Posts Tagged ‘society’

Growing up in Virginia, my parents made clear quite often that “times are tight.”  Many a fellow classmate wore more expensive clothes but mine were just as clean and it didn’t matter that they were purchased via layaway.  And my brothers and I still share stories of how well my mother could stretch a can of Campbells soup.  But it wasn’t until I was accepted into college, completing financial aid forms and trying to figure out how my family’s income fit on various grids … that’s when one day I looked across the table at my parents and said, “Did you know we’re classified as poor?”  That I did not feel poor despite my family having little money says a lot about my parents and the neighborhood in which I walked.

Virginia Dogwood

It is a very different neighborhood in which the little girl Dasani lives.  It is a Brooklyn neighborhood in transition.  Thanks to the New York Times series, Invisible Child, readers can journey with her through that changing world.  You the reader can walk with her, run, kick, and dance.  You can even hear her voice and those of the people around her because it is a multimedia presentation with short videos at the end of each of the five parts.  It is a series provoking a lot of conversation, dialogue, debate … and hopefully, most importantly, some good actions.  It can sometimes be tough to read and to watch but I hope people do.

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Just one of those random questions running through my head this morning as I have the luxury of sitting in my home sipping strong coffee in the warmth of my kitchen while there are those in great need of food and shelter who have nothing this morning because the politicians in the fortress of solitude in DC can’t get it together to stop being children in a playground.  Anyway, racism, classism, and all those other -isms are too easily used to excuse the behavior of the men and women in Washington (and those who pay them in the various ways our system allows).  If Obama were blonde haired and blue eyed and with the same ideals there’d still be a fight … because indeed there was one.  Look at the Clinton Years.

Politicians aside with their blinders, fat pockets, or indeed “righteous ideals,” what bothers me most are the people who sit back and do nothing.  And maybe that’s because there are too many distractions.  I mean, on the morning news, immediately following one story of government shutdown, there was a story of a movie star’s fight with his girlfriend.  Really? That’s the next important story?

One of my favorite letters in American history is Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.  It was not a letter written to Klansmen or segregationists or to all those others who outright hated; it was a letter written to those who expressed a desire for change but were waiting for the right moment or not wanting to make any waves or simply did not understand the gravity of the situation.  I fear that people have lost sense of our interrelatedness, and thus do not understand the implications – the ripple effects – of the actions (and purposeful inactions) certain politicians are pushing.  If you have a well-paying corporate job with great benefits, why engage in a dialogue about health insurance or food stamps?  But as MLK wrote, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

I am proud to be an American, of its landscapes and its peoples and of course its opportunities.  Or at least of those opportunities that I perceived as a child growing up in Virginia.  And I was proud of its politics.  Probably using a different set of text books than are being allowed in school today, I thought I learned in World History, Civilizations, Civics and Government courses that, my goodness, what a wonderful system of government with its checks and balances, and opportunities for dialogue and debate (and yes, negotiation and compromise).  What a wonderful system.  What has happened?

Anyway, no more caffeine for me today.  Caffeine plus anger gives me a headache.  Perhaps I will be able to take another walk by the Mystic River, the source of these images.  I hope where ever you are, you find a peaceful moment too.  Have a good Tuesday.

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It was Martin Luther King, Jr. who wrote, “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”  His words have been in my head a lot this election year as has his following statement:  “Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up … injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”

leaves blowing in the wind

I did not begin the morning thinking of Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.  I began the day thankful after learning, via phone calls and emails, that friends and family across the storm zone were all safe and with power.  But then I accidentally read a blog post.  Actually I skimmed it.  I had almost pressed the like button but there was some phrasing that made me pause.  I slowed down and really read the words before me on the screen.  That’s when the beautifully subtle racism and misogyny of the text became clear.  And I became so sad and so angry.

It was like the post became a flaming match that fell upon the kindling of recent stories about the subtleties of race and voter manipulation (let alone outright voting machine tinkering) in this 2012 election, and of my own experiences with the subtle undercurrent of rising racism and class discrimination and watching  good-hearted people not wanting to talk about it.

I thought of the people I’ve sat quietly beside on recent commutes home, as they’ve talked about how they like the look of Romney and Ryan and don’t like Obama’s look, and then they see me and my brown skin and look away quickly.  I was not angry at them or even necessarily offended.  I simply wanted to ask them, what does a “look” have to do with running a country in a chaotic world?

rain upon the window

I will never tell anyone how to vote.  I will simply say to those in this country who are able to vote, please do and do so with an understanding of who and what you are voting for.  Do more than a skim of the text or a superficial look.  That is what I will try to remind myself anyway.  Okay … tomorrow back to calming words and images.  Be well.

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