Friday, January 23, 2009

Bitter People

Are you nourishing yourself with a toxic stew of fear, trepidation and resentment, given Barack Obama's Inauguration? Some are, and they continue to "reach out" to me and Democratic friends with baseless complaints and venom.

I'm not naming names, because I'm not one to gossip. And I'm not referring to the millions of people who didn't vote for Obama; I'm referring to the millions of bitter people who didn't vote for Obama. He spoke of their ilk while on the campaign trail.

Mayhill Fowler, Huffington Post blogger, broke the infamous "bitter" story in April 2008; explaining that

... when he spoke to a group of his wealthier Golden State backers at a San Francisco fund-raiser last Sunday, Barack Obama took a shot at explaining the yawning cultural gap that separates a Turkeyfoot from a Marin County. "You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them," Obama said. "And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Obama made a problematic judgment call in trying to explain working class culture to a much wealthier audience. He described blue collar Pennsylvanians with a series of what in the eyes of Californians might be considered pure negatives: guns, clinging to religion, antipathy, xenophobia.
Yeah, so his comments were a 'problematic judgment call'; they also resonate with truth; particularly the "antipathy to people who aren't like them" descriptor. It's a given that simply disliking President Obama doesn't make one a racist. To believe so would be primitive black and white thinking; something to avoid.

The bitter ones are disgruntled, and many are lashing out. It seems they bristled with animosity even before Obama won the Primary, though "their people" had been in charge for some years. Why so angry? Many of them specialized in forwarding scurrilous anti-Obama e-mails around the country, keying cars with Obama bumper stickers, and painting his political signs with racist graffiti. Gotta love 'em!

On the night of Obama's Inauguration, at least two self-identified white women, one from North Carolina's Triad, called into C-Span whining. They claim to have voted for Obama, but were miffed that his "Caucasian roots" had been "overlooked." Huh? Was Inauguration Day that ominous? You couldn't hold out 24 hours before complaining? All those happy black people--scary!

If my Party had presided over eight years of assorted disasters, I'd put a lid on the condescension and contempt at this point. Maybe I'd be...listening? Besides, the bitter ones don't necessarily bother to assail the Democratic Party platform; they hope to denigrate by calling Obama "Messiah" and referencing his "Coronation." Such critiques are shallow. They're hatched from base impulses that whisper, "If 'they' win, then somehow I lose."

I'm not rattled by substantive criticism of Obama; I think it's healthy, as I'm not into groupthink. Obama, in my opinion, is a brilliant, open minded, charismatic Democratic politician; not particularly radical; who just happens to be biracial and bicultural. Of course many Democrats, and others, are celebrating like mad. What if an intelligent, appealing Libertarian or Republican candidate had been elected instead? Would the bitter white folk not be excited?

Some of the bitter people voted for Obama, or have multi-racial families. Marriage to a person of a different race doesn't, of course, "cure" one of racism, anymore than a romantic partnership with a woman obviates sexism. I suspect much of the malevolence aimed those who of us who dare respect him springs from racism; often unexamined and denied. Rise above your instincts! We all have racism within us. It helps to partake in a little self-awareness occasionally, though that may be a threatening prospect. Reportedly, Obama himself values the practice.

Bitter (white) people: if you favor the status quo, you're right to feel threatened. He's in. You didn't stop it. You can't take it away. No matter what happens or doesn't--things here are different. Barack Obama is proof of that. But calm down. Change happens slowly. My hope is that every one of us, bitter or not, will be positively impacted.

Our children need not assume every President will be an old white man; perhaps a dumb one, at that. That reality is necessary for the healthy growth of our country. I suppose healthy growth also means we may be challenged to consider others once in a while, instead of solely our individual personal interests (bank accounts) and those of our immediate family--scary!

So, where do we go from here? Change--or be left behind.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Leaves Calm Traffic in Winston Salem

In Winston Salem, piles of rotting leaves languish on busy thoroughfares, narrowing two-way roads to one-way and forcing cars to slow.

The City has abandoned its customary pickup of leaves, brush, and limbs. Huge piles of organic material block roadways for months at a time.

The controversial strategy is part of an innovative program designed to calm traffic all over town, even in rich old white folks' neighborhoods. One resident, not a rich white folk, is angry.

"I couldn't take it anymore," he fumed. "The piles were blocking my mailbox and eating up my parking. What with the holidays, it was bad timing. I borrowed a friend's pick-up Saturday and hauled away as much as I could. I drove it out Bethania-Rural Hall Road and dumped it."

A similar program launched by the City last Fall attracted national interest. It successfully created cost-effective speedbumps, roundabouts and neckdowns, and is known locally as the "Bags and Bags of Garbage" initiative.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Gauntlet

I enjoy cooking for the holidays. Tofurky roast, my grandmother's stuffing, cranberry sauce. It's fun to plan the menu, and I'm quite happy with my local grocery store. But on the day before Christmas Eve, shopping grew harrowing.


It was so crowded, and I dearly hate people. Some customers careened wildly through the store with their carts, seemingly oblivious to the crowd and the fact that the universe doesn't revolve around them all the time. Or maybe it does--the rest of us got out of their way real quick-like.

Special others blocked traffic in aisles and chatted on cell phones as long lines of gridlocked angry shoppers formed behind them.

Customer's faces were screwed up as if they had bit into a lemon; others were scarred with stringbean frowns. I hurried out of the bakery after I'd been tailgated too long for my liking. And I dodged sullen women as I grabbed at boxes of frozen lima beans.

In front of the beer, I made an effort to reverse the downward trajectory of my own sour countenance should someone make eye contact. My half-hearted attempt to spread cheer met with baleful stares and warning glances.

Compulsively, I watched every single face I passed to see if someone, anyone--perhaps the little old ladies--would look at me and smile. They didn't. They couldn't. They were just plain scared.

My ordeal nearly over, I paid and left. Now--to make it across to the parking lot. I stood by the sidewalk in frigid air, my cart piled high, teetering dangerously. Car after car passed. Finally frostbite threatened and I edged into traffic.

All other planned errands for the day were cancelled immediately. I returned home at once, anxiously watching for careless drivers; optimistic that my husband would enjoy some private time of his own amidst the festive masses.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Someone's Daughter Is Now A Hate-Crime Survivor

Updated 12/27 to add fund information below.

I had trouble sleeping last night after what I read. A horrific hate crime was visited last week upon an openly gay woman in Richmond, California.

Police believe the woman was targeted due to the suspects' anti-gay bias. The victim got out of her car to visit a friend, and was attacked and raped by a multi-ethnic posse of hate-filled men.

Why do I mention multi-ethnic? Simply because I find it interesting how last week's hate crime victim may be this week's hate crime perpetrator. That victim could be any of us. A sister, a neighbor, a daughter.

Back in August, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs called attention to a rise in severe anti-lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (lgbt) violence across the country.

“We must continue to work to build a society where such violence is not tolerated,” said Avy Skolnik of NCAVP. “This is not a call for people to hide or to live in fear, but rather a call for people to take notice, to speak out, to not sweep incidents under the rug, and to support and look out for each other.”

All forms of intolerance need to be exposed. Learn ten ways to fight hate. Report discrimination so it can be documented and used to educate. In North Carolina, check out EqualityNC.

I'm disgusted, and I'm angry.

People desiring to help this individual may send a check made out to Community Violence Solutions, 2101 Van Ness Street, San Pablo, CA, 94806. On the check, donors should write "Richmond Jane Doe."

What else can we do?

Cross posted at BlueNC.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Building Goodwill

When my husband was out of town recently, I made some executive decisions and broke some unwritten rules.

I foraged in pantries, closets and other dark places; gathering clothing and items we had 'outgrown.' I made piles around the house; grabbing any unflattering sweaters, whether they belonged to me or not.

Unused Christmas gifts from last year, still in their original boxes, went in a pile. No--I'm not going to wrap and "re-gift" them. Barring dire circumstances (like being broke and needing to give someone a present), I think re-gifting is cheap, tacky, and usually obvious.

Then I got daring. Here and there in the dining room where wrapped gifts were stacked, I picked up Christmas presents intended for us, given by people who live far away. I carefully examined and shook each package. Occasionally my finger slipped under a flap of festive paper and tugged, or untied a ribbon and pried open one corner a box. I'd take a little peek inside.

And I congratulated myself on an uncanny sense to accurately discern which wrapped packages would probably need to go away. Some All of these gifts and all the piles went into my car.

At my local Goodwill donation center I dropped off two large garbage bags full of housewares and clothing.

"Do you need a receipt, ma'am?"

"No, thank you!"

I drove away feeling much lighter. Giving is good.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Afternoon on the West End Home Tour, 2008

The West End neighborhood of Winston Salem is an intriguing mix of beautiful historic homes, apartment buildings, and dilapidated rental properties. It was planned in 1890 by Jacob Lott Ludlow.

I feel as if I was born to live in the West End; I just haven't been able to make that happen yet. So with my first Christmas in Winston Salem drawing near, I partook in the annual Historic West End Holiday Tour 2008 last Sunday.

My friend and I began at the Bahnson House, where we registered and picked up information. We spent the afternoon going from one home to the next; quickly falling into a comfortable rhythm of critiquing exterior structures and landscaping as we approached each tour site.

Once inside, conversation flowed as as we discussed aspects of light, open space, and "souls" of houses. Sometimes we had less than positive opinions about what owners had done, but tried our best to be discreet. After all, we were extremely grateful they had opened their homes to us.

Well, we were mostly grateful.

One site on the tour was leased by businesses. Upon entry, we were invited to provide our e-mail address so local merchants could contact us. Um, no thank you.

After a quick look around I wanted to leave immediately. Something about the house felt sterile, and I'm thinking this property shouldn't have been on the tour. There's a time and place to hawk and peddle wares, but this didn't seem like a good one.

It seemed like a classic bait and switch; the bait being an old house. When my friend was cornered by a docent-saleslady, I fled outside like the true friend I am and waited in the cold for her to emerge.

At another tour site, a compelling photograph of a bride in her gown held my attention for an inordinate amount of time. I stood looking at it for what seemed five minutes or so when I noticed a docent eyeing me suspiciously. Quickly, I moved on to another part of the house.

There were memorable rooms in various houses: two baths in a home that shared delicious views of the same old tree. A gorgeous family room with huge windows. A dining room I hated to leave; beautiful in milky paint and sparse, perfect accents of furniture and accessories.

In one residence, we laughed at our frequent and gushing use of the word "love." "I love this table," and "I love those windows!" Then, "I LOVE that paint!"

I hope to make the Tour a yearly holiday ritual. Thanks to all involved for a wonderful day.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

When Christmas Songs Attack

I enjoy listening to a little Christmas music during this season of
voracious consumption. While the Carpenters and Manilow can induce agitation and hysteria, they receive relatively scant airplay at present.

God is good!

Sadly, the festive spirit is all too quickly dampened when tortured by
godawful Christmas songs in super-heavy, nonstop rotation.

Here, my list of most hated Xmas tunes:

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Bruce Springsteen
The Boss sounds like a sloppy drunk guffawing and harrumphing through this holiday favorite. It's nasty. Shower afterwards.

Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
John Lennon, and Too Many Others.
Depressing downer. In Celine Dion's rendition, she fancies herself "soulful;" meanwhile, Sara McLachlan breaks and cracks her own voice to everyone's great displeasure.

Wonderful Christmas Time
Paul McCartney
WHY is this getting airplay? Vapid, annoying and grating. Remember Wings?

Jingle Bell Rock
Bobby Helms
See above.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders
Odd inflections. Tuneless caterwauling and sour notes. Braying. This one will curdle fresh milk in an instant, and you may not survive a listen. Pretty much a

Little Drummer Boy
Bob Seger
Atrocious dirge. Difficult to endure.

New this year!
O Holy Night
Gayken, Josh Groban, Celine Dion
Jerry Butler's version was a long favorite of mine. Now, thanks to them three, I've come to hate this song with a passion. It's so overplayed in Winston-Salem, I'll probably never be able to enjoy it again.

Silver Bells
Bing Crosby
Puts me in mind of a mean old alkie guzzling eggnog, careening into the tree and slapping people around. Stop it! Horrible song; should never be recorded by anyone, ever. Not even god Stevie Wonder.

That's it: Carly Kickslaw's most hated Christmas ditties. I've despised most of
them for years. Take my strong advice and avoid them if you can.

Coming Soon: my heartwarming list of holiday favorites.