Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama and his pastor 

When this presidential race began, there didn't seem to be much, if any, difference between the Democratic candidates. After John Edwards left the race, it would have been difficult for me to tell anyone just exactly why I prefer Obama over Hillary without getting personal.

Now that Obama has spoken to the issue of his pastor's contorversial and sometimes paranoid utterances - clearly deliniating between the man and the man's opinions, clearly stating his own position on those issues and all the while refraining from throwing the man to the dogs, as his enemies clearly expected, it is crystal clear to me why I want Barak Obama to be the next President of the United States of America.

It is because this is a very rare public figure - one who will tell us the truth, calmly and intelligently, who dares to stand for much more than winning, who is willing to campaign without stooping to slime his opponents. This is the man I can expect to speak intelligently and calmly to me through the turbulence and economic insecurity of the next eight years. One who can lead with dignity and integrity. This is the man who may not only be able to restore but enhance America's standing in the world and show us the way to actualize the ideals our country has aspired to over her more than 200 years.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Furnace Art 2 

Spring is coming, so after growing as tall as my furnace can make it, what may very well be its last sculpture of the year broke and fell.

Here is the result. A myth could be built around this icework - a game bird who, having lost it's head to a hunter, still stands guard over it's oversized egg.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Missing Mr. Bedwards 

A few years ago the folks on NPR got their names all muddied up. The call letters of our local station are WOI and it was pretty annoying hearing those Double-U WOE WYEs over and over again throughout the day. Folks must have complained or something. At any rate, the folks on WOI are able to say the call letters correctly now, at least when I'm listening. Maybe there was a national campaign of some kind because it was about the same time that Bah Bedwards disappeared. He was one of the bright spots in my day, a wonderful antidote to all of those Double-U WOE WYEs. A man with an identical voice took over his spot and now has a podcast, on which he announces his name as Bob Edwards. Bah! I want Mr. Bedwards back.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Proud to be an American? 

Michelle Obama is being criticized for having said she is proud, at long last, of our country.

I was born white and southern, and I grew up feeling both proud of my country because of what they taught us about it in school and so embarrassed I wanted to disappear under the table when our maid of many years, Annie Mae Abrams, passed through the doorway separating the dining room, where she had served our supper, on her way back to the kitchen. That was when my father commenced telling his "n"-word jokes. Did he think she was deaf?

So I understand, Michelle, why you, being black, haven't found a lot to be proud about our country when you were growing up. You'd probably heard a story or two about families like mine, where nobody, not even the eight-year-old your grandmother's generation welcomed home from school each day, spoke out against her daily humiliation. My mother bragged to her friends loudly over the phone about Annie Mae time after time and meant it. I think she must have felt embarrassed, like I did. Her generation didn't set their husbands straight, at least not in front of children or the help. Then, we all know there was worse than what Annie Mae endured. Much worse.

To you, our country was probably a place where you, as a black woman, probably didn't expect to be able to attend, much less graduate from, a top notch school when you were eight years old. And when you got there, as a young adult, you may not have felt entirely welcome. And maybe that was in a large part because you knew a lot about the inner workings of families like mine.

My grandfather, a man who was well-known for his Christian faith, once called a reporter into his office. It was probably in the late 50s. He was well respected enough in Birmingham, Alabama that when he called, reporters came and listened to what he had to say. What he told this reporter was that through prayer, he had become convinced that God wanted us to treat "colored" (that was the polite term back then) people the same way we treated other white people. The reporter called one of my uncles, who told him not to print the story. When my older brother heard the story his response was to say that my grandfather should be committed. Now he is proud of him.

The only white person I ever knew to call a black person "Mrs." back then was our minister, Dr. Frank Alfred Mathes, who also paid his maid a living wage, and told his congregation about both of those practices from the pulpit. Most of his congregation paid their maids $20 a week and felt generous when they gave them their cast-off clothing. And called them Annie Mae, or Sarah, or... And they were expected to call their employers Mr. and Mrs. Whatever.

So, Michelle, I understand. Sure, things have changed rather rapidly since then. My brother, for example, is proud of our grandfather's ability to see beyond the ignorance and callousness of our white southern culture now, and may very well back your husband, should he emerge from this difficult time as the Democratic candidate.

I'm sorry, Michelle, that I didn't have what it took to stand up for Annie Mae Abram's dignity when I was eight years old, but my sons would have when they were eight and that's the kind of progress that you have seen and what probably has made you proud, maybe for the first time in your life, to be an American.

Like you, I am ashamed that our country has not lived up to the ideals it proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence. I understand, Michelle, that you meant what you said, and that it would be wrong for you to take it back.

Real people understand what you mean. And we were glad to hear it.

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