Friday, March 28, 2008

Is not, Is Too

Little Bun was trying to explain a conflict with friends of his over the game of Last Man Standing. Apparently a friend thought he had tagged Little Bun, Little Bun thought he hadn't been tagged, controversy ensued, and they've been on the outs all week and about seven of the kids give Little Bun angry looks now while about seven more give angry looks to the (former?) friend. By my calculations that leaves six students like Switzerland. First grade is socially complicated and highly political.

Miss I couldn't be left out of this conversation. She offered this parallel: "Like when Ethan said to me that the Hand Jive is Chubby Checker but I say NO! the Hand Jive is not Chubby Checker but he still thinks it is Chubby Checker." Not a comparison or a controversy I was expecting!

(Of course it could be worse -- both of my kids could be cage fighting).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I've almost made it for a full day without coffee (I drank 1/4 cup). I've also gone cold turkey on cola. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but if you review my archives you will find that it is a great challenge for me (it is why I cannot be hard on my friends who won't quit smoking). But the motivating factors this time are a ridiculously high resting heart rate (why it's like I'm not even resting!) and my doctor's insistence that we can attribute ten of the twenty pounds I'd like to lose to cola alone (I can't drink diet. I just can't). My husband, who drinks caffeine up til 11 at night and still sleeps soundly is no help with either of these. So . . . help!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What's in a Nickname?

My daughter has bestowed on me the bizarre nickname "Sugar-free," as in "Hey, Sugar-free!" when she sees me. Any thoughts about where this might have come from?
I've engaged in and overheard several more conversations on Wright this week. I've thought a lot about why Reverend Wright's words aren't only "problematic" and sometimes perhaps "ignorant" but also "threatening" and "scary," why Obama's "faith" in him makes Obama a terrible unknown (though Obama's two books give strong clues), why there's some sort of implication of a "betrayal" to come.

I really think the real fear has little to do with Reverend Wright himself, and little to do with Barack Obama's faith or personal judgment, but plenty to do with perceived racial allegiances and everything to do with Obama's mixed race body.

It's all too familiar -- on some level scenes from D.W.Griffith's Birth of a Nation play on the screens of white American brains. I've read since that the racist subtext of the Clinton 3am commercial and its connection to Griffith's film/primal white American anxieties did not go unnoticed (New York Times 3/11/2008 -- I'm only a bit behind). The Clinton campaign willingly traded anxieties about the ability of a female president to respond to a crisis for more insidious anxieties about the possibility that a black president might betray "us." The suffragists should not have been impressed.

For those whose memory of Griffith's revisionist history of Reconstruction America is dim, Birth of a Nation adapts a novel The Clansman with the titular character and those of his ilk as the original American heroes. After post-Civil War blacks are freed, they take advantage of the misplaced generosity of the North, engaging in debauchery. Worse, a black militia forms and determines to take over the south.

Silas Lynch ("the mulatto"), the mentee of traitor to his race and powerful politician Stoneman, organizes "his people", who not only vote but also gain office. Scenes of whites judged by all-black juries and shoeless black senators ensue (as well as famous attempted rape scenes). The white minority is disempowered and nearly disenfranchised, certainly disheartened. Miscegenation is legalized; the real horror is revealed. Only the newly formed Klan can restore order (once they discover the power of the white sheet to terrorize small children on the beach) . . .

Birth of a Nation and its images linger like a national nightmare hanging vaguely on after awakening.

I've heard the argument that Obama is not "black enough," a charge he dealt with throughout his life and in part by attending Reverend Wright's church as a means of connecting with the African American community from which he had been largely excluded by his upbringing. Now the charge is that, with ties to a Black Liberation Theologist, (explained in a Forbes Q&A with a writer on BLT) he is "too black," that he not only believes in racial equality but also, like the black militia of the Birth of a Nation, believes that black people have not only the same right to walk on the sidewalk as white people but also the right to shove whites off.

I want to talk about the economy, taxes, trillion dollar wars, health care, poverty, education, Clinton, McCain, Obama -- but we can't do that with lingering nightmares from the birth of this nation. (And be honest -- don't you kind of feel like someone is keeping us distracted on purpose?)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

When dh heard Kristy Lee Cook: "I feel like I'm back at a Monster Truck Rally." That girl is a genius.

The Whos are What?!

Warning -- this could be quite triggering to those who are adopted, those who have placed a child, those who parent an adopted child and do not believe that that child was unwanted by her first parents or hope for that child to become the image of the adoptive parents, and people who read. I hesitate to share it but it's one of those things that is so bizarre that if someone else doesn't say she's seen it, I will feel like it never happened.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I had another . . . ummmm, errrrrr . . .

Miss I announced at Panera yesterday, apparently based only on an internal stimulus, "I had another mother." "Oh," came a hesitant response. "Yep," I confirmed, and we took our soup to our table, where I offered to talk about it more but she smiled, declined and ate happily. She's really getting it.

I can't understand how ethicists are debating this practice:
Of course I'd heard rumors about outsourcing surrogacy to India, but here it is on MSNBC.

PS I don't think the twins are going to like this when they get it.

Wright and Wrongs and Right

I want to be weighing in on the Wright debate, which I am told continues by the polster who called me last night, though it's my sense that Obama responded adequately, and appropriately, and better, as Jon Stewart reported, "spoke to us [about race] like adults." But I'm in the middle of a big work project with a 5:30 deadline.
I will say this, though. As part of a multiracial family, and as a person who values both justice and grace, and believes in the value of righteous anger but not aggression and agitation, Wright is not for me and wouldn't be for my family. I wish he weren't for the Obama family.
And this: Why does the "scandal" have the structure of breaking news, when the remarks have been made over a long period of time?
The real issue -- apart from the striking timing of these "revelations" some seven years after they've been uttered -- is how bizarrely shocked white Americans have been by statements that, however wrong, someitmes make sense. It amazes me that local callers to talk radio are surprised that "'they' are so angry at us still." It reminds me of a South Park (generally a heinous show I know) after 9/11 when the boys ask why everyone hates us, and the response is "because you have to ask why everyone hates you."
I loved Obama's speech, found I couldn't contain my enthusiasm by my normal cynical mechanisms, worried about the failure of my cynicism, and quit worrying and started to feel hopeful that we can get away from infantile questions about "why everyone hates us" (regardless of the everyone and of the "us") and on to adult matters.

On that note, I can't wait to read Jeffrey Sachs's Common Wealth, his follow up to End of Poverty. In a nutshell, Sachs argues that doing the right thing is cheaper and better and more sustainable than war without end.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Did I tell you that when we hopped on the bus, Miss I asked loudly "I wonder -- are there any other Ethiopians on this bus?" (There weren't).

Horton Hears a Who

I've never before seen a movie where the bad guy was a home schooling mom, but that's the set up for the animated version of Seuss's Horton. My husband was much amused by Carol Burnett as the kangaroo mom who stuffs her joey down in her pouch to shelter him from realities she can't understand and from the evil she seeks out to put an end to what she perceives as Horton's delusion and wrong-teaching. I don't think my unschooling friends or my sister in law will be as amused, though the former seem to have fine senses of humor.
My son loved nearly everything about Horton, including the strange inserted anime sequence which he thought successfully represented the difference between the "real" world of the film and Horton's imaginary life (his defense against my critique that that sequence and a musical sequence at the end were needless pop-culture references as efforts to expand the film), and the notion that we are ourselves living on a speck from the point of view of the universe, though he's still mulling it all over. He can't really understand what was so threatening to the kangaroo about Horton's belief in the tiny people who lived on the speck, even if that belief was wrong -- he's trying to draw real world comparisons as it's very clear to him that it's allegorical. He felt dismayed that one individual could so easily incite an angry mob.
My daughter loved that one of the animal-children imagines a world where "ponies eat rainbows and poop butterflies." She can't wait to tell her friends about that part (the social message is lost on her for now, and otherwise she doesn't find the movie as interesting as, say, Enchanted).
For my part, I find Suess's allegory on point, and as such, the movie as one of the scariest I've seen in a long time -- though I did detect a note of progressive self-congratulating I never quite feel in Seuss himself.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

My own bc

Dh and I were struck again by the ease with which we obtained our own actual birth certificates. It took: 10 dollars, 10 minutes, a driver's license, and a simple request. It made us think of our friends who cannot say the same . . . yet.

Friday, March 14, 2008

In the News

A ticking package caused a bomb scare on a local campus, until authorities discovered that it was merely a metronome in the mail (but was it addressed to the music department?)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Post-Trial Matters

The defendant pleaded guilty to lesser charges today, and we were dismissed without deliberating. While this saves me daycare issues for tomorrow, I have very mixed feelings about the trial, about the matters that brought the defendant to trial, and about the result. It was very hard, and it was very sad, and I'm very tired. But that's all I have to say about that or rather, all I can say about that.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

If this isn't a Mess,

It'll do 'til the mess shows up.

I've been selected to serve on a jury -- My plans for the week had entirely hinged on being dismissed (everyone told me I would be dismissed). Miss I's daycare is closed for spring break and our babysitters have gone for the same reason, my sister has just had major surgery and (I had intended to be helpful to her but instead) my mom is taking care of her and her children.

I won't be here much, but I'll catch up when I get back.

Monday, March 10, 2008

From the mouths of babes

I wish we Blooms could all be like this babe:
Check out Mamagigi's Ever the optimist.

"Rockin' the 'fro"

The haircare debates were raging again awhile back: Do white mothers of black daughters fetishize haircare? (yes) Are they really judged by 'the black community' (as if a monolith) by how well they 'keep' their daughters' hair? (depending on location, yes) Have real anxieties about transracial parenting been displaced onto black hair? (indeed yes) Has education about race been deferred while hours have been poured into picking the proper oil and pomade and shampoo and lotion and leave in conditioner and . . .? (also yes).

But the facts remain: In our neighborhood and school, it is most common for black daughters of black mothers to have their hair braided and beaded. My daughter admires braids, baubles and shiny beads, and so I braid. Recently, she has decided that she really loves her natural 'do just as it is, so we leave it curly and loose about half the week (the other half I do braids or twists so it isn't tangled or dried out and so the ends are protected).

Today she said the most fantastic thing:
"I love my hair. I want you to make it really BIG so all my friends can say 'Oh!'" and she beamed. So I picked it and then she shook it to an almost unimaginable height and oh the delight!

A Serious Proposal for Stimulating the Economy

It isn't like I'm going to send the check back, but neither do I think it's going to stimulate a stagnating economy -- some will use it to repay debts already incurred, others will save it. Few will spend it in ways that will stave off a recession.
But one tax break that could seriously affect spending: Remove or waive an upper income limit for student loan interest tax deduction. People who have deferred employment for full-time graduate and professional education have likely also deferred significant spending . . .

Monday, March 03, 2008

Dear John Letter

This response in the courier news to a New Jersey bill to provide adult adoptees equal access is infuriating:

"Speaking as prospective adoptive parents, my wife and I are not willing to take on any adoption where the specter of the biological parent hovers over the adoptive parent-child relationship."

Dear John,
I am an adoptive mother. My daughter is absolutely my daughter. She is also absolutely the daughter of her first mother and father. Their "specter" doesn't hover over our relationship, some unseen threat. They are here in her flesh. They are here, with me every day, in my daughter's beautiful eyes and eyelashes, in her dimples, in the way she belly laughs and a million gestures and manners that I had never before seen until I met her but that I'm sure they would have seen reflected in one another.
You warn that if adoptees are granted equal access to their own information, more and more prospective adoptive parents will adopt from abroad to avoid . . . what, precisely, isn't clear -- to avoid a child who has a history? (but we ALL have histories -- genetic, prenatal, perinatal, all significant histories). I will warn you in turn: anyone who is unwilling to honor a child's inheritances from her natural family is not ready to nurture an adopted child, adopted domestically or abroad.

PS Are you a real person? You manage to hit on everything wrong with the opposition to equal access to OBCs AND everything wrong with adoption preparation . . .

On a Roll

The toilet wouldn't stop running -- just a slow flow into the bowl no matter how many times I shook the handle. I mentioned this to dh, who took the top off the tank and discovered that a roll of toilet paper had been dropped inside.
WHY do they do the things they do?! And do you know how much effort that had to have taken a toddler?
Toddlers are weird.
(Please don't tell me "because it would be funny . . ."