Month: August 2012

“What Can I Do For You, Mr. President?”*

In February, 2007, I joined Triangle for Obama, a group in Raleigh,  to get involved in the campaign.  I went door to door near the NC State campus.  I met folks in downtown restaurants, private homes and storefronts.  I worked registering voters and phone banking.  That summer, after some lackluster speeches and issues with Hillary Clinton, I felt as if Candidate Obama was hitting a plateau, he seemed less energetic, a little flat.  Determined to hear the candidate in person, I went to North Carolina Central University with one of my co-workers and dear friends. Standing for three hours, one row back from the rope row, that late fall afternoon, I remember thinking; I had not been this weary in a long time.  As the fourth hour began, Candidate Obama finally strode up to the platform of this outdoor stage and I listened to his speech.  To this day, I could not tell you much about the speech, except that it sounded a lot like the one I had heard on TV, given in other states, to other universities or colleges.  It wasn’t particularly personal, nor was it ground shaking, but I got to hear it, I got to see him, and when he finished, I got to shake his hand.

November 2007 – North Carolina Central University

I have told anyone who asks, or who will listen,  over these few years, about the reason I volunteered for the President’s campaign. He was simply the first candidate to even remotely look like me, but even as important, was that his background was similar to mine; his struggle with his ethnic identity similar to mine.  I believe that his experience growing up, shaped his view of middle-class America and sharpened his focus to guide the Country forward to a stronger, educated, opportunity-rich America.  Not as it “used to be”, because I knew, as a Nation, we were not going back…we were going forward.  To do that, would require everyone working together, reaching across the proverbial aisle, reaching back, and pushing forward.

Souls to the Polls, Oxford, NC

Well, that was my idealism and has become my conviction,  even in the face of door to door rebuffs here in the small North Carolina community I live in, or curt responses by non-supporters on the phone in this state and others.  Even in the face of my husband, also African-American and a Marine, who was born and raised in the city of Blood Done Sign My Name**, who sat on a ridge as a six-year-old, watching young goats jump from one car to the next, outside the nearby church.  When the church members exited their church, saw this spectacle, and the boy watching; reported this incident to the farmer who employed my husband’s father.  This farmer told my husband’s father that at the end of the season, he and his family would have to leave his farm.

This event and others informed my husband’s belief that once in office, President Obama would not get an opportunity to do the work he wanted or needed to do, because resistance to his Presidency was going to be full-blown and full-throated.  I remember when he was elected and my husband, my friends and I watched him and his family in Chicago, and I thought; “now the fight really begins”.

A fight with Congress, with the Supreme Court, with his own party, the President is just weeks away from re-election, or the lucrative talk circuit ala Bill Clinton.  The Nation has forgotten 911, the New York has forgotten 911, as former President Bush stated that Bin Laden capture was not a priority, as the world watched as Bin Laden would rattle us with his video-taped appearances, forever looking like he was not the most hunted man in modern times.  Because I don’t believe he was.  When President Obama announced he had ordered the Navy Seal operation to get Bin Laden, I know the Nation was grateful, you heard it, you felt it, you saw it.  Which is why I don’t understand the former Seals trying to discredit this incredible accomplishment.

I have been unemployed for nineteen months.  While looking for work, I renewed my efforts to get involved locally.  I went to County Democratic Party meetings, got involved in some local elections, and volunteered as vice-chair of my precinct.  I struggled to learn Access so I could do bulk mailings, and was successful.  I no longer receive unemployment benefits, so I cannot drive to our campaign office to help with phone banking or register folks to vote as often as I did during the 2008 election.  Nor can I donate to the campaign as I did when I was working.  We’ve had to tighten the budget up.  Thanks to technology, as I continue my job search, I am phone banking from home and participating in a letter writing campaign on the issues.  It is the least I can do.

Local District Debate, Oxford, NC 2012
In The Best and the Brightest*, Joseph Swidler, Fed chair of the Power Commission was very unhappy with President Kennedy because the President’s focus was on foreign affairs “…Kennedy needed the co-operation of men like Sam Rayburn and Senator Robert Kerr.  The price they exacted from the President was at the expense of the Federal Power Commission…  He would tell friends of how he set out from his office for the White House to let the President know just how bitter he felt, with thoughts of resignation flashing through his mind.  On the way he would think of the President’s problems: Berlin.  Laos.  The Congo.  Disarmament. The Middle East. The foreign aid bill.  Khrushchev.  All those burdens.  And minute by minute as he approached the office Swidler felt his anger lesson, until by the time the President’s door opened, he heard his own voice saying: “What can I do for you, Mr. President?””

Each and every one of us know the burdens of this Presidency, those that came from the former Administration, as well as, those that have developed in the last three and a half years.  They are problems never faced by a President in my lifetime.  They took a couple of generations to develop and our President informed us early on, that it would take more than one administration and maybe, even more than one President, to resolve them.  Outsourcing.  Economy.  Healthcare.  The Banks.  Wall Street.  Congress.  Iraq.  Afghanistan.  Iran.  China.  Europe.  Veterans.  Education.  All those burdens.  Each of us should be asking Swidler’s question: “What can I do for you, Mr. President?”.

Only in America…DC4

*The Best and The Brightest, David Halberstam

**Blood Done Sign My Name, Timothy B. Tyson

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The Journey Continues

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My husband and I were on a walk mid afternoon, last week. I am not a day walker, I love walking in the early morning when the temperature is a little cooler, especially in summer. Mosquitos hopefully are not awake yet, or at least, the bug spray I use is working. But, this was an impromptu trek, along with other errands we were running that day.

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We noticed that the landscaping that had been put in place in the athletic park was growing and enhancing the native foliage already in place. Recent rains had made the grass of the soccer field and baseball field lush and dense. Wire fences that designated property lines between the public space and private property are barely visible, because the woods pressing past this disappearing barrier into the strategically arranged evergreens and plants. The past, ever-present.

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This last year and a half is a lot like the woods that the park’s fence attempts to hold in place. It has been advancing into my present. I sense a hyper-vigilance, as if the message may impede forward progress. But something about the walk I took that day, I can’t say if it was the symbolism of the path, if it was the comfort of my husband’s presence, but I no longer felt the anxiousness for the incomplete writings, for the job search still on-going, for the “loose ends” to be tied. I am where I need to be, pressing forward.

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“The Times They Are A-Changin'”

 

Bullcreek – North Carolina

 

I was working in my home office, with ESPN First Take as background noise, when I happened to catch the news alert at the bottom of the screen.  “Augusta allows first women members”.  I called out to my husband in the front room, who changed the channel to see the report that followed.  I watched the report and thought about my first day at work at a law firm in near Fashion Valley in San Diego, when I walked in with my pantsuit and briefcase.  I went to the office I shared with my supervising paralegal and will never forget the look on her face when she saw me.  “Oh, dear!” she exclaimed in her nervous way.  “You can’t wear pants in the office!  Only dresses or skirts!”

It was 1995 and I was a little taken aback, to say the least.  I had just left a development and property management firm in Sorrento Valley for my first position with the law firm.   The female CEO of the property management side of the partnership,  wore fabulous Ann Taylor pantsuits to the office and all of the female staff took their cue from her.  California legislature had just passed a law that year allowing pants in the workplace.  Apparently the firm’s head partner at my new employment, was not implementing the dress code change until later in the year.  I was a single mom and could not afford to dispute the finer aspects of dress code in the firm, so I wore skirts until the firm allowed the dress code changes.

 

Spanish Landing – CA

 

I don’t begin to understand clubs that exclude in their membership.  I realize exclusive clubs are an aspect of our society, not society itself.    As we move farther away from the civil rights movement, society finds other ways to divide, to separate, in our neighborhoods, our schools, our shopping experiences, the play areas for our children (as well as adults), our politics.     As a person of color, a working  woman who still doesn’t earn the same as her male counterpart, at times a single mom, and overweight, I have,  over the years experienced discrimination, both subtle and overt.  I have benefited from government programs for minorities and women, I am sure, but I was always the one who would write in “human” when they asked my race or ethnicity, and as a single mom,  eligible for food-stamps, I could never bring myself to apply for them.  Looking back, it seems another world, having  men pass  laws so I could vote, so I could work, have paid leave when I had my children, so I could wear pants in the workplace.   I watched the world change over the years, sometimes for the worse, most times for the better.

Camp Pendleton – CA

Today, I appreciate witnessing history in the making.  I have said the two most beautiful places on earth are a California beach and a golf course.  I don’t play golf, but I love to drive the cart and golf courses are some of the most peaceful places you will find.     I am confident Ms. Rice and Ms. Moore will enjoy their new membership at Augusta, and appreciate the peace on the greens.  Peace, perhaps best defined as “a state of tranquility or quiet as: a. freedom from civil disobedience, b. a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom”…