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Showing posts from 2009

I HATE New Year's Resolutions

Yeah, I said it. And I'll say it again...I hate New Years resolutions!!! Most of all, I hate what they've become in our culture...a way to mostly look at the superficial qualities of our lives and think that somehow we'll be happier if we change them. Oh, and there are usually tons of products we can buy that will "help" us achieve them, so its now time to pony up. But there is something even more insidious about how we approach resolutions. For some people (not all), this becomes a time to unleash all of the "shoulds" that have been rolling around in our heads. Most often, these are the shoulds that others in our lives or culture have laid on us as baggage. To resolve to meet those shoulds is usually not only doomed to fail, but negates our own true desires for ourselves. I'll admit that I come to this issue with a bit of baggage from my past. I haven't hesitated to disclose that for the first 20+ years of my life I was steeped in right win

The narrative of disappearance

Years ago I was introduced to a poet by the name of David Whyte . Since then, I have only half-jokingly referred to him as my "spiritual guru." About once or twice a year, I get a newsletter from Whyte and it always includes an essay from him reflecting deeply about how he sees the world at the moment. Last week the newsletter arrived and I think in it, Whyte speaks to our current situation in a way that goes much deeper than our politics, and yet recognizes the political challenges we're facing. I would encourage you, if you're interested in this kind of thing, to go read the whole thing at the link in the above paragraph. But here's a portion of it that I think gets to the essence of what he has to say. Human beings stand at the center of these sometimes swift, sometimes slow, always moving patterns of presence and absence, but rarely intuit their own essence might be revealed and magnified by what is veiled and hidden, or by what has been taken away. Yet th

Both Eyes

I have an interesting, but not uncommon eye is near-sighted and one far-sighted. The interesting part of it is that they mostly cancel each other out and give me close to good vision. Since high school, I've been a very poor student of biology - so don't count on me for much insight into the workings of the human eye. But it seems to me like they were built this way - to provide the tension that brings results. And that reminds me of a little song that I was taught years ago by a trainer in diversity. Its in every one of us to be wise. Find your heart open up both your eyes. We call all know everything without ever knowing why. Its it every one of us to be wise. Another great wisdom of the ages is reported to have been penned by one of our great philosophers of the 20th Century, Reinhold Niebuhr . God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I've recen

The Obamas and Children

Sometimes you shape the narrative by simply living your life. As Gandhi said..."Be the change you want to see in the world." It is in that spirit that I have watched the Obamas over the last couple of years and how they interact with and involve children in their lives. Its become cliche for politicians to talk about valuing children as our future. But I seldom see them given the priority these words imply. That is why the photos I'm about to share speak to me so much more loudly than words. They indicate a lived-out value of children. And they inspire me. First of all, a few of my favorites from the campaign. Since moving into the White House, the Obamas have hosted many events for children. Like the one in February when middle school children were invited to a presentation about Black History Month. And to plant an organic garden at the White House. And a Healthy Kids Fair. And Bring Your Kids to Work Day at the White House. Of course, there was

Why I support President Obama

I am one of those people that find myself very torn over President Obama's decision about the escalation in Afghanistan. I know there are a few of us out there. But my concerns go to the strategy's efficacy and, unlike some others here, don't lead me to question his motives, values, intelligence, or capitulation. So that makes me wonder why I don't when others do. Lately I've been thinking alot about trust and how it does or does not apply to politicians. I think healthy skepticism of elected officials is important to maintain. But just as I would never blindly trust, I can't go to the opposite extreme and assume they are always corrupt and/or lying. Perhaps that has to do with the fact that, in my professional life, I work with several elected officials that I not only trust - but who have become mentors. On a local level, I've gotten to know a few - which is easier to do than with national figures. And while there are some that are certainly corrupt (and

The subtle racism of friends and allies

Have you ever heard a person of color say that they prefer the open racism of conscious bigots to the subtle racism of us do-gooders on the left end of the spectrum? I remember an African American friend of mine here in Minnesota who years ago would often tell me that she longed for the day she could move back to the south where racism was right up front for everyone to see. I'd shake my head at her and feel completely clueless about why she would think that. After all, I had grown up in East Texas and couldn't get away from all that craziness fast enough. Over time though, I've come to understand that view a little better. Much of that awareness came from reading in "the diversosphere." I found that people of color express things in blog posts that would never be said in "polite company," but would typically be shared with each other behind closed doors. I will forever be grateful to so many of them for opening their lives and hearts to me and so man

What's your story?

I've always been interested in politics...ever since I was a little girl. I even majored in Political Science for awhile in college - until I succumbed to that age-old "wisdom" that asked, "What kind of job can I get with this major?" I think my passion for politics comes from the fact that I felt in my bones that all was not right with the world. I had an interest in understanding why that was and trying to make things better. During my childhood, no one ever thought I'd accomplish much (ie, make money), but deep inside I had the feeling that all of those expectations were missing some potential that had yet to be recognized. Eventually that desire to find out how I could contribute to fixing what's wrong in the world led me to a career in family counseling at a program for runaway youth and then to become the Director of a small non-profit where we work with youth who are starting to get in trouble at home, at school, or with the law. I've been b

A republic...if you can keep it

There is a story, often told, that upon exiting the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin was approached by a group of citizens asking what sort of government the delegates had created. His answer was: “A republic, if you can keep it.” The brevity of that response should not cause us to under-value its essential meaning: democratic republics are not merely founded upon the consent of the people, they are also absolutely dependent upon the active and informed involvement of the people for their continued good health. I often think about that story - and I especially did during the previous Bush administration. Perhaps no moment demonstrated to me more powerfully how close we came to loosing the republic than what Cheney said when asked to comment on the fact that 2/3 of the people in this country didn't support the war in Iraq. I believe that the Republicans can afford to be viscous in their attacks because - in their hearts - they don't believe in a democratic repub

How some liberals embrace neocon thinking

Whether it was the USSR during the Cold War or the Axis of Evil during the Bush administration, the failed strategy of the neocons was to try to scare us all into thinking of them as our enemies in order to justify making demands and expecting compliance or going to war. Any talk of diplomacy by those of us on the left was labeled appeasement. Of course, the idea of talking to and treating the opposition with respect was met with cries of naivete. This has always been infuriating because we know that underneath it all, it is fueled by a deep misunderstanding of human nature, as well as a total lack of comprehension on what diplomacy and negotiation can accomplish. So I have to wonder why, when we turn from foreign affairs to domestic issues, so many liberals want to embrace the exact same kind of thinking. Are Republicans all that much more of a threat than the likes of Nikita Khrushchev or Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or Kim Jong-il? So much so that we should not attempt to even talk

For Obama - its about the principles

Over the last few days, many have complained about the lack of leadership or clarity from the Obama administration on health care reform. As I've said elsewhere, I think some of our problem is that we are perhaps too attuned to the 24-hour news cycle and find ourselves riding the roller coaster of every new media sound-byte that stirs up the controversy needed for their ratings. But I also feel that we're still in the process of getting used to a different style of leadership than we are accustomed to in a POTUS - especially after GWB's unitary executive approach. I think that the more that we understand that style, the less we'll be vulnerable to much of the media's efforts to stir up discontent and will be able to keep our "eyes on the prize" of knowing our role in the process as advocates. 'm not prepared to make a historical comparison of the style of governing for different Presidents. But I have been watching Obama and feel pretty certain abo

Hate Unleashed

Last night I watched an interesting segment on Countdown (link to video) where Keith interviewed Melissa Harris-Lacewell. His opening question to her was about whether or not we're seeing racism in this country becoming blatant rather than hidden behind euphemisms. At one point in the conversation, Melissa talked about the cumulative effect of things like having an African American President, a female Secretary of State and a Latina on the Supreme Court. She goes on to say: That kind of change in America produces a great deal of anxiety for people who are not quite sure that governing amongst women and brown and black people constitutes real American government. I think she captures much of what I've been feeling about what's behind the fear we see these wingnuts expressing. As I wrote recently in an essay about The children of 1969 , we're now seeing the effects of affirmative action in our halls of power - and particularly the affirmative action that began at Iv

On giving your opponent a headache

Last week I wrote about some of Al Gioradno's reporting on the ground from Honduras. Namely, I was interested in the fact that coup resisters in Honduras were learning from the Otpur movement in Serbia. This week, Giordano provides a first-hand account of advice given to the Honduran resisters by Ivan Marovich, the "Serbian resistance veteran who had been invited by local and national anti-coup organizations to share his experiences." Namely, here's his response to a question about how to give your opponent a headache. I think its an amazing lesson for all organizers - no matter what battle is raging. The whole game is to calculate the next steps, to put the adversary in a position where he can’t react well.<...> This is what we called a “Dilemma Action.”<...> So what we wanted to have is a dilemma action in which the opponent is going to regret whatever he does. The fist thing that we did, when we were still ten people, is we took a big bar

What is our alternative to the birthers, teabaggers, astroturphers?

As far as I'm concerned, we've managed to document and understand the reactions we're seeing come from the birthers, teabagers, astroturphers pretty well. We've expressed our outrage and done our best to show the lunacy of their positions. If, as many of us believe, we are in the midst of the next evolution of the battle against racism and privilege , I begin to wonder what we, as progressives, bring to the table as the antidote to the hate and fear that the wingers are espousing. Certainly we want to see universal health care. But we all know that the battle that is raging is about more than that. So I ask myself what the vision is that we are offering as an alternative and how that vision can ground us in the heat of the battle. Recently jessical wrote a diary spurring much thought for me about that question. We are all living with a burden of shame and fear and anger, and in every single moment of your life, in every action, you invite decency and grace, or you i

On Moving Forward - Generational Shifts

I would suspect that most generational shifts are hard to recognize when you're in he middle of them. But based on some of my professional experience as well as watching electoral politics in this country, I think we're beginning to see some generational shifts in the African American community that are affecting all of us. Certainly the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States gives the nation and the world an opportunity to see this new generation of African American leadership at work. As I've tried to watch and capture what that change indicates, I see that Obama has signaled many of the subtleties in speeches he made both on the campaign trail and since he's been in office.  Perhaps the most dramatic was when he gave what we've now come to call the race speech. In it, Obama went wide and deep in laying out his view of the racial tensions that continue to exist in this country. But ultimately, there was a theme that developed about where we

Either I do it or it won't get done

I don't know whether the universe conspires to send us messages when we're ready for them or if they're always there and we just notice them when we're ready. All I know is that over the last couple of weeks I've been hearing something that seems to be coming through loud and clear. So I think its time to pay attention. The message I've been hearing is captured by the title of this diary...either I do it or it won't get done. This first came through a couple of weeks ago when I had the privilege of attending a speech by Geoffrey Canada, founder of The Harlem Children's Zone . In case you haven't heard of this initiative, 20 years ago Canada took on 100 blocks of Harlem and made the commitment that he and those he worked with would "do whatever it takes" to help the children in that area grow up healthy and strong. His work has been so acclaimed that communities all over the country are trying to replicate it and Obama has promised to inc