Illegal Jesus

A national failing

I’m sitting here in the living room of my two-bedroom apartment, safe and warm with a belly full of dinner I cooked in my small but comfortable kitchen. My house doesn’t has wheels. I have a box of pictures in my closet that I like to look at sometimes. I am not uprooted, nor am I attempting to iron out a new identity for myself.

I am not a survivor of Hurricane Katrina. I am lucky, for reasons I don’t understand.

This weekend, we watched When the Levees Broke, a four-part documentary directed by Spike Lee. It is at times amusing, at times disturbing, and most times heartbreaking. Most of the interviews told us things we already knew about the generalities of the storm, the evacuations, the failings of the levees, with the poignant touch of personality. Tears. Anger.

I teared up many times and cried openly several times. The biggest emotional reaction I had was in response to then President George W. Bush reassuring the nation that we would help New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Coast area. I can’t find video of it on YouTube, nor can I remember his exact words, but I remember my reaction. I shook with anger. Then I started crying, which is an unfortunate response I have in cases of extreme emotional stress. All of it was, of course, tempered by how, during his last press conference, he defended his actions during Katrina.

It took him nearly three weeks to put his feet on the ground in New Orleans.

The Army Corps of Engineers knew the levees could not withstand a strong storm.

It has been three and a half years and areas of New Orleans are still in shambles, still waiting to be bulldozed or cleaned up or repaired. It is the city that has been forgotten. I was glad for the press grilling President Bush on Katrina during his last press conference. It brought it all back to the surface, back to the public eye. I’ll admit to letting the issue fall to the back burner and I’m not proud of it. Everyone needs to remember. Something needs to be done. The job needs to be finished.

A month or so ago, Rachel Maddow reported on storm damage from Hurricane Ike. It still hasn’t been cleaned up. Along the coast, tangles of trash and debris float, polluting the water and the soil with toxins and waste. It’s shocking. Our government doesn’t care. I can’t say that the Obama administration cares. I haven’t really heard much of a plan from Obama; maybe I’ve missed it (feel free to point me to any statements Obama or his administration has made on Katrina and/or Ike damage cleanup).

This week, I’m going to try to send some letters and emails to people about New Orleans, Katrina, and Ike. I encourage you to do the same.

I Can Hardly Wait to See You Come of Age: Inauguration Day ’09

Posted in letters, personal, the personal is political, to my nephew by indiegoddess on January 20, 2009

Dear Braden,

It’s snowing where I am today, all the way across the country from you, in North Carolina. Your Noni says that it was nice and sunny today, a little cold, a little warm. I’m sure you spent the day snuggled up in your warm baby clothes, close to your mama and safe from any harm. Certainly you won’t remember this day when you are old enough to be asked, “Where were you when Barack Obama was sworn in as president of the United States?”

You should know, little one, just how very much your aunt loves you. I may be far away from you right now, and your mom tells me that it’s okay – you won’t remember, but you should know that I think of you every day: you and your mama, your daddy, and I miss you every day. Pictures of you line my mantle and seeing your sweet little face brings tears to my eyes and a pang and swell to my heart that someone like you exists now in my world. You are what is coming next. You are imminent. You are the future that I have been working for, fighting for, for as long as I have been able.

You, and the brothers and sisters you will have, are the reason why I go on every day, even when it is so very, very hard.

When I came out to see you this last winter, I watched you sleep in Noni’s arms while CNN reported the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Right then, I got down on my knees and touched your sleeping face and promised you that I would keep fighting, that your Noni and your Mama and I would keep going and keep working to make sure that things like that never happen in the world where you grow up. I took a picture of you, fast asleep and safe, while people screamed in terror in India because of mistaken ideas about what is right, what is good, and what must be done to bring equality to the world. This world is so unequal, this world that your mama and daddy brought you in to has so far to go before it is the place that I want you to know, the world that it can be, the place I want you to grow up. I pledged to you that I would work, and fight, and keep going until you were old enough to join me in that fight.

Today, the very first African-American president was sworn in in Washington D.C..

More importantly, today, seven years after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the United States of America came together and elected a man, a man of African descent, a man whose parents interracial marriage was illegal in this country until 1967, a man whose middle name conjured up, for many people, a terrifying image of an brown boogie man, intent on our nation’s destruction. Barack Hussein Obama became President of the United States.

There are so many ignorant people in this world, Braden, my love, so many people who refuse to understand, who refuse to reach beyond their unbearably small idea of what is right and what is good and who is right and who is good – for a long time, they have scared the people around them into following them… but mere months after you were born, this country stood up and said “we refuse to be scared. We choose that one.'” And we stood up, listened instead to the voices of our better angels, and chose, we chose, a man who will, God willing, bring to pass a new era of freedom, hope, peace and mutual understanding in this country and throughout the world.

Someday your Mama will explain to you why this was so important, because someday, I hope, I pray, you won’t understand why a black man as president is such a big deal. I rejoice today, not just for the country, but specifically for you, my darling nephew – you will never know a world where a black man cannot be elected president. You will never know a world where such a thing is unheard of.

For twenty-nine years, I, as a political scientist, grudgingly agreed that “the world wasn’t ready.” I have never been so happy to be wrong. I have never been so happy to have been PROVED wrong by my fellow countrymen. Today we took another step toward the world I want you to grow up in, Braden. Today we took another step, an important step, in making this a world where everyone, not just privileged, white, adorable boys like you, but disadvantaged, poor, single-parented, disabled, transgendered, gay and lesbian, black, white, latin@, … where everyone, everyone, everyone, no matter what life they are born into, can find a place in the world where they fit in, where they thrive, where they are loved, and where they can continue to change the world for good.

I want to document this moment for you, beautiful boy, so that when you write a paper, or study political science, or race relations, or when someone stuns you with the fact that it took us over 200 years to elect an African-American man (and yes, we still have barriers to break; and hopefully by the time your sisters and brothers are born, women will have broken through that glass ceiling, as well…But for now, we have done this. WE have done this), and you come to your Mama, or your Daddy, or your Zia or Noni, and you ask us why, or you ask us how…we’ll be able to tell you – this is why. YOU are why. Because we want a better world for you. Because we want change for YOU. Because we fight for YOU. And because we never want you to live in a world, like the one we grew up in, where people were judged by the colour of their skin, or the people they love, or the clothes they wear, or their sexuality, and that includes you, precious, precious little one. I do this, we do this, so that you will be judged by your character’s content, and may that content be all that it can be. You have been born into privilege, precious, perfect little boy, and what you chose to do with that privilege will say everything about you that needs to be said.

This is what I choose to do: I choose to fight for you. And I choose to hold this moment in my mind and in my heart, so that some day, when you come to me and ask how, it won’t be “how could we have elected an African American president” it will be “how come it took us so damned long?”

I love you, I miss you, and I’m fighting for you. My every breath is for you and your Mama, your Daddy, your uncle, your Noni. My every step forward is to make this world a better place for you, Braden. Never doubt that you are loved – and never forget that everyone, everyone, everyone, deserves that same love. Not everyone receives it, and so we have to be patient, but we must never be patient with bigotry, or malice, or degradation of our fellow humans. We are all God’s precious children, and I thank Her every day that she has brought you into my life. I cannot wait to see what you will do with the history we hand over to you.

Do your best. Grow up strong. Fight with me.

Love,
Your Zia

The Purpose-Driven Blog

Posted in personal by indiegoddess on January 15, 2009

Relax. This has nothing to do with Rick Warren.

I was straight convicted the other day by Twisty about the lack of content at this here webspace.

We especially don’t have time to slog through the “dear diary” kind of blogs that earnest, untalented civilians publish willy-nilly, seemingly without regard for the stress their crummy, uninspired, confessional writing puts on an audience.

I’m not saying that there aren’t one or two pretty splendid dear-diary blogs, or even that people shouldn’t write crummy, uninspired, confessional dear-diary blogs, if that’s what boils their beignets. I’m certainly no F. Scott McShakespeare myself. But when I see that generic Blogger template with the rounded-corner rectangles, and the title is “Madame Bovary On Crack, the insignificant rantings of a depressed, demented sex addict office worker,” and the top post is “The BF and I had another fight last night and this morning I missed the bus and here is a camera-phone picture of my kids with spaghetti-os on their face and my boss is an asshole LOL,” I cannot click away fast enough. Life’s, you know, too short.

I don’t want this to be that sort of blog – the kind that people I respect can’t click away from fast enough. I want to be a blogger with purpose, with substance, with something to say.

Of course we have no readers, so pressure is very low – but then again, we have no readers, and if we were contributing to the blogging community anything that wasn’t already being done x 1,000,000…Well, perhaps that would be a different story.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not attempting to be another Dooce or Liss at Shakesville (although in reality, I do aspire to be as much like Liss from Shakesville as possible). I don’t think that popularity is the only reason to run a blog. I don’t think that an extensive readership is necessary. But neither do I want to be another throw-away, click-away place devoid of humour, interesting stories, or, you know, a point.

So, what shall it be? Stories of our friendship? How our lives are impacted every day by the politics with which we are so obsessed? Yet another ridiculous “dear diary, here’s a picture of my stuffed elephant with spaghetti o’s on his face…” area? (Although that’s not really plausible, as our stuffed animals already have their own Livejournal account. Yes, I’m serious.)

I’d like to see us write about something that means something, in between all of our macro/animated gif wars. I’d like to see us write about the personal implications of current political processes, to see us write about how heteronormativity and gender bias and the aversion to same-sex intimacy daily affect our friendship. I’d like to see us write about the things we try to do on a daily basis to effect change in our own small sphere of influence.

I don’t know what Writer Writing would like to see, or what our few readers would like to see. I know my family members will say “MOAR STORIES ABOUT WHAT YOU DO EVERY DAY,” but that “Dear diary” diatribe of Twisty’s is right on, I think. I have nothing original to contribute to the Dear Diary blogosphere. Other than “Dear diary, today I was too scared to leave the house, again…so I stayed home and shook and took a nap until Writer Writing got home and things got a little more sane.” – My dear diary entries would be filled with reflections on being a terrible agoraphobe, and that, aside from being very depressing, is boring as all hell.

So, any thoughts?

Those Who Ignore History Are Doomed to Repeat It…

Posted in human rights, personal, religion, the personal is political, women's rights by indiegoddess on January 8, 2009

“As the day progressed, the hall slowly filled with rowdies, and each speaker was interrupted by catcalls and jibes. Lucretia kept order with apparent self-possession, although within her her stomach knotted and spat.

She was not surprised by the heckling. Yesterday she had warned her sister delegates to expect nothing but increase [sic] hostility now that it was at last perceived that woman was demanding nothing less than full equality. ‘Any great change must expect opposition, because it shakes the very foundation of privilege,’ she reminded them.”

-Margaret Hope Bacon, Valient Friend: The Life of Lucretia Mott

Because my conscience, and the light I see inside myself and others, says that it is right, I will keep fighting until all are equal. Until every holder of unwarranted privilege shakes in their boots at my voice, I will continue to speak out, continue to refuse to be silenced. Because it is the right thing to do.

The queer and straight; women and men; trans and cis-gendered; black, red, brown, and yellow, white and everything in between; children, teenagers and the elderly; abled, and disabled; fat, and thin; jewish, agnostic, pan-theistic, wiccan, athiest, secular humanist, christian, and muslim; poor, rich; strong, weak, broken and complete must be made equal. Because. It. Is. The. Right. Thing. To. Do.

And to the cat-callers: come. And to the advocates: let them come. They come because they recognize that we are serious. They recognize that we will accept, now, nothing less than full humanity for all. For each and every one of us. And that we will fight. And that we will not rest, save for in the arms of the final sleep of death. WE WILL BE EQUAL. WE WILL BE FREE.

Let them come.

I Want to Be in the Light…

Posted in personal, religion by indiegoddess on December 21, 2008

Well, your prayers were answered, loves. This morning at meeting a friend’s words really spoke to my condition. She talked about how today is the shortest day of the year, the day with the least light… there was more, and that more definitely hit where I was coming from, but the crux of the matter was this: even when it seems the darkest, there is still light to be found. In our communities and families, and even in the country.

I find it wonderful that tonight, the longest night of the year, is also the first day of Chanukah. Now, I’m going to guess that most of you know what Chanukah is a celebration of – that the oil the kept the lights burning kept going long beyond when it should have gone out.

There is always light. In each other, when we look – in our enemies, when we pray to surround them with it; it touches a spark in each and every one of us, one that today I have been convinced never goes out.

No matter how hurt, angry, broken, or destructive we are. No matter how many we hurt or anger or destroy, that light can never be fully extinguished. We may need to look outside for the spark which will bring it back to glow in ourselves, but it is never not there. This morning, a friend spoke to my condition. I had felt alone and light-less. It’s easy to do when the skies are grey and the days are short.

But remember that the light will last long beyond when you think it should be gone. And the light that shines in each person you know should be a celebration not unlike Chanukah – a festival of lights, a conglomeration that, when brought together in your mind, will set you on fire and remind you that there is a light that never goes out. It’s the light of our humanity. The light of our goodness. The light of God, if you will, shining in each and every one of us, reminding those of us who so easily forget – like myself – that when you wake in the morning, the candle will still be burning. Tomorrow and the next day and the next and the next, until miraculously eight days have passed, and the light is still burning, and you remember that it burns inside of you, as well.

Happy (almost) Chanukah, and happy longest night of the year. Remember that it’s just when it seems darkest that the sparest light has the most opportunity to bring us back to what we know, what we need, and what we will always have: that of God within.

Be well.

Willing to Fight

Posted in christianity, human rights, personal, political, religion, the personal is political, women's rights by indiegoddess on December 19, 2008

What does it really mean to be a leftist in the early part of the 21st century? What are we really talking about? And I can just be very candid with you, it means To have a certain kind of temperament, to make certain kinds of political and ethical choices, and to exercise certain kinds of analytical focuses, targeting on the catastrophic and the monstrous, the scandalous, the traumatic, that are often hidden and concealed in the deoderised, manicured discourses of the mainstream, that’s what it means to be a leftist, so let’s just be clear about it. So if you’re concerned about structural violence, if you’re concerned about exploitation at the workplace, if you’re concerned about institutionalised contempt against gay brothers and lesbian sisters, if you’re concerned about organised hatred against peoples of colour, if you’re concerned about a subordination of women: that’s not cheap PC chit-chat. That is a calling: that you’re willing to fight against and try to understand the sources of that social misery. At the structural and institutional level and at the existential and the personal level. That’s what it means in part to be a leftist. That’s why we choose to be certain kinds of human beings. That’s why it’s a calling, not a career. It’s a vocation, not a profession. That’s why you see these veterans still here year after year after year because they are convinced, they don’t want to live in a world and they don’t want to be human in such a way that they don’t exercise their intellectual and political and social and cultural resources in such a way to leave the world just a little better than it was when they entered. That’s in part what it means to be a leftist. – Cornel West, 2007

Finding the Light

Posted in personal, religion by indiegoddess on December 19, 2008

I’m having a rough time today finding the light.

The last few days have been hectic. They usually are around this time of year. There’s no time for resting, which is something that I need very badly. Even when I spend the day in bed, it still feels like every moment is lived in anticipation of the next. Instead of reading the books I’ve checked out from the library, I’m throat-deep in political news, as usual, and the commentary about it. All of it spins around me until everything feels dark and closed in, and I close my eyes and try to find the light to hold others in, let alone myself, and cheese-and-rice, there’s nothing there. Not even a spark.

Yesterday it was the Jon Favreau issue. Today it’s Rick Warren and anti-semitism. All of these things are issues that need to be dealt with and thought about and the truth needs to be spoken. I’m a little disheartened that there seems to be such a lack of truly progressive voices in my small sphere – no, I’m a lot disheartened. I’m a lot disheartened and de-lighted that so few people are speaking out against such a cacophony of irritation at that speaking out. I decided that I was going to break away from the noise of that irritation – that I was going to look up people that inspire me and listen to them, return some of the books I have to the library and check out some that will bring that spark back when I close my eyes.

So I deleted the results of the conversations in which I was being so attacked, ignored the new ones as they came in; donated my monthly $5.00 to Shakesville, a place where people much more intelligent than me dwell and speak out and bring things to my attention that I am too cocooned to necessarily notice; downloaded some more videos of Cornel West on Democracy Now and scrolled through some old entries at one of the Quaker blogs that I read. This afternoon I’m going to go check out Race Matters, if it’s still there, and make myself a string of prayer beads and close my eyes and see if I can find the light again. Pray for me.

Ana Marie Cox: Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Bloggers

Posted in funny, imagination land, personal, political, television by writerwriting on November 26, 2008

via Ana Marie Cox: Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Bloggers

Okay, so I don’t live in Nebraska and I’m not in middle school, but I wonder if they’d let me join their club? I love Keith and Rachel and Ana Marie (though they would probably not let me in based on how smitten I am over Chris Matthews because ewwww he’s old or something).

Is it 5pm yet? Whoever decided to let everyone but the employees here leave last night should be shanked, and hard, by a big spoon.

Shakesville: My Thoughts About Melissa [PLEASE GIVE]

Posted in personal, the personal is political by indiegoddess on November 14, 2008

Sustaining Shakesville is a difficult task that falls solely on her shoulders. Contributors aside, Melissa bears all the responsibility. Her posts are what draw people to Shakesville. I think many people do not understand the amount of time, energy, and drudgery to post. While I follow a philosophy of just presenting information and letting the reader decide, Melissa takes the significant time to explain and present an understanding or counter argument that is absent on other sites. She cares about what she is writing. She holds true principles that even on a good day, I am not sure I could reach.

And she does it all for free.

via Shakesville: My Thoughts About Melissa

I do not have much, if anything, to give, but I have committed to donate at least 5$ a month. Any more than that and I plain cannot eat for the month. Yes, right now it’s that bad. But Shakesville gives me strength, hope and joy. It help me remember that we can, by coming together, make something POSITIVE happen in this world. Melissa McEwan is one of my role-models. I want to be more like her every day. My five dollars is paltry, but it’s a promise. Please, please, please consider donating – even one time, anything you can. She is going through a rough time now, she has more on her shoulders than she can bear, and as progressives, we need to reach out and help each other when we’re in need. I’ve seen amazing love shown by total strangers toward me in this community. It’s time I gave back.

As the dust settles

Posted in 2008 election, personal, political, the personal is political by writerwriting on November 6, 2008

These are historic times. These are times of joyful weeping, of glimmering hope, of we the people and yes we can. These are times of love and of pride, of young black men holding their heads high, of mothers telling their sons there are no limitations on you. Change is possible, more possible than it has been in years. In the words of Indie Goddess, it doesn’t feel like we elected Obama, it feels like we elected ourselves. For the first time in years, I feel as though I can do things and achieve a result instead of being ignored by my government.

As we approach Obama’s first day, and first 100 days, in office, we all need to keep in mind what he stated in his speech. He will not be perfect. Change may not come in one year or even one term. We all must rise up as one nation, as one people, to affect the change we want to see in this country. There will be much opposition to this presidency. It will come about through laws and as sad as the probability is, violence. If this administration turns into what we hope it will be, what we elected it on, we must remember why we elected him. When the opposition says he isn’t doing enough fast enough, when they say he has failed when he has not, when we are asked to make sacrifices for the betterment of this nation, we must remember why we elected him.

We can’t sit back in our homes and wait for Obama to restore our place in the world. We can’t sit back and wait for the economy to right itself, we can’t sit back and wait for Joey B. to help Obama take action on Darfur. We can’t sit back and wait.

This is our time. This is our moment. Social change has never been more within our grasp than it is right now. We have elected a president to these great united states – not north, not west, not middle, not south but all, united – who not only acknowledges the existence of the poor and hungry and weary, but listens to and understands them as well.

Take this moment to rejoice, to celebrate, to bask in the awesome piece of history we are witnessing before our very eyes, and then roll up your sleeves and get to work. Our president needs us, both those who voted for him and those who did not, to help him achieve the change our country needs.

We’ll get tired, we’ll get dirty, and we’ll probably have to face a series of disappointments before we reach the prize. When that happens, remember why we elected him.

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time — to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth — that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can.

President Elect Barack Obama, November 4, 2008