Friday, September 26, 2008

I'm supposed to be grading papers, so I'll try to make this quick. This whole issue of Palin and women makes me nuts, so I just couldn't pull myself away from the computer.

Here's my answer to your last question about why Palin is allowing all this nonsense: Power.

The answer for her is no different from the reason why so many other politicians do ridiculous and illogical things. Being a mother is one of the most powerful jobs in the world, so you'd think that she'd be happy with that, but no. She wants political (and economic) power just like any other politician. Just like many men. She's blinded by her desire for it and she's willing to make sacrifices that hardly seem worth it. It reminds me a little of Jessica Simpson, and not just because of the pageant hair. (Sorry, I can't get past that).

Simpson was a B level singer at best before she married Nick Lachey and started her string of silly sayings on "Newlyweds." But her confusion about tuna fish and inability to boil water propelled her to stardom. She didn't seem to care that the whole world thought she was an idiot. In fact, she seemed to amp up her brainlessness. And then she laughed all the way to the bank. She became a much bigger star than she probably would have been otherwise, all because she was willing to do whatever it takes. That's fine for a pop star; it's not for the Vice President.

Palin doesn't seem to care that she is obviously a token. Or that other, more qualified women were summarily passed over. Or that she is not really prepared and that it's clear to everyone. Or that the spin machine is working overtime to make her many, many shortcomings into absurdly posed assets. Or that other women in the country will likely be punished (covertly or overtly) for the public damage she is doing. She's counting on Americans to be dazzled by the sparkly silliness and she doesn't care. She doesn't seem to care because she might still get to be the second most powerful person in the world. For power-hungry people, that's all that matters.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Woman Wonders

I've been away far too long. But I have just been speechless at what is going on in America--the Wall Street financial crisis, Obama Waffles, race as a factor in the election, Palin. There is just so much I did not know where to begin. But today, I just got to talk about women stuff.

As a woman, I am excited by the prospect of female achievement. I celebrate Women's History Month in March and make sure that my students are well aware of it. In my writing, I always insert the accomplishments of women alongside the oft touted accomplishments of men. I correct people (when possible) when they in any way ignore the presence and person of women. So, Gov. Sarah Palin's nomination as Vice President should be thrilling to me. But it's not. I believe that while Palin's nomination and even possible victory would be a victory for women on the surface, ultimately, it will not.

It seems that Palin's nomination pretty much amounts to affirmative action. Not affirmative action as it was intended by the Black leaders who fought for it (the opportunity for qualified minorities to be considered regardless of their physical characteristics), but affirmative action as many people think it is today--the selection of a person based on a physical characteristic regardless of qualification. I've heard people say that Palin isn't smart; I don't know her so I can't speak to her intellect. From what I can discern about her qualifications and the baggage that surrounds her, however, it seems clear that she is truly an affirmative action choice. She has a degree in Journalism that she earned after attending several schools; she was the governor of a state that in no way resembles the diversity of the nation; she doesn't seem to be well aware of key political issues like the economy and the war; and her only foreign policy experience is that she can see Russia from her home. Let me stop there for a moment. When Charlie Gibson asked her about her insights into Russian actions, she actually said "They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska." If anyone expected more of her than to be a token woman, would they have accepted that answer from her? Wouldn't they have demanded more? It appears that she was chosen because she is a woman--not the most qualified woman, but a woman who will get votes because she is a woman. It is not surprising that she is an affirmative action pick because, contrary to popular belief, White women are the greatest recipients of affirmative action hiring.

This is bad. It's bad not only for the country for obvious reasons, but bad for women because she will be representative of all women in power. If she can't do the job, then it will mean that women just aren't ready for this position. It's sort of like what people thought in the early 90s when Shannon Faulkner couldn't hack it at The Citadel. After all that protest and talk about the first woman getting into the all-male military school, when she couldn't meet the standards, she made all women look bad. True, other women have enrolled in the school since, but her failure validated all of the naysayers and sexists. This is the problem with affirmative action picks when they are not made in the spirit of true affirmative action measures.

The Republican handling of Gov. Palin is already giving women a bad name. Although they are alleging sexism in every arena, by not allowing her to take questions and acting as if the hard-hitting questions (which I am really skeptical of her receiving) will be too much for her (a Journalism major who was once a member of the same press), they are saying that this woman can't handle it. Protecting her as women have been protected and pedestaled for generations says that she is helpless and unable to handle herself in the face of tough situations. In what way does this "protection" say that as a woman she is prepared to face anything that men can face?

As a woman I am offended by the way Sarah Palin has been presented to the public. They have made light of the very real issue of sexism, calling actions sexist that clearly aren't. Asking a question she'd rather not answer? Questioning her baby's parentage as a research question that never gets printed as fact? This is not sexism; this is journalism. Calling things sexist that aren't sexism mitigates actual instances of discrimination and oppression. Like the boy who cried wolf, people are less likely to respond when the real thing rears its ugly head. I am offended that as a woman Palin is allowing this to happen. I wonder why she is willing to do so.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

8 hours to think about random stuff

The family and I are in Florida this weekend for a family function. I packed jackets for everyone because I thought the weather would be cooling off. In Florida, however, it's still July. It's really hot, and it just reminds me that the heat of summer is spitting out her last best efforts. The election is almost here. Football season is taking my husband away. The work of class and grading are piling up.

It makes me a little sad. The summer always seems like an endless, open field of possibilities. I'm hoping that the rest of the year will bring renewal and a fresh breath of energy. There's a lot of work to do, in every arena of our lives. I hope that autumn and winter will bring good stuff.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

We Remember

On September 11, 2001 I was a happy newlywed and graduate student in Chicago. Now I'm not so newly-wed, a university faculty member, and we have a house and two children. Today I say a prayer for the many, many--far too many--families who had the last 7 years of life's ebb and flow stolen from them. May the Spirit of God continue to comfort you and heal the land.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

All in the (Democrat) Family?

Although I am aware that there are still racists around, I guess I am very much a member of the post-Civil Rights generation because I am always surprised anew at people's blatant racism.

Reading Jack and Jill Politics, as I love to do, one link on it led to another which led to another which got me to this video, reportedly put out by PUMA.

There are two more which you can watch at your own peril but after watching the first two, I couldn't stand to see the last.

I am in awe of the audacity of someone in 2008 to don blackface and drag. Not only is such behavior generally accepted as insulting and despicable in the public, but it is not even funny. What these people in this clip are doing is not entertaining nor does it make a cogent point--unless their point is that it is okay to degrade Black people. Clearly they know that blackface is racist and yet they do not care.

For people who are supposed to be concerned about the sexist treatment of Hillary Clinton, these people have a myopic view of discrimination. It's absolutely not okay to degrade a White woman, but Black women (and there are several being degraded here) and Black people, and Islamic people, and pretty much people of color, they're fair game? Also, it's okay to belittle the struggles of others, the painful history they've had to endure just to get your point across that you're mad. Is that the message? This hateful behavior just takes me back to the beginning of the Feminist movement and their exclusionary ideologies, claiming rights, ultimately, only for Anglo-Saxon women.

I am also disturbed by the Black women in this video. Perhaps they are strong supporters of Hillary Clinton as they have a right to be. But to be a part of a video that makes fun of Michelle Obama (and other Black people) smacks of self-hatred. If these PUMA actors feel that it is okay to draw upon racist tactics to degrade Michelle Obama, how much love do those women think they have for them?

The video was posted on Youtube in late August of this year. I'm sure, however, as the campaign continues, we will see more examples of racist speak, and with Palin in the race, sexist speak as well (and I mean actual sexist speak not the alleged sexism that's used as a tactic). Rep. Lynn Westmoreland from Georgia has already started the ball rolling. I guess I should just be prepared and stop being so surprised that as much as things change, they still remain the same.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I'm not gonna write you a love song 'cause you asked me to . . .

Okay, The Diva, I see that you have gotten over trying to hold back.

You've just touched so many of the ideas that are frustrating here. The media thing is so very true. Did you notice many (or any) commentaries that pointed out the absence of a flag pin either on Palin or on McCain? How many reporters illustrate the ways in which Palin's speech was filled with "truthiness"? How many will call Bristol a "baby mama"--which she actually is, as opposed to the married-before-babies Michelle Obama? How many will call Cindy a junkie, one of many labels heaped upon addicts when they are not millionaires?

Here's what is driving me crazy tonight, though: my country and my religion are two different things. This convention is singing love of country like it's hymn number 562. I don't really see the need for my President to love America. I just need for you like it and care about me in the neighborly, what-would-Jesus-do kind of way. To be smart and sound and use good judgment.

Sarah Palin's snotty reference last night to the love she's always had for America doesn't move me. I don't feel so romantic when I think of Sean Bell riddled with policemen's gunshots on his wedding day or people drowning in New Orleans while the media calls them thieves. When you work hard (a phrase which also keeps popping up) at 2 or 3 jobs and you still don't live in a safe neighborhood or have good schools or can't afford to get sick, when people sworn to take care of the country look right past you, perhaps your relationship with America is a little more complicated. Palin's (and Cindy McCain's) kind of simplistic thoughtlessness is exactly the brand of silliness that "energizes the base" but remains unproductive. It's what you are talking about when you write that the party is far too self-righteous. That, coupled with McCain's clear desperation to be President, is too much for me to take. That POW thing is big; I get it. But I still don't worship this country.

I live in the world. The whole world. And God's children live everywhere in it, not just in America. McCain's football cheer declaring, "Make no mistake, we're going to win!" reminds me of the hype around rival high schools. I didn't choose my high school (which, by the way, was mired in historical racial and gender discrimination that were constant obstacles); I just tried to bloom where I was planted, and I saw what was good as well as what was a foot in my neck. Screaming, "We're number one!" always seemed a little silly to me--and I was a cheerleader! Listening to him tonight, I thought about the fact that my initial presence in America is just a fact of my birth. For some people, it's a definite choice. Either way, it's a pretty good place to be at this point in history. But I don't worship her. Patriotism is not my religion.


So hard to love Republicans? It's hard to like them. Because of those "snooty, snotty, snide" tones as well as their hypocrisy and manipulation of people and ideologies, they demonstrate time and time again, as Palin said last night of the media, they don't care about your approval or (this is me) you and yours.

I have a bias; I support Obama and usually, the Democratic candidate. I don't want to do so blindly so I am open to the faults of the Democrats and at times, I am open to supporting other viable candidates for office. This also means that I try to be aware of every side and so I have been trying to watch the RNC this week. It has not been easy. In listening to Giuliani last night, I heard the snideness, as if working with the people to effect change is not only less than noble, but ridiculous. Palin also attacked Obama on his grassroots activity, drawing a sarcastic comparison between being a community organizer and being a mayor of a town of 6000+ and saying that she would tell us what she did as mayor which was to have responsibilities. I was irritated, not only because she discounted working with the people (you know, the everyday Joe's and Jane's with whom her "small town values" insist that she connects), but also because she did not actually say what she did every day as mayor of a town of 6000+. It has been proven time and again during this campaign that Republican ideas of responsibilities and achievement mean different things than the definitions of regular people so actual examples would have been great. (I'm not dismissing the work of mayors of small towns; just wondering if it qualifies you to be almost-president.) But like Giuliani's, Palin's speech was filled with vagueness, sarcasm and snideness.

Part of this attitude of snideness comes from self-righteousness. Republicans demonstrate that they feel they are the sole messengers from God, the sole owners of patriotism and the only ones who cannot be questioned. On anything. From the top down, this comes from having a lot of money. From the bottom up, it comes from dogmatically thinking you have the only right answers about God.

With this attitude, you can easily shape the truth to fit your version of it. They are artists, Steel Magnolia; didn't you know? Honestly, they are incredibly talented and skilled in the art of manipulation and the American people just accept it without question. I mean, really, there are actually pundits out there who are explaining that the McCain campaign is using this "the-media-is-attacking-me" strategy as a campaign tactic to look like the underdog, thus inflaming the base and incurring favor with the undecideds. Although it is revealed as a tactic, people are still buying it. But tell me, how is the media attacking when (1) they don't follow up on any questions and (2) they have only good things to say about the McCains, if anything at all?

I watched Meet the Press on Sunday (I miss Tim Russert) and Tom Brokaw just allowed the McCain surrogate to state his press releases without question. Didn't call him on anything. This morning on The Early Show, they told us 5 things we didn't know about Cindy McCain. A lot of people don't know she had a drug problem (drugs she stole from her non-profit), but I guess it was more important to know that she drives race cars and has three Blackberries. There's no attack from the media on the McCain's, although admittedly, there were a lot of questions about Palin, as it should be since we don't know her and she is trying to be almost-president. How many dern times did we have to see Rev. Jeremiah Wright's clip even after Obama denounced his ideas? The cry about the media is a tactic. We know it. But it will probably work and it's getting the media to back off.

Another tactic they are using is to allege sexism, even when it's not there. Questioning Palin's qualifications is not sexist, but wearing a pin that says "The hottest babe" (as seen at the RNC) seems to smell like it. Because it is such a hot-button issue, the media is tiptoeing around Palin so they won't be accused of being sexist. Where are my JOURNALISTS, those in pursuit of truth whether good or bad? It seems now we only have news reporters. By avoiding any criticisms, members of the media don't actually pursue the truth. They, along with the American public, fall victim to the right's manipulation of the truth.

Which brings us back one mo' time to spin. Here's an interesting link that breaks down the Republican manner of speech; it reveals the artistry of spin.

It still amazes me that Palin gets to use her children for her political advancement--why do I know that Track is going to be deployed on September 11? why can I pick baby Trig out of a line-up although I have never met him in person? why would parents of special needs children know they have a friend in the White House?--but no one can even bring up her pregnant teen-aged daughter when it directly relates to her beliefs and policies. Jon Stewart discussed it well in his interview with Newt Gingrich last night.

The Republican strategy is brilliant because most people fall for it. Like the sheep you talk against your students becoming, people get scared and fall over. There is no fight, no calling them on their mess. Few people seem to want to think through anything; they just want to feel. This is a very frustrating state of affairs.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Brief Thought

I'm trying to watch the Republican National Convention. I'm trying. I chewed out my students, many of whom are first year students and about 18 years old, that they should be paying attention to the election issues because they affect their lives. Many of them gave a simplistic and basically thoughtless rationale for their voting choice. I pointed out that thoughtless, sheep-like voting means that nobody will court your vote.

But, a few minutes ago I was reminded of why it's so hard to love Republicans. While the DNC seemed to me to make a real effort to be cordial and respectful, each speaker at the RNC is increasingly angry and snide. Guiliani just asked what a community organizer is (in reference to Obama's resume). I immediately thought, "If you lived in the communities where he was working, you'd probably think that it was important work." And that's my major problem. The actual differences in opinion are not so gut-twisting. It's the snooty, snotty, snide tone that makes my ears bleed. Yuck!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

One more thing

Please note that I actually did have the following thought BEFORE I saw it on another blog!

I loved the show "Commander in Chief" and I immediately thought of it when I heard of McCain's VP choice. In it, Geena Davis a Vice President who was chosen only because she was a woman. When the President is suddenly on his death bed, he begs her to resign because he didn't really want her to run anything, much less the whole country. But she ignores him and seems to be a perfectly strong and thoughtful (TV) President. Interesting, huh? With a 73 year old nominee and a VP candidate with pageant hair (that's silly and petty--I know).

Tru Dat

TD, I second your emotions on all of your last few posts. The DNC was exciting, but exhausting. Whatever happens now, I'm so glad I lived to see a major party nominate a minority person to run. I really didn't think it would happen in my lifetime. I had only hoped that my children would be a witness. Instead, I got to answer my daughter when she saw Obama on TV and asked, "Who's that, Mommy?" I was so thrilled to say, "He might be the President."

I, too, was trying to back off of Palin and her daughter and babies and whatnot. But the sheer absurdity has me shaking my head. I mean, seriously? Seriously? Are we really going to pretend that the Republican campaign for President isn't complete nonsense? That teenage sex and ill-advised pregnancies are only a "family matter" for people who have made it a major issue? Seriously?

I'm sorry that the Palin family has so much to deal with right now. But I don't feel any more sad for them than I do for families with one parent instead of two (whatever the reason for it) and two jobs instead of one; families who can hardly afford to feed, clothe, and house their 5 children and who have one more on the way (whatever the reason); families who are likely to have inadequate or non-existent health insurance, on which the grandchild will probably not be covered. The take-away message here, I think, comes back to resources, just as it usually does. If you have them, you can afford to make some mistakes, and your cohorts will tell you that it's not all about your morals. If you don't have resources, then your (lack of) morals is the only thing that defines you and you deserve what you get.

There's never any shame in having a baby, so I don't have a judgment about that, but some people should probably watch out for shattering glass and flying rocks. On that same vein, people who thought that Katrina was God's judgment for sin in New Orleans might want to consider what it means that Gustav blows in just as the RNC is trying to happen . . . .

Monday, September 1, 2008

Spin City

I had decided that I would not comment on Gov. Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter because although I have been following the news and blog coverage of it intensely, I wasn't sure I wanted to add to it. But here's the thing: the spin is making me sick. This teenage girl has gotten pregnant outside of marriage and the Republican talking heads are saying that this is a private matter and Palin is demonstrating that she is a strong woman to deal with this. Palin also said in her press release that she is proud of her daughter.

What? Why is it okay for her to use her oldest son's status as a soldier about to go to Iraq and her youngest son's condition as a baby with Down's Syndrome for her political benefit, but it is not okay to discuss her daughter's pregnancy? Especially when she advocates for Abstinence-Only sex education. I think that Palin makes this private, family matter an issue that we can discuss because it speaks to the effectiveness of her choices. We don't know what's going on behind people's closed doors, but we can assume that she taught and advocated abstinence to her children. Now, we see that that message didn't take and that perhaps teaching Abstinence-only is not the best way to prevent our children from unwanted pregnancies and disease.

It would be interesting to see if her attitude about this type of sex education will change. It probably won't, however. (I heard one talking head say that her daughter's pregnancy shores up even more the need for Abstinence-only. What?!?) It is disturbing to me when people are so absolute in their judgments. As if everything is either black or white without any shades of gray. I believe in abstinence. I'm not one of those people who say that young people (or grown people for that matter) can't be abstinent; I've seen a commitment to abstinence work in several people. But I also know that everyone is not going to make that commitment or once made, not going to uphold it. That doesn't make them moral-less heathens worthy of any disease that finds its way into their bodies. Abstinence education should be taught and taught fully, but contraception and reproductive health should also be taught. Social conservatives too often fail to temper their judgment with mercy. Unless it is one of their own.

Which brings me back to spin. When J'la-quesha in Southwest Atlanta gets pregnant at 17, she is demonized, posited as a poor example of judgment and morals, and somehow deserving of the hardships that she will encounter. But here we have Bristol in Anchorage, Alaska, 17, pregnant and her situation is painted as a warm moment--an admittedly difficult situation, but one that the family can find some pride in and that allows the family to demonstrate some strong family values. This application of a double standard is not what Jesus would do.

The spin is enough to land you on your head. And it's not over. You know I am going to be watching The View tomorrow to hear Elisabeth regurgitate what she heard over the weekend. But she won't be the only one and this Babygate won't be the only thing spun. It's just enough to make a body tired.