Monday, November 30, 2009

Shun With Me People!

Michaele and Tareq Salahi are the scoundrels who crashed the state dinner hosted by President and Mrs. Obama in honor of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Now they are trying to cash in on their deception, and are banking on Americans like us to pay in one form or another for a peek show.

Not one red cent should make it to the Salahi coffers.

Sources far and wide suggest the Salahis are morally as well as financially bankrupt, and living beyond their means. That hardly makes them special. Their house in Virginia is reported to be in foreclosure and viral rumors are flying around the Internet that they do not pay their bills. Michaele, like most of us, is working three jobs. She is the manager of her Facebook page (with over 4000 Friends!), a make-up consultant, and working full-time as a candidate for the very popular and exciting reality show, "The Real Housewives of D.C."

Tareq is believed to be the former Chair of the America's Polo Cup, and spends the rest of his time telling people he owns his family's failing winery, even though he apparently doesn't own it.

When asked in April of 2008 to describe her style, Michaele said, "Classic and feminine with a slim rocker edge. I'm addicted to white clothes, and I love stilettos."

In other words these two people are ordinary Beltway Americans, except for one very important thing: they are not identified as either Democrats or Republicans. This really and truly sets them apart from most who thrust themselves on the Washington scene and in our face. More importantly, this presents a rare opportunity for all of us to band together and take a non-partisan stand. Let's all join hands in one big circle and turn our backs on these low-lifers.

AAWCL, Americans Against Wretched Cheap Losers, is starting a campaign to shun all that's Salahi. Turn off Larry King. Don't buy the anticipated book Going Opportunist. Call all your buddies at Half Yard Productions and vote Salahi off the Real Housewives Island.

Unfriend Michaele.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Getting Good and Old

Serenity might be too strong a word, but forgive yourself. Your mind is still foggy from heavy injections of sugar, butter, and tryptophan. You are experiencing Thanksgiving nirvana.

You always had mixed feelings about the holiday as a kid. Food was the main theme and everywhere. Some was very good and some so-called food was really, really gross. Stuffing was over-rated. Onions and celery were non-negotiable. There was love in the air, and something else. Momentum in the kitchen was palatable. The sounds of mixers, an electric carving knife and whisking, accompanied by the oven door opening and closing in crescendo. Foil-covered bowls and pots outnumbered guests. Your mother barked at your grandmother. It was hot. The dishes and pans to wash were overwhelming.

Then you got married and strived to be Martha Stewart. You toiled over an artichoke stuffing with free-range walnuts that nobody liked. The turkey was blessed and fed a last supper of organic grain before it was killed and priced accordingly. Roasted root vegetables with sprigs of herb you grew in pots on your deck were not quite the big hit you hoped for. You made that fourth trip downtown in traffic for the Gewurtztraminer you needed for dinner. The dishes were still overwhelming, and with a headache even more challenging. Your kids didn't eat anything and were hungry for macaroni and cheese. And you made it for them.

Thank God middle age set in.  You look yourself in the mirror and now see an old friend who never was much of a cook and you realize it doesn't matter. You really do want everyone to come and you don't fuss a lot with decorations. You don't think about going to Target. Butterball Turkeys and Bell Stuffing are gorged by laughing nieces and nephews. You happily surrender pie-making to your mother-in-law and daughter. You turn a blind eye to your children drinking soda and eating cookies minutes before dinner. You drink the wine that is closest to you and open. You ignore the dog hair blowing around in tumbleweeds. You give in to the energy and momentum. You have a vision of your limited days and years ahead and you know you have choices. The memories are in the making.

Presented to you on Thanksgiving is an opportunity to be in the moment and you now have the good sense to seize it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Boosters Gone Wild

Hollywood, hard knocks and parents prepare most of us for what to expect when we grow up. If you are old, like me, TV shows like Adam-12, Mod Squad and the Brady Bunch showed you the ropes.

If we ever get busted, we will listen intently for Miranda warnings and if they are not forthcoming we will sue their sorry bad-as_!

Of course we don't get busted and live in the suburbs. We practice tough love, like Carol and Mike Brady, and take family trips in a station wagon. We rake leaves. Our kids play sports on teams.

Whether its marriage, parenting, coming out, dying, or just jogging in slowmo towards insanity, we usually have a movie trailer to set things up and get us ready. We have been preparing for the future since first grade. There aren't a whole lot of surprises as we march onward and upward through life. We go to college, get the job, buy the house and blow out our backs and knees, just like we planned.

There are, of course, exceptions. Nothing quite prepares you for giving birth to a child, or conscription in to your high school Booster Club.

These Booster Titans can and do command you and your child to mandatory two or three-hour meetings with less than 24 hours notice, and yes, you will bring a pot-luck offering for hoards of strangers and your check book. No subpoenas are necessary. You and your kid tremble as you read over and over again the 25 emails that outline what you are supposed to do and buy. There are posters to make, food to prepare, car washes and bottle sheds to man, dinners to attend, road races to run. 

This powerful coven casts a spell, and whammo! You become a Stepford Booster.

"Buy a lot of stuff you don't need and can't afford!"

"Sell stuff to uncomfortable and guilt-ridden neighbors and relatives!"

"Buy more!"

"Sell more!"

Before you know it, you are dazed and numb, buying multiple plastic cards with discounts to stores you will never visit, tickets for raffles you have no chance winning, and clothes you don't need or want. You make casseroles of homemade macaroni and cheese and sheets of brownies around the clock. You wait nervously after the team dinner to see if your Caesar salad was the Chosen One.

Worse, you are depressed. No matter what you do, make or buy, you still don't quite fit in.  Admit it. You are an unhappy Booster.

So, you ask, what to do when you get that 7:30 am email blast in all caps that says Chief Booster expects all parents to decorate their kid's locker and fill it with candy by 3 pm that day?

Take a deep breath. Put your hand on your kid's shoulder and say, "son, I love you, and I hope you win your game today, but I am not going to decorate your locker and fill it with candy, again."

Hug him, and then turn away.  Fight back and resist the sobs of humiliation, angst and feelings of failure. Go to work. On the way to work stop and get a really big latte, read a newspaper, and eat a croissant. As an extra precaution, before you make that first call, watch a few You Tube videos of Jon Stewart.

And exhale. Everything is going to be all right.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Ultimate Paradox

John Allen Muhammad put to death by lethal injection, and the landmark legislation in the House of Representatives amended to insure not one government dollar is spent on legal abortion.

Scott Roeder murders Doctor George Tiller on "pro-life" grounds.

Strident hawks, eager to march our sons and daughters off to the black hole terror of Afghanistan, blockade immigrants and refugees seeking asylum in our United States.

The Catholic Church threatens to stop feeding the hungry and housing the homeless in Washington D.C. over a law that protects gay and lesbian people from discrimination.

You have to wonder what Aristotle and some of those other philosophers would do with this material. There is no logic. No moral consistency. Smug and self-satisfied in their convictions, radicals snuff out lives like candles fighting their crusade on the one hand, and kill in cold blood with the other. They are blinded by the screaming paradox of their beliefs. They see no gray in life.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Comfortable Majority

Emily Post is not someone I make reference to or think about very often, but her explanation of why we should use good manners comes in handy raising kids. "Do not burp loudly in front of grandma and grandpa, it makes them uncomfortable."

The reason we should say please and thank you, according to Post, is because it makes people comfortable and therefore encourages civil discourse and social order. It's that simple. Well-mannered people's subconscious message ("don't worry, nothing weird is going to happen") is the bedrock of civilization.

Etiquette and the fight for civil rights is not that cut and dry. The Suffragettes and the Black Panthers put a few people out of their comfort zone. Hippies made the Ward and June Cleaver set squirm. Barack Obama's strategy behind winning the presidency was making white people feel comfortable with him and his family.

Question 1 on the Maine ballot asked the people of the Pine Tree State if they wanted to repeal the marriage equality law passed by its legislature. For many this translated to "are you uncomfortable with gay and lesbian people?"

52.8% of voters said yes; some for religious reasons, but not all.

The sad fact is some people only know what they fear about gay and lesbian people. Flagrant expressions of sexuality and provocative parades make them uncomfortable, and that's what they choose to know. A local, very popular radio host said while he has "no problem" with gay marriage, when he sees two gay people kissing it "creeps him out."

More people have never seen two real gay or lesbian people kissing, but saw instead TV commercials suggesting gays and lesbians are monsters who will brainwash and eat their children. In a bizarre twist of democracy these same folks got up off the couch, cast the remote aside, and voted away the civil rights of their neighbors.

If we could anonymously vote off the island all the marriages that make us uncomfortable, the world would be very different.  Couples that argue too much make me uncomfortable. They're out. Mr. and Mrs. McD. are too fat. They're done. I don't like the way he treated her at the neighborhood Christmas party...they play mind games with their kids...they don't do their share of car pooling.

"Etiquette," Emily Post once said, "is the science of living. It embraces everything. It is the code of sportsmanship and of honor. It is ethics."

Marriage equality is that simple.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

You're Likable Enough, Mr. President

Fox News suggests Barack Obama is a boor because he doesn't play basketball with girls.

Bonnie Erbe of U.S. News & World Reports wrote about the President, "I just don't get the impression this man is comfortable with women. Nor do I believe he cares about them beyond needing women's votes."

Even the New York Times ran a story in which an anonymous junior aide was quoted saying the "sports-fan thing at the White House" could become "annoying," and Maureen Dowd challenged the President to a game of Scrabble to see what kind of X words "the smarty-pants Y chief executive can come up with."

There are legitimate criticisms of President Obama. Has he dithered around Afghanistan? Has he bribed seniors to support healthcare reform with $250 social security checks? Has he done anything meaningful for middle class Americans strapped with bad mortgages?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But is Barack Obama a good ol' boy?

No. Not even close.

If anyone is desperate for votes, it's the radical right-wingers like Dick Armey whose men's club threw Republican Dede Scozzafava under the bus in upstate New York because she wasn't conservative enough.

So how does at least one XX love the President's treatment of women? Let me count the ways.

1. In November of 2008, President-elect Obama appointed Hillary Clinton to be his Secretary of State. Since her confirmation, Secretary Clinton has announced to the world that the civil rights of women and girls are a priority and at the core of American foreign policy under the Obama administration. Clinton has spoken out in a strong voice against violence, rape, economic and political persecution of women and girls around the world. That half of the sky women hold up in Africa and Middle East countries is finally graced with sunlight shining on the atrocities inflicted by guerilla armies, evil despots and brazen misogynists.

2.The first thing Barack Obama did as President of the United States was sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 ensuring victims of employment discrimination have a fair chance of bringing their claims. Since women today make 78 cents for every dollar men make, this is important, good law that slaps down a very bad Supreme Court case written by Justice Alito.

3. On March 11, 2009 President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing a White House Council on Women and Girls made up of 25 high-ranking officials including the Secretaries of State, Treasury, Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Labor, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Housing, Transportation, Energy, Education along with the Attorney General. The Council's purpose is to "establish a coordinated Federal response to issues that particularly impact the lives of women and girls and to ensure that Federal programs and policies address and take into account the distinctive concerns of women and girls, including women of color and those with disabilities."

4. In May of 2009 President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court, who was confirmed by the Senate and sits as the first Hispanic U.S. Supreme Court Justice and only the third woman.

5. Seven presidential cabinet posts have been granted to women, the most of any United States President.

6. On Friday, the Obama administration recommended political asylum for a Guatemalan woman seeking refuge from horrendous abuse by her husband. This decision, a departure from Bush policy, offers hope to millions of women who are brutally tortured and abused in their homelands. The Statue of Liberty's torch is brighter and the melting pot of our American society once again includes a pinch of compassion.

7. There is a realistic chance a comprehensive healthcare reform bill will pass.

These are but a few examples of major policy shifts since the new president took office that directly impact and enhance the lives of women and their children.

Stories about male bonding in the gym and on the golf course are easy targets and cheap shots absent real women who felt left out or disadvantaged. The gender sensitivity violation issued by pundits, lacking any genuine narrative about real harm, does not come close to overshadowing the tremendous strides the Obama administration has taken to elevate the critical issues women and girls face around the globe.