Archive for April, 2010

“Imagine if the Tea Party was black:” Tim Wise

Posted in Uncategorized on April 27, 2010 by Wren

“Let’s play a game, shall we? The name of the game is called “Imagine.” The way it’s played is simple: we’ll envision recent happenings in the news, but then change them up a bit. Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure – the ones who are driving the action – we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead. The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.

“So let’s begin.

“Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protester — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

“Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.

Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.

“Imagine that a prominent mainstream black political commentator had long employed an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization, and that this bigot regularly participated in black separatist conferences, and once assaulted a white person while calling them by a racial slur. When that prominent black commentator and his sister — who also works for the organization — defended the bigot as a good guy who was misunderstood and “going through a tough time in his life” would anyone accept their excuse-making? Would that commentator still have a place on a mainstream network? Because that’s what happened in the real world, when Pat Buchanan employed as Executive Director of his group, America’s Cause, a blatant racist who did all these things, or at least their white equivalents: attending white separatist conferences and attacking a black woman while calling her the n-word.

“Imagine that a black radio host were to suggest that the only way to get promoted in the administration of a white president is by “hating black people,” or that a prominent white person had only endorsed a white presidential candidate as an act of racial bonding, or blamed a white president for a fight on a school bus in which a black kid was jumped by two white kids, or said that he wouldn’t want to kill all conservatives, but rather, would like to leave just enough—“living fossils” as he called them—“so we will never forget what these people stood for.” After all, these are things that Rush Limbaugh has said, about Barack Obama’s administration, Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama, a fight on a school bus in Belleville, Illinois in which two black kids beat up a white kid, and about liberals, generally.

“Imagine that a black pastor, formerly a member of the U.S. military, were to declare, as part of his opposition to a white president’s policies, that he was ready to “suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.” This is, after all, what Pastor Stan Craig said recently at a Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina.

“Imagine a black radio talk show host gleefully predicting a revolution by people of color if the government continues to be dominated by the rich white men who have been “destroying” the country, or if said radio personality were to call Christians or Jews non-humans, or say that when it came to conservatives, the best solution would be to “hang ‘em high.” And what would happen to any congressional representative who praised that commentator for “speaking common sense” and likened his hate talk to “American values?” After all, those are among the things said by radio host and best-selling author Michael Savage, predicting white revolution in the face of multiculturalism, or said by Savage about Muslims and liberals, respectively. And it was Congressman Culbertson, from Texas, who praised Savage in that way, despite his hateful rhetoric.

“Imagine a black political commentator suggesting that the only thing the guy who flew his plane into the Austin, Texas IRS building did wrong was not blowing up Fox News instead. This is, after all, what Anne Coulter said about Tim McVeigh, when she noted that his only mistake was not blowing up the New York Times.

“Imagine that a popular black liberal website posted comments about the daughter of a white president, calling her “typical redneck trash,” or a “whore” whose mother entertains her by “making monkey sounds.” After all that’s comparable to what conservatives posted about Malia Obama on last year, when they referred to her as “ghetto trash.”

“Imagine that black protesters at a large political rally were walking around with signs calling for the lynching of their congressional enemies. Because that’s what white conservatives did last year, in reference to Democratic party leaders in Congress.

“In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?

“To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

“And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.

“Game Over.”

Tim Wise is among the most prominent anti-racist writers and activists in the U.S. Wise has spoken in 48 states, on over 400 college campuses, and to community groups around the nation. Wise has provided anti-racism training to teachers nationwide, and has trained physicians and medical industry professionals on how to combat racial inequities in health care. His latest book is called Between Barack and a Hard Place.

Blog love to Ephphatha Poetry.


How my garden grows

Posted in Uncategorized on April 9, 2010 by Wren

Here’s a few photos from some of the work out in the garden I’ve done over the last


couple of days. And some gratuitous pet shots. I can’t help myself. Note the PIB and Finny shot. I didn’t force them to pose like that, honest!

The front garden/driveway got the spring cleanup treatment first. I didn’t take pictures of it, but I cleared out some melting cardboard and other trash that was left over after Mr. Wren made a dump run the other day. Then I swept and swept. There’s more out there to do, lots of pruning and weeding, but I really wanted to get busy on the back garden, where we are growing vegetables now and will grow many more before the season ends in October.

The first thing I needed to do was make the path between the chicken pen and the

No machete necessary, now.

first bed, which have artichokes and asparagus grown in them, walkable. It was totally grown-over by the climbing roses and shrub dogwoods that shade the chicken pen. So I took my trusty clippers to the viney, tangled mess. You can see the result. In fact, you can actually see all the way past the hen-house to the tarps in the neighbor’s yard. I also did a fair amount of weeding.

Straw-bale gardening wasn't a total success last year, so once these beds are dismantled, I'm going to plant into the ground directly, unless I can get Mr Wren to build me some more raised beds. Not holding my breath.

This pleases me. I like to be able to walk around the garden without needing a machete. But there’s a whole lot left to do. All those straw bales that formed the garden beds last spring and summer are rotting away; I need to cut the strings barely holding them in place, then break the straw up and rake it out, all over the high, grassy weeds that are coming up everywhere. I’m hoping the straw will kill off the weeds, which become foxtails by late spring.

Then I’ll rake and till up the soil so I can plant. That shouldn’t take too long; I’m not going to plant a huge garden this year. Just a reasonable one. I hope.

I still can’t let Finny run loose in the garden; Mr Wren hasn’t gotten to the fence-

Mmmmm. Chicken on the hoof!

fixing yet. So while I was outside this morning, I tied him (Finny, not Mr Wren)  to the chicken pen. He’s fascinated by our old brood of Rhode Island red hens; they’re equally fascinated by Finny. So everyone was happy.

Eventually, Logan wandered over to see what that little party-crasher was so excited about, yawned (chickens are no big deal to Logan) and flopped in the shade of an old cedar. It’s the closest the two dogs have gotten to each other voluntarily since Finny moved in. Slowly but surely, the pack is accepting him.

And now, I’m taking a rest.

It's not hot yet, but the shade is still nice ...

Happy Easter

Posted in Uncategorized on April 4, 2010 by Wren

Photo by Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

I just read in the New York Times about a program that matches service dogs to war veterans with PTSD. The dogs are trained by incarcerated convicts in a separate program called Puppies Behind Bars.

I’ve loved dogs from the time I was a very small child. I used to nap as a three-year-old with my head on the belly of Jake, our long-suffering and extraordinarily gentle boxer. As the years passed, we had a poodle, Boston terriers Hector and Albert, and boxers Pete and Mugs. I moved away from home, joined the Air Force, and missed my four-legged companions fiercely.

But it wasn’t long before I had dogs again. There was Annie, a miniature dachshund. Greta, a mutt-mix of pug and who-knows-what. Max, the wire-haired dachshund. Nessie, a rescued Lab/Doberman mix, the sweetest-natured dog I’ve ever known, apart from my current lil’ buddy, Finny McCool. There’s Logan, a Queensland heeler/border collie mix, the other dog who is still an integral part of my family. And there was my parent’s compassionate, funny old boxer Mugs, the second with that goofy name, who died of old age just last year.

Mugs helped my father recover after his last heart surgery. As Dad walked slowly and precariously along the back deck, building his strength back up, Mugs walked along with him. Back and forth, back and forth. When Dad died eight years later, Mugs became my Mom’s closest companion, her friend, and her living link to sweet memories of her late husband. He brought her through the devastation of grief, showing her as much, if not more devotion as he had my Dad, right up to the end.

All of these Good Dogs have cumulatively given me a half-century of love, joy and laughter. I cannot imagine how much less full my life might have been without them.

And now, to read that other good-hearted, loving dogs help men who have faced and still face years of their lives locked up in prison makes me misty-eyed.

But that these same men are training these dogs to help veterans who have been injured in mind and body in war, who have given their youths and the best, most productive parts of their lives to serve their country, who are broken, changed and in need their love and devotion makes me bawl.

Please read the story. And be sure to watch the video linked in the sidebar.