Black Woman Blogging

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

Friday, February 27, 2009

Do The Right Thing -- And It Sounds A Little Bit Like "Harajuku"

Seppuku (切腹 ?, "stomach-cutting") is a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment. Seppuku was originally reserved only for samurai. Part of the samurai honor code, seppuku was used voluntarily by samurai to die with honor rather than fall into the hands of their enemies, as a form of capital punishment for samurai who have committed serious offenses, and for reasons that shamed them. Seppuku is performed by plunging a sword into the abdomen and moving the sword left to right in a slicing motion. The practice of committing seppuku at the death of one's master, known as oibara (追腹 or 追い腹, the kun'yomi or Japanese reading) or tsuifuku (追腹, the on'yomi or Chinese reading), follows a similar ritual.

The most famous form of seppuku is also known as harakiri (腹切り, "cutting the belly") and is written with the same kanji as seppuku but in reverse order with an okurigana. In Japanese, the more formal seppuku, a Chinese on'yomi reading, is typically used in writing, while harakiri, a native kun'yomi reading, is used in speech.[1] Harakiri is the more common term in English, where it is often mistakenly rendered "hari kari".

- Courtesy of Wikipedia

Today I, along with the American taxpaying public, became an owner of a larger stake in Citicorp. Woo hoo! Now I don’t have to buy their stock through my 401(k). And I think I’ll hold off on buying any more Bank of America stock, since I might get that for free – relatively speaking. But it’s not stock in banks I want. I want heads to roll. Or bowels to flow.

You know what I’m talking about. Commonly known in America as “hara-kiri,” but formally known as “seppuku” in Japan, it is an act of honor reserved only for the most honorable – the samurai. So maybe it’s wrong to suggest that our American “captains of industry” who have run some of the largest financial and automobile institutions aground are even worthy of the suggestion that they take matters and their bowels into their own hands. But hey, I’m willing to be wrong on this point.

I don’t understand how corporate executives and officers who have failed so spectacularly are still allowed to run their companies on the government’s dime. If they had any honor, any shame whatsoever, they would step down. If they really had any honor or sense of shame, they’d resign, apologize profusely, and hand over the sword to one of their corporate compatriots in failure and let them do the deed. At least their families could still get life insurance proceeds if it kinda looks like murder. Plus, I’m sure they’ve got the hook-up at AIG and other insurance companies.

Yes, I know what I’m suggesting is severe and irreversible. But considering the millions of people who are losing their homes, the thousands of governments – state, county and local – that are reeling from this self-induced recession, and the fact that taxpayers are on the hook for all of this, I don’t know if it’s too much to suggest that such colossal failures be rewarded with the ultimate of penalties. In China, these barons of the boondoggle would have been executed quickly, like those Chinese milk company execs. And they don’t have to use a sword or a dagger to make me happy. A rusty nail would do.

It starts with an inward motion, followed by a left-right motion . . . . .

Come on, Masters of the Universe. Do the right thing. Don’t make the American public go all ronin on y’alls asses . . . .

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Monday, February 23, 2009

If I Had Said "No"

First, let me tell you: I was knocked on my behind with the flu last week. Lost five days at work – luckily, two were holidays – and felt the worst I’ve ever felt in a long time. Chills, fever, body aches, congestion in my lungs, coughing all night long, headaches, diarrhea, you name it. If you know anyone who looks even vaguely contagious with the flu, run from them like your hair was on fire. Trust me, you do NOT want to get what I had. I told my husband, Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB), that if this is what pneumonia is like, if I ever get pneumonia when I’m old, don’t let me suffer – just shoot me. Take a semi-automatic gun, roll up to my hospital room, and just shoot me at point-blank range, but please, PLEASE don’t let me suffer like I was suffering with that flu.

That said, like most folks, I had made many commitments this month – I had an artist friend coming in from out of town to celebrate her 40th and not celebrate the fact that she, like many folks, is unemployed (luckily, I still have my job – for now). I agreed to speak at a Black History Month program at my old junior high school, which is now a middle school. I told my best friend Sheila that I would draft a business plan for a business she’s thinking of buying. My dog needs flea medicine and vaccinations. The interior of my car looks like a dog grooming parlor. And my novel’s been going nowhere fast, and I paid to attend a writer’s conference next month.

But I had had the flu. I basically lost a week of my life. And just when I was coming out of it, I had all these commitments to meet with no energy to meet them with. I was basically giving from an empty cup. I wasn’t feeling 100%, and I just wanted to say “no” to everything and everyone and curl up in my bed and drink tea for another week. But I didn’t.

So, my friend came into town, and we traveled up and down the coast so she could see the shore and clear her mind(she’s from the Midwest). And at the end of her stay, she hooked up with an aspiring children’s book author friend of mine who is also unemployed and who needed an illustrator for the draft of a children’s book she’d written about a little black girl searching for God. They hit it off – both are faithful Christians -- and now they’ll begin collaborating on getting the book ready for publication and other projects.

I dragged myself out of bed today and spoke to over 400 middle school kids at my former middle school with the message, in accordance with their Black History Month theme, that “Yes, You Can,” with the caveat of one word: “If.” The “if” was, yes, they can accomplish their dreams IF they work hard, study hard, prepare themselves for an education, get an education, leave sex and drugs alone, and not make excuses, especially as students of color. Now that we have a black president, I told them, the day when they could ascribe their failures to “the system” and “the Man” are gone, even if that is the truth. It was a hard truth, but they needed to hear it. Needless to say, the teachers were very pleased with my message, since it’s the same message they’ve been trying to get across.

And now, I’ll write that business plan with what energy I have left. Next month, the dog gets her day at the vet, and my car gets its day at the auto detailer.

Mind you, I’m still not giving from a full cup, but it’s not quite empty either. If I had said “no” to the commitments I had already made, my artist friend might not have hooked up with my writer friend to not only write a series of Christian children’s books but plan a business empire based on the main character of the book – I’m talking dolls, clothing, etc. Black kids from my middle school might not have heard from an independent and ostensibly “successful” (as I was defined) black woman lawyer what their teachers have been telling them all along or see that someone like them could grow up to be a lawyer, doctor, president, or whatever they dream of being.

That said, I will be taking on fewer commitments. My cup is still not full. My energy is still low. But once I’ve said “yes,” I will do my utmost not to say “no” later, no matter how bad I feel, because I don’t want to think about what would have happened – or not happened, for that matter – if I had said “no” after having said “yes.”

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Monday, February 9, 2009


“Brother’s got this complex occupation . . . ..”

Erykah Badu, “Danger”

I was one of over 200,000 California state employees furloughed last Friday. This doesn’t make me unique, or, given my occupation, sympathetic, either. All in all, BMNB (my husband, Black Man Not Blogging) and I don’t have it as bad as many others who were furloughed, have been laid off, or are facing layoffs. In fact, BMNB even got a step increase in his salary this year, which will help offset my 10% pay cut.

But I had a lot of time to think on "Furlough Friday". And I’m wondering: Is it time for a sistah to get ghost?

You see, BMNB has a “complex occupation,” to borrow from Erykah Badu’s song, “Danger.” No, he’s not a drug dealer, but he does have some strictures to follow to maintain his security clearance. One of them is keeping good credit. And given that I contribute at least half, if not more, to our household expenses, I need to keep an income so he can keep good credit, maintain his security clearance, and keep his job, too.

I was assured by many California state employee old-timers that this furlough wouldn’t happen, that it was just political posturing. They’d been the pawns in so many games of “fiscal chicken” between past California governors and the legislature that they weren’t as alarmed as I was about the possibility of a furlough. The unions will fight it, they assured me. It will take a long time to implement, they said.

Well, it happened. Even my union got kicked out of an appeals court for filing a petition to stay the furlough too late for the court to consider it. Mind you, this is union of attorneys that got kicked out of court on a technicality of their own making. Can I get my union dues back or what?

So if a furlough could happen, who’s to say that a layoff couldn’t?

“It’s been a long time since my man’s been gone
But when he gets here, you know I won’t be gone
Because I love him
Love him strong . . .”

During the last financial crisis we faced as a couple, BMNB took the bull by the balls and got a better paying job outside of our city. He would get up at 3 am every Monday morning, pack his clothes, his food, and whatever else he needed to spend a week in San Francisco working 10 hour days or longer. He would come in exhausted and depleted on Friday nights and would split his weekend between our household and his elderly parents, especially his ill father, and then get back on the road at 4:00 am Monday morning to do the same thing over again. He never complained, even though I did, and he brought his money home to keep us going. In other words, he just manned up and shut the eff up. Luckily, he was able to find a position here in town last March, and it was the first time in over a year that we were able to see each other on a daily basis. Although this potential financial crisis is not of my making, maybe I need to woman up, leave the comfort zone of my present job, and find a more secure position, even if it means that I’m the one commuting at 4:00 in the morning. Oh, and shut the eff up, too, because I have no illusions that my situation is nearly as bad as what other folks are facing.

“Got a box of money that I keep under my bed
But we don’t spend it though, might need it for more yeyo
We need this money just in case we need to make a run
Gotta keep a clip on mama’s gun . . . or run . . . ."

BMNB is a regular saver; me, not as much. I do contribute regularly to my 401K, which still has value (at least last time I checked). We could ride out a layoff for a while with our combined savings, stock, and 401K contributions, but not for average 12-18 months it’s taking folks to get back into the job market.

“Danger, you’re in danger, no hard feelings
Right or wrong,
Weak or strong,
I don’t make the laws . . . .”

Layoffs in California state civil service are implemented by levels of seniority and according to state laws and regulations. No matter how you slice it, with fewer than five years of state service where most state employees have 10+ years or more, I’m toast if there’s a layoff. Do I wait to see what happens, or do I pull an Alan Greenspan and get ghost before the bottom falls out? Mind you, I like my boss, I like my job, I like my co-workers. Under no other circumstances would I even imagine going out in the job market yet again. But I think it would be foolish of me to think that a layoff couldn’t happen. Because this furlough sure as hell did.

Plus, I’ve already committed to my niece that if her stupid union goes on strike – yes, her union is that stupid, too – that she could just rent out her house and stay with us. In order for me to keep this commitment, I have to have a house for her and her son to come to.

So, as I drove to work today, I played what I call my “war songs trilogy” – Erykah Badu’s Danger, Think Twice, and Love of My Life Worldwide -- Danger because of the defensive posture that this drug dealer’s woman in the song has to take in defense of her man and their lives; Think Twice because you always need to think twice before you take action; and Love of My Life Worldwide because the original Love of My Life came from one of my favorite black couple movies, “Brown Sugar,” and reminds me of the love of my life, and because it has four very powerful black women – Erykah, Queen Latifah, Angie Stone, and Bahamadiah – mc’ing. It reminds me of the power that I have – that all black women have – when we choose to use it. These songs are the songs I listen to when I have to prepare to do battle or face something that I don’t really want to deal with.

Like a layoff.


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration says it will issue pink slips Friday if a deal to close the nearly $42-billion gap is not reached by week's end. The cuts would save $150 million a year.

By Michael Rothfield reporting from sacramento
12:18 PM PST, February 10, 2009

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will move to lay off as many as 10,000 state workers if lawmakers fail to pass a plan to close California's nearly $42-billion deficit by the end of the week, an administration spokesman said this morning.Schwarzenegger's press secretary, Aaron McLear, said at a media briefing that the administration would send out pink slips Friday, absent a budget deal. The layoff process generally takes about six months for state employees due to union rules and other legal considerations, and bureaucratic procedures the state must follow. The move would save the state $150 million annually if the jobs are eliminated by July 1, according to McLear.He said that about 20,000 workers could receive layoff notices, even though only half as many positions would ultimately be eliminated. Many of the job eliminations would happen with layoffs, but some could take place through attrition. Administration officials said the extra notices must be sent because the administration might not be able to legally lay off some of the workers who get them; other employees would be moved into other state jobs. The layoffs would affect mostly workers with the least seniority."This is not a [negotiating] tactic," McLear said. "This is simply out of necessity. The state is running out of money. The governor has very few options at his disposal that he can unilaterally use to cut back on state spending."The layoff threat comes as the governor is forcing most state workers to take off two Fridays per month without pay -- the equivalent of an approximately 9% pay cut. The first mandatory day off for state workers was Friday.

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