Black Woman Blogging

One black woman's views on race, gender, politics, family, life and the world.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Bush Administration: You A Lie

My father believed that teachers didn’t lie. At least that was the position he took whenever one of us tried to tell him something bad about a teacher, such as we had been punished or graded unfairly. His response was always something to this effect, in his Southern dialect, no less: You a lie. Teacher ain’t got to lie. She got her education. You the fool ain’t got no education.

This is akin to my visceral response to the Bush administration branding yet another of its former staffers a liar or, in Bushspeak, a “disgruntled former employee.”

Now, having been a disgruntled former employee on more occasions than I care to share, I can tell you that the tales of Scott McClellan, George Tenet and Richard Clark go way far beyond the last-minute office supply theft and hard drive cleansing characteristic of most disgruntled employees (not that I’m admitting to any of that.) One of them lying, maybe. Two, questionable. Three? Hmmm.

Then again, in my book, the Bush administration lost any vestige of credibility left after the yellowcake/WMD war lie when it put together a video for a National Press Club dinner making fun of the search for WMDs. The video showed Bush searching under his desk, under the presidential limousine – I think they even involved Barney the dog in the video. Not funny when thousands of our men and women were sent to war based on this insidious lie. Not funny at all.

It further lost the possibility of regaining credibility with what now appears to be the organized outing of Valerie Plame coupled with the President commuting Scooter Libby’s sentence (BTW, what grown-ass man goes by the name of “Scooter”?). It wasn’t a statesman-like action in the vein of Gerald Ford pardoning Nixon in order to move the country forward; it smelled – no, reeked – of a reward for taking a judicial bullet intended for Karl Rove and Tricky Dick Cheney.

So when you hear the Bush Administration call another person a liar, like my dad, you have to seriously consider the source.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

If Virginia Is For Lovers, Is West Virginia For Bigots?

On Sunday, my local paper featured a column by Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts regarding West Virginia and the “problem” some of its residents seem to have with voting for Barack Obama. The column stated that, according to exit polls from their primary, two out of every 10 voters stated that race was a major factor in how they cast their ballots. Mr. Pitts referred to a clip from “The Daily Show” featuring a white woman who explained her refusal to vote for Obama: “I guess because he is another race. I’m sort of scared of the other race ‘cause we have so much conflict with ‘em.” Pitts went on to remark how sad he found this and made a point that Critical Race Theory scholars from Derrick Bell on down have been making for decades: That the white poor have been victims of a con job by rich whites, who have used them as fodder to maintain their own socio-economic status going back to the “states’ rights” justification for the Civil War and continuing on with them as the front line of white supremacy. As Derrick Bell would say, instead of forging an alliance with poor blacks based on shared interests, poor whites would rather cling to their supposed white privilege and look down on blacks instead of realizing that their alliance with rich whites based on perceived common white privilege has been of little or no benefit to them.

Pitts put it well:

My point is that race has often been used as a means of distracting and diverting the white poor. They had little in life, nor any realistic expectation of having more. But the one thing they did have – or so the con went – was whiteness itself. Which meant they had someone to be better than. Someone to look down upon.

Pitts is far more charitable than I am. I don’t see poor whites who believe as that one West Virginia woman does as victims because I think that’s too condescending and lets them off easy for a conscious choice. I think they choose to be disassociated from blacks because they can’t possibly imagine that people they perceive to be beneath them could be of benefit to them.

Funny. I’m sure that’s what rich whites think of them.

I would ask them, in the words of Dr. Phil, “How’s that Republican party been workin’ for you the last eight years?” If they would be so shallow as to vote for McCain over Obama solely because of Obama’s race despite Obama’s promise to overhaul a government that has worked more against them than for them, well then, they deserve their sorry lot in Appalachia.

Which leads me to question: If Virginia is for lovers, is West Virginia for bigots?

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

State of the Union

About five years.”

-- The answer I received from my friend Sheila, who now lives in North Carolina, when I asked, “How many years of marriage does it take until you start feeling comfortable in your marriage?”

On Saturday I celebrated five years of marriage to my husband, BMNB (Black Man Not Blogging). We celebrated by allowing each other to do what we really wanted to do – I went on a gardening tear while he vegged on the sofa and caught up on some much needed sleep.

I can’t say that I was always assured that we would reach five years.

Right before I got married, I made peace with being single. I embraced it, had started to plan my life on the assumption that I would never marry. Having married late in life, I’ve tended to be somewhat utilitarian about marriage – that marriage should make you better off than you would have been had you remained single. Not financially, but emotionally.

That hasn’t always been the case in my marriage.

I’ve felt, at times, that I carried more than my fair share of the burdens without an end in sight.

I’ve felt, at times, that my wants and needs came in second to his more pressing wants and needs.

I’ve felt, at times, that being a good wife meant taking on certain roles and responsibilities, whether I liked them or not.

Then I grew the eff up.

I realized that, contrary to what I was lead to believe, yes, people do indeed keep score in a marriage, especially if they’re carrying the lion’s share of its burdens most of the time. No one can be expected to carry more than his or her fair share for an indeterminate amount of time. So, I’ve learned that if you’re married and you’re not carrying your fair share, whether it’s financial responsibility, division of household labor, or caring for the kids, you need to give your partner some certainty as to when the situation is going to even up, lest your partner ask, as I once did, “If this is what marriage has to offer, why would I choose this over being single?”

I realized that no one – not your husband, your mother, or your father – is responsible for your happiness other than you. If you’re not happy, it’s on you to speak up. Few spouses can read minds. Taking responsibility for your own unhappiness starts with voicing it. Whenever I’ve spoken up, BMNB has listened and taken me seriously.

I've realized that, like Bishop T.D. Jakes says, marriage is the union of two imperfect people. And, quiet as it's kept, I'm so far from perfect, they don't have a measure for the distance. Light years don't suffice. So when I get a notion to criticize my husband's shortcomings, I try to remind myself of my own glaring imperfections and the fact that, more often than not, he overlooks them.

I realized that, as one of my bridesmaids advised me, no two marriages are alike. What works for other folks in their marriages may not work for you. Just because all your girlfriends cook and embrace cooking, if you don’t like it, being a wife isn’t going to make you like it or embrace it all the more. If anything, it will lead you to ask, “What did he do for dinner before he married me?” You have to tailor your marriage to the two people in it.

I realized that it isn't always what I say, but how I say it. I've got quite a sharp tongue, and I don't want to sharpen it at the expense of my husband's psyche. Quiet as it's kept, apologies don't really erase words spoken, because they don't eliminate the fact that you actually thought the words. Better to step back and think clearly about the effect of one's words than try to take them back once spoken. Because you really can't.

I realized that you have to allow your spouse room to be who he is, with the proviso that he allows you room to be who you are. BMNB is never going to embrace cooking, period. Just doesn’t like to do it. Looks like he’s being punished when he has to. Conversely, I’m probably not going to be attending church with him every Sunday. Maybe the church of my choosing, at best, but probably not the church of his choice. Mind you, these were both things we said we’d “embrace” during our pre-marital counseling, kind of a tradeoff we each were supposed to make for the other. Five years later, nothing doing. It went against who we both really were and are. Now, I think we’ve reached some peace with it, or at least détente.

The most important thing I’ve realized is that marriage isn’t a destination, but a journey through the joys and vicissitudes of life that you share with an incredible partner. Not a perfect partner, but an incredible partner. And I can’t imagine sharing this journey with anyone else, so much so that I hope to predecease my husband because I can’t imagine this journey of life without him. Now that he’s a permanent part of my world, I don’t want to know a world without him. I don’t even want to imagine it.

Realizing all this is the best gift of all after five years of an incredible journey with an incredible partner.

Happy Anniversary, BMNB.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Patience: I Plant; God Decides.

“If you’re not killing plants, you’re not growing as a gardener.”

A gardener quoted in my local newspaper.

Patience. It’s so hard to have at this time of year in the Sacramento valley. It’s hotter than Hades, and, if you’re like me and you’ve been slowly working on making a garden out of quintessential south Sacramento valley soil – a big plot of clay and weeds -- it’s easy to be impatient when you see everyone else’s impatiens and other plants in bloom.

Patience. It’s the mantra of the novice gardener. Really, it’s the mantra of life.

I’m trying not to spend too much money on this garden, since I’m only renting this big plot of clay soil and weeds. The last time I spent substantial sums to put in a garden in a rental (which some would say is, by itself, a sign of insanity), I received a 60-day notice to quit a few days after my plants were in the ground. But my efforts to save money have lead to even more frustration – the seeds I tried to start in my home office were overtaken by mold, and the sweet broom, Spanish lavender and pink jasmine I transplanted from my brother’s house (he no longer wanted them) have pretty much up and died. Only the butterfly iris I transplanted from his house have seemed to survive.

I planted cheap gladiolus bulbs from the Dollar Tree in corners of my backyard, thinking that, hey, if they don’t grow, I’m only out a few dollars. Given my impatience and resulting inattentiveness, I’d pretty much given up on them. Oh well.

And they up and surprised me. Tender green shoots poked out where I had planted them, undaunted by the dead sweet broom plants that, had they lived, would have taken up too much space and blocked out the sun. I plant, God decides.

Isn’t that pretty much how life goes?

Emboldened by my undeserved success with the glads, I planted more of them yesterday. I even had the nerve to buy some roses that knocked me off my feet with their fragrance – Heirloom and Fragrant Cloud. Who knows? Maybe I’ll have some success with them, too. But I will have to learn to be as patient with them as with everything else in my garden. I plant, God decides.

Even the liatris bulbs I planted after my first round of gladiolus bulbs are starting to peek out. I had given up on them too, concluding that my dog had probably peed on them and killed them. Female dog urine is a powerful thing. It’ll take out whole patches of your lawn if you let it. I plant, God decides.

I also have to learn to be patient with people I care about. To overcome the urge to shake the living shit out of them when they don’t understand that what I’m trying to urge them to do is for their own good, not mine. I have to take a step back and ask myself, “Who made me queen?” Sometimes people aren’t ready for the message you’re trying to give them, and you can’t make them any more ready by being insistent or persistent. I plant, God decides.

Patience. A good garden, and a good life for that matter, requires it.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

If They Steal It, I Will Walk

Black Democrats need to have their own nuclear option going into the convention in Denver. Here’s mine: If they steal it, I will walk.

That is, if the Democratic party steals the nomination from Obama by increasing the number of delegates needed to secure the nomination or seating the Florida or Michigan delegations, I will not only not vote Democratic, I will vote for McCain.

I say this as a third-generation Democrat, the granddaughter of a black woman who named her twin sons after Franklin D. Roosevelt and Huey P. Long. Yes, I come from those kind of Democrats, blacks who have been loyal to the party since Roosevelt. Loyal despite moves not to seat the integrated Democrat delegation from Mississippi from the ‘60’s to appease racist white Southern Democrats (Fannie Lou Hamer, anyone?). Loyal through a bunch of loser nominees like Dukakis.

It’s time for the loyalty that blacks have demonstrated time and again to the Democratic Party to be returned in kind. I’m not asking for special favors for Obama; I’m just asking that the rules not be changed from what the candidates started with in order to alter the outcome specifically in favor of Senator Clinton.

Word on the street and in the press is that Senator Clinton is telling superdelegates that she should be the party’s nominee because she’s attracting rural and blue collar white voters who won’t vote for Obama, but that blacks and latinos will vote Democrat no matter who the nominee is.

Oh, I see.

But not this year, sister.

I’m not afraid to punish this party by taking it out on the country. Black people have survived administrations I would politely call “not African-American friendly” (Reagan, Bush I, Bush II). We can survive another Republican administration. Hell, we survived slavery. We are the people who can “make a way out of no way” and can “make a dollar out of fifteen cents.” Four years of McCain? Yeah, I can do that if it means getting the Democratic party to respect the will of African American voters.

So, I have my nuclear option in place. If you’re a black Democrat, you better have yours.

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