Friday, February 26, 2010

dear GOP: help my friend get healthcare

Dear GOP:

I'm so glad you're concerned with the plight of the millions of American people (especially women) who are either under-insured or uninsured.  Seeing your concern during the Healthcare Summit yesterday prompted me to write you.  I'm actually hoping you can help a friend of mine.

She's a very hardworking woman and a rather wonderful friend.  (She makes the best hummus, ever!)  Like others in the financial services industry, she was laid off a few years ago from a multi-million dollar financial services firm in Chicago and she has only recently been able to find steady work as a sub-contractor for a federal gov't office. In the 3 years between her initial layoff and her contract work now, she has gone back to school and started her own business.  But when her rather generous severance package ran out, she had to give up COBRA coverage and purchase an individual healthcare insurance policy.

Then she ran into a few issues.  The economy got very soft and she needed to supplement her small income by working some uneven retail jobs.  I don't know if you know, but most hourly retail jobs don't pay benefits.  Her business wasn't really making a profit and her savings were dwindling.  Retail only paid her several hundred dollars a month and her expenses (rent, food, utilities, insurance) were eating the majority of her savings.  Pretty soon, her savings were gone.  So last year, she went on food stamps and reluctantly canceled her individual health insurance. Later that year, she was late with her rent and when her landlord started to make noises about eviction, she moved in with a friend with a spare room because she was literally steps away from being homeless.

You should know she discovered a lump, too.  She's had this lump for about a year now and has never had it checked.  Breast cancer is rampant in her family history.  She's working a full time job with this federal government office but only as a contractor, which doesn't offer benefits of any kind.  So even though she's earning some money, she has to put a lot of it into savings in order to get ready to move out - she can't live in her friend's spare room forever.  Anyway, the point is she hasn't gotten her lump checked.  It's still there.

I keep telling her there are public services in Illinois for breast screening for low income women (since she only earned $16,000.00 last year, I think she qualifies as low income.)  But she refuses because she doesn't want to get slammed with a preexisting condition when she finally gets managed care.  And now that flu season is still kicking around in Chicago, she's got this bad cough and her job won't let her take any days off so she's going into work sick.  It would be great if she could get a few antibiotics into her.

Can you help her?  It would be great if you could let her know that you guys have a plan to resolve her situation.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

A Concerned Friend

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

when doing good is like being taken hostage

Funny how, when you get prescribed Ativan because talking with your sister about her divorce makes your heart pound, you find yourself taking the Ativan more because work is kicking your ass and driving you toward a major meltdown.

Working for a non profit human services org in this environment (i.e., Illinois) is like being taken hostage and developing a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome.  There's nowhere else to go, you're grateful you still have a job (though you don't know how long that'll last), you're dependent on the vicissitudes of a sector that's completely unsustainable in its current form, as well as the political whim of a bunch of downstate reps who don't give a shit and, as a result, you start identifying with the conditions of your hostage-taking:

Of course it's right and natural for me to tamp down any resentment that my last two promotions have gone completely unrewarded.
Of course it's an equal trade that, instead of merit raises for the past 3 years, we should be happy for random jeans days.
Of course it's ok to work over 40 hrs/week and look at your annual compensation and think, This is not making sense but hey, it's for a good cause.

Sounding bitter?
You bet.  And I'm not the only one.  There is a growing air of dissatisfaction and resentment growing in the ranks here.  And I'm not even talking about frontline folks who have sacrificed a hell of a lot more than the rest of us.  But in the so-called 'high performing' team, the team that is perceived to receive a lot of perks, we are beginning not to feel so inspired by being so high-performing.

Our high performance comes at a price and we're tapped out.  Literally and figuratively. 

Our resentment isn't so much about the fiscal situation we're in.  We know whose fault this is; we know our sector has been bent over a barrell and frakked for the past 20 years by folks down in Springfield.

Our resentment is burbling because so much is being heaped on us, things are starting to fall apart and instead of pulling back, the heaping continues.  In a healthy environment, some of our initiatives make sense.  But we're not healthy; we're in constant crisis mode.  There's an expectation that resources get cut but of course output not only continues but triples.  Ok, I understand that mindset.  But sooner or later, we're all going to start reaching our breaking points. 

Sooner or later, the uncertainty of being on unemployment is going to seem a LOT more appealing than putting up with this crap.

At least when you're on unemployment, you get to rest.  You get to breathe.  You get to slow down a little.  When you're on unemployment (and I have been) you don't find yourself taking anti-anxiety meds in the middle of the day.

And I think half the team is just about there.

I think about what it was like leading a union. Ha ha.  In this kind of situation, dept stewards like me would be advocating union members first to log all their hours and the kind of work they do, then get ready to 'work to rule.'  It was a low pressure, but effective, work action when the administration didn't feel it was necessary to compensate for the actual work that was being produced.  If you're only supposed to work 20 hrs a week, only work 20 hrs a week.  If that meant curtailing office hours, so be it.  If that meant cutting short on class prep, so be it.  The goal was to get compensated for ALL the work you performed, not just part.  If you had 1600 union members suddenly working to rule, a lot of shit didn't get done and the administration would be forced to rethink their pay structure.

Of course, non profits aren't usually unionized.  In fact, our employment handbook makes unionization grounds for discipline and/or dismissal. (Ironic, huh?)

But goddammit - we are getting close to some kind of Norma Rae moment.  Just saying that's what the tea leaves look like.

Huh.  I'm beginning to see how one becomes a Teabagger.

Monday, February 22, 2010

the woods apology: asian mothers and ethnic programming for the win

When Tiger Woods's infidelities broke into the public sphere last year I joked with some friends that when straight-laced, boring, repressed folks crack, they go big or go home.  On some smaller, deeper level, I even sympathized with his crack up: when a revered father dies the mooring that steadied you disappears so, of course, you go off course.  My own personal experience mirrored his, in a way; when my mother died, I went through my own 'grief sex' period - years where I slept around like a sailor, to feel anything that would break through the white noise of my mother's death. 

But it took an offhand comment from an old college friend about Woods' press conference on my Facebook page to look at Woods through a very familiar, and particular, cultural lens- a lens that those in the media have, of course, overlooked.

From my friend on Facebook:
"Tiger Wood's apology (and his mother's reaction during it) made him seem more Asian American to me...

Suddenly it all clicked: brother may look black (to some people) but, if there's one thing I know about mix-raced asians, if the mother is asian, you are gonna get a huge dose of asian culture exposure (read: guilt) and it will be hardwired into you even if you have to adapt to other cultures (whether you like it or not, mama's gonna rig it) his cultivated characterless-ness, the extreme privacy and (surprise!) the lapsed Buddhism angle, coupled with the public self-shaming in front of family (not wife but elders)...hmmmmm...this all sounds very familiar. Stern mommy in the front row completed the scene.

All the media asked: why the hell did he feel he need to do that public apology? Because every bit of his asian upbringing told him this was the proper thing to do!

Once I saw him in that all too familiar formation with his mother who is so often un-present in his media representation, I suddenly realized who was responsible for the daily grunt work of making him into a man: the feeding, the schlepping and the occasional (or not so occasional) slap. I saw him in a room full of aunties, sitting in a corner and being told to be quiet while they talked business. This is a bound to be an intense part of his psychic make-up...and probably more crucial to a private sense of self, given the fact that American media wants to produce a public image of blackness for him.

The media didn't understand the mom's stern posture, followed by hug gesture...they thought she was cold...and maybe in their eyes she is...but what I saw was a reversion to certain basic childhood patterns. Nugget from my childhood: Southeast Asian moms always make you tell them what you did wrong before they tell you never to do it again.

So, this explains why Tiger Woods would not let go of his Asian-ness, despite the criticism by whites and blacks that he was trying to shirk his blackness. His attempt to multi-identify was seen as a cop-out by people who only saw obsessively in terms of black and white...but his core sense of self was constituted by rituals of pain and pleasure that came from some powerful asian american mother-son bond(age).

When mom gets to handle the discipline, she also gets to handle the ethnic programming. With my sisters who have married outside of the race, I have noticed that they excessively program vietnamese-ness into their children's early self-constitution (like a trojan horse computer virus) just because they know that at some point, some other culture will "claim" their children.

Case in point: Throughout my early adulthood, I would encounter my eldest sister's children taunting me because they could speak better Vietnamese than me and felt themselves better attuned to Vietnamese-ness. Now, they hardly ever want to speak Vietnamese, because they're blond and nordic-looking...but almost always, especially at emotional moments, they revert to classic patterns of vietnamese behavior."

I responded:
"Oh my god, yes! My mom was far scarier than dad when it came to discipline - and the stealth bomb she would pull out was 'you're a bad daughter.' (It was understood that this meant I was a bad Filipina daughter.) Responsibility, obligation, duty, protecting the family name and upholding family integrity. Seen as an asian son-almost every aspect of his behavior is understandable."

I'm fascinated at the way our mainstream culture is perpetually tone-deaf to the nuances of multiple cultural identities. When I looked at his press conference again, the whole thing screamed Asian family discipline and apology.  The focus on self-respect, restraint, the ultimate importance of family and the lessons that family can teach, rather than the 'lessons' taught by over-indulgent celebrity and vice; for those of us who grew up with an Asian parent, these are familiar themes that were pounded into us throughout childhood.  But then, also, the discipline of the public apology, the ritual of apologizing to those you've shamed: the inner family first, then outward.  His public, and the media, is last.  Who's first?  His mother and wife (and the presence of the wife is immaterial - the presence of the mother is primary.)

The press was miffed there was no Q&A - well, the press was just a minor necessity. The real focus were those people sitting in the front row. The apology was less a PR stunt (though it served as one, too) than a necessary step in repairing his bonds with his Asian identity and upbringing - embodied by his mother, in particular.  My takeaway: don't mess with Asian mothers, man.  They'll make you apologize in public.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

ready, set, go! maybe.

From the House chamber gallery yesterday, I watched my state reps chit chat, talk on their iPhones, surf the web, eat lunch, snooze, doodle, confab and a few of them were even paying attention to the bill debate going on. What follows is a very paraphrased version of the proceedings:

Dem Rep: ...and so I think my Baby-Daddy registry amendment to bill Such and Such is a good idea.

GOP Rep: Uh, I don't get it. I'm sure my esteemed colleague knows his community best but I'm not sure I get the point.
Dem Rep: Well, there are baby daddies - or maybe not. But we won't know unless there's a list of them. A list of Baby Daddies.
GOP Rep: I still don't get it.
(And the debate continues like this for a while. Then - )
Dem Majority Whip: (standing) This amendment makes no sense; pull it.
Dem Rep: (sigh) I respectfully withdraw my amendment.
GOPRep: I still don't get it!
Sith Lord of the House (aka, Speaker): Next bill, Clerk.
Clerk: On a resolution protesting terrorism, Miranda rights, the use of the super max prison for terrorists who have been Mirandized and extolling all things good about America.
Sith Lord: Who wrote this?
Patriotic GOP Rep: That would be me; I really think it's important to protect our state and read this resolution on the floor because the Obama administration is going to destroy everything we hold dear and this resolution will somehow be meaningful.
Sith Lord: (hard stare and sigh) Why can't this go to committee?
Patriotic GOP Rep: Because I want to read it on the floor. My colleagues agree with me.
(tiny GOP minority cheers)
Sith Lord: Are you sure you don't want this to go to committee?
Patriotic GOP Rep: No. Read it.
Sith Lord: I say we don't read it and I have this handy procedural rule that will allow me to kill it. Duly killed.
Patriotic GOP Rep: I protest!
Sith Lord: I call for a vote: shall I be Sith Lord and have the right to kill this puny resolution or shall I not? Finger vote!
(computer screens all light up)
Sith Lord: 69 votes for me and none for you. Everybody, to my chambers! (exeunt)

And so on for the next hour. I had to give it to the scrappy Patriotic GOP member; while Sith Lord was conferring with his leaders, he tried to reintroduce his resolution but the Sith Lord's second just repeated the procedural vote results from a paper and ignored him over his protests. Up in the gallery, a woman leaned over to me and whispered, "That man over there just got dissed, didn't he?"
I whispered back, "Big time."
She sighed. "This is why nothing ever gets done."

My COO, who was waving to her aunt on the floor, leaned over. "After seeing this, don't you want to be down there?"
"No. I would lose my shit."

She gave me a hard glance. "You know you love it. This is all a show, and you know that. The real work happens in those committee meetings. That guy knew he wouldn't get his amendment. And he knew his resolution wouldn't make it out of his mouth." Nodding down at the now silent Patriotic GOP member.
"And that makes me want to do this, why?"
"You're still young enough to try this and either make it or not. But you have about 3 years to plan. You should make a decision soon. My aunt can help."

Later, at the train station to return to Chicago, my COO introduced me to her uncle, a retired blue collar worker whose main job is to make sure Rep Auntie X made it to her meetings in Springfield from the south side.
As we were shaking hands, the COO said, "She's feeling the call."
Uncle X gave me a look and said, "Well now."
"We'll see," I said. "I'm interested but ..."
"Well," he said. "My wife won't tell you this, but I'm not anybody's elected anything. With every election, the quality is going down. They're getting stupider and stupider. If you're worth it, and my niece doesn't back people who aren't worth it, then you should do it. You'll be needed."

On the train, my COO said. "You'll need 3 years to get a mortgage, a fundraising base and a network. You have a strong network already partly in place. And you need a target. Westside districts will be hard; northside might be doable; southside would be easier. My aunt's would be ideal."

"I don't want to move to the south side!"
"Delia Christina, you need to be serious. If you're going to do this, the DO THIS."

This was still on my mind when I got home, exhausted. If one day of basically nothing exhausted me, what would a whole job do to me? If one session made me disgusted, what would hundreds of them do? If I secretly thought elected official X was an asshat, what would prevent me from calling him that to his face? And if people like me (or you) don't step up, what then? What about my writing? What about the book that's been growing inside me? What about my relationship? And have I said I don't want a frakking mortgage!?

So that's what's on my mind: trying to plan the next three years to maybe be ready for a go in '14. Or not.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Take me to your Leader

Last summer I was in a conference room with two colleagues and our COO, a very smart and wise woman who had seen things, done things, been in campaigns, had managed people, teams and orgs – and had a mixture of savvy and thoughtfulness I wanted to emulate. It was at the height of the state budget crisis and we were all afraid of losing our jobs, feeling pressured to make sure our programs survived and the women we helped would continue to be helped. It was a summer of fear and frustration but also a time when we all stretched ourselves beyond what we thought were capable.
It was also when I learned what it took to lead an organization and how different it felt from the inside of the bubble than the outside.

I was sitting with the PR officer and the Associate Director of Communications and we were crafting both the internal and external communication strategies; on the table was the dicey problem of managing internal fear of mass layoffs and shut downs. Do we tell staff about possible furloughs, layoffs or wait until everything was settled and it was too late for staff to make plans for their families? I was pushing for more transparency, having learned through a corporate lens that if you trust your frontline with difficult news they can come through for you and the fear and panic will likely subside once they know what’s happening.

The PR officer was feeling frustrated at the perception people seemed to be stalling making decisions and our AD was arguing for adopting a really conservative, cautious line. So the COO walked in on our intense debate and after she listened for a bit she closed the door.

‘I’m not supposed to share these things but I think I should in order to share with you what’s happening at the senior management level. So you know what we’re struggling with. In a RIF over a certain size, there are state and federal rules that mandate how much notice you need to give your employees. If it’s up to and over 50%, it’s 60 days. If it’s about 25%, then 30. But we don’t know what contingency plans we’ll have to put in place, yet. We just don’t know.

But RIFs alone won’t save the agency, and we need to save the agency. It’s in our charter and bylaws, we’re mandated by our Board and there you are. So there are furloughs or pay cuts for those who survive the RIF. But how to structure furloughs? If we structure it badly, it impacts health benefits and at a time like this we all need our benefits; if we structure it badly, we could also expose the agency to risk, in terms of legal action. And we’re also trying to do the right thing and abide by the laws and statutes of the state. So we’re trying to find little bits of a puzzle at a time when we’re flying completely in the dark.

We also don’t want to create a panic. We can’t have half our staff quitting in fear when we still have work to do. So you see that we are dealing with all these details that could have some serious, lasting ramifications for our employees.’ She paused. ‘So, in our position, what would you do?’

We were silent. All the debating flew out the window. The differences of opinion flew out the window when faced with the heavy details and choices our bosses would have to make – choices that would materially impact a working family.

‘We are so fucked,’ I said. There was laughter. ‘You’re right. We can’t go public with all this. They’d freak. I’m freaking just listening to you.’

The COO smiled. ‘And this has been what’s happening at every senior manager meeting, every day. We’re all freaking. Just control the panic until we can figure out the least harmful way of dealing with this mess. And get us that budget back, Delia.’

(When she left the room, I’m sure that’s the moment our PR officer decided to revise her resume and go on the market.)

From the outside, it looked like our leaders were fumbling in the dark, deliberately not sharing information for bad purposes, or withholding the truth for some weird lack of trust (which was sometimes deserved); on the inside, the choices to be made were so weighty, the details and consequences so damaging, a workable solution couldn’t be arrived at, yet.

From the outside, they lacked leadership and direction; they weren’t fighting hard enough; they weren’t doing what they promised; they weren’t doing what we wanted them to do. From the inside, they knew damage would occur, but were still struggling with how to triage the damage.

What would you do? How would you lead?

Talking about leadership (which I do a lot) and actually leading – while taking in the entire contextual universe of that act – is hard. And it’s not about winning. ‘Winning’ and leading are sometimes in conflict. Did my agency win? Hard to say. We’re still around. But that RIF took place; we laid off about 30% of our headcount; we lost 10% of our multi-million dollar funding. There were pay reductions; there were service reductions. There was anger and resentment; we said goodbye to some good people. We lost a lot.

But we came through it because our leadership made really hard decisions that were not going to feel good for the rest of us – and their decisions were made with the intent of trying to mitigate the damage to the rest of us.

For the past several months, I’ve been reading all sorts of right and left analysis of what’s happening with the Obama administration. I keep reading posts and articles admonishing more ‘fight,’ more ‘kick ass,’ more ‘do something’ – which all imply winning, not necessarily leading.

And what they’ve been saying has reminded me of that conference room debate I had with my coworkers. Why isn’t more being done? Why aren’t they telling us? Why aren’t they fighting harder? Why are they not telling us the truth?

I don’t have answers to any of that. But I know questions like those come from a position of fear and desperation, emotional states that don’t lead to good decision making. And I also know this: until some of these sideline analysts and writers are ready to put on their big girl panties and sit in that big chair and make the decisions that will bring down damage in order to save the larger whole, then those folks need to shut the fuck up reevaluate what they really want in a leader.

Friday, February 12, 2010

professional tip #1: put on your big girl panties

At first, my sister's divorce was making my heart pound erratically but now it's work.  And now I carry a bottle of Atavan.

A couple of days ago, emails were colliding in my inbox and it became too much. I busted into BossLady's office and had a mini-breakdown.  It just suddenly dawned on me that there was a LOT riding on my success or failure.  Money, funding, staff, jobs, livelihoods. My chest felt like it was going to burst.  And I felt like there was a big target painted on my back.

"I just wanna know that I'm not on the hook for the whole strategy leading this place," I said. "I mean, I'm not..I can't...I'm not an executive! I'm just pulling shit out of my ass!'

BossLady understood. 'So what are you saying? You're overwhelmed?'

Our COO stopped in. 'What's going on?'

I said, "I'm freaking out. I feel there's a big target on my back and there are a lot of expectations and I can't handle it. This is totally above my pay grade. LITERALLY."

But if I thought there was sympathy from my awesome COO, there was none.

With a voice like a blunt instrument, she said, 'Sorry. We *are* relying on you to provide the strategy. This is what you do and what we need from you.'

'Jesus. I'm about to lose my shit,' I said. 'I am so not comfortable with that. I'm not used to that. I'm used to giving suggestions, advice, throwing in some 'have you thought ofs' - not 'this is the whole freaking plan and it came out of my head'!'

You know what's in my head?  Most of the time, bravado and useless crap!  But apparently, that's my job - to marshall my natural talent for bravado and academic bullshit in order to get what we need to survive.  It was a really heavy moment. My job wasn't a game. There was no room for shrugging and saying 'oh well, maybe next time.' There was weight to it.  And it was hanging around my neck and I was scared.

It's terrifying, sometimes, to see yourself the way others see you.  (And this, one week after bullshitting my way through letter of recommendation! The irony, you know?)

My two bosses were sympathetic but not really feeling me more than that.

The upshot: put on your big girl panties, DeliaChristina.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

asshat of the day: who else?

Let this be a lesson, kids: when you mix white privilege, male privilege, boredom, celebrity, and a hugely over-indulged ego you grow up to be John Mayer. You've been warned.

Round up of responses to the 'very very' Mayer:
John Mayer's "Very" Wide-Open Window Into U.S. Race Relations - Psychology Today (this one was more empathic than others.)

John Mayer: A black woman responds - Salon

When Racefail Meets Playboy: The John Mayer Interview - Racialicious

Should We Give Him a Pass on the N-word? - BlogHer

John Mayer and his white supremacist man-bits - Feministe

Mayer Reveals His Authentically Racist Self - Whose Shoes Are These Anyway?

Was he high? Was he serious? Who cares? If I keep getting my 'black card' revoked for my lack of pop culture knowledge I want his freaking 'hood pass' permanently suspended!

Parts of his interview (esp. the part about having a white supremecist cock) reminded me of that opening hook up montage in The Wedding Crashers - our two heroes will sleep with *anyone* - just not black women. I honestly don't care who people sleep with - but I always look aslant at folks who cross out whole ethnic groups and don't interrogate it. I include myself in this number; I will admit there are whole countries of men I am not interested in meeting.  Maybe I should give Mayer some slack for being so horrendously honest about his racial preferences.

Whatever. Any dude who needs to look at 300 images of porn just to get going in the morning is an asshat. Frak his honesty.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

this is MY country

Rachel Maddow unloads a bunch of righteous fury on Tom Tancredo, the Teaparty and their dangerous, seditious, white supremacist nostalgia.

I connect this moment to Black History Month because, personally, I'm tired of February being the month we use to sing gospel songs (badly and too slowly), revisit big moments Black Folks Did Something That Shamed White Folks Into Thinking We Were People, or to complain about how janky and/or 'post' Black History Month we are now.

For months, it should have been clear that the narrative running beneath anything the Teaparty does or says has been about citizenship; crazy and fringe as they are, the Birthers were onto something. Oh, the thing wasn't Obama's actual birth certificate but the question it prompted: Who is allowed to be American in this contemporary America? 

The ideologically correct answer is any of us and their rejection of our national ideal lies at the dark heart of this seditious movement. (And, yeah, I'll call it that because that's exactlly what it is. Just the same way I'll also characterize it as white supremacist.)

The nostalgia they indulge in speaks to a time when national identity and citizenship was very narrowly defined by race, and every institution of this country supported that narrow definition. Without things like Black History Month (and the people who actually know it), without people like Howard Zinn (rest in peace, truth teller), a TeaPartier's nostalgic wish to 'take back' their country floats in our public discourse without context or challenge.  Black History Month should exist to counter their narrative, to make their narrative a lie. 

Black History Month is understood to be the culmination of a civil rights fight that ended a long time ago.  But it's evidently not over - not as long as there is a burgeoning movement in this country to question my citizenship, my rights to equal protection, my rights to an American history .  As a country, we are young in our plurality and we forget that the world the TeaPartiers lost (and dream of ) could easily return - if we let their seditious wishful thinking take hold.

Still wanna celebrate Black History Month? Let's make a deal.  I'll ignore all the bad Negro spirituals being sung in mainline churches in Sundays this month if y'all read up on things like vote suppression, red lining, the source of racial wealth disparity and our long history of intstitutional racism - and tell these Teaparty sons of sedition to go frak themselves.

...and more on the Idaho 10 (love the name)

Americans Jailed in Haiti Plead for Help From U.S. -


Reading the comments, I'd say their hold on American sympathy is dwindling.


The story about the 10 Baptists in Haiti just gets sadder and more bizarre:

Idahoans in Haiti agreed to pay $7,000 a month to house children in church center, newspaper says News Updates Idaho Statesman

They never had lodging arranged; they didn't have the proper paperwork; they had no clear plan; they had no experience running a facility for children; they were either going to give these children up for adoption OR they were going to be with them forever - in any case, frak their families.

I don't want these sad people thrown in jail; you've recovered the children (who are in a 'real' orphanage) so why not expel them from Haiti and bar them from ever returning?

And please - good hearted Christian ladies! Stop - adopt some critical thinking skills before rushing into the unknown.

Friday, February 05, 2010

professional tip #15: write your own letter of rec

I just wrote the most outrageous ode to my own awesomeness:

"With her help we have become a model of advocacy in the region and we’re proud of the generous way she shares her knowledge with our sister associations to build capacity. We now enjoy a reputation for being ahead of issues, for being a ‘first-responder’ on issues critical to victims of assault and working poor families. It’s difficult to ascribe direct causality but there is no doubt we could not have achieved this without her combination of guts, smarts and resourcefulness."

There's more but I'll stop there.

I'm applying for a competitive leadership bootcamp in DC for May and part of the application is two letters of recommendation. Who'd I pick to recommend me? My CEO and COO (I think having leadership behind you matters).  But they're busy women so I wrote the letter for them, sent it to them, said they could edit it as they saw fit  - and I'd do the rest.  One down, one to go.

Writing it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. 

Have you written a letter of your own awesomeness?

On my path to get to The Next Step I'm becoming a big believer in being your own biggest fan - especially if you're a woman.  Remember that article folks were talking about a month or so ago, about what women needed to do to be more successful - and the upshot was 'be more like a dude'?  Well, no.  I wouldn't know how to be a 'dude' if I tried - but I like being one of the smartest people in the room (and I'm not afraid of being that person in the room who also says 'I don't get it.') I like knowing what I'm capable of and doing it; I like knowing that there are things I can do better than other people. 

Why be ashamed of it?  Why be apologetic for it?
(I'm not saying be a dick.  Just be...who the hell you are. Unless you really are a dick. I can't help you with that.)

To me, not apologizing for being you (constructive warts and all) is being your own biggest fan. And being forced to write it all down makes you define who you are for yourself.  That's why I don't understand people who ask for recommendations and then leave it up to others to say something nice about them.  You're really going to trust other people with your reputation and image?  Really??  Risky.

Anyway, it felt good writing this letter.  It reminded me of why I do the work I do and why I've stayed where I am.  It returned to me some of my purpose.  And when my CEO signed off on it with a fluorish without changing one word, I squee'd a little inside.

Now if I could just conquer my fear of the networking event...

Thursday, February 04, 2010

if i was white i'd bore myself to death

This was interesting (in that way that makes you sit back and go, 'Huh.')

This piece in RaceWire posits that the LATimes' method of 'personalizing' their paper to individual readers suffers from what the folks over here call the 'white racial frame.'  (The writer doesn't actually use that term but I'm sure that's what she meant.)

From Hing's piece:
'...I should have known from the get-go, the whole thing is a gussied up marketing survey. And because, as a woman of color, I am not part of their marketing plan. The whole system is powered by Visual DNA, a company with “patented technology proven to increase Revenue Per User.” Visual DNA’s tagline is: “We transform unknown users into known people.” Only problem is, they’re not interested in knowing anyone whose goals, values and interests fall anywhere outside of a very narrow range of people.
The whole exercise is the most heterosexist, white, male, corporate America view of the world.'

(Sounds like the white racial frame to me.)

But I was a little skeptical - I mean, I've taken marketing surveys before. I have yet to meet a survey that acts like a scalpel encoded with your DNA. However, almost immediately, I felt...nonplussed. The choices they gave me to best represent my possible interests, values, issues, self-images, goals, ideas were so frakking White!  I mean, really.  You're going to ask me what's great about America and all I see are white men in suits, skyscrapers, American flags, white servicemen, white people silhouetted against a sunset and then a bunch of latinos holding an American flag? What the hell is that?

So I picked the most innocuous thing I could that didn't scream Mitt Romney:

A blank hand with a computer. This is what's great about America to me because they didn't have any frakking women of color to choose from.

When they asked me about my issues, all I had to choose from were nifty pics of sterile labs, hospitals, a forest (with a white person in it), a wedding cake with two grooms on top of it, more military, a brown person graduating, and a bunch of other stuff that yelled Ozzie & Harriet.  So what did I pick? The brown person graduating - which is lame compared to my 'real' issues (women's rights, poverty, racial inequality, politics, communication...I can find pictures of these things, why couldn't they?)

But then they asked me what success meant.  Dude. They showed me variations of a white family on a boat. Which image did I pick?
An empty, sterile home. (It works, kind of; I consider myself very successful if I have a clean house.)

And don't even get me started on what there was to choose from when I had to identify my Art or my Music.

But the kicker was how they put all my janky, second rate choices together to form my 'white racially framed' profile.  According to them, I am a Live Wire!  I have 'traditional values,' like relaxing with the kids (what the hell?), going to the mall (or soccer pitch), and I have all the excitement of a Sarah Palin speech.

I didn't think it was possible but it's true; the LA Times just made me white. I mean, I'm fairly bougie, but this? They sucked the color right out of me.

All kidding aside, this is what is so frustrating about living within the white racial frame all the time.  I dare say some (white) people will take this survey and also disagree with their profile.  'I don't like flags, the military or picket fences! I like really hip, interesting esoteric things that weren't represented on this survey at all! Marketing surveys are never accurate! You're reading too much...blah blah white privilege white privilege white racial framing...!'  

(And, because, again, this is not about how white people experience the world, but how people of color experience it.  Not a person of color?  STFU.)

I'm talking about the person of color who takes it and, puzzled, ends up just picking random things because we weren't considered at all at the front end of this project; as a result, our view of the world is erased and never represented (and, yes, our view of the world *is* different than yours in alot of ways).  This erasure of our sensibilities, this constant invisibility of our identity - our very presence, even - is a daily strain and source of frustrated disappointment.

As a result of our erasure, the picture of our national culture, our national identity, is diluted. It does our culture a disservice to erase whole peoples like this - just because some marketing guy can't figure out how to fit the rest of us in.  

[If you're a person of color (or a woman, I daresay - the survey comes across as very 'male') please take the visual survey. It's the best example of racial framing I've seen in a long time.]

[Updated: Here's another version of white racial framing.  No young Hollywood actors of color exist? Really?  Nowhere? Like here or here or here or here?  Again, some people aren't trying hard enough.]

what are they thinking?? now we know.

Have you read the GOP poll results from the Kos folks? Holy crap.

They polled 2300 (massive sample) self-identified Republicans and the results made me spit out my cereal.
I swear I don't want to indulge in any lazy name-calling, but what the hell??

These are just some of their answers:
They want Obama impeached. (why??)
They believe he's a socialist.
They barely believe he does *not* want the terrorists to win. (a significant number, however, think there's some wiggle room here.)
They don't want gays to marry, have civil partnerships, serve in the military, receive benefits OR teach in our schools. (so how DO they think gays should be treated?)
They want contraception to be outlawed.
They don't want sex ed taught in schools.
They don't want workers to be allowed to unionize.
They don't want immigrants to be allowed to become citizens.
They think the birth control pill is an abortifacient.
They think the Book of Genesis is a valid lesson to be taught in our science books.
They think ACORN stole the election. (sigh)
They (overwhelmingly) think Sarah Palin is more qualified than the POTUS to be POTUS.

Thankfully, they also think marriage is an equal partnership and women should be able to work outside the home. So, I guess, yay for women. Barely. (Women also like having birth control, asshats, so that we're not constantly dropping babies - so that we can work outside the home.)

Oh! And this:
They believe folks who aren't Christian are going to hell.

What does this kind of fundamentalist theology mean for governing a pluralistic nation? (Which we ARE.)

How do you govern if your base thinks like this? I'm not being facetious. This is a serious question.

How does one develop effective public policy if your base is this....retro. (That's the kindest word I can think of.)

And am I the only one who feels a tiny bit of pity for these folks who see the world through such a paranoid, irrational, illogical, and ungenerous lens?

For the whole poll, go here.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

suffer the little children to come unto me...legally

Asked what he thought about the Americans’ claims to be doing God’s work, Mr. Denis shrugged. “What is God’s I leave to God,” he said. “What’s the state’s is ours.”

Ah. God and state.  What is Caesar's and what is not.

The story of the Baptist missionaries playing Pied Piper to a bunch of Haitian kids gives me a Sunday School flashback rash. In Sunday School I learned all about the miraculous things that faith could do: it could roll away a stone from a tomb; it could raise the dead; it could be as small as a mustard seed yet grow into a mighty oak; it could allow you to walk on water, feed hundreds with just a few loaves, it could make you lay down your nets and follow some guy (nevermind about providing a living for your family depending on the revenue of what you caught.)

Basically, if you had the faith of a child you could be a superhero. You could do Anything!!

Or it could land you in jail.
Right now those 10 well-intentioned Baptists are sitting in jail, and quoting Phillipians. The significance of Phillipians? It's the letter Paul wrote while in jail awaiting trial in Rome to the church in Phillipi. He's writing to friends, reassuring them, encouraging them and sharing how his faith (slightly bigger than a mustard seed) in Christ has carried him through this period of darkness.  It's a beautiful letter, I've always thought. 

But Paul is also the go-to apostle when it comes to invoking martyrdom and going 'balls out' for the Lord.
'Limits be damned! I'm on fire for Christ! I am His Chief Sinner! Arrrgh!'

But the Phillipians letter also shows the limits of faith; for all his faith, Paul is still going to trial.  He will be executed in Rome. He will eventually bow his knee to Caesar. His faith is great, but his faith can't stop the workings of the state.

I don't think faith exists to embolden magical, fantastical thinking.  And it was fantastical for those people to think they could 'rescue' Haitian children and then ...what? Just scoot them over the border and keep them indefinitely?  Seems so.  My religious training has always taught that you have faith *in* Christ -- but don't get all crazy with it.  In other words, being faithful is great but that doesn't mean the State can't exert its own will on your ass when you break their laws.  (That's what landed Paul in prison in the first place.)

I also don't think God communicates to us in mysterious, ill-thought directives, despite what someone's father might say: “They were acting in faith. That may sound trivial, but they were acting not only in faith but God’s faith.” God wanted them to ignore procedure and just snatch children across the border? Really? God works like that? I'd like to see that demonstrated, somewhere.

This is also the uncomfortable tension between how we practice our evangelical faith (I say 'we/our' because I can't really get rid of it, no matter how many presbyterian cocktail parties I attend) and the rules of the world we live in.  Faith doesn't exist in a completely rule-free zone.  On one side you have John Brown; on the other, Scott Roeder.  On one side you have the many missionaries who have been in Haiti for years, delivering critical services. But on the other, you have the nagging, troublesome tendency of faith groups to enthusiastically 'fix' things without thinking if they really ought, to the detriment of the very people they're trying to help.  Unintended consequences are a bitch.

One's faith may say 'Save teh poor fetus babehs!' So you shoot Dr. Tiller.  Well, suck it up.  The state has a rule for that. 
One's faith may even say 'Rescue the poor little black babehs!' So you load up a bunch and take them without permission. Their country has a rule for that.
One's faith dictates gays are an 'abomination.' So you strip them of civil rights.  Well, our constitution has a rule for that.

I understand what walking in faith means to an evangelical. You walk by faith, not by sight. You believe there is a purpose, a meaning ahead of you and you walk toward it, even if the path is scary. But where does faith and common sense take leave of one another? Does walking in faith mean to put aside critical thinking skills? Does it mean to ignore the rules of a sovereign country?

To quote a blog friend of mine: You may believe those babies are better off in Idaho, but that doesn't make them 'orphans'.

Monday, February 01, 2010

reasons why having M- isn't such a bad idea

1. He has a beer waiting when I come home from the office at 10 pm.

2. He is my buffer between me and the crazies when I'm not in the mood.

3. The first thing he says when I come thru the door is, 'Hey, there's my girlfriend!'

4. He's not jealous of my job, which he knows I love.

5. He actually pays attention to my job even though he isn't that clear on what I do.

6. He protects my space.

7. He warms up the freezing cold spots in bed.

8,9,10. Other stuff one probably shouldn't say publicly on a blog. Cough.