Monday, September 26, 2016

Here I Am...

Clowns to the left of me:

A new matchmaking service is being developed for Americans “to find the ideal Canadian partner to save them from the unfathomable horror of a Trump presidency.” That’s according to the website for a company called Maple Match.
Does the US election make you want to flee to Canada? Try Maple Match.
Jokers to the right:
Steve Inskeep: What war do you mean?
Jimmy Arno: The war that's going to take place when Hillary Clinton's elected - if that happens.
Inskeep: What sort of a war would that be?
Dami Arno: Your patriots...
J. Arno: Your patriots are going to overthrow the government.
Divided States: Georgia Auto Mechanic Ties Racial Tensions To Obama

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Respectable Ladies and Gentlemen

But true acceptance for Muslims will only come when those Muslims who wear their religious differences openly are seen as being just as American as those whose choices hew closer to the norm.
Muslim Americans Should Reject The Politics of Normalcy
The URL for this article is interesting - it reads: "Muslim Americans Should Reject Respectability Politics." Debates about respectability politics have swirled in the Black community for some time - with people like Bill Cosby and Juan Williams being two notable examples of its defenders.

Wikipedia defines "respectability politics" as: "attempts by marginalized groups to police their own members and show their social values as being continuous, and compatible, with mainstream values rather than challenging the mainstream for its failure to accept difference." Which is true, but not quite as nuanced as the real concept. Generally speaking, the policing that goes on is not simply about displaying values that that are continuous and compatible with mainstream values. It is also about attempting to scrub away vestiges of what might be considered objectively incompatible values that a group has been freighted with by stereotypes. So in the Bill Cosby talk that has come to be known as the "Pound Cake Speech," the actor and comedian (who had yet to fall from grace) said not only that Black Americans should be more careful in the ways they named their children and dressed when in public, but that they should also take more "personal responsibility" and engage in less criminal behavior - such as stealing pound cake.

The debate about respectability politics, and whether it represents a better path forward or is a capitulation to racist sentiments gives various thinkers and aspiring thought leaders in the Black community something to argue about, but it misses a very central point - one that is alluded to in the quote that I pulled from The Atlantic. It's all moot unless the American Mainstream, whomever that is, and however they are defined, decides that they are going to see us as just as American as they see themselves. And I don't think that anyone has ever sat down and determined if self-policing and displaying the "right" values is any more or less effective than challenging the mainstream and demanding acceptance. Because there's nothing in either of those approaches that make it in the interest of the American Mainstream to be any more accepting. If it's all the same, the status quo is likely to reign for quite some time into the future.

In the end, "attempts by marginalized groups to police their own members and show their social values as being continuous, and compatible, with mainstream values" and "challenging the mainstream for its failure to accept difference" can both be viewed as forms of supplication to the degree that there's nothing in it for the mainstream - at least nothing that's been identified thus far. Maybe the point, for Blacks and Moslems alike is to articulate the value proposition. While one can argue that the 2006 "Great American Boycott" was something of a flop, it's underlying premise was that Americans depend on the contributions of immigrants more than they realized, and that forcing them to go without for a day would drive home that point. It was an attempt by some immigrants' rights campaigners to show the value proposition. Maybe the concept is something that needs to be revived.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Rights

I don't have the right
... to be considered one of you.
... in the Court of Personal Opinions, to be innocent until proven guilty.
... to be thought of as unintimidating.
... for my accomplishments to be ascribed to merit, rather than to Affirmative Action.
... to be viewed as an individual; for the content of my character to be judged based on my words and deeds, and not those of the many millions of people who you may find bear some resemblance to me.
... to be welcome in places that people would prefer were enclaves of homogeneity.
... to be seen as upstanding and law abiding.
... to be free of the fears, resentments and prejudices of those around me.

All of these things, and many more, are not birthrights. Instead they are gifts, things that are best when they are freely given and willingly shared with those that one wishes to have them. I recognize this, and when people grant me a gift I treasure it, and do my best to be worthy of it, and to reciprocate with gifts of my own.

I also realize that this means something else.

You don't have the right.
... to be considered just, impartial and a fair dealer.
... to be seen as brave.
... to be credited with a regard for the freedoms of others.
... to be viewed as exceptional, when compared to everyone else on Earth.

Those things are also gifts. And they are given, or withheld, as people choose. I understand the desire to demand them. I spend a number of years learning to free myself from it. But they are not owed to you, any more than they are owed to me.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Once Again

She was thinner than I remembered her. The plumpness was gone from her body and face, and she grown visibly older, much more than three years. She still wore her brown hair in long horsetail that flowed down to her hips, and she still had the freckles. And she'd moved to a different corner, in the next suburb over, near where they were building new apartments for the affluent technology workers who populated the nearby campus on weekdays, and crowded the ethnic grocery store and shops in the small mall area on weekends.

She still carried a sign that described her, and her family's plight, black letters on white cardboard crammed into a space slightly too small to easily accommodate all of them. This time, I didn't take the time to read it.

The bright cheerfulness that she's affected when last I'd spoken to her was gone, replaced by a visible weariness that weighed her down like coal. She still waved to passing cars, although she did even that with less energy than before. As she walked down the sidewalk along the line of cars waiting for the light to change, and pulled up in the driveway to her left, slowed to a stop and rolled down my window. She walked over, and I handed her the two five-dollar bills that I'd folded between my fingers.

She took them, with a slight bow. "God bless you," she said to me, again. She didn't offer to pray for me. I smiled, gently. "Take care of yourself, and stay safe,"I reminded her. She nodded, deeply.

Then she turned away to return to her post on the sidewalk, and I drove away.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Symbols

An interesting online comment I found in relation to the whole Colin Kaepernick coffeepot controversy:

The National Anthem and the U.S. Flag are symbols of this country, its freedom, its rights and the men and women who have fought, died and been 'scarred' for the rest of their lives to protect all of us and these rights and freedom.
Then what, one wonders, are the symbols of the rest of us?