Sunday, March 23, 2008

Rant: He Tried, He Really, Really Tried (Part 1)

I admire Barack Obama's earnest, articulate and well-thought-out discourse on race in the U.S.. He really tried, and I thought did a fairly decent job (as good as anyone could do in his position, and in this moment in U.S. history) to explain and enlighten White and other non-Black Americans about the 'roots' of Black anger, and the cultural and historical context of his pastor, Reverend Wright's, 'incendiary' comments about White people, the American government and imperialism. Although I don't agree with Obama's analysis of race as he presented it in his speech, I appreciate the impossible position he was trying to maneuver out of on this issue. And ultimately, he showed that he was up to the task of talking about race in America while running for President as a Black man, which is no small thing. He executed brilliantly.

Of course, there was going to be backlash. Just some examples, from both white and non-white commentators, here, here, and here.

There was also praise, from many important 'opinion' papers across the country, and from activists supportive of Obama's campaign, and even from New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a former Democratic Presidential hopeful who's now said he'll endorse Obama. As to be expected, the Republicans are trying to say that only the 'elite' are praising Obama's now-famous 'race speech'. (Funny how rich white Republicans can claim that only Democrats and other left-leaning folks are 'elite', isn't it?). And according to several sources, some Democrats are planning to vote for--holy crap--McCain if Clinton's not the nominee.

An African-American man, talking about race and Black people's anger in a way that wasn't condemning or distancing himself from the man who was the source of these 'angry, hateful' comments? No way was Obama going to get away with that. The majority of people in this country (and I include non-Black people of color in this statement, yet) cannot deal with Black anger. Plain and simple. Even when it's framed in such palatable, striving-for-understanding-and-unity, tolerant terms. It's not to be tolerated. Period.

But it makes me wonder, and not in a vindictive way, but in the spirit of true objectivity, how many White pastors in the country routinely make 'hate-filled', xenophobic, and outright racist comments in their sermons every week? Don't the MinuteMen patrol the U.S. border with Mexico as pseudo-Christian (because surely Jesus Christ would never have patrolled a border with a rifle on his shoulder) militia warriors in an effort to keep out the barbarian, Catholic Latino hordes? I wonder what some White pastors out there say about Arab 'heathen' terrorists. How much media time on Fox was spent on Mike Huckabee's white supremacist connections?. Do we not see any of this stuff as racist because these folks have gotten so good at 'coding' their language--e.g. 'inner city' = Black, 'greedy' = Jew, 'illegals' = Latino undocumented immigrants? Aren't all these attitudes and words racist too?

Of course not! Because if a White person generalizes in a negative (or positive, for that matter) way about a group of people of color, it must mean it's true, and not just a reflection of their own fear or ignorance of people that don't look or sound or think like them.

But if you're Black, and you criticize White people--even though as a pastor you may often use exaggerated, Biblical, fire-and-brimstone language to talk about other things, like adultery and sin and damnation that non-White people may commit and be punished for--you better watch out, because then you're a racist.

To me, the so-called 'dialogue' on race in this country, if you can call it that, largely consists of people of color trying to justify our emotions, our frustrations with the still-prevalent institutional racism that exists on all levels of society, and trying to assuage White people's fears that we're not going to take over, or that we really want to live peacefully with them, or that we want 'fairness' too. But the reason why we do this, why we bend over backwards to make White people feel better about not being racist or about having their own anger about things like affirmative action, Barack Obama, etc., is because we have bought into their beliefs too.

You see, all of this race stuff is based on the idea that this country is, at its core, a meritocracy. That if you work hard enough, sacrifice enough, that if you do what you're supposed to do to get ahead, then you will. And that is true for some people in this country. The American Dream has become reality for many people, especially recent immigrants. But it's not true for for most people. And for them, the people that stay stuck in poverty, or that end up in prison, or that don't manage to 'rise above', we tell them that it's just their own fault. They didn't try hard enough, they didn't do their best. Basically, they suck.

In reality, this country is no pure meritocracy. Success in this country depends on who you know as much as it does on your education/intelligence, skill or courage. It's a proven fact that most people get jobs based on their personal networks, and those in power are more likely to hire people that they know. So much for meritocracy. For example, if you happen to be born into an oil-baron family in Texas but can barely manage to spell or pass military tests, it doesn't matter--because you can STILL become the President of the United States for two full terms! (Sound familiar?)

Part two to follow soon....

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New-ish Article of Mine

It's actually pretty 'old' now, but thought I'd call attention to it anyway--been so busy lately that I kind of forgot about it, but had some meetings with folks recently in which they told me they really liked it.

This article gives you a window into my world as an advocate for grassroots fundraising as a political necessity.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

I'm a Calendar!

Been contemplating the moon a lot lately, learning a little more about her cycles, and how they coincide with mine. H. has been impressed when I told him recently about how women's periods--at least when they live more attuned to nature than we tend to in urbanized areas--coincide with the moon's cycles, and how the word 'menstruation' comes from the Latin words that translate to 'measure of time'. For example, ideally a woman would get her period during the 'dark' moon, and be most fertile during the full moon (ovulation). So we could literally, and people have for generations in the past, track the movement of days and the moon through our bodies, our menstrual cycles. 'We're calendars!' I said with some pride.

The dark moon in particular has been calling to me--the shadow essence of the moon, when her face is hidden from us because no light shines on her surface from the sun, at least from our perspective here on Earth--partially because that's the phase that we're in right now, and mostly because I've been doing body energy therapy lately and been more in touch with the more nuanced, intuitive sensations in my body, which I think are more aligned with the dark moon's energy. Hence, the new black template for my blog, and the moon-widget on the right.

This may seem a bit new-agey to folks out there, and may surprise you that I have an interest in things like this, but nature has always fascinated me, especially as I get older and try to figure out the reasons behind my actions, and how I can become more balanced when I start to feel stressed out or off-kilter. Often, just taking a walk outside, going for a hike in the hills, or sitting and meditating and sensing the earth (or the floor that's in the building that's on the earth) supporting me and holding me brings me back to my center. The more we are out of touch with nature, I feel the less human we are, and the more prone to things like depression, senseless violence, drug addiction, fits of anger, etc.

So back to the moon. I wrote a couple pieces lately, at night, when I was particularly feeling the moon's waning presence strongly. The waning moon, the phases during which the moon is moving from full to dark, and therefore getting 'smaller' to us here on Earth is, according to many, a time of inner reflection, mystery, completion, breaking old ties or patterns. It's a time when things wind down versus start up--that would be the waxing moon time, when the moon is moving from new / dark to full.

I've definitely experienced these energy shifts--getting tired and inward, even moody during the waning moon. Not inconsequentially, if you're a woman and your menstrual cycle coincides with the moon's patterns (and you should count yourself lucky if they do), your so-called PMS symptoms like crankiness and feeling really tired are probably just a sign that you are not listening to what your body needs during this waning, slowing down time: more rest, less stimulating foods like caffeine, having less interaction with others.

So I've been trying to listen to my body and do what it's telling me to do. Of course, since the rest of this country doesn't run on a lunar calendar--although almost every other great civilization in the world has!--it's been challenging to do so and still honor the timelines and needs of my job and other commitments. I am trying to be more conscientious about structuring my life around the moon's patterns--for example, since I have a lot of extra vacation time this year I'm planning on taking one day off per month right around the time of the new moon. I think it will help a lot with my overall sense of well-being and hopefully help me be a more responsive leader, a better friend and partner, and just overall more grounded person.

Try it out yourself, especially if you're a woman, since your cycle if it's regular and corresponds to the moon's cycles gives you an automatic calendar by which you can measure the moon's waxing and waning. Try using your lights at home less often--especially during the full moon, you don't need lights as much as you think, and having your home dark except for the moonlight coming outside, even for a half-hour, can be really soothing and romantic. It can help you become more synchronized with the moon's energies. See what happens to your body, your feelings, your interactions with people after doing this for a while. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

And the new moon officially starts tomorrow, although we've been in a waning period for a while now. Don't forget to slow down!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

New Post on Wedding Thoughts

I have a feeling that, as the wedding planning's taking up a lot of my outside-work mindspace and enegy, my wedding blog and its accompanying blog will be seeing more action in the coming days than this one. So check it out and let me know what you think.

Just over six months left 'til the big day!