Archive for July, 2007

Our little caravan to Peoria yesterday was an active search for hope in a divisive world.  Our driver John is newly retired.  I tried to imagine being his fellow soldier in the helicopter he piloted above Viet Nam.  His girlfriend, Bonnie, specializes in educating those incorrigibles demoted to alternative schooling.  I shared the back seat with Betty who celebrates her independence daily.  She survived a hip fracture with bone pinning last Christmas and manuevers public places by virtue of cane and determination.  I brought my own gray-haired American Healthcare background to listen in.

There’s no mistaking Michelle Obama for someone else.  When she enters a room, “statuesque” comes to mind.  I’m still unable to adequately describe her.  As I recall her powerful message taken home by a packed ballroom audience, I’m lifted by Michelle’s time-changing presence.  Each of us came away knowing we’re connected to the “real thing.”

One becomes immersed in cross-cultural unity at any Obama event.  Women for Obama coordinated a whirlwind schedule for Michelle.  Breakfast in Champaign, lunch in Peoria and dinner in Rockford allowed multi-tasking Michelle to be home in time for tucking Sasha and Malia in bed.

Michelle adeptly wove the story of her South-side Chicago life then to now in describing how two extraordinary people (IMO) met on the job and meshed to produce what we know today.  Michelle has clearly earned her own right to share a table with any elite Politico.  While possessing remarkable poise and beauty, attaching the title of Princess to this learned woman would be an undeserved smack down.  Like many Americans, I came to the event unaccustomed to seeing high-level female leadership (of any heritage) in action.

It would be another disservice to mangle Michelle’s inspiring message here.  I chose to be an event host, encouraging others to contribute to the Obama for America campaign.  My reward was to witness the most powerful woman speaker I’ve ever seen – in my life – ever.

When Michelle described her own father, I thought of Martin Luther King, Jr., a great father belonging to The Ages.  He and I would’ve shared wows of joy.  Michelle talked of the criticisms attempting to be stuck to Barack.  As to the “Is he READY?” and the “Is this country READY…?” Michelle replied, “The best question to ask of them is ARE YOU ready?”

I am – are you?

In case you’re saying to yourself, “I can’t really afford to…” let me tell you, I can’t either.  Here’s how I’ve been doing it:  I almost spent money on clothing for a perceived fancy meal.  I donated that money to their campaign.  I would’ve used a half tank of gas to drive there.  I coordinated a car pool for the day.  Rather than just me having this experience, four of us can now recount it to friends.  After all, it’s our job to help people get ready to change.

As we exited, Betty was beaming as she said, “I can’t wait to tell the girls at Bridge Club about THIS!”  Those “girls” are her elderly Republican neighbors.

“We’re tired of fear, we’re tired of division.  We want something new.  We want to turn the page.  The world as it is is not the world as it has to be .” 

~ Barack Obama

Hope-Action-Change is the Obama family story.  Michelle and Barack are not asking us to do anything they’re not already doing themselves.  I believe their combined messages are our “feet on the ground” keys to success.  Don’t be missing history, hoping to watch it on TV – make a way to be there!


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Just what we need in the much maligned South. National news coverage of the Palmetto State: The only top tier Republican candidate for president without adultery and/or divorce in his past comes on down to see us–and what does he do? Mitt Romney poses with a Southern blonde doxy sporting a nasty, poorly executed poster that reads “NO TO OBAMA OSAMA AND CHELSEA’S MOMA [sic].”

He did more than just smile big and hug his new Carolina friend, Blondie. He helped hold up the fool poster.

It wasn’t cute, Blondie–and neither were you. Mitt and Miss South Carolina Semi-literate did us no favors. Entirely too many folks living in the rest of the country have seen one too many Smokey and the Bandit flicks. They think we’re none too bright down here. “Put a chain link fence around the South,” someone once wrote, “and you’ll have the world’s largest insane asylum.”  Ugly headlines, along with garish pictures of Mitt and Blondie, blared “Grammatically challenged South Carolinians support…”

Excuse me? Like millions of others, I am a proud South Carolinian. A smart South Carolinian. Why, I can actually walk, talk and chew fatback at the same time. I know how to spell M-a-m-a. I can read. And I darn well read more than the vulgar tabloid headlines screaming for my attention as I’m checking out my grits, greens and hog jowls at Bi-Lo. I learned, long ago, that despite what some folks were willing to write for sleazy publication, no poor little old gal was ever impregnated by a two-headed Martian when she looked up at the sky at just the wrong moment with her mouth wide open. Although Britney Spears’ recent history does give one pause…and she is Southern. God help us.

I can’t say who we Southerners resent more– a dumb blonde redneck who can’t tell a brilliant African American candidate for president from a terrorist and cannot spell her own mother’s name, or the flip-flopping Repub with the greasy pompadour, grinning like a used car salesman at a Shopoholics Anonymous Convention, standing close enough to kiss his easy mark when he seals the deal on a clunker. It’s a match made in pathetic political heaven. They deserve each other.

The rest of us deserve better.

Plenty of South Carolinians were offended by both Blondie’s artwork and her candidate. Romney’s staff did their darndest to spin his way out of it: He didn’t know what he was holding up for all the world to see, they whined. No dice. Smart Southerners are not impressed by the “DUH?” defense. We know a dissembling fool when we see one. Old Mitt, himself, is compelled to speak publicly in response. “Lighten up!” he tells us. He says there are “plenty of jokes out there.”

Oh. It was all a joke. That explains everything. What a relief! So…when some other dumb blonde somewhere waves a poster reading “NO TO MITT NIT-WIT, MORMUN [sic] LIVES AND TOO DAMN MANY WIVES!”– well, we can expect him and his flock to get the joke. And laugh. No harm done.

Mr. Romney, we Southerners aren’t as dumb as you think. Poor judgment on the campaign trail means poor judgment in the White House–and the Confederate buck stops with you. You hugged Blondie, grinned like the Cheshire Cat, propped up her hateful poster. You embraced ’em both, you own ’em both. Down here in the South you are what you wrap your arms around, good buddy. ‘Nuff said

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2008 looms large. Another national election, another chance to have our voices heard. As soon as we know what we think. What we want. Who we want to give us what we want for four years. Lord knows we need a change. Some of us know exactly who and what we want. Barack Obama. Most others, however, don’t have a clue. It’s all so confusing during primary season. Too many choices. Like a huge menu in a Chinese restaurant: nine or ten entrees in Column A, at least that many in Column B. What are we in the mood for?

 Thank God for polls. We see ’em, hear ’em, read ’em every day. They tell us who’s in, who’s out, who’s sinking faster than Dubya in a vat of truth serum. If most people support, say, Giuliani over McCain or Clinton over Obama, we don’t have to think too hard. Or read much. Or learn a thing. Most people must be right.  We can simply hop on the bandwagon. Only trouble is, we don’t know who those most people are. None of us ever gets polled. I can tell you, with all sincerity, I feel left out.

Or I did. Until the second week in July. It was, at last, my turn. Mine. I was polled by the kind folks at Rasmussen Reports. They’ve been tracking political races for over a decade. They are, they tell me, very accurate. I am, of course, thrilled. I like accuracy. And I get to be one of the esteemed most people crowd. Neat. Chalk one very, very smart most person up for Obama.

I take a deep breath, get my trigger finger poised to press #1 or #2 on my touchtone. My nostrils flare like a racehorse. I am ready to roll. First I have to answer all the usual stuff: my age, sex, party of choice, race, income. Then the fun begins…

“Press #1 if you feel the country is on the right track. Press #2 if you feel we’re off course.” That one’s easy. We’re more than off course, honey, we’re off the map.  I press #2.

Now it gets complicated.

“Hillary Clinton chose to stay with her husband despite his infidelity. Does this make you more likely to vote for her (press #1) or less likely to vote for her (press #2)?” I’m stuck. There’s no “If you don’t give a rat’s patootie what she decided to do about her marriage, press #3” option.  I would never choose not to vote for her over her decision about her marriage, but I am an Obama supporter… I press #2, but I feel a little guilty about it.

It gets worse.

“If Dick Cheney needed a kidney and asked you for one of yours, would you say ‘Yes’ (press #1) or ‘No’ (press #2)?” There’s no “If you’re committed to using both of your kidneys for the forseeable future but would humanely advise him to drink more water and offer to pray for him, press #3” option. Truth is, I can’t stand that guy. I might whack him one if I got the chance, but I wouldn’t kill him. I’m a really nice woman. I attend church regularly. I hesitate, but I press #2. At worst, I’m passive-aggressive. If he dies, he dies. Besides, there’s always dialysis. He’s made enough Haliburton money on his pet war to pay for it.

I’m beginning to have my doubts about this polling and accuracy business. I imagine hearing this next: “Would you rather shoot yourself in the head (press #1) or vote Republican in 2008 (press #2)?” My trigger finger is getting sweaty.

Then this:

“Are you afraid of circus clowns? Press #1 for ‘Yes’, press #2 for ‘No.'” What the–? What do circus clowns have to do with elections? Did I miss something on The Situation Room or Hardball or Keith Olbermann? Or is there a bona fide phobia involved here? I press #2; the best thing–at the circus–is a good clown. But I worry about it.

And I’m done. It’s over. They thank me and disconnect. I Google “psychology: fear of clowns” to figure out what my answer meant. The news is not good. There is a phobia. Seems the exaggerated-happy-face clown who smiles while he beats up a smaller clown or kicks a dog scares some folks silly. You never know what evil lurks behind that big, red, happy smile.

The only candidate mentioned in the poll was Hillary Clinton. The only issue, her marriage. The only Republican mentioned was Dick Cheney–well, Cheney’s kidney. And the clown? I’m still not sure about him. I think, maybe, he’s that scary guy in the Oval Office now.

There’s a lesson to be learned here. You can’t trust polls. One wrong answer in the Rasmussen Poll and I skewed the results. I should have pressed #1. I’m terrified of clowns.

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My either/or mind exerts a preference for contrast while it’s in decision-making mode.  I’m frustrated with not being able to find much ethics information at the White House website.  Let’s review a refreshing memo from Day #1 of the current Administration.


Seems like YESTERDAY – (more…)

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While on vacation last week I got a letter from a friend. She’s a well educated  young liberal woman with two preschoolers, a career, a home to run. She sees the need for drastic change in governance; she clearly supports Barack Obama to spearhead that change. But she’s discouraged. She’s an idealist struggling to hold fast those core values true to humane policies in a toxic environment of dishonest, intolerant, fear- and hate-mongering leadership, media manipulation of both news and issues, the negative tone of politics–where “swiftboating” has become the norm–and public apathy which tolerates it all.

“I’m turning to my ‘progressive when progressive wasn’t cool’ older/wiser friend…for guidance,” she wrote. “Having lived through the ’50s (my only framework for narrowminded, fearful times), how did you keep your chin up and keep believing in the cause when so many were willing to embrace the folly? I’m asking because I’d genuinely like to do the same now…”

Here is a portion of my reply:

We seem to need enemies in this country. Failing the obvious threat of one, we manufacture them. Muslims, gays and lesbians are the early 21st century version of the 1950s’ “Red Menace.”  Commies were everywhere back then; they were hiding here under our noses, plotting and subverting us from within. They were in the Soviet Union planning to nuke us into the stone age and take over the world with their Godless ideology. Home bomb shelters were in vogue. “Better dead than Red!” was the mantra in a time we were sure the Russians and their fledgling allies in China would begin the long march west. One country after another would fall–like so many dominoes–under the thrall and total control of our communist enemies. And then they’d destroy us. 

We were taught to fear and hate them. That fear and hatred worked together in facillitating the rise of the military/industrial complex. War and the threat of war became good business. We invested our national treasure, our tax dollars and our children, in that new venture. Power brokers took note of such a successful combination. They would continue using the same themes.

Some of us resisted the notion that our only true enemy was a Marxist war machine. We saw an enemy in the mirror, one infecting the soul of this democracy. We lived our own apartheid. We weren’t Red. We were white. And people of color suffered under a crushing system of violent inequality. We were a male-centered, male-dominated society. Women’s roles were narrowed to a single path. We saw, we felt, the inherent evil in our own system. We decided to change course. None of it was easy. Much of it was painful and ugly. No single election righted all the wrongs. We had to hang in, hold on, keep fighting for change and more change.

How to remain progressive? (more…)

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Ripples in the Water

I spent the spring of 2004 in London. It was interesting time to be an American living abroad; the war in Iraq marked its one year anniversary, and the abuses at Abu Ghraib appeared on the front pages of every newspaper. And London, of all cities, was an interesting place for an American to find himself, given the relationship between our respective leaders and the war they were waging together. As was the case back home in the United States, Britons were split on their perspectives of the U.S. led war; and many of those Britons who opposed the war sought out conversations with me regularly, trying to understand just what America was thinking. More often than not, the conversation turned to George W. Bush. How could Americans be so foolish to believe in him, they wondered. 

I recall a conversation I had with a couple while walking through Russell Square. They overheard me speaking with a friend and recognized my American accent. Soon after initiating a conversation with me, they wanted to know my perspective on the war. I told them I had been opposed to the war from the beginning, and that I believed the war was making the world more dangerous, not less. I remember the woman in this couple responded by saying, “See, the thing I don’t think Americans understand is that everything America does affects the rest of the world. It is like ripples in water. The ripples from the war are going to reach us here in Europe long before they make their way to America.” She said this just weeks after the train bombings in Madrid. (And years before the train bombings in London, and the recent plot just last week in London and Glasgow.)  (more…)

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Article Link
By Brian Braiker

Large majorities report a willingness to vote for either a woman or an African-American candidate for the office, according to the latest NEWSWEEK Poll.

Although 92 percent of the NEWSWEEK Poll’s respondents claim they would vote for a black candidate (up from 83 percent in 1991), only 59 percent believe the country is actually ready for an African-American president (an improvement over 37 percent in a 2000 CBS News poll). Similarly, 86 percent of voters say they would vote for a female commander in chief, but only 58 percent believe the country is ready for one (up from 40 percent in a 1996 CBS poll). Two thirds (66 percent) of voters said there was at least some chance they’d vote for Democratic Sen. Barack Obama (35 percent said there was a “good” chance, up from 20 percent last May). About as many (62 percent) said there was some chance they’d vote for Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton (43 percent said good chance, up from 33 percent). In a head-to-head race, though, Clinton dominates Obama 56 to 33 percent.

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