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I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the twittersphere since the Zimmerman verdict on Saturday. In the process I started following one of my favorite–now only occasional–NPR voices, Michele Norris. Norris left All Things Considered, which she used to cohost, to write a book, and started something in 2010 called The Race Card Project.

The Race Card Project. I love that name. Have you ever noticed how quick white folks are to play the “play the race card” card?

Yesterday at lunch I was skimming through the site and felt prompted to write my own six-word essay. I encourage you to take a shot at it yourself. It’s a helpful process. Mine–which hasn’t shown up yet just showed up at the site–follows.

Here’s the link: We don’t want your “White” America.

We don’t want your “White” America.

By all appearances, I’m “white” and I was raised in white middle class America. My biological father was Hispanic (my relatives on that side are mostly pale, like me). My dad, the man who helped raise me, is part Native American. My wife’s son–now my son–is black, technically mixed race. And there’s a hodgepodge of miscellaneous race and ethnicity throughout my family tree.

Perusing this [The Race Card Project] site, I couldn’t help noticing an excess of comments by a few folks claiming to defend our “national identity,” [our white European identity]–defending it from the likes of me and my family.

1) By any sane reckoning, this country was long inhabited by brown-skinned natives before being invaded and colonized by fair-skinned Europeans.This was never a “white” country, except by the most despicable usurpation.

2) Skin color, while it may be a beautiful feature, is an arbitrary means of discriminating among peoples. I’m willing to wager that you could discern neither my character, intellect nor even my heritage by the color of my skin.

3) Despite its checkered past and frequent and flagrant hypocrisy, this nation, as it has existed for the last 200+ years (see #1), was founded on principles of opportunity, equality, diversity and freedom–freedom from, among other things, bigotry and oppression.

4) And we have grown in our understanding and embrace of those principles, grown to recognize and institutionalize constitutionally the rights of women and of blacks. This country is no longer, thank God, a white European good ol’ boys club. We have farther to go, but the progress that we’ve made–not some calcified snapshot of a particular point in the past–is who we are. As much, indeed, as we are in part who we were, we are far more what we are becoming.

5) Our culture is a sometimes chaotic commingling, sometimes harmonic union of a multitude of voices. Our language is notoriously and gloriously bastardized–stolen, borrowed, hopelessly corrupted, inventively conjugated–from every language on the planet.

Diversity is inherent in our national identity. More, it is what makes us great.

A monotone is unmelodic. Monoculture is weak and vulnerable. A palette of only one color–or even a few shades of the same color–offers little opportunity for expression.

This is not your “White” America.

This country has never been and–as long as I can help it–will never be your “White” America. It angers and disgusts me, but, more than that, it saddens me that anyone would want such a boring, insular, inbred construct of sameness. If that’s what you want, go make it somewhere else. If that’s what you want here, you’ve declared war on the nation you claim to be defending and I for one would be happy to see you treated accordingly.

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Here’s what I love about the video of Abby Evans, the little girl who’s upset by the supersaturation of campaign ads and election coverage: just like most Republicans, the Democratic president she’s sick of hearing about–“Bronco Bama”–doesn’t really exist. Bronco might in fact be a good name for a character in one of Dinesh D’Souza’s historicized paranoid fictions.

That’s not fair to Abby. Hers was just a youthful mispronunciation. Clint Eastwood and Dinesh D’Souza et al. are ostensibly adults. They’ve less excuse for conjuring a foul-mouthed bogeyman in an empty chair and a racist, anti-American, Marxist antichrist with debilitating daddy issues and trying to insert those perjured nightmares into our imaginations.

If half of the stories floating about Obama were true–if a quarter of the paranoid fantasies about our so-called “socialist” president had anything other than the thinnest thread of relationship to reality–I’d be concerned too. And it’s telling that the Obama conservatives want us to be afraid of is the one they’ve made up. It suggests that the real Obama is a more formidable candidate for reelection and maybe not such a bad guy or feckless leader.

And, no, I don’t think Democrats have done the same–and certainly not with anything close to the same volume or anything close to the same degree of distortion.

We haven’t had to.

Romney’s dismissals of large chunks of the citizenry–including seniors and the working poor–are clear and startling frequent. His arrogance and sense of entitlement are manifest. So are his lies about the auto industry. His flip-flops on nearly every major issue in this election are in the public record–for anyone who’s paying attention and cares to see.

What we can’t see are full disclosures of his tax returns. What he doesn’t want us to look at and doesn’t want to take credit for is his actual record at Bain Capital. What he wants us to forget is that though he claims to be morally opposed to federal pork, as chairman of the 2002 Olympics, he bragged about gaming the federal government out of at least an unprecedented $400 million and by some accounts up to $1.5 billion; that’s out of a $1.3 billion budget.

A young man we know told us he would be voting for Romney. I had to ask, “which one?”

Romney says that he can create 12 million jobs if we elect him (never mind that he also says government doesn’t create jobs), but his record of job growth as governor of Massachusetts is no better (proportionally) than Obama’s. And I think it’s safe to say that Obama has faced a tougher challenge.

You may have good reasons for voting for Romney. But, frankly, I haven’t heard any from him–not any that were reflected in his record or even consistent with his previous rhetoric.

His campaign has made a point of letting us know that they won’t be “dictated by fact-checkers.” From what I’ve seen of the facts and what they say of their man, I can understand why.

President Obama has tried repeatedly to work with Republicans in Congress even when they openly stated that their primary objective was to make sure he only served one term, even as they stonewalled and filibustered at every turn. Republicans notably refused to participate in landmark healthcare reform legislation, even as he packed it with Republican ideas–Republican ideas that all-of-a-sudden became bad once he championed them, ideas like those pioneered in Massachusetts but that the former governor of Massachusetts now says he opposes and will act to repeal on his first day in office if he were elected.

I’m proud of what my president has accomplished. Among those accomplishments: far-reaching healthcare reform, helping to save the American auto industry, restoring stability to the financial sector and leading us out of our country’s worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. I’m proud of my president’s stand against bigotry in all of its forms. I’m proud that he ended the war in Iraq and is on track to end the war in Afghanistan. I’m proud that he restored our reputation among the world’s nations.

I’m thankful that Obama is fighting for all Americans and not just a few.

I was excited to vote for Barack Obama in 2008. I’m even more excited for what we can accomplish as a nation if we re-elect him in 2012. I remember Bill Clinton, the man who helped bring us out of debt–a man who, you may recall, left our last Republican president with a budget surplus. I remember that after throwing $10 million dollars trying to dig up an excuse to throw Clinton out of office, Republicans in Congress finally decided to start working with him. I’m convinced that that can happen again. I don’t think Obama is the obstacle and I dare to believe that with the threat of another term removed, Republicans will move to cooperate and act responsibly.

Romney’s approach is at best a return to the failed policies of deregulation and trickle-down economics that led to a profusion of greedy opportunism and the crash of 2008.

At worst, I’m concerned that Romney and his colleagues on the Right will widen the gap between the already-obscenely-wealthy and the working poor, turn back the clock on the last century’s hard-won advancements in civil rights and gender equality, plunder our planet’s resources with no regard for long-term environmental consequences, restore our Bush-era status as international pariah, further explode our bloated Pentagon budget, harden our posture of aggression and militarism, disenfranchise minorities, let the sick die, leave the weak unprotected, exploit the poor, under-educate our children, under-fund and subvert the sciences, Goebbels the arts, cast aside our inheritance as a people of religious and cultural tolerance and work to wholly vacate the principles of pluralism.

And that’s just based on his promises.

I happily and proudly vote for Barack Obama–for the real Barack Obama–not the Obama imagined in propagandist cinema, or conjured in demonstrably false (and repeatedly independently demonstrated false) Tea Party email forwards, conservative memes, or birther conspiracy theories. I vote for the man who has courageously led this nation through singular difficulties and in the face of unprecedented obstructionism and a monstrous conservative campaign of disinformation and slander.

I vote for Barack Obama, not because he is perfect and certainly not–as reactionaries with little else to say like to chortle–because I think he’s the Messiah. I vote for Barack Obama because he’s a decent, articulate and intelligent man who’s spent his political career–including the last four years–fighting for regular Americans like you and me, fighting for this country and for the values and virtues that make us great. I vote for Barack Obama because he’s restored my faith in this nation and its people.

I vote for Barack Obama because he thinks it’s okay to make and have a lot of money, but he doesn’t think it’s okay that many of those who work hard and play by the rules cannot afford food, shelter, healthcare or an adequate education while the wealthiest Americans get richer and richer on the labor of the underpaid poor.

I vote for Barack Obama, yes, because he speaks well and his rhetoric resonates with our highest ideals, but, more importantly, because that rhetoric reflects the principles that guide his behavior and characterize his leadership.

I vote for Barack Obama because he understands that we are in this together–and he has a consistent track record to prove that that’s not only what he says, but what he believes and how he works.

I vote for Barack Obama because his campaign is not merely about what he will do–it’s not about what Government or Capital or Big Business can do; it’s about what you and I and all of us will do together.

I’ve wrestled for a while with whether I should go all political here. I mean, yaknow, I could lose my one faithful reader.

In the end I decided that this is who I am.

What I don’t want is for this to degenerate into one of those idiotic flame wars. So I’m enabling comment approval. I’ll probably approve your comment even if it is stupid. If I don’t, I encourage you to write your own damned blog and post a link here.

The following started as a status update on Facebook. It’s too long. I’m posting something FB digestible there and on Twitter with a link to here. There are several references to occurrences on FB but nothing overly specific, and the gist easily stands alone. Here then:

So maybe I’ve been a little obnoxious lately. I’ll grant at the very least that I’ve been vocal.

I’m not going to issue a blanket apology, because that would be neither honest nor productive, but I readily admit that I’ve said a few things (or at least said some things in a way that) I regret. I do apologize for any time I have strayed from the truth or said something gratuitously hurtful.

“Gratuitously hurtful” sounds a little overqualified, but I’m of the opinion that change is a painful process and I hope to be a catalyst for change; as such, I kinda want to cause some pain. Think of me as that asshole trainer who you know really likes you even though he pushes you in ways that you don’t think he should. Yeah, that’s maybe a bit self-aggrandizing but it’s more a statement of aspiration than belief.

I care about politics. I was thinking about it yesterday as I was driving with my honey. Just at that moment I saw someone with a Dallas Cowboys bumper sticker and I thought of all of the excesses people go to for their favorite sports teams and all of the noise they make about those teams (sometimes even more about the ones they despise) . . . or cute little kitties . . . or TV shows . . . or mediocre pop music . . . or wornout sayings that used to be clever turned into shoddy looking graphics, etc. Anyway, I feel alright talking about politics.

A few folks I respect have recently confronted me about my partisan posts. While I might disagree with them about various particulars, I want them to know that I’m listening thoughtfully and praying. And for the most part I agree with their concerns–if not necessarily how they apply to me. ;-p Even in that I’m willing to admit that I might be wrong.

I vet the things that I post on my timeline (less so but to some degree still with things that I “like”) and I pretty much stand by them without qualification. If I make a mistake I think I’m willing to own it. In my defense I usually find that I have gone to some pains to say things precisely and that precision is completely ignored for a quick and sloppy misinterpretation. To my discredit, that’s just the way language works and I maybe need to get over it. I make a point of being honest and I try to be fair but I am unapologetic about being partisan. I’m not going to promise to stop or cut back, but I’m going to try to slow down a little.

A couple of recent remarks about “sound bites” have motivated me to do something I’d been thinking of for quite a while.

So much of our conversations about politics amount to talking past each other as we twist the facts to conform to our preconceptions. I admit that I’ve done that. Of course like everyone I like to think that my biases naturally flow from the facts.

Another thing we do is assume agreement over the values behind our political choices. While I like to believe that we’re ultimately all on the same team, I’m increasingly convinced that we’re not all on the same page or even in the same play book.

Here’s what I want to do. Instead of arguing over “Truth,” factoids, sound bites, lies, accusations and innuendo, I’d like to try to articulate as clearly as I can what motivates my peculiar political enthusiasms, loyalties and inclinations. Since this is more of an internal, reflective sort of thing, I’m mostly going to try to avoid proof-texting or citing statistics, editorials or news articles, etc. I believe that my values fit nicely with the facts, with the texts that I consider holy, with sound reasoning. But as I said, that’s everyone’s bias. And it’s far too easy to lose sight of one in the process of uncovering the other. I’d rather try to be clear about the motivating values and get to arguing over the “facts” or even establishing sources later.

As I said, this is something I’ve thought of doing for a long time. Part of what’s kept me back was a desire to be complete, accurate and compelling. Screw all that. I’m just gonna start doing this. I’ll ramble. I’ll miss some things. I’ll misrepresent myself.

I would love to have your help. There’s a kind of help I’d rather not have, but I’m having a hard time putting my finger on it. For the sake of this exercise, I’ll try to be blunt in letting you know when you do it. Someone is sure to.

I just read this story at NPR:  Stop ‘Schweddy Balls’ Effort Begins. I was more than a little upset. I’m kind of proud of the fact that I quickly composed the following on my iPhone. I encourage you to join me and share your feelings with Sean Greenwood, public relations manager at Ben & Jerry’s. My hope is that this ridiculous campaign backfires and that Schweddy Balls becomes a permanent and popular fixture in the Ben & Jerry’s lineup.

Mr. Greenwood,

Nobody wants to argue with Mom. Sometimes, however, it’s the right thing to do. I learned moments ago about the campaign by “One Million Moms” and the right-wing loons at AFA to get you to stop making and distributing Schweddy Balls ice cream.

That would be wrong for so many reasons. Among them, it seems to me, because it would completely contradict the spirit of your company, the way you do business and, truly, the joy of your ice cream.

Part of what’s great about Ben & Jerry’s is the variety and uniqueness of your flavors. In many ways they mirror what’s great about this country. Not one of us is the same as another. We have different tastes and opinions. We don’t all like the same things.

I doubt that there are many folks who like every variety of ice cream you make. Fewer still would appreciate each flavor equally. And that’s fine. I’d say that’s even to be expected.

I wouldn’t dream of demanding that the women at OMM and AFA have a sense of humor. I honestly don’t care if they like Schweddy Balls as a name or a flavor. What I do ask is that they respect my right to choose the flavors that please me and be amused by the things that make me laugh.

If they like Tough Love Vanilla with Dirt of Shame Sprinkles, that’s great. I say “eat up, ladies.” You dine on what brings you delight. And, truly, God bless you as you sup.

If they want to tell each other G-rated knock-knock jokes, a hearty “har har” is what I wish them. To tell you the truth, I don’t mind a corny knock-knock or riddle myself.

But I laugh at other things and I enjoy other flavors too.

It seems ironic to me that OMM calls Schweddy Balls “tasteless” (I have to wonder whether they’ve even given them a lick so that they’d know the difference), because tasteless is exactly how I’d describe the narrow world view and fascist regime they seek to enforce. OMM wants to limit our choices and eliminate the things they don’t like.

I for one wouldn’t want to shop in a store where only vanilla was available. I don’t want to live in a pasty-white, tasteless, humorless, monochrome country. I tend to think that Jesus likes variety and that Jesus would fight to save Schweddy Balls, so that’s what I’m doing.

I want you to know that I support your Schweddy Balls and I’m confident that millions of Americans are ready to join me in helping you hold on to your Schweddy Balls.

In all seriousness, it strikes me as fitting that the OMM campaign comes on the eve of Banned Book Week. Please don’t let this misguided band of women censor your freedom of expression or limit our freedom of choice.

Please don’t take away our Schweddy Balls.

Sincerely,
Joel Wasinger

Twitter Updates

  • In case the fearful end up killing us all, know that there were some here who loved & dreamed & gave freely. #MessageToVoyager #gishwhes 1 month ago
  • Life is pregnant with possibility. Go make some babies, so to speak. 1 month ago
  • I guess what I mean to say is that whether there's a @gishwhes or not, what gishwhes is about is the sorts of things we should do anyway. 1 month ago
  • Getting help, starting and ending with joy, being involved, giving, taking chances, being you, etc. 1 month ago
  • It also strikes me that the best way to get pregnant for the tenth time reflects the sorts of values intrinsic to @gishwhes itself. 1 month ago
  • I hope that's not a disappointment. 1 month ago
  • equally applies to getting pregnant just one time--and, really, to living life well (in my opinion, at least) aside from being preggers. 1 month ago
  • You might have noticed that everything I've said about the best way to get pregnant for the tenth time, aside from the "first nine" bit, 1 month ago
  • So that's what I've got: 1) the first nine precede the tenth; 2) get help; 3) start with relationship and joy. 1 month ago
  • That's the essential bit, right? Until you've been pregnant the nine times, you can't get to the tenth. 1 month ago