Tuesday, April 1, 2008

the great color divide

One of my students, James, was waiting for me in my classroom this morning to have a conference on a haiku he had written. After a long dormant period, James's work lately has been fascinating: full of insight and unusual perspectives. Today, his piece was short, simple and poignant. He said that he had been inspired to write it after hearing Barack Obama's speech on race relations in America.

when color divides people

Is it possible
To change our future when we
Worry about red or blue?

The haiku is imperfect, but the question is not. We have so many issues dividing us in this country, so much that stops us from solving the crises that plague this country, and race is only one of many. In his landmark 2004 Convention Speech, the one that Hillary Clinton keeps saying Obama is basing his "entire campaign" on, he spoke of one America. So much time has past; maybe we need to remind ourselves of the words he spoke on that stage on that July night:

There's not a liberal America and a conservative America — there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

It is four years later, and we have all suffered for another term of perhaps the most intentionally divisive administration that this country has ever seen. The neocons that have propped up the President have, from the outset, made it clear that this is a government of the GOP, by the GOP, and for the GOP. Its policies, from the first months when Dick Cheney met in secret White House sessions with representatives of Big Oil and allowed them to help set energy policies that--golly gee!--have seen their profits go through the roof in the same seven years that the rest of the country has slipped deeper and deeper into recession, have serviced no one but Big Business, while giving enough lip service to the biggest scam of the 21st Century--so-called "family values"--that he maintained a core appeal to those who, if they voted their pocketbooks, would not have touched him with a ten-foot pole.

The man rode into the White House on a chariot labeled "Compassionate Conservative." It might have been fine, I suppose, had he in fact been either. We've dealt with conservatives before, and compassion would be welcome in anyone. But he was neither. He and his cronies, who came into office on the slimmest of all possible electoral margins promising an administration that would work across the aisle to get things done in Washington, insisted in treating his razor-thin Supreme Court-awarded "victory" as a political mandate for sweeping change, ignoring the outcry of the minority, and setting up what has become eight years of vitriol and antagonism, eight years of a continuation of the red/blue divide that began with the Gingrich congress in the Clinton years and has never let up.

And by appealing to the worser angels of the nature of his constituents--their fear of losing some nebulous core "values" to some advocacy groups the neocons and the Christian Right painted as evil--he managed to maintain at least the illusion that he had support for his actions. He even managed to get himself re-elected. (Let's not get into the how's and why's of that; it just boggles the mind.)

The bottom line, though, is this: if we want things truly to change in America, we must begin by making true changes in Washington. That is why, long before her selfish and boorish recent campaign led me to feel a growing distaste for her, brand of politics, I gave my support wholeheartedly to Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton, a woman I had previously felt I could support this year. The truth is that, no matter how you look at it, four years of Hillary Clinton in the White House would end up four more years of this nation suffering from the deep red/blue division that has marked it for almost fifteen years. No matter what kind of President she could be if she were allowed to be--and despite her detestable campaign I still believe her capable--the right wing would never give her a real chance. She is too much tied to a past they loathe.

Barack Obama represents something new: a vision of a future untethered to an archaic imaginary divide between red states and blue states. Where Hillary says his victories mean nothing because they came in GOP states, he says that's exactly the point: he'll win the "Democratic" states anyway, but the fact that he finds support in GOP strongholds says something about his appeal. The fact that he runs strong with independents and "Obamacans" says something about the perception in the nation of the notion of getting rid of the old color divide once and for all.

We are not and never truly have been a red and blue country. We are a country possessed of a glorious rainbow of color, starting with purple, like the "mountains majesty" in the song. We are black, white, Latino, Native American. We are gay, straight, bisexual, transsexual. We are Democrat, Republican, Independent, Green, Libertarian. We are from every country on the globe, and we are all from here. To force us into the convenient little boxes of "reds" and "blues" for political advantage is disingenuous at best and insidious at worst. The neocons have been very, very good at it. But if we want to confront the real problems dominating this country, from race to the economy to health care to social security to foreign policy and whatever else, the very first thing we need to do is bring everyone to the same table.

It's time to bring an end to the Great Color Divide. And there is only one candidate who is running for President who has been talking about doing just that since 2004.


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it's your hair that i notice first
streaked with morning
it frames your face
you lying there eyes closed
soft breath not quite there
i follow its path as it bends the sheet
and i can touch you there
touch what i feel is you
in the spark of daylight
you'll rise
pull on the wrinkled shirt from last night
say something you think is beautiful
drink some coffee
from behind my paper
and drive away,
leaving a kiss on my lips
and a hole in my heart
where a fire ought to be

Favorite Films

  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • Amelie
  • The Princess Bride
  • Casablanca
  • Annie Hall
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • All That Jazz
  • Citizen Kane
  • Love Actually
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Big Fish
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Almost Famous
  • Bull Durham
  • Notting Hill
  • Apocalypse Now (Redux)
  • Magnolia

All-Time Favorite TV Shows

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Gilmore Girls
  • M*A*S*H
  • The West Wing
  • The X-Files
  • The Daily Show
  • Ally McBeal
  • Picket Fences
  • All In The Family
  • Seinfeld
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  • Star Trek
  • Firefly
  • Wonderfalls
  • Northern Exposure
  • Get Smart
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show
  • Twin Peaks
  • The Larry Sanders Show
  • Monk
  • Felicity
  • St. Elsewhere

Current TV Shows I Enjoy (in no particular order)

  • Perception
  • Major Crimes
  • American Horror Story
  • Louie
  • Suits
  • The Newsroom
  • Falling Skies
  • Franklin and Bash
  • Veep
  • Scandal
  • Fairly Legal
  • Girls
  • Don't Trust the B---
  • Justified
  • Portlandia
  • Psych
  • The Middle
  • Person of Interest
  • Happy Endings
  • Hart of Dixie
  • Real Time with Bill Maher
  • Nikita
  • Raising Hope
  • Castle
  • Drop Dead Diva
  • Covert Affairs
  • Elementary
  • Rizzoli and Isles
  • Revolution
  • The Last Resort
  • Alphas
  • SNL
  • Revenge
  • Community
  • Suburgatory
  • New Girl
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Grimm
  • Nashville
  • Downton Abbey
  • Smash
  • Homeland
  • Fringe
  • Glee
  • Haven
  • Community
  • Warehouse 13
  • Modern Family
  • Vampire Diaries
  • The Daily Show
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Colbert Report
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Leverage
  • Rachel Maddow Show

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