Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Gulf Coast R.I.P.

Here's hoping you rise again.

"Your president," I said, "cut funds for the levees, ignored the need to restore the wetlands which protected new Orleans for years, and then when the levees failed had to have a special picture show made for him to demonstrate how bad things were. But he didn't care because Orleanians aren't in the right party or class. He let people broil and drown in their own living rooms. Then he flew over it and said `Wow, things look pretty devastating from up here...I'll bet it's even worse down there." Then his buddies cranked up the propaganda machine. They tried to convince people that Orleanians weren't our kind of people and weren't worth saving. Look, there's a shirtless youth trying to break into a store (shown a million times). They blamed it on Blanco and Nagin. Blanco and Nagin couldn't do jackshit. This was the worst natural disaster in American history. Only the Federal Government had the power and resources to rescue these people, to plug the leaks, to attempt to drain the city and to save New Orleans. But it was more important to him to stick to his message: government is bad and will not help you. Turn to the churches. They posed him in front of church after putting stage lights on it, and he promised that he would bring back New Orleans better than ever. It's a year later. They still haven't even fixed the levees back the way they were BEFORE Katrina, and they are lying and telling people that they are. Are the Dutch going to let Amsterdam fall to rubble because it is below sea-level? Are the Italians going to kiss-off Venice? Look. This is
not just a half a city of half a million people. It is a CULTURALLY SIGNIFICANT city of half a million people. The fact that you are willing to let it go says a lot about you and how far our country has declined in the care of people like you. I believe we are our brother's keeper. That's the difference between Republicans and Democrats. You think it's every man for himself. We think we are in this together. That's the difference. What New Orleans needs right now more than anything is a levee. The money to do that is in Iraq. Please don't vote Republican again."

Friday, August 25, 2006

Tribal warfare

There are many, many divisions in American culture, not the least of which is class. We do a great job of hating each other based on how much money we make and how much stuff we have, or don't have. (With the rich leading the way, hating the rest of us with a virulence that never seems to taper out.) And of course our politics are more divisive now than at any time since the 1960s. But the thing that really threatens to tear us apart now, perhaps irrevocably, is race.

More than anything else, Hurricane Katrina proved this. As a middle class white person, I've found you tend to settle in to a certain comfort zone. You think, well, the civil rights movement and the race riots are ancient history. We've come a long way. How naive and stupid we were to think this!

Just about a year ago, we watched on TV as a heavily black region of our own country was wiped off the map, and it made barely a ripple in our collective consciousness. As mind-meltingly difficult as it is to believe, most of the country had this reaction: "What were those people thinking, staying put instead of jumping into their air conditioned SUVs and driving out of town ahead of the storm? That's what we would have done. And all that looting. So uncouth. We would have simply gone to a restaurant, if we were hungry or needed bottled water! Those people deserved what they got. I certainly don't want my taxes raised to clean up that mess. Let them take care of themselves."

And then nobody cleaned up a goddamn thing down there, and we all went on with our lives. Out of sight, out of mind.

I couldn't help but think of Katrina and its woeful aftermath when the news broke about the plan for the next season of Survivor. What could be more appropriate than to have the teams compete based on race? The whites fighting the blacks fighting the Asians fighting the Latinos. I said to a friend of mine that if The Onion had done a piece with this premise, I would have gotten the queasy feeling that I sometimes get when reading that site, that sometimes they go a little too far. But no, this is reality, in America in 2006. This is how far we've degraded ourselves since the era of Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, that some sleazebag TV producer proposes this premise, and it gets greenlighted.

What's next? Prime-time snuff films?

But beyond the gruesomeness of the idea that, you know, the Latinos will band together and try to outwit the whites with their native cunning, or some such equally repugnant horseshit, there is the pervasive misperception that we all fit neatly into exact racial groups. Tribes, if you will. We are European-American and African-American and Mexican-American and whatever.

This is bullshit on its face, and we all know it. My own family is an example, but then again most families are an example. If you go back far enough, I assure you, not everyone in your family will be 'pure' Irish or Spanish or anything else. When I look into my Peanut's beautiful face, I see my Sicilian family in her scrumptious chubby cheeks and my husband's Chinese family in the gentle curve of her eyes. She is not one thing or the other. She is Italian and Chinese but most of all she is American. The combination of her genes makes her who she is. Her birthright is to be all of these things, and to be first and foremost an American citizen -- with all the rights and responsibilities that come along with that citizenship.

The evil dirtbags who want us to believe that you have to be only one thing to be an American -- only white or only black or only Asian or only Latino -- are our common enemy. It's an old cliche in some ways, but it holds more true than ever today: if we refuse to hang together, we'll surely hang separately. Given the sometimes violently racist culture we live in today, I can only hope that someday, when the Peanut goes to school and sees a roomful of kids with mixed-race characteristics, just like her, that they can all find a better way to get along than their parents did.

Conversations with a toddler

Conversation 1:

Scene: Wilson Farms, outside the pony enclosure, the other day. I am holding the Peanut in my arms as we watch the ponies.

Peanut, absentmindedly fingering my bra strap: Mommy bra.

Me: That's right, I have my bra on.

Peanut: No (Peanut's real name) bra.

Me: That's right, you're not wearing a bra.

Peanut, thinking for a minute: No pony bras, either.

Me: Um, right. The ponies are not wearing any bras.

(My 1.3 readers will, of course, recall that this was not my first bizarre conversation with the Peanut about bras.)

Conversation 2:

Scene: Our dining room, yesterday at lunchtime. The babysitter was feeding the Peanut her lunch and I was preparing to leave for a physical therapy appointment. What with picking up a kid who weighs almost 30 pounds, it's no wonder I'm having lower back issues...

Me: OK, so I'm off to the doctor.

Peanut, concerned: Mommy leaving?

Me: Well, I have to go -- remember mommy's back boo-boo? I need the doctor to help me to make it better.

Peanut: OK. Bye-bye, Mommy.

Later that evening, as we put the Peanut to bed...

Peanut: Mommy back boo-boo all gone now?

Me: Well, not exactly. Thanks for asking though!

Conversation 3:

Scene: My bedroom, the other morning as I was getting ready to leave for work and to take the Peanut to day care. The Peanut had been with me in the bathroom not long after I got out of the shower, and for some reason she took a liking to my Dove deodorant. She then carried it into the bedroom, where she had followed me to watch me getting dressed. She refused to let it go.

Me: OK, we really have to get ready to go now -- we have to leave the deodorant here.

Peanut: No! Hold dee-oh-tet-tet! Hold dee-oh-tet-tet!

Me: Well, the deodorant is, uh, getting sleepy. We need to put it down for a nap before we leave.

Peanut, giving it a hug and a kiss and laying it down on my bed: Night-night, dee-oh-tet-tet.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Republicans, unmasked

This post by "TRex" at Firedoglake is so good I'm just stealing it outright. (Which I know is kind of a blogging faux pas, but it's like this person pulled these sentiments directly out of my brain. So I'm stealing away...) Definitely stop by the original page for the accompanying photo, though.

As we were discussing last night, since Ned Lamont won the Connecticut Senate primary, the intervening six days have seen the Republican party going out of its way to show its true colors with regards to its (very) thinly veiled racist agenda and its intolerance toward people of color and white people who support them. Of course, it goes way beyond that, but that’s as good a place to start as any.

The bottom line is that the Republican party is an elite club for wealthy whites and token minorities who will join their ranks and spew racist swill alongside their white brethren. Anyone who tells you differently is a liar, and anyone (like Ann Coulter or Michelle MalKKKin) who insists that liberals are the real racists is either mentally ill or they’re simply being willfully obtuse.

But let’s look at the evidence, shall we?

Back in April, this blog featured a series of posts dedicated to exposing the writhing grub-white underbelly of modern GOP racism in the blogging world and in the world of talk radio and television news and beyond. All the posts in the series were outstanding, and the message that came blaring through loud and clear at the end of the series was that today’s Republican party is merely a JC Penney White Sale away from its cross-burning, lynching, Jim Crow roots. A mere 40 years separate us from the forced integration of the southern states, when segregationist Democrats in the south crossed party lines to become Republicans and moderate Republicans opposed to American apartheid left the GOP to become Democrats.

40 years is not a very long time. Many of the wealthy white men in positions of power within the GOP made their political fortunes in this era and today, from their perches high on their ivory towers of privilege, they continue to push policy and political initiatives which routinely disenfranchise minority Americans. Who could forget Trent Lott’s ham-fisted attempt to justify the segregationist views of Strom Thurmond’s 1948 presidential campaign?

"I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either," Lott said at last week’s party.

Reality-based English translation: "These problems" equals "uppity ni&&@rs", i.e., "If Strom Thurmond had won the presidential race and upheld racial segregation in this country, fat white chucklefucks like me would have a lot easier time maintaining our choke-hold on the reins of power."

The RNC clean-up squads were dispatched, Lott was forced to apologize, and faced a nominal punishment, as is the likely fate of Virginia Republican George Allen, who is currently under fire for calling a 20-year-old Virginia man "Monkey Boy" in Tunisian slang and "welcoming" him to America, because OBVIOUSLY a brown-skinned liberal person couldn’t actually be born and raised in lily-white Virginia! Of course, the staffer, S. R. Siddarth was born and raised in Virginia, but to a Real Republican, that’s simply not enough. You have to be born and raised in America with skin whiter than Ivory Soap to be a "Real American" like George Felix Allen, Timothy McVeigh, or Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.

Then take into account the push by a group of southern Republicans to derail the Voting Rights Act earlier this summer, which, thankfully, failed. But how about my own state’s Photo ID voting requirements, which are being pushed on the public by the same legislators opposed to the renewal of the Voting Rights Act, and which is vigorously opposed by state Democrats, the Southern Poverty Law Center and other progressive organizations. Not to mention the staggering indifference shown by FEMA and the administration toward the stranded victims of Hurricane Katrina. Mike Chertoff had to be told in a live interview by NPR’s Robert Siegel that the Convention Center was even there, let alone that a few thousand people were trapped there in desperate hunger, filth, and fear.

But if you back up and look at the even bigger picture, the Republican party’s entire 2006 electoral agenda is based around punishing people for not being white. Republicans on Immigration equals Stop the Evil Brown-Skinned Latino Hordes from Coming Here to Live. Republicans on Terrorism equals Stop the Evil Brown-Skinned Arabs and Islamic Asians from Blowing Up Our Planes and Bridges. Republicans on Ned Lamont equals PLEASE Stop the Evil Black Voters from Banding Together and Forming a Legitimate Threat to Our All-White Boys’ Club. The time has come to punch through their codified euphemisms and strike at the truth of their rhetoric. Republicans are melanin-ophobics.

Kanye West was right. Republicans are the Party of Racism. So, start pinning them to the wall on it. Ask a Republican, "Why do you hate black people?" or "Why are you so scared of Mexicans?" or "Why do you think that all Arabs are terrorists?"


Ask Ann Coulter what she really means about Maxine Waters and Affirmative Action, or MalKKKin and her Reconquistas. Ask George Allen why he calls brown-skinned people monkeys. Ask the Weakly Standard what the fushizzuck they meant by that stupid cover with Al Sharpton as Step N Fetchit.

The gilmpses of Old School White Fright we get when these dullards slip up and speak their minds are not aberrations. It’s when the real soul of the Party of Bigots slips its leash and evades its handlers and jumps out, however briefly, for us all to see. Then the handlers and spinners come out and tell us, "You saw nothing! You heard nothing! The views Senator Whitey McCracker espoused in his unfortunate remarks do NOT represent the views of the GOP and blah de blah diddy blah…"

And that’s the big lie. Is your skin is a half-tone darker than a tan paper bag? More? Then, my friend, you are The Enemy to the Republican Party. Unless of course, you want to act, dress, think, talk, and legislate from a position somewhere to the right of Adolph Eichmann, THEN (and only then) are you welcome in the Republican tent, but first you have to be willing to sell out and actively work against other minority people. Only then do you become the kind of useful idiot the Republicans so desperately want on their side.

So, Firedogs, let’s call them out. Coulter, MalKKKin, Glenn Beck, William Bennett, George F. Allen, Krauthammer, Kristol, and Lott (oh, my!), Limbaugh, Hannity, John Gibson, and all the rest. It’s time for them to know that we see through their thin layer of PR spin all the way to the ugly all-white heart of racist, Repugnican America. This is 2006, fer fuck’s sake! Plantation America is no longer a viable concept. Unacceptable. And it’s up to us to raise the necessary Hell to call the public’s attention to the true, viciously exclusionary nature of the Reich Wing.


Who’s with me?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Thoughts on vacationing with a toddler

  • If you go on vacation with a toddler and attempt to put said toddler to sleep in a pack-and-play in the same hotel room with yourself and your husband, the child will refuse to fall asleep. For the entire vacation.
  • Then, because you have no choice if you want to eat for the next week, when you take this sleep-deprived kid out to restaurants, she will whine and scream her way through every meal.
  • It's also not a good idea to do all this at the same time as the toddler for some reason develops a pronounced fear of the dark which makes her start whimpering as soon as the sun goes down.
  • The toddler's resulting entreaties to be rocked in your lap and serenaded with "You Are My Sunshine" to keep the dark-outside monsters away will shatter your heart.
  • Then, if some asshole pulls out of a gas station onto the highway and comes within inches of sideswiping your car, when you start screaming, it will scare the bejeezus out of the toddler. You'll tell her mommy was just yelling at the Bad Guy to go away, and that everyone's OK now, and at first she'll look like she buys it.
  • But then she'll spend the next two days asking for confirmation that the Bad Guy is "all gone." This anxiety will not help the anxiety about the dark.
  • In spite of all this, if your toddler gets to spend plenty of time digging in the sand, examining horseshoe crabs, and running into the waves, she will have an awesome time.

Brilliant brilliant brilliant

The consistently-amazing "NanceGreggs" over at Democratic Underground nails the buffoonery of our airline 'security' obsession:

We’ve now got people at airports being prevented from boarding a plane with a bottle of Listerine, all so they can fly in complete safety and comfort while sitting on top of a cargo hold full of luggage and boxes that no one has bothered to inspect.

Read the whole column here.

Friday, August 04, 2006

In which I try to leave a friend a voice mail

Me: Hi, Cheryl, it's me, I just wanted to touch base with you about getting together this weekend to bring over the baby stuff. How does Saturday late morning, after I get my hair cut can you stop clinging to my leg, honey? What do you want? Your sippy cup? Here you go.

Peanut: (Emits long, high-pitched whining sound.)

Me: OK, sorry about that. (Peanut's real name) is hanging on my leg like an orangutan, and what do you want, this flashlight? You want to play with the flashlight? OK, but be careful...

Peanut: (Puts down sippy cup, picks up flashlight and starts swinging it around.)

Me: So anyway, I'm thinking I'll call you after I get done with my hair appointment and then maybe I can WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Stop whacking the coffee table with that flashlight! Look what you did -- you gave the coffee table a boo-boo! We don't hit the furniture with flashlights!

Peanut: (Gives me a concerned look, bursts into tears, smacks coffee table with flashlight one last time for good measure.)

Me: OK, that's it, you're having a time out! Not you, Cheryl.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


One friend's twins are due in a few weeks, but in all likelihood she'll go into labor before her due date, because twins usually come early, or so I hear. I was a twin, and I arrived a month early, weighing 5 pounds. (There my mom sat, in the final days of 1968, not knowing until the very end of her pregnancy that she was carrying two very small babies--one of whom would be stillborn. When I had my Peanut, I finally understood what my mother must have felt on New Year's Day in 1969--the joy of having a living daughter, and the anguish over her dead son. But that is another story for another day.)

So my friend waits, joyful in the knowledge that even if her twins come now, they'll be big enough. They'll make it. The boy and the girl. She and her husband will wait, thrilled at what is to come.

Meanwhile another friend, five weeks into her pregnancy, tells me, "I had a miscarriage." The hopes for this pregnancy are at an end. She and her husband will mourn and regroup and try again. They'll wait, hopeful, for what is to come.