Kettle Calls Self Black; Pot Denies Caring, Accuses Kettle of Roundness

September 24, 2009

“I think it’s important to realize that I was actually black before the election.” Pres. Obama on David Letterman, 9/21.

“If we’re not able to criticize his policy because he’s black, we’ve lost our country. Us sitting here having to defend having this different view and we’re talking about race shows how effective that tactic is. Because we’re sitting here now having to talk about race rather than the issue. And the issue is that we’re going socialist.”  Steve Fitts, Selma AL, on NPR’s Morning Edition, 9/24.

Are we still racist?  Yes, of course.  Will we always BE racist?  Probably.  Maybe.  I don’t know.

I admire Jimmy Carter for his almost bizarre courage in speaking political truths (or, minimally, partial truths) that others shy away from.  It was quite bold of him to bring the race issue up around the health care debate, and I myself have no doubt that there is some foundation of truth in it.  On the other hand, it also seems clear that folks are more frightened about how their health care may be changed than they are about the race of the president.  The race issue likely adds a certain spice to the mix, but it’s not the whole stew.

Just what is the meat that provides the body of this stew?  Fear of death and illness.  And the broth that everything is swimming in, that everything is flavored by, that encompasses and drowns the whole?  I don’t know what to call it, but it’s related to the quotes above: the tone of the debate,  the use of heavily emotionally loaded language and imagery, the steadfastly-presented feeling that the other side is just plain evil and must be smashed as quickly as possible, the with-us-or-against-us argument.

Every time we wield those hot button words – racist, socialist, Nazi, death panels, and so on – we diminish the chances of understanding each other.  And that’s the point of them, unfortunately: we’d rather win than come to an understanding.  We desperately need health care reform in this country – if you don’t trust the patients on this, just ask any doctor.  And yet, do we hear about the details of the proposals for change?  No.  We hear about Joe Wilson shouting “You lie!” at Pres. Obama.  We hear about “death panels.”  We hear about socialism.  And now, we hear about racism.  All of these could be enlightening discussions, but they’re just presented as titillation and emotional manipulation.

When will we grow up?

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Health Care Reform – Resources and Analysis

September 24, 2009

It bugs the heck out of me that, even on supposedly serious news shows (radio, tv, cable), the main things we hear about the whole health care reform piece are the emotional manipulation and attention-seeking sound bites.  So, in an attempt to counter that, I am accumulating here a list of resources for information on the actual issues.

More to come, as I find them.  If you have suggestions, please comment or email me.


Susan Boyle

April 26, 2009

I got links from several friends recommending I watch the inspiring video, something really beautiful.  I did.  And yes, I found her singing quite beautiful, and she seemed a real character.  But I wasn’t left with a feeling of inspiration – at least, not unadulterated inspiration.  Actually, I was – well – enraged.

I gather this has been so popular because her voice is not what one would expect from someone with her appearance .  No one expected it, and they (everyone?) were brought to an abrupt and profound realization their own prejudice based on appearance.

As a woman who has never really fit the standard definition of beautiful, and who has chosen (I admit it – from laziness, among other things) to leave my eyebrows wild and woolly, my first question was, if she had been beautiful, would she have made anywhere near the splash she did?   Or did her combination of “frumpiness”  and talent just create in people a combination of guilt (“I pre-judged her wrongly!”) and self-importance (“But now I realize how wrong I was, and how wonderful she is, and I’m not prejudiced anymore!”)?  How long will the enlightenment last?   Can we look forward to a new era of average-looking people, or even ugly people, being more generally noticed for their talents and other good qualities, the way movie stars have been?

That would surprise me a lot more than the beautiful voice that came out of Susan Boyle’s mouth.  This is one of the reasons for my reaction.

Did no one in her 47 year lifetime realize she could sing?  Or did they just not care?   This is another reason for my reaction.

And does this mean that the spectacle of cruelty, which is part of the appeal of shows like Britain’s Got Talent and American Idol, will now be passe?  That people who are average to frumpy, moderately or not at all talented, will now be shown a larger measure of respect, because we now know they probably have wonderful qualities we’re just not aware of yet? 

That would be very gratifying.  But I’m not holding my breath.

Now, she’s dyed her hair and had her eyebrows shaped, and people are frantically worrying that she won’t seem as authentic, and will lose her popularity.  Or is it that they may no longer have the frumpy/talented dichotomy to bolster their feelings of virtuousness?   Why is it such a big deal?

Unfortunately, it all seems to be a piece with, and not a break from, our society’s fixation on appearance.   I would love to continue to see and hear Susan Boyle, as she develops her talent and goes through whatever changes this experience will bring to her.  I would also love to see and hear other people, who don’t quite look like Angelina Jolie or Britney Spears or Jamie Foxx or any of the other good-looking and talented people, develop their own talents.   And I’d like to see it all treated with respect, not like a freak show.  As my former boss used to say, “Don’t act so surprised.”