Friday, February 29, 2008

Chemical Ali

I am a person who lives in opposition to the death penalty. The news today reports that 'Chemical Ali' has been cleared to be hanged. He was instrumental in the poison gas attack that killed over 100,000 Kurds. Once in a while there are people who are poster children for hanging----and Chemical Ali is definitely one of those.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Random Musings

Alas, in the last two debates Hillary Clinton attempted to use sarcastic humor and we learned something. Senator Clinton is not ready to be a stand up comic specializing in sarcastic humor. Her attempts fell flat.

Lots of people will speculate why she appears to be falling well short of winning the nomination and losing to Barack Obama. She has two millstones around her neck and they happen to be the last two Presidents. People are weary of Bill Clinton and his musings and people are dog tired of George W. Bush and want a change, a major change. She doesn't seem to be the kind of change people are looking for.

President George W. Bush was critical of Barack Obama's foreign policy ideas, especially those that indicate talking to leaders of nations with whom we are not friendly. George W. Bush, a President who has one of the most pitiful foreign policy records of any American President is giving foreign policy advice? So, Iraq has gone well? Afghanistan has gone well? We have lost great international prestige under this guy and he's giving advice? George W. Bush giving foreign policy advice is like Bobby Petrino speaking about job stability.

The President George W. Bush library is going to be a Southern Methodist University. They are seeking a publisher for his autobiography. It's been boiled down and is between Marvel and DC.

I wonder if Roger Clemens had ever pondered about telling the truth. He might have spared himself some major grief, not to mention potential prison time.

President Bush said that we are not in a recession. I wonder where he lives.

In third world countries free t-shirts that read 19-0 have been distributed. Turns out these shirts have a New England Patriots logo on them and proved to be worthless. Makes me smile.

One gets the impression that the McCains and the Cunninghams won't be exchanging Christmas cards this year. I give John McCain credit for his prompt denunciation of Bill Cunningham and his willful desire not to enter the mud swamp of talk radio.

I'm not sure how I feel about Barack Obama. He does preach hope and that's wonderful. John McCain and Hillary Clinton seem to be advocating hopelessness. One might consider that hopelessness is not a good platform on which to run.

I attend the book signing and Destinations Bookstore. Tim Dorsey was the guest author and it was an excellent event. We're fortunate to have that store in our community.

The Minyan Tradition

Judaism has some wonderful traditions. We are all familiar with Tevya singing that wonderful song, “Tradition,” in “Fiddler on the Roof.” Traditions, however, often have some beauty to them.

One tradition is that of a Mourner’s Prayer at the Synagogue. When a person is in mourning the community comes together and prays with that person for a period of a month for most family members, or eleven months when people lose a parent. There is a requirement however. There must be a Minyan, a quorum of ten Jewish people, to offer the prayer. The concept of Minyan comes from Genesis in a negotiation between God and Abraham over the number of people which constituted a community. The number ten ended up being that number.

It fosters community and helps the Jewish community find one another in strange places. It invites people together to Worship God and to approach God. It’s not that individual prayer or faith is frowned upon, but there is a sense that a community is so much stronger.

I fear that Christianity has forgotten to preach and teach about the importance of community. I fear that Christianity has become so focused on individualism and individuality that we have lost sight of the fact that Jesus invited people into community and left a community of people together to carry on his work.

An interesting, very contemporary word has popped up in conversations about Christianity. The word is ‘personal.’ We have personal salvation, personal relationships with Jesus, personal responsibility, personal prayer, personal Worship, personal theology. There’s a funny thing about this word ‘personal’ in Christianity. The word ‘personal’ is not in the New Testament. It shows up once in Proverbs 18:2

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing personal opinion.

Hardly a word that inspires an allegiance to personal.

It also appears twice in Judith to refer to a person’s personal affairs.

Sadly, Christianity seems to have lost its sense of community. I believe that this has had some consequences that are not very good.

First, conceptually the idea of ‘personal theology’ sounds good----but it also flies in the face of the cumulative impact that theologians and historians have had in Christianity. Pre-Reformation reformers such as Thomas Aquinas and Francis of Assisi had much to teach and still have much to teach. They ought not be lost. Martin Luther and so many of the reformers had much to say. Reinhold Niebuhr (author of the Serenity Prayer) and his brother Richard Niebuhr wrote brilliant about theological matters in the twentieth century. They espoused a sense not so much of ‘personal’ theology of the theology of Christianity which was so much richer and is so much richer than many people even realize or acknowledge.

Secondly, while personal responsibility is incredibly important (and often lacking) it can blur the concept of communal responsibility. Cain asked God in Genesis a seminal question: Am I my brother’s keeper? The rest of the Bible answers the question in the affirmative. In 1st Corinthians in an issue of food sacrificed to idols, St. Paul is explicit in saying that the strong had responsibility for the weak. In the gospels we repeatedly are reminded that the rich have responsibility to the poor. This is a sense of communal responsibility.

Lastly, the idea of personal Worship. Should people pray on their own? Of course. But Jesus spoke of two or three being gathered as having so much strength. It was and remains an invitation for people to gather together to pray, together to Worship, together to learn and grow.

I had the privilege of visiting a synagogue last night. I thought I knew a great deal about Judaism and I learned that I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did. I was struck by the richness and the beauty of the traditions of Judaism. Above all, I was reminded that they understand the concept of Minyan far better than Christians do.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Whatever Happened to "Breaking Away"

I was still living in New Jersey, attending the seminary, when I saw the movie "Breaking Away." It was a delightful movie about a young man living in Bloomington, the cutters, IU, and the great bicycle race. It was a great little movie that was nominated for best picture.

Whatever happened to movies like "Breaking Away." I was watching the Oscars the other night and I was thinking that these were a bunch of movies I do not want to see. Greed and murder and despicable human actions seemed to be the most popular things. The movie "Juno," the only one of the pictures nominated for Best Picture was the only one I saw and the only movie I wanted to see. Something unique about Juno was that it actually had interesting dialogue and was both funny and moving at the same time.

The other movies were not movies I wanted to see.

I loved "August Rush" which was corny and predictable and a joy. "Enchanted" was so incredibly clever. Why I want to see a movie entitled, "There Will be Blood," just eludes me. "No Country for Old Man," from what I gathered, is about a serial killer who blows people's brains out with an air compressor. Joy.

At least they are making another James Bond movie...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Patriot Games

I read that some in the Republican Party are looking to make Barack Obama's patriotism a big issue in the fall campaign, presuming, of course, that Obama is their opponent.

The two big issues are this. He was no longer wearing a lapel pin of the American flag on his suit jacket and there are pictures of him not holding his hand over his heart for the Pledge of Allegiance.

Let me make a point of clarification. None of this is coming from the McCain campaign. I do believe that John McCain is a serious man running on serious issues and I can't imagine him making an issue of lapel pins and hand placement during the Pledge of Allegiance.

I also cannot believe that most Republicans are going to vote based on this kind of nonsense. There are, of course, more pressing issues facing the nation.

Having said this, if people really are pursuing this as an issue and if we see TV ads challenging the patriotism of Barack Obama I think I'll fall off the couch.

Here is a first thought. People who serve as President and people who run for the office of the President are patriots. The whole lot of them. They are willing to put themselves out their for public display and often ridicule. The ridicule, even when deserved, is difficult to endure and has to be painful. Of course there is the other issue of the fact that people who are or run for President put their lives at risk every day. John Kennedy observed that if a person was willing to lose his or her life then they probably could kill a President. It is eerie and frightening. These are people who put their lives in danger each and every day. I consider ALL of them patriots, even the ones I do not like.

But I digress. My main point is one of gravitas. This is a serious election. We are at war and our troops are spread out in two nations. Whatever one may believe about the merits of the war in Iraq, we cannot remain there forever----at least not at the level we are at present. We need a President to address this.

Economically we are struggling. The real estate market is awful. Fuel prices are way too high. Health care is a front and center concern for people. We have serious economic issues to face.

This is not to mention all the other crises that can help in the nation and the world.

One can only hope that the election is not going to be about lapel pins or hand placement during the Pledge of Allegiance. Anyone with an IQ beyond that of an artichoke can see that. I hope.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cheating Has Consequences

The news reports tonight have said that IU has bought out the contract of Kelvin Sampson for $750,000.00 so they can get rid of him for cheating. Sampson had the same exact problem at Oklahoma and that school got in trouble. IU, one of college basketball legendary programs, was a magnificent second chance for Sampson. Who blew it.

Rick Patino, of U of L, was asked recently if it was difficult to understand and obey the college basketball rules for recruiting. Patino sort of laughed and said, "Well, to be honest, no." I almost fell of my chair when he said that. A direct and honest answer!

The Patriots are still in hot water over "Spygate," and allegations going back for years. Their 19-0 run would have always been tainted by this----but that 19-0 dream vanished on the field of play; where things ought to be determined.

What I found most disturbing about the situation with Sampson is that several of the players are threatening to boycott. They are angry that Sampson is gone and they want to be able to choose who they want to play for. These are players who are on full scholarships to attend IU to play basketball. IU is giving them a great deal and they are threatening to boycott? My first thought, probably impossible, but nice, is that they invite these young men in around a table, and have the parents present, and bill the young men tuition, room, and board for their time at IU.

What saddens me is that these young guys need to learn that cheating has consequences. This is a marvelous opportunity for them to learn a lesson not about basketball, but about life. People of integrity win or lose on their own merits, but cheaters, when they win, have tainted victories.

As for Kelvin Sampson, he's probably wishing that the Patriots were a basketball team so that he could find a job...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Gotcha Politics

Without debating whether the allegations against John McCain are valid or not, I am finding the story to be tragic.

McCain may or may not have had an affair with a woman who was lobbying 8 years ago. The NY Times newspaper story is sketchy. The Times is claiming that the story is substantiated but two major sources are people who had grown disillusioned with McCain. Disillusioned staffers can mean anything, anything at all.

John McCain has never claimed to be the finest role model in terms of personal life. In his first marriage he did admit to extramarital affairs. He met his current wife, Cindy, and divorced his first wife to marry Cindy in 1980. John McCain is a Senator and has been so for quite some time. He was a Naval pilot in Vietnam, shot down, and was captured. He spent over 5 years in a Vietnamese POW camp and was tortured and even turned down an early release. He came home a war hero and deservedly so.

McCain is not the slickest guy in the world. He’s noted for colorful language and being very much his own person. He’s running on a platform that we’ll be in Iraq for the next century, knows little about economic matters, and that there is no hope for a lot of jobs coming back. (His “There is no hope” campaign might need to be tweaked if he’s going to be successful.)

What disturbs me most about this story is that political parties and the news media tend to enjoy playing ‘gotcha.’

Katie Couric interviewed Hillary Clinton on 60 Minutes and asked about Hillary’s nickname of Frigidaire when she was in high school. A more stupid and childish question I have not seen. Everyone tried to play it with Mitt Romney as he was developing positions. “When you ran for class President when you were 12, you believed that the milk should cost 10 cents, but now you think it should cost 12 cents. Why did you flip flop your position, Mr. Romney?”

Give me a break.

We often complain that our best and our brightest do not run for public office at least on a national level. Who, in their right mind, would? Who wants to live under that kind of foolish scrutiny?

It is often said that people deserve the leaders they choose. We also deserve the leaders who choose to run by trying to assassinate the character of all involved.

So sad.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Popularlity of Hatred

Hatred is popular. Frankly, hatred has always been popular. Tragically, religious people often promote hate. The Spanish Inquisition was about hatred. The Crusades, both directions, were about hate. The conflicts in Northern Ireland were about hate. 9/11 was about hatred. Witch trials were about hatred. The Civil Rights conflicts that have taken place over the years have been mostly about hatred. Of late it has become almost chic to hate people in the gay community. Sadly much of the hatred is led by groups which claim themselves to be Christian. I won't bring myself to call them Christian because no truly Christian group can bring itself to hate. Many find great freedom by engaging in bad behavior and blaming it on God. They won't phrase it that way, but that, sadly, is often what we see.

I sense that hate is fueled by several things. Jeremiah Wright, the Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, and the Pastor of Barack Obama, has an oft stated expression, "Different is not deficient." Unfortunately, much of society does see difference as deficient. If a person, or a group of people differ from me in any way, that makes them deficient. By making someone or a group of someones deficient, it 'frees' me to hate them and to look down upon them.

Secondly, I suspect that hatred of others comes because some people have a need to find their own self esteem by comparing themselves favorably to others. If I tear another person down, it makes me stand taller. Or so goes the theory.

The great tragedy of hate is that it is so incredibly unnecessary, and frankly so incredible not of God. People abuse and misquote Scripture in attempts to justify their hatred and this is, obviously, quite disheartening. People who truly walk in the footsteps of Jesus do not hate because they cannot hate.

Sadly, hatred has always been popular and remains so. We can only hope and pray for a day when people are able to move beyond it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Why Do People Listen to Him?

Rush Limbaugh. Why do people listen to him?

Rush Limbaugh leads the league in racist comments. He all but wears the sheets.

Rush Limbaugh is a friend of misogyny. He finds the concept of sexual harassment to be laughable.

He railed against people with drug violations stating that they should have the book thrown at them. Of course, when he was guilty of a drug violation he changed his tune. At least for himself. It's amazing how many people listened to him while he was on massive amounts of pain killers.

Several years back he was detained because he had a large amount of Viagra. He was returning from a junket to the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic is one of the most notorious nations for the sex trade with young girls working as prostitutes. In fact, prostitution in the Dominican Republic is rampant and is a destination for many men on weekend trips for a weekend of, well, you know.

This is a man who calls himself an icon of virtue and morality. He has nothing but contempt for the poor. He loathes people of color. He treats women with disrespect. He wants harsh sentences for people convicted of drug usage----as long as it's not him who is the convict. He travels, with Viagra, to a nation notorious in the sex trade business, is thrice divorced, and makes a living doing ad hominem attacks on people.

He is, of late, deriding John McCain. Whether one agrees with the positions of John McCain or not, McCain has dedicated his life to public service. Whereas Limbaugh dodged the draft, McCain enlisted, was a pilot, was shot down, and served as a POW in Vietnam. He has served his nation and dedicated his life in doing so. Yet Rush Limbaugh derides John McCain as unworthy.

And people listen to Rush Limbaugh. I do not understand this. Tuning into him on the radio seems to defy anything good and decent. People do listen, however. People even make choices based upon his opinions and, interestingly enough, he gets defended by listeners. Are we so desperate for entertainment or informational entertainment or the cruel rants of a spoiled man/child that so many tune in?

Why do people listen to him? That is a question that I simply cannot answer.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

NFL Post-Mortem

Alas, the season is over. Every year I reflect on the season, what might have been, and hope that next year is the year for my Giants. This year, it turns out, was my year for the Giants. It was a surprising, amazing, and incredible season that I'll not soon forget. The Giants underdog status continues on to next year. Everyone is predicting the Cowboys to be the best team in the NFC next year.

The Giants did something this year that was pretty amazing. Only one player on the team was named All-Pro. One. Almost every team, by design, has at least one representative. The only team that didn't in the NFC were the Atlanta Falcons. Of course, the Falcons aren't even putting out a highlight film this year. They are, however, publishing a highlight photograph. It might possibly be the tail-lights of Bobby Petrino's car as he left town.

The Dolphins hired Bill Parcells as their head of football operations. Parcells is the NFL version of Petrino. He's a smart football person, but has the character of a serpent.

Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins sees himself as a smart football owner, but he is anything but. His coaching search was done unprofessionally and left some good people out in the wind hanging. He finally hired Jim Zorn who has never been a head coach and never even been a coordinator. He was a great quarterback and sounds like he was a wonderful quarterback's coach. But....he has never called the plays or made the decisions. He is now interested in signing Chad Johnson from the Bengals. Snyder believes that if you just sign big name players you'll win. He doesn't understand the concept of team. Which is fine. The Redskins are in the Giants division so their failure is fine by me. The thing is, there are examples of teams in his division. The Giants, the Eagles, and the Cowboys all are prudent with signings and all went for experienced coaches.

I do hope that TO enjoyed his popcorn.

The post mortems on the Patriots made them sound like a team that went 1-18 as opposed to 18-1 and only lose to a hot team by 3 points. Of course, these are the same experts who picked the NFC championship game to be between the Cowboys and the Bears. The Giants and the Packers were predicted to have losing records.

Some Patriots fans have an online petition claiming that the game was stolen from them by the officials. When Brandon Jacobs got the first down they officials stopped the clock and added 6 seconds to the clock so that they could spot the ball properly. Patriots fans are saying that this play cost them the game.

The 5 sacks on Tom Brady didn't cost them the game. The consistent hitting of Tom Brady as he was releasing the ball didn't cost him the game. Not going for a field goal did not cost them the game. An inability to stop the Giants offense on the Giants last two possessions (excluding the 1 second run off) did not cost them the game. The simple fact that the Giants beat them in line play on both sides of the ball did not cost them the game. Actually, from a Giants fan's perspective, I wish more time had run off the clock. I think I lost some years in those final 36 seconds of the game.

I sincerely feel badly for fans when their team loses a heart breaking game. Well, there are some exceptions. Evil Empire teams do not count. Dallas in the NFL. The Yankees in MLB. Duke in basketball . Notre Dame in football. Other than for the Evil Empire teams, I do feel for fans.

But please folks, when you lose, you lose. There is always next year.

Speaking of next year, I cannot wait!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Racism

One thing that both Democratic candidates have is that they can be targets of 'isms.' Hillary Clinton can be vulnerable to sexism and Barack Obama might be vulnerable to racism.

Race should not matter. When Harold Ford ran for the Senate in Tennessee he was ahead until racist ads appeared. They were quickly pulled, everyone denied that they were behind it, but they did the damage and he lost. Racism is a very potent politically ally, however, and sadly, the the Republicans, it is one that many candidates have been willing to use. Racism is the key to getting poor, working class and middle class white voters to vote for a Republican Party that advances a political agenda that directly goes against their own economic interests. I like to think that no candidate of either party would stoop to such a level, but, sadly, it does take place.

I don't believe that John McCain has a racist bone in his body, but, as we all saw with 'swift boating,' racist issues will be raised if he runs against Barack Obama.

Racism is, frankly, a part of talk radio. Every day when people tune into Rush Limbaugh people help to promote racism. Limbaugh, who has a history of race baiting and very racist comments, will subtly remind listeners that Obama is an African American and we ought to be afraid.

Much of the criticism of Trinity United Church of Christ has become from racially driven people who want to condemn a mostly African American congregation, not acknowledging that Sunday morning is one of the most segregated times of the week. I don't believe that it's because of racist agendas, but it is very cultural in terms of w0rship style preferences.

If one does some research, and it isn't difficult to follow the time line, the rise of the so-called Religious Right has its roots in an interesting spot. Most people see the Religious Right as having social agendas opposing abortion and gay marriage. True enough, but when abortion was first legalized, the religious conservatives were not opposed to Roe v. Wade. In fact, many of them supported it. It wasn't abortion that triggered this movement as much as Bob Jones University, a blatantly racist school, was stripped of its tax exemption status because of the racism. It was only after that event that the Religious Right (born in Virgina, home of Falwell, Roberson), determined that they needed to become more politically active. They rose up to protect a racism institution.

Of course, they couldn't publicly support racism, so they chose a surrogate. Abortion. It wasn't until after the Bob Jones University controversy became an issue that abortion became an issue. It wasn't until after Bill Clinton was elected President that gay rights became much of an issue in that universe.

I do not believe that most Republicans are racist. I also don't believe that all Democrats aren't racist. What I do believe is that racism is alive and well and will definitely become an issue if Barack Obama is the Democratic candidate.

I happen to like Hillary Clinton better than Barack Obama, but it's all about experience. I also believe that whoever wins the nomination will have done so after a difficult fight and I would happily support Barack Obama. If he does win the nomination, however, I do hope that we, as a nation, are able and willing to confront racism and shine the light of day on hatred so that it might be exposed and eliminated.

One thing in life I have no understanding of is why people find it so desirable to hate others. Nothing is sadder than that.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Excellent Article

I found this article to be provocative and something to really reflect on. I decided to share it verbatim.


Goodbye To All That (#2) by Robin Morgan

February 2, 2008“

Goodbye To All That” was my (in)famous 1970 essay breaking free from a politics of accommodation especially affecting women (for an online version, see http://blog.fair-use.org/category/chicago/).

During my decades in civil-rights, anti-war, and contemporary women’s movements, I’ve avoided writing another specific “Goodbye . . .” But not since the suffrage struggle have two communities—joint conscience-keepers of this country—been so set in competition, as the contest between Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) and Barack Obama (BO) unfurls. So.

Goodbye to the double standard . . .

—Hillary is too ballsy but too womanly, a Snow Maiden who’s emotional, and so much a politician as to be unfit for politics.

—She’s “ambitious” but he shows “fire in the belly.” (Ever had labor pains?)—When a sexist idiot screamed “Iron my shirt!” at HRC, it was considered amusing; if a racist idiot shouted “Shine my shoes!” at BO, it would’ve inspired hours of airtime and pages of newsprint analyzing our national dishonor.

Young political Kennedys—Kathleen, Kerry, and Bobby Jr.—all endorsed Hillary. Senator Ted, age 76, endorsed Obama. If the situation were reversed, pundits would snort “See? Ted and establishment types back her, but the forward-looking generation backs him.” (Personally, I’m unimpressed with Caroline’s longing for the Return of the Fathers. Unlike the rest of the world, Americans have short memories. Me, I still recall Marilyn Monroe’s suicide, and a dead girl named Mary Jo Kopechne in Chappaquiddick.)

Goodbye to the toxic viciousness . . .

Carl Bernstein's disgust at Hillary’s “thick ankles.” Nixon-trickster Roger Stone’s new Hillary-hating 527 group, “Citizens United Not Timid” (check the capital letters). John McCain answering “How do we beat the bitch?" with “Excellent question!” Would he have dared reply similarly to “How do we beat the black bastard?” For shame.

Goodbye to the HRC nutcracker with metal spikes between splayed thighs. If it was a tap-dancing blackface doll, we would be righteously outraged—and they would not be selling it in airports. Shame.

Goodbye to the most intimately violent T-shirts in election history, including one with the murderous slogan “If Only Hillary had married O.J. Instead!” Shame.

Goodbye to Comedy Central’s “Southpark” featuring a storyline in which terrorists secrete a bomb in HRC’s vagina. I refuse to wrench my brain down into the gutter far enough to find a race-based comparison. For shame.

Goodbye to the sick, malicious idea that this is funny. This is not “Clinton hating,” not “Hillary hating.” This is sociopathic woman-hating. If it were about Jews, we would recognize it instantly as anti-Semitic propaganda; if about race, as KKK poison. Hell, PETA would go ballistic if such vomitous spew were directed at animals. Where is our sense of outrage—as citizens, voters, Americans?

Goodbye to the news-coverage target-practice . . .

The women’s movement and Media Matters wrung an apology from MSNBC’s Chris Matthews for relentless misogynistic comments (www.womensmediacenter.com). But what about NBC’s Tim Russert’s continual sexist asides and his all-white-male panels pontificating on race and gender? Or CNN’s Tony Harris chuckling at “the chromosome thing” while interviewing a woman from The White House Project? And that’s not even mentioning Fox News.

Goodbye to pretending the black community is entirely male and all women are white . . .

Surprise! Women exist in all opinions, pigmentations, ethnicities, abilities, sexual preferences, and ages—not only African American and European American but Latina and Native American, Asian American and Pacific Islanders, Arab American and—hey, every group, because a group wouldn’t exist if we hadn’t given birth to it. A few non-racist countries may exist—but sexism is everywhere. No matter how many ways a woman breaks free from other discriminations, she remains a female human being in a world still so patriarchal that it’s the “norm.”

So why should all women not be as justly proud of our womanhood and the centuries, even millennia, of struggle that got us this far, as black Americans, women and men, are justly proud of their struggles?

Goodbye to a campaign where he has to pass as white (which whites—especially wealthy ones—adore), while she has to pass as male (which both men and women demanded of her, and then found unforgivable). If she were blackor he were female we wouldn’t be having such problems, and I for one would be in heaven. But at present such a candidate wouldn’t stand a chance—even if she shared Condi Rice’s Bush-defending politics.

I was celebrating the pivotal power at last focused on African American women deciding on which of two candidates to bestow their vote—until a number of Hillary-supporting black feminists told me they’re being called “race traitors.”

So goodbye to conversations about this nation’s deepest scar—slavery—which fail to acknowledge that labor- and sexual-slavery exist today in the U.S. and elsewhere on this planet, and the majority of those enslaved are women.

Women have endured sex/race/ethnic/religious hatred, rape and battery, invasion of spirit and flesh, forced pregnancy; being the majority of the poor, the illiterate, the disabled, of refugees, caregivers, the HIV/AIDS afflicted, the powerless. We have survived invisibility, ridicule, religious fundamentalisms, polygamy, teargas, forced feedings, jails, asylums, sati, purdah, female genital mutilation, witch burnings, stonings, and attempted gynocides. We have tried reason, persuasion, reassurances, and being extra-qualified, only to learn it never was about qualifications after all. We know that at this historical moment women experience the world differently from men—though not all the same as one another—and can govern differently, from Elizabeth Tudor to Michele Bachelet and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

We remember when Shirley Chisholm and Patricia Schroeder ran for this high office and barely got past the gate—they showed too much passion, raised too little cash, were joke fodder. Goodbye to all that. (And goodbye to some feminists so famished for a female president they were even willing to abandon women’s rights in backing Elizabeth Dole.)

Goodbye, goodbye to . . .

—blaming anything Bill Clinton does on Hillary (even including his womanizing like the Kennedy guys—though unlike them, he got reported on). Let’s get real. If he hadn’t campaigned strongly for her everyone would cluck over what that meant. Enough of Bill and Teddy Kennedy locking their alpha male horns while Hillary pays for it.

—an era when parts of the populace feel so disaffected by politics that a comparative lack of knowledge, experience, and skill is actually seen as attractive, when celebrity-culture mania now infects our elections so that it’s “cooler” to glow with marquee charisma than to understand the vast global complexities of power on a nuclear, wounded planet.

—the notion that it’s fun to elect a handsome, cocky president who feels he can learn on the job, goodbye to George W. Bush and the destruction brought by his inexperience, ignorance, and arrogance. Goodbye to the accusation that HRC acts “entitled” when she’s worked intensely at everything she’s done—including being a nose-to-the-grindstone, first-rate senator from my state.

Goodbye to her being exploited as a Rorschach test by women who reduce her to a blank screen on which they project their own fears, failures, fantasies.

Goodbye to the phrase “polarizing figure” to describe someone who embodies the transitions women have made in the last century and are poised to make in this one. It was the women’s movement that quipped, “We are becoming the men we wanted to marry.” She heard us, and she has.

Goodbye to some women letting history pass by while wringing their hands, because Hillary isn’t as “likeable” as they’ve been warned they must be, or because she didn’t leave him, couldn’t “control” him, kept her family together and raised a smart, sane daughter. (Think of the blame if Chelsea had ever acted in the alcoholic, neurotic manner of the Bush twins!) Goodbye to some women pouting because she didn’t bake cookies or she did, sniping because she learned the rules and then bent or broke them. Grow the hell up. She is not running for Ms.-perfect-pure-queen-icon of the feminist movement. She’s running to be president of the United States.

Goodbye to the shocking American ignorance of our own and other countries’ history. Margaret Thatcher and Golda Meir rose through party ranks and war, positioning themselves as proto-male leaders. Almost all other female heads of government so far have been related to men of power—granddaughters, daughters, sisters, wives, widows: Gandhi, Bandaranike, Bhutto, Aquino, Chamorro, Wazed, Macapagal-Arroyo, Johnson Sirleaf, Bachelet, Kirchner, and more. Even in our “land of opportunity,” it’s mostly the first pathway “in” permitted to women: Representatives Doris Matsui and Mary Bono and Sala Burton; Senator Jean Carnahan . . . far too many to list here.

Goodbye to a misrepresented generational divide . . .

Goodbye to the so-called spontaneous “Obama Girl” flaunting her bikini-clad ass online—then confessing Oh yeah it wasn’t her idea after all, some guys got her to do it and dictated the clothes, which she said “made me feel like a dork.”

Goodbye to some young women eager to win male approval by showing they’re not feminists (at least not the kind who actually threaten thestatus quo), who can’t identify with a woman candidate because she is unafraid of eeueweeeu yucky power, who fear their boyfriends might look at them funny if they say something good about her. Goodbye to women of any age again feeling unworthy, sulking “what if she’s not electable?” or “maybe it’s post-feminism and whoooosh we’re already free.” Let a statement by the magnificent Harriet Tubman stand as reply. When asked how she managed to save hundreds of enslaved African Americans via the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, she replied bitterly, “I could have saved thousands—if only I’d been able to convince them they were slaves.”

I’d rather say a joyful Hello to all the glorious young women who do identifywith Hillary, and all the brave, smart men—of all ethnicities and any age—who get that it’s in their self-interest, too. She’s better qualified. (D’uh.) She’s a high-profile candidate with an enormous grasp of foreign- and domestic-policy nuance, dedication to detail, ability to absorb staggering insult and personal pain while retaining dignity, resolve, even humor, and keep on keeping on. (Also, yes, dammit, let’s hear it for her connections and funding and party-building background, too. Obama was awfully glad about those when she raised dough and campaigned for him to get to the Senate in the first place.)

I’d rather look forward to what a good president he might make in eight years, when his vision and spirit are seasoned by practical know-how—and he’ll be all of 54. Meanwhile, goodbye to turning him into a shining knight when actually he’s an astute, smooth pol with speechwriters who’ve worked with the Kennedys’ own speechwriter-courtier Ted Sorenson. If it’s only about ringing rhetoric, let speechwriters run. But isn’t it about getting the policies we want enacted?

And goodbye to the ageism . . .

How dare anyone unilaterally decide when to turn the page on history, papering over real inequities and suffering constituencies in the promise of a feel-good campaign? How dare anyone claim to unify while dividing, or think that to rouse U.S. youth from torpor it’s useful to triage the single largest demographic in this country’s history: the boomer generation—the majority of which is female?

Old woman are the one group that doesn’t grow more conservative with age—and we are the generation of radicals who said “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” Goodbye to going gently into any goodnight any man prescribes for us. We are the women who changed the reality of the United States. And though we never went away, brace yourselves: we’re back!

We are the women who brought this country equal credit, better pay, affirmative action, the concept of a family-focused workplace; the women who established rape-crisis centers and battery shelters, marital-rape and date-rape laws; the women who defended lesbian custody rights, who fought for prison reform, founded the peace and environmental movements; who insisted that medical research include female anatomy; who inspired men to become more nurturing parents; who created women’s studies and Title IX so we all could cheer the WNBA stars and Mia Hamm. We are the women who reclaimed sexuality from violent pornography, who put childcare on the national agenda, who transformed demographics, artistic expression, language itself. We are the women who forged a worldwide movement. We are the proud successors of women who, though it took more than 50 years, won us the vote.

We are the women who now comprise the majority of U.S. voters.

Hillary said she found her own voice in New Hampshire. There’s not a woman alive who, if she’s honest, doesn’t recognize what she means. Then HRC got drowned out by campaign experts, Bill, and media’s obsession with everything Bill.

So listen to her voice:

“For too long, the history of women has been a history of silence. Even today, there are those who are trying to silence our words.

“It is a violation of human rights when babies are denied food, or drowned, or suffocated, or their spines broken, simply because they are born girls. It is a violation of human rights when woman and girls are sold into the slavery of prostitution. It is a violation of human rights when women are doused with gasoline, set on fire and burned to death because their marriage dowries are deemed too small. It is a violation of human rights when individual women are raped in their own communities and when thousands of women are subjected to rape as a tactic or prize of war. It is a violation of human rights when a leading cause of death worldwide along women ages 14 to 44 is the violence they are subjected to in their own homes. It is a violation of human rights when women are denied the right to plan their own families, and that includes being forced to have abortions or being sterilized against their will.

“Women’s rights are human rights. Among those rights are the right to speak freely—and the right to be heard.”

That was Hillary Rodham Clinton defying the U.S. State Department and the Chinese Government at the 1995 UN World Conference on Women in Beijing (look here for the full, stunning speech).

And this voice, age 21, in “Commencement Remarks of Hillary D. Rodham, President of Wellesley College Government Association, Class of 1969.”

“We are, all of us, exploring a world none of us understands. . . . searching for a more immediate, ecstatic, and penetrating mode of living. . . . [for the] integrity, the courage to be whole, living in relation to one another in the full poetry of existence. The struggle for an integrated life existing in an atmosphere of communal trust and respect is one with desperately important political and social consequences. . . . Fear is always with us, but we just don't have time for it.”

She ended with the commitment “to practice, with all the skill of our being: the art of making possible.”

And for decades, she’s been learning how.

So goodbye to Hillary’s second-guessing herself. The real question is deeper than her re-finding her voice. Can we women find ours? Can we do this for ourselves?

Our President, Ourselves!

Time is short and the contest tightening. We need to rise in furious energy—as we did when Anita Hill was so vilely treated in the U.S. Senate, as we did when Rosie Jiminez was butchered by an illegal abortion, as we did and do for women globally who are condemned for trying to break through. We need to win, this time. Goodbye to supporting HRC tepidly, with ambivalent caveats and apologetic smiles. Time to volunteer, make phone calls, send emails, donate money, argue, rally, march, shout, vote.

Me? I support Hillary Rodham because she’s the best qualified of all candidates running in both parties. I support her because her progressive politics are as strong as her proven ability to withstand what will be a massive right-wing assault in the general election. I support her because she knows how to get us out of Iraq. I support her because she’s refreshingly thoughtful, and I’m bloodied from eight years of a jolly “uniter” with ejaculatory politics. I needn’t agree with her on every point. I agree with the 97 percent of her positions that are identical with Obama’s—and the few where hers are both more practical and to the left of his (like health care). I support her because she’s already smashed the first-lady stereotype and made history as a fine senator, because I believe she will continue to make history not only as the first US woman president, but as a great US president.

As for the “woman thing”?

Me, I’m voting for Hillary not because she’s a woman—but because I am.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

God's Preferential Option

Some years ago a Roman Catholic theologian named Monika Hellwig composed a list explaining God's preferential option to the poor. Throughout the Bible God shows great partiality towards those who are less fortunate. Dr. Hellwig's list of ten, to me, is a classic.

It won't be much of an election issue, however.

1. The poor know they are in urgent need of redemption.

2. The poor know not only their dependence on God and on powerful people but also their interdependence with one another.

3. The poor rest their security not on things but on people.

4. The poor have no exaggerated sense of their own importance, and no exaggerated need of privacy.

5. The poor expect little from competition and much from cooperation.

6. The poor can distinguish between necessities and luxuries.

7. The poor can wait, because they have acquired a kind of dogged patience born of acknowledged dependence.

8. The fears of the poor are more realistic and less exaggerated, because they already know that one can survive great suffering and want.

9. When the poor have the Gospel preached to them, it sounds like good news and not like a threat or a scolding.

10. The poor can respond to the call of the Gospel with a certain abandonment and uncomplicated totality because they have so little to lose and are ready for anything.

In summary, through no choice of their own—they may urgently wish otherwise—poor people find themselves in a posture that befits the grace of God. In their state of neediness, dependence, and dissatisfaction with life, they may welcome God’s free gift of love.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Expanding One's Vocabulary

Every time I read a blog and headlines or main points are made by using the words 'liberal' or 'conservative' I snort and wonder if people who do this really think that they can or ought to be taken seriously.

The two words have some major difficulties.

First, they attempt to make complexity simple. When you simply use a one word label you are, in essence, trying to reduce a complex discussion down to a one word issue. When I hear someone use these terms as an argument, I read, "I am too ignorant to discuss serious and complex issues." Frankly, I don't bother. If people need to live with their labels, let them. Don't presume I will even bother to engage much dialogue, however.

Secondly, it is dangerous. It presumes that there are two sides to every issue and every story. Heck, one often hears this. Buildings don't have two sides and neither do most issues other than, "Would you like fries with that?"

Thirdly, the words have been rendered meaningless by overuse and too much hot air around them. People tend to define them by what they mean by them as opposed to anything else. I've heard people who call themselves conservatives debate as to who is more conservative, me or you. I've also people who defined themselves as liberal debate who is more liberal. Frankly, these debates strike me as little more than who in the room can produce the loudest flatulence.

We live, sadly, in a culture that lacks the ability to have serious dialogue. If people could learn to expand their vocabulary, we might be able to actually do so. As for me, when you throw these words out there please know that at least one person in the room is no longer taking you seriously. Serious discussions require serious people and label throwers are simply not serious people no matter how much they attempt to posture themselves to be so.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Champs!

Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and I hope that I stop shaking by then. Talk about an exciting game!

When Eli Manning got the ball with a bit over two minutes and had to score a touchdown I said to all those in the room that in football these are the times when legends are made. Or not.

Eli Manning will go down in history has leading one of the most memorable game winning Super Bowl drives of all time. It wasn't pretty but it was tough and durable. Not unlike the Giants. ESPN ranked the top ten plays in the history of the Super Bowl and Number One was Manning's Houdiniesque escape and his pass to Tyree who caught the ball on his head. As he went down he got both hands on the ball and pulled in the catch. It was an amazing play that will be shown over and over and over.

The game was a study in contrasts. The Patriots came into the game as an historic team on the brink of making history of having the greatest season of all time. The Giants were a wild card team but playing far better than they had through most of the season.

The Patriots were a team that devastated opponents. An incredible offense and a solid defense made many of their games blow outs.

The Giants lost 6 games this year and were a paltry 3-5 at home, but an amazing 11-1 as road warriors. And the 1 came in the first game of the season. The Giants ended the season 14-6 and their margins of victory were often tiny. Very tiny.

The Patriots were a team loaded with All-pros.

The Giants had one because, well, each team has one.

Several observations about the game.

Eli Manning out-dueled Tom Brady. Manning didn't have quite the supporting cast of Brady, but Manning had something that Brady didn't have. Protection. Manning was sacked 3 times but spent most of the game unscathed. Brady was sacked 5 times but was hit time after time. Most of his passes were rushed and his deep game was gone. He simply didn't have the time. The Giants fierce pass rush made a huge difference.

Tom Coughlin, a man who was almost fired, out coached the 'genius' Bill Belichick. When Belichick's defense had to they did not stop the Giants. On the final play for the Giants offense, a touchdown to Plax, Manning found the Pats in the defense he was longing for. A 7 man rush that the Giants picked up and allowed their best receiver to get wide open. The Giants defense held the best offense in the history of the NFL to under 300 yards and 14 points.

Much will be said of Belichick's decision to pass on a 49 yard field goal attempt. Many have called it a coaching blunder. Maybe. His big coaching blunder, and it was a big one, was an inability and complete lack of attempt to protect his passer. Fierce pressure turns super star quarterbacks to average quarterbacks and average quarterbacks do not win the Super Bowl. Well, not usually. Big Ben was worse than average a few years back but he had a great team around him.

As for Eli Manning, he walked out of the biggest stage in football and walked away with the trophy. When a chance to create a legend was placed before him, he embraced it.

And two mouths on the Giants. Shockey, who was hurt, was drinking beer in a luxury box and watched his replacement make a huge catch and run.

And Tiki Barber is discussing pantyhose on the Today Show. The quarterback he mocked now as a Super Bowl ring and Tiki? Well, he does do a good job talking about shoes....

Of Mice and Mannings!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Do the Giants Have a Chance in the Super Bowl?

Most of the experts have determined that the Giants have no chance in the Super Bowl. Oddsmakers have reduced the spread from 14 1/2 points to 11 points. The Patriots are undefeated and one of the teams that they did defeat happened to be the New York Giants. The Giants, alas, played them in game 16 and had the chance to knock them from the realm of the undefeated. Ironically, they have the chance again.

The experts all stated that the Giants would win between 4 and 6 games this year and Tom Coughlin would be fired. Most Giants fans wanted his head at the end of last season as did most sportswriters. Me? Count me among the head hunters.

The Giants were pretty bad in games 1 and 2 this year. They scored lots of points against the Cowboys but their defense was non-existent. They had a new coordinator and things looked worse than they did under the pitiful Tim Lewis. Game 2, against Green Bay, was awful. I had tickets to see them in Atlanta for game 6 and I was thinking that it might just be a contest between two 0-5 teams. The Giants went on to win 6 in a row and ended the season 10-6. When they were 9-4 I decreed them to be the worst 9-4 team in the NFL. But then they played an amazing second half against the Bills and played the Patriots tough.

They had a chance, most said, against Tampa Bay but had a late season swoon so everyone predicted that they would lose. They didn't.

They didn't have a chance against Dallas. Dallas was the best team in the NFC. While the Giants were playing Tampa Bay Tony Romo was sunning himself with Jessica Simpson and looking forward to the NFC championship game against the Packers. Jerry Jones, the owner, booked hotel rooms for his out of town guests for the NFC championship game. The Giants were a piece of cake. But they pounded Romo back to Cabo in the second half and won.

They didn't have a chance against Green Bay. The frozen tundra and Eli had played poorly in cold, windy weather. The Giants would freeze. The heated field would slow their running game and their pass rush. Besides that, Brett Favre had destiny going for him and the Packers had lit the scoreboard against Seattle while they Giants barely beat the Cowboys. Lawrence Tynes, notorious choker kicked the longest post season field goal in the history of Green Bay, and it was the biggest kick of the year for any kicker.

So the Giants are in the Super Bowl. They have nothing to lose. Every Giants fan is proud of their team right now. Every Giants fan is ready to invite Tom Coughlin over for dinner. The Giants have nothing to lose. They have far exceeded every expectation.

Now they are playing the Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Patriots may just be the best team in the history of the NFL. They are an outstanding team and should win.

But there is a little movie out there entitled Little Giants. It is tale about two midget football teams and two brothers. One is a former football star and the coach of the best midget football team in the league. The other brother is a gas station attendant who always lived in the shadow of the older brother. He's coaching all the kids who got cut from the really good team. They play. The Little Giants (great oxymoron) have one inspiration. One time. The 'loser brother' beat the older brother in a bicycle race. One time. Most of the kids think of one time they did something and won. One time.

Do the Giants have a chance? Probably not. But they've survived by not having a chance.

And there is always 'one time.'

Most Recent Debates

I watched the two most recent debates, one between John McCain and Mit Romney, and other between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

It was an amazing study in contrasts.

There was a great deal of energy in the Obama/Clinton debate. It actually looked like a ticket. One older and more experienced and the other young, charming, and charismatic.

The other one was painful to watch. It was obvious that McCain and Romney greatly dislike each other and it showed. They didn't look like a ticket----it was more of a train wreck. What was incredibly distressing was that there were several instances where the 'straight-talking' McCain lied through his teeth. Joe Scarborough, a Republican, pointed out a series of flat out lies and was incredulous that McCain would even have ventured there.

There are some huge issues facing us.

First off, the wars. I keep hearing 'the war' and it's not one war, it's two. We have a large presence in Iraq and a not large enough presence in Afghanistan. The surge has worked. Of course. If you put more troops on the scene it will suppress the violence. Only a moron would have thought other wise. The problem has not yet been solved. If people recall (for those old enough) the Vietnam War ended and there was a peace agreement. After we mostly withdrew it started up again and was over very quickly. If we withdraw our troops next month or in ten years, same result.

We did mostly move the Taliban out of Afghanistan but reports are now coming that they are retaking regions. The Taliban are a truly evil, cruel group and our lack of ground forces in that region are giving them a great deal of opportunity to rebuild.

The wars are a big issue.

The economy is a huge issue. The price of oil and health care costs are catastrophic to people. The national deficit is massive and the debt is beyond comprehension. The modern day Republican Party, instead of being conservative and prudent, has become a party of complete freedom for corporations to do anything they want with a large dose of fundamentalism added for flavor. As a result campaigns are run against tax and spend Democrats (as opposed to spend and charge it Republicans) and against abortion and gay marriage.

Mike Huckabee is running against abortion, against gay marriage, against the IRS, and for Christmas. He seems like a very nice man, but how on earth is someone like this running for President????

It will be interesting, to say the least.