Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How the Right got Haiti all Wrong

One would think that images of mass destruction would render even the most cynical political commentators toward compassion, but then you'd be wrong. In the wake of last week's devastating earthquake in Haiti, right wing zealots are praising the Lord for casting his might on a people who "made a pact with the devil" (Pat Robertson, you cheeky monkey) and decrying the politicking of President Obama, who is offering aid as a way to gain points with America's blacks (back from the brink of death, that was Rush Limbaugh's take on the disaster).

While the images out of Haiti become increasingly disturbing and heart wrenching, the aftermath of the earthquake has been a sidebar piece for FOX News and their non-stop coverage of the Massachusetts senate race (which, sadly, was lost by Democrat Martha Coakley). Republicans can't be bothered with natural disasters or healthcare - thank God that Todd Brown is now taking Ted Kennedy's seat to drive a sword right through the barely beating heart of Obama-care, err, healthcare.

Once again the GOP, through its most vociferous personalities, have shown themselves to be the party of avarice, scorn and blind prejudice. While their pundits have been blasting the dems for reckless spending - the kind which the GOP will admit cost them their own house majority back in 06 - they forget that the elections that ultimately ushered Barack Obama into office also followed the GOP's disastrous and callous handling of Hurricane Katrina. The American people were truly outraged by the devastation they saw on our shores and the incompetence of our leaders to handle it. Not to mention that a war famously declared to be a "mission accomplished" by then President Bush in 2003 was really only getting started. But what's a little history when there are new crises to be ignored?

**Saturday, Jan 23: My bad, I mistakenly referred to Massachusett's new senator as Todd Brown, his name is Scott Brown and I should know better. I write these posts so damn early that sometimes a major detail like that slips through the cracks. Sorry!

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Fine Mess for Harry Reid

Republicans are calling for senate majority leader Harry Reid's head over remarks made about President Obama in an upcoming book about the historic election. Reid, the democrat senator from Nevada, told writers Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, authors of "Game Change" (out tomorrow) that “He (Reid) was wowed by Obama's oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama - a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.'"(Source: CNN)

Well at least Reid was pleased with the outcome of the election. And while it always stings people of color to be praised by white people whenever we don't sound, well, colored, Reid isn't speaking an un-truth. Had Obama sounded more BET than NPR, and looked more like Al Roker than Bryant Gumble, we'd be singing Hail to the Chief to either John McCain or Hillary Clinton. Americans may have been ready for change, but they weren't going to give the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to anyone just 'cuz they was black.

Call it racism or ignorance, Reid's comments don't just illustrate the way some white people view color, they also capture how some blacks and browns view color as well. From the paper bag tests of yore that determined membership into the Jack and Jill club, an exclusive social club for African Americans (you had to be lighter than a paper bag to get into the club, in addition to being educated and well-off)to the million and one things some people of color do to look lighter (whiter), lots of blacks and browns are not only obsessed with color, but with the dilution of color and all of its negative connotations. Don't believe me? Read Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye (true story: I had to read it every year between sophomore year of high school and my sophomore year of college).

But now the chairman of the RNC, a black man himself, wants Reid to resign. In spite of Reid's apologies, which the president has accepted, and in spite of the fact that, well, there are other things going on in the world that merit both parties' attention. That's just beltway chicanery. If a black republican is get the joke.

Reid's comments are unfortunate, but they're the unabashed truth in a dialogue that we're all having about color and class.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

For Gays, Christians and Muslims are the Same Kind of Crazy

Happy New Year, dear readers. In case you've been too busy digging for clues about Carrie Bradshaw's whereabouts in the Sex and the City 2 trailer to turn on CNN or read a newspaper, let me bring you up to speed on the specter of current events: the world is coming to an end. Al Qaeda has reminded us that they are still at war with the civilized world and on the opposite end of the crazy spectrum, it has now been revealed that American evangelical Christians have set the stage for the lynching of gay men and women in Africa.

If you're gay, you have little choice but to dismiss religion altogether. Then you would become, like yours truly, a self-righteous blowhard who looks inward for divine affirmation. Between the radical muslims who'd kill you for any reason, and the crazy Christians who want to divest you of any legal standing in this world (lynching by bureaucracy, if you will), anyone with a brain can deduce that religion will be the undoing of civilization.

Now, I can't take credit for this original thought. As you know, I grew up as a Jehovah's Witness and one of the things we were taught to look for as a sign of the end of this world (not the physical world, mind you, but the mechanics of a system that propagates war, poverty, greed, and so on...) was the unraveling of religion's prominence in world affairs. Soon, we were taught, mankind would feel defrauded by religion, offended by the presence of religious figures at the seat of political discourse, disgusted by the role that spiritual leaders have played in massacres and hate movements. Mankind will turn on religion, and then, poof - the end of this world. And of course there are other philosophers, scholars and bloggers who have waxed on the scourge of organized religion as well. So perhaps we're getting there, to that point where we lose any tolerance for the nuissance that is organized religion.

Which then begs the question: what do we do about problematic religions? Do we shut down the mega churches of the Bible Belt? Do we shut down our country's mosques and deny visas to anyone who is muslim or from a muslim country?

Tempting as all of this may be, that's not what civilization is about. We're meant to get through this, to struggle through the challenges of terrorism and religious fanaticism to become a better, more enlightened people. Not that we haven't had thousands of years to get better at getting along, but it's nice to keep trying.