Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Those People

When my teenage (White) son was about to meet my (Black) partner he asked me about "Black People" - to try to ensure that he didn't mess up with her.    When I was around his current age (21) I met a Black Couple at an interstate highway rest station.  I presumed that Because they were Black and "older", that they'd be into Blues Music.   The man was patient with my naive presumptions and explained that they were into Jazz, not Blues.    They could also have been into classical music, country music or no music.

Frequently it is much easier to Presume that we know what people are like by what we See them being (on the surface).    The person may be seen in seemingly innocuous stereotypes such  as: "that incredibly tall skinny man" or "that tiny girl".     They may also be seen in stereotypes such as: "that Fat Black Woman with those noisy kids" which we may translate into: "the no-good welfare mother".

What do we presume with our initial impressions?   Why do "short men" have "the Napolean Complex"?   Could it be that others presume things by their shortness which they fight through who they become?   Or, do we see these men Not as they are, but rather as we make them out to be?  Are they really little different from other men?

How is the "Asian" affected when we presume:
1.) If female, that she is "exotic"?
2.) The student - must be "brainy"?
3.) They are "good" - (hardworking, middle-class etc.) --- (not like those No Good Black People who are Lazy)?

How is the "fat woman" affected with whatever presumptions we may make about her?

How is the "Young Black Man" affected by police, shopkeepers and others watching him constantly and suspecting him of committing crimes?

How do we Grow in our Coccoons when we don't see people beyond their surface appearances?   When do we Learn to Learn?    

How do we use our own "oppressions" - whatever they may be?   They may help to allow us to listen and move closer often to others we meet.   They don't need to be an excuse - to stay apart - ignorant and missing out.     Often our first impressions may be deceptive.   


Monday, September 08, 2008

Obama vs. McCain - How Different are We - as Voters?

As a “liberal/leftist” I listened to Sarah Palin and John McCain and others speak at the Republican Convention this past week feeling that I live in a “different world” from them. Hearing so much spoken positively about the speeches and similar bothered me when I felt that they were “bad” and ‘wrong” and similar. I would like to try to explore differences between the worlds of McCain and Obama – and why we as individuals may support either one.

Initially I will try to focus upon issues.

The Economy and Taxes:

John McCain talks quite clearly about the needs to continue the Bush tax cuts and to cut taxes in general. He speaks of how cutting business taxes, inheritance taxes and capital gains taxes will help create new, good paying jobs for U.S. citizens. He specifically mentions doubling the tax exemption for minor children to help families. He attacks Obama for his purported desire to raise taxes.

McCain also talks of how he understands the hard times and how he will work to make things better. He talks about cutting federal spending, eliminating waste. He is somewhat vague about how he will do these things besides by trying to continue tax cuts.

Barack Obama talks of increasing taxes for families with incomes of over $200,000 and cutting taxes in several ways for lower income families. He attacks McCain and Bush for cutting taxes primarily for high income families. He has various specified tax proposals for cutting taxes on new/small businesses and is clear that he doesn’t want to eliminate inheritance taxes and lower taxes which will primarily benefit higher income families.

Obama is somewhat vague on his proposals for tax increases in general.

Healthcare Reform:

John McCain talks of having a tax credit of $2500/individual, $500/family to pay for health insurance. His plans call for “free market competition” in healthcare with provisions made to allow people to keep coverage when they retire or leave an employer, not explaining how this would be done. He talks of working with individual states to ensure that “uninsurable” individuals will be able to get health insurance though he is vague about how this will take place.

McCain talks of various ways of making health insurance and health care costs more competitive including “tort reform” to shield doctors “who follow clinical guidelines and adhere to safety protocols”.

Barack Obama talks of requiring all children to have health insurance coverage. He talks of various incentives for employers to have health insurance plans for their employees including tax credits and being required to pay monies related to their payrolls towards a national health insurance plan if they don’t make substantive contributions to an employee health plan. Obama talks of allowing uninsured individuals and families to purchase health insurance at a “reasonable cost” (regardless of their health status) with a group of insurance plans similar to what Congress members have access to. He talks of assisting employer health plans when they incur catastrophic health costs if they pass such savings on to the premiums their employees pay.

Obama talks of cost savings such as through using more effective computer technology and similar not very clear ways.

The Iraq War and related issues:

John McCain speaks of the success of the “surge” and of “winning the war”. He supports George W. Bush’s most recent handling of the war and plans for the future reductions of troops without timetables. He attacks Obama for his opposition to the U.S. involvement in the War, being defeatist and not supporting the troops.

Barack Obama speaks of his opposition to the War and that he will immediately begin a phased withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq upon taking office. Obama focuses significantly upon the need for political dialogue and for Iraqi forces taking over if war continues. Obama speaks of the need to confront Al Quaida in Afghanistan and to not have permanent bases or otherwise be overextended militarily through the Iraqi War.

Abortion Rights and Gays-Lesbians:

“John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench.”

Barack Obama understands that abortion is a divisive issue, and respects those who disagree with him. However, he has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women’s rights under Roe v. Wade a priority as President. He opposes any constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in that case.

Barack Obama opposes "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and supports the rights of gay and lesbian soldiers to serve openly.

John McCain believes that gays and lesbians should not be in the military. He supports "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Currently only California and Massachusetts allow gay marriage. Several other states allow civil unions and domestic partnerships.

Barack Obama has said that he supports civil unions, but he is against gay marriage.

John McCain does not support gay marriage and campaigned for a state amendment that would have banned civil unions and domestic partnerships.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) does two things. First it says that no state shall be required to recognize the laws of another state in regard to same-sex marriage. Second, it defines the words "marriage" and "spouse" in Federal Law.

Barack Obama supports the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

John McCain voted for and supports the Defense of Marriage Act.

Barack Obama supports a hate crimes bill that will protect the LGBT community from bias-motivated violence.

John McCain has voted against hate crimes legislation three times.

Barack Obama supports adoption by LGBT people.

John McCain opposes adoption by LGBT people.


John McCain has emphasized opening up various areas to oil drilling. He proposes eliminating subsides for ethanol and allowing the free market to help reduce prices.

Barack Obama has emphasized promoting alternative energy. He has proposed a tax on “excess profits” aimed at oil companies and providing short term tax relief for American families


For some Americans the differences in the issues are stark and make their choice for president very clear. For me I support Obama’s positions for the most part and oppose McCain’s positions most of the time. For others they may similarly support McCain and oppose Obama.

For other people “the issues” are not what matters most to them. “Change” is the buzzword this year for the candidates. For some “change” would seem to imply changing away from the George W. Bush administration. This however doesn’t appear to be the case for many.

For some “change” and simply feeling “good” about the candidate seems to connote “returning America to greatness” or “restoring traditional values” or similar. Senator McCain appears to many as “The War Hero” and the Man who will “Stand up for America”. Such supporters may support McCain’s “tough guy image in ridiculing Obama’s statements that he would meet with leaders of countries such as Syria and Iran’s leaders to try to reduce tensions between the U.S. and other countries.

For others “change” may be much different. Obama supporters often may feel that George W. Bush been a total failure and that change is something Very Different from Republican policies. Obama’s appeal to the young and others often doesn’t focus upon his issues, but rather his being “different” in many ways from leaders of the past.

Underneath the feelings about the candidates also are issues such as Racism – related to Obama and McCain’s age (72 – is it “too old”?).

I hope that our feelings will reflect the differences in the issues which face us. I hope that “undecided” and “independent” voters - the Reagan Democrats and others who shape election results will recognize the economic and war issues and how they will benefit or not from their support of one or the other candidate.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

My Disconnect ?? - Re: Sarah Palin

Reading this morning that Sarah Palin's speech was rated highly by various parts of the news media shows me (I think ???) of a Great Divide between some of us and purported "mainstream America".

I found the speech pathetic! I heard virtually nothing of substance - and what might pass for substance - supported a narrow minded, right-wing view of the US and the world that seems myopic and just wrong to me.

Pandagon (blog) reports that 36 out of the 2380 delegates at the Republican Convention are Black. The world of that Convention seems a "different reality" from the worlds that I live in.

My partner managed a budget two jobs ago in programs for children in California - that was larger than the budget for the town that Palin was the mayor of. An introductory speaker spoke of the town of 10,000 - being of a similar size to "Many American Cities".

Palin's record on earmarks, teen pregnancy, and many other issues seems narrow and right wing. She seems to know little about many issues and what she believes in where she speaks speaks to a country that I'd rather not be a citizen of. Yes, we all want decency and respect, blah, blah, blah, but ....

I have trouble imagining how George Bush is seen as a terrible president - and yet John McCain - with policies very similar is somehow perceived as "different and better". McCain may be a "maverick" and Palin may be "unique" or "different" in some ways, but I hope that enough USians can see through their smoke and mirrors and fear based campaign to help us bring some real, positive change in our country.