creatures that might knock the boat over and drag me around underwater in a orcan (orcish?) version of tag. No, I will happily view orcas from a huge cruise ship OR at the aforementioned Sea World. Now, do I need a substitute? No, I will go on a cruise to Alaska and see the orcas - hopefully. Unlike Sea World, orcas in the ocean don't appear on command, which is fine by me.
10. Tour the Washington monuments. I started to respond that I have already done this - and I have. But there is new stuff in DC that wasn't there the last time that I went. So, I would like to go do this. I wish I could talk my Dad into going with me. But this city would require a lot of time standing and walking, which he can't do for long periods of time without being in pain. Maybe I can talk my sister into going. I would like to see the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the World War II Museum.
11. Dive the Great Barrier Reef. If you've been reading this blog carefully, you already know the answer to this one. So I will need a substitution. How about Australia? That is about as close to the Great Barrier Reef as you can get without being in the water! I would like to spend 6 months in Australia, traveling the country with local guides to see the cities and the outback. I think this would be quite wonderful!
12. Cruise Chicago architecture. This actually sounds pretty interesting. It's a boat tour on the Chicago River. I would be okay with that. I've been to Chicago a couple of times. It is a very clean city. But it also has its share of pan handlers and mentally ill living on the street. This is just not my cup of tea. So, I would do this river tour if I happened to find myself in Chicago, but I would not choose to travel to Chicago for a vacation.
13. Shop for turquoise in the Southwest. I would love to do this. In fact, I have done this! But I would happily do it again! And if I can work out a stay at Enchantment, that would be even better!14. Ride a funicular in the Alps. I would do this. But I think my bucket list would be more likely to include Machu Picchu. I wish they had a funicular to take you to the top there! Well, maybe not, as the effort to build one would probably destroy something important. No, I will hike up the old fashioned way.
15. Go fishing in Baja California. Again - small boat, big ocean. No. But I would like to cruise from San Diego down to the Mexican Riviera including Cabo San Lucas, Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo, Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco.
16. Hear Music in Nashville. Well, I have done this many times. What I would prefer is to MAKE music in Nashville. I would love to have time on my hands to write more music and to attempt to get it recorded by musicians. This is the dream that about a hundred thousand other people have, so it is highly unlikely! But you never know!!!!
And what would I add? I thought you'd never ask!
17. French Polynesia. I spent 10 days here in 2008, cruising from one island to the next. This time, I would stay at some other-worldly resort where I could just vegetate and have massages and eat incredible seafood and sail on catamarans. I know what you're thinking! I've been very clear about not wanting to be on the ocean in a small boat! But this is different. Most islands in French Polynesia are surrounded by a barrier reef, which creates a big lagoon. Yes, sea life can get in and does! But usually this does not include creatures who might eat me. There are black-tipped sharks, but they are well fed by locals who feed them for the viewing pleasure of tourists. Besides, the water is pretty calm.
18. There are some cities in the USA that I would like to see - either for the first time or for a repeat visit. These include San Diego, Seattle, San Antonio, San Francisco, Savannah, Charleston, and Atlanta.
19. There are some places in the USA that I would like to explore too. These include Yellowstone National Park, Napa Valley, the Outer Banks, Niagara Falls and a return visit to Carlsbed Caverns.
20. UNESCO World Heritage sites!
21. Finally, as a catch-all category, I would like to be able to set foot in every state in the USA and in many countries of the world, with the exception of any place where people are currently shooting at each other or where I would be in danger. That is just not my idea of a good time!
Hmmm - I better get started!
And now you get your say. Where do you want to go? What do you want to see? When and where are you traveling next?
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Keenly aware am I, that most people begin a blog entry with an IDEA. But I didn't have an IDEA, so I began with a title. I typed five words - ego, Eggo, ergo, eager, Edgar. Let's see if I can do anything interesting with those five words. You tell me how I did at the end.
Oh, the ego. Try as I might, I can not let go of I, me, mine. All through the day, all through the night, I think about (and dream about) how things affect me and what impact I have on others. I work hard to develop a generosity of spirit and I practise random acts of kindness and I think I'm being - or becoming - a better version of myself. But oh, my ego. It will step up and demand attention. "What about me," my ego whines. I pout and allow myself to sink into that pathetic place where I once again convince myself that I should be somewhere else, chasing dreams I allowed to slip away when a younger face smiled back at me from mirrors I surveyed. Reboot! The more I focus on people and things outside myself, the happier I become. Will I ever defeat this battle of will with my SELF? Probably not. But I will continue to try.
This morning I had Eggo waffles for breakfast. The toaster must be carefully watched because I have had it forever and if left to its own devices, it will burn those waffles. Every time I look at my Williams-Sonoma catalog, I drool over an All-Clad waffle maker they offer for sale for the reasonable price of $199.95. Now you know why I don't own one! But I would love to make fresh waffles in the morning. But then, wouldn't I need freshly squeezed orange juice? And real maple syrup? Never mind. I'll stick with the Eggos. A few months ago, my local grocer had signs posted indicating that there would soon be a shortage of Eggos. If a time ever came when there were no Eggos available, I never noticed it!
Since I had already decided to write about the word ergo, with no good reason as to why, I found myself with a serious case of writer's block. So I did what all bloggers claim that they never do - I Googled. Disturbing find number one is ERGO, which stands for the Euthanasia Research & Guidance Association. Their website has lots of publications about assisted suicide. I don't have a problem with assisted suicide, provided I am being assisted by people I know and trust. But I'm not sure I am ready to trust other people with this authority. Disturbing find number two is Ergot of Rye, which is not really fair since it is an entirely different word, but I can't control what comes up in Google now can I!?! Anyway, one theory behind the hallucinations that became the foundation of the Salem witch trials, is that the rye used to make the bread had been infected with a fungus. When people ate the bread, they hallucinated. Because the community was very religious, people assumed the visions were the work of the devil. Scary stuff!!! (I bet you believed that the girls were purposely making false accusations and the others were just caught up in the frenzy and followed along like mindless robots. Silly, mean girls! That is the standard story.)
I'm eager to go on my vacation, which is still more than a month away. On Saturday morning I am getting my hair done, which will be a mini-vacation. Maybe I will see if I can get a massage too. I can't afford to get too relaxed though because I still have a lot of work to get done at the school. I'm eager to cook something yummy this weekend. I would love to make that chicken-sweet potato-black bean stew that I made a while ago. It was so easy. Maybe I will. Right this minute, I am eager to eat some dinner! Here are some synonyms of eager: desirous; gung ho; fervent; agog. I love the word agog.
I meant to place another comma after the word eager in the title of this blog entry. I accidentally put a period instead. So - Edgar stands alone. Edgar Allen Poe stood alone. He was an American author who dabbled in the macabre and helped establish the beginnings of the science fiction genre. Edgard Cayce was an American who claimed to channel spirits while in a self-induced trance. There is still a current organization, Edgar Cayce's Association for Research and Enlightenment, which seems to encourage the study of many different subjects, including Atlantis, dream interpretation, the Mayan calendar (especially the year 2012) and lots of other odd ideas. So, Edgard Cayce definitely stood alone! Edgar Degas stood alone because even though he was one of the first artists to be called an Impressionist, he rejected the term.
I am done, but I don't feel like I'm done. Okay, I will leave you with this last thought, which has nothing to do with anything that came before this:
Zen is not easy.
It takes effort to achieve nothingness.
And then what do you have?
(Zen and the Art of Jewish Motorcycle Maintenance)
Monday, April 12, 2010
Sunday, April 4, 2010
I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons while my Mom and sister slept in a bit. Happily eating my bowl of Captain Crunch cereal - as much as I wanted, because nobody was there to stop me - I enjoyed the Fintstones, Top Cat, Hanna-Barbera (remember Pennelopi Pittstop?) and, of course, the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner duo. Bugs Bunny was (is) a wise-cracking smarty-pants who easily outsmarted any and all enemies. For a kid who was always picked last for basketball, I liked the idea of this independent character who casually handled any and all comers. Come to think of it, the Road Runner had a similar theme. I wonder if the creator of these cartoons was always last to be picked for basketball too?
I sent this image to quite a few of my work colleagues yesterday. Every time I look at it, I laugh again. Mom always looked for chocolate bunnies for our Easter baskets. She wanted white chocolate for herself. And she wanted solid chocolate - none of those hollow bunnies for our family! We had standards! When my son was little, I didn't have a lot of money, particularly during the years that I wasn't receiving child support. So, I bought a pretty basket and used it every year, adding new "grass" and lots of candy and small inedible treats like temporary tattoos and race cars. Sam was easy to please. As long as he could gorge on candy and Peeps, he was delighted. I still have his basket, even though he is almost 23.
Anne Geddes has a way of capturing the absolute sweetness of babies and young children. I love this baby in a bunny suit. The baby looks positively delighted. Wouldn't you like to have a bunny suit like this? Or is there some other costume you'd rather wear?
Because my family lived in Japan for ten years, our homes always contained multiple Japanese objets d'art. The image to the right really appeals to me because it is obviously Japanese, but also because there are dozens of bunnies hidden in it. In Japanese tradition, bunnies live on the Moon. The dark patches on the Moon are said to resemble a standing rabbit who is pounding on a mortar to produce mochi, a sticky rice snack. I like the idea of hiding things in conspicuous places. I always enjoyed Where's Waldo, for this reason. And I will confess that I frequently play hidden image computer games.
I love to read about artists or computer programmers who hide images or words in places. These are referred to as Easter eggs. (You were wondering when I would get to the eggs, weren't you!) Bruce Plante is a cartoonist who deliberately hid his mother Nina's name somewhere in almost every cartoon he drew. He later said that he regretted having done this because people seemed to look at his cartoons only to find the hidden Nina, rather than to absorb the message of the cartoon. Sometimes these Easter eggs are accidental. Can you spot the three actual Easter eggs that can be found in scenes in The Rocky Horror Picture Show? The crew had an egg hunt during the filming of the movie and a few eggs were missed! Then there are the hidden Mickey Mouse images that can be found on every Disney property. I took Sam on a Disney cruise when he was young and he and his friend spent the entire cruise looking for the hidden Mickeys on that ship. It was amazing how many of them were there! Can you spot the hidden Mickey in the picture on the left?
What bunny or egg thoughts popped (or should I say peeped) into your head while you were reading this? I hope your Easter is filled with the promise of rebirth and finding truths that have been hidden to you up until they are gloriously revealed to you today!