Category Archives: Giving respect

Inauguration Day: Proud, Patriotic and Pantsless

So here I sit, under a blanket, with a cup of tea steaming on the coffee table. My laptop, with about 10 separate windows open (CNN.com, twitter, various blogs, email, etc.), is sitting on, well, my lap. CNN is on the television in front of me and my two year old son is napping (finally).

And Barack Obama is President of the United States.

Wow.

He’s been president for almost two hours now. And I could not be more grateful.

Someday my sons may ask me where I was the day President Obama was inaugurated. And so I think it seems only right I post today to “archive” it in some way. But I hate to disappoint them. Even though my parents live in the DC area, we are not there. We are home in Florida. Or I am, with C., doing dishes, making dinner and folding laundry. My 5 year old went to school today and my husband went to work and won’t be home until late in the evening. A family trek to DC was not practical or affordable right now. So here we are, its just another day in the neighborhood.

But I know its not. Something has changed. A subtle but deeply felt shift just happened, and we were all moved by it. Our country is now somehow altered with the swearing in of this single man. Hope is an extraordinarily powerful thing and the meaning of an event like today’s inauguation can be felt in every office, work place, and living room nationwide. Even in the far reaches of boring old suburbia, even in a little ol’ living room like mine.

As the crowds gathered on the Mall this morning and I gathered my robe around me while I watched, I suddenly figured something out. You know this whole concept of change that Obama has been going on about? Yeah, well, I have realized that “change” – or making it happen, rather – is something that we all must to own. It’s no longer Obama’s line anymore. Once he was sworn in, change has become an action that we are all responsible for. We can fix these issues if we all harness the energy of the people on that mall today and commit to making a significant difference in our communities, from where ever we stand. Even if we stand in a spot far from DC, maybe even at the edge of a cookie cutter community in Florida, in a home with stew simmering in the crock pot and a child napping in the front room. 

So back to my point. What was I doing when Obama was sworn in? Well, as Aretha Franklin began singing, I noticed a certain… odor… in my living room. And it wasn’t the stew. C. looked at me sheepishly – and I knew. Yup. I spent Obama’s swearing in changing a very full and fairly horrifying poopy diaper. Afterwards, I let C. “air” out some and left him pantsless. The poor child has had horrible diaper rash. And I dragged out his potty too which he graciously peed in for me – twice – while I caught snippets of Obama’s speech.

That’s where I was when Obama became President of the United States. I was at the helm of my current and very humbling profession, doing what I do best right now, being a mom.

(And you can’t say *I* wasn’t “changing” something during that very pivotal and historic moment in history, correct?)

So here is my two year old, only minutes after Obama officially became president, standing on our back porch: pantsless and patriotic. cinaug

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Filed under Deep thoughts, Educating myself, Election, Family, Florida, Giving respect, Inauguration, Inspiring people, Obama, Patriotism, Presidency, Reality check

Honoring Dr. King’s Dream

We can never take for granted how far we have come to ensure equality for every citizen in our country. Thousands of people have suffered so that the rights of our people are upheld and preserved. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech has lived in our minds for decades. It has remained alive in our hearts, reminding us to work for a dream, to accomplish the impossible. And tomorrow, with the election of Barack Obama, we are so close to realizing Dr. King’s dream.

But we can’t assume we have accomplished his dream entirely. We can’t assume equality comes simply with the election of an African American president, because it hasn’t. But we’re getting so close. And as we watch President-Elect Obama be sworn in tomorrow, there can be no doubt in our minds that the impossible can happen. Now, we have every reason to believe that Dr. King’s dream may soon be entirely realized.

I think it is all of our responsibilities to watch this speech, read this speech, and experience this speech before tomorrow’s inauguration. Amoungst everything that it represents, every one of us should understand the significance of this new presidency and the effect it will have on our hopes for equality in our country.

“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

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Filed under Equal Rights, Giving respect, Inauguration, Inspiring people, Martin Luther King Jr., Obama, Patriotism, Peace, Presidency, Racism, Raising Awareness

Are Liberal Citizens “American” Citizens?

It is not the first time that my patriotism has been called into question for being liberal. However Governor Palin’s recent comments caught me in a vulnerable moment. On the cusp of casting what may be the most important vote of my lifetime, I have never felt more proud to be an American citizen. And yet, with a mere two weeks left in the campaign, my party and my beliefs may be deemed yet again as un-American. And I think it’s time I stand up for myself as a proud citizen of this country.

We believe the best of Amierica is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working, very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation. This is where we find the kindness and goodness and courage of everyday Americans.

Governor Palin said these words at a fund-raiser in North Carolina recently. Now, I would not argue that those she was speaking to were, in fact, “American”. But those folks at the fundraiser were certainly no more American than the families living here in the suburbs of Florida, or the Burroughs of New York City, or even on the icy plains of her own State of Alaska. Assuming that one group of citizens are “more” American than another is simply ridiculous. But her speech comes across as one more undeserved swipe at citizens who don’t fit into a certain narrow ideal of “Americanism”. In fact, liberal citizens (such as myself) have become quite used to questions about our patriotism. And raise your hand if you’ve heard the mumbled implication that you might be (cue the disgusted sneer on the accusers face): a communist. What is UP with this?

Throughout my life, I have continued an American tradition of sorts, something my forefathers did before me: I question those in authority. It is my right to do this and I consider it about as American as apple pie. And while I may have disagreed with certain politicians or some of their policies, I have never faltered in my own confidence as an American. Sure, I didn’t grow up in small town U.S.A. (I lived abroad in High School) or attend a senior prom or date a Joe Six-pack type. But I am still American, right? My perspective and background have just added to that whole “melting pot” idea, right? And as for questioning those leading this country – well, isn’t that the beauty of being American? As a democratic nation, I can question, I can express myself, I can be whomever I want to be here. God Bless this place, for real.

After September 11th, our country became very afraid and for good reason. We had been attacked and thousands of innocent people lost their lives. But the fear and hate which sprung from this attack has been frightening to witness. As the years passed and war was waged, the message was very clear: “You are either with us, or against us”. If I didn’t agree with the war, the policies of the current administration or my President: I was considered un-American. During these past few years, my American round peg has not exactly fit into this very limited, short-sighted variety of patritotic square hole. Our country’s definition of “Americanness” should not remain so simplified or single minded any longer.

I am a liberal American. I believe in equal and human rights in a democratic nation. I believe in protecting the limited resources on our planet and in our country – not destroying them. I believe in freedom of speech of every form – not intimidated silence. I believe in the right to vote, as a collective nation, to determine our leader – never denying any citizen this opporitunity. I believe in the unique diversity of this country – not polarized sameness, or fear of the unknown. I believe that all citizens, of every background, are in fact 100% American – no matter how I much I may agree or disagree with them.

Early voting has begun in many states around this country. It is time for our nation to excerise it’s right to choose it’s own leader. In the spirit of a new, redefined and multi-faceted brand of patriotism, please go out and do the most “American” thing you can do right now: vote. Let’s see what the “real” America is all about.

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Filed under Election, Equal Rights, Giving respect, Government, Partisanship, Patriotism, Politics, Sarah Palin

Navigating Partisan Friendships during this Election.

A friendship is a sacred thing. It is made scared by all that you share with and recognize in the other. And it is also made sacred by all that you do not share, as your differences challenge you to listen and grow in ways that you haven’t had to before. I can certainly appreciate this aspect of friendship right now. How come? One of my closest friend’s is a Republican. So, “viva la difference”, correct? We’re trying.

When you have an acquaintance, you know the touchy topics to avoid: religion, finances, family issues, and politics. With surface friendships, this isn’t such a hard thing to do. We would rather focus on the fun stuff like soccer practice or the next moms’ night out together anyway.

But my friend is more than just an acquaintance. She is something far deeper than that. She is someone my family shares holidays with, family trips with, and endless football Sunday afternoons with. We live on the same street. We both have two children. Our husbands happened to attend the same college. Our birthdays are one day apart. We both struggle with our mortgages, with coaxing our children to sleep, with making sure they are happy at school.

And yet, she is a Republican and I am a Democrat. Not only do we belong to opposing parties, we proudly stand by our political values. There’s no budging us and, needless to say, neither of us will be checking the same boxes come November 4th.

So, for the sake of our friendship, I am guessing your advice might be to avoid political discussions at all costs, correct? But here’s the thing. We are close friends. There is no topic left untouched. Nor should there be. Over bottles of wine long after the children are asleep, its inevitable that religion, finances and skeletons in our respectable closests come right on out for consideration. And yup, politics certainly jumps in there too, sure to shake up our wine induced “heart to hearts”, while our families sleep on.

So how do we do it? How do we hold onto our friendship in the midst of a deeply emotional Presidential battle? I would not say it’s easy, and it certainly hasn’t been for others as well.

The blogger Queen of Spain writes about “outing” herself politically to acquaintances, and noting their varied reactions. However, it seems utterly impossible to avoid political chatter right now. Better than a season premier of “Lost”, the Nightly News has most of us wide-eyed and at the edge of our seats every evening. We can’t help it, our politics are bound to slip into even the briefest of conversations.

And how many of us are so fed up with the opposing party that we are potentially willing to lose friends? Should our political values really come before our friendships? Ilina at Dirt and Noise certainly is struggling with this very issue and I could not sympathise more with her.

Shannon McDowell (writing for Ezine) and Laurie Weigler (writing for eHow) both offer us suggestions while navigating the choppy waters of a politically threatened friendship.

  • Respectfully and tactfully discuss your choice using facts – not rhetoric.
  • During the conversation, keep humor in and emotion out (if possible).
  • Don’t attack or try to convert the other.
  • Be sensitive to your friend’s beliefs and respect them.
  • Involve the group in the conversation, make it less about one against the other.
  • Agree to disagree – remember we each have the right to our own opinion.
  • Reconnect after the conversation with a hug, laugh or handshake to establish that “yup, we’re still ok.”

Finally Mom-101 points out that while elections can truly test some friendships, we usually have more in common with one another than what we don’t. And this is the very point I come to at the end of the day with my friend.

Yes, for the next few weeks, there will be an elephant – and a donkey – in the room with my friend and I.  However, when we sit down and discuss our hopes and dreams, we are truly so much more alike than we are different. And as for our politics? She challenges me and I her. Diverse opinions are what makes this world go around. Preaching to our safe choir of friends will not allow us to grow. A partisan friendship such as ours isn’t easy right now, but we are both better for it. And at the end of the day, we still find ourselves on the same street, with the same children, holding on to the same hopes and dreams for our families.

Cross posted at Type A Moms.

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Filed under Communication, Friendship, Giving respect, Partisanship, Politics

September 11th: Offering My Respect.

Today is September 11th. I’ve got posts I’m working on and thoughts that need to be written down but there is no way I can let today pass without a post acknowledging this anniversary.

So what do I think this morning?

I am thinking about the families this tragedy touched and my heart goes out to them. I am thinking about how this anniversary gives most Americans a sorrowful pit in their stomachs, even 7 years later. I am thinking that I hope every tribute is appropriate and respectful. I am thinking I really don’t want to see those planes too often today.

Where was I that morning?

I was working in downtown Boston. Ironically, I had planned to fly out that morning for a conference in Texas. My plans had changed and was instead flying out September 12. I had a busy day ahead of me to prepare for my trip. And then it happened. And the city began to evacuate. My husband decided to come get me so I could avoid public transportation. I made frantic calls to my mother who worked a block from the White House. I sat in my office where I had a perfect view of the Prudential building; I watched it, considering how much it looked like the twin towers. I cried. I was scared. I was overwhelmed with the knowledge that thousands of people were probably dying right at that moment. One office mate told me I was over-reacting. And then some bolted out the door to scoop up their families and get themselves far far from the city. Some were furious, stomping around, yelling for war. Some focused on deadlines and pretended nothing was really happening. Everyone was in shock and reactions were varied. I finally heard from my mother, she was home, she had seen the smoke from the pentagon. My husband arrived and we peeled out of the city. We arrived home to a message from my father in west Africa, crying. Had I flown out today after all? Where was I? While we tried contacting him, we watched and waited.

Where am I today?

I am settled in Florida suburbia, far from the city, far from my office in Boston. T. just left with his father for kindergarten. I am watching C. play with his Mickey Mouse toy. I am living here, raising two sons while we are at war, while we wonder what comes next, while I worry we have made some horrible mistakes in reaction to the attack 7 years ago.

Do I feel safer from terrorists 7 years later?

Nope.

Am I proud to be an American?

Yep. I have amazing rights and privileges, I am grateful for them everyday.

Have I been proud of our contry recently?

I have been very proud to see so many people vote and call for change during this election. However, I am mortified by the war we are in.

What do I hope for on this anniversary?

Respect. People died. Every American is mourning their loss today. Politics has to be kept out of this anniversary. If I feel sorrow for our loss today, I should not be slotted as a Bush or McCain supporter. If I am voting for Obama, don’t assume I can’t REALLY care about this tragedy or our country. No more fear mongering. No more waving “out of control” planes over our buildings for votes. No more name dropping “9/11” whenever there is an election. It’s disgraceful and not my kind of patriotism. No one should assume a republican president would care more for our country or protect us better. Actually, don’t assume ANY American could protect this country without legitimately caring about the global community we are apart of. Respect. It has to happen on this anniversary for our country to truly heal. And it must happen across our borders to abate any possibility of further threats.

How am I going to honor this day?

I am going to be grateful for what I have: my children, my family, my health, my home, my rights. While I remember those lost, I can’t forget our place in this world. Hundreds of countries have lost their citizens to hate, terror, genocide and war – the few thousand we have lost pales in comparison to the tens or hundreds of thousands lost in other countries. Their dead deserve as much respect and honor as our dead.

May every soul lost rest in peace.

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Filed under Giving respect, Partisanship, Patriotism, Politics, Reality check, War