Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What Would Jesus Do? The Opposite of What You're Doing

So Obama called the Philadelphia Eagles owner to talk about two random things: greening the stadium and Michael Vick’s second chance. And, in the words of one blogger, all hell broke loose.

This is what I think about second chances: we all deserve them.

But he killed dogs!
Henry Kissinger was instrumental in the death of thousands of southeast Asians, and yet, he is considered an elder statesman of US diplomacy.

But he killed dogs!
This country voted for Geoge W. Bush (twice) and now he’s earning millions on his book and speaking tour - after starting two wars, crashing our economy and tanking civil rights in this country all in the name of fighting terror.

But he killed dogs!

Yeah, he did. So did this guy.

Because he killed dogs, now Michael Vick is a black man with a prison record. His nifty NFL contract is the only variable separating him from the fate of hundreds of thousands of other black men with prison records.  Perhaps it’s the rarity of second chances for these men that makes Obama’s recognition and commendation of second chances so startling and impolitic for the rest of us.

So who deserves a second chance? Who deserves an opportunity for redemption and repentance?

Unlike Tucker Carlson, whose grasp of the Golden Rule and Christian love/forbearance is rather shaky, my father shows me what it means to give someone a real second chance. As part of his ministry he has mentored black men from all paths: gangbangers, ex-cons, drug dealers, alcoholics, burnouts, and probably one or two men with pasts so violent and abhorrent we would run away from them. While it exasperates me (as it exasperated my mother) to watch him make such an exhausting effort for so little return, I have a feeling that I am missing the point.

The results may be few and far between to most of us but the effort is what matters; my father is doing something no one else in the world seems to want to do: love and help black men.

My sister and I came home from school one day to find some strange man washing dad’s car in the driveway. In the kitchen, mom was watching from a window and we asked her who that man was. She sighed.

‘It’s another of your father’s men,’ she said. ‘He came to bible study and now he won’t leave. He has a metal plate in his head where he was shot by police for drug dealing. What is the point?!’ Another big sigh. My mother could only see wasted effort.

My sister and I, however, were fascinated that a man could have a metal plate in his head.

I’m happy to say my mother was wrong. That man with the metal plate built a construction business, has a wife, three sons he’s fighting to keep alive, a house in the Valley, and is one of my father’s best friends. When my mother died, with his big construction hands, he lovingly wrapped all the little Christmas village houses my mother had collected and took them home because he said they reminded him of Lucy.

And right this very minute, my father is boarding a young man with obvious emotional and mental issues from Indiana. This man had heard my father’s sermons, contacted him and drove to California to escape whatever personal hell had been pursuing him in his hometown. Like a black Boo Radley, he lives in my father’s house and silently endures the squinty-eyed side-glances from me and my sister when we visit.

What does he want? Is he trying to take advantage of my dad? What if he’s crazy?

‘Lock your door, dad,’ I said to my father on the phone one night. ‘If he goes nuts, make it hard for him to kill you.’

‘Little girl, you need to stop. He’s just trying to get back on his feet.’

‘Well, when will he?? He’s been there for months! Why’s it taking him so damn long? Why can’t he find a roommate on Craigslist? Why does it have to be you?’ I know I sounded like my dead mother but I couldn’t help it.

My father sighed.

‘You girls have never understood this. Not even your mother. It has to be me because no one else will do it. You don’t understand. No one loves the black man. We’re beaten and ashamed and neglected and put away. No one loves us. No one. And so if I don’t, who will? Who will show this young man he’s a creature of God? If it’s not me, who will do it? The county? The welfare system? Who, dammit, who?’

(I am actually tearing up remembering this conversation.)

My father loves the black man and cares about what happens to him when it’s not politic to do so. His ministry to black men is not necessarily about finding someone a job or keeping him from the law. His effort, and hopefully Obama’s call, is about showing these men that they have a second opportunity to become, and be seen as, a full human being again.

It’s the point that everyone is missing – even the well-meaning dog lovers, feminists, Maddows, Ezra Kleins and asshats like Tucker Carlson.

So who deserves a chance to be regarded a full human being again? Michael Vick does. And every black man like him.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Moore and Me

I just stepped on my own post, but I just saw this poem here and had to reprint it because it cuts to the very heart of why women are upset with Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann right now:
Rape Poem
by Marge Piercy

There is no difference between being raped
And being pushed down a flight of cement steps
Except that the wounds also bleed inside. There is no difference between being raped
And being run over by a truck
Except that afterward men ask if you enjoyed it.
There is no difference between being raped
And being bit on the ankle by a rattlesnake
Except that people ask if your skirt was short
And why you were out anyhow.
There is no difference between being raped
And going head first through a windshield
Except that afterward you are afraid not of cars,
But half the human race.
The rapist is your boyfriend’s brother.
He sits beside you in the movies eating popcorn.
Rape fattens on the fantasies of the “normal” male
Like a maggot in garbage.
Fear of rape is a cold wind blowing
All of the time on a woman’s hunched back.
Never to stroll alone on a sand road through pine woods,
Never to climb a trail across a bald
Without that aluminum in the mouth
When I see a man climbing toward me.
Never to open the door to a knock
Without that razor just grazing the throat.
The fear of the dark side of the hedges,
The back seat of the car, the empty house
Rattling keys like a snake’s warning
The fear of the smiling man
in whose pocket is a knife.
The fear of the serious man
In whose fist is locked with hatred.
All it takes to cast a rapist is seeing your body
As jackhammer, as blowtorch, as machine gun.
All it takes is hating that body
Your own, your self, your muscle that softens to flab.
All it takes is to push what you hate,
What you fear onto the soft alien flesh.
To bucket out invincible as a tank
Armoured with treads without senses
To possess and punish in one act,
To rip up pleasure, to murder those who dare
Live in the leafy flesh open to love. The fear of the smiling man
In whose pocket is a knife.

norridge rhymes with porridge - for a reason.

On Saturday, I stood on the corner of Cumberland and Lawrence, the freezing wind tearing through my leggings, making my thighs numb. Norridge, I thought. Frak you, Norridge!

I had arranged to meet M- at the comic book store he works at on the weekends for their holiday party and, apparently, I had not paid much attention to him the night before when he gave me directions.

Norridge is ugly. It is a placed cursed with squat homes and strip malls. Like LA but colder and uglier. So I wasn't in the best mood to start with. Not knowing where I was going, and unable to tell where I was on my GPS (frak you, GPS!), I walked all four corners of the intersection, even buttonholing old guys at the gas station. I walked up this block, up that block, down that street and back again. No frakking comic book store.

By this time, it was dark, the temperature had fallen to 16 (but the windchill made it feel like 8) and I stumbled to the McDonalds to nurse my frostbitten fingers and numb ass.

I texted M-:

'Dude. Your store apparently has an anti-girl force field covering it because I can't find it. So I'm at the McDonalds until my frostbite goes away. When you're done, you should come see me.'

I listened to the piped in Jesus music for a few minutes, grumbling about how I love this dude but man, the burbs suck, I can't feel my fingers, he better be glad I'm his girlfriend...grumble, grumble.

He called.
'Where are you? Did you just ignore everything I said last night?'
'Hey! No! Well, maybe. I got the intersection right!'
'You are right across the street from us!'

Pause.  I turned around to look out the window.
'I don't see you.'

In a very patient voice he said, 'Go back outside. Walk toward the gas station. Look for the Italian restaurant. Then Edible Arrangements. We are right there.'

'I'm not going back outside! It's 8 degrees!'
'Then you're ok hanging out at the McDonalds for over an hour?!'
 There went my thoughts about rescue.
'SIGH. NO. Fine. I'll finish my coffee and go outside.'

Grumbling all the while, I went back into the freezing Norridge night - and found it where he said I'd find it.  I had walked past this place THREE frakking times!

When I went inside, all the comic book boys cheered and I felt like an idiot but at least the story made them laugh. And I hope it showed how dedicated a girlfriend I fucking am.

Note: M- later revealed that after he hung up, he'd said to the shop owner, 'I'd go and rescue the damsel in distress but she's a feminist!!'

Note to dudes everywhere: Feminism is officially put on hold when it's effing 8 degrees outside.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I swear the holiday season is another war on women's self esteem.
I'm 10 days out from christmas and haven't done ANY of my shopping yet. For anyone. Not sis, dad, boyfriend, best friend or bitchy niece and nephew.

And don't even ask if I've gone to church for any advent services. Guh. I'm a bad person AND a bad church lady.

I need a break from Christmas, please.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My sister's mediation is tomorrow and I called her tonight to see how she was doing.

I'm so proud of my little sister. She finally called the lawyer my friend found for her and had a good consultation - but realized that she needed to be more proactive with her own case.

(Note to little sisters everywhere: Big sisters know what we're talking about!)

I also find myself giving her advice from my own professional field: if you're not framing the narrative then tell your story strategically to build will and get people engaged on your behalf.

Yeah, it sounds like PR and it is. MABIL has spent the whole year turning his friends and family against her (while hiding his tendency to treat marriage like a gilded cage) so now's the time to start turning that against him.

I thought she'd resist when I said that it's sometimes useful to strategically share some vulnerability to get people on your side but she got my point. MABIL's family and friends are a lost audience. Never message to an audience that you don't have.

But that still leaves teachers, other parents, old neighbors, and casual mutual acquantances to win over.

She said, "I don't like putting my business out there. It has nothing to do with them."

"True. But since your kid has said out loud that she hates you, and bursts into tears every time you come to pick her up, you really don't need her teacher looking at you like you're the bad guy. 

"All you need to say is something like 'Thanks so much for being patient with Sally lately. Her father and I are going through a difficult separation and divorce; the whole thing has been tough on her --on all of us. Thanks for being so understanding.'"

I said. "Just say it in that squinty parent voice people have and the teacher will be on your side -- or at least less likely to look at you like you're Mommy Dearest."

Ah, strategic communications. Good even for divorce.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

cheap shots: chicaco mayoral race

So Rahm Emanual balked at the idea of sending his kids to Chicago Public Schools -- and, predictably, his opponents pounced and the media, magpies that they are, went after the bright shiny thing of the moment.

Have you seen the stats on Chicago Public Schools? (This is an explanation of their methodology, of sorts.)
How many of these schools are on probation?

There is the rare school that is excellent, I grant you, but would you want to send your kids to the average Chicago public school, in the current state the system is in? I wouldn't -- and I'm from a public school system. (Whoo! Go, LAUSD!)

Asking a candidate if they'd send their kids to CPS, when everyone knows most of the schools in CPS are problematic as hell, is a cheap and unworthy shot. It does nothing except box in the candidate and remove any chance of actually addressing what is deeply wrong with public education in this city. Whatever answer he gives will either alienate him from the unions or piss off those who think CPS is in the crapper and hate pandering. It also limits the discourse of the opponent so that they're dumbing down to react to a stupid question instead of showing off how smart they are (or aren't); and, ultimately, the public loses out on an opportunity to actually talk about a real problem and real solutions because the media can't handle anything heavier than stupid 'gotcha' questions.

So, good job, media. Way to support democracy.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

it's only tuesday

Yesterday, we sang in the office. I hate singing in the office.

Then my boss asked me to go with her to a meeting with a GOP legislative leader - with my 'fro all poofed out and crazy looking, in leggings, boots and a big wooly peacoat, I looked like a crazy homeless woman sneaking into the Thompson Center.

And I discover certain black legislators are giving my org shade because they see philanthropy as keepers of the status quo and our policy agenda a threat to their communities. Shit. Guess how hard it's going to be to message through that??

And, to top it all off, it's freaking two degrees in Chicago and my face is cracking off.

Freaking love December. /sarcasm