Do the Right Thing

I haven’t seen “Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire,” but I’m going to. And if you’ve ever complained about the poor quality of American movies you should too. If you’re sick of “10 Things He Just Not That Into American Pie is New in Town,” then you have an obligation to, every once in a while, see a film that gets to you a bit by showing you the world of the kind of person you’ve probably never met—in this case an overweight, African-American teenager abused by both her mother and father.

I know. Tough sell, right? Everyone knows. This is not a feel-good-luck-at-us-we-elected-Obama-movie. It’s going to be hard. But give it a chance. With three big awards from this year’s Sundance Film Festival, it has an impressive resume.

And, yes, you should see it because black films have a tough time making it to screen or being taken seriously when they do. Tyler Perry had to BUILD HIS OWN STUDIO to make sure he could make movies, and his films are huge blockbuster hits (seriously, his movies are regularly at the top of the box office, though they are regularly showing on fewer screens than “mainstream” movies).

I know what you’re thinking, “Tricia, I can’t relate to that story” and “life is hard enough; I go to the movies to escape.” But you don’t. You see movies about tough subjects all the time. Ricky Gervais was the wise-jester when he told Kate Winslet to do a Holocaust film in order to win major awards. He was right. And you do like movies with black people—namely anything starring Will Smith (and who can blame you?).

This is not that kind of film. It’s also not a Saturday night movie. Go to a Saturday matinee. And then plan to have a glass of wine in a lovely bar or, if your me, a proper cream tea. Who knows, your “escape” could make you more compassionate, more aware, more thankful for where you are. Supporting compelling storytelling is your responsibility as a movie goer (okay, so sometimes I get preachy. Sue me!)

Do the right thing.

When it comes out, go see it. And then tell me about it. And (maybe) I’ll treat you to “IronBatSpiderMan XI.”

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The Gay Alphabet

I’m not entirely sure that, as a heterosexual woman, I am allowed to post a link to the gay alphabet. But I couldn’t resist. It was developed to poke (gentle?) fun at those who fear that gay people will recruit children into a life of homosexuality. I wonder when this flat-earth thinking will disappear, when people will understand that we’re born with our sexuality. “Choice” doesn’t really come into the equation.

The warped logic sort of makes sense. Society has done such an excellent job of forcing people into gender roles that people who are homophobic fear that sexuality can be forced too. There is no proof of this, but, as the kids say today, whatev.

To be clear, this is the GAY alphabet not the GLBT alphabet. I think my favorite is J=Julie Andrews

Blagojevich and Other Delusional Men (written as the state senate votes to remove him from office)

Maybe it’s because I learned about politics in Louisiana. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in the military. Or it’s possible that I’ve spent my entire adult life with and around male academics. And let’s not mention the male artists I have known. For whatever reason, I am not the slightest bit surprised by Blagojevich’s unethical conduct and haven’t been even a little bit distracted by his public performances and analogies, including comparing his struggle to Pearl Harbor. I don’t doubt for a minute that he’s delusional; it just doesn’t surprise me. After all, in college, I new a guy who told anyone who would listen that he had a strong feeling he was going to die at 33. This sense of doom impressed people, especially women. My response when he told me, sorrowfully but with a very stiff upper lip, was, “really. 33? Like Jesus? Puhleeeze!”* Before you feel sorry for him, you should know that despite my caustic response, he was quite popular with the ladies. I mean they seriously dug him.

And that’s the thing.

Deluded, self-aggrandizing men appeal to…well almost everyone. We rely on these men, build entire shows around them (“House” comes to mind almost immediately), and every truly nice guy I know has watched otherwise sane women throw themselves at the Blagojevichs of the world. This isn’t to say that what Captain Hair did was legal or ethical. He should be removed from office, but all this shock and awe seems out of place. Our culture valorizes men like Blagojevich; hell, we elect them all the time. And his over-the-top self-defense is perfectly consistent with our culture where no one admits they’re wrong, have lied, and should step down. Being bold even when wrong is a mainstay of American “cowboy” culture.

Having spent so much time around men like this, I understand the syllogism at work:

I am a good person
Good people don’t do bad things

Nothing I do is bad

Or, to be more precise:

Politicians and other delusional men may make mistakes but only do so for the greater good
I am a delusional politician
Whatever I did was for the greater good

I’m glad he’s gone, but I hope Illinois, collectively, goes to see a therapist to figure out why the state keeps electing dishonest and stupidly arrogant governors. Seriously. From a girl who had her political awakenings in a state where “Vote for the Crook” was the motto of a gubernatorial election (Convicted Felon Edwin Edwards vs. Klansman David Duke), I speak with a special authority.

In case you missed his closing argument, here it is:

*The guy has lived well past 33 and is married with at least one child.

Jesus Drank a Little Too!

I’m a fan of Andrew Sullivan’s blog and check it regularly throughout the day. He tends to focus on a few topics rather than trying to comment on everything, and I think he’s better on the page then he is on radio or television. He also includes “Mental Health Breaks” that are often funny and always interesting. Meet Gladys. She makes me think that getting older could be more fun than I imagined.


National Day of Service: Update

As is so often the case when I set out to do something for someone else, I am the one who benefits. While not many of my neighbors donated to the food drive I planned, those who dropped by gave generously. Five bags of food will go to my local food pantry, which sent out a call because of the “newly poor” who have sought them out.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here was snowy and cold, so I was happy to be in all day. Some of my neighbors simply left their donations in the basket by my door while others rang the doorbell. Friends came by on and off during the day to bring by food and visit, and that was quite cozy. I had hot cider with some friends and Pig’s Snout Scotch with others.

The day made me realize how much I miss the “visiting” part of Louisiana Southern culture where people come by for a little bit—sometimes for just 20 minutes—and chat over a beverage and treats. I miss that a lot.

Of course, one day of service is not enough, so some of my thoughts will be focused on what to do next…so long as I don’t get too cold (seriously, I get cold in the summer).

At Last: Cutting the Gordian Knot

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray

–from ” The Negro National Anthem” by James Weldon Johnson

Today in class, during a conversation about Harry Potter and Reganomics, a student made a passing comment about President Obama and the economy. He said “President Obama” so casually, so offhandedly, that I got choked up and had to look down for a minute to regain my composure. Nonchalance about President Obama can bring me to tears.

Of course, at any given moment I’m in danger of losing it, for no particularly good reason. Obama doesn’t even need to be mentioned, on the television, or on the radio. In line at the grocery store I’ll see a young black man in a suit and get weepy, any commercial featuring a little black boy…waterworks, seeing a little white girl hugging her little black girl friend…and don’t let me see an old black man or woman.

I’m in serious danger of dehydration.

My feelings are not unique, but I’ve been curious about the depth of my reaction. After all, I’m young enough to see the Civil Rights Movement as history, young enough to use the phrase “free at last” playfully, and young enough to feel I can wear multiple identities at once. Although neither of my parents graduated from college, no one was surprised that I did and any surprise about my decision to pursue a doctorate was about the fact that few people could imagine me sitting still long enough to complete a dissertation.

I still never thought I’d see a black president, and the success of our country regularly reduces me to tears. Why?

For whatever gains were made because of the Civil Rights Movement, racism and ignorance still run rampant and, with one exception, every black person I know has at least one glaring, scarring moment where they were denied something basic because of their skin color. I’m not talking about rude service in a restaurant but about being denied jobs, housing, and adequate health care. I am talking about young black people who followed the rules their parents and grandparents set out for them—go to college, get a degree, get a good job, dress appropriately, treat others with respect. It doesn’t work they way we thought it would. Yes, we have more opportunities than our parents and our grandparents, but in many ways we have less.

Faced with racism in its myriad forms, my generation has developed a series of responses (humor, anger, rap), all of which are inadequate at any real level. These responses, coping mechanisms if you will, did little more than thicken my skin to help me keep moving. Yes, I learned to brush things off, but swallow too many bitter pills, and they form a knot in the pit of your spirit, a bitter knot comprised of righteous anger, pain, rejection, confusion, and dashed hopes.

The election of THIS black president has cut that cord loose. And so I’ve been crying a lot. It’s a big knot (I was six-years old the first time I was called a nigger, though it’s a memory that belongs more to my mother than it does to me), so it’s loosening takes time. But oh my does it feel good.

It goes too far to say it has been replaced by hope, but the absence of a certain kind of deep despair will suffice for now.

This is not to suggest that I believe all this “post racial” claptrap. As Frank Rich put it so well earlier this week in “White Like Me” :

For all our huge progress, we are not “post-racial,” whatever that means. The world doesn’t change in a day, and the racial frictions that emerged in both the Democratic primary campaign and the general election didn’t end on Nov. 4. As Obama himself said in his great speech on race, liberals couldn’t “purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap” simply by voting for him. And conservatives? The so-called party of Lincoln has spent much of the past month in spirited debate about whether a white candidate for the party’s chairmanship did the right thing by sending out a “humorous” recording of “Barack the Magic Negro” as a holiday gift.

But the times they are a changing, so much so that when Reverend Lowery ended his poetic, rousing benediction, I could laugh heartily through my tears:

when black will not be asked to get back,
when brown can stick around,
when yellow will be mellow,
when the red man can get ahead, man,
And when white will embrace what is right.

Amen?


Amen!