Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Blessings

I wake up at 6 a.m.

"Old Tom" has been thawed since yesterday evening and for once I won't have to put him the bathtub at the last second. I only need to brave the giblet packs, wash him, season him and wake up Ye Old Matey to put him on our new rotisserie.

I gather together the ingredients for my corn pudding only to realize that all the sugar has gone. The last of it must have gone into the baked beans. I'm dreading a trek to Kroger and before I head for my jacket I look out the kitchen window into the backyards of the houses on the street behind us.

Every kitchen light is on.

I grab a clean Country Crock container, slip on a jacket over my pajamas and head out into the frosty dawn. A squirrel runs past and stops short when he sees me. Squirrels that have lived in our neighborhood for any length of time have long lost their fear of humans and cars, more's the pity. We brake for them like we would for children, honking impatiently when they get in our way and even adults wave at them, just like I did this morning.

What is this need in humans to gain animal trust?

I'm surprised by the brief flick of his tail before he runs off and I take this to be his greeting.

I tap on my neighbor's door. There is no need for my reticence. She has been up for two hours; her husband sits in the living room reading the Thanksgiving morning paper.

Happy Thanksgiving, we say. She notes my bowl. Flour or sugar? she asks kindly.

Sugar, just half a cup.

We laugh over how rare this age old ritual has become. Neighbor helping neighbor, a cup of sugar, an egg or two. We chat for a while but the work must go on. Her children are coming. I'm expecting company. It's early but we both know that it will only be moments before Old Tom will be done and the friends and family will arrive.

As I tiptoe back across the quiet street to my sleepy home stuffed with family, food and love, the squirrel comes back. I wave at him and this time I am sure his tail waves back.

It just doesn't get much better than this.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Michael Richards and the N Word

So, Michael Richard's got mad at some black hecklers and called them "nigger".

A couple of months ago, I probably would have done a long angry rant about it, but it's interesting how a few months of getting called "nigger" at least once a week by white people can change your perspective.

I play Yahoo Hearts sometimes. When I'm mad at my kid or just need a quick escape from my ever-present nemesis, The Laundry, I take it out on the servers at Yahoo and play Hearts. I use this icon:

You would be surprised at how that little icon inspires such hatred, epithets, and full out racial tirades. Yahoo has an option that allows you to filter out curse words and other non-desirable words so that instead of "stupid nigger bitch" what you would see is "stupid @@@@@@ @@@@@". However people go out of their way to defeat the filter by typing things such as "stupid "ni99er beach" and the like.

You also have the option to "ignore" other players once they say something stupid. However even though you can put players on ignore and you will not see another thing they say afterwards, it does not quite mute the initial shock and hurt.

Yes, even from perfect strangers who I will never see or play a game with again, these words are shocking and hurtful. Most days I am able to laugh it off and simply use the filter and ignore options. Other days I ask a simple question to which I have never gotten a good answer:

Why would you say such a thing?

The fact that white people still say and use the word nigger does not shock or surprise me, however much there seems to be a broad campaign to convince black folks otherwise; that white people who use the word nigger are the exception not the rule.

I beg to differ. And not because of how many times I've been called nigger on Yahoo. But because inevitably, the other two players stay conspicuously silent during these times. Not once has another person ever spoken up and said, hey, that's not right. Hey, let's not use language like that. Hey, you should apologize.

Not ever once.

These are the people who worry me. Because like their real life counterparts, these are the ones who silently consent to seeing a fellow member of humanity humiliated even if just for a moment in a games chat. All my life it's been the same way. It's never been the folks who called me nigger that hurt my feelings as bad as all the white folks who called themselves my friend, yet stood by and said nothing when such things have happened.

A quote in this article already claims that this will be the end of Michael Richards career.
"I've never seen anything like this in my life," [publicist, Michael]Levine said Monday. "I think it's a career ruiner for him. . . . It's going to be a long road back for him, if at all."
The media is already setting him up for a drubbing that no amount of apologies and explanations will suffice. A local newscast wouldn't play more than 30 seconds of the clip explaining that it was "too offensive." I find this extreme political correctness amusing because anyone who's seen a rerun of "The Jeffersons" on TV Land knows that the FCC doesn't care and most people don't either.

I've heard it explained to me again and again that white folks are afraid of addressing racial issues for fear of "saying something wrong". And I'm always asked the question, "If I do say something wrong, then what do I do?"

Richards and other white folks who find themselves in this position shouldn't try to explain why they said whatever they said. Explanations are moot and only make things worse because at the base of this word lies so much ill will and plain nastiness that it makes my heart heavy and my mind ache. Such breaches may never be filled or healed and certainly cannot be explained away.

The only thing to do is apologize. If it's rejected, you have to apologize again for goodbye and live with it unless you can do something that will convince someone to forgive you. Richards has apologized and he should let his apology suffice then wait for the whole thing to die down. He lost his temper, said something ugly in the extreme and there is no excuse for it. Period.

An apology and a lifetime of never saying such a thing again - and speaking up when other folks make the same misstep - will do.

How bad was it? You decide.

Michael Richards and the N Word

Monday, November 20, 2006

Who Dey Heck is Ethan Kilmer?

[08/2008: DebLite update on Ethan Kilmer here.]

Everyone has their favorite Bengal. Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Rudy Johnson and Shayne Graham top the list of the most pupular players. Hometown favorites also include Tory James, Kevin Kaesvehorn, Justin Smith, Willie Gaethers and Chris Henry (wild child or no, he's ours and he's good).

Some teams have only one or two standout players. The Bengals have a roster full of stellar players and although the offense produces, our defense, God love 'em, makes us want to tear out our hair at times.

And then along comes a guy, who not only picks off the ball but scores and even though the number on the jersey was clear you could hear the announcers trying to cover while they scrambled for the roster and everyone at home asked, "Who is that?"

Meet Ethan Kilmer, #43, who made his mark Sunday and no one will ever forget it. A rookie hailing from Penn State who didn't even start out as a football player no less. And here he is making his first NFL touchdown and rocking the casbah by bringing the Bengals Back to the winning side of the game. Before all the crowds left the stadium his Wikipedia page had been updated to include his accomplishment today.

Housh, Carson, Rudi joined in as all the Bengals congratulated Kilmer. Chad offered him a sip of a sports bottle and slapped him heartily on the back. Marvin Lewis grinning from ear to ear walked over and said a word. It's been a long time since I've seen a moment of pure joy on the Bengal's sideline and today Kilmer put a smile on everyone's face.

Our defense has worked hard, I know, but they were holding on by their fingernails in those first four games we won. Since then, we've lost so many players on defense to injury that everyone's been wondering if we'll ever have a solid defense again. Well fear not, because if the rest of the rookies are anything like Ethan Kilmer then we know exacty where to find the best defensive players.

On the Bengals Bench.

That's where Ethan Kilmer was until today but I have an inkling that today was Kilmer's Any Given Sunday. And if this guy was a gem hidden on the Bengals Treasure Bench then who else praytell is Marvin Lewis holding on to?

Naufahu Tahi, not seen since the Bengals long forgotten promising pre-season is languishing on the practice squad. However those of us who watched the games like a hawk and predicted cuts with precision new that Tahi would be around for a while after watching him drag three huge players for about 15 yards before they stopped him. Yes, stopped him. They were able to stop him but they never brought him down.

I seem to also remember Eric Henderson making quite a sack in the preseason and his Bengals roster page shows my memory is correct. What it actually says is, "...Played in all four preseason games, recording 5 total tackles, 1 sack, and 1 forced fumble." Sounds like a man who can get things done.

Now I'm just a girl with a passing interest in the game, so I'm not even going to pretend to be an expert or even the ultimate sports nut.

I'm just damn proud of Ethan Kilmer and all our guys who made it happen today. I was proud of them through the games they lost the past few weeks as well. They played some fine ball but hey, turf happens.

However with players like Kilmer waiting in the wings, maybe there's hope for this season yet.

Who Dey!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Singing a Different Tune

On Election Day, I filled in the little box on my ballot that said 'NO' on Issue 12, regarding building a new jail in Hamilton County.

Before Election Day, I read up on all the candidates and issues that would be on the ballot, including Issue 12. I read the information on the League of Women Voters Smart Voter website, which not only gives the actual verbage of the issue, but also outlines the issue and gives the most popular arguments for and against the issue. I had listened to reports about Issue 12, commonly known as “The Jail Tax issue,” on the news and I had read articles about it in the local newpapers and on several blogs. I also discussed it with family, friends, a co-worker or two and some strangers on a bus. I concluded that there were far more good reasons not to build a new jail than there were reasons to build one.

To me, this is the process of becoming an informed, active voter. Finding out the issues, doing some background work, discussing the issues with fellow citizens and then actually going to the polls and voting.

So I voted 'NO'on Issue 12. As it turned out, 151,973 other people agreed with me and Issue 12 was defeated.

Imagine my shock and anger, upon reading this article at the Cincinnati Beacon, to find that the peoples’ "No" vote doesn't amount to a hill of beans with certain members of our City Council, County Commission, and City and County governments. Instead of listening to the people they are supposed to serve, they are determined to build the jail anyway. They aloswant to close our pools, half our recreation center starting in poor neighborhoods first, and cut the Human Services budget (I guess to make up for the millions of dollars we have to pay back) but hey, to make up for it all, we must have a new jail.

One Council Member, Chris Bortz, has attempted to justify the logic of "The Voter is Wrong When The Powers that Be Don't Agree".
"We need a jail now. Leadership means recognizing when the polls are wrong. Leadership is standing up and pushing for what is right and what is needed even when it is unpopular to do so. The jail tax failed because it had become overly charged politically. Nevertheless, I hope the county focuses on what is needed and gets the jail built ASAP."
Nate Livingston at Cincinnati Black Blog says that this statement is basically a big F-You to the voters and I happen to agree. However, in a follow-up post, Chris took issue with this saying he would ""never present a cavalier or disrespectful tone to the citizens."

Whether he means to or not, Chris Bortz needs to wake up and recognize that it is an insult to me and every other person who voted against the jail every time he opens his mouth to support this issue.

We, the same 151,974 people who defeated the jail tax issue, are a lot of people to alienate by claiming that you know better than they do simply because you're on council. Bortz and others like him were put there to represent us, not dictate to us. Leadership is one thing. Deliberately doing an end run around the voters is quite another.

Even the generally clueless Enquirer has stated that the jail issue was divided clearly along socioeconomic lines. Despite their pre-election predictable fear-mongering endorsement of Issue 12 and despite the tactless title of this post-election article even they seem to realize why it failed.

People who live in wealthy neighborhoods supported the jail issue. They’ve got theirs and locking up the great unwashed is preferable to dealing with whatever problems poor people have.

People in middle class and poor neighborhoods voted against the jail. Considering that most of these folks are Black and that it is our people and families who get locked up first, last and foremost, we voted no. Do our neighborhoods have problems with crime? Yes, but a lot of those problems simply cannot be locked away.

Building a jail will not solve our County or City problems with crime. You and the rest of your elite co-workers and their power-hungry buddies need to spend more time trying to figure out how to better help Black folks, Hispanic folks, poor folks, and folks with physical and mental disabilities.

Citizens tell City Council and County Commission again and again that past and planned cuts to the Cincinnati and Hamilton County budget are devestating to real people not statistics. These changes affect our neighborhoods and families. We need help but not your version of it. You have convinced the wealthy neighborhoods that they need protection from dark skinned violent criminals yet you neglect to actually protect us from white-collar criminals who steal our tax dollars.

Yet the best you can do is say that we have to put up with more waste and money that seems to disappear. When we turn to you for help, the very folks we voted into office, you respond by saying more of us need to be locked up.

You are dangerously wrong when you say that the defeat of the Jail Tax was not a mandate from the people and it shows just how cluelesly out of touch you really are.

Issue 12 was a mandate from the people, by the people, for the people. It was a mandate that you listen. A mandate that you cannot and should not attempt to turn our city and county into a police state. A mandate that tax dollar waste and the lack of accountability for that waste will no longer be tolertated.

Stop listening to other people who go to bed with full bellies every night and start listening to folks who are doing without to make your life possible. Then maybe you'll understand how better to help folks than putting them down and backhandedly calling them ignorant for not going along with a plan that will not help them.

Keep yammering away about how we need a new jail and next year I will be singing a new song.

We’re taking no shorts
We’re taking no shorts
We don’t need a new jail
So don’t vote for Bortz

Friday, November 10, 2006

Howard Dean is Dead Wrong

Howard Dean stated to Jon Stewart that the Dems won't be seeking George Bush's impeachment.

My response: Why the hell not? What the heck else did we vote for all those Dems for if not to get rid of King George?

The Dems swept the election. Immediatey after Rumsfeld finally got fired (quite my a... eye). Tony Blair is being ousted. Sadaam and his trial-mates are going to hang. As far as I'm concerned, Bush Jr., Bush Sr., Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Karl Rove should be right in line with Sadaam and Co. (Over 2000 Dead American Soldies and Over 100,000 Iraquis dead) but since they will never be tried, let alone condemned for their war crimes, I would settle for a nice healthy impeachment and a boot out of office to live in infamy if not prision for the remainder of their days.

The Bush Administration does not deserve another two seconds in office let alone another two years. If Howard Dean as DNC Chairman does not understand this simple fact, hopefully Senator Harry Reid and Representative Nancy Pelosi do.

The Dems need to not only find out what the voters want but they need to actually carry out the will of the people.

Our priorities should be ending the war and bringing the troops home. We should be about helping the middle class out of the slide to assured poverty. However somewhere in all of that, part of the order of business should be ousting Bush and anyone left who supports his hideously wrong agenda.

This guy at Huffington Post disagrees with me about impeachment and makes a some great points doing so. His arguments notwithsanding, impeachment should not be set aside as an option.

Update 12/17/2006: OK. He's wrong about impeachment, right about everything else. I have to give the man props for his 50 state strategy.