Wednesday, December 31, 2008

reflecting

God answers prayers. His spirit is generous and bountiful. His lessons are wise. His counsel consoles. Knowledge of His word can be the difference between void and fullness. His law is love. His gift is perfect peace. He is awesome and perfect, a sanctuary for those who seek Him.

It's been a good year, full of friends and family, lessons to be learned, and reasons for new hope and inspiration. I am blessed and looking forward to the new year. I am entering 2009 with gratefulness and a sense of purpose about my choices and actions that gives me hope.

If I have resolutions this year, it's to continue to set goals and work diligently to meet them, like I've been doing throughout 2008. It's to listen more intently to the Spirit's guidance, and be still and contemplative more often. It's to continually aim to be my best self, in mind, body, and spirit, for myself and for others.

I wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

already

All the stuff that I want to do to have a better life in the New Year are things that I'm working on now. But you can only work on so many things at a time. So I'm moving forward, as time and energy and inspiration permit.

Coulda lost my life this past Friday. God protects. I am grateful for being alive.

Are transition periods real? Feels like to me that something is always in transition. Then maybe it's not so much periods, just a whole life full of transition. I'm just saying.

I'm not planning on traveling for Christmas next year. Period.

Why are garment boxes so hard to find?

Cashmere ain't all that. Really. There is no reason for it to cost as much as it does.

Why do men always come back? You see them. It ends. Time passes. Then they come back. They want to know if you can talk, if you want to go out, if you can help them with this or that. I don't understand it. I'm not one of those people who believes that it's best to burn all bridges regardless of the circumstances. In most circumstances, I'm always willing and able to at least be cordial, and depending on the circumstances, even friendly, with past paramours. Even if I didn't like how the dissolution went down, or if I was the one who broke it off. But I don't understand what it is about men just wanting to know if you are somehow available to them AFTER it's ended. They have all come back in one way or another - each and every one of them. Phone calls, e-mail, passing the word on through a mutual friend. Always. For example, when I was in college, my ex used to go by my parents' house to get in good with my mama. Is it in the man playbook, chapter thirty-one? "After it's over, check in to see if she'll take your call or go out with you or get back with you or help you with something or give it up one more time for old time's sake." I sometimes feel like Chapter 31 is really about starting a no-hard-feelings, let's-be-friends dialogue. Other times I feel like it's because the guy is going through something and he knows you have enough kindness in you to do what the girlfriend he wishes he had would do for him - listen and be a sympathetic kindred spirit. Or maybe other times, it's much less innocuous and really just selfish - he just wants to boost his ego by seeing if he still has an effect on you. I don't know. Men aren't all the same. Every human is motivated by different things. But anyway, isn't there a certain cut off point? Two weeks? Two months? Two years? I wonder.

I'm glad the holiday is coming up. I'm really looking forward to spending some time with my crazy-behind family.

I want to change my hair. I haven't decided how exactly. But it may involve some cut. And it may involve some color.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

made me smile

I sent my Christmas cards out last weekend, and I got a text message yesterday from one of my cousins thanking me for the card. But that's not all my cousin said. He said that if I needed anything, I could just call. And that he loved me. And we're really not the kind of family that just goes around saying that all the time, so whenever I hear that, I'm happy to hear it. Warm fuzzies are the best for Christmas.

Friday, December 05, 2008

anchored

Sometimes it's like life is trying to tell you a lie about yourself. Like circumstances are there specifically to get you to doubt your own value. It's up to you to know yourself well enough to stay encouraged about who you are, what you're worth, and what you're capable of. Otherwise you could wind up lost and confused. Greater is He that is within you... you know?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

ten years old


I was inducted on December 5, 1998 with fifteen other young ladies. It was the best celebration of my eighteen-year-old life. And the very next day, we had a chapter meeting. Our mama didn't play! I wish it was warm enough to wear my line jacket. I'd have been rocking it all week. I'm officially an old head now, if I wasn't before. LOL!



EE-YIP!
Deep Impact, bka Glory, 10GMFA98


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

dream world

Did you ever have a dream that just stuck with you?

I had a dream over the weekend that I'm glad I rode out all the way to the end. I had to know what was going to happen next! Even when sounds or movement would make me stir from sleep a little bit, I'd dive back in to stay in the world of my dream. My days, lately, have at least partly consisted of mulling over the story of the dream. I think I had it because of all the television I'd been watching - suspense, science fiction, action - it was really interesting to be a character in a story like that. So interesting in fact, that I've been writing about it. It started at my beloved's suggestion to write the dream down. It became a hunt for answers. Why did this happen? Why does that person think the way they do? What made these people tick? This thing has a life of its own. Will it become a full-fledged story? I dunno - only time will tell if I have the discipline to ride the writing out like I did that dream. But it is fun thinking about and writing about my story and my characters daily.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

longevity

Tonight my beloved and I went to a performance by one of the special revue groups singing covers of an old R&B crooner group. I watched the men in their crisp suits glide across the stage with all their precision and finesse, the way they used to do in their prime for their audiences. They were really classy. We were the youngest adults in the room, (we were there as guests of an older couple) and I couldn't help but wonder: when the songs we liked as teenagers become golden oldies, will anyone want to see the likes of Blackstreet, Shai, and Jodeci attempting to hump the stage and rip their shirts off when they're in their sixties? I don't think so. Pretty sure about that one.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

on time

I was just sitting here thinking about whether or not I am bothered by the fact that my next birthday will be the last time I turn twenty-anything. For years I've celebrated anniversaries of my 25th birthday. I might start telling people I'm older than I am, so I can be amazing for my age, like my beloved's friend has been doing. Ha ha. I don't know where the time is going. I just realized that it's been the better part of a decade since I graduated from college. Not high school - college. All my girlfriends are mothers, or pregnant. My biological clock is ticking, and I'm all up in the middle of a very frustrating nesting phase. I'm looking at my life and realizing that despite the occasional bumps and hiccups, I am very happy.

He fits into my life well, and when I woke up this morning, I thought about how there was no one in the world I'd rather see all sleepy-faced beside me. He allows me to love him shamelessly and sloppily, grown and child-like, and all without making me worry if I was giving him too much. You know how some men do. You get too sweet on them and they get uncomfortable or push away. He is a breath of fresh air. I can be my silly, nerdy, selfish, giving, righteous and contrite self with him - it's so alien to me after all those years I spent in the wilderness, that I don't quite know how to act here in the land of milk and honey. And when I'm having moments of self-reflection, and I'm concerned about if I'm in the right place, it's memories of all that past dysfunction that help me to see that this is exactly where I need to be - I have so much to learn and share with this man, it will take a lifetime of loving and procreating to get it all in. I believe that's why I wandered in the desert for so long. I come from long lines of women who tucked themselves into themselves in order to keep the peace with their man. I'm not talking about compromise, I'm talking about chronic self-denial. I was weaned on it. I think the Creator offered a way out to me, and this man is the road. All those times I worried if I would find the right place, and here I am.

When we have a home to provide, which if all goes well won't be long, I can worry about silencing that clock. In the meantime, I'll just have to dote on my girlfriends' babies, and hit the snooze button for myself. I don't think I wasted all this time. I would have been a capable mother ten years ago. I would have been a good mother five years ago. But my unborn are blessed to have the person I am now as a mother. I have so much more to give now. I understand love so much better. My faith is so much more balanced. I feel like my life is really just beginning. Now I see why there are so many articles about life beginning at 40. But. One step at a time. Interestingly enough though, the farther I walk on this journey, the more timeless I feel. The less my age matters to me. People ask me how old I am, and I have to actually think before I answer because I'm just not as mindful of it as I was once before. I'm most interested right now in securing a place for us and ours in this world that is safe and has strong roots. I'm most interested in how we work together to make that happen. And even as I write that, I'm just a little taken aback that when I say what I'm most concerned about, it's not a "I/me/my," but a "we/us/ours" statement. Just wow for a second. Just wow.

I need to write more often. I'm glad that lately, I have been writing. I think my writer's block is over. Just in time to catch the good parts.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

safe in the house

I haven't really left my home for the past two weekends. I think it's a phase. I like being here. It could be the weather. It could also be not wanting to move my car and having to find another parking space when I come home. I don't know, but I have really just wanted to be in my home. Which is really funny, because between my neighbors and my slumlord, I don't even like my apartment. But hey, it's a space to call my own. I can watch dvd's, knit, call friends and family, watch a little television, read on the internet. It's where I wanna be. But I guess I've always been a homebody. Even when I was going through my going out phase...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

the death of us all

It's been my opinion for a very long time that religion will be the tool humans use to kill us all.

My mom had an unsettling dream the other night. She was walking through the city, and there was debris and carnage everywhere. She went to her father's house, and he opened the door holding a book with no pages. That book was the Bible before the pages were all ripped out. He told her that they were going around ripping out the pages - that no one could have the Bible anymore - that people had to pray in hiding. As she told me, it all sounded very much like 1984. It reminded me of what the nuns in school told us about special rosaries invented because of Catholic persecution. My mom told me that she couldn't imagine why she might have had this dream. But I knew why.

She had that dream so that she could tell me about it, and put an emphatic punctuation mark on the end of the thoughts I've been having lately about religion in our society and the failures of tolerance.

I discussed with my mother that I've been noticing intolerance towards people of faith much more often lately. I told her about how I'm ashamed of people like the ones who planned to boycott the president-elect's grandmother's funeral since she raised him, and he is pro-choice. I told her that people like that makes it harder for people of faith everywhere. It's hard to respect people like that, which might be why there seems to be a growing contingent of non-religious people who speak about people of faith and about faith itself with no respect.

I am feeling a tension that scares me. Forget red states and blue states. It's all about Team Faith and Team Faithless. There are extremists on each team, and it seems moderates like myself are either being overlooked or are too silent.

Team Faith's extremists think that their religion gives them a mandate to impose their beliefs on everyone else, regardless of whether everyone else has Constitutional rights to believe or not believe what they want. Some even think that everyone who doesn't believe what they believe has rejected their God and deserves no respect now, in addition the damnation that will surely follow their deaths.

Team Faithless' extremists think Team Faith is a bunch of weak-minded nut jobs who use their superstitions as a crutch. Religion is for the mental midgets so far as they see it. And according to them, the fantasies of religion do way more harm than good because they defy and belittle reason, giving license to the faithful to suspend reality in their own minds. A suspension of reality that serves mainly to self-righteously bully and impose upon the faithless.

Others, the reasonable among both the faithful and the faithless, just want to respectfully live and let live. Good fences, good neighbors, celebrate diversity type stuff. I'd hope most people fit in this category. But it sounds like only the intolerant extremists have anything to say lately. And as long as those extremists continue to go at each other, my mommy's nightmare is sure to come. In one moment, intolerant bigots lobby to keep civil rights from others based on an agenda to make others adhere to their faith. In its counterpoint, intolerant bigots make expressions of faith subject to ridicule in the popular culture in such a way that society becomes hostile to the faithful. Team Faith and Team Faithless will keep tussling until the mushroom cloud goes up.

And what neither side will realize is that the problem isn't that people are brainwashed by antiquated texts or that people are evil because they lack faith in a higher power. The problem is that people on both sides refuse to respect and be tolerant towards the other side.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

tolerance works both ways

I have attempted to stay silent about this subject, but I have reached the full extent of my restraint.

Many have been talking about the passage of Proposition 8 in California, which took away the right of gay people in California to have legal marriages. In virtually every discussion of this, a spotlight has been put on black people and people of faith, to state that Prop 8's passing is due to the black folks that came out to vote for Obama. Then inevitably it comes up: black people should be ashamed of denying a civil right to a fellow minority. They, of all people, should have a special sympathy for the plight of oppressed gay couples, because they, of all people, should remember how wrong it was for interracial marriages or slave marriages to be outlawed. They're homophobic! They're using their religion as an excuse for their oppression of gay people! For shame! Foooooor shaaaame.

I don't live in California, so I had no say on Prop 8. Also, I can't reasonably speak for the black people in California, or black people of faith. That said, I take quite a few exceptions to what's being said.

First of all, the numbers that they're using to vilify California's black voters are arguable. People need to stop blaming blacks for California's Prop 8 passage. See a worthy analysis of this point here. I'm not saying that homophobia doesn't exist among blacks, but I am saying that I'm not going to let black people become The Face of Homophobia without putting in my two cents.

As one black Christian, here is my opinion on gay marriage. On a pragmatic level, whether or not marriage for gays becomes legal, gay people will continue to be with each other, and I will continue to try my best to keep from judging them for it based on my beliefs, seeing as how I and most people I know do things that we might be a little uncomfortable telling a pastor or discussing with the Lord. I want to give gay people the same respect that I give others, and to that end, I am not opposed to them being granted the legal privileges and rights that come along with marriage.

Thing is, though, I think that "marriage" is a religious matter. I see the privileges and rights granted by the government in a different light than I see the religious significance of marriage. On the one hand, you get to ride your spouse's health care benefits. On the other, you've created a spiritual covenant under the Lord. I really don't think either of those has much to do with the other. I think that one is under the authority of our government. I believe that the other is under the authority of the Lord, and the best approximation we have to operating under the Creator's order is using the guidance of our respective religious communities.

Imagine then, how torn I might personally feel if confronted with that referendum question. On the one hand, I want gay people to feel free and respected as citizens in their own country. I want them to feel as free as I do as a heterosexual. On the other hand, my spiritual beliefs preclude me from wanting to call a gay union a "marriage" because of what I believe that term to mean, or from even thinking that I have the authority to weigh in on the issue.

I don't even think that question should have gone to referendum in the first place. I think the legality of gay unions is a legal civil rights issue that "regular people" have no business creating law on in the voting booth. When blacks won the full exercise of their civil rights, it was won mostly in the courts. Think about it: in 1954, if the people of Topeka, Kansas were asked by referendum if nigra children should be allowed to attend school with white children, what do you think the result would be? There's a reason that the Brown case was in court. There's a reason that Reconstruction ended when the federal government left the south, and why the Civil Rights Movement became fruitful when the federal government got involved. Sometimes We, The People and our legislatures get it wrong when it comes to our neighbors. Sometimes, high level courts and executive orders are best at carrying out the spirit of what freedom in this country is about, and our constitutional structure is there to balance everything out.

I read a suggestion somewhere that all couples, regardless of sexual orientation, should get "civil unions," and those who seek to have their union ordained by their religion can do so privately. I think that's entirely appropriate. I think that this gay marriage issue may be the best thing to happen for pointing out how ridiculous it is to regularly tout "Separation of Church and State," while allowing judges and courthouse clerks-or-whoever-else to pronounce people "married" after taking vows based on Christian marriage traditions.

Did you notice that I haven't said that I support gay marriage? I didn't say it because I don't. I could likely have voted for Prop 8 myself, and I refuse to be shamed by others for my opinion and my religious beliefs. I am an American. I have the right to my religious beliefs. It's not because I'm homophobic - because I am not. I am neither disgusted by, afraid of, hateful towards, nor superior by any measure to gay people. It's not because I'm black - my black parents and family never taught me to hate anybody. Even though I am in favor of allowing gay couples to legally unite with all privileges and rights if that's what they want to do, I think that there's a better way to handle this than saying, "Let them join, and have the state call it marriage." I think we need to separate marriage and the government for couples of all sexual orientations, and just call all marriage licenses "civil union" licenses. Then people can work out the aspects of what "marriage" and spiritual union means to them on a personal level in their own private lives. This isn't another version of separate but equal. It's all equal, and it keeps our churches and our states as separate as they should be.

There are more reasons besides homophobia or religious intolerance for someone of any race or religion to have voted for Prop 8. There are some hateful people, yes. But there are also some ignorant ones, some misled ones, some people who simply disagree with how the right was given in California in the first place (but not with the right being given). Regarding people who voted against gay marriage because of what they believe, try to understand them. I'm hearing a lot of people talking about how intolerant they are, how blinded they are by their religion, how they're not following Jesus' Golden Rule... it should be obvious that all of that finger-pointing is judgmental. Point your finger, and there are three pointing back at you.

There needs to be dialogue, education, and cooperation, not rhetoric aimed to shame and belittle people based on identity politics. Gay rights activists and social liberals will never get Prop 8 voters to come around if they continue to denigrate them at every turn for who they are and what they believe.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

resolution revolution

I fell asleep during Barack Obama's victory speech last night. I really wanted to hear it live on television, but I was exhausted. I got up before the sun, shortly after five a.m. on the morning of November 4, 2008. I had to get to the polls of Philadelphia's Ward 11, Division 16 on Venango Avenue in North Philly before they set up the voting machines. I was an official poll watcher for the Barack Obama campaign. I spent the entire day gathering and transmitting names and numbers and watching for possible voter intimidation and suppression. Pennsylvania was a battleground state, and my job was to make sure that if Pennsylvania turned out to be the 2008 version of Florida in 2000, the Obama campaign would have a detailed record of Election Day's voting process at my assigned polling place.

What a day. I met other volunteers - three election observers had come down from New York City just to help. My polling place had two Divisions, and the volunteer from Division 15 was a nice woman. Then there were the people from the Board of Elections who operated the machines and administered the sign in process. By the end of the day, we had broken bread together and we all felt like old friends.

The polling place was in a building where mostly old people live, and most of our voters were old enough to be my grandparents. The oldest voter who came through my Division was 108 years old. We had octogenarians come out of the booth saying that it was the first time they had ever voted. We had baby-faced teenagers voting for the very first time with pride. By seven o'clock in the morning, when the polls opened, we had dozens eagerly waiting to cast their vote. By eight o'clock in the evening, when the polls closed, we had record turnout for the division, and there was a sense of anticipation like no other. As we shut the machines down, the pundits projected Pennsylvania in favor of Senator Obama and the room erupted with joy.

I took two of the out-of-state election observers, a husband and wife team, "home" to their hotel on my way home. One of them was old enough to remember when John F. Kennedy was elected and said that this election reminded him of that victory. We talked about race relations, foreign relations, and by the end of the conversation, I finally allowed myself to speak optimistically about the possibility of Barack Obama being elected. I imagined traveling down to D.C. in January for the inauguration. The Audacity of Hope is infectious. It took me until Election Day to really allow myself to let go of the pessimism about American race relations that kept me from believing that Obama could win. At least I did so long enough to enjoy watching the returns on TV that night. I had lived through the nightmare after the 2000 election, where we didn't know if Bush or Gore had won for several weeks. I still harbor the belief that that election was stolen, and my impression of voting in this country has been marred ever since. I had to really work hard to be encouraged while watching the results.

Sometime around ten o'clock, I called home to Virginia to talk to my parents, who I knew were eagerly anticipating the results. My mother answered the phone saying that she couldn't sleep. She tried, because she was exhausted from not having received a good night's rest the night before. But she just couldn't relax until she knew the Obama had won. Mom told me that she voted early in the morning after waiting in a line for an hour and a half. I thanked her for not giving up and leaving to get to work on time. She assured me that nothing could have made her leave that line. I know, from having lived in Virginia, that their electoral college votes are usually for the Republicans, and my Mom and Dad's votes could possibly have been outnumbered by Republican John McCain devotees' votes. As Mom and I talked, the television stations were saying that Virginia was "too close to call." Suddenly, NBC called Virginia for Obama! I let out a few hollers! My mom hollered - she wept, she laughed, she sighed! I did along with her, as she burst into the bedroom to wake my sleeping Dad, whose glad words I could hear in the background.

And then, shortly after eleven o'clock, I saw it.

CNN called the ENTIRE election for Barack Obama. I interrupted my mom's rejoicing over Virginia to let her know that he won the whole thing. We were almost silent for a moment, as someone being aroused from sleep would be. I felt as if I was being aroused from sleep. I felt like I was dreaming. I asked my mom if this was real. She didn't know what to say, as we watched people of all colors and ages in Chicago, California, New York, and Kenya jumping up and down, crying, and screaming. Then we followed suit. Tired as I was, I was up off the couch, tears streaming down my face, hopping up and down, babbling like a fool! My mom then announced that she'd seen what she'd stayed up for, and it was time to go to bed.

So I called my grandmother. She'll be 75 this weekend. She's kind of a night owl, so I was surprised to find her in bed. But I got to be the first to tell her that Obama won. Her response sobered me up a little: "I believe it... I believe that. Now all we have to do is pray that he stays safe." There is nothing like the words of the elders for providing perspective, is there? I assured her that I would pray, not long before Senator Obama appeared on television to give his victory speech, and I drifted off to a deep and satisfying sleep myself.

But I don't want to end this re-telling of history on that note. I want to talk about what's really important, starting with a young lady who came into my polling place yesterday evening about an hour before the polls closed. She couldn't have been any older than 21 years old, and her friend, who had already voted, drove this young lady to the polls when she said she hadn't voted. Her reason? She had moved, and she didn't register in her new neighborhood. We told her that her vote would have a better chance of being counted if she voted where she had been registered before. But she didn't want to go to her old polling place, even though her friend and other poll workers volunteered to escort her there. She said she would rather stay at our polling place and vote with a provisional ballot, because at her old polling place, there was, "Trouble there. People shooting."

If Senator Obama is right, then "Yes, we can," make it so that young people can vote without fearing for their lives. We, not "someone," not "them," not "the government," but We, The People. On this, the morning after my countrymen surprised me by picking a biracial black man for President, I am thinking about that young lady, who ultimately chose a paper ballot rather than risk her life to elect him by machine. We all should be thinking about her. We all should continue to use the energy, money, and time that we have donated to get Barack Obama elected in order to get the change that he has been promising us. Because it was We, The People who got him elected, not Obama himself - he couldn't have done it without us. And if we can do that, we can do anything. We can change our communities. We can save our children. We can change the world. As long as we remember that November 4, 2008 isn't the end of anything, but rather, the beginning. I am crying silent tears as I am typing this.

What's your Yes We Can resolution? If you don't have one, make one, and keep it. Resolve to continue being the change you want to see in this world. Be specific, and get to work.

Yes We Can!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Mrs. Dunham

Dear Mrs. Dunham,

I'm poll-watching all day tomorrow for your grandson. I gave money to help his campaign. I'm wearing one of his buttons right now. I was thinking about you earlier today, hoping that you would stay with us long enough to see if your grandson wins, but I guess the Lord had other plans for you. I'm hoping that He comforts those who love you and will miss you, especially your grandson. I lost my grandma eight years ago. Like your grandson, I knew it was coming. But I was so sad to know I'd have to live with her memory and not her hugs anymore. Like your grandson, I was away when my grandma passed too. But I was where she would have wanted me to be, studying in college, fulfilling the hopes and dreams of her and the rest of my family. I visited her before she took her last breath. It was hard knowing I might not see her alive again. And for a while I felt guilty for not having been there on that last day. Until I realized that I knew enough about my grandma's love for me to know better than that. Even now I feel her approval of each of my reaches for more opportunities to become a better self. Your grandson is reaching for one of the biggest opportunities he's ever reached for in his entire life - the chance to serve and make a better place of his entire country. I hope he can move forward in the confidence of knowing that you support what he's trying to do. Mrs. Dunham, please pray with me that God comforts those people that were left behind when the Lord took you. Thank you for your service during the war. Thank you for raising an open-minded and dedicated mother in Ann, and thank you for raising a progressive minded public servant in Barack. You and my grandma have something in common. You were loved, and you will be missed. May God grant you rest and peace.

glory

Thursday, October 30, 2008

down ticket

Who are you voting for? And I don't mean for President of the United States. For those of you who, like myself, are not able to vote early and/or who have not voted yet - what other choices will you have to make on your ballot? I took a look at the sample ballot for my voting ward, so that I would know ahead of time. Since every other local election has been relatively quiet in comparison to the Presidential election, I honestly did not know what else might be asked of me as a voter in the booth. Turns out that where I live, "down [the voting] ticket" there are at least two state-wide positions, four referendum questions, and some state general assembly positions that I'm going to have to weigh in on. I'd hate to go in there and just pick people at random, like I used to do when I first started voting and I didn't think about down ticket races until they were literally staring me in the face.

I put some research into my presidential pick. It wouldn't make sense to not put the same amount of effort into the other races and issues! Especially since - no offense to the future President - the next President will probably have less impact on my daily life and weekly paycheck than the locally elected officials that most people put little effort into choosing or monitoring. Every four years, I pay lots of attention to the presidential race. But I'm a little more mature now. I'm paying taxes. I'm going to be starting a family. There is too much at stake for me to fail to pay attention to what's going on with my state assembly and local officials, not just Congress and the President. The next president will not be able to put his hands directly on my local issues! To the extent the next president will change anything in my life, it will happen over time, after filtering down through the various levels of government. Meanwhile, decisions about finance, safety, education, even the water I drink, will be made right here where I live and in my state capital. It would just be stupid to pull the lever for a president and leave the booth thinking I've done my job as a voter.

If I am going to properly pay homage to the role and rights of the citizenship my ancestors fought so hard to give me, not only do I have to exercise my voting privileges, I must also take them seriously and follow through. I traced my family tree and found ancestors who could not read, and who were probably prohibited from voting and having a say in Chesterfield County, Virginia during Jim Crow. They couldn't say their peace. But I can. I have a say!

So, as I've done for the last few elections, I went online and found out who was running down ticket. I checked them out by reading a bunch of different things that matter to me, like experience, records, and platforms, and then I made my best educated guess on which candidates would be best for the positions. (Actually, I'm still deciding on one of them - it's a tough decision, and I'm glad I still have a few days to mull it over). Then I checked out the referendum questions and figured out my yesses and noes. I feel so much better and more responsible now. And if the ultimate winners - up or down ticket - ultimately screw up, I'm coming back to vote them out.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

belief

Lately I've just been exercising my faith muscles. There's a lot going on with me lately. You can't worry about every damn thing. Sometimes you need to just recognize that you do what you can, and what you can't do... you'll deal with, like you've dealt with everything else you couldn't control. Faith is an excellent tool for that.

So many people seem to be atheists and agnostics. It's getting more and more acceptable for people who don't subscribe to "organized religion" to say so and not be reviled. I'm glad that our society has become tolerant enough for that. That said, I don't really understand atheists. Not because I think you have to have an organized code to live by in order to live well and compassionately, but because I can't imagine life without faith. I totally understand agnostics' reluctance to state with certainty a belief in something that they cannot prove with certainty. I personally believe that the difference between someone who is agnostic and someone who subscribes to religion is a choice of whether or not they choose a faith.

I don't think faith is an easy thing. It may be for children, who wide-eyed and trusting, will accept what they are told. But I believe that maturing minds must try what they profess to believe. They should examine it and ask questions. They must, at some point, come to terms with the limits of their knowledge, and then in turn decide whether or not they are comfortable with those limitations. Even still, they must decide, what explanation, if any, answers the questions many of us have about the nature of life, our purposes, and our futures. In my mind, this process is where the atheist parts from the agnostic, and the agnostic from the religious adherents.

In any case, whatever you choose, it was chosen. Atheists choose not to believe in anything. Agnostics choose not to believe the same things that religious adherents choose to believe. But it is a choice, and for those religious adherents who try to strengthen their faith through trials, it is a continually made choice. I have to constantly make the choice to be a person of faith and subscribe to the religion that I have chosen. I do it because I find faith to be filling and inspiring. I find it to be strengthening and empowering. When I need it to be, I find it to be chastening and character building. I don't think that I'm a mental midget because I recognize the limits of my understanding. Though my faith is cerebral in many ways, it has more to do with the inclination of my heart and intuition. And I am okay with that. It is enough for me. I believe that where my limits are, the Creator I believe in takes over. I can't imagine an existence without that.

I believe that in my various day to day concerns, it is He in whom I believe that makes everything work out alright in the end.

I don't need to push this on anyone else. But if anyone is open to it, I would gladly share my faith. I hope to mature to a point in my faith where people see my wellness and want to know what it is that sustains me. But in my mind, regarding public life, my faith is private, not because I'm ashamed, but because I figure that I don't want anyone telling me what to believe, so in turn, I think it is the merciful and loving thing to do to avoid assaulting others' will with my own. I understand that other people of faith can be a pain in the ass, with all their attempts to insinuate their beliefs into public life. But it troubles me - all of the ridicule that people of faith are increasingly subjected to as nonbelievers find an increasingly braver audience in each other. And I'm not just talking about that movie, either. Many of the depictions of people of faith are downright insulting and disrespectful. End of tangent.

I'm thankful for my faith. It has been a much needed medicine for me lately. I am so glad to have it. I am so very blessed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

we know who they are

We know about the latest rallies of McCain and Palin, and how they are getting a tremendously angry, vicious, and self-righteous response in their rallies from their Republican voters. I was reading a comment made in LH's blog - that the Republicans are looking and smelling like the Dixiecrats. It sent me on a tangent of my own, and this is how I responded:

And of course, they look and smell like the Dixiecrats, because they took actual Dixiecrats, who were frustrated in their original party, into the fold once upon a time. Had the Democratic presidents of the sixties not worked with and supported the civil rights changes we were asking for, they’d have had no reason to jump ship. Even today, their arguments for small government and states’ rights echo the arguments of the segregationist Dixiecrats, who found such arguments convenient when being told by the federal government that Jim Crow had to end. (For clarity, I’m not saying that either of these ideas are inherently racist, but they were the best way for segregationists to legally argue against extending full citizenship to blacks without explicitly saying that nigras don’t deserve citizenship, since that argument has no legal merit.)

You’d think that Dixiecrat sentiment would have died out over the past 40 years, as people like Strom Thurman have died off. But Republicans like Nixon and Reagan kept stoking the fire by contributing things like the Silent Majority and the Welfare Queen to political thought. By the time Dubya got in, he really didn’t even have to do any work to keep the Dixiecrat mentality going, because the Angry White Man syndrome had taken on a life of its own, complete with propaganda and coded language. So coded in fact, that I think some of today’s Republicans don’t even realize the racist legacy of the ideas they espouse. Through successful propaganda and indoctrination, they believe that their views are truest to the spirit of the Constitution and the soul of the country itself. They have hijacked and twisted the Republican party, which only a few generations ago wasn’t known as the default party for racists.

Even now, we’re hearing the word Socialist thrown about by them. They’re not worried about the rise of Marxism, believe me - many of them don’t even understand what it’s about. But if you look back to the Red Scare and McCarthyism, many of the people whose lives, privacy, and careers were targeted were minorities and people with sympathies towards minorities and the poor at home and abroad. Same goes for today. If you want the government to get involved in helping people who are having problems helping themselves (name any Democrat here), you’re liable to be branded a Socialist, like Barack Obama has been labeled recently. Anything to get people who care about the minorities and lower classes branded as un-American.

1960’s parlance: “nigger loving Communist”
2000’s parlance: “un-American Socialist”

No wonder John Lewis compared them to George Wallace. He was absolutely right.

I try to view elections through an Independent lens, because depending on the issue, I may feel either conservative or liberal. But the Republicans keep making it hard for me, because of stuff like this.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ask the Question

Do you know anyone who might not be registered to vote? Don't assume too easily. My best friend told me AFTER the primaries this spring that she has never voted. She's never even registered to vote. I had no idea, because we'd never discussed it before.

After I calmed down and we talked, my friend promised me that she'd register in her new county of residence. So, to hold her to her word, I found the voter registration form for her county online and e-mailed it to her. All she has to do is print it, fill it out, and mail it in, postage-paid.

That got me thinking. Who else could I reach out to? I texted my lil' cousin who's in college to see if her absentee thing was going OK. She just sent off her absentee ballot request on time - which is great, because she's a resident of a swing state.

But my proudest moment in recent days was getting my cousin's son, who is seventeen years old, but will be eighteen on Election Day, to fill out a voter registration form. I took it to his house and watched as he filled it out. I put it in the mailbox myself. He chose to register as an Independent, but he said, without any prompting from me or his mother, that he is voting for Barack Obama. Getting him to register was a coup for me, because although his mother is registered, she doesn't vote and is proud of it. She did vote once - for Hillary in the primary, and now since her candidate is out, she says she won't be voting in November. (Don't get me started on how bad a role model she is for her kids on citizenship.) Her son was reluctant to fill out the form because of her influence, but she told him to register, because she didn't want to hear my mouth. Thank goodness for my big mouth! He promised me that he will vote on Election Day, and I'm going to make sure he has a photo ID and voter registration card before that day.

Take some time and ask among the friends, family members, church members, mentees - hey, even co-workers - and see if they're registered in their residence. They might not be, especially if they've recently moved, or if they're a young adult (or seventeen-year-old October/early November baby). I bet we can be more influential on people we know than strangers with clipboards can be! And once you get them registered, take responsibility for them and make sure they follow up and get to the polls.

Each one, reach one.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

seeking peace

I am really loving the weather. Almost everything else in my life is causing me to seek peace and quiet in my affected spirit, but the weather lately is making me soar. There's sunshine and cool breezes. The fall briskness is beginning, reminding me of how new everything felt when each school year would begin. Funny how, because of when we start school, fall feels new to me, but so many things start visibly dying. I feel a little like that. Some of my idealism is dying. But I still feel like something new is happening. Even though the use of Phoenix to illustrate this concept is very overdone, it fits well with what I'm feeling. Walking to work this morning, I felt like I was falling apart on the inside, while only half heartedly trying to keep it together on the outside. But I'm stronger than that, or at least I believe I am. I sometimes forget what I'm capable of, so when I remember it's like, it feels like I'm finding something new in myself. All of this is happening at the same time. Meanwhile, the leaves are drying up, and the tenor of the wind is changing. I'm making moves and seeking peace.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

i was wrong

I've had a health problem lately, and when I tell people who are close to me what it is, the first question they all ask is, "Are you stressed?"

I always answer that I'm not, because I don't feel like I'm under any more pressure than I usually am. I'm not awake at night with worries. My hair isn't falling out. And I don't feel like running away from home, or dropping all my concerns altogether - a form of paralysis that has happened in the past when I really was stressed out.

But I think I'm wrong. Now that I think about it, I've got some running issues in my mind that I think about so much, I guess I'm too sleepy at night be kept up by worrying about them - I've been worrying myself about them under the surface all day. I've got some running tasks that I'm concerned about as well - a running volunteer project and a board position in a professional organization. I'm concerned about my job security and career direction (rather, the lack thereof) and how that's going to affect some of my financial goals. I'm concerned about spending quality time with my family - not being a stranger. I'm concerned about my relationship with my honey, because I know that when I'm stressed or frustrated, he's usually the first one to see it, and that's not a good thing, because no matter how much I try not to unload on him, I am a different person when I'm "trying to get stuff done." I'm less tolerant, easily frustrated, and perhaps worst of all, I have absolutely no patience. Those things don't work well in relationships, even with people who are patient with you because they love you. Oh yeah, and there's the ongoing mystery health problem, which is one of those things that's constantly nagging on my mind. I am also fighting this uphill battle to keep my home clean and cook on a regular basis. It's like Mission Impossible with all the activity going on. And I don't know if you remember, reader, but I think clearer and I'm a happier person when I am living in a clean and orderly house. That's just one more straw on the camel's back.

I guess when you put it that way, yeah, I am stressed. I was wrong. Lately, I have been really stressed, but I've been too distracted by all my concerns to notice. I've even had the nerve lately to think of other responsibilities to add to my list. Sheesh.

Here lately, I have not at all been the woman I was when I started this blog three years ago. That woman was so joyful. Even my best friend noticed, and said so. Between writing, reading poems, socializing at venues, going to see live music, learning how to date, cooking, enjoying my home, exploring new music, shoot, even playing hooky from work to paint pictures, my life was great. But I was also more irresponsible then. I had abandoned my career goals (and I think I'm paying for that, even now) because I hated my job, so I was just showing up and doing enough to get the money. I had no financial goals and I spent without diligence. I wasn't really doing any good for anybody else - I was pretty much indulging whatever made me happy. I had so much joy running over from my cup, I was spilling it onto this blog on a daily basis. I was a much more prolific writer. It all just came at a cost - honestly, I was stressed at that time, too, because I knew I was being irresponsible. Funny thing is now that my priorities are supposedly in order, I'm stressed, just in a different way.

Perhaps there's too much on my plate. But there really isn't anything I'm doing that I'm not obligated to do. Really. I've made promises I will not break, not just to others but also to myself. So what is one supposed to do when they have multiple obligations and priorities besides manage their time really well? (I'm working on the time management thing - it really does seem like there aren't enough hours in the day.) I'm just going to pray. And keep living.

Friday, August 29, 2008

the hopeful

I did watch Senator Obama's speech last night. Before I parked myself in front of the couch, I was thinking about how I might want to write a letter to my children about it. One of these days, I imagine that they'll come home from school and ask me about it.

"Mommy, what was it like? What did it mean to you?"

I used to ask this question of my parents when I was a child. My mom grew up in the same town I grew up in, before the fall of the industrial economy, white flight, and the crack epidemic ravaged the place. My dad grew up in the South before it became the New South and attended segregated schools. During their childhood, so many things happened. They were toddlers when Topeka was ordered to desegregate its schools and when Birmingham was told to desegregate their buses, but there was so much more to the Movement. I was fascinated with the twenty-five years that predated my existence in which America wobbled while turning right-side up. I read everything I could get my hands on, from the Freedom Riders to the Panthers. From Muhammad Ali to John Carlos and Tommie Smith. From Malcolm X to Thurgood Marshall. I was engrossed in Eyes on the Prize, Roots, and every other made-for-TV biography of a black hero. I excelled in school during Black History Month each year. I always wondered what it was like when history was the news. But at the time, parents were too busy being children to really reflect on the magnitude of what was being witnessed or how profoundly it would affect my life. Also, memories fade with time.

So I figured that I'd try to get my feelings and observations down while they're still fresh. I did watch Barack Obama's speech when he accepted the Democratic Party's nomination for President. I knew it was a first, and I knew that's all anyone would be talking about for months to come. Obama's candidacy has engaged so many black people in the political process. You can turn on the television, turn on the radio, go on the internet - black people are talking about this candidacy everywhere, whether or not they are planning to vote for him, though most of us are planning to vote for him in the general election. One of the most fascinating things about his candidacy is that it isn't just about electing a black man for many people, myself included. He is smart, he is personable, he has some good ideas (depending on who you ask), and he has demonstrated the ability to look and sound and act presidential. He speaks to the optimism in people and he challenges people to question their cynicism and believe in their own ability to make their country and their world a better place.

He has supporters from many different ethnic, religious, and economic backgrounds and political beliefs. People flock to see him speak in record audiences. They call him a rockstar. Others say he's too popular. One thing is for sure - no American has seen anything like this ever before in politics. Whether people like him or dislike him, most do it passionately. When he speaks, people listen. Many are fascinated because other black people have run for President, like Shirley Chisholm, Jesse Jackson, Carol Moseley Braun, and Al Sharpton but no other black candidate made it out of the primary elections before. No other black candidate had a shot at actually becoming President before. Whether or not he wins in November, he will still have opened a door that most Americans thought was closed to black people. He isn't just black. He is also white. He has been embraced by many blacks and many whites, and many others who are biracial as well.

On the night that he became the presumptive nominee - when it was determined that he had swayed more Democratic convention delegated than his only remaining rival for the nomination - he gave a speech, and I watched as he and his wife stood before the whole country. I did cry. I was happy for my country - happy to see that this was possible in America.

And last night when he gave his speech, I didn't cry. I already had almost three months to get used to the idea that a black person could become a major political party's nominee for President. I felt the weight of the moment, but by the time his speech came, I was actually less impressed with the race of the candidate than I was concerned about how strong a candidate he was or wasn't. As he came out to talk to the 75,000 people who came to listen to his speech in a gigantic stadium, my first thought was, "I hope he doesn't mess anything up," because I wanted everything to go perfectly. My second thought was, "I hope the Secret Service [the people who are responsible for his safety] doesn't mess anything up." I thought about President Kennedy, Senator Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., who were assassinated when my parents were young. I thought about how the elders - my grandmother and others - were probably thinking the same thing.

And then he began to speak.

He spoke about his predecessors in his party - he thanked everyone, including his family, his running mate, his opponents. He talked about civic responsibility and his plans for the country. He criticized his opponent. He challenged everyone to make a better country. It was patriotic, it was substantive, and it was something I was proud of. I thought about how the family he made with his wife is like the family I come from and like the family I want to make one day. I thought about how the rest of the world can see a family like mine in public view - that good black families exist and are happy and normal, like many other American families from every ethnicity, religion, class, and political leaning. I knew that he had done a good job and shown why he had the chance to be our president. And because I agreed with the things he said, I hoped that one day he would be our president.

He gave the speech forty-five years after Martin Luther King Jr.'s legendary I Have A Dream speech at the March on Washington, which happened before I was born, when my parents were in junior high school. And although he talked about the speech, it was only indirectly, and I loved that he didn't try to abuse Dr. King's legacy in that way. It would have been seen as presumptuous of him to declare that his candidacy was the ultimate fulfillment of Dr. King's dream. But he talked about it just enough to let people know that he was aware of the weight of the moment, and that his hopes are similar to the great pastor's.

I think that most of us who know our history in this country have been humbled by the idea that we are living through history. I don't know one person who isn't paying attention as this candidacy goes on. We all want to know - will he win? Can he win? Is America ready to vote for him? The ghosts of our history still haunt us and we watch and wonder. So many of us hope very cautiously. My grandma, who was born during the Great Depression, lived through a World War, and raised children in the segregated south, likes him. But she fears for his safety, wondering if his life will be taken. My parents think it can happen, but don't trust other Americans to get past prejudices and vote for him. And me? Well I don't know. I think I'm a little less pessimistic than my grandma and my parents... but not by much.

But I don't see this as a test of whether or not America has gotten over racism. It's a political contest, and there just might be enough people who disagree with him politically for him to lose the election. If he doesn't win, it might not be race that caused it. It might be, but it might not be. That's how racism works today. It's not in-your-face like it was when my parents were children. It's very quiet and sometimes when it happens, because you want to believe the best about people, you're not sure if the thing that made you wonder about racism is really racist or just something else... like political disagreement. Only the progression of time will tell us what we want to know about Senator Obama's future - America's future.

Only time will tell if my children will ever want to hear this story on a former President or a former presidential hopeful.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

C-Span, my eyes and ears

I have been watching C-Span for my Democratic National Convention coverage, and I wish more people would join me. First of all, the other major news networks aren't showing everything. It's not that I necessarily want to see everything, but I'd rather hear what John Kerry has to say than hear what Pat Robertson has to say. Another problem is all of the speculation you have to hear from pundits whose job it is to chatter on and on about the goings-on at the convention. Some of them are truly empty eggheads who just talk to fill the silence... except if they would shut up, it wouldn't be silent, because there's someone at the podium who's getting ignored by the network so that we can hear the empty egghead make a paycheck. I don't want to hear all of that. I want to make up my own mind about whether or not I agreed with something that was said, or whether I thought someone was sincere, or whether their words were appropriate for their intended purpose. There are no commercials to watch. There are no unreliable poll results to hear. There aren't any miscellaneous and unnecessary graphics floating all over the screen. And when a keynote or closing speech is finished, the impressions I have of the speech get to last, because the empty eggheads don't immediately jump in to talk over my thoughts with their commentary, which I can sometimes swear has an agenda. The empty eggs are always spinning. I'm really grateful for C-Span.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

it's whatever i'm tired

I don't have much to say about Joe Biden, since everybody else does. I heard somewhere that the cardinal rule of VP-pickin' is "first, do no harm." I think it remains to be seen whether or not Obama got this one right... and I think it will continue to remain to be seen until at least the day after election day. No gaffes willing and the creek don't rise.

The challenge is now to get through Denver without Obama getting escorted out the back door by security, without the Secret Service lunching on the job, and without Billary acrobatics. Y'all might not like me saying this but ah, I still like Bill, even though I don't trust him anymore. And Hillary, well, it's whatever. Whaddaya gonna do.

I kinda feel like this whole thing is scripted anyway. I might need to stop caring and just show up for election day. This train wreck is taking up too much of my time. I got other stuff to do, you know? Y'all got me checking political blogs and news sites three times as often as I used to before the primaries started. I'm all on my laptop on a regular basis... doing corny stuff like watching politics on TV.

That is just not acceptable. I gotta do other stuff.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

STOP IT

"Me, personally, fill-in-rest-of-sentence-here," is not an acceptable sentence.

It has never been an acceptable sentence. It never will be an acceptable sentence under any circumstances. I'm not an English language purist at all times, but there are certain abuses that should never go unchecked. The use of "Me, personally," is one of them.

Stop it.

Suitable substitutes, among others, include: "In my opinion," "I think that," "I believe that," "My opinion is," or simply stating your opinion without any introduction. Another option is to state your opinion and follow it up by stating that it is your opinion (and omitting "Y'ahm sayin'" or "Y'ah mean" unless you are talking with your casual acquaintances in casual circumstances, which do not include talking to any representative of the media or any person in law enforcement.)

Thank you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What's Not Going On

Pretending that America is a theocracy is Not Going On.

Matters of faith and values are not, NOT, relevant to whether or not a person is qualified to be the chief executive officer of the country. They may be relevant to whether or not you trust or respect or like a candidate, or even if you think they're going straight to Hades, but they don't have anything to do with the stuff that Americans have to deal with that the President can actually affect. I say this with the possible exception of appointments to the Supreme Court of justices who might encroach upon and further sully the separation of church and state, which I believe is an important distinction to keep up. A candidate's position on gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research, even the place of evolution in a school curriculum, though important to certain people for certain reasons, should not be CENTRAL to a sound assessment of whether a candidate for president can run the country in a time of war, economic crises, educational deficiencies, and national security fears.

This is how we wound up with Bush's dumb ass in the first place. People were busy voting on Bush praying that America could "crusade" against an "axis of evil" and keep the gays from marrying, instead of electing a leader who could keep us out of the muck we're in now. I haven't yet been threatened by Adam and Steve, but Iran, North Korea Russia, inflation, and threatened retirement prospects are really starting to scare me, and I'd love to know where Dubya has been effective with any of that.

I am not saying that values are not important to me. I am a Christian in belief and not just in name. But since I'm not going to make it my absurd personal mission to go killing everyone who doesn't believe what I believe, I need to live in peace with my neighbors, and that means living and letting live. I don't see Jews trying to keep me from eating pork, or Muslims trying to make me wear a burka. Lesbians don't want me to kiss girls. Atheists don't want me to renounce my beliefs. And pro-choice activists don't want me to abort my unborn children. I don't need to tell these people what to do either. I don't want my government in my business, so I don't want it in theirs either, 'cause it just opens the door for them to come after me next.

Meanwhile, I do need my government to govern. Balance the budget, please. Fix the local, regional, and national infrastructure, please. Stop leaving children behind in the schools, please. Figure out how to stop the violence in urban communities so I can stop seeing all these damned teddy bear shrines and RIP t-shirts, please. Fix Social Security so my parents don't have to die at work, please. I WISH that the pressing issues weren't so many and so urgent that we had the time to worry about whether or not a candidate for president is going to Hades, but we don't. Can the candidate lead? Can they use the sense God gave them to serve their country well? Do they have a plan to make our lives and opportunities better? 'Cause that's what we need. You want salvation and righteousness? Go to the Lord to find it, not to the polls. Because for as much as people pull levers worrying about whether a candidate shares their values instead of worrying about their actual competence, that's how much less will be done about the issues that affect our lives and our opportunities.

We are the soul of our country, not our executive officer.

What's Going On

The Olympics are going on. I kinda don't want to watch because of the whole human rights thing, but for real? It's the Olympics. You can't get away from them. I've decided that Jamaicans deserve to be the fastest people in the world. They put up with all kinds of hell behind sorry stereotypes, and it's great to see them representing and kicking butt on the track. Oh - and the Chinese are winning all the gold medals because their athletes raison d'etre is to bring glory to the People's Republic, and has been since most of them were virtually infants, seeing as how China has known- for how many years now? - that they would be hosting in front of the world. I'm still a little scared after that opening ceremony. All those synchronized drummers? Shooo.... I'ma need the US to pay their debts. That's a lot of people. Thanks.

Mango smoothies are Going On. I'ma hook one up at home soon for the first time, and it's going to be banging. I just have to get some more supplies, 'cause ah, mango and ice ain't enough. LOL.

Vice Presidential Speculation is Going On and it is so exhausting - I wish everybody would shut up, 'cause you know what? Y'all don't know. Now if it winds up being who y'all think it would be, well, cookie for you. But I am tired, tired, tired, tired, TIRED. Y'all won't know for sure 'til we are told. I can't believe I'm stuck rubbernecking on this wreck of an election until at least Thanksgiving (it will not be over by the day after Election Day, I'm sure.)

Pregnancy is Going On. I must be at that age, 'cause all the friends I see with any kind of regularity are preggers. Right now. Plus some other people. Perhaps I should stop drinking water until this mess passes. One thing I know for sure - if I thought having men slowed us down insofar as hanging out together, that won't be anything compared to the babies. Maybe we can start a playgroup... and I'll just come stag.

Friday, August 08, 2008

shameless

During the primaries, Senator Clinton was known to challenge Senator Obama to publicly reject and denounce certain statements made by certain people that no senator concerned about the welfare of the American people should espouse. In light of recent events, I find that ironic.

At this point I think she should definitively and convincingly reject and denounce any notion that she is interested in hijacking the Democratic presidential nomination from the presumptive nominee. I think that she should tell the truth about the 18 million voters soundbite that keeps coming from her and her surrogates - that there weren't 18 million, the number was rounded upwards for effect, and that of those who voted for her in the primary, many have no plans or aspirations to vote for her in the general election. I think that she should "go hard" for the presumptive nominee or refrain from "going" at all. I think that she should end egging people on with rhetoric about her supporters needing catharsis. I think that she is responsible for misleading her primary supporters once it became evident that she did not and would not have a mathematical chance of getting the nomination. I think that, instead of asking supporters of the presumptive nominee to see things from her supporters' perspective, she should ask her supporters to take the perspective of all of those who have prudently and reasonably accepted the presumptive nominee as the eventual nominee.

Three weeks away from the convention, Hillary Clinton is not supposed to be the main news headline. This is not a time to rehash the primary, it is time to win the general. Hillary Clinton and her husband are being transparently disingenuous, doing as good a job as any right-winger at distracting from the legitimate campaign issues and undermining the presumptive nominee's campaign. Her actions and omissions are tantamount to campaigning for the other guy. In fact, the McCain camp is already beginning to use her previous statements, which were made without regard for the welfare of her party, and by extension, this nation, against the presumptive nominee. Of course it was widely theorized that this would happen as she was making these statements in her own self-interest, and she knew it then, but did not care about the consequences.

Shame on you, Hillary Clinton. Shame on you. Meet the party you are betraying in Colorado. There are people who will never, ever, in 2008, 2012, or any other year, put their trust in you. Do what you will at the Denver convention, but understand that the party you want to run will remain fractured and worse, ineffective, as long as you reach egomaniacally for the helm.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

joyful noise

I am thankful for gospel music more and more. In the midst of all that swirls around me on a regular basis, trying to enter my psyche, requiring me to guard my heart, I need a salve for my spirit. Often music is exactly what the Doctor ordered, and especially lately, the Word of God helps me to, as one of my favorite poets says, get my mind right. I am so thankful for John P. Kee today. So thankful for Tye Tribbett, who's from the same city I grew up in. So very thankful for Fred Hammond. You wanna talk about the audacity of hope? I can tell you where to get some of that.

late 911 wears the late crown

This horrible crime happened within a short two minute walk from the front door of the home my parents raised me in.

I don't know the victim or the victim's family, but once, eleven years ago, I knew the neighborhood intimately. My aunt lives around the corner. I still have some family friends there. I can still be found in the neighborhood, visiting family from time to time. But this kind of thing didn't happen near my house when I was growing up there. Things like this were the fantastic stuff of gritty urban 90's movies, not the reality of the neighborhood where I safely played softball, rode my bike, jumped double-dutch, and went to the ice cream truck. Apparently, a lot has changed in the last decade. My old hood is the new hotspot.

This crime happened in less than a week since the newly tripled police force fanned out across the city in a show of force, parading down the main avenue of my old neighborhood one cruiser after another in a cacophony of sirens, showing off. I'm guessing that was display was meant to show the criminals that "the law" was in town. Then on Sunday, the police received a phone call warning that there was a man riding the streets openly carrying a gun. Guess they didn't get him, 'cause that Monday afternoon, that man sprayed a neighborhood while exchanging fire with another man, scattering the playing children in every direction, and ending the life of a bright-eyed preschooler. The child was the son of the woman who called the police to report the threat.

There but for the grace of God goes one of my loved ones. It just hits so close to home.

Now I'm not saying that the police are to blame for the bad choices of the shooters, or the decision the mother made to let her child play outside that day, knowing that someone was riding around on a bike with a gun. But it remains to be seen why the murderer was cruising the street with impunity the day after it was brought to their attention that this guy was out there. Especially since "the law" was in town and in full force.

This is the kind of stuff that makes people from the hood reject the notion that their suspicions and chips on shoulders are figments of their imagination. This is the kind of stuff that makes people from the hood say things like, "If a man was riding a bike with a semi-automatic weapon in [insert predominantly white middle-class neighborhood here], and someone called the police, something would have been done to make sure those children were safe." It's not every theorist's favorite, "black pathology," that makes us not trust the police. It's stuff like this.

May God comfort and strengthen the family of little Brandon Thompson.

revisiting cynicism

You know, you grow up black in this country, and you think you have it all figured out: black people will never be "mainstream," black people will always be "other," and racial tension will never go away. No matter how good things are getting with black billionaires, black Secretaries of State, black Oscar winners, and the ability of sisters to wear their hair without relaxers in the workplace - one should never, ever get too comfortable. One should never, ever be fooled into thinking that we are accepted for who we really are - fellow citizens, brothers and sisters in humanity. So goes conventional black wisdom.

And then every once in a while... stuff happens. Bernie Mac's sitcom would get an Emmy nomination, for example. Or here and there, DNA evidence helps a falsely accused black man to go home from prison to his family. Or Barack Obama wins the Democratic primary in Iowa. And some of us wonder, should we toss the conventional black wisdom out the window? Maybe classism and LGBT issues are the only remaining frontiers of acceptance, tolerance, and compassion.

Then you look around and realize that, "Naaaah, it's still the same old mess."

My un-scientific review of commentary on "the Internets" has convinced me that the absence of honest and progressive dialogue about race relations is still stark, and it is still having disastrous effects on public discourse. A simple visit to a major city's newspaper's website will reveal all of the racist trolls who pop out of the woodwork to comment on articles to blame government for spoiling Negroes, or blame Negroes for every urban social ill in existence. But perhaps more obviously during this election season, the obvious place to go see how dysfunctional Americans are about race is any discussion of Barack Obama's campaign, since race almost always comes up, and when it does, ridiculousness inevitably ensues. And it's not just white folks, either - it's some of us, too. Spewing poorly-reasoned ridiculousness from every direction to everyone who's willing to listen.

I shouldn't be as surprised as I am by the amount and intensity of these rampant displays of ignorance, intolerance, and hatred, but I am. I think it may have something to do with living on the East Coast in or near major cities, full of highly educated people who are more used to diversity and who are less tolerant of political incorrectness in "mixed company." It could be that I haven't been paying much attention - in fact, that must be it. I've been so busy living the American Dream that I've forgotten that there are people who don't believe that the American Dream is possible for blacks, or that blacks are American enough to live the American Dream, or that blacks who are living it didn't/couldn't earn it like everybody else did. Let me tell you, many of you Americans are starting to get on my nerves.

sigh

I saw a comment online the other day thanking Michelle Obama for making dark-skinned sisters back in style.

"Back in style"??? Really? How 'bout I'm tired of hearing stuff like people of certain skin colors are or are not "in style."

You know what? However much we need a progressive discussion about how we psychologically process the differences in our skin tones, that progressive discussion could have happened many years ago and it hasn't happened yet and may not ever happen, so... let me just cut to the chase.

If you are, in 2008, still talking about whether or not a certain skin tone is or is not in style, you should stop talking. If you don't know why, you betta ask somebody, but then stop talking again, until somebody breaks it down for you.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

joyful joyful

i am making a concerted effort to be more joyful. to see the brightside. to take more deep breaths. to enjoy the sun rays.

precious few of us are joyful all the time for seemingly no reason. many of us have gotten so wrapped up in certain details of life that we need to prioritize having the experience of joy.

i realized in the past few weeks that i'd gotten off track. life really is what you make it in many ways. i've had so much on my mind. i haven't made the effort to live in the moment. i'm trying to do that now. i am so very, very blessed. i am trying to walk in that blessing.

thanks to a friend of mine who gave me a little wake up call, the Content Black Woman who is being more mindful of how destructive complaining can be, my desire to be a better partner for my beloved, and a nostalgia for the woman i remember i was before i got off track, i am being more mindful of the choices i make. i'm paying more attention to the thoughts that i choose to express and why. i'm taking my time waking up and starting the day because i find that my day goes better when i don't bombard myself with life's demands all at once. i'm attempting to eat better because my conscience is eased when i do so. i'm working on keeping up those connections with family and old friends, because those kinds of relationships make life sweet. i'm paying more attention to the health of my plants. i'm trying to live my life more abundantly.

God and i have a lot of talking to do.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

a lot of misc thoughts

If some white person said they wanted to castrate Obama wouldn't we be wiling like how people were wiling when Imus called those sisters nappy headed hos? No, seriously - isn't castration what was often done to brothers by lynch mobs? Just eww, Jesse. Just. Eww.

I think that no matter what Obama does at this point, people who are voting against McCain are going to vote for Obama anyway. So he can approve a revised FISA bill. He can talk about men not raising their children in a black church on Father's Day. Short of cheating on Michelle with a white girl, there pretty much isn't anything that he could do to irrevocably piss off black folks. And no other liberal or reasonable moderate is going to vote for McCain. Most Democrats won't vote for McCain. Shoot, a bunch of Republicans are gonna vote for Obama. So it is what it is.

If he was playing Mother May I, I don't think Obama is taking a big giant step over to the center. We could call what he's been up to a regular or teeny weeny step. Read his policies. Really actually read them. He was never the uber-liberal that Hillary and the Republicans made him out to be. I guess if someone only took their word for it maybe Obama is surprising them, but he ain't surprising me.

I'm 'bout to go to the Harlem Book Fair. (I think.) Maybe I can find Ta-Nehisi Coates' book there for a good price. I see Tananarive Due has a new one, and so does Diane McKinney Whetstone. Look people, at $25 a pop for hardback books, I'ma need y'all to schedule your book releases accordingly. I liked it better when I was oblivious to book releases, 'cause it made it easier to buy things in paperback without having to wait and wait and wait. It seems like it took forever for Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali to go paperback. I did pick up Stephen L. Carter's Palace Council, which just came out. Can't wait to eat it up. I like his stuff, and I like that for my $25, I get over 500 pages of pageturning.

I keep hearing a lot about this Lil' Wayne person... I'm just not attracted to that sound, though. I'm thinking that no matter how creative he is, I probably won't enjoy what he has to say. Oh well. Maybe I should give him a chance, but he too shall pass. Now when is Erykah's next joint going to drop?

Michael Eric Dyson. Dude, I got no deal-breaking problems with you, per se, but for real? You are oversaturated in the media. Must you be everywhere? With that reaching-arse vocabulary? Could you take a month long vacation like once a quarter maybe? You're like that kid who knows all the answers and raises your hand on every question but the teacher doesn't call on you 'cause she wants to hear from someone else.

Bill O'Reilly. You might have said some nice things about Malia Obama, but you still get nowhere with me. Believe me. A pox on your network. Seriously, I hope y'all antennas just mysteriously stop working.

Oh yeah, and flip-flop is overused, both by political pundits and by women this summer. Of course politicians are going to change their minds, both for political expediency and because they think their new position actually is better than their first. It's older than this country, it's how politics works, and people sound stupid when they level it as an accusation to discredit political candidates. Be more creative. And sisters, there are other types of sandals. And I don't mean leather flip flops as opposed to rubber ones. Besides, Hannibal says they're bad for your feet, and I believe whatever he says. LOL! Be more creative.

Leave Madonna alone. Not because she doesn't deserve how she's being called a whore/homewrecker/slut again but because you should really have something better to do with your time. And besides - you don't know the truth and you never will.

But I'm telling you right now if Will is a Scientologist, I might just cry. Really. No, really.

Hell no I'm not helping Hillary with her campaign debt. Let those PUMA bitches do it. I'm just sayin'.

Changing your diet is hard.

Is the news tired of talking about Zimbabwe or something? I haven't heard much lately. How's Tsvangirai doing, still hanging in there? Or are we not supposed to care anymore?

Oh, and, stank as his comment may have been, Jesse Jackson is not irrelevant or played. He does more on his feet for the black community that I (and many other black folk do on our asses), which is sit around jawjacking. That said, his style is, let's say, version 4.0. Right about now, we need like version 8.0 on the forefront. I'm not saying that that's Barack Obama, 'cause it ain't. Community organizer though he may have been, he's still not a civil-rights race man in the vein of a MLK. He is not the "leader of the Negroes," and he never will be (see, that's v.8.0 thinking right there, 'cause there isn't a leader of the Negroes slot to fill) and he doesn't want that role. You can't be president AND leader of the Negroes. It's a conflict of interest. Anyway, there's still room for computers that run on XP instead of Vista. As long as Jesse does good for others, I say good for him and thank you, veteran, for still putting in work. Just play your position - you are not the voice of the dark monolith, yet you keep on letting the media shove that damn mic in your face for that particular purpose. Why? Stop that. That's how you find yourself in trouble, running all over the country having to apologize for bringing back alley language to everybody's doorstep. Got those crackers feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

And I know that's his problem with Obama, and others' problem too. People keep trying to figure out if Obama is reaching for white acceptance by dissing Black people with all this faith and values and personal responsibility talk. I am insulted by that. Whether or not people mean it this way it sounds like they mean that it is "white" acting to talk about values with black people. It's like "personal responsibility" have become buzz words for racism against black people. Do I think the Fathers Day speech was 100% OK? Honestly, no, I think the timing was inappropriate. But I don't find anything wrong with what he said. And now people want him to go on tour and talk about values to white folks and Filipinos and Guatemalans too, to - wait, exactly what would that accomplish? Does he have to prove he's not racist or Tomming now, even though every black person over 50 that I know has been saying the same exact stuff about values for as long as I can remember? Dude is not Uncle Ruckus and we should be more concerned about FISA and the economy and education and jobs than whether or not he told the truth and shamed the devil on Father's Day.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

gratitude

Words associated with Michelle Obama during her husband's campaign for president have included ingrate, ingratitude, ungrateful, and spoiled.

This disturbs me.

I gather that these comments come from people who believe that Michelle Obama owes the United States gratitude because this black woman is an Ivy League graduate with an enviable standard of living.

And since I am, like Michelle Obama, a black American woman from a relatively modest background who is using higher education to attain professional and economic success, I am taking these words personally. I will not argue that the United States is not a place where there are many opportunities. But I submit that the opportunities that are available to me as a citizen of this nation are mine by inalienable right and not by charitable grant.

To the extent that I have had any help in becoming a viable and productive citizen of this country, besides my Lord there are many, many people and organizations that I can thank. Among them are my parents, teachers, scholarship sponsors, educational institutions, clergy members, civil rights agitators, black and female professional pioneers - I could go on and on. Yet this gratitude has nothing to do with whether or not I love my country or whether or not I am patriotic or whether or not I am now, or have ever been, proud of my country.

When I hear people accuse Michelle Obama (and me) of being ungrateful, it reminds me of a sentiment I have encountered too often in America. Black people should be grateful that of all the things that could have happened to our ancestors, ours were privileged to have been taken from Africa and brought to the states. We should be grateful that slavery was abolished, Jim Crow repealed, integration ordered, and Affirmative Action enacted. In the name of gratitude, we should be happy and uber-patriotic Americans. We should not criticize our country's policies or conditions. We should reach for material possessions and feel satiated on having reaped the promise of the American Dream. We should get over the history of how blacks were treated in this country and the fighting that our forebears had to do to make our citizenship meaningful. We should turn our backs on the reality of how many blacks are still not reaping the full benefits of that citizenship in this country today, blame them and their ungrateful excuses for their plight, and turn away from the unpatriotic idea that we have any solidarity with these, our countrymen, for fear that we will be seen as militant and ungrateful. To be good (but never authentic) Americans, this is what upwardly mobile blacks in America must do to show our gratitude. Any action to the contrary would insult everything that this country stands for and the good (benevolent white) Americans within it.

The problem with people like Michelle Obama is that they exercise their rights as American citizens to have and express their own opinions. Unfortunately for some, such a wholeheartedly American independent streak is bound to conflict with the above litany-of-all-things-grateful. How terribly inconvenient it must be for some that this highly educated woman fully understands and exercises her right to do what any American has the right to do - question authority. It is an entirely American right to question whether or not you should be proud of your country, warts and all. It is an entirely American right to reserve your pride for those things which you feel are pride-worthy. A truer measure of gratitude for America is to preserve its ideals by keeping them alive through such exercises - freedom of thought, freedom of choice, freedom of speech - freedoms which Americans, in particular black Americans, hold dear.

Calling Michelle Obama ungrateful is more telling regarding the deficiencies of the speaker than it is a fitting indictment of Mrs. Obama herself. The connection being made between the level of her pride in this country and the level of her gratefulness for her successes isn't even logical. Shame on those who subscribe to the litany-of-all-things-grateful (and patriotic). Such thinking endangers our country, being more reminiscent of the groupthink of Orwell's 1984 than of the spirit of independence that birthed this nation.

Women as accomplished as Mrs. Obama didn't make it through all of those years of education just to smile demurely all the time and then kiss folks' posteriors whenever given a chance to speak. That's not how this works. Get over yourselves.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

fatherhood

First and foremost, I love and respect my father. He gets no cookie for being and staying married to my mom and raising me - that would be an insult to his character and upbringing. It was a given. Not an extraordinary feat. In his view of the world, and thanks to him, in my own view of the world, being my dad was not an option, but a God-given mandate and a blessing. What is extraordinary is what he did with his opportunity as a father. There is nothing he wouldn't do - no science project too onerous, no word too long to help me with its spelling, no lecture that wasn't worth the time, no passion he wouldn't help me chase. In the sixth grade, when I talked about how not being able to jump double dutch was the bane of my existence on the playground, it was his idea to take me and my mom to the park so I could literally learn the ropes with practice. Yet he was my biggest critic - and his praise has always meant so much more to me because of it. His morality remains with me, his reverence for God will never leave me. His belief in me means the world to me. I love him. And one greeting card feast day just isn't enough to show how much - so I tell him every time we speak that I love him.

I really do.

There's two other fathers that I want to give a shout out to, though. Earl and Tiger Woods. I love their story. I love the story of Earl Woods fostering his son's passion and talent until he became the best - unquestionably the very best - at what he does. Did anyone see his performance in the US Open tonight? My gosh. Recovering from surgery and everything! I'm blown away. This is like when Michael Jordan (raised by the late James R. Jordan Sr., which whom he had a special and enduring relationship) led the Bulls to victory when he was weak with the flu. Nobody does it like Tiger. Even from behind, they couldn't count him out.

And did you see this commercial?



I was touched. It reminds me of my dad.

Barack Obama is right about taking absentee fathers to task, though. He isn't saying anything I haven't already heard during my upbringing from various elders over the years. He isn't saying anything I haven't thought on my own as I continually meet people who have absolutely no relationship with their fathers. It is the responsibility of both parents to make a good upbringing for their children, and it is the responsibility for mothers to choose and commit with good fathers as opposed to just incidentally procreating with boyfriends. Creating life is not supposed to be incidental. And neither is deciding to leave your child, leaving the entire responsibility of raising your child to their mother, just because you and the child's mother can't get your relationship to work. Every child needs what Earl Woods gave his son. Every child needs what my daddy gave me - still gives me.

Happy father's day.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Pass the Kleenex

I know what I just said. But I hadn't heard Obama's end-of-primary-speech yet. And damn if I'm not crying a little bit. Whew.

Congratulations, Senator.

Get to work, fellow countrymen.

No party at my crib.

There are a few reasons why I’m not jumping up and down today about Obama and the Democratic nomination. First, the Clintons are formidable and crafty - I don’t care if she concedes tonight or not, the convention hasn’t happened yet. She doesn’t strike me as a line-tow-er, and I expect fireworks in August. In addition, provided she doesn’t pull a rabbit out of the donkey’s posterior at the convention, Clinton will be seen, in retrospect, as easy in comparison to McCain. Republicans. go. hard. The general election will be a tough one. Obama’s got problems with overt and covert racism, class warfare, character issues, and a perception that he is not detailed and knowledgable enough for the job. He will have to overcome these issues. And, I hope they step up his and his family’s security - right NOW.

One more thing: moments like these remind me of when they let Mychal Bell free on bail in Jena, or when OJ Simpson beat his case. Ain’t no check coming to black folks’ mailboxes just ’cause a black man isn’t getting shat on today. Having a black presidential nominee will be cute for the record books, but ultimately useless if he doesn’t win in the general. In fact, having a black president is useless if our people still get ignored after the election, like other presidents have been known to do. We hope things will be different because of who Obama tells us he is… but we won’t really know unless and until he wins the election and either gives us his ear or shows us the door. He can’t be a black president for black people only - in order to make it to the White House, he has to be an American president for all Americans, and he knows it. I just hope he doesn’t try so hard for the latter that black concerns get pushed to the side to preserve his claim that he’s not biased.

Happy as I am at the possibilities involved, I will not be content just to see Obama get the nomination. I require more.