Thursday, January 30, 2014

Polar Vortex

Shut the door. Not that it lets in the cold but that it lets out the cozyness.

The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out the conservative adopts them.
~ Mark Twain

This reader’s letter appeared in my hometown newspaper on January 28, 2014:
Reading the constant barrage of letters from those who vilify the current governor, state legislature and conservatives and Republicans in general makes me wonder if there is any hope left for this country.
After 100 years of Democratic-controlled government in North Carolina, with all its catering to special interests, crooked politicians, hiring of donors and spending the state into massive debt, these idiots rail against bringing back fiscal responsibility and trying to slow down the growth of government as something terrible. They continue to defend Barack Obama, the dictator-in-chief, who is the most incompetent, radical, dishonest, unlawful and dangerous America-hating person ever to occupy the White House. He has done more in five years to destroy our coveted American way of life, as well as America's standing in the world, to increase the national debt and to ignore the Constitution than all his predecessors.
Those outside of this country, many of whom risk their lives to try to come here, must wonder what kind of mental illness is overcoming America, and surely the Founding Fathers must be rolling in their graves. Obama and his merry band of radicals in the White House and in Congress threaten the very existence of the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world.
I pray that enough Americans are as concerned as I am and will vote accordingly this November. Take back the Senate and send Sen. Harry Reid back to the desert!
~ WILLIAM C. SIDES JR., Clemmons
This is a bad time of year for me. My brain is always on fast-forward during the coldest, darkest months of the year, and this year exceeded cold expectations. The problem is the day-to-day time doesn’t accelerate to catch up. It leaves me hanging out there, twirling in the polar vortex. 
I’m having strange dreams again, too.  I’m moving and hired the worst moving crew. They stomp mud into the house as they carry their straps, tarps, and boxes in. Then, without moving a single item, they sit at the table and take a break. They order pizza that looks like cake and point out tiles that are buckling away from the wall, the grout between them gooey and oozing. I double-pay the pizza delivery guy who drives away on a scooter before I can correct my error. I decide it doesn't matter, so I sit down and share pizza with the movers.
In another dream people from my past confront me. We offended one another and now they want to correct the record. But I don’t want to change anything because the story cannot and should not be edited. Accept what was and don’t alter the truth, I beseech them. They are in my face, one after the other, demanding an altered story and a happy ending.
I used to be forgiving. I believe I still am, but I feel the tug of indecision and the arrival of forgiveness taking longer and longer. I wonder how that has diminished or changed who I am.
One day, after an exhausting foray into local and national news and the burn of several interactions with people who claim allegiance to their Southern heritage that includes segregation, violence, suspicion, and hatred, I gave myself permission to not like someone if he appears unreasonable and if he directly affects the quality of my life. I used to drag them all along with me, unwilling to leave them behind, but now I don’t. I leave them where they are. I say, let them wallow in the misery of their heritage. No progress for them. They want to protect their "coveted American way of life." They choose to take America back, but I refuse to go backwards.
Sounds harsh. They are harsh, too, when they fling their insults and hatred in my direction because I am interracially married. Even worse is when they reach for their guns and point them at those people they believe are trying to take their freedoms away, or rather, if they were honest, their privileges away.
I don’t see good intent, honesty, and love in their actions.
Yet I haven’t condemned them “back to the desert.” Can’t we live in harmonious proximity instead of arming up or shrieking lies and rhetoric? But they won’t stop.
I see their fear. Fear makes people do terrible things. Why are they so afraid?
So many of them claim God is in control yet that belief does not allay their fear. Let go let God I’ve often heard. But they don’t trust God either. Else why are they intervening on His behalf and in His name? I pity them.
This letter also appeared on the readers’ page of my local paper on Thursday, January 30, 2014:
I think that dropping all charges against those law-breakers of the Moral Mondays group was a dumb thing to do (“Charges dropped against 50 protesters,” Jan. 23).
They should be made to pay the state back all of the extra money that it cost to pay the police for all the extra time and money that it cost the taxpayers for protests that are in my opinion useless, because they are too sorry to get out and work for a living, instead of always wanting something for nothing!
I wish I could figure out what planet these people live on: where hatred, fear, segregation, and violence are the answers to their questions; where there are hordes of lazy people living off the good and righteous "white" people; where guns are the answer to a question that never needed to be asked in the first place.
I don’t want to live there. I don’t care if they live by their worldview as long as they accept that I live by a different worldview. That’s how I changed, when I realized they would not change. Facts don’t matter. Content of character doesn’t matter. Accomplishment doesn’t matter. Humanity doesn’t matter. Fear of the loss of privilege matters. They can only see and hear and experience what they want to believe. 
We didn’t invade their world. Their world is our world. We’ve always been here. They didn’t see us; they didn’t hear us; they didn’t acknowledge us. Now we refuse to be invisible or silent or acquiescent. We are women and men and children, of diverse sexual orientations, people of color (neither "black" nor "white"), interracial, interethnic,  religiously free and tolerant, poor and middle class, liberal and centrist, abled and disabled, progressive and hopeful, stewards of the earth and of each other.

We don’t want something for nothing. We don’t want a free ride. We don’t want great wealth. We want jobs that pay a living wage, equality in the workplace and in our neighborhoods and institutions, access to affordable healthcare and education, environmental safety and protection, and a path to improve the quality of our lives if that is what we choose. That’s the world I want to live in, but the polar vortex is descended upon us, and I am twirling in the whiteout.

President Obama delivering the SOTUS. Far from the dictator-in-chief that some view him as, I see him as a sign of hope and change.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Matters: Gray and Otherwise

Phil Robertson of the A&E show Duck Dynasty was quoted in GQ as saying:
“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
He also made the following comment about the pre-Civil Rights era:
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field.... They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
Read more at Huffington Post.
He was briefly suspended from the show, but viewer outrage made A&E think again, and he has been reinstated. Free speech, his supporters cried.
Yes, free speech, but free speech for those who oppose his messages as well. Why is it that members of the far right can say whatever they want, including blatant lies about our President with their birther conspiracy, but their opposition is not allowed to respond, factually or otherwise, or the individuals will be charged with trampling on freedoms? On paper our freedoms are for all Americans; in reality, they are for a sub-group of Americans, like the wealthy, or conservative Christians, or Constitutionalists who really only believe in a couple of amendments interpreted in their favor, or, as my husband and I often discuss, for white Americans but not for Americans of color.
We have to keep fighting for equality and to protect the freedoms of all Americans or we all stand to lose. 
I’ve written about the trend of reality shows that represent rural white culture, poverty, and fundamental conservative values in my post The Honey Boo Boo Effect.
I think we should be respectful of all American sub-cultures. We truly are a diverse country, and our diversity should be reflected in the media and in our government representatives. But that respect includes not spreading hateful and discriminatory rhetoric about other groups. And there should be equal representation in the media. Don’t glorify one sub-culture at the expense of another.
Of course, money drives everything. A&E knows Duck Dynasty is one of their top moneymakers, and that is what drove them to reinstate Robertson. Besides, the network knew what it was getting when they took on the show. They like the drama it causes.
Reality TV is getting wearisome but I am not sure we are near the end of its run. Our sense of reality has gotten fuzzy. Social engineering by the conservative base and the wealthy (like the Koch brothers) is frightening, and it is taking us backwards at a pace I find alarming. We need to be proactive, vigilant, and progressive.

I want to abolish whiteness in 2014. I never felt white anyway. I was that Italian kid with the odd Australian mother. I was one of the poor kids and I didn’t get to experience the things middle class white children did with regularity: vacations, summer camp, bicycles under the Christmas tree, and new clothes rather than hand-me-downs.  I called myself a mutt, but I never felt ashamed of my mixed ethnicity.
As an adult in an interracial marriage with mixed race adult children, I abhor what white represents and the way politicians and the media use it to further divide us. Whiteness does not exist anymore than blackness exists. It is a socially engineered concept designed to oppress people of color and award privilege to “colorless” people.

I am tired of this devil
I am tired of this stuff
I am tired of this business
Sewn when the going gets rough

I ain't scared of your brother
I ain't scared of no sheets
I ain't scared of nobody
Girl, when the goin' gets mean

Protection for gangs, clubs, and nations
Causing grief in human relations
It's a turf war on a global scale
I'd rather hear both sides of the tale

See, it's not about races, just places, faces
Where your blood comes from is where your space is
I've seen the bright get duller
I'm not going to spend my life being a color

~ Michael Jackson: Black or White

Let’s make a pledge to celebrate who we really are, because we are all ethnic, we are all diverse, and we are all human. We have to agree that equality is more than just tolerance. It is more than just announcing we are all equal. It is much more than telling victims of oppression that racism is dead and they are the ones perpetuating it. It is more than claiming some groups don't deserve equality and then blame them for their circumstances.
There is much hard work to be done. Let's work together to get rid of the concept of white and the oppositional concept of black. We don't need anymore divisiveness.

My family is racially and ethnically mixed and we come in all shades of skin tone, but none of us is the socially constructed "white" or "black." (Photos taken at Cara and Mackenzie's first and second birthday parties) 
I am on another journey first touched on in my post Gray Matters. I promised updates. Here is the first.
I last dyed my hair in October 2013.  It’s been about three months now and the growth of my natural color, a very pale gray or nearly white, is showing. I bought five hats of various styles and gotten many compliments about how nice they look, but I bought them to cover the growing skunk stripe.
Recently Ronald told me that while he liked the hats (he tried for years to get me to wear them but I always feared “hat hair”), he really liked how my gray was coming in. He said it looked purposeful, as if I had planned it. He’s helped me to be unafraid to face the world with my growing stripe.
I am sure part of the seemingly easy transition is because I used demi-permanent instead of permanent hair color. The color is fading all over except at the ends where it is very concentrated. So streaks of gray are showing through all of my hair, not just at the hairline or part.
I’m starting to enjoy the color of my natural hair. I don’t feel it has aged my appearance one bit. I put to rest the horrible discrepancy between what I look like and what society expects me to look like and how awful it made me feel.
It’s another pledge I am making for 2014. Will you join me? No more societal judgments and pressures that make women feel insecure about their appearance. At fifty-six I am pleased with my appearance and that I am healthy and fit. What could be sexier than confidence? Ronald has noticed!

My hair has grown quite a bit since I cut it to my shoulders in November. It's always grown quickly.

2013 was a difficult year for me. I lost my beloved father-in-law, a man whose life deserves celebration, and I had two painful surgeries to get the bones of my feet corrected so I will regain stability when walking.
It wasn’t a stellar year for the progress of our country either, as we witnessed the least effective Congress in history, the GOP and Tea Party smear campaign of the Affordable Care Act, the war on women, the war on the poor, and the war on workers. The ACA rollout had its own set of problems, but as far as I am concerned, being someone who works with databases, I expected a rocky start with the site. It was a huge undertaking.
Now we can look forward to 2014 with the hope that things will only get better. Perhaps we can even look at the prospects of reinstating long-term unemployment for the millions of people still looking for work and of raising the minimum wage and working toward income equality.

Happy New Year, dear readers! Life is not a straight journey but one that takes course over many roads: some beaten flat by many feet, some rarely traveled, some full of seemingly insurmountable obstacles and painful realities, some that seem to lead nowhere, but none not worth the taking. Enjoy the journey.