Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sadness - at hearing of the Death of U. Utah Phillips

At age 57 icons of my younger days are dying off in increasing numbers. I am sad at hearing of the death of U. Utah Philips. Though his music and persona were never really, really important to me, he was always one I admired - thinking of on a path from Woody Guthrie through many others to my present.

I know that we are all affected by various people who we came to know of in our formative years. For me, though I don't follow them greatly, people like: Arlo Guthrie and Holly Near remind me of various parts of my younger life. I remember seeing Holly Near in a large theater in Chicago with perhaps 4000 women and maybe 50 men. It was the only time I remember being a "minority" in a men's restroom being male.

Unique people like U. Utah Philips - are a wonderful part of being alive and "different". He lived his life as he wanted to - with a strong commitment to social justice - which I admired and admire very much. He will be missed!


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Clinton and the Democratic Race - Hopes for the Future

The self-destructive statement Hillary Clinton made yesterday seems to me only the latest part of a disturbing pattern on her part. Clearly she has faced sexism in her race for the Democratic nomination. It is hard to doubt that! It seems though that things are deeper in a way that is disturbing to me.

Clearly there are areas where one might prefer Clinton over Obama. Her health care plan seems better. Some of her other policy positions may be slightly better thought out and/or better.

At the same time it is hard for me to see the race in such terms. There seem to be three areas related to the competition now which bother me greatly. Clearly Obama has worked the system better in the race for delegates and the nomination. He has grown from a charismatic underdog to the favorite. Clinton has correspondingly dropped from the clear favorite to an underdog struggling on against great odds.

To say that this process has been Because of Sexism seems grossly simplistic. It is dismissive of the issue of racism which has made Obama's successes difficult to have foreseen.

Secondly the issue of racism itself has been in a sense denied by Clinton. Her pose as the wife of "the first Black President" has been called into question by repeated statements which nibble around the edges of racism. She has used "electability" and "White Working Class Voters" as tools to play upon persistent racism in this country. Unlike Obama she has evaded the issues of race and how it is affecting the nomination competition in her desperate effort to get nominated.

The latest statement about the assassination of Robert Kennedy has rightfully created an outpouring of anger and frustration. Thinking of the very recent news that Edward Kennedy has malignant brain cancer alone would make the statement insensitive. Adding to this the substantial fear that many (particularly Black People) have that Obama will be assassinated if elected (and the death threats he has already received) adds greatly to this. This statement neatly fits as a "bipartisan" companion statement to Huckabee's NRA blunder which I would summarize as - "I am Not a racist" (but my words call that into question in terms of my sensitivity to the feelings of Black people).

So Why does Clinton do what she does? The third and I believe most important part of this is a feeling of entitlement. Hillary and Bill Clinton clearly feel that she is "entitled" to be President! Recent political history shows plenty of favorites or "good contenders" who faded in the primary sweepstakes through poorly stated things, rubbing some the wrong way, the loss of key primaries and various other reasons.

Clinton seems to struggle on because "she should be President"! Such words are bizarre to me. It is bad enough that we've had two Bushes as President!

I do not see how there is some magical entitlement path to the Presidency!

It seems very sad that she seems willing to lead the Democrats to defeat in November because of her feelings that she "should be President". It is bizarre to believe that the feminist supporters of Clinton could be willing to sit the election out or even vote for McCain in preference to Obama.

McCain's open stance on the appointment of judges alone should terrify any real feminist who believes in the importance of safe, legal abortions in the U.S. Other "conservative stances" of McCain are equally "wrong" from a faintly progressive feminist outlook.

Obama is far from perfect. He is dramatically preferable to McCain for many, many reasons. I can only hope that McCain's words including his doubletalk (lies), his "jokes" (which often aren't funny), his demeanor (a horrible temper which he has trouble controlling) and most importantly his positions on the issues will wake up Americans including Clinton supporters to the necessity of supporting Obama asap!


Monday, May 19, 2008

Gay/Lesbian Rights - My Total Confusion !

I'm somewhat puzzled by some of the confusion regarding the recent California State Supreme Court Decision - which indicated that same gender couples have equal rights to marriage - and that denying them such rights would deny them equal protection under the law.

I've heard various criticisms such as: 1.) It violates the will of the people - as per prior referendums in California - which defined marriage as "a man and a woman", 2.) It grants "special privileges" to same gender couples, 3.) It will destroy the institution of marriage, etc.

The rights of women - to vote and to not be the chattel of men - were denied for a long, long time. Blacks were legally slaves as well as later on not entitled to attend schools with Whites, not allowed to vote in many jurisdictions and similar. Popular will, laws and legal distinctions were all central to deny such rights in the past. The "framers of The Constitution" - wrote of a world where - White, Male, Landowners - had basic rights and where "the people" did not elect senators. Until the 17th Amendment was passed in 1914 - senators were chosen by state legislatures.

Having the right to marry as a "special privilege" - mystifies me! IF - Gays and Lesbians - uniquely had the right to Both marry an individual of the opposite gender and while still married, marry a same gendered partner, While Straight individuals were denied this right, this would be a "special privilege"! I've heard no one talk of this.

The idea that it is "easy" to be Gay or Lesbian - and "hard" to be Heterosexual - and that somehow rights "for all" somehow favor non-heterosexuals seems laughable. It ranks similar to the ideas that disabled folks and other "oppressed classes" - have "special rights" that discriminates against "normal people" seems part of this strange world to me.

It is most confusing how rights to marriage - will destroy - heterosexual marriages - if granted to non-heterosexual couples. Marriage seems rather weak - as an institution - where it is "destroyed" by expanding those who may marry. Are religious people hurt by others marrying? What would happen if atheists were denied the rights to marry - because it is a "religious right" and they were determined to have "no religion" or similar. Are many people now going to be "tempted" to marry - who wouldn't otherwise marry? What's the problem?

I think that marriage is a personal relationship which has a basic right to be a level of commitment made to another person. How I can have "special rights" - because I want to be lined to a woman (as a man) or as a White Man - because I'm not "of Color" or similar - seems ridiculous to me!


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Aging - a Story

One significant part of my life is playing duplicate bridge (competitive card game) one or two mornings a week. As one whose 57th birthday is tomorrow, I’m generally considerably younger than the average player. One quite good player at the club I attend is 95 years old. She’s not quite the player she was years ago I guess, but she’s still quite good.

Aging in this world is a “fact of life”. Recently a regular partner of mine “P” quit playing entirely. I heard that he said that his game was worsening, because his memory wasn’t as good. He evidently preferred to stick to his artwork, and not play. A new husband/wife couple at the club are 87 and 86. The wife has Alzheimer’s Disease. She is much louder than everyone and in some ways is “off the wall” with most of what she says. Her husband told me that playing bridge is the one way he can keep her going out and doing something that she enjoys.

Several weeks ago I watched several rounds of play at another club. A most genial man welcomed me and I watched him play with his 97 or 98 year old partner. He looked to be close to 75 or 80 himself. Watching him play it was evident that he forgot what he was doing in the middle of one hand. Later someone who knew him told me that he too has Alzheimer’s.

It is important as we age that we stay in touch as much as we can. Maintaining our social ties and “living normal” is important. We can not always do some things requiring exertion and significant stress. We may choose to not do things that are less pleasurable or more complicated for our lives.

Hearing others talk of the serious illnesses and deaths of their friends is common also.

It is difficult to watch my mother’s memory have its lapses. Occasionally I may catch myself forgetting something small or otherwise acting well beyond my age.

It is also important that we think and talk about aging in our lives and not pretend that it doesn’t exist. Thanks!