Sunday, December 20, 2009

The most offensive thing I've seen

I wanted to make sure everyone knew about this piece of electronic manure, but my blog buddy Buzzardbilly beat me to it. West Virginia Discovers the Internet | NBC Washington

I'd say this is in the running for the Bigot of the Century award.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

My Father, the Axe Murderer

Buzzard Billy has asked us to share our critter stories. Growing up in the country, I had plenty of stories about critters. There was the time my brother caught the biggest bullfrog I've ever seen. Our hop toad family (Hoppy, Mrs. Hoppy, and the baby Hoppies...we were creative children) that lived under the back step. And the deer that wore a blaze orange vest all through hunting season. Since then I've blogged about Saddam the crawdaddy and the tomato-eating turtle.

But this one is the one that I will never forget.

I was about 10 or 12. Our dog Fido had gotten the worse end of the fight with a critter the night before. Though Fido was a small dog, he never backed down.

The next night, we heard Fido out back cutting up a shine. (That means barking like the Devil himself was creeping around for the hillbilly-impaired readers.) Dad ran, looked out the back window, and then ran back to his bedroom.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm going to kill me a possum," he answered. (In hillbilly, the dative case is still used.)

OK, dad's going to kill the possum that's messing with Fido. Makes sense. Except...

Dad didn't hunt and didn't own a gun. Possums, unlike the reputation they get with their "playing possum" reputation, are nasty critters with teeth and attitudes. Think of a double-sized rat whose mother you've just insulted, and you've got the picture. How in the world is Dad going to kill him without a gun?

This I had to see. I ran to the back window, where I saw my dad with his axe raised high over his head. That's when I realized that a gun wasn't necessary. I figured that I would be explaining this in therapy some years hence, so I turned away.


That was the end of the possum. And I don't blame him for it one bit. That possum had attacked our dog, a member of our family. What if next time it was me or my brother?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

New Scripts


That's the sound that woke me up about 6:30 this morning. I knew instantly that there had been a car wreck, right in front of my house from the sound of it.

The American phrase "car crash" doesn't really fit the event. Trust me. I've been around many of them. The English get it a little better with their term "smash-up," but it's still a THUD. A large one, but a THUD nonetheless.

When I grew up, my house was on the main highway, between two rather dangerous curves. When we heard a crash, we knew just what to do. We'd go out, see if anyone was hurt, and offer to call the emergency car if they needed. We lived in the country, with neighbors that weren't all that close. If we didn't do it, who would?

So my first impulse was to get up, throw on some clothes, and see if anyone needed help. But this flower isn't in the country any more. And everyone these days has cell phones, so they probably wouldn't need someone to call the police. And at 6 a.m., tempers were likely to be a bit hot, and ever since I've moved here I've had "safety" pounded into my head. This town is known for violence, especially gun violence. Should I go and help? Or should I just stay inside? I looked outside again. Two people were standing next to the wreck, each talking on cell phones. Nah, they probably didn't need me.

By the time these thoughts went through my head (hey, I'm not at my best when awakened early in the morning from a dead sleep), I heard sirens: police, ambulance, and fire. Everything was all right, and I was off the hook.

But then I got to thinking. Sleep was out of the question, with all the sirens and voices, so the only thing I could do was to think. Am I becoming callous? Is Kitty Genovese syndrome hitting me? And if so, is it a good thing that I'm looking out for myself first? Or am I losing a bit of my compassion and humanity?

I've not worked that out yet. Any of your thoughts are welcome.

The problem that I'm facing now is new scripts. Scripts are patterns in which we behave in a social setting. When you are in a store, you stand in line. That's a script in the US. You hold open the door for someone directly behind you. And when you are the one behind, you thank the person who held the door for you. But there are some scripts that change. I've adopted a few new scripts, but I'm not sure if I have them all yet, which is one of the reasons that this is an exciting new adventure.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Laurel, transplanted

This post will be quick, but I think I need to tell you what's going on. I've been a bit out of touch, and I'd like to thank all of you who commented to ask if everything was OK. It wasn't, but I think it's getting to be OK now.

To make a long story short, I've moved to Charm City, the land of the crab and Old Bay. Yepper, the city on the bay. I'm living right in town, in a row house if you can believe that! But I've still got my little tiny yard, and flowers are blooming brightly there.

In the next few days I'll have some views on as an Appalachian exile. Things look a bit different here than they do in the last places I've lived. I'm going to review Buzzard Billy's series "Hillbilly like me" to see what commonalities I've had in my experience.

to those who are still reading after all this time, thanks for hanging in there. I'm glad to be back, and I"m looking forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What if it had been you?

Almost everyone has heard of the incident in which Henry Louis Gates, Jr., was arrested after someone called the police to investigate his breaking into his home. If you don't know the details, read this editorial from The Charleston Gazette. But let's put this into perspective. What if YOU broke into your house?

I know we've all done it. The door's been hard to open, or we've forgotten our keys, and we need to break in. Heck, Mother did it so often that my brother and I had a drill. Climb the picnic table into the bathroom window, walk around and let the others in. No big deal.

So if it had been me, a blond, blue-eyed Caucasian woman, I would have broken into my house. Sure! IF someone had called the police, they would have come in, asked me what was going on, I would have told them. Maybe they would have asked for ID, which I would have produced. They would have apologized, and I would have thanked them for doing their job and watching out for us. Don't believe me? Read Buzzard Billy's account of what DID happen when she, another Caucasian, refused to let a police officer into her home in the middle of the night. True story.

This is not what happened to Dr. Gates. OK, steps 1-4 would have been the same. Right up till Dr. Gates produced his ID. See, he's a black man. Never mind that he's a respected, graying professor and looks every inch the part. He's still a black man. Instead of an apology, he was given an arrest and put in handcuffs. The police said he was "agitated." Would I have been agitated? Oh, haell yes! Especially after I had produced ID and was still being questioned. Agitated wouldn't have begun to cover it. Sounds to me like he was restrained by my standards, according to both the police and his own reports.

Wrong is wrong. And racism is not dead in this country. Heck, it's not even close to terminal.

Friday, May 29, 2009


The Chez has perfectly expressed one of my pet peeves. She says it better than I could.

I'm The Chez & You're The Macaroni: Mind Your Manners Monday!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dedicated to the naysayers out there

This article lists 15 Failed Predictions about the Future. So the next time someone says you can't do this, or that isn't practical, remember that Margaret Thatcher never thought there would be a female prime minister in her lifetime.

Also, don't be afraid to eat your words. I prefer mine with Worcestershire sauce and a hint of garlic.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

WOW!! My own award!!

WOO HOO!!! I got an award! Who'd'a thunk it, especially since my blogging lately has been sporadic, oh heck, let's call a dog a dog, nonexistant lately. I've been hit with a setback and it's been throwing me for a loop, hence, no mental energy for blogging, and precious little for anything else. But now, now, I'm starting to emerge from the fog and getting back to it. So, the first order of business is to thank the wise, learned, hysterical, and occasionally gross BuzzardBilly for this award. The second order of business is to thank the always interesting Muze Euterpe for it. Can you believe it? Two blog awards!! And during my hiatus. Maybe I should go on hiatus more often.....

Pretty spiffy, huh? But, as with all blog awards, there are rules....

The Bella Rules:

1) Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award, and his or her blog link.
2) Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you've newly discovered. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

So here goes..... in no order whatsoever....

  1. I'm giving it back to Buzzardbilly as, well, she deserves it. She's a bright observer of human behavior, and a student of Appalachia and Appalachian behavior. Plus, she's damn funny.
  2. And right back at Muze as well. Muze and I disagree on pretty much everything. We can both get very intense about our (opposite) politics, but we are able to discuss mostly rationally and always respectfully. That is so rare these days.
  3. Next up has to be Maura at Maura's Bliss Adventures. She was my first friend in this town and is a terrific person with fascinating insights on lots of topics. Recently she had a beautiful baby girl. So, in essence, this blog has everything you need: lovely thoughts and baby pictures. What more could you want from a blog?
  4. Sarah at The Putnam Scoop. She doesn't post often, but when she does it's either beautiful, profound, or something that really makes you feel good. Often all three.
  5. Evil Twin's Wife, who is probably rolling in these awards by now. She's a faithful blogger in this area, and just a terrific person. Oh, and if you get her and the previous three together, you're guaranteed a good time.
  6. The Neurotic Attorney. Interestingly, she is from my part of the state but now lives here. And she has a myriad of correct opinions (correct meaning, of course, that she agrees with me).
  7. And, lest you think I'm a sexist blogger, The Film Geek. Film reviews, Jacknuts, local commentary, and reflection. Plus, Saturday morning cartoon memories!
  8. Sagacious Hillbilly. He is both, certainly. Left-leaning politics, a healthy measure of common sense, and a dash of righteous outrage. Add gardening and you've got SH. He's on hiatus now but he certainly deserves this.
  9. MadDaddy at daddyBstrong. A counselor, thinker, and poet from Atlanta that's transplanted to the Twin Cities, his series on blues and poets you should read soothe the soul.
  10. Kit is on hiatus, but never mind. Go back and read her "Hard Rocks" series. And she predicted this current financial mess for a good year before it hit. And was scarily accurate.
I gave 10, but there are so many more than I could give. But the laundry is almost done, and I 've got other things to do. If you didn't get one, then you were probably number 11, 12, 13, 14, or 15.

And if you don't want to play along, no problem. I just want you all to know how much you are appreciated.

The economic case against Mountaintop Removal coal mining

This article from West Virginia Blue is a must-read. It brings together (and backs with data) a lot of the arguments that I have had against mountain top removal. I am not anti-coal, nor do I have any intention to live in a cave, as some pro-MTR folks have suggested.

MTR is a blight upon the earth. Literally. We need to be aware of the facts, not just the propaganda by both sides, and this article does a great job of making an argument backed by facts, not emotion, which is sorely lacking in today's debate.

Hey Kids, Take Your Vitamins!!

I just love this Quote of the Day from Larry Messina's Lincoln Walks at Midnight blog, focused on political news from West Virginia:

"(I)f people are consuming lower numbers of fish, that number in the fish tissue can be a little bit higher because they’re not taking as much in.”

-- Mike Arcuri, an analyst with Department of Environmental Protection, explaining to Public Broadcasting why his agency believes that West Virginia should allow more mercury in its waters than what federal standards recommend.

Because we have to make sure that we have our Recommended Daily Allowance of Mercury, and if we're not getting enough, well, by golly, let's let more mercury into the water so that we can catch up.

It boggles the mind.

UPDATE: Ken Ward Jr., arguably the best investigative journalist in the state, at Sustained Outrage continues with the story on mercury and fish in WV waters.

A lesson

One of the things that I love about blogging is the ability for a do-over. First I'll tell you what happened.

My honey and I were at a local business on Sunday, standing in the checkout line. The checker asked the gentleman in front of us if he had served in the military. When he answered "yes," she gave him a white carnation from a vase set aside for that purpose. "How nice," I thought. "Even though it's Memorial Day instead of Veteran's Day, it's a great gesture."

I moved up to pay for my purchase. She asked my honey if he had served. Then she took my money and gave me my purchase.

Notice anything missing? That's right, she didn't ask the "girl" if she had served. Now, I look young, but not under 18!

Here's what should have happened: I should have said, "aren't you going to ask me if I served?" She would have asked, then I would have said, "No, but my best friend served for 20 years. And if it had been her instead of me in your line, she'd have ripped you a new one. Women have been serving in the military since World War II. I have a feeling that they'll not be pleased to have this service ignored."

What do you think? Should I have said it, or should I have just kept silent and let the female vet who wasn't asked tear her up?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Finally, A Voice of Reason

I saved this about a week ago but never got around to publishing it. In this story, from The Charleston Gazette - West Virginia Retired Justice O'Connor cites Benjamin ethics case, saying that Benjamin should have recused himself from this case because of the perception of possible partiality (now try saying that one three times fast!).

Finally, someone is saying publicly what we always knew: if your best bud brings a case to the court, and everyone knows he's your best bud, it might be a good idea to recuse yourself from the case, even if you are, indeed, completely partial. Which is what we all knew anyway, right?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

House Panel Says West Virginia Chemical Firm Withheld Information About Explosion -

You have heard the story, right? If you're in Wv, probably so. If you're outside, probably not. Last August there was an explosion at the Bayer plant about 40 miles away from me. No one really knew what was going on. Folks were furious with the County Commissioner for not telling residents what had happened. He blamed the chemical plant. Turns out he was right. And Bayer had a right to be scared. The blast came damn close to blowing up a tank of MIC. What's that? The same shit that leaked in Bhopal in 1984 and killed over 2000 people. Yeah, that.

At least the New York Times has picked up this story. House Panel Says West Virginia Chemical Firm Withheld Information About Explosion -

Once again, if this happened anyplace else, it would have been major news. But since it happened here, no one's all that concerned.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What's an Affrilachian?

How would you feel if you learned that you didn't exist? Ask Frank X. Walker. In 1991, he looked up the definition of Appalachian in Webster's Dictionary and discovered this definition referring to the inhabitants: "white residents from the mountains.” So Mr. Walker, a black man from Danville, KY, did not exist, according to definition.

What would you do? Mr. Walker and his fellow poets decided to create another word to describe them: Affrilachian. Not only was this a word but a movement. And it wasn't just African, or Appalachian. Affrilachian have a keen sense of the world around them. When you read an Affrilachian poem, you might read about social justice (or the lack therof), men, women, mountains, India, Cuba, you name it. What ties them together is their supportive community and their way with words.

If you're in the Charleton/Huntington area, stop on by to see them. Affrilachian poets should be heard if possible. If you can't, head on over to The Affrilachian Poets site.

Here's a teaser from Parneshia Jones, dedicated to the founding Affrilachians:
Anyone that walks these bluegrass lands
know the stories.
They know when thunder shakes the hills,
Affrilachians are writing."

Read the rest here.

The Affrilachians are Coming!

If you're in Charleston or Huntington, try to make it out to see the Affrilachian Poet Tour. The press release follows:

Affrilachian Poets to appear at Marshall March 13

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall University’s Huntington campus will be host to the spring bus tour of Affrilachian Poets at 4 p.m. Friday, March 13 in Marco’s in the Memorial Student Center.

The word “Affrilachian” was coined by poet Frank X Walker to reflect African Americans who are part of the Appalachian region, which has often been described as all white and poor. The Lexington, Ky.-based writing group has slowly established a regional and national presence with their collective publishing efforts, accumulated awards and reputations as accomplished teaching artists at some of the nation’s most notable institutions and writing programs.

While in West Virginia, the group also plans two appearances in Charleston on Thursday, March 12. They’ll be at the Capitol Market, 800 Smith Street, at noon and at the Tricky Fish, 1611 Washington Street East, at 8 p.m.

Members taking part in the various readings and events on the tour include Walker, Crystal Wilkinson, Ricardo Nazario-Colon, Kelly Norman Ellis, Ellen Hagan, Parneshia Jones, Mitchell L.H. Douglas, Keith Wilson, Bianca Spriggs, Tania James, Crystal Goodwoman, Norman Jordan and Amanda Johnston. For more information about the poets, visit

The tour events will also introduce the new publication, “PLUCK! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts and Culture.” It is also available online at

The Affrilachian Poets’ appearance in Huntington is sponsored by the Marshall Student Government Association, Center for African American Students’ Programs, the English department, and the College of Liberal Arts.

For more information about the tour, call Walker at 513-375-7221 or e-mail

What is an Affrilachian Poet? See the next post.

Monday, March 09, 2009

MTR and Coalfield Justice Talk

I'm finally emerging from my winter torpor. I saw a great lecture last week on the sister of Carter Woodson, Bessie Woodson Yancey, who was a fascinating writer in her own right. She would have been one hell of a blogger too, had she lived now. Her story needs to be told, and I had a wonderful post in mind, to be written tonight. Then I found that there is a discussion with a native filmmaker close by on the subject of Mountaintop Removal. And it's WEDNESDAY, which is day after tomorrow. So, Mrs. Yancey, you'll have to wait. My apologies.

Here's the press release:

Marshall University Graduate College (South Charleston campus) will host a Graduate Humanities Program event sponsored by Friends of the Humanities. It concerns a public talk by Catherine Pancake, a filmmaker and musician, called "Growing Up Without Television . . . Trials and Tribulations of Developing Visual Media in a Culture of Oral Tradition" on Wednesday, March 11, at 7 pm, in Room 319. A reception will follow.

Pancake is most well known for her award-winning documentary *Black Diamonds: Mountaintop Removal and the Fight for Coalfield Justice*.

The event is free and open to the public.

Next post: "Here come the Affrilachians!" They'll be in Huntington WV on Friday and Charleston WV on Thursday. I've heard them read before and they are WONDERFUL. Maybe I'll even get the nerve up to speak to Frank X. Walker. (I'm quite nervous and shy when it comes to meeting authors I admire.)

Friday, March 06, 2009

What's in a name?

A laurel by any other name would smell as sweet....

You Are Stable and Cheerful

When You Are Comfortable:

You are a hard worker. You need security and stability in your life, even if that means putting in long hours.

People see you as solid and dependable. You are always able to see the good in situations. Other find this comforting.

When You Are At Your Best:

You are a hyper, restless person. You need to keep busy, and you always are willing to take charge in life.

People see you as energetic and motivating. You inspire people to be the best they can be.

When You Are in a Social Setting:

You are enthusiastic and flexible. You are open-minded. You prefer to learn from others... not judge them.

People see you as kind and cooperative. You are very supportive when friends are down on their luck.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Creation

I've been having an odd day. A friend sent this to me and I'm amazed at how it lifted my spirits. I thought your spirits might could use it too.

The Creation

James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938)

(A Negro Sermon)

AND God stepped out on space,
And He looked around and said,
“I’m lonely—
I’ll make me a world.”

And far as the eye of God could see 5
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.

Then God smiled,
And the light broke, 10
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said, “That’s good!”

Then God reached out and took the light in His hands,
And God rolled the light around in His hands 15
Until He made the sun;
And He set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.
And the light that was left from making the sun
God gathered it up in a shining ball
And flung it against the darkness, 20
Spangling the night with the moon and stars.
Then down between
The darkness and the light
He hurled the world;
And God said, “That’s good!” 25

Then God himself stepped down—
And the sun was on His right hand,
And the moon was on His left;
The stars were clustered about His head,
And the earth was under His feet. 30
And God walked, and where He trod
His footsteps hollowed the valleys out
And bulged the mountains up.

Then He stopped and looked and saw
That the earth was hot and barren. 35
So God stepped over to the edge of the world
And He spat out the seven seas;
He batted His eyes, and the lightnings flashed;
He clapped His hands, and the thunders rolled;
And the waters above the earth came down, 40
The cooling waters came down.

Then the green grass sprouted,
And the little red flowers blossomed,
The pine tree pointed his finger to the sky,
And the oak spread out his arms, 45
The lakes cuddled down in the hollows of the ground,
And the rivers ran down to the sea;
And God smiled again,
And the rainbow appeared,
And curled itself around His shoulder. 50

Then God raised His arm and He waved His hand
Over the sea and over the land,
And He said, “Bring forth! Bring forth!”
And quicker than God could drop His hand.
Fishes and fowls 55
And beasts and birds
Swam the rivers and the seas,
Roamed the forests and the woods,
And split the air with their wings.
And God said, “That’s good!” 60

Then God walked around,
And God looked around
On all that He had made.
He looked at His sun,
And He looked at His moon, 65
And He looked at His little stars;
He looked on His world
With all its living things,
And God said, “I’m lonely still.”

Then God sat down 70
On the side of a hill where He could think;
By a deep, wide river He sat down;
With His head in His hands,
God thought and thought,
Till He thought, “I’ll make me a man!” 75

Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled Him down;
And there the great God Almighty 80
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of His hand;
This Great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby, 85
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till He shaped it in His own image;

Then into it He blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul. 90
Amen. Amen.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

What are you doing?

Well, once again, Sagacious Hillbilly has got me thinking. After two thought-provoking articles on my last post, this post had to come out.

First, the second comment, because sometimes I'm just wild and break the rules like that.

He says (and please read the whole thing because I'm excerpting): "Stereotypes persist because of general impressions. That doesn't make them right, it just is....
When we begin giving the general impression that we are a suave, sophisticated, educated bastion of enlightenment, that's the stereotype that will emerge." Of course, he's exactly right on this one. However, there are some great things going on here: We have a surplus. how many other states can say that? We've got 2 small cities (Charleston and Morgantown) who were named on lists of Best Small Cities. Good things, all of them. And, as Buzzard Billy points out, the whole dental health thing has made a U-turn.

My frustration is that I see these changes, and still get questions on if I had to buy shoes to come to the conference. (Horrifyingly, it seems I get one dicky comment of just this sort every time I go to a conference.)

Which leads me to SH's first comment: "What are YOU doing to change WV?" Here's the answer: I'm being me. I talk like a newscaster (except when I've been drinking, but we won't go there) as I have been fortunate enough to have learned to lose my accent. Those who can't usually have a rougher time of it. I proudly say that I'm from West Virginia. I smile a lot, both to show that I do, indeed, have my teeth, and that I'm not likely to attack them when they're not looking. When I meet someone new,I try to judge them solely on their interaction with me, and not what notions I may have preconceived about their group. Hey, I'm not perfect. I have my stereotypes and prejudices, as we all do, but I try not to let them trump my logic and experiences. I attack stereotypes when I hear them, both to point out that

Professionally, I'm an educator. Specifically, I work with distance education, which means that I am helping folks from all over the state and world to increase their learning. SH said that folks' perceptions will change about us will change when we start to become more educated, less insular, and less ignorant. I think that his words are true not only of WV but of all of us as a whole. I cheered when President Obama called for every American to get more education and never stop learning, and it wasn't just because of the job security. Through my work, I'm trying to do help people to teach, learn, and reason. Maybe then we won't need to worry about stereotypes of any sort. None of us.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Hillbilly No More?

I knew it was going to happen. After the Children of the Mountains special a couple of weeks ago, I knew it was only a matter of time before the national media would discover Appalachia again. Now Newsweek is reporting on one of Ol' Joe's new initiatives, Hillbilly No More? West Virginia's Image Makeover. It's an interesting read, but what he doesn't get is that we can't change the stereotypes. Only they can do it. They, the outsiders who are defining us.

I'll have more after a bit, but for now I'll just leave you with a correction: Joe Manchin is a registered Democrat and always has been. I can understand Newsweek's confusion in thinking he's a Republican, as his policies are pretty much Republican, but he' actually a Democrat, at least on the ballot.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

An Open Letter to those in my new town

who told me that I wouldn't have to worry about snow, that we don't get snow here like in the northern part of the state:

You lie. Lie lie lie. Like a rug.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Racism is dead! Long live racism!

Many have said that with the election of President Obama, racism is now dead. I beg to differ. First of all, there is the resurgence of racist jokes that I've heard recently. And all the jokes about the new president relate to race. Yes, I understand that there will be jokes at the expense of President Obama. I'm fine with that. Joke about his smoking. Joke about his views. Hell, joke about his pool or basketball. But jokes about his race are off limits. And those are the ONLY "jokes" I've heard. The mildest is "can they still call it the White House?" They get worse from there.

If you care to read the story, a Greenwich Village bakery is selling "Drunken Negro Face" cookies. I just don't even know where to start on these cookies, yummy though they do look. Is it the drippy gobs of chocolate that form caricatured features? Is it the maraschino cherry eyes giving the appearance of someone who's been on a three-day bender? Or maybe it's the exaggerated grin that perpetuates the "they're such a happy people" stereotype.

The proprietor has apologized and insists he's not racist. He can't be, see, because he has a Cuban in his family.

However, I don't see this as the problem. I see it as a symptom of the problem. The problem is that racism is bubbling just beneath the surface of the psyche in the US. As we never address it, it just keeps getting pushed deeper and deeper.

Ever have a splinter? If you can get the splinter out right away, it's not too bad. If you can't get it out, it festers and swells with the growing infection, getting uglier and more dangerous to our health.

The splinter in the US is racism. And for over 40 years, ever since we "defeated" racism with the Civil Rights laws, the splinter has been festering as we have simply refused to deal with it and tried to define it out of existence.

Recently we've seen some places where the ugly infection has burst through, tragically. For descriptions of recent events, see Kit's blog. She sees these events as an "Open Season on Black Men," the title of her post. Her explanation is that there is white frustration and anger at President Obama's election. Perhaps Kit is right. I don't express as well as she does, obviously. I just see it a racism rearing its ugly head again. The festering sore coming to a head.

So what can and should we do? WEll, let's get that damn splinter out. When you hear a racist comment, speak up. "Oh, I don't think that's so," can be an effective phrase. I've said "I just don't see the humor in that" when told a racist joke. You'd be amazed how often white people are assumed to condone a racist joke just because we're white.

I'm often called hypersensitive. "After all, one of them is now in the White House." The fact that there is an "us" and a "them" is telling enough. I'm waiting and working for the time when there's simply an American in the White House, with no qualifiers.

That's all I know how to do. I'm certainly open to suggestions from my sage readers.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Have We Made America Again?

I'm doing a post in the fashion of MacDaddy, but I know I won't do as well as he does. You should read his poetry posts to get a feel for how it should be. Even his posts that are not about poetry are poetry themselves.

Yesterday I woke up with a poem running through my mind. "Let America Be America Again," by the inimitable Langston Hughes. If you're not familiar with him, you should be. If you are, his poems are always worth a re-read.

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

Does this sound familiar? Somehow, I think his spiritual descendant, President Barack Obama (GOD it feels so good to type that!), has read much of Hughes. And he has reclaimed America for us.

Last night I brushed past a gentleman at an Obama celebration. He reached out, patted my shoulder and said, "It's Obama Day!" "It's the day we take our country back!" I responded. Then we cheered.

Certainly, there will be struggles. As the President himself stated, we face unprecedented challenges. But America is America again. At least for me.

As I looked into the sky, I could almost see Hughes' face beaming down.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

There Are Still Good People in This World

As some of you may remember, I asked what you thought of a new idea for a blog celebrating the simple acts that people do for strangers. The response was favorable, so I launched it last weekend. Please stop by There Are Still Good People in This World to read the first story and to contribute your stories of kindnesses that you have experienced.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Fifty-Year-Old Wrong, Finally Righted

Did you catch the International Bowl today? I know, it wasn't one of the biggies, but in one way it was the most significant bowl of the season. Toronto in January isn't really a draw. But the story here isn't national championships or the draw of a warm locale.

You see, in 1958 the University of Buffalo football team (8-1) got a bid to play in the Tangerine Bowl. The only problem was that the Tangerine Bowl was in Orlando, in the south. And in 1958, the height of Jim Crow days, blacks couldn't play in that area. And UB had some black players. The bowl invitation was extended. The only catch was that the invitation was only open to the white players on the team. So what should the university do?

The coaches put the dilemma to the team. The vote came back unanimous. They were a team. If one member wasn't welcome, the team wasn't welcome. They declined the bid. That was the last bowl bid they got. For fifty years.

Until this year, when UB got a bowl bid to play against the University of Connecticut. UB was finally able to send their 1958 team to the bowl game. And they did. All surviving members of the 1958 UB football team attended the International Bowl, at UB's expense. Seeing those old men in the stands did my heart good. Not one of them regretted their decision.

They say that sports builds character. I've often thought that was just a saying, meant to justify obscene amounts of money spent on sports at the high school and college levels. But when I look at the 1958 University of Buffalo football team, I think they had more character than most of US at that time.

Today UConn beat UB in the International Bowl. But I don't think it much mattered. The University of Buffalo proved they were winners fifty years ago. And they could have taught the rest of us a few lessons, if we'd been of a mind to listen.