Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanks. No, really, thanks, thanks a lot.

So here we are again. It's Thanksgiving Day, which means the Christmas decorations have been up for about a month now and I am already tired of hearing Christmas songs at the Starbuck's. And it means within about 6 hours I will once again have that feeling that my ribs are about to crack as my stomach expands like a competitive speed-eater - that feeling I have vowed so many times to never experience again. But thank God, we humans have a short memory! In just 364 short days we can completely suppress the memory of the anguish and do it all over again. 

So right away on this thankful day, there's something to be thankful for - short memory. 

A list seems to be in order. It's a good day for taking stock. Here, in no particular order, are ten things for which I am thankful.
  1. Gas under $2 a gallon. I don't care if this is the result of a worldwide financial catastrophe, it's helping my bottom line.
  2. Indulging in rampant personal self interest. See #1 above. 
  3. Pinot Noir. Say noir more. 
  4. Progeny you are proud of. Not every parent is a proud parent. I am thankful to be one. 
  5. Italian sausage. I sprinkle it on my cereal. 
  6. A functional body. I know that there are plenty of people with broken, painful bodies who are full of a beautiful spirit, and I admire that. But today I will not dwell on my minor complaints because most everything works fairly well. 
  7. People who can put words together. Words to be read, words to be spoken, words to be sung. Words that touch me. 
  8. Flow. That feeling you get when your focus is so complete all the self-talk is shut down, and you are pure and clear on one purpose. Too rare. 
  9. Accepting what I can't change, changing what I can. 'Nuff said. 
  10. Deviled eggs. Ok, I get a pass on that one, it is Thanksgiving after all. 

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Becoming color blind

There's something sad about the fact that I can't actually believe we have elected a black man President. And it's even more sad to realize that I am surprised that no one has taken a shot at him yet.

(We interrupt this message to clarify that sentence one above does not indicate that I think there is anything wrong with a black man being President, or that I don't like black people, or that people ought to shoot at them, or anything like that, ok? Let me also clarify that I prefer the word "black" to "African American" because it's a lot easier to type. Let's move on.)

It's all sad because my disbelief says that in my heart of hearts I must be believing we are a more racist and hateful people than we really are - and since I am a generally positive person, and out loud I say I believe that people are innately good, it disturbs me that this other cynical, snide part of me thinks so poorly of American society. It's dark in the corners sometimes.

You've got to admit that it is astonishing that a country that has been so messed up on race issues could have gone so quickly from segregation and systematic, government-sponsored oppression, to electing a chief executive of mixed race. Two generations ago we were still classifying people as mulattos and quadroons and octaroons and such. There are people living today who witnessed - even took part in - mob lynchings of "uppity" black men. Just nine Presidents ago black people were still being sent to the back of the bus, to the "colored" water fountain, away from the restaurants and hotels that were for "whites only." One generation ago the leading man of black politics was Jesse Jackson - a guy with about as much chance of getting elected President as - well, John McCain, two weeks ago. Only 16 years ago (1992) white America was quaking in its collective boots as LA was torn apart by the race riots that followed the Rodney King verdict. How did we come so far so fast? Or have we really changed at all?

You might make the case that there has been real evolution in the hive mind - that to some significant degree we don't see color first anymore but just see people. Consider if you will the great many high profile people of mixed race who dominate our pop culture - Tiger Woods, Derek Jeter, Vin Diesel, Mariah Carey, Jessica Alba to mention just a few - and the resulting perception that it is not out of the ordinary to be mixed, and it does not mean your life comes with limitations. In fact, maybe it's an advantage now. Could be that King's dream has been realized, with a bonus. It seems particularly clear that the younger you are, the less you care about race. Is it possible that racism will simply die off, one racist at a time?

Or on the other hand, you might make the case that this election of Obama has been an aberation - that so many people were alienated by the eight years of Bush the Younger they would have voted for the proverbial "yellow dog." In that scenario the race question is not germane, and you can theorize that nothing has changed, and the next provocation will bring out all the same reactions. 

Almost certainly, there will be some event that tests the question of whether we have moved beyond race-based politics and society. I will lock the snide and cynical part of myself in the basement, and choose to hope that we pass that test.