Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Cheese Steak Jihad

October 25, 2013

independence-hall

If you don’t know what that building is and the role it played in the shaping of our country, you should be ashamed of yourself and in a way are partially responsible for the antics of the morons currently ‘governing’ us from television studios in Washington DC.  As Jefferson wrote: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be”.

It is Independence Hall in Philadelphia and the place where the Declaration of Independence was debated and signed and where the incredible compromises were wrought that became our constitution.  Imagine what careful deliberation and contention and resolve must have characterized those proceedings.  And oh yes, compromise.

The Founding Fathers – a bunch of farmers and shopkeepers – decided to declare their independence from an empire upon which the sun never set and figured out how to craft governing principles upon which all could agree.   Sure there was (and is) imperfection of terrible sorts only some of which have been ameliorated by amendment.  Still, the Constitution that we have today is largely the same document as the one adopted September 17, 1787 in the space you look upon above.

Why am I all worked up about it?  Well, I just returned from about ten days in Philadelphia and my hotel was not far from Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross’s house, and all the rest.  School’s in session so most of the guests in the hotel, and most of the tourists visiting the sites were foreign.  Sort of visiting the sites.  They weren’t open.   Imagine.  Imagine!   These educated people from around the world had chosen to take the time and go to the expense to visit the cradle of our democracy – in admiration – only to find it closed.

I watched a variety of displays of incredulity, dismay, and disappointment.  Imagine if you were from a newly democratic country on a pilgrimage anxious to genuflect and sing hallelujah only to find that the wealthiest nation on earth might not pay its bills.  Bills representing expenditures upon which there had already been agreement!

The religious metaphors in the previous paragraph are additionally apt for a reason likely not to have come immediately to mind.  I listened to several tour guides addressing different groups from disparate parts of the planet all using, one way or another, the word jihad to describe those who would let our government close for business and default on our debt.

You know what?  I’ll bet the only thing that comes to the minds of those f***ers when they hear ‘Philadelphia’ is cheese steak.

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Can It Be That Ducks Are Safer?

January 5, 2013

bushmaster-man-card-banner 

  The official NRA reaction to school shootings in general and Sandy Hook in particular, announced on December 21, was that there should be an armed guard in every school.  Apparently noting that this proposal was made on the last day of the Mayan calendar, sports team owner Mark Cuban tweeted that the NRA recommendation was what the Mayans had in mind when they predicted the world would come to an end on that day.

  A bit oblique, but I wish I’d thought to say that.  Why just public schools?  How about private schools, day care facilities, uh, movie theaters, churches, malls, factories, businesses, and oh ya post offices? Everyone should have at least a sidearm, no, a brace.

  Really, more guns are the answer?  According to Tom Diaz of the Violence Policy Center (and a former NRA member) more Americans die every year from gunshot injury (acts of will, emotion, accidents, and self infliction) than have from incidents of terrorism – in total – that have ever been recorded.  Every year.

  Furthermore, more Americans die from gunshot wounds every year than do citizens of the whole rest of the planet from acts of terrorism.  Yet nothing has been done to even attempt attenuation of all this carnage while, since 9/11, the search and seizure and self incrimination protections provided by the Fourth and Fifth Amendments have been reduced to a degree legal scholars would have previously thought not possible.

  It is important to acknowledge that there is no short term solution, but helpful to understand the origin and nature of the problem.  There would be no gun violence without guns, obviously.  Hunting weapons are involved in a small portion of these incidents while handguns comprise the largest.  And the industry is on record as having appealed to our “inner soldiers” by making available to the public high capacity semiautomatic pistols and ammunition originally procured by the military.

  I have hunted, own a shotgun, and have many friends for whom hunting is an important part of their lives.  Tellingly however, “there has been and continues to be a decline in hunting.  “Young people are much more interested in electronic games…”  Thus, sales of traditional sporting weapons have also been on a decline.  The arms industry has rejuvenated their markets by “heavily marketing not just semiautomatic, but military derived semiautomatic guns”.  Sales to governments are advertising and loss leaders.       

  Incredibly, there is abundant data available about what types of guns are used in what types of crimes, but both the ATF and CDC have been precluded from distributing it by acts of Congress which were initiated by the NRA.  “The data is in the files of the ATF, but it cannot release it.  [They are] forbidden by law from releasing it…. There was … peer-reviewed research about gun death and injury… but there was a funding restriction which essentially says that the CDC cannot do any research related to gun control”.

  Like I said, there is no short term solution, but that’s no excuse for not getting started.  The magnitude and complexity of issues related to the eradication of smallpox were overcome.  No reasonable person will suggest we suspend a similar effort aimed at polio because of the murder of three clinicians in Pakistan by a few misguided backward fanatics.

  The Second Amendment was written when a musket was the most lethal firearm of the day and there was in the land taxation without representation.   Even Justice Scalia says that there is room for federal gun control regulation, that: “We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons”

  If I looked out the window of my home to see a bad guy approaching with a ‘modern sport rifle’, would I wish I was armed?  Sure, but is that an answer to the right question?  How could it not be a good thing if, a generation from now, there had been a significant decrease in the number of those weapons designed specifically to kill people and lots of them? 

  In most states it is illegal for duck hunters to use a gun with a magazine holding more than three rounds.  Let’s give ourselves a sporting chance.  Write your congressman.

*Some of the material above was paraphrased and/or purloined from an interview by Terry Gross of Tom Diaz on the December 20th edition of NPR’s Fresh Air

*Men and Guns?  cf October 9, 2009

Money Is People?

September 21, 2012

 

  The pictures above and below were painted by Xiaoze Xie specifically for the lobby of the United States Courthouse in downtown Davenport, Iowa.  They are typical of his style, subject matter, and scale – these each being a whopping 72” x 103”!

  Xie says: “I see books as a material form of something abstract, such as philosophy and ideology.  I have also been fascinated by what people do to books: banning, destroying, glorifying with gold-leaf, or worshiping as ultimate truth.”

  The shelves in the one above, The Spirit of Law, hold volumes by Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Paine, Alexander Hamilton, and William Blackburn.  The books below, Iowa Reports, are nineteenth century Iowa Supreme Court Reports from the library of the US District Court for the Southern District of Iowa.

  Xiaoze Xie was born in Guangdong China in 1966.  He was educated in China and the USA and is currently a professor at Stanford.  His pictures are held in permanent collections of prominent institutions such as the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and have been in exhibitions all over the globe.

  The Spirit of Law and Iowa Reports convey a deep reverence for both the material and abstract.  What perfect pieces for between which a jury to assemble!  This sense is, I think, largely absent online and on tablet.  I’ll bet a goodly portion of the consideration of opinions like, say, Citizens United was conducted digitally.

  Money is people?  What?  I’m so sure.  Well, if money is people, they better not send any more to Texas.  They have the death penalty down there and aren’t shy about using it.* Either way the election goes, for distinctly different reasons on the different sides, Ben Franklin’s head will roll many times over between November 6 and the anniversary of Scrooge’s perambulatory revelation that people and money are quite different.

*This paraphrases a comment made by Bill Moyers.

**Go see the paintings, they’re yours!  The guards evince pride, but are serious.  NB: There’s a metal detector and phones and cameras are not allowed.

***On a plaque just inside are the words of one of America’s first starchitects Cass Gilbert (Woolworth Building…): “Public buildings should encourage just pride in the state, and be an education to oncoming generations to see these things, imponderable elements of life and character, set before the people for their enjoyment and betterment.” 

****http://art.stanford.edu/profile/Xiaoze+Xie/  This link will take you to his Stanford bio and statement.

 

Beauty

January 6, 2012

 

  Last weekend while discussing politics in general and the (then) up coming Iowa caucuses in particular a friend offered that President Obama is a Moslem.  I didn’t know which response should come first: who cares or no he’s not.

I guess it is elementally a case of an evolutionarily natural wariness of the ‘other’, but isn’t the internecine conflict between and amongst the three closely related Abrahamic religions crazy?  Obviously Islam would not be the subject of so much attention but for Bin Laden et al.  But, uh, Hitler was born into a Catholic family.

And was confirmed, and sang in a choir in a monastery.  Stalin was born Eastern Orthodox and attended seminary.  Stalin became an atheist and Hitler sort of backgrounded his own religion, but, still, why don’t horrors perpetrated by Christian soldiers come up in polite conversation while recent violent jihads do?

One’s personal belief system aside, we all have amongst our friends observant Christians, Jews, and Moslems.  And there is beauty in each tradition.  The case in point: in Arabic the word for beauty, virtue, and goodness is the same.  Thus in the Muslim mind they are not separate concepts.

On NPR’s fascinating “On Being”** the prominent Muslim scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr said that “There is a very deep nexus between beauty and happiness.  And happy is the person who realizes inner beauty.  And ugliness in Arabic also means evil.”

On the same program were other clerics including the Dalai Lama who said: “One of my Muslim friend explained to me one interpretation of Jihad, not only sort of attack on other, but real meaning is combative attack your own wrongdoing or negativities.”  To which Dr. Nasr responded: “The greater Jihad, the bigger Jihad, is to combat your own negative forces within you.  Yes, yes.”

And back here in the caucuses was the struggle to appear to be the least tolerant – xenophobic even.   A leader in the current issue of the Economist reads re runner-up Santorum: “Now is the time for consenting adults to lock their bedroom doors”.

Jeesh.  On this subject therapist James Hollis writes***: “One oppresses what one fears.  Fear is responsible for the oppression of women and gay bashing, the latter most notably by young men insecure in their own psychological reality”.

Scratch the New Year’s resolution in my last post.  Jihad!

*The Arabic calligraphy above reads: “God loves beauty”

**Show broadcast Sunday January 1, 2012

***What Matters Most,Gotham, 2010

The Almighty Has His Own Purposes

July 15, 2011

 

  OK.  Its having been Monday, the event is well outside the current news cycle, but on July 11th Newt Gingrich spoke at the University of Iowa in the latest of a series sponsored by the Family Leader organization.  That group is led by Bob Vander Plaats who in 2010 headed a successful effort to unseat three Iowa Supreme Court justices for their part in a unanimous decision – not a judgment regarding gay marriage, but rather whether a certain cohort had been subject to discrimination.

  Unanimous.

  Recently Family Leader offered that “slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President”.

  Uhm, say again? 

  They’ve dropped that observation, but perhaps its utterance was at least partially responsible for Mr. Gingerich and others to decline to sign the Family Leader ‘Marriage Pledge’ endorsing a particular set of values – “…a consistent voice… always standing for God’s truth”.

  For his part, Mr. Gingerich does ask: “Do you believe this is still a country where your rights come from your creator and you are the center of the society…( or do you subscribe to a) worldview in which you’re randomly gathered protoplasm”?

  If you visit this space at all it is obvious that I think about this stuff too much and am fascinated by all that remains unknown in this universe.  What I don’t get is the Blues Brothers business about being on a “Mission for God”.  My suggestion for those who think they are is to test the theory with the purchase of a lottery ticket.

  Or, better, consider the perspective of Abraham Lincoln as given in his second inaugural address.  Citizens of both the North and South “read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.  It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged…The Almighty has His own purposes.” 

  Think?

*cf the Economist blog “Democracy in America” July 12: “Newt’s Theory of Exceptionalsim.”http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2011/07/faith-and-freedom&fsrc=nwl

 

Ah, The Peonies!

October 9, 2009

Heat

    Ever see the movie Heat?  It’s a really great cop v robber flic with Pacino (cop) and De Niro (robber).  Val Kilmer is a steely with chinks bad guy too.  Ashley Judd’s his wife.  De Niro and crew are skilled, astute, and only go after the largest of hauls.  Last one eight figures.  Movie is wonderful, mesmerizing, in your face violence.  In fact, De Niro demands that his last victim “look at me, LOOK AT ME!” before delivering the revenge fueled coup de grace.

  My savor of the gunplay and bloodletting came to mind while reading a bit about the President of Liberia – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – the first female president of an African country.  Question: “If women ran the world, would wars still exist?” Answer: “No. It would be a better, safer, and more productive world. A woman would bring an extra dimension to that task – and that’s a sensitivity to humankind.  It comes from being a mother.” 

  Question: “But if women had power, they would be more likely to acquire the negative traits that power breeds, like selfishness and territorialism.”  Answer: “It would take a very long term of women absolutely in power to get to the place where they became men”.*

  What is up with us men?  I remember studying the Yanomamo people who inhabit a bit of the jungle between Venezuela and Brazil.  Napoleon Chagnon wrote the best selling anthropology treatise of all time about them.**  They were fascinating for having been theretofore untouched by civilization.  Real time look at primal.  Garden of Eden it was not.  Guys sat around blowing hallucinogenic drugs up each other’s noses all day while women slashed, burned, and cooked.  Third of the men died violent deaths.

yanomamo

  I’ve read elsewhere that our incredible inability to get along is what led to the original diaspora from Africa.  Group gets to 5,000 or so in size, factions arise, violence attends, they spread out.  Years on, given half a chance, a group more technologically advanced wipes out one less so.  Jeesh.

  Somehow though we’ve made it this far.  Truth and beauty do exist and are known to exist by men and women alike.  President Sirleaf might well see more soulful women than men, but some men have tamed or cathected their urges and transmogrified their blood lust. 

  Mountaineers, for example, challenge gravity and weather to suffer a cold and frightful experience risking their contribution to the gene pool all the while.  First ascensionists get to pick the line and have naming rights when successful.  Sometimes position and kinesthetics combine to make a stairway to heaven.  On the massive Gogarth Sea Cliffs in North Wales for example, Ed Drummond put up a spectacular route which he named “Dream of White Horses”. 

Dream of White Horses

  Or – just saw an exhibition of Cy Twombly’s late work.***  Unspeakable beauty.  Unspeakable.  The representation below of one picture from his “Peony Blossom Paintings” conveys only the slightest of hints of an in-person experience, but alongside panel six he has a haiku by Takarai Kikaku inspired by 14th century samurai Kusunoki Masashige: 

Twombly Peony 2

Ah, The Peonies

For which

Kusonoki

Took off his Armour

Cool, huh?

* NYT Mag, 8/23/09

** Yanomamo, The Fierce People by Napoleon Chagnon, Holt Rinehart Winston 1968

***Cy Twombly: The Natural World Selected Works 2000-2007.  The Art Institute of Chicago May 16 – October 11, 2009

Gross

September 11, 2009

  From the early days of the republic through the antebellum years, the American zeitgeist had been ebullient, dynamic, and filled with ambition and wanderlust.  Lewis and Clark, The Oregon Trail, Santa Fe, etc. The War Between the States however, catalyzed a wrenching change in its trajectory.

  600,000 lives were lost during the horrible conflict that followed our nation’s youthful exuberance – over 1% of the population. That’d translate into an incomprehensible 3,000,000 today.  Impossible for that not to be transformational, but the nature of the impact was not reserved to society’s human fabric.  As Lewis Menand wrote in his The Metaphysical Club: “… the United States became a different country.  The war alone did not make America modern, but the war marks the birth of modern America.”

  The secession of the south allowed what was left of congress to be a venue of action not seen since.  Progress.  It created the first system of national taxation; first national currency; public universities; completion of the transcontinental railway; and set the Republican Party up to promote industrial capitalism for years to come.

  The impact upon the common consciousness was darkly profound.  Democracy was supposed to progress with ayes and nays not blood and gore.  A proud American culture had given way to astonishing horror and irrationality.  “To some the war seemed not just a failure of democracy, but a failure of culture, a failure of ideas.”

  This came to mind the other day when I was thinking about a picture I’d seen in Philadelphia Museum of Art a few months ago while paging through a tome on American Art at home the other day.  In the book I saw an image of the picture below, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri painted by George Caleb Bingham twenty years before the Civil War.  I know nothing of the history of that work, but can imagine the take of contemporaneous urban viewers. 

Fur Traders

  “Wow.  Wish I was there instead of behind this desk headed for idle conversation with friends this evening.  That.  That’s living.  Trap a few beaver.  Fish.  Float down the river.  I want to be part of the wild west.  See stuff not seen before (Well, except for by Indians)”  In actual fact, thousands of people paid to view such pictures and get their only taste of the frontier.

  Now look at the picture from Philadelphia painted by Thomas Eakins ten years after the war’s end.  Gross*.  The title is The Gross Clinic.  “This is what our guts look like folks.  Get used to it.  Shit happens.  We obviously can not predict the outcome of this case just yet.  He might die.  Whatever.  We’re learning from our mistakes.”  Eakins thought this the best of his work.  He submitted it to the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia only to see it rejected.  He sold it to Jefferson Medical College for $200. 

gross clinic

  The above is hardly scholarly, but it is impossible for me to imagine either picture to have been executed at the time of the other.  The spirit of a time is also a great reality.

*I heard somewhere that usage of the word “gross” to mean disgusting dates from this work.  A perusal of the OED yields nothing that would hold to the contrary.

**The Metaphysical Club, Louis Menand, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2001

In the evening haze heroes are coming home

February 13, 2009

 mao1

  Edgar Snow was, I think, the first westerner to interview Mao.  He met with him in the old fortified stronghold of Pao An in northwestern China in 1936.  By that time Mao had already been fighting the Nationalists for 10 years.  Snow recounted this visit and much much more in his classic Red Star Over China which the Economist called “An exciting and vivid account of one of the world’s most important events…”

  His take squared with neither Warhol’s nor my facile conception.  Snow found Mao “gaunt” and “Lincolnesque”.  He sensed a “force of destiny” and was impressed with his breadth of knowledge.  Mao’s reading list included: Ghandi, Nehru, Spinoza, Kant, Goethe, Hegel, Rousseau, Darwin, Adam Smith, not to mention of course the Confucian analects etc and the Marxist philosophers.

  He had knowledge of the “negro problem” in American which he compared unfavorably with the treatment of minorities in the USSR.  He thought little of Mussolini or Hitler, but believed that FDR was anti-fascist and that they’d be able to work together. 

  Interestingly, Snow didn’t think Mao’d fit in with the intellectual elite because he could be found coarse and vulgar.  For example, during a meeting once, he took off his pants to attenuate the effects of the intense summer heat.

  Some thirty-six years later the image registered by Henry Kissinger was much more fully formed:  “I have met no one…who so distilled raw concentrated willpower… His very presence testified to an act of will.  His was the extraordinary saga of a peasant’s son… who conceived the goal of taking over the Kingdom of Heaven, attracted followers, led them on the Long March of six thousand miles, which less than a third survived, and from a totally unfamiliar territory fought first the Japanese and then the Nationalist government, until finally he was ensconced in the Imperial City, bearing witness that the mystery and majesty of the eternal China endured even amidst a revolution that professed to destroy all established forms.”

  Whoa.  Certainly the Chairman was also responsible for untold hardship, starvation, cruelty, misery, and death.  Those did loom largest in the memory formed by my early schooling.  Just as certainly however he was indeed the ‘Great Helmsman’ at the launch and early voyage of what has become modern China.  (Even though if back on the scene today he’d do a double take)

  Mao is on my mind because oldest daughter gave me a book of his poetry for Christmas.  Of interesting insights it is full.  Nixon recounts Zhou Enlai commending a verse of Mao’s: “The beauty lies at the top of the mountain”.  I agree with Mao, Zhou, and our former president, but probably with a far more literal interpretation than might have been theirs.

  In the spring of 1927 (the year my father was born…) Mao wrote The Tower of the Yellow Crane

China is vague and immense where the nine rivers pour.
The horizon is a deep line threading north and south.
Blue haze and rain.
Hills like a snake or tortoise guard the river. 
The yellow crane is gone.  Where?
Now this tower and region are for the wanderer.
I drink wine to the bubbling water – the heroes are gone.
Like a tidal wave a wonder rises in my heart. 

  Thirty two years later he wrote Return to Shaoshan*: 

I regret the passing, the dying, of the vague dream:
my native orchards thirty-two years ago.
Yet red banners roused the serfs, who seized three-pronged lances
when the warlords raised whips in their black hands.
We were brave and sacrifice was easy
and we asked the sun, the moon, to alter the sky.
Now I see a thousand waves of beans and rice
  and am happy.
In the evening haze heroes are coming home. 

  Clothes (or the lack thereof) don’t make the man I guess.  At least not less inscrutable.  Or two dimensional. 

*Shaoshan was Mao’s native village.

First Do No Harm

October 10, 2008

  Several weeks ago I mentioned something about financier George Soros’ back.  He employed it as sort of an economic indicator.  I’m reading his book The New Paradigm for Financial Markets.  It came out last April.  Wish I’d read it then. Or asked him about his back.  His advice in a memo written in January was to sell US stocks.  The Dow Jones Average is now some 30%/4,000 points less than at the end of that month.

  His purpose in writing the book is to put forth in detail his “theory of reflexivity” underlying his tremendous investment success.  “The theory of reflexivity seeks to illuminate the relationship between thinking and reality.

  “My starting point is that our understanding of the world in which we live is inherently imperfect because we are part of the world we seek to understand”… Understanding a situation and participating in it involves two different functions.  On the one hand people seek to understand the world in which they live.  I call this the cognitive function.  On the other, people seek to make an impact on the world and change it to their advantage. I call this the manipulative function.  When both functions are in operation at the same time they may interfere with each other.”

  Application of his theory in the financial markets leads him to: “the conclusion that both the financial authorities and market participants harbor fundamental misconceptions about the way financial markets function.”  His theory clearly is contrary to prevailing opinion that markets are inherently efficient.    

  Application of his observations to the current political scene is quite provocative in its description of the path that led to the current pickle we’re in.  “The primary purpose of political discourse is to gain power and to stay in power.  Those who fail to recognize this are unlikely to be in power.  The only way in which politicians can be persuaded to pay more respect to reality is by the electorate insisting on it… The electorate needs to be more committed to the pursuit of the truth than it is at present.”

  It’s not just Machiavelli.  The point is that once in power a ‘prince’ might manipulate realty with a certain goal in mind, but end up at the wrong end of the field in disaster.

  The road to hell is paved with good intentions.  An article in the business section of the October 7 online edition of the Economist admonishes: “First do no harm.” And then asks: “Do bosses need their own Hippocratic Oath?”

  Oddly, considerations of the above brought to mind another book recently read: The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Bolton.  It is a wonderful treatise on the tremendous impact architecture and design have on our existence.  “The places we call beautiful are the work of those rare architects with the humility to interrogate themselves adequately about their desires and the tenacity to translate their fleeting apprehensions of joy into logical plans – a combination that enables them to create environments that satisfy needs we never consciously knew we even had.”

  But the reason consideration of Soros led to M. de Bolton is the latter’s description of how few are needed to effect positive change.  “Lest we begin to despair at the thought of how much might be required to bring about a genuine evolution in taste [and whatever else], we may remind ourselves how modest were the means by which previous aesthetic revolutions were accomplished.”

  Starting with the renaissance and ending with much of the western world’s modern built environment he shows how hugely generative and positive movements have been spawned by just a few tenacious individuals.  “The Italian Renaissance was the work of only about 100 people… It took a mere 200 pages of Le Corbusier’s Towards a New Architecture to decide the appearance of much of the built environment of the twentieth century.”

  He concludes: “We owe it to the fields that our houses will not be the inferiors of the virgin land they have replaced.  We owe it to the worms and the trees that the buildings we cover them with will stand as promises of the highest and most intelligent kinds of happiness.”

  Yup.

Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world a better place – Martin Luther King

June 13, 2008

  For me, it is not about the war in Iraq.  The decision was made to go, we went, and we’re still there now.  Arguing about whether or not we should have and who voted how is even worse than pandering, it is a waste of time.

  That region – Istanbul to Calcutta – is the locus of the most grave threats (those of a political nature anyway) facing this planet today. All sorts of scenarios can be constructed wherein throw-weight is an important consideration and zealotry and sacred values make for scary hair triggers.  An escalation by either side for whatever reason could lead to a level of turmoil heretofore unseen. 

  Amazingly, contemplation of the situation took my mind back to my youth.  In the early sixties my mother drove my brothers and me through the deep south on our way to visit our grandfather in Florida.  Didn’t really have to get that far from home to find the restrooms at gas stations labeled Men, Women, and Colored. 

  First time I saw three rooms so labeled we battered Mom with questions.  Why separate?  If they have to be separate, why aren’t there ‘Colored Men’ and ‘Colored Women’? Why is the ‘Colored’ sign hand scratched and the other two, well, regular? Consciousness raised, we looked around and asked other questions such as: “why are all the men in the chain gangs ‘negroes’?” 

  When Dad joined us at Grandpa’s house, there were adult conversations discussing race related protests, Rosa Parks, segregation, lynchings, and murders.  The phrase: “there’s gonna be a bloodbath” really scared me.  When we got back home I began to notice the similar if more subtle disparities.  Took longer to realize that I wasn’t ‘lily white’ myself.

  Didn’t think about it in 1968 but there was momentous paradox, incredible irony during those years in which we should all find hope. For while it was white European men who forcibly, violently enslaved black Africans several hundreds of years ago – thereby sealing a cruel fate for them and as well as for the continent left behind – the figure most associated with the mostly peaceful passing of the era was a black man.

  There is hope again today.  What must the leaders of non western nations, as well as the dispossessed, think when they see that a black man, with the middle name Hussein, has an excellent shot at being the president of the United States of America?  I am about as far from being a statesman as my dog (no offense Sauger), but I think it matters big time.

  Perception and words make all of the difference.  We do have an embarrassment of riches in the back stories of both major candidates.  But who, walking through the doors of difficult foreign capitals would be the most, well, disarming?   How could it not be the articulate son of a white mother and black immigrant from Kenya?